As weeks and then months passed, flowers sprung from the ground, rained poured down, summer break approached rapidly, and Severus became accustomed to the now constant ache in his bones. It was worth it, though, on the day when Voldemort's cry of "Legilimens!" did nothing, and the wall Severus had constructed in his mind staved off the attacks of the most dangerous wizard of all time. Crucios still burned through his flesh, and he still woke in cold sweats, shivering as he jerked out of dreams filled with Voldmort's deadened, crimson glare. Severus yearned to feel normal again, to have one day, just one, of being any other Hogwarts student, not a Death Eater or a double agent. He had thought he'd been different from the other students before. Now, his weight loss and the shadows under his eyes from sleepless nights, not to mention the strain on his mind, set him further apart from the rest of the school than he'd ever been before. Severus had never anticipated a Saturday more than the one on the coming Hogsmeade weekend, especially because it was also a full moon. The simpler emotions and thoughts of his animal form was a welcome respite for his pained body and taxed mind.
It was with relief and excitement that he donned his robes and set out to find his and the other Marauder's meeting place by one of the hidden corridors leading into Hogwarts. He slipped through the castle, feeling invisible and being thankful for it. In between becoming a Marauder and a Death Eater, he'd ceased to become a subject of scorn, and yet had escaped the notoriety the other Marauders oddly enjoyed. Slytherins respected him for actively supporting the Dark Lord, while the members of the other houses ceased to pester him without the leadership of James. Severus made his way to breakfast and eyed the table hungrily, nearly drooling at the sight of scrambled eggs and kippers and oatmeal and toast.
He had made his way through three slices of toast and was beginning on some sausages when the owl post came fluttering in through the windows of the Great Hall. Severus had long ago ceased to be stung at his lack of mail - his father wouldn't permit them to own an owl, and his mother worked too hard to make trips to the post office unless it was absolutely necessary. He was therefore surprised when a small grey feathered owl fluttered up to him and pecked at his wrist rather sharply.
Severus's brow furrowed and he reached to prod the bird slightly with a forefinger. "Go find your owner," he murmured, poking at it again when the owl failed to move.
The bird nipped at his finger rather impatiently and thrust his talon out, cocking it's head as if to wonder why humans were so utterly slow on the uptake.
Severus rolled his eyes and took the envelop, flipping it over to see who the letter actually belonged to. His slight confusion turned to concern when he saw that the envelop bore his name, written in the fine, spidery script of his mother.
The owl hooted rather mockingly and took off, taking care to clip Severus's head with a wing as it made its way out of the Great Hall.
Severus broke open the seal and pulled out a small scrap of paper, biting his lip.
Severus, he read anxiously,
I've been worried about you. You seemed different when you wrote this Christmas, and in spite of what you like to try to convince me, you're not old enough to take care of yourself on your own.
Severus grinned slightly; the sharp, direct nature of the note was undercut with a loving concern that only he would ever be able to discern in his mother.
It's time I see you for myself. I'm going to meet you at 10:00 in Hogsmeade on the outside of the village - and don't you dare think about not coming.
Severus folded the paper and slipped it into his pocket as McGonagall called for all the students going to Hogsmeade, fingering the edge of the parchment while he made his way over to the doors of the Great Hall and scanned the crowd of excited students for Sirius, James, and Remus. Once he found them, he followed them to Zonko's Joke Shop, where Sirius and James heavily deplete their stocks of dung bombs and left with their pockets laden with tricks and pranks.
They were walking down the lane towards the Three Broomsticks when Severus remembered the time and glanced at his watch - he was already seven minutes late to meet his mother. "I have to go," he said, turning to the boys. "I'll meet up with you in a bit?"
"What have you got to do?" Remus asked, mildly curious. "We don't mind keeping you company."
"I can't have company," Severus said, not realizing until after the words were out how sharp they'd sounded. He felt himself flush - his need to hide his mother had been so ingrained, such a reflex, that he hadn't even thought what it meant. A moment later, though, he was sure it had been the right decision. These Gryffindors would know nothing about what it meant to be ashamed of one's own family.
"It's stuff for the Order," Severus mumbled, the lies not as easy as he'd anticipated after having months of Occlumency lessons.
"Come on!" James said, nudging Severus in the ribs. "Don't go all secretive on us again. We know how to keep our mouths shut - right, Padfoot, Moony?"
Just then, there was a shifting motion in the bushes at the edge of the lane, and a jet of red light shot past the boys. "It's a Blood Traitor!" came a shout, and out rushed a pair of masked, Death Eaters.
Severus's gaze followed them and settled, in horror, on his mother, waiting for him, seated on a stone wall, looking up wildly in terror as the spell caused her wand to fly out of her hand and towards the black-clad figured hurtling towards her.
In an instant, she screamed, Severus shouted, and he was off, running down the path towards her, vaguely aware of other people yelling and his friends following on his heels. "Stupefy!" Severus screamed, and one of the Death Eater's fell.
"Filipendo!" James yelled, and the other Death Eater was knocked off his feet.
Severus reached his mother and wedged himself in front of her, hissing at her to Disapparate, and spreading his arms before her, realizing as he did so that his body was able to shield hers, that he was no longer the scrawny, friendless, bookish boy he'd been when he first rode the Hogwarts Express, but rather a grown, brave man who stood up for what was important.
"Get out of the way," his mother said, trying to push Severus aside as one of the Death Eaters struggled back onto his feet and lifted his wand, leveling it at Severus.
"Expelliarmus!" the masked man shouted again, and Severus's wand sprang from his grasping fingertips into the Death Eater's hand. "Now let us get to the Blood Traitor."
"Kill me first," Severus snarled into the Death Eater's face.
Suddenly Professor McGonagall came running down the lane, her robes flaring out impressively behind her, and silent spells shot from her wand, the Death Eaters both crumpling to the ground, and cords binding their hands and legs.
"I will manage this from here, boys," she said, her voice shaken but sure.
Severus's muscles collapsed, and he leaned back against his mother, not caring anymore who was present to see him do so. Her thin arms wrapped around him from behind and held him close, and Severus melted into her touch, not able to remember the last time he'd allowed himself to be embraced.
Suddenly, other hands were on him, too, thumping him on the shoulder and shaking his limp hand. Severus looked up to see his friends, beaming at him.
"This what you really had to come and do, wasn't it?" Sirius asked, looking from Snape to his mother and nodding politely to her.
"Yeah," Severus panted. "I just- I didn't want-" he shook his head, unable to find the words to explain.
"We understand," Remus spoke up quietly.
"You could have told us," Sirius added.
"Forget that!" James interrupted in amazement. "That was wicked! You're the bravest among us! Remind me again why you're not in Gryffindor?"
They boys all laughed, and as Severus joined in and introduced his friends to his mother, he knew that he would never be alone again.
A/N: I know - I haven't updated in almost a year. But there was a reason for that. I've grown as a writer, and, more importantly, as a person, and this story was no longer suited to who I became. It was my first ever fanfiction and it was a great way to beginning contributing to this site. But I want to take my writing in other directions now, and I couldn't bear to leave an unfinished story, or to delete what brought me here in the first place. So instead, I wrote this chapter, which is - admittedly - a rough and abrupt end to this story. However, it does now feel complete to me, and I am happy and eager to bring this story to a close and move onto new ones. Thank you for being wonderful readers, and I hope that some of you will follow me to the new stories I am working on.
- Nettie Moore