Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
A/N: Not mine, neither the characters nor the situation. Quotes below are from JKR, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
He would fail, then.
Life, in his experience, was exactly that cruel.
Nagini coiled lazily in a cage of gold stars: his cue, finally, to tell the boy the truth. But the madman was on about something, and he couldn’t get away. He could recognize the stink of impending death in the air, and whose but his? Now. When it was time to tell the boy.
He had failed to preserve her. He had been told his efforts to redeem his failure by protecting her son were another of life’s vicious jests. Now he would fail to tell the boy what he had to know to keep his death from being meaningless.
The Dark Lord’s eyes were trying to catch his. The effort of holding his shields over the rage and despair boiling in him almost took him to his knees. The Dark Lord had to see the effort, but with luck, he’d think him trying to conceal fear of death. He always did ascribe his own weakness to others.
Death was nothing, if only he could find the boy first.
“My Lord—let me go to the boy,” he begged, trying to make out what the madman was going on about. Frantic to get away, struggling to hold his shields, he could barely focus on the Dark Lord’s words. The Elder Wand? That was a children’s tale. No. That was Albus’s wand, and, oh God, the madman would kill him too soon because he imagined him—him! —Albus’s master at the end.
That bitch Fortuna’s sense of humor was more bitter even than his own.
And Dumbledore had betrayed him. He knew what the madman would come to believe and hadn’t even warned him.
But that pain was only personal. What mattered was getting word to the boy.
Still he held his shields, and still he tried to reason with the lunatic.
“You have been a good and faithful servant, and I regret what must happen.” Must that not have been what Dumbledore said to himself?
He raised his wand, protesting.
A cage of golden stars enclosed him, and the last betrayal came on the crimson tide of his own blood.
At least, this time, the betrayal wasn’t his.
Darkness was taking him, and there was no reason now to fight it.
He had failed.
But still he fought, hopelessly. When had he ever needed hope to fight? His will sang in the darkness. He forced his eyes wide, disregarding the temptation to let them ease closed, to accept his failure, to relax and let the blackness mercifully cover him. Weakening fingers tried to hold back the red flow. Booted feet trembled, trying to find the purchase to rise. He had to rise, to go, to find the boy.
He had to find the boy.
Who was, impossibly, bending over him. He grabbed the boy’s robes: he was real. Impossible but real, it didn’t matter how. He pulled the child close, not letting him vanish.
“Take… it…,” he rasped, forcing his ruined throat to shape the sounds into recognizable words. His body’s strength gushed out of him in crimson, but his will was still his own. Wandless, dying, he forced it out, the silvery memory that the boy had to have to make his ordained death do any good. “Take… it….”
Then he realized that it wasn’t enough. The boy would never trust him, would never accept this knowledge from his hands. So he gave more: his most private memories, the ones that would make the boy understand. Some he had cherished, jealously guarding from the least attention of his two masters; some were so terrible that even he must gasp in anguish at releasing them. He writhed at the thought of being exposed at the last—and to Potter’s son, to Lily’s son, no less!—in all his shameful error, weakness, failure, and pain, but he could do what he must. Even that.
He was cold, so cold, and he could hardly see in the rising darkness.
A crystal flask glittered, and he knew the memories were caught at least. Now for the last effort.
“Look … at… me...” he whispered. The green eyes found the black.
The Imperius Curse’s second cousin, not coercing but impelling: Look at my memories, see me, not later, but now! With his last strength, his will found the boy’s and held.
He had won, then.
He let go, expecting the darkness to complete itself.
Instead the memory-mist swirled up around him. Its color gentled, turning the achingly familiar silver-green of sunlight glinting off water through leaves. His breath stopped.
The light silvered further to the bright, cool glory of the sun’s return in midwinter.
His eyes widening, Severus gave himself to the light.
A/N: It’s all right there in canon. Except the Blake, of course. And I agree with Blake; I don’t think Severus would expect mercy to appear in human