Chapter 1 : Losing Charity.
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Disclaimer: I, obviously, own nothing but the way I've twisted the story. It is all JKR's intellectual property.
Note: I have included three very crucial dialogues of The Dark Lord [ie, Voldemort], from Chapter One of the Deathly Hallows in which he talks about Charity Burbage, as quoting more than three lines from a Canon source is against the rules. The rest of the text is solely written by me. Thank you! (:
absolutely ravishing chapter image by arushi at TDA. Thanks so much!
A tall, greasy haired man glided through the dark alleyway, appearing not unlike a large, overgrown bat. His long black cloak swished sharply in the icy cold air as he made a jagged turn along a dingy lane with small cottages, each one lit with a small oil lamp dangling on the front door.
He walked quite unperturbed by the eerie darkness and the frequent hoots of owls perched upon the large willow tree that was visible even above the long brick wall that separated the houses from the abandoned graveyard.
He stopped in front of a worn out oak door, on which a thin and rusted sign faintly read ‘No. 7, Frederick the Fool’s End’. Below it was another small sign, carved onto the thin wood of which was a small name- Charity Burbage. He knocked twice, waiting to hear the usual noise of movement from one room to another. He heard no such thing.
He knocked again, his long locks of jet black hair jumping over his thin, sallow face, twisted into an unreadable expression. There was no sound. The hooting of the owls seemed to reverberate in the cold darkness.
“Charity?” he called, a slight panic rising in his voice. There was no reply. He heard his voice echo over and over again against the huge brick wall. He looked around. He was sure the neighbors had heard his voice, so piercing in the quiet night. Casting a few spells about him, he proceeded to knock again. No one would hear now.
The absence of the usual creaking open of the door, and the gentle smile of Charity Burbage as she saw him standing there, her sleek dark hair whipping about her face in the moonlight, sent slight shivers down his spine. He had been afraid of this. He had confronted her. He had warned her.
Severus Snape waved his wand in one quick swishing movement, and the lock clicked open. He did not want his worst fears to come true. Hoping desperately that he was mistaken, he entered the drawing room. It was a stark contrast to the row of houses and the gloom that surrounded the house. The chairs were highly polished oak, gleaming against the moonlight filtering through the door. Severus shut it behind him and lit his wand. The cheerfulness of the bright furniture and happy picture frames on the walls mocked him.
He walked quietly; he could be gliding, making no noise at all. The small cottage had only three rooms. The kitchen was empty. He entered the bedroom. The scene stung him. The soft mauve covers were ripped apart, paintings had been ripped off the walls, bits of glass were shattered all about the floor, a streak of blood ranged from the bed to the milky white curtains. He walked towards the window, his insides stinging.
Every step, heavy; the silence pounding against his eardrums.
He saw the moon at last, shining against the broken window glass. It was a full moon night. His thoughts ranged to an old acquaintance, a former school-mate, but quickly catapulted back to the scene that had jammed his voice in his throat. He walked closer to the bed, the lamp overturned, the sheets torn and scratched. He closed his eyes, flinching at the sight of scarlet on them, with unmistakable markings of a gigantic slithering object and long nails. He did not want to think any further.
He fell onto his knees, the glass piercing through his skin, but he did not care. His eyes fell upon a shattered photo frame, which held the picture of a young woman standing against a small cottage in England. Her face was pink in the winters, a thick white muffler around her neck. She looked happy. Very happy. Her dark hair flowing in the wind, her chestnut eyes twinkling. The garden behind seemed to radiate in her glow.
And in all the pain that he felt whilst watching her smiling face, he traveled a few days back in his memory. He had woken in the morning to find a long article in the Daily Prophet, with a very noble message, one that all wizardkind should adhere to- the dwindling of purebloods, their intermingling with muggles, and acceptance of all purity and impurity in the magical world.
He had flipped over the page to find the name of Charity Burbage under the article, a name he recognized so well. Charity had been one person in his life who had understood him. She taught with him at Hogwarts. As a professor of Muggle studies, she understood a lot about them, and was like them. Being a pureblood was of no significance to her. She reminded him of someone he had loved since forever. The persistent glow on her face had resurrected him from his prolonged sadness.
He had found life once more. Charity was noble. And soft. Her persona was intriguing. She was from the most noted of pureblood families. And yet, she preferred to stay in the background. She went virtually unnoticed at Hogwarts. But that was not because she did have the allure; it was because she liked it that way. Those who could not appreciate simplicity could not appreciate Charity Burbage.
As a person, she had taught him so much. As a fellow-professor, she had earned his respect. She had often taunted him for his improper actions. As a friend, she had always been there. She knew everything. How he was being torn apart from both sides, his inner turmoil, where his loyalties lay. She had understood him, she had supported him, even guided him.
If there was one person who had managed to penetrate the thick skin of Severus Snape, who had made his heart turn from stone to gold, it was Charity Burbage. If there were one person for whom he would lay his life, it was Charity Burbage. If there was one person he did not want to lose in this life, it was Charity Burbage.
“You don’t understand, Charity. The Dark Lord summoned us all today. He has big plans. Dangerous plans. He plans to take over the ministry, and bring muggles under wizard rule. Don’t you understand? He is angered by your article. He is seething”
He was surprised at how fiercely she turned and answered back. “Well, then. That’s good. Hopefully he has learnt a thing or two”
He was surprised to see a playful smirk on her face. “Charity-” he began.
She cut across. “Looks like you’re changing sides, Severus. I thought you would congratulate me, like many others have, on writing an article that talks about bringing people together in harmony.”
He shook his head. “You know what I’m saying, don’t you? I was happy, I was proud. I’m not against the fact that you expressed such noble views.” He stressed on the second last word, and continued, “But you must understand, with the Dark Lord on your trail, you cannot afford to roam around so freely now. You must go into hiding”
“Those who go into hiding now will only help in making him stronger, spread more fear” she retorted, her hair whipping about as she wagged a finger at him in defence, “I’m not weak, and I have nothing to fear. I will resume my post in Hogwarts too. We have to bring people together, Severus, we have to fight. We can’t all jump into our hidey-holes and expect everything to come back to normal. You-Know-Who is gaining followers even as we speak. We have to give the wizard community a sense of togetherness; we have to teach them to fight, as one.”
He stared at her helplessly. She did not understand. “I know what you are talking about, and I support you, but I insist- you must stay at Gregory’s Alley near Spinners End. I cannot afford to hide you in my house, but Gregory’s Alley would be per-”
“Didn’t I say I don’t need to hide? I’m not weak, Severus. I’ve said it once. And I don’t want to talk about this again.”
He wished he had not listened. Wished he had insisted. He picked the slightly torn photograph out of the frame, his face wet, and stuffed it into his robes. He looked down at his watch. It was nearly time. His master had called for him. Seething in sudden anger, Severus Snape lifted himself from the ground and pick up a shard of glass. He closed his eyes and clamped the shard tightly in his fist. He felt the prick, the pain, the flow of scarlet.
It gave him pleasure. It made him calmer, but it did not lessen the anger building inside him. With one piercing scream of range he let go of the glass, and blood splattered the sheets and the wooden floor. His rage was not yet in control. He pulled down the curtains and smashed every remaining frame, hot tears dripping onto the floor and his robes. He overturned the furniture and broke every antique.
Nothing could diminish his sadness, his regret. Regret. Regret. Regret. That is what he had done his whole life. Regretted the fact that he loved a girl, so beautiful, so close, yet so unreachable. Regretted the fact that he could not save her. And now, he could not save another girl who had known his so well. Understood him. Taught him such a big lesson in life. He regretted not telling her how much he loved her, how much he cared for her, how much he wanted her safety.
He walked into the moonlight, healing his bruised hand with a simple spell. Wiping the tears streaming down his eyes, he apparated. He felt the suffocation, and then clean air, in another small alleyway. A few yards away he saw Yaxley. He seemed to have appeared now too.
“News?” he asked Snape.
“The best” Severus replied, disguising his sadness with perfection. Acting was second nature to him now.
He did not talk much; just nodded as Yaxley spoke to him. Important news was to be given to the Dark Lord. They entered the tall mansion. The two men halted at a heavy wooden door leading into the next room. He could sense Yaxley’s hesitation, but it was nothing compared to his. Snape turned the bronze handle, and as their eyes accustomed to the lack of light in the unusually dark room, Severus Snape’s worst fears came true.
An apparently unconscious human figure was hanging upside down over the table, revolving slowly, as if suspended by an invisible rope. The sight disgusted him. He felt the seething anger rise in him again, with hatred so powerful. But he closed his mind and relaxed his face, taking a seat on The Dark Lord’s immediate right.
He could not bear to look at him, but did so, so as not to raise suspicion. He was to give them important news tonight. The Dark Lord’s pale face looked eager for information on Harry Potter’s whereabouts. His snake-like hiss intensified the anger inside him. Severus spoke, and as he did so, his eyes, just like Draco’s flitted to the unconscious figure frequently, but in the most disguised manner.
He did not care. About Harry Potter. About his loyalties. About the plan. He cared only about one person, whom he could not help. He was torn, from all sides. He spoke, gave the Dark Lord the information that was most important for his life. But Snape’s life was hanging on the edge, as he tried to look away from the figure above the table.
“Do you recognize our guest, Severus?” The Dark Lord asked him all of a sudden, bringing him back to his surroundings.
With great pain, and immense longing, and uncountable regret, Severus Snape raised his black eyes to the upside face, the dark hair that fell towards the table, and felt a surge of agony. His mind was going back, rewinding, to the times he had spent watching the same face laughing, and talking, looking happy.
With a swift wave of the Dark Lord's wand, she was brought her back to consciousness. As she revolved to face the firelight, the woman shrieked, in a terrified, disturbing voice, ‘Severus! Help me!’
He did not know what to say. Tongue tied, for the first time, Severus spoke. ‘Ah, yes’
And then the Dark Lord spoke, in his snake-like hiss. “For those who do not know, we are joined here by Charity Burbage who, until recently, taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yes… Professor Burbage taught the children of witches and wizards all about Muggles… how they are not so different from us…”
Charity Burbage revolved to face Snape again, speaking as though with great effort. ‘Severus … please … please …’
Snape looked into her eyes, and felt his tolerance sever. He saw all that he feared- love, longing, sadness, and above all, fear. He did not want to see it. He wanted to vanquish all those who had brought her to this state. He was being torn from all sides. His promise to Dumbledore, Harry’s protection for Lily. And Charity, who was his life.
‘Silence’ said The Dark Lord, and with another twitch of his wand, Charity fell silent like an obedient child. Snape’s eyes glazed slightly, but he did not let his heart overcome his mind. The Dark Lord spoke, ‘Not content with corrupting and polluting the minds of wizarding children, last week Professor Burbage wrote an impassioned defence of Mudbloods in the Daily Prophet. Wizards, she says, must accept these thieves of their knowledge and magic. The dwindling of pure-bloods is, says Professor Burbage, a most desirable circumstance … she would have us all mate with Muggles … or, no doubt, werewolves …’
The Dark Lord's voice was brimming with anger and contempt. No one spoke or laughed at the table, Severus one of them. And again. for the third time, Charity revolved to face the firelight, and Snape looked into her eyes. Tears were pouring from her eyes into her hair. He could not bear it. The guilt was so heavy upon his chest, he thought he must suffocate.
He, however, stared back at her, impassive. Her eyes said so much, asked so much, and yet gave no answers. He questioned her, his black eyes upon her chestnut, tried to speak to her, to tell her how much he loved her, to explain his helplessness. She stared back, giving only sadness, but expressing so much.
Answering him at last, gleaming with love, her eyes spoke. Their special bond reflected in them. He thought she said she understood, she apologized for not understanding, he wanted to keep on looking, feasting on her eyes.
And slowly, she turned away from him again, and The Dark Lord spoke at last, the words that spelt his doom.
And as she turned, he saw the last spark of light in her eyes. He saw the last look of love. The last look of understanding, warmth. He saw one last image of Charity Burbage while she lived, and loved, and spread love… and then she was gone…
And as the flash of bright green light illuminated every corner of the room. Charity fell, with a resounding crash onto the polished table below, which trembled and creaked.
‘Dinner, Nagini,’ he head Voldemort say, and the gigantic snake swayed and slithered onto the polished wood. A single tear fell from the dark and emotionless eyes of Severus Snape, as he had, once again, lost his love, of his own expense.
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