"Actus Fidelitatis" by Immora
Author's Notes July 18, 2005 — Thanks to Notapipe for the quick beta read; as he put it, "THIS CLAUSE IS CRAPPY." I woke up with the urge to write this and get it out tonight, rather than spending weeks or months working it over as I used to do when I wrote fic more often. I might edit it later if I catch more things I'd like to change, but I wrote it more for the sake of getting a story idea out than conveying how I interpret canon or working it to where I'm tired of looking at it.
This story is based on characters and situations created by J.K. Rowling and owned by herself, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. It is a non-profit fan work; no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. The story itself belongs to me, but I did not create the characters or settings.
The old man could not be Dumbledore. He did not have this ruined hand, this weakened frame, or this pleading voice. It all belonged to an aged body that should have already died-- cursed, poisoned, and now left alone amongst enemies and the conflicted.
But those eyes were still Dumbledore's, at least partially. His gaze met Snape's, and filled Snape's mind with flashes of feeling that proved to him that this wasn't the living man any more; this wasn't the man full of energy and power beyond other wizards. The expression on the old man's face wasn't Dumbledore's, too much a mix of pleading and acceptance that wouldn't be on Dumbledore's face at the end. Snape saw that any impulse to fight had already passed; the old man didn't need to save his own life. Dumbledore couldn't have that feeling, couldn't be prepared to give in and pass on. He had grown experienced through the years and trials he had faced, not closer to death because of them. He was strong until the end, not unable to steady himself on the ramparts like this old man. He faced death with his full power and the Order alongside him, and was finally felled by some ridiculously noble sacrifice or mistake in battle, not by circumstances like these. This wasn't Dumbledore's death.
Dumbledore wouldn't have become a broken man, disarmed and without his loyal followers, unable to defend himself against a mere boy. He must've already died; all that was left to do was remind this body of what its mind already knew. It wasn't murder any more, and certainly not a glorious or triumphant one, for anyone to topple what was left of this physical form.
Yet Draco shouldn't have to do that, to live with knowing that he'd been the one to put the body down. And that little flicker that Snape still identified as Dumbledore in those eyes insisted that it wasn't to be Draco who did this.
Dumbledore hadn't understood, had he? If Draco didn't do this himself, it might keep him safe from guilt, but not the Dark Lord's wrath at failing this task. But Dumbledore must have only thought of sparing the boy from this choice, not all the consequences of it. No, it couldn't be Dumbledore who stared back at Snape; the old man was just failing to understand the same as Dumbledore.
He had no more time to decide if it should be left to Draco after all, or if he would have to do it himself. Those eyes stayed Dumbledore's, and the old man's voice spoke his name. Please.
Please, let it be with Snape to keep it off Draco's conscience, to secure Snape's place with the Dark Lord, to give the body a death that the mind had accepted long ago. Swift, final, and not by the boy.
This wasn't Dumbledore any more, and Snape had his orders to finish it. He looked at the old man and a familiar tightness burned through him and out of him, but he didn't know if it was for what the body had become or the act of ending that body's life. The two most powerful wizards wouldn't face each other one last time, and only he would know why he had been the one to do it. Betrayal, glory, duty, hatred, disgust, they would all believe what they wanted to believe of him and his actions; they always had. But Snape knew exactly why he raised his wand and spoke the words.
Dumbledore died by his act of loyalty. They just wouldn't know to whom he gave it.