Disclaimer: never did and never will own it. J.K. Rowling does.
Spoilers: Order of the Phoenix
~ Hope In The Prison Of Despair - Despair ~
Title shamefully stolen from the painting of Evelyn De Morgan, 1887. Information about this artist can be found here: http://www.artmagick.com/artists/morgan.aspx
Severus Snape sat at his desk, looking without seeing them at the bare walls of his home. A home inside a home, really, since it could be summed up to three rooms in the immensity of Hogwarts. Three rooms for his private quarters, plus his office and the Potions classroom. They were fully his, no matter who was Headmaster, no matter who were the other teachers. They were his until he died. Nobody would ever free him from this prison.
The chilly dungeons had long since woven their frosty shell around the place and even spells lost their efficiency against them. The hissing fire could never bring enough heat to the room to make it cosy or only barely comfortable. The warming charms were swiftly consumed and, the time to take a shower, the temperatures scale went from scalding to tolerably tepid or from warm to glacial.
The students often complained about the cold in the Potions classroom. Little did they know that, even if they could see their breaths during winter, powerful spells had been cast on the walls, concentrating the hostility to the water pouring from the gargoyle’s mouth in the corner, thus protecting the students from the tendency of the dungeons to swallow everything that was remotely connected to comfort and warmth. Maybe that was why he had been relegated here: Albus had known that even the dungeons wouldn’t want anything to do with him.
He stood up suddenly and paced the Spartan space. His chambers, his private office, back to his chambers, briefly wishing that he were a Gryffindor so he could roar like a lion in cage. In his chambers, the depressing darkness surrounded him tightly, just allowing him to vaguely distinguish the shape of the furniture. Nothing fancy, he had no one to impress. Not even the house elves came here; he had threatened them with clothes and when the problem with Dobby had arisen, he had simply showed him the pickled animals in glass jars adorning the walls of the Potions classroom. Dobby had nodded fearfully, his big ears flapping around, and was never seen again.
Back into his office, he eyed it critically. Simple furniture, functional and strict. It would do him no good to wallow in comfort when life outside was harsh. Severus Snape was nothing but a realistic man. Even the portraits had been taken away, the paintings protesting against the sinister surroundings, and their empty emplacements, a bit clearer on the walls, were silently mocking him, the last prisoner.
The only decorative thing was the fire, which was completely useless in itself, since a blazing inferno wouldn’t have had any power against the stinging coldness of the dungeons. In fact, the fire was purely functional also, now that he thought of it: it allowed Albus to call him by Floo. The Headmaster was none too fond of coming down here, it would have affected his cheerful mood.
There was nothing personal in his quarters, except maybe the books, all perfectly lined up, with the same smooth cover, the same size and even the same weight, the result of a spell that he was quite proud of, even though it had ripped the books of their personality. Or maybe the clothes evenly folded in the half-hidden wardrobe could speak a little about him, then probably not. Those were functional clothes, each similar to the other, in hostile black, simple costumes for his role of the evil teacher. There was nothing. Nobody could say that theses rooms were the ones where Severus Snape had lived once he had passed away.
Shaking his head with a half-hearted scowl, he strode straight to his workroom, a room that even not Albus was aware of. He wanted to escape the dreary silence except for the insistent whistling of the wind that had forced his voice into the silky whisper he was now reputed for, just to counter this maddening noise. He closed the door behind him, falling relaxing slightly in the welcoming darkness of the room. A flick of his wand and there was light, not enough to hurt his eyes, but soft enough to chase away the gloomy shadows that lingered around in the obscurity.
This was his safe place, his secret garden though he would have sneered at the use of this expression. He came here when life outside was taking too much of a toll on him, when he had to take his mind away from the war, the dead and the students. In here, hidden from the rest of the world, he could create beautiful and tortured items. Behind the closed door was the core of Severus Snape’s personality.
This time, he didn’t select the short blade he favoured for when he came here, but he took saw and rasp. The long wood plank was set on the cutting table and he could already see the result in his mind. There was no need for a plan or guidelines to saw; the wood would show him. He knew exactly what he was going to do. He had thought about it often enough before. Calmly, almost tenderly, he ran his hand on the plank and even the wood was smooth under his fingers, like everything else in his life, except maybe the mark imprinted on the flesh of his inner arm.
He sawed and rasped carefully, until every new plank had the exact desired size and every tiny splinter had gone and he could run his hands on the sawed wood and feel the evenness of the cut. Then he began to cut little tenons, perfectly cylindrical, fitting exactly the holes in the sides of the planks. There would be no visible marks on how it was assembled yet it would be solid and resistant. And so, slowly, methodically, Severus Snape built his own coffin.