By Avellina Balestri (alias Rosaria Marie)
Word Count: 66,667
Rating: PG-13 for violence, language and sensuality
Summary: Following the attack by Nagini, Severus Snape is partially paralyzed and going blind from the venom. Harry Potter decides to probe him for answers and begrudgingly becomes his sole care-taker in a secret shack on the Hogwarts grounds. Can old wounds be healed before the end, or will generational hatreds linger on beyond the grave?
The next few days were an exercise in weakening. The venom was sapping strength, like the fangs of the snake itself had drawn blood, and Snape felt too tired to talk much or shoot out more than a few of his trademark sarcasms. He grew quiet, too quiet and withdrawn to be recognized, and slept more and more often. He fell in and out of it, often confused in his waking, and always asking whether it was day or night. And it seemed the boy was almost always there to answer. He would tell him the time and the day of the week, and then if he requested it, describe the kind of day it had been, with whatever verbal painting techniques he could manage.
Harry had asked tried on multiple occasions if Snape wanted to try and seek help at the hospital, assuring that he would personally explain the whole situation and get things sorted out properly, but Snape always flatly refused. It was a hopeless case, the professor insisted; he knew the nature of the venom coursing through him almost better than any man, and it was no use trying to cheat the inevitable. Furthermore, he knew human nature too well; Dumbledore’s death and the tortures committed by the Carrows under his tenure as Headmaster still were on his head. They would not forget that, no matter his excuses, and he did not want to face his last days as a suspect under scrutiny.
That being as it was, Harry felt compelled to be with him at the shack as much as he could now, sometimes just sitting and watching Snape’s sleeping patterns, the way he often lay unconscious, his eyes still open, his breathing alternately heavy or hardly perceptible. So much so, in fact, he sometimes thought death had come to him. He would reach out hesitantly and touch his arm, in search of some reaction. And reaction he would get, for roused from sleep, Snape would shrink back like an abused animal accustomed to being struck, and his breathing would become like panting.
“Just me, Snape…it’s okay,” he would assure him.
Snape, trying quickly to put back up his defenses, would make a derogatory crack, “Just you, hmm? Just…what I always wanted…”
“Yup. Still gotta live with me, I’m afraid.”
When he was awake, he coughed a lot, and suffered repeated long-running nose bleeds, which Harry helped him sop up with a handkerchief, and which occasionally inaugurated some gravelly remark on Snape’s part about what Harry’s father would remark about his snout. Harry would play the game a little, and then wisely back off lest he accidentally hit too sore a spot that lay beneath the man’s tangle of unpleasant Hogwarts memories.
He’d set him up with his food, usually oatmeal, and watch as he ate it, slowly. Snape’s hand would tremble slightly as he held the spoon, and the boy was tempted to offer assistance again. But he knew Snape would rather starve than be spoon-fed, so this time he held his tongue. When he was finished, Harry would inevitably pick up a book and start to read to him. He chose the poems that Snape had annotated most heavily, the ones that were the richest in language, the ones that made his eyes mist involuntarily when he was too weak to talk.
Harry found that now that his eyes served as Snape’s eyes as well, he somehow saw things with a new appreciation. On a sunny afternoon, Harry decided to take a risk of opening one of the shutters in the shack, and let the light of the sun come filtering through, with the scent of spring. They were quiet together for a long time, and there was a profound oneness in that moment deeper than thought.
Then Snape had rasped, “They say that silence…is the deepest form of violence…to any soul…seeking out itself…” His voice drifted out, and he breathed in slowly. “But…there are apple blossoms…in the wood. And hazel…keeps alive…the fire in the head…”
The light from the window fell on the book Harry had open in his lap to Yeats’ “Song of the Wandering Aenges”, and he saw for the first time the mystical beauty of the ink, forming letters, forming words. And even more beautiful were pen-scratched underlines, rough with passion, and all at once he understood the depth of the man who was dying slowly in his sight. And his eyes followed the words underscored, and he felt him enraptured:
“Though I am old with wandering, through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, and kiss her lips and take her hands; and walk among long dappled grass, and pluck till time and times are done, the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun…”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “And the gorse grows gold, and the heather bright purple, like the sky when it swallows the sun at day’s end.”
Snape smiled ever so slightly. “I do believe…you have caught the fever, boy. It will never…let you go.”
What a strange thing it was…to be finding each other, and losing each other, all at the same time…and it was so hard, so uncertain, learning to trust, deeper, deeper yet, against the odds…
Often enough Harry sensed in Snape a questioning, almost a disbelief, that in his incapacity, the boy would be gentle with him. That his fading sensibilities and the fragility of his condition were not being rubbed in his face, and the pain not compounded by humiliation. No, the boy seemed to have learned, somehow, how to handle it, how to be there as a reassuring presence, without seeking to crush the last vestiges his pride. How different, how very different, from the other Potter he had known…
One day, Harry came in with lunch, and Snape was lying there. He was awake, Harry knew, for he had learned to measure the life within those blind eyes well, but his breathing seemed akin to sleep. And yet, the man was obviously brutally conscious of the way the breaths winded him. It was as if for the first time, he seemed to be counting them out, one by one, with the rising and falling of his own chest, and knowing with the keenest realization they were going to stop sooner than later. It was a scientific surety.
But no one thinks of these things but dying men. Otherwise, it would get in the way of living. And thus, one would never realize just how precious each and every breath was…until it was expended, and run out into nothing. Nothing. Was that the end of everything? Harry wondered if it could be so.
“Snape?” Harry addressed him. “I…brought you lunch…”
“No…food,” he managed. “Can’t…swallow…”
Harry shivered. “Not at all?”
“Not…well,” he clarified.
“Think you could try some tea?”
“Just…cough it up…most likely…”
Harry turned his eyes down, and muttered lamely, “It’s flavored. Got it from McGonnagall today. Thought you might…like it.”
Snape squinted. “What…what’s the flavor?”
Harry smiled a little. “You’ll have to try it and tell me.”
He started setting up the tea mug in front of him, and he helped brace Snape’s arm to let him sit up. By now, the bedridden wizard had gotten used to accepting that much help at least, and Harry could feel how thin and weak his arm had grown.
In the process of leaning up, Snape felt something sharp jab into his face and froze. “What the…?” he panted.
“Sorry, you just hit into the straw,” Harry told him, feeling awkward at Snape’s reaction, as if the man was paranoid about things intentionally injuring him at every turn.
“Straw…?” he repeated blearily.
“Yeah, it’ll make it easier to drink that way.”
Snape gingerly curled his good hand around the mug, and Harry adjusted the straw.
Slowly, he started to drink from it, aware how easily he could choke himself under the circumstances.
“So what’s the flavoring, after all?” Harry queried, nonchalantly fixing the pillow behind Severus so he could lean up better.
“It is…McGonnagal’s favorite,” he noted, the straw still between his teeth. “Combination of lemon and raspberry zinger…”
Another swallow’s worth, and he found himself coughing on it and spitting it up all over himself. Harry winced, then tactfully placed a napkin in Snape’s good hand, which the man clutched tremulously and brought to his face.
“I…I told you…uhh…dammit…”
“Well…at least I found out what flavor it was,” Harry responded, and helped take the mug away from him.
Snape sighed in a slightly amused way, in spite of himself. “What makes you so…damned optimistic?”
“Maybe you’re just pessimistic enough for both of us,” Harry offered with a sad partial smile. “You cover your field pretty thoroughly.”
Snape shrugged, then winced. He never verbalized pain, but Harry knew when he was in it. And it hurt to know there was little to be done so far along. Snape touched his own face for a moment and felt the stubble on his cheek. “I need…to shave. I want to look…appropriate, for when…”
“I can get what you need,” Harry cut him off, knowing what he was going to say and not wanting him to go further. He wanted to look dignified in death. “Just give me a sec, okay?”
Snape nodded, and Harry left. When he returned a half hour later, Snape greeted him traditionally, “That…was technically more…than a ‘sec’. Did we not teach you how to measure time in this place…?”
“Oh, quit being so techy,” Harry chided him. “It’s not good for your health.”
“My health?” Snape blurted. “Really…really, boy…”
“And now prepare to launch into a lengthy complaint about my razor not being manly enough or something,” he rambled, setting up the bowl of water and lathery soap on a folding table he’d assembled.
“I…might,” Snape agreed, feeling his way around the objects on the table. He managed to get to the cloth Harry had smeared with the foamy soap, and brought it to his face. Then he reached for the razor. His hand was shaking badly, and nearly dropped it on the floor.
Harry exhaled, seeing catastrophe in the near future. “Here, let me help…”
Snape snorted. “So now…now you think…you can treat me like…like a bloody infant?”
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really heard of infants shaving,” Harry shot back. “You’re just going to carve yourself like a turkey the way you’re going at it.”
“I…have done this…right…since you were…strapped in a…bloody stroller!”
“Hooray,” Harry exhaled. “What, are you bucking for a medal or something?”
“No, I wanted…that…for saving your golden trio…from a werewolf onslaught,” Snape grunted a suitably scathing tone.
“Geez, you have a memory like an elephant,” Harry sighed.
“That’s because I…have a long list of such…sterling moments.”
“Okay, okay, so you saved my hide a lot,” the boy admitted. “Thank you, okay? I said it now. Is that what you wanted?”
“No,” he snorted. “I want…back pay!”
Harry shook his head in exasperation, and finally managed to get the razor out of his trembling hand. “I’m afraid it’ll just have to come in the form of facial hair removal services. Now, come on, it’ll be easier for everybody involved if you just lean back and chill. I haven’t tried to force feed you, right? Can’t you just take it on the chin this once and let me cover something?”
He closed his eyes. “Why…bother?”
“Because…hey, I thought this whole thing was about looking…together,” Harry offered, forcing himself to maintain an upbeat air. “And you’re not gonna look together if you shred yourself to bits. It’s not a you thing; it’s just a venom thing, so stop taking it so personally.” He cleaned off the razor in the basin. “Now, just cool out, and don’t get all jerky…I’d rather not slit the throat of my first customer as a barber.”
“No need for concern; I’m just a snake,” he muttered. “They always…get their heads slit off anyway. Isn’t that how you said…Nagini was undone?”
“Per the courtesy of one Neville Longbotton.”
Severus rolled his eyes. “You can’t…mean that.”
“Hey, back in the day, you were pretty good at making quick work of snakes yourself, as I recall, even if you apparently lost that talent somewhere along the line. As for Neville, well, he was your student, and he was just picking up the noble tradition where you left off.”
“I only became…snake terminator…when you started having freakish conversations with that thing and it almost…took a bite out of you,” he declared. “And as for…fraidy-cat, butter-fingered Longbottom…he nearly blew up the lab five times…”
“But now he’s a hero!” Harry reminded him. “Maybe after going through classes with you, demonic horcrux snakes didn’t seem so threatening.”
Snape grumbled under his breath as the younger wizard started shaving him, running the blade along his cheek. The man tightened a little as the razor reached his upper lip.
“Easy,” Harry exhaled. “I wouldn’t dare cut off your nose, if that’s what’s bothering you. Have a little faith.”
“Schooled…in insolence,” he hissed.
“Fluently,” Harry concurred.
Snape twitched as the blade started along his other cheek. “No one…had much faith in me, at any rate.”
“Dumbledore did,” the boy offered quietly.
“No, that wasn’t…faith,” Snape countered. “Just…a knowing…I would do the job. He even forgot…why I was doing it all…what it all meant.” Snape sighed. “He could have won a follower, you know…a friend, even. But all he got was a slave, bought and sold. He never even bothered, never cared…to try and understand.”
“Well, you’re a hard one to read. You surprise people a lot,” Harry said. “And…you can take that as a compliment.”
Snape remained quiet for the remainder of the shave, but Harry sensed that he had indeed taken the compliment after all. The boy wiped off the remaining lather on his face, and had to admit he looked a lot better that way, after all.
“Hard to read,” Snape muttered softly after the long interval. “I wonder if…he who branded me…thought that…” A sneer made its way onto his face. “I wanted…so long to see his face…when he found out…”
“He couldn’t understand, Snape,” Harry responded. “He couldn’t understand your reasoning, even to the end.”
Snape’s face paled. “You told him?”
“Yes, I…I wanted him to know as much as you did. But…he couldn’t understand.”
“No,” Snape conceded. “He only understood…ambition, for pleasure or power…and I had a fatal level of the latter, at any rate, as many young men do.”
“Maybe, here and there,” Harry conceded.
“This isn’t just about…you, it’s about…” Snape closed his eyes. “Potter, if you can…use your influence, then…go easy on Draco Malfoy, and the others like him. They…are young, and were sorely misled. They can still…make it through alright, but they must be shown…shown a path worthy of following. They still have…goodness in them.”
“But I suppose Voldemort never appealed to that. Only to…well, what you said. Their ambition, to make them his own.”
“That’s the only part of them he could grasp,” Snape stated. “Yes, he could only grasp…struggle, an eternity of it, but never contentment, in himself or anyone else. He could never perceive any shade of deeper realities. And in that, I have learned…to pity him.”
Yes, pity, even through the haze of hatred, even as the memories of the last horrible days of the regime assaulted his mind. He remembered the purging of the high command, as the dark lord succumbed to paranoia, fear of his own failure, his own inner knowing that he could be destroyed. Though filled with a wild-eyed ambition himself, he feared the ambitions of others, and how their claws might scratch him down from his mighty chair.
And Snape remembered the petty atrocities, like the day before his own would-be execution, when he was called into the presence of the dark lord to review…a prisoner. All he saw was a boy, aged 14, white with fright, who had been brought to Snape for training in the dark arts just several weeks before.
He had been one of Voldemort’s latest recruits, all so young there was no way they could know what they were truly signing. Some had been forcibly torn from their homes, some indoctrinated as Snape had been indoctrinated at that same tender age. Some were bribed, or threatened, or drugged. All of them were desperate, and Snape was given them the job to train them…train them to die like good little soldiers at the behest of an increasingly maniacal monster.
But this one before him, this one with the brown eyes, flecked with gold, had tried to escape.
“My lord, am I to administer the suitable punishment…?” Snape queried in a measured tone.
“I will be the one to deal out the punishment,” Voldemort spat.
Snape paused. “I have observed him under training, my lord. He has potential to be…”
“Enough from you, Severus,” he snapped. “Now gather together your recruits. I want all to see the punishment treason carries with it.”
When the young men were ordered together, and Snape standing staunchly at their head, the ordeal began. Snape had no idea what to expect, save that the dark lord was planning something special. He briefly saw the captured boy’s brother in his ranks, saw the way he was clenching his fist. Snape made a point of shoving him behind another boy to avoid undo attention being drawn to him. “Keep your formation, lazy young swine…”
“Have you not taken enough time with your formations, Severus?” the dark lord hissed. His tolerance, Snape noticed, was wearing thinner with each passing day.
“All is in order, my lord,” Snape assured calmly.
“Then we may commence.” Voldemort turned to the captured boy, who was shaking like a leaf now waiting what was in store for him. A bolt from the dark lord’s wand sent him sprawling on the ground. “Now…now watch…Severus, make sure they are all…watching…” He jutted out his chin. “Nagini!”
Snape’s heart thudded in his chest. Not that…no, not that…
The cold, sterile slithering sound made its way along the tiled floor. Two great glowing eyes penetrated the darkness. The boy on the ground whimpered in terror. And then…the spring. Snape felt the recruits behind him shrink back, some trying to turn their heads away from the horrific spectacle in front of them.
“If they will not watch, Severus, perhaps the only way to put the fear of eternity in them is to let them…share in the experience…”
“They will watch, my lord,” Snape panted, and then taking on the stride of a drill sergeant, marching back and forth along the lines, jabbing them in the arms with his wand, and seizing the more reticent ones hard by the chin and forcing their eyes back to the snake sinking its fangs into the 14-year-old’s neck, over and over again.
“Eyes to the front, you churls, eyes to the front!” Snape’s voice was taking on a tone of anger unusual to it, as he yanked them and shook them and slapped them and forced them to look ahead.
By then the worst was over, and the snake, having had its fill of human blood for the day, was ordered back to its large glass aquarium. The victim was gasping on the ground, dark purple liquid running down his neck, and his face turning a pale green.
“There, you see,” Snape forced out, pointing at the dying boy with his wand. “Thus always will it be to traitorous cowards!”
And now the boy was dead. And Snape saw the smirk of satisfaction of Voldemort’s face. And he proceeded to shove everyone out of the room. And then Snape staggered off outside for a moment and buried his against the cold brick wall, hands clenched tight, tight, so tight, and the words of William Blake breaking apart in his throat:
“O for a voice…like thunder…and a tongue…to drown the throat of war. When the senses are shaken…and the soul is driven to madness…who can stand? When the souls of the oppressed fight…in the troubled air that rages…who can stand? When sin claps its broad wings over the battlements…and sails rejoicing in a flood of death…when souls are torn…to everlasting fire, and fiends of hell… rejoice upon the slain…oh, who – can – stand?!”
Later that evening, Snape came upon the boy’s brother sitting up in a corner of the cold hall, staring blankly in front of him. His fist was still clenched. It reminded Snape of himself at that age, when he would sit alone for hours, thinking, brooding, building up the darkness inside himself that would lead him to this place.
“You, boy,” Snape addressed him huskily, and his voice seemed to snap him from his stupor. Their eyes met, and where Severus half hoped he might see the fire of suppressed fury, all he saw was chill indifference of despair.
“We’re all going to die…aren’t we?” the sixteen-year-old queried.
“It will be as the Dark Lord will have it be,” Snape snapped in retort. “You’d be best advised to keep a quiet tongue in your head if you know what’s good for you.”
The boy exhaled, almost in the form of a broken, brittle laugh. “I…I don’t mind…the dying part. Then I won’t have to…tell my parents what happened…” He swallowed. “I was supposed to…take care of him.”
“The Cause is all there is,” Snape reminded him sternly. “Above family, above friends, above the bond of soul to body. You would do best to remember that, boy.” He turned to leave.
“Sir,” came the teen’s voice, wearily.
“If I die, and you live, would you…tell them what happened?”
Snape stared at him. “Why would you ask this of me?”
“Because you’re the only trainer here who has not…demanded favors,” he hissed through his teeth, “or tortured us without cause. The only one who…” He paused, and weighed his words. “Does not…enjoy…”
“Shut your mouth, shut your bloody mouth,” Snape snarled. Then he whispered hastily, “Do you not know by now the very walls have ears?”
The boy looked down, realizing he may have gone too far. Then Snape grabbed him roughly by his shoulder and forced him to his feet.
“Come…come with me.”
So he made the teen follow him back into room where his brother had been executed, where his blood still stained the floor, and Nagini rested snugly within the great glass aquarium. The boy flushed at the sight.
“Yes, you are. But I’m going to teach you…how not to be.” He pointed at the aquarium. “Put your hand upon the glass.”
The young recruit hesitated. Then slowly, tremulously, he attempted to do as he had been told. As soon as his palm was against it, the snake struck with a fury against it, and the boy jumped back, panting hard.
“No, boy, no…you must hold it there…like this…”
Snape turned to the snake and held its gaze, as if to bait it, and then laid his hand over the glass. Nagini struck; once, twice, three times. And Snape continued to stare down the serpent, his hand unflinching. He seized the boy’s hand with his free one, and pressed it next to his against the glass.
“Now you…hold it there; don’t you let this creature know your fear. You have to meet it…on its own terms. It can only hold power over you…if you fear it…”
The boy did his best to hold firm as the snake’s head smashed up against the glass, but then something inside him broke, thinking of the horrors he had witnessed earlier that day. Tears started to fill his eyes.
“Stop it, stop it, do you want him to make me kill you? Stop it, damn you, boy!” He shook the young man hard, and spit out, “Listen to me….listen…you can live…live through this…”
“No,” the boy blurted. “No, the dark lord is eternal…he can never…”
“He…is only…” Snape inhaled, and yanked to boy towards him, whispering roughly into his ear, “Only a man.”
He shoved him back and boy looked mystified. “No one…has ever said that before.”
Snape shuddered, believing himself to have crossed the line, and stood up to leave.
“Sir, please…” The boy’s breath was heaving. “Tell the others that.”
Snape laughed wryly.
“They need…to know. They might get through…if only they know that.”
“Can you not find a way to tell them? Any way…”
“Severus,” came a sultry female voice from the threshold. It was Bellatrix. “The dark lord wishes to speak to us…all of us.”
So he had gone to the room where Voldemort held his audience, and listened with all the others as he made his final speech. His words filtered through Snape’s mind like sewage through a grate. They ground out the same tired rhetoric of grandeur so fast dissolving all around them, the dreams of glory grown filmy, like blood-splattered glass. Snape questioned whether the Potter boy would truly be able to take down this darkness alone; he questioned if he should have followed his own heart and exacted his own form of vengeance instead of waiting on Dumbledore’s devious plan to play out. In that moment, he was not sure of anything, and future seemed foggy. All he could think was that they were all going to die, at the behest of a madman, and nothing might be salvaged…nothing at all…
Then the dark lord did something unexpected. He recited poetry:
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me…”
Snape stood there silent as a stone as he quoted the words of John Donne, stood there as he proclaimed the warped meaning he placed upon those words, seeking to prove his own immortality to his assembled followers, including those eager young recruits who would be sent to their doom in a matter of days. And for the first time since his early years when he first came among the death-eaters, full of verve and ambition, he dared to challenge the One he could not name.
“My lord,” he addressed him lowly, and all eyes fell upon him. And he stared down those horrible, evil eyes, and continued, “It is not speaking of death…as a thing to be evaded. But as a thing that must be faced…by all.”
Voldemort’s face was unmoving, frozen it seemed like a sheet of white ice. And then there was a flash, and a current coursing through the air and through Snape’s blood. It knocked him to the ground upon impact, and he wondered for a moment if this was simply another session of torture or the final execution.
“How dare you interrupt your master, half-blood son of an Irish bitch! What are you launching? A Paddy’s rising?”
Oh…the unspeakable word…the term of contempt he had hidden from for so many years…from the song of the immigrant…used by all, and then…thrown away…
“Well, it’s by the hush, me boys, and sure that still holds your noise, and listen to poor Paddy’s lamentation…”
Get up, get up, he thought to himself, for they were all watching, all the recruits…had to get up, though the pain was twisting up his stomach and his limbs felt turned to butter…
“I was by hunger pressed and in poverty distressed, so I took a thought to leave the Irish nation…”
He had grown used to the excruciation over the years, come to understand the ebb and flow of it, come to know how he could play it for a fool…he forced himself to rise…first up on his elbows, then pressing up with his hands…
“Now here’s to you, boys, now go, take my advice, to the stranger’s land I’ll have you not be going…”
He was struggling up, up on one knee, though the pain was still streaming through his veins. He knew the length and the breadth of the tortures, and he knew how everyone was watching him, watching if he could get up, if he could make it up…
“For there’s nothing here but war, where the murdering cannons roar…”
No one had ever been able to stand in the throes of the curse. Well, then…perhaps this “Paddy” would be the first…he had reached the end of his rope, and a long fuse had all but burned up, and now he was doing it for everyone and everything he had lost, and was about to be lost. This was his payback, for every pain he had endured, for every humiliation, every taunt and torture. For Eileen Prince, whose funeral he never attended. For Lily Evans Potter, dead in his arms…
“By Christ, I’ve had enough of this hard fighting…”
And he stood. And he stood. Against famine and factory, and the chemicals of cruel fate, and for all those who had been broken before him, and all that had been broken inside himself, he stood up now. And his eyes were deathly dark, but victorious in defeat. And all those who saw were left to know it could be done.
The dark lord stared at him, and the fury in his eyes cooled, even though they still seemed static with menace. “Measure your words, Severus,” he replied, calmer now, “or you may bring that privilege to face the poet’s prediction yourself sooner than later.”
At that, the Voldemort strode out of the chamber, followed by the stunned lookers-on who gazed furtively at Snape, and then away lest they incur their master’s wrath, and when he thought the last one had left, his resolve finally faltered. He managed to stagger over to the far wall and fell against it, clutching himself in agony.
Then he felt her, that woman whose touch was like venom, hovering beside as she whispered in his ear, “We’ll be in hell together, Severus.” She seemed quite pleased at the prospect, and it chilled him to the bone.
He laughed, brokenly. “Good…good…just get us the hell out of here…” He pressed his fist against his mouth. “Have we not…made our mark in blood deeply enough in this world? Let us…be out of it…” He squeezed his eyes shut, and saw all the blood he had ever seen shed, swelling up in his memories, and every pair of deadened eyes gazing back at him…oh…so many of them from children…already dead, or doomed to die…
He felt the cold hand of Bellatrix clasping over his. “Until tomorrow, love.” And she smiled at him with a look of a lost soul, lost to all reality, ignorant to the fear of hell, for hell already had burnt out her senses inside. No, she had already given herself over to the ice and the fire, and the kiss she planted on his cheek was like the kiss of winter, the kiss of death.
And as the pain subsided, he closed his eyes again, and saw the snake’s head flash through his mind. He knew what was coming; he knew what it would mean. For he was not ignorant, and he still felt the pain of the flames and the sting of the ice and he could still taste blood…
No. He would feel every second of his Hell, for Hell had yet to suck out his humanity. And that frightened him worst of all.