Reasons, not excuses

After what Harry saw in Snape's worst memory. Marauders Era. Dumbledore lectures two students, one Gryffendor, one Slytherin.

Disclaimer: Don't own em' Just love em' and write em' for fun only.

This was going to be a one shot, but I think it's going to be three chapters.

Chapter 1 - James

"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"

Wand at the ready, the crowd began to chant, "James, James, James," as if they were at a quidditch match.

"Are you sure you really want to see what's under there?" There were hoots and hollers in the affirmative. "If you insist." James raised his wand and opened his mouth to speak the spell. Everyone was wondering if he really would.

Before James had the chance to embarrass Severus further. A familiar voice of authority shouted out. "James Potter, that is enough." It was Dumbledore. "Quite enough."

James hadn't remove said piece of clothing from his victim, but he didn't let Snape down either. The headmaster walked over to James and told him to let Snape down. The upside down Snape managed to say, "I can - get - out of - this - myself."

"Yes," Dumbledore said sardonically. "You're doing a grand job of it so far." Albus' hand went over James' wand hand and broke the spell. The ground under Snape was soft enough to break the fall.

"Both of you," Dumbledore chastised. "My office."

Snape stood and sputtered, "Me? Why am I - - "

The hand of the headmaster ascended in a sign of 'be silent.' "I said both of you and I mean both. The rest of you, find something constructive to occupy yourselves." He walked off with the two rivals falling in behind. The lecturing continued. "Honestly, I don't know what I'm going to do with the two of you. One would think after five years this would stop. It appears to have only gotten worse. I will not have this escalate any further." For a while Dumbledore fumed silently, robes and beard flowing in his wake until they reached the entrance to his office. The door opened. Dumbledore instructed, "James, you first."

'James is always first isn't he,' Snape thought darkly.

The headmaster gave him a look as if he knew what the dark boy was thinking. There was a slight disapproving shake of the old wizard's head. "I'll deal with you in a while."

Once Dumbledore was behind the closed door, Snape mumbled, "Deal with me?"

Inside the office the headmaster told Potter he could sit. James did as instructed. He sat as if he were about to have tea with Dumbledore, not as if he'd done anything wrong.

"James," Albus began. "You are supposed to be setting an example." At this Potter did sink the smallest bit. "I expect a lot out of you, a lot more than what I just saw." James did not have a response. "Normally, I believe in letting these kind of rivalries between students work themselves out. Regrettably today I saw a side of you I didn't much care for. You were ready to cross a line I would have hated to see you cross."

A slight feeling of shame might have flickered across James Potters face. If it was there, it was insignificant.

Dumbledore became animated, his hands motioning as he asked, "Is there something I've missed? Is there some lacking in your character that gives you satisfaction in humiliating another person?"

Almost out of habit, as if he were not addressing the headmaster of Hogwarts James let slip out, "It's not another person, it's Sniv - - "

"JAMES!" Dumbledore roared in disappointment.

"I'm sorry Professor, I just can't - - "

"Can't see Severus as a person? No matter how much you can's stand him, you should be able to see a person." With that Dumbledore sighed and sat.

"It's just, I mean," James was forming his thoughts. He changed his tack. "Professor, you don't approve of the dark arts, right?"

"Right, you are well aware of that."

"And you know that Sniv - - Sev - - Snape spends all of his spare time studying the dark arts."

"Stop right there Mr. Potter."

James was on a roll; he wasn't going to stop there. "So you approve of what he does, but not what I do? An unusual bitter tone that Dumbledore didn't often hear rang in James' voice.

"Approving of the dark arts, which I don't, is one thing. Approving of Severus himself is another. Plus as far as I am aware, studying them is all Mr. Snape has done, so far. There is a reason why Severus seems fascinated with the dark arts."

"You're going to give him an excuse?"

"I said a reason, not an excuse."

Ignoring what the headmaster was saying James asked, "Do you know what his friends did?"

"His friends James, not him. On the other hand I saw exactly what you did, as well as what you intended."

A silence passed between student and mentor.

"What reason could you have for letting it get so out of hand?"

"The reason being that he's evil." James knew he'd said something he would have rather kept to himself.

"Evil? Do you really believe that Severus is evil"? Dumbledore mused. "Perhaps annoying, possibly aggravating, maybe even what you young people call a - - what is the word - - git? But evil? That is a word one should not toss about lightly."

"There are rumors that he and other Slytherin - - "

"Rumors Mr. Potter. It hasn't happened yet. I'd like to keep that from happening. I don't need you and your friend Mr. Black pushing Severus that way."

"Pushing?" James questioned. "If that's where he wants to go - - "

"Wants to go?" Dumbledore took a deeper sigh. "A river wants to go in the direction of the ocean, but if it's dammed up it goes another."

"I don't thing what I did today is enough to send the river Snape anywhere."

"James, James, James. If someone is cornered at every side, you adding one more barrier can make a difference. You are old enough to understand this."

"Snape can do anything he wants to. He's got the best grades in school, with the exceptions of Evans. He could do something to help people, instead he goes around hexing people."

Dumbledore snorted out a sort of chortle. "People? Or you James?"

"Okay me."

"And you have never, ever, done any thing to give him cause?"

"Cause?" James matched Dumbledore's light manner. "Again, -- evil."

"James, James, James." Each time the boy's name was said a headshake accompanied it.

"Professor," James summed up, "I can't help what I believe, and that is that Snape has a soul as black and greasy as his hair."

"JAMES POTTER!" This time Dumbledore was not jovial. His hand pounded the table. He was practically menacing. "Do not dare to know anything about that boy's soul. You have no idea - - " Dumbledore composed himself before confiding, "James that boy has been through things, dark things, dark and terrible. Things that you have no idea of, and I hope you never do."

There was another stretch of silence as James absorbed what Dumbledore had just said.

"Sooooo, I should lay off of Snape because you want him to have it easy?"

Dumbledore was shaking his head again. "Nothing will ever be easy for Severus. That is not the reason." The headmaster made sure he was making eye contact with the young man he was addressing. "I want you to, as you say, lay off of Snape, for the good of your own soul and character James, not his. I'm not asking you to become great friends, or any kind of friends, with him, just that you be as decent to him as you would to anyone else."

Something Dumbledore said seemed to penetrate the fifteen-year-old boy's thick skull. "I think I understand Professor Dumbledore." James finally said. "Can I go now?"

"Yes you may." Dumbledore told him. "But I expect to see you back here after your classes all next week. Good-bye Mr. Potter."

"All next week?" James asked as he stood. "I'll miss quidditch practice."

"You didn't really think you were going to get off without detention, did you Mr. Potter?"

"No Sir."

The door opened as Dumbledore requested, "Send Mr. Snape in."

James exited and Severus entered.