Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers apply. I don't own Harry Potter or the Harry Potter universe, of course.


Severus Snape marched furiously towards the hospital wing, his anger only slightly abated by giving Potter a long series of detentions, and hopefully spiking his inaugural season as Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

Once again, Potter's mix of uncanny luck and wilful trouble-making was endangering all of Severus' plans. Why, of all people, did Potter have to get his old Advanced Potion-Making text? That had to be the way Potter knew Sectumsempra. Severus was very proud of that spell, regarding it as one of his signature spells... and now Potter of all people knew it. It was just like school all over again: incompetent Gryffindors stealing his spells.

"Roonil Wazlib," indeed.

Juggling so many things at once – monitoring Albus' slow succumbing to the horcrux curse, trying to spy on the Dark Lord, protecting Draco Malfoy, trying to keep Potter alive to meet his final destiny, and teaching his dream position (cursed as it was) – all while trying to stay alive himself, was difficult enough without Potter dogging his and Draco's every move, and now using his spells to attack Draco. If he were a weaker man, Severus would have given into the warm embrace of firewhisky a long time ago.

No time for that, now, though.

After a quick word with Poppy Pomfrey, who confirmed that Draco had awoken, Severus quietly approached the young man's bed. Seated next to Draco was Pansy Parkinson, who was doting over him despite his angry protests.

"Oh, Draco, this is worse than when that horrible hippogriff attacked you. They had better expel Potter for this," she said, patting his arm.

"I'm fine, Pansy. Scum like Potter can't hurt me that badly," Draco said, dismissively.

"But you're in the Hospital Wing! And your face... those scars..." Pansy began to tear up as she stroked his face.

"I said I'm fine!" Draco shouted, shaking off Pansy's tender ministrations and causing her to cry.

Severus walked up to Draco's bed, and sternly said, "Miss Parkinson, perhaps you should leave. Let Draco rest."

Pansy sniffed. "Yes, Professor. Rest up, Draco. You're not yourself," she said, as much to herself as to him, as she gently touched his arm and walked out of the room.

Draco shook his head, and muttered something nasty-sounding, which Severus didn't quite catch.

The Defence professor cast Muffliato and drew the curtain around Draco's bed to give them some privacy from prying eyes and ears. Trying to sound as sympathetic as he could, Severus asked, "How are you, Draco?"

"Oh, just fine," he said sarcastically. "Slashed to bits by Scarhead. Stuck in the bloody Hospital Wing. Is Potter being expelled, finally? Sent to Azkaban?"

"No, sadly. I've given him weekly detentions, and he won't be playing in the final Quidditch game."

Draco scoffed. "What? Seriously? That's it? He tried to kill me!"

"And what did you do?"

"Nothing! He just attacked me!"

Severus merely raised an eyebrow.

"He did!" Draco reiterated.

Severus wore his most sceptical expression.

"Oh, fine," Draco said. "He was eavesdropping on me."

"Was there someone else in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom?"

Draco looked caught. "No. Just me and her."

Severus scowled and leaned in towards the boy. "And just what did you tell her?"

"Nothing! I told her nothing!"

"You had better not have. If you need to confide in anyone, you can confide in me rather than some depressed ghost! I want to help you, Draco."

Draco just glowered back at him.

"So Potter was eavesdropping. He then just attacked you?"

"I may have tried to curse him first."

"Which curse?"

Draco muttered something indistinct.

"I didn't hear you, Mr. Malfoy."

"The Cruciatus curse. Happy? If he would have been a second later, he'd be the one here in this stupid bed. He'd be the one in pain."

Severus tried to calm himself. Unsuccessfully. "You had better thank your lucky stars that he wasn't, Mr. Malfoy, and better hope he tells no one, or it is you who might find yourself on the way to Azbakan."

"Of course," he said sarcastically. "Potter tries to kill me with some horrible dark curse, and he can't play bloody Quidditch. But I would go to Azkaban, for a spell I didn't even finish casting. That so typical."

"The Cruciatus is an Unforgiveable. You know this. How can you be so careless?"

Draco sneered. "You're just jealous. I'm actually doing something for... Him... and for once you're not at the centre of things. Why, you're practically standing up for that stupid son of a mudblood whore."

Severus stiffened. "Mr. Malfoy, do not speak that way."

"Don't tell me you're going soft," Draco said derisively.

"Of course not," Severus lied silkily. "But you cannot speak that way. Even in private. You may forget yourself and begin speaking that way in public, and believe me, if he heard it, Potter would attack you again, and would not be showing the remorse he is now."

"Remorse," Draco laughed. "Sorry, is he? He's a pathetic weakling."

"'Weakling'? Look around you, Draco. That 'weakling' nearly killed you."

"That's just because he got the drop on me, and used some new spell I'd never heard of," Draco sulked.

"You said you cursed first."

Draco had no response.

"Tell me, Draco, if Potter is such a weakling, how do you expect to be able to defeat Dumbledore, who is vastly more powerful and knows far more spells – far more dangerous spells – than you can ever dream of?"

"He's a doddering old fool!" Draco exclaimed. "He's old and weak. And I have a plan!"

"Please tell me it's a better plan than your attempts with the necklace and the poisoned mead. I don't recall the Dark Lord asking you to eliminate the Gryffindor Quidditch team."

Draco looked indignant. "How do you know it was me?" Seeing Severus' raised eyebrow, he said, "They could have worked! And my current plan is foolproof. I just need a bit more time."

"Let me help you, Draco. I can steer you in the right direction," Snape said.

"No. I told you I'm not sharing the glory with you. I will be the Dark Lord's favourite! You'll just see! Then he won't make me come back to this dungheap of a castle ever again – I'll be too busy as his right-hand man."

"For the last time, you fool, I'm not trying to steal your glory! I am perfectly confident in my position with the Dark Lord. You've said if you fail, He will kill you and your parents. Let me help you, so that doesn't happen." Severus gritted his teeth. "Please."

Draco shook his head sadly, and looked Severus in the eye, all his former arrogance and petulance gone. "You don't understand, Professor. He won't just kill them if I fail. He said He'd kill them if I don't come up with a successful plan on my own. He told me. This is His test. To see if I'm worthy of the Mark. Worthy of Him. I can't fail. And I can't ask for your help. I know what I'm doing, sir. Let me. You have to let me..."

Snape frowned. There was going to be no getting through to Draco, and he understood why. Damn the Dark Lord, he thought, trying to not let any of his hate for his supposed master show. Once again, his life got more difficult. Once again, he internally cursed Fate for making his life so horrible, for making him the pawn of others.

But it couldn't be helped. Nothing to do but carry on.

He stood up. "I will speak no more of it, then. If you need me, my door is always open, Draco. You should heal completely."

Draco spoke softly. "Thank you, sir."

Snape nodded. "You should be out of here in the morning." His voice almost compassionate, he added, "Get some rest. You will need it, I assure you."

[Author's Note: This was written for the "I Never" challenge at The Teachers' Lounge forum: Snape and Draco have a conversation in the hospital wing after Harry wounds Draco with Sectumsempra. Please write out this conversation for us.

Thanks to Martine Lewis for her betareading services!]