Even though Ted knew that it was going to happen, as he read Ginny’s words on the page as reported by his father’s ghostly hand, pronouncing Albus Dumbledore’s death, he felt very cold and shivery, and his hand shook as he turned the page….
The phoenix—Fawkes—continued to lament beyond the windows of the hospital wing, wending its way into their hearts, bringing tears to their eyes, as Harry told them how Severus had betrayed them all with two little words, “Avada Kedavra” right to the one man on who’s foundation they had built their resistance.
Hermione lowered her hands from her mouth; they were trembling as much as Luna’s bottom lip was. Ron shook his head, his eyes a little wider than usual, while his sister watched Harry intently, Harry swallowing on his words and his anguish…it seemed that his speaking it aloud was his own final confirmation to himself that Dumbledore was dead.
Poppy was just trying hard not to cry out anymore, her hand pressed firmly over her mouth.
Remus was having trouble fathoming his own grief. He turned his face away, wiped at his eyes discreetly with the back of his hand as Fawkes the pheonix’s lament tore and soared through his heart like a knife blade dragging over a cut with the intention of healing it. It wasn’t even the kind of grief of losing a beloved family member or friend—like the deaths of his parents, of James, Lily, Sirius, and Aurelia, and all of the other Order members he had watched die had been—but rather like watching the beloved carving of a gentle yet avenging angel, which had stood for purity and hope, crumble to the ground at the whim of an evil quake that rent the skies.
It was a divine grief, the dark and brooding twin sister of divine love.
In spite of himself, he sought Nymphadora’s face, and it seemed she had been seeking his at the same time, because their eyes met at one synchronistic point; her indigo eyes sparkled with cold tears, and she was clutching the clasp of her cloak with both hands, almost like a child, but the pain in her eyes grew her up considerably, and for a moment she was caught between two ages—very young, and much older.
Her lips moved, and for a moment he could see her hurting heart reaching out for his through her eyes, as much as his was reaching out for hers, caring little for a moment for whatever he had told her about them not being able to be together as lovers, as husband and wife.
Then Minerva returned from the outside world, and the spell of Fawkes’ lament broke. Somehow she had found out about Albus—it had to be his body that that crowd had been gathering around outside, beneath the Dark Mark and the Astronomy Tower, he must have fallen from it upon his death—and when Harry told the head of Gryffindor House that Severus had been the one who had killed Albus, she seemed fit to faint, and Poppy managed to compose herself well enough to Conjure a chair for her to collapse into the way Remus had collapsed into the chair he was sat in now.
She muttered, still in shock and disbelief, how Albus had always trusted Severus, and Remus, the poison of that same bitterness he had felt the same night he and Severus had had that conversation in the hedges reemerging, pointed out harshly that Severus’ supreme skills as an Occlumens would have made it easy for him to hide which side he had really been playing for.
And it burned inside him, the idea that Severus had used such a device in order to deceive Albus—or so it seemed—after the man had given him his very trust.
Nymphadora channeled the bitterness too, and wondered aloud what lie Albus had fallen for that Severus had told him to make him trust him all of these years.
It was Harry himself who gave them the answer, though it was the last thing Remus had ever expected to hear. “Snape passed Voldemort the information that made Voldemort hunt down my mum and dad. Then Snape told Dumbledore he hadn’t realized what he was doing, he was really sorry he’d done it, sorry that they were dead.”*
Everyone stared at him.
Remus could hardly believe it. He hadn’t known that Severus had in fact been that selfsame Death Eater who had given Voldemort his reason to hunt down James, Lily and Harry, that it was he who had told him about the prophecy that had instigated everything that had happened on Halloween of ’81.
But to believe that Severus had actually been sorry that James and Lily were dead? Maybe there had been some remorse where Lily had been concerned, being that she had been his best friend once, but sorry about James?
“And Dumbledore believed that? Dumbledore believed that Snape was sorry James was dead? Snape hated James….”**
Though not without cause, a small voice reminded Remus.
Harry went on: “And he didn’t think my mother was worth a damn either, because she was a Muggleborn…. ‘Mudblood’, he called her….”*** The young man shuddered.
Though no one else asked, Remus already knew how Harry knew that: he remembered that day Harry had appeared to him and Sirius in the fire in the basement kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place, asking about that memory because he had witnessed it in Severus’ memories inside the Pensieve when he was supposed to be having an Occlumency lesson, and just as well Remus recalled the memory itself.
It hadn’t been a very good day for anybody really, that day beside the lake: Severus had cost himself a friendship without a thought, not to mention Lily had turned James down for the umpteenth time, and all the while Remus had simply sat there pretending to read while Severus hung upside down by James’ wand, the other students all laughing at him.
He didn’t bother pointing out to Harry that his mother and Severus had once been friends though: for one thing, it didn’t seem to matter, because in the end, it truly seemed that Lily had come to matter very little to Severus (otherwise, why would he have killed Albus Dumbledore?), and second, he was still too much lost in shock to think straight, that Albus Dumbledore was dead, that Severus had shown them all his true colors in causing that death, after so much speculation over him for so many years.
Remus liked to think that he was a man who had learned from his father, from Albus, and from his own experiences, to be at least a little forgiving of everyone—the exception of course had been such madmen like Voldemort, Fenrir Greyback, etc.
And now he felt he could probably add Severus Snape to that list as well.
“But he was totally and completely forgiven for that, wasn’t he?” said Rodger Adams’ girlfriend Cecilia Bell.
“Oh, yeah, completely,” said Ted as he stroked the back of Victoire’s hand with the pad of his thumb. “It was all part of Dumbledore’s plan, you know. I mean if you remember from the stories.”
“Well I don’t exactly have as much of an inside on the details as you do, Ted.” Cecilia raised her eyebrows.
“Nor do I, now that I think on it,” said Rodger, shifting around in the sand. “Ted, I don’t think you’ve ever really told even me what the whole deal was with Severus Snape. Just that Dumbledore had asked him to kill him…to protect old Draco Malfoy.”
“And his position as a double-agent for us,” added Ted.
“Right, right, and that,” conceded Rodger.
“But there is more Ted,” said Victoire lying beside Ted, giving him a warm smile. “You know there is. I know it too. Uncle Harry told us as kids.”
The four friends were lying out on the sand near the dune grass at Victoire’s home at Shell Cottage. Ted was taking a break from reading—for a change—and after they had played two-aside Quidditch, they were sunning themselves, enjoying the summer warmth and laziness, now that the holidays were drawing to a close, what with August nearly being over and everything (already?), and soon school would be starting again, and Ted and Rodger would be starting their seventh and final year at Hogwarts.
Ted rolled over onto his stomach and propped himself up on his elbows; Victoire, Rodger, and Cecilia did the same, so that now they all faced inward in their little circle.
“Well, basically, it all started,” he began, “with Harry’s mum Lily Evans and Snape as kids.”
“What, you mean at Hogwarts?” asked Cecilia.
“No, before that. They grew up in the same neighborhood, you know, a mixed one, like Godric’s Hollow, part magic, part Muggle. Or maybe Snape’s house was the only magic one…I dunno exactly. But they knew each other even before school, and they became really good friends. But then they went to Hogwarts, and Lily got sorted into Gryffindor, and then Snape got sorted into Slytherin. He really wanted to be in it, see, thought it was the best House, so he ended up there. They stayed friends, but he got mixed up with the wrong crowd: a lot of future Death Eaters, like Lucius Malfoy.”
My great-uncle, Ted thought rather grimly to himself.
“Anyway,” he went on, “so Snape started to get the idea that to be impressive was to do things like how those Slytherin Death-Eater-to-be kids were, and eventually he got in so deep that one day, when Harry’s dad, James—who unfortunately started taking the mickey out of him right from the off, ever since their first time to Hogwarts as first years—so anyway, one day, in their fifth year, James was absolutely humiliating Snape, and when Lily came to his defense, Snape was so angry, I guess, that he just blurted out the word ‘Mudblood’, in reference to Harry’s mum. Saying he didn’t need a Mudblood like her to help him, or something like that.”
Cecilia gasped, and Rodger’s mouth fell open. A word like “Mudblood” these days was treated with the awe-filled fear of an ancient curse, or a demon that they say has been slain but really hasn’t and everyone knows it. It was a terrible reminder (among other things) of how things used to be, of how things almost came to be, even if back in those days, calling someone something like that was nothing short of a blaspheme of the most foul and derogatory sort imaginable.
“I never knew all of that,” Rodger finally said after a minute.
Ted and Victoire exchanged dark looks before they both nodded.
“So, after that,” Ted continued, “Snape tried to apologize for what he did, but Lily couldn’t bring herself to forgive him, not this time. I think it was because he had spent so much time of late trying to pretend that what he was doing with kids like Lucius Malfoy wasn’t wrong, and she was just sick and tired of the excuses. If it hadn’t been for that, and if she hadn’t maybe had some feelings for him in return, she might’ve forgiven him more easily. Maybe. Because it always seemed to me that, like Dumbledore in fact, she tried to see the good and worthiness in everyone.”
She saw the worth in you, Dad, he added to himself with a smile.
“What do you mean ‘feelings for him in return’?” Rodger asked.
“I mean I think that while Snape was absolutely in love with her from the start, Lily Evans had stirrings of mutual feelings for Severus, or at least thought maybe she might, but then it all got dashed to pieces when he proved to her that he was in too deep with all of those Death-Eaters-to-be.”
Then Ted added, as an afterthought: “Although…no offense to Harry, but his dad was a bit of an arse,” and he dug aimlessly in the sand with his finger.
“Who isn’t an arse at fifteen?” Rodger chuckled. This earned him a nudge in the ribs from Cecilia.
“Only boys,” she teased.
“But what I don’t understand,” Rodger went on, trying hard not to laugh again as he recovered from her nudge, “is how did he go that bad, but still remember that he had feelings for Lily? I mean how did he go on fighting with the Death Eaters when he knew at that point that she was going to join the resistance on the other side?”
“Well, everyone has a dark side,” Ted mused aloud after some thought. “Snape felt he was doing the right thing, which I’m sure cut him up because he knew that Lily would never join him, and he’d lost her forever, but he still kept watch, in his way. When he heard that Voldemort was going after her and her family, he did what he could to ensure her safety, even though it ultimately failed. He went to Voldemort, and when Voldemort refused, he went to Dumbledore and begged him to hide her.”
“Yeah, and I’ll bet he could’ve cared less about Harry and his dad,” Rodger snorted.
Ted shrugged. “That’s true, but in the end he asked for all of them to be hidden. And the point is that he still loved her, after all of that time, and that overturned his previous loyalties to Voldemort.”
Victoire touched his hand.
Ted looked over at her and saw her smiling at him. And surrounded by the rhythm of and ebbing and flowing sea on the shore, and the gentle, surrounding salt air, how cool it was, Remus felt his heart warm, as though Victoire had laid her hand over his heart, rather than his hand.
“Everyone has a dark side?” she repeated questioningly. “What’s your dark side then?”
It hadn’t quite been what Ted had expected, but at the same time it gave him pause. If what he had just said was true, then he had just implied that he himself possessed a dark side. So if he did, what might that be?
At the moment, the only thing he could think of was that for Victoire’s sake, he might do anything—even kill perhaps.
As the thought occurred to him, it sent a shiver down his spine, and he squeezed her hand laid over his involuntarily—or had it had been voluntary?
A reaction, a reflex, built on more conscious thoughts.
He knew she had been teasing, but the question did give him pause.
Nearby, Rodger and Celia were sharing their own tender look, and took little notice or care of Ted as he leaned over and took Victoire’s mouth in his, slowly—she had closed her eyes upon his approach, and as they kissed, a darkness crept in, one that was a delicious shadowy spark.
He knew Victoire sensed it, when she trembled, but instead of pulling away, she deepened the kiss. And Ted further thought, What darkness could be in her? If that were possible for someone like Victoire to be dark.
But it was like the adage went, that while everyone had darkness, whether you chose to act on it was an entirely different matter. He himself couldn’t be certain what kind of darkness lay inside of him and what he would do if he found it there, ready and waiting for him. And Victoire? Whatever darkness was inside of her, she would pay it no heed.
She would remember her family, and she would remember him, Teddy Lupin.
Severus Snape had acted on his own darkness, out of spite, out of a bitter childhood that had born a thirst to prove himself, to prove his worth, a thirst twisted out of his control.