Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to J.K. Rowling. The lyrics at the start belong to the Foo Fighters. This story is mine, although some of the dialogue is taken directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Those extracts, of course, belongs to J.K. Rowling as well.
Were you born to resist or be abused?
I swear I'll never give in, I refuse.
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best,
The best of you?
'Best Of You,' Foo Fighters
It was night-time, and Dumbledore's office was shrouded in a half-light, the objects that cluttered his desk hidden in shadows.
Severus Snape worked feverishly by candle-light as the Headmaster sat limply in his ornate chair looking pale and close to death. Dumbledore sagged further down in his chair as Snape muttered incantations, waving his wand in complicated motions over the old man's blackened hand. Without pausing the flow of spells, Snape reached over to the darkened desk and closed long, pale fingers around the goblet that lay there. He coaxed the semi-conscious man's limp mouth open and tipped the golden potion down the Headmaster's throat, Snape's heart beating furiously as he held his breath. After a few seconds of tense waiting, Dumbledore's eyes tiredly flickered open.
"Do not move, Headmaster." Snape felt relief course through him at the sight of those familar bright blue eyes, and he allowed himself to sag slightly against the Headmaster's desk as the old man pulled himself back to full consciousness.
Dumbledore, it seemed, had no energy left to disobey him, and remained sagged in his chair as some of the effects of the curse lingered behind despite Snape's best efforts. The Potions Master allowed a sigh to leave his lips as he wiped at his sweat soaked brow, questions bombarding his tired mind.
"Why did you do it?" Snape began without preamble, and Dumbledore raised his head. The relief had passed now, and the beginnings of anger replaced it. He glowered darkly at the Headmaster, as if daring him not to be truthful. "Why did you put on that ring? It carries a curse, surely you realized that. Why even touch it?"
"I…was a fool. Sorely tempted…"
"Tempted by what?" Snape asked, dread forming in the pit of his stomach. The Headmaster did not reply, but the look of guilt on his face took Snape aback by the intensity of it. Snape felt anger rise up in his at the Headmaster looking so weak. So human.
"It is a miracle you managed to return here!" Snape continued furiously when the man refused to answer. "That ring carried a curse of extraordinary power, to contain it is all we can hope for; I have trapped the curse in one hand for the time being – "
The Headmaster remained unaffected by the continuing tirade, looking for all the world as if he had merely woken up from a comfortable sleep rather than the fever induced effects of a Dark curse. If it had not been for the man's faintly shaking limbs and pale face, Snape could have believed that nothing was wrong with him at all.
"You have done very well, Severus," the Headmaster said calmly. "How long do you think I have?"
The casual nature of the man's question caused the fury within him to reach almost unimaginale levels. Did the man care nothing for his life? Did he not see what would happen if the world lost him?
"I cannot tell," Snape replied tightly, trying to keep his anger under control. "Maybe a year. There is no halting such a spell forever. It will spread eventually, it is the sort of curse that strengthens over time."
Dumbledore smiled. The news that he had less than a year to live seemed a matter of little or no concern to him, and Snape found that his fury was no closer to abating.
"I am fortunate, extremely fortunate, that I have you, Severus."
"If you had only summoned me a little earlier, I might have been able to do more, buy you more time!" said Snape furiously. He looked down at the broken ring and the sword that lay scattered on the darkened desk. "Did you think that breaking the ring would break the curse?"
"Something like that…I was delirious, no doubt…" said Dumbledore. With an effort he straightened himself in his chair. "Well, really, this makes matters much more straightforward."
Snape was utterly perplexed but Dumbledore merely smiled in that infuriating way of his.
"I refer to the plan Lord Voldemort is revolving around me. His plan to have the poor Malfoy boy murder me."
That was enough, Snape thought furiously. He felt dread begin to rise within him at what the Headmaster was going to ask, but at the same time he felt anger filter into his mind at the thought of all that the Headmaster had pushed aside in his folly.
"And what of the other boy?" Snape burst out angrily, shocking the smile from Dumbledore's face. Snape pushed aside the Headmaster's words, not wanting to think of Draco when his thoughts were already in an unimaginable mess. "Does he not deserve your consideration too? Does your impending death make things more 'straightforward' for him?"
"To whom are you referring, Severus?" The Headmaster asked with a frown, the twinkle absent in his eyes for once.
"The Potter boy," Snape replied stiffly.
"Yes," Snape continued, scoffing at the change in the Headmaster; his blue eyes were more alert and the old man had sat up more in his chair at the mere mention of Potter. "What of your Golden Boy? Did you think of him at all when you placed your life in danger?"
"What is this about, Severus?" asked Dumbledore, avoiding the question and causing Snape to growl in frustration. The man pierced him with those bright blue eyes, as if trying to look into his very soul, but Severus remained unmoved, a glare firm on his face.
"The boy, Potter," Snape began firmly, his eyes meeting the Headmaster's without faltering. "He must be moved."
"Moved?" Dumbledore asked, and if he was confused by the direction of the conversation, he didn't show it. "Harry is safe at Privet Drive. The blood wards will not allow harm to come to him."
Snape scoffed but he did not explain when Dumbledore raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"Harry will be fine without me, Severus," Dumbledore said calmly, not at all distressed by his impending death. "When I die, he will not falter. He is a strong boy - "
"He is at breaking point, you fool!" Snape began fiercely. "You give him too much credit. One more knock and the Wizarding World may as well find a new saviour for all the good he will be."
"Where is this coming from?" Dumbledore asked calmly, although his eyes were intense as they held Snape's attention. "What has changed, Severus? You have always disliked the boy. Why are you suddenly overcome with the need to protect him now?"
"I have always protected him!" Snape replied indignantly, infuriated with the man's lack of reaction.
"But not for him," Dumbledore argued calmly, his blue eyes piercing. "You did it for Lily, and no one else."
Snape looked away, trying to gain control of his beating heart and runaway thoughts. He could not deny that. From the day he had found out about Lily Potter's death, he had barely given her son a second thought. The boy had been a way to assauge his guilt, to atone for his sins, but Snape had never protected him for the boy's own sake. Snape felt more guilt rise within him, but he pushed it aside with his anger.
His mind had gone under a monumental shift in the last few days, forced as he was to meet a Harry Potter that he had always refused to see. The boy was not as he had always appeared to be, and it had forced Snape to admit that perhaps there was more that he had been mistaken in. He wouldn't allow the Headmaster to dismiss the boy as easily as he had himself.
"You are no better," Snape began with a glare, thinking back to all that had been revealed. "You do not see the boy behind the scar."
"Harry is a remarkably resilient lad - "
"He is a human being, Albus," Snape argued angrily, frustration colouring his tone. "A child! He is not a pig to be raised for slaughter! You cannot keep expecting him to remain unaffected by the burden placed upon him. He is not invincible!"
He had been trying to assauge his guilt for so long that the pressure of his self-appointed task rose up in him now and broke through the rigid control that had been his haven since Lily's death.
"What has changed, Severus?" Dumbledore repeated, brow furrowed in confusion. The Headmaster was obviously taken aback by his outburst, and Snape felt a vindictive pleasure in knowing something that the Leader of the Light did not. "To hear you defend the boy, one would almost believe that you cared for him."
"Potter," Snape began tightly. "is not as similar to his father as I first believed."
"No he is not," Dumbledore agreed, brow furrowed in confusion. "But what has made you see it finally?"
"The truth has made me see, Albus," Snape snapped. "The truth that even you do not hold in its complete form. I do not care for the boy. I do not even like him. But recent events have caused me to see what I have always pushed aside; what bitterness would not allow me to look for. There is more to the boy than that which was contributed by his father. I saw what I expected to see. You do not see at all."
"Tell me, Severus," Dumbledore implored, his pale face catching the faint moon rays that reached in through the window. The man looked aprehensive and older than Snape had ever seen him. It seemed that the Headmaster had finally grasped the sincerity of his words. "You have spoken to Harry, I assume. Tell me what you know."
"Ask him yourself." Snape replied stiffly. "It is not my place to reveal that which is not mine to tell."
"But there is something wrong," Dumbledore tried to confirm, having realised that Snape was remaining staunch in his silence. Snape nodded stiffly in reply, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
"Perhaps something could be done," Dumbledore admitted, apparently lost in thought, and Snape felt the tingles of fury rise up within him once again. He would not let the man do wrong by the boy any more.
"Do not push him aside," Snape warned, angrily clenching his fists by his sides. "The boy is close to breaking at it is!"
"The blood wards need time to be reset - "
"You are a fool, Dumbledore," Snape interrupted, contempt dripping from his voice. "You see only one path, only one solution. You have missed what you should have always known. The boy needs you to care."
"I do care," Dumbledore said in surprise.
"He does not believe that," Snape said firmly and unsympathetically, certain that his words were true. "He thinks he is a tool in your eyes."
Dumbledore's brow furrowed and his mouth formed a small frown. "He is...mistaken."
"Then correct him. Before irreparable damage is done. Before your golden boy is too broken to do what he must."
"You wish him to live," Dumbledore stated, blue eyes fixed upon Snape's black ones.
"He must live." Snape replied, knowing that the argument was won simply by the look in the Headmaster's eyes. "For the sake of us all."
Snape fingered the parchment, lost in thought as the fire flickered and crackled in the dark room. Sat at his desk, alone and shrouded in the shadows created by the dancing flames, Snape re-read the words on the ink spattered page, his brow furrowed slightly.
Dear Professor Snape,
I'm not sure why I'm writing this letter. I'm not even sure that you'll read it. There's every chance that as soon as you work out who's writing, you'll rip up the parchment and throw it into the fire. I hope you don't though.
I wanted to say thank you. I'm at the Weasleys' home now (Dumbledore moved me last week) and I'm glad to be away from the Dursleys. I don't know why you helped me, but I'm glad you did. I would've been fine on my own of course, but I'd still rather be at the Burrow than Number Four any day. I did what you said, and stayed out of their way, but being treated as if I don't exist isn't much of an improvement.
I know you didn't like my dad, and I don't blame you, but I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate you looking after me. No one else has ever really bothered. I mean Dumbledore has tried to help me, and so have the Weasleys, but they always seem to be gone at the most important times. Even Si- well, my Godfather wasn't ever really there when I needed him.
I suppose I just wanted to say thanks. I know you still hate me, so you don't need to reply.
Hope the rest of your summer is okay.
P.S. I didn't get the Potions grade I needed to get into your NEWT class so I won't be taught by you next year. Guess you were right about my abysmal potions after all.
Once he reached the end, Snape's grip tightened on the letter, causing the parchment to crumple slightly.
Potter was a fool, Snape thought as he allowed the parchment to drop from his fingers and fall unhindered to his desk. He raised a pale hand up to rub wearily at his face as his thoughts refused to leave the issue of Potter behind. Had he not done his duty? Was the boy not safe now?
Of course, Potter would never be safe, he thought with a sense of dread pooling in his stomach. That was why thoughts of the boy would not leave his mind. Potter would never be free of danger so long as the dark lord still hunted him.
Snape absently rubbed at the dark mark forever tattooed on his body, as his eyes fell onto the fallen letter.
Potter wore his heart on his sleeve and it would get him killed if he did not reign in that trusting nature of his. The boy had lost far too much, too young, and he had allowed himself to cling to the first person that had showed him any positive attention, even though that person was someone he had always hated. It was foolish and yet Snape felt the tricklings of understanding flow through him. Because he knew well the desire for someone to simply notice.
Snape knew how it felt to be abused and broken, to be pushed to the limits of human endurance. To be treated as nothing and swept aside as unimportant and unwanted. The Potions master did not want to see the similarites between his own childhood and that of his school-time enemy's son, but he could deny it no longer.
But where he, Severus Snape, had given up and taken the dark road to power, the Potter boy was resilient in his goodness. He had not been broken, not yet. Goodness seemed to make up the boy's very soul, leaving him untainted by the abuse he had suffered.
Snape couldn't help but be jealous of Potter for that.
The boy was not dealing with the abuse though, that much was clear. He only hoped Potter sought help before it was too late; before he turned out like he had; bitter and alone. Dumbledore would pursue it now, Snape had made sure of that, and he hoped the boy would allow the old man to help him.
Potter was a mediocre student, and his trouble making rivalled that of his blasted father, but Snape did not hate the boy. Potter was not his father, Snape could see that now, but nor was he his mother. Harry Potter was his own entity, and though it had taken a night of drunken ramblings, and a morning spent talking on a muggle bench to see it, Snape could deny it no longer. The boy was strong and resilent and good, but he was also pressured and beaten down, almost to breaking point.
They were lucky that Potter had not given up a long time ago.
Snape knew that Potter would fight the Dark Lord as his destiny fortold, not because the Prophecy had dictated it, but because the boy simply could not stand by and do nothing when it was in his power to stop the evil wizard. It was foolish, and yet Snape could not help the rising tinglings of respect from entering his mind at the thought. He knew that the boy would fight to the very end, not because he felt he had to, nor because he was made to, but because it was the right thing to do.
Potter would not fail. Severus Snape would not allow him to.
Although he would still keep his distance from the boy, the oath he had made still ran through his very veins, even to this day. He would protect the boy until the end of time, until the last dying breath was ripped from his body.
A/N- Okay, this really is the end now. I know that I said I probably wouldn't add any more, but as I was re-reading the last chapter, I realised that I wanted to add Snape's point of view in there as well. It isn't long, but I think it wraps the whole story up a little better. I hope you like it, and that you'll let me know what you think! I've left it deliberately vague in some places ('Does Dumbledore really care for Harry?', 'Has Harry dealt with the abuse?' etc) so that you can form your own views and apply your own theories. I look forward to hearing them!
I may write a sequel of sorts in the future, but only if I can come up with a really good idea that would make continuing this story worth it. It won't be any time soon though, so don't hold your collective breath.
Thank you so much for all your alerts, favourites and reviews, but more importantly, thanks for reading!