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
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
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
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
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.
"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
"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
"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?"
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.
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.