Who: Severus Snape, Dumbledore's portrait. What: The storm clouds are gathering. When:BACKDATED Late April, 1998 Where: The Headmaster's Office. Rating: Low
Severus felt the weight of myriad painted eyes upon him, but none lingered longer or rested heavier than a pair that seemed to follow him no matter what part of the Headmaster's office he inhabited. Today was no different, and as he stood from the ornately carved desk and strode to the windows overlooking the grounds, he could sense the blue eyes of his immediate predecessor. They seemed to rest like a weight on his shoulders, one that he'd carried for far too long now, and one that he had no hope whatsoever of shaking off.
It would be time soon.
He leaned against the arched stone surrounding the window, staring out at the rolling hills and the black expanse of lake water, dark even in the oncoming face of spring, but he wasn't really seeing what was before him. His thoughts turned inward, running over the events of the last few months. He reviewed everything, starting with his leading Potter to the Sword of Gryffindor months ago during the depths of winter, and moving through to the much more recent events at Malfoy Manor. He had heard tales from Bellatrix, embellished with her usual ghoulish flair, of how she had been on the precipice of destroying Potter on Lucius’ drawing room carpet only to be foiled by a Mudblood, a pair of inferior wizards, and, of all things, a house elf.
Severus couldn't help but smirk at that, despite the gravity of the circumstances. Not only was he satisfied at the fact that Potter had escaped alive - it wouldn't do to have him killed so close to the final end game - but any chance he had to see Bella foiled or humiliated served to bring a small glimmer of amusement into his bleak existence. Crossing his arms over his chest, he shifted his weight, finding a more comfortable position against the stone.
The sword was in Potter's possession now, that he knew. And if Bella were to be believed, another key item had recently been taken from her vault at Gringotts. Even if Potter hadn't figured out where these clues were taking him, surely the insufferable Granger had supplied him with enough hints to lead him where he needed to go. No, it wouldn't be long now at all.
Severus knew that this would likely be the last spring he would see. Taking a deep breath as he stood at the window, he let it out slowly, wishing, for the first time in a long time, that he could feel sadness...regret...fear….anything. But, taking stock of himself, he still was as numb as he had been since the day Dumbledore had bound him into the servitude that had defined the rest of his life. With little exception, he’d remained stoic about his fate over the intervening decades, rarely allowing himself to feel the desperate mixture of longing and guilt that swept over him if he merely thought Lily’s name for a moment. He’d told himself long ago that the blank slate, the hard façade, was necessary, so that the Dark Lord didn’t read his thoughts and suss out his motives. But after a time, Severus had found that keeping his own emotional counsel had other benefits as well. He thought, often, that if he’d allowed himself to feel things more frequently the melancholia that would have settled on him would have crippled him. He knew that for him, opening the door to emotions would never have let happiness into his life – happiness was a ghost of a dream that had died with Lily.
Breaking out of his reverie, he came back to himself only to notice that dusk had begun to fall while he’d been lost in thought, and a quick glance at the wall clock told him it would soon be time for dinner. Turning and starting for the door, he couldn’t help but catch Albus’ eye as he went. He paused for a moment, nodding slightly at the portrait, before continuing on.