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Title: Sleep of the Earth
Fandom: Harry Potter
Character(s): Snape-centric
Rating: R
Warnings: Possible sociopathy, graphic child abuse (non-sexual), character death, general weirdness.
Word Count: 4,818
Summary: This is the story of how Severus Snape came to master potions over all mortal men.
Disclaimer: Not mine, and making no profit from this. It's all in fun.
Author's Notes: Inspired by this song by Tricky Pixie, which is also quoted briefly. The second verse sounds like the recipe for a potion, which linked in my head to Severus Snape, and a fanfic was born. Beta props go to: captainraychill

Sleep of the Earth

Part One

When Severus is a grown man taunting and torturing students, he will still bear the scars of this night.

It's long since gone past a whipping, his buttocks red and bleeding, all but numb from the beating. So, the belt and the hand wielding it have moved. First down his legs, then up over his back. He is past feeling the blood run down his sides, the skin peeling away, or anything but the burst of pain each time the belt strikes home. It is worse when it's the buckle, because his father has never worn belts with rounded buckles, only square ones with sharp corners.

He is four years old. Without really knowing how, he made his toys dance. Magic is forbidden in his father's house.

Even at four, he knows his mother will not help him, for he knew better than to break the rules and did it anyway, even if on accident. He is alone under the viciousness of his father's belt, taking the brunt of a fury he cannot understand.

This is the first time, but it will not be the last. Tobias Snape has enough malice for a few years yet.

Part Two

He is seven, and several hours ago he fell from a stool while trying to help his mother in the kitchen, bumped his head and broke a plate at the same time. Eileen took him to his bedroom with her face set as stone, put him to bed, and told him to stay there the rest of the evening, including through dinner. Severus does not mind. It only means he gets to lie warm and comfortable in bed while his father rages in another room about someone and something else.

Later, after his father has gone to bed, she brings him a small portion of the meal he missed and sits at the side of his bed while he eats. Sometimes she strokes his hair, once murmuring that he needs to wash better, but she never speaks directly to him. He doesn't mind that, either, because it's good enough that she's here with him and didn't make him sit at the table with his father. His mother never smiles at him, but he thinks she loves him anyway.

"Thank you," he murmurs quietly when he's done, handing her the plate and cloth napkin. She takes them but doesn't leave immediately. Severus isn't aware she intends to speak until she does.

"You haven't told anyone about our secret lessons, have you?"

Her eyes are dark and serious, and Severus imagines his own as mirrors of hers. He shakes his head. No, he would never tell anyone about those lessons. Given while his father is at work, they are lessons for the thing that infuriates Tobias more than anything else in the world. Eileen is careful, Severus is careful, and if one of them is caught the other pretends to know nothing. They protect each other.

"Good," she murmurs and touches his head again, then his cheek. Severus can almost imagine he sees a smile peeking at the corners of her lips. "Tomorrow we will go on a very special trip."

She is still and quiet, watching him, so Severus feels brave enough to ask a question. "Why?"

Now he's certain. The tick of her lips is a smile trying to get out. "There are many types of magic, my boy, including types of magic most witches and wizards have forgotten. We have a very long, deep bloodline, you and I." Her eyes, dull for as long as Severus has known her, blaze with an intensity he can understand no more than he understands his father's hatred. "Before I married that Muggle, my surname was Prince. There is a reason my family carried that name."

"Why did you marry… him?"

Her gaze turns as sharp as Tobias' belt buckle, and Severus thinks perhaps he has gone too far, asked too much, been too curious. Maybe he has, but she answers him anyway. "Because I was told I must."

His mother has never been so talkative. Severus cannot help himself. "By your father?" He has never met his maternal grandparents. He isn't sure if he's curious about them or not.

"No," she replies, contempt clear. "Go to sleep, boy. You will learn more tomorrow."

She leaves him far too excited to sleep, but he tries anyway.

Part Three

They have gone farther from home than Severus has ever been and entered a forest. He didn't know there was a forest near their home, he cannot remember having seen it before, and he's only ever seen a forest from the inside on the telly. It is both darker and more beautiful than anything the black and white can show. It must be magic, he thinks, because one moment they are on the street, the next they are beneath the trees. He holds his mother's hand as tightly as she will let him, afraid without knowing why, but not as afraid as he could be.

"Where are we going?"

His mother jerks him forward without an answer. It was a stupid question, anyway. They're going into the forest. It's the why of it he doesn't know.

He should be happy enough to be spending a day away from home, away from the glare of his father. Severus does not know what his mother told his father to explain this little trip or if she told him anything at all. What Severus knows is that no matter what she told him, he's still likely to be angry that they went. So he had best enjoy this day, because it isn't likely to happen much again.

They walk, walk, and walk more, they walk more than Severus has ever walked in his life, they walk until his little legs ache and then begin to sting. There are tears in his eyes, but he doesn't cry, and he doesn't ask to stop or rest.

"What is this you've brought me, dear Eileen?"

There is a woman in the path.

She is tall, taller even than Severus' mother--and he's never known his mother's name was Eileen, she's always simply been his mother--and this woman is bright. She is the sun breaking through the trees. Everything about her is golden, from her hair to her skin to her dress. If he were older, Severus might have thought her the most beautiful woman in the world, but he is seven, and all he notices is that the only not-golden thing about her are her eyes, which are black, deep and scary.

His mother grips his hand tight. "My son. As agreed. Though not by me, I might point out."

The woman smiles as she moves away from the arch of trees above her. Her smile is as scary as her eyes, though Severus can't figure out why. No one else's smile scares him.

"It does not matter who made the agreement. It was made." Black eyes lower to Severus' face, drink him in as though he were water or wine, and she touches his forehead. Her fingers are cool, as though her temperature is several degrees below his. "Yes, he will do nicely. He has even more potential than you did."

Severus' mother, Eileen, tightens her hold again, then her fingers slowly unclench from his. "When will this be over?"

The woman laughs. "Over? What do you mean, little Prince?"

"When will my family's obligation end?"

The woman never looks away from Severus, her fingers tracing the outlines of his cheeks. "So long as there is a Prince to carry a drop of our blood, the obligation stands."

Part Four

From that first day onward, young Severus spends many of his afternoons in the forest. He always has to make the journey alone, but his mother makes certain he knows the way, though it's a long way. Down the street, across the lane, between the matching blue houses and onto the hidden roads that lead to the forest. After that it's down the path until he meets the golden lady. Sometimes he has only just lost the view of the town behind him when she appears, sometimes it feels as though he walks all day, but she is always there.

And no matter how long it takes him to find her, or how long he stays with her, he is always home before dark. This is good, because otherwise, Severus' father would be angry.

At first, the lady only walks with him, though she walks very slowly, and they talk. She wants to know many things, such as his name--something she is most eager to know and which he gives with unknowing reluctance--and how old he is in mortal terms, the name of his father, where he lives, and if he is, like his mother and all the Princes before her, capable of controlling magic.

"Of course I can," he replies with the same imperious tone he's heard his mother use. "I'm a wizard. That means I can do anything."

The lady laughs, a sound like birds singing. "Anything?"

Suddenly 'anything' seems like a silly word to have used. "Well, almost anything. Maybe there are some things."

"Such as?"

His hand is in hers as they walk. Her hand is warm, but it is also cold, something Severus thinks is marvelous and frightening all at once. This lady is scary, but she's also beautiful, kind, but he thinks she can also be cruel. She is so many things, most of them not at all like the rest, and he finds that he does not want to disappoint her.

"Really, really big stuff," he finally tells her. "Like... I don't know. Flying without brooms, or... or... making the dead come back. I mean really come back, not like Inferi."

"Those things? They are trifles."

"Trifles?" He is not certain what the word means, but he has an idea. It frightens him almost as much as the lady who spoke it.

"Oh yes. If you agree, my little one, I will be your teacher, and I will teach you such wonderful things. If you agree, you will be the Prince of the Woods, for now and for always."

The Prince of the Woods. That sounds wonderful to the little boy who only that morning had been cowering in as small a space as he could, trying to avoid more bruises. It sounds marvelous indeed to the little boy with belt scars on his back, who listens to his mother tell tales of magic deep and old and the Princes who wield it. To be Prince of the Woods meant he would be more than that little boy. He would mean something.

The lady with the fearsome smile touches his face, knowing she has him.

Part Five

He is eight and has been at his secret lessons for almost a year.

In some ways, it is strange to have lessons in magic before going to Hogwarts, but this is a different type of magic, one very specific to his talents and the heritage flowing through his veins. At least, that is what Maeve says, and Maeve is the Queen of the Woods, the Queen to his Prince.

Maeve says there will never be another as gifted as he with his particular skills.

"Potions are delicate," she explains to him one day under cover of her special trees. They've woven together their branches to form a ceiling over their heads to block the rain. "Potions require patience, something my people have in spades, and yours seem unable to grasp."

"What do you mean?"

Frightening as she is, Maeve never minds his questions, the way his father often did when he used to ask; she seeks to teach him, she says, and one cannot teach unless the mind is open, and questions are the sign of an open mind. He knows there is something different about her and the other sunlight and shadow people who live in the forest, but that is one question he's never been able to ask. Partly because he thinks he knows the answer and partly because he's certain he does not want to know the truth.

He knows she is not like him. Knowing why might be more than he can take.

"Potions are temperamental," she says. “They are precarious. One stir out of time, one ingredient out of order, one half-second too late on the fire, and your potion loses patience with you and falls apart." She smiles. "That is true for your most basic potions, and the potions you will learn from me are so much more than basic."

Severus thinks on that, and as he thinks he realizes he very much wants to know all of this but not only for the sake of knowledge itself. There is something very specific he wants, and as an eight year old, it is a new and terrifying thought.

She knows, oh she knows, he can tell from the smile on her face, vicious and demanding. But because she is vicious, she will make him say it himself.

When he does, she laughs.

"Oh, I was right. You will do very well indeed." Maeve sets aside the ingredients she's been mixing, sits on a stool made from a tree stump, and opens her arms to him. Severus goes without thinking, for in the past year, Maeve has become more of a mother to him than Eileen Snape, who seems unable to love him as a mother should. Maeve is frightening, but she is beautiful, and she will hold and cuddle him when Eileen only offers cold glares.

"Can I?"

As Maeve wraps her arms around him, hugging him tight, her smile drips honey and venom. "Oh yes, you can. What you want is difficult to brew, my little love. It will be many years yet before you will have the skill, and then it will take almost two more years for you to brew it. Can you wait that long?"

He shrugs. "I don't have a choice."

"Such a mature answer for my little Prince. There is also a price."


"Oh yes. There is always a price. You are my price from your mother's family. What will you give me in exchange for this very special potion?"

Severus frowns up at her, unsure of what she means. He doesn't know why he should be trained in potion-making for free, yet have to pay for one potion in particular. Not even for her to make it for him, but for her to show him how to make it himself. It seems unfair, but that is another thing he's learned about Maeve and the people who live in the trees. What is fair to them is often unfair to those who live in the town.

"I don't know," he finally says. "I don't know if I have anything you want."

"It can be something you don't have yet," she tells him, kisses his forehead, and strokes her hand over his hair. "Something you don't yet have and won't miss. Why don't you give me... your first love?"

"My first love?" He hasn't even begun to think of love yet.

"It's very far away yet, and first loves never last anyway. Why not give it to me, and be done with it sooner?"

That sounds very reasonable.

Part Six

Severus is nine, and he sees her before seeing anyone else. Even as he basks in her smile and her kindness, there is a part of his mature heart murmuring you have already given her away.

Part Seven

Fourteen now, he is fourteen, only a few days away from fifteen, thin and sallow and bitter. No one will ever confuse him for attractive, he knows that, not even the only person he wishes would notice him.

It is January, still the holiday break, but before his birthday. By the end of the year, he will utter words he doesn't know are on his tongue, not directed at her. Never to her, except he will say them anyway, and ensure her loss, in more ways than one. Not until much, much later will he think to wonder if the words were even his own.

Because now, right now, he finishes the final, complex stirring of a potion that has taken him six years to complete. Four years just to gain the level of skill to make it, another half-year to learn the ingredients and steps, and then a year and a half of brewing, and finally it is finished. He remembers when Maeve first told him the recipe, so deceptively simple and yet so difficult to understand.

She'd said: White is the dust of the state of dreaming.
Light is the mixture to make one still.
Dark is the powder of Death's redeeming.
Mark but that one pinch can kill.

A riddle, a rhyme, a spell, like so many things in the realm of the wood, of Maeve and her impossible Court. But a recipe as well, the skeleton of need to create the rest. That's what took him the most time, trying to interpret the correct ingredients from her little rhyme.

She swore to him there was no clearer recipe, and he cursed her anyway.

He's convinced Maeve merely loves to watch him struggle, because he is mortal and she is not, and mortals are always amusing. No one else is allowed to play with him, but Maeve may tease him all she likes. It isn't fair, but Severus has long since stopped expecting fairness from his golden Queen or from life. If life were fair, Sirius Black would have died in a Quidditch accident as a boy, James Potter would have suffocated in his crib, and Lily... Lily would be his.

Severus lifts the tiny bottle he's brewed, peering at the contents through the thin layer of glass separating it from him. A year and a half for such a small amount, but a small amount will do what he needs. Pinch can kill, after all.

He'll do much more with this than free himself. He's freeing his mother as well, and he's proving himself worthy of his friends. Worthy of him. When all is said and done, Severus knows he will stand at the side of the greatest wizard ever to wield magic, and he will do so with pride, having shed himself of all that's held him back.

Until now.

Maeve enters the workroom--a room that fascinated young Severus, with its walls of braided willow branches and windows made of nothing more than the odd gaps between them--and plucks the vial from him.


"Peace, my Prince," she purrs. "I am merely inspecting your work."

He can do nothing but glower as she does so, shadow-shifting eyes peering through glass and potion more efficiently than his ever could, despite the drop of blood he supposedly shares with her. She even uncorks the bottle to sniff the contents, something he can't do for fear of being contaminated. Finally, she smiles, seals the vial again, and hands it back to him.

"Very good work. Not perfect, but very good. Perhaps as close to perfect as a mortal can achieve."

He snatches it back with a scowl. "It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to do its job."

Maeve smiles her frightening smile and touches his cheek. "That, my Prince, it will do well enough. Have you given any more thought to my proposal?"

He has, despite not wanting to, but his decision hasn't changed.

"I'm staying."

A sigh, a frown, and a dangerous glint in dark eyes. There has always been a familiarity between them that's come from having known each other for most of Severus' life. Until this moment, he's never really thought about the fact that, once, the place he holds was his mother's, and one of her parent's before that, and that once, she must have looked up to Maeve the way he's done until recently. Once, his mother was Maeve's "little Prince," but now there is only coldness between them and obligation. Is this, his refusal and the flash of Maeve's eyes, the beginning of his road to his mother's destination?

Reading his mind, she laughs.

"You may be free of him, but you will never be free of me. I have always been your destination."

I will be free of you, he thinks as she walks away. I will. One day, I'll be dead.

Part Eight

When it is over, when Tobias Snape sleeps the long sleep, and the Muggle police are gone, Severus turns to his mother with a smile already forming.

It dies when he sees her, and the way she stares at him, no more warm than she's ever been.

She says, "Is this what she's made you?"

Then she turns and walks away.

Severus spends one more night in Spinner's End, and then he's gone from there until many years later, when his mother is but a memory in the rooms.

Part Nine

Twenty-one. She was only twenty-one, too young, too soon.

And it is his fault.

When he thinks this, he is not thinking of the night he overheard the prophecy. He is not thinking about when he told the Dark Lord about it, nor when he went to Dumbledore trying to prevent it. He thinks of none of these things.

He's thinking about the eight year old who bargained away his first love for freedom.

If not for that bargain, so long ago, before he really understood the meaning of it, would she be alive now? Would he have said those damning words to her when they were fifteen and he was stupid?

Unlike the rest of the wizarding world, he does not celebrate on hearing of the downfall of the Dark Lord, and unlike his fellow Death Eaters, he does not go immediately into hiding or pretend to have been Imperiused. Severus takes to the hidden roads, the roads in shadow that always lead to the impossible forest of Maeve's Court.


The clearing is darker than usual, awash in moonlight instead of sun, and the few pixies in residence float by in a surreal waltz. The forest is asleep as he has never seen it, so deeply asleep it might as well be dead. He doesn't care. What is there to care about here, or anywhere, when Lily is dead?

"Maeve!" Severus screams her name through the dream of forest, a dream that shatters around him with the sound of his voice. "Come to me, Maeve!"

Perhaps it is this more than anything that draws her, summoned despite herself, that he would dare to order her as though she belonged to him and not the other way around. Falling tendrils of leaves part and Maeve steps through, as muted in color as her forest around her. In the sun, she is the golden lady, but here in the moonlight she is all of silver, save for her eyes. If possible, her eyes are darker than ever and hold even more mysteries.

And she is cold.

"Yes, my little Prince?"

She has not called him little in years, and her voice carries none of the oozing affection from his childhood. That's all right, because he doesn't want it, anyway.

"Give her back." It isn't a request. "Give her back."

The barest hint of a smile touches the Faerie Queen's face, though it is as cold as the rest of her. "What, my little Prince? Would you play Janet at Miles Cross?"

He ignores her taunt. "Give her back, now!" There are tears on his face, but he doesn't notice.

Maeve comes closer, radiating a chill he's never felt from her before, and when she touches his cheek this time, it's like fire against his skin, she burns so cold. "I cannot. We made a bargain, my little Prince."

"Fuck your bargains!" Foul language is the weapon of less intelligent men than he, like Potter and Black, but he uses it now because he has no others. "I was eight, I didn't understand, it wasn't fair."

Her hand, like steel, comes out and grips his chin. It burns, but he doesn't try to escape. There is no escape, he knows that now. There has never been any escape from her.

"You understood enough. That is more than fair in these woods, Severus Snape, of the line of Prince, who carries the blood of the fae into mortal lands, thin as it may be. You have oft acted in our stead in mortal affairs, and you have oft acted in ways your peers consider cruel." She smiles, bringing forth the same within her that recognizes, without lies, the cruelty in him. "Why, you even lashed out at the one you loved the most, and you would speak to me of what is 'fair'? Go home, little boy, and return to me when you no longer weep for her."

She turns his face away with a snap that uses only a fraction of her strength.

This is it. This is the moment. Severus feels the world spinning around him, changing even as he tries to regain his equilibrium. But this is the second time in less than a day that his world has teetered on the brink of dissolving, and he isn't sure he ever had any equilibrium to regain.

"I won't," he says before he realizes he means to speak. Yet, when he does, he knows what he means and the night wood comes into sharp, sudden focus.

"What?" She's turned to him, dark eyes narrowed.

Severus laughs. There is no mirth in it, only despair, and a desperate, near suicidal triumph. He knows now why the forest is so cold. It is an ending.

"I won't come back. Ever."

"You belong to me!"

"And you've had me for almost my whole life. I'm done. I'm done with you, like my mother."

Maeve's eyes burn, the only thing about her now that's hot, but it doesn't last long. Only moments pass before she relaxes and smiles.

"Go, then. I will take your first born, as I always have."

Severus shakes his head, already planning, already there in his mind's eye, in Dumbledore's office, bereft and lost. Beyond that, he thinks he can see the rest of his life stretch out before him, long and bleak and pointless. This one thing, however, he can be sure of.

"There will be no more Princes for you." He does not say I swear this, he doesn't have to. She can see it in his eyes, the lonely stretch of his existence. As rage fills her eyes and spills over, Severus laughs again, the same humorless sound as before. This time, it's he that turns to go, and he knows he will never see this place again, with its magic even beyond that of wizards.

"I hope you've enjoyed your power over my family," he tells the silent statue he's leaving behind, "because you destroyed it yourself with your bargain."

Severus steps from the hidden roads onto a mortal one with less grace than usual. It doesn't matter. Those roads are forever lost to him now.

This is what freedom feels like.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
Whew. You know that I'm not in the HP fandom, bb, and so therefore never really as attached to the characters as others, but this is...this is *powerful*.
Maeve is really, really just...creepy, but intriguing at the same time. And the thing is, this could fit into canon, the way I see it, limited though my knowledge of HP canon may be. ^_^**

Now I want to go do some research about the fae. :D (Although I should be studying... >.<)
Dec. 12th, 2011 11:00 pm (UTC)

Yeah, you should probably study. Finals are important!

But thank you for the compliment! :D Means that much more that your read it because you're not in the fandom. :D
Dec. 13th, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
How interesting! I love gen pieces about Snape's life, and the concept you used here was so original. I definitely enjoyed reading this. Well done.
Dec. 13th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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