He gritted his teeth against the burning pain and watched as the blood oozed from the fresh wounds. This pain was nothing compared to the pain of yesterday. Yesterday, she had refused his apology and severed their friendship. Today, he was taking the Dark Mark.

She may never realize the truth, but she had been the reason all along. Since the first day he had made eye contact with the girl, he had felt an intense need to impress her in any way possible.

It started with the stories about the Wizarding World. They may have comforted her and even fascinated her during her time of confusion over her strange gifts, but they had never really been about that; at least not entirely. They had been about the wide-eyed admiration he had received with each tale. They had been about the way she would lean in close when he would lower his voice for dramatic effect. They had been about the way she would seek him out for advice when she was feeling conflicted.

Once school began, Severus quickly learned that he had few attractive qualities about him. He was not particularly attractive, nor was he wealthy. He did not have what one would describe as a great sense of humor or much in the way of self-confidence. He felt awkward in most social situations and was distrustful of almost everyone. He did not even deserve her friendship, much less her love.

But what he lacked in those areas he more than made up in others. He was quick with his wand as well as a broomstick, and he understood magic in a way that view witches or wizards ever did. The hours spent pouring over various potions, herbology, and spell books in order to excel early at Hogwarts, had not been for himself however. His motive had always been her. She was brilliant and a quick-learner, but he had always managed to stay one step ahead of her somehow.

She would frequently meet him in the library or sit with him on the school lawn as they studied. Often, she would question him about certain topics. She would lean close, listen intently to his explanations, and then laugh with a comment about how he seemed to know everything, and he would smile a rare smile.

As their years at Hogwarts pressed on, his motivation became obsession. It was not enough to know all the things he should know, he wanted to know everything. Dark magic had captured his interested early in his studies, mostly due to a constant imagining of ways to get even with all those that had taunted him, but as with everything else, Lily had been the true reason he actually pursued the issue. It was not enough to be better than her, he wanted to be the best, the most powerful; and then he might truly deserve her.

The more he studied, the more drawn to the Dark Arts he became. When he had exhausted the knowledge found in the Hogwarts Library and in shadier shops of Diagon Alley and Hogsmead, he turned to the Death Eaters to further his knowledge. If he truly wished to be the greatest, he must learn from the greatest, and Lord Voldemort was the greatest.

She did not understand, and he could never tell her the truth … she had been the reason all along.

Today, he took the Dark Mark. Tomorrow, he would be one of the most powerful wizards in history. Tomorrow…