That was Severus Snape’s first thought as he stared fixedly at the mysterious, cloth-covered object in the middle of the sparsely furnished room that currently served as the meeting place for the Dark Lord’s followers. The room was near the back of an old, abandoned lumber mill, which had been shut down more than twenty years ago. Only the skeletons of rusty saws and broken presses remained as a mournful tribute to the building’s past life. The Dark Lord had, in the past year, taken complete control and his shadowy fingerprints were everywhere. A pile of maps rested in one corner, along with two bookshelves filled with the darkest of Dark Arts tomes. Another shelf, which ran along one wall, was stocked with an array of potions supplies and small dark creatures in aquariums and cages. In the basement, the occasional chain rattle or groan could be heard from the prisoners: mostly werewolves who did not serve the Dark Lord willingly as men – but served his ends once a month as savage, mindless beasts.
The Dark Lord himself was standing near his latest acquisition, his white, spidery hands trembling as he caressed the air centimeters above the canvas concealing the object, which was nearly as tall as he was. Snape did not know what the Dark Lord had obtained, or how, but the hairs on the back of his neck prickled with unease as he gazed on it.
“At last,” Voldemort purred. “The final piece of the puzzle for ensnaring the Potter brat. Bella. Rodolphus. Atherton. You have done well. Where, however, is Rabastan?”
“Dead, my Lord,” Bella said, her voice unusually hoarse. Snape wondered at this, for she'd never seemed especially close to her brother-in-law. “He died holding back the Cwn Annwn at the temple of Gwyn ap Nudd.”
Snape stiffened in alarm. The Cwn Annwn? The white demon dogs? Most of the wizarding world regarded those creatures as nothing more than Celtic legend, or, at most, extinct animals from a bygone era. Where had they gone, and what devilry had they brought back?
The Dark Lord merely gave a curt nod. “The important thing is, you came back with this.” Again, his hand hovered over the cloth, not quite touching it.
“My Lord,” Avery piped up, his voice quivering. “What exactly is it? Is it something from Morgana Le Fey?”
There was no reply, and Snape wondered if Avery would pay for speaking out of turn. Their master had been temperamental of late. However, the Dark Lord only gave a soft hiss of laughter.
“Oh no,” Lord Voldemort replied, as he fixed his gleaming red eyes on Avery. “This is far older and more powerful than anything Morgana created.”
With that, Lord Voldemort pointed his wand at the cloth and waved it dramatically to one side. The cloth tumbled away, revealing a full-length mirror. The Dark Lord stepped back.
“Take care,” he warned, “not to look directly into the mirror. Not without my permission.”
Snape looked at the forbidding object with growing unease. The mirror was framed by an ebony base, on which was carved two winged gargoyles. Their clawed hands supported the bottom of the mirror and the bat-like wings made up the rest of the frame. The mirror surface itself looked dark and oily, like a greasy soap bubble tinted gray. A memory stirred, and Snape shuddered. It looked as if another myth had surfaced.
“The mirror of Agrona,” the former Hogwarts Potions master whispered. “But that was only supposed to be…”
“Yes, a legend,” Lord Voldemort finished, and the corners of his slit mouth turned up in a sneer. “But while the mirror of Agrona is legendary, it is no myth, for it is here before us.” The tip of the Dark Lord’s pale finger lightly touched the wingtip of one of the gargoyles.
There were low murmurings among the better-read Death Eaters, while the less astute such as Crabbe and Goyle exchanged confused looks.
“How did you find this?” asked Yaxley in a shaking voice.
Bellatrix Lestrange gave the Death Eaters a cold smile as she lowered her sable hood and removed her mask. Snape stiffened in surprise, for Bellatrix’s once raven-black hair was now liberally streaked with silver, and her face had taken on a cadaverous look.
“We sacrificed much to find the mirror, in the name of the Dark Lord,” she whispered, her eyes gleaming with a mixture of pride and contempt.
“But what does it do?” Goyle asked.
Voldemort smiled coldly. “One of you will have the privilege of experiencing its full powers soon, when we go to make our final strike at Hogwarts.” His burning red eyes fixed onto Snape’s face.
“Me, my Lord?” Snape suddenly felt as if a dementor had sucked the energy from him.
Bellatrix Lestrange gave a cruel chuckle, and the eyes of Rodolphus and Atherton Nott, who were still masked, gleamed with a savage joy.
Voldemort nodded. “Yes, you will be the perfect tool for the mirror, and to bring Harry Potter within my clutches.”
Snape suspected, from the way Bellatrix was gloating over Voldemort’s pronouncement, that whatever the mirror did would kill him.
“Perhaps you will be seeing your dear Narcissa and Draco, then?” Wormtail taunted.
The former Hogwarts Potions master felt his hands clench, and he glared at the rodent Animagus. But Pettigrew was cringing away from the murderous gaze of Bellatrix Lestrange. While she never lifted a finger or uttered a word of protest about Narcissa’s judgement in the hands of the Dark Lord, Bellatrix would not hear a word against her youngest sister.
Six months ago, the Dark Lord had managed to overwhelm Azkaban prison and release his followers, but he had kept Lucius Malfoy under lock and key. He had been extremely displeased at Draco Malfoy’s failure to kill Dumbledore, and Snape, sensing this, urged Narcissa and Draco to hide. However, they were found only weeks later, and the Dark Lord had Narcissa and Draco killed in front of Lucius Malfoy, who then joined his wife and son beyond the veil. Technically, the Unbreakable Vow no longer bound Snape since his mission to kill Dumbledore was complete.
But he felt that a part of him had died that day.
He had once lived in fear and awe of the Dark Lord’s power. Now Snape lived in fear that this monstrous creature masquerading as a man would succeed in taking control over the world. This was a possibility Snape dreaded. The fact that his fate and the fate of thousands of others hinged on the cunning and fortitude of a 17-year-old simpleton both galled him and filled him with despair.
The worst thing of all was that Snape felt hopeless to do anything about it.
A week later, the Dark Lord gave the command to attack Hogwarts. Pandemonium reigned as screaming younger students were ushered by the prefects to the lower levels of the castle, only to encounter a dementor, a Death Eater, or Fenrir Greyback. The older students joined their professors and Order members to gamely fight off the hordes of dark wizards and creatures, their efforts led mostly by Harry Potter and the members of Dumbledore’s Army.
Snape, who had been ordered to keep watch on the border of the Forbidden Forest, swore as he dodged two spells coming from opposite directions. The early-evening fog and the smoke from the spell casting made it deucedly difficult to see. Wand raised, he sprinted through the forest. He spied Colin and Dennis Creevey just ahead, running towards the lake where several Death Eaters, merfolk and older students were engaged in battle. He hissed out two “Stupefy” spells, knocking them both out cold. He sneered as they tumbled to the ground. Stupid prats. He owed them one for being such Potter lackeys.
He ran further into the forest, when suddenly Lord Voldemort himself loomed before him. His red eyes were gleaming in anticipation.
“Severus,” Voldemort hissed. “We are nearly ready for the final trap. Come with me. Hurry!”
Snape shivered with apprehension as he followed the Dark Lord deeper into the forest. He barely noticed several of the Death Eaters patrolling within the Forest. There were strict orders that Harry Potter – and Potter only – was to pass through. The consequences of failure, Snape knew, would be death.
Two centaurs spied them and galloped up, shouting challenges. Voldemort, barely glancing at them, aimed his wand. Black smoke and purple flame poured from the wand. The centaurs were incinerated on the spot.
“We are almost there,” Voldemort whispered.
They reached a circular clearing in the forest. Snape looked around. The fallen trees looked as if they had been recently blown over, and it wasn’t hard to figure out who had made this unnatural clearing. In the center stood the mirror, again covered in a canvas cloth, like a shroud. Voldemort pointed his wand at the covering, and it fell away. Despite the growing darkness, the mirror seemed illuminated by a sinister green light.
“Now,” Voldemort purred. “Look inside. Look at your reflection.”
Snape took a steadying breath and advanced towards the mirror. He paused a moment. “Have you looked into the mirror, my Lord? What does…?”
“No,” Voldemort cut him off. “That is not for me to do. Now look!”
Snape clenched his hands in an effort to hide the fact that he was shaking. It did not fool the Dark Lord, however.
“Nervous, my servant?”
Snape paused, then decided the best course would be to answer truthfully. “A little, my Lord.”
The Dark Lord gave a soft hiss of laughter as he pointed at the mirror. Snape took another steadying breath as he walked up to the mirror and looked into the dark, oily reflection and saw…
Snape felt a mixture of relief and irritation wash over him. It was only his own reflection, not like the horrid Mirror of Erised, which showed him the things he longed for and could never have. There was just him in the mirror, and the trees in the background. Was the Dark Lord playing a joke on him? Probably not, Snape thought, as he continued to gaze in the mirror. The Dark Lord was not given to practical jokes. But he was manipulative. So why had he done this?
“My Lord,” Snape said, fighting to keep the irritation out of his voice. “There seems to be nothing special about this mirror.”
Voldemort bared his teeth in a wolfish grin. “Be patient, my servant. Look in the mirror. It may take a moment. Indeed, I think it may be working already.”
Snape continued to stare at his reflection in the mirror, growing more and more impatient as the seconds ticked soundlessly by. What was the Dark Lord up to, anyway? Was this another of his strange games? He grew angrier. Why, oh why did he fall into the clutches of a Dark Lord who was nothing more than a domineering, tyrannical threat to the world? There was no reason for him to have killed Narcissa and Draco – the Dark Lord merely did it for some perceived slight! Never mind that Draco – self-absorbed brat that he could be -- was barely of age and that Narcissa, although she was proud and overly doting on her spoilt child, was innocent of the Death Eater’s ways! Snape’s breath came in quick, angry gasps.
Lord Voldemort laughed softly. “Good. This is excellent.”
Good? Snape wanted to shout. Good? I hate you! I hate you with all my being, with all my blood! Why did I join you in the first place? What kind of simple-minded fool was I to join you and your ilk? Why?
Almost as if in response, Lord Voldemort laughed again and seemed to dissolve into the darkening shadows of the forest. How like him, to leave the scene of battle. Oh yes, milord, he thought, best leave your minions as the sacrificial lambs, while you, O Immortal One, run off and live another day! Snape clenched and unclenched his hands in fury.
A new voice, and all too familiar. Snape’s eyes narrowed, but he did not look away from the mirror.
“Potter,” Snape whispered, putting as much venom in that single word as he could. He remembered why he had joined the Death Eaters, had joined the Dark Lord. It was Potter, or, more specifically, the Potter brat’s father and his ilk. Ah yes, the Marauders, the bane of his childhood existence.
“Snape! Turn around and face me, you traitor!”
“So, Potter,” Snape whispered in fury without breaking his gaze from the mirror. “You think you can command me? Little fool! You’re every bit as arrogant as your father was, and every bit as idiotic.”
“I don’t have to listen to your taunts anymore,” Potter replied bitterly. “Not after what you did.”
“You dare judge me?” Snape snarled. How like the little fool. But then, everyone judged him. Potter, his git of a father, the other Marauders. His Muggle father, who never missed an opportunity to give his son a disgusted look. Even Dumbledore judged him, despite his altruistic speeches. Dumbledore, whom he once trusted, in the end had sent him away on an impossible mission, had given up on him in the end. It had almost been a pleasure to off him, a pleasure! He always took the side of the Marauders; it was always Snape who received the short end of the straw. The golden boys could do nothing wrong, even after the Shrieking Shack incident – both incidents, actually. First with the Marauders, then the oh-so-promising bloody second generation of worthless prats and egotistical gits…
“Snape! Turn and face me!” Snape noticed out of the corner of his eye that Potter’s wand was raised and pointing threateningly at him. “Or are you too much a coward still?”
“I AM NOT A COWARD!” Snape screamed. He didn’t turn from the mirror, though. For some reason, it captivated him. He felt powerful, looking in this ancient mirror. Rage coursed through him like lava. No one ever understood him, or even tried. Why did no one ever try to understand? They saw nothing more than a skinny, greasy-haired man, a bookish half-blood with a mean streak. They called him “Snivellus,” they taunted him, they teased him, and those who should have protected him always turned away. He was always on his own…
“What? Too busy looking at your greasy reflection to turn and fight me?” Potter hollered.
“Don’t push me, boy! You are nothing. With a single spell, I could erase you from the face of the earth, and there would be nothing to even bury!” Snape’s blood boiled and he began to see red as he realized with crystal clarity how badly he had been used in his past. It was their fault he had joined the Death Eaters. Everyone, everyone was to blame, and he hated them. The bitterness of resentment coated his mouth, but it tasted good. He felt as if he were standing on a bed of coals, but rather than flinching away, he found pleasure in the seductive heat of his potent rage.
“Then stop talking and turn around!” Potter hissed back. “Turn around and fight me! Go ahead, try to defeat me!”
“I don’t have to prove myself to you!” Snape hurled back. “Worthless boy!” Part of him, indeed, wanted to turn and exterminate this menace. But a larger part could not bear to turn from the mirror. The anger, the bitterness, the fury which welled up in him was like an addictive drug. He relished his anger and the power he felt reflected back at him.
“You are a coward!” Potter’s mouth twisted in contempt. “I’ll have nothing to do with the likes of you! Where is your master, Voldemort?”
“Never say his name, boy!” Snape felt his insides grow cold, and saw that his face in the reflection had turned pale. The imbecile! Did he think himself so great as to not fear the wrath of he who bore that name? The anger ebbed, replaced by horror.
“What?” Potter’s tone became mocking. “Are you so afraid of him still? Do you still insist on crawling after him, like the slug you are?”
“I serve him because no one else ever gave me a chance, and he offered me everything!” The rage had returned, doubled in ferocity.
“So, you like serving that monster? You were a traitor all along, then.” Potter shook his head in disgust.
Any retort Snape may have had stuck in his throat and the fury faded like the tide. What could he say? He knew the Dark Lord was lurking in the shadows somewhere, but he found that he could not utter the lie that usually came so easily. But if he spoke the truth, he was writing his own death warrant. Curse that boy! Snape stood, frozen in indecision, still staring into the mirror.
Potter merely gave a snort of derision, and Snape saw him start to walk past when Lord Voldemort appeared before the boy.
“So, Potter,” Voldemort purred. Snape sensed, however, that the Dark Lord was angry and disappointed. He always was, though, he thought angrily. He never could be satisfied, oh no, not even the blood of Draco and Narcissa sated him…
“Voldemort,” Potter replied. “Or should I just say Tom?”
Voldemort hissed in anger, and Snape saw through the reflection that the Dark Lord’s eyes had narrowed into thin slits. He raised his wand and cast a spell at the boy, who dodged it. “You will never, ever call me by that Muggle name again, or I will do everything in my power to make your death as slow and painful as possible. And I possess a good deal of power, as you will soon see.” Voldemort cast another spell, which Potter again ducked. The impact of this spell left a smoking black hole in the dirt.
“Yes,” Potter taunted. “You are so powerful, Tom, that you have to send your flunkies to do your dirty work, like this traitor, here!”
Lord Voldemort straightened and gave the boy a wolfish smile. “He killed your precious Dumbledore. So, why not kill him? Go ahead, I won’t stop you.”
Potter’s jaw dropped, and he looked at the Dark Lord with the most idiotic expression Snape had ever seen.
“What?” Potter said.
“Go ahead, kill him,” Voldemort repeated. He stepped back and made a sweeping gesture towards the former Hogwarts Potions master, who was still rooted before the mirror. “I have no more use for him, and you hate him. He betrayed you. So go ahead, it’s your right.”
Bait. Snape once again felt his anger threatening to erupt like a pent-up volcano. He was being used as bait to trap the stupid boy, and this mirror was part of it. Somehow. But why the mirror? The answer eluded him, and his frustration grew with his anger.
“I would gladly kill him,” Harry said coldly, “if he would just turn and fight. But I’m not like him – a traitor and a coward.”
“What does that matter?” Voldemort cut him off coldly. “No one here would notice or remember your bravery. He is, as you see, quite helpless.”
Snape’s breath came in harsh gasps as the full weight of what Voldemort said hit him. Betrayed! The Dark Lord was betraying him, and to this ignoramus, this persistent thorn in his side! He would get even, Snape vowed. Somehow, he would exact his revenge on the world: everything would burn, nothing would hold him back, nothing was worth saving now. He seethed in terrible – and yet impotent – fury.
“Are you trying to get me to do your dirty work for you?” Harry said, and he gave a strange laugh. “Why should I do that? Help you?”
This was clearly not going the way the Dark Lord intended. His voice was soft, but every word dripped with malice. “But aren’t you angry? You hate him. You despise him. Isn’t that reason enough?”
“No, it isn’t,” Harry said flatly. “He betrayed us, and willingly, didn’t you?” He turned back to Snape. “Death is better than you deserve. You deserve to be thrown to the dementors, like you tried to do with Sirius.”
“You do not understand,” Snape croaked out. The anger boiling inside him threatened to consume him, and he felt as if he were struggling to keep his physical form together. “What he and your father and their friends did to me. You couldn’t understand … just like them. Brats. Spoiled. Will pay, oh yes, you will! I’ll make you pay!” He was panting at this time, and the rage he felt started making him feel light-headed.
“Then turn and fight me!” Harry challenged. Confusion, even suspicion, replaced some of the hostility of his earlier tone. “Or is he stopping you from doing that? Who do you serve? Can’t you even act for yourself?”
The white-hot rage instantly chilled as Snape found himself once again unable to answer.
“Well?” Voldemort commanded coldly. “Go on, tell the boy. Whom do you serve?”
Trapped. That is what he was. Curse that infernal brat! Snape had always had a feeling the boy would be the death of him. Pity Trelawney would never appreciate the clarity of this precognition.
“Soooo…” Voldemort hissed. “I see how it is. It seems you have betrayed more than one side. But you will not escape from my wrath!” He raised his arms, then brought his wand hand down with a dramatic sweep. “Avada…”
Harry screamed out something then, and Snape suddenly felt himself flying through the air and landing in a painful heap several feet away from the mirror, shaken and bruised, but surprisingly alive.
Snape lifted his head and watched as Voldemort and Potter dueled, exchanging spell after spell until the air around them was thick with smoke. But even through the haze, Snape could tell that Potter was losing ground. The former Potions master shook his head in disgust. Potter was too obvious, not subtle at all in his attacks. And he left himself wide open. The idiot – had he learnt nothing in his years at Hogwarts? It was a wonder his little army had survived under such poor leadership.
Suddenly, Snape realized that no one was watching him. He could escape. Snape turned his head away from the one-sided duel and looked appraisingly at the dense trees, contemplating his escape. Yes, he could run off, get away from it all … but how long would he have before he was caught? If he were caught by an Auror…ah, but that didn’t concern him. The quality of the Ministry’s protectors had deteriorated since Moody’s retirement, and most of the present-day team were incompetent idiots. He would have no trouble overwhelming most of them. Even an Auror such as Kingsley Shacklebolt, one of the few with a brain, wouldn’t pose too great a challenge.
But if the Dark Lord caught him… Snape shuddered. He knew his own days would be numbered if the Dark Lord survived this day. He remembered Regulus, and Karkaroff and the others who had tried to run. And the Dark Lord would certainly win the way things were going.
Snape watched in contempt as the wizarding world’s ordained hero fell to one knee, coughing in the smoke. If someone didn’t interfere soon, the battle would be over with very quickly, and he knew the odds of rescue were slim. The area surrounding the infernal mirror was closely patrolled to prevent an untimely interruption. Which meant there was only one thing to be done.
Shaking a little, Snape quickly sprang to his feet and stealthily maneuvered behind the Dark Lord, who was standing near the mirror. The Dark Lord had both hands raised and his eyes gleamed with savage glee as he stared down at Potter, who was struggling to regain his footing.
“Sectumsempra!” Snape roared out, and his wand came down in an angry arc.
The Dark Lord screeched in pain and fury as his dark robes and pale skin were suddenly slashed, as if a large werewolf had attacked him. Snape darted away as the Dark Lord half turned to glare at his attacker.
“Traitor!” Voldemort hissed in fury. “Avad…”
“Protego!” Potter shouted.
Idiot! Snape thought as Potter’s spell missed its intended mark and struck the mirror instead. Such spells did nothing against the Killing Curse. What…?
Wham! Snape again found himself thrown several feet in the air by an explosion as the Shield Spell bounced off the mirror and struck the Dark Lord. Snape’s eyes widened in amazement as white-hot flame erupted around the Dark Lord, who screamed in agony as the fire started consuming his robes and burning his flesh. With a blue flash, the mirror disappeared.
Vulnerable. The Dark Lord was vulnerable now. Could it be possible?
Snape rose to his feet and aimed his wand. “Avada Ke…”
Snape seemed to be pushed to the ground by an invisible hand. Outraged, he turned his head and saw Potter glaring at him. Then the boy raised his arms and pointed his wand at the Dark Lord.
So, the boy wonder wants all the credit for himself, Snape thought sourly, fully expecting the next words to come out of Potter’s mouth to be the words to the Killing Curse. So he was stunned when Potter uttered a string of words he had never heard before…and then he heard Phoenix song.
Snape shuddered in wonder and fear as a strange light lit the night sky, like a golden aurora borealis. The Phoenix song floated around the trees and the strange light swirled around and around until it took form of a great glowing bird. White flames were its wings, and its golden eyes looked at the writhing form of the Dark Lord before it swooped down, adding its own fire and power to the flames surrounding the evil wizard.
Voldemort gave a yell of fury and stretched both arms towards Potter, and he screamed something unintelligible. Potter looked as if he had been punched in the stomach and doubled over onto the ground. A dark shadow, like smoke, rose from Potter and floated towards the Dark Lord. It collided with the fiery phoenix just as it reached the evil wizard, and the resulting explosion shook the nearby trees.
Snape cowered down and shielded his eyes from the white flash. The Dark Lord uttered one final, agonized scream before disappearing. Only a pile of white ash remained.
The forest was suddenly silent. Snape slowly looked up and watched as Potter walked over to the pile of ash. He knelt down, scooped both hands through the pale ash, and brought up a small, lumpy, red and gold object.
“Hullo, Fawkes,” Potter whispered. The lump in his hand shook its baby wings and opened its small yellow beak in a squeak of greeting.
Fawkes? Snape stared in disbelief as Potter rose to his feet, the baby bird cupped in his hand. Potter then turned in Snape’s direction and regarded him with a cool look. Slowly, Potter came over to where Snape sat and extended his hand.
Snape narrowed his eyes and quickly rose to his feet – without help. He would rather be tortured by the giant squid then accept assistance from the brat.
“I am quite capable of standing on my own,” Snape snarled. He was pleased to see the flush of anger burn on the boy’s pale cheeks.
Potter’s lipped thinned. “You are ill. The mirror hurt you. You should see a mediwitch.”
“I am fine,” Snape snapped back. “I do not need you to look after me and I don’t desire your concern over my welfare. The mirror was a horrid, subtle distraction and I probably have a few bumps and bruises – mostly because of you! – but otherwise I am in good health. Now don’t you have an adoring crowd to find?”
Potter gave Snape a strange look. Then the boy pointed his wand at the ground between them and made a small series of circles and wavy lines. A large puddle of water appeared between them.
“Look,” Potter said simply. “Look at your reflection.”
Snape rolled his eyes but decided to humor the annoying prat. He peered into the reflective surface of the water and nearly staggered backwards into a clump of saplings.
His hair was almost completely white, and his sallow skin was liberally crossed with a network of fine lines. Well, that explained what happened to Bellatrix Lestrange, he thought sourly.
“The mirror,” he muttered. He sat down heavily, his legs suddenly too wobbly to support him.
“Well, it’s destroyed now,” Potter said.
What a simpleton, Snape thought, and he shook his head. “No, boy, I highly doubt that it has been destroyed. It is conceit and delusion to believe that something that was created before this school was even conceived of could be destroyed by a simple misdirected spell. I believe it merely returned to its guardians.”
“What was that mirror, anyway?” Potter and Fawkes both looked curiously at Snape, who laughed mirthlessly.
“The Mirror of Agrona,” Snape replied, his voice a whisper. He looked at the pile of ash, which was all that remained of Voldemort. “She was one of the darkest witches of her age, in the time of Cliodna. She delighted in spreading chaos and ruin among the hapless Muggle populace. Somehow, the Dark Lord found the location of her favorite toy and sent four to go find it. And they did, somehow, but at a high price. One died, and Bellatrix, like me, aged. It is a subtle and dangerous dark object. I did not realize what was happening, until too late. Even the Dark Lord feared looking into the mirror.”
“But how did the mirror work?” Potter asked, frowning.
“Anger,” Snape replied bitterly. “It feeds off and reflects back anger. Anger is a terrible force, and one Agrona was apt at harnessing. Anger is a potent weapon, but it can be used against you as well as aid you. The Dark Lord used my anger against me. I suspect that he tried to use your anger toward me to ensnare you before the mirror as well. If I had lingered in front of its sinister reflection for much longer, I may very well have perished.”
Snape gave Potter a disgusted look. “But what are you waiting for? Go, go claim your glory and your accolades for single-handedly killing the Dark Lord.”
Potter’s eyes narrowed, and his haggard face again flushed with anger. For the first time, Snape was struck with how old, how careworn the boy looked.
“I had to stop you,” Potter said. “The Killing Curse would not have worked on him. It might have robbed him of a body, but he still had one Horcrux left.” He pointed at his scar. “We would have been back at square one.”
Horcruxes. Snape might have known the reason for the Dark Lord’s immortality…or, near-immortality. “And the spell you did use?”
“The Phoenix Song Incantation. It was a risk, because I didn’t know for sure it would work. Voldemort had to feel threatened enough to call for the last existing piece of his soul. This spell was our best chance.”
“How did you find it? I have never heard of this particular spell,” Snape admitted with great reluctance.
Potter shrugged and almost smiled. “Hermione,” he replied simply.
The know-it-all. Of course. “Well, Potter,” he said, putting all the menace he could in his tone, “you better decide quickly whether to turn me in or not. I will not go easily. I have no desire to spend the rest of my life in Azkaban and I know better than to expect mercy from the Ministry.”
Baby Fawkes looked at Potter, then at Snape, and gave a comforting, encouraging chirp. Potter looked down, startled, at the tiny creature in his hand, then he nodded. The indecision left his face as his green eyes met Snape’s black ones.
“Go,” Potter said simply. "I can stall them for a little while. There will be chaos once Voldemort's death is announced.”
Snape couldn’t help shuddering at that name. “Why?”
“Because it is the right thing to do,” Potter said. “It is what Dumbledore would have wanted, and it's what Fawkes wants.” He looked down at the baby bird, who gave a chirp of agreement. “But you better hurry. If they catch you, there will be a trial, and I don’t have Dumbledore’s powers of persuasion. You'll go to Azkaban this time if you're caught.” Potter gave Snape a tired, bitter look.
Shouting, and movement through the trees, made them both turn.
“Go,” Potter said, his tone flat. “They will be here in a few moments.”
Snape looked at Potter for a second longer, then, with sure, long strides, made his way deeper into the woods. Very soon, he was lost in the shadows of the night, the boy no longer in sight.
No, he could not stay here, not in Great Britain, Snape thought as he felt the wards and charms from the school fall away. He would be hunted for the rest of his natural life. But, for the first time since his school days, Snape felt free and he knew why.
There would be no Dark Lord anymore. He would never return to haunt him. Besides, what was Great Britain anyway? The world was a wide place, vast and easy to hide in. His step grew lighter as he thought of where he could go, of the places he was now free to visit in a Voldemort-free world.
South America, he decided at last. He had always wanted to visit the jungles, study the dark creatures, and learn magic there. Ever since his uncle had told him stories about the place as a boy, he had wanted to go. Now, he could.
Snape continued forming his plans as he disappeared in the woods, never to be heard from or seen again.
Notes: The title – indeed the whole story – was inspired by “The Two Trees,” a poem by William Butler Yeats, which was set to music by the talented Loreena McKennitt. One verse goes:
“Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night receives,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves…”
There also was a saying by the late Ann Landers, who was fond of stating (and I am paraphrasing here) that anger was a poison to those who held it inside themselves.
Agrona, the white dogs and others beings are references out of Welsh myth and legend. I take some liberties for this story.