Warning up for language in this chapter.
Two hours later Lily and Dumbledore were standing back in his office. When they left Severus was struggling to keep his eyes open. He was very weak and still suffering the effects of the spells though the physical injuries of the fall were well on the mend.
"Thank you very much, sir," Lily said, "I'm so glad that I was able to go."
"You're quite welcome," Dumbledore answered with a smile, "I'm pleased that everything went so well. It appeared that you and Severus have made up after a row."
"Yes, professor," Lily said, "This is the first we have spoken for months, since the OWLs last spring."
"May I ask what happened to cause such an awful disagreement?" Dumbledore asked as he seated himself behind his desk.
Lily nodded then took the chair in front of him.
"Well, after our Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL I found James and Sirius bulling Severus," she explained calmly, "They had cast a levicorpus on him and were calling him Snivellus. James said he was going to pull off his shorts. Everyone was laughing...it was terrible."
Dumbledore nodded gravely as he clasped his hands together on his desk.
"I told him to stop and threatened to jinx him. Severus was very angry and even more so when I stepped in. Then he called me a mudblood and said he didn't need my help," Lily continued, "It made me angry to be called that even after he apologized several times. Besides that, Severus really likes the dark arts. He is so easily seduced by them. I felt that he was too far gone down that terrible, dangerous road and I couldn't remain friends with a dark wizard."
"I see," Dumbledore said, his mind quickly flashing back to Severus's copy of Secrets of the Darkest Arts that was currently lying in the top desk drawer, "Do you think that that still is the case in regards to Severus?"
"Yes, I do," Lily replied, "I was wrong. I didn't act like a good friend to him. When I saw him heading in that direction I should have tried to help him or told someone who could. I should never have turned my back on him. Now I can see what transpired because I did nothing."
"A lesson well learned," Dumbledore said with a pleased smile, "I am sure you will not make the same mistake again and Severus has forgiven you. There is nothing more to be done but to except it, learn from it and move on."
"Yes, sir," Lily replied and she meant it. She had made a terrible mistake with Severus and promised herself that she would be the good friend that he so desperately needed.
Albus returned the parchment to James. He nodded approvingly. James nearly sighed with relief. Peter had been scolded for his halfhearted attempt and Sirius for his obvious insincerity. They had both been forced to rewrite their letters.
"I'm now pleased with all of the letters," Dumbledore said, "I'm glad that you have learned your lesson. Tomorrow afternoon during your free period you will go with me and personally deliver it to Severus."
Remus, James and Peter nodded. Sirius on the other hand looked defiant.
"You do not agree Mr. Black," Dumbledore said, making it clear that it was a statement and not a question.
"It's just that I thought you would take it to Sniv...Severus," Sirius mumbled, unable to meet the headmaster's eyes.
"I do not want to hear that name again. His name is Severus and you will address him as such," Dumbledore was stern, "That is something I would expect from a first year not someone in their sixth."
"Yes, sir," Sirius replied meekly.
"As for your presence, I think that after all that has happened you should personally deliver an apology," Dumbledore patiently explained, "Anything else would be insulting. You cannot always hide from your mistakes, Sirius. You need to face them."
"Yes, sir," Sirius said in a resigned tone.
"Now, there is something much more grave that I need to speak to you about," Dumbledore said solemnly, "I want you to be prepared for what to expect at St. Mungo's tomorrow."
The four boys nodded.
"Miss Evans has accompanied me to see Severus as you might already know and I have asked her not to say anything," Dumbledore continued, "I thought that what you need to learn would be best if it came from me."
"What is it, sir?" James asked, a feeling of dread filled the pit of his stomach. He knew that what the headmaster was about to say was not good.
"As you know the four of you cast a disarming spell at Severus and all four of those spells hit him in the chest," Dumbledore went on, "I am very sorry to say that it caused more damage than the fall from the landing. It took the healers there quite a while to stabilize and regulate Severus's heartbeat. I am afraid that the damage he suffered is irreversible and that his heart is permanently weakened from it."
The four boys looked stunned. James put his head in his hands, sick to his stomach and too ashamed to look at anyone. Peter looked down at the floor and Sirius looked too stunned to speak. Remus started blinking back tears.
"I didn't mean for it to happen!" he cried, losing his battle as the tears began to fall, "I never wanted Severus to get hurt! He's never going to forgive us...I'm never going to forgive myself!"
"The wounds from bullying and being cruel to anther person, whether they be physical, emotional, or both, may take a long time to heal. They may never heal," Dumbledore said gently, "I really want to impress upon you the consequences of your actions. Severus is going to carry the effects of this the rest of his life. Whether he forgives you or not, that is up to him."
"I am so sorry," Remus sniffled, "I'm sorry."
James put a comforting hand on his distraught friend. Remus, though he went along with their bulling, really did have a soft heart. Dumbledore looked as though he felt a stabbing feeling of pity for Remus and he conjured him a handkerchief.
"I am glad to see your remorse," Dumbledore told him, "It shows me that you really have learned from this terrible experience."
"Yes, sir. We have," James reassured him. He really had. Seeing a boy that he hated laying on the floor in a puddle of blood and knowing he caused it had cut him to his core. It had been frightening and now Severus would never be the same. In fact, James was certain that he wouldn't either. He felt as though he had grown up a bit in the past week.
"Good," Dumbledore said, "Well, goodnight to you then boys. Remember meet me here in my office during your free period."
"Yes, sir," they said, "Goodnight."
The four boys walked nervously with Dumbledore down the corridor of the fourth floor of St. Mungo's. They remained silent until the reached the room. Dumbledore stood outside and motioned them in. They looked at each other. Finally, James let out the breath he was holding and walked in. Sirius and Remus followed him. Peter trailed behind them and stood just inside the door.
Severus was sitting in bed, propped up by some pillows. James noticed how sickly and exhausted he looked. As he neared the bed he saw the last remnants of bruising on the side of Severus's face. A pang of guilt and regret hit him.
"Hi, Severus. How are you feeling?" he asked quietly and not as confidently as normal.
He placed the schoolbooks he had brought on a small table beside the bed. Severus's face went from lifeless to full of nothing but the utmost hatred. It startled Dumbledore from where he stood in the doorway and he began to question his decision of brining the boys along.
"Get. Out," Severus snarled at them, his voice full of detest.
Dumbledore stepped in the room. The look of absolute hatred on Severus's face troubled him. He also was afraid that Severus could worsen his current condition if he allowed himself to get too worked up.
"Please, Severus," Dumbledore said, "I have brought them here to tell you something and please allow them to do that."
Severus looked at the headmaster for a moment then nodded reluctantly. But he looked very unhappy about their presence.
"Good," Dumbledore seemed pleased, "Sirius, why don't you go first."
"Yes, sir," Sirius mumbled as he pulled his letter out of his robes.
"Now speak up lad so Severus can hear you," Dumbledore admonished him as he took a seat at Severus's bedside.
Sirius nodded and cleared his throat.
"Dear Severus," he began, "I feel the deepest regret about the other night. I was cruel to take part in bullying you. I can now see the damage that this childish deed caused you and for that I am very sorry. I swear that I will never do it again to you or anyone else. Sincerely, Sirius Black."
"Very nice," Dumbledore commented as Severus rolled his eyes, "Mr. Pettigrew, you're next."
"D-d-ear S-severus," Peter stumbled over the words nervously, his plump face bright red, "I'm sorry. D-d-don't worry it won't happen again. From, P-p-peter."
Severus nearly scoffed aloud at the boy's limited writing skills.
"Thank you, Peter," Dumbledore said as though he were talking to a child, "Mr. Potter you may read yours now."
"Dear Severus," James said as he glanced up quickly at him, "I know you may not believe me but I am very sorry for causing your injuries. I am very ashamed of myself and I want you to know that I never intended for it to happen. I offer you my most sincere apologies for this and anything unkind I have said or done to you in the past. I promise that I will never bully you again. Sincerely, James Potter."
After he finished he looked up at Severus hopefully. Severus looked irate. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to get out of bed, walk over to James and tear him limb from limb. His knuckles had gone white where he twisted the blanket in his hands.
"Why don't you read your letter, Remus," Dumbledore said quietly, as he studied Severus's face nervously.
"Dear Severus," Remus began with a shaky voice, "I don't know what to say except that I am so very sorry...I...I..."
Remus sniffled as he began to cry again when he looked up at the sick boy in the bed, knowing he had directly caused it. He quickly wiped his tears and took at deep breath.
"I can understand if you can not forgive me. I don't think I will ever forgive myself for my role in all of this. All I can do is express my sincere regrets for my own atrocious behavior and hope that one day you will be ready to forgive me.
He looked up through bleary eyes into Severus's dark eyes.
"I am so sorry, Severus," he said and began to cry again.
"Save the crocodile tears for someone else, Lupin," Severus sneered at him before looking around at all four boys with the utmost loathing in his eyes, "You all are nothing but a pack of fucking liars! You're not sorry! You probably are happy that I will have to go through life like a fucking weakling! You're only sorry you got caught!"
"Severus, I know you're upset but please calm down," Dumbledore said as he got to his feet. Severus was becoming louder and more shrill by the moment.
"I don't care!" Severus snapped, "I fucking hate them! Get them out of here!"
Before Dumbledore could reply and mediwitch hurried into the room.
"I'm sorry, Professor," she said to him, "But I think it would be best if these boys left. It's not good for him to get upset in his weak state."
Severus felt his face go red at her words. He hated to have his frailty pointed out.
"I understand," Dumbledore told her before turning to the Marauders, "Please wait quietly out in the hall for me, boys. I want to speak with Severus."
There was a chorus of "yes, sirs" and they vacated the room and followed the mediwitch to the corridor. Dumbledore sat back down in the chair at the bedside.
"I know you are upset and angry, Severus," he said gently, "It is quite understandable. But they truly are sorry."
"With all due respect, sir," Severus said through gritted teeth as though he was irritated with Dumbledore as well, "They are just going to say that they are so they don't get into trouble. They will say whatever you want them to. But I assure you, if this hadn't happened they would still be behaving like hooligans."
"I understand why you feel the way you do," Dumbledore told him, "But please promise me, Severus, that when you are able to return to school that you will not do anything in retaliation."
"What could I do, sir?" Severus asked him, anger glinting in his eyes, "I'm weak...I..."
Severus shook his head and looked away.
"Did Miss Evans visit you again?" Albus tried to change the subject.
"Yes," Severus answered him but offered no elaboration.
"And your parents? Did they visit?" Dumbledore was certain they had visited once the horrible truth of Severus's injuries became known.
Severus shook his head.
"I'm sorry," Dumbledore began.
"Don't be," Severus replied, refusing to make eye contact, "I hate them both anyway. I don't want to see them."
Dumbledore was too shocked by this admission to say anything. He looked over at Severus's schoolbooks that James had placed on the table.
"Here is some of your work," he said conversationally, "Don't worry they will help you get caught up. It is part of their restitution."
"They need not bother. I don't want them to," Severus replied.
"But you will need some help, my boy," Albus said, "You can't do it on your own."
"Yes, I can," Severus assured him, "I'm used to being alone."
"Severus..." Dumbledore began.
"Not to be rude, sir, but I am rather tired..." Severus said.
"You get some rest," he said as he rose, "I will be back to see you tomorrow."
"You don't have to. I understand," Severus told him.
Dumbledore felt his heart break for the poor boy. He was an intelligent and gifted wizard according to his professors but he was far too sad and serious for being only fifteen years old. It was so obvious that all he knew was abuse and neglect and it broke Dumbledore's heart.
"Why wouldn't I want to see you?" Dumbledore asked as though it was silly that he wouldn't, "I will see you tomorrow."
He reached out to give Severus an affectionate pat on the cheek but Severus pulled away from him and refused to make eye contact.
"Good day, Severus," he bid then was gone.
Severus didn't answer. As hard as he tried to stop them, tears welled up in his eyes and spilled over down his cheeks. He angrily wiped them with his sleeve as he bit his bottom lip so no sob could escape. He promised himself he would not always be weak. One day he would show them that he was strong and one day they would truly be very sorry for the pain and humiliation they caused him.
Two long weeks later Severus was released from St. Mungo's and returned to Hogwarts. Dumbledore had suggested that he rest at home of at least a few days before returning to class but the boy had insisted he was ready to resume his studies. Dumbledore had given in when he saw how upset Severus had become at the thought of going home and allowed him to return under Madam Pomfrey's close supervision. Severus would be taking potions the rest of his life to help his body cope with the damage and it's effects. He could not exert himself either. Dumbledore shook his head sadly at the fact Severus was a fifteen year old young man with his whole life in front of him that now had the heart of a much, much older man. Furthermore, his parents seemed rather unconcerned. Dumbledore had written them several times to meet and discuss the changes that would be happening in Severus's life both at school and at home but Eileen had wrote back to Dumbledore saying that she was too busy to meet him. Contrary to what the healers at St. Mungo's reported, she seemed convinced that it was just something the boy would outgrow.
Dumbledore was pleased with boys' reaction to their part in the accident. They had seemed remorseful and wanted to help Severus who refused all contact with them. Dumbledore was surprised to find that Severus did all of his work on his own and it was quite satisfactory. They boy really was intelligent and proved capable of catching up on his own. Albus had wanted the Marauders to help but since Severus reacted so angrily to their presence he decided against it, figuring it would only make things worse.
Severus's first day back at school proved to be much more difficult than he imagined. He was pushed and shoved by the hustle and bustle of students dashing in between classes. He found himself winded just from walking up a staircase. He was ten minutes late for Transfiguration and Professor McGonagall took ten points from Slytherin then told him that he would have detention if it occurred again. Severus said nothing but mumbled an insincere apology then took his seat. He didn't want any attention drawn to his fragile condition. James and Sirius gave each other a long, miserable look but said nothing. Normally they would have laughed, behind Professor McGonagall's back of course, and then taunted Severus afterward. But things were different now.
After class Severus slowly gathered up his things. He had no desire to be mowed down by his peers as they rushed down to lunch. As he stuffed his book into his bag the Marauders approached him.
"Hi, Severus," James said pleasantly.
Remus and Sirius smiled in greeting while Peter hung around in the back and said nothing.
"Leave me alone," Severus warned them. He looked half convinced that they would try to attack him at any moment even with McGonagall still in the room.
"May I take your things? You can walk down to lunch with us," James offered hopefully.
"No," Severus scowled, "I can do it myself. I do not need any help from anyone!"
"Now, Severus," Minerva warned from the front of the classroom, "Potter is only trying to help."
"I don't need his help, professor," Severus insisted defiantly.
"Well, suit yourself," Peter piped up, "Come on, let's get to lunch before it's all gone!"
He rushed toward the door and the other boys followed, looking back at Severus once or twice. Severus nearly sighed with relief and slowly made his way back to the dungeons, to his dorm. He was too exhausted to go to lunch. When he finally reached his bed he sank back in it gratefully and closed his eyes. Unwilling tears began to slowly fall from his eyes. He hated being looked at as though a pathetic, invalid who always needed help with even the most simple of tasks. It just wasn't fair.
James looked up as someone took a seat next to him at the Gryffindor table. He was shocked to see Lily.
"What are you doing here, Evans?" he asked her with a pleased smile.
"I saw you trying to help Severus earlier," she told him.
"Really? He didn't want our help," James replied with a slight frown.
"That's just who Severus is...proud," Lily said, "I just wanted you to know that I thought it was sweet of you to try to help him when you didn't have to."
"I still feel really bad about what happened...I can't believe what a prat I used to be," James said.
"You really have changed, James," Lily said, "For the better. I'm proud of you."
She reached over and gave his arm an affectionate squeeze, sending jolts of excitement through his body. James. She had called him James. She had never called him by anything but his surname before.
"Really?" he asked though he was clearly pleased.
"Yes and I think in time Severus will forgive you," Lily answered him.
"I hope so. I really do," James told her.
She smiled warmly at him. James, feeling encouraged by her new attitude towards him, boldly reached over and took her hand in his. He returned her smile as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze. He was surprised when Lily allowed him to hold her hand. Perhaps things were going to work out for the best after all.
Later that evening Remus and Sirius were walking James to Quidditch practice. As they walked down the Grand Staircase they noticed a figure sitting at the bottom step on the third floor landing. It was hunched over. As they neared they noticed it was Severus. They cast each other a worried glance then hurried down to him.
"Severus?" James called as he gently shook his shoulder.
Severus jumped and looked up at James. His face was extremely pale, his lips were tinged blue. His breaths can in uneven, heaving gasps. Severus weakly jerked himself out of James's gentle grasp.
"Are you all right?" Sirius asked him, looking stricken.
"Fine," Severus gasped.
"You need to go to the infirmary," Remus told him, "You are really ill."
"Can't," Severus rasped.
"Where were you going, Severus?" James asked since the day's classes had concluded.
"G'way," Severus answered him as he visibly tried to catch his breath. His racing heart was scaring him and he mentally willed it to slow down.
Sirius reached out and quickly snatched the crumpled piece of parchment that Severus held in his thin hand. He didn't even seem to notice. Sirius quickly read the note.
"It's from Dumbledore, asking him to come to his office," Sirius told the others.
"Should one of us go get him?" Remus asked.
"No, he's in bad shape," James said, "Let's help him to the infirmary."
"Severus?" Remus called, "Severus?"
Severus's dark eyes shot open and he looked at Remus as though he had just noticed their arrival.
"Come on," Remus said as he held out his hand, "I'll help you to the infirmary."
"I...don't...need...help," Severus managed to say.
"Yes, you do and it's not your fault," Remus said seriously, looking directly into Severus's eyes, "It's our fault. Now please, let me help you. Take my hand, now."
Severus looked at him for a moment and hesitated. He was becoming dizzier by the moment and his heart was thumping erratically in his chest. It was scary. Then, finally, and to their surprise he placed a shaky hand in Remus's and Remus pulled him to his unsteady feet. James got on the other side and helped Remus support Severus, though it wasn't really needed. James was shocked; Severus felt as though he weighed nothing. They helped gently guide Severus to the infirmary, reassuring him the entire way that Madam Pomfrey would have him patched up in no time. But each one knew in the back of his mind that there was no fixing his illness. It was too late for that. But the Marauder's helped the best that they could and safely delivered Severus to Madam Pomfrey's care then quietly exited the infirmary to go to the Quidditch field.
The next day Albus visited Severus in the infirmary. He had been informed by Poppy that Severus had been brought to the infirmary the previous evening by the Marauders. It pleased him that the boys were earnestly trying to do the right thing, even without him there supervising. Poppy had explained that Severus had overexerted himself and would need to stay in the infirmary for a few days to rest. Albus knew it was safe for Severus to be there, as Poppy would not let him leave the infirmary until she was certain he was capable of handling his classes.
When he arrived Severus was propped up in bed busily writing an essay for Defense Against the Dark Arts and he didn't notice the headmaster's arrival. Dumbledore smiled and approached the bed.
"Good afternoon, Severus," he said pleasantly.
Severus looked up from his work.
"Good afternoon, sir," he answered suspiciously, as though he already knew why the headmaster was there.
Dumbledore took a seat next to the bed.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked.
"Good, I'm glad to hear it," Dumbledore continued, "I see you are doing Defense Against the Dark Arts."
Severus looked down at his text and the nearly completed essay. He knew what was about to happen. He knew which book missing.
"Perhaps you need this to help you finish," Dumbledore said quietly as he pulled Secrets of the Darkest Arts out of his robes and handed it to Severus.
Severus took his book and said nothing, offering no explanation.
"It slipped out of your bag when you fell," Albus told him, "I saw that Mr. Malfoy gave it to you."
"Yeah, well that's what typically happens at Hanukkah," Severus slightly sneered.
"I see," Dumbledore replied, "Do you understand how dangerous it is to have a book like this?"
"It's not dangerous, sir," Severus replied, "It's just a book."
"It glorifies the Dark Arts, Severus," Albus pointed out, "and I banned it from Hogwarts."
Severus shrugged, not knowing what to say and mentally cursing the Marauders, since they caused the book to be exposed.
Severus looked up and immediately felt Dumbledore's blue eyes bore into his. Albus quickly and skillfully penetrated Severus's young mind and memories flew at him: Professor McGonagall scolding him for being late, the Marauder's taunting him, Lily's refusal to accept his earnest apology, his father raising a hand to strike his mother. Then Albus found it...
"Severus?" Lucius Malfoy gently shook the boy's shoulder to rouse him, his handsome face full of concern for his friend, "Severus?"
Severus's eyes fluttered open.
"Merlin!" Lucius gasped taking a look at his friend, "What did they do to you?"
"Lucius?" Severus managed to whisper.
"Yes, my friend," Lucius said as he gave him an affectionate pat on the shoulder, "I came as soon as I heard what had happened. Mulciber told me."
Severus shook his head sadly.
"They've won," he said, looking as though he was holding back tears, "I am permanently weakened...it's never going to be the same."
"No, they haven't Severus," Lucius said with a sly smile, "I know a way you can gain power. I know how you can never be weak..."
Then Albus felt himself being thrown out of Severus's mind. He was quite worried about the boy. The look of concern in the elder wizard's face did not escape Severus's notice.
"What did Mr. Malfoy say to you?' Albus asked.
"Nothing of any importance," Severus replied, angry at the headmaster intrusion once again.
"The admiration of the dark arts is dangerous, my dear boy," Dumbledore said seriously, "It leads down a dark and broken path. I promise you, if you go down that road you will find yourself unhappy and you will have a dangerous struggle to find your way back."
"Yes, sir," Severus replied, though he didn't agree with him and he had to force himself not to roll his eyes at Dumbledore's sentiments.
Dumbledore was wrong. He knew nothing of his life how hard and unfair it was. He didn't understand what it was like to be relentlessly taunted and to feel powerless. He just didn't understand. Severus sighed and wondered how much longer he would be plagued with the headmaster's presence.
After he left, Severus smirked. The old man was a fool. He put too much faith in people. Severus had learned at an early age not to trust...it only led to getting hurt. It was the path to weakness. One day, very soon, he would not be weak any longer. Lucius had promised to take him to the Dark Lord during summer holidays. Severus knew then he would be part of something greater than anyone had ever known. Then they wouldn't, couldn't, perceive him as weak. He would then have something he had always wanted: respect. Lily couldn't reject him then. The Marauders had taken his pride, his health and what little respect he had. They had gone too far and now it was too late. One day Severus would make them pay and for him that day couldn't come soon enough.
Author's Note: Yes, it is finally finished...I am kinda sad. As you probably could tell the message of the story was to be kind to others and treat others with kindness and respect. The emotional and even physical (if it is bad enough) effects of bullying can last a long time and may never go away and I tried to show that here. I don't know how likely it was that there was permanent damage but I guess if a mediwitch can't fix astigmatism (poor Harry) than this could possibly happen. Anyway, thanks to everyone who read and reviewed! Now I am on to work on Internal Fury!