Monday, February 23, 2009

Did It Again!

I finished another story. Whoo-hoo!

(And holy moly that I haven't posted in over a month. Yipe! Gotta work on that...)

Here it is. This is the first draft. I might revise it. But right now I just want to appreciate the fact that I've finished writing my second story. Feels good...

Answers to Nothing

Summary: Severus Snape makes an unscheduled visit to Tobias’ grave.

“I guess the joke was on you.”

He stood motionless as the bare bones trees stood sentinel with him, their bark occasionally scraped, like his chilled skin, by dry leaves blasted by the wind. Severus Snape stared down at the gravestone. The northerly gale blowing across the gray sky would normally have made his robes billow about him but he wasn’t wearing them. He wore a Muggle suit, gray like the dreariness above him. Black was the color of mourning and, he thought scornfully, there was nothing here to mourn.

His eyes stayed steadily on the granite marker. Modest as it was, it was still much too grand for the likes of what lay beneath it, Severus thought. Silently he read the inscription: Tobias Snape, born April 5, 1943, died July 10, 1977. Severus closed his eyes briefly as the memories of the night of July 10 returned to him. His hand moved to his collar, rubbing absently. He still had the scar. But this time he’d won.

And now, for the first time in 20 years he’d returned for a bonus round.

“Did you know?” he asked quietly. “Is that why you hated us?” He cocked his head to one side. “I would understand if you did,” he added, surprised.

Abruptly he hunkered down. An onlooker might have thought he was taking shelter from the wind. Instead, he peered even closer at the marker. Husband of Eileen Snape (nee Prince), father of Severus, he read further. He waited inside himself for a reaction: a lurching of his stomach, a sudden burning rush of anger up his spine, an impulse to kill. None of that came.

Tentatively, he stretched out a hand to touch the stone, his fingertips lingering on the word “father.” He now knew that word meant nothing to him with regard to Tobias Snape. Fate had already done what he’d thought he’d accomplished that sweltering July night and freed him of any further connection to Tobias Snape. Feeling Tobias’ life bleed out all over his hands that night had been one of the sweetest triumphs of his then life. It wasn’t until a decade later, after he’d taken the Dark Mark and then renounced it, after he’d licked Voldemort’s boots and then fled to Albus Dumbledore that he’d realized in horror that he’d only been playing a shell game. He’d replaced one father figure with another and still another, always looking for shelter from the storm, for someone strong enough to truly defeat the monster of his childhood. And then without warning the cord had been cut.

He wasn’t Tobias’. He never had been. The Half-Blood Prince didn’t exist.

“Is that why you punished us,” he whispered, the words torn from him as if sucked by the wind. “Like I punished Lily?”

He had become the monster, after Tobias’ death. He’d admitted as much when he’d thrown himself on Dumbledore’s mercy. He’d confessed his sins, though not all of them, only the ones he’d thought mattered. How could Dumbledore possibly have cared whether he had seduced James Potter’s wife? Life and death had been the issue, not marital failures. Not the twisted needs of a tortured man who’d still needed to best his rival. Not the pathetic need to take vengeance on an ex-lover because that was the only way he could still get to touch her.

For the first time that day, crouched in the bitter wind, he shivered.

At the time, he’d thought it was another triumph, seducing Lily Evans, now Lily Evans Potter, in her and James Potter’s bed. At the time it had been a game to him, a brutal, nasty game. So she loved James Potter, did she – and years later he could see now that she did – let’s just see how much, he’d decided. It had been shockingly easy to do. The timing had been everything. Although the wedding had been a celebration, people in the Potter circle were still tense. Lily especially had been anxious for she knew that Potter would be in the first line of any defense. The first time Potter had had to go away on assignment, Severus hadn’t struck. He’d merely watched the house, watched Lily’s movements and her moods. The second time…

Whenever he looked back on that night, he tried to tell himself that some unconscious magic from inside him had wound itself around her and lured her to him. For he remembered casting no spells, wordless or otherwise. He remembered feeling her tension, even from his wary position standing at her gate, as her anxiety wrapped itself around the house. He remembered placing his hands on her door and her opening it. He remembered baiting her, in vicious, childish ways and her falling for none of it. And he remembered lying on her bed and in her body, restarting what should never have stopped.

He remembered wishing he’d needed to use magic to make her do this. For if he could so easily make her betray a husband she loved, surely she must still love Severus. And if she did, then he could only blame himself for losing her.

He remembered, even as he released himself inside her, vowing to find a way to hurt her as deeply as she’d hurt him.

And he had.

He chuckled coldly. “I made her pay and you,” he said grimly. “How did it feel?” The image of emerald eyes, Lily’s eyes, in another face appeared in his mind. Eyes he’d sired. Eyes he’d stolen from James Potter who, true to form, had stolen right back with audacious application of the glamour charm, a spell he was only now beginning to learn how to unravel. For years, without knowing it, he’d looked into revenge’s eyes in his potions class every single day. He bowed his head.

“How badly did it hurt?” he added, “because I need to know.”

“Who let you in?”

The harsh Manchester accent cut through the wintry wind to land harshly on Severus’ ears and nerve-endings. He covered his surprise by rising in one fluid motion and turning slightly to glare imperiously down at the woman who’d startled him.

Instead of being intimidated, she took a step forward. Her eyes narrowed as she rudely examined him. “You’re Eileen’s boy aren’t you? What the hell are you doing here?”

Severus had stepped back at her first sentence, stunned at being recognized by a Muggle. His hand had instinctively reached for his wand. But then his mind registered her words, Eileen’s boy. Although his childhood home had frequently been invaded by Tobias’ relatives, he’d never been close to him. They were nothing more than variations on the violent theme that was Tobias. To them he was never Severus, or, as Lily used to call him, Sev or even, as one of their neighbor’s once dubbed him, Rus. He was never more than “boy” or more usually “Eileen’s boy” as if he’d wandered uninvited into their gene pool and polluted it.

His eyes took in the dry, pinched mouth, shellacked steel-gray hair, tatty woolen coat, fraying scarf and scuffed shoes. Then his eye fell on the cane. A solid, rounded rod of polished, brass-handled, dark mahogany, it was clearly the most expensive thing she had on her person. Although it was pitted and pocked with the wear of age, it could almost have been a wand it was so beautifully fashioned. For a moment, he was transfixed by it. With a suppressed shudder of distaste, he mentally sorted through a catalog of childhood recollections. Finally, reluctant memory placed the image of the woman before him.

When he was younger, before Hogwarts, before grammar school, she’d come to the house. When his mother had been too sick – i.e. too broken and bruised – to cook Tobias’ fry up or straighten the house, she had taken over. Despite having a permanent limp, she’d blown through the house with more vigor of a whirlwind, eyes like Tobias’ and a temper to match. Tobias had preferred a belt or his fists. She had preferred her cane.

Feeling oriented again, he addressed her. “Aunt…Celeste?”

The woman harrumphed as if realizing the offense had shifted in Severus’ favor. Reflexively, almost instinctively, she raised her cane, high, as high as Severus’ chest, as if to strike. “What’s it to you?” she barked.

He smiled slightly, politely, coldly. His eyes had followed every elevating degree of motion of that cane even as his hand tightened on his wand. She was so aggressively focused on blustering in front of him that she never noticed his slight hand motion. “Nothing anymore,” he said simply.

Heedless of her confusion he turned on the spot and vanished.

“Oh!” she gasped. The flower pot she’d carried in her other hand crashed to the ground. She stared hard at the emptiness where Severus used to be. She sliced her cane across the space, peering hard into nothing. Then, looking around guiltily, she caught herself. “Heathen devil,” she muttered, “Just stay away from here.” Straightening her coat, she grasped her cane hard as she slowly lowered herself before her brother’s grave. Pieces of broken pottery lay scattered at her feet. With a resigned sigh, she brushed the shards aside and grasped the now bedraggled carnations. As she laid them on the grass her eye fell on gravestone and out of habit she read its epitaph. With a cry, she dropped to the ground as the flowers slid from her slack hands.

The stone read: Tobias Snape, born April 5, 1943, died July 10, 1977 Husband of Eileen Snape (nee Prince), father of…nothing.