October 30, 1981, Spinner's End
This was the worst pain he had ever suffered. And it wasn't as if he was a man with a little experience in the matters of pain. He knew what it felt like to watch your own father backhand your mother before turning his fists on you. He knew what if felt like to feel worthless because you lacked money. He knew what if felt like to be ostracized, to be hated and humiliated. He knew what the Cruciatus Curse felt like, an agony so searing that it made people beg for death through tears and screams. He knew what it felt to know that you drove the love of your life away, straight into the arms of your most hated rival.
And none of it could compare to what he was feeling right now. Severus Snape sat alone in the dark and dusty living room at Spinner's End and thought that he was just about to go insane. His head was pounding, as if a dozen trolls were hitting it with spiked clubs. He wanted to scream, to cry, to roar with anguish but his throat was so tight and constricted that he was barely able to breathe.
His hands were shaking. He drove his palms through his greasy black locks, his bony fingers twisted with tension. For far too long he had been living with the dread that every morning might be the one when he learned that it had finally happened. The Dark Lord had grown extremely restless and Severus knew it was only a matter of time now.
She was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it.
Why?! Why, why, why, why?!His own voice screamed inside his head. Why did I tell him about the prophecy? My fault, all of it!
Severus wanted to curl up on the creaky floor and sink straight to Hell. Such a wretched creature like him did not deserve to live. She's going to die and it's my fault! My Lily… Oh, Lily… Forgive me…
Dimly, like a man recalling a drunken evening, he remembered confessing his crime to Dumbledore, swearing his fealty to the old Headmaster.Dumbledore said they are safe. Maybe…
For a brief, pathetic moment his heart had the insolence to hope. But then his mind reeled back, engulfed by a sea of black desperation. Who are you kidding, Snivellus? There is no hope. The Dark Lord is going to win. He's going to kill Potter and his son, then he's going to kill Dumbledore, and Black, and the Longbottoms, and Moody and the whole fucking Order. And her. Her. Lily. He's going to kill Lily. Because you betrayed her. After all, you will be the one who really murdered her.
He did cry out then, like a dying animal. Tears fell down his gaunt cheeks and his chest began to tremble with sobs. What to do, what to do? Please, oh, please, just tell me what to do!
But then again, he knew what to do. The answer was staring at him, with the bright, green eyes of the past. It was quite simple, actually. It was his love for Lily against his fear of the Dark Lord. And in his heart, Lily would always triumph against the Dark Lord. Alls I have to do is save her. Or die trying.
Severus knew one thing for certain – if he failed to save her, there was no point to continue living.
But in this time of despair, the Half-Blood Prince wasn't deluding himself. The Dark Lord was in a category of his own and Severus knew that he couldn't defeat him in combat. All he would accomplish would be to die screaming. But maybe… maybe if I do it at the right moment, I can buy her some time… To escape and hide…
It had to be done at exactly the right time. Not too early, and not too late. It had to be exactly when the Dark Lord was going to attack… no, exactly when he was attacking the Potters. But how? He didn't even knew where they were. All he knew was that Dumbledore had promised to protect them.
Are they hiding in Hogwarts? Hogsmeade? No, that didn't seem likely. Staunch and indestructible it may seem, but the school was going to be invaded sooner or later, and the Headmaster wouldn't risk the prophecy progeny to be anywhere near when that happened.
Severus began to pace around the house, unable to contain his anxiety. His mind was working furiously, as he mumbled brokenly to himself. A small part of him realized that he probably looked like a desperate madman.
Maybe they had left Britain. Merlin himself knew that was a sensible choice. A lot of wizarding families had already fled to the other side of the Atlantic, and some had even went as far as Australia and New Zealand. It was the smart thing to do… Which is why James Potter would never do it. And neither would Lily. They would stand and fight against the Dark Lord, foolish Gryffindors.
But what then… What was Severus failing to consider? Then he almost felt the pieces of the puzzle clicking into togetherness. Of course! The Fidelius Charm! They are hiding in plain sight, invisible and undetectable! His mind was beginning to soar, certain that he had found the right way.
He didn't even heard himself when he asked the question out loud, "But who is their keeper?"
Could it be Dumbledore himself? No, too obvious.
Someone from the Evans household? Petunia? Lily would never endanger them, and Petunia doesn't want anything to do with our world. No…
Sirius Black? Surely, it had to be Sirius Black. He and Potter were closer than many brothers. Black would never hesitate to guard his best friend's secret. And then it dawned him… If I could come to this conclusion so quickly, so can the Dark Lord.And that could lead to two things – either the Potters had not thought of that, which meant that Sirius Black was now in mortal danger… or that they had, which meant that they must have chosen someone else, someone who wouldn't be such an easy answer.
But who? Lupin? No, the werewolf is almost as obvious as Black. Moody? Frank Longbottom? McGonagall? Hagrid? Emmeline Vance? Every one of those people seemed a likely candidate, all of them brave, and trustworthy, and loyal. My complete opposites. And that meant that all of them were the wrong fucking answers.
Snape growled with frustration. While he was sitting in Spinner's End, playing at riddles, Lily was in peril. What was he missing? What would he do, if he had to choose a secret keeper for the Fidelius Charm? Put some random muggle under the Imperius, most likely, make him the keeper, then order him to bury the memory beneath his conscience and go back to his life until I need him. But it's not how James Potter would do it.No, it had to be someone the Potters knew. Someone they trusted, and yet someone who would be beneath the attention of the Death Eaters…
And, then, sudden like a spring storm, the answer came to him.