Disclaimer: I do not own them, which is a pity, lol.
A/N: This story is based very loosely on the sixth book. In fact, the only thing I'm using from that book is Dumbledore's lessons and the viewing of memories that he and Harry do. So, you could consider this story AU if you like, taking place somewhere between Halloween and the Christmas holidays of Harry's sixth year.
The Power He Knows Not.
Harry Potter sat up in the Astronomy Tower looking at the stars. So much was happening. There were so many mysteries surrounding him, and Albus Dumbledore was proving to be his usual annoying self by refusing to take anything Harry said seriously. Harry was getting infuriated by the way the old man kept brushing Harry's concerns to the side, forever claiming that he had everything in hand and for Harry not to worry about it.
Harry snorted. Hadn't the Headmaster learned his lesson from last year? Apparently not!
Sighing deeply, the teen refocused his attention on the stars, absentmindedly looking for the dog star, Sirius. There was something else that was occupying his mind these days. The 'special lessons' Dumbledore was giving him. Harry was still trying to figure out the meaning behind them. How was he supposed to fight Voldemort and win by watching memories pertaining Tom Riddle's childhood and youth? What exactly was Dumbledore hoping to achieve with these 'lessons'?
Sighing gustily while running a hand through his hair Harry once again went through the memories in his mind. So, what is it that I know? I know that Tom Riddle was a very angry young man, and who can blame him? Harry thought, feeling pity for the way the current Dark Lord had been forced to grow up. I had a crappy time growing up with the Dursleys. At least my aunt and uncle knew that I was a wizard. Did anyone at the orphanage know that Tom Riddle was a wizard? I should think not.
And while Dudley and his gang did their very best to make my life hell with their Harry-hunting, I still had a sanctuary or two where they couldn't get me. And even if Dudley was annoying as hell when he sabotaged me, I still got off easy compared to Tom.
Did Tom have a sanctuary? True, I don't know much about orphanages, but I did manage to see parts of that movie 'Annie' and if even the smallest sliver of what that movie portrayed was true, then Tom truly did have it ten times worse than me. No wonder he is so angry at the world. And no wonder he used his magic to get his revenge on the other kids. I wonder how sane I would have been growing up like that? The Dursleys were bad, yes, and occasionally my magic went out of hand. Thinking back, I can't help but wonder if it weren't those outburst of magic that saved me from an even harsher life. My aunt and uncle were determined to beat the magic out of me, or so they claim. But they never really did beat me. A slap now and then, and I have no idea how much of my childhood I spent locked up in my cupboard, but they never really mistreated me. Not like the children you hear about on the news on the telly.
Harry allowed that train of thought to drop, feeling old angers and resentments begin to surface. True, compared to other victims, he had had a rather good life. That did not detract from the fact that compared to others, like Ron and Hermione, Harry had had an utterly crappy childhood and it was all the Dursleys' fault! And the Headmaster's, a treacherous little voice at the back of his mind piped up. Harry ruthlessly squashed it down. That was not why he was watching the stars tonight, thinking. No, this night was for Tom Riddle.
I wonder if he ever made any friends here at Hogwarts? Ron and Hermione can annoy the hell out of me at times, but at least they are my friends. If I had allowed the hat to sort me into Slytherin, would I too have been friendless and alone? Would that have started me on the same path Tom Riddle walked? The only thing that sustained me during the summers once I started here at Hogwarts was the letters from my friends. True, their letters got more and more annoying over time, and they were practically useless the summer after fourth year, what with them writing the same thing every damned time. Bah! I'm not here to think about Ron and Hermione either! Focus Potter!
What have I learned about Tom Riddle? I learned that his mother was abused by her family. She was looked down upon and treated like some lowly servant. Heh, much like the Dursleys did to me. Only they didn't have magic to torment me with.
What else? Tom was tormented by the other children, and I bet you a thousand Galleons that the adults at that place did nothing to stop them. Much like the adults in my life have done nothing to put a stop to the Dursleys mistreatment of me. Harry felt a frission of dread run up his spine. People had always whispered about the similarities between him and the Dark Lord. Apparently, they had more things in common than anyone knew. Well, Dumbledore apparently knew and he had done nothing to help the second parentless child placed in his care.
Harry scowled darkly, but then he shook his head and went back to his musings. He needed to resolve his feelings for Tom Riddle before he dealt with his mixed emotions for the Headmaster.
Eventually, Tom was rescued from his dreary life, only he graded a visit from Dumbledore while I 'only' got a visit from Hagrid. No, I am not going to go there tonight, Harry thought, shaking his head determinedly. Tom found out about the magical world, but by that time he was so filled with mistrust towards everyone that he preferred to find things out on his own rather than trusting an adult.
I wonder… I was so overwhelmed when Hagrid found me in that miserable little hut. And when he told me that I was a wizard… why my head didn't stop spinning for days. What would have happened if I'd been alone while browsing Diagon Alley? Hagrid was so determined to stop me from buying anything that wasn't on the list. So, okay, an eleven year old does not need a cauldron made of gold. But what about the books? Hermione bought and read loads of books about the wizarding world, including several history books. Why did Hagrid stop me from doing the same?
Sighing deeply, Harry finally gave into the knowledge that him re-evaluating the life of Tom Riddle was leading him to re-evaluate the life of Harry Potter. The similarities between their lives were just too many for him not to wonder about Dumbledore and the roll the old man had taken in Harry's life. Was it a mere coincidence? Was there more going on here than Dumbledore trying to keep Harry safe until he could claim his fate? Harry found that he was beginning to doubt the Headmaster more and more, and, ironically enough, it was Dumbledore himself who had truly started Harry doubts by showing him those blasted memories.
So, what do I know? Tom Riddle grew up to become an angry child, lashing out at everyone and everything. No one cared for him, I bet no one did anything to reach out to him, so he had no reason for changing that behaviour, causing more people to draw away from him. He was trapped in a vicious circle and he had no idea how to get out of it. Harry snorted. He probably even didn't want to break it, it was all he knew after all.
It is scary to consider how little it would have taken for me to become just like him. I wonder why I didn't follow his path? Did the love my parents felt for me make such a difference? I can't remember them, but somewhere, somehow the memories must still be there or I wouldn't be able to hear my mother's death whenever Dementors are near.
Harry looked out into the night, thinking about his parents, about his life with the Dursleys, and about the lonely life of one small boy who didn't have anyone but his magic. Eventually, Harry rose stiffly and made his way back to the Gryffindor Tower. He finally knew what to do. It probably wouldn't do any difference to the war, but Harry hoped it would give him a bit of peace.
Tom Riddle, better known as Lord Voldemort these days, had summoned a few of his most trusted followers and they were all gathered in the Dark Lord's throne room. The war effort was finally starting up again, but Voldemort keenly felt the loss of his most prominent Death Eater, Lucius Malfoy. He needed to come up with a way to break him and the others out of Azkaban, and that was why he had gathered his most sharp minds this afternoon.
Sighing deeply as another bout of squabbling broke out between Bellatrix and Severus, Voldemort fingered his wand longingly. It was really too bad that he was not feeling well these days. Something was affecting him, and worse, it was affecting his magic as well. So far, none of his followers had noted anything, but it was only a matter of time before they began to question why their master no longer was cursing them for the smallest transgression.
Shifting on his throne, Voldemort was about to bring back order when, suddenly, an owl came flying into the room, a scroll tied to its leg. Landing on one arm of the throne, the bird blinked its large eyes and held the leg out towards the Dark Lord. Voldemort glared but did accept the message; once he had made sure it contained nothing dangerous to his health. He might be the Dark Lord, but he was not stupid enough to think that nothing could harm him.
Opening the scroll, Tom Riddle began to read. The further he got into the message, the more furious he got. Reaching the end, Lord Voldemort emitted the most undignified squeak, before exploding into a million pieces.
Once the Death Eaters had managed to pick themselves off the floor and brush the dust and… other things from their robes, they took a careful look around. The throne room was in shambles, with every piece of furniture smashed into tiny fragments. The backwash of magic had been tremendous, and in truth, everyone present was still reeling from it.
"What happened?" Bellatrix asked, looking around almost frantically. "Where did the Dark Lord go?"
"How should I know?" Severus asked snidely, searching the floor for the letter. Finding it, he let out a small sound of triumph and the Potions master hurried over and picked it up before anyone else could get their grubby hands on it.
Unrolling the thing carefully, Severus scanned the missive swiftly, only too aware that he risked the same fate as his late 'master' but he needed to know what the hell had just happened here.
Eyes wide with shock, Severus only stayed long enough to cast a few detection charms before Apparating away. Dumbledore needed to be told as soon as possible. Impossible though it seemed, the war was finally over.
Albus Dumbledore looked up in shock as the door to his office was flung open with enough force to slam it into the wall. "Severus? Has something happened?" he asked, growing concerned at the look on his spy's face.
"Something most assuredly has happened, Albus. Here, I need you to read this," Severus said tersely, thrusting a crushed looking scroll under Dumbledore's nose. "I don't know how Potter found out, but by writing that letter the blasted brat caused the Dark Lord to implode. The war is over, Albus. Lord Voldemort is dead.
Gaping in shock, the Headmaster of Hogwarts just stared at Snape with a most dumbfounded look on his face. Something that Severus secretly relished. Rare was the moments when the unflappable Albus Dumbledore became unhinged enough by unexpected events to let it show on his face.
"Voldemort is dead? By a letter? Severus, you are not making any sense. How could Harry possibly kill off Tom Riddle with a letter?"
"Why don't you read it for yourself and find out?" Severus asked snidely, not taking well to have his word questioned yet again by the old man.
Feeling more confused than ever, Dumbledore accepted the scroll and slowly unrolled it, and after one last look at Snape's face he began to read.
Dear Lord Voldemort,
You know, that sounds rather pretentious, doesn't it? I considered starting this letter with a 'Dear Tom', but since you hate your true name so much, and I wanted this to be a friendly letter, I decided it would do nothing but infuriate you.
I bet you are wondering why Harry blasted Potter is writing you a letter, right? I mean, what could possibly the Boy Who Lived And Simply Refuses To Die By My Hand want with the most feared Dark Lord of our time?
To tell you the truth, I'm not entire sure myself why I'm writing this letter. Hell, I'm not even sure if I'll have the nerve to send it off once I've finished it. I guess it all began with Albus Dumbledore – heh, considering how that old man has a finger in every pie that shouldn't surprise you one bit, eh, Voldemort?
Anyway, Dumbledore promised to give me special training this year since your loyal Death Eater Snape and I simply do not get along. Something Dumbledore should have thought of before, but that is the Headmaster of Hogwarts for you. Always so eager to give most people a second, if not a third and a forth chance. Admirable of him, don't you think? As long as you keep in mind that there are some people he is not prepared to give even a first chance.
You were one of those people he did not reach out a hand towards. And I am as well. Yes, I know all about your childhood. Well, not all, obviously, since I have a feeling that the only one knowing all the details are you yourself, but I do know enough to know that you were badly abused growing up.
I am not about to offer you empty platitudes, since I know that that's just what they are, empty platitudes. But I do know some of what you went through as child since I was abused as well. You were mistreated by strangers while I was mistreated by family. Ironic, isn't it? I also know some of what you went through here at Hogwarts. A few things I picked up from that diary of yours, and other from the memories I've been viewing.
Anyhow, I'm not writing this letter to inform you that I wish to join your side of the war. Although I can agree that there are a lot of things that needs to be changed in the wizarding world, I don't think the way you are going about it is the right way to go.
I am writing this letter, however, to tell you that I understand where you are coming from, and that I no longer hate you for the things you've done to me. I forgive you for killing my parents. I forgive you for almost killing me on several occasions too. You were just doing what you felt was right. I don't agree with you, but I can understand, somewhat, why you do what you do, and because of that I no longer hate you.
I also hope that you one day will find the peace that you so desperately are searching for.
Harry James Potter.
Albus Dumbledore looked up at his spy in disbelief. "I don't understand, Severus, how could this letter from Harry cause Tom to depart from this world? There is nothing in it. No spells, no enchantments, not even a hint of a potion, so how in Merlin's name did this letter cause Tom Riddle to die?"
Too unsettled to sit still, Severus Snape found himself prowling the Headmaster's office. "It is really quite simple," he said, his face completely blanked of all emotions. "Do you not recall the ritual that gave Tom Riddle his body back?"
"Yes, of course I remember the events of that night, Severus, but I-"
"No, I'm not talking about the ritual, Albus. I'm talking about the ingredients," Severus interrupted impatiently. Seeing that Dumbledore still did not grasp what he was attempting to convey, Severus sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "The bones of my father, the flesh of a loyal servant, the blood of my enemy," he ground out, giving the Headmaster a pointed look.
"I'm sorry, Severus, but I still don't understand," Dumbledore was forced to admit.
"The blood of my enemy, Albus! The Dark Lord was relying heavily on the fact that Harry Potter was his enemy. An enemy that hated him with every fibre of his body. As long as Harry Potter hated him, then the Dark Lord was safe. That hatred, that blood, was what was holding the magic together. It wouldn't have mattered much if Potter died, as long as he died still hating his enemy.
"But Harry Potter is no longer hating the enemy, is he? He did the unthinkable, Albus. He forgave Lord Voldemort. Harry Potter forgave Tom Riddle for the acts of violence he had committed against the boy.
"It is quite ingenious, actually, if you stop to think about it. The process must have started quite some time ago, and it didn't take long before it began to effect the Dark Lord's magic. Oh, it was not apparent to the casual eye, but I have noticed for some time now that something was… different. Don't give me that look, Albus, it wasn't anything I could report since there wasn't anything I could put my finger on. But it looked to me as if he was growing… weaker, no that is not the right word. Less stable? In body, I mean, not mentally." Severus paced a few more turns around the office, struggling to put into word what he had been sensing. In the end he was forced to give up, there just wasn't words to describe the vague feeling he had picked up the few times he'd been in the Dark Lord's presence.
"Anyhow, the last straw was reading the letter and finding out just how much Potter had had a change of heart. Actually knowing that he had been forgiven, that his number one enemy no longer considered himself an enemy… It was too much, and the magic holding Lord Voldemort together no longer could sustain him, killing him instantly."
"Is there no chance of him coming back? I have reason to believe that Tom split his soul, creating a number of Horcruxes in an attempt to gain immortality," Albus said, still reluctant to admit aloud his suspicions, but the need of Severus' knowledge forced him to show one of his cards, no matter how much if galled the Headmaster.
"Is that what he did?" Severus asked musingly, temporary sidetracked. Shaking his head, the Potions master returned to the question at hand. "I checked that room for any signs of the Dark Lord. As you know, the last time there was a clear indication that something had left the area. Something not quite dead, but not quite alive either. This time there was nothing.
"And then there is this," Severus added, baring his left arm. "The Dark Mark is gone, Albus. It hasn't faded, the way it did the last time. No matter how many Horcruxes he did, Lord Voldemort is no longer a part of this world. Tom Riddle is dead, the threat to our society is gone," Severus said tiredly, sinking down into a chair.
Albus Dumbledore's eyes began to twinkle. "Why, that is wonderful news, Severus. I will immediately contact the Ministry and work out a full pardon for you. Have no fear, my boy, you will not be sent to Azkaban," he said, having misunderstood the sudden pinched look on Snape's face.
"I'm not worried about me, Albus. For once, I am more worried about you."
"Me? Why would you worry about me?" Dumbledore asked with a puzzled frown.
"Because Potter, for once in his life, have been using his brain. He noted the similarities between himself and Tom Riddle. Potter understood Riddle well enough to fully forgive him. For the magic to unravel like that, Potter must have meant the words he wrote from the bottom of his heart. He felt compassion and pity for Riddle, Albus," Severus said with some urgency.
"I still don't understand why you should worry about me, Severus," Dumbledore said, hating it that he was forced to admit to ignorance twice in one conversation.
"Did you so completely skip the comments that the boy made about you? Potter made several comparisons to his and Riddle's childhoods. How long do you think it will be before he starts resenting you? If you recall, you were the instigator for a lot of the things Potter have lived through, and you yourself have admitted to knowing about the abuse the Dursleys subjected him to and yet you did nothing."
"Severus, Harry is not going to become the next Dark Lord," Albus said with a scoff and a merry chuckle.
"I never said that, Albus. I think Potter has learned enough from Riddle's mistakes not to repeat them. He will, however, withdraw from you and your consul, I fear. What worries me is whose counsel will he follow now? Potter states clearly in that letter that he is aware of the injustices our world is riddled with. He also states that he will not follow the path of Lord Voldemort. But what path will he take instead?" Severus asked, giving Dumbledore a grave look.
Albus breathed in sharply, leaning back weakly in his chair as the implications finally hit him squarely in the face. If Harry no longer would follow his advice… If Harry Potter turned his back on Albus Dumbledore…
The aged Headmaster of Hogwarts shuddered, suddenly filled with anguish at the thoughts of the future. For so long his entire focus had been on ridding the world of Lord Voldemort. He had forgotten… He had forgotten to consider what would happen once the war was over. If Harry refused his counsel far too many would be only too happy to fill that role, and Albus dreaded who would manage to capture the innocent heart of the Boy Who Lived. Harry still had so much to learn; he was still so ignorant of the wizarding world and his place in it.
And whose fault is that? I strove so hard to keep him a child that I forgot to consider what would happen once he grew up. I never paused to think of how ill equipped he will be to take on the responsibilities as the Head of the Potter family. Considering how angry Harry was finding out about the prophecy… will he even stop long enough to listen to me this time? I promised him that I would be open with him, that there would be no more secrets, and yet…
The Headmaster was so deep in thought that he never even noticed when Severus left the office. The Potions master too had a lot to consider. Albus Dumbledore had been his friend and his mentor for almost all his life, but it was clear to the Slytherin that Dumbledore's days as the unofficial leader of the wizarding world was at an end. It was time to make peace with the new leader, and looking down at the scroll he was clutching in his fist Severus knew just how to get the line of communications open.
A smirk appeared on sallow lips. Considering the way that Potter had commiserated with Riddle, perhaps the boy could find it within his heart to forgive another lonely, unloved boy. Due to those unfortunate Occlumency lessons, Potter was aware that Snape too had been abused as a child. It wasn't much, but it would give Severus something to work with. If he was really fortunate, he would manage to salvage this disaster, enabling him to stand on the right side of the new Lord of the wizarding world. Light or Dark, Potter was smart enough to realise that both sides were needed. Yes, perhaps there was hope for him yet to achieve the things he had craved since he was a small boy.
Stalking up to the Gryffindor Tower, Severus ordered the fat lady to summon Potter. While the painting was gone, Severus schooled his face into a blank mask. When the portrait swung open by a baffled looking Potter, Severus held out the letter and said, "Congratulations, Mr Potter. It would seem that the pen indeed is mightier than the sword."
"I don't understand, sir," Harry admitted, accepting the scroll Snape held out, recognizing it as the letter he had sent to Voldemort.
"Your actions caused the Dark Lord to be vanquished. The war is over. Tom Riddle is no more, and this time he will not come back," Severus said with some relish, giving himself a few seconds to enjoy the totally gobsmacked look on Potter's face. Bowing deeply, he added in a lower, softer voice, "You have my gratitude, Mr Potter, for freeing me from the mistake I made as a foolish teenager. Thank you."
Not waiting to see what effect his words had on the youth, Severus straightened, twirled around on his boot heel and strode off down the corridor. The opening bid of the new game had been placed, and only time would tell just how the cards would fall. Severus found that he was looking forward to the challenge of breaking through Potter's walls of hatred that stood between them. The fate of the wizarding world was not yet decided, and Severus Snape was determined that he would come out on top. Too many years of his life had been sacrificed already. This time, this time he would make sure to side with the winner.
A/N. This story is finished. That means that there will be no sequel written. Sorry all, but I am well aware that I won't be able to do the story justice, not to mention that I would never in a million years be able to portray Severus and his Slytherin side correctly. Sorry, but when I know that I won't be able to do the story justice I prefer not to write it at all. If anyone out there wishes to make the attempt you are welcome to it, as long as you tell me where you post it since I'd love to read it.
As for what happens between Harry and Severus… well, it is up to the reader. Will Severus manage to get Harry to accept his friendship? Will Severus become Harry's mentor? Will Severus become something more, something closer? Or will Harry turn into a contrary porcupine whenever Snape's name is mentioned?
Personally, I see Severus becoming Harry's mentor, zealously keeping anyone away that will not further Harry and his influence in the wizarding world. Yes, he will use Harry to gain what he wants, but he will at the same time act as Harry's protector since Severus needs Harry to get what he wants. They will both use each other, and as such, they will be working as equals. Naturally, they will kick Dumbledore's ass and humiliate him completely before turning away and reform the wizarding world to what they think it should be. (So, no, Dumbledore does not die, he is forced to live and watch as everything he's worked so hard for is taken from him. Serves him right if you ask me.)