My earliest memory is of my father and church. Not the ceremony, not the sermon, but after. I am in the locked menís room, my urine soaked trousers in a heap on the floor. My father is whipping my backside repeatedly, all the while lecturing me, insisting that I am old enough to control myself, that I should know better by now. I believe I am almost three.
I have many memories of church with my father, as my mother never attended. He was always the worst following those sermons. He returned fueled with the fury of God, the righteous indignation of one who can see the potential in those around him to swear off of worldly desires and look to the heavens for redemption, but who fail to live up to that potential. I was one of the worst. And I was punished for my sins. The beatings that followed the church service, every Sunday locked in the menís restroom, were always the most painful, the most brutal, the most thorough. He believed whole-heartedly in spare the rod, spoil the child. My mother wasnít with us, so she never stayed his hand. This is how my childhood went, week after week after week, and always starting with a fresh beating.
Point of fact, I donít remember any of the sermons, or ever actually being in the chapel. God spoke to me through my father, as did Christ. For all intents and purposes, my father was Lord. I looked up to him, respected him, feared him, and loved him. I emulated him for so many years, or at least tried to. He was tall, and smart, and charismatic. He was above reproach.
My father had dedicated himself to God, and to his Savior. He didnít love my mother, and he barely tolerated me. Were it not for the decree from his father that he continue the line of Snape, he would never have married. He did his duty to his family once, and went back to doing his duty for God. My mother and I, we were a captive audience. She loved him, much to her detriment. Through all of it she loved him, up until the very end.
But she was Slytherin, through and through. She had the remarkable ability to separate her moral obligations to herself, to sidestep what society thinks is right and create her own rules. I went to church with my father, but I learned spirituality from my mother.
It was our little secret, she told me, in hushed tones and behind closed doors. In the beginning, she said, she didnít know if I would be magic or Muggle, but I finally showed my potential. I was no mere Muggle, I was half a Prince. She taught me the ways of her family, the power of magic, the difference between light and dark. She acquired a wand for me, second hand and well used, but it worked well enough to learn with.
She taught me potions, charms and hexes, transfigurations and incantations. She showed me her old textbooks, hidden in a trunk and secreted away under a trapdoor in the back yard, magicked to look like a flower bed. My father would leave for work, and my mother would teach me the ways.
It was the Dark Arts we practiced the most. My mother didnít believe in good or bad magic, only in good or bad people. And besides, she always said, she was really helping my father help me. If I could control the power that came with the Dark Arts, I could control anything, including myself. If I could control myself, I would make my father proud. Weíll keep it secret until you get it, she said, and then weíll surprise your father.
It wasnít until I was nine that I understood that my father wasnít magic. Not only was he not magic, but he absolutely did not condone it. My mother had hidden it from him, she knew from the beginning how he felt about it.
We were in my bedroom, practicing potions, when my father arrived home early. The plant had been closed down due to smoke pollution; one of the machines had caught on fire. They sent everyone home until the air was cleared. He came upon us then, making a potion, steam curling silver from the iridescent purple liquid. He stood dumbfounded in the doorway for a moment, and then very quietly asked my mother to join him in their bedroom, demanding that I clean up the filth and stay in my own.
I cleaned up what I could, and that sat on my bed to wait. The walls in our house were thin, and so it wasnít long before I heard the yelling. My fatherís low rumble interrupted my motherís gentle pleading. It was the smack and the crash the caused me to stand and go to them. Fleeting memories of dark rooms and the sounds of hitting and my motherís sobs came rushing to my head. I had experienced the beatings often enough to know how painful it was. My mother was small and frail physically, and I believed it my duty to protect her from harm. I was old enough now, and knew enough magic, I could do it.
I ran to their room, raising my wand at my father and demanding he stop. He pushed my mother away from him, throwing her at the wall, and turned on me. It was at this moment that I first experienced one of those times that will always plague me. I was lost in a sea of emotion. There was a war going on inside my very soul. He was beating my mother, and I needed very much to protect her. We werenít doing any wrong; she was trying to help me so that he would be proud. But then, he was my father, my lord, the one I so wanted to be like. If I hurt him, or displeased him, I would never be able to live with myself.
And that was the moment I turned from my father, that was the moment I turned from his teachings of striving to please God, to please Christ, to reach for the higher plains of heaven. I steadied my arm and pointed my wand at his face, directly between his eyes. My shoulders were back and my head was held high. Remarkably, I didnít tremble. If I could control the Dark Arts, she had said, I could control myself.
I told him he was never to touch her again, that I would kill him if he did. He didnít understand what magic could do then, he believed it was all pagan hoopla and Satanism. But he knew the look on my face, recognized the cold determination in my eyes, as it was so often what he felt when he beat me. He turned from me then, looked to my mother and spat, ďFINE!Ē and then strode from the room, wiping spittle from his chin.
It was the last time my parents spoke to each other, other than that which was necessary to communicate about the daily needs of the household. It was also the last time either of them spoke with me. Lessons with my mother had ended, as had church with my father. I continued the lessons by myself, bringing the books into my room and teaching myself the Dark Arts, potions, anything else I could learn on my own. I rarely ate, and I stopped caring about my appearance. What I looked like was no longer important; all that mattered now was learning the magic, learning self-control. If I could do that, I told myself, I could make them both proud. I could make them both love me again.
My mother stopped eating as well, stopped doing magic, stopped living. She no longer had my father, and she was angry at me for having caused him to leave her. When my Hogwarts letter came, she took me to the train station, but only because she knew someone would come after me if she didnít. It wouldnít do to let the outside world know, she mumbled on the way in to the train. It wouldnít do to let anyone come over, father would be so angry and she would never get him to love her again.
Looking back on it, I could almost laugh at that now. Get him to love her, again, indeed.
Hogwarts was, well, Hogwarts. I was sorted into Slytherin, for which I was grateful. Perhaps my mother would be proud. The other students hated me, and the teachers pitied me. I went further into my studies, both those provided me through the school, and those I did on my own. By second year, Slughorn had recognized my ability in potions, and started inviting me to his gatherings. It went over as well as can be expected.
But by third year, someone had started to notice me; a few some ones, actually. Though I didnít learn this until later, they had been advised by their lord to keep watch for anyone who might be sympathetic to the cause, and anyone who might prove useful. They invited me to spend time with them, and though I wouldnít call them friends, we did have conversations. They were grooming me, I realize now. Not because they liked me, but because they needed numbers, needed power, needed skills. I could be useful to their lord.
In the mean time I had developed aÖfascination, with a certain girl. She was soft, and intelligent, and beautiful. But she was also kind. If you took away her beauty and her strength, she was very like my mother.
We had been partnered together by Slughorn. He felt his two brightest pupils ought to work together. I refused to show her that I was impressed by her at first, and she tried very hard to tolerate the way I treated her. As time went on, we grew to work well together. I gave up on open disdain of her, and she even smiled at me on occasion. I never told her of my growing fascination for her. It didnít matter anyway, I wouldnít trust her, couldnít trust her. I had learned by now that only I would take care of myself.
The summers home were distinguishable only by my growing contempt by my father, and the weakening state of my mother. Nothing remarkable happened over the warm months. We continued in silence.
By fifth year, I had grown obsessed with the girl. I had also developed into a remarkable potions maker, as had she, and I had gained control of the Dark Arts to the point where I was able to design and use my own hexes and curses.
I was powerful, I was above reproach, I was in control. The Dark Lord had heard of me by now, and was sending me messages to let me know that I had piqued his interest, that he was interested in my abilities. Finally, I had reached a point where someone in power recognized and respected me.
There was one thorn in my side through all of this, or should I say four thorns in my side. The Marauders, the impertinent, egotistical, and idiotic Marauders. They were so full of themselves, so incredibly convinced of their own superiority, their own intelligence, their own popularity. And like all peoples who believe themselves above the rules of society, they were bullies. And I was a favorite target.
I mentioned before that I donít trust anyone, and my distrust was only confirmed in my interactions with these morons. They used spells that I had created against me, time and time again. And though I had developed a sort of camaraderie, or so I thought, with a certain group of Slytherins, none of them stood by my side during these events.
In fact, it was the end of my fifth year when events took place that led me to take the first step on my path into darkness. I had been reviewing my NEWTS, had just finished looking over notes to be sure I had answered every question completely, not left out any information, and was on my way back to my rooms to read through a book I had borrowed from the restricted section, when my wand was ripped from my hand.
The bullies were at it again; using my own spells, humiliating me in public, trying again to gain popularity by torturing their favorite target. They had me, of course, there was nothing I could do then without my wand. I had been using it for so long, focusing my magic through it for far longer than anyone here, that I had become dependant upon it.
And then she showed up. She demanded they stop. She stood by my side. I donít know what made me more furious; that I had been caught unawares by them again, or that she would stand up for me when no one else would, not even my so-called friends. I lost control of myself again, warring with the internal feelings the way I was, and in the process I went back on our silent truce, and attacked her just as I attacked everyone else. After she left, of course, they continued with their games, eventually releasing me when audience was no longer entertained.
Up until that moment I had believed my mother, I had believed that it was possible to use the Dark Arts without being a dark wizard. But in that moment of fury, in that millisecond of loss of control, I decided my own fate, though I didnít realize it until later. She and I were still partnered together, yes, but she no longer smiled at me, she no longer spoke with me, we worked in silence over our cauldron, preparing perfect potions for Slughorn. This continued through the end of our seventh year, by which time she was madly in love with the meanest of all the bullies, the instigator of all their attacks.
I missed her attentions, though I would never tell her. I missed the kindnesses she would show me. And as strange as it sounds, my obsession with her grew, as I respected her cool control over herself whenever she was near me.
Several events combined to finally push me into taking the Dark Mark. One was the final straw with my teachers at Hogwarts, and led to my lack of respect for Professor Dumbledore. When I was attempting to catch the Marauders at their mischief, and I almost lost my life in the process, when I had been saved by the very one who had so viciously tortured me for so many years, and Dumbledore insisted that I keep it quiet, and that they would not be punished as they needed to be protected. I turned away from him.
And then after school, at the end of my seventh year, when I returned to my silent parents, my mother was dying. I knew then, my father had killed her. His silence, his contempt, his very righteousness had driven her to give up on life, had led her into death.
I left the very night she died, overcome with grief, with regret, with anger at my father, with guilt at my own responsibilities in her death, in her miserable life. I went to my Slytherin friends, I asked them for assistance at avenging my mother, and they took me to the Dark Lord. I was barely keeping myself from sobbing when he broke into my mind that night. He saw my mother, my father, he saw the Marauders, and he saw her, and how I felt about her.
He also saw my abilities with potions and my control of the Dark Arts. And he promised me help with avenging my mother and punishing my father. He promised me that if I wanted her, he would help me get her; he told me that he, too, was angry at Dumbledore. And if I would join him, follow him, serve him, then all of these things would be given, and I could even aid him in the downfall of the Professor.
And I bought it. I gave myself over to the commands of the Dark Lord, I took his mark, I obeyed his commands, and I even killed my father, with help from a few of the Slytherins who had never before stood by my side. I was drunk on the power, on the information I had access to, the ingredients I could get my hands on, the knowledge that I was no longer alone. I may not have friends, but I was a part of a larger cause, and that dedication would give me people to assist me, just as I would assist them. The years in between my joining of them and my leaving all meld together. There is torture, yes, and violence. But there is also learning, development of new spells and potions, training which allowed me to gain skill and power. There were also moments where the Dark Lord would tell me I had done well, and that was a balm to my soul, regardless of what I had done to gain that praise.
It was not when I returned to Dumbledore and confessed all to him that I turned from the dark, as many may assume. I had been given leave by my Lord to go and teach, to tell Dumbledore bits and pieces of things so that he would believe I was spying for him and not acting as a spy for the Dark Lord. It was later, after my worst enemy and the girl had a child. The Dark Lord had told me that this was the time when he would help me get her, that I could make her mine. I was with him, that night, in Godricís Hollow, though no one knows. And she chose that brat over her life. I left, after she was dead and the Dark Lord lost power. I was so angry that he had killed her, so angry that she had chosen to die. I left the child in the rubble of the house, and returned to Hogwarts. I told Dumbledore what had happened.
I left the dark, then, that very night. I declared that I would truly follow Dumbledore, I told him as much. And over time, though I would never forgive him for his decision in my seventh year, I grew to think of him as the father figure I always should have had.
He would approach me, over the years, and ask if he could have a word. We would talk long into the night, sometimes over tea, sometimes over firewhisky, and just discuss life, and our opinions, and our reasons for those opinions. Slowly, subtly, Slytherinly, he brought me around to his way of thinking. I would never be kind, or loving, or trusting, or friendly, but he taught me about the importance of peace, about the possibilities for the future if the children remained on the side of the light. And before I knew it, I agreed.
Suddenly, my purpose was no longer power or control, but instead guiding the children so that they could make for a better future. Perhaps my purpose was still power and control, I could have both if I could affect time.
I returned, then, to the Dark Lordís circle. I began to follow his commands again, while maintaining my loyalty to my purpose. I had been convincing, convincing enough that most of those on both sides believed I was of their ranks. And when Narcissa came to me, and I swore to help her son, I was at a loss. I returned to Albus, I told him what had happened. We argued long into the night about that one. He told me that I should do it, that it was important that I maintain my cover. I refused, over and over again, that entire year.
I did help the boy, or at least attempt to. But I was looking for a sign in him that he would join me, rather than the other way around. There was no chance of it, of course, his family would be dead if he turned away from his chosen path. Finally, I told Albus I was done, that I refused, and he used his most powerful argument ever. He spoke of the children, of the future. And I gave in. He was not important, he said, not ultimately, and neither was I. If it came down to it, he said, I would be more important than him, as I had to protect the boy, lead the boy to a better tomorrow. And then he asked me to swear, then and there, to do whatever he asked, no matter what.
And on the tower that night, as I made eye contact for the last time with the one person I had ever truly grown to love, he opened up his mind to me, and asked me to simply kill him. And I did. I did.
I think it is the only truly eventful time in my life where I was in complete control of myself regardless of my internal turmoil. And the only way I had gained that control was by first completely relinquishing it.
Perhaps, just perhaps, as I hide away in this cottage, with the boy I had sworn to protect, I will be able to make a difference, I will be able to bring about a better future, and my power will be not in greatness, or control, or the Dark Arts, but merely in affecting one life enough that he becomes a better man. Maybe that is denying worldly desires and striving for something higher. Maybe that will make it all worthwhile.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to the wonderful JKR, I am just borrowing.