The thing was, the word itself sounded ugly. Vicious. Harry hadn't known what it was, no, but he'd known it was nothing good.
Draco's blood still flecked the hem of his robes; Harry could've changed clothes long ago, but he hadn't. It felt as though he ought to keep wearing it, to remember what he'd done to Draco and how easily he could have taken a life. Let the blood warn others, too.
Hermione would tell him he was being melodramatic, of course. He sighed and put his head in his hands and wondered when his internal voice started sounding so much like Hermione's.
I trusted him, Harry thought, and that was the truth of it: He'd trusted the Half-Blood Prince, whoever that might have been, and so he had trusted in the spell the Prince had created. But had he trusted that the spell wouldn't be anything too terrible -- or that it would be something as terrible as anybody could ever imagine? Had he trusted the Prince's power to be both stronger and more awful than his own?
Harry couldn't tell anymore.
Draco's body no longer felt as though it were on fire; the potions had done their work. He lay in his sickbed, so tightly tucked in beneath the white sheets that it was a bit like being tied up.
For years he'd begrudged Harry Potter every blow he'd landed, every insult he'd gotten off. He still did, to a certain extent. It was easy to resent Harry Potter, his arrogant attitude, his publicity-grabbing, even the fantastic brooms he seemed to acquire every year.
But when Draco looked within himself for the anger he should have felt at Harry for this attack, he found nothing.
Potter knew. He knew. Draco didn't understand how Harry had found out, or why nobody else seemed to know what Harry did, but he was sure his secret was out. And if Harry knew that Draco was trying to kill Dumbledore (would kill Dumbledore), then the spell made sense. Draco could almost respect it, really.
That's what you do, Draco told himself, trying very hard to believe it. You kill the person who's in the way of what you have to accomplish. What else is war about?
How well Snape remembered creating that spell -- it had taken months of work and many late-night visits to the Restricted section of the Hogwarts library.
("You're up to something," Lily had said, during that window of time when she was still saying such things in a teasing voice -- but with hints of the condemnation that came later.)
He had looked down and seen Draco shredded almost past imagining, and -- even knowing what he knew about the Dark Lord's assignment -- Snape had seen only a boy in pain. Would he have done this to James Potter? He very nearly had.
Snape could no longer remember why he had not. The forgetting troubled him more than the sight of blood.