The Sugar Quill
Author: Daphne Dunham (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Solitary Slytherin  Chapter: Default
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The Solitary Slytherin

A/N: The following piece is based on the popular Snape theory that he is the mystery boy whom Bertha Jorkins caught Florence kissing. Also, please note that this story takes within the confines of an alternate “Snapeverse” than that established in my other work, “Severus: A Portrait of the Potions Master as a Young Man.

 

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The Solitary Slytherin

By Daphne Dunham

 

He’d told the headmaster he didn’t want to do this. After all, he’d hated the boy’s father, and he hated the boy every bit as much. But it wasn’t just that Severus Snape didn’t want to teach Harry Potter Occlumency; it was that he didn’t feel he had the emotional stamina to withstand such a task. He knew his limitations, and while he could confront the Dark Lord without hesitation, there was something unnerving about facing the boy who so greatly resembled his childhood nemesis.

 

“I have every confidence in you, Severus,” Dumbledore had assured him.

 

And reluctantly, Severus had agreed. He valued the headmaster’s trust in him too much not to at least try. Nothing, however, had prepared him for what he would witness within his tutee’s mind: Harry being chased by a dog, Harry begging the Sorting Hat not to place him in Slytherin, Harry leaning forward to kiss Cho Chang. And Harry talking to a desperate, bedraggled-looking man huddled in a cave.

 

“Snape knew more curses when he arrived at school than half the kids in seventh year, and he was part of a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters,” Sirius Black had told Harry.

 

As much as the Potions master was loath to admit it, Sirius Black had been correct: Severus had prided himself on his extensive repertoire of hexes, and he had indeed forged alliances with several Slytherins who had shared his views – Rodolphus Lestrange and Evan Rosier, to name a few. And once again, Sirius Black had been right: nearly all of them had become Death Eaters. There had, of course, been another Slytherin whom Severus had befriended, the solitary Slytherin who he’d associated with who had managed not to join the Death Eaters. Her name had been Florence. Florence Fothergill.

 

Severus still remembered the first time he’d seen her. It had been at Platform 9 ¾, waiting to board the Hogwarts Express. There had barely been enough money to send him to school, and his parents had quarreled over the matter the entire way to King’s Cross. Contrary to the example set by the Malfoys, being pureblood didn’t necessarily mean that one was wealthy and refined. In fact, quite the opposite was true at the Snapes’ shabby cottage: Severus could scarcely remember an evening in which he hadn’t skulked off to his tiny bedroom, book in hand, in an attempt to escape his father’s drunken ravings and his mother’s resulting tears. Despite this, though, there were certain similarities between families like the Snapes and families like the Malfoys. Namely, their political beliefs were nearly identical, as Caius Snape had seen fit to remind Severus that morning.

 

“Don’t go making friends with any Mudbloods,” he had snarled. It had been the only advice he'd seen fit to give to his son, and he'd imparted even that much grudgingly.

 

Much to Severus’ overwhelming relief, Persephone Snape had been somewhat less dogmatic as she bid her son farewell. Her trademark tears had once again surfaced, and her eyes were tired, a faded bruise – the imprint of her husband’s latest Firewhisky-induced rampage – lingering above them.

 

“Be sure to owl as soon as you’re sorted, love,” she told him as she straightened the collar of his second-hand robes.

 

Severus wished she wouldn’t fuss, as he found it somewhat emasculating, and he’d scowled and brushed her hand away. Nonetheless, Persephone had squeezed his shoulders affectionately and, casting a glance to be sure that Caius wasn’t watching, pressed a small object into his palm. It was a coin – a Galleon, no less.

 

“For the snack trolley,” she explained with a melancholic but genuine smile.

 

The sacrifice of a Galleon was not a trifle in their household, and Severus knew this probably meant his mother would have to do without the new pair of shoes she’d needed. However, when he tried to refuse, she had insisted that he keep it, and so he’d grinned appreciatively and tried not to squirm so much as she gave him a final embrace. It was as Severus was pulling away from his mother that he saw her – saw Florence, that is.

 

He may not have noticed her, he later thought with great irony, if it hadn’t been for James Potter. The spectacled boy was standing on the far end of the platform, entertaining himself most adeptly with a Quidditch Snitch: he would set it free, watch it jolt and zig and zag away, and then swiftly catch it again just when it was presumably out of reach. Admittedly, the boy had excellent reflexes, but at the same time, his self-satisfied grin revealed that he enjoyed a bit too much the amused “ooohs” and “aaahs” and proclamations of admiration from onlookers.

 

Severus hated him instantly, of course. He detested James for his arrogant swagger, for how obvious it was that he thought himself superior. Apparently, though, he was not alone in this view, as was promptly suggested by the remarks of a passerby whom Severus would later come to know as Florence Fothergill.

 

“Look, Bella, some people think that such tricks are something to brag about,” she was saying to Bellatrix Black, indicating the boy with the Snitch. She snorted and rolled her eyes with disgust. “Bloody showoff,” she added in a disdainful hiss.

 

Florence hadn’t been a particularly beautiful girl – not in the way that Lily Evans or Alice Hughes was, anyway. Her dark hair was always gathered at the nape of her neck in a rather unsophisticated ponytail, for example, and she had an awful tendency to gnaw on her fingernails. However, she had things about her that were beautiful – things like the freckles that dotted her slender nose and the long lashes the framed her hazel eyes. And what Florence – Lorie, as she preferred to be called – lacked in good looks, she made up in cleverness. Indeed, Severus could scarcely help but notice that she was one of the few students whose marks rivaled his own.

 

This realization had occurred to him one afternoon in Potions class as they toiled together on a boil cure potion. All had gone well until Severus had added the porcupine quill required to complete the mixture. There had been smoke first, and then the cauldron had bubbled over and hissed, melting and spitting in such a fury that the students were forced to take refuge under their desks.

 

“Obviously you added too much snake fang, you dolt!” Severus snarled, as they surveyed the damage afterwards.

 

Florence only put her hands obstinately on her tiny hips. “No, Severus,” she replied firmly. “The potion went wrong because you added the porcupine quill too soon.”

 

Severus froze and stared at the indecipherable mess of molten cauldron and ruined ingredients before them. His brows creased in a combination of disbelief and displeasure, and a flush suddenly filled his cheeks as it occurred to him that she was right: he had added the quill while the cauldron was still on the fire. Only that could have caused such wreckage. Severus had never forgotten the importance of the timing of adding porcupine quills again.

 

Nor did he forget their first kiss. It had happened behind Greenhouse Three during their second year. Many a Hogwarts student had their first kiss at this site – so many, in fact, that “going to the greenhouse” had come to be widely recognized slang for such romantic activities. As it so happened, Severus and Florence had come upon the greenhouses with quite opposite intentions that afternoon: in a foolish bet, Rodolphus Lestrange had dared them to get a clipping of Devil’s Snare. They had been fortunate to find Greenhouse Three conveniently abandoned that afternoon; however, they had been unfortunate to find that it was also rather inconveniently locked. The excursion proved not a complete loss, though, as Greenhouse Three was famous for more than its storage of lethal vegetation.

 

“Have you ever… you know… kissed a girl before?” Florence had asked him.

 

Assuming that the peck on the cheek he’d award his mother on rare occasions didn’t count, Severus had shaken his head curtly. “You?”

 

“Never,” she replied, stepping closer to him and looking at him expectantly.

 

His palms had been sweaty with anxiety, and he’d wiped them unceremoniously on his robes before leaning in to brush his lips against hers. Each time he got close enough to her, though, she dodged his advances and giggled – not quite the reaction he’d been hoping for.

 

“Holy Hecate, Lorie! Will you hold still?!” he seethed. “I’m trying to kiss you!”

 

“It’s your nose! You’re going to poke my eye out!” she chuckled.

 

At her implication, a heavy flush rose in Severus’ normally pallid cheeks. He scowled and muttered an expletive or two under his breath before turning to stalk angrily away.

 

“Severus, wait,” she sighed, catching the sleeve of his robes and halting him. “All I meant was that maybe you'd better hold still, and I’ll kiss you instead. It might be easier.”

 

It was the closest thing to an apology that existed in Florence Fothergill’s vocabulary, and so Severus promptly saw fit to reconsider. As it so happened, she had been right: it was easier. And not only was kissing easy, but it was also quite enjoyable – a notion validated by a particular piece of Severus’ anatomy as well as by Florence’s breathy response when they parted.

 

“So that’s what Bella’s always talking about,” she murmured.

 

It was then that they'd heard it: the giggle which revealed that, contrary to the suggestion of prior evidence, they were not alone. Indeed, around the corner of the greenhouse promptly appeared the visage of that notorious gossip Bertha Jorkins. She was a rather dowdy girl, plump and plain, and as she had never had the opportunity for a liaison behind the greenhouses herself, she saw fit to spy on those who did.

 

“Oh, look at the ickle lovey-love birds,” Bertha smirked between bursts of laughter. “Is he a good kisser, Lorie? Bet he slobbers all over you like a toad.”

 

“Shut your gob or I’ll hex you to Hades!” seethed Severus, his fist clenching defensively around the wand at his side.

 

“Hey, Lorie, how do you get all his grease off you?” Bertha continued to taunt.

 

In all fairness, he had given her warning, and so Severus didn’t hesitate as he squared his shoulders indignantly and, brows creased furiously, promptly whipped his wand from his robes. “Densaugeo!” he hissed.

 

There was a flash of light accompanied by a shriek. “You vile beast, Severus Snape!” Bertha choked through her sobs and increasingly cumbersome teeth. “I’ll tell!”

 

Naturally, Florence had been most amused by the scene. “I think it’s a vast improvement, actually,” she’d laughed as they watched Bertha race back to the castle, wailing and cupping her still-growing teeth in both hands.

 

“We’ll probably get detention now, you know,” he said flatly. Severus may not have been a stranger to the world of detentions, but that didn’t mean he particularly looked forward to them. Fortunately, Florence seemed unconcerned by the threat of punishment: she only shrugged indifferently and slipped her hand into his.

 

In the end, the Devil’s Snare remained unscathed that afternoon. Severus had substituted Flitterbloom instead, and Rodolphus, who never was very good at Herbology, could not tell the difference. There had been repercussions for hexing Bertha Jorkins, of course, but the headmaster had been lenient and had taken only ten points from Slytherin. His eyes had glittered behind his half-moon spectacles as he did even that, and Severus had the impression that once upon a time the learned wizard before him might have done something similar if caught in the same situation.

 

News of the Bertha Jorkins Affair had traveled through the four houses of Hogwarts rather quickly, and much to Severus’ dismay, James Potter took particular delight in indulging the rumors.

 

“Snogging at the greenhouses again, Snape?” the spectacled Gryffindor sneered one afternoon as Severus and Florence made their way back from Herbology class.

 

Never one not to be outspoken, Florence’s eyes had narrowed with a distinct lack of amusement. “Sod off, Potter,” she’d retorted.

 

His mother had died the following year. Severus still remembered how the head of Slytherin, Vindictus Viridian, had interrupted his Transfiguration class to tell him. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher’s face had been quite grave as he’d asked Professor McGonagall to excuse Severus, and the hook-nosed boy had instantly known that something was wrong.

 

“It’s your mother, Severus,” Professor Viridian had told him when they had been seated in his office.

 

As Severus Snape was an intelligent boy, there had been no need for Professor Viridian to elaborate. He just nodded his head solemnly and swept his trembling hands over his face in disbelief as the memory of his last visit home haunted him. The Snape family Christmas had transpired as usual: his mother had prepared their traditional undersized turkey; there had been a sparsely decorated tree in the sitting room, under which had rested a handful of gifts wrapped in elderly copies of The Daily Prophet; and Caius Snape, having imbibed a bit too much eggnog, was his usual surly self.

 

It had been a dish that night – a mere plate. Persephone had inadvertently broken it when clearing the table from their meal, sending her husband into an immediate uproar. “You clumsy, worthless wench!” he’d slurred, stumbling across the room towards her.

 

“I-I’m sorry, Caius,” she’d whispered as she’d stooped to hurriedly scoop the pieces into her apron. “It was an accident.”

 

There was no convincing the inebriated Caius Snape, though. “Don’t talk back to me!” he hissed. “I’ll teach you respect!” With that, he’d raised his wand menacingly towards her. It wavered a bit, but his aim was unmistakable, as was his intent. “Avada Ke—”

 

With a cry of panic, Severus had leapt to his feet and lunged towards his father. He hated to think what might have happened if he hadn’t been there that night – if he hadn’t managed to wrestle the wand from his father’s grasp – if the curse hadn’t missed his mother, shattering the nearby window instead of her life. Severus may have saved Persephone Snape that night, but he couldn’t always be there to protect her, a thought which tormented him now as he was confronted with the reality that his mother was dead.

 

He’s finally done it, Severus thought as he struggled against the tears forming in his eyes. He’s finally killed her. I know he has.

 

But his father hadn’t murdered her. The Killing Curse had been self-inflicted: Persephone Snape had committed suicide. Severus had loved his mother. But she was weak. Not even her love for her son had been enough to prevent her from turning her wand on herself. As the years went by, Severus realized this, and it angered him, frustrated him that his mother hadn’t loved him enough to stay alive for his sake.

 

Blind with tears and grief and rage, Severus had stumbled back to the Slytherin dormitory that afternoon to gather his things for his mother’s burial. James Potter had seen him cry – the only time in his life that Severus remembered having done so – and, not knowing the cause of Severus’ melancholy, he’d teased. Potter had laughed, said he was sniveling, and promptly coined the nickname that would haunt Severus the rest of his years at Hogwarts: Snivellus.

 

Enraged, Severus raised his wand in the direction of his tormenter. “Furnunculus!” he’d screeched.

 

James Potter spent the remainder of the afternoon in the care of Madam Pomfrey, while Severus was forced to make a detour to the headmaster’s office before returning home. The pallid boy had expected points to be deducted from Slytherin or detentions to be served with Argus Filch, but Albus Dumbledore had only offered Severus a sherbet lemon and a sympathetic smile. The wounds of the afternoon remained, though. Only after news of Persephone Snape’s suicide swept the castle in murmured gossip did Potter grudgingly apologize to Severus for his cruelty, but it was too late – the name remained, serving as a haunting reminder of Severus’ weakness and of the day Persephone had taken her own life.

 

Matters between James Potter and Severus Snape only grew progressively worse following the incident. There were icy stares during classes and hexes when teachers had their backs turned. Severus even contemplated trying out for Quidditch at one point to match Potter on his preferred grounds of battle. The hook-nosed boy wasn’t half-bad on a broomstick, and he felt fairly certain he could make chaser if it wasn’t for one minor detail: his elderly Tinderblast was in no condition to withstand the rigor of regular practices.

 

“You haven’t forgotten the little…er, hiccoughs… your broom is prone to, have you?” Florence reminded him when he told her of his plan.

 

As it so happened, Severus hadn’t forgotten his broom’s quirky personality, its tendency to buck and jolt unpredictably. Nor had he forgotten that Florence had teased him the first time she’d seen this misbehavior. Florence’s good-natured giggles were one thing, but he was not particularly anxious to duplicate that humiliation at the Quidditch pitch before the entire school. Consequentially, Severus spent the afternoon sighing over the reality that Quidditch glory simply wasn’t in his future.

 

“I don’t see why you waste your time with that arse to begin with,” Florence had added. “He’s more trouble than he’s worth.”

 

She was right, of course. If Severus hadn’t bothered with James Potter, he’d never have wound up dangling mid-air with his robes about his neck the afternoon of their Defense Against the Dark Arts Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations. It had, in fact, been Florence who’d raced back into the castle to get Professor Viridian before Potter had managed to remove his underpants. Severus had been irate that he hadn’t been able to aptly defend himself against Potter’s attacks, of course, but secretly, he’d been relieved when he’d heard the “Finite Incantatem!” that had put an end to his torture. Furthermore, as mortifying as the events of that afternoon had been, Severus had been delighted to learn of the fifty points that had been deducted from Gryffindor as a result.

 

Severus was more grateful, though, that Florence had not insisted upon tormenting him with insipid words of comfort as he dusted the grass from his robes and gathered his fallen wand.

 

“Sodding, good-for-nothing wankers,” she had seethed instead.

 

And afterwards, there had been another trip to the greenhouses, where she proved that his frayed, graying knickers didn’t repulse her in the least.

 

There would be retaliation, of course. One did not humiliate a Slytherin without suffering the consequences, and so Severus did not hesitate to surreptitiously sabotage James’ and Sirius’ Draught of Peace during their Potions O.W.L. the following morning. Sirius Black had been particularly disgruntled when he'd received his O.W.L. marks. Perhaps it was this that had caused him to do it – that had caused him to send Severus to the Whomping Willow and probable death that autumn night in their sixth year.

 

Florence had been there for him then, too. Despite the fact that James Potter had managed to save his life, the Whomping Willow had been disinclined to permit the boys to escape its clutches without a fight, and as a result, Severus woke up in the hospital wing the next morning, his head pounding.

 

“You have a visitor, Severus,” Madam Pomfrey told him quietly when she had finished fussing over his wounds.

 

Severus could scarcely believe that anyone would care enough to bother to visit him and assumed this to be yet another cruel joke of some sort – perhaps one of the Marauders’ devices to torment him. Nonetheless, he reluctantly looked in the direction to which Madam Pomfrey was motioning. By the doorway to the hospital wing stood Florence Fothergill. Her freckled nose and fluttery hazel eyes were never such a welcome sight to Severus as they had been at that moment.

 

“Don’t get too excited – I only brought you your homework. I’m not having my Potions partner fall behind, you know,” she informed him with a smirk as she thrust an armful of books into his lap.

 

But Severus knew better. There was a smile hidden behind her hazel eyes, and her lip had quivered with concern when she saw the bandage around his head. She didn’t know exactly what had happened, of course. Dumbledore, by referencing the multitudinous instances in which Severus could have been expelled but had not been, had convinced him to keep silent about the details of the matter. All Florence knew was that Severus had had a run-in with the Whomping Willow – not unlike Davy Gudgeon had had the previous year. He did nothing to dissuade her.

 

“Another one of your idiotic dares with Rodolphus, I assume?” she'd scoffed, her eyebrows raised in the pretense of disapproval. “I honestly don’t understand why they insist on keeping that tree there – it’s a danger, not to mention completely hideous.”

 

Perhaps if Florence had known the truth about the Whomping Willow and how Sirius Black had nearly killed him, matters between them could have ended differently. After all, the lasting effects of that fateful night when Severus had nearly lost his life were instrumental in shaping his future choices.

 

Severus still recalled the day he’d decided to do it – the day he’d resolved to seek his revenge against the Marauders. It had been the hottest summer of his life, and even in the darkness of night, his bedroom had been sweltering. Consequentially, he’d been unable to sleep, and so he’d amused himself by spending the witching hour watching the flies buzz annoyingly overhead and tormenting himself by reliving the memories of the sundry acts of cruelty he’d been forced to withstand over the years. Severus thought of James Potter laughing at him the day his mother died, of Peter Pettigrew’s obscene amusement as he was dangled and exposed after their Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L., and of how Remus Lupin, despite being a prefect, had been apathetic each time. But most importantly, he thought of Sirius Black and how he’d almost died by his hand.

 

“You’re not scared are you, Snivellus?” the dark-haired aristocrat had goaded that fateful night when Severus had encountered the Whomping Willow.

 

And as Sirius Black’s voice echoed in his mind, Severus instantly knew that something had to be done, that drastic measures had to be taken to exact his vengeance, to ensure that the Marauders – every last one of them – suffered as they had made him suffer. He had to become a Death Eater, to serve the only wizard Dark enough and powerful enough to understand him, to help him on this quest for retribution.

 

Then we’ll see how scared you are, Black, Severus had thought smugly.

 

He’d raised his wand then, blasted a fly to its doom with a quick Killing Curse and rolled over onto his side, where he proceeded to fall into a deep sleep, comforted by his resolve to take action, comforted by his plan for revenge.

 

Severus knew that Florence would not approve of his decision, and so he decided not to tell her. After all, she may have been many things judgmental and cruel, but she was no Death Eater. It wasn’t a moral decision on her behalf at all, as she'd made it perfectly clear that she wasn’t particularly fond of Muggles. Instead, she was loath to choose political sides. She preferred to take her own side in matters – to be concerned first with preserving her own security. In this way, Florence was, as Severus would reflect years later, more quintessentially Slytherin than he himself was.

 

“I’m not about to murder a Muggle,” she rationalized. “It’s just not worth wasting my life in an Azkaban cell if I got caught.”

 

“So you would be a blood-traitor instead?” Severus asked hotly.

 

“Of course not,” she scoffed. “I don’t see the point in fighting for the rights of a Muggle either, though, considering that history has proven that a Muggle would as soon see me dead.”

 

She had a point, Severus had to admit. But the Dark Lord had been able to offer him something that made up for the risk of Azkaban: the Dark Lord had been able to offer him power, the chance to prove to James Potter and Sirius Black that he was more than what they took him for, and the opportunity to work for a cause diametrically opposed to theirs. And so Severus took the Mark.

 

“I know all about you, Mr. Snape,” sneered the Dark Lord, his serpentine eyes narrowed into wickedly amused slits as he beheld Severus. “There are very few who don’t know the notorious story of your family – your mother’s suicide, your father’s sundry indiscretions.”

 

Severus had glowered at the reference to his rather inauspicious upbringing, a fact which entertained the Dark Lord, and instead of Cruciatus, there was a chuckle of grim approval instead.

 

“I’ve rarely seen such anger… such hatred. Reminds me of… myself, actually,” the Dark Lord had sneered in perverse sentimentality. His lips curved into a venomous grin, he’d pressed the tip of his wand against Severus’ pale, left forearm shortly after, murmuring the incantation that sealed Severus’ fate.

 

Morsmordre,” he hissed, his tone low and unearthly.

 

Severus hadn’t quite fit in, of course: he was disheveled, knut-less, and awkward. In a lifetime of trying, he’d never possess the innate sophistication and charm of the other young recruits – of the likes of Lucius Malfoy or Bellatrix Black. However, his blood was every bit as pure as theirs was, his bitterness every bit as genuine, and – most importantly – he was immensely talented.

 

There would be raids on Muggle villages to follow. And tortures and murders. And not even as Severus told Florence that he loved her did she know of his involvement. He was not accustomed to declarations of affection, and finding the right words proved quite a struggle.

 

“I suppose that it’s more of a chemical reaction, really – a mingling of pheromones,” he’d stammered awkwardly.

 

His pallid cheeks had flushed as he looked hopefully into Florence’s face then, searching her hazel eyes for any signal that she understood what he was trying to tell her. She only stared blankly back at him, though, indicating that if she did comprehend – and knowing her intelligence, he felt quite certain that she did – she wasn’t going to reveal it; she wasn’t going to make this too easy for him.

 

“Bloody hell, Severus, do you always have to be so maddeningly indirect?!” she’d laughed. She understood his intentions perfectly, though, as was apparent when she promptly shook her head in mock dismay and murmured, “I love you, too.”

 

She’d made him a man that night. Severus could still remember the way Florence had been so pliant beneath him – the way her limbs had curled around him, the way her tiny breasts had brushed against his chest, the way her chin had fit perfectly into the crook of his neck. He could still remember the way she'd smelled – like soap and daisies – and the way she'd looked at him – with complete trust and unreserved adoration.

 

Florence had looked at him very differently, of course, when she’d discovered that he was a Death Eater. Severus never forgot the sheer revulsion that had coated her eyes – that glare of loathing so akin to that with which James Potter had beheld him when they were at school together. He didn’t know when, exactly, she had grown suspicious of him. Perhaps she’d caught a glance of his fading Mark at one point. Perhaps she’d found the mask he’d concealed in the folds of an old potions text back in their miserable bedsit in Knockturn Alley. Either way, Florence was waiting for him when he’d stumbled back from the Bones’ home that night, his wand still warm from producing the Cruciatus.

 

“Show me your arm, Severus,” she had demanded coldly the moment he’d walked through the door.

 

It had been a particularly brutal evening, and as a result, Severus was not in the mood to be trifled with. Indignant, he’d hissed a scathing invective and torn away from her. But he wasn’t fast enough: before he could wrench himself away from her grasp, she had the left sleeve of his robes pushed up past his forearm. The Mark had already faded significantly, so much that it might have appeared to be little more than a bruise to the casual observer. Florence, however, was not the casual observer; she knew enough about the Mark to recognize even this decomposed version of it.

 

In her fury, she had pounded her fists into him, pummeling any part of his body she could reach. “You stupid git!” she spat through clenched teeth. “I thought you were smarter than this! I thought you were better than this!”

 

If there was one thing Severus Snape hated more than having James Potter look at him with that utter revulsion, it was having Florence Fothergill regard him so. Indeed, as she slammed the door in his face, Severus’ resolve to best James Potter was instantly outweighed by a new determination, a vow to prove himself to Florence instead. It had been a defining moment for Severus, for it was in that instant that he realized that, as usual, she was right: he was too smart to have fallen for the false promises of the Dark Lord, and he was better than to be reduced to the role of mere servant before him.

 

Fortunately, Albus Dumbledore had agreed.

 

However, despite the names and places he’d revealed, despite the plots he’d helped to foil, despite the lives he’d managed to save by spying for Dumbledore, the Mark remained with Severus. It was a constant reminder of his impetuousness and of Florence and of how he had lost her. Months later – after the Dark Lord had fallen, after the Boy Who Lived had been stowed at Privet drive, after Dumbledore had testified on his behalf before the Wizengamot – Severus had tried to find Florence. He wasn’t foolish enough to cling to any romanticized ideals, of course, that she might abandon whatever life she had forged for herself for his sake. Instead, Severus was motivated once again by the burden of proving himself: he wanted to tell her, to show her how he had changed.

 

He never saw her again, though. He’d sent letters via owl post, all of which were returned as undeliverable. He had ambled by their old flat every now and then in a sense of perverse nostalgia; there was an apothecary there now. Severus had even taken the teaching position at Hogwarts half hoping that someday their paths would cross again through the children she would inevitably have had. But Florence was utterly gone.

 

Severus never knew what became of her: she had blossomed in his life as a child, had grown with him until she had been choked by the weeds of his soul, then had promptly scattered herself to the wind. Yet Florence remained planted within him, the solitary Slytherin who had dared to do something other than what was expected of her, the solitary Slytherin who had dared him to do the same.

 

~ Fin ~

 

 

 

A/N: The opening scene of Harry’s memory of Sirius Black contains a direct quote from GoF Ch. 27. Special thanks once again to Ozma for her ever-fantastic beta reading.

//
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