Disclaimer: Everything that's part of the Harry Potter world belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Pairing: SS/RL, implied one-sided SS/LP, implied one-sided RL/NT
Author Notes: Hello, and welcome to the beginning of my Journey :D. After long consideration I have decided to continue the story I began in The Teacher, which doesn't mean that those of you who don't know The Teacher cannot follow the story from here. Maybe you will like to read The Teacher as well, but there's no real need to know the story, I think. Though I do refer quite often to what I wrote before :). I hope everyone enjoys Journey as much as I did while writing and though it will be quite a long fic I hope you will stay with me to the very end.
Journey will be devided into three parts: OotP, HBP and DH. This is only the prologue which is still set in GoF.
Now to something completely other :): I find that writing Severus IC is very subjective. Should you find Severus too gentle or soft throughout the story, I can only offer as an explanation my own interpretation of his character. We only ever see him with people he hates (Harry for example), or when he has something to complain about or to be angry about (with Dumbledore), but in those few instances that we see him with people he likes, Lily for instance, he shows a completely different face (admittedly he was only a teenager, but he stays in love with her for his whole life, cries over her picture and protects her son, which, I think, shows his devotion and even makes him seem somewhat romantic and sensitive). He also seems relieved when McGonagall returns from St. Mungo's and he never lets anyone insult Dumbledore in his presence. Why would he not be gentler and softer when he is with those he likes, especially when he is with Remus in this story? We see him from Harry's point of view most of the time and he seems cold, cruel, snarky and rude, but I don't like it to reduce him to those character traits, I believe that he has turned very bitter due to everything that has happened to him, which doesn't mean that he is unable to feel and show that he feels. I believe, especially since we have seen him in "The Prince's Tale", that inside of him - and that is from where I write, almost nothing is uttered - he is not merely cold and mean, but a many-layered a person who will probably be friendlier than usual, if not cordial, when he is with the one he loves. Their relationship has grown, after all ... I still hope that I haven't made him completely sappy or emotional, but have maintained him cool and reserved nonetheless, and of course, always slightly (or heavily) sarcastic.
And now I've talked so much again and nobody reads it XD, please just enjoy the story and let me know how you like it, I would love to know!
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body's work's expired:
For then my thoughts-from far where I abide-
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 27
I am feeling alone. I am scared. I want to see him. One last time. Please.
Stop whining. Clear your mind. And close it properly. You were out of practice but you have been preparing for this all year. You can do it! Just remember all those lies correctly, and tell them as if they were true. You've done it before. Don't worry.
„At least, in this hour of disloyalty, I can still respect you, Severus, you bear the pain like a man, standing up straight, and not a wailing wimp, writhing on the ground, like most of your comrades. At least, in the face of punishment you possess a grain of dignity. You were extraordinarily brave to come before your master after making him wait. And you were extraordinarily stupid to make him wait at all, and yet, I must confess it didn't surprise me."
"My Lord –"
"You know, Severus, that the only reason why I did not kill you the moment you dared show yourself here was my curiosity? Why did you come at all? Why risk death when you could have taken shelter at Hogwarts, where Dumbledore can protect you? Why if not because there is, miraculously, still some loyalty, some bit of the Death Eater I made, inside your body, why if not because you, like all the others, have only been waiting for my glorious return? And yet ... you did make me wait ... still, you don't crawl before me like Wormtail would, you are not making up excuses like Lucius did. How am I to understand you conduct, Severus, not only tonight but whenever our paths crossed? Did you deserve the pain I made you suffer or have I done wrong? What say you, Severus?"
"My Lord, I beg you to accept my apology, I can –"
"Explain … yes, you should. Lord Voldemort does not forgive those who have deserted him."
"My Lord, I never –"
"But he gives those who were loyal to him the chance to explain, Severus. You were brave enough to come here, unlike Igor, yes, you have faced me, risking your life, and quite frankly, Severus, I believe you have earned yourself a few minutes of my precious time. I will listen to you and afterwards I will decide if I believe you. You will have the chance to convince me, after all you've done me great services, services that I appreciate."
"I am grateful, my Lord."
"And you should be."
The grounds were tranquil and deserted in the semi-darkness of breaking dawn. Though the stands and the maze of the Third Task were still where the spectators had left them, shocked and confused, everything was still and silent, not even the birds made a sound. Only the discarded flags and banners on the ground told of the cheerful crowd that had celebrated their champions just a few hours before. Now an eerie calm lay over the place that had changed everything. The weight of death lay over Hogwarts Castle, and it lay on Severus Snape's shoulders when his feet touched the hard ground before the iron wrought gates protecting those who knew nothing yet of the horror that awaited them in the future. The soft crack of his Apparition echoed over the silent grounds and the gates swung open with a squeal to let him in.
Firm steps carried him uphill, his black cloak whispering behind him on the moist grass. The rising sun cast long shadows on the ground and blinded Severus's tired eyes. When he was level with the Quidditch pitch, he stopped for a moment to look at the stands on which he had sat when the burning call shot through his arm had made him double-over, considered the place where Potter and Diggory had appeared out of thin air only a few hours ago confirming what Severus had known and tried to deny. Then he climbed the stairs and pushed open the gates into the Entrance Hall. Everything was quiet, no one was up yet, shocked and yet so blissfully oblivious they lay in their beds, believing Diggory's death to have been a tragic accident. How lucky they all were. How unfortunate were those who knew better. Or worse.
Severus descended the stairs into the dungeons where the darkness seemed absolute and the corridors endless. He was thankful that nobody crossed his path. His legs carried him to his rooms and with a look over his shoulder he entered. He closed and locked the door and when he had made sure he was alone he slumped against the wall and sank to the floor for his legs wouldn't carry him any further. He buried his face in his trembling hands with a shaky sigh. His nerves were not nearly as good as he'd have liked them to be. In fact he was glad he had made it back here.
He was aching with tense fear and his arm was still pulsing with a burning pain that had barely ceased ever since the call had come. Though Severus had known that the day would arrive when the Dark Lord returned he had not been prepared. He had not been ready. He had thought there would still be time. He had been deceiving himself. About many things.
Severus looked through his fingers at the door to his bedroom. Oftentimes in the last year he had slept on the sofa just so he didn't need to enter it. But the floor was so freezing cold and the empty sitting room so eerie that he didn't have a choice, he needed to get to bed, to sleep. Though he wasn't sure if he wanted to sleep at all. He scrambled to his feet with rather less dignity and grace than he would have let anyone see, and made his way to the bedroom, all the while unconsciously rubbing his left forearm.
He opened the door to his bedroom with a wave of his hand and stepped into the semi-darkness. The emptiness struck him in the pit of his stomach like the hind hoof of a centaur. He steadied himself on the doorframe and passed a hand over his face. He staggered to his bed and hesitated as long as he could before collapsing on it. His hands were shaking so badly now that his wand slipped through his fingers and fell to the floor. The clattering hurt his ears. His heart was beating fast and he was sure the sound of it was echoing off the walls.
Severus let himself fall on his back, stretching his limbs after such a long time of cowering and bowing and crawling on the ground, kissing the hem of the Dark Lord's robes. Severus shuddered. He was filthy. And he would become filthier still. Everything had started anew. Because he had returned alive. He regretted it. He regretted everything more than ever. He knew it was better this way, but for whom? The canopy over his bed made him feel claustrophobic. Being alone was scaring him. He wasn't sure if he could cope with everything alone. It was so empty. No one had been waiting for him. It was regrettable.
Especially because there could have been someone waiting. There would have been someone worrying. If Severus had dared. But he hadn't and it was too late now. Too late to whine at least. He just couldn't stop regretting it. Now that he needed him most. Pride and cowardice had got him into this situation. He was in bad shape, and it made him fear the future. His fingers dug into the silken blanket and he missed him. Even now there was nothing hurting him more than that.
He curled up into a ball, hugging his left arm to his stomach. He wished he could see him now. Just one look at him. Just take a glimpse. Maybe he would. Later. Yes, just a glimpse. But he knew that he would want more than that when he saw him. And more, he couldn't have. The burning in his arm reminded him of it. More, he wouldn't have. The grief inside him was getting heavier while the terror was slowly ceasing. He wasn't sure which one he disliked more.
The trembling just didn't want to stop, though. The tension that made Severus's body ache was rather stubborn, too, relaxing seemed impossible. Maybe it was because Severus could barely believe that he had actually managed to convince the Dark Lord of the sincerity of all the wild explanations. Probably it was the fact that the other Death Eaters had not behaved much better, either, had not looked for their master when he had needed them. Oh, and of course the Dark Lord was arrogant enough to think that he could see through Severus and into his mind, for Severus knew how to make him believe just that. He would never suspect that Severus could actually lie him in the face without making a mistake. And it did cost Severus all of his energy to concentrate and control himself while being so scared.
He was exhausted now. And he just couldn't relax. He didn't feel safe. He didn't feel home. He couldn't put into words how much he missed him in this very moment. He wished he could forget everything. He wished he could go back in time, slap himself and prevent all this. And the knowledge that this was possible didn't cheer him up at all. But then again, when was he ever cheerful? He remembered how it was, but he didn't see himself experiencing it again. He was being a wimp! How pathetic. It was his own fault, he had made it so. Now he had to live with it. After all he couldn't just be hard on everyone else and not himself. He wouldn't be hard on Severus.
Oh, stop it already!
The sun was slowly flooding the room with light, but it didn't seem to reach Severus for a long time. Sleep just wouldn't come either and after a few hours of unpleasant attempts to finally fall asleep he gave up. He rolled onto his back and reached out a hand to his left as he always did. He opened his eyes in surprise when he only found the sheets under his fingers. Disappointment washed over him. How could he have been so drowsy to think that there'd be someone beside him? His mind was mocking him.
He got out of bed quickly and walked to the window. He was aching. It was to be expected. His knees were shaking. He wouldn't be going up to breakfast today. He would wait for Albus to come and find him. He couldn't bear McGonagall's eyes on him. As he looked out of the window something sprang to his eye, or rather someone: the Diggorys were making their way uphill to the entrance of the castle where Albus was waiting for them. Severus could make out the grief and despair on their faces and as much as he tried he couldn't imagine what they must be feeling. All their pain made his own look small and not worth mentioning. Yes, he had lost those who had been dear to him, but how must it be to lose a child? Surely losing someone who had never been yours, or someone who had not died but been chased away by yourself was not nearly as devastating. And Severus was devastated to the extent of falling apart.
Suddenly he felt horrible. Even more so for complimenting the Dark Lord on his return, and most of all for defiantly thinking that he had experienced similar pain. He had no right to shut himself up in his rooms and mope. Severus summoned a house-elf and ordered a cup of coffee before he changed into fresh robes with great difficulty. His skin was so sensitive that the rough fabric seemed to be bruising it. Severus pulled his sleeve carefully over his left wrist and double-checked that the Dark Mark was hidden.
When the coffee arrived Severus took it from the bowing house-elf and dismissed it before gulping down the hot liquid as fast as he could, burning his throat in the process. He was sure he looked as bad as he felt. He didn't dare look at the mirror, he wouldn't be able to meet his own eyes. Instead he decided that the best way to stop his knees from shaking was a lengthy breakfast, so he staggered to the door and made his way into the dark hallway. He regretted it very soon for his legs weakened quickly and he had to support himself on the walls.
The stairs seemed endless, the darkness undisturbed. The silence not so. There were steps in the hallway, coming closer, cornering him. He had no strength to go back, or to hide, he had to straighten up and wait for whoever was coming. He was almost hoping for McGonagall. No such luck.
"What are you doing here so early, Draco?"
The youth flinched and looked up at him. "Good morning, Professor," said Draco. There was a glint in his eyes. And Severus knew that he knew. "I was too excited to sleep."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "You mean upset," he said warningly and for a moment he hated the boy. The strength was draining from him rapidly now. Hating took too much energy.
"Oh," said Draco and put on a face of false worry. "Of course, sir. Did you have a good night, sir?"
Severus clenched his fists. "Excellent, Draco, excellent indeed."
Draco smirked. "I knew it. Many people doubted you, but Father always spoke well of you, sir," he said and Severus knew what he was implying.
"Thank you, Draco. But I think that we should both be getting to breakfast now," Severus said, making an effort to sound flattered. Draco nodded and turned on his heel to hurry upstairs. Severus slumped against the wall as soon as he was out of sight, taking a few deep breaths to gain new strength before going on.
Only a few feet remained to be crossed to enter the Great Hall when Severus changed his mind. The buzzing voices were making his head ache already and he decided that after all he couldn't bring himself to eat at all, to sit among those clueless people who were surrounded by their friends and knew nothing of his suffering, knew nothing of the things he had done and would do. His stomach was churning. He just escaped McGonagall's eyes, turning right to exit the castle by the front gates. He stepped out onto the stone steps and into the blinding light of the new born sun. As usual the warmth didn't seem to be able to penetrate his black robes to warm his skin. Nothing had been able to warm his skin for a whole year.
Severus sat down on the topmost step and bowed his head, staring at the grass, wet with dew, at the foot of the stairs, his hair falling like a curtain round his face. His hand grasped his left forearm and he regretted having shown it to Fudge, the fool. He felt ashamed now. It was intimate. He had never shown it to anyone but Albus and … well, yes, him. Severus scowled. Not even now that … man … had the decency to stay out of his head. As if Severus didn't have enough on his mind already. It was too much for him.
And when he closed his eyes to the blinding light of the sun, he realised that the worst was that he could still feel him sitting beside him, could still hear his hoarse voice. He still remembered how his hand felt intertwined with his own, how warm his skin was, how sweet the scent of his hair was, how bright his eyes were and how tender his lips. He could draw his outline into the air, he knew it so well, had traced it so often with the very tips of his fingers, had imagined it day after day and night after night. He knew every scar, every flaw, every imperfection that made him perfect. And he could still feel the pain in his whole body, the hot drops on his cheeks, that had ailed him on the day everything had broken down, the loneliness that had been mocking him ever since that day. Oh, what would he give to be allowed to see him again, if only for just a short moment.
In fact, all the time that shadow hung over him. That shadow of dark thoughts concerning only his loneliness. It weighed him down. It drained all strength from him. It had been hard on him all year but now it was simply unbearable. He huffed. He was no coward. He would do what he had to do. A half-truth. Lies were easier to tell than the unmasked truth.
Somehow it felt good to tell himself that it was his own fault. Suffering was painful, and pain was a feeling. It was better than emptiness. And better than fear. He didn't like fear, it made him feel like a helpless child. He didn't like to feel helpless. He needed to be in control.
Truth be told, he had lost control long before now. Yet unlike Karkaroff, the coward, he had not run away. He had looked death in the face. And realised that despite all the fear, it wasn't half as challenging as the face of a werewolf. A particular one, of course.