The Sugar Quill
Author: DarkWitch (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Two Sides of a Coin  Chapter: Default
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Snape post OotP

TWO SIDES OF A COIN

 

 

He sat down, still shuddering weakly in the half-light.  He could have lit a fire.  He could have taken one of a dozen potions to calm the shaking and quiet his nerves.  He could have done a lot of things. Instead he sat, staring blankly in the direction of the cold fireplace grate.  He sat, trying not to think.  The cold did not matter.  The pain did not matter.  Warmth and comfort had been alien to him for a long time now, but never more so than at this moment.

 

This was not, he knew, a time for warmth.

 

With trembling fingers he raised a hand to push greasy black hair from his face, although once he had done it, he had no idea why he had bothered.  There was nothing here to see.  No one here to care.  Nothing here to care about.

 

That was, after all, why he had come here; to this anonymous room in a part of the castle that he rarely visited.  He did not want the comfort of familiarity.

 

It would not have helped, in any case.

 

He did not want to see, or care, or remember.  He did not want to see the walls of his office, cluttered with books and potions and objects that he had thought important only a day ago.  He did not want to think about what had happened since he had been summoned to Dolores Umbridge's office the previous afternoon.  He did not want to remember the desperate look in

Potter's eyes when he had shouted at him, begging for his help.  And above all, he did not want to remember the way those eyes--those damnable, Lily-green eyes--had turned blank and despairing when he had sneered in response to the boy’s pleas.

 

How much Potter had loved that murderous fool, that pathetic and arrogant excuse for a Wizard.  Potter would have suffered the torments of the damned before letting that criminal suffer so much as a stubbed toe.  How well he remembered how despondent Potter was when he believed no help was available to save his sainted Snuffles.

 

He really did not want to think about Snuffles.

 

He shifted in his seat, suddenly aware of aches and pains that he had been ignoring, and sighed.  There was simply no getting around thinking about it.  For all his brave words to Potter about shutting off one's emotions, there were times when it was impossible to accomplish. 

 

Here and now, for example. 

 

Snuffles.  Sirius Black.  He did not think he had ever hated anyone as much as he had hated Black. Though with a few people he had come close.  James Potter, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Harry Potter--they had nearly achieved Sirius' status in his mind, but had never quite made the cut.

 

He had hated James Potter, true--at least until James had proven that even spoiled, arrogant, conceited, superior young Wizards had integrity.  On that day, on waking up in the Hospital Wing, his hatred of James had dulled to resentment.  It was sharp, bitter and jagged like a poisoned spear, but what he felt for James Potter was resentment and nothing more.  And pointless resentment at that; as James was no longer the target he had once been.  What was the point in resenting a dead man?

 

Especially when that dead man had shown the nobility that he had always hoped to have, by saving his life when they were both fifteen.

 

Even his loathing of Remus Lupin had not quite achieved the status of hatred.  Lupin, being close to James and Sirius, had been more a convenient target than someone he truly hated--at least that had been true up until the night Sirius had tried to kill him.  Then, Lupin had been transformed from a convenient mark to an object of utter contempt. 

 

He had been influenced enough by his father to be repulsed by what Lupin was.  Still, he had never truly hated Lupin.  Lupin had merely been a duck in a Muggle shooting gallery, a constant fixture in the corridors who had acquired a bulls-eye target on his back whenever he walked past.  From the beginning, he had recognised Lupin as the one truly decent member of the foursome.  Lupin had been the only one, out of those four, who never found others a cause for sport.  In the deepest corners of his heart, he knew that Lupin was no more responsible for his lycanthropy than he himself was for his black hair or black eyes.  He had been disgusted by Lupin the werewolf, contemptuous and repulsed.  He had been appalled by Lupin the loyal friend, who had stood by Sirius and James no matter what they did. He had avoided him when he could, and sneered at him when he could not.  But he had not hated Lupin.  Why hate a man for something he could not change?

 

Lupin had been in as much control of his lycanthropy as he had been of his family life.

 

Pettigrew, strangely, had been the one he had come closest to hating, next to Sirius.  Pettigrew had been pathetic even in school. A mediocre-to-poor student. A wizard without much talent at all, fawning, grasping and needy.  In his dealings with his friends, Pettigrew had been the most like him. Surprised when anyone seemed to like him. Always defensive because of imagined slights or expected attacks.  Introverted and without many social skills.  Despite his group of friends, Pettigrew had been a loner.  The similarities between them--their few friends, their defensiveness, their social ineptitude--had always raised his hackles. 

 

He had not liked seeing himself in the shadowy carnival mirror that was Pettigrew, and he had taken that out on Pettigrew every time they met.  He could tell himself that they were different, that at least he had intelligence and talent on his side of the scorecard.  He had told himself those very things.  But he had known that, at the core, they were very much alike.  And he had hated that. 

 

When he had learned of Pettigrew's betrayal of the Potters, a small, dark corner of his mind had rejoiced in sheer relief. He had finally been proven superior.  The rest of his mind was in agony over the loss of Lily, and strangely grieved at the loss of James. 

 

Even long-time enemies, he had found, could be missed.

 

Harry Potter.  He had come close to hating Potter.  He had been trying to hate him since the moment of his birth.  The mere thought of Lily, who had gone through seven years at Hogwarts completely oblivious to his feelings, having created a son with James, had made him sick at heart.  He had not been able to hate Lily any more than he had been able to hate James.  That had not made the proof of Lily's love for James any easier to bear. 

 

Then Lily had died to save the boy, sending yet another arrow-shaft into the target of his heart.  The boy could not have been worth her life.  The arrow drove deeper. 

 

His bitterness had not decreased for lack of a target; it had merely lay dormant for a time.   Then, at their first face-to-face meeting, Lily and James' son had become the focus of his hostility.   By the time the boy had arrived at Hogwarts, a slightly-built, smaller version of James--with Lily's eyes--he had been set to hate him.  Yet, something courageous, noble and self-sacrificing hidden deep inside Potter, like treasure in a vault waiting to be discovered, prevented him from hating the boy.

 

He understood self-sacrifice and courage.  And admired both.

 

He would not deny, however, that he had wanted to hate the boy. 

 

He still did.

 

Not even their last Occlumency lesson had achieved the hatred that he had wanted to feel. Potter looked like his father, true; but the horror and compassion in his eyes--Lily's eyes—after the boy had looked into the Pensieve had destroyed his will to hate him.  He shook his head, sending greasy black hair cascading back into his face.  He did not like Potter.  He was certain that he never would.  But Potter's green eyes—Lily's eyes—had been full of something shocked, appalled and disgusted. When he ordered Potter out of his office, he had been certain that he would never hate Potter, either.

 

The Potters, he thought, had proven notoriously difficult people to hate.  He scowled.

 

How provoking. 

 

James Potter, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Harry Potter.  For one reason or another, his feelings about them had never quite kindled into hatred. 

 

But then, they'd had excellent competition.

 

It came down to Sirius in the end. As it always had, he thought with a grimace.  Sirius the popular.  Sirius the prankster.  Sirius, whose easy skill at Charms, Hexes and Jinxes rivaled his own at Potions.  Sirius, his counterpart in light. Sirius, his golden twin. The wizard that he might have been if he had been gifted with as much charm as intelligence.  Sirius, who had been the whole man while he had been only a shadow.

 

Had he ever hated anyone like he had hated Sirius Black?  He doubted it.  The pain throbbing in his left arm beat in time with his thoughts, as thought to confirm them.  The moment they had met, they had recognised each other for what they were.  Light and Dark.  Gold and Lead.  Day and Night.

 

Petrol and Matches.

 

They had lasted, he recalled, nearly two hours on the Hogwarts Express before they had fought.  It had been over something so trivial that he no longer remembered it now. Most of their fights had been the same.  Their rivalry had transcended House boundaries. If Sirius had been Sorted into Slytherin, or he had been Sorted into Gryffindor, they still would have been enemies.  The Sorting had merely given the cold shining stone of their mutual hatred a setting.  They wore it, each of them, with pride and defiance, and it fit better with every passing year.

 

Finally, at the beginning of their sixth year, it all broke loose.  If he closed his eyes, he could still feel the damp grass and small pebbles through the tear in the back of his robes.  He could still hear the skin-shriveling howls of the werewolf, hear James' urgent yells, hear Sirius' derisive laughter.

 

He closed his eyes.  He could not contain the trembling of his hands as memories crashed into his mind, like storm-grown waves onto a rocky shore.  However much punishment he had endured at the hands of the Dark Lord tonight, he thought that this was worse.  Spying for the Order, he had put himself in danger, but he could fight it on his own terms.  That long-ago night, he had been led into danger, and had been helpless before it.

 

James yelling at him to get away.  Sirius, contemptuous, sneering at him.  For that alone, he might have faced down the danger.  But he had been younger then, and he had frozen in fear.  He had lost the chance to fight.  He had needed to be saved.

 

His hands jerked in memory-reflex. He twisted, trying to escape the monster buried in his mind.  Huge and howling with blood-lust, the werewolf advanced.  Monstrous beyond nightmares in his once-again fifteen year-old eyes. Its claws extended. Its fangs bared. It was the predator, and he was the prey.  James got between them.

 

The paralysis broke.

 

He ran.

 

He snapped back to reality as his memory-feet pounded across dew-slick grass toward the castle where he now sat.  His heart racing, his lungs on fire.  He saw the blank grey stone wall before him and focused on it until he felt himself calming.

 

Strange, he thought almost absently, trying in vain to rub away the pain in his arm. The Mark was burning steadily now.  He had never truly equated the monstrous werewolf with Lupin.  Oh, he had known that they were one and the same.  He had never considered Lupin truly decent after that night; his memories got in the way, and the revulsion instilled by his upbringing.   Still, the person he associated most with the werewolf was Sirius.

 

Had it not been for Sirius, he would never have come face-to-face with a nightmare.

 

Or, more correctly, not that nightmare.

 

From then on, it only got worse.  His hatred of Sirius, forged out of instinct, had been tempered in a furnace of terror and honed on a wheel of nightmares until it could have cut through stone.  Sirius had responded in kind, and only their leaving school had prevented them from killing one another in the corridors.

 

Sirius had gone his way.  Fighting against Voldemort.  Fighting alongside Dumbledore.  Alongside James and Remus and Peter.  The Twin of Light.

 

He had gone his own way.  Fighting alongside Voldemort.  Fighting masked beside other masked men and women.  Beside people as consumed with hatred and bitterness as he himself was.  The Twin of Darkness.

 

Sirius had been vilified, when the Potters had been murdered.  Traitor.  Betrayer.  Death Eater.  Criminal.  Murderer.  Gold into Lead.  Of course, Black had eventually been exonerated. But there were those who would never believe that Sirius was anything but tarnished.

 

He had been praised and trusted, when he turned from the dark and began working for the light.  Convert.  Soldier.  Spy.  Former Death Eater.  Member of the Order.  Lead into Gold.  Of course, he had been forced to prove his worthiness.  But there were those who would never believe that he was anything but tarnished.

 

Ironic, that.

 

They had been two sides of the same coin. One side in darkness, the other in light.  Alternating, opposed. At the end of the day, still covered with blemishes.

 

He was still trying to come to terms with the loss of his opposite.  Still trying to make himself realise that the Twin of Light, the golden one, the other side of his coin was lost to the world. Forever. 

 

He had never realised that it would be so difficult.  He had hated Black, after all.

 

Now Black was dead, and he was a one-sided coin.

 

He had never heard of a one-sided coin.  What did one do with such an oddity?  How did it exist, contrary to all logic?

 

Could it continue to exist?

 

 

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