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The Crystalline Cold of Christmas Air

The Crystalline Cold of Christmas Air

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sherlock.  not good?
Title: The Crystalline Cold of Christmas Air
Author: janus
Rating: G
Characters: The Dark Lord, Severus, Abraxas, Gellert, Regulus
Word Count: 2388
Warnings: none
Summary: Here The Dark Lord appears as a boy under the shadow of another, as a man who has assumed his own pride of place, and as a lord bestowing a Christmas gift.
Gift: for alchemia in the snapelyholidays fest.
Prompt: A sympathetic Dark Lord/Severus Snape.

Tom’s hair was parted so severely his scalp looked like a swipe of white chalk in his dark brown hair. He was a prefect this year. Though he was young and only in fifth year, he was clearly the best. He had been gentle and patient, winning over the younger ones, yet decisive and self assured enough that they naturally accepted his leadership. He was patient in another way with the teachers and older students, willing for any complex task. He had a diffidence that stopped short of obsequiousness. It was working but how could it not work. He did not understand why the others would not strive in every aspect as he did. Why would they not modify their demeanour and help where they would impress superiors or win followers? Why would they not complete every assignment with as much care as he did. Why would they not fulfill expectations yet recognise and stretch the teacher’s own ideas with such nonchalance that their throw-away reflections were regarded as flashes of brilliance? It was so easy, and they were wizards after all. Slughorn was head of his House but showed no real guile himself either. Tom was able to manipulate him at will, without even using the imperium of his gaze.

This had been an unexpected Christmas invitation from a Governor of Hogwarts to meet ‘a most esteemed guest.’ Tom did not like surprises, for they had not been calculated into his elaborate plan. But this was a recognition of his talents and superior qualities.

He sat with his back straight and his eyes alert, shining with attention as he looked about him. He was the only one who was not of the old Pureblood families. If they only knew! But Tom himself knew better than to even hug his secret within himself. There they were, arrayed about the Governor’s parlour: Avery, Black, Gibbon, Lestrange, McNair, Mulciber, Nott, Rosier, Selwyn, Travers, Wilkes, and Yaxley. They were the usual throng of the quietly elite, too good even for Slughorn. One of them must have suggested he be invited. Someone was rather too observant. Tom was grateful but wary. Less usual was the presence of Goyle and Crabbe. In addition there were several older wizards he did not recognise who seemed to be German or Eastern European.

And there at the heart of the circle, in the centre of the long darkwood table, beneath a window that looked like a cross was the great man himself. Neither was he what Tom had expected. His eyes twinkled like those of foolish Professor Dumbledore; his cheeks were rosy and he smiled. Gellert Grindelwald.

At his right hand, close on a chair as rich with cushions as Grindelwald’s, sat the Governor’s young son, not yet old enough for Hogwarts. He was dressed in soft white wool robes, which were covered by a heavy silk over-robe that was all embroidered with entwined silver snakes. His eyes were matching silver and his hair was radiant white. He was a spark of hard light, as if he represented a visitation of a literal star. Grindelwald sat with his arm about him and fed him sweets, even as the boy listened and offered whispered replies to the great man. His eyes lit on Tom and his gaze was bright, clear and cold, surprisingly calculating even as he looked out from his warmth and riches. They had not met, but Tom knew him. Abraxas.

Tom was jealous but hid it by vowing to favour the boy and to take an interest that would be genuine in that Abraxas would be an important chess piece – perhaps even a queen – and his good will might be critical. Boys grew up.

But in the meantime it was so cuttingly obvious that the child, who had done nothing, was sitting undeserved at Grindelwald’s right hand while he, Tom, with his great secret, his carefully laid plans, his relentless research, and all his arrangements, so infinitely useful and more, was sitting up the table, unnoticed, an afterthought. How he longed to sit at Grindelwald’s side, not even an adjutant but an heir, expected to surpass his father in the glowing future the great man laid out for them. As it was he felt untidy and plebeian next to the shining child, even in his best clothes, which were only his school robes. With all he was, all he had done, all he could and would do, it was Tom who deserved this, not a small boy simply born to aplomb.

The child was actually laughing with genuine merriment as Grindelwald mentioned that despite the joyous season and cheer, Father Christmas would not be bringing them any Muggle trinkets. Obviously, Tom thought scornfully. That was a story for cattle and those who were nothing because they had no magic. But there was something… Doubtless this child would receive all he wished for and more than he thought to imagine. Tom himself would get nothing for Christmas. He had no parents, and even his friends – if he could be said to have actual friends – would be too busy with their own holidays to remember him. He would get nothing; he would stay at the school, perhaps alone. Would it have hurt, with all this wealth, to have offered small favours? Something? No. The boy might as well laugh, secure in his beautiful Christmas. Tom’s heart clenched further.

Despite his feelings, the speech was genuinely inspiring, punctuated by sumptuously laden plates of delicacies from the Malfoy kitchens. There was not only the lyrical poetry of the World of Wizards that was to come, there was the call to arms and the call to creativity of spells and plans, not only for the victory today but the victory tomorrow and the sweeping inevitable eventual triumph for all of time. Everyone’s eyes lit. Everyone’s hand shook that of the great man in a pledge of commitment, and every voice echoed resolve and pride and faith.

When Tom’s turn came, Grindelwald kept his hand in both of his, almost as if he were holding it. “Mr. Malfoy has sponsored your membership in our great cause, young man. What do you think of that?”

“It is an honour, sir.” Tom let his voice show not only respect but excitement and self assurance.

“And what is your name? Riddle? Tom Riddle? I do not know it.”

There it was – his shameful Muggle heritage. Why should he not be as well-know as Rosier, for instance, or Lestrange, with their unlikely Celtic backgrounds. “Tom Marvolo Riddle, sir. I was named for my grandfather.”

There it was – the hint of the secret legacy, and if Grindelwald did not know it, did not guess, did not follow its lead until he recognised the true right and place of Tom, that would be his fault. Grindelwald’s cause was great. It was the holy wonderful cause, but Tom was going to be Great, the Greatest wizard there had ever been. His Chamber of Secrets waited. Next year. Next year he would begin. Everything was in place.

There was a new Master of Malfoy Manor – the boy with the silver eyes had grown to adulthood and now sat at the head of the table with a son of his own at his right hand. There was a new guest at the place of honour in the centre of the table as well. Tom had discarded the name he had given to Grindelwald. He was Lord Voldemort now. And even that name was too respected to be so much as whispered. The Dark Lord was the name with which he demanded to be graced, and all of his children obeyed.

They were his children, and the same faces ringed the table as those that had encircled Grindelwald on that long-ago Christmas before his fall. True, their faces had mutated slightly in the intervening generation with the genes of their mothers. There were two Lestranges now, and one of them sat enraptured in the shadow of a woman bearing the aristocratic features of the Blacks. A woman. Another Black was the youngest now here – young Regulus – and Tom had him set at his right hand as the child of light had sat at Grindelwald’s long ago..

Now they favoured the darkness of secrets, and the second – or was it the first – goal was to conquer, to overcome, to utterly vanquish Death itself. The goal was to devour it, to eat it, and consume it forever. Death Eaters. It was the most audacious glowing dream of all, the ultimate dream. And they called themselves Death Eaters in anticipation. They wore masks like skulls, the richness and purity of silver deepening the darkness of the reflection of the triumph over Death. It showed in their eyes, all of their faces that could be seen. He was the Lord of Death, and these were his pages and knights.

Regulus was dressed in black velvet and silk as young Malfoy had been dressed in white on that other Christmas. His black curls were as clean and perfect as the starry soft light-source that young Malfoy’s hair had been. It was as if a ghost had reached through time and touched the other festival, rearranging it here and there for effect, perfecting it. He gave young Regulus a liquorice wand and leaned close to listen to his excitement and loyal little insights as he spoke with those around the table. It pleased him to favour this boy over Abraxas’ own son. There was none to represent young Tom Riddle in this circle. He was shining, an anomaly.

And yet… who was that boy at Abraxas’ other side? His ward, the Potions adept.

This young man sat at Abraxas’ left, not his right. His robes were simple school robes as Tom’s had been, and his face did not reflect the features of any of those who had sat round this table on that other Christmas. What was his name? Snape? That had as little legacy as ‘Riddle’ had. Perhaps this one would be his favourite, taken from Abraxas himself. His. Lord Voldemort could have anything he wanted, save that childhood of self-assurance and privilege that had given Abraxas this ease and assumption. He would cultivate the boy.

And then he met Snape’s eyes, so determined they impressed him, so resentful at all he had missed that he recognised them, so cunningly veiled by a mirage of devotion and dedication that he was amused. Yes, he wanted this one. He was said to be clever and gifted. He would do anything for promises, Lord Voldemort was sure.


When the boys, and the new faces, new Europeans and allies came to answer his call, he was gratified. And when Snape shook his hand in pledge of commitment, he kept it in both hands, almost as if he were holding it. It was his turn. “I see Mr. Malfoy has sponsored your membership in our great cause, young man. What do you think of that?”

“It is an honour, sir. Of course. And to meet you.” The boy's demeanour was not as Tom's had been, but then Snape belonged here. It was not his first visit, unlooked for. He had rooms in the basement.

“And what is your name? Snape? Severus Snape? I do not know it.”

"My mother was a Prince, sir."

Ah, yes. There it was, and no word about the father. As he would say no word about his own... dead... father. Prince. Yes. He remembered that name and felt himself nodding, even as the boy relaxed, accepted. His hand lay simply in Lord Voldemort's.

Another generation had come to Hogwarts and with it had come another war. It was another Christmas.

Lord Voldemort had been given a gift by Snape, a boy no longer. His greatest rival, the greatest threat to his new reign over their new world had been killed. Severus Snape, his own, had killed him.

Abraxas had died long years before, and now not only Snape but Abraxas' own grandson belonged to Lord Voldemort, to the once Tom Riddle, who had been barely invited to that feast. He had arranged it so that one of the two should give him this gift he had desired so long. The Malfoy boy had proved too weak, just as he had always suspected.

Ah, but this one, the one he had chosen, his good and faithful one had served him well. In the end he had overcome all of his foolish childhood passions and alliances. Now he too would have a gift, a beautiful gift, something all the money in the world could not buy, something infinitely precious. It was a secret, a magical secret possessed by no one but Lord Voldemort, who had discovered it himself. He was still the greatest wizard there had ever been, all strategies and wars aside.

"Come, my devoted one. It is Christmas."

And they went out, Master and faithful servant, older now than the eager hungry boy, but still proud and driven. His face was quiet, even as Lord Voldemort spoke to him, lined now with loss and pain, with striving, with waiting and the burdens he had born.

The night was moonless, cold and clear. The ground seemed brittle and sharp beneath their feet. Their breath puffed clouds either side of their mouths like dragons, and their cloaks gave off a slight steam, wound round with warming spells as they were. The stars were sparks of hard light, so many they seemed to soar above them, diamond-bright, glittering on and off with infinite facets even as they hung motionless and eternal.

"Come, my devoted one. It is Christmas."

Voldemort took his hand and led him further into the night.

He led him away from the lights.

And wondering, he followed.

He came.

And they...


They flew free.

Their hands grasped nothing but the icy air. And the winds of the heavens were ice against their cheeks and through their chests. And they laughed in the crystalline cold.

first posted to my dreamwidth account.
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