"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?" asked James.
The small crowd cheered again, and with a swish of James' wand Snape's pants flew up to his knobby knees, leaving him exposed and swearing as he tried to cover himself with his hands.
Lupin looked up at that, his face flushed, and he quickly shoved his book into his bag and headed to the castle.
"Where are you going, Moony?" asked Sirius, still laughing.
Lupin muttered an excuse Harry failed to hear, and as Snape fell to the ground again, struggling to wrap his robes around him and get his pants up, the memory swirled.
Harry seemed to fly through shifting shapes and colours until his surroundings solidified and he stood on a hilltop, the wind whistling through the branches of a few leafless trees. The adult Snape was panting, dropped to his knees in front of Dumbledore.
"I—I come with a warning—no, a request—please—"
"What request could a Death Eater make of me?"
"The—the prophecy . . . the prediction . . . Trelawney . . . "
"Ah, yes," said Dumbledore. "How much did you relay to Lord Voldemort?"
"Everything—everything I heard!" said Snape. "That is why—it is for that reason—he thinks it means Lily Evans!"
"The prophecy did not refer to a woman," said Dumbledore. "It spoke of a boy born at the end of July—"
"You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down—kill them all—"
"If she means so much to you," said Dumbledore, "surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?"
"I have—I have asked him—"
"You disgust me," said Dumbledore, and Harry had never heard so much contempt in his voice. "You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?" Snape said nothing, but merely looked up at Dumbledore.
"Hide them all, then," he croaked. "Keep her—them—safe. Please."
The hilltop faded;Harry stood in Dumbledore's office, and something was making a terrible sound, resembling a wounded animal.
Snape was slumped forward in a chair and Dumbledore was standing over him, looking grim.
"Her son lives. He has her eyes, precisely her eyes. You remember the shape and color of Lily Evans's eyes, I am sure?"
"DON'T!" bellowed Snape. "Gone… dead…"
"Is this remorse, Severus?"
"I wish... I wish I were dead..."
"And what use would that be to anyone?" said Dumbledore coldly. "If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear."
Snape seemed to peer through a haze of pain, and Dumbledore's words appeared to take a long time to reach him.
"What—what do you mean?"
"You know how and why she died. Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily's son."
"He does not need protection. The Dark Lord has gone—"
"The Dark Lord will return, and Harry Potter will be in terrible danger when he does."
There was a long pause, and slowly Snape regained control of himself, mastered his own breathing. At last he said, "Very well. Very well. But never—never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear . . . especially Potter's son . . . I want your word!"
"My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?" Dumbledore sighed, looking down into Snape's ferocious, anguished face. "If you insist . . . "
Harry swirled and felt himself rising into the air; the office walls evaporated around him; he quickly floated upwards through icy blackness and then, with a swooping feeling as though he had turned head-over-heels in midair, his feet hit the stone floor of Snape's dungeon besides Snape's desk.
Almost unconsciously, he took several steps back until his back crashed to the wall across the desk. He kept looking at the pensieve as though everything he had just witnessed was going to jump out of it and project itself in the middle of the room, alive and vivid.
The door opened and Snape stormed in, scoffing at Harry's presence. "I thought I told you your lessons reached their end for this evening, Mister Potter. Now kindly get out."
When Harry didn't answer, Snape opened his mouth as though to taunt him, but he didn't. Harry continued to glare over at the pensieve, shock stricken and absolutely still, and Snape followed his stare to his desk.
His voice was a dangerous whisper when he talked, barely audible. "How much?" He looked aghast; his lips were shaking, his face was white; his teeth bared. "How much did you see?"
Harry swallowed, feeling his own legs shaking slightly. "What was the prophecy about?"
Snape launched himself on Harry and grasped his arm, shaking him savagely. "HOW MUCH DID YOU SEE, POTTER?"
"ANSWER ME!" screamed Harry back, trying to free his arm. "IT WAS YOUR FAULT VOLDEMORT KILLED MY PARENTS, WASN'T IT?" His heart was beating fast and something dark filled his chest, making it difficult for him to breath.
Snape shook Harry harder, so wild that his glasses slipped down his nose. His other hand grabbed on his neck and squeezed, throwing him away with such force that Harry fell hard on the dungeon floor and yelped.
"HOW MUCH DID YOU SEE?" Snape asked for the third time, his eyes glistening with a madness Harry had never seen before.
"Everything," spat Harry. "You led Voldemort to my parents, he found them because of you. You — and my mum and — and you betrayed her, and now you think you have the right to get into my life and protect me, as if I asked you to! I DON'T NEED YOUR PROTECTION, SNAPE! YOU KILLED THEM!"
Snape ran up to him again and Harry got to his feet and as far from Snape as he could. Snape was faster, and he grabbed Harry by the shirt, pushing him to the wall. His lips were trembling and his expression was beyond sense, tensed in an inhuman, terrifying way.
"Not. A word."
But Harry needed answers. "What did you tell Voldemort? There's a prophecy about me, isn't it?"
Was this what Voldemort was planning to use against him this time? Was his fate already written, waiting for him to fulfil it?
Eventually Snape threw him to the door and Harry crashed to it, too numb from the previous shock to feel the pain.
"Voice your questions to the Headmaster, Potter, if you must, but you will not speak of what you saw to anyone else. Do you understand?" Snape was still panting, achingly frowning.
Another tremendous question rose up to Harry's mind and he couldn't keep it back. Was Snape in love with his Mum? Did they have an affair before she married his dad?
"What about you and – "
"SHUT IT!" Snape pointed his wand at him and pressed his lips together as if holding back a nasty curse. "NOW GET OUT – and don't you dare step foot in this office ever again!"
And as Harry wrenched the door open, a jar of dead cockroaches exploded over his head. He flew along the corridor, stopping only when he had put three floors between himself and Snape. There he leaned against the wall, trembling, and rubbing his throat.
He had no desire at all to return to Gryffindor Tower so early, nor to tell Ron and Hermione what he had just seen. What was making Harry feel so horrified wasn't being shouted at or having jars thrown at him; it was that he knew that Dumbledore was keeping a very important secret from Harry, and that he was working with Snape behind Harry's back all these years, instead of trusting directly him.
Furthermore, Dumbledore wouldn't even talk to Harry anymore, and was hiding from him since the school year started. Was Harry going to be killed by Voldemort? Was that the reason Dumbledore was avoiding him? Images of Snape begging Dumbledore to save his Mum filled his head, and he hoped with all his might that his Mum didn't have a relationship with him, ever. Snape would have happily offered Harry to Voldemort to save her, as if the lives of people were tradable, and could be exchangeable.
The man had been a Death Eater after all, and wouldn't mind killing as many people as he should in order for him to take what he wanted. His stomach billowing and with a really bad headache on the way, Harry run towards the Gargoyle.
He let his bag drop off his shoulders and shouted, "Sherbet lemon!"
He tried again. "Acid pops. Toffee Éclair. Cockroach clusters." His throat ached and he forced a neutral expression on his face, convincing himself that he wasn't close to tears.
"Fizzing Whizbee. Gryffindor. Chocolate cookies!" He banged his fist on the stone and shouted, beyond control. "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?"
When he was met with nothing but the silence of the empty corridor, he grabbed his bag and left, a black hole nesting inside his soul where his trust for Dumbledore had previously been.
"Fuck you," he muttered.
"The connection Potter has with the Dark Lord's mind, how strong is it?" demanded Severus as soon as he wrenched open the door to Dumbledore's office.
Dumbledore stroked his beard, thinking. "Its source and strength is not fully known, I'm afraid. As long as Voldemort remains unaware of it the boy remains safe; I cannot imagine the dreadful ways of manipulation he might think of once he knows."
Severus still panted heavily, his hand twitching around his wand. As soon as Dumbledore noticed it, he furrowed his eyebrows. "A very particular breakdown occurred outside my office half an hour ago, so I wonder, if it happens to have anything to do with it."
Severus collapsed on a chair and rested his forehead on his hand. "I left your brilliant Golden Boy alone in my office for ten minutes, Headmaster, and with a fascinating lack of civility or rudimental qualms he stuck his nose into my memories. He – knows. Everything."
Dumbledore sat back on his chair, breathing silently. Severus let out a hoarse laughter, and shook his head dismissively at Dumbledore's questioning face. "I'm dead, aren't I?"
"It is not certain that Voldemort will desire to dig a way to Harry's mind - this is only a concern of mine, Severus. Even if he becomes aware the nature of their connection, it'll take time for him to explore the full extension of it. I assure you that the Order will do its best to protect you, should your cover be revealed." Dumbledore said.
"Severus what?" he sneered. "Potter's arrogant shallowness will lead me to my torturous death, and next thing you'll witness will be him dancing around my grave. Do you think the Dark Lord is going to be interested in, I don't know, perhaps a casual conversation once he sees me kneeling before you and swearing loyalty? Do tell me, please."
Dumbledore nodded in agreement. "Are you sure he saw everything?"
"Yes," Severus hissed, deranged at the fact. "I threw him out my office and told him to never come near me again. And I do assure you, if it weren't for your foolish fondness of the boy, he would have been expelled from my class too."
At that Dumbledore's lips parted and he rose a finger as if to make a point, but then seemed to focus on something entirely different. "I am afraid the Occlumency lessons cannot stop, Severus, especially now, for your own good more than anything. We cannot leave Harry's mind vulnerable to possible future attacks. If we don't teach him, he'll endanger your life. You must."
"I must not," spat Severus, "and will not. Forgive me, Headmaster, but this is beyond my dignity. Potter has shown a defiant disrespect to my privacy, and is constantly starving for information concerning his parents' lives. I will not sit there and have him ask questions I do not wish to answer, let alone give him the opportunity to mock me behind my back with his friends while I risk my life every day for him!" With that, he stood up and turned around, his cloak billowing behind him as he walked towards the door.
"Do it for Lily, Severus," Dumbledore said, and Severus hated him for it, knowing perfectly well how the man always manipulated him into his plans, using his pain and regret to force him follow with a bowed head.
Ignoring the Headmaster's order which was politely dressed up as a plea, he strode down to the cold dark dungeons, and at long last he locked himself into the safety of his rooms.
Harry looked over at Dumbledore, whose cheeks bloated around a large spoonful of milk and cheerios. As soon as he swallowed, he turned to Professor McGonagall and prattled humorously, a smile spreading underneath his white beard.
"He must have a reason, Harry, I'm sure of it," said Hermione.
"Blimey, Hermione, what kind of reason would make Dumbledore treat Harry like that? That's a very cruel thing to do, if you ask me," argued Ron.
"Maybe," Hermione lowered her voice, "Maybe these memories were fake, and that's why Professor Snape kept them in the pesnieve during his practice with Harry - so in case of an unexpected accident they wouldn't blend in with his own. They could be part of some plan to mislead You-Know-Who. Don't you think at all, Ron?"
"Why mislead him into thinking he's a traitor, 'Mione?"
And that was the first time Ron had said something so surprisingly obvious that even Hermione didn't have an answer. Harry poked at his breakfast again, his stomach feeling full although he had barely eaten a bite. The sight of food seemed of no interest to him, and he wished for the tenth time this week he had never told his friends about the incident with Snape's memories.
Although he appreciated their efforts to help, their concern was just another burden. Plus, it was obvious that with zero evidence they weren't getting anywhere. He carefully avoided sharing with them the fact that Snape was friends with his mum, as well as his confession that he loved her. It wasn't really important to tell them that Snape had sworn to Dumbledore to protect him either, and somehow he felt like this information shouldn't have been shared.
So, after he banged on Dumbledore's door for about an hour and no one ever replied, exactly as he had guessed it would happen, he found himself sitting cross – legged in the Gryffindor common room repeating everything he had heard about that prophecy to Ron and Hermione.
Both of them had looked surprised, but it was Hermione who made the best assumption.
"Maybe the prophecy doesn't foresee that you die, but that you kill him," she told him. "And that's why he searched for you when you were an infant – he decided to kill you so he would be freed from the constant fear of a deadly enemy once and for all."
Only that this didn't make things better, and it would only mean that Harry should have to kill him first if he wanted to survive. His fate was connected with Voldemort's, and recalling the many objections he was met with when he had requested to join the Order, he came to the conclusion that he was one of the few who didn't know anything about this prophecy. And as it seemed, Harry would have to fight Voldemort at some point of his life – a fact which no one thought of as important enough to discuss with him. Exhaling into his plate for a last time, he swung his backpack up onto his shoulders as at the same time the other students began standing up to head to their classes.
This time Dumbledore wouldn't get away. He'd been avoiding him for too much time for it to be justified. Dumbledore was the only adult Harry could trust with his life while he was at Hogwarts. He walked past his friends in a hurry and run to the high table the moment Dumbledore was leaving through the stuff door just behind it. Snape gave him a filthy look as Harry followed towards the door, and with a push he found himself to a long dark hallway which the students didn't use often– and which was absolutely empty.
Harry stopped. He felt his eyes burning and once again his temper seemed to dominate the best of him; something was going wrong and no one was feeling like telling him what that was. Was he dying already, and they didn't want him to know? Dread pulsated up to his face and he felt his cheeks heating up, unable to control his anger any longer.
He had the right to know what happened to his parents, and even more what was going to happen to himself. Dumbledore had lied to Harry about everything – he kept Snape in Hogwarts and let him teach the students even though he was responsible for his parents' deaths, and even though he would sacrifice Harry's and his Dad's life for the sake of his Mum's. That was how twisted the man was, and yet here he was, leering into Harry's mind once a week with the Headmaster's absolute consent. It wasn't likely that Harry was ever going to speak to Snape again, even if the man hadn't thrown him out of his office.
He didn't want people to protect him like he was a child. He didn't need Snape – of all people – to look after him and help him behind his back as though he was incapable of protecting himself on his own. He survived far too much on his own to be considered immature or reckless, and this treatment was the last thing he deserved. What he needed was someone to tell him the truth and let him face it like a grown up instead of plotting and organising his life without even asking him his opinion about it. Disappointed, he took the path for his class.
Maybe the visions would show him more about it.