Summary: Severus Snape falls off the deep end after Harry Potter sees his worst memory in the headmaster's Pensieve. It's up to Albus and Minerva to help the Potions Master overcome his demons. A little ADMM in later chapters. No slash!
Disclaimer: All characters, magical places, and everything else out of the Harry Potter series was created and is owned by the wonderful J.K. Rowling. It's all hers! None of it is mine!
Hey guys! I'm back! If you don't know who I am, I'm the author of The Burdens of an Old Headmaster…
This is my fifth story to date. It starts on the night before the first day of the Easter holidays of Harry's fifth year. If you have no idea when that is, it's a few hours after Harry looks in Dumbledore's Pensieve and sees the memory of Snape being tormented by the Marauders after the Potions Master's O.W.L.s in his fifth year. Also, Dumbledore is already in hiding.
Chapter 1: All is Not Well in the Dungeons
Albus Dumbledore stepped off the spiraling staircase and out into the corridor. The large stone gargoyle that had just jumped out of his way sprang up again to guard the entrance to the headmaster's office. "Why thank you, good sir!" said Dumbledore to the stone gargoyle, bowing deeply. He seemed satisfied when his gratitude was met with silence, and strode off towards the dungeons.
The headmaster walked in silence, pondering how he would go about his mission. He needed to find out what had happened at last night's meeting with Voldemort. Severus had given him a brief explanation when he had returned in the early hours of the morning, and Dumbledore, seeing the extreme exhaustion painted on the Potions Master's pale face, knew that he would do well to get some sleep. He had therefore let Snape go down to the dungeons, but now he needed answers. The headmaster also wanted to use his visit as an excuse to check up on Harry's progress in Occlumency. He knew that the young Gryffindor and the Potions Master had a mutual dislike of each other. He also knew that they needed to work together. His two children (as headmaster, he felt compelled to guide his charges as if they were his own children) were among some of the most talented wizards of their generations. He knew that it would take the knowledge and skills of the next generations to defeat Voldemort. There were only two problems he would face during his mission: getting Harry and Severus to work together and doing this all while staying hidden from Dolores Umbridge and the Ministry of Magic.
Dumbledore was so preoccupied with his thoughts, he did not even notice that there was someone walking towards him until he walked headlong into the person. "Ooof!" said the headmaster.
It appeared that Minerva McGonagall had also been oblivious to the fact that she was not the only one wandering the corridors after hours, for she had also walked straight into her boss. She was currently semi-sprawled out on the ground, staring up at the headmaster with a look of sincere surprise. "Albus? What are you doing here? Do you realize that Dolores and the minister are currently after your head!?!?"
"Oh my, I'm terribly sorry, Minerva," said Dumbledore, ignoring her comments and extending his hand out towards the witch that was sitting on the ground before him. "I was so caught up in my thoughts, I wasn't watching where I was going."
"It's quite all right," said the Transfigurations teacher, gratefully accepting the headmaster's hand. "I was not paying much attention to my surroundings either. But Albus, you really shouldn't be – "
"Can you forgive me?" he asked, bending down and kissing her hand.
"Of course, Albus," she said, trying to hide the fact that she was blushing. After a moment, she regained her voice. "So," she whispered, "where were you headed?"
"I was just going down to Severus' office. I need to speak with him about last night's meeting with Voldemort and the Death Eaters."
McGonagall flinched slightly at the name. "I thought he always reported to you after meetings, even under the current circumstances," she said as they began to descend down the stone steps that led to the dungeons.
"Oh, he does," said Dumbledore, "but he looked like he was going to drop at any second, so I sent him down to his rooms to get some sleep because I knew he had classes to teach."
"And he can't ever miss a class, can he? Honestly, he needs to stop working so hard. He's going to kill himself if he's not careful!"
"May I remind you, Minerva, you also have the strong sense of discipline and responsibility that Severus possesses?"
"Perhaps, Albus, but I'm not the one driving myself into the ground."
"Into the ground, no, but you're driving yourself into the wall. You are working just as hard as Severus is, so you have no right to talk."
"The same could be said about you."
"I suppose. I know we're all tired, and Dolores isn't making this war any easier for us." Dumbledore saw his Deputy stiffen at the mention of the woman who he had grudgingly allowed to fill the Defense Against the Dark Arts post and who was now the 'headmistress' of his beloved school. "But I agree with you; he is working rather hard as of late," observed the headmaster. Dumbledore suddenly noticed that McGonagall was following him down to Snape's office. "And why are you going to see Severus?" he asked.
The Deputy headmistress smiled. "Very perceptive, are we? I was going down to his office to give him this letter," she said, brandishing a letter in front of the headmaster. "We just finished with the agenda for next term, and I promised all the Heads of Houses that I would give copies to them. But I hope we won't disturb him. I wouldn't want to get on his bad side so late at night. I might have a nightmare."
Dumbledore laughed. "Severus isn't that scary when he's angry. In fact, I think it's a little funny sometimes."
"Albus, you are the only one that could ever find something like the wrath of Severus Snape funny."
"Well, you need not fear. I'm sure he's done with Harry's Occlumency lesson by now," he said, checking his watch. "Speaking of which, I wanted to check with Severus about Harry's progress. I expect Harry may be struggling somewhat, but I don't want a repeat of the Christmas holidays. I don't want him to have to go through another night like the night Arthur was attacked."
The witch and wizard walked in silence for a few minutes, each lost in his or her own thoughts. Neither looked at each other until the silence was broken by McGonagall. "Albus, why don't you – "
"Minerva, you know very well that I cannot teach Harry Occlumency," cut in Dumbledore. "I would be putting the Order in great danger, and if Voldemort knew that I was the one training Harry to fight him, his desire to destroy Harry will only increase. And we wouldn't have anywhere to practice because, as you were so very kind to remind me, I am currently wanted by the Ministry of Magic. Besides, we both know that Severus is a very skilled Occlumens. He is able to teach Harry many things that I am not capable of."
"Yes, Albus, but – "
As the two professors reached the Potions Master's office, they heard the faint sound of someone being sick. The hacking coughs that followed told them that all was not well in the dungeons.