Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to J. K. Rowling. This is for fun, no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's note: I'm a bit surprised to find myself writing a Harry Potter fic but ... I couldn't resist experimenting a bit. If this goes as planned it will be a series of loosely connected one-shots going chronologically BACK in time, starting out near the end of HBP. We'll see.


- Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Snape's office

You take too much for granted! What if I don't want to do it any more?

You already agreed to do it. And now I do not wish to hear another word.

Unnerved Severus Snape threw down his quill on top of the pile of Defence Against the Dark Arts third-year homework he was trying to correct and mark. Scowling he sat back in his chair.

He didn't know why he felt so restless tonight. Why he couldn't get that darn, embarrassing argument out of his mind he had had with Dumbledore some time ago at the border of the Forbidden Forest. His scowl deepened. Stupid Filch and his caretaker problems. Stupid Squib. Stupid boggart. Darn old man.

Snatching up his quill again his lips became a thin line. Of course he shouldn't have allowed himself to be that rattled by the encounter in the first place. He should never have allowed himself to - to lose his self-control that much. Darn it, he had sounded almost hysterical!

You take too much for granted! What if I don't want to do it any more?

You already agreed to do it. And now I do not wish to hear another word.

But I-

Do I really have to remind you, Severus? So, well, now, about that investigation of yours in your house...

Snape's eyes narrowed dangerously and seething fury welled up again at the memory. The nerve of the old man! The unbelievable nerve! Talk to him that way as if he was still one of his students he could give detention! Dress him down like that! Of course he needn't remind him. As if he could ever forget. Oh, how he was tempted to disobey him just for the sake of it and... Snape's head jerked upwards.

Alarmed by the sudden tremble in the wards around his office even before he got aware of the shouting, the running footsteps thundering down the corridor outside. The next second the door had burst open and Flitwick hurtled into the room, white as a sheet and barely able to talk between ragged gasps for breath.

"Severus! Death Eaters - in Hogwarts!"

"What?" He was on his feet without knowing it, his wand in his hand, the quill fluttering to the floor. A chill in his bones. Draco. So the stupid boy had finally succeeded. "Where?"

"Astronomy - Tower! They've got - the Malfoy-boy! Severus, you must come we-"

STUPEFY!

The word was in his head not on his lips but Flitwick collapsed nevertheless in a crumpled heap on the floor. He was already around his desk, at the door, flinging it once more wide open, nearly colliding with two shadows outside in the corridor. Barely recognized bushy brown hair, protuberant eyes just in time to hold back his hex. Two shocked faces stared at him as he towered over them although not as much as he used to. Somehow he held back the crazy reflex to take fifty points from each house for being out that late at night.

"Professor Flitwick has collapsed. See to him Miss Granger, Miss Lovegood. I'll go upstairs."

And he was off down the corridor before any of them had even made a step towards his office. Running with all his might. Around corners and through hidden short cuts, astonished portraits jerking awake and turning their heads as he swept by, up the staircases taking three, four, five steps at a time. His dark robes billowing behind him. Up and up, around a corner and another, into the darkness of confusion spells and screams, through flying jinxes and over a shadowy form, lifeless on the ground. Past others ducking behind feeble cover; firing useless hexes bouncing off the cursed barrier across the stairs leading further up.

"Severus!"

He didn't listen, didn't spare a look. Ran straight for the cursed barrier and through, felt his Dark Mark burning, deflected a jinx a massive figure fired at him before the man realized who he was and jumped aside. He ignored the cry of pain as one of the defenders of the castle tried to follow him and was thrown back by the barrier.

Up and up again he ran, his steps shorter now, more laboured but just as fast, round in the spiral staircase. Bursting through the door at the end of it into the sick light of a green skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth - the Dark Mark hanging over the school.

The cold, fresh night air a slap in his face just as much as the scene that was waiting for him.

His own voice was suddenly screaming in his head.

You take too much for granted! What if I don't want to do it any more?

Dumbledore, wandless and sagged against the wall, looking almost worse than he had after the dark curse had destroyed most of his right hand.

Death Eaters, four of them, including Fenrir Greyback - Fenrir Greyback? - pointing their wands, triumph and malice in their eyes.

Draco Malfoy, trembling, his fair skin almost transparent in his paleness, with deep, desperate pools of eyes; more shaken than he had ever been during the past year, even after he had nearly bled to death after Potter's attack.

NO Potter anywhere in sight, what not necessarily meant anything.

And Dumbledore again, his old face etched with pain. Iron determination still glowing behind those strangely innocent blue eyes, negating the weakness of body.

You already agreed to do it. And now I do not wish to hear another word.

It was possible that one of the Death Eaters said something but it drowned in the voices screaming in his head and the one single, whispered word of the old headmaster.

"Severus..."

You take too much for granted!

Snape moved forward, shoving Malfoy out of the way, pushed past the four Death Eaters without seeing any of them, without seeing anything but Dumbledore's eyes, directed unwaveringly at him and only him. SEEING him - HIM without silently weighing possibilities and chances somewhere in the back of this amazing, tremendous, calculating brain. Giving him his full and undivided attention. Finally. For the very first time.

He had never hated anybody that much with all his heart.

What if I don't want to do it any more?

And Dumbledore must have seen something in his eyes because he spoke again in this feeble, totally unfamiliar voice. "Severus ... please..."

A plea. Not and order. A plea. Stupid, sentimental, brilliant old man.

You already agreed to do it.

He had. He had. His will, his wand, his lips were as one. "Avada Kedavra!"

And now I do not wish to hear another word.

It was over in a flash, in a second and maybe that was what surprised him most.

The invisible ashes of the vow he had made to Narcissa last summer rained gently off his hand, scattered softly in the cool night breeze. Leaving the fiery chains he had accepted what now seemed like more than a lifetime ago to burn brighter, fiercer than ever before.

He didn't watch Dumbledore fall. It wasn't necessary. He had never missed a killing curse yet.

Now he only had to get the Death Eaters out of Hogwarts with as little additional damage as possible. To save Draco from the Dark Lord's wrath. To stay alive. Until the day the prophecy the old man had finally told him completely was fulfilled. What ever that meant.

"Out of here, quickly."

He shoved Malfoy down the stairs in front of him, knowing the others would follow. Dived back into confusion and dust and voices screaming hexes and jinxes; called again for the rest to get going as he forced his way through the fight. Later there would be time to think. Later there would be time for guilt. Later there would be time to hate.

You take too much for granted! What if I don't want to do it any more?

You already agreed to do it. And now I do not wish to hear another word.

And now I do not wish to hear another word.

Maybe the boggart had been right all along.

Because the only thing he did not feel was regret.