Chapter 137: The Half-Blood Prince
A/n: Chapter 136 was posted yesterday, this one is (finally) the last Chapter.
Severus was on his knees in front of an open cavity behind one of the store cupboards in the Dungeon hideout. It was where he had hid his Great-grandfather's book; Lily's handwritten notes; the lock of hair she had given him back in third year for preparing Invisible Ink...
It was that he cradled in his hand now. It lay like a dark-red, glossy ribbon across his palm, soft and sweet-smelling. It felt almost like he still held a part of her somehow, but he knew it was only an illusion brought on by the smell of her, by the many spells crowding his mind as he thought about what a single strand of that lock of hair could make possible. It was only the end of June, but Lily had become like a ghost in his life: there but not there, transparently visible...
A rat stood on its' haunches a few feet away, watching him intently through bright, cunning, black eyes and twitching whiskers.
He glared at it and turned to put the lock of Lily's hair back into the small hiding place he had created by removing one of the old stones of the dungeon wall. Placing it gently in a small box on top of his Great-grandfathers tome The Dark Arts, he muttered the incantation that caused the old stone to grind back into place. It felt uncomfortably like he was burying someone or something.
Perhaps he was.
Noticing that the rat was still intently observing his movements, Severus pointed his wand at it - these damned rats had gnawed some of his textbooks and ingredients, but the rat took one look at the wand and scurried off towards the door, just as though it knew he was about to curse it.
It passed through the door unimpeded, for the magical seal did not repel vermin. Severus was surprised that the magical seal still worked at all, given what had happened between him and Lily. Their magic had been so closely connected when they had set up that magical barrier that Severus had fully expected to see it fail somehow, to find it dissipated, the spell broken just as effectively as his heart had been. But the faint, ice-cold feeling every time he passed through it assured him that it was still strongly in place and would allow none but himself and Lily through it.
Only Lily would never come through it again.
He was sure of that now. It had taken a whole week of shocked denial after that fatal day of their DADA exam to realise that that had been the last day Lily Evans spoke to him as a friend.
He had begged her forgiveness that same night, something he had never begged of anyone alive, but she had been angry and unwilling to listen. She hadn't given him a chance to explain why he considered her so very different from others. And the reason why, had nothing to do with being Muggleborn or not! The reason was because she was Lily Evans and he had been hopelessly in love with her since they were children.
That would have been a difficult thing to explain, even if there weren't so many sinister reasons not to! But she had stormed off inside the common-room, before he could stop her, closing the portrait quickly behind her, leaving him staring at the Fat Lady, his hands slammed pleadingly against the old portrait. The Fat Lady's eyes remained closed in pretended slumber, but there was a deep, rosy flush on her plump cheeks that Severus did not like. Whether it was disgust or pity, he didn't care anymore. His hands had balled into fists against the canvas, then he pushed away from it and with a wave of his wand extinguished the one remaining torch at the end of the corridor, plunging himself into darkness, so that the painted old harridan would not see his face.
He didn't know how long he stood in numb shock outside the Gryffindor common-room, trying to imagine – to feel - what Lily was doing on the other side, but his heart almost stopped altogether when he heard the portrait open again, and Lily came back to give him the pendant and tell him she'd seen the memory inside.
He had felt a chasm open in front of him at that revelation! Her face had been wet with tears and there was blood on the palm of her hand. It couldn't have been more than a few hours since she had opened it. He remembered how, in a disassociated kind of way, he had even felt guilty for having unwittingly caused Lily to cut herself.
He had expected her to shout at him for daring to mess with her mind, and she was a bit angry, but more so at whatever she had seen of the Dark Lord in that memory.
He had almost given in when she had placed her hand so gently on his arm, pleading for the truth, asking him to trust her. He had almost told her then, that Voldemort had his eyes on her, on both of them, and that there was no other way of ensuring she got out of the war unscathed. But if he had, it would have been a betrayal in the Dark Lord's eyes, and he would have found out, just as surely as the rumoured taboo he placed on Death Eaters gave away those who uttered his name with disrespect. Voldemort always knew everything. And Lily's words proved him right, for she confirmed she would have gone running straight to Dumbledore...
And he wouldn't have convinced Lily anyway. It was still too early, she still laboured under the misguided impression that the war could be won by those who wanted the magical community to stagnate under present conditions, and see magic itself slowly disappear, eroded by the dwindling numbers of witches and wizards, and by the dilution of magical blood through intermarriage with muggles.
He veered away sharply from such thoughts. Lily's blood, wherever it came from, was so powerfully magical, that she would be an asset to the whole wizarding world; though, of course, to him she was precious just because it was her, Lily. With a shock of understanding, he realised that even now, if Lily had to suddenly lose all her magic, he would still want her and no-one else, for nothing and nobody mattered to him as much as she did...
He had tried to tell her that, that night, when she asked him why he had given her back her memory in the Pendant. He had tried to remind her, in a last ditch attempt to keep her there, of what she had seen in the pendant, but the sad look in her eyes told him it was too late.
She said she knew the reason why he refused to tell her what she meant for him. But she didn't understand the real reason - not all of it. However, before he could contradict her, to his complete amazement, Lily, unpredictable as ever, had whispered the words that he had refused to let pass his lips...
'I will always love you. Always' she had whispered.
He couldn't help himself then. God help him, but he couldn't help kissing her, for as long as he could, clutching her fiercely to him, as though somehow, that would keep her there with him forever. But he knew it wouldn't. He had seen her tears and he knew, when Lily said goodbye, that something had broken inside her and it wouldn't be the same again.
But he hadn't wanted to believe it. Hope springs eternal far more frequently in youth than in cynical old age, and Severus was still very young, as well as ambitious and strong-willed. He couldn't stop thinking that she'd returned his kiss after all: in spite of what he'd done to her memory, in spite of her misgivings about the Dark Lord's shadowy plans; in spite of his looks, his House, and his poverty-riddled background; she'd kissed him, and this time it was with the full knowledge and possession of her memory!
So he had bided his time the following days, hoping to catch her alone in the Great Hall for lunch or breakfast during that weekend, but he was disappointed, for when she did finally venture downstairs on Sunday evening for supper, she was surrounded in a tight pack by Gryffindor girls, who did not leave her alone for one second. Apart from looking a bit pale and thin, she looked fine. He tried to catch her eye from the Slytherin table, but she did not look once in that direction, though the girls surrounding her more than made up for it with the belligerent looks they cast at him.
It was the same during their last week of exams. He tried to keep his distance at first. Lily had been upset enough that night and did not want that to affect her exams. But throughout Potions on Monday, and Care of Magical Creatures on Tuesday, she determinedly avoided him, and her face still had a pale, marble-like quality that started to worry him, even though he could see that she had at least done as well as he had in Potions, and certainly better than him in Care of Magical Creatures. Finally, Wednesday night, after their Astronomy practical exam, he managed to corner her briefly as they were putting away their telescopes and asked her how she'd done in Arithmancy that morning.
It was an innocuous enough question (Mary MacDonald was already looking daggers at him) and a stupid thing to ask really, but he was desperate just to say something – anything – that would get her to talk to him. What Lily answered, however, really threw him. She told him politely and briefly which questions she answered; what she thought the answers were; and that she'd done reasonably well, then finished with a polite smile before bidding him goodnight and leaving with Mary through the turret. He was left staring disbelievingly at her. It was like she was speaking to a complete stranger - the same polite friendliness with which Lily spoke to everyone. Only it held none of the warmth that Lily Evans infused in her words even when speaking to complete strangers. It wasn't exactly coldness, just an emptiness of feeling that was completely unlike her.
It was the same the next day, after History of Magic, their final exam. He caught up with her as she was leaving the Great Hall, and ignoring the looks on her girlfriends' faces, he tried to speak to her again. She actually fell back slightly to let him speak, but her replies had the same chillingly polite, coldly indifferent quality about them that Narcissa Black would have been proud of. It wasn't what he'd been expecting: he had expected further recriminations, or a vehement insistence that he leave her alone, or, Merlin forgive him, he had even hoped that perhaps, just perhaps, there would be a blush or a confused shyness in her expression at what had transpired between them. But this calm politeness left him speechless. It was so un-Lily-like he forgot what else he had to say to her, and was left staring, white-faced, at her until she politely bade him goodbye again with a small smile that barely wrinkled the corners of her mouth. Lily's smiles usually used up the whole of her face, crinkling up her eyes, making their green light shine brighter. Now there was a dead, hard quality about her eyes that he had last seen the day he'd called her Mudblood.
He'd have preferred it a thousand times over if she'd shouted angrily at him, even for all to hear, about how badly he'd treated her, or even if she'd've hexed him soundly! This polite indifference was worse than if she'd slapped him in the face!
It was only the pale, taut lines of her face, and the brief flash of something familiar in the green depths of her eyes before she turned away from him, that gave an indication as to what this resolve was costing her.
He had watched her figure join that of her friends down by the lake in the bright sunshine that last day of their exams, his mind only then starting to reluctantly accept that things had changed for good between them. Even as she moved away from him, he could see her tense, hunched shoulders relax as she hailed the other girls sitting by the lake, her voice sounding immediately happier and relieved, as soon as she was not talking to him.
The scene, with the chattering, laughing students, the lake and the sunny skies seemed like a déjà-vu of what had happened a week earlier, even though Potter and his gang were not in sight, so he had made his way straight to the castle dungeons to spend the remaining few days before the end of the month in the cool, undisturbed depths of his dungeon hideout, failing miserably at forgetting what had happened.
Even so, treacherous hope kept intruding, saying that perhaps, when they were alone again in Castleforth, away from everything that had ruined their friendship, Lily would come round, perhaps something would happen that would make her secretly admire (like Narcissa had admired Lucius) the brave young rebels who had taken on the whole might of the Ministry in order to fight for the right to carry a wand openly; perhaps she was just confused at the prospect of contradicting her own principles...
The core of cold, logical reasoning that never deserted Severus even in the direst situation, was telling him that he was a fool to think she would, but then Lily Evans hadn't met the Dark Lord...
Severus had at least managed to spare her that. Lily just didn't understand how right he was about everything, and more importantly, how powerful! And he did not suffer fools gladly. He had seen Voldemort's wrath and it hadn't been pretty! He couldn't just walk away from it all, especially with Lily directly involved. No-one ever did and remained alive to tell the tale, rumours said, and he believed them.
And he was the only flimsy barrier that remained between Voldemort's wrath and Lily Evans!
For the Dark Lord would get to know, if he didn't already, that he had fought with Lily and he wouldn't be pleased. His calling her a Mudblood had certainly raised his status among many Slytherins, who could never understand why he still associated with her. The story of what happened that day under the Beech tree had done the rounds of all common-rooms, though probably it was only in Slytherin that his actions had been applauded. They thought he'd put Evans in her place, and even more importantly, he had punched the Gryffindor Quidditch champion in the face!
But he had seen Seth Mulciber looking coldly at him. Uncharacteristically, Mulciber had told him nothing yet – his Uncle's death had curbed his excesses, but he was still watching him, a calculating look on his face.
The opportunity for studying the rare power of Combined Magic had been put on hold because of his quarrel with Lily. The news of this would soon reach the Dark Lord and he would be angry – very angry. If he, Severus was not around to bear the brunt of that anger, then possibly Voldemort might even seek out Lily and vent his anger on her, or else try to force her to cooperate.
And Lily would not be forced. Severus understood her well enough to know that she was very much a free spirit. She would not yield and she would be broken in the attempt.
He could not risk that.
He needed to face Voldemort again. He did not know what he could do - perhaps he could buy some more time, or perhaps, with some luck, convince him Lily was useless now. After all, she couldn't be accused of having betrayed the Dark Lord, if he hadn't told her what he wanted her to do.
But she did know, whispered a treacherous voice in his head. You made it possible by foolishly sharing your mind, your emotions, with her that Christmas afternoon. Now she is in a worse danger than she was in before you wiped out her memory!
If anyone had to read her mind, or even slip her some Veritaserum ... Aurors were licensed to do that...the secret of their combined magic would be out as well as the Dark Lord's intentions, and that would mean trouble from both warring factions. Probably it would be more likely Dumbledore who'd forage into his student's minds, if he convinced his own self-righteous conscience that it was for her own good. But if the worst had to happen, and Voldemort decided to investigate Lily's capabilities for Combined Magic for himself, then it would be a disaster! If he, Severus, did not manage to turn Lily round by the time she came to graduate and leave Hogwarts for good (and he knew that the chances of that happening were very slim now), he knew that Lord Voldemort would seek her out for himself. It would happen sooner or later, and since Lily had no Occlumency skills to speak of, Voldemort would see everything: - see her blind faith in Dumbledore; her choice of supporting the wrong side in this war; and he would see what happened last Christmas as well as hear their final conversation outside Gryffindor common-room. Voldemort would see him, Severus, vacillate in his resolve, though perhaps he could explain that he was pretending to sympathise with Lily in order to win her affection, the same like he had seen Lord Voldemort do the night they flooed to that deserted house, in order to win over the students brought before him.
All these reasons had flashed through his head, leaving a cold fear in their wake, when Lily had revealed what she had seen.
That was why, that night, he hadn't allowed the words Lily so obviously wanted to hear, pass his lips.
She herself was already in an extremely vulnerable position now, and if he had told her the truth, that his true love, his true loyalty, would always lie with her, then that would seal his fate as a betrayer in the Dark Lord's eyes, and also make him more vulnerable in Dumbledore's prying eyes. And he trusted that old, conniving, twinkly-eyed Headmaster even less than those sadistic Aurors, like Sol Fenwick, him and his Order were in league with. The latter, at least were easy to understand and predict, but Dumbledore was a completely different story. He felt there was so much more than benevolence behind those piercing blue eyes, though he could never be sure, exactly, what there was.
Madeira had always taught him to be wary of handing over emotional ammunition to such wizards. Madeira herself was trapped by her own emotional baggage into causing the death of the man she loved.
However, he had to admit that at this point, his most immediate concern was not Dumbledore, but Voldemort...
He had seen with his own eyes what happened to betrayers. ... the smell of burning flesh, the sight of Percival Prewitt's corpse going up in flames, still haunted his nightmares.
He was Lily's only protector now, for only he knew what Voldemort was after, and the Dark Lord was not easily put off. He would re-surface in one or both their lives sooner or later, for the War had gathered so much momentum that it had spread across all of Britain and beyond. No-one, magic or even muggle, was unaffected, and the ranks of the rebel Death Eaters were swelling at an extraordinary rate, (which clearly demonstrated, if nothing else did, just how discontented the magical community was with the way things were run by the Ministry)!
It would not be long before the numbers of the Dark Lord's forces were large enough to be classified as a true army, and now that Voldemort had discovered their secret, the power of their Combined Magic, he would pursue them both for the use of their magic as a 'weapon', but also to stop it from falling into Dumbledore or the Ministry's hands!
He sighed heavily and stood up. Right now, he could do nothing more. He pushed the Dark Lord from his mind, the reckless, restless mood that had plagued him in the past few days since the end of exams, returning: he'd deal with him when the time came.
In the meantime...he went over to one of the desks, shoving some books into his bag and returning the rest with a wave of his wand to the open shelving of one of the cupboards. Today was the 30 th of June, and tomorrow he'd be leaving Hogwarts for Spinner's End.
It was the first time in years that the grim prospect of returning home was unmitigated by the fact that he would be alone with Lily for the duration of summer. His mouth set in a grim line. Well, perhaps it was time he struck out a bit on his own now! He looked down at the last book on the desk. It was his mother's old Potion Book Advanced Potion-making. He had been debating whether to take it home with him or not. He decided he would. It was next years' textbook, and it held more than just stuff on potions: it held his growing skills both in Potion-making and in forging ahead, proud and alone, in the field of ancient magic, taking the first steps in that art he knew would one day be famous for.
And, with his mother around to confuse the Trace, he might just be able to practise some of that magic if he was confined to Spinner's End.
Confined there he would be, for he certainly would not be going round to Lily's house this summer! He would never, for the rest of his life, lay himself so vulnerably at anyone's feet again, or beg so humbly as had that night outside Gryffindor common-room! Lily had seen what she meant to him, she'd seen him lose control as he had never done since before he was too young to remember, and yet she'd refused to forgive him! Or if she had forgiven him the 'Mudblood', yet she didn't trust him anymore. It was the one thing he could be sure of, because though he had gone over that night's conversation a hundred times over in his mind, he still felt a bit confused over why had she severed all contact with him (he discounted that parody of polite conversation outright).
Or rather, he knew what she had objected to, but damn it all, he was risking his neck for her (though perhaps she didn't know all the details about that)!The least she could do is drop that false tone of indifference that didn't suit her one bit, and look him in the eyes with some meaning! Just because he supported the opposing side in this war, the side fighting the Ministry, didn't mean they had to stop being... well … friends, at least! Why the bloody hell was she doing this to both of them?
But he knew the answer to that question. Much as he hated to admit it, he had misjudged Lily. He had taken too much for granted, especially her warm, forgiving nature. He breathed heavily through his nostrils, trying to calm his racing thoughts. Admittedly, Lily couldn't see what she stood to gain as a muggleborn and he wasn't free to tell her, but still, even though he knew that things couldn't go back to what they were before, not after what happened, but surely this parody of friendship couldn't be what Lily had in mind, either? He'd rather not talk to her at all, than have her speak to him like that!
He scowled down at the open book Advanced Potion-making on the desk before him, realising he was leaning on the desk with clenched fists again. Somehow, these last few days, he was finding himself ever more often with fists curled into balls, eyes staring in mixture of anger and horror as he lived and relived that fateful day, that fateful night, over and over again, as though that way he could find answers, find solutions to fix the unfixable, to erase the hateful memory. His worst memory.
He slowly forced himself to loosen his grip, one finger at a time, and to breathe evenly. He knew he was only trying to whip himself into being angry with Lily to make the separation easier. He couldn't be angry with Lily Evans for long. Besides, the last time he did, he had called her a Mudblood, and his whole world had come tumbling about his ears.
Potter was to blame for that! That hated name acted like a catalyst for the anger that seethed like lava within him, these days it was barely millimetres below the surface of his control, and his fists clenched again, the desk swimming in a red mist before his eyes. If that bloody bastard hadn't humiliated him that day, if he hadn't made him so fucking mad with rage and shame, he wouldn't have lashed out at the only person he cared about in the whole castle, and right now, he could have been looking forward to spending the summer with Lily! He slammed his fists on the desk, setting the inkwells rattling, wishing he had Potter's face within reach so he could smash his fist into his face again!
But Potter and the rest of the Marauders had been keeping away from him, just as he was steering clear from them.
An uneasy truce he knew would only last till the end of the OWLs.
Forcing himself to breathe deeply till the desk swam into view again; his anger subsided with the grim promise that he would never ever allow himself to be humiliated by Potter again. He'd rather use an unforgiveable curse and risk Azkaban, than allow Potter to publicly humiliate him again. And if Potter dared look at Lily Evans again...
He shook himself angrily. Well, he probably wouldn't: Lily made it abundantly clear that she preferred the Giant Squid to Potter.
As for himself, he would pick up the pieces and start again, and carve himself out a life that would fulfil all the ideals and goals he had set for himself. He would take over where his Great-grandfather had left off and become a respected scholar in the re-discovery of Ancient Magic. In a few more months he would be of age…
Somehow the thought of being so close to the day when he would finally be free to use magic, something he had so long anticipated, triggered a new sensation in him. As the anger of a moment before grudgingly dissipated, he felt a new resolve take hold of his mind, and suddenly a shiver of excitement ran through him. He could feel the thrill of being on the threshold of something new, of infinite possibilities, and a new energy coursed through him, a concentrated, single-minded purpose that successfully pushed the dull, aching throb of Lily's rejection to the back of his mind, where he hoped it would be, if not forgotten, then at least temporarily ignored.
And he would join the Death Eaters...Not only because that was the only way he could protect Lily when the time came, but also because he wanted prove to himself, to the Dark Lord, and to all the wizarding world at large, that he, Severus Snape, a half-blood, was worthy to stand amongst the elite of those Pure-blood snobs. And the Dark Lord would take him for what he was, alone and on his owns merits, or not at all. He would become a Death Eater without the extraneous magic the presence of Lily would have provided. He did not need that advantage. He'd stand alone.
And, as he allowed the feverish energy to course through his veins, filling him with renewed vigour, he knew he didn't even care anymore what it took. Something had broken inside him too, and the previous reckless mood was increasing to a point of rash insanity – he felt like he had overdosed on Euphoria-inducing Elixir - there were no barriers to what he could do now and the possibilities seemed endless, the consequences unimportant. It was a guilt-ridden feeling of liberation, but an exciting one, nonetheless.
He looked down at the flyleaf of the battered book lying open before him. There should have been 'Eileen Prince' written there, but his mother hadn't even signed it. Was the memory of her Grandfather's banishment from Hogwarts still too fresh? Well, he didn't care! It should have born the proud name of Prince.
And it would again.
He was a Prince. He had always felt the link to the Prince side of his family much more strongly anyway.
He slowly took a long, black quill into his hand, but as the nib hovered over the book's flyleaf he paused, his mind going back to a promise he had made a couple of years ago, in the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree in the muggle home of the red-headed girl that had so recently become a shadow in his life. They had been looking at the young buck on the Armorial crest of the Snape and Evans family crest, and Lily had extracted a promise from him that he never forget his muggle roots. It was as though she felt the need, even then, to be somehow connected to him, even through their common, muggle, roots.
If she'd thought about it, it was really their magic that had first linked them so inextricably together.
He leaned over the desk and flipped over the pages till he got to the back cover. This signalled the end of era and the beginning of a new one next year, when he'd actually start using this sixth-year textbook. He slowly reached out to dip the quill in the ever-ready inkwell embedded at the top of the desk. He hesitated a moment but then a grim, cynical smile spread across his thin face.
He never broke a promise: he would always remember his muggle roots: in defiance of all the snobbish purebloods in Slytherin and those in the Dark Lord's ranks, he would never, ever, hide the fact that he was half-blood.
But this book represented a fresh start too. A new name, but one that was ancient, and was his by right of blood: Prince. He had decided long ago that he would bring back the respect that name deserved.
Placing the nib of the quill on the yellowing pages, at the bottom of the back cover, where the mystery would be even more pronounced than the prominence of the front page, he wrote in black ink:
This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood Prince.
With a last grim smile, he closed the book with a snap, stuffed it in his bag and strode out of the Hogwarts dungeon into the darkness of the labyrinthine corridors outside and the start of a new life.
A/n: This is the end of the fic that revolves around Sev and Lily's childhood and then their Hogwarts' days: their early formative years. I had to end it at this point because it represents a very important turning point in both their lives. I hope the fic has gone some way in providing an explanation, as well as an exploration, of the main characters' later actions and choices, the ones we are familiar with from the HP series.
I will be updating my Profile Page re future fics/sequels, but for the next few months I will be lying dormant and will definitely not write anything. Since I started writing in Autumn of 2008, I have put a lot of RL stuff on the back burner in order to keep up the chapter-a-week pace, so now I have to deal with the accumulated consequences of that before I start to write again.
Lily and the Half-Blood Prince is my first and only fic, but I am sure it will not be my last, for I've enjoyed writing it and will continue to do so as long as my unlikely muse, Severus Snape, continues to inspire me.
So, finally, a big THANK YOU to all of you, for all the reviews that have made my writing doubly enjoyable: I've looked forward to reading your comments as much as I have looked forward to posting each new chapter! If you are still interested keep me on your alert list and hopefully one day, I'll have something new to offer ( check my updated profile page)!