I Won’t Dance
that it would do Severus good to attend. He said that Severus had to stop
living in the past and accept that he could change his future. He also said
that first years were endearing and socks were better gifts than books.
not understand how sitting surrounded by rambunctious, ignorant twits
emboldened by too many sweets was going to help him forget his life’s
travesties. He would obey the whimsy of Albus Dumbledore even though he would
rather have taken dinner in the dungeons as was his custom. If the Headmaster
felt that sitting amidst this joyous chaos, complete with singing skulls, was
fitting penance for his sins, he’d attend a feast every night.
This day though.
It had to be the first official feast of the year. How could it not make him
think of last year, of the demons in the night before All Saints Day? He had
not been there, but he knew. He knew what Voldemort looked like when he
delivered the Killing Curse in his cold, detached voice. The impassive face and
the triumph in those dead eyes was more chilling than the laughter of the most
sadistic Death Eaters.
There had been
no torture that night, only death. Yet he survived to sit among the joy and be
forced to remember how many people he had deprived of it. Why did the world
celebrate a day that held no happiness?
He knew the
older students were toasting more than just All Hallow’s Eve; they were raising
their glasses to the Boy Who Lived. To Harry Potter, the infant made a hero by
accident of birth. Harry Potter was still, a year later, too young to
understand the events of his parents’ deaths and his own miraculous life. The
true heroes of the war were unlauded, unnoticed. They were passed over for a
babe in arms barely able to talk at the time the Dark Lord’s deadly spell
still suffered suspicion and whispering and exile. It didn’t matter what he had
done, or what Dumbledore told the world. It only mattered that he had the Dark
Mark burned into him. He was branded as Voldemort’s own.
It was a fate he
could do naught but accept. He resigned himself to it the day Dumbledore did
not curse him and turn him away. He was exonerated without a trial, with only
the good word and plans of Albus Dumbledore keeping him from Azkaban with his
But that word
did not reach the masses and did not keep him from an unstable perch on the
line between acceptance and condemnation. He reemerged after years of
subterfuge to find a world unwilling to accept him. That he could not account
for his last few years was as good as confessing his guilt. The assumed guilt
meant he was of no consequence to anyone, a non-entity in society.
Yet he lived
surrounded by young people, people just beginning to find their places in life.
They were reminders of what he would never have, of his mistakes as a child and
how they made a life within the wizarding world impossible. But he had to watch
them exalt in their youth and promise and lift their glasses and toast a world
without Voldemort’s oppression, innocent of the eternal consequences of the
Dark Lord’s rise and fall.
Did no one but
him remember that Voldemort was not the only one to die that night? The hollow
victory was to them as solid and as true as death. There was no thought for those that fell along the way, no public
grief for the many victims of the reign of terror. There was only personal
worry before his fall and unrestrained relief for their own survival after that
Even Albus Dumbledore
forgot the loss for the gain. He encouraged everyone to go on with their lives.
He gave Severus a job just to emphasize the normalcy of the world without
Voldemort. He wouldn’t have Severus idling away in self recrimination. There
was no use dwelling in the past, he said, when there was living to be done in
There was no
life for Severus. There would be no life for him, but if Dumbledore could use
what was left of him, he would submit to this hell. He would deal with the day
to day misery of trying to impart knowledge to distracted children with no
drive for to learn and no respect for anything, and less for their once-Death
Eater professor. He had held his teaching position only since the start of
term, but he had already heard whispers when his back was turned. He had
already recognized the uselessness of trying to convey the delicate art of
potions making to the students who sat in the dungeon. It was his punishment,
his sentence, and he would serve it as justice required.
cheerful Scottish voice interrupted. “Have you forgotten this is a party? That
scowl is going to give the students the wrong idea about how you feel regarding
the victory.” The cheer had turned stern, revealing the real purpose behind speaking
to him. It was a tone he remembered well from his Transfiguration classes, but
with a tremor-- of suspicion?
He looked up and
saw the glares some of the older students were giving him. Finally, he met
McGonagall’s eyes. The same stern face he remembered, but her eyes saw him now
through the dirty lens of his mistakes.
rather I profess joy I do not feel? You would rather I forget, as you have
done, the sacrifices made to reach your so-called victory?
“I have lived a
lie to bring your precious triumph. I will not do it again as a salve for the
feelings of the innocents and fools who prefer not to remember the lives lost
in pursuit of that success. You and yours might dance on the graves of the
Potters and the Longbottoms and Pettigrew and the countless others, but I will
He had not
realized his cold voice had risen in volume, or that he stood towering over his
old professor. He saw now the fear in her eyes, the awed and terrified stares
of the students who had stopped to listen. Behind them, he saw Albus
Dumbledore: careworn, looking older at that moment than Severus had ever seen
him. He didn’t care. He wouldn’t care. The lie of living would stop then. His
life had ended the day he had sought out the mark that weighed heavily against
the feather of purity. It tipped the balance of eternity toward damnation.
He didn’t heed
McGonagall’s sharp replies or the muttering of the children. He turned and
stalked out, people clearing out of his way as they would for a ghost: he was a
ghost. Let them move away in fear of his lifeless chill. He was through trying
to make other people comfortable, to make his differences and infractions less
noticeable. He had given years to that already and he was done. He would do as
Albus Dumbledore required, he would make himself useful, but he would do it on
his terms, without the trappings and frills of the society that refused to
The sounds of
the celebration resumed, but faded again as he descended into the darkness of his
dungeons. Let them dance, then, he would leave them to it. If they preferred to
drown out the memories of last year with song, so be it.
But he would
Thanks to my beta
readers, Teri and Mike, and to my Sugarquill beta reader, Zsenya.