Life Debt

Developing Doubts

Draco's POV

Why did I do it? Better yet, why didn't I kill her? I didn't lie to her, I really didn't know why I acted on impulse like that. Now, sitting in Snape's Potions office, I think back to the moment when I saw her running, saw the flash of green behind her. In that moment, all I could think was she can't die. I can't let her die. Why those thoughts rampaged through my mind, I might never know. My orders were clear. Any Death Eater that encountered any member of the Order of the Phoenix, unless it was Potter himself, was to kill said member on the spot. Without hesitation. Then why did I hesitate? No, why did I save her?

I couldn't help but let out a groan of frustration, burying my face in my hands. The part of me that saved Granger was the same part that couldn't kill Dumbledore. I suppose I can consider that part of me the last vestige of humanity I still retain. What little mercy I am capable of displaying keeps me from drowning entirely in the abyss. If the Dark Lord found out that I shirked orders, again, I would be more than dead. I shuttered at the thought. Coward. Her insult hung in the air around me. It shouldn't sting as much as it had. I put my head on my mentor's desk, my forehead relishing in the cool mahogany.

A knock at the door brought me out of my thoughts, and I nearly jumped from the chair. When I went to turn the doorknob, I realized my hand was shaking. What was wrong with me? Was I really panicking like this? Perhaps she was right. Perhaps I am a coward. Not that I would ever admit it out loud. I opened the door to reveal my mother, who looked as distraught as when the Dark Lord had assigned me the task of killing Dumbledore, perhaps more so. Behind her, my father stood, his wand out, levitating a body. If it were possible, any color I had left drained from my face. My mentor, my professor, the only person I considered a friend.

The body of Severus Snape floated in between my mother and father. My eyes scanned his body, hungrily trying to decipher what had killed him. No marks would mean it had been an Avada, but there was blood all over him. That's when I saw it, two puncture wounds on his neck, as well as in various other parts of his body. A snake…Nagini was the only one big enough to kill that brutally. The Dark Lord's pet. I was suddenly grateful Longbottom had killed it, for I didn't know what I would have done if I ever saw it again.

He was dead. They didn't have to say anything. It was evident by the looks of mourning on their faces, by the look on his face, by the blood that covered him. My father continued to move through the office, going through a door on the far left that led to Snape's personal quarters. I assumed he was laying the body onto the bed. Suppressing a shiver, I looked to my mother. In the past eighteen years, I couldn't recall ever seeing them this distraught, save the Dumbledore mission. He was one of my father's best friends, had been in my mother's year at Hogwarts. He was my godfather, and now he was gone.

A dark chuckle overcame me at that. My godfather, just like Black had been Potter's godfather.

"Why did you bring his body here?" Voice threatening to break, I struggled to contain myself. This was the man that had protected me last year, the only reason my mission had not been a total failure.

"The Dark Lord ordered it. I suppose he wants to inspect the body, or something along those lines." My blood boiled at the mention of our Lord. He had done nothing but step all over my family since my father made the mistake of getting himself caught and sent to Azkaban. This was just another punishment, rubbing salt into our proverbial wounds. Sure, we had won Hogwarts, but this felt nothing like a victory. My mother moved into the other room, sobbing over the body of her friend.

I was at a loss for anything else to say. My mind battled with itself to figure out what was more important. A part of me wanted to continue berating for my lapse in the forest, while the other wanted to focus solely on Snape. Leaning against my mentor's old desk, I looked up at my father through the short curtain of my hair. Could he sense what I'd done?

"So what do we do now?"

"Await the Dark Lord." I hated how he said 'Dark Lord,' with such reverence, respect, admiration. It made me want to gag. Hadn't he realized that it was his snake that had killed his friend? There was no way those puncture wounds could have come from anything else. They were too gruesome, too messy. I had to swallow thickly before even thinking of speaking again. My mother had yet to utter a word.

We sat in silence for a long time, the phrase 'silent as the grave' coming to mind more than once. We heard footsteps outside the door, and knew it was the Dark Lord coming to check on the body, our Marks burning in a silent indication of his arrival. My father was at the door in less than a second. Doing my best to keep the disgust off my face, I bowed. My mind's wards were immediately up. No one needed to find out about my earlier mishap. A moment later he walked past us and into the bedroom. Without a word she walked out, and the three of us watched as he looked over Severus.

Something in his semi-human face caught my eye. He seemed…doubtful. Wasn't he sure Snape was dead? For his snake to have been the one to kill him, he would have had to be there to witness it. Nagini never left his side, especially recently, when he had begun to make it a point to keep her near at all times. The curiosity in his slit-eyes was undeniable, the same curiosity being piqued within me. Why was it so important for him to be dead? It was clear, for anyone who saw the body, that the old potions master was not going to ever wake.

The Dark Lord did not seem satisfied, however. I couldn't help but wonder what was wrong. After all, he should be generally pleased, having won Hogwarts. He reemerged from the room, hissing an order at us, "Bury the body. Lucius, you and your wife will return to the Manor, Draco, you will stay here, at the castle." And that was it. As easy as that, he dismissed the death of his right hand man and gave us our posts. No more orders were given, so I allowed myself to relax somewhat after he left the room. My mother didn't go back into Snape's room, and my father seemed to linger outside the door. I took it as my chance to pay my final respects to him.

I could barely contain the strange feeling welling up inside me at the sight of him. Pain, remorse, resentment, despair. Why had the Dark Lord deemed it fit to kill him? Because, after that display, it was clear beyond any doubt he had been the cause of my mentor's death. He had inspected the body as if inspecting his own work, to see where he'd gone wrong. And now I couldn't help but look at him the same way. Was there some kind of flaw in the way he'd died?

Pushing the thoughts out, I couldn't keep myself from speaking, knowing he couldn't hear me anyway.

"Professor…what am I going to do?" It was a whisper, something I could barely hear, let alone my parents standing outside the door. "I saved Hermione Granger today…don't ask me why, but I did. Was it wrong of me to do it? Then again, wrong is a pretty relative term here, isn't it?" I closed my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose. This was the only time I ever planned on confessing this out loud to anyone. With a deep sigh, I continued, "Who were you really working for, professor? Why did he kill you?"

Had he really been our spy? Or did the Dark Lord kill him because he found out Snape double-crossed him? There was so much left unanswered, things I could never know now.

When I opened my eyes, my father was levitating the body away. I whispered my good-bye, knowing he would go to bury him on the grounds of the Manor. He left in silence, my mother still sobbing quietly. I placed an arm around her, sitting by her on the couch. She would have to return to the Manor soon, to play hostess to whatever Death Eaters were still staying there. She and my father would go, but I was forced to stay within the castle walls. Perhaps this was my mother's punishment for having been mistaken about Potter's death.

Neither of us dared to speak a word, and when my father returned to take her home, we barely mumbled our parting words. When I was alone again, I had nothing else I could do but sit and think again. There was no point in going through the castle to find a place to sleep. I would stay here, in my godfather's quarters. It was all I had left of him.

I changed and got ready for bed, knowing full well sleep was not likely tonight. After changing, I couldn't help but hover over the bed.

"Scourgify." I cleaned whatever blood had been left behind by his body, but the smell of death still lingered. In nothing but a wife beater and boxers, I lay there, on the very spot Severus Snape's body had occupied mere moments before. Of course, this fact alone would not allow me to sleep, but I closed my eyes anyway, letting the thoughts I had blocked in the presence of the Dark Lord flood back.

Hermione Granger, brightest witch of the age, Mudblood extraordinaire, and one third of the Golden Trio, owed her life to me. I hadn't thought of the repercussions when I saved her. My impulse had been merely to pull her away from the green light of the Killing Curse. But, once I was able to register what I'd done, that realization dawned on me. She now owed me her life. Of course, I made this known to her as soon as I'd realized it. I needed to save face, after all. I couldn't have her going to the Order and telling them I'd saved her. Knowing she owed me, I was almost sure she wouldn't tell, for the sake of her own pride. If she told, the information getting back to the Dark Lord was a guarantee.

What if she did tell, though? Could I count on her Gryffindor pride getting in the way, or would her honesty win out? A thought struck me then, as I heard the crack of apparition in Snape's office. The only ones who could move that freely around Hogwarts were the house elves. I knew full well my old house elf was still around, being bound to the castle in a way only house elves were. I stayed stock still as the elf wandered into the room. It was Dobby.

"Dobby?" He jumped at the sound of his name, and I had to restrain myself from chuckling again. A plan was quickly formulating itself in my mind, a way to at least ensure she knew not to tell.

"M-Master Draco?" The fear in his eyes and voice was evident, so I tried to be as gentle as I could be, which really isn't much. I never really had the ability to be nice.

"Dobby. I…I need to ask you to do something for me."

"Y-Yes, sir?" I knew he was no longer bound to follow my orders, but perhaps he would do this one thing for me.

"Take a message to someone."

"Who, sir?" Dobby looked skeptical now. Hell, I didn't really blame him.

"Hermione Granger." At this, the elf immediately went into defensive. Fear replaced any other emotion his eyes may have displayed.

"Dobby doesn't know where she is, sir! He has no way of finding her…sir…Dobby can't." Of course he wouldn't trust me. I couldn't help the exasperated sigh that escaped me.

"Don't play stupid. I know you can find her. I just need you to relay a message. Can you do that?" Allowing my frustration to take over, it seeped into my words, making them more menacing than I had intended. Dobby cringed back in fear. I reached over to the table beside the bed, ripping a small piece of parchment and dipping the quill before scribbling quickly,

Tell no one.


Handing the elf the message, I didn't care that he read it. "Just give her that. She'll know what it means. Burn it after she reads it." He looked up at me with nothing but questions in his large eyes. "Just do it."

"Y-Yes s-sir." And with another crack, he was gone. I thought maybe this would provide me with some peace of mind, but it only worried me more. I knew the house elves could travel reasonably freely. At least Dobby did, seeing as he was the one to save Potter, Weasley, and Granger from the Manor. I allowed myself to lay back onto the bed, closing my eyes. Sleep still wasn't an option. How soon would he deliver it? I just hoped Voldemort wouldn't notice.

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