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Fragments of Devotion

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Severus Snape (then Riddle, then Snape again) is twenty two. And his greatest shame and greatest joy have intertwined to become one. So he did the only thing any logical person would and gave them a final resting place; a shallow grave beneath the stone floor of his bedroom, their coffin a worn chest. He knows the entire place has eyes. Not just those of Albus, but of the building itself. So he keeps it hidden in the earth, where the castle cannot sense its presence. He doesn't hide it with magic because magic can be sensed out, found so easily.

All the remnants of his life before are in it. He gently removes the folded robes, gauzy linen dyed black as the deepest ocean waters, black as the end of the world. In his mind it drips with the blood of every life they had so gleefully snuffed out. He takes out the mask, opal smooth and bleach bone white. 

"This is your heritage, Tommy," his somber words have no effect on his son who squirms on his lap like any two year old, fist in his mouth and black eyes wide in the dim light. He's not sure why he's showing him these things. Maybe to prove to him that his parents were either great men or a horrible men. Sometimes even Severus himself doesn't know. Tommy's tiny fist wraps around the cloth of the robe, new and fragile fingers clutching at the fabric, trying to decide what it is and if it's worth his time. He does the same with the mask and puts it in his mouth, trying to chew on the edges. Gently Severus unwraps the baby's fist and pulls the mask from him. "No Tommy." He sets his garb to the side, and pulls out the only other treasure the chest has to offer.

It's a photo album with only five pictures in it. He's not sure if Tommy should see these now when he's too young to understand, or see them when he's older and able to grasp the gravity of them. But it seems unfair somehow to never show him at all. So he settles on now, when he doesn't have to worry about Tom's influence, distant as it may be. For now he doesn't have to worry about a love of other's suffering or bitter anger at the loss of his father.

He opens the album then and takes out a photo. This first one is of their wedding, but at a glance it looks more like a funeral. He hadn't been interested in a wedding, but Tom had insisted. Tradition was important to him, and solemn and somber were the sort of things Tom liked. In the middle of the frame they stood next to each other, not kissing, not smiling, not even touching, both clad only in black. All around them in a half circle were Tom's followers, faces hidden by their masks. He didn't think a picture existed where they weren't covered head to toe, their identities carefully obscured. They were proud of their atrocities, yet too afraid to show their real faces. How silly he had been, to ever think them anything but cowards. 

The next photo was of himself, heavily pregnant and stretched out in their marriage bed, clad in his dressing gown. He was reading a book with a lit cigarette dangling loosely between his fingers. He could still taste the musty smoke on his tongue sometimes, still itched to hold something to his lips. Tom had made him quit, for Tommy's sake, and Severus found he couldn't begrudge him that. He hadn't taken up the habit again after Tom was gone, though working at a boarding school probably had something to do with it as well. 

In the wizarding world certain genetic combinations weren’t as uncommon as they were in the muggle world, especially in families with old blood. So, when he was born with a penis that was for urinating and not much else, as well as a completely female reproductive system (the opening for which was located where the testicles would normally would be), it gave his bastard father another reason to hate him and his freak mother. People were supposed to be one or the other. Never both. He was so ashamed of what he had been told was a deformity, so terrified of someone finding out about what he thought was a disgraceful, vulgar condition. But when he'd murmured to Tom about it, his cheeks red and fingers trembling, lips swollen from hungry kisses, Tom had said it was a blessing. He'd gently wrapped his hands around Severus' face, warm thumbs stroking the ridge of his cheeks. "You must be proud of this. It means the pure blood within you is still strong, and can be made strong again." And for the first time in his life Severus had felt special. He'd felt lucky. He felt something other than hideous, crushing shame.

He tucks the photo back into the album, gently sliding the sharp corners into place, mindful not to let it bend or wrinkle. 

The third photograph if of himself holding Tommy right after he was born. It was supposed to be difficult for someone with his condition to conceive; normally requiring the aid of strong and complicated fertility potions. As such, they hadn't thought to use contraceptives. For some reason, his body seemed to take that as a call to action to go above and beyond its duties. Thankfully, it had been a normal pregnancy and a surprisingly easy labor, his Tom there the entire time. It hadn't been considered proper for fathers to watch the birth, but he had stayed with him anyway. For all of his flaws, Tom was a loving man, in his own way.

Tommy makes a fussy gurgle and squirms in his lap, growing impatient as the minutes tick by; his mother's action no longer holding his attention.  Severus lets him stand and he watches, partly amused and partly irritated but mostly just tired, as he busies himself pulling books off his shelf. But magic makes it easy to clean that up; a flick of his wrist and every tome will snap back into its proper place. At the moment there are still two photos left for him to gaze at with a guilty longing. 

The second to last picture is of all of them. He was holding a squirming, six month old Tommy with a smiling face. Tom had his arm around Severus' waist, and in the tiny moving picture he would lean over to have a closer look at their son. Severus had been surprised at how quickly he abandoned his own misgivings about parenthood. He had patience where it counted, and would gently guide his infant son.

If anything, he was the more stern of the two parents. Tom was much more indulgent in their son's whims. When he was a year old he would set the boy on his lap and read him grimoires and texts of dark arts. "I must teach our boy proper values, my dear," he had said with his sweetest voice. Tom knew he thought their son was much too young for some of it. Surely it was good to get a head start on education (no child of his would be a simpleton), but Tom always seemed to take things just a step too far. "This is the spell that turns someone inside out," he had said, pointing to an illustration of bones and organs flying out of a man's mouth while his skin and hair went sucking in. Tommy's graphite eyes, his mother's own, watched it with a strange intensity. Tom smiled when little Tommy grabbed for the book with his chubby baby fingers.

The last picture he had of them was one he felt he ought to burn, as the argument could be made that it was the most damning. But just couldn't bring himself to do it. He had so few mementos from their brief time together so he clung to every one. They were in the hall Tom used to gather his followers, standing unmasked before them. Severus had enjoyed watching them bow and scrape before him, thin lips turned up into a cruel smile as they tried to garner his favor. For the first time (and perhaps the last) Severus had power, he had respect, he had a true family. And he had savored it like a starving man savored his gruel. Every drop a treasure, no matter how rotten or distasteful. He'd glutted himself sick on it all until he could no longer ignore the poison that had laced it.

Oh but this picture, Tommy held so lovingly at his father's hip, just one year old. Severus ran his thumb over the image of his husband's face, a heady longing thrumming in his fragile veins. Tom had been proudly showing his son, his heir, to his apostles. Severus had been so relieved that Tommy was a lovely baby, that his own unfortunate ugliness had not touched his son. Tommy would wear his father's handsome face someday, but with his mother's eyes.

Soon, devotion to Tom took a back seat to making sure his son lived. So, for the first time in his life, he did the right thing. Severus sold out the only person who had ever well and truly loved him in exchanged for clemency; that he may safely raise a madman’s son.