Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. They're all JKR's. I only like to play with them. ;)
Not One of Us
There he was. The traitor. The murderer. Standing hunched over the rampart, looking down. A gust of wind blew in his face, whipping strands of black hair around his head.
When he suddenly had rushed from the Great Hall, Minerva had followed Snape to make sure he didn't hex any poor student who was unlucky enough to come across him. She didn't know why she had kept following him up to the Astronomy Tower, though. It wasn't very likely he'd meet a student here. Here at the scene of his crime. But now that she was here, she found she was in no hurry to leave again. Instead, she stayed, hidden in the shadows, watching him. So close to the edge. One good push and -
Suddenly, he threw his head back and laughed, a high-pitched almost mad sound that startled her and made her jump.
Merlin's beard, he's losing it.
Not that she was afraid of him, oh no. But maybe it would be better to leave now. If he really had gone mad, if he saw her, thought she was spying on him - Once, she had thought she knew him but now, there was no telling what he might do if he caught her secretly watching him. Not that she cared, at least not as far as she was concerned. But if something happened to her, then who would protect the students? In the current situation, there was little enough she could do. She couldn't openly oppose the Carrows, who did their best to hurt and humiliate the students. Not if she didn't want to be sacked - or worse. Filius, Pomona, Hagrid, Rolande, even Poppy, they all depended on her. No, she couldn't run afoul of the Carrows, as much as she would have loved to teach them a thing or two, and not of Snape, either.
Snape. He was still standing there, obviously lost in thought. She wondered what was going on in his mind - and then, she wondered whether she really cared. Why should she want to know what that traitor was thinking?
Maybe because he used to be one of us? a tiny little voice whispered in her mind.
Nonsense. She just barely stopped herself from shaking her head. Snape had never been one of them, of the Order. Not really. He had only pretended to be on their side while, in truth, he had been working for Voldemort all the time.
Better go, Minerva, she told herself, Go before he notices you. Who knows what he's capable of if he catches me up here with no one else around.
She turned to leave but froze when Snape moved his head. She held her breath. Had he seen her?
"Minerva. Come to see if you could catch me on my own and get rid of me?"
His voice was dangerously low and silky, with just the tiniest hint of a steely edge showing.
She took a step forward. Get rid of him? What an appealing thought. But the consequences -
"Vold- he would punish me by hurting my students. Or else -"
Or else I might just do it, you murderer.
Snape shrugged. He wasn't looking at her but not quite looking away, either. "It could have been an accident. We're all alone up here. Nobody would ever know ..."
Almost against her will, she found herself taking another step towards him. Nobody would ever know. Slowly, as if in a dream, she lifted her hand to the hidden pocket that held her wand. Nobody would ever know and there would be one Death Eater less to worry about. He turned his head away from her, taunting her, daring her to do it. And why shouldn't she? Why not, after all he had done?
No. No, you won't. Kill him in a fair duel if you have to. Kill him while he's facing you, while he has a chance of defending himself. But not like this. He's the murderer, not you. You're better than that.
"Don't tempt me, Severus," she whispered, lowering her hand again. "I won't murder you - not even though you deserve it."
He gave her a quick glance over his shoulder and one of his mocking almost-smiles. "Ever the noble Gryffindor, aren't you, Minerva?"
She didn't answer. He returned his attention to the black abyss before him. Her cue to leave, she guessed. But she stayed, just out of spite, to annoy him.
"Would you stop me?" he asked suddenly.
Minerva frowned. "What?"
Stop you from what? Harming the students? Killing another of my friends? Of course I would.
"If I stepped forward, threw myself off the tower - would you try to stop me? Or would you just let me fall?"
Threw yourself off the tower? What's that, Severus? Remorse? Or are you testing me?
Or course, it wasn't remorse. He was headmaster of Hogwarts, Voldemort's right-hand-man - what else could he possibly wish for? No, he wouldn't throw himself off this tower any more than Albus Dumbledore would return from the dead. She smirked.
"Don't tempt me, Severus."
"You would, wouldn't you?" He spun round to face her, his black eyes glittering. "Let me throw myself off the tower and do nothing to stop me."
"And why should I?" Of course, she wouldn't stop him. She could barely stop herself from giving him a good, hard shove. Really, the nerve of that man.
"After what you did, after you killed - murdered -" She couldn't say it. "Albus trusted you. He trusted you and you -"
Her voice cracked. He hated herself for showing him such weakness. She did her best to glare at him, stare him down as she had done when she still had been his teacher so many years ago. It still seemed to work. At least judging from how he looked away and shifted on his feet. Almost like the student he had once been.
"Don't say you trusted me," he said, his tone venomous as usual.
Trusted you? Of course I trusted you. You were one of us - or so I thought.
He seemed to be waiting for an answer. Very well, she would give him one.
"I trusted Albus judgement. And so, one could say that yes, I trusted you, too. More the fool I."
She tried to keep the bitterness from her voice. After all, she should have known. Moody had always been suspicious of Snape. And Sirius. They were both dead now. Not by Snape's hand but still - She frowned. Why was he closing his eyes?
Can't face me any longer, Severus? Can't face the truth? Can't face what you've thrown away to rise in the favour of your precious Dark Lord?
"I did what I did," he said slowly, his voice sounding cold, betraying no emotion. "And if I could turn back time, I'd do it all over again, exactly the same as the first time."
His eyes flew open. He shot her a murderous look, so full of hatred that in spite of herself she took a step back.
"Severus Snape -" she gasped.
He gave her another glare and swished past her. She remained where she was, too shocked to move.
You really hated him that much? Even after all he did for you, after giving you a second chance?
No, impossible. No one could be so lost to all that was good and right and - But he was, wasn't he? He had just proven it. And they had trusted him. She had trusted him, had tried to make him feel welcome here at Hogwarts, in the Order. She turned on her heel.
Push him. That tiny little voice again, only this time it was filled with rage. Push him down the stairs. Kill him. End it here and now - before he kills someone else. The man is mad. Everyone who can hate so deeply -
Se abruptly stopped that train of thoughts when Snape paused at the top of the stairs, remembering that he was just as accomplished at Legilimency as he was at Occlumency. And that his skills at both probably were second only to Voldemort. What if he had read her thoughts? As accomplished as he was, did he even have to maintain eye-contact? Or had his dark master taught him -
"I do admit that I killed Albus Dumbledore", he said slowly, without turning at her, "but I did not murder him."
Minerva gave a disgusted snort. "Words. What's the big difference?"
"Not a big difference, Minerva. A very small one. Small but important."
He stood there for another moment, then hurried down the stairs. Minerva stayed, looking after him, puzzled.
A difference? Small but important? What do you mean, Severus?
Did it matter? Murder - kill - it was all the same. Albus was dead and Snape was to blame for it. He had said so himself - had even admitted he would do it again.
But his voice - She thought she had heard something in his voice. As if he had added an inaudible "Think about it". Or had she just imagined that?
And still -
How can you kill someone without murdering him?
Impossible. Or - was it really? Maybe, depending on the circumstances -
No. Stop it. He's trying to confuse you.
But why? Why? So that she would start to doubt? Hesitate for the split second he needed to kill her when they were finally facing each other in a proper duel?
Well, I won't fall for that, Severus Snape. Most surely not.
However, when she finally left the Astronomy Tower, she knew she wouldn't be able to banish this new puzzle from her mind completely anytime soon.