Power. Ambition. Fear. There were a mutitude of reasons why I decided to take my place among the ranks of the damned. Oh yes, a vast plethora of reasons why I felt it neccessary to sully my hands with Muggle blood for the greater cause. The true cause, so I believed.
He taught us so much. The words of His Black Gospel, the Sermon of Truth--of Power and Purification--echoed in our ears long after we'd forgotten the cause. He taught us to fight. He taught us to kill. I had never seen a corpse before then. My dreams are now plagued with them...
Now, nearly twenty years later, the screams still wake me at night, embedded in the blackened depths of my conscience. Hundreds upon hundreds of innocents, slaughtered like cattle and left to rot as the flies ate away at their flesh. Muggle children made to bleed to death with the simple flick of a wrist. It was so effortless, really, taking a human life. A small price to pay for the benefits it would reap. We'd thought we were heroes. We were nothing more than murderers.
And so, it was partially out of remorse that I'd enlisted to aid Dumbledore in his quest against the Dark One. Some remote sliver of compassion left in me felt the burning need to atone for my youth's folly. I'd also felt the need to reciprocate the honest devotion to which Albus has shown me, even in my darkest moments. To paraphrase a colleague of mine, Dumbledore is indeed a "great man".
With this in mind, I will ask you to be merciful in your judgment of me and my life's work, as I cannot be considered of the most sane or balanced lot os individuals. I am not a hateful man, just a hardened cynic and a brazen realist. Trust me, all too often has it come in handy...
My humble little tale, if you venture to call it such, begins at none other than Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardrymy eternal prison. My Hell, where I put in constant purgatory by little raven-haired, pearly-toothed demons. Demons who poked and prodded at me with jokes and jinxes, calling me--what was it?--Snapey, and the like. But my torment was not limited to this little "Fab Four" of Gryfindor glory--Oh no!--The whole damned institution had thought it wise to follow in their footsteps. And I hated them. Every single one of them, my fellow Slytherins among them. I remember thinking, had I gotten the chance, I would've killed them all.
Perhaps this is what drew me to initially to Riddle. (I was one of the few among my ranks to ever have known him by that name--Lucius would've given his eyeteeth for the honor, I daresay...) I had been a mere child of fifteen when I first heard of the Great Dark Preacher. Truthfully, it would've been near impossible to not have heard of Him. He was omnipotent--a constant force threatening to break through the skin of the wizarding world and mold it into Utopia. My would-be friends discussed His prophecies in secret, humming the tune of revolution with youthful vivacity. Many of my elder colleagues had already joined him on his quest for restoration, but I remained hesitant. There was something subversive in His beauty (He still had Riddle's face back then), something foreboding and worthy of mistrust. The words dripped out of Him like honey, poisoned with seductive deliciousness. How was I to believe that this man, this masterpiece of human features, could ever spark the kind of Revolution of which He spoke?
It was in my sixth year that my life came crashing down on me. I had been threatened. This was no schoolyard prank, intended solely to humiliate, that would've been too merciful. This, THIS had been an attempt on my very life. "Just prod the knot," he'd said, spectacles gleaming in the silvery light. "Go on!" And so I had. And everything I had ever thought I'd known--about life, about adolescence, about sheer decency--was lost to me. I poisoned myself later that year.
Oh yes, I ran into the lavatory promptly after, vomiting every last drop of the wretched, lethal liquid from my system, but the intention had been there. My desire for sanctity, for some sort of peace from this damnation, had left me with no simpler solution than taking my own life. But I simply hadn't the willpower to carry out the deed.
It was then when I went to Him, lost and afraid, no longer able to see a purpose in living. And in my vulnerability, He drew me to Him. He offered a solution, a better life, an end to the pain. He offered me power and dignity and respect, none of which I had been accustomed to receiving in life. His silky words flowed like liquor--my ears drank them down with a thirst more rabid than any I had ever felt before. And hours later, reeling drunk from the succulent honey of those beautiful words, I agreed to join Him.
Perhaps this is where the real story begins, with my induction into the Cult led my the most sadistic wizard of our time. I would be lying if I said I didn't scream--didn't shriek as the icy brand bit into my skin. The horrid sensation coursed through my entire body, filling my veins like a narcotic. The copper taste of blood filled my mouth. I'll admit--it's never quite gone away.
When I first strayed down the path of a Death Eater, I had been a boy. A mere childstill confined to a childs world of schoolbooks and classrooms. In fact, most of us had been children. Master Lucius Malfoy, one of our Saviours first eager recruits, was in my own year. Avery and MacNair were a year behind us; Bellatrix and Rodolphe, a year ahead. We had barely finished our NEWTS testing when we began our training. The process was gut wrenching and intense. There was little time to eat or sleep. We never even found time to realize exactly what we were fighting for.
Justice? Purity? Revolution? These are abstract concepts to an eighteen year old boy who has never watched a corpse rot in the sun or witnessed the sickening way the body convulses as it chokes and dies. By the time I reached my nineteenth birthday, I had seen both. I witnessed death countless times, and oftentimes inflicted it on those unlucky enough to combat me. My adolescent innocence, already sundering from my unspeakable boyhood, was now completely shattered. All for the sake of revolution.
Among my peers, I was a superior. My gratuitous knowledge of hexes, poisons, and the like proved more than beneficial to me. I once slaughtered half a dozen Mudbloods with a single curse from behind the black fabric of a mask. I didnt mind. In fact, for a time I rather enjoyed it. Its an empowering feeling, taking a life, and dreadfully easy to do if one is adequately prepared. The sight of someone groveling beneath you in pure degradation, begging for you to spare them was intoxicating to my power-drunken mind. Over time, I developed a taste for sadism and a hunger for killing that far surpassed the likes of Lucius Malfoy, and oftentimes even the Dark Lord himself. My bloodlust was insatiable.
I had become something different from myself, something more powerful. For the first time in my life, I didnt feel the need to cower in a corner at balls or social gatherings. I was important. I was contributing to the most majestic cause the wizarding world had ever been stricken with. I chattered absently about things which had no relevance or meaning to me, waving the flag of self-righteousness with utter enthusiasm. When night fell, I slipped on the mask of death and went out to rape, torture, and murder for my Master. And I'll be damned if I wasnt good at it.
I found little time for relationships or personal amusements. I had ravaged enough innocent women to forever sate my sexual desires. To my newfound self, the notion of love was an idiotic trifle, one that only fools indulge themselves in. And Severus Snape was no fool. Oh no, he was a brilliant mind and an ingenious fighter. He was an asset to His worthy cause of purification and insurrection. He was a bloodthirsty death machine.
That is, until he found himself face to face with Albus Dumbledore...
Face to face with the Hogwarts Headmaster himself. Poised to kill the very man who had taught me all I knew--the man who's unrequited sympathy I had won in my second year. The man who'd spent many a long hour outside the classroom feeding my starved mind until my lush craving for knowledge was momentarily sated. The only man whod ever harbored paternal feelings for me. (My own father passed away early in my lifetime. He was not missed.) Come to think of it, he was quite possibly the only acquaintance I've known who has never wished me dead at some point or another. Yet here I was, standing amid the ransacked private quarters of my former alma-matter, bathing in the languid sweat of late July, poised to murder him, with a wretched mask to hide the deed.
Poised to kill Albus Dumbledore. The mentor. The muse. Never in my brief career as a student had he lamented me--Not once! Not when I left him, nor when, in the folly of my seventh year, I'd made my public my adamant hatred for him and his institution. Not even when I left him forever and sold my very soul to the brand on my arm. He simply stood there, smiling like a dolt, his glassy eyes catching the light in a way that was nothing short of ethereal. He knew better. He knew that I didnt--couldn't--hate him. Not after all he'd done for me. Hell, simply his personality ensured this inability. Bursting with vivacity and optimism--filled to the brim with a genuine adoration of life and all its splendors! I was far from hating him. If anything, I felt a twinge of jealousy towards this doddering old man--this inexplicable genius!--who could gain such respect and admiration by simply existing! Many of us would give our very lives for such privilege, myself included. No, I found it impossible to hate him. In fact, all throughout my blood-soaked tangent of darkness, he was the one man whom I found myself utterly incapable of hating. As it turns out, he was also the one man that I was incapable of killing.
I brandished my instrument of death with a quivering arm. And then he spoke.
"I wondered when I would see you again, Severus."
The icy killer's blood froze in my veins. Once again, he knew. He knew who I was--what I was. He'd known all along. A thousand questions flooded by racing mind in that instant. Why hadn't he stopped me before? Had he known that I would become the bloodthirsty monster I now embodied? Had he known that when he silently nodded at my departure? Would he have--could he have stopped me?
No. He'd known then that he couldn't. When a soul such as mine commits itself to evil, not even Albus Dumbledore can convince it of the contrary. He'd known that then. And he knew now that I couldn't kill him.
My hand trembled and the tainted wand fell to the floor. I was unarmed and unmanned, feeling nothing short of naked before this man who knew me better than I knew myself. A lump caught in my throat. He took a step forward.
"Go, he whispered. Tell them what you must."
I found myself unable to respond for fear that my parched sobs would betray me. He placed a wrinkled hand on my left arm, lightly grazing the soft patch of flesh where the mark of sin burned.
"If you ever require my aid, Severus,"--he squeezed my forearn gently--"you know where to find me." He gave a small wink and vanished from my sight. With that, the room spun out of focus and my body collapsed on the cold marble floor. When I awoke, Dumbledore was nowhere to be found.
My peers simply assumed that I'd been unable to thwart the Hogwarts Headmaster and, upon administering a powerful hex, he had escaped. This came as no surprise to anyone, not even the Dark Lord--he himself had failed innumerable times in the aforementioned task. Truth be told, our goal had not really been to dispatch Albus--Oh no, that was near to impossible. We had simply intended to frighten him, to warn him that the revolution was not long in coming and that he was fated to the losing side. I had fulfilled neither of those tasks. Apparently, my Dark Master was all too disappointed with his proverbial A + student, for he took little note of me subsequent to the Dumbledore incident. The role of most prized lackey had been awarded to none other than Lucius Malfoy, and the insidious little snot lorded his newfound authority over me as often as possible. But, it didnt matter to me--I no longer cared. My taste for blood was gone.
Thus began my rigorous process of soul-searching. Somewhere along the line, in the course of those few, damnable years, I had lost myself completely. I no longer recognized my own face in the mirror. Indeed, there was someone there, but the eyes staring back at me were not my own. The carelessly brutal voice did not belong to me. My flesh was made of glass. Fragile glass in a world full of nails and razorblades. I made myself bleed once. It did not last long. The salty drops of crimson dried up almost as quickly as they came. And I was left with nothing. No tangible sign that I was still alive.
I spent hours, frantic, clutching my wrist in search of the slightest pulse beat. I found none. I dont even think I had one. No, I was certainly not human. Something sub-human, perhaps, or even a transcendent, but not a human being of flesh and blood. How I could I belong to a world where mothers created new life from willing flesh, where lovers embraced in the darkest hours of the night, where children fell asleep each night secure in the arms of a loving guardian? No, I was beneath all of this, incapable of feeling anything that even remotely resembled warmth or beauty or affection. I was not human. Of course, my flesh remained, but some other vital part of me had been lost along the way.
After a while, I lost my will to do things voluntarily. Nothing serves a purpose to a man who feels nothing. Eating and drinking became merely a chore to ensure my own useless survival--making love, a futile effort to regain any sort of feeling I had lost. So I used. So I hurt. If these had been the least of my lifes crimes, I would be a much happier man. But as it stands, they are not. It didnt matter. I couldnt feel it anyway. I had fallen so far into myself that I was suffocating. If I didnt get air soon Id become a complete catatonic, and as much as I despised the outer world, I loathed myself even more. I could not bear the thought of spending a lifetime alone with myself. And that's when it began.
I awoke in a fervor one night, plagued by dreams of dead faces--my dead face, to be exact--and contacted Albus. I'm not sure I even knew what I scribbled on the tired bit of parchment, but I waited up all night for an answer. As you might expect, none came.
I was furious. The one man--the only man--who had said hed always come to my aid, no matter what the cost, had chosen to ignore me in my time of dearest need.
I threw things, I demolished, I smashed the few prized possessions I owned (gifts from the old loon, no doubt) and I clawed at my hair until there were large bald patches at the back of my scalp. But still, no answer came.
Finally, on an icy morning in the bleak of January, an elderly tawny owl tapped at my window. A yellowed scrap of parchment was fastened securely to her bony leg.
It was from Albus.
To Be Continued...