Disclaimer: This story is not mine, a big thanks to J.K.R. who has been kind enough to let me fiddle in her pond.
Author's Note: A big thank you to all of you who have added this to your favorite story list! I can't believe the amount of love and support this story has gotten! A special thanks to those who have reviewed. For those of you who enjoyed this story, please take a look at my other Snape work in progress, Indomitable Forces.
" . . . do as I tell you, and stand guard over the seventh floor." As the horrifyingly familiar, sneering voice drifted out at them, Harry's heart filled with sudden dread. For he knew that it belonged to the one person in the whole entire school that could possibly make their situation worse, and render their mission to get the diadem of Ravenclaw nearly impossible- Severus Snape. He and Luna looked at each other. They needed a plan-
"There is no need to stand guard over it!" Amycus spat, "The Death Eaters will be here soon."
"Nevertheless, we do not want their numbers growing until they arrive," said Snape smoothly. "Now go. I shall rejoin you shortly." Indistinct sounds of mutterings were heard as though Amycus were arguing with him, and finally Harry heard heavy footfalls retreat down the stone corridor. They stood there listening as the door chimed its question and Snape gave it the correct answer. He stepped quietly into the room. His keen, penetrating black eyes swept the scene, from Alecto lying stunned upon the carpet and piercingly around the rest of it, pausing for a fraction of a second longer on the statue of Rowena Ravenclaw. Some of the younger Ravenclaws, who had been awakened by the commotion and had come down to the foot of the stairs curiously to look, recoiled when they saw Snape standing there.
"Go back to bed!" he spat at them. They did not need telling twice. Scurrying as if Snape had struck them, they hurried back up the stairs like scared mice, and Harry heard doors slam accompanied by flurried whispers, no doubt telling the other Ravenclaws that Snape was down in the common room, thereby discouraging anyone else who might have been entertaining similar notions.
Harry's mind was working furiously. What could they do? Certainly they couldn't step down off the statue, because their feet might be seen, and he might hear the movement besides. Wands were certainly out of the question, for any faint act would give away their position, unless they were going to make a quick break for it, but such an act was surely fruitless and stupid against him . . .
No sooner had these thoughts passed over him than Snape began walking around the room like a blind man, his arms outstretched, his cold black eyes swiveling so fast in all directions they reminded Harry forcibly of Moody's magical one. He forced Luna back a few feet as Snape reached Ravenclaw's statue. Just as Harry was deciding they had no choice but to make a run for it, a dead cold weight had fallen upon his chest, and he felt as though he was being suffocated by a feeling of hopelessness. He turned his head slightly to the window and saw a frosty layer spilling over it. The sweet scented air of a cool summer's night breeze evaporated around them so quickly that no one who had just entered would have believed it had existed, and the air around them was turning suddenly icy. He looked over at Luna.
'Dementors,' he mouthed at her.
Snape's reaction was a fraction of a second slower than theirs, and, as he turned his hooked nose slowly around towards the window, Harry and Luna took their chance. As quietly and as quickly as was humanly possible, they stepped off the base of the statue and made their way stealthily towards the door.
"Expecto patronum!" Harry glanced around in time to see a silvery shadow shoot forth from the end of Snape's wand tip and a beautiful doe burst from it. It cantered around the room once, then soared out of the half open window just as they opened the door a fraction-
"Potter!" Snape whipped around, livid, and before either of them could take another step forward he had shot a full body bind curse at them. The cloak slipped off, Snape disarmed them of their wands in about a minute, and Harry was left glowering into his loathsome face, wandless and defenseless. Snape bent down so that his pallid face was inches from his.
"You will have plenty of Death Eaters against which you can satisfy your thirst for glory shortly, Potter," he hissed, "If indeed it can be satisfied. Now follow me," he pointed all three wands at him, "or I will make you." Harry glared at him. He had forgotten, in the time gap since Dumbledore's death, the details of Snape's appearance (J.K. Rowling 597). It was like the dementors hadn't really left the room, only the emptiness he had felt moments before was replaced now with a burning feeling of hatred towards Snape. He had forgotten the way that the sallow face was framed by two curtains of greasy black hair, the way the cold, pitiless black eyes stared out from his white face. He wanted to throw himself at him and start punching every inch of him he could reach, heedless of the fact that he didn't have a wand and forgetful of the notion that he was on a deathly mission to save the world from the jowls of Voldemort. All he wanted to do was get at Snape, make him suffer unbearable pain for his sins that were too many to count. Unfortunately though, this feat was rendered rather difficult by the fact that he could not move a muscle.
Snape released Harry of the curse but kept the wands pointing at him, however just as Harry was about to attack him anyway, regardless of the implications, his scar seared more painfully than it had all evening. His head immediately felt as though it were on fire. He tried to fight it, but the vision was too strong, and he was forced to succumb as the strength of Lord Voldemort's wrath fell upon him. 'He was looking down at an empty basin, and a murderous scream was torn from him that echoed for miles around, a scream that was the rage and insuppressible desire to kill bursting forth from every fiber of his being. The boy, the boy . . .he rose into the air, the black lake gliding swiftly beneath him as he flew, murder in his heart . . .' With an enormous effort, Harry forced himself back to the present. He realized that he was gripping a chair leg tightly for support. He looked back at Snape. There was a slight sneer playing around his mouth as though he knew what he had just seen. Harry took a deep, shaky breath to steady himself, picked up the cloak, and followed him out.
Snape waited until Harry had closed the door, then he jammed all three wands into his back so hard he winced.
"One false move," he said very quietly in Harry's ear, "and we go straight to the Dark Lord Potter. Now put the cloak on."
Without making any comment about how ridiculous these words sounded, as he could see inside Lord Voldemort's mind and knew everything he was doing, Harry covered himself with the cloak. Snape jammed the wands into his back again, and began walking so swiftly Harry was almost forced into a run. But he did not protest. There was a renewed sense of urgency running through him, and his mind was focused on only one thing- he had to get to the diadem of Ravenclaw before Voldemort did. He knew he may well die when Snape handed him over to the Death Eaters, but there was no time to think on it, and it seemed that Harry had no choice but to adhere to his wishes for the time being.
It seemed his only hope now was that someone would come along and discover Luna, who was still lying petrified where Snape had left her, and she would be able to get back to the others in time to free him to the task at hand. A dull, sinking feeling spread over Harry's heart. When Voldemort came, the castle would be vulnerable and unarmed. He had not gotten to any of the other teachers in time to notify them. Within a moment, hundreds of innocent lives would be lost and all because of him . . . the thought was almost unbearable, and as the sense of blissful numbness stole over him, he let it take over his body gladly. But he did not relinquish the idea that he had to get to the diadem of Ravenclaw before Voldemort, and clung to it as the savior of his thoughts.
Harry's head hurt him so badly as they walked and the numbness was threatening to overpower him to such an extent that he hardly had any sense of where they were going. Snape led him down a corridor that was rarely used by students, consequently they were seen by no one. He began to be more aware of his surroundings, however, when they reached a familiar stone spiral staircase that was escalating upwards. He wondered vaguely why Snape was taking him to the Headmaster's office when it was Lord Voldemort they were going to meet, but he had no time to contemplate this matter, for almost immediately they had reached the stone gargoyle guarding the door at the top, Snape had given the password, and shoved him through it.
"Inside," he hissed.
Harry went in with his guard up, though fully expecting to be killed immediately if there were Death Eaters seeing as he had no wand, but when he stepped inside, nothing jumped out to attack him. Snape followed, flicking his own wand twice so that the curtains framing either side of the two large windows in the room closed immediately.
"Sit," he said. Harry sat in the spindly chair opposite that of the Headmaster's that Snape indicated, which was very familiar to him seeing as he had occupied it nearly all of last year in his meetings with Professor Dumbledore. But he did not dare take his eyes off him, nor did he give Snape the satisfaction of knowing that he was angry. Harry thought this a remarkable feat, for Snape had moved so that he stood behind Professor Dumbledore's old chair, his long fingers interlaced across the top of it, facing him. His heart began pumping rapidly against his chest, the urge he had to attack Snape moments before suddenly coming back to him in full force. He felt a certain protective indignation, as though by touching the chair he had offended Dumbledore himself in some way. Feeling as though he was about to explode, he forced himself to look away. Snape was watching him through narrowed eyes.
"You are not in a position to do anything foolish, Potter," he said coldly, "so I suggest you put any thoughts of trying to play the hero, a difficult task though it undoubtedly is for you, out of your mind." Harry knew it. He sat there seething, glaring at Snape, his chest rising and falling in a series of quick spurts, but said nothing. "You may well be under the impression," he continued, in that low drawling voice that nonetheless carried throughout the room as he began circling it now while talking, "that the fate of the entire wizarding world rests upon your shoulders, Potter. In this respect you are, I fear, tragically mistaken. Everything is made up of a whole. There is nothing that is made that is not formed of several smaller pieces. As in any complicated spell cast in the Dark Arts, any object transfigured, knowledge of that magic cannot simply appear, it must be honed rather, by the smaller bits of gradual knowledge that eventually work together to make up full knowledge of the spell."
His long black cloaks were billowing around him as he walked, and Harry stared at him, perplexed. He was not quite sure where this conversation was taking him, but he was positive that Snape had not brought him here to teach him philosophy on a sudden whim. He said nothing, but simply watched him, following every word he spoke with rapt attention but keeping an extra ear out for Death Eaters the whole time in case it was a trick.
"The cause against the Dark Lord, for instance," said Snape, speaking more rapidly now, as he picked up his pace a little, though he still spoke in that same low and controlled voice, "is made up of many different organizations and the people that make up those organizations. You have been, though an obvious and integral part of this cause, nevertheless a part, Potter, and all parts must wear out their roles eventually. You are one of the pieces of the plan of that great cause," he said, his voice growing steadily softer now so that Harry had to strain to hear, "that have worn out their role, Potter. You have done the best you can possibly do, with the help of many others, to destruct the cause in every way possible. Indeed, it should not seem surprising that your role is no longer needed. The Dark Lord is angry, very angry indeed at how far your vessel has come, but he does not know, that it is at an end." He was talking, almost it seemed to himself now, and still was not looking at Harry. He seemed to be growing more and more dangerously irate the longer he walked, as though a deep and invisible fire were driving him onward.
He paused for a moment. Then with a seemingly forced movement, he turned towards Harry. His pale face was illuminated by an odd light, and, had Harry not known him as one of the most prodigious and dangerous wizards, he would have thought him slightly insane. His jaw had gone rigid, and there was an inexplicable glint in his eyes that he had never seen there before. They had none of their usual deadness, but it seemed as though something alive were burning in them. And it struck Harry in an instant what he was about to do. Shutting his eyes tightly as though that would make it any easier or less painful, he braced himself for the deadly last words that he would ever hear. He knew this was it, he was at an end. He strained his ears hopelessly, but he knew no one was going to come and save him. Snape had him where he wanted him, and he knew that nothing in the world could stop him from accomplishing his dream for glory, fulfilling the larger part of the whole or whatever it was he was talking about, killing Harry and reaping the rewards of Lord Voldemort. He waited. In result of this action he did not hear Snape's next words.
"What did you do with the sword of Gryffindor, Potter?"
"I- what?" Harry opened his eyes and stared at him. Snape had not lifted his wand, but still held it slack at his side, though Harry saw that he was clenching it tightly as though ready to raise it at any moment.
"You heard me, Potter." Harry stared up into those cold fiery black eyes. Then, in the back of his brain very slowly, as though time was in slow motion, something seemed to click. Before he had time to acknowledge it though, his scar seared again, more painfully than ever, and Harry was forced to grip the arms of his chair very tightly as a sudden rage filled him. He fought it off, but not before he had seen what he had most feared. And as he looked back at Snape, he could not force out the vision of the front of Hogwart's castle as it swam hazily before him. But now that he had made the connection, he had no choice but to keep on pressing. He sat upright in his chair, staring. The panic was dying out of him and was being replaced slowly by amazement.
"You sent that patronus," he said. He was weak with the shock his discovery had caused him and torn with confusion, but he was beginning to think clearly. A well of hope, so small that it seemed almost afraid to show itself, was rising from somewhere deep within him. "You sent it. Over the summer in the Forest of Dean. I recognized it. You gave us the sword of Gryffindor. But then- then- that doesn't-"He passed a hand over his forehead, willing himself not to pass out. Snape was watching him closely.
"You," he said in a low voice full of rage, shaking slightly, "are unbearably slow-witted. Do you think I have brought you here to listen to you interrogate me? Listen to me," and he got right up in his face and actually gripped the arms of Harry's chair, "Dumbledore entrusted me with information to give to you and it is imperative that you adhere."
"Information?" Harry repeated numbly. But Snape did not seem to hear him. He was not looking at Harry now, but was walking around the room again, and his face had gone blank and inscrutable, the liveliness had suddenly vanished. He seemed inhuman, detached almost, and his voice was cold and calm as he pressed forward mercilessly.
"When the Dark Lord failed to kill you seventeen years ago, and your mother cast her own life between you as a shield, part of his soul was broken away from the whole and locked itself onto you. This is the reason for the connection between you and the Dark Lord. You carry within you part of his soul, and while you do, the Dark Lord cannot die." His words did not immediately register. Harry stared at him in a daze, watching him as he encircled the room.
"But you killed Dumbledore!" he blurted finally. "How do I know you're telling the truth? You can't be on our side because- because you killed him!"
"Potter do use your common sense!" Snape spat, "Did you not notice last year that Professor Dumbledore's hand carried a deadly curse upon it? It was on his orders that I killed him! He was already dying! Why do you think I sent you that patronus over the summer?"
"But," Harry spluttered, unable to believe his ears, "but you've been working for Voldemort! I know you have! You- you've got the Dark Mark! You've been taking over the school, giving him inside information on all of us- on Hogwarts!"
"All these long years," Snape murmured under his breath, speaking almost to himself, "I have not deserted my post. All these years I have submitted myself to providing the Order with valuable information concerning the Dark Lord and his followers. Who but I, Severus Snape, a spy with the privilege of constant association with the Dark Lord, could have been so worthy. I and I alone, though everyone has always failed to acknowledge it, have had the strength to do what no one else has dared- to pose as a spy against Albus Dumbledore and so utter falsehoods in the Dark Lord's presence without his detection. Who but I? Seventeen long years ago, before the Dark Lord fell, Dumbledore thought it would be imperative to have an outside source, a vessel that could mediate between the Order and the Dark Lord. He persuaded me to come to Hogwarts. The Dark Lord, in turn, was exceedingly glad that I had not deserted my post when he returned, because I had, seemingly, fourteen years of solid information to give to him on the Order. I have played my part well. I have deceived the most powerful and dangerous dark wizard the world has ever known. I have been, in every respect, Albus Dumbledore's most useful advisor."
Harry was not sure he had caught everything, but as he watched Snape swishing around the room, he thought part of his story made sense. And yet, at the same time there was something about him working as a spy for Dumbledore for so many years that rang out oddly false. Something did not fit exactly, though he could not quite put his finger on it. Snape stopped walking suddenly. He looked around at Harry, and his cold dark eyes were boring into his. Harry could not stop the question that bubbled slowly to the surface of his thoughts.
"I rather thought," said Snape slowly, "that it would be possible to relieve me from this last. But no. You, like your filthy father before you, must take, rob me of everything-" Slowly, very slowly, as though revolted with himself for what he was doing, Snape pulled out of his pocket a piece of torn parchment. It was a very old piece of paper, and, upon closer examination, Harry saw that it was part of a letter. Snape thrust it on the table as though it were hot coals that had burned him and turned away. Harry however, took it in his hands and smoothed it. There were only a few lines on it:
He told me at tea last Saturday.
I do hope you understand.
Love you always,
Harry stared dumbly at the lines of his mother's old letter for a few moments, rendered numb with shock and amazement. In a heartbeat he remembered the other part of it he had found at Sirius's house, and the seeming familiarity of Snape's patronus when he had first seen it, for he knew, now, whom the doe resembled. Professor Dumbledore's words last year after Harry had accidentally discovered by Professor Trelawney that it had been Snape who had heard Harry's prophecy, and had alerted Lord Voldemort to the fact that it existed came to him, 'I believe it to be the greatest regret of his life and the reason that he returned.' And, at long last, as he looked up at Snape, he believed him. Realization of what that belief meant, though, quickly overclouded the discovery that Severus Snape had once loved Lily Potter, and it was as though cold water had been thrust upon the burning embers.
"So- " he said finally, a minute or two later when he could force speech out of the cloud of numb shock and new awakenings that had encased him. Snape's back was still turned to him. "So Voldemort's soul- is attached to me- you mean he made me into a- a Horcrux?" Harry finished his sentence dazedly, and wondered whether Snape would answer him.
"That is Professor Dumbledore's impression," said Snape jerkily.
"And- and he can't be killed- unless I allow him to destroy me?" Again, Snape repeated, now sounding void and detached,
"You must offer yourself up to the Dark Lord. That is the only way he can be destroyed." And Harry knew it was so. For the first time, he allowed himself to hope that Dumbledore had been wrong in his impression, horribly wrong, but deep in his heart he knew it was not possible. It all made sense. It all fit. His ability to talk with snakes, and the connection he had with Lord Voldemort's mind that he had never fully understood. His scar seared again, reminding Harry suddenly of the mission he had left unfinished. He leapt up from his seat. With an enormous effort, he pulled himself out of the cold numbness that the knowledge his impending death was spilling upon his mind, body, and soul, and, with every ounce of determination it had ever cost him, he steeled himself for what he knew he must do. If it had to end like this, he was going to make sure it did not end in vain.
He took his wand, which Snape had thrown upon the table when he had thrust out the letter, crossed to the door and opened it onto the spiral staircase without looking back, asking no more questions, heedless of the fact that he had left some of his curiosity still nagging him. His back was squared, his jaw rigid. He was going to find the diadem of Ravenclaw.