Characters: Snape and Draco
Challenge: Family (doesn’t always mean blood)
Word Count: 1,107
Author's Notes: Set immediately after HBP. Not that JKR will write this little scene or anything but it’s been tugging at my brain for a while now.
Running a dirty hand over his equally dirty face, Draco staggered and fell to his knees. He was just so tired…
“Get up.” Professor Snape loomed over him, an unreadable expression on his face, “We have to keep going, Malfoy.” Extending a hand to help the boy up, Snape waited for Draco to take his hand.
Pushed past the point of exhaustion, pushed well beyond caring, Draco dredged up enough energy to snap, “I don’t need your help, Snape.”
Sneering, Snape crossed his arms over his chest, “That would be Professor Snape, Malfoy.” He said quietly, “And you obviously don’t need my help. You are, after all, doing just fine on your own, down in the dirt.” Just like you did up on the tower…
Pride and exhaustion warred on Draco’s face, “Go away, Snape.” He sounded so tired, even to himself, “I can do this myself. My father…”
“Your father?” Snape questioned, a dangerous light flashing in his eyes, “Your father. Ah, that’s right. Locked up in Azkaban, isn’t he?” Looming over Draco, Snape snapped, “Let us get one thing straight, Malfoy. Your father is not here. He is not going to save you. I am.” Thrusting his hand out once more, Snape spat, “Now, take my hand and get up. We have to keep going.”
Mutinously, Draco knocked Snape’s hand aside, “I can do it by myself, thanks.” The man and the boy stared at one another, surprised at the intensity of the battle they waged, “A Malfoy is nothing if not self sufficient. And you are a real bastard, Professor Snape.”
Snape’s fist curled into a ball at his side, “I know.” Dumbledore, why did you ask me to kill you? “Trust me, Mr. Malfoy; I know that better than you ever will. Now, shall we leave or shall we wait for you to wallow in the dirt some more?”
Grudgingly, Draco took Snape’s hand and levered himself to his feet. “Thanks.” He muttered ungraciously and the two of them started trudging down the dusty country road. As they walked, Draco kept darting looks at Snape, obviously working up the courage to ask him something. When he finally asked the question, in a small voice, it actually came as a relief to both of them.
Snape stopped dead in the road, staring at the boy. So young, so fragile, and so very much like his mother. “I did.” He did not bother making his tone gentle, better the boy learn the truth from him and no one else, “I did what you were supposed to do.”
A lone tear wandered down Draco’s cheek, leaving a streak of pale skin against the dirt. Angrily, he dashed it away and turned away from Snape to stare blindly in the opposite direction. “I couldn’t do it.” He whispered, flinching away from the hand that Snape laid on his shoulder, “I wanted to, God, I wanted to but I just couldn’t do it.”
Helplessly, Snape dropped his hand, “It’s alright, Draco.”
Whirling back, Draco stared at him, not caring that the tears were streaming down his face. “I should have done it.” He raged, hands clenched in fury, “It should have been me. The glory, the prize, it was all there. I just couldn’t…” Choking on his own words, Draco stammered, “I got to the top of the tower and I thought ‘just do it, he is dying anyway, anyone can see that. Even Potter could see that.’”
Snape’s eyes fluttered closed briefly, still he had not told Draco about Potter being on the tower. “I know.” He said quietly, “You don’t have to tell me this, Draco.”
“But I do!” He protested, smearing the tears with a frustrated hand, “I do. Because, you see, you have it all wrong, Snape.” Taking a deep breath, Draco visibly calmed himself and pressed on doggedly, “I was going to do it. But, when I got up there, I looked into Dumbledore’s,” his voice cracked on the name, “eyes and I listened to what he was saying and I couldn’t do it. Not because I didn’t want to. Because Dumbledore was right. He and Harry, they were right all along.”
Watching those grey eyes, usually cold and disdainful, well and overflow with tears, Snape fiercely resisted the urge to take the boy into his arms. Resisted the urge to offer comfort…
He must have shown something on his face. Draco shut his mouth and stared at Snape, wide eyed, realizing what he was confessing. Nervously, he tucked his fist about his wand, “What are you going to do?” Defiantly, he straightened himself and glared at Snape, daring him to do his worst, “Are you going to kill me, now?”
Regret slashed his heart to pieces when Draco shied away from the hand Snape would have laid on his shoulder, “No.” He replied quietly and then louder, to stop Draco from tearing off into the wilderness. “No!”
Draco stopped in mid-flight, a puzzled expression on his face, “No?”
“Are you deaf? I said no and I meant it.” Wrestling down his sarcasm, Snape crossed the road and firmly placed his hand on Draco’s shoulder, shaking him slightly “I made a promise to your mother, Draco, and I mean to keep it. Besides, regardless of what you did or didn’t do, of what I did or didn’t do,” what Dumbledore did or did not do, “both sides are after us now.”
Starting, Draco tried not to jerk out from under Snape’s hand, “Both sides?”
Wearily, “Yes.” Snape shrugged, “That’s what happens when you play both sides and you play them well enough that no one is sure which side you are actually on.” When the person who knows the truth dies, who is there to vouch for you? “The Dark Lord does not tolerate failure. They,” he jerked his finger back towards Hogwarts, “do not tolerate murder. Either way, we are caught in the middle.”
“So, what happens now?”
Snape tried not to sigh, “I take you to your mother. She can and will protect you better than I can. You are not of my blood,” though you damn near were, “and that is the protection you need now. It is best that you do not know what happens to me after that, the same as I will not know about you. The less we know, the less we can be forced to tell.”
Draco nodded, “I understand.” Easier now, the two of them continued walking down the road. “Thank you.” He whispered once, ever so quietly, eyes set dead on the road in front of him.
“You’re welcome.” I would be proud to have you as a son, Draco. “It’s not too much further now. We will be there by nightfall.”
audio: Indigo Girls - Least Complicated