Title: In Memory's Wake
Author: Cocoa-Snape (aka CocoaSnape)
Disclaimer: No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
In Memory's Wake by CocoaSnape
Chapter 19: Albus Dumbledore is human
The Gryffindor common room was typically empty at such an early hour on a Saturday morning. But as Harry made his way down the stairs from the dorms, he found his closest friend there, snuggled up under a blanket on the sofa and no surprise, immersed in a book.
Hermione's eyes drifted up at the unexpected sound of someone entering the quiet room. Seeing Harry, she promptly closed her book and beckoned him to sit. He sat down on the sofa opposite her.
"You're up early for a Saturday," Hermione remarked.
"Not really in the mood for sleep. What are you doing up?"
"I couldn't sleep either."
Harry hesitated for a moment before asking, "Hey listen, do you have that map?"
Hermione's eyes filled with concern. Sighing deeply, she began, "Harry, you told me not to give it to you."
A flash of memory as Harry remembered his request. "You're right." It took him a long moment to believe his own words, but after careful consideration, he realized Hermione was right. "Sorry. I just… you're right." And with sudden force and resolve he continued, "Don't give it to me. Please."
It broke Hermione's heart to see Harry like this. She wanted to give him hope, to tell him not to give up, that things would be better. But she couldn't bring herself to say something that with great probability might very well be an untruth.
With a heavy voice, Harry spoke slowly. "I know it's over, I just… I'm just not ready to really ready to accept it yet." Harry laughed then suddenly, a dark despondent sound. "Even after what he's done to you."
"Harry, I can handle a bunch of stupid Slytherin jokes," Hermione said sincerely. "Besides, you're the one they're really taunting, not me. How are you handling this?"
Harry shook his head dismissively. "It doesn't bother me… well, not too much really. I mean, before this thing with Severus I think I would have been hiding in my room. But now, it's like… it's the least of my problems…"
"Speaking of problems, and before I forget," Hermione said, "I should warn you that Ron's concocted a plan to distract you. He says he's finally going to start dragging you to some of the seventh year parties you've been missing."
They sat in companionable silence for a long minute. Hermione could tell that Harry had something else on his mind and she waited patiently. Finally, with hitched breath, Harry spoke.
"It's been over six weeks, you know. In two more weeks we'll have been apart more than we were ever together."
Hermione closed her eyes, empathizing with her friend.
"When we got together it was the craziest most impossible thing. I could barely believe I was so lucky, and I thought… well, I thought the worst was over. If you knew what I went through to convince him…"
A pause. Hermione could tell Harry was considering. She wasn't sure rehashing his relationship with Severus was the best thing for Harry right now, but she asked anyway.
"Do you want to talk about it? You never told me any of this."
"I… I want to, really I do. I just… I can't talk about it yet." But oh did he want to open those flood gates. He just wasn't sure he'd be able to close them back up afterwards.
Another silence loomed between them, this one longer than the last. Hermione watched as Harry nervously played with the hem of his shirt. Finally, seemingly out of nowhere, Harry spoke.
"I hate him right now." The confession was simultaneously unburdening and excruciating.
"That's normal, Harry."
"I know, but then I hate myself for hating him because I know that none of this is his fault. It's Voldemort's."
He'd mentioned this before in passing, Voldemort's culpability in Snape's breakdown, but no details. The fact that he'd left this out there again made Hermione believe that Harry did indeed want to talk about it.
"Voldemort?" she repeated in question.
"I can't say, but you're smart. What kinds of things could Voldemort do to someone that I couldn't tell you without compromising Severus's privacy?"
It took her less than a second, her eyes widening with comprehension and horror. "Oh."
"Oh my God, Harry, I'm so sorry." She paused to consider this new knowledge and she pieced it together with other information she had. "So… this is related to the PTSD then?"
"Yeah." Harry sighed, and said, "I never thought I'd say this, but I guess Voldemort's won."
"Harry—" Hermione began in protest.
"No. I'm alone again. First, he took my parents and now he's taken Severus from me. What the hell do I have left?" he asked bitterly.
Hermione stood out of the armchair and sat next to her despondent friend. She couldn't think of an answer to his question, and any words she might speak would seem hollow. The only answer she could think to give him she did so by reaching around and placing her arm around him.
Finally, Harry muttered, "I just can't get him out of my mind. I don't think I ever will."
"You need to talk about it, Harry."
"I know… just … I can't just yet."
"When you're ready, I'll be there."
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Harry spent the great majority of his weekend in deep thought.
Thinking about what Hermione had said to him. About the incredible highs of the last few months – his time spent fantasizing during his defense lessons, and then seducing Severus in those lessons and eventually in his quarters over Christmas. And then two months of unspeakable bliss, the happiest of his life without doubt. He tried to dwell on that time, but inevitably his mind strayed to the downfall and the unbearable events that had transpired over the last several weeks.
He went over it again and again in his mind. Could he have done anything differently? Guilt still plagued him as Dumbledore's words of caution entered his mind. He'd ignored them; he had instead pursued Severus despite the warning signs. That night on the Astronomy tower still left a stab of pain in Harry's gut – he'd precipitated Severus's mental collapse with that foolishness and he knew it. And even after that he hadn't left well enough alone.
Harry found the fluctuation of his emotions disconcerting. The depression he'd felt over the last few weeks had been overwhelming. And just two days ago all he'd felt was anger; he'd wanted to ring Snape's neck for putting Hermione through such hell. Now… now he wasn't sure what he felt, if anything at all. He was devoid of anger and sadness, devoid of almost all feeling. Even the tears he shed were different than those previously – they felt almost alien on his face, unattached to any specific emotion.
Previously, he'd felt strangely detached from the reality of his situation, unwilling and unable to accept it beyond face value. But the long hours of contemplation had brought about a strong and undeniable sense of resignation.
He suddenly felt an inexplicably strong urge to see Dumbledore. He hadn't seen him for over two weeks, despite the fact that the Headmaster had asked him to check in frequently. If he'd have to admit it to himself, he'd stayed away on purpose; his anger at Dumbledore had been overwhelming. The idea of punishing Dumbledore by his absence was almost laughable. Regardless, all of those grievances seemed so incredibly petty to him now. He glanced at the clock. It was very late, but he somehow doubted that Dumbledore would be asleep.
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Harry was mildly surprised that his presence wasn't immediately noticed. Normally Dumbledore anticipated his arrival before even he knew he was coming, and the oak door would open itself as he reached the top of the stairs. This time however, he'd knocked softly and received no answer. Trying the handle, he opened the door and whispered a tentative, "Professor?" No answer, although he could hear Dumbledore's soft voice from beyond the dais in the sitting room.
Making his way forward he could see McGonagall on the sofa next to Dumbledore, her hand on his shoulder. "You need to take better care of yourself, Albus. You're barely eating these days."
As Harry processed the meaning of these words, wondering about Dumbledore's health, the elder wizard sensed his presence and met his eyes.
Harry suddenly felt like an intruder. Turning around sharply, he whispered a hasty, "Sorry," and began to make his way out.
"Harry, come in, my boy. Minerva, could you please excuse us for a bit?"
McGonagall swept past him and the thought occurred to Harry that he was out past curfew, but she said nothing about it. As Harry approached the sitting room, he noticed that Dumbledore looked fairly pale. No wonder McGonagall was concerned.
"You look pale, Harry. Are you eating?"
Harry couldn't help but smile. "I was just going to ask the same of you, sir."
Dumbledore motioned to the large armchair and bade Harry to sit. A minute or two of silence later, it hit Harry how different this encounter with Dumbledore was from any other. He'd half expected a lecture reprimanding him for his long absence or perhaps a game of twenty questions regarding his well-being. Just silence. It struck Harry viscerally that Dumbledore was totally overwhelmed and as resigned to the truth as he.
"It's really over, isn't it?" Harry asked despite the fact that it pained him to hear his own words.
A deep sorrowful sigh.
"Please, Professor, just tell me. You look as bad as I feel. Just… just say it," Harry said dejectedly.
A reluctant but decisive nod from Dumbledore was his answer. Harry's heart clenched in his chest despite the fact that he'd already known that the response would be an affirmative. But evidently he hadn't expected such a resolute confirmation from the Headmaster.
"Harry, I'm sorry about the posters. I have the faculty take them down every night but…"
"I don't care, Professor," Harry interrupted levelly.
"Still, it doesn't excuse―"
"I know. I hated him for it, believe me. He made it really easy to forget he was sick and not just an arse."
"But I'm not angry anymore. It's more Hermione I was worried about through this mess, but she seems okay. She's been amazing through this actually."
"I'm glad to hear that she's been there for you, my boy."
They sat in contemplative silence for a long minute, making comfortable eye contact.
Finally Harry spoke. "I'm going to try and see him again."
Dumbledore's eyes widened in surprise.
Harry quickly explained. "Not to… not to get him back. Just to tell him I'll leave him alone, that I understand it's over. I want to ask him to lay off Hermione. I doubt he will, but I need to ask." A pause and a deep breath before Harry finished, "And I feel like I just need to see him – just one more time alone, you know. Just because. I know it doesn't make sense."
"It makes perfect sense." Dumbledore recognized the fact that Harry needed closure, but he wasn't sure another visit with Severus would do anything more than twist the knife in a bit further. "I doubt he'll agree to see you, Harry. But, if this is that important to you, I will ask him to speak with you."
Harry shook his head. "I'm not asking you to ask him, sir. I'll go see him on my own." A moment. "I just wanted you to know."
Ever the gracious host, Dumbledore offered him a beverage and Harry asked for a butterbeer which the house elf was delighted to provide. Dumbledore ordered a pot of tea for himself and a plate of chocolate biscuits for them to share.
Nearly thirty minutes later, not another word had been exchanged between them and the biscuits remained untouched.
It occurred to Harry that he'd initiated this visit and yet he had very little to say. But he didn't feel as though Dumbledore was waiting on him. On the contrary, the elder wizard seemed perfectly content to simply sit here with him. And despite the silence, Harry realized that this was the first time he'd ever really felt comfortable in the Headmaster's quarters.
Harry mulled over the scene he'd witnessed between McGonagall and the Headmaster when he'd first entered. And eyeing the Professor now, he could discern the lines of distress on his features that he was trying to conceal. Harry knew instantly something had happened between him and Snape.
"What happened between the two of you?"
Dumbledore marveled at the manner in which Harry posed the question. Not only was it astute, but the question was posed with a matter-of-factness, maturity, and genuine concern that belied Harry's age. Dumbledore suddenly felt as though he were speaking with an old friend. In this space they were no longer student and Headmaster, but two men who'd lost the most important person in their lives.
Harry felt it too and so he pressed further. "What did he say to you? Something happened… I can tell."
Dumbledore roughly swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. He felt his own loss keenly in that very moment, being here with someone who was not only asking, but someone whom he could actually tell. And with the only other person who could truly understand.
"Nothing so humiliating as with you, my boy," Dumbledore said softly, still hedging, still unsure if he wanted to say the words aloud.
To Dumbledore's surprise, Harry remained silent, waiting patiently for him to continue.
"He ended our friendship," Dumbledore revealed. It was strange telling Harry this. But Dumbledore could sense that Harry wanted to hear it, needed to know that he wasn't the only one who'd lost so much. And Dumbledore couldn't deny his own urge to unburden himself. "He said it had never meant anything to him."
Harry's eyes filled with tears, both moved by Dumbledore's vulnerability and the emotions it stirred within him. "Like with me," he choked out. He thought he could see tears in Dumbledore's eyes as well.
"I thought… I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with him," Harry said, his voice tightly controlled once more.
"I am so sorry, Harry."
"So am I…"
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Dumbledore found himself saddened by the fact that he considered the faculty meeting a success based purely on the fact that Severus had not interrupted him. In fact, Severus hadn't said a single word, not even when the staff gave a detailed rundown of the efforts they were making in removing the lewd posters concerning Harry and Hermione.
Before the faculty could leave, McGonagall garnered their attention. "If I could speak with everyone involved in the End-of-Year-Ball and the Seventh year June festivities for just a few moments please."
Snape took this as his cue to exit, but was halted by the Deputy Headmistress, who reminded him, "Severus, as a Head of House, you need to sit in."
"I'd rather not waste my time, thank you," Snape replied with a sneer.
McGonagall was taken aback for a moment, but then retorted, "Then you may find yourself signed up to chaperone all the events."
"Sign me up then," Snape said scowling. "You'll do what you want regardless. You always do."
Snape exited the conference room and found to his dismay that Dumbledore was outside waiting for him.
"Severus, may I see you in private for a moment?"
"If this is about ditching Minerva's meeting―"
Dumbledore led the way up the spiral staircase to his quarters, aware that Severus was not at all eager to meet with him. So he did not bother to invite Severus into the sitting room as was his custom, but offered him a seat in the office instead.
"Severus, I'll get right to the point. You have 10 or so weeks left with Harry as your student and I need you to give me your word that you will behave professionally during this remaining time."
"This is what you asked me here for?" Snape said with visible irritation.
"Severus, this has to stop. If by tomorrow morning every single poster is not down…"
"I have nothing to do with them."
"You control your Slytherins, Severus. You would have never allowed this to take place had it been anyone else."
Snape said nothing, but the bored look on his face said it all.
"I realize that you're unwell …"
"I am not unwell," Snape insisted fiercely. .
"Whether you choose to acknowledge that or not is an issue for another time. But that does not excuse your childish behavior."
Snape rolled his eyes in reply.
"Something has to change here, my boy."
"I believe I already told you that I'm not interested in your opinions and so-called advice. And don't call me your boy…" he said harshly.
Dumbledore sighed. "I'm sorry you harbor such resentment towards me, Severus. But I assure you, I'm just trying to help you."
Snape's eyes abruptly welled with rage. "I don't need your help," he spat.
"Don't you?" Dumbledore asked calmly. "I think perhaps you need some guidance showing some modicum of respect for the students of this school."
Snape's nostrils flared, but Dumbledore continued, "Since you lost your memories, your overall demeanor has become increasingly destructive towards yourself and others."
"I don't have to listen to this!"
Determined that Severus might see reason, Dumbledore was undeterred and gave an example. "Instead of ending your relationship with Harry civilly, you made sure to do your very best to hurt him. You could have handled that differently, for his sake if not your own."
Snape's anger morphed into a mischievous gleam in his eyes, and he huffed under his breath as if finding something amusing. "You're giving me relationship advice?" he asked sardonically. "Now that's laughable. You of all people?"
Dumbledore said nothing, eyeing the man in front of him as though he'd never seen him before; his shock was palpable as understanding dawned.
Snape noticed and latched on. "Oh, have I touched a sore spot?" he mocked.
It took Dumbledore a moment to find his voice, but when he did, he spoke firmly. "Severus, I'm warning you, don't go there."
"Maybe next time you'll think twice about giving me advice about my life then. You're hardly qualified after all." Almost as though he were enacting a soliloquy in a one-act play, he began dramatically, "I admit that I always did wonder what you did to him exactly…."
Dumbledore closed his eyes, the pain evident on his face. "Severus, please stop," he asked despondently.
"What are you going to do if I don't shut up?" Snape shouted. "Blow me up? I thought that's what you did to him. That's what everyone thinks, you know. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the truth was worse. That you threw him in some hole somewhere."
"You act as though you heard this second hand," Dumbledore replied heavily, trying to control the emotion in his voice. "I told you this. And you know damn well that you're the only person I've ever told."
"Don't pretend you did that for any other reason that the fact that you had no one else to tell."
Dumbledore stared at the man before him in shock.
"It hurts, doesn't it?" Snape asked sadistically.
Dumbledore's throat had closed up on him and he could barely believe that this was Severus speaking to him this way. He struggled to find his voice and began roughly, "Hurt doesn't begin to describe having you throw this back in my face so callously as you are now. I never would have thought you capable of it."
"You never do. You know, you need to get some real friends, Dumbledore. All you have is this school and these puerile students – do you think they give a rat's arse about you? It's pathetic really. Oh, but let me guess…" Snape continued, adopting a mocking tone, "I'm your family. I'm the son you never had. Is that what you were going to say to make yourself feel better?"
"Severus, please just leave," Dumbledore whispered pleadingly.
"No, I don't think so," Snape retorted, savoring the pain he was inflicting. "You know," he continued pensively, "I never did understand why you didn't end his life."
The first sharp edge of anger entered Dumbledore's eyes and voice, "Severus…"
Snape craved it. It egged him on like nothing else could. "At first I thought you were trying to be kind, or that you were too weak to do it, but I think I was wrong."
"Severus, I'm warning you…" Dumbledore said, his anger bubbling to the surface.
"I think maybe you wanted to make him suffer for hurting you. Maybe you thought it'd be crueler to lock him up like an animal."
"Get the fuck out of my office!"
White hot fury from Dumbledore now.
"Ah ha!" Snape mocked, "So he feels pain all of a sudden. The great Albus Dumbledore is human after all! Who knew?"
Before Snape could even open his mouth to reply, he found himself flying through the air, past the oak door and roughly down the stone steps where he landed against the stone gargoyle at Minerva McGonagall's feet.
"Severus, what on earth's going on?"
Snape ignored her, stood quickly, brushed himself off and stalked off down the hall.
Despite her age, McGonagall took the stairs two at a time, rushing into the Headmaster's office. She found Dumbledore standing in a rigid pose in the middle of his office, and for a moment, she couldn't discern whether he was angry, ill, or both.
She took a few hesitant steps towards him and whispered, "Albus, oh my God, Albus, are you alright?"
In the next moment, Dumbledore's expression face crumbled, and McGonagall instinctively opened her arms. He fell into them without a word, unable to stop the sobs that spilled from his lips.
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Author's note: Thanks everyone for your overwhelming support of the last chapter and this entire story. I appreciate and am encouraged by your kind words and patience.
Can't wait to hear what you think……….