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Hero Worship

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HERO WORSHIP, Chapter One
by Ravenna C. Tan

"Put this on."

Shacklebolt tosses something shiny onto the table in front of me with a faint metallic sound. It is a fine silver chain, the links almost too small for the eye to see, at least in the dim light of the cell. I pick it up and fumble with the tiny clasp, then realize it is large enough to slip over my head.

I swallow once before doing so, as I get to my feet. The Order may as well have given me a dog collar to wear, given what the chain's function is to be. I wonder if Shacklebolt decided on the silver chain himself. It is common enough in design that it might go entirely unnoticed on me, or at least unremarked upon, and I am grateful for that. It lies nearly invisible against the edges of my robes. Why then, do I feel so humiliated to be wearing it?

At least, I think to myself, Shacklebolt will be fair. He has always been so in my dealings with him for the Order in the past. The fact that I am alive and breathing and not a charred pile of ash at this moment testifies to that.

They don't like it. None of them do, not even Minerva, who had the most inkling other than me about what Albus had planned. But now they must trust me as I trusted him, as we all did... I sit abruptly, knocked down by my grief. Albus is gone. By my hand. I do not blame them for not trusting me. For hating me.

Shacklebolt is solicitous and I wonder how much of my grief he can sense through the charm on the chain. The Caretaker Spell should funnel knowledge of my mental state to my principal. But his low voice says nothing of the searing regret I must live with. "I know this must be hard for you," he says, addressing instead my wounded pride.

I straighten in the chair. "I have accepted the terms." In the vacuum left by Albus' death, the Order has been in some disarray. If I knew more, if I had been allowed to... but no, going along with their demands, even the ludicrous ones, is the only way now for me to further the Dark Lord's defeat and to insure that Albus' sacrifice--and mine--are not in vain.

I was supposed to be at the Dark Lord's side now. I was supposed to be iron-clad and beyond reproach, having killed the Dark Lord's greatest enemy and having come close to swatting the Potter fly, as well. There were witnesses. All had gone according to plan, until the moment I set foot outside of Hogwarts' gates. If I had Disapparated just a bit faster, the plan would have worked.

But Shacklebolt had either just come or had been lying in wait, and although the others escaped him, I did not.

That it took the Order only five days of raping my mind with wand and potion to come to a consensus, cockamamie though the conclusion was, was nothing short of a miracle. I suppose I would have proposed something similar in their position. How can a man who has kept the most powerful Dark Wizard in our age fooled ever be fully believed? Hence I am to serve the Order, as I always did, only I am collared like an animal, fine silver link or no.

I look up into Kingsley's eyes, which are warm with genuine concern. It will not be so bad being bound to him by the spell, I think. He is firm, but he is fair, and he listens. We have always worked well together. He holds out his hand to help me to my feet.

His palm is warm and dry. I stand. "Thank you." I brush imaginary lint from my robes. At least being imprisoned at Hogwarts has meant I have clean clothes. "So," I say, my hands clasped together. "What is the first order of business? Are we to go chasing a madman's trinkets, then?"

Kingsley puts his hand on the cell door and it opens, charmed to his touch. "Me? I go back to the Prime Minister's office."

I follow him a few steps into the dungeon corridor--yes, the dungeons of Hogwarts can and do function as actual dungeons--and see him turn as he realizes my confusion. I had assumed...

"Snape," he says. "I'm not... leading the search for the Horcrux."

Even as he says it, I know who is--who it must be. So I already know what it is he is going to say. But I find that either for clarity's sake, or just to satisfy my own self-flagellatory mood, I ask, one finger threaded through the silver chain as if I could snap it: "Who is my principal?"

He stammers and I wonder if he misled me purposefully or accidentally. "I thought you knew..."

"Who, Shacklebolt. Or are you going to force me to guess? No, it couldn't be Minerva, she'll have her hands full with Hogwarts now, and it can't be Lupin, no, wouldn't do for there to be three days a month when he might be too barking mad to keep me in line..."

He stops my tirade with a hand on my shoulder. "It's Potter."

Of course it is. I stifle my reaction.

It's too late to change it now. I've given my word, sealed the charm. But something in me forces me to register the fullness of my feelings on this matter. "You really thought it wise to put my well-being in the hands of an underage wizard with poor impulse control and a penchant for flouting authority?"

Shacklebolt's hand is still on my shoulder and he hangs his head slightly. "No. I don't think anyone thinks it's... wise. But we seem to have no alternative."

"Because grief over Dumbledore has driven you all batty?"

He shoves me back an inch, eyes blazing, and I wonder if perhaps my assessment of his ability for fairness was exaggerated. "It was a compromise we could all live with. Even you, you said."

I exhale through my nose. "And I will. If he doesn't slash me to ribbons the first time he gets angry with me."

"You're forgetting, Snape. The Argus spell won't allow him to harm you. Just monitor your location, mood, and intent. It's a protective spell..."

"I know that." Had I been a helpless infant, and Potter a fostering adult, the spell would have greatly aided my well-being.

As it is, I do not feel so confident that this will be the case. The last time Potter and I saw each other, less than a week ago, I did not leave him with a good impression. I'd taunted him about his father and left him wandless on the ground, and nearly took his head off with a hex that had come out a bit more forceful than I had intended.

I cannot shake the feeling that "protective" spell or not, I am now at his mercy.

"He has your wand," Shacklebolt says, ushering me toward the stairs out of the cell block. "He's waiting for you in your office."

What Shacklebolt says does nothing to dispel that feeling.