DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Harry Potter series; it belongs to J.K. Rowling, various publishers, and Warner Bros. I am not making any profit from my writing and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: I actually wrote this quite a while ago, but I never really felt like it was complete. After reading it again I decided, complete or not, it needs to be posted. I think this is one of my favourite pieces so far. I hope you guys enjoy, and please let me know what you think!
There was a thick layer of dust on every surface. Draco coughed and sneezed uncontrollably as Snape forcefully pushed him onto the sofa, kicking up a rather large cloud of dust. His arm was most certainly bruised from where his Head of House had held him. He was still shaking, and it had nothing to do with the drafty, mysterious and disgustingly dirty house they were in. Snape had drawn a cloak over his face as they apparated away from Hogwarts and whispered many spells in a language he didn't recognize before they entered whatever house they were in. The next thing Draco knew, he was being pushed onto a sofa quite viciously. He watched the wizard before him pace back and forth, his expression blank, but his body language screaming pure, unadulterated, seething fury.
"Where are we?" Stupid question, Draco, stupid!
Snape paused in his pacing to throw a dangerous look at the teen, his anger reaching a whole new level as he rounded on the boy. "You foolish, arrogant, useless waste of oxygen! We are somewhere that no one is going to find us, although I should have just left you there to fend for yourself, but I couldn't. No, I made a Vow to your mother to keep you safe. Be sure, Draco; that Vow was the only reason I bothered helping you to run," he spat, uncaring as the boy flinched away and winced at his harsh words.
"I...I'm sorry I couldn't do it. I just panicked, seeing him so old and frail and helpless. I froze," Draco croaked, horrified when he realized he was very near tears. He'd always had a sort of special respect for the Potions Master, admiring his snarky attitude and effortless ability to make people tremble where they stood. Severus Snape was smoothly menacing in a way even Draco's father could not pull off so well. He didn't appreciate it so much right then.
"Helpless? You think Albus Dumbledore was helpless simply because you disarmed him? You are more ridiculously foolish than even I ever gave you credit for, Draco. He allowed you to think you'd bested him!" Snape knew he shouldn't be saying these things, that Draco wasn't actually that stupid, and he would put two and two together and figure it all out. It was a very good thing that he was quite adept at memory charms, then.
"He was trying to help you, Draco, but it was already too late. The second you accepted that assignment, that you took that Mark upon your arm, it was too late for you."
Draco was trembling quite badly now, so much that he had a hard time pushing up the sleeve of his robes to reveal a smooth expanse of skin on his left forearm. Even in the faint light of whatever house they were in, Draco's pale skin seemed to glow.
"It was temporary, charmed to fade away if I failed my mission. If I succeeded, it would become permanent. He'll know, Professor; He'll know I failed when he sees..." Draco said in earnest, rubbing at his unmarked skin distractedly. It wasn't that he wanted the Mark back because he wanted to be part of the Death Eaters; he wanted it because it was the only thing that could save his life now.
"Oh he already knows, Draco. The lack of Mark on your arm will not be what informs him that you have failed. Have you forgotten the people you allowed into the castle, the people you allowed to attack the place where your friends sleep and learn? The Dark Lord will most certainly already know every detail of what happened tonight," Snape assured the shaking teen, continuing his line of pacing on the dusty carpet in front of the threadbare sofa.
"I didn't know they were bringing Greyback, you have to believe me! I never would have let that thing into the castle if I had the choice. He's a monster!"
"And what does that make you, Draco, after letting that poor excuse for a being into the castle to maim and injure fellow students? What does that make me, the person who had to murder Dumbledore when you were too scared to do it yourself? We're all monsters in our own way, Draco. Even Dumbledore was guilty of that."
Draco drew in a shuddering breath, annoyed with the wetness on his cheeks. He smeared dust across his face as he wiped at the tears, but he didn't care anymore. He started to get angry himself, indignant that this was all being blamed on him.
"I didn't have a choice when it came to taking the mission, you know. He threatened to kill me and my mother if I didn't do this. What else was I supposed to do, Professor?"
Snape stopped his pacing once more, slightly unnerved by the desperate tone of the boy's plea. He was angry, so angry, but he couldn't help the sympathy he felt for the young Slytherin. After all, Draco was still just a child, and no child should have to be faced with their own mortality, let alone their mother's. He tried very hard not to think of Potter in the same manner just then.
"You should have come to me for help, or accepted the help I blatantly offered you all year long. I would have helped you, protected you, kept you from making all of those foolish mistakes! You tried to keep everything to yourself; for what, to make yourself look like a big man? Do you feel like a man now, Draco? Did that work for you? You're father would be so proud; you're just as much of a failure as he is," Snape hissed, gaining abnormal pleasure from the hurt and anger displayed on the teen's face as he struggled for some self control.
"Don't talk about my father like that! You have no right! You've been in Dumbledore's pocket for years, he trusted you. It should have been your mission to kill him, but I was chosen instead, as punishment for my father's mistake. You've had every chance to do away with Potter or to take him to the Dark Lord yourself! My father wouldn't have failed if you had done your job years ago!"
Snape lunged at the boy, placing a hand on either side of his head on the back of the sofa, startling Draco into a slight squeak of fear. "My job was to stay in Dumbledore's good graces, to make him trust me. I succeeded in my job years ago! If I had killed Potter or taken him to the Dark Lord, it might have tarnished my image in Dumbledore's eyes a bit, don't you think? Do not speak of things you have no understanding of! This is far bigger than any one person's mistakes. Do not blame me because your father is just as big a fool as you are."
Pushing himself as far into the cushions of the sofa as he possibly could, Draco gave in to his warring emotions, letting the tears stream unchecked down his cheeks. He raised his hands and pushed against his Professor's chest, but he didn't use any real force. "I'm sorry...please, I'm sorry..."
Snape moved away with a disgusted sneer, pushing away his guilt and sympathy for the boy as best he could. Casting around for something to take his mind off of the crying boy before him, Snape turned towards the hearth and grabbed a few old logs from beside the grate, tossing them in to make a fire. The house was overly chilly, given that it was spring time. He used his wand to light a fire, shifting the logs around to produce a warmer fire. When he turned back towards the sofa, he saw that Draco had cried himself into a fitful sleep, curled impossibly small against the dusty cushions.
Snape sighed as he felt all the tension go out of his shoulders. The boy looked so young, so innocent of all evils while he slept that it was hard to believe that he had killed for the boy less than six hours ago. He rubbed his hands over his face, turning towards the small bedroom off to the side of the dilapidated dining room. Opening a small linen closet, Snape pulled out an extra blanket, threadbare and dusty as the rest of the house. He walked back into the sitting room and threw the blanket over the sleeping boy, taking pity as he pulled out his wand and spelled away all of the dust. The last thing he needed was to take care of a boy suffering from dust inhalation while on the run.
The bedroom was dark and musty, the bed clothing slightly damp in the drafty conditions of the house. With a couple waves of his wand, the dust was gone and the sheets were dry enough to sleep comfortable enough on. He knew he wouldn't be getting any sleep, however; someone had to keep watch. Even with all of the protective wards surrounding their hideout, Snape did not trust that they would remain safe throughout the night.
The air in the room seemed to drain away, making it hard for Snape to breathe. Rubbing his hands tiredly across his care-worn face, he tried again and again to get that pleading look of sorrow and resignation out of his head. He knew why he had to do it, and as little as he wanted to do it, he had accepted it. He'd told the Headmaster time and again that, even though he had Vowed to do this, he did not like it or even want to do it in the least. Snape never really looked too far into his reasons for accepting Dumbledore's request and making the Vow, but now that it was done, now that his mentor and friend was dead, he finally explored it in the dark, dank room.
Little as he thought of the arrogant boy, Snape knew that Harry Potter was the only chance of riding the Wizarding world of Voldemort and his ilk. Being the Head of Slytherin and a former Slytherin himself, most would assume that he wanted the Dark Lord gone for selfish reasons; to save himself. They were all completely wrong. Snape was almost positive that he would not survive the war, that his torn allegiances and espionage would get him killed most likely before he got to see the outcome of all his sacrifices and efforts to give Potter the chance to wipe out the mad man who had delegated his life for so long. No, Severus Snape had sacrificed his name and place amongst the Light and killed the only person he cared for because it needed to be done, and he owed it to people long passed to make sure Potter made it through alive and able to kill Voldemort.
That is, Snape had to make sure he got Harry in position to be slaughtered like cattle for the butcher. Despite all his harsh words and evident dislike, Snape did not think that the Potter boy deserved to die, and be lied to about it all. Dumbledore had filled the boy's head with nonsense about love being the power he needed to defeat the Dark Lord. It was all a bunch of bollocks. Potter needed to die in order for the Dark Lord to be defeated. Dumbledore would not explain exactly why, but Snape trusted him when he said it was imperative that the boy be killed in order for someone to kill Voldemort. What a sadistic bastard.
"For neither can live while the other survives..."
After all of those years only knowing half of the Prophecy, Snape had finally heard the other half only minutes after making the Unbreakable Vow to Dumbledore. What complete shite it sounded like now. Neither could live, period. If Potter lived, so did the Dark Lord. There was no way for the Dark Lord to die unless Potter was killed. Both dead, or both alive. There was no other alternative, and that the Headmaster had given the boy false hope, had lulled him into a sense of security that he could survive this war was beyond Snape's comprehension. How could he have a clear conscience after sentencing the boy to death, and then lying to him about it? There were just some things that he would never understand about Dumbledore, and now he really had no way to get any answers if he had wanted to seek them out.
His black wand was lying against his thigh, there for easy access in case he should need it in a hurry. Snape lifted the wand and pulled the wand he had confiscated from Draco out of his pocket, twirling it around in his palm.
Snape had pointed Draco's wand at his own, knowing that because they had similar magical strengths, the boy's wand would work for him. A ghostly green light burst from his own black wand, and the blurry image of Dumbledore being hit with the spell and falling gracefully over the battlements played before his very eyes.
He watched the spell play over and over again, allowing himself to feel the pain he had blocked at the moment of his first murder. Oh yes; Severus Snape had never killed before then. He watched as a spell, so much easier to cast than he expected, snuffed out the life of such a great and influential man, despite that man's obvious flaws. He watched as he tore his soul in two, for the man who had saved him when he most needed it. Snape had returned the favour now. Dumbledore had saved him, so now he must save everyone else. Retribution, recompense; call it what you will, but Snape had paid for his mistakes.
"Deletrius Proprius." Using Draco's wand, Snape cleared the image of the last spell cast by his wand away. He had cleared it so that no one would be able to tell that it was his wand that had cast the spell, just like Dumbledore had instructed him to do.
"And what about my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?"
Snape flinched as he recalled his own shrill voice, trying and failing to bring his Occlumency shields back up to block it all out. He didn't want to sit here and relive it all. It was hard enough the first time; he couldn't possibly stand a second time. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that, in the scheme of things, this would all pay off. He hoped. He pleaded. He begged.
A/N: As I said before, it just feels incomplete to me. If I get enough reviews with ideas and tips on how to continue this, I just might! So please review and tell me what you think! Thanks for reading!