Title: This Is War

Summary: Severus's own personal struggle throughout the war is inevitably far worse than others', because so much of the responsibility was his.

Characters: Severus, the Dark Lord

Author's Note: Done for the 30 themes community on livejournal for the prompt Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave. There are some parts, particularly Severus' inner musings that I'm not very satisfied with, but I think I really like most of it. Hope it's generally satisfactory though. Edit: I've posted this before for my story Severus Snape: Saint or Scoundrel? I've since taken it down, but I like this chapter so it's sticking to my page. Enjoy!

This chapter is written to the song 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You)'.

3. This Is War

The day he was branded with the Dark Mark was a very vivid memory in his mind. He didn't like the thought of it anymore, tried to forget it, but it came back in his dreams. And of course, the Mark was always on his arm. He had once been proud of it, but now he abhorred it. It was an ugly reminder of his failure.

When Severus first became a soldier of the war, he was only a lowly ranking opponent, tagging along for Muggle-hunting (something he used to take a shameful savage pleasure in) and killing the people not even worth Lucius Malfoy's time. He had been excited to hear Trelawney's prediction and inform the Dark Lord. As soon as he could (which was much later than he would have initially liked; now he wished he could have been killed in the journey), he had told the Dark Lord with his own tongue, and watched with anxiety as the Dark Lord pondered the information.

'"Thrice defied the Dark Lord",' the alluded Dark Lord murmured, '"…born as the seventh month dies…" do you know of any child who this prophecy may be referring to, Severus?'

Two names had flown to his mind, and Severus bit his lip. 'Yes, my Lord. There is the Longbottom's boy…' He had heard of it gossiped about at a pub. His brow furrowed.

'And?' said the Dark Lord, making Severus start a little. 'You have another child on your mind, do you not?'

Severus considered this with apprehension. If he revealed the name, Lily would be in danger. And if he didn't –

'Crucio.'

Pain racked Severus' body, as if the most subtle and sharpest of knives had been slipped into his body, pressing on every nerve. He was screaming without hearing it; surely death was more merciful and he wondered if that would be better than to betray Lily – then it stopped. He was on the floor, and he got up on his knees, pushing the hair out of his eyes, panting.

'And?' the Dark Lord pressed again as if nothing more than a fly on his hand had interrupted them.

'The-the Potter's boy,' Severus gasped, clutching his robes, hating himself.

'Potter?'

'Yes m-my Lord. Harry Potter, the son of James and – and L-Lily Potter.' He swallowed nervously. If the family were killed, serve Potter right, but Lily… she was better than that.

'What are you thinking of, Severus?'

Severus did not answer. He was thinking hard.

Voldemort raised his wand and Severus blurted out 'The woman – Lily Potter –'

'You desire her, Severus?' the Dark Lord asked without lowering his wand.

Desire her? Well… certainly he did, but the esteem he held her in was much more than carnal desire. He suddenly noticed how dark Voldemort's expression was becoming and hastily said 'Yes – yes my Lord – if it is the boy you must eradicate – i-if –'

Voldemort laughed, a high, mirthless sound. 'She is a Mudblood, correct?'

Severus flinched internally at the word as the memory of a beautiful, angry face flashed across his mind. He nodded.

'Surely there are women more beautiful – more pure – who could satisfy you, Severus?'

He didn't say anything. There was a pause of several moments. Finally, the Dark Lord spoke again. 'You have served your master well, Severus, and Lord Voldemort rewards his servants. I will spare the girl if you wish.'

'Th-thank you, my Lord,' Severus stammered. There was a short, awkward pause, then supposing the Dark Lord no longer needed hi, he withdrew, his heart beating very fast.

Severus couldn't trust Voldemort's words completely, he knew. Somebody would probably piss him off just before he went to kill the boy and then he would vent out his frustration by killing them all, probably in some gruesome, painful way. Nervous, and probably more than a little grumpy, Severus quietly went to meet Albus Dumbledore.

And of course, that did not work, leaving a marked child orphan, and Severus with the burden of protecting a boy who not only looked like James Potter, but also had Lily Potter's eyes. Life was cruel, and he blamed the whole thing on the Dark Lord, Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and never himself, even though he knew that it was wholly his fault. When days were worse than usual, he let himself realise this fact and wallow in self-hate.

It was hard to live on memories sometimes. There were many, many times, when he wanted to back out and forget about everything. He was not a coward, but he grew weary of all the doubts, fear and anxiety and became frustrated at Dumbledore for never giving him the whole plan, never telling him why just obey without question.

But he owed Lily this. He owed Lily the life of not only her son, but also countless others, for the life he had lost her. Even if he wanted to, he was not going to back out of his job until it was done. And that was his promise to her.