Random non-Slash story. Reflections of Dumbledore. Spoilers. Etc.

It had to be Snape.

Dumbledore sat in his office staring at his newly blackened hand and wondered if Snape had figured it out yet. He was a smart man. Snape couldn't have missed it, but Dumbledore had to wonder if Snape could handle knowing this and surviving the knowledge of it.

It had to be Snape.

Every time Dumbledore reflected back to that moment, his gut tightened. Though he normally didn't feel like this, for some reason recalling that memory always made him feel guilty for Snape...he felt the shame and the misery and the self-loathing. He wanted to hide himself away. The feelings were so strong around that memory, but Snape never showed them. How he kept his cool despite the anguish and turmoil inside of him was beyond even Dumbledore's seemingly infinite intellect.

It had to be Snape though.

If it hadn't then none of this would have happened. Voldemort wouldn't have fallen. The wizarding world wouldn't have had all these years of nearly peace. The Potters wouldn't have died. Harry would have grown up a normal boy. Of course, chances were Harry may not have grown up at all if Voldemort hadn't fallen.

It had to be Snape. No matter what.

If Snape hadn't been in that pub, there was no doubt in Dumbledore's mind that the prophecy about Harry would never have been made and therefore Snape would not have heard it and Abelforth would not have caught him eavesdropping and thrown him out before he'd heard the whole thing. Snape wouldn't have gone to his master and told him what he'd heard. Voldemort wouldn't have picked the Potters and Snape wouldn't have asked his master to spare Lily. Snape also wouldn't have begged Dumbledore to hide them and Pettigrew wouldn't have betrayed them and Voldemort wouldn't have come for them on Halloween night. Therefore, James woudn't have died trying to buy them time and Voldemort wouldn't have tried to give Lily a choice to live. If Lily had no choice, of course, she wouldn't have had the opportunity to cast herself between Harry and provide him with a protection spell to repel the Dark Lord's Killing Curse, permitting the boy to live with only a scar, which had let in the piece of the Dark Lord's soul. Then much later, Voldemort wouldn't have taken Harry's blood, thus taking also Lily's protection, into himself, providing Harry with an escape in the end from death once more.

Indeed, it had to be Snape.

Who else would have begged his master to spare Lily? None of the other Death Eaters, no matter how many wished the blame hadn't fallen to Snape's shoulders, would have sufficed because none of them would have thought twice about a Muggle-born's life.

It had to be Snape.

So, in the end, if Snape had never heard the prophecy, indeed it'd never have been told because the only way for the prophecy to come true was if it had been Snape who had heard it.

Sadly, most sadly, it had to be Snape.

Snape was the ruin of Lily and the Dark Lord, but he had also saved Harry Potter and the entire wizarding world with these acts of deceit and love.

It had to be Snape.

Dumbledore swallowed down his unease and the rising guilt and shame and self-disgust and desire to simply disappear into nothing. How could Snape not know that this is what had happened? He was a smart man, Snape. He would know what had happened and that it was his fault and he would do everything in his power to rectify his mistake, to make sure Lily's life had not been wasted, to ensure that some good came of the evil he'd been the reason for happening.

But, no matter how anyone looked at it or wanted to change it or wished it had turned out differently, it had to be Snape.

Snape was the only one brave enough, the only one strong enough, the only one capable of handling the guilt, the only one who could withstand the shame, the only one who could carry such love, the only one who would defy his Lord and beg to spare a Muggle-born woman that he loved, though he could never have...

It had to be Snape.