The Sugar Quill
Author: Swirly Head (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Dark Phoenix  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.

A/N This could be set in Harry’s fifth year or fourth year…doesn’t really matter, as it’s a separate event.

**

"Once upon a time there lived a Muggle. She was good and kind and fair...the fairest Muggle in all the land. One day...Seve? Seve, are you listening?"

"Hmmm?"

The little boy with the shock of dark hair turned away from the fire. He smiled at his mother.

"Oh, yes, yes I am...but I can see things...in the fire..."

She shook her head, and closed the book.

"That's enough for tonight then. You stay up, and watch the fire instead."

"I'm not!"

His tone was indignant, yet when she looked back his eyes still followed the dancing flames. She raised an eyebrow.

"What're you doing then?"

"Waiting for a phoenix."

Once more she shook her head, and carefully shut the door. He preferred the darkness, it was easier to see the shapes. Easier to see the phoenix, and when it arrived he'd be happy.

****

"Potter! Weasley! Get back here right now!"

Harry groaned and rolled his eyes. Just his luck to bump into Snape, literally. He and Ron had crashed into the professor and sent his books flying. As Harry turned around, a small bottle rolled towards his foot. He saw it too late and felt himself slipping, only to land with an almighty crash on the stone floor. The sniggers of the Slytherins only increased with Snape's next words.

"Get up, Potter. You've fallen off that broomstick enough times and gotten right up.”

Harry frowned as Ron helped him up. They exchanged dark looks as they picked up the professor’s things. Snape watched, snapping at them if they handled certain bottles too quickly. Something flashed in the corner, and caught Harry's Quidditch-honed eyes. While Snape snatched his belongings away from Ron, Harry

pocketed the shining object. It felt like a necklace.

He didn't really know what possessed him to do it.

"10 points from Gryffindor. Each."

"What!" Ron threw up his arms in exasperation. Snape's eyes narrowed.

"Another 5 points."

The fiery red head looked as though he was going to speak again, but thought better of it and merely glowered at the potions teacher. Harry grabbed Ron and they headed towards the library once more, this time at walking speed. Snape glowered after them.

As they rounded the corner, Harry fished the necklace from his pocket. Ron looked at it curiously. "What's that? It isn't...is that Snape's? Didn't think he was the lockety type."

Harry nodded and fiddled about with the clasp. "I found it on the floor. It looks pretty...well..."

"Girly?" Hermione had come up behind them.  Ron explained about the unfortunate run in with Snape, while Harry struggled with the clasp on the locket. It was very stiff and obviously hadn’t been opened for years. Exasperated, he drew his wand, checked the corridor for teachers, and whispered, “Carrigus.” They had learnt the simple loosening spell in Charms yesterday. With a click, the locket opened.

"Done it!"

Ron leaned over excitedly, but Hermione held back. "That's his private stuff....we shouldn't really..."

"Wow! Do you think she was his girlfriend?"

"Don't know why anyone would want to go out with him..."

She sighed.  "Let me look."

****

He was nervous, more nervous than he'd ever been before in his short life. The trip across the lake had been bad enough. Seve had been pushed to the side of the boat by an excited boy with dark hair, and had nearly fallen in. The other boy had offered his hand.

“Sorry about that. I’m Sirius. Sirius Black.”

Seve had frowned, and refused the offer of help. Sirius had shrugged and turned back to his companions, two other boys. One with dark hair and glasses, another had light brown hair, flecked with grey.

Now here he was, standing in the hall. The hall his father still remembered clear as day.

”Now, Seve, you’ll go into the hall and a professor will bring in the Sorting Hat.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, you put it on your head and it decides which house you’ll belong to.”

”Which one were you in?”

His father puffed out his chest.

“Slytherin. Best house in Hogwarts. Produces powerful wizards, some of the most powerful. Isn’t cluttered with any Mudbloods, either.”

He shivered slightly, although the hall wasn’t cold. Quite the contrary, it was almost stifling in their heavy robes.  He looked at all the other first years. Some way in front of him was that insolent boy from the boat….a little further down the line two girls giggled to each other…then someone directly in front turned around and looked him in the eye.

“Who are you looking for?”

“Um…erm…”

She was beautiful. In all his life Seve had never seen anyone like her. Her long, tawny hair fell to her shoulders, outlining her face with its big blue eyes and perfect smile…

“Are you okay?”

”Yes…yes. I was just looking to see who else was here.”

”Oh…it’s just that you were frowning at that boy…the one at the front?”

Seve started to scowl. “Him. He tried to push me into the lake.” Her eyes widened with shock. ”He seemed nice enough earlier…just shows, you never know.” The girl’s attention flickered back to the stage.

“I can’t wait! My parents haven’t been able to tell me anything…they’re both…what’s the word…Muggles.”

His face fell. Muggle born? She was a Mudblood…a beautiful, pretty, friendly Mudblood, but she was beneath him. That’s what his father always said - beneath him.

“So I found out about the houses…I hope I’m in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, they sound like the best. Although I’m not really very clever…hope I’m not bottom of the class. By the way, my name’s Phoenix Roberts. I know it’s stupid, but my parents are a little…strange. I think my mum’s a little jealous about me being a real witch, to tell the truth.”

“I’m…Severus Snape.”

”So…which house do you want to be in?”

”Why do you want to know? Mudblood.”

Phoenix frowned in confusion, and was about to reply when someone leant over and did it for her. “You shouldn’t call anyone that.”

”I can call people whatever I like.”

“Well, you can call me James Potter. And you’ll call her Phoenix, or else.” The other first year turned to face her.  ”That is your name, right?”

”Yeah…what did he mean…Mudblood?” she asked, eyes searching his face. The boy frowned. ”I’ll tell you later.”

“Or else what?” sneered Snape, ignoring the Mudblood. Potter leaned forward, a confident smile on his face.

“Maybe next time you really will fall in the lake.”

Potter continued to shoot daggers at Seve from his eyes. Seve narrowed his own. Stupid, interfering git. It wasn’t any of his business. Probably trying to play the hero…typical. He’d bet any money that Potter ended up in Gryffindor, and got the girl. Seve decided then that he hated James Potter.

Well, didn’t matter anyway. She really wasn’t his type. In fact, he must have been mistaken. She wasn’t beautiful, just pretty. The torchlight had illuminated her face, and when she turned away it showed the slight frizz to her hair, and the few spots near her chin.

Yet another wizard came over. It was the one with speckled hair. ”Everything alright? Only just met you, and we already seem to be getting into all sorts of trouble.”

He smiled. “I like it.”

James returned the smile. ”Everything’s fine now, Remus. This is Phoenix.”

”Hello.”

”Hi.”

Seve felt another fist of hate as Phoenix gave him a dirty look and carried on the excited conversation with James and Remus. Just then, a great hush fell over the hall, and the hat on the stool, against all probability, started singing.

****

“Well...she is quite.”

“Quite what?”

”Quite…attractive, I suppose.”

Ron gave Hermione a withering glance. In his eyes, the girl in the locket was very pretty. She had blue eyes and sort of dark honey coloured hair. Usually pictures of wizards moved, but on closer inspection this particular picture revealed itself as a painting. It was only a few centimeters high, and very skillfully done. Harry started to shut the locket again, with a sigh.

”You’re right, Hermione. It’s his…and we shouldn’t look.”

“Wait a minute…it says something.” interrupting his friend, Ron took the locket from Harry, and Hermione rolled her eyes. Ignoring her, he cleared his throat. “With love always, Phoenix.”

Harry looked surprised and a little impressed. “Maybe Snape wasn’t always so…um…greasy.”

“Phoenix?” snorted Hermione. “Funny sort of name, if you ask me.”

”Well no-one did.” Ron said, defensively. They started to walk towards the staff room, Harry with more than a little dread in each step. It had been he, after all, who had picked up the necklace. Although he didn’t know why he’d done it, Snape was almost sure to accuse him of stealing. He gulped nervously as they reached the door.

Raised his hand and knocked.

****

Orange and black decorations dominated the school. He ducked and narrowly avoided a laughing pumpkin that spat pumpkin seeds at anyone so impolite as to knock it. Snape scowled and pushed it right off the table. In his five years at Hogwarts, he always managed to bump into the same pumpkin every Halloween. Every year. He smirked a little as he ground a particularly gooey piece into the stone floor, then started at the sound of high pitched, giggling voices. If anyone saw what he’d done, he’d be in trouble. Slipping behind a convenient gargoyle, he waited for the voices to pass. Instead, they stopped to survey the mess.

“Oh no! Look what someone’s done to Percy!”

”Percy?”

“I was talking to him last night…don’t look at me like that!”

”Like what?”

”Like...Lily’s going potty, talking to pumpkins.”

”More like…Lily’s going potty over Potter!”

The giggling started again, and Severus felt like groaning. Fee and Lily. Just what he needed. And he didn’t want to hear Phoenix explain Lily’s entire bloody infatuation with Potter…he really didn’t know what she saw in him. Just because the idiot could fly a broomstick, he thought he was better than everyone.

“Fee, you can’t talk. Remus this, Remus that. Anyone would think he was the Head Boy, Headmaster of Hogwarts, and Minister of Magic rolled into one.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Phoenix said primly. Snape could just see them from behind the gargoyle. Lily had a knowing expression on her pretty face, and Fee was twirling her hair around a finger. He wanted to gag. The two girls were all airy and light, talking about the stupid Gryffindor prats…never had time for someone like him…not that he wanted time. Not with that pair of Mudbloods.

“So, do you think James is going to ask me to the dance?”

Phoenix snorted. ”Of course he will! He’s been drooling all over you for months.”

”Maybe I should make my dress robes waterproof.”

The giggling started again as the two friends walked a little further down the corridor, whispered the password to the Fat Lady, and disappeared into the Gryffindor common room. Snape shook his head, and went in the opposite direction, to see the other Slytherins. It was time he saw about asking someone to the dance.

*****

“What is it now Potter?”

The potions master looked down his hooked nose at Harry. The young wizard felt his friends step back, ever so slightly. “I…uh…when you…uh…dropped your…er…things I…uh…”

“Spit it out, boy! You sound like Longbottom with a speech impediment. And fewer brains, if that’s possible.”

”I found this.”

He thrust the necklace forward, angry at Snape’s references to Neville. The professor stared at it in disbelief for a second, then snatched it from Harry’s hand. Looking suspiciously at the trio, he opened it and read the inscription. Pocketing the necklace, when he next spoke it was in a quiet voice, that somehow more menacing than when he shouted.

“You will report to me for detention throughout the week, Potter. I shall go and address this matter with Dumbledore. Stealing from a member of staff is a very serious offence. Very serious.”

Harry began to protest, but Snape had already shut the staff room door. ”But…”

”Slimy bastard.” Ron’s face was red with anger. “You returned the bloody thing!” 

”Don’t worry, Harry. Dumbledore will know it wasn’t anything like stealing.” said Hermione, as she stopped Ron from knocking down the staff room door with his wand. “Just leave it.”

*****

Music filled the great hall. Seve winced at the loud sound, and smirked as Evan Rosier and Augustus Rookwood, two older Slytherins, tripped some second years on their way to the hall.

This year at Hogwarts the Halloween celebration was accompanied by a ball. Many of the younger students were arriving in groups, but most of the older ones had paired up. Severus himself was with Natalie Crowley.  She had a rather bony face, and lank black hair, yet she was a Slytherin through and through.

The group of older Slytherins made a dramatic entrance into the hall. All cloaked in black, all wearing smirks and frowns, they cut through the other students and made a beeline for their table. Professor Malakin, head of their house, nodded approvingly from the top table.

“Seve…would you get me a drink?” drawled Natalie, pointing at the end of the hall. Severus smiled silkily, his expression turning to a scowl as he attempted to cross the dance floor. He made it to the punch bowl, and started to pour a cup for Natalie. The drink was red, and eyeballs floated in it. Another fifth year waited impatiently behind him, and Seve glanced back. It was Lupin. He deliberately spent longer, and when he finally finished, didn’t completely move. Lupin flashed him a wary look, and with some difficulty started to fill two glasses himself.

The other wizard was wearing handsome robes of dark green, and Severus felt the familiar pang of jealousy as he looked down at his own. Expensive as they were, they did nothing to improve his appearance.

“So, Lupin. Who’ve you come with tonight? Find yourself a nice dog from Hogsmeade? A real bitch?”

To Severus’ extreme annoyance and extreme surprise, Lupin turned around and smiled happily at him. Then Snape heard someone else’s footsteps approaching and realized that Lupin was smiling at the owner.

It was her. Radiant in golden robes, that were tight at the bodice and full skirted, she smiled back coquettishly.

“Here you are Fee.”

”Thank you! What’s that...oh Remus! That’s disgusting.” 

She gingerly fished out an eyeball from the glass and held it between her forefinger and thumb, looked at it critically. “They’re very realistic.”

With an appropriately wolfish grin, Lupin bent down and ate the eyeball from her fingers. She blushed and laughed at the same time. He swallowed and grimaced at the taste. “Let’s just hope they only looked real…”

Sirius bounded up to them. “The place looks great, doesn’t it? I just saw Dumbledore. He wanted me to warn people about the sheep eyeballs in the punch bowl.” 

As Lupin went green and ran off, followed by Phoenix and Sirius, who were trying not to explode with laughter, a thin smile crossed Severus’ lips. Showoff. Got exactly what he deserved. A faster song started, and he hoped Natalie would want to dance to it. If there was one thing he was good at, it was dancing, strangely enough. Well, he was also good at potions and being snide…but he preferred dancing.

“Ah…Seve…just the wizard I wanted to see.”

“Professor Malakin. How can I be of service?”

”I was wondering…with your expertise in the potions department, you should perhaps set your sights on higher goals.”

“Higher goals, sir?”

When Malakin spoke again, his voice was little more than a whisper. “Things that Hogwarts could never offer. There’s a new power rising, Severus, strong and dark. Voldemort.”

He hissed the last word with such conviction that Seve felt a thrill of excitement travel down his spine. Malakin straightened up and his voice returned to normal. “If you’re interested, I’ll be discussing it with the other Slytherins later. Together, we can make the Slytherin name great again. Think about it.”

Distracted, Snape returned to the table with the drinks, his head full of ideas. Voldemort. Power, dark power.

There was sudden noisy laughter from the Gryffindor table. Everyone glanced over. Potter and Pettigrew were laughing at a sheepish Remus, who had his arm wrapped around Fee. Black seemed to be recounting the eyeball story yet again to a chuckling Professor Dumbledore and a wide eyed Lily.

Make the Slytherin name great again? Pull them from the shadows, let them be the ones who laughed with the headmaster…

He decided to take Malakin’s advice and think about it.

Natalie stood up. “Come on, Seve. I want to dance.” He sighed, then noticed that Potter was awkwardly guiding Lily around the floor. Always had to out do him at every turn. Well, at least this one area in which he excelled.

Taking Natalie’s hand, he whirled her onto the dance floor. They then proceeded to twirl and move in time to the music, Snape gaining admiring yells and cheers from each table excepting the Gryffindors. They merely looked sour. That was only to be expected…after all, they liked to think of themselves as unbeatable. Always had to be the best at everything.

Something hit him squarely in the back, and he noted amused looks from the Gryffindors.

”Ow! What was..”

”Sorry, Severus.”

Black twirled his date, the giggling Lucille LeFaye, in the opposite direction. Snape scowled, and Natalie shook her head. “Sirius Black has no manners…no respect for anyone!”

Another couple took to the floor, and Snape could tell from the inane whistle by Black that it was Lupin and Phoenix. He saw them from the corner of his eye…even though it was a fast song, they were slow dancing in a circle, bodies pressed close together, her head resting lightly on his chest…she wouldn’t be that comfortable if she knew the truth.

The truth. An idea began to seep slowly into Seve’s mind, black and sinuous and lethal. What a perfect way to pay back Potter and his Marauders for their harmless little prank, the same prank that had nearly killed him. Of course, it would hurt Remus far more than any of the others…he noticed the way Lupin’s fingers were tangled in her hair, the way his eyes were closed…but who cared?

For the first time that evening Severus Snape gave the room a genuine smile, as the song ended and he returned to the tables for the start of the feast.

****

He stood impatiently by the stone gargoyle, trying to remember the latest password to Dumbledore’s office. In his agitation it had gone right out of his head. Some sort of sweet…

“Bertie Botts.”

The gargoyle moved aside, and he climbed the steps, a malevolent smile on his face. Potter had finally overstepped the mark. Dumbledore must realize it. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door to Dumbledore’s office. There was a shuffling of papers, and then a voice. “Come in. Ah, Severus.”

“Professor Dumbledore, I’ve a serious matter to discuss with you.”

The white haired, long bearded headmaster of Hogwarts stood up. “I’m afraid it shall have to wait a few moments longer.”

”But…”

He raised his hand. “I’m sorry, Severus, I promised I’d send this letter and it really won’t keep. I shall only be a few minutes, so sit down, make yourself comfortable.”

Snape started to protest too late. He was gone. With a sigh of exasperation he sat down heavily in a nearby chair. His gaze was drawn to the locket in his hand.

How long had it been since he’d seen her face?

Shakily, he started to undo the clasp. And stopped as the memories washed over him once again.

****

It had been over a year since the Halloween ball. He had decided against enlightening Fee about Lupin’s condition.

Yet.

The important things always seemed to happen at the holiday time of year. Maybe it was because holidays were dramatic. Emotions ran high, good or bad. His were a mixture of both.

Good because he was well on the way to learning the Dark Arts, to becoming more powerful than Potter or any of his miserable allies could ever dream of. Bad because he still festered in the dark while they shone, the brightest stars of the school.

James and Lily were tipped for Head Boy and Head Girl next year. Sirius still seemed to enjoy the single life, yet was never short of offers from those who wished he’d enjoy the other sort. Phoenix and Remus simply went from strength to strength.

Not for long. He grinned to himself as he walked towards the library. Malakin had requested that they meet there during lesson time today, to hone their skills. To become, to ascend. That was all he ever wanted. All he ever dreamed of.

That and the look on Phoenix Robert’s face when he told her that Remus Lupin was a werewolf.

****

Sitting in Dumbledore’s study, Snape stared at the locket in his hands, remembering. Remembered the look on Lupin’s face last year, when they’d met again. Angry, but ever the gentlemen, ever the star of the school, ever the good one, the kind one, he was restrained.

In his shabby robes, not a thing to his name.

He remembered.

****

Seve fell quickly into step alongside Lily and Fee. They both wrinkled their noses, and gave him a snide glance. Lily raised an eyebrow.

“What do you want?”

”I need to borrow a book. I’ve lost my Arithmancy textbook.”

”Well, won’t one of your slimy ‘friends’ lend you theirs?”

He struggled to keep the hatred and sarcasm from his voice, and almost succeeded. “No, Fee.” How he despised the abbreviation of her name. Fee. It sounded so common, like a sparrow’s song. It was incomparable to the beauty and magnificence of a phoenix. Black had started it, naturally, and now everyone called her that. A term of endearment.

“Phoenix. You’ll call me Phoenix.”

“No, Phoenix. It’s Advanced Arithmancy and only two other people take the course. One of them is Lily. So if you wouldn’t mind…”

The other pretty girl rolled her eyes and shook her dark red, shoulder length hair. “Alright, Severus. Follow me. Just stand in the common room and wait for me to get the book, shouldn’t take long.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence. Upon reaching the Fat Lady, Fee gave him an intense look of dislike, and Lily stood in front of her so he couldn’t hear what she said.

The portrait swung aside and Severus Snape stepped into the Gryffindor common room for the first time in his life. Never having been on friendly terms with any Gryffindors, he’d not been invited back here before. It was, predictably, decorated largely in red and gold, with winding staircases that lead to the dormitories. It was certainly impressive, although he felt more at ease in the cool green and silver Slytherin room.

Some comfortable looking crimson leather chairs were set by the blazing fire. Potter was sitting in one, reading a book. Fee gave Snape one last scowl and went to join him, talking quietly and watching the game of chess between Black and Lupin. Snape noticed Potter turn around and look at him. He flashed a sickly grin, which the other wizard ignored and turned back to his friend.

Perfect. The whole gang was here. A few second years came in behind him, but went straight up to the dormitory, passing Lily who was on her way back with the book. Perfect, perfect, perfect. “Here you are Severus. Could you give it back to me before Saturday? Only I wanted to do some research on the next topic.”

At the mention of his name the other four all exchanged glances. He pretended not to notice, and took the book. “Thank you. Did you have any trouble with the astronomical divider portent?” To his delight, the others were all looking completely puzzled at his words.

“Um...no...not really.”

”So you worked out that the first full moon of the month will be tonight then.”

He had their attention. Potter, ever the champion, stood up. “You’ve got what you wanted. Now go.”

Severus held up his hands in submission. “Of course, of course. Just wondered if Remus was going to be locked up tonight or not.” Fee and Lily exchanged looks, then Fee shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

He faked surprise and put a hand to his mouth. “You mean you…you don’t know? He never told you? And I thought you two were so…close.” She frowned and turned to Lupin, who was just sitting there, hunched up in his chair, staring at the chess board.

Snape carried on. “I mean, if I really loved someone…I’d want them to know everything about me. All the little secrets…that is, if I trusted them.”

Lily looked completely confused, even more so when Sirius and James started threateningly towards Snape. He backed up a little, but wouldn’t leave until he’d delivered the final blow. “I can understand, Remus,” he called out to the hunched over shape in the chair, “why you wouldn’t want your girlfriend to know you’re a werewolf.”

Silence. As silent as a moment could ever be. The fire still crackled and spat, the room remained as warm as ever. No sudden chill descended, no melodramatic crash of thunder signified that things had changed forever.

All because of him.

She blinked a few times, unbelievingly. Revenge was sweet, as he saw Remus rise. Face still, eyes full of sadness and anger. The anger of course, directed at Snape…and perhaps a little of it at the wolf within.

“Is…is it true? Is what he says true?” she asked him in a quiet, almost pleading voice.

He nodded, and saw her start to shake, tears formed in her eyes. With a glare at Snape full of hatred, he pushed past Sirius and stormed out of the common room. Severus thought he heard the distant voice of the Fat Lady, protesting at the rough handling.

“Get out.”

Fee was looking up at him through watery eyes, her lips curved into a snarl. Animalistic almost….two of a kind.

“GET OUT!”

She flew at Snape, drawing her wand, and Lily grabbed her. “He’s not worth it…he’s not worth it…” she repeated in a soothing voice. He gave them all another chilling smile. One that didn’t quite reach the eyes.

“Goodnight.” He was nearly gone, but couldn’t resist one last parting shot. “Oh…I’d go looking for Lupin if I were you…wouldn’t want him loose on a night like this.”

*****

He stretched and yawned. It was early Sunday morning, and as drowsy recollections of last night seeped into his brain, Snape smiled. There were only three days to go until Christmas holidays, and he had succeeded in making two people he hated utterly miserable.

It was a very good morning indeed.

He had risen early for a reason. The potions lab would be empty, and he wanted to try out a new idea he had for a particularly lethal sort of sleeping draught. Working on the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ hypothesis, Seve believed he could create a potion which would send the drinker into a deep sleep, only to be reawakened by certain stimuli. It was his N.E.W.Ts potions project, and very important.

Inside the potions room he was calm. The smell of fleawort, the cool stone walls, the satisfying bubble of the cauldrons…peace. Until he heard voices, familiar voices, and footsteps approaching.

The footsteps stopped in the room next to the one he was currently in. Curious, Severus crept silently to the adjoining door and listened.

“Why are you running away from me?”

There was a thud of something being thrown to the floor. “Because you don’t want to see me…I don’t want you to see me. You’re angry, you hate me, and I know why…but it hurts. So go.”

“No…no, you don’t see at all, I don’t hate you.”

”What? Oh, alright then, you don’t hate me…you’re just disgusted.” The second speaker’s voice moved to the other side of the room, towards the door Snape was leaning on. He prepared to jump back, as the handle began to twist.

“Where did you get that idea from?”

Pause. The handle stopped.

“That idea would be from when you started crying, denying the truth and ignored me!”

”I did not ignore you!” Getting angrier. “I just couldn’t believe…”

“That I’m a monster?”

“No…” she softened her tone. “That you didn’t tell me.”

”I didn’t tell you….why on earth would I tell you something like that?”

”You told James! You told Sirius! You told Peter! Do you trust them more…more than I thought you trusted me?” She was really angry now, and both of their voices were full volume.

“Don’t be so stupid…look, I just thought…it’s different…”

”How is it at all different? Please tell me, how you see it as being different. Because I see it as another sort of lie.”

Silence. Snape’s smile returned. Good, they were arguing and it didn’t look like either side was going to give in.

”I…I was scared.” There was the sound of someone scratching their head, and lighter footsteps moved towards the door.

His face fell.

“Scared?”

”I was scared, Fee. Scared of what you’d think, scared that I’d lose you…don’t you see? You mean more to me than anything…I’d be lost without you.” He gave a bitter laugh. “If I told you, I was almost sure you’d be okay with it. But there was always a splinter of doubt…what if you rejected me? I couldn’t bear it. Even the thought of it drove me mad…I wanted to tell you, and Lily. To share it with you…I need you to know every part of me.”

For Salazar’s sakes, she was crying.

“I never…I thought…I thought you didn’t love me.”

Her voice became muffled in what could only have been an embrace. Whispered words.

“You’re the only thing I ever have.”

Disgusted, Severus waited for them to leave, clenching and unclenching his fists. When she was sure they had gone, he yelled and kicked an empty cauldron to the floor. Scattered ingredients everywhere, sending red sparks into the air from the tip of his wand.

This wasn’t over yet.

*****

“There’s something strange about that girl,” Harry said, chewing thoughtfully on his quill pen, before realizing that it had leaked ink into his mouth. Ron was only half listening, frantically trying to scribble down the rest of the Transfiguration homework in time for next lesson. “What girl?”

”Phoenix. The one in that necklace.”

His friend frowned. “Only thing wrong with her was that she fell in love with Snape.” The thought seemed to disgust him, and he wrinkled his nose before carrying on writing. Harry wouldn’t drop it though. She looked familiar. He had the weirdest feeling that he’d seen her somewhere before, in a painting, or a book, or…

Or a photograph.

He ran upstairs to the dormitory and pulled out the heavy photo album Hagrid had given him a couple of years ago. Impatiently he leafed through the now familiar pages until he found what he was looking for. Most of the photos were just pictures of his mum and dad, and most had been taken after they’d left Hogwarts. There were, however, a few group photos.

This one showed a group of six wizards and witches. His mum was sharing a chair with his dad; Sirius was holding a sign saying ‘Gryffindors ‘s’ on the end of Gryffindor are Great’. Pettigrew was smiling timidly in the corner, and next to Sirius stood Professor Lupin with his arm draped loosely around the girl from the locket. Phoenix. They were all waving, and laughing together.

He called out to Ron and Hermione. They both came quickly, Ron complaining that he still had homework to finish, and this had better be important…Harry thrust the album underneath their noses.

“Look.”

”The old gang, after the N.E.W.Ts. Party time!” said Hermione in a questioning sort of voice. The other two looked at her. She pointed to the picture. “That’s what it says, underneath. Then there’s all their names. Are there any more pictures of her, Harry?”

He shook his head. “After that, nothing.”

”Well, she looks pretty cosy with old Lupin. Maybe she dumped him for Snape?” ventured Ron. Hermione raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Why would she want to do that?”

Ron tried hard to keep a straight face. “First Lockhart, now Professor Lupin…do you have a thing for Defense of the Dark Arts teachers?”

She scowled. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just Professor Lupin and Professor Snape are about as different as it’s possible to get!”

“Phoenix Roberts. That was her full name,” intoned Harry, still staring at his parents’ smiling faces. No matter how many times he saw them, it caused a pang of sorrow in his heart. He often imagined what it would have been like if they were still alive. He would’ve known Sirius long ago, and Professor Lupin, and maybe even Phoenix…

“Phoenix Roberts? P. Roberts! So that’s who she is…I always wondered what the P stood for,” said Hermione, excitedly.

“What do you mean, P. Roberts? Who is she?” asked Harry, curiously. Ron groaned. “And if you’re going to ask us whether we’ve read ‘Hogwarts: A History’ yet, then don’t. Just don’t.”

“I’ll do better than tell you. I’ll show you.”

*****

Something snatched the locket from his hand.

“What the…give that back!”

Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, had taken the necklace and wrapped it around his perch, causing the potions master to sneer. “How appropriate,” he said under his breath, “a phoenix for a phoenix.” Carefully he removed the necklace from Fawkes’ stand, and sat down again, facing the bird.

It really was handsome.

Red and gold fiery plumage, that moved faster than flames in the fire. Intelligent eyes, black and glittering like lumps of ebony coal. Snape used to be interested in the phoenix. He knew a lot about the species. One little known fact was that were actually two types of phoenix. The golden phoenix and the dark phoenix. The first variety would be born again from their ashes, were practically immortal. A dark phoenix was slightly different. It

shined with the same brilliant golden light, had the same healing powers, the same beauty, the same bravery.

Yet a dark phoenix had only one life. Once it’d fire burnt out, it was gone forever. As a result of this, they were extremely rare.

She had been a dark phoenix.

*****

Seven years. Severus Snape had spent seven years at this place, this school, and now it would soon be ended. The N.E.W.Ts results had come back today. He’d passed Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration with flying colours. Not that it mattered, anyway. For tonight was the night, when he would ride for the first time, one of a new order…a Death Eater.

Training had been hard, but thinking of the power…of the stupid idiots who for seven years had thought him to be less than worthy of their time, their company, their friendship. Of how good things were going to be.

He was the last to leave the Slytherin common room. They just had to sit through dinner in the hall and then slip away during Dumbledore’s final speech, a little earlier than everyone else. For they weren’t catching the Express, but flying in a broomstick convoy to meet with other Death Eaters, some from as far away as Durmstrang.

A thrill of anticipation coursed through him as he pulled on black robes, and saw them cover the new tattoo on his forearm.

Dinner was a mundane affair. The Slytherin table was quiet, mostly because the older Slytherins were deep in thought about what would be happening later tonight. The Ravenclaws were all in high spirits, most of them having passed at the top of every class. In contrast the Hufflepuffs seemed a little down, probably as they were last in the running for the House Cup yet again. The Gryffindors were predictably the loudest table, the hall decorated in red and gold in honor of their victory.

He watched them for a while. Lily and James had been made Head Boy and Girl. Well, it was no more than he expected. Some of the first years were gazing up at the older ones in adoration, especially the livelier than usual Sirius. He seemed in especially high spirits, cracking new jokes every few minutes. The others all thought he was hysterical, until he started to choke on a cracker. Alarmed, Lupin pointed his wand at Black’s throat.

Waddiwasi!” he yelled, and the cracker shot from Sirius’ throat. It hit Snape in the forehead, and stuck there, held in place by spit.

Lupin’s eyes widened and wordlessly he pointed at Snape, everyone’s eyes following his hand. The entire table descended into fits of helpless laughter, while Fee practically collapsed into her boyfriend’s arms. He called out to Severus.

“Sorry about that!”

Snarling, he wiped the mess from his head and turned back to his food. Sirius made some comment about his forehead needing the spit shine so it would match his greasy hair. Seve tried to block the words from his mind, and was glad when the Slytherins **on either side of him began to threaten the Gryffindors.

Luckily for both houses, Dumbledore chose that moment to take to the stage. Snape waited until his attention was elsewhere and slipped from the hall unnoticed. Before he went to join the other Death Eaters at the entrance, he needed to borrow something from the Gryffindor common room. James Potter had an invisibility cloak, and it would prove very useful. Now was the perfect opportunity. He had overheard the password a few

days ago, from some rowdy second years, who really should’ve known better.

Carefully he whispered it to the Fat Lady.

“Snowy Owl.”

She squinted at him. “You’re not a Gryffindor. What do you want here?”

”Look. I’ve told you the password. Open up.”

”I don’t know…”

”It’s the rules. I’m a…friend of James. He wanted me to get something for him.” 

With a sigh she swung open, revealing the entrance to the Gryffindor common room.” Well, if you’re James’ friend…” she added, doubtfully. He smiled and climbed inside. Quickly he ran up to the seventh year dormitory, and looked around for the cloak. It was crumpled in a silvery heap on the floor.

“What in Godric’s name do you think you’re doing?”

He spun around and saw Fee. She was glaring at him, with hands on hips.

“I’m…I’m…” For once, he was lost for words. She took in the invisibility cloak, and looked back to is face.

“You were going to steal it, weren’t you? I’m going straight to Dumbledore.” She started towards him, and he noticed that she was clutching something in her left hand. It caught the light. Probably she’d come back up here to get in and had heard him walking around.

There was nothing else for it. He moved quickly. Grabbing the cloak, he wrapped it around himself and pushed past her. Before she had a chance to react, he became invisible. Phoenix swore under her breath and ran for the entrance. He got out just before she blocked it, but it was no use. She’d felt him slip past her, and followed him.

He took the left corridor, the one leading to the entrance hall. Hopefully, she’d have no idea where he had gone and would be forced to go and tell the others. By then it would already be too late. She appeared to be listening very carefully. Snape felt like cursing under his breath as she ran after him, following the sound of footsteps.

They were nearly at the entrance hall. His goal was in sight when finally, disaster struck. The edge of the cloak caught on a nearby stone raven, and slipped from his back. She caught up with him, and grabbed the cloak. They both raised their wands, panting with the sudden exertion.

“You…you won’t get away with this.”

”I…already...have.”

”What do you mean? Everyone…has to answer…to Dumbledore.” She sounded puzzled, yet kept her wand pointed at him.

“Not me. Not anymore.”

”I don’t understand.”

”Oh no. You wouldn’t, would you?” A sudden bubble of anger welled up in his throat. This was the perfect time to let her know what he really thought of her and all her idiotic friends. “You have a wonderful life. All of you do.”

”All of who?”

”You, Potter, Evans, Lupin, Black. You’re all good looking, all clever, all Dumbledore’s favourites…what would you know about suffering? About being teased and picked on and never being the one everybody loves. The one everybody wants!” He was shouting now, but she didn’t look impressed or remorseful. Instead, her face was screwed up in anger.

“How dare you presume to know anything about me or my friends! You make it sound like…like we’re perfect! We all have our own problems.”

”Tell me one. Just one.”

”Here’s some, you horrible little snake.” Phoenix started to count them off on her fingers as she spoke. “Sirius hasn’t got a Sickle to his name at the moment, Lily’s mother died a few weeks ago, James was rejected for the England Quidditch Team so has absolutely no idea what to do with his life anymore and I only managed to scrape through my N.E.W.Ts with a high mark in Charms and one in Defense Against the Dark Arts because

the man I’m in love with just happens to be a werewolf, and very good at that sort of thing!”

She was momentarily breathless after this outburst, but carried on. “In a way though, I suppose you’re right. We are very lucky. We’re lucky because we’ve got friends. We’ve got people who love us and need us and will be there for us no matter what.” Phoenix lowered her wand. “I pity you, Severus. Because you haven’t got anyone.”

His blood boiled with the intense hatred that comes only when someone has just told you a truth you don’t want to hear. He raised his wand and his lips began  to form words.

“Avada Kedavra!”

Two words. She fell. Dark golden hair, curled especially for tonight’s celebration, fanned out around her head. She hit the floor with a loud crack, yet no blood poured from her skull. Robes of gold, her favourite colour, sparkled in the torchlight reflecting the shimmer on to her face, giving her a halo.

Her hand smashed hard against the stone, bruising the skin around her knuckles. It opened and a small box flew across the flagstones, landing near his feet. The laughing blue eyes dimmed forever and Phoenix Roberts lay still.

A dark phoenix, never to rise again.

He turned around slowly, and saw Professor Malakin, lowering his wand once more. “You…you killed her.”

“Feeling squeamish, Snape? It’ll soon pass. Filthy Mudblood. She’d only have been dealt with later, anyway. She was the first to fall…but not the last. Not by a long way.” A cold smile crept across the man’s face, and Snape watched him walk outside.

He bent down and picked up the box. Scrawled in untidy handwriting, he could make out the words ‘To Remus’.  Lifted the lid to reveal a necklace. A small locket hung from it, and he opened it to show a painting of her face. ‘With love always, Phoenix.’

It hit him, then. That he was responsible for her death. That the Gryffindors would laugh no more. He meant to stop them laughing for a few days. Not forever. Now forever he had stolen a piece of laughter from their hearts, something that was simply irreplaceable. And the tears would come, no more gold, not for them. Everything would be black.

She was dead.

“What’s all the noise? All students should be in the…Miss Roberts?”

Damn. He ran for the door, yet hung in the shadows. Snape wanted to watch. He wanted to see. The young Transfiguration professor, Minerva McGonagall, ran towards the body on the floor.

“Miss Roberts? Phoenix? Fee? Oh no…help! Somebody help me!”

He watched as they ran in from the hall, first in small groups, then as the rumor spread…someone had died…in larger groups, pushing and shoving. Dumbledore cut through the crowds and the other staff members held the students back. He could see what was going to happen next. A murmur started…murmur about murder…and a

sudden hush descended on the students.

He could only stare at the back of the hall, and the tops of their heads.

People stood aside to let them through. Everybody knew them, knew the Marauders, they were famous. Famous for their daring and talent and bravery, their kindness and cleverness and wit. Everybody loved them. And it scared them all to think that they weren’t invulnerable, that bad things could happen to good people.

All of their faces were blank. He could see Sirius’ lips moving, repeating over and over ‘it can’t be true, it can’t be true’. Until they saw. It was true.

Lily burst into tears on the spot, loud heavy sobs. James held her, hugged her tightly, and having looked once at the body didn’t look again. Black and Pettigrew, with tears in their own eyes tried to stop Lupin from seeing, but it was too late. He pushed past them, and knelt down, put her head on his knees. Stroked her hair as tears rolled down his face.

Sirius grabbed Dumbledore roughly, and Snape heard his voice faintly. “No, there has to be something you can do, she isn’t dead, she can’t be…it must be a spell or something. Not Fee.” He stared forlornly at the body. “Not Fee.”

“She’s dead.” That was Lupin. When he looked up, his eyes were blank. The tears running down his face were the only emotion visible. He seemed numb. Severus put it down to shock.

Malakin came up behind him, and pulled him away. “There’s one last thing to do. Then we must leave.” Carefully, the former Professor aimed his wand at the sky above Phoenix’s body. “Morsmordre.”

An emerald skull, entwined with a snake, formed above the student’s heads. Dumbledore waved them all back, gasps and shouts filled the room. The last thing he saw was the Marauders, huddled around her broken body, ignorant of the Dark Mark hanging over their heads. The only thing they cared about was that one of their best friends was dead. It made something sit uneasily on his heart.

Before he could think about it, Malakin pulled him away from the doors, away from Hogwarts, to join the other Death Eaters. They rode away without a backwards glance.

*****

“P. Roberts,” Hermione continued, opening the book with a flourish, “was the first victim of Voldemort, the first who’s death was signed with the Dark Mark. She was killed right here at Hogwarts.”

”Wow. And she was one of your parents’ friends. Harry? Do you think we should write to Sirius about the necklace? I’m starting to think that it wasn’t Snape’s. Harry?”

Harry was staring at the picture in ‘Hogwarts: A History’. It was a school picture, taken in her fifth year. She looked older in the painting, but no by much. Waving and smiling, she had no idea what was going to happen to her when that picture was taken. It had just been another day. He wondered what she’d done. Teased Sirius? Joked with his mother? Done some last minute homework with his father? Kissed Professor Lupin?

Voldemort’s first victim. He always thought of his parents whenever people talked about Voldemort, and neither Sirius nor Professor Lupin had ever mentioned a Phoenix. Why should they? It was obviously a painful subject. Three of their friends fallen to Voldemort. He glanced at the photograph in his album. Lupin and Phoenix had

stopped waving and were smiling at each other, their heads close together. For Lupin, two of his friends and perhaps something even more precious…

He shook his head. “We should go and see Dumbledore. If that necklace belongs to anyone, I think it’s Professor Lupin.”

*****

“So, Severus, what can I do for you?”

Snape snapped from his thoughts, and stared at Dumbledore as though they’d never met before.

”Oh…yes…I…”

”In your own time.”

“Potter…”

That name had never brought to mind so many images as it did now, all of them painful, none of them welcome.

“Potter found this necklace. I believe it belongs to Remus.”

Interested, Dumbledore took the locket from Snape’s outstretched hand. It sprang open under his touch, and he made a small surprised noise at the picture and inscription within.

”Phoenix…poor, dear child. Dreadful business…I cried for days, and I wasn’t the only one. Not by a long way. Tragic, really it was. I remember James couldn’t persuade Remus to leave his room for weeks...and when he did, all he’d do was eat and just sit there. Then one day, he woke up and realized she was never going to walk through the door. Started to live again.” The headmaster paused and looked thoughtfully at Snape. “The day after that, Voldemort killed James and Lily.”

He shook his head, and they sat in silence a moment longer. Snape cleared his throat. “You’ll send it to Lupin then.” Dumbledore nodded, and with a final glance at the necklace Severus left the office.

She was gone. After all these years, he’d finally let her go.

On his way out, he bumped into Potter, Weasley and Granger. “10 points from Gryffindor. Twice in one day, Potter.”

”We need to see the Headmaster.”

“Oh, you do, do you? Well, if it’s about that miserable trinket, he’s sending it to Professor Lupin by owl as we speak.” He registered the look of shock on their faces with something approaching satisfaction, and leaned a little closer. “You don’t think I’d keep something that wasn’t mine, do you, Potter?” he hissed. With that, he headed towards the staff room.

It had been a long day, and all he wanted to do was sit down. Maybe he could read up on the phoenix.

He hadn’t realized before how much he missed them.

//
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