In fact, he was better than fine. He was ecstatic.
Tom Riddle had taken another step closer to truly becoming Lord Voldemort. He had accomplished, again, his heart’s desires. Half of his remaining soul was safe inside an object of such historic value no one would dare to even think to destroy it. The gaudy looking ring he took from his uncle shone with an unusual brilliance; its black stone swirled with a strange sheen. It was not his first bid at invincibility but still held the same excitement.
Looking down at his immortality, Voldemort allowed himself a smile. He wore it proudly on his finger and decided to enjoy its presence one more day before he hid it away. The wizard walked down the dirty, snow-filled streets of Knockturn Alley in secret display of his triumph to the world. As he passed the dark people scurrying in the shadows, he laughed at their ignorance, taking special care to pause a moment before Borgin & Burkes. Those people were far beneath him now. Proud beyond words, Lord Voldemort felt the thrill again of achievement. He was no longer just a powerful wizard. He was becoming a God.
But the man’s self-satisfied congratulations were rudely ended by a shriveled bald man in the snowy alley. The old man was a dirty beggar in rags whom Voldemort had not even given a second glance to. As the wizard passed this pitiful creature, however, it grabbed his cloak, pulling him back. The mere act aggravated Voldemort. How dare this filthy beggar touch him, the Dark Lord?
When he looked down at the old man, wand drawn, he saw a strange sparkling in the unfocused eyes of the beggar. The dirty creature opened its toothless mouth and rasped out a few words that Voldemort could barely hear. But immediately, he knew, this old man was a seer giving him a prophecy. He bent down to hear him more clearly and to his alarm heard the old man tell of a child who would conquer him.
The exact words of this prophecy were never recorded and Tom Riddle made sure he was the only one who would ever know of its contents. When the shivering beggar had finished, he looked up with gaunt, rheumy eyes and croaked, “Spare Sickle?” The Dark Lord placed a cursed Galleon in his filthy hands, and continued walking. The beggar died an hour later, sitting in his corner.
Today, Tom Riddle was no longer pleased, for he couldn’t quite understand the last part of the prophecy. No matter how many times he flipped it over in his mind, he could not comprehend what it meant by “one who continually exists.” The only remotely logical answer was that this threat would eventually do what he did, split his soul. If this was true, then he needed to find the child as soon as he was born and kill him. He was the Dark Lord after all, and no one, prophecy or not, will “overcome” his greatness. The prophecy told him the boy would be born soon, once time renewed itself at the year’s beginning. He would be from the same origin as the threatened, a witch mother and Muggle father. It would be simple enough to kill an infant. And he would use that death to create his fourth horcrux. It was all extremely appropriate.
The infant in question was born on a cold January morning just weeks after Voldemort heard the prophecy. His mother’s long, pale face was looking particularly sickly the days following. She held onto her child tightly everyday as if he were her soul and never once even turned her back on him. He was such a beautiful child, really. Everyone who had seen him said this. He was like an exquisite, flawless doll. The woman also had the distinct feeling that their home was much too shabby for such a lovely child and urged her husband to go find a better job than the one in the dying textile mill.
And so he did. The worker went into Manchester in search of another job. He mostly did it in the late afternoon when the sun was nearing the edge of the ground that swallowed it greedily.
It just so happened that in the city of Manchester lived a Muggle couple who also had a child that January. They named him Gabriel. He was not beautiful like the one born to the poor witch, but his parents also treated him as if he were a saint. In fact, they regarded him with a type of love close to worshipping. They kept his cradle by their bed and stared at it every night until they fell asleep.
This night was no different. The tall dark-haired man put away his paper and lay down. His wife placed the baby in its cradle and wound up her long black hair before joining him. Two pairs of eyes stared at the cradle and their new son, but something didn’t feel quite right. The Muggles ignored it and promptly fell asleep.
“John, do you smell something funny?” the mother muttered with sleep in her voice about an hour afterwards. Her husband was silent and she decided it must have been her dreaming. Meanwhile, in the next room, a fire had begun to slowly take over.
Later, the parents woke up to the sound of their child crying. The room was filled with thick smoke that made it feel as if their lungs had withered and dried. The man called John grabbed the shrieking baby and staggered to the door. There was a horrible crackling of fire coming from the other side. He flung the door open and stood face to face with flames. There was shouting and coughing and his head was spinning. Fire licked the doorway and he didn’t dare step across with his precious son.
“Throw him to us!” the people on the other side shouted. He replied with a rough “NO.” There was no way he was going to throw his son over a fire. The baby was crying louder than ever and by the sound of it, he couldn’t breathe very well either. John still couldn’t find it in himself to toss the infant.
His wife coughed and shouted at him desperately, “Just do it, there isn’t another way.”
John wrapped the child carefully with his blanket and yelled for the man on the other side to catch him. He gently heaved the precious bundle over the fire and hoped it would not catch on fire as well.
Something odd happened then. Just as the child passed over the flames in front of the door, a silvery cloud seemed to cover him and spread. The cloud dashed to the floor like powder and the fire beneath him instantly died. The child seemed to hover in midair for a moment before drifting back into his father’s arms. John stared at his son in disbelief and stood frozen.
“GET OUT OF THERE!”
The men on the other side shouted at him and John grabbed his wife’s hand and ran out toward the exit. Their narrow escape was a blur in his mind and before he knew it, they were standing in the street, looking up at their home. A crowd was around them, chattering excitedly. Everything smelled of ashes. His wife took the baby from his arms and burst into tears.
“Oh my…did you…see what…happened?” she asked between sobs that shook her small body.
John coughed the last of the smoke out of his lungs and looked up at the sky. It was a beautiful clear night with stars twinkling in every inch, but the smoke had obscured a large part of it.
He looked down at his wife and the infant in her arms. Smiling at the steel colored eyes of the child, he said in a dreamy voice, “Edna, I think our Gabriel is an angel.”
They both began to pray.
A few weeks later, the family moved into a new flat. It was a small cramped place that smelled as if something had died, but it was only until they could find a better home. Another odd thing happened when Edna was cooking dinner. She was cutting vegetables when her hand slipped and the paring knife in it fell.
Edna let out a loud scream as the knife fell into the cradle beside her. However, to her surprise, the knife was hovering over the baby. She swore she saw the child smile then. The blade flipped over and aimed up; it flew, cutting through the air by her ear and straight into the wall. The woman shrieked and knelt immediately to pray. She was shaking all over. John returned half an hour later to find his wife praying feverishly and a lock of her brown hair on the floor beside the crib.
Breathless and tearful, Edna told John what had happened. The knife was still lodged into the paper-thin wall. He pulled it out with unnecessary force and glanced at the baby. There was an air of uneasiness in the family from then on.
Various incidents occurred in the next month. Each made the couple more afraid of their son. A knot formed in their stomachs for they began to suspect the opposite of what John had said. Their son didn’t seem like an angel anymore. His beautiful steel blue eyes had changed day by day, slowly bleeding into black. In the back of their minds, an ugly idea had taken hold. They wanted to get rid of this devil child.
It was a bright and cheery March day when Gabriel left his home forever. The ground was still covered in muddy snow. Cold wind twisted through people and stole away their warmth, but none complained. The baby was lying in his cradle. His parents had a row the night before about what to do with him. John was adamant that Gabriel had to be thrown into one of those filthy rivers beside the mills. Edna spent the entire day crying. She was afraid of the dark-eyed baby, but she couldn’t be so cruel as to leave him to die. Drying her eyes on her sleeves, she hatched a plan. The more she thought of it, the harder she cried, but she was determined to follow through.
It was almost dusk when Edna finally mustered enough courage and took Gabriel outside. Her eyes were puffy from a day of crying and the cold air did not make it any better. She walked, holding tightly onto her bundle, until the tram stop. The car was packed with people for some odd reason. It was a miracle that Gabriel didn’t wake up with all the noise wrapped around him. Edna walked to the very last seat and sat down. She rode and rode until she saw that she had gotten to the richer part of town. Her Gabriel must have a decent home. Gingerly, as to not disturb the child, she set him down on the seat and stood up when the tram stopped. Her eyes blurred the surroundings and she pushed her way out. The biting cold fought her warm tears and Edna felt both relief and sadness.
As she stood sobbing in the street, a large group of people got on. One of these people was the mill worker. He had found a few jobs, but none of them paid well and he had walked all the way to the richer part of the city that day. It was dark and he was too tired to walk home. He got on the tram and saw that it was entirely full; the only seat open was the one at the very back.
The worker rubbed his hands together for warmth and made his way to the back. He sat down and frowned at the baby in the corner. He picked it up and asked the people around him if it was theirs. No one replied. He hurried up the conductor and tried to find the child’s parents, but five stops had passed, and no one came to claim the child. The tram was almost empty now.
“Just leave him here, I’ll take him to the orphanage,” the elderly conductor offered. He had a huge grey beard and a gruff, but friendly voice. He ran a hand through his grey hair and added, “Cruel parents, you know, to leave a child that young.”
“I suppose,” replied the worker. Baby Gabriel made a grab for the worker’s hooked nose and smiled, showing his toothless mouth.
“Poor kid. How unfortunate. On my last day too. Retiring tomorrow,” sighed the elderly conductor in a throaty whisper.
The younger man glanced up with curiosity at this, “You’re retiring?”
“Seems to be that way. I’m 70 this year and too old to be working.”
“Have you got a replacement yet?” the worker asked quickly.
“Not yet, but they’ll find some bloke.”
“Do you think? That is…I’m looking for a job.”
“Are you now…well, give me your name and I’ll put in a word with boss about you. You seem like the reliable type.” The conductor had come to another stop and the remainder of passengers got off. He scribbled an address for the man to go to and handed him the paper.
The man with a hooked nose thanked the old conductor profusely. He then remembered that he’d not told his name yet and immediately added, “My name is Snape, Tobias Snape.”
“Well, Mr. Snape, seems it’s your lucky day. Where are you getting off?” The driver closed the door and the tram moved on into the darkness.
“Next stop, I work at the Bolton Textile Mill currently.”
“Ah, no wonder you’re looking for work. They say that place hasn’t been holding up well for years.”
“It’s true, foreign companies are killing us.”
The conductor grunted and a silence settled. It was the type that filled space without being awkward. The tram squeaked to a stop and Tobias Snape stood up with Gabriel, ready to go home.
“What are you going to do with that babe? I told you I’d take it to the orphanage…”
“I think I’m going to keep it,” Tobias said, hesitantly, and waved goodbye to the conductor.
The tram once more squeaked on and left the man alone with the child in his arms. He looked down at the abandoned infant and smiled a bit. It was an unnatural expression for him, as it suffered disuse. Gabriel had the same dark eyes as himself. He was sure he could pass this child and his off as twins. A small flame of joy ignited in him. This boy, he thought, would be normal like him, not a freak like his son, Severus. There was still a long ways home.
While Tobias was walking home, a dreadful thing was happening back home. Seeing that the sun had set and her husband was still not home, Tobias’s wife had become afraid. For a moment, she left her house and walked down the street to see if he was coming. She had left her baby in the house due to the cold. The beautiful child certainly didn’t need to feel the chill of winter at night. It was the first time she had left him alone in the house, but he was two months old and she reasoned that he would be fine.
A green light flashed behind her and she saw her shadow on the ground. Panicked, she ran back to her house, which had a mysterious green shape overhead—a skull with a snake. The woman rushed inside and found it was quiet as she had left it. She had no idea what the sign overhead meant and quickly banished it with a swish of her wand. There was no need for the Muggles to see something strange over her house. She went into her bedroom and took her baby into her arms once more. His eyes were closed. The woman touched his lovely face and gasped; it was cold as stone.
A distance away, Tobias Snape heard a spine-chilling scream from the direction of his house. He ran home as fast as possible, taking care not to shake the baby from the tram. Jagged edges of cold cut across his features as he rushed through the streets. The man felt tiny pin pricks on his face as he ran.
It had begun to rain.
Rain changed from odd drops into a pouring storm. It was as if the sky were crying sharp bits of ice meant to hurt all that walked below. Tobias tucked the infant under his coat and continued to run. Mere seconds dragged out into minutes as his heart sped up. He threw open the door and saw his wife sobbing violently on the couch. She was clutching their son to her chest and muttering gibberish about “curses” and “unforgivable.”
“Eileen, why are you crying?” he questioned.
The woman named Eileen could not hear him and continued sobbing.
“Tell me, what is wrong?” He heard his voice rising as he shut the door behind him.
Tobias heard the tram baby crying also under his coat. At this sound, his wife stopped her muttering and looked down at her lifeless son as if he’d come back. But he was still as ever and she let out of sob.
“Why…” He cut her off sharply before she could ask.
“What happened? Who…” The man felt anger drawing blood toward his face.
She looked down at the dead child in her arms and stood up weakly, knowing better than to inquire further.
“A wizard…” she sniffed, “a wizard…used a curse to….kill.” The last word came out as a strangled noise. “Oh my poor sweet Severus,” she wailed and sank onto the couch.
Tobias’s face contorted into one of rage as he set the child from the tram down on the couch. One of her type, a freak, had killed his son. He hated his wife at that moment. How could she let this happen? Couldn’t she do their “magic” too? She must have offended someone and brought this upon them. Why else would anyone kill a child? He couldn’t hold it in any longer and began to scream at her. The harsh words flew out his mouth and landed like bricks. If it hadn’t been for the little body she was holding, Tobias would have not even hesitated to hit her. His wife cowered and backed toward the corner of the room as his shouting grew more obscene, made worse by the loud screaming of a baby in the background.
“I SHOULD KILL YOU RIGHT NOW, YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING…”
“Stop, please stop,” she pleaded while trying desperately to breathe during the seemingly unending stream of hiccups and tears. An idea had crawled into her mind and she felt it was the only way to save her marriage and herself. On any other day, she would not have even considered this outrageous thought, but in her moment of irrationality and fear, it seems like a good one.
“Tobias, I can fix it…” she whispered anxiously. The man towering over her stopped for a second. She quickly took the opportunity and gave him her idea.
“We’ll replace Severus with him!” She pointed to the crying baby on the couch and continued in an oddly excited manner, “No one will know; it’ll be as if this never happened! Don’t you see? Everything will be fine.”
Her husband’s black eyes narrowed as he turned and looked at Gabriel, who, oddly enough, had quieted down now that he was no longer yelling. No, this would not work.
“I found him on the tram, abandoned. His parents are probably criminals. I can’t take that kind of offspring as my son,” Tobias said harshly.
“No, please. Just listen to me this one time. If we don’t, the neighbors will get curious…they’ll think we killed him. And we can’t possibly tell the truth. This will make everything fine! He’ll even be…” She paused as if a deep wound had hushed her. “…he’ll be…normal.”
This seemed to convince Tobias and he nodded after a long silence. Eileen felt her tears come again as her husband exchanged the infants in their arms. She held the wiggling one crying in front of her, not knowing what to do.
He took the dead child and touched his cold skin. Their Severus was such a beautiful child, he thought to himself, as if he could wake up any moment. The couple looked at each other and an understanding passed between them. Fate had taken their son away but just gave them another one.
Once the rain ended, they buried the dead child behind the house and Eileen conjured a small, crooked holly tree to mark the grave, much to her husband’s dislike. They would plant a real one later. It was still bitterly dark outside when it was finished. From that moment, Gabriel became Severus and it was as if no one in the world but his parents knew the original had existed at all.
“We’re not going to ever speak another word about this.”
She couldn’t help but cry.