After Potter was gone, Severus Snape sat himself down on the shore of the lake, ruminating sullenly on the events of the past summer. The Dark Lord was dead; certainly that was cause for celebration and triumph, wasn’t it?
Some triumph. Snape hadn’t even been in the same postal code when Voldemort had finally snuffed it. He had been at Spinner’s End, supposedly researching (at Voldemort’s request) The Many and Various Ways to Completely Annihilate The Boy Who Lived. “Supposedly,” because instead of actually researching ways to kill Potter (which truthfully got rather boring after awhile), Snape had been spending most of his time brooding and getting pissed on elf-made wine.
He never would have allowed himself such a luxury before he had become a fugitive. But after Dumbledore’s death, Snape had suggested to the Dark Lord that he be allowed to put an Unplottable on Spinner’s End, ostensibly to protect him (and more so his valuable work) from capture. However what it mostly protected him from, conveniently, was prying eyes.
Well, at least Potter had been nowhere around either, when the Dark Lord met his underwhelming end. So much for all those predictions about him being the “Chosen One.” Snape always had thought that trusting in the inane ramblings of Sybill Trelawney was a bad idea. That addle-brain couldn’t predict Christmas in December, as far as he could tell. Twit.
And the Dark Lord…well it was a rather ignominious way to go, wasn’t it? Snape almost pitied him his bland, pedestrian end. His annihilation had been so immediate and total that Voldemort might as well have been hit by the Knight Bus, poor fellow. It was a most unfittingly boring death, especially after all those pretty plans he had made. Who would have thought that the contemptible, insectile Pettigrew, of all people, would actually make himself useful at last? Yes, Tom Marvolo Riddle, also known as Voldemort, also known as the Dark Lord, had been murdered by his own servant, murdered while, of all things, having a bath. There he had been, lying smug and naked in the water, no doubt believing himself to be the most marvelously evil creature that ever, ever lived, when…zap.
What a git. What a fucking witless git. If he hadn’t been such a self-satisfied bastard he might have realized that he had grossly underestimated his servant’s resentment. But then, that was the Dark Lord for you. Endlessly suspicious of everyone and everything, yet at the same time entirely too trusting. He had probably demeaned Pettigrew one time too many. Perhaps he had told him the towels weren’t white enough, or there was a smudge on the floor that needed to be wiped up. Who knew?
All that was known was that there was no battle. No fight at all. Just one killing curse hurled by Peter Pettigrew. Only Pettigrew could have accomplished it so easily, because it was to Pettigrew that the Dark Lord owed his greatest debt. It was Pettigrew who had sacrificed his hand, who had resurrected the Dark Lord from a barely animate blob of tissue to slit-eyed beast. But like everyone else, the Dark Lord had loathed him, and in the end his hate had indeed been his greatest weakness.
"Horcruxes my arse," Snape grumbled, staring out at the orangey-red sunset. He sucked in another lungful of smoke, and then almost reflexively gripped at his arm. It had been the Dark Mark that had informed him of the Voldemort’s demise. On the night of his death, Snape had been elbow deep into his second (third?) bottle of wine, yet even in his intoxicated haze, he had known. There had been a searing pain, a pain so intense that though he was fully drunk, he had cried out in agony and fallen to the floor, sweating and moaning, pulling at the cuff of his robes. What he saw on his arm had astonished and horrified him. The Dark Mark itself was moving, the skull lolling from side to side in a silent scream as the snake writhed, withering. Then the mark itself was gone, as if it had never even existed, leaving only Snape’s own sallow skin. Only much later did Snape realize it was July 31st, Harry Potter’s seventeenth birthday.
As soon as he had recovered, Snape Apparated, and found Bellatrix shrieking over what was left of the Dark Lord. Pettigrew’s body was there as well. He had drunk the venom of a Peruvian Vipertooth. As Bellatrix wailed, Snape plucked a note out of Pettigrew’s dead hand. “I have paid,” it said, but the recipient of this communication, and whether Pettigrew meant that he had paid for his betrayal of his school friends or of the Dark Lord, still remained unclear.
After one long last look at the bodies of Voldemort and Pettigrew, and one disgusted sneer at Bellatrix, Snape was gone, back to Spinner’s End, back to try to figure out what he should do. In the end, all he had done was remove the Unplottable. A death wish, perhaps, as he had decided that he would do nothing to resist Potter.
But, most astonishingly, three days after the death of the Dark Lord, it was not Potter, burning with homicidal rage, who had shown up at his door.
No. It was Hermione Granger. And Severus Snape had never been so surprised to see anyone in his entire life.
She looked at him, her eyes filling with tears. “He’s c-come back, Professor,” she had said, her voice breaking, “and he…you…I… and I found you, and you’re alive, and…and...”
Then she had broken down completely, collapsing against him. And Severus Snape, having seen the truth in her shining eyes the moment he had looked into them, had let her.
Snape remembered that moment as he threw the butt of his fifth cigarette into the lake. “I suppose I won’t have to die after all,” he muttered under his breath to no one in particular. Then he stood, brushing himself off carefully. He had never been a fan of the great outdoors.
“At least not yet…” he added, a bit louder, and turned and made his way purposefully up to the castle.
Albus might be a ghost, but it still would not do to make him wait.