A/N - Alright, bitches? Nah, I'm not dead. Just very very busy. I'm so sorry this took forever and a bit. Love you all.
'Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
Yet grace must still look so.' – William Shakespeare, Macbeth
When he was thirteen, Snape experienced what he'd believed to be the worst day of his life.
He'd been walking across the castle grounds, his nose buried in a book, when a sharp pain hit him in the small of his back. He collapsed on all fours, his stomach churning with sudden, intense nausea. He squeezed his eyes shut against the feeling, but he knew the curse he'd been hit with. He'd used the same one on an unsuspecting Pettigrew last week – he should have known it would come back to bite him on the arse.
Potter and Black were laughing at him.
'That'll teach you to curse Peter, you wanker.'
Snape heaved, and vomited all over the grass. He knew the curse, and knew it wouldn't last for more than two minutes. But every second felt like a lifetime.
'And we saw you spitting in Remus' food at breakfast.'
'He fucking deserved it!' Snape shouted, before spewing the remains of his lunch on the grass. He was rewarded by a kick in the ribs.
Snape winced in pure humiliation. He didn't care that she was coming to help him. If Lily saw him vomit his life would officially be over.
She held back his hair as he vomited on the grass, shouting abuse at Potter and Black as they ran away, laughing uproariously.
'You'll get what you deserve one day, you horrible little boys!'
Ordinarily her anger would have pleased him, but at that moment he was too humiliated to care. Lily had seen him vomit. He wanted to die.
He sat back on the grass, his head in his shaking hands, and after vanishing the vomit with a flick of her wand, Lily smoothed the hair back from his forehead, speaking soft, soothing words as she cupped his cheek in her hand.
'Just breathe, Sev.'
He looked up at her. She smiled her lovely smile.
Ginny had been aware of her cautiously unfolding beauty from a young age. It made boys stammer and drop their books. It made girls whisper catty remarks behind their hands. It made male professors lean a little too close over her desk as they corrected her work.
She had been Harry's first time, though he had not been hers. Dean had asked her to a few months previously, and she'd said yes. The cold air had crept under the dormitory door, skimming over her thighs and breasts as Dean had run his fingers over her soft, freckled skin with a look close to wonder on his face.
Harry had been nervous. He trembled as she reached for his belt, and his fingers fumbled between her legs, but she didn't care. When he poured himself into her with a shuddering sigh she clung onto the back of his sweaty neck and smiled at the ceiling.
That night she didn't sleep. She stayed up so that Harry wouldn't hear her if she jolted awake screaming as she often did. She watched him sleep all night. She laid her head on his warm chest and heard his steady heartbeat, slow and rhythmic. Like that, she thought. Like that.
He was perfect to her.
When Tom Riddle was sixteen, a girl fell in love with him.
Imogen Rosier had hair the colour of straw, as light and fluffy as candyfloss. She was a tiny girl with a large overbite. Tom Riddle was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She traced his name on her textbooks. She practiced the signature Imogen Riddle. She watched out of her window as he walked across the school grounds, her fingers pressed against the glass.
He was beautiful and she was thirteen. Of course she loved him.
A friend laughingly told Tom Riddle that rabbit-toothed Immy Rosier worshiped the ground he walked on. Tom had smiled; the thought amused him and he liked to be amused. Later that day he asked a trembling, delighted Imogen if she would accompany him on an excursion to the forest early that evening.
What happened that night nobody ever discovered, but Imogen never spoke a word again. Her parents took her out of school, deeming her mentally unfit to remain. The last Tom Riddle heard she had been put in the permanent residents' ward of St Mungo's. It was a shame really, he thought. She really did have the most delightful way of screwing up her nose as she screamed.
Snape opened the door to Draco's bedroom. The room was a wreck. Bedding lay all over the floor, some of it ripped apart. The dressing table was overturned, and the mirror lay shattered on the ground. The girl sat on the floor in the middle of the carnage, her knees drawn up to her chest.
'If you kept your dormitory room in this state, I can only marvel that you weren't expelled years ago,' he said by way of greeting.
She raised her head. The hate on her face would have hit him like a slap, if he had not had countless reasons for people to hate him before. It did not move him. By this stage in his life, his armour was too thick to be pierced.
He pointed his wand at the floor, conjuring up a plate of scrambled eggs. 'Breakfast.'
She spat neatly onto the food. He sighed, turning to the door. 'You can starve if you wish, it is only yourself you are causing suffering.'
'I want to know something.'
He closed his eyes and counted to five before turning back to face her. She was climbing to her feet.
'I want to know why you hated Harry so much.'
He was taken aback, but he kept his expression neutral. No one would ever know why he hated Potter. He had made sure of it.
'What the Dark Lord hates, I hate,' he said smoothly – the old party line.
'Don't give me that,' she snapped. 'You never treated Dumbledore the way you treated Harry. And you weren't as cruel to the muggle-borns of the school as you were towards Harry - and your precious Dark Lord hates them more than anything. You had a personal grudge against Harry, and I want to know why.'
She was pushing him. He didn't want to lose his temper in front of her. Truth be told, he wanted her out of his way and as soon as possible. He hated her impertinence and her scruffiness and her coarse behaviour. He hated her red hair and her pretty face. He hated her because she was alive and Lily was dead.
'Potter was a rude, unintelligent boy who rode through life on the tailcoats of others,' he said calmly. 'He did nothing but trample over those he deemed unworthy of attention, and his ego was over-inflated due to the unwarranted attention of his betters-'
'Yes, yes, whatever,' she said, waving her hand. 'He told me about how you hated his father. And because of that – because of a twenty year old grudge - when Harry arrived at Hogwarts at eleven years old you just took one look at him and decided he was shit, didn't you?'
His temper was beginning to rise. 'If I did, then he did nothing to prove me incorrect.'
She was looking at him closely. 'Did you hate his mother, too?'
It was like he'd stepped into thin air for a second. In all the years since, no one except Dumbledore had spoken to him about Lily. Not even Black or Lupin, who had surely either known or guessed-
She was waiting for an answer.
'She was quite beneath my notice.' It hurt him to say the words.
'But you knew her?'
He bit on his tongue so hard he could taste iron. 'Yes. Barely.'
'And what do you think she'd have to say to you, if she knew you made her son's life miserable then watched, uncaring, as he died?'
He slapped her, hard. So hard she spun on the spot before falling to the floor, crashing into the debris she'd left of the dressing table. He did not regret hitting her. She was alive. Lily was dead. At that moment, Snape hated Ginny Weasley.
But as she climbed to her feet, there was a little too much understanding in her face. Just a flicker, a tiny light, but it was there. She knew she had hit a nerve somehow, but one reach into her mind through legimilency told him she was not certain what it was.
'You think yourself positively angelic, don't you?' he spat. 'A brave martyr, a saint beloved by the masses. You believe yourself to be the sweet, good, grieving war widow of a hero. Well you're not, Ginevra Weasley. I watched you throughout your school years and saw only a girl with minimal positive qualities. You're nothing more than an obnoxious, ungrateful child. You did badly at school, if I remember, showing no respect to either your teachers or any pupil you deemed unworthy of your attention. And now you think to stand there and lecture me? You're a hypocrite, just like that worthless boyfriend of yours-'
Her hand snapped up. Snape acted instinctively, catching her wrist in his fingers. A shard of glass shook a mere inch from his face. He twisted her hand away from him. She turned with it, crying in pain. She had little resistance, Snape realised. She was weak.
'Drop it,' he said, not raising his voice.
'I said drop it.'
She screamed as he twisted her arm so far up her back her fingers flexed helplessly in her own hair. 'Drop it, and I won't tell the Dark Lord what you just tried to do.'
'Do you think… I care?'
'You will. Drop it. Now.'
With a final, broken sob, she let the shard drop to the floor. Snape let go of her, swiftly crouching down to vanish the makeshift weapon. He turned and flicked his wand at the broken mirror, vanishing it. He was an idiot not to have done so when she'd first arrived.
She was crying now, curled up on her side with her fingers tangled in her hair.
'Fool,' he said simply. 'Do you have any idea how much worse you could make things for yourself?'
'I don't care,' she sobbed. 'What else could you do to me? I have nothing left, nothing! They're all dead, all of them, and I just want to be with them and I have to wait and I can't stand it…'
She trailed off. She was making no sound, her mouth a wide gaping hole. Globs of saliva fell from her lips.
He had seen this kind of grief before. He had felt it.
He took a small step forwards. His hand rose, before it dropped again.
'Ginevra,' he said quietly.
She didn't answer. Her body still shook with those terrible, silent screams.
'Ginevra,' he whispered. 'Please.'
There was a long pause. Her sobs subsided enough for her to raise her head and look at him. There was a question in her eyes, and he knew why. He could kick himself.
He reached down and picked her up bodily by the arms, setting her own her feet. She looked up at him still. He didn't let go of her.
His wrist burned, and he dropped her arms. His Dark Mark seared with pain.
Snape looked at the strange girl in front of him. She raised an eyebrow a millimetre.
'I must go,' he muttered, turning swiftly to the door.
'Yeah, that's right, run off to Daddy,' she taunted.
He paused in the doorway for a moment, before he left the room and locked the door behind him.
Something very unusual was happening.
Lord Voldemort was in a marvellous mood. His power was near absolute, and all his enemies were dead, imprisoned, or had disappeared without trace. The Ministry would soon be disbanded and replaced by his new order of governance.
He was beginning to see a future in which he could relax. Soon he would have some time in which he could really enjoy the freedom that comes with victory. It was such a strange sensation to him he almost wondered what he would do with his time.
He needed something to do. And Ginerva Weasley intrigued him.
Potter was dead. But he was not conquered yet. His closest friend, the Weasley boy, was dead too. The mudblood friend of theirs was soon to follow. If Ginerva were to be killed as well, that would complete the destruction of everything the boy had ever loved. But that was not enough for Lord Voldemort. Another victory was dangling in front of him, tantalisingly close.
She had loved Potter. But she had also loved Tom Riddle. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.
The door opened and Snape crept into the room, as was his way. He bowed low, and Voldemort smiled on the man as a favoured son.
'Have a seat, Severus. I have some questions for you.'
Snape sat in one of the grand armchairs by the fireplace. He had to hand it to Malfoy - the room was exquisite. It was almost a pity that Lucius could no longer enjoy his wealth. He was a jittering, terrified man - it was pitiful to see. His usefulness had run out, and he knew it. Snape wondered whether he would have the good sense to disappear before the Dark Lord chose to dispense with him.
'I trust I have not summoned you at a bad time, Severus.'
'Not at all, my Lord. Your timing was immaculate, in fact.'
Voldemort smiled. 'Have you fed the girl?'
Snape didn't bother to ask who he meant. The Dark Lord had a new project, which meant he was unlikely to think of much else. 'Yes. She's still at the stage of refusing the food we give her. She will eat when it gets too much for her.'
'They always do,' Voldemort replied genially. 'Tell me, do you remember much of her from her time at school?'
Snape's voice was impassive. 'She was mostly unremarkable. Quiet and subdued for her younger years. Then she took up quidditch, and with that came the arrogance that often goes with the sport. She was sometimes in detention for talking back to her teachers. From what I recall, she was a mouthy teenager. Nothing more.'
Voldemort put his chin in his hand. 'But she found my diary?'
'So I heard, yes.'
'How did you hear about it?'
'There were… incidents.'
Snape could feel himself being backed into a corner. 'I believe the diary began to have some kind of… influence over her.'
'Indeed? What happened?'
Snape chewed the inside of his cheek. He did not know why he didn't want to tell him. Ginevra was simply taking up time he needed to avenge Lily. But he knew it would be a base betrayal to tell her secret. He had betrayed more people than he cared to count. But the girl… if it weren't for her damned red hair…
Snape had taken too long, he knew. He looked at his master. He could not afford to arouse suspicion now, not after eighteen years.
Voldemort turned his red glare onto Snape, and Snape saw a world of power in his gaze.
'You tell me.'
What else could he do?
Snape took a deep breath, and told him everything he knew.
A few hours later, Snape went back into Ginny's bedroom. She lay back on her bed, staring at the canopy above it. He cleared his throat, but she did not turn to look at him.
'The Dark Lord wishes to see you, Miss Weasley.'
'Tell him I'm busy.'
Snape tutted and looked around the room. The food he'd left for her earlier lay congealed and uneaten in the corner. He vanished it with a flick of his wand. 'You'll have to eat, sometime.'
'Will I?' she turned to face him then, her head at a right angle to her body, though she made no effort to move from the bed.
'You'll have to eat if you want to survive, Ginevra.'
'What's the point?' she whispered, smiling at him joylessly. 'I've got less than a week, Snape. I'm going to die in six days.'
There was nothing he could say to that. So he kept silent.
She breathed a tiny laugh, then pulled her legs up to her chest. Her robe rode up around her knees, showing a pale pair of legs. Her fingers tangled in the red hair that spread over her pillow. 'What will they do with my body?'
Snape felt warm and uncomfortable. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. 'I don't know. Does it matter?'
She seemed not to have heard him. 'Will they bury me, do you suppose? Or will they burn me, like Dumbledore?'
He looked at her. She was losing it. He had been expecting it to happen. Most condemned prisoners did, at some point. But at least this morbid curiosity was better than the screaming, wailing, and muttering some of the other prisoners had settled upon.
'Ginevra,' he said, his voice cold, 'The Dark Lord wants to see you. I will not allow him to be kept waiting. And if you refuse to come now, he will only come to you. And if he has to do that he will be most displeased, do you understand me?'
She sighed and swung her legs off the bed, looking at him with hard eyes as she stood up. 'Of course I understand you,' she murmured. 'How could I not? I knew him better than anyone else when I was only eleven years old.'
Snape paused at that, before he took her hand and evaporated with her, taking her to see his master once again.
'Miss Weasley.' Voldemort smiled as Snape left him with the girl. 'I trust you are finding the accommodation to your satisfaction?'
Ginny glared at him. 'What do you want with me?'
He didn't skip a beat. He simply lowered himself into his chair. 'I want to talk to you about what happened in your first year at Hogwarts.'
Ginny took a deep breath. 'I told you. I wrote in Tom Riddle's diary, and he wrote back to me.'
'That's not all that happened, Ginevra. I want the whole truth from you.'
'That is the whole truth,' she replied, fighting her rising panic. 'He became my confidante, that's all. I was eleven and needed someone to talk to. As soon as I realised who it really was-'
'You began to assist him in opening the Chamber of Secrets?'
Her mouth fell open. She felt like she was going to faint. 'How… how did you-'
'You must have realised who your headmaster's loyalty belongs to, Ginevra. Severus has told me everything.'
She blinked. 'Everything?'
He smiled. 'All about how you opened the Chamber of Secrets. All about how you set the Basilisk on your fellow students. All about how you painted messages of terror on the school walls with blood.'
She pressed her lips together, utterly furious. Why had Snape told him? Why had he tried to convince her not to do so?
'But I would like to hear things from your point of view, Ginevra. So tell me – as one friend to another, as we once were. Tell me how it happened.'
Ginny swallowed. 'I can't.'
He cocked his head to one side. 'Why?'
'Because I never told anyone,' she said, truthfully.
'Of course you didn't. No one could understand what happened to you.' He rose from his chair and stepped closer towards her. 'But I could. It was only you and I involved, wasn't it? Just you and me. We were alone in this.'
She stared at him, terrified of the implication.
'And I don't believe it's fair that when you and I were so… deeply involved in one another's lives for a year, you can remember it and I cannot.'
She stared at him in disbelief. 'Are you saying I owe you?'
'I am saying I deserve an explanation of events.'
There was a long pause while Ginny dug her nails into her palms. She owed him nothing, she knew that. But he would find out one way or another, if he wanted to know. And she'd rather tell him herself than have another person tell lies about her.
'I'll tell you,' she said slowly. 'But only so you can know the terrible things you did to an eleven year old girl. I owe you nothing more than that.'
He smirked. 'A reasonable compromise.' He turned and walked back to his armchair, sinking into it. 'Tell me.'
She closed her eyes, and counted to five. Her mouth opened, then closed again. She shook her head. She couldn't talk about it. She had never told anyone about it.
She heard Voldemort shift in his chair. She wondered just how long he'd wait for her to start talking. He'd wait for as long as it took, she realised. Because he knew that, deep down, she wanted to tell him.
'A few months after I began writing in the diary, it began to make me do things.'
He looked interested. 'I made you do things? Did I use threats, or persuasion?'
She pressed her lips together, hating his wording. 'Well, at first he said he needed my help. He needed me to tell him what was happening at the school. Who was there, how it was run, that sort of thing.'
'And you told me?'
'I told him,' she retorted. 'I thought he was my friend, and I didn't see any harm in telling him things that everyone in the school already knew.'
He nodded. 'But I assume it didn't end there.'
She took a deep breath. 'No, it didn't end there. He was very interested in Harry, and Dumbledore, and the families of the students I knew.'
He smiled. 'Ah yes, even as a youngster I knew the advantage of forward planning. But when it became clear action needed to be taken, that the Chamber needed to be opened once again, did I ask for your help then, too?'
'Yes. In a way. He-'
'I gave you instructions and you followed them?'
'No!' She pulled herself together. 'No. I was made to do them.'
'So I threatened you into obeying my orders?'
'No. I began to… lose my memory. The diary would take over my mind, and would commit the crimes using my body.'
He raised his eyebrows, a small smirk pulling at his lips. 'You don't have to give the same excuse to me as you did to your teachers.'
'I didn't do it!' she said hastily. 'Or I… I did do it, but I have no memory of it. The diary entered my mind. It possessed me and used me to attack the other students. But I wasn't myself.'
'And your teachers believed that flimsy explanation, did they?'
'They believed I was telling the truth.'
'Ah.' He smiled almost indulgently. 'Without any proof?'
She paused, flummoxed. 'What?'
'Was there any proof that your story was correct?'
'Well… yes,' she stammered. 'Harry backed me up.'
'Oh yes,' he drawled. 'How convenient it must be to have to Boy Who Lived to provide evidence on your behalf.'
'What's that supposed to… look, I was telling the truth, and they believed me! Dumbledore said-'
'I do not care what the old fool said.'
There was a long silence. Ginny formed sentences in her head before discarding them, trying all the while to hold on to Ginny Weasley in the core of her heart, like a flame guttering in the wind.
'Can I ask you something?' Voldemort said eventually.
'I'm sure you will anyway,' she fired back.
He only smiled. 'Were you happy to do my work?'
'Happy? No… you don't… of course I wasn't happy to do it!'
'But you had reason to be angry with all whom you attacked, did you not? Severus told me in detail about each of them. The caretaker had threatened to expel Potter. Another of the victims monopolised Potter's attention – talking incessantly to his idol while you simply watched him from afar. And another accused Potter of attacking his fellow students.'
'And Hermione Granger,' he murmured with a smile, rising from his chair. 'Potter's closest female friend. I can only imagine how you felt about her. How dare she? This bossy little muggle getting close to Potter - hugging him, talking with him, sitting with him. No doubt to this day you take great pleasure in the fact that you, at least, are prettier than she is-'
'No. Stop… stop!' she said, her voice breathless. 'I was only doing what you made me do. I couldn't stop it-'
'Then why didn't you tell anyone?' he said softly. 'Are you so selfish that you cared more about your own reputation than your fellow students' welfare?'
'You don't know anything about it!' she shouted. 'I was a child. I was terrified of what was happening, of what my family would say, of whether I was going to be expelled. How could I have told anyone?'
'Opening your mouth and saying the words might have been a starting point,' he said with a smug smile.
'SHUT UP!' She screamed, completely losing it. 'You love this, don't you? Does it give you pleasure, that you forced an eleven-year-old girl to do such horrible things in your name?'
'In my name?' he drawled, walking slowly towards her. 'Did you ever write on those walls 'This is the work of the heir of Slytherin?''
'Well… no, but-'
'I put it to you that you enjoyed being the centre of attention. You relished the one claim to fame you had – the one thing that might get Potter to notice you, and might stop your brothers mocking you.'
'Of course I didn't… I didn't know it was happening! I never meant to hurt anyone. I don't take pleasure from other people's pain. I'm not like you!'
'Ah, yes,' he smiled, circling around her. 'Pleasure and pain. Two very different concepts, and yet you cannot have one without the other.'
He was behind her now, and with a shudder of revulsion she felt his hands brush over her waist. She wanted to vomit, but she steeled herself, imagining herself to be made of stone. She would prove to him what she was made of.
He pulled her back against him. She could feel his bones and sinew in her back. His fingernails were digging in to her hips now, so hard she could feel her skin tear. If she were not made of stone, she would scream until her mouth bled.
'Have you ever held your hand briefly into a flickering flame?' he whispered into her ear. 'Have you ever plucked out one of your hairs for no other reason than a miniscule thrill? You see, my dear, sometimes you have to ask yourself - where does the pain end and the pleasure begin?'
The fingers on her hips softened. Still present, still undeniably there, but with no sharpness. A fierce pressure, but no pain.
She looked down at the hands pressed into her hips. No longer white, veiny, skeletal, but pale, large, and young. The body she could feel pressing into her own was warm now, and strong. A broad chest rose and fell behind her.
She turned her head involuntarily, and Tom Riddle's face looked down at her, mere inches from her own. His handsome face was smiling, and a lock of black hair curled over his forehead.
'When did you start to enjoy hurting them, Ginevra?'
She stared up at him. He was beautiful, but terrible. His smile promised her the world, and all of the evil and beauty it contained.
At the knock on the door, he pushed her to the floor. She grazed her palms as she landed, and when she looked up from under her hair he was the monstrous Lord Voldemort once more.
The door swung open, and Snape strode into the room. He looked only very briefly at Ginny before he rose his face to his master.
'The crowd has gathered, my Lord. It is time.'
'Excellent.' Voldemort bent down and raised Ginny up by the arm. 'Would you care to join me, my dear?'
She shook as she answered. 'What for?'
He smiled. 'Why, for the meting out of justice, of course.'
Her knees buckled beneath her. 'Justice?'
He nodded. 'All traitors are condemned, Ginevra. You know that better than anyone. Now come with me. I want you to see it.'
'What?' she stammered, terrified. 'No.'
Voldemort smiled all the wider, and took her by the arm, pulling her through the door as she struggled. 'It will be easier for you, this way,' he said as he dragged her along. 'It will prepare you for your own execution – if you have seen others face death with dignity, I am sure it will help you to do so.'
'No. No, please!'
Snape felt his hand rise, before he dropped it. There was nothing he could do to stop the Dark Lord's will.
But he could be with her, at least.
He followed the monster and the screaming girl out of the room.
The courtyard under the Malfoys' grand balcony was full of a roaring crowd. Ginny did not consider that those who were against Voldemort's actions did not dare to show their faces. All she could hear was naked loathing for those who were to die.
She began to struggle. She wanted to scream. She needed to scream. But someone was holding her back, with a hand clamped over her mouth. She didn't know who it was until she felt Snape's greasy air brush against her cheek.
It seemed to Ginny that an endless parade fell through the trapdoor, strangled to death by the noose. In truth there were only five victims that afternoon. She watched as McGonagall, her favourite teacher, dropped through the trap. Then Slughorn, Kingsley, and Lupin. The final victim was Tonks, who gave Ginny a small wave before she dropped.
Ginny's head reeled, her brain no longer to make sense of it. As her eyes flickered back and forth, she became aware only that Voldemort was smiling at her. It was not a smile of triumph or of malice. It was a smile of shared secrets and inside jokes. It was a smile of friendship. She looked at him for a moment, then bit down so hard on her tongue that blood filled her mouth.
Voldemort waved a hand at the person holding on to her. She was dragged forcibly backwards. Her body was limp, and she was dizzy with nausea. Snape eventually had to lift her up like a child to carry her.
He dropped her suddenly when they reached her room. She dropped to her knees, half crawling across the floor as she vomited in great heaves. She couldn't stop it, and even if she could she needed to expel every horror from her body. She felt she could bleed to death and it still wouldn't be enough.
How many more had to die?
She curled up on her side, shivering, her hand falling limply into the pool of vomit.
How much more death did she have to see? Her family, her friends, the love of her life. And Tom knew, as he always did, how to hurt her. Tom. Damned, evil, fucking twisted unbearable Tom-
'Just breathe, Ginevra.'
She opened her eyes, looking up at Snape. He hadn't moved from the doorway, and his expression remained unfathomable.