A/N: Love to reviewers and Countess Black

The inspiration for this piece comes from the opera 'Billy Budd' by Benjamin Britten, based on the novella by Herman Melville. The piece is called 'Claggart's Aria' and it's well worth a listen on Youtube. James Morris does an especially nice job.

A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehends it, and suffers.

Severus Snape was standing in an arch which led to the Courtyard, and contemplating how he'd come to play Iago. He had no doubt he could do it (which, in its own way, haunted him as well). The question that nagged his mind, that seemed carried on the warming breeze, was simply the chain of events which led to it, the links stretching back into the abyss of time.

He tugged his robes tighter and nodded at Professor Vector, who nodded back and then walked on, feeling an unaccountable chill. Snape leant against the rough stones and let his mind-not wander, exactly, but he loosened the hobble on which he kept it.

The Courtyard was quiet. Why shouldn't it be? It was five o'clock on a Friday on a beautiful day. The children were out roaming the meadows by the lake, or playing in the shaded glens be, or inside doing whatever children do when their hated potions professor isn't about.

He heard the scrape of shoes on the stones and melted into the shadows, idly testing his skills n being. A weedy little second year came into view, caked with mud, tears making tracks down his cheeks.

Snape saw it a second later, a stone which had wriggled ever so slightly loose of its mooring. The second year, in his slightly too long trousers, did not. He fell, arms flailing, and was still a moment on the stones.

Snape was debating leaving the boy there when he heard more scraping and turned to see Potter, the bane of his life, indirect cause of his nascent betrayal, walking rapidly towards the downed twelve year old. He had a beaten old canvas bag on his back, and Snape guessed that he'd been on his way to the pitch.

Snape shrank back farther, curious. What would the little brute do? This would prove instructive, though any considerations of Potter's character had long ceased to matter; what mattered now was Potter the symbol, and perhaps, Potter the Chosen One.

'Oi. Oi, are you all right?'

The boy raised himself slowly, blood sheeting down his face, staggered to his feet, finally seemed to notice he was bleeding, cringed. Potter wasn't tall, but he towered over the little twelve year old, who was watching him with a sort of fascinated terror-what would he do?

The second year started to cry in high, hiccough-y sobs. 'C-callistos!'

'Sorry? Here, take this.' Potter opened the bag and pulled out a towel, clearly packed for use after practice. The second year pressed it to his face and started to calm slightly as it caught the blood.

'M-my rat! They tried to drown him!'

'Tip your head back. That's right, and now pinch your nose shut.' The boy obeyed, still whinging about his rat, and Snape recognised him as one of his House, an unprepossessing specimen had there ever been one.

'Now who tried to hurt your rat?'

'Swithins and Loche. They tried to throw him in the lake.'

'Why did they do that?'

The second year sniffled, the blood flowing. 'Because I wouldn't help them put a dung bomb in the window of Professor Hagrid's house.'

Potter cocked the boy's head back more, gently pressing the nape of the neck with one reddened, Quidditch rough hand. 'Is he all right? Callistos?'

'He's all right.'

'Rats don't drown, you know. Good swimmers.'

'They might've hurt him, though.'

Potter nodded. 'Some people are arses. You made a good choice, not helping them, by the way.'

The blood had almost stopped. 'Professor Hagrid's always nice to me. He says I'll find something that I'm good at some day.'

Potter nodded. 'You need to go to see Madam Pomfrey?'

'No, I'm better. Your towel is stained, though.'

'It's all right, I've a clean one. Want me to walk you back to your Common Room?'

The younger child nodded gratefully. 'I'm Norval. Norval Jermyn.'

'Harry Potter.'

A sleek brownish grey head poked from Jermyn's knapsack, nose twitching. 'Is this Callistos?'

'It is. Isn't he brilliant?' Jermyn and Potter walked toward the castle, Norval regaling Potter with the intricacies of rat keeping or some similarly inane stream of dialogue.

Snape was still. What did this mean about Potter? The boy had, so far as Snape could tell, thought himself unseen. He could have sneaked by and no one would have known but him, at least as far as Potter knew.

Snape's shoulders slumped, and he turned and slid into the bowels of the school, to his office. He didn't want to parse the hidden depths of Potter, definitely not now, and likely not ever. He took out a bottle of firewhiskey and drank a few sips.

He'd found a sort of peace, over the years, in his place in things, and if his internal life was a gored and blasted wasteland, he could take comfort in that he was not the only one.

Was he?