The Last Boat


by Persepone Lupin

published: 15th October 2004

Category: General/Angst

Rating: PG-13


SUMMARY: Another take on Severus Snape’s defection from the Dark Lord. Songfic (don’t worry, mostly fic and only little song, and only in the first chapter). Warning: attempted suicide.


DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended, the song "Boat on the River" belongs to Styx or whoever holds the copyright.




Chapter 1: Going down


Take me down to my boat on the river

I need to go down, I need to come down


The huge lake lay calm and flat, not a single ripple disturbing the perfect smoothness of its silvery-black surface. An eerie quiet had fallen over the late October night after the sun had bled its last rays of light into the still water. It was as if time stood still. As still as the solitary figure, who was standing tall and black against the darkening sky, motionlessly gazing over the lake.

The timelessness of the moment was broken when the man turned around abruptly and strode over to the little boathouse situated at the end of a wooden landing stage protruding into the wet vastness.

With a whispered Alohomora, he opened the door to the little shack. Students were not allowed to use those boats on their own, and actually they were only ever taken out of the boathouse for taking the first years over to the castle when they started their schooling. But he was no student anymore, no. He was a criminal, a murderer, anyway, so stealing a boat would hardly matter on his record. Yes, this was his boat, his last boat, and then it would be over.


Take me back to my boat on the river

And I won't cry out anymore


Gripping the oars with slender but strong hands, he rowed out onto the silent lake, farther and farther away from the shore, where ancient willows were dipping their leafless branches into the water, tickling its immaculate surface, and little waves gently caressed the sand. Knowing that both students and staff would be at the Halloween feast, he had taken his time to savor all this for one last time, to say goodbye. It was a perfect night to die.


Oh the river is wide

The river it touches my life

Like the waves on the sand


How ironic, and at the same time appropriate, that his first great fear, his first great enemy, would be his last friend. That he was feeling so calm, almost comfortable, on the water, knowing he would be dead before the night was over. He who usually would have panicked even at the thought of mounting a boat. Who actually had panicked upon realizing that they had to cross the lake to reach Hogwarts some ten years ago. He had remained standing at the shore, frozen, the excited chatter and giggles of the other first years nothing but a faint whisper in the back of his paralyzed mind. When repeated shouts to ‘‘urry up an’ get into one of the boats a’ready’ had finally pierced through the numbness in his brain, he had started to tremble all over, tears of fear and shame flooding his eyes. Why had this to happen to him? He had been so excited and proud when receiving his Hogwarts letter. Finally, he would get away from his dreary, oppressive home, from the constant fights between his parents, from his father who had never a good word for him, from the Dark Arts lessons and the inevitable punishment when he failed to fulfill his sire’s expectations. He would be together with kids his own age for the first time in his life, and probably he would even find some friends. Only he would never get there. He couldn’t cross this lake.


And all roads lead to tranquility base

Where the frown on my face disappears


Suddenly, huge warm hands had picked him up, cradled his shaking form to an enormous chest, and carried him over to one of the boats. ‘You afraid of the water, little un? You’re safe with ol’ Hagrid, don’ you worry. I keep you safe.’ All through the journey over the lake, the half-giant had kept on talking to him soothingly, holding him tight like a little child, while he was sobbing into his robes. Luckily he had been too distressed then to notice the other kids’ snickering, but he should soon find out. While waiting to be called into the Great Hall for the sorting ceremony, quite a few of his year-mates were staring at him, whispering to each other and snickering behind raised hands. One boy with messy black hair and glasses didn’t even bother to lower his voice when pointing at him. ‘Hope, cry-baby won’t be sorted into our house, I’d die of shame!’ the words still echoed through his mind. ‘No way little Snivellus will get into Gryffindor, it’s the house of the brave, and that’s where we’re going, mate!’ assured another, equally black-haired boy, looking at him in disgust. And the boy was right. He was a pathetic failure, exactly as his father had always told him, and nobody would want to be friends with a boy who turned into a quivering heap of misery, almost wetting his pants in front of all his classmates when simply asked to mount a boat. Who couldn’t even bring himself to wash his hair because he would panic as soon as the first drops of water touched his face ...


Take me back to my boat on the river

And I won't cry out anymore


This night, however, was different. And it wasn’t only the alcohol that made the difference. Surely, it did help to go through with his plan, to just let go without a fight, without panicking. Nevertheless, his strange calmness owed more to the fact that he had finally given up, had accepted what would never change. He would never have friends who were his friends just because they liked him, without any ulterior motives. Back in school they had only used him, he knew that now, and now with his Death Eater comrades it wasn’t any different. And his father – whatever he did, he would never gain his respect, his love, the two things he had longed for most in his life. He had become a Death Eater to make his father proud. And again, he had failed. He had no scruples about killing a man in combat, wand against wand, and he had done so more than once. But he couldn’t torture, or rape, or murder children, no matter what. It wasn’t right, and he just couldn’t do it. Even watching it made him want to vomit, and as soon as the Dark Lord had become aware of his weakness, he had taken great pleasure in torturing and humiliating him by forcing him to watch, to do what he couldn’t until he couldn’t help but break down, throwing his guts up. And his comrades had laughed at him, every single one. Like at school. But soon they wouldn’t laugh anymore. The letter to Dumbledore was on its way, and by tomorrow morning the old headmaster would be in the possession of a long list of names, places, dates that would be a most valuable weapon against the Dark Lord and his minions. It would wipe the laugh off their faces, and it would be he who laughed last when they all met in hell.


Time stands still as I gaze in her waters

She eases me down, touching me gently


He had reached the middle of the lake, and deep inside he felt as tranquil as the deep dark water, as the stars that had appeared on the black velvet of the nightly sky. Drinking the last drops of the Fire-Whiskey he had brought along, he looked up at the full moon that painted a silver path on the lake’s surface. His second great fear would be howling at this very same moon now, hopefully securely restrained in some far away place. Ever since his encounter with the werewolf, after almost having been killed by it, he hadn’t dared to look at the full moon, had hid from it knowing it would bring back the memories, the horrible image of the werewolf’s fangs dripping with poisonous saliva just inches from his throat. He had passed out then from sheer terror, and never knew how James-Bloody-Potter had managed to rescue him without getting the both of them killed by his friend. Nobody had bothered to tell him, the victim. A single stunning spell would not work with a werewolf in bloodlust, he had tried it himself when the animal had charged, before he had gone into shock, unable to move a single finger, let alone his wand. Nobody had bothered to punish the perpetrators, either. As always. Potter and his gang, the precious Golden Gryffindors, were allowed to bully, to humiliate and to try to kill the greasy little Slytherin oddball as ever they wished. Dumbledore, who had made him swear never to tell about Lupin’s secret, hadn’t even deemed his life worth as much as giving a detention. And now he would help those Gryffindors he had loathed with every fiber of his being win this blasted war. Another twist of irony. However, it was the only way to gain this fragile peace of mind before he left his pathetic excuse of a life behind. Knowing he had done something right at last. Something that would help destroy the third horror of his life, the Dark Lord, his master.


With the waters that flow past my boat on the river

So I won't cry out anymore


It was time. Now he would finish what his father had begun fifteen years ago. With a last glance at the moon, he stood up in the swaying boat, raised his arms over his head, his wand in one hand, and chanted the charm that would make the boat slowly dissolve under his feet. He had never learned how to swim after his father had almost drowned him at the age of five to test whether he was magical or a squib. His mother had rescued him in the very last moment, causing another violent fight, and he had ended up a water-phobic. He would go under like a stone in his heavy black robes and cloak never to show up again.


Take me back to my boat on the river

And I won't cry out anymore


As the water slowly entered the leaky boat, touching his naked feet, he almost felt relaxed, in spite of the cold. It wouldn’t be long now ...


Oh the river is deep

The river it touches my life

Like the waves on the sand

And all roads lead to tranquility base

Where the frown on my face disappears

Take me back to my boat on the river

And I won't cry out anymore

And I won't cry out anymore

And I won't cry out anymore....



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Chapter 2: Light in the Distance


When Albus Dumbledore mounted the stairs, he was chuckling to himself. Yes, this has been a most entertaining evening. He licked his lips to savor the last drops of the special Halloween pumpkin juice. It was more spicy than usual and popped and prickled on your tongue, before turning it into rainbow colors. The students, especially the first years, had been awed at the decorations, the flying pumpkins, the enormous spider webs lining the walls, the live bats diving from the ceiling, and the hundreds of floating black candles that were casting an eerie light over the Great Hall. The Headless Hunt chasing through the room had been a surprise even for him.

However, after the excitement, he longed for a moment of perfect silence before retiring for the night. And where to find a better place for that than the Astronomy Tower at such a beautiful night?

When he had reached the observation platform, he gazed up at the perfectly round moon and the millions of twinkling stars for a long while. Eventually, his gaze fell and moved slowly over the quiet Hogwarts grounds, the slightly sloping lawns, the empty Quidditch field, the green houses, Hagrid’s pumpkin beds. There was still light in the half-giant’s hut. Most probably, his groundkeeper was having a late nights swig of Fire-Whiskey with some Mundungus Fletcher. Hopefully, the youngster hadn’t sold him another Tebo. They’d had more than enough trouble catching the invisible and highly dangerous animal before it could cause any real harm. He chuckled again, thinking of the valuable Tebo-hide that was currently drying on a rack behind the little hut. It would make a couple of new, dearly-needed protective shields for the Order. Poor Hagrid, he had sobbed over his ‘pet’ for more than two days ...

Suddenly, he saw a faint glow from the corner of his eye. He turned around and gazed over the silent lake into the distance. Yes, there was indeed a strange light, a silvery glow, emanating from a faraway spot somewhere about the middle of the extensive water body. Someone was using magic there. But what on earth would anybody use magic for in this forsaken place and well past midnight?

Alarmed, he rushed down the stairs and hurried to his office, surprisingly quick for a wizard nearing his one-hundred-fiftieth birthday. A war was raging through the wizarding world, and he knew Hogwarts was one of Voldemort’s main targets. However, the wards were still intact and hadn’t sounded an alarm, nor was there anything suspicious to be seen in his Foe Glass. And his ultra-sensitive Sneakoskope hadn’t produced a single whistle. Strange indeed.

Frowning, the old headmaster left his office intent on going down to the lake in person to inquire into this mystery.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *




I don’t want to wake.

Leave me be, please ...


However, as much as he fought it, consciousness slowly returned to him, the voices he could hear from afar grew louder, and light flooded his sensitive eyes when he finally allowed them to open.

He was laying in a bed surrounded by white, a bright white that hurt his eyes, sending waves of pain through his skull. He wasn’t drowned and dead, but obviously in some hospital room. Damn it. He couldn’t even kill himself properly without being rescued by some bloody idiots.

"Ah, you are awake, Mr. Snape," a familiar voice came from the far end of the room, and then two sets of quick steps approached his bed. Madame Pomfrey, the school nurse. And headmaster Dumbledore. He was in the Hogwarts infirmary then. Tree times damn. Couldn’t those blasted Gryffindors even let one die in peace? He closed his eyes again and turned away from the nurse and headmaster. If he pretended they weren’t there, maybe they would just leave? But no such luck. Of course. When had he ever been lucky? Not even the water had wanted him ...

"Mr. Snape, I need to talk to you." The headmaster’s voice was uncharacteristically stern and commanding.

"Albus, this has to wait. The boy has just woken from a coma. He was out for three days! We don’t even know whether there is permanent damage. He was down for much too long. It’s a miracle he’s even alive."

"Poppy, this is urgent. It cannot wait. Lives depend upon it."

"Then let me at least check up on him first, Albus. And he needs to take some potions and eat."

Dumbledore nodded reluctantly. He had to leave for the ministry in a few hours, and then an Order meeting. However, Pomfrey was right. The boy wasn’t ready to be interrogated yet. "Do what you can, Poppy, I’ll be back shortly."

The two sets of footsteps went away again towards the entrance as Pomfrey showed the headmaster out. The nurse then turned to the potions cabinet, opened it and bustled about with some glass vials.

So he had been in a coma. For three whole days. The last thing he could remember was being enveloped by ice-cold water as he went down into the deep, a swift surge of panic as he swallowed water, couldn’t breath, before everything went black and he knew no more. Merciful oblivion. No fear, no pain, nobody who used him, who laughed at him, no cruel, sadistic master, no children crying, no women screaming in terror and agony. No more blood on his hands. The water would wash it away. Why did they rescue him? He didn’t want it. He hated them for it. Clenching his fists with the rising anger and despair, he buried his face in the pillows, longing for the cold embrace of the wet death that had been denied to him. It was hard to keep the sobs down which constricted his chest and threatened to erupt any moment. He could hear Pomfrey return and feel her move her wand over his tense body, lingering around his head for quite a while. She was talking to him, too, but he blocked it out, pressing his face even harder into the pillows to hide the tears that leaked from his eyes. Perhaps he would suffocate like this?

"Mr. Snape. I don’t have all time. I know you can hear me. There is no reason for you to sulk. On the contrary, you were very lucky indeed. My wand tells me there is nothing wrong with your brain except for a severe headache, and I can help you with that. Don’t be so stubborn and turn around now. You really should take these potions. And then eat some soup." When he did not move, the nurse sighed irritably. The boy needed the potions for his splitting headache and the hypothermia, and he was painfully thin, too. He couldn’t afford to lose any more weight. But he obviously refused to co-operate. Darn, what to do with a suicidal Death Eater who refuses to even look at you? He was no student anymore, she couldn’t force him, could she?

Sighing again, she decided to wait for the headmaster to return, after all it had been him who had woken her up in the middle of the night, a dripping wet, deathly pale and unconscious former student in his arms, who wasn’t breathing. It had been quite a shock. Fortunately, they had been able to bring the boy back to life, and then she got the next shock when she had undressed her still unconscious patient. The Dark Mark was leering up at her from his limp left forearm. They had saved a Death Eater. Albus hadn’t seemed surprised, only sad and tired, when he had seen it. They still hadn’t had an inkling of an idea as to how and why this Death Eater had ended up drowning in the lake, but when the headmaster had received the owl the following morning, there was no doubt anymore why Severus had come to Hogwarts. He had come to take his life. The long and detailed letter Albus had shown her was his legacy, the key to save many lives, to turn the tide, and, with some luck, defeat the Dark Lord. It was invaluable. Moreover, it was a certain proof that the boy was no Death Eater at heart but wanted to leave. Only that he hadn’t seen any way out except for killing himself. She had no idea what would become of him now. In his letter, he had admitted to having killed several Aurors and ministry people, plus he was one of You-Know-Who’s potions makers. Only Merlin knew how many peoples’ deaths his poisons had caused. They couldn’t just let him go, could they? But why save his life only to hand him over to the ministry for a life sentence in Azkaban, or the Dementors’ kiss? Should they have let him die? But he was still so young, barely twenty, much too young to be a cold-blooded murderer, too young to die ...

Deep in thought, Pomfrey left for her office to wait for the headmaster there. It would be Dumbledore who had to decide what to do anyway. And she trusted him to make the right choice.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Severus soon found out that it was a lot harder to block out the headmaster’s voice than the mediwitch’s. Actually, as Dumbledore kept on babbling about Merpeople carrying him to the shore and how the old wizard had used a Spirare-spell on his former student, it was quite impossible not to listen, as much as he hated it, and this only fuelled his anger. With a sudden jerk, he turned around, staring defiantly into the headmaster’s face.

"Why do you even care? You haven’t given a damn all those years when I was a student," he hissed at Dumbledore through clenched teeth. "Why did you save me? I didn’t ask for your help! I am doomed anyway. And I deserve to die."

Silently, Dumbledore looked at his fuming former student for a long while, at the sickly pale and thin face and the red-rimmed, pitch-black eyes flashing with hatred. The boy was right. He had failed him. He wouldn’t fail him again.

"Severus, nobody deserves to die," he said quietly.

Nobody deserves to die indeed, what a laugh! He sneered. His master was right, Dumbledore was a stupid old coot. He could name him a good score of people who deserved nothing but death, including himself. Actually, he had named them. "You don’t know what you are talking about, Dumbledore. You read the letter. You know what I have done. YOU KNOW I DESERVE IT!" He was practically shouting now. Suddenly, he clutched at his head with both his hands, groaning.

"Mr. Snape, for Merlin’s sake, calm down. You are too sick to agitate yourself like this!" he heard the reprimanding voice of the mediwitch, who came rushing to his side. "Lay back down. That’s right. That’s a good boy."

He groaned again, as another bout of pain shot through his skull. Why were they so confusingly friendly? He was no good boy. He was a bloody murderer. And they knew it. This headache was killing him. And he was so tired. Tired of it all. He could feel the tears starting to his eyes again and angrily brushed them away with the sleeve of the night-shirt he was wearing. Snivellus. Now you’ll soon be crying like a frightened baby again. Potter and Black would have a field day watching you like this, a sarcastic voice in the back of his aching head scolded, but this time there was no keeping back the flood as strangled sobs escaped from his throat, shaking his entire body and threatening to suffocate him.

When gentle hands sneaked behind his neck, slightly lifting his head and holding a vial to his trembling lips, he did not resist any longer, but opened his mouth and swallowed the potion. Then another one. And another. His well-trained senses faintly registered that the last one was a Draught of Dreamless Sleep before he sank into oblivion.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


"Madame Pomfrey said you were feeling better. Can we talk now, Severus?"

The young man in the hospital bed nodded. He had slept for more than twelve hours, and sleep had finally returned a little color to his face, but Albus didn’t like the emptiness he saw in the boy’s eyes. Dead eyes. This was much worse than the seething anger of the previous day.

The meeting with the Minister of Magic had been more than tiring, and rather a waste of time, too. At least the meeting of the Order of the Phoenix had mostly gone like he wished. The Order members had been gaping at him when he presented the newly acquired intelligence about the Death Eaters, and he had used their perplexity to explain the plan he had cooked up in the meantime. And they had agreed, if reluctantly. Now he only needed to convince the young wizard in front of him.

"According to our mediwitch, you can leave tomorrow after breakfast," he started with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Leave? You mean ... I can go? You won’t hand me over to the Ministry, the Dementors?" It was barely a whisper.

"What would you do if I let you go, Severus? Would you try to harm yourself again?" Blue eyes bored into black ones until the young wizard lowered his gaze, his pale cheeks slightly flushing with shame. It was enough of an answer. If his plan worked though, it might not only help save many innocent lives and gain a decisive advantage over Voldemort, it probably would also give this broken young man a reason to live for.

"In your letter, you wrote that you couldn’t bear seeing women tortured and raped and children killed just for the fun of it. That this was the reason for your betrayal. However, as invaluable as your information is, it will give us a temporary advantage only. As soon as the first raids go wrong, Voldemort will draw the connection to your disappearance. He will suspect treachery and change his plans, rendering much of your intelligence useless. What we really need to eventually destroy Voldemort and his Death Eaters, the only way to put an end to the suffering of the innocent, is a spy. A spy for the Light. You could be this spy."

The young wizard stared at the headmaster unbelievingly. Dumbledore would trust him to be their spy? Him, a confessed murderer, a dark wizard, and a Slytherin?

"I trust you, Severus, " the old headmaster affirmed as if reading his thoughts.

"I ... I don’t deserve your trust. I would fail pathetically. Nothing I have done in my life has ever worked out." Not even killing myself ...

"It won’t be easy, my child, but you won’t be alone in this. I will help you. And I’ll swear a wizard’s oath that you won’t have to go to Azkaban when all this is over. I’ll vouch for you."

The young man still looked doubtful, but was there a tiny sparkle of hope in those empty black orbs?

"You don’t need to decide just now. Rest some more and think about my proposal. I’ll talk to you again tomorrow morning." With a warm smile and an encouraging twinkle of his eyes, Dumbledore left his former student and the hospital wing. No, it wouldn’t be easy. And it would need a lot of work and patience to give Severus back enough self-confidence and self-esteem to carry through with this dangerous mission, to restore that fiery temper of his and bring back the sparkle of rage, defiance and determination to those dead eyes, the ambition, courage and cunning that had always been there when he was a student, and to give him at least a tiny bit of hope and a new aim in life, but he would do everything in his might to help him. This time he would succeed. They would succeed.


The End