The Sugar Quill
Author: Scorpiogrudge  Story: Amidst Scarlet and Gold  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Takes place after the infamous Shrieking Shack scene in Prisoner of Azkaban. Characters and situations are the creations of JK Rowling. Used without permission.

***

"Everyone suffers wrongs for which there is no remedy."
- Edgar Watson Howe

"Please."

That firm and unyielding tone masked by a twinkle of amusement in the blue eyes and a twitch of the silver mustache indicating a smile. Snape was not fooled. This was a conversation that would be neither amusing nor worthy of a smile. A sneer on the other hand was sure to remain firmly on his face until he left the Headmaster's office and returned to the dungeons. Fixing his sneer in place--which never fooled Dumbledore, but it was a habit and somehow life-affirming--Snape began the walk to Dumbledore's office.

The Headmaster was right behind him, moving just as silently as a shadow would. Snape could feel those eyes boring into his back, the smile fading to a disappointed frown, maybe the smallest shake of the head... That broke him, and he hated that feeling, that Dumbledore could do it without even needing to look at him. "My reaction was perfectly--"

"Severus, we shall discuss it in my office," said Dumbledore.

Not even a readable reaction from the old man. Snape found his hand clenching into a fist, and he forced it to stop. He could play this little game as well; he had been for as long as he had been at Hogwarts. First as a student, and then especially as a teacher, hiding anything that could be considered vulnerable. Once more, his hand started to clench into a fist.

Some slights, some insults, some injustices refused to remain behind that wall of indifference. Some experiences--ah, the office finally. For once, Snape vowed not to be cowed into submission by any pitying looks, kind words, or subtle orders. This time, he would have his say. If nothing happened to the murderer and the werewolf, surely nothing would come of him delivering a few choice words. Words that had been waiting a very long time with no one to hear except himself.

"Now, Severus." Dumbledore closed the door and crossed the room, looking as completely unflappable as ever. He sat and leaned back slightly in the chair, the creak of the wood filling the room until the older man spoke again. "Would you care to explain yourself?"

Snape snorted--at Dumbledore's words, the chair he was expected to sit in, the school and all its students, life in general. "Explain myself? I hardly think it's necessary." His lip curled into a more vicious sneer, heartfelt this time and tinged with true anger. A lingering remnant of his state of mind just a day ago.

That twinkle again, but this time it was not of amusement. It was hard and bright, like a diamond. It had no playfulness in it. This was the look, with its diamond shine in pools of clear blue, that could cut through anything. "It is."

For a time that Snape measured by counting backwards from one hundred, the Potions master breathed heavily through his nose. Breathe, count, relax, don't let it get the better here in front of the Headmaster. "I..." No, not yet. Keep counting. Closing his eyes, Snape actually said in a slightly choked tone, "A schoolboy grudge." He swallowed thickly, his mouth dry and a rancid taste on his tongue. "They called it a schoolboy grudge."

His efforts at self-control helped, but only in a temporary capacity. Every word he spoke caused that rush, that burning tightness to come back threefold. Explain himself? "It was their fault!" The volume of Snape's voice shook him, and he returned to counting and breathing, this time to simply regain an even tone; yelling at Dumbledore would not do.

"Severus--"

"This wasn't a classroom prank or a detention!" Snape barked, all semblance of control lost. "Do they actually think I would be so petty..." The look on Remus' face in the Shrieking Shack answered his question before he had finished thinking it. Yes, they would think he was that petty. "Schoolboys," Snape began, and now his voice was dangerously quiet, "hold grudges because they don't know better. They don't know what waits for them outside their childish dreams and their well-protected lives of school and home." His eyes glittered in the soft light of the office, bordering on madness once again. "A man holds a grudge because he has been grievously slighted."

Snape leaned on the desk, peering very intently into Dumbledore's eyes. "I have left my childish dreams and silly notions of protection far behind." The fingers of Snape's left hand spasmed momentarily. "I know what lies beyond them, I know evil. I was part of it. And you think I need to explain myself."

"Please do." Dumbledore acted completely unaffected by it all, as if Snape had said nothing.

"You're a fool, Albus, if you think that I will drop my 'schoolboy grudge' simply because it's unpleasant for those-those Gryffindors." Relaxing a little, his voice now sounding tired and devoid of anger, Snape fell back into the waiting chair. "I wish it were simply a schoolboy grudge, because then it would imply that something innocent had happened and I was merely humiliated."

No sound emerged from his mouth, though Snape's lips moved.

Now it was Dumbledore's turn to lean forward. "What was that, Severus?"

"You heard me. You heard me, and you know how I feel," Snape said. He passed a hand across his forehead, carelessly pushing the hair from his face. "If I can't hold a grudge over a threat on my life, then what? When am I allowed one? When I'm dead?" He laughed mirthlessly. "It'll be too late then."

"A joke, Severus. You've known that the entire time," Dumbledore said, and there was a sickening gentility to it that made Snape want to gag.

Snape stood and looked down at Dumbledore. Both their faces were neutral. "That doesn't mean my life wasn't threatened. Now if you've finished shielding your precious Gryffindors, I believe I'm going to nurse my stupid, little, schoolboy grudge alone, as I seem to be the only one to realize that I was fortunate to survive that joke." He gave a mocking half-bow. "Good evening, Headmaster. I hope I've explained myself to you to your satisfaction." With a swirl of his robes, Snape turned and walked to the door, ignoring everything about the office that normally brought peace in him.

At the door, holding the handle, and staring down the moving staircase, Snape said, "I owe you, Albus, and you know how much. Your disappointment cuts me, but the fact that you hold my life in such low regard is the cruelest of cuts. Just like they did, and still do." Snape turned, and the barest flash of hurt was visible in the gaze that otherwise appeared steady and guarded. "I wanted recognition of the injustice that was done to me; it would help a schoolboy sleep at night to know that he was not to blame for his own brush with death. Even after twenty years."

The door closed, and the office was plunged into silence. The Headmaster's eyes were no longer twinkling as he watched the door.

* * * *

Slightly more than fifteen minutes had passed. Fifteen minutes of counting and breathing, but not to hold back the anger this time.

A joke. Even the Headmaster considered it just some triviality in life. Just once, it would have been nice for someone to understand, but it was obvious no one ever would. Another burden to bear on his own, or continue bearing; no one had listened to him before, so now was no different.

And now, Snape was too tired to get properly riled up. That was really why he hated meeting with Dumbledore: the old man was able to just suck all of that angry energy out of him. Without that, Snape had little left.

Absently, he rubbed the worn wood of the desk, his palm not feeling the soft, smooth texture. He took comfort in it though; he couldn't say why. Perhaps it was just a familiar thing that never judged or talked back or melted cauldrons.

Start counting backwards from one hundred again.

Eighty was interrupted by a knock at the door.

"Enter." Snape almost rolled his eyes, but that was a thing to be hidden or he'd be doing it everyday at the students. That was not an image he wanted to present.

"I don't think our conversation was quite finished, Severus." Dumbledore entered the room and closed the door, mindful not to trap the cranberry robes covered with half-moons in it.

"So my explanation was not adequate. Fine. What more would you like me to say?" A bitter smile touched just the corners of his mouth. "Perhaps you think it appropriate for me to apologize to Potter in front of the rest of the students for not wanting to die at the hands of his father's friends. Is that it?"

"Stop, Severus."

That tone again. Backwards from one hundred since there was little else for him to do when the old man was getting ready to lecture.

"This is personal--"

"Of course it is!"

Dumbledore leveled his gaze at Snape, and under his breath, Snape began counting backwards from fifty this time.

"This personal vendetta worries me."

Oh yes, now the old man says it. Too late though, far too late. Dumbledore was only worried because of the way it might affect Potter. Why was it always Potter? Whether James or Harry, the name would always taunt him with the simple things that he had been denied.

Snape, sitting in a rickety chair with little padding that smelled of walnut, hung his head. "It worries you? It worries you that I might do something to Potter, you mean to say. I repay my debts, Headmaster."

"Yes, I know."

To avoid the sight of his hands gripping one another in his lap, causing the tendons to bulge, Snape closed his eyes. This conversation was going nowhere; the Headmaster didn't understand at all. He just wanted to go to bed, to try and hold it all back for another twenty years, but this old man was--

"I worry about you, Severus."

A hand settled on his shoulder and squeezed.

"I worry about you, but I know how you frown upon such frivolous sentimentalities, so I refrain from showing it. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to talk to me. I'll be there to listen--"

There was always power when Dumbledore spoke Snape's name, a rather unsettling sensation that the old man weaved every single secret he held into those three syllables that twisted at the guts. Snape hated it.

"--son."

The hand passed quickly across the back of Snape's neck, the touch comforting and familiar like that of a cherished parent, and then was gone.

"You old fool," Snape whispered, and he slumped, defeated, in the chair. Not even that one word could make things all right. Not after so long favoring his schoolboy grudge.

End
//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --