The Devil You Know
Well it has been three years and I am taking advantage of my writing spurt to add some updates in when I can. I hope if you've read this in the past that you enjoy it. I hope if you're new you're willing to give it a chance. Disclaimer:
Harry Potter and BtVS are intellectual property that I claim no ownership of.Timeline:
Post-Chosen, post Order of the Phoenix (book 5 for Harry Potter). If you're a hardcore HP fan you'll notice I tinkered a bit with Snape's age by stretching the timeline a bit. Mostly, I wanted the Buffy crew a bit older (mid twenties) and the HP crew around 18, which necessitated Snape (and his generation) being a tad older to accommodate. Gee, Thanks for all the LoveChapter Six: The Devil You Know“Tell me about my Mother.”
Serverus closed his eyes and told himself to breathe. It shouldn’t be this hard, over twenty-five years later, to perform such a simple task. To hold Amelie’s memory closer than his nightmares and speak about the woman who had changed his life. Whose love had helped transform him. Whose hate had helped Serverus Snape transform the Wizarding world.
In many ways it was fitting that her son, their
son, was the first person he had willingly spoken to about her since her death.
“Your Mother was…” Severus paused and thought carefully, searching for the word to encapsulate the curve of Amelie’s smile, the glint in her blue eyes. “She was incandescent. Not classically pretty, by Wizarding standards mind you. She was too tall, too pale, too everything in some ways. She had the… bluest eyes.” He waited until Xander, who had been resolutely looking ahead, glanced over and caught his eyes. They looked very much alike, if you only examined their eyes.
This, this was important. This discussion.
Not so much the meeting of Father and Son, though that shriveled part of his soul was slowly unfurling in Alexander’s presence, seeking the warmth that true family could bring. It was vitally important though for Alexander… Xander to understand who Amelie was.
Where the best of him came from. It may be the most important step in Serverus’s atonement.
It might help Xander understand why there was so little good left in Serverus since Amelie had been taken away.
But words failed him from there and they sat in silence that was both comfortable and too long, a string that stretched taunt between them.
“How did you meet her?”
Serverus flexed his hands and smiled ruefully at the memory that suffused him with warmth. “It was at a house party. I… do you know I’m not a full-blooded Wizard?”
Xander’s face, so serious for most of this conversation, twisted with his own wry amusement. “I’m sure this must come as a shock to you, but I don’t know much of anything.”
Serverus snorted, amused by the display of nonchalance from his offspring. “Sarcasm doesn’t become you, especially when it is done as a façade. I saw you kick the Dark Lord’s bloody head around like a football. Do try to keep up.”
Xander’s legs continued their insufferable movement, back and forth, back and forth, as the wry amusement turned into a sly grin. “Very well, you’re a mongrel. I come from stock of mongrel. I’m informed. Please carry on.”
The older man leveled a quelling stare at the younger but then, after a moment, continued. “Your Grandfather, Tobias Snape,” and the words almost stilled again, thick and unbelievable in his mouth, but Serverus pushed on yet again, refusing to let who he was born as dictate who he was. “Tobias was a Muggle, a textile worker. We grew up very poor, near a place called Spinner’s End. Your Grandmother, Eileen, was born into the Pure-blood Prince family.”
It was almost comical, how many years it had been since he thought of his origins. Eileen had been said to be a true beauty in her time, but disappointment had robbed her of that natural charm long before her own son could remember it. His childhood had been marked by deprivation- hunger, sallow faced rage, and the back of a hand from a neglectful father and a mother who had thought her life would be something different.
It seemed like such a small thing, to want things to be better. And it so often led to chaos and ruin.
Lily had been such as gift in those early years. A sunny smile for the boy who had never known that warmth. Who certainly didn’t deserve it now.
In a world torn asunder by blood it seemed so mundane in some ways, to explain to his son, Amelie’s son, their shabby origins. How odd it must seem, to Alexander and his group of Slayers, for people to be judged so much based on blood when all that seemed to matter in their world was survival. Xander lived among superheros and had their respect not for the magic he wielded or the powers he had, but for walking out of an alley alive when so many others had not.
Severus shook himself out of his morbid musings with small wonderment that with Voldemort’s death he could do something so simple as muse
and continued his story. “The Prince family was genteel but hardly well-off. They have a tendency to breed, which one would think of as an asset, given the birth rate in Pure-blood families.” Severus sneered as he thought of the hordes of red-haired children who had graced his classrooms over the years. “But money has always been a problem for the family which, aside from some personality quirks, shared and an unfortunate practice of producing squibs.”
Xander hummed at the unfamiliar word, face posed in silent question. Serverus couldn’t bring himself to make eye contact here. “A squib is someone without magical abilities who is born to magical parents. Your Mother was a squib. Her parents were both magical; she was not. It is… squib children are often ignored, or cast off into the Muggle realm.”
Much like Severus had done…
Speaking hurriedly he forced himself on, past the memories that tasted like ash as he spoke. “She loved music. Birds, anything that could be construed as carrying a melody.” Amelie had been only eighteen when Serverus first saw her. It was late afternoon, the first day of the house-party his mother had asked him to attend. Generally such displays of familial familiarity were beyond him, ensorcelled with his potions at Voldemort’s request. But Eileen had been sick, with a cough that potions didn’t seem to touch, and so Serverus had obliged to please his mother.
He had at that point in time been in love with Lily Evans longer than he had not, a boyhood spent in fanatic devotion to a woman who had married another. A heart dedicated to the crumbs their friendship had thrown him. Although the bitterness against James Potter had long ago taken root, it hadn’t bloomed to the point his judgment was affected. He would always be grateful for that, for the relative newness of his anger at that time. It was probably why he had seen so clearly, the first time he set eyes on Amelie.
She was playing some musical contraption Muggles had put into vogue, a piano, and the stark light and deep shadows had made her elegant hands seem longer and more beautiful as she played, a wide smile on her lips as she greeted his entrance to the parlor. He would learn later that she was one of the Price’s infamous squibs- hidden away from the rest of their world with shame.
But Amelie had never been ashamed of her blood, or her lack of magic. She had loved music and him from that first day and despite his ties to Voldemort, to the new world order, he never felt shame about her status in life, only grateful that she would have him. That they had had each other, if only for such a short time.
Severus blinked and flexed his hands again in a bid to fight the rest of the memories that came with these. The deaths that followed so soon after. “We married within the year. I was twenty-two years of age. You were born the year after.”
“When did she die?”
The older man, despite his monumental self-control, allowed his fingers to bite deeply into his thighs before he carefully, oh so carefully, answered. Those thrice be damned memories crowded him, eager to break free from the exile he had imposed on them and Severus swallowed and fought back for control. Amelie’s tears… Amelie’s screams as the fire roared…
“You were a year old when she died. She was… twenty.”
The string of silence stretched tighter between them, and Xander flinched as the bell tower chimed the hour. People would be filling in for dinner soon, and the privacy they had had for this… whatever this was would be over.
“Severus… what was her name?”
He looked away and sighed. “Amelie.” His radiant, musical, dead wife’s name was Amelie. “You have her smile.” His benediction. Xander had Severus’s eyes. Hopefully not his curse.
Buffy found him hours after dinner, wandering the library. A few of the walls were missing, if not the majority of their bricks, then a few gaping holes. Despite’s the librarian’s monumental efforts in the days since the Final Battle charred books still lay on the ground, albeit neatly stacked to denote their destruction, and the air smelled of incinerated paper.
She trailed him silently, a blonde specter, a ghost he had helped call from the only peace the oldest Slayer had ever known.
On Xander’s best days he desperately regretted it. Woke up with nightmares of crushed grass and Egyptian urns. Of a fawn’s blood staining Willow’s dress and hands… a portent of so many dark things to come.
On the bad days though, he was weak, and selfish, and grateful. So fucking grateful that Buffy Summers was still in his life. Still in the world, even if she was the more broken for it.
“Her name was Amelie.” Xander turned, the words pulsing wildly with his heartbeat, the calm steadiness he had shown Severus, his Father, drowned out by the hysterical giddiness of losing his identity. “She was… beautiful. Incandescent. She had blue eyes and played the piano and…”
Xander swallowed, swallowed as Buffy watched him gravely, a slight furrow in her brow. “She died when I was about a year old. She died… and I don’t remember her.”
He swallowed again, reflexively, and stumbled back as Buffy stepped forward, hand outreached. With any other such defensiveness might be honored, but the Scooby Gang had long ago demolished boundaries that distinguished between wants and needs.
Xander needed her, so she was there, even if he didn’t want her to be.
It felt like he should have been crying as she took his hand and led him to a slightly scorched table where they perched. But instead he just felt open and raw and empty.
“I didn’t care like I should have, when my parents… when the Harrises died at Sunnydale. I didn’t even see, if they had left town, before the First… What kind of man doesn’t even think to do that?”
“What kind of parents treat their son like they treated you?”
Xander looked up, surprised by the fierce soft response from the blonde at his side. “Buffy… they raised me. They were
for all intents and purposes…”
She snorted, interrupting him. “Is Hank my Father? Or Dawn’s? Does he care about our birthdays? Our scraped knees? Did he come to my funeral to see me put in the ground?”
He looked away, restless in the face of her insistent questing. Buffy studied his profile in silence, content to let him think it out. “Severus sent me there. To the Harrises. To… to that kind of childhood. What does that say about him?”
He still held her small, scarred hand, and she squeezed it and carefully, gently, rested her head on his shoulder. “I don’t know.”
He closed his eyes, and leaned into the quiet reassurance she offered. “What does that say about me?”