- Story Summary:
- Snape could stand the pain if he could face the memories.
- Author's Note:
- This is a revised version of this story, because in light of HBP it takes on a different poignancy.
The garden smells sweet, like flowers in summer rain, even though it's been so dry that he needs to water the mulberries and pack magically enriched soil around their roots each day. The dirt is warm in his palm, coating his fingers in dark sticky streaks. From above the sun heats the back of his neck until he senses the itchy warning of impending sunburn, despite his long hair and the potion he has slathered on all exposed skin. Hovering on the verge of a memory, he pushes it aside, focusing on here, now -- the spiky edges of leaves and twigs, the curves of pale berries clinging in knots to the bushes.
When the telltale fuzziness tickles his palm, it's too late to pull away from it...too late to do anything but take the pain as it strikes deep, unmitigated by the shaking of his wrist which sends the bee crashing through the leaves of one of his plants. The sting blazes like an Exploding Snap in his grip, a long-ago vicious prank. It flares up his arm like a memory to the spot that has remained dormant for so long now, the faded tattoo that once cast evil deep inside. He claws at his flesh, pacing frantically, heedless of the berries crushed under his boots.
Free for so long now from the threat of Cruciatus, he had forgotten pain and how to guard against it; now he thinks he must scream or black out trying to hold it in. Eyes clenched shut, he doubles over, falling to his knees amidst the sharp twigs of the berry bushes that scratch at his bared arm. When he glances down he sees the outline of the Mark that has never completely disappeared, nor should it, though sometimes entire days pass when he forgets what it means, what he has done. He cannot see it clearly as he lowers his head, bracing against the tightness in his chest and the tears that scald the corners of his eyes, trickling down the grooves formed by his grimace until they slide over his aching throat.
He can never prepare for the hurt of remembering. It hits full-force, sensations tumbling one after another -- the hated spell, pain firing through his arm as green fire shot from the wand, momentary paralysis when he could not move but could only watch as the body flew up in the air, free for a moment, before falling over the edge and out of sight. Running. Falling. Thinking for a moment that he should never rise. Then the boy he did it to save, the sudden coolness of the wind rushing past him, hair falling into his eyes, tickling his cheeks...
He's crying, clutching his injured hand to his face, hot swollen tears running over hot swollen skin, deepening the burn. And he's glad for that because he's furious -- furious about the tears, about having been too slow to save another hand that might have spared them both, about not being able to forget. Furious that he still loves...furious that he didn't say so when it still mattered. Furious at bees humming taunting tunes beneath the bushes, furious at berries hiding behind thorns.
Slowly, more slowly than the sweat dripping through his hair and across his neck, the pain begins to fade until he can open his eyes. His clogged nostrils notice the scent of soil and the promise of ripe fruit if he can hold on a little longer. Bent nearly to the ground, he plunges his hand into the watering can, feels the wetness seep into his skin. This is why he always despised Herbology despite its necessity for potion-making: thorns among flowers, death amidst life.
The throbbing is still there but he can stand it now; he can stand. Shakily, he rises and inspects his puffy palm, finding no sign of the stinger. It's up to him to take care of it -- to make a salve and wrap a bandage around it, to utter the spells that will cause the pain to fade the way his memories have begun to fade under the uncaring sun until they are pale as unripe mulberries. It's too late and yet too soon.
Though he plans to crush these berries for a sleeping draught, he won't forget. Still, he wishes that by the time the garden bears fruit, he might find a way to remember only sweetness...not the sting, not the bitterness of unripe anger, not the love whose roots he traced deep to the source only after the scythe had struck.