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The Syntax of Things

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"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 as he frantically tried to cover himself with his hands.

Lupin looked up at that, his face flushed, and he quickly shoved his book into his bag, preparing to leave.

"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 himself and get his pants up, the memory swirled.

Harry seemed to fly through shifting shapes and colours until his surroundings solidified. He stood on a hilltop, the wind whistling through the branches of a few leafless trees. Snape was there, but he was an older now, and he was panting, dropped to his knees in front of Albus 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?" 

"Hide them all, then," Snape pleaded. "Keep her—them—safe. Please."

The hilltop faded, and Harry stood in Dumbledore's office, more horrified than ever.

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 colour 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. 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 rise into the air; the office walls evaporated around him; he quickly floated 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.

Almost unconsciously, he took several steps back until his back crashed against 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 devour him.

The door opened and Snape stormed in, scoffing at Harry's presence. "I told you we shall resume tomorrow, Potter. You may leave."

When Harry didn't answer, Snape opened his mouth to say something, but he didn't. Harry continued to glare over at the Pensieve, shock stricken and absolutely still, and Snape followed his gaze to his desk.

His voice was a dangerous whisper when he talked, barely audible. "What did you do?" He looked aghast; his lips were shaking, his face was white. "What did you do, Potter?"

Harry swallowed, feeling his own legs shake. "What was the prophecy about?"

Snape launched himself on Harry and grasped his arm, shaking him savagely. "Oh you couldn't resist, could you, you little --"

"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 darkness filled his chest, making it difficult for him to breath.

Snape grabbed him by the throat and squeezed, throwing him from him with all his might. Harry fell hard on to the dungeon floor and grunted. 

"How much did you see?" Snape hissed, his eyes glistening with a madness Harry had never seen before.

"Everything," spat Harry, a million thoughts racing in his mind. "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 control my life and protect me, as if I ever asked you to! I DON'T NEED YOUR PROTECTION, SNAPE! YOU KILLED THEM! I NEVER MET THEM BECAUSE OF YOU!"

Snape walked up to him again and Harry got to his feet and as far from Snape as he could. Snape was faster, however, and he cornered Harry, his wand against Harry's neck. His lips were trembling and his expression was cold — tense in an inhuman, terrifying way.

"Not. Another. Word."

"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 simply fulfil it?

Instead of answering, Snape threw him to the door and Harry crashed on it, too numb from the overall shock to feel the pain.

"You will not speak of what you saw. You will tell no one. Do you understand?" 

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 kept his wand pointed 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 ran along the corridor, stopping only when he had put three floors between himself and Snape. Then he leaned against the wall, trembling.

He had no desire at all to return to the Gryffindor Tower so early, nor tell Ron and Hermione what he had just seen. Harry could handle being shouted at or having jars thrown at him; what was unbearable, however, was that now he knew that Dumbledore had been keeping a very important secret from him, and if Harry hadn't found out like this, no one would have ever told him. 

Dumbledore didn't even talk to Harry anymore, and had been avoiding 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 there had never been anything between the two. Snape would have happily offered Harry to Voldemort to save her, as if people's lives were tradable, and could be exchanged. 

His stomach turning, 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!"

Nothing happened.

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 between Potter and the Dark Lord's mind, how strong is it?" demanded Severus as soon as he wrenched open the door to Dumbledore's office.

"What happened?"

"I need to know."

"Its potential is unknown. As long as Voldemort remains unaware of it, the boy is 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. Dumbledore noticed it. "You know... A very interesting breakdown occurred outside my office half an hour ago, so I wonder, if it happens to have anything to do with your worries."

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, and with a fascinating lack of any qualms he stuck his nose into my memories. He – knows. Everything."

Severus let out a hoarse laughter, and shook his head dismissively at Dumbledore's questioning face. "I'm dead, aren't I?"

Dumbledore didn't answer immediately, which was a clear enough answer by itself. "Even if Voldemort becomes aware of the nature of their connection," he finally said carefully, "it'll take time for him to explore the full extension of it. You are not alone, the Order will do its best to protect you, should your cover be revealed."



"Severus what?" he sneered. "Potter's arrogance 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 will be interested in, I don't know, perhaps a casual conversation over it once he sees me kneeling before you and swearing loyalty? Do tell me, please."

Dumbledore nodded. "Are you sure he saw everything?"

"Yes," Severus hissed, deranged at the fact. "I threw him out 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."

"This shouldn't have happened. I expected you to be more careful..."

Severus said nothing.

"The lessons cannot stop, Severus, especially now, for your own good more than anything. We can't leave Harry's mind vulnerable to any possible future attacks. If we don't teach him, he'll endanger your life. You must."

"I must not," spat Severus, "and will not. 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 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.

"And 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. I mean, it's possible."

"Why mislead him into thinking he's a traitor, 'Mione?"

To that, Hermione didn't have an answer. Harry poked at his breakfast again, his stomach feeling full although he had barely eaten. 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 be 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 way too long for it to make any sense. 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 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. 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'd survived way too many dangers 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 around his life without even asking him. Disappointed, he took the path for his class.

Maybe the visions would show him more about it.