Walking In Light

An HP masterpiece

Characters, events © J. K. Rowling


When Severus Snape was twelve years old, his outmost aspiration was to become a teacher. He was the best student in the House Slytherin, and perceived as one of the best in the entire Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and many said teaching was below one of his skill and intellect. Yet he paid little attention to what many said, had always been an independent loner, for no one knew him and what was good and bad for him more than himself, obviously. That was what he wanted to do, and let the world be damned. He wanted to teach.

He could not for the life of him understand how it was that some children his age had such a hard time understanding what seemed to him as the simplest of spells. Brilliant, cunning and hard working, there was little that took him time to learn and nothing that escaped him. Things were obvious in his world – there were facts, there were clear ideas. Not knowing… what was the strange thought?

He was young, and fairly confident, mark of those in the House Slytherin, high-handed, ambitious and well aware of his abilities. He never did think he knew all there was to know, but had no doubt that whatever there was more to learn, it was not beyond him. And he looked for it, with a passion and relentlessness, what more there was to see, because everything could be seen. He could see. Others could not, and he pitied them, those who live in the dark, uncertain in their lives, not knowing what lay around the next corner, beyond the next hill.

Things were clear, things were simple, he knew where he was going, his way was bathed in light.

And when the shadows began to creep in, he knew, and was first to greet them, delve into them in search of knowledge and understanding. With his head held high he tackled the darkness, the darkness couldn't hurt him. The darkness was lack of knowledge and in face of that, he had nothing but curiosity, not the slightest fear. Mark of the House Slytherin, a bold heart and mind that could not believe there were things man was not meant to know.

The shadows were merely another road to walk. Some may fear walking it, fear not knowing what lay ahead, not seeing, but he saw it all. Just another road to choose from many. He knew they were frightened, heard the whispers, saw the news. When he remained calm, they called him heartless, when he was interested, they no longer called him anything at all.

Alone now, he welcomed the darkness as the other side of the light, so simple…

And things were clear, he knew, and walked on, fearless. He learned, he understood, he gained more knowledge and confidence. And with it, he gained more power.

That was when the hunger first awoke.

He knew it not at first, not for the longest time. The stories were familiar, the House Slytherin, the house of the power-hungry, those who would make themselves a ladder to the top over other people's bodies. But it was absurd, and he was far from it, he was far from the shadows, he knew that. All he wanted was knowledge, and once he knew, he would know what to stay away from.

He knew where he stood, and it was in the light.

When the deaths started, when things were out of the realm of rumor and now a firm and terrible reality, he stood in the light and beheld calmly, thinking, analyzing, learning. When people went mad, ran away, hid, gave up to despair, he was in the light and enjoyed. Lost souls, not knowing where they were, not knowing where they went, caught up in the moment, afraid to look beyond the next turn in the road, till finally life caught up with them. They were lost, wandered into the darkness, and he was in the light, he knew. He knew exactly where he was going, and the way was lighted throughout.

The first time he stood in the circle, he felt the hunger rise in him, now slowly being satisfied, and was content he did the right thing. Here he could quiet down the hunger, just for the while, until he could resume the old way safely with nothing to hinder him or push him where he did not want to go, into the shadows. The circle was refuge, for the moment. He knew what he was doing.

He knew what he was doing throughout the nightly rampages, every time he targeted his wand on shivering bodies and uttered forbidden words. Not once did he think perhaps he had strayed, because he never strayed. He was going straight ahead, in light, not once stepping down from the path. He knew what lay beyond each turn, and walked around each one fearlessly. First fight, first break-in, first kill, first mass-murder. Hills to be crossed on the path.

When he came crawling back, it was all right. He may have taken a wrong turn, but not for the lack of knowing, merely for the lack of care. Perhaps he had gone too far down one turn, perhaps skidded off the road, perhaps the hunger overtook him. But it was all right now, the darkness was behind him, gone and done with, a wrong turn taken. He was in the light; he was on the track. Things were all right because he knew what he was doing. Hard times followed, and he was often in pain, often mocked and punished and hated, but never afraid, because the way was plain to see.

Time passed. He got to be a teacher. He defeated the hunger, so he thought, walked his path. He was walking the right direction.

The first blow came when he realized, much to his surprise – and he was never surprised, he thought – that all he had to teach not everyone wanted to learn. Not everyone accepted what he had to give, as wondrous, as enlightening as it might be. They could not see the path ahead and didn't want their eyes opened, so he saw. They thought he was leading them to darkness, and would rather keep their eyes closed.

He walked the path. They didn't matter. Nobody ever mattered. The path was laid and he knew it by heart and was walking easily. Twisted and curved as the way may be it was still a way laid carefully, planned, understood.

He walked the path and kept the hunger in check, even when the darkness returned.

Soon he was back in the circle, the old circle, once a shelter, now a chamber of horrors. Pain, insult, darkness, not new, nothing new, carefully planned. No fear, never fear. Everything was known, everything is clear, he walks in light, the light is there, holding back the hunger. He knows where the way is taking him. He knows where life is taking him. His eyes are open. He knows.

Now he looks into the eyes of the Dark Lord as the strange face twist into a horrible, mocking smile, as he is driven to the ground in pain, trashing, kicking, trying not to scream too loud. He is walking in light, he thinks, he is sure, he tried to believe. He is walking in light; the light made all turn their backs on him in earliest childhood. The light made him turn to the circle the first time. The light made him stumble back, broken and defeated. The light made all reject even the one thing he offered lovingly. The light, he is on the ground, tasting dust, tears rising in his eyes, his body gripped by icy hands of supreme agony, because of the light. He walks in light, blinding light, never knowing where, stumbling between the turns, swept wherever the tide of life would take him, going with the path rather than laying it down. All he knows is nothing but how to walk the path and be as blind as to think he is creating it.

On the cold ground, in light, tortured by pain and cruel irony, laughter mixes with the bitter tears.