If you are reading this letter, it means I have finally found the courage of my convictions and done what I should have done long ago. I know this is going to be hard for you to understand right now, but I beg you listen. If you find yourself angry or hurt and unable to continue reading, please don't destroy this letter. Put it away in a safe place and think on what you've read. Maybe in a few weeks, you'll decide to read the whole thing. If you read the whole story now, you're braver than I've given you credit for, and stronger than I could have ever hoped to be.
This is so hard to write, but harder still to know that I haven't the courage to tell you this to your face; to know that when you read this it will already be too late. There is so much to explain, and I wonder how to begin. I guess, as one spark may start a fire, one sentence can start a story. So here it is: I loved your mother.
I loved her and it hurt when she married your father, but I understood, as she did, that we could never safely be together. Your experience in my memory gave you the impression I wanted all to see: that I could never be civil to, let along love, a Muggle-born. As a Slytherin, that is what was expected of us, and as a Death Eater, what was required. You saw what I was like as a teenager; not much, but enough to know I was not one to stand up for myself. Powerful friends meant both safety and power for me, and I embraced both with a passion, for I had never had either as a child.
Your mother knew the company I kept, the friends I had; and yet she persisted with our friendship. She was an incredibly gifted witch, but even more so, she was a beautiful person. The friendship she offered me was open and unassuming, without prejudice or motive. A friendship, in time, that I could not help but return. We studied together often, and with her gift for charms and mine for potions, we made a formidable pair. The other Slytherins ridiculed me for the friendship, calling me traitor and Mudblood-lover. They didn't know how true the latter was, and how significant the former would become.
In the summer after our fifth year, I finally reached the edge at home. Details are unimportant, but suffice to say I never set foot on the family land again. Your mother's family was away at the time, in Sweden, if I recall correctly, however Lily had remained home. I didn't know where else to go. I didn't have anywhere else to go. I don't know what she thought when she opened the front door, but, as always, she said little and listened much.
Her parents returned home the following day, and somehow or other she convinced them to let me stay for the rest of the holidays. It was strange and amazing to be suddenly the guest in a Muggle household. They welcomed me with open arms (aside from Lily's sister, who showed me the same contempt she afforded her 'freak' sister) and for a few short weeks I knew what it was like to be part of a family. Somewhere in the course of those few weeks, Lily's kindness became something more, and I put aside my pureblood ideologies long enough to realise I had fallen in love with her.
When we returned to school, we decided, for both our sakes, we would try to keep our relationship a secret. I guess I don't have to explain to you how secrets work at Hogwarts. In two days it seemed everywhere I turned, people were watching me, pointing, whispering. This was nothing new, but suddenly it hurt. I had only so much as to look at Lily, and the Slytherins who called themselves my friends turned on me. Between the vindictive Slytherins and a group who called themselves the Marauders, I could hardly go a day without getting beaten, tripped, slimed or locked in a Vanishing Cupboard for a few hours.
What was happening to me worried me less than the thought that Lily might be enduring the same. My suspicions proved correct when I saw her sitting alone at the Gryffindor table one morning during breakfast. Her two closest friends were sitting some length down the table, talking loudly enough for everyone to hear about their Muggle-born friend who thought she was too good for her half-blood friends anymore. I watched her stare into her porridge and knew she was fighting to keep the tears from her eyes. So intent she was on not crying, she hardly looked up when a glass of pumpkin juice suddenly came flying across the table towards her and spilt in her lap. A moment later, I saw a certain young man saunter along the table to her. Black asked her loudly if she would like some new robes, perhaps green, to go with her boyfriend's.
Before I knew what was happening, I was across the Gryffindor side of the Great Hall, slamming Black up against the wall. Even as I was pulled off him, I heard myself swearing to kill him if he ever spoke to her again. In all the commotion, I never noticed Lily flee the scene. By the time I had heard the usual useless babble from the Headmaster, I had made up my mind. This couldn't continue.
I found her in our secret place, a hollow in some rocks on the far side of the lake. She made to hug me, but I pulled away, trying not to look at her tear-stained face. I told her it was over. I told her we should never have become friends in the first place. I told her I had been wrong to think I could ever love a Mudblood. And then I looked at her. I have never forgotten the look on her face. Betrayal, hurt, disbelief. She told me I was lying and to stop being stupid. She nearly had me, with those pleading eyes, but somehow I managed to hold myself together. I fixed my face into a cold expression I had never used before, but which I am seldom now seen without. I tried to keep my voice from breaking as I told her I had never loved her. And then I left.
Things became better for me after that in some respects and so much worse in others. The Slytherins assumed I had come to my senses, although now and then I would catch suspicious glances from some of them when I was talking to students from other Houses. That was seldom, though. After a while, Lily gave up trying to talk to me, and I decided the best way to stop loving her was to hate her instead. My best friends were in Slytherin and more and more I was drawn into their ideals. Talk was rife in the Slytherin common room of a powerful wizard who shared a common goal with the founder of our House: to rid the wizarding world of half-blood filth. I listened to the ideas of my fellow students, frightened yet intrigued by their hatred of wizards with less than pure blood.
Near the end of my sixth year, Lucius Malfoy, who was in his final year at the time, let it slip that he'd heard Lily Evans was going out with that arrogant Gryffindor James Potter. I tried to feign indifference as I stated they were both idiots and well suited to each other. I don't know which emotion was stronger in me that day: hurt or hatred. I was hurt that Lily would even consider going out with Potter, after all the times she had defended me against him. He was cruel without conscience, torturing people he didn't like simply because they existed. She used to hate him, and I still hated him. It wasn't enough that he was popular, good at Quidditch, able to get good grades without studying much. He had taken from me the only thing I had ever truly wanted: Lily. The thought crossed my mind that maybe she was only doing it to spite me. The thought gave me a savage kind of pleasure. Potter was second choice after me.
Maybe it was my hatred that drove me to Voldemort that summer (you must be proud of me for saying his name). After school ended that year I was invited to the Malfoy's for the summer. Having nowhere else to go, I readily accepted. Indeed, Lucius was something of an older brother to me and someone I had always looked up to, despite him only being a year older than myself. His girlfriend Narcissa and her sister Bellatrix also spent much of the summer there, and the four of us learnt more practical Dark Art in that summer than in six years of Defence classes. Lucius could talk of nothing other than the rising Dark Lord who would stamp out Mudbloods and Muggle-lovers for good. This Dark Lord was recruiting followers who shared his ideas, and Lucius had readily signed up.
I flinched the first time he showed me the mark on his inner arm. It was ugly, burnt-looking skin a shape with which I believe you are now familiar. Lucius explained how the Dark Lord used it to identify those truly loyal to him, and to call them to do his bidding. I was scared, but at the same time I was blinded by the prospect of power over those I hated, those who had hurt me. So when I returned to Hogwarts for my final year, I, too, bore the Dark Mark on my arm.
I wasn't alone in bearing the mark at Hogwarts. More than half of the final-year Slytherins also had the sign of the Dark Lord imprinted on them, as well as a handful of older students from the other houses. Not that they showed their arms openly at school, but I recognised some, even under the hoods and masks we were required to wear at our meetings. As the junior Death Eaters, as we came to be called, we were seldom involved in action in that first year of service. Nothing much changed at school, but even without Lucius around to protect me, I felt more able to stand up to my persecutors. Potter and Black seemed to lay off me a bit that year. Maybe it was the influence of Lily, who was almost always by Potter's side. Not that I had given her any reason to feel anything but hate towards me, but I think hate was something your mother was incapable of.
The first two years after I left school were a blur. Voldemort was growing in both power and confidence, and his ranks were multiplying exponentially, Every meeting seemed to bring at least a dozen new recruits. It was commonplace to mark their initiation with a killing. Muggles and wizards alike. It didn't matter. If you didn't have the mark, you were at risk. Somewhere in the middle of chaos, I received a letter from your mother. I considered burning it, but the allure of her curving script brought back memories of notes slipped under desks in class. I had to read it. She was getting married. To Potter, my worst enemy, no less. And she had the nerve to tell me she still loved me and wanted my blessing.
I considered my options. Ignore it. Reply to it and tell her to go to Hades. Send a sickly sweet reply wishing them all the best in their two-and-a-half-children life together. Kill him. Kill her. Every possibility crossed my mind. Every thought except the last occurred to me at least twice. As much as I told myself every day I hated her and didn't care, deep down I knew I was fooling myself. I loved her and I had left her to protect her. I wanted her to be happy and, although Potter was the last person I wanted her to be happy with, if that's what she wanted, so be it. I sent a short, sharp reply wishing her happiness and success in life.
Sometime after that, I heard Lily and James Potter had a son. A short time later, I received another letter in that familiar curving script. Again I was loathe to read it, but again I couldn't resist. Lily explained that she was going into hiding with her family, but she had one last thing to ask me, and bid I accepted. She asked me to be godfather to her young son, should anything happen to her and James. Her husband had named his best friend, Sirius Black, as godfather also, but Lily was worried and insisted on someone of her choice in the position as well. I can only imagine James' reaction to her wish to ask me. His anger was only matched by my surprise. Your mother had a strange way of knowing just when to push, and something changed for me the night I received that letter.
She knew what I was. She knew her friends had died at the hands of my friends, or possibly even me, behind those masks. She knew, as a Muggle-born, I was bound to kill others like her. And still she asked. That letter was a display of unshaken, unshakeable trust that went beyond any love, bond or bidding. It was a gesture of faith across an indeterminable void.
Just the following day, before I had replied to the letter, Voldemort informed a select group of Death Eaters of a prophecy which had been overheard. My reputation for problem solving in and out of the potions lab was well known amongst the Death Eaters, and to the Dark Lord's detriment, I was part of that select group. It was our task to unravel the Prophecy and determine the individual of whom it spoke. I guessed instantly the Prophecy referred to you, Harry, and struggled to look confused as the other Death Eaters speculated as to who it might be. I took my leave with a promise to investigate further and report to Voldemort the very next night.
I went straight to Dumbledore. Despite many dealing with him whilst at school, I had never taken his words to heart, or seen him as much more than a blathering old fool. I can't explain why I ran to him that night, but for the second time in my life, I didn't know where else to go. He was surprisingly calm, despite the ill tidings I brought. He, too, was aware of the Prophecy, and had come to the same conclusion as I. As we talked, I found myself telling him everything, from why I left home, to why I left Lily and what drove me to Voldemort in the first place. He, too, was a good listener.
Under the influence of Veritaserum (even Dumbledore can't be too careful) he questioned my loyalties and discovered I truly regretted my service to the Dark Lord and all the things I had done at his bidding. He understood my reasons for coming to him that night, and told me something I have never forgotten. He said that while love seems to weaken us by making us vulnerable, and hate makes us feel strong, love is the strongest emotion of all and where there is love, goodness will ultimately prevail. Even as little as a week before, I may have thought this fools babble, the mumblings of an old man whose wits go wandering between years and spells; but for the first time, I took his words to heart.
He asked if I simply wanted to leave the service of Voldemort, or fight against him for what I truly believed. I knew one did not simply leave the services of the Dark Lord, let alone betray him, but I was determined to do all I could to right the wrongs I had done. That was the day I became a spy for the Order of the Phoenix, working against the Dark Lord from within the Death Eaters' ranks. I was to go to a meeting that night, to report on my progress in determining the identity of the child in the Prophecy. As I was getting ready to leave Hogwarts, there was a knock at the door of the room Dumbledore had given me. It was Lily.
She looked as beautiful as the last time I had seen her, and in her arms was a dark-haired baby boy, so like his father already, but with the startling green eyes of his mother. She spoke softly, as always, and told me Dumbledore had explained the situation to her. She couldn't stay long. She was going into hiding that night by the casting of the Fidelius Charm. She never mentioned who the Secret Keeper was. I'm not even sure she knew. She asked me if I had received her letter, and what my answer was to her request. I had thought long and hard on the subject that afternoon and told her, with all my heart, I could not accept.
Her eyes filled with tears and she looked away. A small part of me relented, wanting to tell her I would be honoured to be your godfather, but the rest of my mind echoed Dumbledore's warning. Voldemort was, and still is, a very cunning judge of emotion. Even as the accomplished Occlumens I now consider myself, it is near impossible to hide all feelings from his prying. If he were to torture me and break into my mind, as he had done with many a Death Eater, the results could have been disastrous. If he were to discover even a hint of emotion for the boy prophesised to be his demise, my life would be forfeit and the Order would lose its only chance of inside information on the operations of the Death Eaters. It was a risk I could not afford to take.
I told her, instead, that I would do everything I could to bring down the Dark Lord, so she and her family might live in peace, and if that happened, I would be honoured to be your godfather. She crossed the space between us and touched my cheek briefly with her hand. As she whispered thankyou, I stared at you, my godson-to-be and swore the Dark Lord would never touch a hair on your head.
That was the last time I ever saw your mother. She went into hiding with you and James, as I began spying on the Dark Lord for Dumbledore and the Order. It was terrifying at first, but I learn to conceal my emotion until I could fool even Voldemort. I reported the plans of the Death Eaters to the Order while giving the Dark Lord a number of possible names for the child in the Prophecy. I concluded for him there was no possible way of knowing which child it would be. His answer was to kill them all. I was horrified, but managed to conceal my fear in the knowledge that you were well hidden. Little did I know there was another traitor in our midst.
Coincidentally, that September the old Potions Master at Hogwarts retired and Dumbledore saw fit to appoint me to the position. This was both a blessing and a curse for me. I hated children and never saw myself as a teacher, but Voldemort was pleased at my close proximity to Dumbledore and saw it as an opportunity for me to spy on the Headmaster for him. I provided him with snippets of information, excusing myself from giving him anything useful because Dumbledore did not discuss his extra-curricular activities with the newest teacher at the school.
I was at a Death Eater meeting in the expansive underground rooms of the Malfoy mansion on Halloween night when news came of the attack on Godric's Hollow. We had been waiting for the Dark Lord to return from what he called an 'exciting opportunity and the dawn of a new era' when a Death Eater apparated amongst us and shouted the news that the Dark Lord had been defeated by a baby. The absurdity of the situation struck many of my companions, and they began to laugh. The laughter soon turned to fear as other Death Eaters showed up confirming the story. Amid the chaos, I apparated from the room into the grounds above. I knew if your family had been attacked, the Fidelius Charm had been broken and a finding spell on you would work. I performed the spell and panicked when it did work. I apparated again, this time as near to your location as I dared.
The first thing I saw was the Dark Mark shimmering over the ruins of a house. Where once I would have felt a thrill of excitement at the sign, a cold feeling of foreboding swept over me. There was chaos in the street in front of the house, but no one had ventured into the smouldering ruins. Coming from the back of the house, I tried to ignore the stench of burning in the air and performed the finding spell again. It pointed to the corner of the room I was standing in, and I had to light my wand to see. She was still holding you in her arms. I thought you were dead too. I knelt down next to you both and touched her forehead gently. She was already colder than she should have been. Those green eyes I remembered so well showed none of the affection I loved seeing in them. They showed only fear; fear for herself, but most of all for you. I reached down gently and closed those green eyes for the last time. I can honestly say I don't remember what happened next, but I do remember you opening your eyes and staring up at me. There was no fear in your eyes, only that wondrous look a baby has when it sees something new. The next thing I knew, Hagrid was dragging me out the back of the house and handing me a portkey which took me back to Hogwarts.
It was a strange time for me after that. Many Death Eaters had been caught, and others had gone into hiding. Some had come out saying they had no idea what they had done. Use of the Imperious Curse by Voldemort had been common, so who was to say if they were lying? In one way, a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The Dark Lord was gone. I no longer had to spy, cheat, deceive and lie. I could live my life again. The problem was, I had nothing worth living for. The only person I have ever loved died and I had failed in my promises to both her and you. You were alive, but I had no idea where you were and Dumbledore refused to speak of you to me.
Black was sent to Azkaban without trial and I hated myself for the savage pleasure I felt in knowing James Potter had been wrong about something. I continued teaching by day, and drowning my sorrows with Firewhiskey (and occasionally something stronger) by night. I blamed myself for your parents' deaths and the countless other deaths I had participated in or been unable to stop in my time with the Death Eaters. This continued for the better part of ten years, until one day I woke up and didn't recognise myself. I had turned into a bitter man, aged beyond my years and known for being cruel, harsh and unfair. The odd thing was, I liked what I had become. Coldness and indifference are useful guises for real emotions, and I learned to use them well.
One August evening a few years ago, Dumbledore came to my dungeon room to speak with me. That in itself made me apprehensive. Dumbledore usually prefers meetings in the comfort of his own office. The problem with that setting was, as he frequently endured with me, the person he was speaking to could walk out. He guessed, correctly, that I would be much less likely to walk out of my own chambers in anger or frustration. He explained that you had received your Hogwarts letter and would be attending the school this coming year.
I was speechless, to say the least. I found it hard to believe time had gone by so quickly. I was both eager to see you and frightened by what I might see. Even as a baby, your eyes were so like your mother's. I didn't know if I could handle looking into her eyes every day without her. Dumbledore's next bit of news didn't make things any easier.
Even since the downfall of the Dark Lord, there had been rumours here and there that he was not truly dead. I scoffed at the rumours initially, until Dumbledore admitted they may be true. I had learnt by then not to take the Headmaster's opinion lightly. He informed me that until it was confirmed that the Dark Lord was indeed dead, you must not know me for who I really am. I must not feel anything for you, nor you for me. It was easy for him to say, and I knew it would be easy for you. You'd never met me, never heard of me. My reputation was enough to make you hate me, and if that wasn't enough I had a few other tricks up my sleeves for the hopelessly eager first years I encountered each September.
It was like being told you'll be locked in Honeydukes for the night, and then having your jaws locked together for the duration of your stay. I could see Dumbledore's point, but nevertheless, it hurt that I had to make you hate me. It became easier when I saw you were a spitting image of your father. Unless I was looking directly into your eyes, I could forget you were related to Lily and pretend you were just the son of James Potter, my old school nemesis. I think I did well. I certainly succeeded in making you hate me.
Through your first few years, our hatred of each other grew, but I upheld my promise to protect you. In a way, I think you realised I was trying to help you, but didn't or couldn't believe it. When Voldemort returned at the end of your fourth year, I realised how important Dumbledore's words had been. As I returned to the Death Eaters, I silently thanked you for accepting my hatred of you without question. If you had ever come to me and asked what you had done for me to hate you, I think you would have broken me.
The last two years have been rife with pain for the both of us. The loss of your other godfather, whom I cannot bring myself even now to say I liked; but I know how much he meant to you and I wished last year I could have done more to prevent his death. The Dark Lord is increasingly suspicious of everyone, but as of late his attention seems to have turned back to me. I won't upset you with details, but I fear I am close to breaking, which I why I have written this letter.
It may seem selfish of me, but I cannot die without you knowing the truth. I don't deserve your forgiveness for all the hurt I have caused, and I don't expect you to grieve for the loss of someone you never really knew. I just wanted you to know that if ever I seemed cruel or hateful towards you, it was because I wanted to protect you. I refused to show I cared for fear of it being used against me to harm you. But I do love you.
Your mother brought me back from the Dark Lord's side, and I see in you all the kindness and selfless courage that made her the beautiful person she was. You have your father in you as well, but of him I only see the bravery that makes you both the epitome of a Gryffindor and the talent that makes you an outstanding student. You are a caring, courageous young man who has more conviction than I could have ever dreamt of.
I am writing this before I depart for a meeting with the Death Eaters. A gathering which I fear will be my last. I refuse to break. I will not undo all the good I have done in providing information to the Order. I will not betray my true friends and colleagues. I will not sell you out. For once in my life, I am going to keep a promise, and protect you, even if it costs me my life. I hope you understand, and forgive me for all I never should have done, and everything I didn't do.
Your loving godfather.
* * *
This was supposed to be a three page letter and instead has ended up being a ten page monster! It seems a bit strange, a letter being this long, but then again, Severus did have a lot to explain. I felt at times it stopped being a letter and turned into just a 1st person account from Snape, but I did my best to reel it back in.
The 'three page letter' this started out as being was originally written as a possible inclusion in a longer fic of mine, Desiderium, which is also posted here. I'm not sure the finished letter will fit the story, but I might butcher it a bit and include some of the more eloquent points in the longer story.
This actually started out a very different letter than what it ended up being. As you can see, the story is titled from the song below, so I guess you could call it a songfic... I'm not sure. Songfics are a bit of a contradiction for me. I hate reading those stories where the character sing (everyone who knows me knows my obsession with character being... well, in character). And yet I listened to this song and a story popped into my head which fitted it so well I had to write it... so is it really a song fic? Or just a fic that happens to go well with a song? I'm confuzzled...
Anyway, if you find the lyrics moving, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the song - it's beautiful.
Missing - Evanescence
Please, please forgive me,
But I won't be home again.
Maybe someday you'll look up,
And, barely conscious, you'll say to no one:
"Isn't something missing?"
You won't cry for my absence, I know -
You forgot me long ago.
Am I that unimportant...?
Am I so insignificant...?
Isn't someone missing me?
Even though I'm the sacrifice,
You won't try for me, not now.
Though I'd die to know you love me,
I'm all alone.
Isn't someone missing me?
Please, please forgive me,
But I won't be home again.
I know what you do to yourself,
I breathe deep and cry out,
"Isn't something missing?"
And if I bleed, I'll bleed,
Knowing you don't care.
And if I sleep just to dream of you
I'll wake without you there,
Isn't something missing?
Isn't someone missing me?
- - -
And just for the record, this fic is unbetad. Feel free to email me as to the benefits of using a beta reader. I have tried it before, so I'll email you back with the reasons why I prefer not to use one.