You've managed to pack a lot of very astute characterisation into a very short snapshot here, Vorona. It's insightful but concise, which is a hard balance to find. You give just enough to give the reader everything they need to know, but it feels like not a single word is wasted or superfluous.
I like how it's a very character-driven piece with very little emphasis on setting, but the little touch of setting you provide at the start on describing the chaos around them holds so much. I love the contrast of the chaos of their surroundings set against these two very logical, ordered men and how of course the cause of that chaos is the one boy who consistently strips the order from their lives and forces them into the sorts of rash decisions they are forced to make here.
Severus' voice is very true to his character, and I really love the little flashes of bitter dark humour, but the fact that you nailed his characterisation doesn't surprise me at all, given I know your fondness for him. I particularly liked his mental run-through of who he might be forced to betray and the insight it gave into the way he views the other characters. I've often thought that there is probably at least a professional respect if not a somewhat amicable edge to his rivalry with McGonagall. I have to confess though that I'd never really considered his views on Molly much before. Your take on it makes a lot of sense; he seems to have been shown kindness by so few people in his life that it seems very much like him to feel a sense of duty towards someone who has treated him kindly.
What does impress me even more than Severus' characterisation though is how well you've characterised Dumbledore. He is a painfully hard character to write, I always think, and you've painted him very well here. I'm really impressed, given it seems you wrote this pre-DH, that you really drew out his manipulative side that was a much more subtle element of his character before the revelations of DH.
One of the things actually that I find most interesting about reading pre-DH stories like this is to see how close they often end up flying to what actually happened in canon and where they differ. One thing I enjoyed here as opposed to canon was the justice you did Severus by allowing his actions to rest on the evolution of his own conscience. There were hints of it in canon with things like his 'Lately, only those I could not save' line, but they rather got overwhelmed by Lily being his motivation. I actually found the way that you allowed his own conscience to be his motivation much more satisfying.
One other parallel with what ended up occurring in canon that leapt out at me was the contrast between your Dumbledore declaring his own expendability and how in canon Severus ended up angry that he felt Dumbledore was treating his soul as expendable. I think possibly that Severus here is far more loyal to Dumbledore than Dumbledore really deserves in fact.
For such a short story, this has really made me think, and I very much enjoyed it.
Author's Response: Hannah - What a wonderful review! Thank you so much for your thoughts. You put your finger right on the reason I tend to prefer pre-DH stories, and although the one I'm writing now includes DH, I have a few other in-progress stories that I started before DH and plan to continue. You put your finger on the reason why: I really dislike that somehow Lily became his sole motivation. He seems like a much more complex (and intelligent) character than that. I will admit, though, that I did see Dumbledore as rather manipulative, even before DH. I'm very glad you found my characterisations of Dumbledore and Severus accurate. Thank you again, very much, for your review! ~Vorona
Terrific one shot! :)
Author's Response: Thanks! I'm glad you like it.
Vorona, I thought this was an excellent explanation for the actions Snape took on top of the Astronomy Tower. It fits everything we know from the books - Harry's protection has always been Dumbledore's first priority. Dumbledore would also certainly expect Snape to protect Draco - both because of his Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa, and because Draco is so young and has gotten in deep with the Dark Arts as Severus himself had once done. It was hard to hear Dumbledore pleading with Snape here, but it definitely makes sense and sets up the scene on the tower - as well as the hatred Snape has on his face when he is called upon to do exactly what he does not wish to do.
Your story was very well-written and completely believable from beginning to end. Well done!
Author's Response: Wow -- thank you so much for the lovely review! This came out of a need for Snape to have a reason for the Unbreakable Vow, which I asked him in Loyaulte me lie (not yet up), but which he refused to tell the Wizengamot. (Loyaulte me lie will be his trial). Hence, a new story was required. Thanks again, Vorona
Nice missing moment! It seems very plausible to think these two spoke before the scene in Spinner's End, and you did a good job especially at showing Snape's anguish at agreeing to what Dumbledore asked of him. Actually, I don't see a lot of discrepancy in linking this with your other story: Snape simply agrees that Dumbledore is expendable here, which could be interpreted very vaguely. Occlumency would work too. Good luck as you continue with this series of stories!
Author's Response: I'm glad you found it plausible and especially glad that you thought I did a good job showing Snape's anguish *beams* Good point on the lack of discrepancy -- thanks! And, of course, thanks for the luck as well!
Very good. This captures what I have thought happened. I'm sure that Snape only agreed to kill Dumbledore reluctanly and as a last resort.
Author's Response: Yes... and there were certainly more arguments about it, in my opinion (such as the one Hagrid overheard...) Thanks for the wonderful review!
i agree with you, that dumbledore asked this of snape. good job organizing it all; this is brilliantly done and true to the characters.
Author's Response: Thank you! I am very glad you enjoyed it.