DISCLAIMER: Yes, I own Harry Potter - rather in the same way that I own the universe, as in, not at all.

This was actually originally going to be a Severus/Lily reflective one-shot, but I started to write it and realised that I had to include Draco somewhere, so it became less of a Severus/Lily story and more of a post-HBP speculation fic. Thus, I'm not really sure how it turned out and would appreciate any and all criticism (even flames, which are, if nothing else, good for a laugh).

The story is dedicated to all of my guildmates as The Serpent's Cove.

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Belief

By Jay The Nerd Kid

Severus Snape was not usually a man to be found in a state of disarray. Now, however, he reflected as he examined one torn sleeve with a resigned gaze, he was in a state of considerably more disarray than he had been in a very long time.

It had been the loathing that had forced him over the edge, he realised as he got gingerly to his feet, checking himself for major injuries and thankfully finding none, that pure hatred in the same eyes that had once stared into him, through him, from an entirely different face, the same eyes that had, once upon a time, looked at him with an expression in them that, had Severus only known it at the time, was something remarkably close to affection.

And that, Severus reflected as he tried (and failed) to brush the wrinkles - and a dozen worse things - out of robes that had been in relatively good condition just hours before, was something that nobody else save one man - a man now dead by Severus' own hand - had ever felt for him.

"Professor?" said a voice, tentative, hesitant. Severus realised that it was coming from the blonde-haired boy at his feet. Lost in thought, he had almost forgotten that he'd brought someone with him.

"Draco," he replied, offering a pale, scratched hand and helping the boy to his feet. "Are you all right?"

"I - I think so, Professor," was the reply, again so very hesitant. Severus marvelled at that - it was so very rare to hear hesitance in the boy's voice that Severus had to stare into his face to make sure that it was really him.

Draco certainly looked the worse for wear - he was even paler than usual; his robes were torn and covered in substances that looked entirely too sticky and dark to be dirt; his pale blonde hair hung in front of grey eyes that held an expression that Severus had rarely seen in them before - fear.

Severus span the boy around roughly, checking for signs of injury, and found none, but even as he examined the boy under his fingers, his mind span wildly.

Those eyes...Severus had known them in a face that had first brightened his day, then haunted his dreams, then plagued him in his nightmares - save her, Severus? Save the pretty little Mudblood so you can have her for your own? The Dark Lord always knows, Severus - and then, for six years, stared at him from the face of the man he had hated - kill me, then, kill me like you killed him, you coward - and the loathing in those eyes was more than he could bear, because those eyes reminded him of a time when there was one person who looked him and saw more than just the Dark Arts, more than just the greasy-haired Slytherin with a fondness for curses and a hatred of James Potter, until James Potter stole her away - he's changed, Severus, can't you see that, can't you see I love him for it?

"Professor?" a voice said hesitantly, and Severus was dragged out of his reverie. Looking down, he realised that Draco was still staring up at him, frightened, and clearly with no idea of what to do.

"Listen, Draco," Severus said urgently, "there isn't much time, so pay attention. Very soon, the Dark Lord will summon us, and we must go to his side. We will be hailed as heroes, both of us."

"But - but I don't want - "

"I know, Draco, I know, or do you think I'd be telling you this? Remember what I said to you earlier this year?"

Draco shook his head mutely, his eyes registering nothing but confusion.

"Acting, Draco - this is an act that is crucial to success, do you not remember? The Dark Lord expects our loyalty. He can look into our minds and see it. I know you can close your mind; it is more crucial now than ever."

"I - I don't understand - "

"Don't you? Don't you still? Draco..." he paused, unsure of how to continue. "There is...still hope. The Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter - "

"What can they do against the Dark Lord?" Fear again, and incredulity, and - Severus would have been amused, had the situation been different - derision.

"There is a prophecy, Draco. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...Draco, there is hope still, even now, even after all this."

"But you killed Dumbledore, and I let in the Death Eaters, everyone thinks - "

"I know what they think, don't you think I know? But nevertheless..." Severus paused, once again unsure of what to say. "There is a choice you must make, a choice between what is right and what is easy. I cannot force you to choose; you must make a decision on your own. But know this - whatever your choice, I swore to your mother that I would protect you, and that oath I shall never break, Unbreakable Vow notwithstanding. Now, there is little time. What will you choose, Draco?"

Draco looked down, then up again. His eyes were filled again with uncertainty. "This prophecy...are you sure, Professor? Are you sure there's still hope?"

Never before had Severus seen the boy look so vulnerable. "I am," he replied, letting his certainty show in his eyes. "It need not end this way, Draco. There can be...there will be a brighter future."

"Then I'll do whatever I have to," Draco said, sounding almost as though he couldn't quite believe what he was saying. He sounded terrified, but for the first time that night, Severus heard something he hadn't heard in the boy's voice before - determination.

"Good." Severus took the boy by the shoulders. "I will not say that everything is going to be fine, because it won't be, perhaps not for a long time, but I will say this - you will not regret it." He straightened and remembered the words of the man whose life he ended, staring at him with penetrating blue eyes over half-moon spectacles - it is difficult to choose between what is right and what is easy, Severus. What will you choose? - and as he did, he remembered an entirely different voice, and belief shining in bright green eyes - I know, Severus, I know you're not one of them, I trust you, Severus - and knew that he could not turn back now.

He would succeed, or die trying.

Maybe then his nightmares would cease.

"Professor?" said a voice again - scared, but determined to continue regardless. "He's summoned us."

"I know," Severus said heavily. "Are you ready, Draco?"

Draco smiled, an expression little-used these days. "No," he said honestly. "But I can't let that stop me, can I?"

"No," Severus replied with a tiny smile of his own. "I don't suppose you can."

And as he stepped forward into nothingness, Severus almost fancied he could hear a voice in his ear, see the ghost of a smile in a pair of green eyes...

I believe in you.