A/N: This is a little one-shot looking at Snape's difficult role as headmaster in DH. I love reading about that period in his life, and here is my own little contribution.
It was originally posted on FFN as chapter 15 of my story "Flying With The Raven". As it doesn't reference any of that story's plot, I have decided to let it stand independently. If you prefer, you can still read it as part of FWTR.
Special thanks to Trickie Woo for beta reading!
YOU MUST BE KIDDING
It had not been a good day for Severus Snape. Not that he ever had many good days, but today was particularly bad. He had expected as much, when the Dark Lord had announced his visit, but nothing could have prepared him for what was to come. He felt as if things were spiralling out of his control in a vortex of ever increasing violence and doom, and no matter how much he tried, he could do nothing to prevent it.
Spring was always late so far up north, and even though it was well into March now, winter still had its grip on Scotland. The cold was rendered even more penetrating by the humidity, which settled on Severus’ hair and face like a cold web as he walked down to the Gate in order to greet the Dark Lord. Hagrid’s hut stood deserted, since the half-giant had fled, and, in the heavy grey of dawn, its cold, empty windows stared at Severus like a sign of dark foreboding. When the Dark Lord had sent him away to walk the grounds alone, Severus knew that he was up to something sinister. Later, he had joined him in the castle, but had not come up into the headmaster’s office. Severus suspected that he wanted to avoid facing Dumbledore’s portrait, as if, even in death, he was afraid to look him in the eye, and probably quite rightly so.
After the Dark Lord had left, Severus had traced his steps along the lake, looking for something insidious that he might have hidden. But he would never have imagined what he found - the shock of Dumbledore’s white marble tomb, violently split in half, the sight of the faded corpse of the man he had killed, and the realisation of what the Dark Lord had been after. The Elder Wand, the wand that Voldemort had so obsessively searched for, had been right under Severus’ nose, had been the wand owned by Albus Dumbledore. He had mended the cracked marble slab, and, boiling inside with rage, strode back to the castle.
It was outrageous. How could Dumbledore expect him to take his place, execute his plan, and protect the students from harm, while withholding such important information from him? Now the most powerful wand in the world had fallen into the Dark Lord’s hands, a wand that supposedly made its owner invincible, when he, Severus, could so easily have prevented it, could have hidden it, destroyed it even. This time, he would tell Dumbledore in no uncertain terms what he thought of his secrecy and scheming. This time, the old man would not be able to pretend he was sleeping. Dumbledore’s portrait was such a constant presence in Severus’ life that it was easy to forget that the man himself was indeed gone. Nevertheless, he decided it was good enough to vent some of his anger, as he climbed the stairs to his office and entered, pleased to find the frame of Dumbledore’s portrait occupied.
“Does it disturb you, Albus, to know that the Dark Lord defiled your tomb, and took your wand?” he addressed the painted man in his slow, measured drawl. He was determined not let his agitation show.
“Ah, Severus, I expected as much...” Dumbledore’s portrait replied, completely unperturbed.
“You expected it?” Severus asked incredulously, pronouncing each word with exaggerated precision. “And yet you didn’t see fit to share such a minor piece of information with me? The fact that you had the Elder Wand, the Death Stick, which has now fallen into the hands of the most powerful Dark wizard of all time?”
“There is no need to get so worried over this, Severus, it is of little consequence.”
“To you, it obviously is not, since you are dead already. The rest of us, however, do not have that luxury.”
“You know very well how much I care about the fate of the living, Severus. Your cynicism is quite uncalled for,” the old wizard said with a benevolent smile.
“Do you care then, that the Dark Lord has just instructed me to deliver him the Longbottom boy? What do you think he intends to do with him, if I comply?”
“I have complete trust in you that you will find a way to protect the students of Hogwarts, Severus,” Dumbledore said calmly.
“Do you, Albus? And would you have any suggestions on how I might achieve that? Have you any idea what it means, with Potter’s lot pulling one pointless stunt after the other? Do you think all it takes is a little torture, and the Dark Lord is appeased again?” His patience was beginning to wear thin, and it cost him some effort to stop himself from raising his voice.
“I appreciate the difficulty of your situation, Severus. The most important thing however, is to keep your cover.”
“My cover!" he spat, unable to contain his frustration any longer. "I’m sick and tired of this charade, Albus! Why not kill the Dark Lord now, while I still have the chance? Was that not the reason you made me your murderer, so I could gain the Dark Lord’s trust?”
“Lord Voldemort cannot be killed, not yet, not until Harry has completed his mission.”
“His body can be killed, it has been done before. And last time, it gave the world thirteen years of respite. Thirteen years, in which you could have completed that mission yourself, but did nothing! Why only now? Why entrust a teenage boy with such a task?”
“I have only recently come to know the secret of Lord Voldemort’s immortality.”
“Is that so? Tell me, then, is it a Horcrux that Potter is to destroy?”
“You know?” Dumbledore seemed shocked.
“It doesn’t take much to work that out. Or did you think I was unaware of this particular branch of Dark magic? All those years, you had an expert in the Dark Arts right here! Perhaps, if you had trusted me, we could have worked it out, before the Dark Lord had a chance to rise again.”
“You were young then, very young, Severus, and, if I may say so, rather unstable. I feared you might be tempted.”
“Tempted to take a life and maim my soul, in order to prolong my own miserable existence? If you thought me capable of that, then you didn’t know me at all,” he said bitterly.
“Please, Severus, this discussion is of no benefit. You must trust me that I have a plan.”
“Trust! That is quite a request, coming from you!” Severus snarled in anger.
“Please, Severus, it is our only hope of defeating Lord Voldemort.”
“Your plan is getting a little costly, Albus, don’t you think? It might do well to revise it.”
“Severus, please? Those were precisely the words Charity Burbage spoke, before the Dark Lord killed her, and fed her to his snake! How many more, Albus? Potter? Lovegood? Longbottom? Granger, perhaps? How many more lives are expendable in your grand scheme for the greater good?”
Severus’ eyes were glittering suspiciously, either with fury or because they were threatening to fill with tears, but he managed to hold on to a little composure.
“Do not think that the loss of dear Charity does not pain me,” Dumbledore replied wearily. “But I have thought about it long and hard, and come to the conclusion that this is the best way.”
“Really? Let me tell you what conclusion I have come to!” The younger wizard’s face hardened with determination. “I will not stand by again, and watch as a member of staff, or a student is murdered. So, for the sake of your plan, Longbottom had better find a way to stay out of trouble!”
He turned on his heel and left, heading for the Slytherin common room. He had to tip Longbottom off about the danger he was in. He would mention it to Crabbe and Goyle, they could be relied upon to taunt Neville with it in classes. And if that failed, Albus would have to pay the Fat Lady a visit.