Disclaimer: Not mine.
She looked at the sky from where she sat on her heels at the creek's edge, seeing black acrid smoke curl over the ridge to the south. She held her breath and closing her eyes, listened. Listened until her lungs felt ready to explode. She sought the sound of a cricket, or a bird's soft call, the bleating of goats from the summer pastures, but heard only an ominous silence.
Snapping her eyes open with a sharp intake of breath, she jumped up. Her laundry spilled into the muddy imprints of her knees, forgotten and cast away. She began to run, chanting the name of Odin and His father, imploring them to intercede. Then, grasping an amulet that hung on a leather thong around her neck she brought it to her lips, kissing it, praying to His gods, praying to those who had walked here before time. Her heart raced faster than her bare feet, her mind, unable to understand the depth of what she knew had happened, was only able to keep the chanted prayers and tearfully spoken words in front of her.
Once she made it to the top of the ridge, she squatted down and searched the valley in front of her, hoping to see more than the fire that still raged through the thatched huts. She watched the strange men lay their torches to the pens, and heard the screaming of the spring lambs. Lowering to her stomach on the ground, she parted the tall grass and peered at the centre of the village, raising the amulet to her lips once more. There, in a small clearing, stood the only reminder of the God that had given them this quiet place. Seeing only death and with it the total destruction of all she knew, she closed her eyes and lowered her head, breathing deeply and finding her centre, knowing this was the end of times that the oracle had prophesized eons ago.
Peace flooded her being, wrapped her in a warm embrace, called to her soul, and gave her strength for what she knew she must do. Lifting her head, she coldly surveyed the site, her ragged breath now slow and even. She smiled, seeing the land littered with bodies, the victors looting the dead, knowing she would soon be safe and with her people and her gods. She stood, lifted both hands to the sky, called on the winds of the icy sea and of the ancestors that watched over the village. She beseeched them to bring a storm, not to quell the flames, but to capsize the ships and bring havoc to the harbour. She called on the old gods to rain down their wrath on those that would dare to do this to His chosen. Praying for him to abandon the strangers on this cold rocky island with winter setting in and the supplies laid to waste.
She closed her eyes and chanted, bringing calm to herself and the life that grew in her womb. A small smile touched her lips as she felt dark clouds gathering, felt the ground rumble, and heard the cries and shouts of the foreign men feeling their own terror.
"Witch!" They screamed and raised weapons and wooden shields, not knowing if they dared to move or if they dared to stay rooted to the ground.
She started toward them, intent on making it home, to lay her hand on God's image, to feel Him accept her, to know her as the last of her people. Magic radiated from her, opening a path before her, the winter wheat giving way to her feet, the thorns of prickly berry bushes letting go of their hold on her tunic. The sky opened, split by bolts of lighting, dry leaves caught in the wind, rose up, and intertwined in her hair. She felt the spirit of the village flow into her, giving her its strength and power. She smiled as the magic of her people filled her, buoyed her sprits and commanded her to continue.
She did not take her eyes off the towering monolith that was the heart of her tribe as she pushed through a blurry fog of smoke and the stench of human flesh put to the torch. Keeping her eyes to the front, despite the jeering calls and lurid insults, hurled from the men of the north, she continued, feeling her eyes sting from the smoke and her lungs threaten to close. She felt death's breath on her face and put a hand over her stomach, feeling the first quickening of life, determined that this child would live. The future of her people would survive in her.
A stone hit her shoulder, hard and sharp, piercing the skin, hot blood going unnoticed as she held magic in her fist and let it loose, showering her in the shimmering light of a golden orb, protecting her as she walked closer to the men with their bearded faces and strange dress. Her hair rose again in the rushing wind, swirling up as the dust from the dirt path rose with it, obliterating her from sight, leaving the invading army in fear and confusion.
Another rock, hurled from a warrior's sling struck her cheek, yet another, her stomach. An arrow ripped into her thigh. Still she reached for the reflection that was her god, her protector and her salvation. A flaming arrow lit the suddenly dark sky, slamming into her back, coming to rest between her shoulder blades, as another tore into her left side, tearing muscle and sinew as she fell forward. Her lips pressed against the blue stone that was her god, her arms holding Him, her lips whispering His name, as He pulled her into His welcoming embrace.
Ten Years Ago
May 2, 1998
Constance Mulciber stood at the fringe of the clearing in the forbidden forest, stepping back and disappearing into the shadows, trying to become as inconspicuous as possible. Things were becoming chaotic. As soon as the Potter kid had stepped into the clearing, she knew it was time to leave. It no longer mattered who won or which side wrested control of the world. If Potter was about to stand alone, in front of the Dark Lord, it meant that Snape could no longer protect him, and if he could no longer protect the boy, he was laying someplace on the battle field. She had to find him.
Dropping her mask, she pulled off her cloak as she ran. She made her way deeper into the shadows of the Forbidden Forest, only to circle back toward the castle, staying off the paths and away from the round gamekeepers hut, disguising her path and hoping to go unnoticed. She was soon another jean and tee clad concerned mother looking for her child on the grounds of Hogwarts, willing to fight to protect her own, blending in while at the same time going unnoticed. Fools, she thought, watching the students standing in groups, wands at the ready, acting as if they were going off to fight for some noble cause, not realizing that only carnage and death would follow.
She was cold. The night air cooled the sweat from the back of her neck as fast as it appeared; cooling her flesh and sending a chill down her spine, making her remember the night she had cut her hair. She had worn it long, flowing down her back, hair he had said he liked, hair she was proud of and wore like a badge of womanhood, feminine and soft. Then, in a rage at his caustic comments, she had hacked it short until it was a mere cap of dark brown fuzz with a few wispy bangs.
He had laughed at her, had the nerve to tip his head up and laugh uproariously, and told her she would still not pass for a wizard in battle, laughed and ran his hand across her neck sending a different type of shiver through her. She had slapped his hand away at that, and then had slapped his face, hard, leaving her hand print as red swollen evidence of her anger.
He had not said a word, not made a move to stop her, to reprimand her, to punish her for her actions. He had only given her a curt nod and walked away, his robes catching the wind and raising up behind him as if in the same rage as he.
Now she ran to find him, wanting to hear him laugh at her for foolishly thinking he was injured or that he would have let his guard down so completely that he would have put himself in a situation he could not get out.
"You are Professor Snape's friend? You know him I mean? That was you in Hogsmeade with him?"
She spun around at the voice and pointed her wand at the bushy haired girl that stood at her elbow. "Who are you?"
"Umm, Hermione Granger," the girl whispered, stepping back from the upheld wand, letting her own wand slip from her sleeve and into her palm.
"Granger." Constance echoed, chagrined at her own lack of recognition of the girl that stood in front of her. Lowering her arm, she only nodded.
Then, as she listened to the girl's story, mixed with horror and confusion, she turned and ran down the steep slope toward the tree the girl had spoken of, holding her wand so tightly her hand turned white and trembled. She dropped to her knees and crawled through the tunnel until she could finally stand and begin to search for him.
"No." She sobbed aloud, dropping to her knees, and angrily pushed the splinted wooden cage as far as she could. "No, not like this! Damn you to hell, Snape! Not like this!"
Laying her head on his chest, listening for a faint heartbeat and at the same time clamping her hand over the wound, she held her breath and closed her eyes to concentrate. Hearing only her own heart as it thundered in her ears, she sat on her heels, moved her hand from the gaping wound, and studied the damage done. There was still a pulse, evidenced by the rhythmic bleeding, but she saw it was faint and weak.
Sucking in a deep breath, she began to close the gapping wound. Cauterising first the deepest bleeds, she took time to mend layer by layer of torn tissue, until she finally managed to pull what flesh remained together in a jagged line. Once she was satisfied, she crawled to sit at his head, putting a leg on each side of his body. She hauled him up to her chest and wrapped her legs around him, only thinking of getting him out. Voldemort had already put up wards to keep everyone on the grounds and she knew she could not apparate from here. She had to get him beyond the clearing, beyond the wards, into the Forbidden Forest.
Taking the only option she could think of, she pushed up her left sleeve and reaching her right arm around Snape, she touched her wand to the snake that withered on her flesh, unleashing a searing pain as her transportation began.
Arriving at the clearing, she released Snape, pushed him away from her with a grunt, and sprung to her feet, quickly stepping in front of him and seeking out the Dark Lord, letting out a breath in a rush of relief, as she went unnoticed. Voldemort's back was to her, in front of him Potter, and seeing her chance, she levitated Snape to an upright position. As soon as he rose to a height that cleared his feet from the ground, she held him tightly and apparated away.
They landed on an earthen path outside of an unplotted cottage, only to fall with Snape's weight pulling her down. Try as she might to cushion him, she heard a sickening thud and a slick sliding sound of his blood soaked cloak as she rolled him off her.
"Fuck," she muttered aloud. "Fine mess we are in, Snape. If you don't die now I'll kill you."
Levitating him to follow her up the path to the backdoor, she dropped the wards and stepped in, bringing him along with her. She stopped, wondering if she should take him up the steep stairs to the bedroom or keep him closer to the floo in case they need a fast escape. One more look at Snape confirmed that he was not capable of flight, and with a sigh, she trudged up the steps, floating him behind her, almost grateful that her simple surgery still allowed the wound to bleed as it meant his heart still pumped.
Lowering him to the bed she quickly removed his blood soaked clothing, reducing it to ash, and pulled out all the potions she had on hand, pouring what she could directly onto the reopening wound, knowing she would be unable to get him to swallow.
Fuck, it's not enough, she thought.
Glancing down at her own clothing, she made sure to remove all trace of blood before rushing back down to the floo and whisking off to St. Mungo's, her wand held loosely in her hand, ready to battle for more portions if the need arose, already planning which healer would return with her. She would grab the one that had not taken the mark, had pled and begged, had convinced the Lord that he could alter venom, that he alone knew how Nagini's bite could be healed and claimed to have a potion ready.
She convinced him to come, hinting it was the Dark Lord's pleasure and not mentioning who lay close to death, only wringing her hands and tearfully weeping as any distressed witch was apt to do. Not being sure if word had reached him that Snape was a traitor, she held her wand behind her back as she lead the Healer up the narrow staircase to see his patient. When he had turned on her, angrily hissing that he would not cure this bastard, she had pushed the point of her wand into is throat and changed his mind.
Now, a week later, she knew the truth. The Lords accomplice could rid the body of the venom, but nothing could remove the dark magic it contained. Snape was dying. He could not live like this. Not like this, not with the vileness of Voldemort still coursing through his veins, not with his heart beating so fast that it sounded and felt like it would burst in the effort. Levitating him over the bed, she spread out the quilt and lowered him down onto it, wrapping him securely and binding his wrapping with ropes.
"You move him and it's over." The white haired healer that sat on the chair spoke flatly. "He should be dead by now anyway. Damned traitor is what he is."
"Shut up," Constance spat. "You helped keep that fucking snake alive. I should have killed you when I had the chance."
"You have one now," he hissed, pulling against the ropes that held him. "You can't just leave me here. It could take days before I die."
"That's too fucking bad," she quipped. "Is that supposed to pull at my heartstrings?"
"I can remove your mark," he said cautiously. "You go out like that and you won't last long. Let me loose, trust me, let that bastard die, he has served his purpose. I can take care of you now."
"Don't worry about it. I won't be around here long enough to give a fuck." She double checked Snape's binding and pulled out her wand. "What do you want to remember? Nothing? Azkaban or St. Mungo's incurable ward? Your choice."
"Fuck off!" He threw his head back and spat at her, laughing at her look of anger. "Bloody bint, who the hell do you think you are? You have no place to go."
"Say hi to Alice for me," she smirked as the levelled her wand at his forehead and started her incantation.
Once done, she stood and watched drool drip down the old man's chin. Forcing his head up with the tip of her wand, she threw her own head back and brought it forward quickly, adding her own spittle to that of his. Using her wand to slice off the ropes she was not disappointed to note the nick she left on his arm, as she watched it well with blood.
"Bastard," she hissed.
With a look of determination hiding her fear, she went back to Snape, wondering how he would feel about what she was about to do. She wondered if he would curse her, or curse himself, as he was more apt to do. She climbed on the bed, putting her back against the headboard and one leg on either side of him as she had done before, and then pulled him up to her chest, breathing hard at the exertion. Once situated, she pushed her wand to the outside of her left arm, remembering the snide laugh with the sneered instructions she had overheard when Yaxley was instructed to use a back door, and felt the burning pain, worse this time then ever before. She felt the snake whither, and hissed in pain, throwing her head back and tightening the muscles in her neck to hold in her screams. With a shudder, as wave after wave of relentless spasms tried to pull her body apart, and the skin on her inner arm blistered, she fought to hold her burden tighter, not to let him slip away.
"Fuck," she grimaced, contorting in pain, clutching him, feeling her finger nails snap in the effort to hold on to him. Wrapping her legs around him for fear he would be lost, all the while holding her wand steady and true, she squeezed her eyes shut and prayed for this to be quick. At last, she felt the pull and spinning sensation that would take them to the other side. The place Voldemort had spoken of in hushed words and secret looks. The place he had almost worshiped, that he had prepared to wash off evil spells and vile curses, a place he had said only he and his chosen could enter, but which in the end, had been denied to even him. This was the place he had promised his loyalist followers, a haven, a sanctuary, and above all, the place she now prayed existed at all.
"Forgive me,'' she sobbed as her reality slipped away, and they disappeared together in a black swirling cloud of oily vapour.