The summer sun was setting over the grounds of Hogwarts, shimmering off the glassy lake surface and winking in the glass of the leaded windows which dotted the stone walls. Most of the students were outside, enjoying their last few moments of freedom before the Hogwarts Express would arrive to return them all home the next day. Exams had been completed, the marks distributed, and tonight would mark the last feast of the term. Everything was filtered through a hazy golden light, and it seemed as if it might be an eternal day, and one that should have been used for relaxing. However, some were concentrating on larger things than the weather.
Severus Snape was seated underneath a far tree that bordered the edge of the grounds, accompanied by those he supposed were his closest friends - Avery, Mulciber, Rosier, and Wilkes. The five boys had made a tight huddle under the rough bark, not wanting their present conversation to be heard by unwanted ears. The discussion was certainly not revolving around a topic that was talked about by most everyone. All eyes were fixed on Mulciber, a boy with a nose rather like a pig’s snout, as he eagerly shared his news in low tones.
“And then me dad said that I could join up right after school,” he was whispering triumphantly. “Said the more of us there were, the sooner the wizards could begin takin’ over.” Mulciber sat up straighter and puffed his chest out slightly with pride. “So tomorrow I’m goin’ down there with ‘im and joinin’ up.”
Most of the others looked at their friend with mingled awe and jealously, but Severus’s mouth just twisted imperceptibly into a bitter sneer. Although he would never admit it to him – or to anyone, for that matter – Severus was slightly jealous of Mulciber and the rest. All of his friends were in some way connected to the world Severus longed to be a part of – the world of the dark, and the powerful. The world of those who would not stand to be ignored. Severus, growing up as he had, had none of these connections, and so could only watch in envy.
He couldn’t bear to see these boys go off and do the things he wanted most to do – them without the brains to do it, or the nerve that Severus knew he possessed himself. So he merely said nothing but instead stared at the grass, listening to Mulciber gloat.
“My mum doesn’t want me to join,” said Avery ruefully, absentmindedly pulling tufts of grass out of the ground and shredding them between his fingers. “But she won’t be able to stop me – she wasn’t able to stop Dad, was she? I’m joining up as soon as I can.” Noises of agreement were made from the rest of the boys seated in the circle, and the bitter taste in Severus’s mouth increased.
It wasn’t fair – it wasn’t fair at all.
“I need to go and pack,” he said, standing up from the circle stiffly – his legs had been crossed for a while. Choosing to ignore his friends’ curious stares, he swept across the sloping lawn up toward the main doors leading into the castle.
The dungeon corridor leading to the Slytherin common room was cool and quite empty, and Severus was glad for the solitude. He always preferred to sulk in silence, and right now he felt he deserved a good sulk. Once inside his dormitory, lit eerily with greenish light filtered through with gold from the sunset, he walked to his ebony four-poster and sunk down on it.
He couldn’t say in all honesty that he was looking forward to leaving Hogwarts. True, he didn’t have a lot of great memories here – and almost none since things with Lily had grown so rotten. He had been teased, bullied, ignored, and generally treated like scum – he wasn’t thick enough to try and hide that particular fact from himself.
But here was still better than home – home with a spineless mother who hardly acted like a true witch, and a father who could have cared less about his son. A home with drafty windows, and cramped living spaces, and a roof with a permanent leak. A home that simply reminded him too much of all that he would become if he didn’t make changes to his life right now.
At least here, at Hogwarts, he’d had the promise of a future. But now that he was leaving, what sort of promise would be awaiting him? All the things he could have done, if only conditions had been different… Would he be able to make something of himself once he was gone?
He raised his head suddenly from where it had been bowed, lost in thoughts of self-pity. He was disgusted with himself. For the past two years he had done nothing but withdraw further into himself and his dreams – but he had done nothing to make those dreams a reality. And in losing himself in his dreams, he had lost the one person who had meant more than anything to him.
It was time to put these dark thoughts behind him. He needed to reclaim his life – only by doing so could he ensure the kind of future he wanted to have.
The sound of footsteps overhead told him that it was time for the feast, and he rose again from his bed and left the common room, climbing the stairs into the entrance hall. People were talking even more loudly than normal, calling out to friends and laughing; moods always ran high near the end of a term. Severus deftly slipped between knots of people, heading not for the Slytherin table but for the Gryffindor one, although he observed with a slight note of pride the green and silver hangings that decked the hall in celebration of the House Cup.
Lily Evans was sitting with her friends, smiling – she had such a pretty smile, Severus thought to himself, a small smile of his own lighting up his face just looking at it. He started toward her, but found his path suddenly blocked by a group of fourth-year Hufflepuffs, who had decided to take that moment to stop and exchange addresses for the summer.
Just as he was about to push through them, the sound of a knife on a goblet rung through the hall; Professor Dumbledore was calling for everyone to take their seats. Cursing under his breath and taking a last glance at Lily, Severus turned and headed toward the opposite end of the hall, toward the table decked out in green and silver to match the rest of the hall. After the feast, make no mistake, he’d find a way to talk to her.
He had made up his mind. He didn’t want anything to do with the dark arts if it meant Lily wouldn’t bear to be around him. Although it had taken two years for this thought to bloom inside him, he knew that he was sincere about this aim. All he wanted – all he’d ever wanted – was Lily’s friendship, if not her love. This was the only way he saw to go about getting it.
“Snape? Aren’t you eating?” said a voice to his left. He started slightly and turned. Mulciber was looking at him curiously, and Severus realized he’d been staring into space so long that the food had already materialized on the golden serving platters before him.
“Yeah,” he muttered, hastily reaching out to scoop potatoes onto his plate. He glanced in the direction of the Gryffindor table as he did so, watching Lily smile again as she reached for her goblet of pumpkin juice.
After the pudding crumbs had been cleared away, the headmaster rose again and beamed genially down at the assembled students. He began making the standard end-of-term announcements about the House Cup, the Quidditch Cup, and the procedures for the next morning’s departure, but Severus had already tuned him out, knowing the drill after seven years at Hogwarts. Instead, he glanced once more over to the Gryffindor table.
The sight there nearly made him lose the dinner he’d just ingested. Lily was still there, still smiling her pretty smile – but this time it was directed at James, who had his arm slung possessively around her shoulders. Without thinking, Severus gripped the edge of the table hard; if he hadn’t done so, he worried he might have done something very stupid. He just stared, seemingly unable to take his eyes from the sight of James and Lily, together, looking happier than he could ever remember seeing either of them before.
A scraping of benches told him that Dumbledore had finished his end-of-term speech, and it was now time to head back to the dormitories for the final night in the castle. All thoughts of maybe walking over to speak with Lily had now been fully blotted from Severus’s mind, and he all but ran across the hall and down the dungeon steps, through the corridor and the common room and into his dormitory. His breathing was coming fast, and he felt as though he’d been kicked in the gut.
All that planning, that slight sense of hope he’d felt for that brief hour – it didn’t mean a thing. It was absolutely nothing. He felt like kicking something, or yelling, or just breaking down completely. He had been willing to do anything, and now he could do bloody nothing.
Nothing – except make changes to his life. He’d been willing to give up the dark arts for Lily, but now they were his only chance at becoming the man he knew he was destined to be.
At that moment, Mulciber walked into the dormitory, yawning widely. Severus stood up slowly and walked over to his friend’s bed, waiting until he had finished rummaging for his pajamas before speaking.
“I need you to do something for me.” Mulciber looked up, surprised, and said nothing, merely waiting for Severus to continue with his request. Taking a deep breath, Severus opened his mouth.
“I need you to help me join the Death Eaters.”
A/N: Right, so. This is actually the second chapter. Hopefully by now, you're used to the erratic nature of this story! This was probably the most difficult of the four chapters for me to write, but I am pleased with the outcome. What did you think of this latest installment? Let me know by leaving a review in the box below!