He stood in shadows, within sight of the door of the church but hidden enough to be inconspicuous. After all, if he was spotted he would have trouble explaining why he was here at all. It wasn’t like he had any affection for Potter in the slightest, and no one would understand about Lily.
It was for her, of course, that he had come here today, to their funeral. Even though she’d stopped speaking to him more than five years ago, even though she had chosen Potter and even had his child, he couldn’t stay away. Everything he’d done had been for her.
It was a horrible quirk of fate, what had happened. He had gone to the Dark Lord with important information about a prophecy, which laid out the details of the birth of a child who might some day overthrow him. Even though he hadn’t heard it all, it had still been far too important to not pass on – anything or anyone who could bring down the Dark Lord certainly had to be disposed of. And if the parents were in the way, then they could go too: he hadn’t given that much thought, if he was honest with himself. He had never realised that it could be, in any way, shape or form, about her.
When he had made the horrible discovery that the Dark Lord’s interpretation of the prophecy meant it was her son being targeted, he had done everything he could to ensure her survival. He had used his position as confidante of the Dark Lord to try to spare her life, and had even approached Dumbledore to try to find ways to save her. Anything, he had said, and he’d meant it – he would have done anything for her.
But it had all been in vain. He wasn’t completely sure what had happened but he knew that she had died and the Dark Lord had indeed fallen. Any other information was immaterial, even the news that it was Black who had betrayed them. Well, he reasoned, that was hardly a surprise – while Black had professed to detest everything the Death Eaters stood for, the Dark Lord would have given him one sniff of a bit of power and he would have swapped sides. Power would always do that to a person. Anyway Black was now locked in Azkaban for the deed, so that was good riddance to bad rubbish. Closet Death Eater or not, he had no time for people like that.
All that mattered was that she was gone. He had loved her since he was a child, and it had grown in intensity as he had grown into a man, even when she rejected him and chose someone else. Even when she married the person who was possibly his worst enemy, still he had loved her. His Patronus even matched hers, that was how deep his passion went. All his happiest memories were connected with her.
He wasn’t sure what he felt now. Despair, obviously, because even when she had been married to Potter he had known she was alive and maybe even happy, and as long as she lived then there was always the possibility that the marriage wouldn’t work out and she might consider him again. Now, there was no hope at all.
Pain, confusion and frustration were also there, in equal doses. And regret featured fairly prominently, especially considering that he had promised Dumbledore all sorts of things that he wasn’t completely sure he could fulfil. If he needed to fulfil them at all now, of course, as with the Dark Lord gone the opportunities to act as a spy against him would be few and far between.
He couldn’t avoid Dumbledore, though, not now he had that job at the school. And while it was a good job and he was able to mould young minds and potentially guide them to become exceptional potioneers, he was a little uncomfortable being there with the promise he had made to the Headmaster. It was, however, a job, and one that meant he needn’t return to the old house at Spinner’s End for more than a couple of months a year.
Not going home had definitely been a selling point for the job, he realised. Most of his memories of that place were miserable, due to his cruel and bullying father, and those that were good were all centred around Lily. And, right now, that was too painful to think about.
Yes, he thought, it was all his fault. If he hadn’t told the Dark Lord about the prophecy, then the Potter child would never have been targeted and she would still be alive. But she was dead, lying in a coffin that was probably somewhere inside the church, and he was entirely to blame.
And he would have to live with that knowledge for the rest of his life.
His attention was diverted by a virtual procession of mourners outside the church, with what looked like hundreds of people making their way through the big wooden doors. Some he recognised from the school, either staff or students who had been there during his time, while others were undoubtedly from the Order of the Phoenix. And a number who he didn’t recognise at all, leaving him unsure whether they were friends and acquaintances she had picked up since her marriage or simply well-wishers, people who wanted to pay their respects to the family who had somehow defeated the Dark Lord. He supposed that, now, it didn’t matter.
He longed to go inside, to be part of the mourning and tears, but he knew that it wasn’t appropriate. And no one except Dumbledore would even know why he was there, he realised – while he and Lily had been friends in the beginning, she’d barely spoken to him after that day at the end of fifth year when he’d called her a Mudblood. That had been the beginning of the end, of course, the worst day of his life up until a few days ago, but he wouldn’t dwell on that now. The thing was, they were friends for five years and now had not been friends for five years, so even if he did say that he was attending for her sake no one would believe him.
No, it was his lot to suffer in silence. He had never been one to show his emotions freely, that was for weak minded people who didn’t have the patience or ability to mask their feelings. Snapes most certainly did not wear their hearts on their sleeves. It was something he had always derided Potter about, that inability to hide his innermost feelings, because if a person couldn’t apply themselves enough to do that successfully, then how could you trust them to achieve anything else? That definitely displayed a weakness of character that he had no intention of ever emulating.
He shifted subtly, moving his weight from one foot to the other in an effort to become more comfortable. He was reasonably confident that he hadn’t been spotted in his hiding place, but he was conscious of the fact that the doors of the church would be closing soon and he would have to find another spot within view of the graveyard for the final chapter of this saga. His eyes scanned the surrounding area, looking for what would be the most inconspicuous way to get around the side of the church.
Even the wind had died down by now, and the only noise was the scuttling of a rat across the roadway towards the open church door. Almost time, he realised, for the large wooden doors to be shut and the service to begin. He hadn’t missed the symbolism of the occasion, of the door closing on that part of his life, and a grim expression set on his face as he started to move from his vantage point.
Once around the side of the church and within view of the graveyard, he baulked. Surely this couldn’t be right? They were burying two people today, not one. He allowed himself to get closer so he could reassure himself that there was indeed a mistake. But no, it seemed, they would be sharing a grave – even in death he couldn’t wrench her away from that accursed Potter. The headstone proved that.
He felt a tear trailing down his cheek and wiped it away impatiently. Shedding tears was showing emotion, and that would never do. Why did it have to end this way, he thought furiously. It was never supposed to be like this. She was supposed to recognise his devotion and return it, looking with wonder at the power and influence he had achieved within the Death Eaters, not shun him and permanently attach herself to Potter, in death as well as in life. She was supposed to realise that he worshipped her more than Potter ever could, that he would have done anything for her, that he would have made her a princess and ensured that this war would never even touch her. She was supposed to be his shining light in what was certainly a complicated world.
She was supposed to love him.
He brushed away another tear, fuming at himself for this unacceptable display of emotion, even if there was no one around to witness it. This was intolerable behaviour from him. Tearing himself away from the open grave, he skulked off to a shadowy area underneath an ancient oak tree, relying on the darkness and his own black clothes to shield him from any wandering eyes. They would be coming out soon, he realised, and even with Potter there he had to see it, had to be there for it. Once it was over he’d have to Apparate back to the school before anyone discovered he’d been gone. There would be little or no possibility of return on another day to visit the graves, he recognised. This was the only chance he’d have to say goodbye.