After he'd poured the steaming tea, Professor Hagrid seemed to hunch down, to talk with Draco Malfoy. It was almost like... no, it was Hagrid trying to be on a level with Draco's eyes. That was the sort of courtesy few tall people seemed to ever think of, let alone do. Certainly Snape had never considered it, in his entire life.
Draco wasn't about to make the first move - sometimes, it was true, offense made a fine, if aggressive, defense, but that was rarely the case with conversations, and at any rate, it would be a questionable decision to do that to any Professor, let alone one who seemed (in a daft sort of way) to be willing to let bygones be bygones.
"How are your classes coming?" Hagrid asked, somehow managing to put on an 'I really care about this' face.
Draco didn't believe it for a second, but he still answered, "Quite well. I'm particularly enjoying Potions this year - we're doing poisons and antidotes."
Hagrid chuckled, "Hence Snape's need for my snake collection."
"You-" Draco nearly choked on his tea, "have a snake collection?" It was less that Hagrid had a collection, he seemed the type, and more that it consisted of poisonous snakes. Draco's astounded glance looked around the simple hut (there was really no better way to put it), and saw that there was precisely no place to put a snake collection.
"Of course I do!" Hagrid smiled - and changed the conversational topic before Malfoy could inquire further. "How's your assignment for the Dark Lord going?"
Draco carefully set down the biscuit that he'd been holding in his hand. It plinked as it hit the wooden saucer - how hard were these things? Were they even edible to Hagrid? Draco kept his face straight, and said, calmly and clearly, "I don't have any idea what you're talking about. Perhaps you have me confused with someone else?"
Hagrid laughed, "That's a good Snape-impression right there." Draco hadn't thought it was that good, honestly. "But you'd pull off righteous indignation a lot better than he ever could, what with your father being an Honorable Pureblood and all that rot." Hagrid grinned, saying, "Lay it on thick, and anyone who wants to believe you, will. The people who won't believe you, won't believe a word you say." Draco had to agree with that last sentiment - most of the Wizarding World knew Lucius Malfoy and his silver tongue.
That was good advice. From Hagrid? Draco looked at the Professor like the Professor had suddenly donned Muggle clothing and announced that all eight feet of him could pass as a Muggle ballerina. And a female one at that.
"Oh, come on now, I've been working beside a Death Eater for over a dozen years." Hagrid leaned forward, his eyes twinkling, "or so the rumor goes."
Then, Hagrid smirked.
Draco quietly glared at Hagrid, simmering more than boiling over, "You were a Gryffindor," he whispered, hoping Hagrid would hear anger, and not raw betrayal.
"Aye," Hagrid said, "But you dinna take care of sick animals without knowin' sumtin of Slytherin."
Draco looked quietly at Hagrid, letting the silence demand for Hagrid to continue.
"All animals act Slytherin when they're hurt - they slink away, conceal their pain, and try to get better on their own." Hagrid said, "To help them, you need a bit of Slytherin smarts too."
Draco shook his head, saying softly, "Have you been acting, all this time?"
Hagrid laughed, that big booming one that echoed even louder inside the hut. "Hat put me in Gryffindor because I don't lie and I don't play games."
Draco didn't believe that for a second, but he turned the talk to Quiddich, and immersed both of them in enough details that it was soon time for him to leave. He just wished he didn't feel so much like a sailor touching land for the first time in a year - everything swaying around him.
Tonight, in his quarters, Severus Snape poured two measures of firewhiskey, into two identical shot glasses.
He could still hear her voice, saying, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is for the strong, and from the strong." Instinctively, his head titled upward, his eyes glinting in remembered fury. That had been the year Lily had (briefly) been taller than him. He remembered, quite clearly, because he'd always gotten a crick in his neck while talking with her.
Snape quoted, aloud, "Forgive your enemies. Nothing else irritates them quite so much." That had been the year Lily had found an anodyne book on quotations, and had insisted on using them instead of Actual Thought. Snape far preferred Oscar Wilde's book, that he'd taken out of the library in response.
He hadn't lived that quote very well. Not that Potter was his enemy - he had scores of enemies, and wasn't about to look into making another. It didn't matter - Potter didn't know enough, wasn't powerful enough to be an enemy. Time would tell on that front, but the outlook looked promising - Potter was no longer purely a pawn.
For someone who so often wore confidence as a proxy for competence, Snape wondered, in a quieter part of his mind, if he could actually be decent at forgiveness. It was a quality he'd so rarely offered to anyone, and even more rarely been of a mind to.
Snape finished his drink, poured the other on the cold and stony ground, and then tossed the glass straight through where Lily's face would have been.
It never did to dwell on mistakes. You either capitalized on them, or you let them run under the bridge, like water being passed.
["on the cold and stony ground" is a reference to The Unquiet Grave.
"Much water has been passed under the bridge since this maneuver was first used" - that's the full mistranslation from Russian. It's out of a chess book.
Snape enlisted Hagrid for that bit of mind-warping fun. Snape takes rather shameless advantage of "Order Business," don't you think?
Hagrid: "If I couldn't tell that Snape was doin' that without Dumbledore's permission, he wouldn't have asked."
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