The Doe in the Walls
Introduction: Playing Checkers with Chess Masters
The silence was absolute.
And like all absolutes, it was flawed. Felled by the miniscule, the irrelevant, and for the smallest deviant it was unmade. Had he been awake he'd of spoken scathingly of absolutes. But for a time, lost in the gyrations made under a shut eye, he was not coherent enough to be scathing and thus bare facts bereft of acid were left to make the case.
Where there was life silence could not be absolute.
He breathed, stirred, dissolving this absolute all accidental. The sound of hands over clothe, of long nails scraping across sheets, he indulged in his most dramatic moment yet. A twist too convoluted to call mere tossing and turning took him and he flopped from back to side. Face obscured by long, slick locks, his expression twisted, threads of hair stirred evading scrutiny all accidental. Once flipped he curled, hands gripping shoulders, as if warding back blows, or perhaps a chill.
All the while, he was busy. In that eternal moment, that endless night, he read with fevered zeal, a script cast in darkness. Timeless yet timed, so assured the clock afar, ever ticking, he was immersed without water, drowning bereft of lake or sea. The play of words and images consumed him. In that span of dissolved consciousness he perused the shade cast by closed eyes as if it were gospel.
Thus, absolute was felled, and the silent was not so silent after all.
He moaned without waking. A pained protest that almost recalled him to the land of the living. Suspended between waking and sleeping, he twisted, reached with one hand. Gravity and the folds of a wound blanket brushing against his wrist consoled, confirmed…
And thus he was pulled under with only a sigh.
He fell back to nighttime habit, his reading of words without meaning. A smile curled his lips, not bitter, but heartfelt. A rarity whilst sleeping, an impossibility while waking. Lost in the moment… a fragment of precious eternity, he sighed. A folded bit the cloth, a ridge of wound blanket, the sensations summoned the facsimile of a dear touch. Such stimulus reinforced the walls which spared him the mundane insanity he called life.
One breath, another…
He tasted autumn, the only sound for him was the brisk snapping of leaves about his feet. The sky was grey, by not gloomy, for the sun hid behind a shroud of misty clouds. Turning grey to silver while on it's route. About them, still shrouded yet shedding, trees spilled scarlet and orange leaves like Gryfindor's let slip secrets.
He said as much, and she laughed, ribbing him for the jab.
Fair was fair and all that.
She hadn't left, despite his abrasive manner. She took his hand within her own, smiled her acceptance, forbidding his apology with the quirk of her lips and laugh.
"Please Sev, as if I didn't know." Lily rolled her eyes. Then meeting his eyes she grinned shook her head with a shocking violence. For one moment her hair had looked molten in the fading light, then it was just a stinging, whipping blur. Sputtering he pulled back, refusing to release his hand in hers, and she laughed.
"Fair's fair, even if it's an act, it does hurt a little, you know?"
He grinned, conceding she had a point, and daring the lion's claws opened his mouth to offer the taboo. "Yeah, but it shouldn't, I'm s-"
"-a Slytherin," She chimed in, green eyes lit up with wicked mirth. "Well, what else is new?"
She'd never let him apologize, even when it was the right thing to do. She was strange like that.
"It's just an act, right?"
He smiled, just for her, shifting his robes of black and green about, and tightening his grip. Pulling her close, she humored him by drawing closer. His arms settled over her shoulders, her fingers forgotten for a while. Before them, empty and spacious, was a bench. Iron wrought, all edges curled and dulled, it screamed muggle. She didn't mind though, and in that moment, away from the others, neither did he.
"Did you bring it?" She giggled.
The pack under his cloak clicked and rattled, he smiled, nodded.
"I love a good game of checkers." Lily enthused. "And against the best chess master in Hogwarts, I'll have to show of my mettle."
She slipped away, absently tugging at his back as she departed. The loosely bound straps came undone and he yelped, twisting and bent almost double to save the boodle from falling to the dirt. Giggling, apologizing (ever curious how she forbade him from doing so, yet indulged herself) she knelt with him, picking up spilled pieces as he dusted off the board.
"Sorry, guess that was kinda mean." Lily grinned, apologizing yet again.
To that Severus Snape shrugged, voiced his opinion on a pitch that was still high and boyishly pure. "Doesn't matter..."
"Does too!" Lily growled.
"Well, umm… fifty points from Gryfandor than," She tipped her head, expression clearly asking who died and made him a professor. To that he smirked. "For being right."
"Shouldn't I be getting those points?"
"You did, it was a negative sum "given" to you and yours alone."
"Sev, stop twisting words!" Lily whined. "You don't give negatives, that's just taking!"
Unsaid was the rather childish complaint of "that's not fair!" Not wanting to sink that far Severus snorted, flipped open the chess board that would serve for their checker game. Between flipping it open, noting it's tarnished white squared and it's dust choked black and snapping it closed he was sitting. In that peculiar manner of dreams, the span between standing and sitting was bypassed and not truly remarkable.
Nor was it remarked upon.
Leaning against the blunted arm of the bench, one leg sprawled, the other tucked just so, Lily studied the board between them. He in turn, studied her. Green eyes intent, red hair framing her heart shaped face, only stirring when she tipped her head from side to side to help her thoughts along, she was clearly enjoying herself.
He smiled wide, wider than he'd ever had before.
The chess board and its black and white tabs divided them. It was an easily breached span that was bypassed when Lily leaned close to move her piece, or broken when Severus stretched forth a long fingered hand to skip over her pieces.
For a while there was only the click of tabs against the board, interspaced by the shy glances Severus spared his playmate.
"How's class been?"
Couldn't she ask something new? Anything new? He sighed, smile faltering.
"I'm surrounded by dunderheads." Snape groused.
"Say idiots and it'll be plagiarism." Lily teased, green eyes twinkling.
He snorted. "Heaven forefend I plagiarize." The Slytherin drawled.
"Don't be too mean to the first years." Lily counseled, grinning at him, a rather Slytherin grin truth be told… His heart quickened at the sight. "And maybe that elusive intelligence you're looking for won't be smothered out by sheer terror."
"As if anyone's scared of me." Snape grumbled. Picking up another piece he hopped over another of hers.
"Well, you know what they say about the quiet ones." Lily teased, and Snape felt his lips quirk into a smile, familiar only because it was with her. She took another piece and he scarcely noticed which one he pushed forward to counter her.
"What do they say, about the quiet ones?" Snape drawled.
"Dunno, they always cut it off at that point."
Looking from him she looked down, then laughed with true delight. Not rare, not from her, but precious all the same. Then, picking up one piece, she merrily hoped over five of his. He looked down, mouth sagging open, then looked up at her.
"I won!" She cheered, meeting his gaze, still enfolded in her private delight tossed out a casual. "Two knuts please!"
"We.. I... I never agreed-"
She thrust out her hand and he sighed, poking about in his robes looking for pockets. Realization met, he flushed, lifted his gaze once more. Some of the delight faded from her, understanding took cheer's place.
"How 'bout a chocolate frog?" He hedged.
She nodded. "Sure, but only if we share."
He could go with that. Nodding he pulled out the battered box from his robe pocket. Her delight returned, she loved chocolate frogs, he did too but not quite as much… Plopping the box between them she took one side, he another, and the item safely between them he reached for the lid. Curious the frog hopped without being opened. Causing the paper lid of it's binding to bulge most alarmingly; it fought for freedom with a thud more suiting...
More suiting a fist against wood…
"Sev?" Lily queried, suddenly scared.
He fought, held to the precious moment, using tricks taught be the various mind games he'd learned over the years, he turned them outward, striving to cut off the real. He tried to smile as he had before. Reclaim the memory.
But the flaw was there, the moment unraveling, eternity was passing them both by.
He knew, she saw, and for seeing she reached for him, hand closed over his wrist.
"I have to go." Severus whispered bitterly.
"I know, I miss you too."
He snorted and she looked hurt, but there was no impulse to apologize, not now, not ever again.
He stood, the sky a greying blur, the leaf strewn earth a riot of cliché hues that those who liked to pain would ascribe to an autumn watercolor. Save for the abundance of water, the colors blurred under the salt sweet assault.
Her colors blurred, joined the masses. Her distinctive lines a memory, only her hand remained clasped over his.
"Please, look with both eyes open, please."
"I always do." He sneered.
Did she smile? There was a flicker of white, lost under the conjoining of hues. As was her grip, a memory but not. She'd never been this desperate, not ever, not with him.
"Not always, not in this. Just, please…"
From a world away, that hated world, Fitch's voice sounded. "Professor, we've gotta problem!"
Before waking, that mental dawn, her hand was back, she had no voice, only a touch, and in that moment he heard her again, in his heart, her plea.
His eyes fluttered open, both eyes split from considering fanciful hues etched in the dark of his eyes. With a groan he found himself staring at the gloom enshrouded ceiling.
He was back, his quarters, the dungeons, Hogwarts.
Damn it all.
With a snarl Severus fought to sit up, straggled to his feet. Forgoing shoes he snapped up the robe he'd left by the bed side. It hung over the back of the chair like a black ghost of guilt. Pulling on a robe as he went, thoughts of murder and UnSpeakables prominent in his mind, Snape scrambled to the door.
Fitch was knocking at his door, never a good sign. The hour, quick glance at the clock as he struggled with an arm hole allowed him to confirm it, was midnight. Either this was a harbinger of the end of the world... Or if it wasn't it would be the end for someone.
Snatching the door handle, twitching his robe in place in that final moment, he pulled the portal wide, venomous glare saying all that needed to be said.
"Profess.. We… that is… Students out in the halls, missing…"
"Who?" Snape snarled, thoughts idly considering some rather vile UnSpeakables to use on the perpetrators. Exploding entrails, blood fire, perhaps a flaying charm…
Definitely a flaying charm then.
"One moment." Snape hissed. He'd need that moment, to gather his composure, find his boots, and perhaps gain a little sanity before it all went merrily out the window.
Not wanting to hear anything else, Snape slammed the door in the old man's face.