THE END OF THE BEGINNING: A HARRY POTTER FAN-FICTION STORY
By Avellina Balestri (alias Rosaria Marie)
Word Count: 2,269
Rating: PG-13 for disturbing imagery and intense thematic elements
Summary: In an effort to stop the inevitable, Snape arrives at the Potters’ home only to find Lily mortally wounded by Voldemort. In her final moments, Lily causes Snape to make a promise that will change his life forever.
Severus Snape had not known what to think when he saw Lily sprawled on the floor. No, he had thought nothing at all, just felt the impact that made him fall back against the wall. Then he had seen her stir, and had fallen on his knees beside her.
“Lily,” he blurted. “Lily…oh…oh, talk to me…”
Her eyes flickered open hesitantly, and seeing the dark figure hovering above her, she jerked in terror.
“Lils,” he choked. “Don’t be afraid, please don’t…It’s only…me…and I would never hurt you…”
She gazed up blearily, as if trying to make sense of what he was saying. “Sss…sss…Sev…”
“Mmm-hmm,” he confirmed with a sad smile, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. “It’s going to be alright. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you ever again…”
“James,” she remembered, a rush of thoughts flooding back to her confused mind. “Where is he? Did your hurt him? Is he…?” She closed her eyes. “Did you…hurt him…very badly?”
“He’s…not in pain now,” he tried to answer. “It…it wasn’t by my hand, I…I would never harm…someone you loved like that, even if I hated him…ever so much.”
His words did nothing to stop the tears welling up in her eyes. “I…I did…did love him…” she whispered, then broke down in a sob.
Snape didn’t know exactly what to do to help, but he found himself cradling her in his arms and repeating, “I know…I know…shh…”
He didn’t care a morsel about James Potter’s death; he had wished him dead often enough for the hell he and his bullying clique had put him through in school, tormenting him mercilessly for merely existing, and the way it had warped his destiny. But he was genuinely distraught at seeing Lily’s grief, and for that reason alone he almost found himself grieving with her.
“Sweetheart, don’t…don’t cry so very much. He wouldn’t want you to; you must save your strength…”
She shook her head. “My strength…is running out of me…on its own. Your lord, he…he struck hard, Severus…”
“No,” he denied, even though he knew it was true, and then added with intensity, “No, no lord of mine!”
No, no, no…curse the lord of darkness and all his fine arts…
“My…my baby…” she gasped. “You…you wouldn’t hurt him, would you?”
“I told you, no!” he retorted, and it came out harsher than he had intended. But he was angry, so very angry at things so far beyond his control, furious at his helplessness to stop her life from draining away.
She looked intimidated by his tone and bit her lip. “Can I…hold my baby?” she asked meekly. “I want to hold him, please…”
She sounded like a frightened little girl asking to hold her doll now, and it broke Snape’s heart. “Yes, of course you can,” he assured, his voice softened now, and he let his hand glide along her beautiful red hair. “I always knew you’d make a very good mother.”
He tried to smile to reassure her, and she smiled back just a little in return.
Then he stood and turned to the crib where the child was crying fiercely. Potter’s child. Snape felt automatic revulsion rise in his throat, immediately followed by a surge of remorse.
No time for bitterness now, he chided himself. She needs you…needs you to do the right thing…
He bent over the crib and awkwardly scooped up the 1-year-old, who clung to him on instinct lest he fall, all the while garbling in broken baby talk, “Mama…mama…”
Lily’s eyes sparkled at the sight of the child. “Oh, Harry…Harry, baby…” She clutched her little one as Snape lowered him into her arms. “Mama loves you, Harry…mama loves you very much…” She was crying again, with her child wrapped tight in her arms, and Snape turned his eyes away, almost afraid he might desecrate something sacred. He couldn’t bear it…it wasn’t fair…she was so very young, only just 21…and she had been good and kind to him, all through his growing up…and it was all his fault.
He had been the one to tell Voldemort of the prophecy of a child who would one day overthrow him. He had been so eager to stay in the dark lord’s good graces, so eager to prove himself a worthy death-eater, so very proud of himself for climbing the ladder, he had forgotten just how far he might fall, and turned a blind eye to the suffering his actions would no doubt cause.
And now…he felt it all crushing him. Lily was the one tasting death now, his beloved childhood friend and those dear to her…and now all he wanted was to make it right, to go back in time and lay down his life in exchange for hers…yes, for theirs, for those she held dear, to undo every evil he had ever participated in as an accomplice. But it was too late.
And now she was contracting from a spasm of pain, a moan escaping her pale lips. Snape pulled the child off of her and set him down on the floor a ways off.
“Lily,” he croaked. “Does it hurt…very much?”
She shut her watering eyes again. “I’m all torn up inside…he broke all my bones, and they…broke me…”
“Oh, God…” Snape grimaced as he surmised the agony she must have been going through, the agony he had put her through…with splintered bones tearing through soft organs like so many knives…
“He’ll…come back for my baby,” she realized, horrified. “Oh, Sev…don’t let him hurt my baby…”
“He’ll not harm you again,” he swore, “nor any part of you in this world…not while there’s life in me.”
She blinked. “You’ll…take care of Harry?”
Snape nodded shortly. “I will…keep him from harm. I promise you that. To my dying day, I swear it.”
He wished that he could promise all that she surely wanted from him…that he would show her child…love. But he dared not. He knew himself too well. And he would never lie to Lily, especially not now.
She shuddered again and screamed. “Oh, Severus…” she exhaled. “Help me…it hurts…”
“Oh,” he heaved a shivering sigh, and squeezed her hand. “I can go and try to get a potion for the pain…”
“No,” she stopped him. “No, stay…I…I’m afraid…”
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. “Lily, whatever would make you afraid?” he struggled to comfort her. “You…you’ve always been caring…even to those who didn’t deserve it. You never did anyone real harm…you were loyal to your family, even…at the cost of yourself…” He shut his burning eyes. “For you, there’s no mystery to fear. It will be like…going home…”
“You make me sound so perfect,” she whispered, shaking her head. “I’m far from that…” She gazed up at him apologetically, and he knew where her mind had traveled, back to the school grounds, and their quarrels over the dark arts, and his insult, and her decision to end their friendship. “I’m…sorry, I…was…”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” he cut her off firmly. “Truly, there isn’t. And even if there were…for anything at all…God knows it’s not perfection that counts, in the end. It’s…the heart.”
“Do you…really believe that?” she queried.
He nodded solemnly.
“Then why do you look so afraid?”
“Because…” Tears came down his cheeks in a flush of sorrow and he buried his face in her breast. “I…I’ll never see you again…and I…love you…so much…oh, forgive me…” He was sobbing fully now, and felt her hand rest against the back of his neck.
“Severus…you just said…this isn’t the end…”
“It is for me,” he rasped. “My heart is black…I served evil for too long…and I can’t…get out…I’m hateful and selfish and proud and afraid…and those are the things that make up hell…”
“But you said…you still loved me. Even after…everything…”
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“Will it always be that way?”
He nodded jerkily. “You’re the greatest good I’ve known…how could I ever stop holding you in my heart?”
“Then,” she began, her voice weakening, “perhaps your heart is not so black…after all…for hell holds no space for one who…can love…or receive it…from another…and…I…” Again, she writhed in pain, but was too weak to utter more than a squeak.
Snape brought her into his arms again. He knew the end was coming on now, and he wanted her to know…she was loved.
“I…I wish I could have lived…” she confessed. “There are so many things I wanted to see…to do…I wanted to help people…more than I have…”
Oh, still thinking of others…even now…
Overcome with emotion, he kissed her cheek, kissed away the fresh tears resting there, like morning dew on a white blossom. Her green eyes were dimming, like jade at the bottom of a fathomless garden pool.
“I’ll try to help…from where I am…I will, Sev…I promise…” Her breath was failing her, her shattered breast heaving. “Oh…it’s hard going…is this the agony?”
Snape couldn’t answer with anything but more tears, and more caresses.
“My God…dear God…I’m suffocating…oh…oh, Sevy…” She called to him now as she would have when they were both children.
“I’m here, Lils,” he choked. “I won’t let you go…”
She calmed a little for a moment, and looked into his eyes fully. A slight smile touched her lips. “I won’t…either…”
Then the last light in her eyes was swallowed up in the mists of death, which turned them stone green, cold green, meaningless yet still moist. And Snape found himself kissing them closed and still cradling her, rocking her, flooding her with tears of guilt and grief alike. He wasn’t sure how long he remained sobbing over her body. He just knew that he didn’t want to live. Even if hell was to be his destination, he felt he more than deserved it. Justice demanded it.
But she said…she would try to help…from where she was…
Then he saw the baby, crawling towards them, his eyes, the same color as hers, wide with wondering. “Mama…” he gurgled, and his little hand went for her sleeve.
“Don’t touch her!” Snape shouted, jerking back the body automatically.
The child’s eyes widened further. “Mama…”
Snape bit down hard on his lip, letting only a couple broken words emerge. “She’s…gone…” Then he awkwardly placed Lily back against the floor, stood up and staggered across the room. He couldn’t think what to do, beyond the desire to kill someone…the dark lord first, and then himself. To end it, to end it all, once and forever, and tear it out of himself…to tear her out of himself, whose death was killing him…
Then the baby started to cry, still on the ground, only a few paces away from his dead mother. Something inside him constricted. He didn’t want to touch Potter’s child more than he had to, but this…this was just too much. Contrary to common belief, young Snape had a low tolerance for the sight of children suffering. He had gotten into enough trouble in the past when the dark lord began taking child prisoners during the war to make examples of them, and Snape had spoken out against it.
It was simply illogical to torture them, he had said, a waste of the dark arts, he had said. But in truth, he had just been haunted by those innocent eyes in fear and suffering, and wanted to do anything to make it stop. He had been a tortured child once himself, beaten by his father and harassed by school bullies, in both muggle and magic worlds. And the chief among those bullies had been James Potter.
But this was just a baby, even if it did have cursed Potter blood running through its veins. He might be unable to love the child, but he could get him off the ground, and calm him down. That was basic enough.
So he did so rather robotically, picking up the toddler and settling into a rocking chair in the corner with him. Lily’s chair. Harry was still crying hard, and Snape wondered if his one-year-old brain could possibly comprehend the horrors he had witnessed.
But as Severus started rock back and forth, the child started to calm down a little, associating the movement with safety. He made baby noises, clutching Snape’s cloak.
“Mama,” he murmured again.
“No, no,” Snape rasped. “She’s…she’s not here…”
Harry blinked. “Dada…”
“NO.” His voice was harsh, hard, and the little one seemed to pick up on it. His big green eyes started to fill up with tears again.
Snape shook his head in shame. “I’m not part of you, you foolish child, and I never can be. But…I will keep you safe. I won’t…won’t let any harm come to you. Isn’t that enough?”
The baby was looking at him, through him, but his poor little mind couldn’t take it all in. He just repeated, innocently, pleadingly, “Mama…” Then he broke down sobbing again.
Snape looked at the baby on his lap, so lost and alone, and found himself acting from a deeper level of his shattered soul, and in spite of himself, brought the baby closer to him so he could feel some inkling of human warmth. Then Snape’s own resolve faltered, and he found himself once again letting his tears fall in unison with her child’s.
“Oh…what am I made of, stupid little boy?” he sobbed, stroking his back. “Tell me, what stuff is this dark-marked wretch made of, hmm? I’m shaking, can you feel it?”
Baby Harry just clutched his collar with his other hand, and rested his head on the young man’s shoulder. And the two of them cried themselves to sleep.