A/N: Excerpts of dialogue are from OotP, digital edition. - DG
"We have time, Potter."
"I've died twice," he whispered before turning back to the collection of memories and plucking another vial out. "How many died to give me borrowed time?"
"I dunno, Harry, but by saying that you're responsible for their deaths, by saying that they had no choice to step in and fight on your behalf is unhealthy. You aren't responsible for them, or their deaths. Fred, Remus, Tonks, even little Colin Creevy. You didn't' force them to step up to the line and cross it. You didn't put a wand to their back and make them die for you. That mindset harms you more than anything else. It's called co-dependency and harmful to you."
"And who else could have stopped him, huh?" Harry yelled.
"Plenty could have at that point, frankly. Things took a turn after Hagrid brought you back. Spells that would have been devastating were less potent. Spells flew wide or didn't work after you returned; Longbottom fighting off the spell that nearly killed him to kill the snake. You might not believe it, but something happened and it turned everything."
"It's not true!"
"Isn't it? Everything that those idiots in black threw at us wasn't fatal. Every curse, every jinx lacked the power. Even the blasting curse that Voldemort threw at us when Lestrange died wasn't deadly, like it should have been. Someone's blood sacrifice kept all of us alive. I think it was you. Longbottom said you told him to kill the snake. He did. Weasley broke the charm Voldemort laid on the crowd announcing your death. And yet here you stand, hale if haunted."
Harry kept silent.
"I think I can piece it all together. You went out to confront him, alone. Something made you stay your wand. He brings you back dead, yet you're not. Everything goes sideways when Longbottom kills the snake and when Lestrange fell, there you were."
Harry stood silent, keeping his mind closed unlike the Occlumency lessons from so long ago. How easy it was now, when those lessons so long ago proved impossible? How simple was it to turn off everything in his mind, leaving it a blank space when the temptations of things he wanted to know – forbidden knowledge that seduced him into betrayal – now lay behind him?
"And you're refusing to speak of what happened in those two hours when you were gone. I can guess that you went out there, intending for Voldemort to kill you and something strange happened and you didn't die."
Harry mentally locked down every single virtual door in his head, losing himself in pleasant memories that were mist now.
"You're not going to say anything, are you?"
"I could make you."
"That would be a really bad idea. Some secrets have to be kept."
"They aren't yours, are they?"
"I'm will not tell you, sir."
"What if I offer to take an Unbreakable Vow?"
"I still won't tell you. This secret will die with me."
The two men stood eyeing one another before Kingsley broke contact first. "Fine then. Pick another vial, Potter."
Harry took a deep breath before picking up one at random. He poured it into the Pensieve and fell in, to avoid the disappointing look on Kingsley's face.
Kingsley fell in after him and looked around the Hogwarts grounds. "Have an idea on this one?"
Harry saw the four men who impacted his life in disparate ways standing by a tree near the black lake. "This might be the memory that gets me thrown out of Snape's office."
"And that is?"
"This might be the day that Professor Snape destroyed my mother's friendship."
Harry stood watching the scene unfolding, with the four young men who would torment Snape for years and him retaliating. Sure enough he saw them out of the corner of the vision memory, probably on the periphery of Snape's vision in keeping an eye on them. He slowly pulled his wand from his robes, pressing it close to his hip.
"This'll liven you up, Padfoot," said James quietly. "Look who it is..."
The hands in front of Harry's face was stowing the Owl revision sheet into his bag and walking away from the four in question.
"All Right, Snivellus?" said James loudly.
Harry watched Snape react, intending to cast a spell towards his dad. The bag fell and the owner's pallid hand was halfway up when the wand was yanked out of his hand and sent flying.
Harry wanted to groan because Sirius thought it was funny.
"Impedimenta!" the spell hit and Snape was thrown backwards away from the fallen wand.
"I forgot how James and Sirius were tossers then."
"It took a while for me to come to accept that they weren't kind to Snape. He earned much of it but they didn't help."
Snape looked around at the gathering of students watching the scene unfolding and no one intervening. So many eyes were forced his way, because of the actions involved.
Pettigrew was in the background, watching with intense interest while Lupin sat with his nose in his book, intentionally refusing to intervene. Harry forgot how passive Lupin could be when it came to his friends.
His father and Godfather were looming, wands raised, pointed at them. Only now did he realize how troubling they were towards one ostracized teenager.
"How'd the exam go, Snivelly?" said James.
"I was watching him, his nose touching the parchment," said Sirius viciously. "There'll be great grease marks all over it, they won't be able to read a word."
The vision went dark red for a moment. The owner's focus narrowed at the two looming young men with the laughter ragging the edges of vision. Pettigrew's laughter came through.
The vision shuddered, Snape trying to mentally throw the spell off. "You wait," he panted towards the messy haired Potter standing over him. "You - wait!"
"Wait for what?" said Sirius coolly. "What're you going to do Snivelly, wipe your nose on us?"
Snape erupted with curses and curse words, all falling impotent since his wand was feet away.
"I forgot too how vile he could be when he was wound up."
"Wash out your mouth," said James coldly. "Scourgify!"
The memory shook as pink soap bubbles made Snape gag.
"Leave him ALONE!"
Snape turned, spitting soap from his mouth, and saw Lily walking with a purpose towards the group. While Snape had eyes for her, he saw on the side that his father ruffled his hair.
"Bit of a git, considering," Harry said to himself.
"He was, like many at that age. I'm sure you put your foot in your mouth sometimes too."
"I was too busy being mental at that age."
"All Right, Evans?" said James. Harry wanted to fake-gag like he knew he'd have to with his best friends once they returned from Australia.
"Leave him alone," Lily repeated. Harry saw the disgust on her face towards his father and he wanted to chuckle. But then Snape looked lower, towards her legs and then up at her chest and Harry felt sick.
"What's he done to you?"
"Well," Harry grew impatient waiting on his Dad to finally answer, "it's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean..."
Snape fought against the spell again, trying to escape the laughter that sounded impossibly loud in the memory. Lupin still refused to intervene, with his nose in a book.
"You think you're funny," she said coldly. Harry shuddered since Ginny's voice took on that frosty chill the few times she got irate at him. "But you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter. Leave him alone."
"I will if you go out with me, Evans," said James quickly. "Go on... go out with me and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again."
The memory wobbled and pink soapsuds dribbled down the front of Snape's robes as he crab crawled towards his wand.
"I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid," said Lily.
"Bad luck, Prongs," said Sirius briskly.
Teenage Snape closed his hands around his wand and pointed his wand at James, cutting a gash on his cheek and letting blood flow. James turned and with his wand in his hand, lifted Snape up by his ankles.
"Good thing I can handle the change in viewpoint," Kingsley interrupted.
"Not a problem with me, sir, as a Seeker."
"Why has it gone dark?"
"I seem to recall that levicorpus in this moment made Professor Snape's robes fall over his head, exposing his pants."
Cheers erupted around in the darkness. Even in the darkness Harry knew that Snape was humiliated.
"Let him down!" Lily's voice echoed in the memory.
"Certainly," said James and the viewpoint changed again, where Snape was crumpled into the ground. One wand up towards the gathering and Sirius froze him in place, and the viewpoint drifted skyward. Even under the spell, the memory shuddered, like Snape was fighting it with everything he could.
"It's only now I realized the bullying," Harry said to himself.
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily's voice erupted in the memory almost too loud to their ears.
"Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you."
"Take the curse off him, then!" Harry soaked up each syllable, even if it was in defense of a man he loathed and a father he loved.
"There you go," he said while Snape stood from the ground, a bit wobbly after everything he'd went through in the last five minutes. "You're lucky Evans was here, Snivellus - "
The memory went red and opaque, like Harry witnessed once. Harry recognized it at once, where a memory was tampered with.
"Thank you," Snape said.
The memory resolved into clarity. "He altered the memory. I can't believe he did that."
"What really happened?" Kingsley did a complicated motion, freezing the memory in time.
"He called my Mum a Mudblood. That was, from what I understand it, the final moment that Mum tolerated. Remus said that she never spoke to him again outside of class. But then being insulted in front of everyone probably would anger me too."
"I'm not surprised. Snape had a bit of a temper when it came to public humiliation."
"He's not the only one," Harry said to himself.
"So can we continue?"
Harry looked at his Mum and saw the fury etched on her face. "Sure. Let's finish this."
Kingsley did the counter-charm and the memory continued.
"Fine," she said coolly. "I won't bother in the future." Snape watched her walk off, his wand in hand, keeping a watch on Potter and Black and Pettigrew.
"Apologize to Evans!"
"I don't want you to make him apologize," Lily shouted, rounding on James. "You're as bad as he is."
"What!" yelped James. "I'd NEVER call you a you-know-what!"
"Messing up your hair because you think it looks like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can - I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me sick."
Snape watched Lily run off, her hair blowing behind her, with James trying to get her to turn around.
"Who wants me to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"
Snape lifted his wand and blocked the first spell but he was no match for three of them, including Pettigrew. They forced his pants down and Snape rushed to cover himself, trying to hide under his robes.
"That's enough, James," Lupin's voice drifted across the memory. "Tormenting him any further will only blow back on you." Lupin had his hands on James and Sirius' shoulders. "Give him his pants back."
James walked over and handed Snape his grey dingy pants. "Lily's right. Tell the elves to wash your pants and put some trousers on. No one wants to see your bits."
"I hate you." Scorn dripped from every word.
"Feelings's mutual." James returned a scowl before turning away, laughing with Sirius. Peter scowled but didn't lift a hand. Remus went to collect his things but watching Snape from behind the other two.
"Bastards," Snape yelled at their retreating backs.
"Maybe you are, but my parents were married first," James cheeked back and Sirius laughed too. Pettigrew turned to look at Snape and Harry saw a look shared between the two of them.
"That's enough," Harry pulled out of the memory. "I've seen too much."
The two of them pulled out of the memory and Harry retrieved the contents of the vial and corked it.
"No wonder why Snape was so irate with me. He interrupted my Dad humiliating him further for being called on his bullying."
"Does it bother you that James had a cruel streak towards Severus?"
"Yes, No, I dunno. I knew dad was a bully but I never realized the mean streak he had. Remus told me of Mum and how amazing she was, standing up for those who couldn't or wouldn't stand up for themselves but Dad..." Harry looked at the older Wizard with him, "Dad was an asshole and Snape called my Mum a Mudblood. She quit being his friend that day."
"She stepped in and he called her that? It sounds like James wasn't the only asshole of the bunch. Then again, most wizards are at 15."
Harry thought back to when he was mean to Cho when she was defending her friend. Hermione had scarred Marietta, even if it seemed justified at the time.
"I was more like Remus, standing aside like a bystander when people not me did stuff." Harry sighed, recalling the countless times he'd used an Unforgiveable curse, especially the last time. "Maybe I am like my Dad that way, with a mean streak."