Child of Darkness
Severus Snape is told a terrible secret and his world falls to pieces around him. Trying to pull things back together, he relies on those who would betray him if they found out his true identity...but there is more than one reason for this revelation...a prophecy that will threaten the safety and security of the wizarding world.
AU, no Harry yet, it is set when Severus is 24 (he was in service to Voldemort until the age of 22, and has recently returned to the light and to Dumbledore, who he feels incredible loyalty to).
I found this lingering in my computer, and it was just begging to be posted. Please have a read and let me know what you think...it's an interesting idea...you'll see why in the end...thank you! Kati...thank you for encouraging me to post it. I hope you enjoy.
DISCLAIMER: NO RECOGNISABLE CHARACTERS ARE MINE. Darn it.
Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall were having afternoon tea together in the Headmaster's office. It was January; snow was crisp on the ground outside. A fire was roaring in the fireplace; the tea was sweet; the remains of delicious crumpets left on the table between them. It all added up to a perfect afternoon.
Except Dumbledore kept falling into long silences, staring into his teacup and glancing up at the clock opposite. Minerva knew why, "How long?"
"Three hours and twenty six minutes. A long time." Dumbledore murmured, putting his teacup down with a long sigh. "Too long. But I should know if it's happened." He didn't elaborate. He didn't need to.
"Do you do this every time it happens, Albus?" She asked gently.
"What else can I do? I have to sit—anything else—I get distracted." But he nodded confidently, "I would know."
Minerva hated seeing her wise friend like this, "Everything will be fine, Albus. He will be fine."
Neither of them referred to him by name. They didn't need to. Both knew where he was, what he was doing, the danger he was facing. Both were praying for the same thing.
Another long silence, stretching over several minutes. Then Albus relaxed visibly in his chair. "Severus."
McGonagall stared at him, "Albus?"
"I felt him penetrate the wards. He's alive." His eyes darkened, "Now is the worst wait of all, Minerva. To discover what state he is in. This is the part I dread." His eyes fixed on the door. McGonagall could not help the flare of anxiety in her own chest either as they waited.
Suddenly there was an urgent knock at the door.
Dumbledore answered, "It's open, Severus."
The door flew open, a flurry of black stepped through, and then the door was slammed shut. Severus Snape leant back against the wood.
Dumbledore stood up, horrified. The man in front of him was sheet white, robes askew and hair windswept and wild. But this was not what scared Dumbledore the most. There were tears running down Snape's cheeks, from eyes that glistened with more unshed. It took him a few moments to realise that Severus Snape was crying. "Severus!"
The younger wizard was stricken—he tried to take a step toward Dumbledore but didn't quite make it. Dumbledore wasn't quick enough to stop him as Snape fell to his knees, head in his hands. Albus was at his side in a moment, wrapping both arms around the sobbing Snape, pulling him closer to his chest. McGonagall was up too, resting a soothing hand on Snape's knee, and exchanging stunned glances with Albus, who looked mystified. "Severus?" He murmured, "Severus, what's wrong?" He could tell it was bad simply from the way Snape was clutching his sky blue robes, hiding his face from view. Dumbledore couldn't believe how much pain the loud sobbing was causing—it was like blows to his heart. "Dear boy, please, talk to me." He muttered, stroking Snape's matted hair with his hand. "Are you hurt anywhere?" He demanded, wondering if this was the problem. When Snape didn't answer, Dumbledore pulled away. Almost instantly, Snape hid his face behind a hand, the other pulling a loose thread on his robe. Dumbledore couldn't believe this; it was so unlike Snape to show such vulnerability and emotion. It was bringing tears to Dumbledore's eyes, "Dearest child, you have to tell me what is troubling you!"
Snape continued to cry. Minerva looked as worried as Dumbledore. Albus looked across at the sofa, only a few metres away, and then back at McGonagall. Together they moved Snape up onto the plush gold material, where Dumbledore sat next to him, one arm comfortingly around Snape's shaking shoulders. "Minerva." Albus murmured, "Would you please go down to the kitchens and request some very strong lamb curry for Severus?" His eyes held the hidden message, "Give me some time alone with him." She nodded and disappeared through the door.
Albus turned to Snape, pulling his hands away from his eyes. He had to move down onto the floor so he was kneeling in front of his friend—that way, he could see into Snape's damp pale face. "Severus. What is the matter?" He was still holding Snape's hands, which clenched around his, almost desperately. It looked as though Snape couldn't even summon the strength to talk—he was obviously in some form of shock. Dumbledore nodded patiently, "All right. Just nod or shake your head, Severus, OK?" He paused, "Are you hurt physically?"
A slow shake of the head.
"Is it something you have done?"
A much more definite shake.
"Something He has done?"
A slight nod.
Dumbledore realised it. "Something He has said?"
There were the tears again, as Snape pulled his hands from Dumbledore and buried his face in them. Dumbledore let him, rubbing his hand soothingly across his knee. He waited while Snape cried, waited until the sobbing subsided. Snape looked up from his hands, towards the door to the bathroom. Dumbledore glanced that way too, "Oh, go on then." He let go of Snape, and the younger wizard leapt up and bolted into the small room. Dumbledore heard him lock the door.
As the Headmaster rose shakily, he thought absently about the pink towels in the bathroom and what Snape would think of them—but then he heard the sound of someone been violently sick. As much as it tortured him, he did not intervene—and simply sat in his armchair, watching the door patiently.
Ten minutes later, Snape appeared from the doorway. He had dried his face and whilst his eyes were red, they were empty of any tears., he sat back on the sofa, not looking at Dumbledore. Two moments passed, and McGonagall arrived with a tray. She smiled fondly at Snape before setting the tray down on the table next to him. He glanced at the steaming curry accompanied with rice, looked at his shaking hands, and then shook his head.
McGonagall realised that the other was still not talking, and instead knelt in front of him. "Yes you can, Severus. It's your favourite." She looked at the way he was shivering, "It will warm you up inside!" She knew it was sounding like she was speaking to a small child, but she thought it would be most helpful. She took the spoon herself and threatened to feed the other—defiantly, Snape grabbed the utensil and started to eat himself. She turned to look at Dumbledore, who smiled warmly at her. She started to move away from Snape—she knew, of course, that she ought to leave, but her motherly instinct was begging her to stay. But it was Albus—and Snape trusted him. She took her leave with one last, warm smile back at Snape.
Dumbledore watched as Snape took a few more mouthfuls of his food, slowed down, and then started to push his food around his plate. Dumbledore moved to sit next to him with a gentle sigh, "It's all right, you can leave the rest." Snape shifted position slightly, feeling any final strength drain from his muscles. He slumped against Dumbledore, head resting against the wizard's chest. The other started to gently run his hand through Snape's hair, meeting countless tangles along the way. "Shh, Severus, just sleep now, dear boy. We'll talk more later." His stroking became softer, soothing, and he felt Snape give in totally to the oblivion of sleep.
Four hours later, Minerva slipped back into the Headmaster's office. The sight made her smile—Severus was fast asleep against Albus, who had clearly nodded off too. They looked like father and son—but that was what their relationship had become. She had watched from the sidelines, a bystander, as Snape had crawled back to Dumbledore little more than four years ago. She had suspected—as had everyone—how could anyone turn back from the darkness? But she had seen how Dumbledore had cared for the boy. He saw a worth that seemed almost invisible, to everyone—especially Snape. Now she hoped that this sweet, caring relationship would save Snape from the torment that had made such an emotionally strong man...cry.
Morning woke Snape first, his ever efficient body clock waking him, sending him back into awareness. He looked up at the unfamiliar ceiling, realised where he was...and then remembered the events of last night. All too much.
He turned his head slightly to look at the still sleeping Albus. What would the Headmaster think of him now? When the secret...he distracted his mind and turned his attention back to Dumbledore. Sadness gripped his aching heart. His face looked so worn; eyes surrounded by lines. He was ageing...and the toll in the war against Voldemort was showing, all too clearly.
The love Snape held for his mentor was more natural than a son's and more passionate than a lover's. Dumbledore had taken him in, rebuilt him, and changed him, so he was unrecognisable on the inside. He owed Albus everything, would do anything for him, had just learned to love...and be loved...again—and now Voldemort threatened to tear him apart.
Tear them apart.
Stunned that this thought brought back hot tears to his eyes, he leant back against Dumbledore, a long sigh falling from his lips.
"You can always tell me, Severus." The voice was whispered against his ear, gently stroking his cheek. Snape shook his head slightly in response, "I can't." How could he possibly tell Dumbledore this?
Dumbledore moved so he was sitting upright. "Severus, I need to know. Please, dear child, you have to tell me."
Snape stood abruptly, trying to disguise his shaking. "I...I can't." He whispered softly. His legs started to give way and he slumped into the armchair opposite Albus, resting his head in his hands for a long moment. Finally he looked up. "He bluffed me. He asked me to create the liquid Cruciatus." He sighed, "And then asked me to taste it. I should have known that it was coming. It was potent. I always was too good at Potions. And while I was writhing on the floor, attempting to retch my stomach out, screaming for mercy...he asked me where my true loyalties lay." He looked disgusted at himself, "I said with you, Headmaster. I tried, I did. I really tried." His voice broke. Dumbledore reached over to grasp both his hands reassuringly, "I understand. Keep going, Severus."
"It didn't stop there. I told him what I...thought of him. I told him that he disgusted me. I thought it was the end, Headmaster, I really did. I told him that he was a fool. I told him that he was going to lose. I told him that he was nothing compared...compared with you." He bit his lip anxiously for a moment. "I thought he was going to kill me. I wanted him to kill me. But no." He closed his eyes. "He picked me up from the ground, held me in his...embrace...and told me...told me..." His face crumpled with torment. Dumbledore tightened his grip on his cold fingers, "Told you what?"
Black eyes met blue. He couldn't quite manage the words. "He told me..." He swallowed and forced the words from his lips, "Told me that he wouldn't kill his own flesh and blood..."
Dumbledore stiffened. "Pardon?"
"I'm his son, Headmaster. He showed me. A memory. My mother...and him." Snape stared at Dumbledore, agonised. The tears threatened to fall again. saying it made it seem much more real. He could have convinced himself it was nothing. Just a thought. But now...
Dumbledore was inactive for a moment...but a small shiver of shaky breath made him pull Snape into his arms. "Shush, Severus...he might be lying. He has no proof."
Snape sniffed. "His memory was real." He paused. "Did my mother know the Dark Lord?"
Snape looked at him, "She knew Tom Riddle, yes. A four year age gap if I remember rightly."
Snape let the dread relax his limbs, "How can I be related to him?"
Dumbledore tightened his hold, "We know nothing for certain, dear child. But I understand why you are shaken. That would make you his heir."
Snape muttered, "And a Pure Blood." He looked up at Dumbledore, "Do you think it possible, Headmaster? Could I be..."
Dumbledore looked into the black eyes for a long time. He finally replied, "No, Severus. You are not his son."
OK. The idea is...far fetched. But I thought it possible. Do you think I should carry on with it? I have one more chapter already written, ready to post, with a few more surprises in store for our beloved Snape...but...well, it's only worth writing if you readers are going to enjoy it. So, please review and let me know whether or not you think it worth continuing with....I really want to hear your comments!