I was compelled by a question: If Ron had not made it back, would Snape have pulled Harry from the pool?
Of course, the answer to that question did not come in what I believed to be a simple "yes," but instead came in the form of a story.
I have to say that Snape and Harry are the two most persistent characters when they want a story written. Remus and Tonks? Sure, no problem, take all the time you need. But Snape and Harry? They don't care that you're in the middle of class and you're supposed to be taking notes. They don't care that it's 11:00 at night and you're tired and you want to go to bed. No, you write the story, and you write it now. And they don't care that when you've finished the story you can't remember what you talked about in class that day or that it's 2:00 in the morning.
Anyway, this is what may have happened had Ron not been around to save Harry. And I hope Snape's happy with it. Git.
"I did think I saw something move over there, but I was running to the pool at the time, because you'd gone in and you hadn't come up, so I wasn't going to make a detour . . ." Ron. US edition, pg. 372.
Harry coughed and sputtered onto the cold, snowy ground. Someone had come to his rescue. Someone had saved him from the icy death of the pool.
"You - utter - imbecile - Potter," coughed and panted his savoir.
Harry could not believe it. His ears were surely lying to him. The man to whom that voice belonged could not be the one who had just saved him, could not have pulled him out of the pool, could not be standing over him now, coughing and panting. Though . . . he could imagine that man calling him an imbecile.
Harry rolled over, hoping to prove his ears wrong, and looked up into the face of Severus Snape. His clothes soaked and his hair plastered to his face, Snape was wearing the familiar expression that seemed to be asking Harry if he could be any more stupid. In one hand, Snape held Slytherin's locket. In the other, he held the Gryffindor sword.
"What manner of stupidity possessed you to leave a dark object such as this around your neck?" Snape held the locket up to his face to examine it.
Utter shock was the only thing that stopped Harry from leaping to his feat or diving for his wand. Snape -Dumbledore's murderer - had just saved his life. Snape - the man whom Harry had always hated - had pulled the Gryffindor sword from the icy waters. Snape had . . .
"It was you?" asked Harry in complete disbelief as he sat up. "You sent that doe?"
Snape gave a start, as though he had just now realized that he had not meant to reveal himself.
"I-" Snape hesitated. "Yes," he said slowly.
Shifting the locket to his other hand, Snape reached for his wand. But before Harry could dive for his own, which was buried underneath his discarded clothing, Snape shouted, "Expecto Patronum!"
The silver doe erupted from his wand tip and cantered around the clearing before coming to a stop in front of Harry. Again filled with the sense that he somehow knew her, Harry scrambled to his feet and reached out his hand to touch her. But before Harry's fingers could brush against her, she vanished.
"Put your clothes back on, Potter," said Snape in a tone that implied he'd seen more of Harry's body by the light of his patronus than he had ever wanted to see.
Harry felt the heat rise to his face. He had forgotten he was nearly naked. He dressed hastily, but he did not turn his back on Snape as he did so because he still did not trust the man, even if Snape had brought him the sword.
"You killed Dumbledore," said Harry bitterly once he was fully dressed.
"On Dumbledore's orders." Snape told him coldly.
"Believe what you want," said Snape, who looked suddenly impatient. "I only came here to do what I was ordered to do." And he held out the Gryffindor sword. "Take it."
Harry stared at him. Voldemort would not have ordered Snape to give Harry the sword. But Dumbledore was dead, so he could not have ordered Snape to do it either. Unless . . .
"You're taking orders from Dumbledore's portrait?"
"Take it." Snape repeated, and he shook the sword at Harry.
Clearly, Snape had no intention of explaining himself.
"I can't take it," said Harry.
"Potter-" Began Snape, as though he was trying to explain something immensely complicated to a very small and extremely stupid child.
"I can't." Harry told him, and he pointed at the sword. "You're the one who pulled it out of the pool."
Snape blinked. Then he brought the sword close to his face and stared at it scrutinizingly as though inquiring of it its right to be in his hand.
"It must be taken under conditions of need and valor." Dumbledore had said. And he, Severus, not Potter, had taken it.
"You're going to have to use it," said Harry, breaking into Snape's thoughts.
"He will know what to do with it." Dumbledore had said of Potter about the sword.
"I-" Snape didn't seem to much like the idea, but his shoulders slouched almost unnoticeably in a defeated kind of gesture. "What must I do?" he asked.
Harry still wasn't sure he trusted Snape, but Snape had gotten the Gryffindor sword from the pool. He needed Snape to destroy the horcrux. "Stab that," said Harry pointing to the locket.
Severus looked down at the object in his hand, truly acknowledging it for the first time. It seemed to vibrate with some powerful and terrible energy. He had a sudden urge to fling the locket from himself, cast it away into the dense, dark forest where he'd never have to look at it again, but he forced his fingers to close more tightly around the chain.
"You have to stab it with the sword." Potter was telling him. "But the locket has to be opened first."
"And," said Snape, holding the locket out to Harry. "I suppose you know how to do that."
Harry took the locket from Snape and carried it over to a flat looking rock.
"I'm going to open it," he told Snape. "And then you stab it straight away. Because whatever is in there will try to put up a fight."
Severus wanted to ask as to what exactly was in there, but he held his tongue. Now wasn't the time for questions. He nodded at Potter and raised the sword.
"One . . . two . . . three . . . open."
The first time Severus had heard the boy used Parseltongue had been unnerving. Now, five years later, the experience wasn't much different, despite Dumbledore's explanation of Potter sharing a bit of soul with the Dark Lord.
The locket swung open, and in each of the glass windows was an eye.
Severus gave a cry and staggered backward. He knew those eyes. They weren't red as he was used to seeing them, but there was no mistaking the piercing stare, the stare that many Death Eaters were afraid to look into, that many could not look into, that he had forced himself on many occasions to look into. The Dark Lord's eyes. The Dark Lord's stare.
"Stab it!" Potter told him.
Severus shook himself, stepping forward again, holding the sword higher. Then the Dark Lord's voice spoke from the locket: "Severus Snape."
"Don't listened to it!" shouted Potter. "Just stab it!"
But a ghostly figure was rising out of the locket. Twisted and distorted as the Dark Lord had made her, Lily Evans had never looked more beautiful or more terrible to Severus.
"You can't stop me," said the voice from the locket. "You can't stop me now any more than you could stop me then, when you asked me to spare her life."
Severus's grip on the sword tightened, but he did not move forward. His eyes were fixed on the second figure emerging from the locket's windows.
"Just-" Harry stopped shouting abruptly, distracted by the locket's figures. They couldn't be . . .
"She never loved you, never gave the slightest care about you. You were just her ticket to success at Potions class. She used you. You couldn't stop her from leaving you any more than you could stop her from choosing him over you."
The figures of Lily and James kissed.
Harry was jolted from his stupor as Snape gave an awful cry. He raised the Gryffindor sword above his head, and in one fatal swoop, plunged it into the locket.
The locket screamed, and Severus watched as the eyes died, watched as the eyes of the man who had killed Lily Evans writhed and screamed and vanished until all that was left were the broken remnants of the locket.
At last, when all trace of Riddle had gone, Severus pulled the sword from the locket, stumbling back a bit. He could not bring himself to look at Potter. The boy might be a complete imbecile, but surely he had recognized the figures of his own parents, however twisted or distorted the locket had made them.
He had questions, to be sure. He had no idea what he had just destroyed or why the Dark Lord's eyes had been staring at him out of a locket, but he knew that Potter must also have questions, and he wasn't going to give the boy the chance to ask them.
Breathing hard and without a word, Snape flung the Gryffindor sword to the ground. He then walked away into the forest and out of sight. He seemed to be shaking slightly. Harry wanted to call after him. Several questions were burning in his mind, but, for reasons he could explain, he kept silent.
"Harry!" cried a new voice. Harry spun around to find Ron running at him. "Harry! I found you. Finally. I've been trying to find you and Hermione for weeks. I - The locket! You destroyed - The sword! How did you get it?"
"I didn't get it," said Harry quietly, looking over his shoulder to stare at the spot where Snape had vanished.
Something that Dumbledore had once said to Harry seemed to reverberate through his ears. "Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the hat."
And as Severus Snape spun on the spot to disapparate, a few words Dumbledore had once spoken rang through his ears as well. "I sometimes think we Sort too soon."