Part II: The Schoolyear
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. Just borrowed. Will be returned. Snape is welcome to stay, though
A heartfelt Thank You goes out to my wonderful beta, Mouse, who isn't only thorough, critical and constructive but also incredibly encouraging and supportive.
September 1st, 1996
"Severus, do you have a moment?" Albus Dumbledore stood at the open door of Snape's office.
"Do come in, Headmaster, I have been expecting you. I suppose you want to know about Potter?" Severus Snape looked up from his desk, which was covered with lesson plans.
"Yes. What happened? Why didn't he arrive with the other students?"
"He must have been in a fight. There was blood on his face when I picked him up from the gates."
"Couldn't you find out any details?" the Headmaster inquired.
"No," replied Snape. "He wouldn't have told me the truth had I asked him. And surprisingly enough, he didn't rise to my taunts. I expected him to yell the whole story at me but he didn't." He smirked. "I couldn't read it in his mind either, because he was so full of hatred and anger. You know how that clouds everything else. I didn't encounter any resistance, mind you; it's not as if last year's Occlumency lessons taught him anything."
Dumbledore sighed. "And yet, you use the anger yourself, Severus, to help with your own Occlumency."
"Certainly," sneered Snape, "but unlike Potter I know what I'm doing, and use the emotions when they suit me. Potter in his arrogance oozes his emotions like a leaky cauldron seeps its contents. His hatred of me is so blatant - the boy simply has no subtlety."
"I wish you didn't hate him so," Dumbledore said sadly. "He has a pure heart and a good head on his shoulders."
"If you say so," Snape spat. "I certainly don't hate him more than he hates me. He just is too much like Black or like his father to make anything else possible."
"Rubbish," Dumbledore thundered, a furious gleam in his eyes. "You let yourself be blinded by old grudges and prejudice again, Severus. That's a dangerous habit. You certainly didn't make an effort to be on better terms with the boy."
"His head was big enough already when he came here; he didn't need me to make it bigger."
"That's not true, Severus, and you know it." Dumbledore gave his Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher an annoyed look. "You have settled down comfortably with your hatred for James - and now for his son - as if that were an invariable constant in your life. What a disservice you are doing to yourself - and to the boy. Harry doesn't deserve this. Remember, he isn't only his father's son."
Snape looked down on his hands. "As if I could forget it," he said quietly, "each time I look into those eyes..." His voice trailed off.
"Yes," said Dumbledore gently. "And he has more than the eyes from her. I am often reminded of her warm heart - and of her cheek - when I'm talking to him." The Headmaster smiled.
"Well, I'm not," Snape snarled. "I only see the same arrogance, carelessness and disregard for rules his father had. And he is proud of this. He wants to be like his father, and he is like his father."
"Yes," Dumbledore admitted, "he is a lot like James, too. None of us can deny where we came from; like it or not, we always find more of our parents in ourselves than we would like. Even you, Severus."
Snape scowled. "I'm nothing like my father."
"Severus, when I look at you, I see a man who did everything he could to not be like his father. And then you fall into a fit of hot and violent anger, just like him. But unlike your father, you have learned how to manage this anger. You tamed it. You use it; it's not using you. You have learned to control yourself." Dumbledore looked affectionately at Snape.
"This brings us full circle," Snape murmured. "Potter needs to learn to control his emotions. He almost broadcasts them - just like you do, incidentally, but you only do that when you want to. However, with someone like Nymphadora Tonks around, he doesn't have the best of role models where control of emotions is concerned. Merlin, what a pathetic appearance she gave today."
"You are being too hard, Severus. She is in great emotional distress. She needs a bit of time to come to terms with that."
"Oh no," Snape spat. "Not when she is working as an Auror, when she is here to protect the students! Her magic is affected; haven't you seen her recently? She can't transform her appearance. And her Patronus changed. Pathetic!"
"I have full confidence in her, and she is up to her job. I cannot see any lack in her defensive abilities."
"I hope you are right, Headmaster," Snape whispered. "I hope you are right."
"Well, that was an interesting conversation, Severus; thank you for that." Dumbledore rose from his chair. "I shall leave you to your lesson plans now. Maybe you can think about some of the things we discussed tonight. Maybe you can bring yourself to continue watching over Harry without hating him so much."
"I promised you to watch over him and I keep my promises. I don't see why I have to like him," Snape said.
"Because the two of you would have a lot to give to each other," Dumbledore said sadly. "But never mind. I had better go now. Good night, Severus."
"Good night, Headmaster."
October 19th, 1996
"That was close, Headmaster!" Severus Snape breathed a sigh of relief as he watched Katie Bell being taken away to St. Mungo's through the Floo network.
"Indeed," Dumbledore said. "Thank you, Severus; that was hard work. You saved her life."
"She was very lucky," Snape replied. "If just a bit more of her skin had been exposed, I couldn't have saved her." He massaged his neck.
"We will have to find out who gave her that necklace, and why," Dumbledore said quietly.
"Headmaster," Snape frowned, "this was meant for you. I am certain that Draco was behind it."
"You are probably right, Severus, but Draco had detention with Minerva. He wasn't in Hogsmeade at all. We will have to interrogate Katie's friend. Maybe she knows who gave her that package."
"Yes, although I doubt that we will find out anything." Snape glared at Dumbledore. "Headmaster, this has gone too far. We need to stop this."
"We can't, Severus. Think of Draco; think of your Vow..."
"If this really was him, then he has already failed at his first attempt. Remember, we must not let him fail completely. Let me confront him, Headmaster. Let him be expelled."
"I doubt that we can prove anything, Severus. How can I expel him without proof? And how can you protect him, when he's not here?"
"I don't like this at all," Snape scowled. "Draco doesn't seem to care about hurting other people. If this was his first attempt, it was very clumsy and careless. You have to stop this, Headmaster."
"I can't, Severus," Dumbledore repeated. "I will not risk your life by sending Draco away."
"So instead you risk your own and that of everyone else here?" Snape's eyes narrowed.
"We are always at risk, all of us. Katie's involvement was tragic; it teaches us to be even more careful in the future. She wouldn't have gotten past Filch anyway," Dumbledore said quietly.
"Maybe - and then we would have had a dead caretaker on our hands..."
"I can't change this, Severus. We will have to live with that risk," Dumbledore said sternly. "Expelling Draco would reveal that I suspect him, and thus compromise you. Voldemort would know immediately why I suspect Draco. No, we will try to be more vigilant in the future."
Snape shook his head. "You are hopeless, Headmaster."
"No, I am hopeful." Dumbledore smiled. "Go and get some rest now, Severus, you did some strong magic tonight; you look exhausted."
"Very well. Good evening, Headmaster."
December 22nd, 1996
"Severus, do you have a moment?"
Albus Dumbledore directed the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor towards his office. They both sat down in the office, and the Headmaster offered his usual sweets.
"Is there a problem?" Snape asked while accepting some chocolate.
"Not really," Dumbledore replied, "but I wanted to know if you will stay at Hogwarts this Christmas, or if you need to go to Spinner's End."
"I will go for a few hours tomorrow, but I will be here over the holidays," Snape replied. "Since I have spent every Christmas here since I started teaching, there is no reason that I should change my behaviour now."
"Good," Dumbledore said. He frowned. "Is there any news about Draco and his plans, Severus?"
"Not as much as I would like," Snape said. "I met Draco at Slughorn's party yesterday. He was caught by Filch after curfew when he was wandering in one of the upstairs corridors, close to the Room of Requirement. Draco has been avoiding me; he didn't come to my office when told to, and next to giving him detention, I have no way of talking to him alone. And I didn't think it wise to give him detention. I never have in the past."
"Understandable," Dumbledore agreed. "So what did you find out?"
"Not much. The boy is using Occlumency. Bellatrix must have taught him. You know that I'm a strong Legilimens, but not powerful enough, as it seems. I couldn't get past his barriers." Snape scowled. "For the first time I wished that Draco were more like Potter."
"Interesting," Dumbledore said. "Please continue."
"Well, obviously Draco has been indoctrinated by his aunt not to trust me. I chided him for that clumsy attempt with the necklace. I offered him help. I reminded him of the Unbreakable Vow - all to no avail. He is convinced that I will use his plan for my own benefit, for my own glory. The fool! He claims to have help, not to be alone in this, and that's about all I could find out. I am very sorry, Headmaster."
"This is more difficult than I thought." The Headmaster frowned. "Maybe you can find out who helps him and get some information from them?"
"The ones I know about are Crabbe and Goyle - and they don't know much about Draco's plan. He seems to go to the Room of Requirement rather frequently. They are his lookouts, but they don't know what he is doing in there."
"That doesn't get us anywhere," Dumbledore said. "We must find out how this necklace got to Katie."
"Draco must have an accomplice in Hogsmeade," Snape pondered.
"Possibly," said Dumbledore, "but it is just as likely that he has more helpers among the Slytherins. You must make more inquiries in your House, Severus."
"I will do that," Snape agreed. "But remember that Slytherins can be very loyal when one of their own is under scrutiny."
"I do remember that," Dumbledore said with a smile. "Maybe it is time to remind them that their Head of House deserves some loyalty, too."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Maybe you should put me on probation and conduct the investigation yourself. That way you could indeed elicit some loyalty towards me."
"I think we've had enough probations to last us for a few years," Dumbledore replied. "I think I will pass, and leave the investigation in your capable hands, Severus."
"Very well. Is there more you wanted to talk about?"
"No, that was all." Dumbledore said and Snape rose from his chair. "I shall see you at Christmas. Good night."
"Good night, Headmaster"
February 27th, 1997
Albus Dumbledore stood at the gates to the Forbidden Forest and waited for the familiar popping sound of a wizard Apparating. When the sound came, the Headmaster hurried over to the black-clad and slightly slumped figure that had appeared just outside the borders of the Hogwarts grounds. "Severus, are you hurt?"
The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher straightened and looked at the Headmaster. "No, I'm all right."
"So how did it go, did Voldemort tell you anything?"
"It wasn't a good idea. T'was all in vain." Snape looked angry. "I asked, I wheedled - and you know how I hate this. I was sly, tried subtlety and in the end asked openly for the plan - he didn't tell me. He mocked me about my friendship with the Malfoys and told me to keep out of it for now." Snape sank down on a log, his head in his hands. "This is taking too long, Headmaster. This is getting too dangerous, we need to get on with our own plan."
"We can't, not yet," said Dumbledore quietly.
"Why not, what are you waiting for?" Snape said agitatedly.
Dumbledore's voice was calm. "I am waiting for some extremely important information. It is crucial that I get this information."
"Well, then hurry up and go and get it!" Snape snarled.
"Calm down, Severus." Dumbledore looked annoyed. "I will get this information. Harry will obtain it for me."
"Potter?" Snape lost all composure. "We have to wait to get you to safety because you wait for something from Potter?" he yelled. "You can wait forever, then! Potter is far too busy with important Potter affairs to bother with the tasks he is told to do!"
"Not this argument again, Severus." Dumbledore's voice got louder, too. "I trust the boy. He will get this information for me, and then I will have to go and find something. When that is achieved, we can carry out our plan, but not earlier."
Snape mutinously shook his head. "I don't like it a bit," he hissed. "The more we wait, the more likely it'll be that Draco succeeds with his plan."
"I don't think so," Dumbledore said in a placating tone. "Look, Draco hasn't really done anything since the necklace affair. That's been months. I know he is in distress, but I'm not certain at all that he told you the truth about having a plan and outside help. What can he do, really? Maybe he doesn't even have a plan."
Snape jumped up from the log. "Maybe?" he yelled. "Maybe you take too much for granted, Headmaster. Maybe I don't want to do it any more."
"Do what?" Dumbledore asked, annoyed again. "Go ahead with our own plan? Find out what Draco is up to? Work for the Order? What don't you want to do any more?"
Snape took a few deep breaths to calm himself. "Most of this. Tiptoeing around Draco, waiting for Potter, postponing our own plan endlessly; that's what I don't want to do any more," Snape whispered. "I want to have you safely in the Underground. I don't want to see Draco carry out his plan and succeed. And Merlin knows that I don't really want to kill you, pretended or otherwise."
Dumbledore stared through his half-moon glasses. "You agreed to do it and that's all there is to it," he said in a firm voice. "And if you're so convinced that Draco has a plan, then make some more investigations in your own House."
Snape closed his eyes and sank back down onto the log again. He shook his head and muttered, "As if I hadn't done that already..."
"Compose yourself, Severus," Dumbledore chided. "Let's go to my office and you can continue your report there. I think I saw Hagrid come this way. We don't want to be overheard."
"I'm too featherlegged to think straight," Snape murmured, but rose from the log, and both men walked towards the castle in silence.
When they arrived in Dumbledore's study, the Headmaster conjured a big cup of hot chocolate and handed it to Snape. Snape accepted and drained half of it in one go.
"Shall I get you something to eat, or will the chocolate suffice?" Dumbledore asked.
"The hot chocolate will do," Snape said and emptied the cup. Dumbledore filled it again and sat down behind his desk.
"Headmaster, this charade has to end," Snape started again. "I really don't want to do this anymore." He stared at his hands.
"Want to do?" The Headmaster's eyes gleamed furiously. "Do you think I want to do what I have to do? Do you think I want to send Harry into a fight he is ill prepared for? Do you think I want to endanger his friends? Do you think I wanted to send Rubeus and Olympe on those dangerous missions? Do I want to send Remus to face Fenrir Greyback? And do you really think I want to send you to your almost certain death?"
Snape's head snapped up.
"Don't protest," Dumbledore said, calm again. "I am well aware that the mission I sent you on could also be called a suicide mission. If you had gone to Azkaban after you turned yourself in, you'd be free by now. Instead you agreed to spy for me and thus are in constant danger of being found out, tortured and murdered. And if that doesn't happen, you're likely to die when Harry faces Voldemort and you show your true colours. Do you really think I wanted to do all these things?" He took a deep breath. "I do these things because I have to do them. I send people to do what only they can achieve. I had to harden myself towards the fact that I send them into grave danger." The Headmaster's eyes glistened treacherously.
Snape's lips curled into a slight smile. "Nonsense, Professor," he said. "If you had turned me over to the Aurors after I came to you all those years ago, I'd be dead now. The Dark Lord would have known that I betrayed him and would have killed me by now. Look at what happened to Karkaroff. I was surprised that he lasted that long."
"Maybe and maybe not," Dumbledore sighed. "Your sentence would have been short and you would be free now."
"I'd never be free that way," Snape said quietly. "You did more than give me a second chance, Headmaster. You gave me a choice. You gave me my life back. My pride, my self-respect. And you gave me hope for a future free of remorse. All of that would have been missing had I been sentenced to Azkaban. Chances are that I wouldn't have survived the time there. I was in such a state of shock and guilt - just the right combination to set the Dementors off." He smirked. "A suicide mission? Don't worry, I have no intentions of dying anytime soon. I may not be able to survive when Potter faces the Dark Lord, but we're in a war, Professor. We're in danger of being killed all the time. This is not suicide but the reality of battle."
Dumbledore looked at Snape gently and smiled. "I see that the old Severus is back; very good."
"Yes," Snape said softly. "Many say that I got off easy and without punishment when your testimony kept me out of Azkaban. Little do they know how severely I am being punished by the torture of your Dumbledorian benevolence."
"Well, my benevolence has been torturing you enough for today. Go and get some rest, Severus, and then continue your investigations in Slytherin House. Draco must have other helpers, apart from Crabbe and Goyle."
Snape rose from his chair. "I will continue with that, Headmaster, good night."
"Sleep well, Severus."
March 1st, 1997
When Severus Snape entered the staff room, all members of staff were already assembled. He took a seat opposite the Headmaster, and waited for the meeting to start. Professor McGonagall rose from her chair and greeted the staff. Then she went on to tell them about the poisoning of Ronald Weasley, and the timely action of Harry Potter. Horace Slughorn confirmed and enthusiastically commented on her statements, praising Harry and his talent at Potions. Snape looked questioningly at Professor Dumbledore.
The Headmaster looked at him in a way that suggested he wanted to tell Snape something important.
Without breaking eye contact, both wizards had cast the nonverbal version of the spell almost simultaneously. While aware of the Headmaster's gentle presence in his head, Snape carefully probed the outer layers of the Headmaster's complex mind.
"Go ahead; say it Severus."
Snape smirked. "You know I was right. Just yesterday I warned you, and now? That was meant for you; there is no doubt about that any longer."
"True." The Headmaster's friendly smile didn't waver. "But this wasn't a new attack, Severus. It must have been planned around the same time the necklace was given to Katie, or shortly thereafter. You heard Minerva, Horace wanted to give the mead to me as a Christmas present."
"Yes, but he didn't. And Draco couldn't have foreseen this. This is puzzling. What makes me wonder even more is how Draco could know this. Much to his annoyance, his connections currently aren't good enough for Slughorn to make him a member of the club."
"You are right, Severus; this is indeed puzzling. The only thing I can come up with is the old idea that Draco has more help in your House than just Crabbe and Goyle."
"Crabbe and Goyle were in detention most weekends, including Hogsmeade weekends. I want them to get at least a few OWLs. I haven't much hope for their intellectual development, but if there is a life after the Dark Lord, they will need every qualification they can get."
Both men's thoughts were interrupted when Minerva McGonagall asked the Headmaster a question. After answering it politely and briefly showering the room with his twinkly-eyed benevolence, he returned his gaze to Snape.
"Where were we? Oh yes - who helped Draco? No, not Crabbe and Goyle. It isn't very likely that Horace told them what he planned to give me for Christmas."
"That's right. But whom did he tell, Headmaster? Someone on the staff who passed it on unthinkingly perhaps? Some of the students? During one of his parties?"
"I think the latter is the most likely. Draco's helper must be a member of the Slug Club."
Snape's eyes widened and at the same time he saw realization dawn in the Headmaster's eyes.
"If there were something like a telepathic choir, the two of us should think a duet." The Headmaster's mental chuckles reverberated through Snape's head while the face of Professor Dumbledore still showed his quiet, friendly expression.
"That's not a laughing matter." Snape scowled but still held eye contact with the Headmaster while the other teachers' voices filled the background of his thoughts.
"Well, at least now you have a new clue where to proceed with your investigation. You should focus on Zabini. I doubt that he has learned Occlumency."
"Yes, that's what I will do."
Both men broke eye contact and focused on the discussion between the other teachers.
May 22nd, 1997
"Headmaster, a word, if you please." Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore left the staff room together after Snape had told the other teachers about Harry Potter's use of a Dark spell and the injury he inflicted on Draco Malfoy.
"Let's go to your office, Severus." Both men walked quietly towards the dungeons although Snape's face showed signs of barely restrained fury. His eyes were narrowed and a vein at his temple throbbed angrily. When they arrived, Snape offered a seat to the Headmaster and ordered tea from the kitchens. Then he sat down opposite Dumbledore.
"So," he hissed, "the boy with the pure heart is using Dark spells to defend himself. The boy with the pure heart is using MY Dark spells, to be precise." His eyes bored aggressively into the Headmaster's. "The boy with the pure heart was learning these spells from an old Potions book. My very own old Potions book." He paused for effect. "And now, Headmaster, I would very much like to know just how the boy with the pure heart got hold of MY old Potions book. I wonder if you can enlighten me?"
"Don't try to play your games with me, Severus." The Headmaster looked slightly annoyed. "You know very well that it was I who arranged for the book to get into Harry's hands. I wanted him to have it."
"I should have known that your visit to the Potions classroom last summer wasn't caused by the unselfish desire of wanting to help," Snape spat.
"Well, not solely," Dumbledore admitted calmly. "But apart from that sinister motive, yes, I did genuinely want to help you."
"But why did you want him to have that old book?" Snape looked bewildered. "I didn't even know you still had it."
"I wanted him to learn something about you. To develop some feelings towards you other than hatred. Even if he doesn't know at the moment that it was you who owned that book," the Headmaster said quietly.
"I don't understand," Snape frowned.
"I want this hatred to stop," Dumbledore said firmly. "Harry has learned all about the best friends of his father, but he never learned about the best friend of his mother. This book gives him an idea what you were like, back then."
"What would that matter?" Snape asked, even more bewildered. "His father and his friends hated me back then, and the boy hates me now. What difference should it make?"
"Harry and you do have many things in common. The fact that he held on to that old book instead of taking the new one shows you that. He must have been fascinated and delighted by your notes and spells. And although he resembles him, he is not James. Don't make the same mistake Sirius did."
Snape frowned. "He used the book to cheat in Potions. I never did that."
"Cheating isn't exactly what I would call it," Dumbledore replied. "A less, ah, biased teacher than Horace would have noticed that Harry isn't the Potions genius he appeared to be when he used your instructions to brew his own potions. However, you have to admit that he did that successfully, not in itself an easy feat with Advanced Potions."
"Agreed, he seems to have finally learned to follow instructions, after all these years," Snape sneered. "But I still fail to see what that has to do with me and my friendship with his mother."
"Everything, Severus," the Headmaster said softly. "Don't you think it's about time that the boy knew more about his past and that of his parents? You are the only one who can give him that. Hardly anyone knew about how close you two were, or understood that friendship. It could be a lesson, for both of you. If you could work with his mother, you should be able to work with her son."
"Lily was so different. She was smart, brilliant even. And so full of eagerness to learn, to explore. Half of the spells in that book are her ideas. Do you really think that your pure-hearted Potter could ever come up with something like that?"
"Can't you let go of that 'pure heart' comment I made a while back? You know exactly what I meant with that. Well-meaning people make mistakes, too. And I believe that Harry's horror and sorrow are genuine. He was very foolish when he used a spell he didn't know, but he had no intent of hurting Draco so badly or of endangering his life."
"Oh - I surmise you said 'well-meaning' people as opposed to, say, 'sly, cunning' people who are expected to make mistakes? People like me? Slytherins?" Snape's fury had returned. His face was very white, his voice cold. "Whether you're inadvertently killed by a well-meaning person or someone with an agenda - it doesn't make much of a difference when you're dead, don't you think?" Snape hissed. "Maybe it's a consolation to be killed by someone with a pure heart, but I very much doubt it. It never was a consolation to me that the boy who tried to kill me at the age of sixteen was a pure-hearted Gryffindor. When will you stop seeing all those people with rose-colored glasses, Headmaster? Being Gryffindors doesn't automatically make them good. All this House nonsense is clouding people's judgement, including yours."
"Hardly, Severus, you are jumping to conclusions. I am well aware of the shortcomings of the sorting, and the typecasting. Peter Pettigrew was, after all, in Gryffindor House." Dumbledore smiled sadly. "And you are the best example that some Slytherins can be just as good, brave and heroic as some Gryffindors."
"And this is exactly the lesson I want to give Harry," Dumbledore continued. "Harry will need you when I'm 'dead'. The two of you should at least be relaxed enough with each other that he can and will ask you for help when he needs it."
"How likely is that?" Snape snarled. "When you're 'dead', I will have 'killed' you. Don't you think he will hate me more than ever, after that? And I will be on the run anyway; there won't be many occasions to help him."
"Harry can be trusted with a secret, Severus," Dumbledore said. "I will not tell him about our plan, but I will leave something for him to see after my 'death', something to make him trust you without revealing the truth to him. I cannot tell him about the Underground; this knowledge could be wrestled from his mind too easily."
"What will you show him?" Snape was curious despite his anger.
"I will leave him the memory of how you saved my life last summer." Dumbledore looked at Snape. "You couldn't see yourself then, but you were so dedicated, so determined to help me - and you did. After seeing that, he can not for a moment believe that you would kill me to gain glory and good standing with Voldemort. If you had wanted that, you could have let me die then and there."
"And you think that will make him trust me?"
"Maybe not trust entirely, but hopefully ease the hatred enough to be willing to listen to you, learn from you. Eventually I want you to tell him that the book was your book, and about your past with Lily."
"He will have heard the twisted version from Black already. That man had no concept of love beyond the romantic aspect of it."
"I very much doubt it. I doubt that any one of the Marauders, even James, knew how close you and Lily were until..." The Headmaster stopped and looked at Snape.
"Until I threw my life away and joined the Dark Lord's ranks. Why don't you say it?" Snape whispered.
"Well, you paid for it. And you won your life back the day you rejoined our side. Lily would have been so proud, had she known."
"Yes, she would have been." Snape's eyes had lost some of their furious and icy glimmer. "She might even have forgiven me."
"Of course she would have. She was devastated when you went; you know that. She would have been the first to renew your friendship."
"Likely, because I wouldn't have dared to approach her. But Potter wouldn't have liked it, and it's all moot anyway because she's dead - because of me and my idiocy, she's dead." Snape's face was stony, his black eyes bottomless.
The Headmaster leaned forward and put his hands on Snape's shoulders. "You didn't want her dead, you didn't know that it was Harry whom Voldemort wanted to kill. You did everything you could to save her. Remember, they went into hiding because of the timely information you gave us. They might still live if it hadn't been for Peter Pettigrew's betrayal. Never forget that, Severus. We all have to face the ghosts of our past, but blame has to be laid where it is due. Don't blame yourself for more than you've done."
"I know. But I can't..." Snape shook his head. "I will do what you say though. I will help Potter when he needs me. It won't be easy."
"I trust that you will manage somehow, Severus. And now, I had better go; it's late."
"Good night, Headmaster."
"Good night, Severus."
June 7th, 1997
"Severus, do you have a moment?" Albus Dumbledore's head appeared in the fireplace of Severus Snape's office.
"What is it, Headmaster? Do you want me to come to your study?"
"That's not necessary, Severus. I don't have much time. I will be leaving in a few minutes, and taking Harry with me."
Snape nodded. "Yes. I will wait for you here in my office."
"You can go to sleep, just, please, stay in your rooms. We may need you after we return. It is very important. Unless there is an emergency, don't go anywhere."
"Very well then," Snape said. "I will wait in my office. Be careful, Headmaster."
"Don't worry, Severus. I will see you later." With a smile the Headmaster's head disappeared from the flames.
Later that night
Severus Snape opened the door to the ramparts on the Astronomy Tower and stood there, his wand clutched in his hand as his black eyes swept the scene, from Dumbledore slumped against the wall, to four Death Eaters, including an enraged Fenrir Greyback, and Malfoy.
"We've got a problem, Snape," said one of the Death Eaters, whose eyes and wand were fixed alike upon Dumbledore, "the boy doesn't seem able -"
But somebody else had spoken Snape's name, quite softly. "Severus..."
"Legilimens!" Snape cast the nonverbal spell and probed the Headmaster's mind.
"Severus - Harry is here. You must save the boys! You must save yourself, save the Underground! Too late for me - I drank a poison tonight and I am weak. The old curse is active again; I can't feel my arms and legs. Help me, before I lose my mind!"
Snape gazed at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
"Severus my friend, you must do it. Do it NOW. KILL ME!"
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore. "Avada Kedavra."
A/N: Azazello wrote a very convincing essay in her LiveJournal about the location of Spinner's End. I adopted that notion and thus, Snape in my Snapeyverse is a Yorkshireman. It is said that they know how to hold grudges.
Trying to write Yorkshire dialect would be presumptious, but I couldn't resist inserting one little gem I found on a dialect homepage. It's "featherlegged" which means tired.