Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to the goddess, JKR although I will gladly take Severus off her hands if she ever tires of him.

Only Appropriate

It is to be expected but that does not mean I would not wish it differently.

Yes, even for one such as I, who should be accustomed to this solitary existence.

Even I do not wish to be alone.

Of course the mere thought of this would send ripples of astonished laughter through the ranks of the students sitting in front of me. I suppose the idea that an overgrown bat such as myself actually wanting companionship would be considered ludicrous at best.

I have heard them talking and I have heard what they say about me…some of it is true, no doubt, but not all of it.

No, not all of it.

I smirk slightly as I calmly spread marmalade on my toast.

Who would ever guess?

Then again, who would ever take the time to look at me as anything other than a vindictive, bitter former Death Eater?

Certainly not anyone sitting in front of me. They look on me, at best, as a necessary evil to endure so that they can complete their seven years here. I am certain they would consider it a blessing if I were to announce my retirement…or my impending death and dismemberment. Yes, Weasley would be quite thrilled with that prospect. Longbottom would want it proclaimed a national holiday.

Albus tells me with irritating consistency that I wear my loneliness around me like my flowing black robes, a necessary penance for all the darkness in my past. He is right; of course…he is always right about that sort of thing.

And he has always been right about me…annoyingly so.

I have become so adept at presenting this cold and bitter exterior to the world that I have often wondered if it has somehow replaced the person that I used to be. Is that young scholar still living somewhere inside of me or did he die when I took on this mark of eternal shame? Would I even recognize myself in those photos from my time here as a student?

I don't believe anyone else would.

Every once in a while, when I am feeling particularly melancholy (such a frightfully tedious word, that) I will pull out the old photos that are carefully stored in black leather albums and look them over, a glass of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey in one hand. What would the others think if they saw the person I was?

What would the students think? Would they honestly believe that I was once as they are now? Would they believe that the young man smiling in this photo could possibly be the quasi-lifeless husk of a much older man that teaches them Potions? Would they wonder what had caused this terrible metamorphosis? Would they empathize? Would they understand?

Not terribly likely.

They would not care that I hate spending my days and nights alone, waiting for the call from one I used to call my master and then returning to the one I call my friend. The only friend I have…sheltered me when I was left with nothing…not even my soul. Provided me with employment, a home and endless support. I can never repay such an enormous debt.

The others are hardly malicious and most do make an effort to be cordial but I find it tiresome. I do not need them. I do not need anyone.

But, I admit to myself, that is hardly a life…this solitary existence that is so painful to me. Only my duty and my need to earn my reconciliation for a thousand sins keep me from slitting my own throat.

If only…I were not cursed to be so damnably alone.

If only I could feel that my death would be mourned by someone other than Albus…and he would mourn. Of that, I am certain. But it would appear that my fate is to die unknown, unloved and unwanted. Perhaps there will be a collective sigh of relief in the Ministry. But there will be no tears…no broken hearts.

And I suppose that this is only appropriate.

However, I will not deny that I wish it were different. I wish there were someone brave enough to look past this cold exterior to discover the boy within. The boy who laughed.

Because he is still there, buried deep inside me.

I have not killed him yet.

He is still there.

Waiting.

A/N: This is the first of a short series of vignettes.