Chapter 1 : Reflection
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I looked in the mirror today and saw the broken reflection of a man I barely recognised. The features were the same; the same cold, lifeless face I have had to live with these past thirty odd years. The same sallow skin and dark, penetrating eyes. The same hooked nose that betrayed my parentage. The unattractive mishmash was still both the spitting image and the bane of my pitiful existence. But underneath is a person I fail to comprehend, even after all these years. Perhaps that is what frightens me the most. My lack of comprehension. My lack of understanding. For a logical man it is frightening. Perhaps I have never understood. Perhaps that is my weakness. If I have one.
He dared to call me a coward, just like his father had before him. Little does he know. Little did any of them know. This was his fault. They always think they know me, but no one has ever been close. No one has ever liked me for who I am. Except one.
The eyes that stared back at me today were less bright than the ones that first viewed the magnificent building that would be both my haven and my hell. The lines around those eyes have grown over the years, along with my wisdom and knowledge of the harshness of this world. And yet to me I am still the same child who stepped under that dark, ominous hat and was immediately declared a Slytherin. There was no hesitation. I am what I am, and I became what I became. I cannot alter my past. Even he said that. I can only make up for all that I have done.
But I tried. He knew more than anyone else I tried more than most to right my wrong doings. Only he knew the truth. And now that is buried with him. With Dumbledore. How will they ever understand now he is gone? They are at fault. They cannot see the truth. They are blind to me.
He saw beneath the false faÁade I chose to create as a barrier to my real self. My mask. Dumbledore saw a glimmer of hope in me when even I believed all hope was lost. He understood my feelings, and listened when I spoke. It was the first time in my life that a man had truly listened to me. He saw the notes in the margin of my books and congratulated me on the advanced way I created solutions to problems. A maturity beyond my years, he told me. I was in awe, despite myself. He was a great man. It was his idea I partnered her. It was as if he had always planned it that way. Now I know he had. He planned everything, as if he had always known the outcome.
And yet I can feel a certain hatred even now my job is done. He made me do this. He turned me into the monster I have become, for surely only a monster could have carried out such a heinous crime to take a defenceless manís life. Thatís what they will all believe. I will serve my penance well, deep in my own private hell, if I have not done so already. It is the only form of life I know. The only life I have ever known. He used me like I have always been used. I am not to blame. He made me. Dumbledore must take some of the blame.
I didnít want to love her. I wasnít really allowed to love, especially not Lily. That was made clear from the start. How would the other Slytherins have accepted that? My parents were hardly role models for loving relationships, both to themselves and to me, though my mother tried her best. She had to fight against my fatherís will to do what was right and just. She loved me. She was my saviour, perhaps. Perhaps it was another.
Iím not even sure I know what love is, for to love is a gift to be taught. Those without the touch of love can turn into the vilest creatures. History teaches us this lesson. But Lily exuded a quality that no other woman could ever come close to. She saw in me more potential than I could ever dream of. It was with her help I became so good at Potions. We helped one another. For a Mudblood she was truly gifted. Exceptional. Unique. I called her Mudblood once when she came to my rescue. I didnít want her to see me vulnerable and pathetic, for surely she could never admire me if I came across as cowardly. How could she possibly admire me? Had I known she would end up with PotterÖwell, it is all too late now. I cannot turn back time.
She would never have forsaken Potter for you, you deluded fool! He was everything you were not: popular, athletic, and personable. And yet you always thought things could be different. You thought the look in her eyes was admiration and devotion. Love. It wasnít. It was pity. She pitied you. You were her poor, little Severus. You were her wounded soldier, just like Lupin. Perhaps she pitied him too. She was always talking to him, laughing with him and you were jealous. You were jealous of all of them. Pathetic! They were right. You were pathetic. You are a coward!
I hear those words time and time again as I go over the events of that fateful night once more in my head. It will never leave me. Why did it all have to be for him? Why, of all the children to be born, did it have to be Potterís boy? Lilyís boy? Those eyes have haunted me from his first day at Hogwarts. It is like a piece of her lives and breathes inside of him, but the body bears all of Potterís traits. The hair, the arrogance, the strut. All identical. All just the same as the one boy in Hogwarts who made my blood boil above all others. Except for Black. Hypocritical fool. He thought his brother was weak. He thought he was a fool, a weak coward, but he was so wrong. He thought the same about me too. I will prove him wrong or die. There is no other choice.
Black could always hit a nerve. He saw you lust after her. He knew of your feelings somehow and he taunted you. He saw she would never be yours. Is that why Potter fell in love with Lily? Just to spite you? Is that what you think? You fool! Is that why you persuaded Regulus to join Voldemort? Just to spite Sirius? Another life you have ruined. Add it to the many. Sirius was the trigger for your turn to Voldemort. Blame him. He is an easy target. He cannot answer you back now.
I never told her how I felt. All those times we worked in Potions. All the times I smelt her sweet, rose scented fragrance and felt her auburn hair brush against my skin I never said a word. It is a blessing and a curse - my secrecy and loyalty. Perhaps I should have told her how much I cared, but I was scared. Scared of her reaction. Scared of losing the one thing that made me feel alive. And yet she went and killed that feeling by being with him. Potter. It was his fault. All the times I saw them together I could feel the anger burn away inside of me, just as it had against my Muggle father. Why did mother cower at his voice when she was so much more powerful than he? Why did I have to endure that normality of Muggle life where she hid her numerous talents and only taught me in secret away from my father? Was it then the anger began? Was it in me all along?
You were born with this inside of you. You were made to follow the Dark Lord and you knew it. When the opportunity came you seized it and ran. Your parents are to blame for this. They made you who you are.
I enjoyed it. I have no shame in my feelings, though I know I should. For me the time with the Dark Lord was a release. At least it was in the beginning. He told us we could be great. He sold us a lie, and we fell for it like the weak fools we were. He told me we had much in common, and that he understood my pain. But he did not. How could he understand? He did not lie awake at night with the regret I had heavy in my heart. He did not see her face as he went to sleep, haunting all his dreams. He did not see it first thing as his eyes opened in the morning. He lied to me. They all lie eventually. There is no truth. Only death is truth.
He sold you a lie but you fell for it. Your anger made you weak. Were the Potter men correct? Are they telling the truth when they look into your eyes and call you coward?
How can I be a coward when I risked my life time and time again for the Order? How can I be a coward when it is I who realised the extent of the Dark Lordís ambition and turned to Dumbledore to stop it. Regulus will be seen as not so fortunate, but it is I who has had to live with this for all these years and I am tired. I have played my part. I told him I wanted no part in this charade but he made me do this. Why must I always be a part of someone elseís game? When will it be my turn to lead? Why must I always follow?
I have done all that Dumbledore asked of me, and more. I have taught a thousand children when I cannot abide their presence. I took the Defence against the Dark Arts position knowing there would be a price to pay. A condition. That condition was his life. I have protected the boy when all he did was despise me. I have sacrificed my life for nothing but penance in return, and I have done all that he commanded, until he can command me no more. He gave me that final trust, for he has always said all along how he trusted me beyond all others.
And now I feel lost. I am empty. I have killed before, I have heard pleas for mercy, but he pleaded for my soul. My soul, not his. Dumbledore died to save me and many others. And it was all at my hand. They will never understand. He saved my soul and yet, when I look in that mirror, there is no soul behind my eyes. I am empty.
Do not delude yourself into thinking this was not by your hand. Yes, he commanded you, but you could have refused. You did not have to do this. You were playing the hero. And even you could not fake that hatred in your heart as you carried out that final request. You had to hate him to kill him. Do not think anything else. Pretend it was the action that you hated, but they will not believe you. No one believes in you.
And now the man who saved me is dead. By my hand. I have no saviour and I want no saviour. Potter, Lupin and all will come looking for me and I will face them to prove I am not the coward they think I am. I will explain, if they deserve the explanation. Part of me wants them to kill me without ever knowing the truth. Make them suffer like I do. Make them feel that inner guilt that eats you up inside and never leaves you day or night. Kill an innocent man and feel my pain. It would be my ultimate revenge. A life of living hell.
And yet you know you cannot do that, for when you look at the boy you see her, and you would never hurt her now. You have already done too much to inflict more pain on Lily. You will explain and they will listen. But they will not believe, for they do not want to. They will never believe you.
There is a knock at the door. Perhaps it is them now. I hope it is them for soon I could feel some blessed release from the ache in my heart. I peer down the stairs and take the thirteen steps down to the front door. I catch his eye. It is not them. I see Wormtail and staring back at me is the same guilt behind those lying eyes, though he chooses to hide it well. He sits here in this God forsaken place and waits to die. He knows his time will come. We both live together on borrowed time, though neither will admit it to the other. We know the truth will come. I hate him, for he reminds myself of me. I despise him.
He betrayed them more than you. He sold them to Voldemort. You led him there, but he would not have found them if Peter had not turned. He sold his friends. You hate him. It is his fault. May he face his maker soon and suffer as she must have done. It is all his fault.
I walk past the glass cabinet by the front door and see the reflection of a man I barely recognise. I pause for breath as the bitter feelings rise within my chest, constricting my lungs and tearing at my throat. I have to live with this. I cannot falter now. I will face them and face the truth.
It was all my fault. All of this was down to me.