sam_storyteller: (Default)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-15 01:19 pm

Interrogative; PG, Gen. HBP-compliant; Spoilers.

Summary: The difference between Severus Snape and Tom Riddle is in the singular question of Why.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.


Severus Snape hadn't really believed the old man would actually fall for this. Neither had their Lord, but Lucius Malfoy had enough control over the Board of Governors to get him recommended, and it didn't hurt to try.

"What?" he asked.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Sometimes I mumble," Albus Dumbledore said, with a slightly mocking smile. "I said, congratulations. You may report to Professor McGonagall for your book vouchers and robe allowance."

Politics. It's all simply politics; Lucius brought the Board to bear on him. That's all it is.

"Thank you. Sir," he added belatedly. "I -- yes. Thank you."

"Not a bit of it, Severus. You are full young for the position, but we do require a Potions Master and you come highly recommended."

It didn't matter why, Severus told himself, as he rose to leave the Headmaster's office. Why he had been given the job despite being twenty-one and a half-blood was unimportant. All that mattered was that he had achieved his goal. He was a professor. He was inside Hogwarts, the stronghold of their Lord's fiercest rival.

Perhaps it had been the interview with the Board; he'd looked easily into their minds and known exactly what to say, though Dumbledore's thoughts had been so thoroughly walled off that he rather felt he'd bollocksed the Headmaster's interview. Perhaps his NEWT scores still reflected favourably on him, despite having been employed merely as a private tutor since then.

Oh, balls.

He stopped at the top of the stairs and turned.

"Headmaster," he said. Dumbledore looked up from his papers, mildly.

"Yes, Severus?"


Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "An excellent word; what part of speech is it, interrogative? Not that it matters, I suppose. I ask myself why? several times a day. Very useful, when properly applied."

"Why did you hire me?" Severus asked, impatiently.

"Severus, I should think that would be obvious," Dumbledore continued, just as gently as before.

"The Board," Severus said flatly. "The Board of Governors told you to hire me."

Dumbledore, to his surprise, chuckled. "My dear boy, the Board doesn't tell me to do anything. They advise me, and I take their advice into account when making my own decision. I may say that perhaps they are often unaware of this fact, but ignorance does not make a thing untrue."

He took his spectacles off and regarded Severus with keen eyes.

"I hired you, young man, because you are a genius."

Severus' heart hammered in his chest, suddenly. Surely not -- but maybe so....maybe someone has finally seen...

Dumbledore smiled and continued. "Although you should probably tell Tom Riddle that it was the Board of Governors. He shall very likely be jealous, otherwise."

Severus' mouth went dry. "Why would I -- "

"Let us not play games, Professor Snape." Dumbledore put his glasses back on and turned to the paperwork before him once more. "You may, if you wish, inform him that he was not hired because his character was lacking, although I don't believe he'd thank you for that."

"You know, then."

"I am aware of your political affiliations, yes," Dumbledore replied. "Much as I may regret them."

"And still...?"

"I think, perhaps, I am making a mistake. You may prove me wrong. Ah, this blissful and contradictory world," Dumbledore sighed happily. "You see, Severus, the difference between hiring a genius at the age of twenty-one and a maniac at the age of eighteen is that you are still able to ask why."

Severus hesitated and had almost turned to descend the steps when Dumbledore spoke again.

"Perhaps you may," he said, "consider applying your excellent singular interrogative to your master, and see how he answers you. They say that genius is concerned with asking questions properly; I think humanity is in stopping to consider the answer."


"But why?" Severus asked, when Dumbledore held out his left hand to make the Vow. "I don't see why it is necessary in the slightest."

"Ah, my dear interrogative man," Dumbledore said with a smile. "He has been ordered to kill me. You must not allow that. You must, if necessary, stand in his place and commit the deed, but you must not allow Draco to become a monster against his will."

"But why the Vow?"

"Because I do not believe you would be able to kill me, otherwise," Dumbledore replied.

"Why should it be a choice between the two?"

"Because I am dying, Severus," Dumbledore said. His withered right hand turned over, blackened palm facing upwards.

"Why?" Severus whispered.

"You will, I hope, have many years before you stand before someone who can answer that question," Dumbledore answered. "And then it will not matter so much. Still, never fear; I shall choose to assume that you ask why it must be you. And that I may answer."

Severus stared at him, horror rising in his chest.

"Because I respect you. You are a friend, Severus, in a time of very few friends. I could not allow myself to be killed by anyone I did not respect. Much better a friend than an enemy."

Nearly a year later, resting from their headlong flight away from Hogwarts, Severus brewed tea in Spinner's End and brought Draco a cup, setting it in front of the boy when he would not accept it from his hands. He looked smaller than his age, curled in a wingchair with his arms around his knees.

Severus drank his tea quietly, lost in his own thoughts; Dumbledore was right. Without the Vow hanging over his head, he would never have been able to bring himself to do it. The Dark Lord would have called this a mark of cowardice, but he knew it for what it was; a gesture of respect. His Headmaster had believed in him so implicitly that he did not believe Severus was capable of murder. Not anymore.

There was a small noise from Draco.

"Did you speak?" Severus asked.

Draco shook his head. Then he relented and nodded.

"Why did you save me?" he asked.

"I haven't time to answer foolish -- " Severus began, and then stopped. After a moment, he took a deep breath and began again.

"I shall have to explain things to you in a way which may not make much sense," he said. "You have asked -- are you willing to hear the answer?"

Draco nodded, silently.

"Very well. The year you were born, I became Master of Potions at the school on the orders of the Dark Lord, but there were other forces at work as well...."

ext_1310: (harry)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, nicely done. I especially like your Dumbledore. And you make him sound like the Tick, which Rowling also does. I approve of that.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:00 pm (UTC)(link)


[identity profile] 2005-08-05 07:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Lovely! I have always liked your Snape, and I like him very much here.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:15 pm (UTC)(link)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 07:59 pm (UTC)(link)
Just wonderful! I love you Snape.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG. I just reread my post. I meant to type "I love your Snape." oops.


[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:00 pm (UTC)(link)
*weepily hugs Dumbledore and Snape*

That was great. Poor Snape, always having so many burdens, but it's amazing how Dumbledore just simply believes =) Now I really want to see a fic where Snape doesn't one day of feeling obligated to either side and just spends a moment with Dumbledore as his friend and mentor! *O*

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Agh, this is what I get for replying during finals, esp when I haven't had enough sleep. >.<

I meant to say that Snape has one day of just being a friend to Dumbledore instead of being an accomplice or a traitor. Yeah.

Okay, I'm going to go conk out now. *falls over*

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:03 pm (UTC)(link)
This..made me really happy. The idea of being killed by a friend as a necessity has always floated about in my head, and Dumbledore seems the perfect type to think so, to see the difference. Thanks for this.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:13 pm (UTC)(link)
It's rather comic-book-esque, when you think about it. Calls to mind Batman's files on the rest of the superheroes, including how to kill them if they go rogue...
florahart: (snape)

[personal profile] florahart 2005-08-05 08:06 pm (UTC)(link)
...did you just redeem Draco (to use the common phrase), in a fic about Snape?

I think you did.


[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:13 pm (UTC)(link)
ROFL! I sort of did, I suppose. Although of course redemption is about much more than that; still, I gave him a chance, didn't I?

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
absolutely lovely. I'm don't know what else to say. And this line: They say that genius is concerned with asking questions properly; I think humanity is in stopping to consider the answer. Sheer brilliance. Great job Sam! :)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks! :)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow. Very well done.

And I wondered if you'd seen this (

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:17 pm (UTC)(link)
LOL! I had. I think it's great.

It reminds me of seeing someone's LJ entry where they recounted going up to a friend on a NYC sidewalk and saying "Can you believe she killed Sirius?" the day the book came out, and a passerby stopping and saying "My god, woman, GET OFF THE STREET!"

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:17 pm (UTC)(link)
*laughs* I'm waiting for images of him dressed like Che Guevara to show up...

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Hey there. [ profile] florahart made me read this and I must thank her. It was beautifully written and said so much in few words. Wonderful story.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
flyakate: Grouchy Kermit with text (casual dress by delectableoomph)

[personal profile] flyakate 2005-08-05 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Nicely done, Sam. This is the best part for me:

They say that genius is concerned with asking questions properly; I think humanity is in stopping to consider the answer.

Beautiful and true. Is there a 'they' that actually said that? Just curious...

I also greatly enjoyed Dumbledore's suggestion that Snape may inform him [Riddle] that he was not hired because his character was lacking, although I don't believe he'd thank you for that. It just captures Tom-almost-Voldemort so well.

I love your little fics just as much as your big ones! Good luck scaling the Writer's Wall!

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Um, I'm not sure if there's a They or not. The second half -- about humanity -- is mine, but the first half sounds like something either Einstein or Edison would say (possibly Thoreau). Then again, it came out of my head without a name attached. So I hesitate to take credit for it.

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ext_12181: (Default)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:21 pm (UTC)(link)

*grabs fic and HUGS it to death!*

Major goose bumps!!!!

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:26 pm (UTC)(link)
*laughs* You'll strangle it, be careful!

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Very good.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you :)
innerslytherin: (believe in Severus2)

[personal profile] innerslytherin 2005-08-05 08:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh wow. Sam, thank you. This is brilliant. In fact I think it may possibly have just become my favourite of your fics. Wow.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:27 pm (UTC)(link)
Ditto. It captures everything perfectly.

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[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, wow!

Well, if that doesn't convince the wankers...they are a lost cause!

Thank you.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:31 pm (UTC)(link)
*laughs* Well, Evil!Snape has his appeals too....
ext_1798: (coconutswirl/remus/sarcasm)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:31 pm (UTC)(link)
An interesting take on the matter, as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does. Excellent writing, as ever.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:38 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you :)
ext_64921: Deatail from JWWaterhouse's Ophelia [blue dress] (1905). (Default)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:31 pm (UTC)(link)
"Why should it be a choice between the two?"

"Because I am dying, Severus," Dumbledore said. His withered right hand turned over, blackened palm facing upwards.


There seem to have been a lot of YES moments, but that one just made this fic for me. Well, that and, "I hired you, young man, because you are a genius."

This fic does it for me. I've always thought he was rather spiteful, but there's got to be more to it than what Harry and the others concluded in the Infirmary.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:38 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you :)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:34 pm (UTC)(link)
I love the way you handle Snape, but then I always have. He rings very true in this piece... and then there's Dumbledore. He's still that scary, twinkly, manipulative bastard, but there's something about his interactions with Snape here that puts a different spin on things.

Besides, it's easier to concede a little manipulation to a man who knows he's dying at a bad time.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:38 am (UTC)(link)
More and more, one gets the feeling that Albus is pulling it out of his ass as he goes along...:D

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[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Positively brilliant! I haven't read much post HBP fic but this one is really good.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:37 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you :)
ext_2023: (spinner's end)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:38 pm (UTC)(link)
I like this, very much. It's believable and it's true in all the ways that matter. I love how it connects the dots.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:37 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! *connects dots to make a naughty drawing*

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Cheeers! That was brilliant. I like Snape and his 'why why why' questions. Lovely really. We'll see if he makes it, won't we, though the night is long. Wah.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:37 am (UTC)(link)

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 08:49 pm (UTC)(link)
wow. you just made me believe it is possible that severus is still good. that was fabulous^_^

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:36 am (UTC)(link)
*bows* Thank you.

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 09:14 pm (UTC)(link)
This has been a good day for Snape fics. This was a really good one and I totally enjoyed it. I like that Snape can still ask 'why', and I personally feel he can - and does, quite probably even in his old and cynical age.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:36 am (UTC)(link)
Oh yes. With a mind like Snape's, I'm sure the foremost question on his mind is "Why?" followed closely, of course, by "Why me?" :D

[identity profile] 2005-08-05 09:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Very nice. I really like how you tied the unbreakable vow into the hiring of Snape, as well as the comparison that Dumbledore makes between Riddle and Snape. Nice ending with Draco.

I liked this very much.

[identity profile] 2005-08-06 03:35 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you :)

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