K+ - Angst – SS, MM, LV
Summary: In the end Voldemort always comes back to Severus. Bellatrix is his most devoted follower, Lucius is his most useful... but Severus is Voldemort's mirror.
Set: during DH.
Disclaimer: I didn't choose his ending, not me.
A/N: Depressing. Sorry.
Voldemort appoints him Headmaster of Hogwarts. Severus is pleased because he must be pleased: it is what he hoped for, what he's worked so hard for, and so he must be pleased, must be glad, must push those thoughts to the forefront of his mind so that all Voldemort reads of him is pleasure and gratitude and loyalty. All the things Voldemort believes of him. All the things he wants to believe of him.
Voldemort wants to believe him; Severus identified that weakness long ago. Voldemort in times gone past looked at a scrawny halfblood desperate for the power to strike back at a cruel world, to strike back against a hated Muggle father – and he saw himself in that boy. That scares Severus, that such a creature, such a monster, can see something of himself in him. It horrifies him. But he uses it. Lucius, Bellatrix, Fenrir... They'll never realise how much Voldemort loathes them for being what he will never be. For being the constant reminder of his tainted blood. That is why in the end Voldemort always comes back to Severus. Bellatrix is his most devoted follower, Lucius is – or was – his most useful... but Severus is Voldemort's mirror.
He is forgiven things that others are killed for. He is given honours the purebloods envy him for. And now he is the Killer of Dumbledore. Now, for all the grumblings of his peers, he is untouchable.
Now he is the Headmaster of Hogwarts.
He is not profuse in his thanks, for he is never profuse and Voldemort is not as of fond of toadying as most believe. Certainly not from his mirror. Severus simply states his gratitude, lets his thoughts ring with anticipation and plans, and bows.
Then he is allowed to leave. To go to his room and pack. Severus does nothing suspect, even when he is alone. He doesn't curse and rail, he doesn't weep, he doesn't touch the bottle of firewhiskey some well-trained house elf carefully placed in the cabinet prior to his arrival at Malfoy Manor. He doesn't even sit down, let alone put his head in his hands. It is true that this is in part a precaution against any potential spies (and he is sure there are some), but even did he know with certainty that no one was watching he would do nothing different to what he is doing now, which is to pack slowly and methodically.
He has been the spy too long to know how to stop, even if he wanted to. He doesn't want to. If he stopped to allow his emotions to rise he would be overwhelmed. He doesn't want to deal with them. So he doesn't.
He travels to Hogwarts alone. And he stands, by himself, at the front gate and he looks up at the castle that has always been the only place he ever called home. Spinner's End was never a home, only walls and a roof. Hogwarts, for all the disappointments he's weathered there, for all the horrors and bad memories within its walls, is home.
Severus has the sudden urge to fall to his knees and weep. He ignores it, of course, and no observer, be they ever so acute, could have seen it in his face as he takes that fatal step forward.
The wards wrap around him, crushing down upon him, nearly driving him to the ground under the weight of them. Severus sets his knees and grits his teeth and doesn't bend. Hogwarts tests him. Hogwarts tries him. Hogwarts judges him.
Hogwarts accepts him as Headmaster.
—You must be the one to kill me – green light – Severus, please – Albus, falling, dying – Severus, you promised—
Merlin, he can't do this. He can't take Albus's place. He can't go back to this castle at all, let alone as replacement for the man he killed.
But he must. Because this was the plan, this was the hope, this is what he needs to do. Hogwarts needs him. Her children need him. There is no one else. As always, he protects.
With no sign of hesitation in his stride, Severus steps forward into his school.
Minerva meets him in the Great Hall. Of course it would be Minerva, of course it would be.
He doesn't flinch, naturally. Spies who flinch are dead spies, and the only expression on his face is faint boredom and fainter disdain. In her eyes is real disdain. Some small part of him cringes under that look before he ruthlessly crushes it, the part of him that was her student, her colleague, her friend.
Hogwarts accepted me, he wants to cry. Why can't you?
But he knows why. Knows he deserves no better than her hatred and her contempt. He earned it and he cannot explain to her now. Maybe not ever. And even if he could, he would still deserve her loathing.
He puts his case down on the floor and raises an eyebrow at her.
"Headmaster Snape," she acknowledges icily, biting off each word as if she wishes it was his head, her formality somehow more vicious than if she'd used insults.
"Deputy Headmistress," he returns.
She doesn't say Welcome to Hogwarts. He is not welcome here.
Would you rather Fenrir? he wants to ask. Rather Bellatrix? Do you want the Carrows in charge of this school? In charge of your children? Surely of all the available evils he is the least? But of course he says none of it. She stands there on the opposite side of the hall, stiff and straight, and if she was on the moon she couldn't be further away from him.
"I suppose this is what you wanted all along," she says bitterly.
I never wanted this! he doesn't say. I never wanted any of this! He should be glad she feels this way, should be pleased that she believes it all because if she believes and Voldemort believes then everyone will believe. He should be glad. He must be glad. It doesn't stop the hurt. Doesn't she know him better than that? She's known him for three quarters of his life, doesn't she know him? Obviously not.
He leaves his case abandoned on the floor for a house elf to find and strides past her to the stairs.
"Severus." Her voice is so quiet he thinks a moment he imagined it, but he turns and she's looking at him and for a moment he sees neither an enemy nor an ally, but only a woman who hurts, long and aching. "Albus always told Potter to trust you. Over and over again. But he never told me because I didn't need to be told. I didn't trust you because of anything Albus could say, I trusted you because I thought, fool that I was, that I knew you." The hurt in her voice stings more than bitterness ever could. "I believed in you."
She strides away, leaving him very very alone.
He never expected to survive this war – is surprised he lasted so long as he did. So when Voldemort lifts his wand, it is not fear or horror that shows in Severus's eyes, but only acceptance of a long-expected fate. Even his mirror will not stand in the way of Voldemort's quest for ultimate power.
It would be so easy to speak up, to point out that he is not the one who defeated Dumbledore, only (only!) the one who killed him. It would please Voldemort, who would rather kill a pureblood than his mirror. But Severus protects the children. That is what he has always done. Albus died in part for Draco. Severus can do no less.
He hadn't realised it would hurt so much, though.
He's used to pain, of course. Voldemort spares no one that. But the snake seems to know exactly where to strike for maximum hurt. Severus lies broken on the floor and wonders if this is somehow Voldemort's attempt at mercy. To grant his mirror a 'better' death than he would any other Death Eater, not cut him down with a simple Killing Curse.
Severus would have preferred Avada Kedavra.
And then he is no longer alone.
He wishes Potter hadn't found him. It is of course essential that the boy get the information Severus holds but... he doesn't want Potter to die. He didn't keep the boy alive this long only to fail now. Lily didn't die just so her son could die even younger than she did.
But life has never been about what he wants, and so Severus hands over the information that will save the world and kill Lily's son.
He looks into Lily's eyes in the boy's face. Soon he will be dead. No more tasks, no more masters, no more guilt. It is up to the boy.
Severus thinks that at least Minerva will know the truth now. It is a good thought to take into death.