XXXI

The light of a torch lit the room, but the heat of the torch could not warm the cold of the room. Nothing could cut through the icy wrath within the room. Winter would flee from the coldness of this room, in fear, with haste, running away from this room, for this room was the epitome of darkness; the cave where the uncouth, unnamable and unimaginable evils lingered. In its depths was death, piles of skulls frozen over with thick, white ice.

The light flickered ever so hazily. In the light there was a pale face, with unnaturally colored lips curled in a smile, revealing teeth, nay yellow fangs and a nearly blood-red tongue sweeping over them in satisfaction.

Severus limped into the room, his arms shaking from the cold. He could see a flicker of respect in his master's eyes. The ice beneath his feet was cracking with each step he took. Though the end of March was upon them, the Dark Lord had other plans for the cold—it had to be sustained wherever he was. He had grown to…enjoy the cold, per say.

In the night, whenever it was the coldest, the Dark Lord would always call, one way or another, accessing his mind, urging him, beckoning for Severus to come to him, to lose himself in his evil and finally become something Severus had long ago dreaded; thought of with fear, and anticipated with horror, because the inevitability was always obvious to him—so obvious that it was on his forefront of emotion, always creeping up on him at the most inopportune of times. So in the middle of the night, when vespertine infestations had corrupted his mind, Severus had gone to the Dark Lord, accessing his deepest, darkest layer. All the while, his worst fears were poking at him, implying that they would be very soon realized.

So, he had treated the ice strewn land with brazen hope, but when he saw Voldemort's red eyes staring at him, something in his step wavered; no longer did he have the same blatant brevity, yet he did not turn into a coward. Severus Snape was no coward— he would face every burden, every enigma and every fear with the same unwavering vehemence he had long ago obtained.

"My Lord," he bowed at the man's feet, his head hung low, starring at the ground.

"Severus stand up." When he did, he faced anywhere but his master. He saw the skulls on the ground and the decaying flesh of the long ago perished beings. "You've done well, very well indeed," Voldemort hissed proudly. "All of this—the dead on the ground—a product of your potion; I couldn't have hoped for better."

If it was possible, Severus felt even colder than the lair his was in. How could he have forgotten? He could have invented a cure for it by now. Yet he chose to preoccupy himself with Lily—the bane of his existence, the woman he knew would be the death of him, yet the one thing which fueled him to go through this endeavor yet again. He was not angered because of Lily, but because he had let himself drown in her without a single protest.

"You are so unlike the others. You've never failed me," he sighed. "You, unlike them are still in Hogwarts, widening that brilliant mind of yours. And they—they are at the ministry, waiting for a sentence to Azkaban." Lethal fire flickered in his eyes, as he curled his left hand into a tight, bony fist. "But there's no need to get into that now." Severus had, of course known this all.

With the tip of his black wand, Voldemort touched Severus left forearm. "I could give you the mark," he contemplated. "You deserve it so." He pressed the wand harder against Severus' skin. Not a flicker of fear formed in Severus' eyes. He was blank, unperturbed. "But why do it now, when there could be others to witness you earn such a…great thing? Oh yes, it will have to wait. But do not worry Severus, you will receive it soon enough. You are dismissed."

"Thank you my Lord," Severus bowed a deep bow and left, the Dark Lord smirking as he eyes his soon-to-be Death Eater.

When Severus had returned to the castle, he had stopped himself from entering anywhere where he could be seen by people. His arms were shaking, adrenaline coursing through him, warming and cooling his body at the same time. He had to recollect himself, and it could possibly take hours before he was calm enough to bear others. He had still felt disturbed by himself. He could not fathom how he had sunk so low. How had he let himself get so distracted? But still, he found himself wanting something more, though he knew he could not have it. What had he been thinking when he had thought the he could handle a relationship while simultaneously attempting to save the world? Truth be told, he hadn't been thinking. At the forefront of his mind was Lily, always her; always would she haunt him, because he was enough of a fool to love her.

He knew the time was coming, forever lingering in the near future. He would receive the dark mark soon, and then he could never be with Lily. She would grow suspicious if he were to bandage his left arm. He would have to tell her soon of what he was doing, and hopefully she would understand. If she didn't—if and only if she didn't—then he wouldn't know what would happen. He didn't want to think about it. Right now, he had to think up a cure for the potion. It would have to wait till tomorrow; the sun had already set, and the students were heading back to their dormitories.

For the first time in his life, he had absolutely to no idea of what he was doing. He was in the private lab in the Room of Requirement, which only he was privy to (he had set up a complex set of passwords needed, before entrance). On the ground were cauldrons, which needed repair, sprigs of plants strewn across the thick carpeting and his school cloak, thrown carelessly.

The potions base was black and bubbling, the flame lit as low as it could be. Brewing cures was much harder than brewing poisons. As he stirred the base deliberately, he added a hefty amount of charcoal into it, wincing slightly as he braced himself for a possible explosion. He opened his eyes after he finished stirring. Before him, the half-finished potion was stable. Next he added echinacea to it, stirring eight times counterclockwise.

The more he modified it, the sourer the scent became. Regardless, he felt something so right about the potion. At the end, for something had possessed him to do something unconventional and most-likely never before done, he added a handful of bezoars. The potion began to bubble uncontrollably. He whipped out his wand as quickly as he could, but by the time he did, the potion reduced and turned a very pleasant, very beautiful shade of auburn that almost exactly matched the color of Lily's hair. Never had he seen a potion look so breathtakingly sublime. He quickly turned the burner off and bottled it in the finest flagon he had ever owned. He had never felt so enraptured by a potion. He dared to be intrepid; opening the flagon, he took a whiff of the liquid. It smelled of peppery flowers—to him it was a divine scent, however anomalous it was.

He put it in the inner pocket of his cloak, to be forever stowed away in it. Exiting the room, he looked left and right, before concluding that the corridor was safe to walk in without being seen. He held his head up a little higher than usual as he ambled through the halls. For once he didn't feel degraded, or mortified. His will sinewed the more he thought of what he had done. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn't as terrible as he thought he was. There could have been the modicum of a possibility that darkness doesn't consume all, and that inside the light had truly prevailed. But still, to him it would be always imprudent to think of such things with hope, because hoping would only set him up to be crushed—crushed like the ground beneath our feat, forevermore treaded, relentlessly beaten and compacted.


He checked his black leather watch; he had not been late for class—in fact he had just a few minutes before his first class would begin. Of course, his favorite class of the day was about to begin: Defense against the Dark Arts. Though the day before had ended dreadfully, this new day had started off on a better foot.

When his presence graced the classroom, heads turned, because Snape had shown up last—something that in the history of Hogwarts had never happened. It was unhinging to them—of course, without a second to let out a much needed breath, they all suspected him of wrongdoing.

"Sit down, Severus—you're making a spectacle of yourself," said Professor McGonagall. She had been substituting for Professor Grendel, ever since he had been attacked by an acromentula in the Forbidden Forest, just a fortnight before.

Or rather they are making a spectacle of me. He thought bitterly, before sitting down in the corner, right next to Lupin, for the seat next to Lily had already been taken by none other than James, who looked rather smitten. He suavely placed his hand on top of hers. Reacting with malice, she pushed his hand off of hers and made her way to slap him hard across the cheek, before Severus could stand up and tackle him in spite.

"Ms. Evans, there will be none of that in this classroom!" roared McGonagall, whose face had turned a shade of cherry that Severus had never seen on her face before. Her greying brows were furrowed closely together, and her forehead had formed thin lines at its center. Unlike other Professors, she turned around and wrote with powdery, white chalk: Casting Spells Wordlessly on the board. As she did, Severus heard her mutter, "This class is more about revenge than it is about learning how to defend yourselves."

She wore a tartan dress that day, an ebony cardigan over it. Her hair was peppered, and her skin had only just begun to show the signs of aging—wizards aged much slower than the standard Muggle, but in this case the stress of her life had already begun to attack her aging without mercy. McGonagall adjusted to the Defense classroom rather well, thought it had not been much different than her own classroom. There were rows of desks, though this classroom had the students seated in pairs, rather than trios. Professor Grendel's cedar desk sat in the corner, cluttered with papers—from Severus' point of view, it highly resembled a wasteland. The floor was fire-resistant speckled granite. There were seldom bookshelves in the room, filled with textbooks, most of which pertained to anything, but the dark arts and how to defend oneself from them.

"Though I'm fully aware that you all know how to cast spells silently, there is always room for improvement. Furthermore, I believe it would be sensible if you all were to grasp it with more confidence. You will work in pairs—your partner will be the person who is sitting right next to you. That's all—you may begin." Not wanting to go anywhere near Grendel's desk, she sat down in the only spare stool, her arms crossed as she watched the students quickly get out of their seats.

Snape stood vertically from Lupin, his eyes squinted and a look of annoyance on his face. Unlike Snape, Lupin looked care-free, though on the inside he was boiling with fury and malice. Lupin put his wand at ready first, followed by Severus who lazily held it up into the air. He knew that Lupin wouldn't harm him, or at least not too much.

"Confundo," thought Remus as he made a weak jabbing motion with his want, followed by an upwards flick.

Within a second Snape counter-thought, "Finite Incantatem," this was accompanied with a sharp poke of Snape's black, lengthy wand. He followed it with an Avis-Oppugno duo, which had caught Remus by surprise.

Eventually, their dueling became more heated, causing them to use a larger span of the classroom as they moved through the center of other duels. Professor McGonagall became intrigued, a pensive look on her face. Her hands which were previously folded in her lap became balled up into pale, strained fists as she waited for the next move of offence. The other students stopped dueling, completely overtaken by the action-packed, albeit reckless display of repressed hatred.

Soon Snape decided against the instructions on the wall, to put away his wand, folding his arms behind his back, in order to perform wordless, wandless magic in front of his meager-minded, inexperienced and mostly idiotic classmates. For a brief moment, Lupin became disconcerted, and he stopped casting spells at Snape in order to take in what Severus had just audaciously done.

When Remus opened his mouth, Severus knew well enough to cast the Muffliato charm around them. Remus face was contorted with pain, but he held himself together the best he could. McGonagall leaned forward in her chair, trying to make out what was happening, but it was beyond her.

"Muffliato Charm?" inquired Remus.

"But of course. And I would assume that you only know of it because you so loved to steal my potions book along with your hooligan brethren. Am I correct?"

"Loved—no; however, they did cherish taking your book. It earned them many O's at the end of the year…" For a moment, Lupin thought over what he was about to say. "I told you I would come back to haunt you if I were to see Black—"

"Your future husband, you mean," Snape snarled, his left eyebrow slightly higher than his right. Severus had long ago forgotten about Sirius. Only and only if people could hear their bickering, instead of buzzing wanted to tell him those words in their ears could that moment have been any more satisfying for him. Humorously enough, and contrary to his original belief, Remus would not marry Sirius; in fact he would marry a younger, female Metamorphagis who particularly enjoyed the color pink. Childish though his daunting was, Severus quickly returned to his more mature state of personality.

Remus squinted at him. "Ha-ha, very funny, you git. Now, to more pressing things, Sirius is depressed. Mind telling me why?" Remus cast a spell, Severus blocked it—green and red sparks flying across the room.

"Oh, yes—I have no clue why he continues to snivel like a dainty child," he stated sardonically. Perhaps, if he deemed you trustworthy, then he would tell you. However, you shouldn't seek me for such information." In between their sentences they began to attack each other, full force, forgetting that there were other people in the room.

"Cat got your tongue Snape? You're up to something, and I know it too." A stream of laurel colored magic hit Remus' cheek, grazing it slightly; the cut burned, though it was thin, it felt as if acid was seeping deeper into it as thick, crimson blood slid down his cheek.

"Analytical and astute as ever Lupin! Oh yes, I'm planning world domination and sending Sirius into dejection was the first part of my plan! Always putting your penetrating mind to the task—you complete, and utter dunderhead, can't you see that finding the reason why your friend is in such is state is not as nearly as important as—" But Severus stopped himself from digging his grave any deeper.

"As what, Snape?"

"Asking questions leads to an early death, you know." He folded his arms over his chest, his face twisted in an unnerving scowl and his eyes, boring icily into Lupin's soul. A cold, angst-ridden chill trickled down his spine ever so uncomfortably.

"Why does it matter when my life's been cut by a quarter or more already," he scoffed with rue.

"If it really matters to you, and if you truly care about the wellbeing of your friend you will keep your nose out of other people's business. Too many lives are at stake. I will not say another word."

"Lives—you have lives in your hands." Snape nodded reproachfully. "I apologize."

Though every fiber of he being was against it, Severus said, "Accepted." Upon which Lupin laughed, completely hysterical. "I have more of the Wolfsbane potion to give to you."

Remus stopped laughing, a sincere look on his face. "I could never be more grateful to you, because of your brewing." Contradictory to that, Remus sent an Incedio to Severus' feet; they lit on fire, the leather on his shoes quickly turning into ashes. As quickly as possible, he used an agumenti charm on them, before pointing it at Remus who became doused by a thick, frothy stream of water which hit him with such force that he was knocked to the ground. Casting Stupify upon him, Remus was rendered unconscious. A split second later, Severus let down the Muffliato charm.

There was silence at first; poisonous, mortifying silence. Then, a blonde, amber-eyed Gryffindor stood up, followed by a few others who were staring completely overtaken by their display of magical proficiency. McGonagall sat in her corner, smirking at them; it was a silent praise that they received. Severus quickly casted Renervate upon Remus. He held his position on the ground; his eyes fluttered open and his hand gripped the air a few times, but he was too in shock to get up. It was a jarring feeling, which was inside of them—never in their lives had they seen applause for a duel in Defense against the Dark Arts. Severus tugged Lupin harshly; so that he would he would be standing on his feet, though it felt as if he had been floating unfettered by a single thing, instead. Remus' face became flushed in both embarrassment and pride.

"Fifty points to Gryffindor—and Seventy to Slytherin," uttered McGonagall over the applause. "Class dismissed." After they registered what McGonagall had said, as well as after they felt like they had clapped enough, they left the room. As the students left, Severus transfigured himself a new pair of shoes.

Severus passed the girl's lavatory on the second floor, moans and cries escaping disturbingly from it—most likely from Moaning Myrtle. Suspiciously, there was a shadow lingering in the candle lit corner. Severus walked up to it carefully, turning slightly.

"Oi Snape!" He heard behind him. The person in the corner flinched. "What are you doing up here?" Severus walked out into the center of the corridor.

"I could ask both of you the same thing, now couldn't I?"

"What do you mean both?"

"Regulus, come out."

He did as instructed, a graphic magazine rolled up in his hand. Sirius burst out in laughter. "Why can't you too just leave me alone?"

"My little brother's all grown up now…Looking at half naked witches—no they're muggles! Who would have thought?" After Sirius had noticed that Regulus was feeling better, he began to feel better himself. Since Severus brought Regulus onto his mission, there was that old spark in his eyes.

After a minute, Severus left the two brothers to whatever would happen with the magazine. But in all honesty, Severus knew that somehow, after a bout of wrestling, Sirius would end up with it.

In the court yard, there were sobs much like the ones on the second floor, but these were accompanied by sporadic breathing, loud enough for Severus to here from the other side of it.

For the first time since winter, it had been warm enough for the students to go outside without a coat on. The snow no longer fell and the evergreen trees were no longer capped in white. Beyond the courtyard the land was filled with greening grass, which was begging to be cut. But in the courtyard, there was no miracle of spring. It was a covered stone cloister, with an open colonnade running around it. He crossed the paved ground, trying to ignore the sobs which sounded so familiar to him.

The urge unbearable, he dawdled toward the source of the sobs. On a partially hidden, stone bench was Lily, a wretched tissue filled with tears and snot in her hand. Severus sat down next to her, putting his arm around her shoulder. She knew it was him; he was the only man who could send the same empowering, nearly euphoric spark running through her veins.

She turned to face him, her eyelids and lips swollen and red. Even though she was crying, Severus thought she had beauty which could not be paralleled. Then, Severus noticed the cigarette in her hand, still unlit, its revolting scent still contained. He gripped her tighter, only now hugely worrying for Lily.

"You only smoke when something's really bothering you Lily. Was is—was it Potter?" She nodded with sorrow and regret, letting out louder cries. "What happened after class? I saw him touch you in class."

"He pushed me up against a wall. He said that Murray wasn't enough for him—that he still wanted me. He tried to kiss me." Inside him, his stomach was boiling, churning in an endless spiral of odium. "I'm so sorry Sev, so sorry. I should have moved away from him in class. I should have avoided him even more than I had been."

"It's not your fault. You're the victim, Lily." His strengthened his grip on her. "You have nothing to be sorry about. I'm not mad at you. I, however, could and possibly will kill Potter." Lily laughed before more tears fell down her reddening cheeks.

The walls felt as if they were closing in on him. His chest tightened. For a moment, he thought he would become beyond hysteric. Looking at the castle, it no longer had that same welcoming presence. Its façade now seemed cold and oppressive. A senseless, irrevocable idea entered his mind.

"Let's go somewhere for the Easter break. Both of us need to get away from here."

"What about studying for NEWT's? You always study like a maniac for tests."

"We'll study over the break…I have all the textbooks we need, and then some."

"Yes, we better make the best of the break then."

He smiled at her, though it wasn't genuine. Wiping away her tears, he knew he had made a grave mistake. He had once against distracted himself; let himself fall prey to the women before him.

"Thank you," she whispered into his shirt. "I don't know what I would do without you."

He had no clue if the Easter break would be rewarding. He feared it; fear flickered in his eyes. For a brief instant, he became the same coward he refused himself to be. He couldn't reply to Lily's statement. He knew that without him, she wouldn't have been in so much pain. Yet he couldn't let her go, no matter how much he needed to. He loved her too much to see her hurt, but he loved her too much to hurt her by letting her go. Oh yes, it was a terrible place to be, but he would never have chosen another to be, because he was still with Lily.

There was an abject disturbance toiling within him, looming somewhere between his appendix and cecum, rising and spreading throughout his intestines, until it fluttered into his stomach. Was it a craven feeling, or was this some abnormal feeling that he had only just discovered because he had lived so long in the dark, shielded by an emotionless rock? He had to admit, he was not completely opposed to the feeling. There was something pleasing at its depths. Feeling redolent, he thought of the times where he had thought he had lost her. No matter how many times he would tell himself that he would let go of her, he couldn't bear the feeling of losing her one more time. Voldemort wouldn't be the death of him. Losing her would be. Losing your heart along with the reason why you breathe is as good as dying—it's what love does to a person.

"Are you going to be okay?"

"Yes, I will be, thanks Sev."

He kissed her nose, then her forehead, then her cheek, the kisses roaming until the finally reached her swollen lips. The kisses were what brought both of them to safety. In the darkness of the storm, they were the light from the newly visible light tower. His hands plunged softly to her hips, and her arms entwined themselves around his warm neck. For himself, he thought of why he could never let her go, but the answer was clear, in fact it was kissing him right now on the lips. Love—it is the most powerful thing on the planet. To him, Lily was the embodiment of love. Every ounce of pain was worth it, if it meant keeping her.


A/N: As I promised: Chapter 31 was posted! Do you like it? Reviews? Favorites? Followers? I will be updating on Sunday. Be patient with me.

To all you grammar people: I have no editor! Leave me be. Please, I beg of you. If you don't like the fact that I used vile, instead of vial in a sentence, then go and write your own story! The most important thing is that the ideas are here, and they most certainly are. And, if it really bugs you so much, at the end of this I am going back to fix it all. So there—are you happy now grammar people?

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