Exclusive! An Interview with the Half-Blood Prince
The beetle clung to the window screen and peered through a gap in the drapes. If she were capable of smiling in her insect form, she would have been beaming in triumph. "I knew it!" she buzzed to herself as elation filled her tiny arthropod brain. Transforming to her human form, she alighted on the front walk of the house to knock on the front door.
The door opened and a pallid hand seized her by the wrist and yanked her into the house before slamming the door. She found herself standing before a pale, thin man with a prominent nose, who glared at her through the curtains of shiny black hair that hung about his face. "How did you find this house?" he hissed.
Back against the door, she boldly turned up her face to meet his cold and bottomless gaze. "I interviewed your mother here the first time you were arrested."
His black eyes flashed. "The only time I was arrested."
She smacked herself on the side of the head and giggled. "Of course it was! How could I forget that? Anyway, I came to see if Eileen still lived here, and discovered that I couldn't find the house. The street just ended before this address. It was as if..."
He nodded impatiently. "Yes, I know how the wards work, I put them there." He smirked in sudden comprehension. "You got through in your Animagus form." He couldn’t make the wards Animagus-proof, or else stupid Wormtail wouldn't be able to find the house again whenever he returned from errands.
She returned his smirk. "I'm surprised the Aurors haven't thought of that," she said proudly.
"Yes, well, after Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban, I'm surprised the Aurory hasn't cracked down on all the unregistered Animagi running all over the place." He looked momentarily thoughtful, then recovered himself, resuming his baleful glare. "You were just explaining why I shouldn't kill you now." He smiled unpleasantly. "Or fetch some of the others to kill you. After all, you're not important enough to be killed by me. Your death wouldn't even make a good story, I dare say."
She looked momentarily taken aback before regaining her composure and taking out her parchment pad and Quick-Quotes-Quill. "Surely you wouldn't murder a fellow Slytherin without just cause. Besides, I have something to offer you."
"Your presence here is cause enough. And what could you offer me?
"The opportunity for the Half-Blood Prince to tell his side of the story."
He stared at her a moment before laughing without humour. "Why would I care what people thought?" he snapped.
For the first time she could remember, she was lost for words. Surely everyone wanted good press.
Now he was regarding her with an unreadable expression on his face. "Come into the kitchen a moment. I'm going to talk to somebody from this room." His expression became even more fierce. "If you try and listen in, you will find out how thoroughly I've perfected pest control in this house."
After she was seated in the tiny kitchen, he retreated back to the living room behind an Imperturbable Charm. Just as she was working up the nerve to try and get past it, he returned.
"Did You-Know-Who give you permission to talk to me?" she asked saucily.
He smirked. "Your complete lack of fear in this circumstance is more a measure of stupidity than bravery, you know." He sat opposite her at the kitchen table and took out a packet. Shaking out a cigarette, he looked up, rolled his eyes, and offered her one. She accepted gratefully, and he lit both their cigarettes with a snap of his fingers.
After a puff, she erupted into paroxysmal coughing. "Snape," she gasped. "Your cigarettes are evil!"
He smirked. "What other brand would I smoke?"
She handed back the cigarette and he vanished it while she straightened in her chair and readied her quill. Clearing her throat, she began. "So how does it feel to have killed a man who saved you from Azkaban, who gave you a job when no-one else would, and who may have been the greatest wizard that ever lived?"
He spread his hands expansively. "Naturally, I couldn't be more proud. Sentimentality hobbles most people, preventing them from doing what's right. The Dark Lord will take wizard kind past such meagre emotions to help us find our true potential." He actually believed such nonsense once and felt a slight frisson of embarrassment repeating it now. At least the woman could be counted on to write something completely different.
But he'd chosen his words carefully. Later, the Dark Lord would interrogate him about what he'd really said. The Dark Lord watched him closely and questioned him at length about all his activities.
Albus' plan was unsuccessful. The Dark Lord still didn't trust Severus.
As the quill continued its scratching across the parchment pad, he distracted himself from wondering what she could possibly be writing about him by recalling the time he'd read that article on Potter aloud to his class the year of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Never in six years had he seen the Golden Boy squirm so much.
That article made him much more benevolently disposed towards this woman than he otherwise would have been, and he grinned evilly at her. She gasped, then erupted into another flurry of coughing. He sighed in irritation. What reporter couldn't handle a cigarette? He rose from the table to make some tea. Weirdly, the Dark Lord wanted this interview.
"The gossipy, frivolous nonsense she wrote during the Tri-Wizard Tournament was too silly for most fifteen year olds," he'd protested. "Why don't I just kill her and be done with it?"
"You're the most wanted wizard in Britain next to me," the Dark Lord replied. "The entire Aurory is scouring Europe and America looking for you, and here you are, granting interviews to the press as casually as a Quidditch star. Imagine the psychological impact on the populace of seeing your picture in the Daily Prophet instead of just in those 'Wanted' photos. Doesn't matter what she writes."
What had she written, anyway? He glanced at her parchment pad as he leaned over to pour her tea. Years of grading papers had trained him in speed-reading and deciphering all sorts of handwriting. These skills in combination with the acid-green ink she used made her script all too easy to read, even upside-down:
"His swarthy face twisted into an ugly smirk as he recalled the night he killed Albus Dumbledore. 'I could see the terror in his eyes as he pleaded for his life,' he gloated. 'But after fifteen years of grovelling in his employ, it was high time for me to show where my true loyalties lay. Tea?' His smirk widened, revealing the dark and crooked teeth that are the legacy of a deprived childhood.
I looked down at the tea in front of me. Dare I drink tea brewed by none other than Severus Snape? And yet...what would be the consequences of refusing the hospitality of a maniac?
I looked up to meet his mad gaze and in those dark and glittering eyes I found my answer. He wanted his story to be told by none other than the same seasoned journalist who has been following his life since the first war.
So with confidence I picked up the cup of tea brewed by this murderer, Death Eater, madman, and master poisoner, and I drank."
Severus suppressed a snort and turned away to sip his own cup of tea. What would she write if he offered her a biscuit?
When this article came out, the others were going to tease him mercilessly.
She was asking another question. "What about the impact of this action on your family?"
"The Dark Lord and his followers are my family," he retorted coolly.
The quill was scrawling frantically now. He looked into her eyes to see what it was writing as it came straight out of her brain:
"I asked, 'What about your poor mother?'
He snapped, 'Leave my mother out of this,' with no little petulance.
It's an obvious sore spot. As my faithful readers will recall, his mother, of the prominent Prince family, was so plain it was widely believed that she would end up a spinster. Instead, desperate for marriage, motherhood, and a home, she resorted to marrying a Muggle. But marital bliss was not to be. Renounced by her family, she had naught for company but a constantly-exhausted husband who was forced by the family's circumstances to work long hours, and an increasingly troubled son who resented her for his half-blood status."
Mum was going to be furious. Though at least he wouldn't have to hear about it anytime soon. Being a fugitive had its advantages.
The woman in the kitchen sipped tea and grimaced.
"Sugar?" He summoned the sugar bowl and set it in front of her.
"No thank you," she said quickly, to his disappointment. When she'd been distracted by her coughing fit, he'd Transfigured some of the sugar into powdered carbon dioxide so that it would bubble alarmingly when added to liquid.
Having unlimited free time and a Marauder about the house was unleashing his inner prankster.
She pushed her teacup aside. "During his interrogation, a recently-captured Death Eater said that some of them believe that you are loyal to no-one but yourself. He claims you openly threw your loyalties behind You-Know-Who only when Dumbledore had weakened to the point where someone like you could kill him. My question is this: what will you do if your side loses this war?"
"How can we lose?" he replied mildly. "Their strongest wizard is dead while ours grows stronger every day." He relaxed in his chair and looked into her eyes to see what was appearing on the parchment:
"I asked bravely, 'What will you do if your side loses this war?'
He glared at me, his hostility in the face of this suggestion briefly making me fear for my life. Those fathomless black eyes glittered with malice as he snarled, 'We won't lose!' He seized my wrists, squeezing hard enough to leave bruises. 'We won't lose because we are on the side of what's right for all wizard kind. And to anybody who would try and arrest me, know this: I will not be taken alive.' He released my wrists and laughed maniacally."
Merlin! He managed not to cringe visibly. Though on the positive side, Narcissa was going to find this article hilarious. And she was especially attractive when she was laughing. It brought colour to her porcelain complexion, and her perfectly-proportioned bosom heaved up and down most becomingly--best not to think of that right now.
Mercifully, the quill finished its scribbling. Rita replaced the quill and pad back into her handbag and removed a small shapeless bundle. She tapped it with her wand to unshrink a camera with a large flash attachment.
"I thought it prudent to act as my own photographer today," she explained. "Just roll up your sleeve to show us your Dark mark, and I'll be on my way."
"I'll do no such thing," he snarled. "Get out of my house before I..."
"But why not?" she wheedled. "It would make such a marvellous picture."
Why not indeed? The picture they were using for all those "Wanted" posters was particularly ghastly. Apparently, when they were looking for the most recent photo anybody had taken of him, all they could find was that one Colin Creevey had snapped of him coming out of the Men's toilet the day after his birthday, when he customarily ate too much ice cream and drank too much whisky. That combination was not good at the best of times, but was especially unhappy for the lactose-intolerant. He thought the caption should say, "Wanted for Murder: One Queasy Potions Master. And Yes, Of Course He Knows How To Make A Potion For That, You Dunderheads. He Just Hadn't Gotten Round To It Yet."
Best to supplant that image with one of him at his best. Smirking, he pulled up the robes covering his left arm. "How's this?"
"Perfect!" She snapped lots of shots and smiled at him. She looked like she had fifty teeth. "Between this picture and the article, there'll be nothing else on the front page." She re-shrank and repacked all her things. "If anybody else wants to grant me an interview..."
"I'll spread the word. And you don’t. If you tell anybody about this place, you just might become important enough to be killed by me personally.”
After he saw her out, he gestured with his wand towards one of the walls of books in the living room. A door appeared and popped open, revealing Wormtail bound and gagged, his silver hand encased in a block of ice.
"Mmmph!" cried Wormtail frantically.
"Whoops! Wrong door," muttered Severus, and closed the small man back in. Opening another hidden door revealed shelves of gleaming bottles. Taking one down, he blew the dust off and conjured himself a glass. Pouring himself a drink, he raised his glass.
"To the Dark Lord," he said ironically, and downed his drink.