Title: Tears of the phoenix

Author: Kitsune1978

Genre: Angst

Rating: K+

Pairing: SS/LE suggested

Summary: AU, between fifth and sixth book. The Dark Lord has discovered that Snape is a double agent.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.

Beta: Ranchii (as usual), thanks a million

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TEARS OF THE PHOENIX

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„Welcome, Severus," a cold, high voice uttered.

The man didn't answer, only bent himself in a bow. He stayed like this for a moment, and stiffly straightened up, looking into the scarlet eyes, cut with vertical pupils.

"My Lord has called me, so here I am," he replied in a flat, dry voice.

A few people standing behind his back sneered.

„ You're as reliable as always," Lord Voldemort commented, „Yes, so reliable..."

There was a taunting note in his words, however the dark-haired man bowed again, as if he was thankful for the praise. He waited patiently in a silence, until the reason of the call would be assigned.

Dark Lord rolled his wand with fingers, watching the thing almost affectionately. He stroked its tip with his long, spidery thumb, raising his gaze to Severus Snape. Something strange shimmered in the red eyes.

„I have had so few Death Eaters like you," he instigated. „Devoted, talented, loyal."

Lord Voldemort has never been calling his servants to pay them compliments. The hooded figures behind Snape stood still, and so was he, their senses extremely strained to catch any note or tune in their lord's speaking which could foretell what was coming to meet them – a surprising victory or a total disaster. Even if Snape could almost feel his companions' fear, he did not forget the sneering he has been welcomed with. It was like an emperor moved his thumb down during the games, like the hounds were chugging on the game's trail.

The yew wand was faster than a blink. Snape collapsed without a sound. The scarlet eyes were watching him ruthlessly.

„Bring me veritaserum," the Dark Lord commanded.

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His mind was coming back to his body, very slowly, like he was floating up the invisible well, like he was surfacing the freezing primordial ocean. He resisted with all his might, protested, but an unknown power didn't let him repose in the blissful emptiness any longer, mercilessly drawing him to consciousness. He began to feel again – physical and mental pain emerged, piercing, excruciating. The pain from so many spells, tormenting curses and dark charms. Any of them wasn't killing, though. The traitor wasn't supposed to die so quickly.

He started to hear voices. Many of them. In the beginning there was only a vague murmur. Bit by bit the voices became more comprehensible, until there were words he could distinguish, and even entire sentences at last, accompanied by the violent banging and crashing. The swishing spells were flying in the air and glancing off the walls. At this sound, Snape cowered instincitively and attempted to protect his mind from being entered, to no avail. Anyway no attack has taken place, nothing has happened, even if the uproar was increasing. At the end it captured the man completely.

He tried to raise his palms and shield from the lash, but couldn't control his racked, exhausted body. Some hands heaved him, propping his head. Snape could almost recognize the voices saying his name, when someone grasped his wrist and unexpected apparition squeezed the air back into his lungs. Before he could fully collect himself, the darkness engulfed him again.

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He was surrounded by completely different sounds by now – crackling, fizzing, clattering noises, quiet but familiar. The smell was familiar too – the old tapestry and veneer, ancient books and painted portraits, firewood and oak floorboard...

He was in Hogwarts. In headmaster's office.

His body was numb and helpless, like a deserted object lying on a hard surface. He half opened his eyelids and clenched them at once, blinded by the bright flames dancing in the fireplace. He managed to notice that someone placed him on the floor, on the thick shabby carpet in front of Dumbledore's desk. Headmaster wasn't here, though. No one was, except the phoenix settled on his perch and portraits peeking from the walls.

The aura of this place was easing his suffering, he began to feel safe. It was this very office where he has given his first account of Death Eaters meeting. It was here where he cried for the first and the last time over the death of a certain woman. It was here where he could learn the meaning of Dumbledore's wisdom, ability to read people's hearts, his kindness and power.

It was here where he compared himself to that great wiseman and saw without any doubt, how black and vile his own soul was. How terrible person he must have seemed to those ignorant, naive and noble ones who have never tainted themselves with evil.

He tried to push away the pain coming from uncountable wounds, burns and curse traces. He was extraordinarily resistant, but the tortures that had been applied to him weren't only hurting his body. They broke his every defence mechanism and all pent up feelings and memories buried at the bottom of his heart surfaced his consciousness, destroying the walls he was carefully building around himself since so long ago. The past became the present for him, but his executioners didn't let him lose himself. He, always so self-controlled, reserved and aloof, had been crawling, gibbering and howling like a beast. The spit and froth had been spilling from his mouth and what had been left of him was only begging for mercy, and pure willingness to give up everything he had to make them stop. Even for a moment.

Something soughed above him like a wind drifting through the treetop. The soft, warm burden settled upon his chest. Snape opened his eyes with a long sigh and attempted to pull up his head.

Dumbledore's phoenix flew down from the perch and nestled on man's ribs. Considering the size, the bird wasn't heavy at all, moving up and down to the rhythm of Snape's breathing. The phoenix turned the neat head and twittered gently; the round, pearly gold eye was staring at Snape. Bird's gaze was unbiased and frank, eternity seemed to dwell within those eyes, marked by endless cycle of death and rebirth. The warmth radiating from Fawkes seemed to permeate down man's chest and melt the lump of ice stuck in there ever since Snape could remember. However, when his heart started dangerously tremble and stinging moisture welled under his eyelids, he broke the silence and croaked the one word.

„Don't."

The bird unfolded its splendid wings, purple-gold interspersed with crimson threads, and fluttered, but didn't fly away. He bent the head and the fair eye was fixed upon the lying man once more. The light and warmth, things that Severus Snape hated as much as he yearned for, brushed his soul for the first time since he lost Lily, who was in fact his only light and warmth.

The revealing drop slipped through his long, black eyelashes, leaving a wet trace down his temple, and disappeared in dark hair, sticky from blood. The phoenix unfolded its wings one again and warbled softly.

Snape began to feel like he was watching himself from the outside. He was almost suffocated by embitterment and sorrow, aware that he had failed again. As usual. He should know earlier that whatever he would put his hands upon would end in ruin, burying him under the rubble. The consciousness of guilt was haunting him again, festering like an old wound, when his thoughts drifted down into his heart's innermost chamber and listened for the beast dwelling there. The beast, however imprisoned and chained up with shackles of his very will, was still alive after all those years. Its name was desire for power; vengeance was its life; horror, tortures and death were feeding it until the prophecy had come into his way and made him step onto completely new path.

From that day there wasn't a single moment in his life without yearning for being someone else. Above all else he wanted to make through the sanctifying fire and wake up like that crimson phoenix – reborn. Free.

He craved for atonement and rebirth as much as he never wanted to let go of his burden. He would never erase any moment of his life, stuck in forever due to unreciprocated love and the death sentence he passed upon her.

The phoenix hovered above him and landed by Snape's left side. He glanced at the man and slowly lowered its head until it pointed at Snape's forearm. The man was watching it without breathing and shrank inside. However there wasn't a threat in bird's eye. Nor invitation to the bright future neither easy resolution and straight path. The phoenix was holding his head still, waiting for Snape's decision.

Slowly, with highest effort, Snape turned up his forearm. Then he had to lie still until gasps changed into more regular breathing. The sleeve of man's robe was tattered, but still clinging to his hand. He reached with right palm, clenching his teeth when his broken bones cracked, and pulled the fabric up. The pale, injured skin was finally on display.

The phoenix brought the small head down and pearly tears rolled down his purple silky feathers.

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The end.