Of Snake Bites and Dittany Cures
Chapter 19: Down the Pensieve, Part 2
A/N: Here we are, Harry will learn the truth about Snape in this chapter. I have postponed it as long as it was possible. But do not fret, they will not be exactly friendly to each other until much later. For the time-being, being allies must be enough. (-:
I didn't want to simply quote JKR in this. This is why you are going to find two recollections in this chapter that are similar to those presented in DH. But they are by no means same – I am not comfortable quoting large portions of text of different authors and especially not from the original books.
Hogwarts, Room of Requirement
Christmas Day 1997
Harry was hopeful that the next memory stored in Snape's makeshift Pensieve provided by the Room of Requirement would hold some more recent information, perhaps another recollection of Snape's meeting with Voldemort or the other Death Eaters. Unfortunately for him, Snape seemed to have stored away mostly memories from the past years – or at least that was Harry's impression. Perhaps if he could use the Pensieve better, if he knew how to navigate to certain memories, he would be less disappointed… As the things stood, Harry entered a memory from his sixth year at Hogwarts, a recollection Hagrid had possibly already told him about – or a very similar occurrence.
Snape entered the Forbidden Forest, hurrying forward, a deep frown on his face. As he reached the clearing closest to the border of the forest, his scowl deepened – Dumbledore was sitting there on a withered stump of a tree, his face smiling benignly at the approaching infuriated younger wizard.
"Why here?" Snape snapped instead of a greeting. "This is your idea of privacy? That great oaf Hagrid or his dear overgrown brother might overhear us here easily and it wouldn't take more than one Hagrid's visit to the Hog's Head to bring all of your genial plans into public. The Dark Lord is going to be thrilled."
"Severus, I am delighted to see you, too." Dumbledore said, his voice calm. "I have asked you to come here for a reason, believe it or not. I am hoping to consult Bane on the opinion of Centaurs to the latest development. Hagrid and Firenze kindly provided me with information the Centaurs like to perform their "star gazing" as you would no doubt describe their observation of star constellations in this part of the forest during this time of the year. I am merely hoping to kill two birds with one stone so to say. You may set any privacy wards you would like, however, should you feel threatened by the forest creatures. Hagrid is currently visiting with his brother at his cave. He shall not return for at least another half an hour."
Snape kept frowning but, after he gazed around and deemed the air free, he apparently decided against pulling out his wand and setting the wards.
Dumbledore smiled at him, rising from his seat. "How can I help you today, Severus?" he asked kindly.
Snape's frown deepened. "I won't be able to do it. I haven't used the curse in years – and as I was told just yesterday, my Cruciatus leaves much to be desired. If you insist it must be me, pick up the potion. I cannot grant you that the curse would work."
Dumbledore shook his head. "The curse would be much more obvious. You need to be seen casting it should it come to this end – as I hope it will. I cannot allow you to undermine the plan now. You must be as high placed in His circle as possible – so that you can help the boy while I cannot anymore. There is not much time left."
Snape shook his head. "It must be the potion. I do not have the time nor do I care to practice the killing curse. Besides, it's entirely your fault that I cannot cast the Unforgivables appropriately these days. You were the one who insisted I was not to practice the Dark Magic once I joined the Order."
Dumbledore merely smiled. "You are better off not practicing the art, Severus. As to your current predicament – I believe you are trying to tell me you are not able – or do not wish – to use the Unforgivables when there is no obvious need for them, unlike Bellatrix, the Carrows or some other Death Eaters. I am confident that you would have no problem casting the killing curse in a duel for life. Or to finish an old man's pain – especially when you know there is no cure." The Headmaster raised his blackened arm to the view. Snape grimaced at the sight.
It was then that the first rain drops started to fall, announcing a storm. Dumbledore gazed up to the skies and frowned at the heavy clouds that assembled above them during their discussion. "Alas," he said, "the nature shall not allow any observation of stars tonight. Come, Severus, let us return to the castle."
Harry stared at their retreating backs. Snape was really a great actor, he might have misled even him with his carefully chosen words and apparent insecurity in Dark Magic. Harry gave out a hollow laugh. Never trust a spy, he thought and watched as the memory around him started to dissolve, making place for another recollection.
And then it kicked in – the discussion he had just witnessed. It was not merely about Snape not wanting or not able to cast the Unforgivables. It was about one Unforgivable in particular – the killing curse. And the intended – and more than willing – target of the curse was nobody else than Albus Dumbledore. Harry blanched and thought he would be sick. Was the Headmaster's death planned? Was it him – and not Voldemort – who orchestrated it? And what it meant in regard to Snape? Was he on their side after all?
Harry didn't know what to think – and hoped that the next memory he was just about to witness would clear the things a bit…
Snape and Dumbledore were in the Headmaster's Office now. Dumbledore's travel coat was prepared on the edge of the table and the Headmaster was gazing at the clock.
"Harry will be here in a moment. You should leave now, Severus."
The other wizard nodded but didn't move a bit. "I have a bad feeling about this," he said finally, frowning. "If you injury yourself any further, if the boy is not able to assist you – this might be very well the last time we speak to each other."
Dumbledore somberly nodded. "I am afraid you might be right, Severus. If the worst happens, remember that you must come to retrieve the boy. Fawkes would take you behind us in such an event."
"But you will not tell me where you are going or what shall you be doing there now," Snape stated, clearly not expecting a forthcoming answer.
"No, I am sorry, Severus." Dumbledore smiled softly. They had clearly already discussed it earlier. "You know all you need to for the time-being."
The Headmaster approached the window then and gazed out. "I shall miss this view," he said quietly, not particularly addressing Snape. Then he turned back to the younger wizard: "Remember what must be done, Severus. If our plan works out as we hope and you would become Headmaster in my stead, do your best to protect the students and assist Harry."
Snape grimaced. "I will do my best to follow your orders," he vowed. "But I am still to come to terms with the fact you were raising the boy only so that he would die, being a Horcrux of the Dark Lord…" The man shuddered in discomfort.
…being a Horcrux of the Dark Lord, Harry repeated for himself and felt as if his heart stopped beating. So this was what Dumbledore kept hidden from him. He was to die to bring Voldemort down. The possibility had been there already before – but he had been able to hope for a different outcome. He had hoped to possibly win as improbable as it seemed, to perhaps survive after all. But this, this meant that he was up for a Death Sentence – and there was nothing, absolutely nothing he could do about it…
This was how the present Severus Snape found him and pulled him, unresponsive, out of the Pensieve. The man expected that the boy would fight him, that he would receive at least a few kicks to accompany the throbbing headache he was suffering from his fall, before he was able to pacify him again. But the boy simply let himself be raised from the midst of the memory he was just viewing – not reacting, not speaking, dead to the world.
Snape frowned. Or better to say, his existing frown deepened – he was after all not delighted to find out the boy had penetrated his memories again. What have you seen? he wondered. Which recollection of mine could bring about such a strong reaction?
When the boy had not moved for another few minutes, Severus lost his patience. He shook the boy by shoulders and requested: "What have you seen, Potter?"
Harry didn't react. Snape sighed and tried once more: "What did you see, Harry?"
This earned him finally a response. The boy looked up at him, his green eyes miserable. "I saw the memory of you speaking to Dumbledore the last time."
Snape went pale. "You know what the scar is?" He tried carefully, just in case that the boy didn't know all yet.
The boy nodded. "A Horcrux. I am his Horcrux."
Snape closed his eyes briefly. This was not how he hoped it would happen. His hands still on the now shaking shoulders of his best friend's son, he whispered: "For what it's worth, I am sorry, Potter. I am very sorry, Harry."