let's say snape did ask voldemort to spare harry potter, and, by some miracle, doesn't get cursed on the spot. what then?
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches..." the hag hisses in Severus' memories, dragged to the forefront of his mind by the Dark Lord's consuming, imposing power. "Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies..."
He stumbles backward as the Dark Lord releases him, jabs a heel into the ground to force his body into stillness. The contact is good, grounding. He is here for a purpose, and he will not make a fool of himself before the Dark Lord.
"I know of the prophecy already, Severus," the Dark Lord says, patiently. Indulgently, really, and it is glorious. To be treated with this level of respect by the Dark Lord himself... Mulciber must be eating his hat, and Potter, Black and their little pets rolling in the graves that surely awaited them. "Your having delivered it to me is the reason I have deigned to offer you both my Mark and your choice of reward."
"Of course, my Lord," Severus says, "and I thank you for both."
He flexes his arm at his side, already branded by skull and snake, half scabbed-over, before bending at the waist in a deep bow.
"Rise," the Dark Lord tells him, and Severus catches the amusement in his tone. "Lucius tells me you have great potential, and I believe you will be... most useful to me."
"Thank you, my Lord," Severus says, reverently, and squashes any further daydreams of spitting on pureblood ponces and grinding headstones beneath his boots. He needs to be clear-headed for this. He hardly presumes to be indispensable, but the Dark Lord has named him useful, has promised him a reward. This opportunity, this sort of power, the sort of respect that he would be able to command as one of the Dark Lord's trusted and used... it cannot—must not—be squandered.
"Have you chosen, Severus? Money, glory? Women, perhaps... no. You look above such things, do you not?" The Dark Lord's face twisted at that, a fleeting smirk setting itself across his unsettling features. "Ah. Knowledge is what tempts you... yes. Unadulterated, uncensored knowledge. You could have the contents of the most coveted Dark Arts libraries in your hands. Power the likes of which most people could never dream of. What will you ask of me, Severus?"
His tongue itches to answer, but the Dark Lord continues.
"I do not make a habit of granting requests such as these. Your brethren who have earned the privilege have asked for banal, plebian things or they have pandered to me with silly trinkets and petty refusals. Will you follow in their footsteps? What will you ask of me, Severus?"
The Dark Lord lowers his gaze, ever-so-gentle, presses into Severus' mind once more. A smile flits across his face as he skims through each layer of thought, memory and consciousness, tugging and pulling as he chooses. He snags something, holds tight to it, and Severus is overcome by pure, blinding rage as his life, shown in flashes of humiliation, pain, anger, anger, embarrassment, injustice, so much anger, plays out before him.
"Revenge. Yes, that must be it. You want them to pay for what they've done," the Dark Lord. "That filthy Muggle father of yours, those disgusting blood traitors, yes, all of them will pay. Is that what you would ask of me, Severus?"
The Dark Lord holds his mind in a vice grip, tight, harsh, painful. Had it been a physical hold, Severus would no doubt have been nearly to his knees at this point, gasping for air, begging and prodding at his Lord's arms to allow him to go free. It is entirely within his own mind, however, and with regards to Occlumency, Severus is particularly resilient. As the Dark Lord pries and clutches, his eerie red gaze fixed on Severus' own black stare, he calls to his mouth the words he will answer with, but is silenced before he can speak them.
"No. Their blood would be wasted on you. I could make you—no. No matter," the Dark Lord says, releasing him once more with all the gentleness of a hard shove. "This, you may consider a gift. I will impart to you a secret, Severus, for you have granted me the information which makes this particular endeavour possible. I am going to Godric's Hollow tonight, and I will destroy the creature that Albus Dumbledore presumes will vanquish me."
"Silence, Severus. This to to your benefit, you understand. The child must die, of course, but that filthy blood traitor Potter—I will kill him, and through me, you may have your revenge, and thus, you will be free to ask for what else your heart desires."
His head spins, and the Dark Lord cares not, fixing him with a burning red gaze that grows ever impatient.
"What will you ask of me, Severus?"
He can think of a million things he wants, a thousand things that would catapult him into the life he wanted, without having to claw his up from beneath everyone else's feet.
Power, for one. Respect, esteem, the Dark Lord's favour.
He could ask for any of them, he knows which of them he would choose.
The memories crowd his mind, though, unbidden, shaken free by the Dark Lord's rough handling of his innermost thoughts, his mentioning of Godric's Hollow. He doesn't even need to close his eyes to see her. Lily, laying on the grass beside him. Lily, sitting next to him in the Library, laughing over something or other as they breeze through their Potions homework. Lily, turning him away at the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room. Lily, turning her back on him for James fucking Potter and his band of assholes.
Another thought chases them, even more unwanted and unexpected than its predecessors—Lily, body broken and cold, dead on the floor of her home between her husband and child, because of course, of course, she would throw herself between her family—James bloody Potter and his fucking spawn—and the Dark Lord himself.
He cannot ask for her life.
It would be madness. Folly. An impossible request that would follow him for the rest of his time in the Dark Lord's service. He will not squander this opportunity, he will not ruin this for himself as so many things have been ruined before, he will not lose his only chance—
The Dark Lord looks at him, and Severus anticipates the rustling, the grip of thought on his mind and quickly, quietly buries it all, as he blurts, "Lily."
Severus Snape is a fool.
The Dark Lord knows this now. He must.
"You desire... the girl?" the Dark Lord asks.
Severus must be an imbecile. A thrice-damned, hellbound, cotton-brained dunderhead.
"Very well," the Dark Lord muses. "It would be a fitting addition to your revenge. From what I have been told, she was your Mudblood first, was she not?"
Severus nods, mute.
Never. Not really.
"I shall spare her life, and you will have her."
"Thank you, my Lord," Severus rasps, the words bubbling up through a dry, dusty throat, and automatically falls into a bow. He is a fool. "You are too kind."
"Kind..." the Dark Lord rolls the word around his mouth, and spits it as though it is particularly vile. "Hardly. It is only what you deserve."
"Thank you, my Lord." Severus says, and turns to leave.
"You were not dismissed, Severus," he says, and Severus turns back, immediately.
"No matter, and straighten up. Tell me, Severus. You think me kind?"
He swallows. "My lord is most generous—"
The Dark Lord stops him, regards him with what little humanity remains in his gaze. Laughs.
Severus stiffens, the hairs on the back of his neck raising at the grating sound.
"Join me. Tonight. You will further prove your usefulness, and kill James Potter yourself. I will spare your precious Mudblood her life."
His stomach rolls in protest at the thought, conflicting thoughts flying through his mind, a cacophony of "She already thinks the worst of you," playing against a backdrop of Lily Potter cradling the bodies of her dead husband and son. Guilt wells up in his throat, swimming up his oesophagus just the same as bile, and he says, "Yes, my lord. Thank you, my Lord."
Petty refusal, the Dark Lord had said, but such was never an option. Severus had sold his soul, and the devil does not bargain. In exchange for Lily Potter's life, he must kill her husband and give up any hope of ever being a good man in her eyes, and the Dark Lord knows it.
Kind, Severus had said. A foolish notion.
They enter Godric's Hollow that night with a bang. Quite literally. The Dark Lord laughs in the face of their wards, and Severus surveys them with pity, and mild disgust. Were they meant to be found? Then, the Dark Lord crows about having their Secret Keeper under his thumb, and the Potters' lack of security becomes an afterthought to betrayal and lies and a sick sense of satisfaction that the Marauders had fallen apart, after all.
The Dark Lord gestures, and even through the smoke, Severus' aim is impeccable. His wand arm raises, and hatred is on his tongue, propelled by years of humiliation and pain, the memories of hanging pantsless above the Black Lake and watching Lily Evans on James Potter's arm, and then, dragging up truly Unforgivable magic behind them. He's already mouthing the Avada behind his mask when the green light floods the room and the Dark Lord finishes Severus' sentence for him.
James Potter's body drops to the ground and as Severus sees the Dark Lord standing triumphant, wand held high, he knows that Potter was never his to kill. The Dark Lord gave, and the Dark Lord took away. Generosity? A pathetic trait to attribute to him.
"Stand aside, girl," he rasps, and Severus' neck jerks. Lily stands between them and the crib, tears already welling in her eyes as she looks frantically between them and James fucking Potter.
The vision plays behind his eyes again, Lily, sobbing, crying, bereft.
Her husband has died and she will not stand aside. Severus knows it. If it will save her son's life, she will sacrifice herself over and over again.
"Stand aside," the Dark Lord commands, again, and he raises his wand to kill her, if not to toss her aside and Severus, because he is a fucking fool, who cannot stand to watch the girl who was once his best friend die, interrupts.
"The child, my Lord," he rasps, and hopes in his heart that if he does not succeed in convincing his master that they are both deserving of life, she will take the brat and run.
"It must die!" the Dark Lord screams, and Lily does not run, she scrambles to the crib, clutches the child to her breast.
"It has power—" he tries, but the Dark Lord will not be reasoned with.
"To vanquish me! It is—" the Dark Lord hisses, wand raised.
"A weapon!" Severus cries, and damns the boy as he has damned himself. "To use against Dumbledore, if he has power to vanquish you, he can be used against—"
It is this that gets through to him, but he does not lower his wand. He flicks it, deliberately, as harshly as he does anything and the child comes speeding into his arms, wailing ever louder. Lily dashes after him, but a deliberate swish of the Dark Lord's wand sends her careening into Severus instead.
He looks into the brat's face, and Severus' breath catches in his throat as twin emerald gazes announce their upset.
Lily's is trained on him as she struggles in his grip, and he needs her to stop, stop fighting, stop kicking, stop making herself a fucking target, so he says, quickly, quietly, harshly, "He'll kill you both if you don't stop."
The baby stares defiantly at the Dark Lord, wailing and screaming as much as he dares. He lowers his wand. Lily stops struggling.
"Yes. You... you can be used. Dumbledore believes that you will be my downfall... but not if you are raised under my hand."
He laughs again, and the sound nearly sets Lily to fighting afresh. Severus clutches her tighter, and the Dark Lord turns to look at him again. "Come."