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"Really, Severus, I don't know why you pretend to dislike him so much. You can't truly hate him as much as you make out; the boy's done nothing to you."

Severus stood stiffly by the fireplace, surveying the man sat before him. His fingers were steepled together, just brushing his chin and the long, flowing white beard attached to it; his elbows were on his desk; and he was peering intently over his half-moon spectacles at the younger Professor.

"And as for Sirius Black – well, I know you don't like him, and who would, considering what he did to you at school with the marauders – but I didn't realise your hatred ran so deep. Pinning the blame on Harry, though...as I said, I know you don't like either of them. But they must hate each other just as much – Sirius killed Harry's parents!"

"I know what you're doing, Albus." Severus cut in coldly. "Stop babbling on like an old fool."

Albus stopped talking and simply looked at him. "Fascinating." He whispered softly. "Completely unaffected. Most people give in to my annoying little...ah...prods."

Severus looked scathingly down at the old man, ignoring the serene smile sent his way, and headed for the door.

"Have a good summer, Severus." Albus called mildly after him, wincing slightly when the door thunked shut. He didn't even have the good grace to look guilty as his potions master stalked menacingly away.

Severus strode down the abandoned corridors, robes billowing, inwardly fuming – looking intimidating enough that even Peeves avoided him. How DARE that old codger poke into his business? He had reason enough to hate the boy and his parents' killer, but that was nothing to do with the headmaster.

Slamming into his rooms, he threw himself on the couch and glared moodily through the curtains of his dark hair at the photograph on the dresser. It showed him at around the age Harry was now, with a red-headed girl; they were wrapped up in scarves and hats against the snow billowing around them, laughing and twirling in the grounds of the castle. Severus ground his teeth, averting his eyes as he thought again of his conversation with Dumbledore.

Harry Potter; the result of his own stupid mistake in calling Lily a Mudblood, and ultimately making her think that James Potter and his friends were alright. She married James bloody Potter – somehow, she was tricked into thinking that he was better than Severus, or indeed anyone else. She deserved so much better.

And that boy was the result – almost a carbon copy of the big-headed toerag who walked the halls of this castle with his cocky attitude and rule-breaking ways at the same time Severus himself did. Harry Potter, the boy who lived, should never have even been born – nor become a legend – because Lily Evans should have been his.

But the boy had her eyes, and some of her care and compassion. This was a fact Severus tried hard to forget, but it just kept biting him on the butt; Harry had some of his mother's best qualities, physical and not.

Severus was determined, though, that none of this meant he couldn't hate the boy – hate him as much as he hated his father and more, because he represented not only James Potter, but also Severus's loss of Lily, each and every time.

Speaking of loss…Sirius Black, the Potters' killer; what Severus wouldn't have given to get his revenge on him just a few nights ago, for hurting him more even than James Potter had on the Potters' wedding day. How he would have loved to hurt Black for as good as killing Lily, his Lily – for selling her out to the Dark Lord. At least when she was married he could still see her, keep an eye on her, see how she was. But no; Black took away everything Snape lived for – Lily. And now, Snape lived to see the Dark Lord brought down for that loss. It would have been nice to do the same for Black.

The dementors had seemed like a better option than torturing the man himself. He would suffer more, the ordeal would be worse than anything he himself could provide – and it would be so much more entertaining to watch. Black could not hide the fear the dementors instilled in him, even when he'd escaped Azkaban.

Even still, though, the pain would never equal even half the amount of suffering Severus himself had gone through in losing his love not once, in death, not twice, in marriage, but three times – the first being at his own hands, when he uttered that fateful and hateful word. He still remembered Lily's expression when he'd said it…mudblood. Severus shivered, trying to rid his mind's eye of the image of her face when that had spilled out.

Severus remembered the feeling of Dark Lord's joy at knowing the location the Potters were hidden at. He remembered cradling Lily's body, ignoring the burbling of the little boy behind him, not a minute after the Dark Lord had been destroyed – albeit temporarily. He remembered the feeling of loss and pain, which haunted him still. And he remembered the decision he made to become a double agent – he would stay in Voldemort's circle, but he would work for the light, just as he would have if Lily had been his...he pushed them away quickly, rejecting the pain the memories brought. He remembered leaving, hearing the sounds of the motorbike approaching in the distance, and only realising later that the boy was alive...

He remembered the burning need for revenge, which flared in his chest as he thought about that Halloween night. He gasped, holding it; it felt like something hot, alive, threatening to rip its way out of him. He pressed his hand against it, imagining the fall of the Dark Lord, revenge for Lily, and peace…peace for them all, but particularly her son.

No, Severus realised, he did not hate the boy. He hated what he represented, but…with Lily's eyes and her character, he could not hate him as he wished to. He wished for peace for him, and revenge for him and his mother – but he did not hate him. How irritating.

For the first time in three years – which was when he last visited the cemetery in Godric's Hollow – Severus gave in. The dam broke, and he let it. Tears cascaded onto his robes as he slammed back into his office, and smashes echoed up the hallways from the dungeons as jar after jar was thrown against the stone walls.