"I guess everybody
had the same idea," Violet whispered as she and Marybeth followed the
floating form of Professor Binns into the Great Hall late Friday
afternoon. All of Hogwarts seemed to be coming to Snape's lecture, even
the ghosts. Only the house elves and Peeves were missing.
The older students
looked rather surprised to see the rest of the school joining them but
Snape said nothing as teacher after teacher and class after class filed
into the bare hall. He stood at the front of the room with his arms
folded across his chest, watching them. The students sat in rows on the
floor while the staff queued up along the side wall.
back and forth, twisting her head this way and that to watch the hall fill
up. Occasionally she sneaked a furtive glance at the front of the room to
check Snape's thin, pale face, studying him as long as she dared before
forcing herself to look away again. She was watching the last set of
students process through the main doors when Lupin appeared, supported by
Hagrid. The werewolf was apparently still a bit woozy from his last bout
with the moon; Hagrid led him to an open spot at the head of the queue of
teachers and Lupin sank gratefully against the wall.
Watching this, Violet
experienced a sudden surge of anger that propelled her to her feet. She
pulled Marybeth up with her and dragged her along behind as she marched
resolutely to the front of the crowd. Tossing a defiant scowl at the
inhabitants of the hall, she plopped down firmly on the floor between
Snape and the crowd, pulling Marybeth down beside her. Almost
immediately, Slytherins from all over the room followed suit, marching
forward to take seats on either side of Violet and Marybeth, creating a
buffer between Snape and the rest of the students. Through it all, Snape
stood cool and silent. When the last of the Slytherins had reseated
himself, he cleared his throat and began.
"When I am
finished, you will ask no questions," he announced. "You will not make a
sound and you will never mention this lecture in my presence again."
blinked and Violet was suddenly very glad Malfoy was now sitting beside
her. Snape began to pace slowly back and forth across the front of the
"No one in this
room is innocent," he began. "Everyone here has practiced contemptible
conduct on more than one occasion. As a result, every person in this room
has suffered - suffered injustice, suffered cruelty, suffered... damage."
I guess he's
not starting with a joke, thought Goyle.
"When a person is
wounded," Snape continued, "he may insist that the harm done him was
reprehensible, and perhaps it was. The ability to assess misconduct is
tied to moral fiber. The shallow or self-centered will always contend
that the suffering they've endured or seen inflicted upon those they love
is positively atrocious; the nobler among us will be more exact. They
will acknowledge all of the facts, not just the ones that support their
indignation, and they will accurately assess the true gravity of an
injury... or the lack thereof. You see..." Snape stopped short and
stare at them. "The truth is more important than your feelings."
"Oh, my," Lupin whispered
under his breath.
"Ssh!" McGonagall hissed.
Snape began to
pace again and every head in the room followed his progress across the
floor. "Your feelings," he explained, "will tell you you've been harmed
when you haven't. Your feelings will tell you you're right when you're
wrong. Your feelings..." He stopped again and every head stopped with
"Lie," he finished simply.
He waited a moment but
neither Lupin nor anyone else made a sound. After a few seconds, Snape
resumed his pacing. "What happens, then," he asked, "when you give way to
your feelings, when you let anger determine your response, when you
indulge your fury instead of subjecting it to rigorous scrutiny?"
You grow up to
be Voldemort, Millicent nodded to herself while beside her Pansy was
thinking, I hope that's a rhetorical question.
"You become a
Death Eater," Snape informed them. "Death Eaters are nothing more than
people who indulge their feelings."
It occurred to
Crabbe that he would never have described Snape as someone who indulged
his feelings. But Potter would, he nodded to himself. Then he
jumped at the startling experience of having an insightful thought.
value style over substance," Snape went on. "They prefer pleasantness to
goodness even though pleasantness often masks a lack of integrity.
Goodness they despise, because its very existence, when juxtaposed with
shallow, spineless affability, reveals the selfish, destructive behavior
that pleasantness seeks desperately to hide."
Out of the corner
of his eye, Malfoy saw movement in the row behind him and stole a glance
backwards to find Hermione Granger, a few spots to the left of him,
leaning forward, fascinated. Snape caught her eye and held it a moment
before moving on. "You may rest assured," he asserted, "these people are a
constant source of wrongdoing. And most of them..." He paused to fold
his arms across his
chest. "...will never acquire a tattoo."
"Oh, my!" Minerva
whispered as eyes all over the room flew open wide. Dumbledore raised one
bushy eyebrow and smiled.
"But how do you
know," Snape mused waspishly, "if you are one of these people, if you are
contemptibly self-indulgent, if you lack integrity?" He stopped to face
them again. "The guilty live their lives on the defensive," he said
simply. "They are defensive because they know, in the deepest recesses of
their hearts and minds, that their point of view lacks merit and should be
abandoned. But it serves their selfish purposes and so they cling to it,
responding to all challenges as if they were attacks. They lash out
furiously when contradicted and rail insipidly against what they don't
like, hurling snide observations or belittling remarks while pretending to
engage in substantial discussion. Theirs is not the calm, straightforward
dialog of the well-developed mind and you will rarely see them concede any
room, people began to squirm. Violet assumed they were unused to sitting
cross-legged on the floor... or leaning against a wall.
they would be," Snape continued mildly, "to discover that admitting we're
wrong is not the nightmare we imagine. The sky does not fall upon your
head, nor does the world collapse beneath your feet, even if you confess
the character flaw that motivated your misdeed. You are not perceived to
be stupid as a result, or ineffective. Prior statements and
accomplishments are not dismissed out of hand. You do not lose friends or
status, dignity, money or position. On the contrary..." He paused to
eye contact with Dumbledore and every head followed his gaze. "The
process is often beneficial," he murmured. A bright-eyed Dumbledore gave
Snape a gentle smile. "Common ground is discovered," Snape continued,
"and from there, progress is made." The two men continued to regard each
other for a moment or two. Then Snape turned abruptly towards the windows
on the opposite side of the hall.
"No one ever regrets
admitting he was wrong," Snape insisted, gazing out the nearest window to
the grounds below, "not even when punishment or restitution follow. But
oh, the agony, the unceasing, festering turmoil that plagues a dishonest,
compromised life. Woe to those who daily choose avoidance,
self-indulgence, rationalization, or denial. They fill the world with
pain and injustice, with torment that rankles and rots and swells,
accelerating down a path so destructive it can only lead to..."
He turned from the window
to face the students and froze at the sight of them. They were staring at
him wide-eyed with dread, their mouths hanging open, their bodies as stiff
as statues. They looked for all the world like a roomful of toddlers
being terrorized by the horror stories of a thoughtless baby-minder.
Snape reddened a bit. "Ruin," he stammered in an uncertain whisper. He
cleared his throat and quickly resumed his pacing.
"You see," he continued
more perfunctorily, "the conduct is not as destructive as the lie. All
people do wrong. But some do far more wrong than others. What is it,
then, that allows some people to be idealistic while others are merely..."
Snape glanced slyly back at them over his shoulder. "...pleasant?" He
stopped to face them again, clasping his hands behind his back. "Are they
principled because goodness is somehow easier for them? Were they born
smarter, braver, more ethical? Are they safer, richer, or somehow more
An image suddenly popped
into Malfoy's mind of two young wizards sleeping in a hot, dark room at 4
Privet Drive. He wondered for a moment what he and Ron Weasley would be
like if they'd been raised by the Dursleys.
"No," Snape assured them. "It is not easier for them. They are simply
more honest. They tell the truth about themselves and, by their own
accountability, hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct from which
we all benefit."
He paused, then smiled a
bit. "So there you sit," he noted with a trace of that acid tone his
audience knew so well, "wondering which you are, a person of integrity or
a liar? If you are insisting to yourself that you are a font of nobility
even as a gentle flame warms your cheek or a slight tremor within prickles
your heart or nose or scalp..." He smiled that nasty little smile.
again," he suggested. He resumed his pacing once more. "Or try this," he
called over his shoulder. "If you fancy yourself admirable or think
someone you love is particularly commendable, or if you've heard someone
described as a truly great wizard..."
Harry, who'd been thinking
about Sirius, suddenly flinched, remembering Ollivander's remarks about
"Ask yourself what that
person has accomplished, or contributed. Has he made a difference in the
lives of others? What use has he made of his time or ability or power?"
Snape walked so far across the room that he was standing beside Lupin when
he stopped and turned to face the students. "The pleasant are often
popular," he admitted. Then he sharpened his steely gaze and added, "But
they are seldom altruistic."
He gave them a moment to
ponder that before starting back across the floor. "Conversely," he went
on, "history demonstrates repeatedly that those who benefit mankind the
most are often social misfits, secretly or openly despised by those who
prefer..." Snape rolled his eyes. "...pleasantness."
He had reached the middle
of the front row where he stopped, turning to face them once again. "It
would seem we are back where we started," he noted. "But I must share a
word or two about principled human beings, those idealistic people of
integrity." He folded his arms across his chest. "They are as far
removed from Death Eaters as a person can be, because there is no greater
indicator of esteem for others than principled conduct. Nevertheless..."
He turned away from them and stared out the nearest window for so long
that Violet wondered if he'd lost his train of thought. Finally he drew a
deep breath and finished quietly, "They are capable of inflicting even
A soft noise from behind
them caused several Slytherins to turn their heads. Violet was pretty
sure the sound had come from Hermione; Ron and Harry were both staring
curiously at her troubled face. Violet glanced at the teaching staff and
found Dumbledore and McGonagall regarding Snape with a look that reminded
her of a particularly kind-hearted matron's response when she'd scraped
her knee back at the orphanage. Snape, still staring out the window, did
not seem to notice.
understand the harm caused by liars," he explained softly. "They see the
suffering created by those who lack integrity, and as a result, they
despise choices that are not high-minded. Unfortunately..." He paused,
then added in a strangely flat tone, "Sometimes they despise the choosers
He glanced over their
shoulder in their general direction but Violet suspected he did not really
see them. "They worry," he continued somberly, "that the harmful choices
won't stop until the shallow admit their faults and pledge to do better,
for how can wrong-doing be avoided without first being perceived?
"But there's more to it,"
he went on. He turned as if to look at them but gazed instead at the wall
behind their heads as if he could see right through it. "They hate
wrong-doers for refusing to admit they're wrong because they understand
how this refusal leads to more suffering," he explained. "They seethe
when wrong-doers choose not to embrace principled conduct despite being
equally capable of it."
He forced himself to look
at them with a defensive curl of his lip. "They rage because wrong-doers
refuse to care as they do," he admitted icily, and Violet, Dumbledore and
McGonagall all snorted back a laugh. Nobody else made a sound.
Snape glanced around the
room for several seconds, then shrugged. "What of it?" he asked. "They
remain principled human beings despite their anger, never stooping to the
unscrupulous conduct of their counterparts. What does it matter if they
hate and seethe and fume and rage?"
He turned and made his way
slowly to the window, gazing out over the deserted grounds. "It matters,"
he murmured, and only the absolute silence in the hall permitted his voice
to carry to every ear, "because their condemnation breeds resentment when
our only hope lies in fellowship."
Snape raised one hand to
the window and began to trace its ledge with the tip of his finger.
"Their hard-won superiority inspires more lies, not repentance," he
confessed, "making their good example worthless, for what do we accomplish
when others see the error of their ways but remain too spiteful to
Out of the corner of her eye, Violet saw Hermione bury her face in her
hands. She tugged on Malfoy's sleeve, pointing at Hermione as she
whispered, "Does she think Snape's talking about her?" Malfoy studied
Granger a moment, then shook his head grimly. Violet returned her
attention to the front of the room to find Snape facing them again, his
arms once more folded across his chest.
"The principled will
sacrifice their time, their possessions, their health, and even their
lives for the well-being of others," he said proudly. "They will do the
right thing no matter what. But those among them who seethe and hate, who
fume and despise, will do one more thing as well, a thing that makes them
more dangerous than any Death Eater."
Malfoy glanced briefly at
Hermione whose head was still cradled in her hands.
"They will demand
redemption as if they were God."
Dumbledore drew in a sharp
breath but Violet did not understand the remark at first. Her mind raced
to process the statement but Snape did not wait for her. "Do you know
what that means?" he demanded, and the young Slytherin turned to see if
Granger would raise her hand since she obviously did. But Hermione just
lifted a wet-eyed, stubborn face to Snape and folded her arms across her
chest, too. Violet turned back to the front of the room, noticing as she
did that Lupin looked close to tears as well.
"Liars may become Death
Eaters," Snape observed calmly, "but only the principled of this world can
become its Voldemorts. And in the end..." He dropped his arms to his
and stood defenselessly before them. "Only Voldemort can make a Death
With that, he swept from
the room without another word.
There was no sign of Snape
for the rest of the day and on Saturday morning, the Baron conducted
inspection in his absence. By Saturday afternoon, Violet could stand it
no longer. She stumbled into Malfoy's cell with tears streaming down her
cheeks, pulling miserably at her fingers.
"Why must everything be
our fault?" she demanded petulantly.
Malfoy closed the book
he'd been reading. "He didn't say that, Violet," he corrected the younger
"He said everything was
his fault," Violet insisted.
Malfoy thought it over and
nodded almost imperceptibly. "In a way," he admitted. He thought of
Granger and how she'd grieved Snape's self-deprecation. "He meant that if
you're going to be good, you have to be really, really good," he
croaked, "Do you think... you don't think Professor Snape would...
Malfoy put his
book down and shook his head. "So long as Voldemort lives," he told her
bitterly, "we're safe. How ironic is that?"
Then he rose from
his cot and grabbed Violet by the elbow. "Come on," he said in a
business-like tone as he pulled her out of his cell and steered her
towards the common room door.
"Where are we
"Blow your nose,"
he commanded, handing her a handkerchief, "but don't wipe your face. I
want those tearstains nice and deep."
Lupin was visiting
when Ginny admitted the two Slytherins to the Gryffindor common room.
Malfoy came straight to the point.
"We'd like to see
Professor Snape," he said with a meaningful look at Harry. "We'd like to
know where he is."
Harry didn't even
have to check the marauder's map. "He's in the Owlery," he told Malfoy
promptly, "in that little room off to the side where the straw bales are
Draco repeated. "All this time?"
"Every time I
check," Harry nodded, and Violet was touched to think he'd been keeping an
eye on Snape. Lupin spoke up gently.
"You know, Malfoy," he
pointed out, "the reason I scheduled Professor Snape's lecture for the
last class before the Easter hols was to give him some time to himself
Malfoy bit back a
snide response. It was bad enough having to ask a Gryffindor where Snape
was without letting another one tell him whether or not he should speak to
his own head of house. As far as he was concerned, Lupin could shove the
next full moon right up his...
"He'll be in his
office at 2 am," a lighter voice suddenly chimed in, and all heads turned
to regard Hermione Granger sitting in a chair several feet away staring
stubbornly at the book in her lap.
"How do you know
that?" Malfoy demanded. But Hermione just repeated firmly, "He'll be in
his office at 2am."
Snape took one
look at Malfoy sitting on the floor outside his office door at 1:45 in the
morning and spat contemptuously, "Granger!" But Malfoy just climbed to
his feet and slouched insolently against the stone wall, shoving his hands
into the pockets of his bathrobe.
"How come she
knows more about the whereabouts of my housemaster than I do?" he asked.
Snape refused to answer. He unlocked the door to his office and entered,
making no attempt to stop Malfoy from following him inside.
The potions master
opened a cupboard and began withdrawing ingredients that he carried to a
long workstation against the far stone wall. Malfoy thought of offering
to help but decided to pull up a stool near the station instead to get a
good view of the proceedings. The ingredients puzzled him. He recognized
some of them but others were a mystery and even the ones he knew had never
been used in this combination before.
"What is it?" he
asked as Snape fired up his cauldron and began to brew.
the curt response. "And nameless, so far. I'm leaning towards 'Lupin's
Remedy.' Or maybe 'Snape's Curse.' You see, it's extremely
time-consuming and requires an extensive amount of night work."
In an instant
Malfoy realized why Lupin's health had been improving throughout the term
even as Snape's had begun to deteriorate.
brilliant bit," Snape smiled as he added a few drops to a beaker and
watched the solution turn red. "It only works in wolfsbane. Any werewolf
hoping to strengthen himself so he can maximize his monthly mayhem will be
entirely out of luck."
Malfoy hadn't felt
this confused since the night Harry Potter had saved the Slytherins from
the wrath of Dumbledore.
"Why is it
illegal?" he wondered.
"Potions have to
be approved by the Ministry before they can be used on human beings,"
Snape explained, "and I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing. A
bit immoral," he admitted, "dosing Lupin without his knowledge. But
Granger's research confirmed, as if the evidence of our eyes weren't
enough, that Lupin had nothing to lose."
tugged at Malfoy's tongue. He couldn't believe which one popped out
instead of me?"
Snape smiled at
the beaker. "Malfoy, you are the finest potions student in the school,"
he acknowledged. "But I needed research and theory about the life
expectancy of stagnant werewolves. Granger excels at research and
speculation. Besides," he added with a firm glance at the boy, "I needed
YOU in Slytherin House as much as possible this term."
Malfoy felt a
twinge of shame at the thought of all the hours he'd logged playing Floo
Tag. But surely Snape could arrange some assistance for this
time-consuming endeavor if only... He asked his other question.
"Why don't you
want anyone to know about it?" he demanded. "You're falling so far behind
on your sleep! Surely there are people who could help you."
"There's nothing illegal about research, but I can't have students helping
me make illegal potions, and I don't trust the staff, they can't keep
secrets to save their souls." He gave Draco a brief glance. "It's just
for a few more months, Malfoy. Then, if the headmaster decides Professor
Lupin is to remain with us next year, I'll have the entire summer to
revise my lesson plans for next fall instead of having to do it at night
after my other obligations."
answer my first question, Malfoy thought as Snape continued to add
ingredients to the beaker. But he had bigger concerns at the moment. He
watched to see which item Snape would pick up next and then asked,
"Is that related
"Yes," Snape told
him. "It has the same properties except it can grow above the tree line."
Malfoy wiped his
hands on the insides of his bathrobe pockets, surreptitiously drying his
palms and fingertips. "Does it matter if it's been frozen?" he asked.
"Can you harvest
it anywhere in the northern hemisphere?"
"Are you going to
kill yourself once Voldemort is dead?"
The beaker slipped
from Snape's fingers and Malfoy grabbed it neatly as it fell, saving every
drop. He held it before Snape with one hand and whispered, "Caught."
Then he set the beaker down, climbed off the stool, and hopped up onto the
workstation to sit facing his housemaster, his legs dangling over the edge
of the counter. Snape stared at the boy, horrified.
"Why would you ask
me that?" he whispered.
"Even Violet knows, sir."
Snape seemed to
recover a bit at that. He picked up the beaker again and poured the
contents carefully in his cauldron. "Last year," he reminded the
teenager, "Miss Guilford knew I wouldn't survive a confrontation
with the Dark Lord."
popped open in protest. "I saved you!" he insisted.
Snape put aside
mentioning the incidents he'd handled on his own to ask, "And now you wish
to save me again?"
"I wouldn't mind."
Snape scraped the
last of the ingredients out of the beaker. "When Voldemort is dead," he
told Malfoy as he stirred the contents of the cauldron, "I will leave. I
will live the rest of my life in seclusion and you will not know what
becomes of me."
"Then what's the
point?" Malfoy demanded, and Snape stopped stirring.
"What's the point
of killing yourself if no one's going to know?" Malfoy repeated.
wide-eyed. He seemed appalled by the question and when he replied, it was
with great difficulty.
"As I understand
it," he said haltingly, "the point is to escape pain."
Malfoy folded his arms
across his chest. "I thought the point was to punish those responsible
for the pain," he argued.
Snape shook his
head. "Then you may put your mind at ease, Malfoy," he assured the boy as
he threw a few dittany sprouts into the cauldron. "In my case, those
responsible are dead and gone, canonized and untouchable. Only the
Not quite, Malfoy
thought. But he put aside thoughts of grown-ups who set his teeth on edge
to ask, "If Potter is so innocent, why torment him in class for years?"
Snape stared into
the cauldron, an evil smile growing slowly across his thin lips.
"Because, my boy," he whispered icily, and Malfoy shivered. "I believe in
the ability to look down from Heaven."
For a long time,
nothing more was said. The only sound in the room was the bubbling of
Snape's potion. He stared down at it, mesmerized, and Malfoy wondered
what he was really seeing there. He was just about to lean over to get a
better view himself when the potions master suddenly twitched and shook
his head violently as if to clear it. He should not have been so candid
with the boy, he realized. He turned towards Malfoy to issue some sort of
disclaimer and found his student calmly bouncing his eyebrows at him.
"Then why not let
Potter fall off his broom first year and mend him afterwards?" Malfoy
demanded. "We might have won the match that way!"
little Slytherin, Snape thought with an inward smile of relief. "We
can't take chances with Potter, Malfoy," he berated the teenager. "We
Lupin?" Draco countered.
"We need him,
too," Snape said wearily, picking up a pestle to pound some fluxweed.
"Then why not tell
him about the remedy? Why don't you want anybody to know you're helping
Snape had had
enough. He slammed the pestle down on the work station and turned
furiously to his student. "I'm helping ME!" he snarled at the boy.
"NOBODY stands to benefit more from the death of Voldemort than I!"
"Because you can
leave?" Malfoy was not impressed. "It's no picnic being a Slytherin at
Hogwarts, either, sir," he assured his housemaster. "So why not go with
us and help us create our new school once Voldemort is dead?"
Snape made no
response. Instead, he extinguished the flame beneath his cauldron and set
up an hourglass-timed feeder to add armadillo bile drop by drop over the
next twenty-four hours. Malfoy knew he hadn't much time left. He gave up
on the current topic and introduced the one remaining subject he was
longing to discuss.
um... fruitfulness," he began timidly as Snape adjusted the dropper. "Did
"Could Professor Dumbledore..." he began, but Snape cut him off.
"If I asked him
to," the teacher assured the boy, "he would spend every spare moment
seeking a solution."
"But you never
Snape shook his
head. After a moment, Malfoy asked delicately, "Is that because of the
women of Hogsmeade?"
chuckled. "It may be a factor in my popularity," he admitted. He packed
away his potion ingredients and said nothing more on the subject until
he'd ushered Draco out of his office and back to the door of his house.
"I've raised 150 Slytherins, Malfoy," Snape reminded him. "That's more
than enough children for anybody. But if you choose to have children of
your own one day..."
weighing the decision to continue very carefully before he advised the
boy, "Marry a muggle-born."
Snape made no
appearance at Easter brunch so after the meal Lupin climbed the stairs to
the Owlery and made his way quietly across the feather-strewn floor to the
entrance to the straw-bale room. He peeked through the door and found
Snape sitting half-buried in a pile of straw, staring at the owls flying
in and out of the window. "Like a bird from these prison walls I'll fly,"
Lupin murmured, and as Snape turned to scowl at him, he grinned broadly.
"I've had a revelation!"
he announced. Snape curled his lip. "No, wait until you hear it!" Lupin
insisted. "It's nearly as clever as Remus' Remedy!"
"Lupin's remedy!" Snape
barked automatically, then immediately hissed to himself, "Damn that
"Actually, it was Malfoy,"
Lupin informed him as he entered and took a seat on a bale across from
Snape. "Are you ready?"
Snape rolled his eyes and
looked away. Lupin pointed at him.
"You should have been the
fourth marauder," he declared, and Snape turned back to him with a start.
"Instead of Peter Pettigrew, I mean. Then Voldemort would be dead, the
Longbottoms would be sane, Harry Potter would be a normal little boy with
parents, and you and I... well, who knows what you and I might have
Snape just stared. Lupin
gave him a sad little smile before turning to gaze out the window.
"Alas," he continued more softly, "Sirius hated all Slytherins, James
enjoyed being idolized, and I valued companionship above ethics." He
turned back to Snape with a regretful little shrug. "So here we sit."
He waited patiently for a
reaction. It was several seconds before Snape spoke, and when he did, it
was with a disdainful curl of his lip.
"Fascinating," he sneered.
"I fail to see how it changes anything."
Lupin cocked his
head to one side. "Do you?" he asked pleasantly. He jumped down suddenly
and strode quickly across the room to squat beside Snape. "Don't you see
what it means?" he asked earnestly. Snape pulled back a bit, frowning,
and Lupin smiled and rose to pace back and forth in front of him.
"You think it's
unfair," he began patiently, "that a couple of unrepentant prats get to be
remembered as heroes by everyone who counts." He tossed Snape a sly
glance. "I'll bet you spend hours fantasizing about how little James and
Sirius would have amounted to had they led normal lives after leaving
grunted with surprise. His estimation of Lupin rose several notches.
"Try my shoes,
Severus," Lupin continued, a sudden sharpness creeping into his normally
mild tone. "I had a conscience every day, not just when someone's life
was at stake."
well, Snape thought. He gave Lupin the tiniest smile and said, "If it
makes you feel any better, you were always the one I hated the least."
indeed," Lupin grinned. He sat down beside Snape and continued with an
earnestness that bordered on urgency. "Severus," he explained, "there's a
reason James and Sirius perished while we survived. There's a reason
we are the ones who have been preserved to make sure Harry Potter
Snape couldn't wait to
hear it, though he'd have died before telling Lupin so.
"It's because we are the
ones who are worthy," Lupin insisted. "We are the ones who can succeed
where they failed."
The speech took
Snape's breath away. He could see in Lupin's eyes how much the werewolf
longed to prove himself, but he wondered if the former marauder had any
idea how much that word, 'worthy,' meant to the Head of Slytherin House.
Lupin looked away,
gazing around the tiny room, and Snape sensed the discomfort that came
over him as he changed the subject. "Severus," he began uncertainly,
"when this is all over... do you think... would you be willing..." He
sideways but couldn't quite bring himself to look at Snape. "Do you think
you could introduce me to one of your friends in Hogsmeade?"
The hopefulness in
his voice gave Snape's heart its first tug on behalf of the lonely man
beside him. How Bedelia would have loved this poor, kind, gentle
werewolf. But there was no point in being maudlin. "If they haven't
replaced me," Snape agreed.
cheered Lupin enormously. "How could they?" he asked with a wicked
grin, and Snape shrugged and offered a little smile of his own in return.
"I confess I grew
a bit weary of cleaning the taste of Gilderoy Lockhart out of so many
mouths," the potions master admitted.
Lupin roared with
laughter. Then he crawled across the floor to cover himself in his own
pile of straw. Warm and content and sleepy from his enormous Easter meal,
he soon fell fast asleep.
When Harry Potter wandered
in a half hour later, Snape didn't bother to stifle his groan. The boy
plopped down beside him in the exact spot where Lupin had sat earlier and
Snape was overwhelmed with a desire to box the presumptuous youngster's
"I suppose," Harry
said with a nod at the sleeping Lupin, "that if I tried to thank you for a
kind deed, you'd just insist it was something else."
Professor Lupin will prove useful," the potions master sniffed. "If you
think you're going to defeat the forces of evil single-handedly, Potter,
you are sadly mistaken."
Harry shook his
head. "It would just kill you," he accused, "to praise a marauder,
wouldn't it? To admit he might be a good person."
I don't know
how much more I can take, Snape thought. He turned steely gaze upon
the youngster beside him. "Tell me something, Potter," he demanded.
"Exactly how do you reconcile this idealized image of your godfather with
the fact that Lupin suspected him of betrayal before he suspected Peter
Pettigrew? And have you given any thought as to why Pettigrew chose to
betray your father in the first place?"
Harry leapt to his
feet, his fists clenched with fury.
thought. I see you have.
"I wish my father
and Sirius hadn't treated you so badly," Harry stormed. "And I think your
treatment of me has been ATROCIOUS! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF
WITH EVERY FIBRE OF YOUR BEING!"
Snape stared at
him as if he were a curiosity in a zoo. Who does he remind me of?
the teacher wondered. Then it came to him. Potter sounded like Snape
himself, railing in the Shrieking Shack. "Agreed," he told the boy in a
rather bored tone. "I apologize."
Harry stared at
him, open-mouthed with disbelief. That's it? he thought furiously.
That's all I get? A two-word apology? He turned around to lean
against the wall, sinking dejectedly to his rump at the woeful inadequacy
of the response. After a moment, he asked Snape quietly,
"Why do you hate
me so much?"
Snape rolled his
eyes. "Don't be childish, Potter."
Once such a
response would have infuriated Harry. But he'd learned a thing or two
from Snape and the Slytherins over the course of the year. He sat up
straighter and continued politely, "Very well, Professor. Why are you so
ashamed of yourself, sir?"
He expected Snape
to rise and whirl on him with murderous fury. Instead, the teacher just
stared at the wall in front of him.
I am so tired,
Snape thought. He took a deep breath and said quietly, "I killed your
Across the room,
Lupin's left eye popped open. But Harry had heard this line before.
"That's what Sirius said,"
he snorted contemptuously.
surprised. But after a moment, he nodded. "There's plenty of blame to go
around," he agreed. "If Sirius hadn't been so prejudiced, if James had
treated Peter better, if McGonagall had taken a firmer hand with the
"If Lupin had
shown a little backbone," the Defense teacher called from the other side
of the room, making Harry and Snape jump. After a moment, Snape shrugged
and turned back to Harry.
"I assure you,
Potter, I outdid them all."
Snape turned to
look out the window. "I selected your family to die," he murmured.
Across the room, Lupin
froze, and Harry grew so still that Snape wondered if the boy had stopped
breathing. Still staring out the window, he drew a deep breath and
related the story as calmly as if he were expounding on the sources of
"The Dark Lord called me
into his presence alone," Snape explained. "That had never happened to me
before. He told me what he knew of the prophecy and asked me where he
should go. 'You were at school with all of them, Severus,' he reminded
me. 'Who would be my undoing?'"
Lupin sat up slowly, his
eyes on Harry.
"I must say," Snape
concluded, "the interview certainly permitted me to report back to Albus
Dumbledore with a high degree of certainty."
He braced himself for
Harry's reaction, but it was Lupin who spoke first.
"You made the
right choice," he called suddenly from the other side of the room. Both
Harry and Snape turned to stare at him as he continued urgently, "They
were stronger. Frank and Alice were fine wizards and outstanding aurors
but James and Lily were stronger. You picked the only couple with a chance
Snape raised an
eyebrow at this, then curled his lip and whispered coolly, "That's what
He turned back to
Harry but Harry turned away, staring at the door so he wouldn't have to
look either man in the eye as he waited for the anger to come. It was
Snape's fault. Snape was the reason he was in this position. Snape was
the reason he was an orphan instead of Neville. Snape had selected his
parents to die. Snape...
He waited. He braced
himself for it. But no anger came. Instead, there was only realization.
He turned to Snape and whispered,
"You had to
choose." The wizard beside him could only stare as Harry continued, "You
had to pick someone or Voldemort would have killed you on the spot. Then
how could you have warned Professor Dumbledore to send my parents into
Snape shook his
head. "Would the result have been any different?" he asked the boy.
"I believe we
covered that before Harry came in," Lupin reminded him. But Harry ran the
possibility through his mind. Would he rather have parents who'd been
tortured to insanity? What if Voldemort had killed Snape, then come after
his family anyway? Peter Pettigrew might have remained a mole inside the
Order for who knows how long or with what consequences.
On the other hand, Sirius
might have avoided Azkaban! Could Sirius have raised him instead of the
Dursleys, if Snape had sacrificed himself? The selfishness of that
question shamed Harry almost immediately. He thought of all the times
Snape had raged at him for putting himself at risk. Would Sirius have
kept him from risk? No. Sirius would have reveled in allowing Harry the
freedom to be as reckless as James.
But would that have been so wrong? Harry wondered. The others only care about me because
their lives depend on it. That was a childish thought, he knew, but
how could he avoid thinking it? He was like a rich man in a world full of
poor young women. How would he ever know who loved him for himself? The
fate of mankind rested squarely on his shoulders and Snape had put it
"It was a punishment,"
Snape said softly, calling Harry back from his reverie, "in case I should
prove disloyal. I realize that now." He turned to look Harry in the eye.
"Potter, I swear, if there was any way I could take your burden upon
myself, I would. And I will do everything in my power to help you
There are some things
worse than death, Harry heard a voice say in his head. Besides, there
was some comfort in Snape's pledge. Then Harry thought of something that
would make him feel even better. "Would you do something for me?" he
asked his teacher, and before Snape could reply, he continued earnestly,
"Would you say something good about Sirius?"
The request stunned Snape.
He turned helplessly to Lupin and Harry shouted, "No cheating!" As Lupin
laughed, Snape turned angrily back to the young man beside him, completely
nonplussed. Then an idea occurred to him that wiped the anger from his
face, leaving only that superior expression Harry knew so well.
"I have a better idea," he
murmured. "Why don't you tell me?" Harry frowned and Snape prompted him,
"Name one good thing Sirius ever did."
So many words tried to
rush out of Harry's mouth at once that he stammered. "There are a million
things!" he finally sputtered.
"Then it should be
relatively simple to name one," Snape assured him.
Harry said the first thing
that came to mind. "He bought me a firebolt!"
Snape seemed to be
expecting this. "Lucius Malfoy bought the entire Slytherin quidditch team
new brooms," he reminded the Gryffindor. "Does that mean he was seven
times the man Sirius Black was?"
Harry almost sneered with
contempt. "That was different," he argued. "He was trying to buy Draco's
way onto the team!"
"How do you know that?"
Snape asked coolly, and for a moment, Harry was stumped. "How do you know
Lucius didn't buy the brooms AFTER Draco made the team, Potter? After
all, he didn't make the team his first year, did he?" Harry sat fuming
and Snape decided to prod him just a bit more. "Had you ever seen Draco
fly before leaping to that conclusion, Potter?" he asked, knowing
perfectly well the Gryffindors and Slytherins learned to fly together.
Harry scowled, remembering his thoughts the first day of flying
that Draco could fly well.
"Spending money on
children is not inherently admirable," Snape concluded. "Try again."
Harry felt Lupin's gaze
upon him and glanced up at the werewolf, then smiled. He turned
triumphantly to Snape and announced, "He became an animagus to help his
But Snape was ready again,
pausing to give Lupin a brief glance before asking Harry, "Is that why he
More memories flooded
Harry's mind... Sirius' eagerness for the full moon after completing his
DADA O.W.L., Hermione's horror at the risk the marauders were taking with
Lupin's future ("What if you'd given the others the slip, and bitten
somebody?"), the way the four friends saw Lupin's condition as a chance
for adventure... He could think of nothing to say, but it didn't matter,
because Snape was speaking again.
"Next you'll tell me
that's why he joined the Order."
Harry had had enough. He
rose furiously to his feet and strode angrily towards the door. But
Snape's voice stopped him before he could escape.
"Sirius Black was a
hate-monger, Potter," the potions master called, and Harry spun around to
see the teacher rising menacingly to his feet. "Why else would Albus
Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall and every person you've ever admired
think him capable of betrayal and mass murder?" He walked ominously
across the room towards Harry as he spoke and Lupin made no move to stop
him. "He was vile-tempered and self-indulgent," Snape hissed, "as
prejudiced as any Death Eater, and he never made a single noble use of any
of the gifts he possessed. His every move was calculated to bring him
glory or pleasure." He had reached Harry and he placed a palm against the
wall on either side of the boy's shoulders, pinning him in place between
two black-robed arms. "Sirius Black was a hate-monger," Snape said again,
his face so close to Harry's that the boy could feel the heat emanating
from Snape's skin.
Only Lupin's presence kept
Harry from drawing his wand and blasting a hole right through Snape's
abdomen. The fierce, dark-eyed teacher leaned in closer until he was nose
to nose with the boy. "Say it!" he seethed. "Say, 'Sirius Black was a
There was no escape, Harry
realized. He couldn't harm Snape, and if he ducked under the man's arm
and raced out the door, he would look like a frightened child fleeing a
bully. Why wasn't Lupin saying something? Why wasn't Lupin doing
something? Harry looked desperately in the Defense teacher's direction
and Snape grabbed his chin, twisting it painfully back to its original
"Just say the words,
Potter," Snape hissed again, and Harry was surprised by the plea in his
voice. This was not like the time Voldemort tried to force him to submit.
Snape commanded him as though lives depended on it.
Harry shook his head.
What Snape did next took
both wizards by surprise. He dropped his arms, spun smartly around, and
marched a few steps away as if he were leaving the room. But then he
whirled back around, drew his wand, and aimed it squarely at Harry's
chest, shouting so loudly that Harry jumped and the owls in the next room
fluttered madly from their perches.
Harry's heart began to
pound. Surely Snape would not dare harm him in front of Lupin. Why
wasn't Lupin saying anything?
"Are you so pathetic,"
Snape hissed, "that you can't even consider a possibility? JUST SAY THE
WORDS, YOU COWARDLY LITTLE WEAKLING!"
It was the 'cowardly' that
did it, or perhaps the 'weakling.' Harry did the only thing he could
think of. He sneered and curled his lip in the best imitation of Snape he
could manage and snarled the words viciously so Snape would see what he
looked like to the Gryffindors. "SIRIUS BLACK WAS A HATE-MONGER!" he
Snape lowered his wand.
But it was Lupin to whom Harry's eyes were drawn. The werewolf climbed
off his pile of straw and came to stand beside Snape, his eyes glued to
Harry's face. He seemed to be looking for something, and even as he
searched, the sight of the two adult wizards standing side by side
suddenly filled Harry's mind with images: Sirius sending Snape to his
death for revenge, Lupin's and Dumbledore's lives ruined, Sirius laughing
maniacally, Sirius putting the Order at risk for his own pleasure, Sirius
lashing out at anyone who disagreed with him, Sirius trying to manipulate
Harry into aping his father's lesser qualities, Sirius petulant, Sirius
moody, Sirius angry, angry, angry.
Sirius Black WAS a
hate-monger! Harry thought. The realization shocked him. Immediately
he began to think of excuses, the miserable way the Blacks had treated
Sirius, the encouragement he'd received from Harry's own father, the agony
he must have felt over Peter's betrayal... Harry turned defiant eyes upon
Snape, wondering if the wizard was trying to read his mind, daring him to
gloat. But all Snape said was, "How do you feel about him now?"
The question took Harry by
surprise. He lowered his gaze and stood quite still, waiting for powerful
new emotions to wash over him... anguish, resentment, rage. But none of
those came. Nothing came at all, except Sirius' face, followed by a flood
of warmth. He stilled loved him! Sirius had been hateful, and Harry
still loved him. He'd been angry and vengeful and thoughtless and had
made terrible, terrible mistakes... and Harry still loved him. He lifted
shocked eyes to his teachers.
"The same!" he whispered,
and Lupin smiled. But Snape just raised a single eyebrow. "Imagine
that," he murmured. "The sky didn't fall, the world didn't collapse." He
shoved his hands in his pockets and returned to his seat in the hay.
After a moment, Lupin followed suit.
Harry just stood where he
was, remembering one occasion after another where he'd stubbornly refused
to admit the truth to Snape. It now seemed like an exhausting waste of
energy. Why had he been so afraid to acknowledge bad things about the
people he loved? "You should have said something before," he berated
Snape, then grinned with delight at the sputtering fury this admonition
brought to the potions master's face. Lupin roared with laughter and
Harry gave him a satisfied smirk before resuming his seat beside Snape.
The three of them sat
quietly for a while, listening to the hooting and fluttering of the birds
in the next room. Then Harry asked softly, "What about afterwards?" Both
men looked curiously at him and he clarified, "What's going to happen to
Lupin made no response but
Snape nodded at him. "You'll find out who your friends are," he
acknowledged. "You probably won't have many, just as you didn't when the
basilisk was released or when your name came out of the Goblet of Fire."
Lupin snorted. "You're
assuming no one listened to you, Severus!" he observed coyly. Snape gave
him the barest flicker of a glance before returning his attention to
Harry, who wondered,
"Why should I bother,
Lupin sat up straight but
Snape held up a hand, cutting off whatever he was about to say. "For
those who deserve to live," he answered the boy. "Can you name anybody
who deserves to live, Potter?"
It was a startling
question, but almost immediately, names began leaping to Harry's mind.
"Hermione," he declared first. "Ron. Ginny. Neville." His eyes fell on
the teacher across the room and he smiled. "Professor Lupin," he added
He felt Snape's intense
gaze upon him and looked squarely back at the teacher beside him. "I
don't put you in that category, Professor," he announced calmly. He
wasn't sure he meant it, but Snape just rolled his eyes. Then he pulled
out his wand, took hold of Harry's hand, turned his palm upward, and gave
it a light tap. Harry glanced in confusion from Snape's face to his hand
and back again before inquiring, "What was that?"
"That's what the nuns do
when you get the answer wrong," Snape said mildly. He raised his wand
above Harry's palm and commanded, "Try again."
"I... I..." Harry
laughing helplessly at the pointlesness of Snape bringing the wand down
on his palm again, just as gently as before.
"Too slow," Snape
declared. "Think harder."
Snape's voice was deadly
serious and Harry tried to sober up. He looked to Snape's face for a
clue. The housemaster was staring so hard at him that Harry could see his
reflection in the man's eyes. Then it came to him.
"Oh," he murmured with an
abashed little nod. "Me."
Snape let go of his hand
and turned to gaze out the window again. Harry glanced at Lupin, then
took a deep breath and asked cautiously, "What about you, Professor?"
"What about me, Potter?"
"Do you intend to be my
friend afterwards?" the boy asked pointedly. Snape turned to him with a
somewhat nauseous expression and Harry added defiantly, "I'd say you owe
me, wouldn't you?"
My turn, Snape
realized sourly. He took a deep breath and said firmly, "Potter, there is
no one on earth more deserving of true friendship." He paused and added
with a thoughtful shrug, "Except maybe Granger."
Hermione chose that exact
moment to enter the room, a bundled napkin in her hand. She was followed
closely by Ron, and Snape climbed furiously to his feet at the sight of
them, all thoughtfulness disappearing from his face. Before Hermione
could speak, he roared at her, "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I brought you a ham
sandwich from brunch," Hermione replied, holding out the napkin. Snape
glowered at her.
"Anything else?" he
demanded acidly as Harry and Lupin got to their feet.
Hermione nodded. "Thanks
awfully for telling Malfoy I'm good at research and theory."
Snape snatched the
sandwich from her hand. "Spellwad!" he thundered, and Hermione flinched
as if expecting to be struck by a curse. Instead, a feisty barn owl flew
into the room and landed happily on Snape's shoulder. With a disdainful
glare at Hermione, Snape offered the owl the sandwich. The creature was
hooting and gulping contentedly when Professor McGonagall marched into the
She strode purposefully up
to Snape with barely a glance at the others and declared, "Severus Snape,
I... what is that?" She pointed at the item Snape was holding up to his
"A ham sandwich," he
"Oh," Minerva nodded. She
reached out and brushed Spellwad off Snape's shoulder with an irritated,
"Shoo!" and the bird grabbed the remainder of the sandwich and flew away.
"Right. Where was I? Oh,
yes!" She took Snape by both shoulders and announced, "Severus Snape, I
confer upon you the Order of the Order, for duty above and beyond the call
of duty... on behalf of another member of the Order." Lupin and the
students burst out laughing at this ridiculously-worded pronouncement and
McGonagall tossed them the tiniest hint of a smile before grabbing Snape
by the ears and pulling his head forward to peck him dryly on both cheeks.
When Snape pulled away he
was as red as a beet and while the witches and wizards surrounding him
laughed and clapped, he seethed, "I hate you all, and if one more
Gryffindor comes through that door..."
"Hello!" Dumbledore called
cheerily, poking his head into the room. He had no idea why his
appearance should inspire such mirth but chose to ignore the giggles and
applause that accompanied his every step as he walked across the room to
usurp Minerva's position in front of Snape.
"Severus," he commanded
lightly, "go to bed. And don't get up until you're good and ready. Then
write down for me and Lupin, Malfoy and Miss Granger the recipe for
Lupin's Remedy, if you would. I'll take full responsibility."
Snape nodded curtly and as
Dumbledore stepped aside, he made to sweep dramatically from the room.
But suddenly he stopped and turned slowly back towards Professor
McGonagall. The Gryffindors watched, intrigued, as a diabolical little
smile spread across his lips. With a glint in his eye and no other
warning, he suddenly grabbed Minerva around the waist and pulled her up
against him, kissing her squarely on the mouth.
"Oh!" she gasped
breathlessly when he released her.
"Maybe it wasn't such a
bad term after all," he whispered naughtily in her ear.
He swept from the room
without another word and Dumbledore turned reassuringly to Minerva.
"Don't worry," he
whispered. "I'm fairly certain he won't do that again."
Jealous, old man?
Minerva thought indignantly. "What makes you so certain?" she asked
Dumbledore just smiled.
And when Snape returned to his quarters, he found Elizabeth waiting for
him with plateful of Easter dinner and a warm smile.
An Obedient House