Chapter XXXIX: Return
Ginny sprang up from her seat, trying to wrestle her leg out from behind the bench.
"Where are you going?" Anna-Rose asked exasperatedly.
"I have to tell Dumbledore! He's alive Anna!" Ginny sputtered, beside her self with adrenaline.
"Sit down!" Anna commanded, and grabbing a handful of the girls robes she forced Ginny back into her seat. "Now what, in the name of Merlin's cauldron, are you talking about?" she demanded. Ginny opened her mouth to speak but after a glance down one side of the table and back up the other, it was apparent that every student within earshot was watching her. Teneberr was not helping to dissuade the attention but instead was helping itself to generous portions of her chili and hissing loudly every time anyone ventured too close.
"Let's go out in the hall." Ginny said quietly to her friend. Over Anna's shoulder she could see the several teachers, including the headmaster, were watching the commotion from the high table with mild interest. If only I could just go talk to Dumbledore! She thought with annoyance, knowing that Anna was not letting her go anywhere without explaining what was going on.
Anna nodded her agreement and the two rose from the Gryffindor table and quickly headed towards the large double doors. Once they were outside of the great hall Ginny directed them towards the dungeons, hoping that it would be the least likely direction in which they'd encounter eavesdroppers.
"What is going on?" Anna-Rose demanded again. Ginny shot a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure no one was following them, before rushing into the story.
"That was Severus' post bird!" She said with palpable excitement.
"So?" Anna asked.
"So?" Ginny repeated. "Look, listen carefully cause I'm only explaining this once." She glanced behind them again before pulling Anna into an upcoming alcove. "After the memorial in August, I snuck up to the owlery and found Teneberr, that's the raven's name." She explained at Anna-Rose's confused look. "Anyway, the point is, I sent it to go find Severus, it's been gone all this time and now it's back!" Anna still looked slightly confused so Ginny pressed on.
"Don't you get it? That means he's alive! Severus has been alive all this time and no one's been looking for him! Who knows what could be going on, or why he hasn't come back to Hogwarts yet! I've got to tell Dumbledore so someone can go look for him!" with that Ginny whirled away from her friend to stalk back to the great hall. Anna, however, quickly caught her wrist and whirled her right back around.
"Are you mental?" Anna growled at her. "If Snape is alive you can not march into the great hall and announce it in front of everyone. People will go berserk! The entire school will be in an uproar!"
"But we have to find him!" Ginny protested.
"I'm not saying you shouldn't tell Dumbledore!" Anna said with the tone of someone explaining something to a small child. "All I'm trying to tell you is that if Snape has survived this long he's obviously got things under control. A few more hours won't hurt, wait until after dinner is over and everyone's gone back to their dormitories. That way there's no chance anyone can overhear you and spread it around the school."
Ginny was greatly annoyed but knew that Anna was right. She did not want any ridiculous stories circulating about Snape's survival.
"Fine." She relented. "I'll wait."
"All right. Let's go then, I want to finish my dinner if that nasty crow hasn't taken it." Anna-Rose said with a rather smug smile on her face.
"He's a raven." Ginny corrected, ignoring her friend's superior look. Anna definitely enjoyed being right far too much.
By the time Hagrid had gotten them out of Diagon Ally, through muggle London and finally over to Scotland, and more importantly, Hogwarts, the sun had long disappeared below the horizon, leaving only a few soft pink tendrils glowing in its wake.
Severus didn't know if it was possible to be exhausted and anxious at the same time but felt that he was very close. All the long days of scrounging around as a wolf and having to do so much travelling without magic had taken its toll on his body.
That and his continually growing fear over Lily's fast approaching and seemingly unavoidable confrontation with the dark lord had his nerves on edge. Worry, an emotion that he was usually unaccustomed to, had set up a rather discomforting pressure point behind his breastbone. Making him feel as if his world could collapse around him at any moment.
"Prob'ly better ta use the side door." Hagrid said once he'd closed the massive front gate to Hogwart's grounds behind them. Severus did not reply but simply waited until Hagrid led them off again, away from the main path. He vaguely remembered it from his first year as the way to the boats. "So where've yeh been all this time Professor?" The half giant asked with an air of familiarity.
Snape scowled at the man's back in the darkness. What was with the small talk? He had no desire to exchange pleasantries with Hogwart's gatekeeper, especially one with size and stature that gave him the ability to squash him like a bug while he was filthy and wandless. And, why on earth did he keep calling him professor?
"I do hope we're not boarding the rowboats." He drawled, avoiding Hagrid's question entirely.
"Oh no, there's another door righ' before the lake. We'll go in that way." Snape had hoped that Hagrid might've taken his verbal sidestepping as an indication that he was unwilling to share details with him, but the half giant droned on. "So, were yeh lost all this time? I know yeh disappeared before it was over an all, but yeh've been gone an awfully long while. Do yeh really not remember anythin'? I thought that maybe-"
"How long until we reach Dumbeldore?" Snape curtly cut off Hagrid's incessant prying. "I have urgent matters to discuss with him."
"Not long now." Hagrid replied, only just managing to fit himself through their chosen entryway. Snape followed and they both set off, heading up several levels towards the headmaster's office. Severus insisted that they make the rest of the journey in silence, quickly telling his guide that he was in no mood to answer questions.
"Cinnamon Faeries" Hagrid said when they finally reached the stone gargoyle. The statue obligingly leapt aside to reveal a spiraling stone staircase. "Well sir, it's a bit o' a chore to squeeze through that door, especially when I don' have to. I'm sure Dumbledore is up there in his office so I'll leave yeh be from here." Much to Snape's surprise the towering man gave him what could be called a friendly clap on the shoulder if it hadn't of buckled his knees so much. "I'll be seein' yeh at breakfast I suppose." He said, and then he was off, stomping back down the corridor and out of sight.
"Merlin's bollocks." Snape cursed to himself, and then began climbing up the many spiraling stairs towards Dumbledore's office.
For many long moments he hesitated outside Dumbledore's door, it's wooden boards nearly defeating his resolve. His heart thumped loudly in his ears while his imagination whispered all the ways Dumbledore could destroy him, a known death eater, with merely a flick of his wrist.
"Just do it already." He growled at himself, then he rapped two knuckles smartly against the worn wood before he could change his mind.
"Do come in." Dumbledore's voice said almost lazily. Snape's hand faltered for a fraction of a second before turning the knob and allowing the door to yawn open. Dumbledore was at his desk, his silver beard and hair as obscenely long as ever. He was scribbling away on some scrap of parchment, not paying the least bit of attention to his current company.
Severus took two tentative steps into the office and then stopped, not daring to take any more lest he should find himself unable to escape should it prove prudent. Dumbledore finally finished his scrawl with a flourish of his wrist and plunked his quill back into the inkpot. He looked up over half moon glasses with a genial smile that quickly fell to a look of shock when his blue eyes met Snape's black.
"Severus?" Dumbledore asked, his voice one of astonishment. Snape did not voice a reply but nodded curtly, waiting for the old man to react and hex him. Instead, Dumbledore turned his attention to the portraits around the office. They had all begun muttering to each other at the mention of his name, some leaning very far into the sides of their frames to get a look at him.
"Phineas?" Dumbledore called, having found the portrait he sought. "I know you would undoubtedly take great pleasure informing me of my insanity should it ever happen. Therefore I trust you would be most willing to tell me the truth, have I gone mad?"
"Unfortunately no, Headmaster, you are not mad, yet." Phineas drawled reluctantly. "He is filthy, dressed as a muggle and has had a disastrously terrible haircut, but I can see him as well." Snape's lip curled at the insult. Dumbledore turned his attention back to his former potions professor.
"But Severus, I don't understand. Where on earth have you been? What has happened? Do come sit down and enlighten me!" His hand swooped through the air in a 'come hither' gesture. "What has kept you away so long?" As he queried, Dumbledore was pulling a pot, cups and saucers from one of his desk drawers, clearly he intended to make them tea.
Snape customarily swept his way across the room, which was less than impressive in his current attire, and cautiously sat himself across from the headmaster. With a flick of his wand, Dumbledore had tea prepared and a steaming cup sat before him, which he studiously ignored.
"There is something very urgent I must discuss with you." He said, finally delving into his reason for being here.
"I should imagine my dear boy, there is so much for us to discuss! Urgent does not seem judicious enough of a word." Dumbledore added a small trickle of cream to his own tea, followed by a generous heap of sugar. "Do begin at the beginning of course, as all tales should." He said, the delicate china of his glass tinkling with merriment as he stirred his tea.
"Voldemort knows about the prophecy!" Snape blurted. "He thinks it's referring to her!"
Dumbledore's hand froze where it had been raising his tea to his lips. His blue eyes stared at Snape with astonishment.
"Surely not." The aged wizard whispered to himself.
"Yes, surely so. Even as we speak he is trying to locate the Potters!" Snape replied. He was becoming annoyed. Dumbledore set his mug back down, disinterested in his tea he watched Severus closely.
"Tell me, Severus, what date is it?" He asked. Snape felt anger course through his veins.
"What does it matter? Are you not listening? They need protection!" He snapped. Dumbledore held up a hand in placation.
"Please humor me on this." He pleaded. Snape huffed his disproval.
"I do not know the day, but I presume it is October, 1981." He sneered. Dumbledore shook his head and sighed deeply.
"My dear boy," He said gravely, "It is October 23, 1998." The two wizards stared at each other in silence. Snape's mind was working at warp speed. 1998?
"What?" He finally manage to ask, he felt as if he'd been confounded. What was going on?
"I think perhaps, I should get us something stronger than tea. We have much to discuss indeed." Dumbledore replied, and with a flick of his wand a bottle of Ogden's finest soared from the nearby cabinet, landing smartly on his desk.
Returning to the great hall after her discussion with Anna-Rose had proved bothersome. Everyone's eyes had followed them back to their seats and more than a few people had tried to question her about why she'd taken off so suddenly.
Teneberr was still there, helping himself to a plate of rolls and effectively ruining them for anyone else who might have liked one. After a few other students had tried and failed to shoo the bird away, Ginny finally lured it over with a bribe of more chili.
"Look." She said, staring into one of the raven's beady eyes. "Thank you for finding him. Now you've got to go back to the owlery." Teneberr puffed out his throat and his beak gaped open in obvious dislike. "Fine then! Not the owlery. It doesn't matter, go wherever you want, but you can't stay here."
Teneberr snapped his beak shut with a curt click and then took off in a flailing of wings that knocked over a nearby milk jug, clearly on purpose.
"What was that all about?" Harry asked, plopping himself into the seat at her right.
"Nothing." Ginny curtly replied. She half-heartedly listened to him drone on about quiddich, lingering in the hall much longer than she normally did. Eventually even the staff was trailing out and it was just herself and Harry left behind.
Not wanting to be alone with him, she marched off to the Gryffindor common room where she perched herself in an armchair by the fire, completely intent on waiting there until everyone else had gone off to bed.
She suffered a few younger years wandering over to chat with her. She humored them as best she could without hurting their feelings, barely committing to the conversation until they realized that she wasn't in the mood before drifting away.
Unfortunately for her, despite her resolute intentions, she dozed off in the chair while waiting for the last stragglers to wander off. Around quarter after 11 she was awakened by a painful crick in her neck.
"Damn." She muttered, noting the time. She had hoped that she wouldn't be required to sneak out after curfew, but what she had to do was more important. Clambering out of her chair, she quietly snuck out of the portrait hole, somehow managing not to wake the fat lady.
It seemed like a long walk to the headmaster's office. Every sound made her jump and duck into the shadows and she spent a lot of time huddled behind corners, trying to decide if there was a teacher approaching from the other direction.
Finally standing before the stone gargoyle, it was then that Ginny realized she didn't know how to get in.
"Password?" The stone monster questioned, looking down at her with its beady eyes.
"I don't know." Ginny said uselessly. The gargoyle huffed at her and turned back to its usual position. "Please," she argued, "I need to see professor Dumbledore! It's important, an emergency!"
"I cannot let you in without the password." The gargoyle growled. "Besides, the headmaster is not in his office anyway."
Ginny glowered at the stone statue and turned on her heel, slouching back towards her dormitory.
"Wait" she mumbled to herself. "You can't tell Dumbledore in the middle of the great hall! Tell him when no one else is around. Last time I take advice from you, Anna-Rose!" She was staring sourly at her feet as she walked, too preoccupied with her anger to notice the approaching figure of the headmaster.
"And what could be so important, that you were unable to tell me in the great hall, and yet, proves to be worth sneaking out after curfew?" Ginny's head shot up at the sound of Dumbledore's voice and she immediately blushed at her excitement.
"H-Headmaster!" She stammered. "You're not going to believe it-"
"Let's go up to my office, shall we?" Dumbledore interrupted. "I'm an old man you see, and my legs tire easily, especially at this time of night." He apologized.
"Yes sir." Ginny replied, falling into step behind the headmaster.
"Cinnamon Faeries." Dumbledore said to the gargoyle, which leapt aside for the two to pass.
When they reached the circular office at the top of the stairs Ginny made no move to sit. She barely waited until the door was closed behind her before blurting her news.
"Severus is alive!" Dumbledore was halfway to his desk but he paused to cast Ginny a quizzical look before making the rest of the journey to sit down.
"What exactly have you been doing this evening Miss Weasley?" He asked, a flourish of his hand told her he wanted her to sit. She quickly stomped over to the chair and perched on its edge, her nerves were shot from anxiety.
"It doesn't matter." She said dismissively. Dumbledore's eyebrows drew together at that comment and Ginny rushed to continue. "No to be rude sir," She amended, "But we need to look for him! Anything could be happening to him, he could be in danger."
"How do you know that Professor Snape is alive?" Dumbledore asked. One of his hands was thoughtfully stroking through his long beard. He looked incredibly tired, and it suddenly hit Ginny that he looked very aged.
"What does it matter? We should be-" Ginny began hurriedly but then paused as her mind worked. "Wait, you know that Severus is alive?"
"Yes, I am aware that Professor Snape is alive, I am curious to know how you know." Dumbledore replied.
"I sent Teneberr to find him, back in August." Ginny said quickly. "Is anyone looking for him? Is he okay?"
"He is perfectly safe." Dumbledore said calmly. "Hagrid brought him to the castle some few hours ago. I've just returned from delivering him to his chambers. It proves wise that I never ordered the elves to clean them out."
Ginny nearly knocked her chair backwards as she sprang up.
"I have to see him!" She blurted.
"Sit, Miss Weasley." Dumbledore said sharply, before she could even turn for the door. She'd never heard Dumbledore speak so forcefully. He was certainly not a wizard she wanted to disobey so, reluctantly; she plopped back down in her chair.
Dumbledore was studying her very closely, Ginny felt exposed under his gaze, almost as if he could see through her.
"Miss Weasley." He began; his hand had left his beard so that he could steeple the fingers of both hands together. "Professor Snape has suffered a significant trauma."
"He's hurt?" Ginny could feel herself pale at the pronunciation.
"Physically, he is fine." Dumbledore paused and Ginny realized that he was as worried as she was, just for another reason. "Mentally, however, he is very distraught."
"Why sir?" Ginny asked, greedy for information.
"Professor Snape is suffering from an overwhelmingly significant case of amnesia. He has effectively lost all memory of the last eighteen years of his life." Dumbledore said slowly, watching her closely to gage her reaction.
"But-" Ginny began, dumbfounded. "But then, he doesn't remember…" She trailed off, 'he doesn't remember me…' Her chest was suddenly very heavy with sorrow.
"He doesn't remember anything. He came here tonight with the intention of warning me about Voldemort's plan to murder James and Lily Potter. Professor Snape had no idea that the two had died long ago, or that Voldemort has been dead for months. I'm sure you can imagine the state he is likely in as we speak." There was a small note of sadness in Dumbledore's voice.
Ginny nodded silently, her throat tight. She could remember very well the bout of self-loathing Snape had gone into when he had found out that he and Lily were related. No doubt he would be just as miserable now.
"Madame Pomfery will be doing her best to research ways to restore what has been lost. However, I'm afraid that with no way of knowing how the amnesia has come on, there is a chance his memory may never return." Dumbledore sighed audibly; he rubbed his brow, as if what he had to say next were particularly difficult. "I think it is best, Miss Weasley, that while Professor Snape recovers, he be allowed to do so alone."
Ginny nodded again, her eyes welling with tears. Don't cry! She admonished herself. He has a perfectly reasonable point!
Why would Severus want her hanging around, worrying about him? All the time they had spent together was gone, lost, possibly forever. He wouldn't recognize her if he tripped over her.
"I'll," She sniffed. "I'll just be going to b-bed, then. G-good n-night, sir." Then she bolted from the room before Dumbledore could see the tears streaming down her face.
"Good night Miss Weasley." Dumbledore said kindly to the empty room, then he too set off for bed.
A/N: yay! A new chapter! Many thanks to Masterdeeds, my magnificent beta! Your input is priceless.
Hope you all enjoy, now we can get back to the good stuff! INTERACTION! No more filler of being missing, YAY!
Just a side note, I have another story started, if you wanna check out the prologue, you can find it from my profile, it's called 'Knight of Phoenix.' It will most likely be very slow moving but I think it will turn out much better than this story, since I started this in high school. Much better indeed.
Thanks for reading.
I will be forever indebted if you review!