Character: Severus Snape
Warnings (highlight to view): none
Wordcount: 2790 words
Summary: Severus reflects upon his failures and vows not to fail a little girl who doesn't know what he is.
Author's Notes: alexandripearl, I know that in my original prompt I spoke of exploring what happens when he meets her, but the bunny hopped in a slightly different direction once I began following it. Thank you, arynwy, eeyore9990, and shiv5468, for beta'ing.
Severus knew this place, and he remembered this day; it had seemed so bright and full of promise before she'd come. Drawing closer to the scene of the argument, he felt oddly like a voyeur.
"—call her that! We both know you wanted to go with her! You're jealous of her!"
She looked stricken at Sev's words, the contempt on her face at war with the longing horror. "I am not, you nasty little freak! I don't want to be anything like her! I want her back—the way she was! You stole her from me! She used to love me, but now all she wants is to be like you!"
"She wants more than that," Sev lied, his voice quivering with feigned smugness as he moved forward to glare down his nose at her, "so go away. I don't want you here when—"
"No!" she shouted, grabbing Sev's shirt and shaking him by the collar. "I won't let you put your filthy freak hands on her!"
"Why? Because you'd rather put yours on me?"
His ears ringing, Severus knew, Sev growled and crushed his lips to hers, starting when she kissed back.
It hadn't mattered that she'd hated him and he, her; it hadn't mattered that they might be discovered at any time; it had only mattered that she'd been kissing him, grabbing at him, pulling off his clothes.
It had only mattered that he got her naked, got inside her. That's all that had mattered at the time.
Severus swallowed and turned away. He couldn't face what came next, and there was another strand to follow.
He saw himself look up from his marking at the closed door of his office. Firstie, he remembered thinking, returning his attention to the abysmal essay he'd been reading.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Sighing, Severus again looked at the door.
Definitely a firstie.
He'd assumed that the student was female because most male first-time door-knockers tended to pound it hard in their nervousness. Either way, such a timid series of taps hadn't been sufficient to earn his attention at the time.
Better, he'd thought, and he was still impressed that the girl hadn't given up. "Come," he watched himself call, and the door swung open to reveal Beatrice Price.
"Good morning, Professor Snape."
"What is it, Price?" he asked, laying aside the essay and gesturing for the girl to sit.
She didn't. "I think I may have broken the International Code of Wizarding Secrecy," she told him, wringing her hands and looking at her feet.
Price was usually a sensible, studious girl. She didn't make trouble, and she'd earned tens of points during the term, which made Severus inclined to tolerate her better than most of his younger charges.
"Sit down, I said, and don't fidget." Price sat. "Now then, tell me what you mean. Be explicit."
"Well, sir, it's just that Sarah Jane's my best friend and she can do things."
"Price, did I not just tell you to be explicit?"
"I've been writing to her, Sarah Jane, that is, about Hogwarts."
"This Sarah Jane is a Muggle?"
"Well, sir, that's just it. I don't think so, especially," Price said, fishing in her robes for something and pulling out a rather crumpled envelope, "since she wrote this."
"And what is that?"
"Er, a letter, sir."
Severus watched himself draw himself up and sigh with purposeful dramaticism, his patience obviously wearing thin. Price appeared to understand.
"She says that she made her pencil box fly. It was that awful Alice Philpot—she's always stealing things at the orphanage—she stole the pencil box I gave Sarah Jane for Christmas, so Sarah Jane took it back by thinking at it."
Severus raised an eyebrow at the girl in time with himself, remembering from Price's intake file as he had in this moment that her father was a junior secretary in some department or other at the Ministry, and that her mother was a cook for an orphanage in London. "You believe that your friend Summoned her pencil box?"
"Yes, sir, because she didn't just wish for it back. She made it hit Alice's chin before it returned to her—and I know that sounds mean, but Sarah Jane's not, I promise."
Severus watched his lips twitch and compress to prevent a smile. "Price, how exactly do you believe that you've broken the International Code of Wizarding Secrecy? By telling this Sarah Jane of yours about Hogwarts?"
"Yes, sir," she replied, scrunching up her forehead.
"And so you're telling me about your friend's apparent magical ability in order to...?"
"Well," Price said, beginning to fidget again, "I thought you wouldn't take points from me if you knew why I told her. She's done things like this before, but she doesn't have parents to tell her about magic. I felt I had to. Was that very wrong of me? Are you going to take points?"
"If you'd broken the Code, you'd have more than points about which to worry."
Price went absolutely still.
Severus understood the expression on his face to be that of his deliberately not rolling his eyes at Price's fear as he leant towards her and held out his hand. Price passed him her letter, and he moved around to stand behind himself as he read it; the girl's friend's pencil-box retrieval read very much like an act of Summoning, and he knew that he was about to confirm this for Price as he watched himself unsuccessfully attempt to replace the letter in its envelope.
What's this? he knew that he'd wondered, as he noticed the photograph inside of it again.
"Stop," he said, as he removed the photograph, "fidgeting. You didn't—"
The air seemed to leave his lungs then as before him, Severus looked at the picture he held; he was looking, too. The little girl had unnervingly familiar black eyes, blonde hair, a coltish build, and pale skin—if the eyes weren't enough, there was enough of her mother in her features to leave no doubt in his mind as to her parentage.
"Professor? Are you—"
"Why," Severus interrupted Price, "did you show me this?"
"I... I didn't. I mean, well, you're the one who looked at the photo. What's wrong with her? Can you tell she's a witch just by looking at her? A... a bad witch? I promise, she's really not mean!"
Severus moved around to the front of the desk, morbidly curious to see his own expression. Sitting there, he looked as though he might sick up.
Standing there, he felt the same.
Severus shoved the envelope's contents back inside of it and laid it aside. "You're not here because of the Code. What do you want?"
Price's eyes filled with tears, but she didn't cry. "It's just that Sarah Jane's afraid that she might be adopted soon, and if she's a witch..."
"Ah. You would like to see her attend Hogwarts," Severus said.
She doesn't, she didn't know.
"I see. If you would leave this with me," he continued, indicating the envelope, "I'll look into the matter of your friend's potential magical abilities."
Price shot to her feet, her eyes shining. "Oh, thank you, sir! I knew you'd understand!"
"Price," Severus said, as the girl made to leave his office.
"Even if your friend is a witch, she may not come to Hogwarts."
How is it that you were so bloody calm? Severus wondered at himself.
Price frowned. "But... but where else would she go?"
"That is a matter for her guardians. I trust that you wouldn't begrudge your best friend the possibility of a family?"
Price's lower lip began to tremble, but again, mercifully, she didn't cry. "No, of course not, but ... no, but you will look into—"
"I've already told you that I would. Dismissed."
Severus barely registered the girl's "Yessirthankyousir!" as she left the office; he was too caught up by the sight of himself being violently ill into his rubbish bin as soon as the door closed behind Price—but he'd been watching long enough, it seemed, because he could remember everything, feel everything, as if it were all happening again.
His anger rose with every spied retch. That's just the memory reintegrating into your consciousness.
That bitch, he thought, watching himself wipe the sick off his mouth. She had my child and never told me! She had my child and abandoned her!
The sense of déjà vu was strong; his thoughts were the same as they'd been, but his anger, his anger was so much worse now.
He still wanted nothing more than to see her dead. Even after almost a decade since he'd last seen her, he still loathed her. He could still feel the shock of having shagged her, the fear that she might tell Lily and drive a permanent wedge between them as if that were still a possibility. Part of him had always suspected that Petunia had done just that, and that she was as responsible as James Potter for Lily's ultimate rejection of him.
Mudblood—the word echoed in his mind, a mocking reminder from the more reasonable part of himself, again, that he'd destroyed his friendship with Lily with no help from anyone else.
He watched himself rise and pour himself a drink and knew that he was wondering if Lily had known about her niece, and then reassured himself the way he'd already done.
No, she couldn't have. Petunia wouldn't have wanted anyone to know. She must have hidden her pregnancy from her parents, and... .
He saw his eyebrows rise as he remembered the secretarial school, the one in London that his mother had mentioned when she'd fetched him from the train at the end of his fifth year. "Tuney Evans is off to secretarial school, and a good thing, too, seein' as how she's grown so fat. Best thing for her, really, to gain a skill and be able to rely on herself."
He mouthed the words as he said them; the memory was almost completely his again. He let it reintegrate without fighting it.
Lily hadn't come home that summer, and Severus hadn't seen Petunia again until the Evanses' funeral the year after they'd left Hogwarts. It had almost killed him to see Lily accepting Potter's comfort there; skulking behind a copse of trees and glaring at them, he hadn't noticed Petunia beyond the fact that she was present.
The sense memory of the Firewhiskey burnt his throat as he saw himself down the glass in one swallow.
"Merlin, I have a daughter," he murmured, knowing that he'd thought it.
It was not good news, especially this second time, and he still didn't want to know her. She wasn't Lily's, and even though she was part of Lily's family, even though she was his, he knew that it would be foolish to seek her out. The risk that he might learn to care for her was too great. Dumbledore was already using his weakness in that regard when it came to Lily's son; if the bastard ever learnt of Severus' own child, the Headmaster's power over him would become entirely too strong—and should the Dark Lord return, as Dumbledore and prophecy supported, the last thing that Severus could afford was another child that he couldn't protect.
"Right, her safety, that's your concern," he mocked himself. "You just can't bear the thought of seeing Lily's niece here, not after imagining that Lily and your children would attend Hogwarts."
It was so very strange, saying what he'd thought, what he was watching himself thinking, but he couldn't escape what he knew: it would be bad enough when Potter's brat arrived, and he had no intention of putting himself through that kind of pain twice.
But how can I keep her out of Hogwarts and unnoticed by the Headmaster?
That wasn't, however, a question that could be answered in a Pensieve.
Severus realised that he was shaking, and even in the dim moonlight streaming into the room, everything felt too bright, too vivid.
Six, he thought, as his desk clock chimed the hour. Six o'clock on what morning?
Glancing up at the wall in front of him where his calendar hung, Severus saw that it was the eighteenth of March, which seemed impossible given how long ago it seemed that he'd received the news of the seventeenth.
Still shaking. Breathe, he told himself, looking into the silver-clear water of the Pensieve before him.
The device was empty except for the matrix which held memories, which meant that he'd successfully retrieved the memories he'd deposited in it. He'd done this before. He'd done it when he couldn't bear his own actions, or he was at risk of having them discovered by someone whose Legilimency was more proficient than his Occlumency. He'd done it because Dreamless Sleep didn't always work for him, not in its standard formulation, and he'd had to develop new ways of preventing nightmare-induced sleep deprivation over the years.
But why did I do it this time? he asked himself, realising that he was clutching a crumpled piece of parchment.
He Summoned his wand, cast light, and read:
You needed the sleep, but you can't forget again. Find out all you can about the girl and do what is required. He must never know about her—which means that you must not confront her mother.
"Fuck," Severus muttered, his disorientation passing completely as he glanced at the two, hastily labelled phials standing next to his Pensieve: Saturday, 13 July 1975... The Thicket. Monday, 17 March 1986... Hogwarts.
It shamed him that he'd not been able to bear the news of his daughter for even a day before ripping it from his mind, no matter that he could think better on a clear head after a good night's sleep.
It wasn't enough, Severus thought, extinguishing his wand and Vanishing the empty phials and his note. I have no bloody idea what to do!
He had a daughter, and the very idea of it, the very real fact of it, set his mind to spinning.
Petunia, who'd loathed and coveted him in equal measure—no, not him but what he'd symbolised to her—had given him a daughter and stolen her from him, too, because no matter how much she'd loved Lily, no matter how much she'd wanted to be a witch, she hadn't been able to stand the thought of being a freak.
And who knows how much the girl—he couldn't yet stand to even think of her name—has suffered for my betrayal?
He'd been a boy, just a boy; it wasn't his fault. It had just happened.
No. You should have waited for her. You never should have touched her sister. This is your fault!
It was his fault, his fault as so many things were; there could be no denying that. Only a coward would do that.
I'm not a coward. I... I have a daughter. "Sarah Jane."
The urge to find her, to see her, rose inside him until it choked, but Severus swallowed through it until the sensation became a leaden feeling in the pit of his stomach. He'd been right: the Headmaster could never know about Sarah Jane—and she would be better off an orphan than cursed with the knowledge of her parentage—which meant that he would have to go carefully. It wouldn't be safe for him to do anything until he'd left Hogwarts for the summer, no matter that he was trembling with impatience to set things to rights.
You pathetic fool! You'll never be able to make this right—no matter that Price thinks otherwise.
Trust had shone in her eyes when she'd left him, and the memory of her gaze was painful. He forced himself not to suppress it, however, because he knew that Price loved Sarah Jane, and that Price had, for some ridiculous reason, decided him worthy of her regard. Sarah Jane would never look at him with such guileless adoration, and he didn't deserve anything from her, but suddenly, the desire not to lose Price's trust overwhelmed him more strongly than had the urge to see his daughter.
Price was more real to him; Sarah Jane was no more than a name reverberating in his troubled mind.
You're a selfish twat, Severus.
That didn't matter. No matter how selfish it made him, Price was his responsibility, and he was going to keep his word to her. It was his duty. He'd promised. She was just a little girl who didn't know what he was.
"I will not fail you."
He could make such a promise to Price; he had no right to promise Sarah Jane, after already having so badly failed her, anything at all.