It Had to be Me
Disclaimer: JK owns Snape and the rest, not me.
Summary: A response to some other HBP fics I've seen popping up
The room was dark, a single candle guttered fitfully, and even it's small light seemed a glaring beacon illuminating his existence to the world. In a room barely big enough to accommodate the shoddy cot and the rickety wash table the candle sat on, he couldn't hide from it no matter how he turned. Serverus Snape stared down at his hands, one of which held his wand, for a good long time before poking out the offending flame and sitting in complete darkness. His wand didn't FEEL different, under his fingers, it was still the exact same length; the same weight and balance as always. But in the back of his mind Snape felt a difference, he felt the sickening lingering traces of the killing curse upon it. As his fingers played over the cool smooth surface of the wand he could still feel the magical vibrations emanating off it, as if the wand itself was offended at the use it had been put to. It was a fine wand, powerful, and had seen no small amount of dark magic in its time, but there were lines not to be crossed.
He had crossed just such a line tonight.
He had known it was coming. There had been plans, hard work, arguments and so much searching, hunting, trying to find the right path to a final victory. It had been hard to work, with so many incompetents getting in the way. And always Potter. Potter skulking about, poking his nose into places it didn't belong. His work had been covert for some time, but the heightened security had mad things very nearly impossible. Still, when Flitwick had come into his office in such a fluster, Snape's nerves had almost failed him. He had been Albus'es close confidant for nearly fifteen years now, an a great part of his mind had screamed the wrongness of it.
But it had to be done. They'd been very clear on that. The Unbreakable Vow had only made it all the more easy. He had to do it, provided Draco did not succeed, and Serverus knew he wouldn't. While the Malfoy boy liked to talk of foul deeds, he was not nearly so twisted as he might foolishly hope.
Serverus shifted on the bed, but the quiet screech of protest from its ancient springs sounded like a chorus of accusatory wails and he stilled again. He looked up towards the single small window of the room, a pathetic thing barred and no more than a foot square. The moon cast a baleful light, not even half full, that disturbed the perfection of his Darkness.
The night's memories would not let him be, not even in darkness though. Images coalesced before his eyes. Stunning Flitwick, another professor there could have made his task impossible. Pelting past the students and teachers, ignoring those locked in mortal combat to burst onto the room. He knew from the barrier death eaters were already above. He'd almost lost his nerve when he saw Albus there, pale and broken. But as they had expected Draco was there, unable to complete his task. That had made it easier, he felt the tug of the Unbreakable Oath even as Dumbledore's lips formed the weak words, "Please…. Please… Serverus…" Snape had to dig deep within himself as those words reached his ears, even under the pull of the Vow. He dug down, found the hate within him, found that buried resentment that he had set aside so long ago. It was over in moments, the Curse left his lips and struck Albus full force. They knew nothing less would finish him. It did that quite well, pitching him completely off the tower. With that he'd turned to flee. There was no time to waste, lingering would only lead to certain failure, and the cost was too high to let this fail. He had plucked Draco after him and fled back through the battle.
Potter, once more Potter had almost ruined everything. A thorn in his side at the best of times, he had no patience for the boy tonight. He tried to press their flight but Potter was incensed, and expectantly so. Snape had to protect Malfoy, had to buy them time to escape. He countered each of Potter's powerful but emotional and sloppy curses in succession. But it was when his own spells, his own spells were turned against him at this time of trial, this more desperate of moments that he had almost lost control.
Snape hissed and shoved himself back into the corner of the room, ignoring the bed's whining protest as his weight shifted. One hand lifted to wipe away a stinging wetness in his eyes 'lack of sleep' he attributed it to.
He had lashed out, fought back, more than he had ever allowed himself to do before. It was at that moment, using his own spells against him, digging up that memory of the lowest point in his life once more. That Harry had for a moment become James in his mind. Thankfully the steely resolve he'd worked his whole life for had prevented him from making a terrible error. He had left Potter alive, and fled into the darkness with Malfoy.
It had to be him. Serverus had always known this, they both did. No one else had the strength of character, the will, the burning need to succeed like he did. No one else could slay the great Dumbledore, the most powerful, the most kind, and the greatest of wizards. They had talked about it at length, argued about it. In the end it always came back to Snape, and no one else.
"Damn you. Turning me into this. Making me turn myself into this. All for some mad scheme that may only end in failure." Serverus glares up at the sliver of night sky he could see from this angle through his window, and then dropped his face into his hands, "Damn you Albus."
At the foot of the bed a huddled mass stirred fitfully before settling again. Malfoy, now Snape's erstwhile charge, was asleep under the affects of a simple charm. Serverus thought of waking him, of explaining to the boy who's life was now forfeit if caught exactly what he'd been a part of tonight. But he wouldn't understand. The only man who did was nothing more than a memory this night. Fifteen years ago it had begun. Fifteen years ago when Snape had thrown himself at the Headmaster's feet, his control broken, his world lost to him, and Dumbledore had done what no other would. Dumbledore had forgiven him. Dumbledore had understood only to well what had motivated Snape, and what motivated him now. Snape had his doubts about the lofty words Dumbledore used to express them. Revenge suited his mind. Not the muck headed love Albus was always going on about. Love was weak, love failed, and Snape wanted no part in it ever again.
Revenge on the other hand was something he could understand full well. A life of abuse and torment, petty revenges, small victories in some life-long scale of one upsmanship had taught him well. This time was different though; this time revenge would be firm, and final. He would see Tom Riddle fall, fall and burn to ashes for what he had done. Even hope glimpsed afar had still been hope, and Riddle had taken that from him.
But now the die was cast, the greatest gamble, the ante higher than any, even Snape himself thought it would be. Albus had sacrificed his life to give Harry a stake in the final game. Albus had known that Harry could not spread his wings, could not move freely enough while still at Hogwarts. He had known that while he had done so much, he was still a sort of crutch that Harry would lean on. He also knew that his presence could only draw too much attention for the kind of sneaking required to retrieve the scattered artifacts and destroy them. Lastly, he had known what lay in store for him, or at least had a strong hunch. He knew retrieving the locket would likely prove fatal to himself or Potter and had been resolved it would be him.
It didn't even take a hint of Ledgemancy to see the torment in Dumbledore's eyes in those moments on the tower. Even the subconscious probing that was second nature to Snape anymore barraged him with a million torments any of which could drive a man to his own death of grief and all rattling through Dumbledore's mind, burning him, killing him from the inside out. What he had done, Snape tried to told himself for the millionth time this night, had been an act of mercy as much as a part of any plan.
He didn't feel any better than he had the first time he had tried to console himself with them.
Snape was lost, nearly as lost as the sad little boy curled at the end of the bed. The only wizard who'd understood him, who'd cared about him, who'd respected him was dead. Alone was a great deal darker road to travel than two.
There was another start from Malfoy and the boy muttered something vague in his sleep. "Can't… no mom… please…."
Snape felt a touch of pity for the boy. Which was a bit of an improvement for the tolerant loathing and complete frustration he had felt for the spoiled prat for his first five years at Hogwarts. Life was harsh, and Draco Malfoy was learning it in a truly brutal and unforgiving fashion. He himself had been about Draco's age when his own world had…
Snape winced and shoot his hand, he had jabbed the end of his wand against his own palm hard enough to draw blood. He didn't want to think about that memory right now, but as with all the others it dug at him until he could fight it no more.
The worst day of his life, the day Potter had seen. While Potter had seen the memory, he had not seen the WHY of it. Had not seen within Snape's chest, and heard within his mind as he cursed himself the moment those words left his lips 'Filthy Mudblood' and saw the hardness enter Lily's eyes. It was never a reasonable match, but she had at least shown kindness before, but he had burned out all hope for it that day. He had crushed his chance to try for something beyond books and potions. She had gone with James… of all people. It had ravaged Serverus inside, anger led to a thirst for more power, and that in turn led to his joining the Death Eaters. Still, during all his pursuits he kept tabs on her. He never too close or checked up too often, just enough to know she was… happy. That mattered to Snape back then, her happiness. Even if it was with the most loathsome of people it was her happiness and that was what mattered. When he heard she had a son he was … happy? Well no, that was not exactly the word for it. Content might have worked, to know that there was another part of her in this world. Serverus had managed to sneak a look at the baby once, and thought he looked entirely too much like his father. But Snape was willing to forgive the child that at the time.
Then came the second mistake, Snape sometimes bounced them against each other, to see which truly won out as the worst choice in his life. The day he informed Riddle about the Prophecy. He had no idea at the time Lily's child qualified, and how could he have known out of all the babies in the wizarding world hers would be the one Riddle would set his eyes on. He had not been informed of the attack, or the results until it was all over. Lily dead, Riddle gone, the baby an orphan. His entire world everything past and present wiped out in a single stroke. That was the day he went to Dumbledore, the day his life turned, and the day that had led him to this point.
Now it was in Potter's hands; the young boy who took so after his father in Serverus' eyes. It maddened him, reminded him of his loss just to look upon the boy. Still, despite the vile enjoyment he got out of tormenting James's offspring, he could truly bring himself to do the boy no real harm. He wanted Potter to succeed, to slay the Riddle, to get his revenge, and most importantly; he wanted some part of Lily to live on. Even tonight, with his rage and grief mingled into a red haze before his eyes he couldn't bring himself to actually harm Lily's offspring, and in that small victory with himself Serverus took some Solace.
The lump at the foot of the bed stirred again, then lifted it's head. A frightened Draco cast about the shadows before fixing his eyes on the small patch of light that illuminated Snape's right leg upon the bed. He didn't look up, didn't try to meet Snape's eyes, "Where…"
"Someplace safe enough for a few more hours, sleep Malfoy, you will need your strength in the morning." Draco looked ready to protest but Snape gave a swish of his wand and whispered, "Sulumnambae." Setting Draco right back into his magical sleep.
Having run their course the memories seemed mollified for the time being. Snape set his Wand point down atop the wash table, balancing it perfectly upon his tip. Should even the slightest of magics be worked in the direction of their room the Wand would topple and set off a silent alarm charm meant to wake him. That done he folded his hands across his chest and with the Haunting image of Lily's beautiful face being blasted away, mingled with the agonized expression on Albus' face as the death-curse had hit him both hovering before him, Snape tried in vain to catch a few hours of sleep before dawn.
Please give some feedback and opinions on this take on things. I just had to respond to the fics I saw that had basically summarized it as 'Snape is an evil git now' I think JK's proven her chars are a bit more than one dimensional by now
Note:This arc is continued in 'Preserving the Hope' I would have had to raise the rating to T to keep it together, and I wanted this read by more people young and old alike. I also like how it stands on it's own now that I have had time to think about it.