Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe and characters are not mine, I am merely borrowing them for a few hundred words.

This snippet was written in response to a challenge on The challenge was to write a fic based on a quote from your signature. The quote I chose ran: 'errare humanum est; in errore perserverare stultum', meaning: 'To err is human; to persist in error is stupid.'

To Err Is Human

In which Severus Snape contemplates his mistakes after the events of Half-Blood Prince.

To err is human, to forgive divine, or so the saying goes. He'd done more than his fair share of erring, but had yet to be forgiven for any of it. Was this somehow confirmation of the existence of God? He thought not. It would be nice to be able to go through life knowing that there was someone out there keeping score, an impartial judge who knew the reasons behind everything he did. It would be nice to know that there was someone out there who didn't hate him on principle, someone who hated him for what he'd actually done. It would be nice. But life isn't 'nice', so that's that. He will forever be hated for being a slimy Slytherin git, a murderous, backstabbing Death Eater bastard. No one will hate him for falling asleep on the job. No one will hate him for being too sure of his own cleverness. No one will hate him for being unable to prevent a series of events which lead to the death of the kindest man he'd ever known. He had pulled that idiot boy's fat out of the fire, and for what point and purpose? To try to counterbalance his mistake in letting the situation get that far? To try to steal the status and power which would have been wasted on a child the Dark Lord had marked for death anyway? To save his own miserable, double-crossing hide? But it was all elementary; no one knew, no one would ever know, and when he died he would either fade into nothing or burn in hell for all eternity. Unless forgiveness really was divine, by which logic hell should not exist.

To err is human. The Dark Lord had always striven to be more than merely human. He wanted to be something more, but what more was there to be? He was a wizard, he was powerful, he would muster an army and there would be no one able to stop him. Not even Potter. The boy was unprepared. He could not comprehend what he was up against. So what should he do? Throw in his lot with the Death Eaters? He could now; there was no more talk of his serving two masters. He could join them. They could conquer the world. Or, he could go to the Order, and tell them everything. But they had never been particularly inclined to trust him, and now he'd killed their leader they'd be out for his blood. He could even go to Potter and tell him everything. That would be an interesting confrontation. The little bastard would shout and snarl and threaten, but he didn't have it in him to do any lasting damage. He hadn't even been able to summon the bollocks to cast the Cruciatus curse on an insane torturer who had just killed his dearly beloved dogfather. The idea of pitting him against the Dark Lord was ridiculous. But maybe he could help. He could train the boy, educate him. Tell him what he needed to know. It would be a pointless exercise, but at least he'd feel he was doing something.

To err is human. Perhaps his errors weren't so much in what he had done, but in how he had gone about things. He'd kept himself to himself, confiding in no one. Even Dumbledore hadn't known everything. Perhaps if he had, he wouldn't have died. Perhaps if he had, he wouldn't have had to kill him. Perhaps. What if. If only. Pathetic. He didn't understand how it had gone so wrong. How had he allowed himself to be suspected? He had made the Vow knowing the consequences, knowing he had already failed. He should have told the Order. He should have told Dumbledore. He would still have killed him, but they would have known why, and he wouldn't be in this situation. They would still have hated him, but it would have been for what he'd done, rather than what they thought he'd done. Why was that so important? He'd been lied to, and lied about until he had barely remembered what the truth was. Why was it so important that the truth be known? It wouldn't change anyone's opinion of him. He didn't want it to. He wasn't in the habit of being liked, and he certainly wasn't going to start cultivating admiration. It hadn't got Dumbledore anywhere. It hadn't got Potter anywhere. What should he do? Where should he go?

To err is human. To persist in error is stupid.

AN: It occurs to me that this, well, random stream of consciousness fits in rather well with the characterisation of Snape I plan to have in my other fic, Fallen. Of course, if you happen to have read it, you'll know that the plot is definitely in it's infancy, but hold this thought for when it grows up.