“Enervate.” Harry’s eyes flickered open, and he groaned softly. He could see four shadowy figures leaning over him. For a few moments he lay there, his mind too groggy to register what had happened. After a few seconds, however, he stiffened, and pulled himself up into a sitting position. He was in a large and dusty room. In one corner was a huge four poster bed, with long, cobwebby velvet hangings. The wallpaper was peeling and there were long scratch marks on the wooden floor. Harry had been here before, three years ago. He was in the Shrieking Shack.
“Nice of you to join us, Potter.” Harry looked up into the grinning face of the Death Eater Rookwood. On either side of him stood Nott and Rodolphus Lestrange. Both were leering down at him, their faces menacingly shadowed by their hoods. Harry said nothing, but glared up at him. He tried to subtly feel for his wand in his pocket, but realised his hands were tied. “Oh no, Potter. We weren’t going to take any chances,” said Rookwood, spinning Harry’s wand between his fingers. “We heard what you did to Goyle. Rather remarkable, actually, for one so young.”
“I’d call it more of a lucky fluke,” a familiar voice sneered from the shadows. Severus Snape stepped up from behind the other Death Eaters and smirked down at him. “Dear dear, Potter. It seems you’ve landed yourself in trouble…again.”
“You!” Harry snarled, glowering up at him and feeling hatred pounding through his veins.
“Very perceptive, is he not?” said Snape idly.
“Severus was just telling us about your history with this little place. Apparently, this is where you first met your dear godfather Sirius. What a pity he’s not here today, hmm?” Rookwood grinned horribly.
“You shut up!” Harry spat, struggling in vain against his bonds.
“Oh dear. It seems that Dumbledore never managed to teach you any manners, Potter. I think I’ll have to remedy that. Crucio!”
Harry yelled as his body began to spasm in agony, feeling white hot pain shooting through his limbs. It seemed to go on forever, but just as black spots began to invade his eyes, it lifted. He lay there on the floor, panting uncontrollably, his eyes watering with pain. “Oh dear…don’t cry, Harry Potter.”
“I’m not crying!” Harry snarled at Rookwood, forcing himself back up, though his body screamed in protest. Rookwood raised an eyebrow.
“The Dark Lord was right…the boy has got courage.”
“There’s a difference between courage and arrogance, Rookwood,” Snape spat. “In my experience, the boy has only the latter.” He looked down at Harry, his lip curling. Harry felt a wave of red hot hatred go through him. This man had murdered Dumbledore. He felt a kind of current run through him, and he concentrated hard on the ropes binding his wrists together. With a flicker of triumph he felt them loosen, and slipped his hands free. He looked up into the cold, black eyes in front of him, and then launched himself at him. Snape stepped back sharply, his face surprised. Rookwood, Nott and Lestrange wrestled him back to the ground, Harry struggling valiantly.
“You bastard!” he yelled at Snape. “You killed him!”
“Yes, Potter. I seem to remember you saying that to me last time we met. Perhaps it’s time you changed your tune…it‘s getting rather old.”
“I thought he was bound,” Lestrange muttered.
“He was,” Snape snapped. “Re-bind him tighter. Potter is often lucky with wandless magic.”
“Poor, poor Dumbledore,” Nott said with a grin. “All he ever did was try and save you. But what’s this? Only a few weeks after his death, little Harry Potter is captured by Death Eaters? He must be turning in his grave, poor man. Well, the Dark Lord always said Dumbledore‘s affection for you would be the end of him, the fool.”
“Dumbledore was ten times the wizard Voldemort is!” Harry snarled. All four Death Eaters flinched.
“Don’t,” Snape hissed, thrusting his wand against Harry’s throat, “say his name!”
“Why not?” Harry snapped. “I’m not scared of him…unlike you. You’re his servant and you can’t even say his name. You‘re pathetic!”
Snape stabbed his wand harder into Harry’s neck. “Your failure to fear the Dark Lord has always been your greatest weakness, Potter,” he said coldly.
“Take it back, Potter,” Nott said, a nasty smile creeping across his face. “Pledge allegiance to the Dark Lord, and we will spare you more pain.” Harry threw back his head and laughed derisively, although his head was throbbing agonisingly. “No? Then declare that the Dark Lord is the greatest wizard in the world.”
“No!” Harry snarled. “Because he’s not. He’s an evil, pathetic murderer…nothing more.”
Lestrange’s eyes bulged out of his face in shock and anger. “Crucio!” he hissed.
Once again Harry felt flood after flood of unbearable agony sweep over him, and he bit his tongue to stop himself from screaming; he would not give them the satisfaction. The curse lifted, and Harry immediately pulled himself up again. He would not let them win. He could feel blood in his mouth, and spat it viciously onto the floor.
“Feel like saying it now, Potter?” Lestrange said silkily. Harry looked up at him.
“No,” Harry replied. “And you can carry on torturing me, but I’m never going to say it.”
“Really? We’ll see about that,” Lestrange said, raising his wand again. Snape hit it back down.
“No, Rodolphus. The boy does not lie. His is like his father…stubborn, conceited and insufferably arrogant. Undoubtedly, he will meet the same end, and very soon. But he will not say it.”
Lestrange looked sulky. “Can’t I do it anyway?”
“No,” Snape said silkily. “You remember what the Dark Lord said. He wants the boy alive and well…not half dead. He won’t last if you do it again; look at him,” he said scornfully, indicating Harry, who was pale and shaking. “But I think I have an even better way to…er…deal with him. You three go back to the Dark Lord now. Tell him that Potter has been caught and I will bring him back shortly. I just want a little bit of…enjoyment with him, after the six years I have been forced to spend in his intolerable company.” Rookwood looked doubtful, but Nott and Lestrange nodded at once, and began to walk towards the door. Snape looked to be their leader. After a stern glance from Snape, however, Rookwood too left the room. The door clicked gently shut behind him, and their footsteps echoed down the stairs. Snape and Harry glared at each other.
“You‘re nauseating,” Harry said, feeling hatred such as he had never felt. “This isn’t over. You won’t get away with this. I’ll make sure of it.” Snape’s lip curled again as he looked pointedly down at Harry’s firmly tied wrists. He paused for a second, then walked out of the door, coming back in after a few moments.
“Now listen to me, Potter” he said urgently. “It won’t be long before the Dark Lord sends the others back - he will not be pleased that I have kept you here. We do not have much time, so you need to listen to me very carefully.”
“And why would I want to do that, Snape?” Harry growled.
“Because, Potter,” Snape spat, “believe it or not, I am on your side.” There was a long silence, and then Harry began to laugh.
“Do you really expect me to believe that? I saw you kill him! I was there, remember!”
“Yes, I remember perfectly, Potter. I saw you before the charm wore off. I saw you when you were disillusioned. Your Occlumency is so poor that I could feel your fear as soon as I arrived.”
Harry was silent, slightly thrown. “So? You saw me, big deal. What does that prove? You still killed him.”
“Because he asked me to, Potter,” Snape snarled.
“Oh really?” Harry said sarcastically. “I don’t seem to remember that.”
“Because we arranged it before, you fool!”
“Why?” Harry barked. “Why would he ask you to do that?”
“Because,” Snape said slowly, “for reasons unfathomable to myself, his main concern has always been keeping his students, particularly you, safe. Draco Malfoy was set the task of killing Dumbledore. As you no doubt saw, he was hesitant to do it. Had Dumbledore not died that night, the Dark Lord would have killed Draco. But Dumbledore also did not want Draco to be a killer. He knew there would be no way out for him after that. The Headmaster also knew that if he had not died that night, the Dark Lord would not rest until half the school was dead. He made me promise, a few months previously, that if it came to it, if other people’s lives were in danger - principally yours - that I would kill him, in front of the other Death Eaters.” He paused, and Harry stared at him in disbelief. He was about to speak when Snape spoke again. “He knew how important it was for me to stay the Dark Lord’s favourite. I was losing favour - the Dark Lord was beginning to suspect that my loyalties did, after all, lie with Dumbledore. He set Draco that mission to test me; he knew Draco would not be able to complete it. He was waiting to see if I would let Dumbledore escape, unharmed…or if I would finish the task myself.”
“Why?” Harry demanded. “Why was it so important that you remain in Voldemort’s favour?”
Snape sneered. “Use what little brain you have, Potter. Who do you think was passing information to Dumbledore about the Horcruxes? Who do you think has the slightest chance in finding out what they are, and then locating them?”
Harry blinked. “You know…you know about the Horcruxes?” he said quietly.
“Of course I know, you fool. I was the one who informed Dumbledore where the ring was hidden. I am the one who has just destroyed another. And I am the only one who can possibly help you on your miserable little mission.”
“But…but he said no one knew…”
“Of course he told you that! What do you think you would have said if he’d told you that I knew?”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t believe you. I don’t care if you know about the Horcruxes. I saw your face. I saw your face when you killed him. I saw that look of hatred…of disgust…”
“Of course you saw hatred and disgust!” Snape hissed impatiently, his face twisted. “But it wasn’t directed at Dumbledore! It was directed at myself! Do you think I wanted to do it? Do you think I enjoyed it? Killing the one man who had always trusted me…always believed in me…given me a job and shelter when no one else would? Don’t you think I would hate myself for that? Be disgusted at what I was doing?”
“I…but…he was begging…” Harry said weakly. “He said your name….he was pleading…”
“Yes, Potter. Pleading for me to do it. Did you not notice the pause between my confronting Dumbledore, and actually killing him? We are both highly skilled Occlumens and Legilimens…he was talking to me, in my mind. Telling me I had to do it.” He paused, breathing rather heavily. Harry was silent, remembering the long look that had passed between Snape and Dumbledore before Snape had uttered the curse. He remembered how Dumbledore’s voice had echoed inside his own head, telling him to go back.
“Do you not think, Potter,” Snape said icily, “that if Dumbledore wanted to escape, he would have done? Do you not think that his phoenix, so ready to save his life at the Ministry, would have done the same here, if Dumbledore had not wanted this to happen?”
Harry shook his head numbly. “I can’t believe it…” he muttered. “I can’t…”
“Well, you must,” Snape said coldly. He raised his wand and vanished Harry’s bonds. “Here’s your wand,” he said, shoving it into Harry’s hand. “You need to trust me now.”
“Why are you helping me?” Harry said flatly, gripping his wand tight in his hand. “Okay, you were loyal to Dumbledore…but he’s dead now. So why are you still helping me?”
“Because I promised Dumbledore, why else?” Snape snapped.
“But we both know you want me dead,” Harry continued. “Why don’t you just go back to Voldemort now? You’re not going to lose out.”
Snape stared at him. “You really are thicker than I thought. If I wanted you dead, Potter, you would be dead. For some strange reason, it seems that you are the only one who can defeat the Dark Lord. I do not want to spend the rest of my life behind a mask, so therefore it seems that I am forced to help you. There is also the small matter that I gave my word to Dumbledore.”
“Oh, and your word means a lot, does it Snape?” Harry said scathingly.
“Yes,” Snape said, his eyes glittering strangely. “It does.” He paused, then moved towards the door. “Come on, we need to go now. They will be here soon.”
Harry stayed where he was. “I can’t believe you,” he said slowly. “After all this time, I can’t believe you’re on our side. You’re the reason my parents are dead!” he said accusingly. Snape was quiet for a while, and then he spoke, slowly, as if every word caused him great pain.
“Yes, I am. And do you not think that that is another reason why I am so keen to help you? Do you not think that is another reason why I have always tried to save your miserable skin?”
“Why?” Harry said blankly. “You already saved my life in the first year. What’s it to you that my parents are dead? You hated my dad.”
“Yes, I hated him,” Snape said slowly. “But I did not hate your mother.”
“My mother?” Harry repeated. “What…you…”
“Your mother was…not like your father,” Snape said with difficulty. “I did not want her dead.”
“But…you didn’t like her! You called her a Mudblood! I saw, in your memory last year!”
“Of course I did!” Snape snapped. “I was fifteen and had just been humiliated by your father! I was angry and disgraced. And anyway, it wasn’t until my sixth year that I got to know her properly.”
“Potions, Potter. Your mother - unlike yourself - was very gifted at Potions. We had lessons together for two years, and we developed…a friendship.”
“You were friends with my mum?” Harry said in disbelief. “But…why do you hate me so much then? I mean, from the very beginning, before you even knew me…you hated me.”
“Yes, I hated you,” Snape hissed. “Do you have any idea what it was like, seeing you walk into the Great Hall to be sorted, a mini version of your father? Seeing a vision of the man who had made my life a misery, a living hell? But then…then it got worse. When I first saw you properly, up close, in your first Potions lesson…you looked at me. And then how could I not hate you?”
Harry stared. “What? I don’t -”
“You looked at me, and I saw Lily’s eyes staring out at me from James Potter’s face!” Snape said, his expression wild. “How could I not hate you? You were a living reminder of everything I had loved, everything I had lost!”
“You loved her?” Harry said incredulously. “But…you…”
“When I realised how the Dark Lord had interpreted the prophecy, I begged for her life. I knew I could not save you, but I begged for Lily’s life. The Dark Lord was amused, and agreed to let her live. I think he would have, had she not stood in the way.”
Harry closed his eyes, remembering the high voice that plagued his nightmares. “Stand aside, you silly girl! Stand aside!”
“So you see, Potter? You see why I have to help you? It’s not for you…it’s not even for Dumbledore. It’s for your mother. She was there for me when no one else was…she died for you…and I won’t let her death be in vain.”
Harry stared blankly at Snape, unable to comprehend what he had just heard. He opened his mouth, and then shut it.
“Is that why…is that why Dumbledore always trusted you? Because he knew about that? About my mum?”
“It is,” Snape said curtly. “And you are not to repeat this to anyone, do you understand, Potter?”
“Well, it’s hardly something I’d want to brag about, is it?” Harry said, his mind returning.
Snape sneered. “Now, unless you want to be caught, I’d suggest we leave…now.” Turning on his heel he walked smartly out of the room. Harry followed after a moment, his head reeling.
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