Severus faces imprisonment as a young passionate man, and is forged into.... something very different.
What's going to happen? Oh God, what is going to happen? The Headmaster said I'd be OK, but where is he? I did my best, I saved some people didn't I? Once I understood? I told him what was going on, why am I here? Up and down, up and down, pace and swear and shiver. What will happen to me?
"You will have to stand your trial Severus. I have tried, but they won't listen to me. They need to reassure people that they are more powerful than the Death Eaters, it seems. But I'm sure I can get a suspended sentence, maybe an acquittal. Just hold on, keep focused, keep your head up."
12 feet by 12 feet. A man would go mad in here. Why is it all taking so long? What's going on? I'm sick of it, I just need to get out, I can't take this! It's cold in here, damn it!
That Auror again. How many times is that now? Four times today? He's enjoying this, I can tell. Wants me to break up, wants me to react. No, I won't. Damn him, I can take it. Where are you Headmaster? What's going to happen?
"This is the one you wanted Professor Dumbledore. Snape, Severus. Bit young for what they say he's done, just goes to show eh? Terrible to see an old family gone to this.
Be the Kiss for you young fella-me-lad. And good riddance I say, Trash like you. Or maye a life sentence, you'll be longing for the Kiss after a week I reckon, no guts you Death Eaters, only strong when you are torturing the helpless, isn't that right?"
My lifeline. Make it stop Headmaster, make it stop....
He's angry. I've never seen him angry before. Never heard him say such things about anyone, especially an Auror never mind the Ministry!
But then everyone gets angry when someone crosses them don't they? The more powerful the wizard, the more potent the anger. Anger enhances power. He thinks his anger is powerful enough to stop me being Kissed? To keep me out of Azkaban? Minor magics, to drive away an Auror, can his anger drive away an entire Ministry?
"I will get this changed Severus. I will pull every string I can reach. You don't deserve to go to Azkaban, you did what was right."
What is right then? Dumbledore perverting the course of justice by calling in favours? Me betraying someone I swore an oath to? The condemning of living breathing humans to desolate near-death?
Maybe there is no right. Maybe this whole right and wrong thing is a trap. It trapped me.
"10 years is a long time Severus, but I'm still trying. I will come and visit you when I can. I will try and get you out early. I won't forget you. I'll do everything I can. You did the right thing in fighting him, I will do my best for you. I..I owe you this Severus"
Are you in my debt? You don't owe anywhere near what I do, how can I repay the dead?
I can't say I'm too young for this. I killed ones who were younger than I am now. I didn't think I was too young when I accepted the mark, I burned to prove myself to be old enough then. Flame of passion. Look where being passionate gets you, the Slough of Despond.
So not passion. They feed on passion here, and I will not be food for monsters. Monsters that eat monsters, didn't I eat monsters, my lovely companion monsters? Do these Dementors expect reward for eating me, as I expected reward from Voldemort for eating his enemies and from the Ministry for eating theirs?
So what have I to eat, who cannot eat the monsters around me?
It is hard without books. Harder than I thought. Books are an escape of course, and there is no escape from Azkaban. I have no books to protect me, but what about poetry?
Then let not winter's ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it be self-killed.
Wise words for humans, Bard, but not for monsters in Azkaban. No sweet vials here to treasure, just the memory of them.
So let us recite our learning, let us take a calm cold pride in memories that the Dementors cannot take. After all, I earned the title Potions Master, a severe test of a severe discipline, and severity is appropriate here.
"Monkshood, otherwise known as Friar's Cap, Garden Wolfsbane. Grows in wet grassland, stony or rocky slopes. For poison on weapons pick when the blue blossom begins to show. For poison of the mind, pick at the waning of the moon, using a black bladed knife. "
Recite each plant of the moon, each plant of the sun, each fruit of the sea, the earth, the fire, the air. The names, the uses, the words to speak when combining one with another.
Conjugate the verb to know, scio, scire, scivi, scitus. Ipsa scientia potestas est. Knowledge itself is power, and from power comes...
With power comes responsibility, the responsibility to do my duty.
From power alone comes death, you cannot have power undiluted, just as wormwood must have asphodel to bring the little sleep.
There is little sleep here, because of the dreams.
It would be easy to just lie here. But I am not in it to be easy. It is not in me to be easy. It is not easy to be elegant in a cold stone hovel wearing baggy grey rags, and washing once a week. But I am not in it to be easy, it is not in me to be easy.
As I march silently with the rest down to the hosebath, I see most have taken the easy way. I am proud of the way I have refused to lower my standards. No! No! Not a joyful pride, there is no joy. This is the cold pride of blood and duty and strength. Nothing here for you Dementor. I am not food for you. I am as cold and as inhuman as you are.
To be clean again... what no soap? So He died, and she very imprudently married the barber... No! No nonsense, that way lies non-sense, and my sense is all I have. No sense of time, no sense of seasons, just my sense of duty and my sentience.
"Severus. I said I'd visit. Things are quiet now, but for how long? So much to do... But here I am rattling on about that, when there's nothing you can do in here to help. There have been some new developments in the area of timed potion release, would you like to hear about them?"
You are wiser than I thought, my Dumbledore, my lifeline. Tell me slowly, tell me three times, what you tell me three times is true and I will remember it. To repeat to myself in the cold dark as I recite my prayers, chants to the gods of potions and precision.
It is all I can do in here.
Keep my head up, keep my mind working, I must not allow myself to falter. I have a duty, I must pay a debt.
"Oh Severus! You look... " Better than you expected Dumbledore? I follow you out into the corridor that is not quite as familiar as my cell, but I have walked here twice a day for... forever I think. Walked here to be hosed like a horse and empty the filthy proof of the humanity that is denied me, that I deny.
But I have not faltered, I have not lowered my standards.
"I told you I would do what I could. They have agreed to put you on probation, into my custody. There are conditions of course, you have to stay within bounds, you have to report to them regularly, but I think I can get you into Hogwarts Severus. Out of here and somewhere decent!"
I follow you up the stairs, you are talking and I suppose I am listening. The litany goes on in my head, "stir 4 times per hour, counterclockwise, until the liquid is strong enough to dissolve bezoar stones a finger thick".
I walk past you into the sunlight. I remember this, sunlight, you collect redhair fern in sunlight, but no later than 3 hours after dawn. Sunlight is required to mix boneset with cravenlily, you can use the Lumos spell and powdered ruby as a catalyst if you are careful, but the concentration needed is phenomenal.
This is my knowledge, this is my power and I have kept it despite the Dementors, despite the Ministry, despite the Dark Lord. Despite you Albus?
No, because of you. My lifeline, bringing me more knowledge to recite in the long hours, to add to my stock in trade, the imperishable store that the Dementors cannot touch. As long as the pride is not passion, as long as the love of learning is not warm, as long as I am as inhuman as they are.
"I can't see why the Ministry let him do it. Trash like you in charge of children? Oh well, you look like someone's nightmare, not like that handsome young aristocrat you were eh? Lank and yellowed and skin like scales. Maybe that's the idea, scare the kids off Dark Arts. If you meddle with them you'll turn into this! Ah here he is, yes, Headmaster, all papers are in order. Now remember, he has to have your written permission to leave the grounds, and he has to report in to the office once a week. And we will be dropping in now and then to check all is in order. Ministry requirement Headmaster, they take the welfare of the children very seriously!"
It is a bigger cage than the stone hovel in Azkaban, the Aurors who speak to me as if I were dirt and take delight in petty annoyances, they are not the same as the Dementors, but what units does one measure oppression in to say one is not the equal of the other?
It is hard this teaching. I want to lose myself in the clear clean flame of understanding, of making, of refining. They care nothing for that, nothing for learning, for understanding, for knowledge. Just sport and eating and shambling through their classes. But I have a duty, when the horror comes again they must have more defences than.. than...
Than James had, than Lily had. So loved and so successful. So defenceless and so dead.
I owe a debt. To the dead and the maimed, who lost what they had because I was there. It is my duty to be ready to fight the Dark Lord, to be ready to stop him making more corpses and cripples.
They must not be defenceless. Power comes from knowledge, they must see that, they must!
"Why you Severus? Because you are Slytherin and know how they think, and know what makes them behave the way they do. Because you can control them and separate the sheep from the goats. Some of them aren't going to make it Severus, but you can help the ones who can. I trust you to do the right thing. It won't be easy, but I know you understand the importance."
The right thing? There is no right thing, there is only duty.
First years. Eleven years old, knowing nothing, wanting to know nothing, understanding less. Defenceless. Think the world revolves about the Quidditch field. Think that life is as easy as "Accio cake!"
And here is the job I was made for. To take James Potter's son, and teach him that when you are cold and alone and tired and hurting and there's no end in sight, that talent and a famous name are not enough.
That when you face the soul-destroyer, all that will save you is your strength of will. The only guide is your understanding of your duty, the need to do what must be done. The only weapon is the power of bone-deep understanding, hard-won knowledge. Ipsa scientia potestas est.
He will hate me for it. As much, perhaps, as the dead and the maimed hate me. But I must do it, I must do this. The work I was shaped for, forged for, honed for.
Did you find the tool ready to your hand Albus, that day you watched me walk out of my cell, head high, eyes narrow and cold and focused?
Or did you forge it yourself, in the workshop of Azkaban, made malleable in the searing cold flame of despair, shaped by the anvil of debt and the hammer of duty?
The inspiration for this was a fic by "Silverfox" called "Runaway Dragon". It has a very OOC Snape, but some interesting backstory for him, including the idea that he didn't get away free after Voldermort's fall despite working for Dumbledore. That he was arrested and tried and sent to Azkaban, and when he came out he was a marked man, harassed by Aurors and constrained as to where he could work and what he could do.
And I thought that would be a good explanation for why he is like he is. That before he went to Azkaban he was passionate and full of life, and the prison changed him into something that was no food for Dementors.
Sure, Sirius laster longer, but Severus is far more intelligent, and has the intelligent man's curse of sensitivity. Sirius is a blokey boofhead, Severus is a fined down flame of intellect.
The "winter's ragged hand" quote is from one of Shakespeare's sonnets, the Latin is Francis Bacon "knowledge itself is power". " what no soap? So He died, and she very imprudently married the barber " is from Samuel Foote's poem "The Great Panjandrum".