Today's Golf: If I'd noticed a bit sooner that my record on Blue Moon was -12 and not -14, I wouldn't have taken the crazy risk that led me to a Double Bogey on the last hole, and I'd have had an easy par for the new record. I still won, because everyone else was having a very off night, but Lurker was on for the Vs. matches that followed. We tied for strokes in both, but his ability to get close to the cup every time (and nearly make the chip-ins) was astounding, and I couldn't compete. I still made decent Pang, though, including a 93 yard chip-in for Birdie on Sepia Wind 2 while playing with Mom. My finger was on the screencap button, but I just didn't press it for some reason. Oh well. Hardly the most impressive shot ever made.
Today's Writing: As promised, I gave the Harry Potter scene a proper editing run and basically rewrote the entire ending. I was in a hurry to finish over the last few days, so I didn't give it as much thought as I should have. I also failed to spell out a few things that JKR would have made plainly obvious, so I filled those in as I went. I still don't have much description, but it's supposed to be all dialogue anyway, so I don't want to get too chatty narratively. Therefore, as it's probably as good as it's going to get, I present the rest of the scene I began in this post, so go read that one first if you're planning to read this and haven't caught the first part. This, while being entirely different from what I expect the book to do, presents my theory about some of the big questions in the series as a whole that I'm sure will be answered in Deathly Hallows. It's not really a spoiler unless I turn out to be right, so it's behind a cut for those who don't want to see it.
Harry stared in shock at what he had done. He didn’t feel the wand leave his hand, but he heard it hit the floor and roll away. He had done it. He’d killed the man who’d killed Dumbledore. He’d avenged the murder of the greatest wizard – no, the greatest man in the world. So why did he feel so empty inside? Why did it hurt so much?
“Don’t feel bad, Harry,” said a soft voice. “You did exactly what you had to do.” Harry looked up, expecting to see Voldemort standing before him, but what he saw was a pale, translucent image of the man who lay dead at his feet. Something was wrong with the picture, though… Snape appeared to be smiling kindly. Harry had never seen him smile except at some misfortune befalling Harry, normally of Snape’s creation, and that was a cruel, vindictive smile. This one was the kind of smile Dumbledore might have given him.
Harry fell backward into a sitting position, his hand sweeping the floor for his wand. “You’re dead!”
“Well, OBVIOUSLY I’m dead,” said Snape smarmily. “Otherwise, it’d be the body talking to you and not this projection of me.”
Harry’s fingers found his wand and closed around it. He leapt to his feet, pointing it at the image. “Then you’re a ghost!”
“I’m not a ghost,” said Snape. “I’d rather not spend eternity wandering without a body, thank you very much. What you see is a memory, like those you’ve seen in Dumbledore’s Pensieve. My death was the trigger for it to be released.”
“How can you be a memory?” asked Harry. “You’re talking to me!”
The memory of Snape sighed. “I’ve been your teacher for six years, Harry, and a Legilimens for much longer. I have a very good idea of what you’re going to say when you see this memory, and I’m responding to that. Now stop arguing and pay attention, because this Memory Charm won’t last long, and I have much to tell you.”
Harry obediently fell silent, but something nagged him. Snape’s politeness was unusual, but he’d never called Harry by his first name, had he? He’d always been “Potter” at school, to every professor but Dumbledore.
“First things first,” continued Snape. “I know you’ve never liked me, Harry. And you probably don’t think I’m very fond of you either. But you couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Harry. “You always hated me!”
“It was an act, Harry. A necessary act, to fool both you and the Dark Lord.”
“Voldemort? What does he have to do with it?”
“The Dark Lord believed that I was always devoted to him. Indeed, I was at first. He took notice of me when I graduated from Hogwarts and invited me into his fold. Like the fool I was, I accepted his offer. My fellow students bullied me, as you’ve seen. Your father and his friends were hardly the only ones. Like Wormtail, I hated feeling weak. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be with the strong. I wanted those stronger than me to protect me rather than beat me down. It was the same for many of his followers. But weakness as a motivation is flawed. It breeds fear, and a strong wizard like the Dark Lord causes enough fear as it is. His servants are not loyal to him. They are afraid of him.”
“You were afraid of him too,” said Harry.
“Of course I was afraid,” replied Snape. “You’ve seen what he does to the Death Eaters who fail him. And I had joined him because I couldn’t fend for myself. How was I to live up to his expectations and save my skin? I lived in fear under him every bit as much as I had at Hogwarts, only it was no longer humiliation I feared, but death. That was why I told him about the prophecy. I knew he would attack the baby mentioned in the prophecy, and that he would meet his downfall there.”
“I am, as you know, a skilled Legilimens,” said Snape. “And, as you also know from the time you spent feeling his emotions, the Dark Lord’s Occlumency is limited. As I have learned the depths of your mind through years of teaching you, I learned the depths of his while in his service. I knew that he would accept the prophecy as a record of the only threat to his quest for immortality, and that he would therefore seek to destroy it. That the baby would be you, and that your mother would die in the attack, however, I could never have foreseen.”
Snape’s voice sounded so regretful that Harry almost felt sorry for the man. For the first time in a year, he could believe that perhaps Snape wasn’t irredeemable after all.
“Well, perhaps I did,” said Snape. “She was the only one who ever stood up for me. What she ever saw in your father, I’ll never know.”
“I don’t understand,” said Harry. Snape had shifted topics quickly… had he expected Harry to realize something that he hadn’t? Something about his mother, obviously… had Snape had feelings for her?
“But that was the final straw for me,” Snape continued, oblivious to Harry’s confusion. “I had thought that I cared about nothing, so I had been willing to watch the Dark Lord destroy the world and bring his vision to life. But when your mother died, I could no longer live in darkness. She had left but one thing in this world, and I had to protect it.”
“Me,” said Harry.
“Yes, you. The entire wizarding world knew that the Dark Lord had been defeated while trying to kill you, and that you were special, but only Dumbledore and I knew just how special you were. It was to him that I turned, and he, in turn, confided everything in me. Not immediately, of course – I had to prove myself to him first. But there was something he desperately needed, something that I alone could provide him.”
“Voldemort’s secrets?” asked Harry.
“A good guess, but wrong,” said Snape. “To be honest, while I had learned how the Dark Lord thought on the surface, I was never able to plumb the innermost depths of his mind. Everyone has secrets that they guard carefully, even if they are not practiced Occlumens themselves. I dare say that, by the time I spoke with him, Dumbledore knew more about the Dark Lord than I did, merely by researching his life and speaking with those who had known him in his early years. No, what I brought to Dumbledore had been branded upon my arm years earlier.”
“The Dark Mark! But why would –?”
“It was a mark of dark magic – magic that Dumbledore knew you would need to master before you could fight the Dark Lord. It was always to be my job to teach you how to cast the Unforgivable Curses. It was for that reason, and that alone, that I was hired at Hogwarts.”
“But you taught Potions!” Harry protested. “I wasn’t going to learn curses in Potions!”
“But I applied for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position every year… have you forgotten? I couldn’t hold the position before that time due to the Dark Lord’s curse – I would have had to leave the school after one year of teaching. But it would have raised too many questions if Dumbledore simply offered me the position when the time came, or if I applied for it after years of happily teaching Potions. The other teachers would never have understood my motives, and as I was already under much suspicion for having once been a Death Eater – oh yes, they suspected me, despite their full support of Dumbledore’s trust in me – it would have been difficult to do my job if they were watching me too closely. It was in your sixth year that Dumbledore felt the time had come – that he could no longer keep you safe from the Dark Lord’s power – and gave me the post I was always destined to hold.”
“But you didn’t teach me the Unforgivable Curses that year! You didn’t teach me anything, not even in Potions!” shouted Harry, the memories of his years at Hogwarts flooding back. “You always held me back and gave me horrible grades, even when I did something right! You hated me!”
Snape shook his head. The wall behind him seemed to shimmer as he moved, and Harry noticed that the figure was becoming paler and less visible. “No, boy! I told you, that was merely an act! My entire career hinged upon one aim – to become the object of your utmost hatred. You can’t imagine how difficult it was to see you growing up, bullied much as I was, and yet revile you at every turn, scorn your accomplishments and seem to hold you back! It nearly killed me inside to do it! But if you held even the slightest pity for me, you would never have been able to kill me, and it all would have been for naught.”
Harry’s jaw dropped. “You mean… you meant for me to kill you?”
“How else would you learn the Killing Curse?” asked Snape. “The only other person you hated enough to kill was the Dark Lord himself… and he would hardly have let you use him as a practice dummy. You needed to learn the spell before meeting him again – and that meant having a target, someone close to you who had hurt you so deeply that you wanted to kill them. There was, at the time, only one person in a position to become as close to you as your parents had been, as your godfather, Sirius Black, was still rotting in prison, and even Dumbledore believed him guilty of murder when we needed to choose a sacrifice. So Dumbledore selected himself. He would act as a father to you, teach you all that he could about what you must eventually face, and then die by my hand, so that you, in turn, would kill me.”
Harry’s legs buckled under him, and he fell to his hands and knees. “It can’t be! All that time, when he used to smile and joke and help me break school rules when he knew I needed to, when he stood up for me in front of Fudge and Umbridge, when he invited me to search for the Horcrux with him… he knew you were going to kill him? And he wanted you to?”
“He made me swear it, Harry. I made the Unbreakable Vow with him. I’m sure you asked him why he trusted me. And I’m equally sure he never told you. He never told anyone. Nicholas Flamel was our witness, and he took the secret with him to his grave – one final thing that Dumbledore had a very good reason for keeping from you.”
“But why did he have to die?” asked Harry, tears running down his cheeks. “He was the greatest wizard who ever lived… couldn’t he have found another way?”
“Would you have been able to bring yourself to kill me for anything less?” asked Snape. “Your life has been filled with disappointment and loss, Harry, but your heart has remained pure through it all. It must have, or you would never have been a threat to the Dark Lord at all. As Dumbledore always said, love is the greatest power in the world, greater than any magic. Not just your mother’s love, which protected you from him through so many years, but your own love, the only thing that stands between a powerful wizard and the desire to use that power for evil ends. You could have killed Wormtail, who betrayed your parents to the Dark Lord, but you let him go. That is the difference between you and the Dark Lord, and why you oppose each other so strongly. But if vermin like Peter Pettigrew failed to bring out the darkness within you, failed to conjure the rage and hatred necessary to cast the Killing Curse… then only Dumbledore’s sacrifice would suffice.”
“I can’t believe it,” Harry whispered. “It’s my fault?”
“It is not your fault, Harry, but your triumph!” Snape replied, reaching down to put his immaterial hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Because your heart is so pure, you can do something that even the Dark Lord cannot – you can cast the Killing Curse without it corrupting your soul as it did his. You can cast it once more, to finish him for good, and then never need to do it again. You can kill the Dark Lord without becoming what he was.”
“And that’s it? That’s my special power?”
“No, Harry. That is not all. There is one more thing you can do.”
“What’s that?” asked Harry.
“You can choose not to cast it at all.”
“But how? I have to kill Voldemort! The prophecy said neither of us can live while the other survives!”
“Perhaps that’s true,” said Snape calmly, though he was almost completely invisible now. “But it was that prophecy that led the Dark Lord to murder your parents, and to try to murder you time and time again. Had the Dark Lord chosen to ignore the prophecy, it never would have come true at all. Those who set their lives by the power of prophecy are bound by that power, but those who can escape its clutches… well, there are no limits to what they might do.”
“Then how can I defeat him? Avada Kedavra is the only spell he can’t defend against!”
“Even if you don’t intend to cast the spell, you still have the potential to cast it,” Snape reminded him. “That mere fact gives you an advantage over him.”
Harry pondered this. Something Wormtail had said to him leapt to mind. “If he’s afraid of me killing him, and I have the power to do it, then he won’t want to face me himself! Do you think I can make something of that?”
“Well, you’ll figure it out when the time comes,” said Snape. “You always were adept at solving puzzles under pressure.”
“But I DID solve it!” Harry protested. Then he remembered that he was only speaking to a memory that couldn’t hear him. Snape must have assumed that Harry wouldn’t understand so quickly. Harry felt a bit insulted, but then, Snape had never had a very high opinion of him anyway.
“Just remember; they are called Unforgivable for a reason,” said Snape. “Do not become that which you seek to destroy.” With that, the last vestiges of Snape’s image vanished completely, leaving Harry alone with the body that had once been the real, living Snape – a man who had made Harry despise him, yet loved him deeply all along. Just as he had discovered a godfather in Sirius Black far too late, Harry finally knew how much Snape should have meant to him – and he was already gone. He had thought his loss was complete when Dumbledore had died, but now he had once again lost the last father figure in his life, and was more alone than he’d ever been. And this time, it had been Harry himself who had killed him.
Harry leaned down and lifted his former professor’s head, cradling him as he cried softly, wishing for some way to turn back the hands of time and undo what he had done. But there was none, no way to reverse death. “I swear, Professor,” whispered Harry, as he reached across Snape’s face and pushed his eyes closed, “that I will never cast that spell again.” And as he felt a sudden chill run up his spine, Harry felt that maybe, just this once, Snape, and Dumbledore, and all of his friends, would forgive him for having used an Unforgivable Curse.
Time will tell whether I'm right or way off base. Two more weeks.
Also, I'm looking into plans to see the fifth movie within the first month, considering that I have a free pass for it. I plan to wait until August to let the crowds thin a bit, and I've got two weekends in the month to play with. Anyone in the area interested in joining me? I can't promise to refrain entirely from MST-style comments during the film, but I can promise that any such comments will be well worth the annoyance. After all, the sixth chapter of the And Justice For All OAV is almost done, and I'll be out of it until skjam publishes chapter 7, so I've had plenty of practice.