Defence against the Dark Arts
Recently kindly beta read by InkandPaper.
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Disclaimer, spoiler warning, time frame of this piece:
None of the characters belong to me.
HBP spoilers, contains of all other HP books mentioned.
Takes place immediately after the end of Harry Potter's fifth year, before the chapter Spinner's End in HBP.
"Severus? Are you in there? Could you come upstairs?"
Even in the Floo the headmaster's voice sounded exhausted. A bit worried, the Potions Professor of Hogwarts turned from his simmering potion to see the face of his superior, only to see the connection ending in the meantime. Having no other option he turned off the flame under the cauldron and with his robe billowing, he quickly left the room...
Several minutes later Snape knocked on the door of the headmaster's round office and without waiting for an answer he entered. His eyes searched the room quickly. Dumbledore was sitting in his favourite armchair in front of the fireplace, his phoenix right behind him singing softly. The headmaster was clutching his right hand and seemed to be deep in thought - so deep that he even didn't notice when Snape entered the office. He looked ill and very frail.
Snape wondered once again about the trust the old man had given him so many years ago – even then the Headmaster had not seemed to worry when his former pupil, then a turned Death Eater, entered the circular office of the Hogwart's headmasters and headmistresses. Somehow he recognised that Snape was to be trusted at that moment and he never had to reconsider his decision from that day. The once lonely, cunning and Dark Arts-loving student became one of the headmasters most trusted friends.
Never mind Snape's harsh teaching style, the headmaster was sure that his Potions Professor was guarding the safety of all the students – even those he didn't like at all. Snape was repaying the trust he once unconditionally received with the deepest loyalty to the old man and his school.
Snape was still cunning and still knew more about the Dark Arts than the old headmaster himself, however his knowledge now also was accompanied by wisdom obtained in his Death Eater years. He knew better than anybody else at the side of good about the dangers hidden behind the powerful dark spells. They offered huge power for a huge price. Even used for a good purpose they led their caster only to a desire for more and more power.
Sometimes he wondered what there would have been for him now, if he hadn't been indebted to Potter (and still liking Lily Evans, even if the friendship hadn't been that close anymore as in the years of their schooling) all those years ago when he heard the Dark Lord's interpretation of the prophecy for the first time. And what would have happened if the headmaster had refused to hear him out? Being the Head of Slytherin now he often wished the headmaster would allow him to teach the Defence Against the Dark Arts classes. The children should know the truth about the Dark Arts. And Severus with all his experience could be the best teacher Hogwarts ever had in this position.
However, both the professors knew why Snape couldn't be accepted for the position until the Dark Lord was defeated forever. Severus knew too much about dark curses to really desire the position. Anyway, seeing all the incompetent teachers through both his student's and teacher's years, he couldn't help it and applied for the position year after year only to be denied by the wise headmaster, who knew too well that Snape's position had been too dangerous itself – even in the seemingly peaceful years between the defeat and the second rise of the Dark Lord. Fortunately the young man was extraordinary good in Occlumency and could hide his thoughts from both his enemies and allies.
Standing now in the headmaster's office Snape hid his worried thoughts in the same way and quickly approached the headmaster's seat by the fire. Fawkes welcomed him with a silent wink and left for his perch. Snape saw Dumbledore flinch a bit – the old man was probably feeling cold. Snape's worry increased. This was another bad sign considering that Dumbledore was never ill. The absence of the phoenix's song and the soft sound of moving fabric made Dumbledore look up. He smiled at Severus but his face remained tired.
"Severus," the old man greeted.
"Headmaster." Severus was always formal even when alone with Dumbledore. At least, he had been in the beginning of every meeting they both had ever had. Later he mostly allowed himself to use the headmaster's given name. However, only on a few occasions he dared to start a conversation like he would do today. He held the headmaster in too high esteem to do it more often.
"Albus, what's wrong? You don't seem to be well."
"What would you say if I tell you I need a competent Defence Teacher after all those years?" Dumbledore smiled a little bit. At the same time his face revealed a wave of pain and he put his left hand from the right arm to show it to Severus. The injury was caused by the Dark Arts, Severus knew immediately, and he hastily knelt in front of the headmaster to examine the blackened arm. He frowned and his face stayed unguarded for a moment. It showed the deepest concern.
"Albus, this is not good. It will kill you in a couple of days if we don't manage to stop it... Do you see the upper part of your arm? The curse is spreading... It would be a very slow and painful death." He frowned even more and looked to the headmaster's face.
"I will do what I can, however, it won't be possible for me nor for Madam Pomfrey to heal you completely, I'm afraid. Fawkes has probably already tried as well, hasn't he?" Dumbledore nodded slightly. Snape continued.
"You will have to tell me how you got hurt as well before I can do anything. This was caused by the strongest Dark Magic I have ever seen. Albus – WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? WHAT HAVE YOU TOUCHED? … And don't try to distract me by saying what a competent Defence Teacher I would be!"
"Pity, you are so good in Legilimency as well." Dumbledore moaned. "However, I wanted to tell you anyway. Only a bit later."
"This won't wait. And you know it as well as I do or you would have called Pomfrey instead of me." Snape frowned once again.
"You would really make a very good Defence Teacher, Severus. We both know it. You have nice results as a Potions Professor as well – pity you can't be less harsh sometimes. The Longbottom boy is not stupid, you know…"
"ALBUS! We can discuss this another time. And I know that Longbottom is not stupid. I EVEN KNOW POTTER IS NOT STUPID! HE JUST NEEDS TO START TO THINK BEFORE HE ACTS ONE DAY. BUT YOU HAVEN'T CALLED ME TO DISCUSS YOUR FAVOURITE GRYFFINDORS! … We are here because of this." He pointed to the black arm. "And I can and want to help you. You just NEED TO TELL ME! There is no need to miss something crucial and regret it later..."
Dumbledore smiled at the angry young man in front of him. "My boy, it's nice to know you care so much. And I did indeed call you because I needed your help." Now it was Dumbledore's turn to frown a little bit. "We spoke about this several years ago, how it was possible for Voldemort to survive all those years without a body. You do remember?" Severus nodded and frowned even more. "You mentioned the Horcruxes and I was… well a little bit concerned you knew even this. There is nobody in your generation who knows so much, are you aware of that?"
"Several Death Eaters would know as well…" Snape dismissed the thought.
"I don't believe there are many. However, I don't doubt Lord Voldemort is privy with this possibility... and I'm now certain he indeed used Horcruxes to survive. The only thing I don't know is how many Horcruxes he made and where he had hidden them…"
Snape's eyes were showing too many emotions – both men usually forgot to guard their feelings and care for their safety when there were only the two of them. Severus' deep concern for the headmaster's health was accompanied by a wave of relief – the Dark Lord could indeed be defeated one day if they could find the Horcruxes and destroy them – there was also a little bit of doubt that they would manage it – and anger with the headmaster for jeopardizing his health without telling anybody about his plans. Snape knew the headmaster had found one of the Horcruxes and touched it, or had been injured breaking the wards around the object. There was an unknown ring on his uninjured hand. "Albus, take that off this instant!" Snape cried, unnecessary loudly.
"I can't just now – I just can't take it off as my fingers are swollen… But the curse was not on the ring itself – which is indeed a Horcrux and I will need your help to destroy it after I am better. The box the ring was kept inside was cursed. Unfortunately, I can't give you many details but it seemed to me like a strong variant of some blood protection ward. But I would like you to see it for yourself." The headmaster pointed on the coffee table next to him and Snape entered the Pensieve lying there.
When he reappeared in the office he was nodding to himself. Dumbledore was right. Preparing to perform the necessary spells he looked at the headmaster: "Albus, I would still prefer it if you took the ring off as soon as possible. Please, don't forget... However, it doesn't need to be now, you are right… Are you still cold?"
"Yes, my boy. It's better now but I'm still feeling cold, extremely tired and quite nauseous. And the arm is burning…" Dumbledore started to look even more exhausted and more ill than before and his voice was growing more quiet.
Severus was concerned and knowing he shouldn't wait anymore he said: "I was thinking that much… Albus, you are in no shape to do it yourself now and I don't think you should move too much. I'll Transfigure your armchair into a sofa and I need you to lie down…"
Dumbledore nodded slightly and Snape waved with his wand.
"Nice work, Severus," murmured the old transfiguration teacher, lying down. The sofa was softer than his own bed. 'Severus has to be really concerned,' he thought. He smiled weakly at the young man and closed his eyes. He wanted to think about the Horcruxes and their protections a bit longer but then the dark man started to chant incantations above him. His voice was soft, full of love and care. Dumbledore was feeling a bit better and in the same moment sleepy. He just managed to hear his Potions Master cast a spell which was considered to be on the border between Light and Dark but as the voice of the younger man was still full of the same positive feelings he decided not to worry about it and let himself to drift to sleep.
When he woke up, it was late morning of the next day. Severus must have stayed with him over the night as he was dozing peacefully in an armchair next to Dumbledore's Transfigured bed. The headmaster's injured hand was cowered with some white cream and was a bit numb but wasn't hurting anymore. 'Nice combination, Dark Arts expert with an extraordinary talent for Potions and Healing … and Transfiguration,' thought Dumbledore from the soft sofa and considered the younger, sleeping man. The black clad professor needed the sleep as much as he himself did yesterday and the old professor decided not to move for several more minutes to give Severus at least a bit of the rest he needed.
Dumbledore didn't like the danger he was sending Severus to each time Voldemort called. However, the boy was more than prepared to survive his spying duties. He mostly managed to come home uninjured and excepting the first night after Voldemort's return he seemed not to have been subjected to the Cruciatus Curse as well. Maybe it was only because Voldemort didn't want to alert the headmaster to Snape's duties for his side too much but it was more than welcome. The headmaster thought briefly about the time Severus was working for him and was smiling proudly at his sleeping professor.
He hadn't liked the Severus who had appeared in Hogshead the night Sybil made the prophecy. There had been something in his eyes speaking volumes about his loyalty of that moment. Dumbledore had thought he saw also a little doubt and remorse in the black eyes but he hadn't been sure. He only knew that his former student went with the Prophecy to his Lord. Considering it now he was happy the boy had heard it. The guilt he felt one and half years later when Voldemort decided to kill the small Potter and Longbottom children was enough to bring the boy back to the side of good. It was probably even easier as the young man was a half-blood himself and as he confessed to Dumbledore later he had had doubts for a long time.
Dumbledore wasn't sure how he knew immediately that the boy was sincere when he came to apply for the job the second time. But he saw the young man's eyes (at that time Snape wasn't such an adept of Occlumency as he became later and additionally the boy decided not to use his skills against the headmaster that night) and knew too well about Severus' debt to James Potter to doubt him. He wasn't sure but maybe there was even some feeling of love for the red haired Lily Potter which brought the young man back but he had never asked Severus about it.
Not knowing what Voldemort exactly planned by infiltrating the Defence Position with his believed spy and being aware of the danger he was sending the young man to and the curse on the Defence Position the headmaster gave the boy Potions classes. Dumbledore knew the young man was not the kindest professor but Potions could be dangerous and Snape was careful enough to keep his students healthy. They managed to earn good grades in their OWLs and NEWTs as well, even when the professor declined to give them (especially Gryffindors) good marks himself.
The headmaster knew Severus started to be confident at Hogwarts in the years that followed the fall of Voldemort. The cunning Slytherin House was at the top for several years and its Head was proud of his students even when the other professors didn't like them much. Being a Slytherin himself Snape understood 'his children' really well – and as both he and the headmaster were sure Voldemort would reappear one day, good connections with the Death Eater families were still welcome.
When young Harry started at the school, Severus began acting strangely. On the one hand he was always complaining about the boy, on the other he was sometimes keeping a closer eye on him than Dumbledore himself. Knowing Snape as he did, Dumbledore knew the boy had another powerful protector – and was happy for it. He also understood too well why Severus was so harsh to both Harry and Neville in the class attended by Draco Malfoy and other Death Eater children to ever really complain about it.
They had argued a lot when Dumbledore gave the Defence Position to Remus Lupin and the arguments had occurred several times more during that year. At the end of it both of them were upset with the actions of the other but they could solve the problems before the holidays ended. The reappearing dark mark on Severus' arm helped a great deal.
The fourth year of Harry Potter's class was the year of Voldemort's return to power. Snape was a frequent visitor of the headmaster's office. Mostly they spoke about the Dark Mark and Death Eaters, and the strange disappearances as well as Harry's visions were mentioned by occasion. Severus was sure the return of the Dark Lord would come soon and Dumbledore felt he was right.
When Harry and Cedric disappeared from the maze, Dumbledore knew something was more than wrong. Severus approached him several minutes later (standing till then right behind the headmaster's back in case he was needed) and whispered, "He is calling." Karkaroff had already left. The headmaster grew even more worried. It all made sense now. Severus was right in not wanting to allow Harry to compete. "Headmaster, I should leave now…" "No, Severus, you could be needed here. Wait, please." Dumbledore hoped the blood protection would save the boy once again but he didn't know in which shape he would come back. If he would come back at all… Snape had without doubt more knowledge of Death Eater curses than Alastor Moody, and Dumbledore wanted him by his side.
When he asked his professor to go to Voldemort later that evening he was more than a little worried. They had been extraordinary careful not to show Snape's true loyalties in all those years but maybe just his testimony by the Death Eater trials would be enough to tell. He could only hope the young man would convince Voldemort he was speaking the truth. They were discussing it more times during the year as they were practicing Occlumency and Legilimency together once again.
Dumbledore knew he couldn't sleep that night until Severus was back in his own room. He charmed the castle gate to alert him about the Potions Professor's return should it be necessary for him to help the younger man and then he started to pace his office. It was late in the night when Snape returned to Hogwarts, exhausted, tortured with the Crutiatus Curse but more than confident with his effort. He came to Dumbledore's office to give him the report and accepted both the tea and sherbet lemons. Dumbledore smiled at the memory – this happened rarely.
Severus applied for the Defence Position that year. Dumbledore was considering giving it to him for the first time, as he didn't like the idea of a Ministry's teacher in this now so crucial position. However, he didn't like an idea of a stranger teaching the 'subtle art of brewing potions,' either. Potions were by far the most dangerous class taught in the castle and after the previous year he wasn't sure he wanted Severus anywhere else. He tried to convince Slughorn to return but had to return without success. The former professor wanted nothing more than to stay neutral in the war and being too close to Dumbledore was dangerous.
However, he had believed instantly that Voldemort had returned and Dumbledore was sure he knew more than he was saying. Slughorn used to teach Tom Riddle and was once a Slytherin himself. Considering the amount of knowledge of the Dark Arts Severus was able to obtain on his own years later, what could the older Slytherin know fifty years ago better than anybody else? He attended Hogwarts only a bit later than Dumbledore and the present headmaster knew all too well how easy it had been to enter the restricted section of the library back then. Even when the section contained more dangerous books than ever after, the cunning head of the Slytherin house gave permission to all interested older students. The only requirement was an OWL in the Defence Classes. And the Defence Class led by him was speaking volumes about the Professor's unhealthy fascination with the Dark Arts.
Dumbledore was considering all the possibilities and remembered the discussion with Severus from the end of Harry's first year. They had mentioned Horcruxes and Dumbledore was sure now that he had seen Slughorn reading some book on them decades ago. He asked Severus to teach Harry Occlumency and spent the year researching this forgotten dark magic. After the Department of Mysteries' disaster, Snape came to him, filled with remorse.
Dumbledore knew his Potions Master had thrown Harry out of his office and unfortunately understood all too well Severus' actions. He knew his professor still hated Sirius and didn't like to speak about his student years at Hogwarts. However, he was pleased Severus was acting more friendly (at least for Severus) to Remus Lupin and he thought the remorse he felt because of the Ministry disaster would do him some good. He was probably right as Severus offered he would teach the 'Potter brat' once more (if necessary) and the former hate in his voice was replaced by some kind of dislike and anger, for both himself and the boy.
Still deep in thought, Dumbledore saw the professor move a little bit. The headmaster sat up to call a House Elf to bring them breakfast. Severus woke at the same time, and frowned seeing the headmaster trying to stand up.
"Wait, Albus." He stood up himself and approached Dumbledore quickly. He knelt once again in front of the headmaster and touched the hand of his injured arm.
"Can you feel this?" he asked, letting his fingers softly stroke the back of the hand. Dumbledore nodded.
"Good," smiled the Potions Professor and stood up. "I couldn't do any more. The arm will stay black but you should be able to use it almost normally. I just wouldn't advise you to fight the Dark Lord in the next couple of days." He allowed himself a small smile.
Severus joking? It had to have been really bad yesterday. The younger man continued. "And take the ring off as soon as possible. It has carried Dark Magic for far too long to be safe… And yes, you may have your breakfast now." Severus was confident with himself. He was sure yesterday he could save the headmaster's life but he had thought the arm would stay lame. That the old man sensed even the soft touch was much better than could have been expected. Severus put two spoons of sugar in his tea and for a change ate all the food on his breakfast tray.
Dumbledore sipped his tea and was quiet for a long time. Severus didn't mind; he preferred it this way. He just asked for The Daily Prophet and read news about the Death Eater raid from the week before. He appreciated that he hadn't needed to be there. It was not so bad to be a Death Eater in the service of Albus Dumbledore. He was protected by both sides and mostly it was not required from him to join the fights of neither of his "masters." He hated to call Albus Dumbledore this as he was more of a friend and family than anybody else was now. Sitting in his circular office, drinking coffee and reading the Prophet, Severus felt he was at home like never before.
"Severus?" The headmaster interrupted him. Snape looked up. "I wanted to thank you first, my boy…"
"Don't. I have never thanked you for everything you have done for me during the years. I'm only happy to be able to repay you – and personally YOU and not the case – at least a tiny bit." Snape was indeed acting a little bit out of character that morning. Joking, being open as never before and even enjoying the sun of late morning coming through the windows of the office.
"Well, Severus, I'm happy to have PERSONALLY YOU here right now... You have never seemed to enjoy mornings before," joked the headmaster.
"I never have and probably never will. This is a special case." Severus allowed himself yet another smile.
"I have to leave for Spinner's End today. The Dark Lord should send Wormtail to "assist" me later in the afternoon." He frowned a bit. "I will try to have him out of the way most the time so you can contact me whenever necessary." He frowned once again. "But, Albus, don't do this alone again. NEVER! I really mean it. This was a close call and I don't want to find you dead one day just because you were fool enough to touch the Dark Lord's most guarded possessions. I can't come with you to search for them if we don't want to lose my position but PROMISE ME YOU WILL BE MORE CAREFUL THE NEXT TIME!" Dumbledore nodded.
"I will, my boy… And when I come back to Hogwarts I will call you immediately if necessary. I promise, you don't have to ask for it." The headmaster smiled. It has never ever been easier to read the Potions Master's thoughts. He even didn't need Legilimency.
"Good." The Potions Master reached for the newspaper once again.
"Severus, I wanted to speak with you about something else…" The headmaster wasn't smiling now. "I need to obtain some information from Horace Slughorn. It won't be easy and I want to try to hire him once again." Severus nodded slowly. "You will have to hire him for the Potions Class, am I right?"
"Yes, he is one of the best experts on this field - as you know well. And I wanted to ask you to take the Defence Class this year, if I should succeed…" Snape was looking directly at the headmaster.
"You know I was considering it also last year, Severus. Will you take the position? I will give you free hand to teach what and how you want. On one condition – if the position remain cursed you will notice before the end of the year. You can either have your old position back then or if Horace want to stay longer you may just act as the head of Slytherin and brew potions for the hospital… Will you take the position on this condition?"
Snape nodded. "HE will be overjoyed, you realise that? And I'm afraid I will have to also report your injury, as you can't hide it. I don't think this is a good combination. HE could take it as signs of your growing weakness."
"I know, dear boy, however, it has to be done… try to teach Harry as much as you can in the class, he will need all the support that he can get…"
Snape nodded once again, his expression unreadable. He asked then, "Albus, what did Potter receive in Potions?"
"An E. Not bad considering your complaints about his abilities…" Dumbledore smiled again. "You realise he couldn't have continued in my advanced classes, Albus?"
"I realise that you still do not like him but always do what is necessary to protect him and help the case. And that is enough for me now."
Severus remained silent for a while. Then he looked up and said quietly: "Use the boy if you want Slughorn back. He always enjoyed teaching celebrities." He smirked a bit but there was only some distant regret in his voice and no hate. He continued, whispering more than speaking. "I'm sure Slughorn would accept all who passed their OWLs with an E to his advanced class …" Dumbledore nodded - he thought the same.
Severus continued. "The Potter boy is not stupid and he is probably not so lost in the potions as I thought if he managed to gain an E in his OWLs. I… You wish him to know as much as possible, as soon as possible, am I right?" Dumbledore nodded again, not being sure what Severus wanted to say. This was indeed a very special morning. Somehow he knew the young man would do anything he wanted today but he couldn't believe Snape was offering something concerning Harry.
Severus was looking on the floor. Then he looked up once again. "You do remember the one afternoon we spent together in this office in my seventh year?" Not waiting for the answer Snape continued. "Do you still have the book you confiscated that day?"
A silent "yes" was not the only answer. Dumbledore knew by now the book was not as full of dark spells as expected the one day Severus used his Sectum Sempra spell for the first and – as far as he knew – last time. There were a few other spells that some people may consider on the border between light and dark magic but apart from that it was the finest Potions textbook that could have ever been written. "You may give it to the boy if you make sure that he wouldn't find out to whom the book belonged before… I may regret it later but do give it to him. I don't think he would be tempted by the bit of the Dark Magic inside. And if he is, I promise to take care of it myself."
Severus stood up, wanting to leave. The headmaster stopped him, reaching for his hand with the injured arm.
"You want to ask why, right?" Snape frowned. "I don't know myself…" He stopped, deep in thought. "You believe the boy may defeat the Dark Lord one day. I just wish the day would come soon. Yesterday I believed for a brief moment we could lose you and didn't like the idea… No, don't say anything. I know you are old and you won't be here forever. But you should win this war first. The boy may manage to destroy the Dark Lord but he won't win the war by himself. That would be for the Order and YOU to do. However, we all need the boy to do 'his job…' The end was whispered. "…And if you want him to survive we need him as well prepared as is possible."
Dumbledore slightly nodded. Severus had a talent to surprise. And he really knew the boy by now - if Harry was talented in something it was in solving mysteries and demonstrating a light disrespect to rules. He would love the forbidden book and would probably learn as much about Potions as he would about the Defence spells for the Dumbledore's Army.
"Severus, thank you." The old man said sincerely. This time the younger man allowed the headmaster to finish the sentence. He stood up, reached in his robe and gave the headmaster a small glass. "For your arm. Rub it into the injury before you go to sleep today and tomorrow. AND REST! I will come around next week and should you be well enough we may try to destroy the Horcrux then. Do not attempt to do it on your own – you are far too exhausted to manage it without injuring yourself." And with these words the black clad young man turned and left the room.
Enjoyed? I hope so. The idea of the Potions book came from my sister... I'm not a native speaker, therefore I really have to thank InkandPaper once again for fixing this for me!
VERY KIND OF YOU!
Reviews are not really necessary as I wrote this as much for my own entertainment as yours, but I will only appreciate all your opinions to it. (-: