Chapter 1 : Standing on the Edge
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Heads -- 1980
The lone, hooded figure walked hurriedly down the ill-lit hallway, barely making a sound on the bare stone floor. Moonlight filtered through the heavy velvet curtains, casting a ghostly light onto the figure’s sallow skin and prominent hooked nose. Candlelight flickered on the figure’s face, revealing a young man of about twenty. However, the deep emotions on his face could trick an observer into thinking that he was far older.
He continued down the hall, paying little attention to the howling of a werewolf in the distance. From the hard look in his jet-black eyes, it could be supposed that it took much to disconcert, much less frighten, this man.
The end of the hall loomed near. The man stopped before a inconspicious wooden door, guarded by an exceedingly ugly gargoyle, who took one look at the man and scowled.
“Password,” the gargoyle croaked menacingly.
“Toothflossing Stringmints,” the man replied, his voice exhibiting a great dislike for the chosen password.
The gargoyle snorted stubbornly, as though he would argue, but the door quietly swung open and a gleaming wooden staircase came into view. With a stiff nod, the man swept past the gargoyle and stepped onto the stairs, his boots silent upon the polished wood. As though by a magical hand, the stairs move slowly upwards, carrying the man to the top.
It was carrying the man towards his destiny.
Halfway up, the man breathed in, his body stiffening.
“Stop!” he commanded the stairs. They ground to a halt, almost asking him why he would want them to.
What am I doing here?, he asked himself. Why should I do anything for those who have wronged me in the past? It’s more dangerous for me to become one of them than it is to be what they think I am.
He put his head in his acid-stained hands, forcing the hood to fall back. Had he ever tried, he could have been handsome, with a long solemn face, intense eyes, and strong features. But the hardness of his heart was what would keep him from ever being so.
To go through with this is madness. Pure and entire madness.
...but what about doing what is right?... another, smaller, voice asked innocently - annoyingly. ...is it right to kill people for who their family is rather than what they have accomplished?... I thought not...
The man growled at himself, hating the part of him that asked for honest justice, but hating the part of him that called for revenge even more. He didn’t want to injure or kill innocent people just because they weren’t of pure blood, nor those who only wanted to protect them. From past experience, the best wizards and witches he had ever known were not pureblooded.
That was why he was here. He wanted to put a stop to the chaos that filled the world he knew. And he would do so the only way he could, by spying on his friends. The people he’d known nearly all his life. People who liked him, who trusted him.
For Merlin’s sake! his mind cried in agony. How can I betray them? They are all I have.
It was the other voice that answered him sweetly, almost cloyingly.
...would they not do the same for you, if the time called for it? They may be friends now, but just think of the day when you’ll be heading off to Azkaban while they’re off scot-free...
The man shut his eyes, trying to ignore the little voice, but he found that he could not. It told him the truth. A truth he could not ignore, as hard as he tried.
The stairs began to move once more and the man did not fight them this time. Every minuscule part of his very soul pushed him up those stairs. He would not back down now.
He would join this Order of the Phoenix and stop Lord Voldemort’s reign of terror. Even if it meant his death. He did not care.
At the top of this very strange staircase there was another, more ancient, door. The man stared at it, as though he was still trying to reassure himself of what he was going to do. After a moment, he slowly and carefully raised his tightly-closed fist to knock on the door.
But before he could do so, the door opened on its own on a large room with walls decorated from ceiling to floor with portraits. Most of the subjects were fast asleep, others looked upon the man with bored, sleepy eyes.
The man paid no attention to them, however, his gaze was instead focussed at the desk across the room where an old man sat, his fingers spritely tapping on a thick, dusty book. The desk was covered with strange inventions that one could barely imagine existing. Beside the desk was a plain wooden perch, upon which sat a scarlet phoenix, who looked at the younger man with deep curiosity. But the young man paid no attention to any of this, he looked only at the person sitting behind the desk.
The old man, with long white hair flowing over his colourful robes, stood up and walked over to where the younger man stood.
"Thank you for coming, Severus," said the old man, perhaps the greatest wizard who had ever existed.
"Your owl gave me much cause for consternation, Headmaster," replied Severus Snape, potions specialist and soon-to-be spy.
The old man's eyes were grave above his half-moon glasses. "And your decision?"
Severus looked down. Anything to keep those penetrating blue eyes from seeing into his mind - his very soul. Even years of practising Occulmency could not protect him from the gaze of Albus Dumbledore.
"I will do all I can to further your cause, Headmaster."
Dumbledore smiled and gestured towards some chairs near his desk.
"Come, sit down. We have much to discuss."
Tails -- 1996
Severus Snape hurried down the hallway, his black cloak billowing around his spare figure. Of late, he had been greatly worried, not only for young Malfoy, whose foolhardy mission was doomed to fail, but also for Potter, who had unknowingly tripped over Snape's old nickname.
He inwardly smiled for a moment, thinking how ironic it was that he and the Dark Lord shared a great number of similarities: a talent in the Dark Arts, a troublesome and tormented past, fathers who did not care to understand their wives' abilities, and a deep hatred burning within each of their hearts. Yet there was great difference between Severus Snape and Tom Riddle. One difference that set them widely apart from each other. Riddle only wanted power and revenge to instill fear in his enemies. He believed that there was nothing worse than death, which led to the fear of his own death: his greatest weakness. Hence the creation of the Horcruxes and the need of the Philosopher's Stone in the past.
Snape knew all this. He reveled in the knowledge he had of both sides in this new war. Risking his own life, he played both sides of the coin, feeding the leaders of both sides little bits of information about the opposing side. No one suspected him, he had made sure of that. However, he also knew that keeping up such a pretense would be difficult as the war came to a climax. Then, and only then, would he finally choose sides.
That was the difference between Snape and the Dark Lord. Snape kept his cards hidden until the last moment, allowing no one to see his hand before he let them.
There was a commotion in the courtyard before the castle doors. Glancing out the windows as he passed them, he saw Death Eaters shooting spells at members of the Order, who shot them back with equal - or perhaps more - zeal.
He began walking faster so that he would not have to see the fighting.
Don't be such a coward, Severus, Her voice rang through his brain. You will not be able to play such a game for much longer. You will have to make a choice one day, Severus, just like I did.
'But I did make a choice, his mind fought back. All those years ago I went to Dumbledore ...
Yet you still run back to Voldemort, She persisted. Just like you always have. You fear that he will win, even after all we did to prevent him...
"Stop it!" he cried out loud, his strangled voice echoing down the hall. "Shut up! Leave me alone! Get out of my thoughts!"
He stopped near a large tapestry, barely noticing its existence, leaning his sore and tired head against the cool stone wall. Pulling his tangled thoughts together, he heard footsteps coming towards his position. Whoever it was, they had a distinct purpose which was evident in their steady and confident footsteps.
Snape backed into the shadows, his black eyes piercing the darkness. The person passed him without a second glance, too preoccupied to notice his watcher. His white-blonde hair was barely distinguishable amongst the sickly paleness of his skin. Wand clenched in his hand, the teenage wizard's face was set, as though there was a battle occurring within his soul. His other hand gently traced the tattoo on his wrist of the Dark Mark.
Draco Malfoy, Snape thought with a frown, easily recognizing his pupil. Where did he think he was going?
Slowly and carefully, not wanting to be seen, Snape followed Draco down the hall, hiding behind a suit of armour at the last second when Draco stopped at a door that seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
Snape had heard of this magical room previously from others, who swore that inside was whatever a person most desperately needed at that moment. He wondered what the contents of the room would be at this moment, when Draco Malfoy would step inside. Perhaps it would be filled with items pertaining to the Dark Arts, or even a scrying glass that would point out Albus Dumbledore’s exact position. Another, grimmer idea came to Snape’s mind: perhaps in that room was a way to find out Dumbledore’s weakness, the one thing that not even the Dark Lord could discover. It was the reason that the Dark Lord feared the old Headmaster; anyone without a weakness was to be greatly feared.
It was a fortunate thing that Snape was well-practised in Occulmency because he knew Dumbledore’s weakness, but he would never utter it to a single soul. It was perhaps the only part of his conscience that was untouched by fear and loathing.
Deciding to wait until Draco left the room, Snape stood in the hall, thinking about all he had done in his life. It was true that he had taken part in evil acts, but never had he felt as though he was a Death Eater, not like Bellatrix or Lucius. They gave their lives and money to the Dark Lord to further his cause, and now had black hearts to show for it. Snape never wanted power or wealth, he was comfortable spending the rest of his life at Hogwarts, testing potions and teaching the Dark Arts. It was all he had known for the past fifteen years and a part of him did not want that to change. Yet he could feel, deep down, that change was suddenly inevitable. That night would not end well for him or anyone else.
After a quarter hour, Draco exited the Room of Requirement, his eyes glowing as though he had found the key to his mission. The key that would give him success and take the threat away from both himself and his mother. Looking back and forth to check that the hallway was clear, Draco began striding towards the place known as the Lightning Struck Tower. It was the tallest tower on the castle, and the one where, legend had it, that Salzaar Slytherin swore vengeance on his three one-time friends.
Snape followed him, keeping his distance. Just as Draco began climbing the stairs and had disappeared into the tower above, Snape heard his name called out behind him. Turning, he saw Sybil Trelawney stumbling down the hallway.
“Ssseverusss,” she said, her brain most likely numbed by the amount of incense she inhaled. Her words were barely audible. “Dddumbledore is lookkking fffor yyyou.”
“Is he indeed?” Snape replied, struggling to keep his voice even. This could be his chance to prove to the Dark Lord that he was loyal, as well as keeping his vow to Narcissa. Yet betraying the old Headmaster, who had been his mentor for years, wrung his heart in a way he had not felt since She had died.
“And where is he, may I ask?” he asked the near-delusional Divination teacher.
Trelawney looked up at him, her eyes magnified by the strong prescription of her glasses. “He left somewhere to find something of a great importance, but now he has come back, and my Inner Eye tells me that he needs you now. He greatly needs you...” Her voice trailed off and only then did Snape notice how the stuttering and slurring had disappeared.
Perhaps this is like the last time in the Hog’s Head. The thought came reluctantly to Snape’s mind, but he did not disregard it entirely. The old bat may still have some Seeing power in her cluttered mind. Perhaps she isn’t a total fraud after all.
He came out of his thoughts to dismiss her from his presence, but found that she had vanished into the surrounding shadows without the smallest of sounds.
Severus Snape was now frightened. Whatever was taking place in the castle around him would not turn out at all well. Too many coins had been placed on the betting table, and now the stakes were higher than ever. For either side to fail would mean countless and unnecessary deaths, similar to the last war. A war that Snape would rather forget. It was the war that had taken most of his world away, stealing it from behind his back. Life, love and happiness had slipped through his fingers like a fistful of sand.
There would not be too much time before the small amount of achievement he had gained would be wrenched away from him. Everything he had created for himself in the past fifteen years could be lost with one hand of cards.
He would take the risk, no matter what it lost him.
And he did.
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