Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 15

Harry at last found what he wanted to say - "For what, sir? Being a rubbish Potions Professor?" He said it lightly, a deft twist to undo some of the tension that had crept into the conversation and seemed to tighten down upon his neck.

"For that, if you like. Or for other things..." Snape said softly, his words a low murmur like that of a distant road.

Harry smirked, not noticing how much like Snape he looked when he did it, "Seems to me that's more Dumbledore's fault than yours, sir. He's the one that gave you the job, and kept you well past when it was of deadly necessity."

"Don't be so sure on that last count, Potter." Snape said softly. "I assure you that I make a quite decent Head of House..."

"And that's a deadly necessity?" Potter asked, his face twisted in thought... "Sir, are you there to keep control over your Slytherins?"

"Among other things, surely. You know Albus better than that, don't you?" Snape's voice curled in mockery -and Potter found that he could half-smile at it, knowing that it was halfway bent against Dumbledore himself.

"Redemption, Rescue, Protection." Harry Potter said, the last word twisting like a knife in his belly. Protection from the Dark Lord had nearly been his undoing, time and again.

"Perhaps you ought to hate me, Potter." Snape continued, implacably, in that obsidian cool drawl of his, that hinted at no emotion at all.

"For what? Lying to me, sir? I'm not sure there's anyone who doesn't do that!" Harry Potter found himself laughing, laughing to stop the screaming, the tears, the fury that wanted to unleash all of his emotions at once.

Snape tilted his head, and asked simply, "When did you figure that out?" His eyes burnt brightly in the sunlight, like black flecks from staring into the sun itself.

"Occlumency Practice, sir. You weren't surprised - at all." Harry sprung to his feet, started pacing about as he spoke, his hands moving in jerky motions as he burnt off excess energy. "Only a fool would stick to beliefs so soundly shattered." Harry's green eyes glared down at Severus Snape, "You, Severus Snape, are nobody's fool."

"Nobody's fool but my own," Snape said, the words light but the meaning bleak and gloomy. "Why would I be surprised? It was partially my fault, after all."

Harry's mouth tried to work, but the words got stuck in his throat. It didn't fit, what he was saying... this wasn't a man who would do that... sentence a child to an upbringing so like his own. Harry found himself searching Snape's curiously blank expression.

"WHY!" Harry howled, a yowl that echoed over the meadow, back from the trees.

"It was an evil thing to do - make no mistake about that." Snape paused, and said, "Dumbledore will call it 'for the greater good' - but that's a lie he tells himself so that he may sleep at night. Evil is counted in the tears of women, in the cries of a child alone and uncomforted in a cupboard." Snape paused again, and continued, "I do not know if Dumbledore knew what your family was like - but if he did not, it was a blinkered ignorance, willful - and I strongly urge you not to grant clemency to him for that. I had the distinct displeasure of knowing your family - of recognizing in your family echoes of what had been in my own."

Snape said softly, "I tried to get you away from them, as subtlely as I know how...I told myself that more was not worth the risk..."

"Was it worth it?"

"Only time will tell. Maybe at the end of it all, you can tell me."

"What did you buy with my hunger? With my bruises? My broken bones?" Harry asked, fearless - taking the acidic words of his Professor to heart, and heartened by the honest inherent in them.

"Secrets - secrets that burrow into my flesh, squirming under my skin, until I sometimes begin to wonder if I'm anything but secrets at all." Snape's eyes were blank, and Harry suppressed a shiver. Man, but Snape could be creepy!

[a/n: Harry makes a fundamental mistake: Snape merely doesn't care about his feelings. His guilt will remain whether or not Harry forgives him. It is not something to expunge. Title has a few references.

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