Severus was in a fucking shit mood.
Firstly, he had screamer of a headache.
Secondly, his least favourite student had almost murdered his second least favourite student in a girls bathroom.
Thirdly, Albus was being his usual mysterious and irritating self.
He reread the note.
Severus. Please come to my office at your earliest convenience. I have a task for you. -Albus
What a load of bollocks. It was never convenient.
He strode along the corridors, glaring at any student that looked his direction, sending a group of tiny first years scurrying away with a scream. Miserable cretins.
“Ice mice.” The gargoyle opened and he took the steps two at a time.
“Severus.” Albus looked awful. He was a fraction of his former self, pale, thin and frail looking. Severus half thought a gust of wind might blow him over, the bothersome fool.
“Yes,” he snapped.
“I have discovered a dreadful truth.” Albus closed his eyes for a moment, as if even speaking was difficult. It likely was. “Voldemort has been using horcruxes.” Severus’ hands tightened into fist. What the bloody hell was he expected to do about it?
“This I have known for some time. It is abominable, but still possible to negate. Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that he has created a horcrux that we cannot destroy. Harry… Harry’s scar contains a part of Voldemort’s soul.” And so came the full circle. Hating Potter with every inch of himself, yet saving him for that glimpse of Lily’s eyes, and now once more loathing the boy, even more than he thought possible.
“Do you want me to kill him? Because I will do that happily,” Severus snarled. Albus sighed, and pushed a small wooden box toward him, using his undamaged hand.
“I do not truly believe that.” Insufferable git. He refused to contemplate whether he might be right. Severus took the box, and opened it. A device not unlike a time turner sat there.
“This will take you back to your past, where your current mind will live in your past body.” Albus pinned him with a piercing gaze, and Severus felt like every inch of his soul was being inspected, and found sorely lacking. “You will change the past. I will tell you what I know of the horcruxes, and you will destroy them, and Lord Voldemort, before he can murder the Potters.”
Severus closed his eyes, and took several ragged breaths. Save Lily. It was all he had ever dreamed of, everything he'd ever wanted, yet to be forced to live through the war again…
“It’s not possible,” he said. How cruel to throw such a temptation in his face.
“It is. The device in that box was invented for this very reason: if it came to such a point that we should have to alter history immeasurably.” He wanted to smash the box, and the device with it. He wanted to treasure it, to don it now, and never let it go.
“Sometimes, I think that I exchanged one master for another,” he rasped, just to see the pain on Albus’ face. They both fell silent as Severus considered the offer.
“Will you do it?” Albus asked, and Severus hated him for asking, hated him so much it consumed him. How could he not?
“I will,” he said.
When Severus opened his eyes, the Slytherin dorms stared back at him. He rose, showered, and inspected himself in the mirror. The start of seventh year, just before he swore allegiance to the Dark Lord. Now he never would. His arm was unmarred by a gruesome tattoo, his skin pale and scarred only by himself.
“Staring at yourself won’t make you any prettier,” someone jeered, McNair perhaps. At seventeen he would have been tempted to hex him. Now frankly he couldn’t care less.
“You would know,” he retorted, before dressing and searching through his items. He had everything, and nothing. Once again he was a pauper. This had been the most horrific few years of his life. Now he swore it was going to be different. He fixed and cleaned his robes, donned them, grabbed his bag and schedule, and went to breakfast.
Lily was there.
Oh lord she was beautiful.
But beautiful in the way one might stare in awe at a cascading waterfall, or a vibrant sunset, or sparkling stars at night.
Unlike the beliefs of many, he was not sexually attracted to her. He was a homosexual, yet another failing in the eyes of his father. In truth, she had been the only true friend and confident he had ever had.
“Alright Snivillus,” Black snarled as he barged past, Potter following behind. Severus sucked in a breath, and suppressed his pride.
“Potter,” he called. Potter turned, a look of disdain upon his face.
“May I have a word with you?”
“So you can hex him all alone?” Black sniped.
“I give my word I only wish to speak to you,” he said, ignoring Black. Potter dismissed his friend.
“Alright, I suppose,” he said suspiciously. Severus led him aside, and cast a muffling charm.
“I wish to propose a truce.”
Potter raised an eyebrow. “Bollocks.”
Severus clenched his fists, and released them. Potter was just a child he reasoned, the same as Pettigrew, the same as every student in this damn school. If he could deal with spoilt Draco Malfoy, and the bothersome Weasley twins, hell, if he could survive spying on Voldemort for fifteen years, he could survive this.
Frankly, given his years of experience and practised twitchiness, if Potter or Black attempted to hex him now they would be in for a nasty surprise. He realised, with a shock, that he had no interest in harming them. He was a bastard, but he wasn’t a sadistic one.
“I wish to obtain my NEWTs, and get a Mastery in Potions, and live a quiet life by myself, with no outside interferences. It would be beneficial for the both of us to avoid conflict.”
Potter tilted his head to the side, obviously considering his words. “For you, perhaps.”
Severus narrowed his eyes. The arrogant fool. What had he been saying about not wanting to hex the little shit? He pursed his lips.
“I know that my friendship with Lily has gone sour, however I can tell you that your relationship with her will never flourish unless you can demonstrate that you are more than an ‘arrogant toerag’.” He took a calming breath as Potter flushed, enraged.
“Before you accuse me of wanting her for myself I can assure you that I am completely uninterested in that aspect of our relationship.”
Potter sneered. “Unlikely.”
Severus growled. “I am gay, you blithering imbecile.” Potter blinked, his mouth forming a perfect ‘o’. Severus cursed himself for speaking. Perhaps he had been overly optimistic in thinking this could work. Still, tactically, Potter believing him to not be a threat could help.
“Even so, how do you expect this to work when all your little Death Eater friends are going around attacking people?” Severus saw red. He saw Dolohov cursing Hermione Granger, he saw McNair killing ‘mudblood’ children, he saw Mulciber raping muggle women, he saw Lucius crucioing families.
“Friends!” he hissed.
“They are not my friends. No, they are cockroaches, disgusting creatures that I must associate with for appearance’s sake. How am I expected survive this hell hole if I alienate every living creature within it? No other house would ever talk to a Slytherin, especially one deemed as vile as me, and I have to sleep in the same room as those miserable excuses for human beings. They fucking revolt me, each and everyone one of them, but I cannot reject them for fear of being murdered in my sleep, you ignorant imbecilic oaf.” Potter stared at him. Fuck, he’d let his temper get the better of him. He huffed.
“I am sorry. I hoped we could overcome this. Obviously I was mistaken.” He turned, wary of an incoming hex.
He swivelled back. Potter crossed his arms, and was biting his lip.
“You’re different. You’ll have your truce, if you really have changed.”
Severus nodded at him. “And Black?”
Potter grimaced. “I’ll try to persuade him…”
“That is all I can ask for. Good day.” He walked away.
As he ate breakfast he could see Black’s incredulous face as Potter informed him of their truce. He could also see Lily pretending not to eavesdrop as she snuck glances at Potter. How had he not seen the nuances in their behaviour before? It seemed so obvious, but that was the bane of a deep cover spy. Lupin joined them, and as he was informed he glanced over. He almost looking approving, to Severus’ irritation. In this time Black had yet to pull the cruel trick of sending him down to the Shrieking Shack on a full moon to discover Lupin’s true nature. It was a precious piece of information, one that he would wield with care, that and his knowledge of their animagus abilities. Pettigrew joined them, fat and ugly and utterly loathsome. Severus resisted hexing him to pieces where he stood, but only just. In this life, he would never have the opportunity to betray Lily and James Potter. Severus would make sure of that.
Classes were a breeze. Thank fucking god. He had no time nor tolerance to waste it relearning the syllabus. He spend the majority of his time split between two endeavours. Firstly he brewed a sufficient amount of sample potions, and sent them off to St Mungo’s, Hogwart’s and many other institutions with the request that they test them, and if they deemed them an acceptable improvement to their originals, purchase more from him. He refused to live in poverty. Secondly, he attempted to research horcruxes, and historical items that may have interested Tom Riddle enough that he would use them to store parts of his soul. Albus had suggested that he find Slytherin’s Locket, the diary, the ring, and an item of Ravenclaw’s and an item of Hufflepuff’s. Both Harry Potter's scar and the snake had not yet been created. After much research he decided that Hufflepuff’s cup, and Ravenclaw’s diadem were the items most likely selected. Presumably the diary was in Lucius’ house, and the ring in the Gaunt shack. He had been given the remote location of the locket, which left the cup and diadem to be found. Of course, he had to destroy them, and Albus had very little suggestions for that, other than ‘slaughter the basilisk with Gryffindor’s sword, and use that’. Thanks for nothing, you insufferable fool.
He had hoped, naively, he could do this without assistance, could avoid Dumbledore’s painful gaze. Of course not. So now, the question was: how much should he tell him?
He needed Albus to trust him, but he refused to tell this Albus the entire truth. A difficult situation. Severus was only glad he’d retained his magical abilities, including his impenetrable occlumency barriers, when travelling through time. He’d worried that he’d have to relearn the skills.
Another pressing matter was that there was a fucking basilisk living under the school.
In the end that was what decided it for him.
He paced before Albus’ office, muttering the name of sweets in the hope that it would open. Eventually it did, although whether it was the password, or that Albus had noticed his presence, he did not know.
“Ah, Mr Snape. How may I help you? Lemon drop?” Albus offered. Severus drew a breath, and attempted to appear as if he were nothing more than a moody, troubled teenager.
“Hello Professor.” He stared at the ground. God this was shit.
“I am expected to join the Dark Lord, along with my Slytherin cohort.” How he loathed them.
“I see.” Albus looked good, if shrewd. He looked alive, and Severus felt strangely glad.
“The Dark Lord is raving lunatic with far too much charisma and power than is safe,” Severus said. Although the movement was imperceptible to those who didn’t know him, Albus almost laughed.
“I have no inclination to serve him, and never will. I disagree with his fundamental outlook, and abhor his treatment of those he deems inferior. What can I do?” Albus regarded him, and Severus tried his best to seem moody, but innocent. Time for his wild card. It would either lead to Albus trusting him complicity, or potentially bring about his expulsion.
“I have information that I can share. I have overheard many illicit conversations, including one incredibly pertinent to my current situation. Lucius Malfoy believes he has an object in his possession that could bring about the reopening of the Chamber of Secrets, and the freeing of the monster. He claims that a basilisk lives within the school, and will prey upon those of impure blood, such as me.” When he risked a glance, Albus looked incredibly disturbed.
“This object is the diary of Tom Marvelo Riddle.” He ignored the gaping stare he received, opting to stare at his shoes. And so the game begins.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Mr Snape. I will look into this. And as for Voldemort, I suggest you do your best to remain neutral, but perhaps appear as if you are playing the field? If you have any problems with your house mates, please feel free to inform me, or any other member of staff.” Severus nodded. Finally, his trump card. The wild card had paid off, but this would hit pay day. He affected a distraught look.
“Thank you Professor. Is it… is it possible to change my last name to Prince? I know you shouldn’t speak ill of family, but… well frankly, my father is an abusive alcoholic bastard and I wish to have no association with him.” He stared at his hands, then met Albus’ gaze. He was probed with the tiniest amount of legimency, and he brought forth memories of his father’s cruelty. Albus actually stood, and rested a hand upon his shoulder.
“I will speak to the Ministry. And I am terribly sorry you had to endure that. Please let me know if there is anything else you need help with.” Severus managed a half-hearted smile, before skulking toward the door.
“Thanks,” he muttered, and ducked out.
Who knew? Albus Dumbledore, the master manipulator, a chess piece in his own plans. He felt sick. He staggered to his favourite spot, an unknown window sill that was perfectly suited to brooding in. He placed his head in his hands and tried not to weep. He had forgotten how terrible lonely his life had been. Unable to trust even his most revered mentor.
“Severus?” A voice, not unlike a choir of heavenly angels. He turned to her, and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Lily,” he whispered. He realised, suddenly, this was the place they had come to meet, when they had been friends, and although he had abandoned it when their friendship ended, he had haunted it ever since he had returned as a Professor to the school. He gazed up at her.
“Lily. I would do anything for you to forgive me.”
She hesitantly touched his shoulder.
“Severus…I… James told me what you said. Do you really dislike your house mates?” He grimaced. Guilt consumed him. Of course, at the time, he had loved the power he felt as he joined them in their torment of the school. Now he knew better, and they revolted him.
“I loathe them,” he hissed, and stood. He was not made for bowing. Not before a Dark Lord, not Albus Dumbledore, and not before a girl. He would be forgiven, or he would not.
“I am truly sorry for the name I called you. I want you to know that it was never my intention to hurt you, and only my familiarity with the word that led me to say it, and my anger at the situation.”
She took his hand. “I forgive you,” she said. Severus pulled her into a hug, his tensions melting away. Eventually they withdrew. She looked at him sideways.
“You’re gay? I always thought…” she asked. He snorted, and turned to her. Trust Potter to spread that part around.
“Lily. You are the most beautiful creature to walk the earth, but that is because you are kind, and forgiving, and clever, and funny. I love you like a sister, like a friend.”
She smiled. They both sat in the window seat, and watched the students scurry below them.
“Potter? Really?” He had to ask. She blushed.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she said primly. He raised an eyebrow. She glared at him.
“Shut up Sev,” she said, and he laughed.
Cheerful was not ever a word he would use to describe himself, however he attended his classes with a far more upbeat outlook. Potter avoided him completely, apart from the occasional assessing glance. Quite astonishingly, he kept Severus’ sexuality to himself (apart from Lily, and likely the Marauders). It almost made him suspicious, until he recalled that in the future Sirius Black was also inclined that way, and so any disgust brought upon Severus would also be brought upon Black. He and Lily once more were Sluggy’s favourite potions pair, and he would not stop lathering them with praise. It was quite despicable. Unfortunately, as their friendship progressed, so did Lily and Potter’s relationship. As Lily deemed Potter’s attitude much more amenable, and had never had a complaint against his looks (Severus agreed, much to his own disgust) one day, to Potter’s delight and shock, she agreed to go on a date with him. Potter could be heard hollering up and down the corridors in celebration for hours.
Severus also heard back from the many institutions he had contacted. Almost all of them demanded he supply them with potions, as obviously they were superior, and wanted his details so they could pay him. He set up an account with the goblins, and they were willing to provide an untraceable false name: Maxwell Smith. He replied, with payment details, and explained he would require a deposit for any large orders. He received several, and used it to purchase the ingredients, and so he began to brew once more. He also worked upon the Wolfsbane Potion. He had brewed it several times, however couldn’t remember the exact specifications, much to his frustration. He spent many hours experimenting with it.
His greatest delight, however, was that he had found Ravenclaw’s diadem. The Grey Lady, ghost of Ravenclaw tower and daughter of Rowena herself, had divulged her secret. Of course that only confirmed his suspicious. However, he had quizzed the house elves on the best place to hide an item within Hogwarts. (Because typically Voldemort would find it amusing to hide something beneath Albus’ nose. It disgusted him how similarly they thought.) The elves had shown him the room of come and go. He paced before it.
I need a room that contains Tom Riddle’s horcrux. He thought, and so the door appeared. On a stool sat the diadem. He dared not touch it. Horcruxes were notoriously difficult to destroy.
But he had it. He knew that basilisk venom would kill it, but he had none to hand, and he was unwilling to venture into the bowls of the school in order to battle one. They had allegedly been extinct for hundreds of years and so he could not purchase any either. So his next foray to the library was research into the most dangerous substances a person could get their hands upon.
Fiendfyre was one such substance, but he was terrified to attempt it. However, it led him to a theory. If basilisk venom was a water element, fiendfyre was obviously a fire element, then there were two other ways, earth and air, to destroy the horcrux. It seemed ridiculous, but often magic worked in ways like this.
Tonight, though, he allowed himself the time off. He had spent almost every waking hour in the library, and was beginning to feel the strain upon his body. His younger self was far more resilient than he remembered, but he wasn’t indestructible. He had improved himself though, from the pale runt of a boy he’d been before. Although he hated the thought of it, he’d forced himself to exercise three times a week, running around the grounds where no one could find him, and it had significantly changed the body he had remembered. It was an exercise regime he had started in his late twenties, suggested by a muggle counsellor when he’d had suicidal thoughts, and one that he’d kept to even now. Admittedly, it helped.
He relaxed in the common room, as much as one could relax in the presence of fellow snakes, a book on animagus transformations upon his lap. If Sirius Black, James Potter and, of all people, Peter Pettigrew had achieved it then he certainly could. He was reading for pleasure, and interest, rather than research. He and Lily had matching watches that he’d charmed in a similar manner to Granger’s charmed coins, not that he’d ever admit it, that informed him if she wanted to meet. She’d change the time upon the watch, and it would warm against his wrist. To acknowledge, he’d simply change it back to the currently time. It became a solid source of amusement, Snape’s inability to own a watch that kept time. Idiots.
Sadly she’d not changed the time today, suggesting she was far too busy flirting with Potter. He shuddered to think of it.
He returned the book to his trunk, which was warded more than any Hogwarts student could hope to break through and set out for a walk. It was past curfew, but he knew the castle like the back of his hand. Better, to be honest.
He was walking along a fifth floor corridor when he heard footsteps. He slipped into a hidden passage, protected by a portrait that few knew the password to, and pressed himself up against a wall. Unfortunately, instead of a wall, there was already somebody else there. The person gasped, or tried to, but Severus snapped his hand up to cover their mouth. They were pressed together, limb to limb as whoever was hidden raised hand to place on top of his. The footsteps echoed, getting louder and louder, until they passed and eventually faded away. Their hearts thudded together as they waited for absolute silence, then Severus pulled back.
“My apologies. I believed this passage to be empty,” he said silkily.
“Snape?” hissed a disgustingly familiar voice. He allowed himself to be thrown out of the passage, and onto the corridor floor. He looked up at Sirius Black, as sinfully pretty as he remembered. He closed his eyes, just for a moment, then stood.
“Sorry,” he said, and walked away. Black’s jinx bounced off the shield he’d generated, and into a wall. He turned. Black stood there unashamed. He snorted, and walked back to the common room. Imbecile.