It's been three hours since Severus Snape fell to his knees before Dumbledore and begged him, begged him to make Severus's life all right.
A lot of awful, humiliating, painful things have happened to Severus in his life, and especially in the past few years. He's lost more than he ever thought possible. He isn't sure if he should consider the recent deaths of his parents a loss or a gain.
He could add up the events in his life, a column of pros and cons to being him. The pros are meeting Lily, starting at Hogwarts, Regulus Black, finding his place within the Death Eaters. There is only one of those that hasn't turned into a con yet: Hogwarts is still there, although he doesn't know if it will welcome him again.
He knows which column of his life would win out, ultimately. The cons are infinite, starting at his birth and showing no sign of stopping their swift click of addition.
To bring us up to the present moment: Severus is currently on the cold, wet ground again, only this time the one standing over him is Alastor Moody. He certainly appears less forgiving than Dumbledore, and that's saying a great deal.
"Dumbledore," Severus chokes out through bloodied lips. The name feels like a curse. "Just contact Dumbledore. He'll tell you I've changed sides." He knows he shouldn't have expected Dumbledore to inform the Order of the existence of their new spy in the middle of the night, but he wonders if Dumbledore is planning to tell them at all. Maybe it's just another part of Severus's punishment that he should have to deal with aurors who believe he's a monster.
"You shut your filthy mouth," Moody shouts over the wind.
Severus has heard that one before. You shut your mouth, boy. You shut your filthy half-blood mouth, Snape. There's an ache behind his eyes. He hasn't slept all night, and it must be nearly three in the morning. There is mud between his fingers and this whole situation is absurd. He feels ridiculous.
"You're coming with me," Moody growls, and he hauls Severus to his feet by the edge of his robes. Severus stumbles, half falling against Moody as they apparate.
They reappear in a tiny, ill-lit room with nothing in it but a table and two chairs. It must not be in the Ministry, becauseapparation inside shouldn't be possible. Severus knows the rules, even if he hasn't ever needed to.
Moody shoves him roughly to the floor, and he's too exhausted to fight. "I want a fucking lawyer," he manages to mutter, but it's mostly a joke for his own benefit rather than a real demand. Wizarding law is singularly harsh and unforgiving, especially in these troubled times.
Moody just gives him a derisive glance and pulls out his wand. "Not likely, Death Eater."
Severus tests himself and is mildly surprised that the accusation doesn't make him feel ill. He must be too exhausted for anything besides bitterness and panic. His general baseline mood is usually composed of those two feelings anyhow.
"Now," Moody snarls, starting to circle Severus like an angry dog, "I'm not going to waste both our time by telling you what we already know. I'm just going to ask for names. Tomorrow, we'll bring you in officially and get more details on their plans."
The phrase bring you in officially registers dimly in the back of Severus's head as bad, but he's too tired and beaten to sort out why. However, some part of him whispers urgently, If I'm being brought in "officially" tomorrow, what category does this fall into?
He gets his answer soon enough. Moody points his wand directly at Severus's chest and says softly, "Crucio."
Severus half expects it not to work, for Moody not to mean it, but he does. Pain rips through Severus, pinning him to the floor in the rainwater and blood leaking from his clothes and skin. He screams, not even trying to hold it in, because he's too tired and he deserves it too much.
After a few more brief, blinding moments, Moody jerks his wand away and Severus lies limp again. "The names," Moody says.
And the thing is, Severus could offer up the names, obsequies and frightened and delighting in his own salvation. He doesn't. He just spits, "Dumbledore. Only to Dumbledore."
Whatever twisted, fucked-up loyalty he's running on right now, it's not good enough, and Moody levels the wand at him once more. This time, he does the spell silently, so Severus doesn't quite see it coming.
When he's done screaming, his fingernails are torn from scrabbling at the floor tiles. "Illegal," he rasps, his throat ragged from screaming. "That's illegal."
Moody smiles dangerously. "You're behind the times, boy. Old Crouch legalized its use on suspected Death Eaters months ago."
Severus squeezes his eyes shut. Fuck. "Dumbledore," he says again.
When he opens his eyes, he sees that Moody has put his wand away. "Yeah, thought you might be the stubborn type. Well, we've got ways of dealing with people like you. Gotta say, I respect you a lot more than the cowards, anyway." Reaching into his robes, he produces a small vial of clear liquid.
And Severus, Severus is a fucking potions genius. He knows what it is.
Moody's mismatched eyes flick to the vial and back to Severus. "To justice," he says, raising the vial a little. Severus wonders if the irony escapes him. Probably not. Moody kneels besides Severus, forcing his mouth open painfully. Perhaps if it weren't three in the morning and Severus were not terrified for Lily's life and his world were not falling apart around him, he would fight. As it is, he simply bites Moody once and then gives in.
The liquid is cool and goes down easily, as he would have expected. It's only a few seconds before his brain begins to haze over, and he feels as though someone else is sitting at the front of his eyes, just behind the dull, throbbing ache. Meaning, he's trapped in his head and unable to speak with the words he wants to use. Not that it even matters, of course. He'd tell Dumbledore anything, and he fully plans to give up his share of Death Eaters secrets. He just didn't want to do it in this way.
Severus is shocked, however, when Moody speaks. "Tell me about your father," he says thoughtfully, and his eye glitters dangerously. "What was he like?"
Severus wants to beg, wants to say no, please, but all that comes out in a flat, dead tone is, "His name was Tobias Snape. He was a Muggle. He drank. He beat my mother and me, sometimes. He was unhappy. He died a week ago." The words come far too easily, and the fractional hesitation that Severus was expecting, was willing himself to feel, never comes.
Moody's expression doesn't change. "Explains a hell of a lot. And friends? Did you have friends?"
Past tense, Severus has time to note, before he's saying, "Lily Evans. My first and best friend."
"And now? Do you get on now?" Moody asks. He doesn't even seem to be taking any sort of sadistic pleasure in this questioning, and that is worse.
"No. She hates me." The words that have been lying behind his tongue for years spill out as easily as blood or water. It's as though he's a very long way from his cold, tired body, but he feels trapped at the same time. All the pain of his life is being lined up in the inexorable bullet-points of Veritaserum truths, made insignificant by Moody's indifferent scrutiny.
"And a love life?" Moody presses. "You ever have one of those, Death Eater?"
The dull throb in his head speeds to a pounding ache as he tries to force his lips closed, but it's impossible. He hears himself say, "Yes. I was with Regulus Black from the time I was fiftten until his disappearance last year." The words are like lead weights in his mouth, and he feels even more ill than before. To have the most intimate parts of himself spread out before Moody like this is unthinkably painful and degrading. Worse is that Moody isn't even reacting, simply cataloging Snape's responses with his eyes.
"And the Death Eaters?" Moody asks, finally coming marginally closer to the point of the interrogation. "Why'd you join up?"
Severus thought this was a complicated answer, but it comes more easily than the last one. "I felt as though I had a place there. The Dark Lord made me feel wanted. Useful. Special." Each word is a twist in his gut. "And I could explore my interest in the Dark Arts without being questioned. It was never about the blood mania," he adds, his voice taking on a tiny cadence of disgust but still failing spectacularly to feel like his own.
"Disgusting," Moody says, mostly to himself, it seems. "Pathetic. You're just like all the rest. Ought to put you out of your misery right now, do everyone a favor."
This is about you, Severus wants to say. This was never even to do with me. You want to know if you can see a Death Eater as human and I was your lucky test case.
Moody looks at Severus for a long moment, and if Severus were not still under the effects of the potion, he might scream at Moody, Kill me, fucking do it, I'd rather be dead than be this. His brain is still looped in truth-telling, or perhaps he wouldn't be tempted to do such a thing.
Moody shrugs, finally. Digging the toe of his boot into Severus's side, he says, "Not worth the trouble it'd cause me. I'll bring you to Dumbledore in the morning. See if you like his style any better."
With that, he flicks his wand to douse the lights, hobbles out of the room, and slams the door, locking it fast.
Severus's head spins. Moody never even asked him for any names. Feeling the floor around him in the dark, he lets his fingers skid through bloody water, thinking vaguely of splashing some on his face to wash way the ache of truth behind his eyes. Eventually, though, it's too much effort, and he just slumps against the floor, waiting to lose consciousness.