Severus had placed a small triangular table in the corner of the library at Spinner's End. It was true that books lined almost all walls and thus that the entire house could be properly called a library, but this had been the parlor, the most central communal room, and he called it the library. He had cast Geminio on the table, then resized it with a precise shrinking spell. He had done this with the new table and set the one atop the other, placing small felt circles under their feet. He knew Geminio created only worthless copies, but he had no intention of selling them. The result was a triangular tier of mahogany. He had purchased the original long ago at Rabastan's antique shop, his first piece of chosen furniture. The small tower was three-cornered for stability in a corner placement, but also because, as always, a triangle represented one's place on the earth, steady and balanced, but reaching beyond it, to the heavens and stars.
It was Halloween, the Day of the Dead when the year too dies. And this was a shrine to the dead — not only to the literal dead, but to those who had lost their minds in Azkaban.
Severus opened his trunk. It was small as well, dark blue like the twilit sky changing to night, and bound in silver. In it he kept mementos of lost ones. He had begun to collect these in the darkest years with just this instinct — to honor the dead. He had begun when others had still been alive.
The first one to die had been dear Regulus. Once, knowing Severus' poverty, he had given him a set of fine silk over-robes in Slytherin green and silver, so thin one would have thought them to be almost transparent. They had long since become dilapidated from long use. But Severus had taken Regulus' own matching robes that had remained tidily hung in his armoire in dusty deserted Grimmauld place. He had tucked them in the pocket of his cloak to remember the boy who had been his childhood friend. He placed these on his altar, a small package tied up with silver thread. He wiped away a tear. He had loved Regulus. Everyone had. He had been so simply proud of his house.
His mother would have denied the ability of any object to hold sentimental significance beyond its use, but he set out a folded apron. She might not have liked it, but it signified 'mother.'
His father had been easier, for he himself had secreted away meaningful objects. For him, Severus set out a packet of cards with pictures of muggle football players, bound by a rubber band. His father had loved football, but had been obliged to hide its tokens from his wife who had no truck with such Muggle artefacts. He put his parents' objects on separate levels of his shrine, and at opposite sides.
There was a carefully folded Muggle T-shirt with the sleeves torn off, still stiff with spray paint. This was placed reverently next to Regulus' robes for Evan. His lost ones, so young. They had never even had the opportunity to grow to half his age.
Chronologically, the next should have been Abraxas, but he kept him for last.
For Lily there was a card she had made him for his eleventh birthday, with a wand and a hat drawn in crayon on the front. Inside it read:
"Have a Wizard Birthday.
To Severus Snape
From Lily Evans."
The writing sloped to the left in narrowing letters crowded against the edge of the page.
Ironically, the next was his Death Eater mask, shrunk to fit on the shrine. The Dark Lord had given it to him. He had perhaps not died that Halloween, but he was gone, his mind cracked by the dispersal of his body. He had never returned as a man.
He placed the tokens for Rodolphus and Bella together, as the elder Lestrange brother would have wanted it. Bella had never given him anything, but he had a bit of cake from her wedding, still wrapped in its paper, printed with their names, hearts and Dark Marks. For Rodolphus there was a silver cloak-clasp in the form of a snake, given to Severus for happy birthday long ago when they had all been young and hopeful.
For Barty he placed a little box of quill nibs the younger boy had tucked into his hand once when he had first joined them, nervously hoping to endear himself. He had been closest to Roddy and Bella, so Severus placed it near their tokens.
There were two tokens for Antonin in his chest. One was a scrap of spell calculations torn from a scroll when Severus had been Abraxas' protégé and Antonin had been the brilliant inventor who had worked with him as a colleague. A colleague! How wonderful it had been. He lay this on the altar, but fingered as well the valentine his old friend had presented to him in later years, crooked, stained with tea and blood, inscribed fondly and circled with lace. He laid it back in the chest. He did not have two tokens even for Regulus or Evan.
For Igor he laid another paper - a class schedule from Durmstrang. Karkaroff had not been close to him, but he should not have had to die, so afraid of death, murdered alone in the cold snow. He had kept this paper from the bright summer when Igor had used it to illustrate the wonders of his school for Severus at a Death Eater camp in Cornwall. So long ago. Everything was so long ago.
Remus was dead as well, who had always been his own age. Something in the other man, even with his weakness and disadvantages, caused Severus to wish to remember him. He set on the altar an old and battered box from a Chocolate Frog. It had been his first, and Remus had thrust him at him one day without a word, not even looking at him, in apology for the brutality of his friends. Severus tried not to grind his teeth. This was not the time for that.
And his masters.
He had killed Albus himself. He would say 'Albus' now that the man was gone. His face closed again in horror for a brief second. This token was not from his blue chest but his shelves. It was a pensieve, again shrunken to fit. They had developed it together, so Severus could take Albus through his thoughts beyond Occlumency, so Severus could revisit his dead friends. It was only for this night that it would rest here, away from its special place in the kitchen, a tool as well as a relic.
Last of all, he removed his ring from his finger, with the tiny Dark Mark engraved within, secret and redolent with significance. Few things, perhaps nothing, meant so much to him. It was Abraxas' ring, a gift that had brought promise and recognition. It had been fulfillment of... everything. It had justified him, vilified him. The great man had known him and taken him from his sad world, setting him amongst those who appreciated him, even loved him. He laid the ring reverently on the top tier. He would retrieve this as well after this night.
Each Halloween Severus did this, for memory.
He lit candles, placing them on the floor in a circle around his shrine, one candle for each soul represented therein. Did something of their humanity cling to these precious artefacts? He bowed his head, remembering, smelling the slightly smoking wax.
He also smelled stew steaming from the kitchen as the door opened and a gold square of light spread to him across the floor.
A voice asked, "Those who have lost themselves - their lives and their minds. All the loved ones. Is there nothing on your altar for me?"
Severus rose and stood, looking at his shrine a second. "But you are getting better, Rabastan. You are no longer lost, though you are no less loved."
"There is nothing on your altar for yourself either, Severus."
"No." He turned into Rabastan's quiet arms, against his reassuring chest. "No, there is not."
"The stew is ready." Gently he touched the old wounds at Severus' neck.
"In fact," Severus said as they entered their kitchen, "in fact, you are even more loved."