The Sugar Quill
Author: Rincewind  Story: The Worse Memories  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements:

In the first place I want to thank J.K. Rowling for writing such excellent books and creating the magical world in which this story takes place.

Secondly, I need to mention the film ‘American History X’ and the music and lyrics of U2, which have been my two mayor sources of ideas and inspiration. (Can you spot the references and quotes?)

I also want to thank my two betareaders: Ada Kensington and Charlie O'Brein, and my friends at the IG Kingdom, who read this one first.

 

The Worse Memories.

Snape was beside himself with anger as he watched Potter hurtle through the door of his office.  Realising that one of his jars filled with preserved cockroaches had exploded he waved his wand and hissed: 'Reparo.'  While all the shattered pieces of glass were moving back together, he paced to the door that Potter had forgotten to close in his hurry to get away.  Sticking his head through the doorway, he peered to the left, then to the right.  The boy had obviously disappeared because the corridor was empty.


"Damn that Potter," he cursed under his breath.  Closing the door with a loud slam, Snape vowed that he would never be forced to him again. "Those Potters, they were all the same..." he thought.


For a few weeks he had thought that Harry wasn't too bad after all. He had seen all those memories of ridicule, of sadness and of humiliation during their private Occlumency lessons and Snape knew how Harry must have felt; there certainly were some similarities between Harry's youth and his own. But why did he have to behave so big-headed? Why did he have to act so reckless, so foolish and so ignorant? Why did he always want to be the centre of attention?

Like father like son,” Snape thought. “Some things just never change.”

Snape was still fuming with rage. He hadn't been this angry in years. But he had made up his mind already that he would never again teach Harry Occlumency, no matter what Dumbledore said and no matter how many horrible lies the Dark Lord would plant in Potter's mind.

Why should he teach someone who was sloppy, someone who would never practice or put in any effort during their private lessons, someone without any respect for authority and someone who would start nosing through his most private possessions?

”Yes, that was the worst part,” he thought. Harry had dared to look into his most private thoughts. He had probably been hoping for an opportunity to look into the Pensieve and have a good laugh at Snape from the moment he had entered his office for their first lesson back in January.

Snape's heartbeat was slowly decreasing to its normal level and his breathing was becoming even and so he turned around and walked back to his desk on which a shallow stone basin engraved with runes and symbols was standing, its contents spreading a silvery light through the shadowy room

He sighed loudly as he moved in front of his desk; he hated to drag the past out into the light. When he pointed his wand towards the thoughts swirling in the shallow stone basin, engraved with runes and symbols, and moved the tip of his wand from the Pensieve towards his temple, the silvery substance flew from the Pensieve into his head.

 

As the silver touched his temple, the memory that had been stored in the Pensieve returned with all its terrible details. It was as if a film was being played very fast in front of his eyes. He saw James cursing him again, heard himself shout "Filthy little Mudbloods," and watched himself hanging upside down in the air.

Eventually the memory settled down somewhere in the back of Snape's brain and all was quiet again. Snape pointed his wand at the Pensieve for the second time and he moved his wand towards himself so that again the silver flew into the greasy roots of his hair.

A scrawny, greasy-haired fifteen years old Snape wearing black Hogwarts robes was walking silently and apprehensively through a dark corridor. He moved swiftly past paintings and the occasional suit of armour, but every now and then he glanced backwards, his eyes staying
watchful. Clearly he didn't want to be seen or followed so late in the evening.

He stopped abruptly in front of a door and muttered: "Alohomora," under his breath. The lock clicked and the door swung open. He walked into the empty Charms classroom and closed the door behind him with great care before looking around eagerly. After a few seconds his smile wavered.

”She isn't here yet”' he thought, slightly disappointed, “but she should be here any moment.”

He sat down on one of the chairs and looked around the deserted room. He suddenly realized that this was the very place where it had all started some three months previously, though it seemed so much longer ago.

During that particular evening he'd been sitting somewhere in this classroom doing his homework and she must have been sitting next to him.


When he had opened his schoolbag to put away his books later that evening back in the Slytherin common room, he'd found out he had accidentally picked up the wrong bag. It had taken him quite some time to figure out to whom it belonged, because none of the schoolbooks placed in the bag carried any nametag; but when he had searched the side-compartments his attention had been drawn by a small book, probably some sort of agenda or diary, he'd thought when he'd picked it up.

With a shock, he had realized that he himself had also been carrying his own diary with him in his bag that evening, and that by then the person who'd gotten his bag could have found it and could have been reading his private thoughts that very moment. Or worse: he or she could have been quoting certain excerpts in front of other people. He had been desperate to find out the identity of the owner of the bag lying before his feet and of the small book in his hand.


He had opened the book to find out that it was a diary as he had expected. He'd read her name on the first page and he'd realized that she must have been one of those fifth year girls from Ravenclaw whose first name he'd heard before: Florence. He had never really paid much attention to her, but he was sure that she had paid even less attention to him. Nevertheless he had also known that her mother was a Muggle but that she had died a couple of years ago, or so he was told. (Family-related facts were common knowledge for all students from Slytherin and all Slytherins knew the exact pureness of any Hogwarts student. Facts like that were considered to be of vital importance.)

Snape had known that he'd ought to have closed the book at that point because he had known all that he had needed to know in order to return the bag to its rightful owner but he had been curious to find out what the average fifteen year old girl would write in her diary. After all,
he hadn't talked that much with other students, especially females from other houses. In his opinion you were at school to learn, not to socialize and certainly not with half-bloods.

He had told himself that he would just read the first few pages, just to find out if this girl was possibly mean or stupid enough to read his diary. “If indeed she has found my diary at all,” he'd reasoned at that time as he had of course carefully written his name on each
schoolbook he possessed and perhaps she'd look no further than the first book she found.

So he had started reading, but he hadn't stopped after a few pages, because he had been so intrigued, so fascinated by what she had written down that he had totally forgotten where he was, and had lost all track of time. He hadn't noticed that the common-room became less and less crowded and that the lights grew dimmer and dimmer. He had just kept on reading until he'd reached the last page on which she'd written.

Through her words he gotten the impression that she was an insecure and miserable girl who could have just as easily become a spoiled and annoying bitch under the circumstances in which she'd grown up, but the fact that she hadn't, strengthened Snape's believe that she must be a special girl.

He had learned a lot about her that evening: How much she regretted the fact that no one seemed to be interested in her. Yes, some boys were interested in her because of her father and their money and most girls wanted to be friends with her, but she just didn't like talking
with them because all they ever talked about was school or other things that didn't interest her at all.

At home it wasn't any better, as her father was constantly busy with everything but her. He worked almost twenty-four hours a day and if he wasn't working or sleeping he had to attend important cocktail parties. Although he  claimed he did it for 'his little princess'; in her opinion, he was just doing it to satisfy his desire to be successful in his career as a first class Healer at Saint Mungo's and to hide and forget his grief for losing his wife. Plus, he thought he could buy her off with presents and sweet words whenever she was around.

Snape had of course felt quite guilty at that time for reading all these personal doubts and desires.

The next day Snape had been very careful to place all the books back into her bag in the right order, so that she would under no circumstances find out that he had turned her bag inside out and read her diary entries.

But all went well. He had handed the bag over to Professor Flitwick, who didn't ask any suspicious questions before telling him that a Ravenclaw girl had given him Snape's bag only minutes ago and levitating Snape's bag from his office into his hands. Before he could
examine his bag the bell signalling the start of the first lesson had rang and it wasn't until the small break later that morning that he could find a quiet place to see for himself if anything was missing.

The first thing he had taken out of his bag was of course his diary. At first glance everything had seemed to be in order since the cover wasn't damaged, nor were there any pages missing.
When he had turned to the last page however, his heart had skipped and his face had gone even paler than it usually was. Someone had written in his diary, and there had been no doubt in Snape's mind as to whom the handwriting belonged.
Florence had dared to write in his diary.

Of course he had been very angry when he had seen what she had done but his indignity had changed into sympathy after reading her comment. He had re-read it many times now and he knew it almost by heart:


Dear Severus,

When you read this first sentence I know you must be very angry at me
but I urge you to read on. I know that I didn't have the right to read
the words you have so honestly and carefully written down for no-one
but yourself and I hereby apologize for the hurt it might cause you
now that you're reading this. However, I do hope that you'll be able to                            forgive me and trust me from now on because you and I have many things                              in common and it would be a true waste for both of us if we keep ignoring
each other. I don't know if you know anything whatsoever about me so
I'll just point out some striking similarities between the two of us and after                            that I'll let you decide whether you want to keep in touch with me or not.

We're both not having a very great time here at Hogwarts and neither
of us has any true friends in this place. This may seem weird to you
as you might have seen me walking and chatting with fellow Ravenclaws,
but I don't consider any of them to be friends. They do not know the
true me. Nor does my father. Not even he tries to look past the mask
of stiff politeness and false superficiality I tend to wear in front
of other people.

But when I read your words I knew I had finally found someone who felt
the same, someone I could share my emotions with, someone who would
understand me. A fellow sufferer and a true friend.

Please, please, please, talk to me or write me a small note or give me
some other message but don't just ignore me. Too many people have
already done that.

Together we can help each other.

Yours sincerely,

Florence

The next day Snape had accidentally bumped into
Florence just outside the Great Hall after lunch and like a real secret-agent he had slipped a long letter into her pocket.

So they became secret pen-pals. After a few weeks they had agreed that they couldn't just keep bumping into each other like that as people could start asking awkward questions and absolutely no-one was supposed to learn of their friendship.

Not only could this knowledge have lead to them becoming outcasts in their own houses, it could also have affected their families. Imagine what all Snape's father's respectable and pure-blood friends would have said if they'd found out that his son had been making friends
with Mudbloods. His father would probably beat him to death. As for
Florence's father, he would probably never be promoted again if his superiors found out that his daughter was corresponding with the son of a suspected dark wizard.

 
So the next step was secretly meeting each other in a quiet place like the
Forbidden Forest early in the morning or like today, in a deserted classroom late at night. Most of the time they had just talked and had fun with each other during those private moments and Snape had found it wonderful to be able to just be himself, to just be with her. He hadn't known how being in love felt, but he was quite sure it had to be almost, if not the, way he felt when they were together. He had been completely at ease in her presence.

It had almost gone wrong once though. It actually did go wrong on that occasion because they had been seen during one of their most intimate and romantic moments, but surprisingly enough nothing had happened afterwards. Some nosy bird from Hufflepuff named Bertha Jorkins had been stupid enough to follow him to one of their secret meeting places behind the greenhouses. He had put some nasty hexes on her afterwards, but he was quite sure that despite his warnings not to, she had spilled the beans to a professor, or worse: the headmaster. Surprisingly enough Snape hadn't been punished or even told off by anyone: even the Hufflepuff girl had kept her mouth shut.

 
Snape started pacing up and down the classroom because although he was positively sure that he hadn't been followed today, he was feeling slightly worried about
Florence’s absence - she should have been here by now. He paused in front of one of the windows because something outside had drawn his attention. A faint source of light moving towards the Forbidden Forest had caught his attention and he thought he could see two silhouettes. The one in the front was wearing a nurse uniform so Snape assumed that it was Madam Pomfrey. She was also carrying a lantern.

 

The other shape seemed to be a boy, and Snape thought that he recognized him, but he wasn't sure. He closed his eyes and he tried to rub the first signs of drowsiness out of his eyes, but when he returned his gaze to the forest he was surprised to find that there was nothing to see anymore. The light had disappeared and the forest looked as dark and deserted of human beings as it usually did.


A sudden noise at the door made him jump under the nearest desk. The door opened gingerly and Snape risked a peek from under the table. He lowered his wand in relief and straightened up as he saw that it was only
Florence who was looking nervously at all the dark shapes in the room she had just entered.


"You're late
Florence. I thought you'd never come," Snape greeted her with a slightly worried voice.


"A lady is supposed to be fashionably late," she reminded him playfully, "especially if she had to make a detour around the library to avoid a certain foul creature named Mrs. Norris."


"Fair enough my dear lady. I shall forgive you this time but only because it's almost Christmas. Shall we risk a little more light or would you prefer to sit in the darkness?" Snape asked while bowing gallantly like a real gentleman.


"I would much appreciate it if you lit some candles," she replied. "I can hardly see my own feet."


Snape waved his wand to close the curtains and with another wave, a dozen candles illuminated the classroom and its contents.


Before him stood a slim, almost skinny girl with dark, curly hair. She was neither stunningly pretty nor abhorrently ugly and the only feature that made her stand out was her beautifully coloured, big, blue eyes. The sight made Snape smile happily.


"So, are we going to stay here until the early morning, talk and watch the sunrise?" Snape asked expectantly. "Or do you have a better idea?"


"Until the sun rises?" she asked nervously. "Well, I dunno..." Her voice trailed off.


Snape sensed that something wasn't right because she never behaved uncertain like that around him and the length of their meeting couldn't be the problem as they had been together until dawn once or twice before. When he told her this she became even more tense.


"What's wrong
Florence? Please tell me." Snape was feeling quite anxious now. "Is it because you have to get up early tomorrow, and the Hogwarts Express will take you back to your father?" Snape guessed correctly.

She nodded weakly but still avoided eye-contact. "Well, that's certainly a bit disappointing, but if that was the big deal," Snape told her, relieved. "Why didn't you tell me earlier? Or did he inform you only yesterday that he and you are expected at his boss' Christmas party later this week?"


"I should have told you before," she mumbled guiltily while avoiding his eyes.


"But why? Why didn't you tell me earlier then?" Snape asked while moving towards her, intending to hold her hands.


"Because I didn't want to make you unhappy." Snape was surprised to see that silent tears were now flooding down her face. They embraced each other tightly and for a few moments neither of them spoke. Then she whispered in his ear: "There's something else I should have told you before."


Snape let go of her and just stood there in the middle of the room waiting for her to speak again. He couldn't believe his ears but Snape chose not to say anything and to let her talk.


"It's something my father told me about a month ago. And like I told you, I didn't mention it before because I didn't want to cast a shadow over our meetings." Snape still didn't reply so she continued.


"My father's got a new job in another hospital and he's got to start working there next month. He'll be more important and he's going to earn much more money. The only drawback is that it's a hospital in
New York so we'll have to move to the USA. The boat that's going to take
us there is leaving tomorrow evening.”


"There's nothing I can do to change it," she added miserably. "I'm sorry Severus. We can still write each other though."


"You're sorry?" Snape finally replied through gritted teeth. "You're sorry. That's all you've got to say?" he asked incredulously, pointing his finger at her.


"I trusted you! I've shared my deepest and most desperate thoughts with you! I-I thought we had something special,
Florence. I don't want your stupid letters. All I want is you!" He was nearly in tears himself now.


Florence tried to say something but Snape didn't listen, instead continuing: "You're damn right you know. You should have told me a month ago, instead of just a few hours before your departure. Now it's way too late. You've lied to me
Florence. You've betrayed me. You've broken your promise. Our promise!"


She had hurt his soul worse that he'd thought possible. He wanted to go away, to leave this cursed place, so he turned around and strode towards the door. He kicked the door open with great force and without a backwards glance he ran back through the gloomy corridor, back to the dungeons.


Florence cried desperately after him: "Forgive me Severus, please stay here! I'll write you..." Her voice grew fainter and fainter as Snape continued to run down the stairs.


As suddenly as it had begun it was over again. The present-day Snape was standing again in the present-day office. Of the three memories stored in the Pensieve, this one was probably the worst. It had been the first and the last time that he had opened his heart for someone else.


It had been the last time he'd seen or heard from her. He had never received a letter from her again. At that time he'd thought that she had hated him for getting so angry and meanwhile he had hated her and all things that weren't pureblood for many years after the incident.


But years later he had learned that the boat that was taking her to
New York had never arrived in the USA. The authorities reckoned that the boat must have sailed into a great storm and that the shipwreck and its passengers must be lying somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

After her disappearance and the disappearance of the enchanting lights she’d brought so briefly in his life, darkness had all too soon taken back its place in his heard. A darkness more intense and all-consuming than ever before.


Snape needed to sit down a few seconds before he continued. For the third and last time Snape moved his wand from the Pensieve towards his head and the third and last memory connected with it.


Snape was sitting at a rough wooden table. He was wearing a black cloak, his face almost completely hidden under the hood. Next to him another man equally clothed sat down and he shoved a small glass filled with some smoking, fiery substance towards him.


They were in a small, dingy and very dirty room. It was getting dark outside though you couldn't really be sure as the windows were so encrusted with grime that it was impossible to see a thing through them. Instead most light came from the flickering flames of candles
and a fireplace in the corner.


They weren't the only ones in the room. A grumpy-looking old man with a great deal of long grey hair and a beard was standing behind a filthy-looking bar; on the other side of the room and near the exit, someone else was sitting, almost hidden in the shadows, with his chin on his chest, apparently asleep.


"Why did you want to meet me here? Why couldn't we go to your place or mine, Regulus?" asked Snape before he took a sip from his drink.


Snape knew Regulus Black both from school and from their Death Eater meetings a couple of years later,  though they hadn't been in the same year at Hogwarts as Regulus was a few years younger and Regulus had also joined the Death Eaters later than Snape had. At school Snape had never paid much attention to Regulus, although that had much to do with the fact that Regulus had an older brother named Sirius Black.


Snape had always found Regulus a bit clamorous and slightly big-headed, but his opinion of Regulus had changed quite a bit since they first met wearing Death Eater robes. They were paired up together by the Dark Lord himself and they had gotten to know each other during
the long and boring days when they had to watch someone's house or follow someone. Regulus had turned out to be less full of himself than Snape thought him to be and they had grown as a team and as friends  over the last year.


Today Regulus had arranged to meet each other in the Hog's Head.


"Because I don't want to be overheard by your or my family or even our house-elf or one of the portraits hanging in my house." He answered while turning his head towards Snape. "I need to talk to someone who won't give me away the moment I tell him or her what I'm about to tell you; the only one whose opinion I know I can trust."

 

“You haven’t done anything stupid, have you?” Snape asked indifferently. “It doesn’t involve girls or anything, because I have no desire to get involved with trivial problems concerning them.” He added wearily, knowing only too well Regulus’ most and his least favourite discussion topic.

 

“Well… As a matter of fact it does,” Snape raised his eyebrows exasperatedly, “but not the way you think.” Regulus added seriously.

 

“All right. Spill the beans then, if you must.” Snape surrendered, while folding his arms together and leaning backwards in his wooden chair.

 

Regulus however moved closer towards him and spoke with an urgent voice: "I want to get out. I don't want this anymore. "His voice was rising with every word he spoke.”I don't want to be a Death Eater anymore, do the things He wants us to do. I-I'm done with it!"

 

Snape was astonished to hear Regulus say this: this wasn’t the self-confident wizard he had known for years. Perhaps Regulus was pulling his leg. Or he was trying to test him, find out if he was still faithful to the Dark Lord. He moved forward in his chair, wearing a calculating look on his face as he spoke: "But why? What happened? Please explain it to me. And keep your voice down," he added warningly because he saw that the barman was looking in their direction.


" All right. Listen," Regulus began, "remember the last Death Eater meeting last week? Remember that the Dark Lord told me that he had a special assignment for me, Igor and a guy named Travers?"


"Yes," Snape replied softly.


"He-he wanted us to k-kill the McKinnons because they were part of this secret society that's plotting against us. H-h-he had it all worked out. He wanted us to do it so that we could p-prove our l-loyalty for him." Regulus was shaking slightly in his chair.


"So we went to their house two nights ago. W-we had agreed that Igor would kill the male and Travers would kill the female. I would just be watching their backs because I was the youngest. So we snuck into their house just as planned a-and I should have suspected something by then because I almost tripped over a toy broomstick in the living room." Tears were now welling up in his eyes and the tone in his voice became darker and sadder.


"We crept upstairs and-and we found them lying in their bed and Karkaroff and Travers d-did it. It happened swiftly and smoothly. They didn't even have time to scream. I-I always thought that watching someone die - especially an enemy - wouldn't affect me in any way, but it did. But that wasn't the worst part. I wanted to leave that cursed place as fast as possible but Travers wanted us to search the rest of the house first. There could be valuable information hidden somewhere. A-a-and th-then we found her in the room next to her parents. I didn't know the McKinnons had a four year old daughter. Did you know?"


Snape shook his head. Regulus wore an expression of helpless desperation and sadness on his face. He continued: "No one ever told me. And they told me that it was my turn to murder someone because they had already done the other dirty work. I didn't want to, honestly. You must believe me!"


He grabbed Snape's arm and as Snape didn't interrupt him, Regulus continued: "They forced me. I didn't have a choice. If I had refused they would have killed me on the spot. S-so I-I-I k-k-killed...'


Regulus couldn't finish his sentence and he started sobbing with his face buried in his hands. Snape didn't know what to say so instead he looked around; he noticed that the pub was completely empty now. The barman had disappeared to the back room behind the bar and the other man had probably woken up and left without them realizing it. Snape patted Regulus' arm weakly. He'd never been in a situation like this before and didn't really know what to say or do.


Regulus pulled himself together and started speaking again: "I can't do this anymore. After what I've done... Nothing is ever going to make up for that, is it? I should never have listened to my parents. “


"How did I ever buy into their bullshit?" he roared. "They both think that what the Dark Lord is doing is great. But instead of becoming Death Eaters themselves they made me go. Oh yes, they are so proud of me. They keep talking about the purification of the wizarding race and
the glory of working for this noble cause. The glory of fighting for our rights. And the glory of dying for our cause."


Regulus looked into Snape's eyes again and Snape looked into his. There was an angry sort of determination in his eyes. "I've hardly slept the last two days, Severus, and in those sleepless hours I've made a decision. I've been asking myself questions. You know why I chose to tell this to you?"

 

“Because I’m the only person close to you who wouldn’t hand you over to the Dark Lord after your confession. Because I’m your only friend. “He added silently, almost not believing his own ears.

 

"Yes, that’s right. But also because of this: Just like me you're very bright. Most Death Eaters or other supporters of the Dark Lord believe everything He says. They never think for themselves. They act like zombies. Damn it Severus! It's all bullshit!" Regulus suddenly exclaimed. The barman had reappeared but he was acting as if he hadn't heard what Regulus was shouting.


"There are no physical, mental, psychological or any other differences between Mudbloods and pure-bloods. It was all made up by some twisted evil fool who lived a thousand years ago. As for Muggles: I know they can be annoying, stupid and ignorant but that's no reason to kill them for fun. We're all human beings. I know it and you know it too Severus. You're too damn smart to be floating around pretending you don't see all the holes in their bullshit."


"Look Regulus I can't deny that you have your points but…" Snape began but Regulus interrupted him before he could finish his sentence.

 

"Have you ever wondered why you joined the Death Eaters anyway? Why did you do it? Why did I do it? Not just because of my parents. I was angry. Angry about a society that apparently placed us wizards below Muggles. Angry about the world I lived in. I was so angry I believed everything the Dark Lord said."


"Yes, you're right. I've been acting like a fool too," Snape admitted.


"So we joined the Death Eaters and what have we done next? We've taunted Muggles. We've cursed anyone who opposed the Dark Lord. We've let out all our frustration. But has anything you've done made your life better, Severus?"


"No," Snape replied softly as the truth started to dawn on him. At last he began to see the errors of his ways. "I feel the same. Everything I've done. It has just made it worse. And I'm sick of it too."


"I knew you'd agree Severus!" Regulus replied relieved. "I'm just tired of being pissed off all the time. I'm just sick of following the Dark Lord."

 

“You know what?” Regulus smiled wryly, “I reckon my brother was right after all. Turns out I should have listened to him instead of to my parents.”

 

“Just because he severed all his ties with you and your family, doesn’t mean he’s not a bloody bigheaded bastard.” Snape spoke vehemently, his eyes flashing dangerously.


"And what should we do now?" Snape asked. "We can't just stop going to Death Eater meetings. We need to find a safe hide-out first, otherwise He will find us. We can't just disappear without a reason. We could try to stage our death or something like that but whatever we're going to do, we need to plan carefully and it might take some time."


"You mean that for the moment we should act as if nothing has happened? I don't know if I can do that Severus. The Dark Lord might ask me questions about the assassinations of the McKinnons and I don't think I can hide my feelings from him. The Dark Lord is highly skilled
at Legilimency ."


"If you back out now he'll be looking for you everywhere and I won't be able to help you. He knows we're friends, Regulus.” Snape said sharply. “ He'll be watching my every move. I'll never let you down, and I'll do whatever I can but I can't help you if you run away now."


"But I'm scared. I don't…" He stopped in mid-sentence and Snape knew why. They both felt the Dark Mark burning on their skin.


"He knows!" Regulus gasped with a look of terror on his face.


"Come outside with me, now," Snape commanded through gritted teeth. They both stood up and walked into the cool evening outside. The sun was setting and was slowly disappearing behind the distant mountains, while the western horizon was turning orange and red. Above the front door the sign with the picture of a wild boar's severed head on it creaked ominously in the wind as Snape and Regulus walked a few paces until they were out of the fading sunlight.


"Regulus, pull yourself together. Listen to me. Just think about anything but the conversation we've just had and keep your emotions under control."


"I'll try, I'll try," he whimpered terrified. "Just give me a few seconds. I need to concentrate."


Regulus closed his eyes and tried to get his breathing under control.


"Let's go," he said after a few seconds. Snape was glad to hear some confidence in Regulus' voice. They both put on their masks and Disapparated, Apparating into a new scene.


They were standing on the edge of a clearing somewhere in an unknown forest. Under a blood-red sky a crowd was gathering, all of them were wearing black cloaks. Some of them were carefully adjusting their masks and hoods with their white hands, so to make sure that their whole head was covered in black, while every few seconds a new Death Eater Apparated with a loud cracking noise and emerged from among the shadows and tall trees.


They were all moving towards the middle of the clearing where they formed a circle around one hooded figure. Snape and Regulus followed the others and soon all the Death Eaters were present. None of them so much as whispered and the only sound that could be heard was that of the wind blowing through the trees around them. Snape had been here before as Lord Voldemort had more of these gathering points and it was never certain were the next meeting would be. Snape and the other Death Eaters just had to Disapparate and the Dark Mark would know where to find its master.


The tall and thin figure in the middle spoke with a high, cold voice. It was the Dark Lord himself:  "Perhaps you're all wondering why you're all here this Sunday evening." He walked slowly towards the place were Snape and Regulus were standing. "But I think there is someone who does know. Do you know why Severus?"


Voldemort looked straight into the eyes of Snape. Snape could feel the Dark Lord looking into his mind but he looked straight back into those scarlet, slit-pupilled eyes, successfully blocking the memory the Dark Lord was seeking. "No, I don't know, my Lord." Snape answered politely.


The Dark Lord lowered his hood and revealed his pale, snake-like face. "Let me all enlighten you then. It has reached my ears that there is someone amongst you who's trying to back out!"


Next to Snape, Regulus was trembling involuntarily with fright.


"And," the Dark Lord continued triumphantly, "I know who it is. Now I had hoped that the person of whom I'm speaking would have had the guts to declare his lack of loyalty like a man, face to face, but apparently the coward's not even brave enough to admit his treachery.


"Are you a coward, Regulus Black?" He asked suddenly, with a cruel smile on his face. Snape froze with shock at those last two words. "And don't lie to me because the Dark Lord always knows."


"I'm no coward," Regulus spat next to Snape. "You're the coward. You let other people do your dirty work!" And without any warning he aimed his wand at the man in front of him but before he could cry out a curse he was hit by a jet of red light. The Dark Lord had struck first.


Voldemort waved his wand upwards before the half unconscious Regulus could hit the ground; his limp and defenceless body floated towards the middle of the circle of Death Eaters, his feet hovering a few feet above the grass. It seemed as if an invisible hand was  clasped firmly around his throat and prevented him from breathing. Voldemort and the other Death Eaters watched mercilessly as Regulus' body ran slowly out of oxygen, while Snape could do nothing but watch his best and only friend die.


After two terribly long minutes that seemed to take ages the Dark Lord moved his wand away and the lifeless body of Regulus hit the ground with a soft thud.


The Dark Lord was the first to speak again: "I hope you have all learned something from this! You don't just hand in your resignation to me. It's a lifetime of service or death. You can choose. But remember that I'll always find out what you're saying when I'm not around. The Dark Lord always knows! You are free to go."


Snape Disapparated almost immediately but he chose not to go home yet, instead returning to Hogsmeade. He was feeling something beyond grief as he walked through the twilight towards the Hog's Head and he decided that he wanted to drink Firewhisky until he forgot his own name. He'd seen Regulus die and he hadn't been able to do anything to prevent it from happening. It had all happened so fast. He opened the door and walked in to find the pub as crowded as it had been when he'd left ten minutes ago: only the barman was around.


"A double Firewhiskey," he ordered as he lowered his hood. It took Snape only six seconds to empty his glass. He didn't know how long he'd be able to keep drinking with this speed but he didn't care. He didn't care about anything anymore since he had nothing to lose and nothing to gain anymore, nothing at all. "Another double Firewhiskey please," he said as he moved his empty glass towards the barman.


"And a Butterbeer for me please," spoke a voice from behind him. Snape turned his head around curiously and to his surprise saw Albus Dumbledore, who walked towards him and sat down next to him, politely asking, "You don't mind, do you Severus?"


"No, of course not." Snape was too much taken aback to refuse. "What are you doing here?" he asked.


Dumbledore replied by asking the same question in return: "What are you doing
here Severus? You haven't been here in ages and today you've been here twice in half an hour."


"How do you know?" Snape asked suspiciously, evading Dumbledore's question.


"Oh, I have my sources," Dumbledore answered while exchanging looks with the barman. "It doesn't matter how I found out but my sources also told me that you weren't alone when you left ten minutes ago but now you are. What has happened to your companion Regulus?"


Dumbledore sounded genuinely concerned and Snape couldn't help but trust him. What else could he do? So he told Dumbledore the truth: "He's dead. He has been murdered by the Dark Lord, just because he wanted to quit. We both wanted to quit but the Dark Lord found out that Regulus wanted to leave. And..."


His voice trembled and broke as Snape searched for the right words to describe how he felt inside. He felt guilty because he hadn't done anything and he felt helpless because of the unfairness of it all. When the words didn’t come, he let himself go completely. He had never shown emotions like this to anyone, but now he couldn’t help it anymore: "He was the only friend I had. And I let him down."


"Severus, there's nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. It wasn't your fault that Regulus couldn't control his emotions, nor was it his." Dumbledore pointed out.


"I know you can help me Dumbledore," Snape spoke with hope in his voice. "I know you're fighting against the Dark Lord. I know you can help me escape."


"I can and will help you, but only when you promise me something, "Dumbledore answered.


"I'll never talk to any Death Eater. I'll leave
Great Britain if I have to."


"But I want you to do just the opposite Severus. I want you to keep on going to Voldemort and the Death Eaters." Dumbledore said.  


"You want me to become a spy?" Snape asked slowly.


"Yes I do. I know I'm asking a lot from you as you'll be alone and at great personal risk. But if you agree you'll be able to give extremely valuable information to those who are fighting against Voldemort, people who are fighting against those who've killed Regulus and all the other, innocent victims. Do you think you are mentally able to do that?" Dumbledore asked.  You don't have to answer right now."


Snape thought for a moment and then replied honestly: "I want to work against the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. I want to revenge Regulus. I want to become a spy."


"Good," said Dumbledore and he continued seriously, “trying to drown your sorrows in alcohol isn’t going to help you, Severus. You’ll either drown with them or they’ll learn how to swim.” Dumbledore shoved Snape’s glass away from him. "We need to arrange certain…"


Dumbledore's voice and face faded. The whole painful memory found its place between later memories of tasks carried out by Snape as spy.

Snape's dark and silent office came into view again. It had only taken a few seconds for the memory to settle down but in those seconds Snape had remembered every action and every single word.

 

He had only once visited the tomb that Regulus’ bereaved parents had chosen as a last resting place for their beloved son. He’d felt that he needed to go there, but couldn’t really explain why. Perhaps he’d gone there for forgiveness, to raise the dead, or maybe to say a last goodbye. Or he might have hoped to close that particular door to the past, to let go of a burden that was weighing heavily on his soul. Of course it hadn’t helped him at all; he had never been and would never be able to let it go.


Feeling both relieved that it was all over and miserable because of what he'd just experienced once again, Snape picked up the Pensieve and put it away in a cupboard. Tonight the memories would haunt him in his sleep again and again but for the moment he'd try to forget about them – even though he knew that was almost impossible. He had to live with those memories every single day of his life.

The End

//
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