What if... or Obliviate

by Iva1201

Time frame: HBP, the night of Dumbledore's death, short before the tragic event that occurred on the Astronomy Tower.

Disclaimer: As always – nothing mine. Just playing a bit. (-:

Enjoy!

Strange how the simplest solutions tend to disappear from our minds whenever we are in a huge hurry or a great stress. Even those wisest and most experienced between us may forget then and Dumbledore was no exception – being the most powerful wizard alive or not.

Harry got the idea when he and the old and now very frail and rather ill looking Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were mounting on Rosmerta's brooms in Hogsmeade. Madam Rosmerta had already left them to alert the Ministry as both the old and the young man thought and Harry suddenly wondered why Dumbledore hadn't used his Patronus to warn at least the Order. Tonks had sent hers months ago to alert Hagrid because of Harry's delayed arrival to school, hadn't she? Afterwards, Harry had also recalled seeing Dumbledore sending for the Gamekeeper in the same way during the Triwizard Tournament.

Judging just by how fast Hagrid and the greasy git (bastard, bastard, bastard!) were able to reach them in both cases, sending a Patronus was a very fast and probably equally safe way of communication. Later, Harry would admit that the charm appeared on his mind probably because Dumbledore so stubbornly insisted on getting him to Snape. At that moment the merely thought of the bastard sent Harry in rage.

How the Headmaster could trust such a traitorous git was beyond Harry – just look at how he had behaved to Tonks only because she had mourned Sirius. Bastard, Harry thought again. Better to keep silent about the fact Harry's parents died because of the man. No, they are definitely getting Madam Pomfrey and not Snape to help Dumbledore... However, seeing how Dumbledore had problems to even get on the broom, although the old wizard hold on it straight and seemingly without problems afterwards while muttering the incantations to allow them getting through the wards, Harry decided to swallow his hate and anger for the time being and ask the question that could very well bring them straight to the hated Defence teacher.

"Professor, what about Patronus? We could alert Professor McGonagall or the Order..."

"Or Severus. Splendid, Harry," the old man smiled fondly, reminding Harry of his old and more familiar self offering kind smiles and Muggle candies. Terminating his work on the wards (Harry recognized they were through when a tingle of magic caressed his skin), Dumbledore flicked his wand and immediately a silverly bird was racing in the direction of the castle.

Flying over the Astronomy Tower and seeing no movement there, the old wizard directed his broom to the ground. Harry followed his example and soon they both were standing in shadows near to a small side door the boy had never noticed before. Judging by its location, Harry assumed the threshold led to the dungeons. His suspicion was confirmed when a tall, thin figure all in black opened the door with a quiet crack and Harry's less favourite Professor appeared in front of them carrying something what reminded Harry most of an old-fashioned Muggle doctor satchel.

While Snape hastily knelt next to Dumbledore's now again crumbled figure and drew out his wand, his eyes searched the darkness around him and to Harry's immense displeasure the obsidian gaze flickered in recognition as soon as it took in the second broom. Waving his wand around to allow them privacy should someone decide to wander around, the Professor asked in an almost kind voice Harry had never heard from him before: "Potter, you are alright?" Completely taken by surprise, Harry hesitantly nodded, never remembering Snape couldn't see it.

"Harry, my boy, Severus can't see you," Dumbledore whispered weakly. Both Snape and Harry shuddered hearing the Headmaster sounding this weak. Harry thought to even see how Snape's face showed a deep concern for a flying moment before it changed to its trademark indifferent expression again.

"I am alright... Sir." Harry forced out, biting his tongue to stop the insults he wanted to shout in the man's direction. Snape nodded, running his wand over Dumbledore's body. In that moment the old wizard seemed to finally catch his breath again; he grabbed Snape's wand hand and forcefully lowered it. "Don't waste the time, Severus. It will be tonight." The Headmaster motioned to the sky above the castle.

Snape's shocked expression told them he wasn't aware of the attack. "Draco... how?" Snape asked more himself than his companions. "No matter," he muttered then, starting to move his wand over his superior once again. "You haven't succeeded yet... And I won't let you."

While the words sounded in a way optimistic, Snape's behavior spoke volumes about his worst dreads. The Professor's movements were frantic now, his face frowning more and more. When Snape finally sighed and whispered a quiet, resigned 'Albus.', Harry was strongly reminded of their first Occlumency lesson. Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves... Potter shook his head wanting the thought to disappear. Snape was a bastard, there was nothing that could change his mind about it now; now that he knew the man was responsible for his parents' death...

But seeing the dungeons git like this, deeply worried about Dumbledore, Harry couldn't help it and see the Professor as a human being for once. The human hidden behind all those sneering and scowling masks, behind the sarcasm and anger, this human was caring for Dumbledore as he was caring for Harry's well-being.The 'Potter, you are alright?' sentence had sounded as normal as it only could – concerned and hopeful. Harry shook his head unbelievably.

Dumbledore caught this movement from where he was half sitting, half lying on the ground and smiled apparently satisfied. Their eyes met briefly and Harry heard a chuckle and an amused 'I have told you, Harry.' in his mind.

As if this short understanding and Harry's sudden and unexpected willingness to eventually make peace with Snape for the Headmaster's sake gave Dumbledore new strength, the ill man pushed Snape's wand away once again and joined his eyes with the Professor's gaze for a long moment. Snape's face darkened almost immediately and they both seemed to argue. Finally Snape nodded in defeat. Dumbledore broke the connection and let Snape help him up. Still holding Snape's hand in his, Dumbledore squeezed it.

Then the sour and surprisingly sad looking Potions and Defence Professor was pulled in a tight embrace and the Headmaster whispered: "Thank you for everything, my dear boy... Thank you for coming back and making this old man happy in such a dark time. Thank you for staying here by my side even when I annoyed you most... And thank you for swallowing your pride and pulling this all through for me and our Slytherins. You will never know how thankful I am and how proud of you I feel... Please, look after yourself and the school and accept my gift. Save the boy tonight, Severus, and help Harry as much as you can... Do your best to survive and be happy when this all is over..."

Moisture glittering in his eyes, Snape nodded and answered with much shorter: "I will try to... Thank you for your trust, Headmaster. It has meant much to me." Then the dark man turned on his heels and hasted to the door still open in the castle wall. The robes were billowing behind him as always and for once in his life Harry wished the sound of their moving would never end.

The boy sensed finality in his Professors' words. Either Snape or Dumbledore or both were to risk their lifes tonight or very soon. Probably Snape was to – and Dumbledore may die very soon of this poisoning anyway. As far as Harry could tell, Snape did nothing to counter it. Do they both think it is hopeless? Harry froze. His hated Professor turned back in the entrance once again, face now sneering and full of silent anger and hatred. Harry wondered what this all was about.

Spotting the satchel still on the ground, Snape accioed it throwing one vial from the bag in Dumbledore's direction. "This will give you enough time to speak with the boy. Get some sense in him, he will need it... Farewell, Albus." The man nodded in Harry's direction and then the door closed and the wizard disappeared behind it.

To Harry's surprise, Dumbledore good tempered chuckled and swallowed the contains of the vial. "Always your most annoying self, Severus? Let us hope living with Fawkes will improve this slightly. Minerva would need a good Deputy when this war is over and being a bit nicer would suit you so much better in that position! We can after all have no children running away before the Sorting has even started. It would spoil the feast..."

Still smiling, the old wizard stepped to Harry. As if the Invisibility Cloak never existed, Dumbledore reached for the boy's chin and kissed his forehead. "It has been a pleasure knowing you, Harry. You are a fine young man and will one day be an indeed great wizard. Let Severus to help you when I am no longer here... Believe it or not, but the boy has cared for your safety ever since Lily introduced you to him all those years ago."

Maintaining the eye contact, Dumbledore brushed Harry's mind with his Legilimency and a memory replayed in front of Harry's inner sight. A very pale and slightly younger Professor Snape was sitting on a sofa in an unfamiliar room, his eyes wet, a baby with Harry's hair and eyes regarding him from his lap, apparently feeling safe and comfortable. Dumbledore standing in front of the man saying he was very sorry and thanking Snape for bringing Harry with him. The younger man whispering it was the only thing he could have done for her and that he hoped she would forgive him...

Then the memory ended and Harry looked questioningly at Dumbledore. The old wizard offered the boy one of his kind smiles and explained: "Earlier this evening I was tempted to share this memory with you, Harry. You had already been told about Severus's unfortunate involvement in your parents' fate and I wouldn't have had to broke my promise to him. No, I could have maybe even helped you to start to understand your Professor... But then I was hoping we still have some more time. Sadly, I was mistaken in assuming this and after tonight you may have a reason to hate Severus more than you currently hate Lord Voldemort... No, Harry, don't decline it – you may, and if nothing unpredictable happens, you also will. Severus knows it as well as I do and your Professor even welcomes the fact because your hatred would bring us one crucial advantage in the fight against Voldemort.

Scowl at me as much as Severus, if you want to, my dear boy, but trust me at least as much as he does. Believe me when I say that there is nothing more difficult than to rob one's life, if you genuinely like or estimate the person, and that only those bravest between us manage to do that much without shedding a single tear while their heart is breaking... And remember that those bravest between us aren't necessarily Gryffindors and may help us from shadows.

The world is not divided in black and white, Harry – and Severus hides a good heart behind all his cold masks. He saved your life the night your parents died and he has looked after you ever since you entered Hogwarts. I urge you to let him help you in this quest. You may be surprised how helpful his real self can be... But then you already know it and I keep forgetting – the book Professor Slughorn gave you in your first Potions class had belonged to your Professor once – and yes, I know, the Half-Blood Prince invented the Sectumsempra spell. And I still trust him..."

The long speech left Harry confused and wide-eyed. Snape is the Half-Blood Prince? The clever boy who has taught him so much? And Dumbledore is aware of him having the Half-Blood Prince's book? And Snape, the greasy git, has wept over his parents' death and has saved Harry's life?

Before the boy could ask what this all meant aloud, Dumbledore was already holding his wand. "I am very sorry, Harry. Our time is running out. Severus will take this off as soon as you are able to close your mind. Obliviate!"

...they were behind the barrier now, the Astronomy Tower and the Dark Mark above it nearing in front of them. As they reached the tower, Dumbledore's strength seemed to disappear once again. Harry saw him clutching at the chest with the blackened hand and again grew nervous.

"Go and wake Severus," said Dumbledore faintly and Harry went. Never making it through the door before Malfoy appeared on the Tower, Harry had to follow all the happenings of that evening including Snape killing the Headmaster. Spiting hatred on the man all around and promising to kill the bastard, Harry ensured Snape the desired position of the Dark Lord's most trusted follower.

The boy remembered Dumbledore's last conversation with the man and the Headmaster's long speech on his behalf much later. Snape brought him an item which could very possible be another horcrux; Harry, firmly believing this was a trap and wanting to use the unique possibility to attack and kill the former Professor, managed to keep his mental shields up during their whole meeting. How ever brief this was, Snape acknowledged the boy's hard won proficiency in the mind magic arts and lifted the blockade. And somehow those few words the two Professors had exchanged aloud, the concerned expression Snape had worn and the short memory Dumbledore had shown Harry the evening when he had died made all the difference and let Harry trust the dark man.

The fact Snape was the Half-Blood Prince, in a way one of the best friends Harry'd ever had, gave the boy a reason to accept the fragile friendship forming between the two of them. Seeing Fawkes flying around was merely a benefit, letting them both to trust each other more and win the war in the name of the old man they both honored and who had so firmly believed in them.

END

Author's note: The thought of Snape bonding with Fawkes in the moment of Dumbledore's death comes from a German author Falona. Her fics are unfortunately only in German but should you understand this language at least a bit, try the stories.

Snape inherits the bird also in Delaine's excellent Of Ordinary Wizards.

My story has not yet been betaed – sorry for the mistakes in it. I am too impatient to get something published again. (-: Willing to beta read this for me? Yes, please – I will publish it in other archives as well, if somebody would do it for me. (-:

Reviews? Well, I will be honored, if you let me know your opinion. But you don't have to. (-: