summary: "death has green eyes, and
she welcomes him with a smile"
disclaimer: characters are the property
of J. K. Rowling; no profit is derived from this work of fan fiction.
notes: God knows what brought this on. Eternal thanks to Team Beta, Viola and Sara, whose comments saved this from becoming a monument to my own artistic arrogance. Now it's just a monument to my own weirdness, but that's okay, because everyone knew I was weird anyway.
1. the draught of living
Death has green eyes, and she welcomes him with a smile.
"Severus," she says. "It's been so long..."
"You know why I'm here."
"That doesn't mean I like it. We've waited long enough."
She points, and off in the distance -- although there is no true distance here, there is really nothing at all; this is an illusion, and he would do well not to forget that -- but off in the false distance, he sees a familiar figure.
Two familiar figures, a man and a boy, both with messy hair and glasses.
"The father isn't real," he says. He is almost annoyed: this isn't fair. To anyone.
"We won't make this easy, Severus. We aren't selfless." Sarcastically, she adds, "not like you."
"You'll have him soon enough."
"'Soon.'" She tastes the word as if it is unfamiliar. "But we have him now."
"He's a child."
"You're all children."
2. death eater
Severus Snape tried to kill himself when he was fifteen. Poison, naturally.
His father had said that poison was a woman's weapon, but his father was in Azkaban, and they were laughing. The Gryffindors thought it was a joke. He could still hear Black's laughter ringing through the dungeon.
He felt perfectly calm as he brewed the potion. He watched the poison bubbling in the cauldron for a long time. He'd illuminated the empty, unused dungeon with hundreds of candles which hovered in the air around him. Their light was reflected in the liquid.
Reflected, like his face.
How he hated his face; how he hated the mirrors that reminded him of what he looked like.
He resembled his mother, and his mother was dead.
Four days ago, his mother had killed herself.
Three days ago, he'd received the letter. Two days ago, he'd made his decision: poison, as a last, defiant, futile rebellion against his father.
His father would have used a knife.
His father was in Azkaban; no knives, no poisons, no escape at all for a convicted Death Eater.
He stared at his face for a moment longer, and then dipped a goblet -- one of the crested family goblets, because with he was the last of his family, the last allowed to use these cups -- into the cauldron.
The reflection shimmered. His face was lost.
He stared at the goblet for a moment, admiring the craftsmanship.
The family crest was engraved in obsidian. It didn't hold his reflection.
3. death is but the next
Death wore his grandmother's face and smelt of autumn leaves.
"Severus," she said softly.
His grandmother had died when he was two; he'd long ago forgotten the sound of her voice, but he knew it when he heard it.
"I've missed you," she said.
Death welcomed him.
Death welcomed him, and then Death released him to Dumbledore. Because Dumbledore made the Bargain; because Dumbledore dueled Death; because Dumbledore chose not to let this student die.
"We'll see each other again," she said, and smiled.
It occurred to Severus that it wasn't
at all a nice smile.
4. or give me death
He had thought it meant something, that Dumbledore performed the spell, took the potion and dueled Death for him.
A year ago, a student had been killed in a broomstick accident, and Dumbledore had done nothing. It couldn't be arbitrary, could it? Surely it meant something...
Or maybe it was just an hallucination. There was nothing in any of the books about a Bargain.
In the end, he decided it was an hallucination, because Dumbledore didn't care for him at all. Dumbledore only cared for the Gryffindors. This was evident, this was a fact, this was the thought that gnawed at him at night, although he openly mocked the old fool in daylight.
Why would Dumbledore save him, when he was nothing at all?
Why would Dumbledore value him highly enough to make the Bargain, and yet allow the Gryffindors who tried to kill him to go unpunished?
Severus had learnt to value his life, but perhaps it was worthless, after all.
Perhaps Dumbledore had made a mistake.
5. thief from death
"You wanted to live forever," says Death.
"I thought you wanted to be with me."
"I changed my mind."
The boy walks towards him. Potter.
("I have a task for you, Severus," Dumbledore had said, and then everything was confirmed; his questions were answered, all except one: Why?)
The boy still bears the injuries: curse scars and hex marks. Mortal after all.
Bloody brat. And Dumbledore thought that he should be the one to make the Bargain. A useful lesson that an obstinate child had never bothered to learn.
"He wants to be with me," she says.
"You're not his mother."
"No, but she's here."
"He has duties," he says.
"He'll die, one day. We're all yours in the end."
"I grow impatient."
"Would you have Voldemort succeed?"
She frowns. Voldemort wants to live forever. Voldemort fears Death.
Death fears Voldemort.
"Let us duel," she says, and he wins, because she wishes him to.
"We have a Bargain, then. The boy." The Boy Who Lived. Again.
She smiles, and kisses him on the forehead. "You're in my debt, Severus Snape. You've left me twice, now."
He wants to answer, to say something
defiant, angry, cutting, because he hates to be indebted. He wants
to answer, but he is silent. He breaks the spell.
6. after, life
He is gone from the hospital wing before Potter awakens; he says nothing, and Potter says nothing. But sometimes, he finds the boy watching him, puzzled, and he knows what Potter is wondering: Why?
He has no answer, except that there was one bond: Dumbledore, Death, and him; and now there is another.
And one day, should they survive long enough, another fifteen year old might die needlessly, and he might say to Potter, "I have a task for you."
If they survive.
note: "thief from death" is one of several possible literal translations of "Voldemort." Most of the division headings are derived from the books, except for "or give me death" which is from the old political slogan, and "after, life".
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