The Last Resort
Severus got up early the next morning. He dressed quickly before leaving his dorm and making his way towards the breakfast hall. Malfoy was already there at that early hour, and greeted him with a dangerous-looking grin. For a while it was just the two of them, chatting about classes and other harmless subjects.
After some minutes, the two were joined by Lucius' fourth year mates. They sat down around Severus, looking at him with curiosity -- some, with outright antipathy. He fell silent under their gazes and decided to do his best to appear oblivious to their attention, concentrating instead on his breakfast.
Eventually Evan and Roland entered the great hall. Severus felt a wave of relief pass through him at the sight of the two boys. At least with them at the table some of the attention would be taken off him. He beckoned them over. Evan saw him first and alerted Roland. The pair began to advance towards Severus.
Severus glanced around and saw that the fourth years surrounding Lucius were glaring at Evan and Roland with rather menacing expressions. He then watched as his two fellow first-years began to backpedal towards a less intimidating region of the Slytherin table.
Severus turned angrily to Lucius. "You told me they were invited."
The blond's face was blanked out in a mask of boredom. "Well, it looks like they decided to decline the invitation." He patted Severus patronizingly on the shoulder. "Some other time, perhaps?"
Severus turned back to his food, seizing his fork in a tight fist. Angry and betrayed, his knuckles whitened in their hold as he thought of the a hundred terrible things he could do to Lucius without even using his wand.
But the quiet, unemotional side of him pointed out that he hadn't really wanted to be friends with Evan or Roland in the first place. The only reason he'd wanted them around was because he felt so out of his depth around Lucius. Being surrounded by angry elitist fourth fourth-years wasn't the most comfortable position for a first first-year to be in.
Besides - if he actually tried to exact revenge on Lucius it was quite likely he would end up at the disadvantage. He'd heard rumors in the hallways that Lucius had some extracurricular training of his own in the area of the dark arts. And it was quite likely if he tried something he'd end up expelled. After all the strings his mother had pulled to get him into Hogwarts, he'd hate to repay her by getting kicked out.
He loosened the death grip on his fork. He then looked up at the fourth-years surrounding him, measuring and weighing each face in turn. He settled his gaze on a particularly venomous glare. It was coming from one of Lucius' closest friends.
*So you think I don't belong here?*
He returned the angry glare with a one of his own. Ever since he'd been a small child people had been wary of his eyes. Dark and inhuman, they'd said. Disturbing. Alien. Severus remembered Luthien telling him that he had his father's eyes, though at the time, his stepfather hadn't bothered to explain the significance of that statement.
*You're probably right. I don't belong here. Not at this table. Not at this school. Not human enough. Never human enough...*
The older boy was the first to turn away, unable to face the dark challenge in Severus' eyes. Severus smiled coldly.
*But I'd like to see you try and make me leave.*
He decided he could grow to like breakfast.
Severus left the hall ten or so minutes before the end of the meal. He excused himself and made his way towards the main entrance. He almost had his hand at the door handle when Sirius burst into the room.
Staring at Severus like he didn't know what to think.
Severus decided to speak. "I'm sorry for...for all what happened yesterday."
"Are you going to hate me for a very long time?"
Sirius' face clouded over for a moment with an inscrutable expression. A whirlwind of thought surrounded the boy, striking Severus as an almost visible ripple. Eventually the emotions smoothed out as something akin to menace. The roaring hostility was enough to make Severus wince.
"I don't think you're a very good person, Snape," Sirius said. "Maybe I figured you were at first, but I don't anymore. I think you're going to have to prove me wrong."
"I've lost the benefit of the doubt, then?" Sirius said nothing; instead he turned and walked towards the Gryffindor table, not bothering with so much as a backwards glance. Severus stood stock still in the middle of the doorway and stared after Sirius' retreating form. He didn't know how he should respond to that. He wanted Sirius not to hate him. He needed Sirius to not hate him. He could sense that hatred, and it tore through him like shrapnel. It was...crippling.
There was something about that boy, something in the intricacies of his brain, in the flavor of his thoughts – a pungency in his emotions that Severus could feel, smell. He knew that some part of his dementor heritage enabled him to sense Sirius' every base instinct, every half-formed, unarticulated thought. Whether he wanted to or not.
He was beginning to think that dementors were a race in love with pain.
*Or maybe I'm just in love with pain.*
Severus wanted to go after Sirius and beg for forgiveness, but if he'd inherited anything from his mother, his real mother, it was a backbone. He refused to go crawling to Sirius to curry favor. He had to believe that he deserved better than that. He'd made a mistake in attacking Pettigrew. A mistake didn't make him an evil person, and it certainly didn't give Sirius the right to judge him.
Severus briefly considered running up to Evan and asking him what to say, how to fix this. Then he remembered all the reasons why that was a bad idea.
The bell rang suddenly, and students began to clear out of the hall. Lucius came up to Severus and clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Forget about him," the blond said. "He was sorted into Gryffindor. He's a disgrace to his entire family."
Lucius gave Severus a slight nudge foreward before heading off to his classes. Severus started to walk, more confused now than ever. That hat thing of Dumbledore's had made Gryffindor sound like a decent enough place to be sorted into.
Severus sighed. Maybe Lucius was right. Gryffindor couldn't be all that wonderful. If Sirius' personality matched that of his house-mates, Severus could only assume that Gryffindors were all self-righteous pricks.
*Who can't even make it to breakfast on time...*
Severus quickly learned that befriending Lucius Malfoy and repairing his relations with Sirius were two mutually exclusive goals. Malfoy felt utter contempt for Sirius, a pureblood, getting sorted into Gryffindor. His elitist politics were only magnified by his ruthlessness. He tortured Sirius, and the other first years like him. Malfoy was a beast, simply put, with enough money and good looks to get away with murder.
Severus found himself trapped. He was something of a pet project of Malfoy's – as if the older boy were trying to train him to follow in his footsteps. Severus simply couldn't be like Lucius. He didn't have the sort of personality that hungered for excess. He preferred to subsist. Sure, he was selfish, but not in the way that Malfoy was selfish. He could be bitter and vengeful, but not casually cruel. He knew he'd never be able to take up where Malfoy left off.
But he couldn't ditch the elder Slytherin for the simple reason that no one said no to Lucius Malfoy - not even Lucius Malfoy himself. Of course most people in his year thought he had an awfully good position as Malfoy's favorite. He was smart enough that Lucius would ask him for advice on everything from classes to pranks. He was protected. Lucius never made Severus do any actual dirty work.
Life should have been easy for Severus. It should have. But there was always Sirius, glaring at him from across the breakfast hall, eyes sharp and slitted. That gaze would knife through Severus from fifty yards away and make him bleed.
Severus ended up trying to dissolve his inner turmoil in his studies. He was a good student, even without trying. He was brilliant when he made it his business to lose himself in his textbooks. The headmaster had been given good reason for admitting Severus into Hogwarts two years early.
Unfortunately, schoolwork only ever managed to distract Severus during his waking hours. At night, he dreamed. He dreamed of confronting Sirius, losing control, screaming until he lost the ability to speak. He dreamed of looking into the Gryffindor's eyes and seeing forgiveness, kindness, mercy. Or something else altogether.
He'd wake only to find his hand behind the waistband of his trousers, an aching stiffness underneath.
He prayed for dreamless sleep.
Potions turned out to be the only subject tedious enough to truly distract him from his life's various complications. He spent most of his time in the underbelly of Hogwarts, bent over cauldrons or measuring ingredients. His hair went lank under the fumes of brewing potions and his skin went pale in the dark, windowless rooms of the dungeons. Severus' activities made it very easy for him to avoid others, and he grew largely oblivious to the world around him.
Of course, he couldn't stay oblivious forever.
"Look at Snape over there. He's sitting all by himself." James frowned, sprawling back against his seat on the Hogwarts Express.
"Of course he is," Sirius smirked. "All his friends have gone."
"You mean he didn't have any friends in our year?"
"Of course not." Sirius scoffed. "Snape doesn't make friends. You know the only reason he hung out with Malfoy was because Malfoy wanted a pet project."
James grinned, suddenly. "No more Malfoy."
"Yeah," Peter sighed. "D'you think Snape'll try to take his place?"
"He's not that stupid," Sirius said. "Look at his face. He knows he hasn't got anyone. He's practically trying to melt into his seat."
Remus, who had been quiet for most of the train ride, decided to take this moment to speak up. "You're being awfully observant, Sirius."
"Yeah, so what?"
"So it took you a year to figure out James had a crush on Lily."
"James confides in you more than the rest of us."
Sirius frowned. "Well maybe we never stood around in a circle staring at James and talking about him. Maybe that's why I never noticed."
Remus shrugged. "I'm just saying..."
James waved a hand to get their attention. "Please stop talking about me like I'm not here."
They muttered brief apologies to James and the conversation was abandoned for a game of exploding snap. Remus joined in on the game, but only after sending a few questioning glances in Severus' direction, wondering what it was about Severus that drew Sirius' attention.
Sirius usually had a habit of being spectacularly oblivious. He did well in his classes, but was only because he was brilliant enough to do well without trying. Sirius was the epitome of an impulsive Gryffindor, and rarely bothered to concern himself with the finer details of a situation.
But Sirius *noticed* Severus. He noticed everything about Severus. Sirius had always spent an inordinate amount of attention at Severus, be it glaring at him from across the main hall, or making snide remarks about his connections with Malfoy, or simply bristling whenever he walked into a room. And there was another thing - Sirius always seemed to know when Severus was near. Even without being endowed with werewolf senses, Sirius could sniff out the Slytherin with an almost preternatural awareness.
Remus never confronted Sirius about it. He knew his friend would deny it until he ran out of breath. But Remus had begun to suspect that Sirius' scoffing hatred for Severus meant something very different from James' casual dislike, or Peter's jealous anger. What it meant, he had no idea.
He supposed he'd find out soon enough.
This was how things got started.
On Day One of fourth year, right after he disembarked from the train, James decided that he and the rest of his foursome should rule the school. After all, they were for the most part intelligent and attractive, not to mention good at sports. The existing power structure built by Lucius Malfoy had gone on to further callings or higher learning. If any group were to replace that power structure, it would have to be the...well...actually James hadn't thought up a name yet. But when he did it was going to be something wicked cool.
He told the Sirius about it first, and Sirius *loved* the idea. Of course, the four of them would have to destroy all remnants of the existing power structure first. A great many students were still a little bit afraid of Snape. That just wouldn't do. The four of them would have to work to make the greasy git disgustingly unpopular. The only question was of how to go about it.
"Why we'll pull pranks, of course," Sirius laughed. "We could come up with some great ones, I figure. We could call ourselves the...ah...the Marauders!"
It certainly was a wicked cool name.
About three weeks into fourth year, the great plan was well underway. The pranks the four of them thought up were nothing short of exceptional. Sirius found he had a remarkable talent for flirting with every passing skirt. James found he had an even more remarkable talent for showing off on the Quidditch pitch. Remus didn't have to change at all. He needed only to walk about and brood like a tortured hero. Women loved that -- or so Peter assured him. And being friends with Sirius and James didn't hurt. Even Peter managed to catch a bit of the group's rising fame merely through association.
As time passed, humiliating Snape in public became less of a goal, and more of a group hobby - a habit, even. The four, expecially James and Sirius, would walk up to Severus and snatch away whatever book he was reading or trip him on his way to his seat. They thought up all sorts of ways to make the young Slytherin's life more unpleasant than it was, and since virtually every member of their year held some sort of resentment towards the boy who once was Malfoy's favorite, no one thought to put a stop to the Marauders' behavior.
Of course, there were a precious few who disapproved, but never to the extent that they would actually take action to put a stop to it. Besides - the Marauders' popularity scheme had worked off. It wasn't long before the four boys were virtually untouchable.
Severus found himself spending even more time doing potions work, simply to avoid contact with the other members of his class. He learned the subject so well he could have taught it. To the seventh-years. All that extra time in the dungeons certainly didn't help his reputation. In fact, it spawned a great many derogatory names, as the potion fumes made his clothes smell odd and his hair go lank.
Of course, Severus was not one to simply take this sort of treatment lying down. He did his best to retaliate. The problem was that Severus had never really learned any of the silly curses useful for creating or preventing pranks. All the retaliations he could think of were simply too severe. Pranks were, for the most part, bungled up curses that had been written in books and marketed for the enjoyment of children. An itching curse, for example, was a very weak version of another curse originally intended to cause burning. What had devolved into a vomiting curse was originally a torture device intended to make its victim puke their guts out - literally.
One of the unique things about Severus that his professors would always point out was his gift for precision in spellcasting. He either got something totally right or not at all. Seeing as most spells used as pranks were intended to be cast only somewhat correctly and a truly precise casting could result in something deadly, it was easy to see why Severus simply had no talent for defending himself against the Marauders.
However, Severus couldn't go on like this. Things had been awful before when Sirius had hated him, but at least he'd had Malfoy's protection. Now he had nothing but his own intelligence. He decided to resort to desperate measures. Since he couldn't fight the Gryffindor foursome with spells and the boys had no fear of authority figures, he'd simply have to resort to blackmail. It shouldn't be that difficult to find something on those four that was truly damaging. All Severus would need to do was perhaps follow the boys around for a bit. Find out what made them tick. Find out what, if anything, they were trying to hide.
And that was how things got a whole lot worse.
Return to Archive | next | previous