The Sugar Quill
Author: Stellar Hawk  Story: The Day I Did Nothing  Chapter: Default
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The Day I Did Nothing

The Day I Did Nothing


Dear Harry,


If you are reading this, I am probably dead. Yes I am dead, because if I were still living, and Dumbledore had permitted me to tell you this, then I would be telling you in person, and this letter would be burning in the nearest fireplace.


First let me say, this is a hard letter for me to write, but I need to. Because you need to know. You deserve to know. I wanted to tell you this during your third year at Hogwarts. I wanted to tell you at Grimmauld Place. In fact I came very close to telling you several times, but always there was Dumbledore's strict order running through my head: "You must not tell Harry until he is ready to understand. You must let him learn some things on his own."


I asked him why, Harry. I pleaded with him to let me tell you, because I could not bear to see history repeating itself. I couldn't bear keeping things from you. But he said only that I was to trust his judgment, and his answer, for now, was no. We haggled about it for a while and finally reached this compromise: that I would write you a letter, or several letters, if I desired, in case I did not survive the war. I would be able to tell you everything, to unburden myself, in the knowledge that someday this letter (or letters--and I suspect there will be more after I finish this one) would pass into your hands. And someday, when the time came, when it was time for you to know, you, and you alone would be able to open this letter. And so, I am gone and you are reading this, and Dumbledore...or rather, Dumbledore's enchantment on this letter, has decided it is time.


Okay, well you are no doubt anxious to know what the big mystery is, so I will cut the prologue short and get to the point of this letter. The mystery, if you haven't guessed it already, is why Snape hates you, and why he chose to betray the Order of the Phoenix (and may he get his comeuppance for it, the snake!) Although, to tell you the truth, the bigger mystery, in my mind, is why Dumbledore decided to let it happen. But I haven't received my enchanted letter from him yet, and I suspect that I never will. I never have understood Dumbledore's motivations, but I've always believed that he knows what he's doing. Blind faith, you might call it. And maybe it is. But how else do you define faith anyway?


I have heard it said that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. I don't know if I would consider myself "good"--can anyone, truly? But I can certainly say that I did nothing that day. That day that would eventually lead to the destruction of the Order. You don't know how many times, Harry, that I have berated myself for playing it safe, for keeping my mouth shut, for letting Sirius and your father humiliate Snape that day. You know the day I am talking about -- you saw it in the Penseive. What you did not see, what Sirius and I were not permitted to tell you, was what happened afterward. And it's a very good thing you didn't eavesdrop on any more of that particular memory than you already did. Severus might very well have killed you on the spot that day, regardless of the consequences. You think that you have seen him angry. Trust me, you haven't seen the tenth part of his rage. Then again, I don't know when you're reading this, or what has passed in the meantime. Maybe you have.


Anyway, I think you can pretty much guess what happened next after Sirius and your father had Severus helpless. Yes, I sat there and watched them take off all his clothes in front of the entire school, and I did nothing to stop them. Nothing at all. I didn't laugh like the others. (Quite frankly the whole thing turned my stomach!) But the rest of the school sure did. All of them from the first years to the seventh years snickered, pointed, and howled with laughter, especially Peter Pettigrew. I think the only one besides me who wasn't laughing was Lily, and oh, was she mad at your father. She wouldn't speak to him again until the beginning of the next school year. Not even on the train home when he bought out half the snack cart to try to make amends. (Well, yes, I know, it wasn't exactly brilliant. Your mother never cared much for sweets, and your father always was a bit of a klutz when it came to apologies.)


Anyway, I can't say Snape didn't ask for trouble. He was a snotty, mouthy little brat, and he was always picking fights and looking for trouble...but Sirius and your father went too far that day. Something in him broke, I think, and never quite healed. Dumbledore would later say that people should have a second chance, even people like him. He also would say that what goes around comes around. And boy did it ever!


But you are wondering what this has to do with you, aren't you? Well, as Dumbledore used to say, patience is a virtue worth waiting for. Heh. Hang on, I'm getting there.


Anyway, Lily was furious. As you had seen in the Penseive, she left. But what you didn't see was that she changed her mind and came back. She actually came back and told James to put Snape down or else she was going to call the headmaster and have the both of them expelled. Well, as you can imagine James and Sirius stared at her as if she had just shouted an Unforgivable Curse. Nobody, but nobody snitched on another student in those days...nobody but Severus, that is. Peter started laughing, the idiot. I suppose he thought she was joking. He never seemed to know when to keep his head down. I think Lily next said something along the lines of, "Correction, the three of you." And she glared at Peter along with James and Sirius. That shut Peter up, I'll tell you.


James tried his "Aww, come on, Evans..." routine again, but your mother wouldn't back down. She was like that. Once she had made up her mind about something, she was going to stay the course, and no one, not even a Norwegian Ridgeback could stop her. Not even You-Know-Who. And you may find this a strange comment, Harry, but sometimes I wish your mother had backed down that day. Maybe things would have turned out differently...for everyone.


If it hadn't been for Sirius, James might have given in and let Snape go, and maybe that would have been the end of it. But I think by that point it was already too late. Too late for Severus. Yes, I know what you are thinking. This does not fit with what I said about him earlier. But surely you must understand by now that no one, not even You-Know-Who started out remorseless and unredeemable. Yes, Snape was always a real git, but I think there was still hope for him before that day. So, why didn't I tell Dumbledore about this, you are thinking? I did, Harry. I tried to warn him about Severus. But he would not listen. I think he was following some plan of his own, and still is, somehow. Sure wish I knew what it is...


Anyway, Sirius deliberately interpreted Lily's words literally. He pulled out his wand and put Snape down, all right. Down smack dab in the middle of the lake with a splash large enough to send all the Merfolk diving into their underwater homes for cover. Well, you can guess what happened next. He couldn't swim, so the giant squid fished him out. It didn't know any better. It was only a squid. It was only doing what it had been trained to do.


So there went Severus hanging from a tentacle upside-down by his ankle, buck naked, clear across the lake, and then, plop! Face-down on the nearest bank...I suppose the squid went away patting itself on the back with a tentacle for having rescued yet another hapless student. How was it supposed to know that it had just signed its own death warrant? Oh, if only Sirius hadn't been so cruel about the whole thing and Severus had only been the sort to take a joke, it would have been hilarious!


But I guess things like that aren't so hilarious when they happen to you... and the whole school is laughing at you. James, Sirius, and Peter were doubled over, cracking up laughing. Actually, I think Sirius was rolling on the ground. I am ashamed to admit it, but even I was chuckling at that point.


Lily was not amused. She told James and Sirius to give Severus his clothes back immediately and leave him alone. But no one cared about what Lily had to say--even if she was a prefect--or about how Severus was probably feeling, all soaking wet and miserable with his face pressed into the grass and the laughter in his ears. James and Sirius were on stage before an audience, and they knew they were unstoppable, and they couldn't have cared less about the reviews...or the consequences.


James said something along the lines of having finally found a way to get Severus to take a bath, and Sirius said something about soap and giant squid sponges. And somewhere around this time Severus' clothes got Vanished.


I suppose Lily wondered whether it would be better at that point to get a teacher, or to simply try to handle matters herself. I think she would have done better to settle for the former, but I suppose she was afraid of what James and Sirius might do to Severus if she left. What your mother did next, I shall never forget. I can remember this as clearly as if it happened yesterday. She Summoned Severus' wand before James and Sirius could think to do something to it next. Then she slipped her school robe off her shoulders, walked over to where Severus was lying, and trying her best to do this without looking, she laid it over him and put his wand down on the ground by his hand. Then, without another word to any of us she walked right past everyone and back into the school. Just before she went inside she said that she was going to go tell McGonagall that someone had fallen into the lake and if any of them had any sense at all, they wouldn't be hanging around when McGonagall got there. I'm telling you, it was so quiet by then you could have heard a flobberworm sneeze! And the stampede to get away from the scene of the crime before McGonagall showed up was like a herd of centaurs in full gallop.


Yes, your mother was brave, Harry, and goodhearted. She had more guts than I did. But then, she was not trying to hide something as terrible as lycanthropy from the rest of the school either. I was always afraid that if I angered James, Peter, or Sirius by standing up to them, then they would let my secret out. Ironic, and rather fitting don't you think, that it was Severus who finally let that secret slip? I will humbly admit, I probably deserved that. That and the loss of my job. Because you see, Harry, I should not have left it up to your mother to intervene. I was a prefect too. I should have done something. I should have said something. I had the authority and the moral obligation to do something. But I didn't. I have always been too passive...


Severus should not have fallen in love with your mother that day. Because, you see, he never stood a chance against your father. And one day, not too many years down the road... your father would not stand a chance against Severus' master.

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