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Notes: Severus Snape remembers. Implied slash.
His bones ached in the chill of the dungeon--he'd never noticed it before, this insidious, almost-comfortable chill, prickling like the breath of a Dementor. He'd never noticed it when he was younger, when he'd been too busy striding from one corner to the other, stiff starch robes rustling, muttering incantation after incantation, the names of potions parading across his mind.
But now. Now even the fire seemed pale--a mere shadow of what it should have been--flickering a weak yellow in the shadowed hearth. The quill felt soft in his aching hands, tip cruel and dark and splattering ink on parchment. Essays. First years. Slytherins. He barely noticed their names; barely noticed what he scrawled over their shoddy work, insult after insult after insult. A litany that was almost a prayer after all these years--the same words, the same mindless, stupid faces, the same children he'd risk his life for, again, again, again, if the war wasn't over.
If the war wasn't over.
But it was.
Sky a calm grey now--and people didn't look up any more, awaiting the mark of the skull, pale as a death-bird, hovering over their homes. No more. No more sullen glances from a child across the hall, mouth stubborn and eyes green--no more rushing voices in the halls, feet racing to the boundaries, all wands pointed to strengthen the wards.
No. No. None of that.
Only the crackle of the fire now--everything so quiet quiet quiet, like a grave, and he felt almost as if he'd been buried here, in this silent echoing stone, dark and moist with moss. Even during the day he barely perceived the light--all bright things, Gryffindor red and Slytherin green, dulled to a mere grey before his eyes--and maybe he was growing too old to see, to care, to be moved by anything but memories.
His pensieve remained the only thing not furred with dust in this room--it was the only thing he used, the only thing he needed, this glimmering silver eye into the past. He spent many hours reliving the nights of his missions, the torture, the sounds of his own screams so beautiful now, conducted like music at the end of Voldemort's wand. He began to understand the joy of it. He spent many nights reliving those uncomfortable conversations with Albus, mouth heavy with tea and hate--talking about Potter, Lupin, Black--and similar conversations years later, laced with weariness and a bitter need to protect, about Potter, Weasley, Granger. He relived bouts of Occlumency in which a mere child almost broke his mind--he relived that hot swoop of terror, of desire, when the child uncovered his dreams.
He relived the nights after Black's long-awaited death--he relived nights of quiet triumph, holding Potter's beating fists away from him, the boy's spittle strangely cool on his face. He relived nights of seeing hatred ice over in green eyes, of seeing the scar swell and burn a painful red--he relived nights of not meeting those eyes, even though he'd spelled the boy to forget--no dreams there, no dreams, no hunger unfulfilled. He relived the night before Potter's departure, the boy finally driven mad by waiting--fuck the Prophecy fuck it I'm ready I'll kill him they're dying--he relived the feel of that fragile wrist in his hands, clenched hard enough to snap and bones grinding--he relived the struggle by the door, suddenly silent and furious, because he wasn't going to let the boy go, he wasn't. He relived the sound of Potter's snarl before the boy surged forward to crush their mouths together--remarkably soft, that mouth, milk-warm and torn, teeth in Potter's vicious bite before he pulled back. I remember, he'd whispered, and Snape had let go; shocked, stilled, as Potter's eyes glinted with triumph. As Potter picked up his cloak and headed to the door, placing his fingers to his lips in a parody of a kiss.
He relived the pulsing moments afterwards, blood hot and sickening in his veins, as he'd walked to the window, such as it was, and saw Potter's dark shape disappear into the Forest.
He relived the moments of emptiness, of unavoidability, when he'd realized that he wouldn't tell Dumbledore.
He relived the following days of terror, hunting hunting everywhere for Potter--knowing that Potter didn't exist, that Potter was nowhere, and pretending, pretending to everyone that he didn't know where Potter had went.
He relived that cold morning, Prophet cold and crisp in his hands, as he read the news of Potter's death--at the hands of Narcissa Malfoy, after Potter had killed Voldemort himself. It was irony, irony--and he remembered his own mouth curling even as the din in the Great Hall rose to something like a wail. Or a cheer.
He relived the night afterwards, twisting in dreams of a soft mouth that he hated--dreaming of wrist snarl touch--he dreamt and came, dreamt and came again, and woke up in the morning to teach his classes.
He relived the murmurs, the stares not-quite his way--the questions from Dumbledore about why he had barely eaten in two days, but Potter's funeral was the Thursday after, after all, and Dumbledore couldn't ask for long.
He relived the impossibility of teaching Potions in a time just after war--not peace, not just yet, not with families still dying. But the war, over, over, and suddenly the air was feather-light, and it had occurred to him that he was free, that he owed allegiance to no Master, but he still never left his dungeons. He kept himself trapped there, a black creature in a cage of its own making, because he didn't want freedom, because that was the place where Potter had touched him last.
Those footsteps still echoed--until he thought he could hear them, hear them, even though no one came to visit him now--those footsteps echoed and his mouth still remembered the taste of that too-young skin, and he would have said stop haunting me, except that Potter wouldn't haunt him, of course, because Potter was beyond the Veil now, no doubt happy with that ignominious family of his, and that wasn't his shadow that lurked by the corner of the closed door.
No. Nothing but memories now. His hair became an oily grey, the clean sweat-stink of his robes an honest scent, the stains on his fingers ugly gashes of purple and yellow across his knuckles, even as his skin grew thinner and paper-white.
His bones ached in the chill of the dungeon. His quill hovered, a soft knife, ink blood-black and smooth on parchment. He would have written stop haunting me, but that wouldn't be right--that wasn't what he wanted to say to Potter, or what he wanted Potter to say to him. The quill hovered and his pulse slowed, and he almost closed his eyes. So quiet here. Nothing but his breath. And the crackling of the fire. The drip of the quill. Drip drip drip.
When they found him the next morning, late for the first time in his professional career, he was asleep on his scrolls, skin cold, eyes closed. Ink spilled across his desk as if knocked over--and when the first year Slytherin essays were returned by a new teacher, the following week, one student was surprised to see Snape's strange scrawl curving on his scroll, saying: I forgive you. It's all right.