Questions/Fears Concerning:

Magical Treatment for Dumbledore—Things like the Switching or Banishing Spell for the bone fragments could not be used because it requires the caster to see the object(s). As for Harry, he might have been able to help, but that is a lot to put on a little boy's shoulders, no matter how able, and the adults did not wish to burden him unnecessarily. Also, just as magic cannot magically cure the Longbottoms, it cannot outright cure Dumbledore, otherwise the Longbottoms would have been cured a long time ago.

Harry able to cure Draco's grievous head injury—Harry had applied his Parselmagic moments after the damage had occurred. The cells and tissue had not had time to actually die or scar.

Part 25: Cause and Effect

Voldemort gritted his teeth as Bella dabbed at his wound once more.

That muggle-lover had ruined everything.

Dumbledore really needed to die.

It was because of him that that muggle had been able to shoot him.

It was because of him that he had failed to hear the prophecy.

However . . . the old man had not thwarted everything. . . .

Voldemort smiled despite the pain and shortness of breath, recalling how the Minister had trembled in fear against him as he hissed into the man's ear.

He would allow things to calm as he maneuvered his pieces. Despite Dumbledore and this injury, things would go his way in the end.

O o O o O

Lucius paced in his office, waiting for Severus to arrive. He had sent for him an hour ago and only hoped he was not too busy with the old muggle-lover to come with what he had requested.

His life depended on it.

Finally, the fireplace burst green and Severus stepped from it.

"Severus, I assume you were—" he began.

"Yes, I have everything you requested."

Lucius was unable to hold back his sigh of relief.

"Good. Please, follow me. Bellatrix sent a portkey for us," he said, leading them into a room before firmly closing the door and casting a quick privacy ward, just in case.

"Does anyone suspect?" Severus asked as Lucius moved toward the desk with a black quill on it.

"No, and I have done as you have asked."

"Good, it is a relief to know Draco will be safe no matter what happens," Severus said.

Lucius nodded, once again grateful Severus understood the importance of family despite not having one of his own. His hand came over the portkey as Severus stepped beside him.

"This will take us to where he is staying," he stated, not needing to state who 'he' was.

"I understand," Severus said.

"I hope you know what you are doing, Severus," Lucius whispered as he placed his other hand on Severus' arm and activated the portkey. . . .

They appeared in a large dining room, not all that different from the Malfoy's. Severus quickly identified it as the home of Yaxley.

"Good of you to finally arrive, Severus. This way," Rodolphus Lestrange, Bellatrix's husband, said.

Severus went forward, leaving the room with Rodolphus. Lucius did not follow.

"What is his condition?" Severus asked, correctly assuming why he was there.

"I don't know, he has only allowed my wife in the room," Rodolphus stated blandly. "He actually doesn't know she has sent for you." He smiled maliciously as they came to a closed door.

"I see," Severus said, totally unbothered by Rodolphus' words as he took hold of the handle before him.

Rodolphus blinked at Severus' boldness. "Well, unless you require something, I will leave you now."

"Very good," Severus returned with a nod as he confidently opened the door, and entered.

O o O

Severus closed the door behind him as his eyes quickly took in the room.

There was a wall blocking most of the bed from view of the door. He heard some rustlings, as if someone was scrambling for things. There was light, though it was on the other side the wall and obscured by what Severus correctly assumed to be furniture.

"Who has entered, Bellatrix? I have not given anyone permission to enter. Who dares?"

Severus forced himself to not startle at the voice as he slowed his approach.

"M-my Lord, I sent for him. For Severus. Your wound, my Lord, I-I am inept. I have done all that I can, but hoped my seeking Severus would please you, as he is more able than I," Bella said. "Please forgive me, my lord, bu—"

"Oh, my faithful servant. Come, come, Severus," Voldemort interrupted, his voice raspy.

Severus went around the wall, finding the Dark Lord lying in a bed with bloody bandages strewn throughout, and a batty Bella holding a pair of scissors and wad of gauze beside him. There was a disgusting stench in the air that Severus quickly identified. The sickly sweet, rusty smell could only be one thing—blood. There were empty potion vials all over the floor, blood all over the blankets and even on the walls. Bella's hair was, as usual, out of control, but what made it even worse were the streaks of dark red in it.

It was a rather horrid scene, to be honest, and Nagini coiled around the right back bedpost near Voldemort's head did not help matters.

"My Lord," Severus greeted with a respectful bow, as if nothing he was seeing was alarming. "Please, let me be of assistance."

"Bellatrix," Voldemort stated.

"Yes, My Lord?" she chirped.

"Move away."

Bella looked affronted, but knew not to contradict. She got up and moved to the corner to watch.

Severus stepped forward as Voldemort sat up with a barely hidden wince. He wished Bellatrix had been told to leave.

"What potions have you taken, My Lord?" Severus asked, stepping beside the bed and keeping his face neutral.

Anything the Dark Lord perceived as pity or any emotion of 'weakness' would not be received well.

"Blood Replenishing mostly, but I have taken a Blood Vessel Repairing and a Skelegrow," he stated, before adding, "Bellatrix insisted I take a Pain Reliever as well."

If he was embarrassed about the situation, he hid it very well.

"Last dose taken?" Severus asked, pulling out a rolled up leather pouch from his robes.

"Within the past hour, I have taken two Blood Replenishing, nothing else."

"Is the wound still open?" Severus asked, setting the pouch on the side table and unrolling it to reveal many potion vials and tools.


"Please show me where," Severus stated curtly, pulling out his wand.

Voldemort turned, motioning to his right side.

Severus could tell the movement was uncomfortable, but Voldemort wasn't the Dark Lord for nothing. He would not allow himself to show weakness.

Looking at the exposed, bloody mess, Severus found the Dark Lord's side covered in gauze magically kept in place by sticking charms. Bella had certainly been hard at work, though her work was sloppy and it was clear she was more skilled in dismembering than in healing.

Silently, he cast a diagnosing charm and a few other things to tell him how the Dark Lord was faring. All the while, Bellatrix and Nagini were avidly watching. Despite the fact he was here because of Bella, he knew if she saw anything at all suspicious he would be getting a pointblank Crucio, if not an AK, before he would be able to block or counter. And then there was Nagini. Even though Severus desired nothing more than to poison or pointblank curse the Dark Lord, Nagini would likely act before he could completely carry it out.

Oh yes, without a doubt, Nagini was Voldemort's greatest ally. Sometimes Severus wondered if Nagini considered Voldemort as a surrogate son or something. She was that protective of him.

However, even without Nagini and Bella, attempting any such a plan was doomed to fail anyway. Voldemort was immune to many poisons, thanks to the countless alterations he had made on himself, and he was very good at smelling out foul potions before he ingested them. Dumbledore didn't say Riddle was a brilliant student for nothing. And as for cursing him in his weakened state, Voldemort was still extremely fast, and he was always armed with his wand.

No, Severus would need to continue acting as a faithful servant. There was too much to lose if he failed — the light would lose a spy and Harry would lose a guide — and even if he succeeded in cursing Voldemort, there was the prophecy to consider. In the future, there had been a few occurrences where the Dark Lord should have outright been killed, but hadn't been. Severus suspected Old Magic was involved. Something was protecting Voldemort, preventing his demise, and Severus only hoped he was correct in believing Harry was the key to finally bringing it to an end.

As his medical spells finished sending him feedback, Severus frowned, although inside he rejoiced.

"Severus?" Voldemort asked, his voice frighteningly flat.

"What caused this?" Severus asked, despite knowing already.

Voldemort bit back a growl. "A metal projectile called a bullet."

"My Lord, I can see two of your ribs have recently been healed, but. . . ." Severus took a deep breath, having to crush his elation behind his mental shields as he tried to sound grave. "The bullet entered and struck your second lowest rib, causing it to splinter as the bullet continued up, passing through your liver and clipping your right kidney before being lodged near the base of another rib. If the bullet had missed that rib, the bullet would have exited near the middle of your back, an inch from your spine. Unfortunately, it did not, and, because of Bellatrix's treatment, it is now imbedded in the repaired rib. I will not be able to remove it now, unless you wish me to physically go in. Simply summoning it may cause irreparable damage to your spine, not to mention severe damage to that newly healed rib."

"Then just leave it," Voldemort stated, though his eyes strayed to Bella.

The Dark Lord was not pleased.

"Of course, my Lord," Severus stated, deciding not to mention the risk of infection, least of all tetanus.

It was something most wizards never even considered, and the very few who did were muggleborn. Potions, such as Pepper-Up, usually handled such problems, but serious infections, such as ones that came about because of foreign bodies lodged in muscle, bone, and general tissue, could only be handled with aggressive potion regimens — potion regimens Severus was going to conveniently fail to comment on, far less provide.

"I will be giving you potions to heal the damage done to your liver and kidney. That should greatly aid in your recovery, my Lord," Severus said, retrieving the mentioned potions. "However, before you take them, you need to know you will be unable to channel any powerful spells for 48 hours. The potions will be channeling a portion of your magic to heal the internal damage and hindering it may postpone your recovery."

"Very well, Severus. How long before this wound is gone?"

"Well," Severus began, deciding some ego stroking was in order. "For an average wizard, I would say two to three weeks, but for you, with your power and magic reserves, I would say six to ten days."

Voldemort slowly nodded, contemplating his situation.

"That is not disagreeable. My plans do not call for much action from myself in the coming weeks anyway," Voldemort stated as Severus placed the necessary potions on the side table before putting his other things away.

"Shall I close the wound for you, My Lord?"

"Yes, as it is clear Bellatrix is incapable," Voldemort sneered, his annoyance with his most zealous servant coming through loud and clear.

Bellatrix cowered.

"Thank you for allowing me this honor, My Lord," Severus said as he expertly waved his wand, removing the soaked bandages and healing the bullet hole . . . happily sealing the debris and foreign contaminants within Voldemort's body.

O o O o O

Harry watched as Perenelle led Norberta out of the stables and into the field beside them.

Nicholas had told him they would need to use Dragon Magic to begin lowering the block on his magic, and as Norberta knew and trusted him, she was the optimum choice.

"You must do exactly as I say, Harry. If you fail to follow my instructions, it may lead to dreadful consequences," Nicholas said, placing a firm hand on his shoulder.

:Yes, Harry. Do what he says: Coral said at his feet, before slithering over to Perenelle to watch.

"I understand," Harry said, trying not to gulp too loudly.

"Alright. I want you to stare into her eyes and simply hold her gaze. Do not look away until she does," Nicholas said, moving around to stand beside Norberta and placed his hand on Norberta's scales.

Harry did as he was told, Norberta staring back into his eyes with an intensity he had never before seen in another's eyes as Nicholas began whispering a strange language.

Norberta's eyes sharpened as they gave a bluish glow before the glow shifted into one of silver. Harry couldn't have looked away even if he had wanted.

A rush of power surged, though Harry could not perceive from where. It was hot, but of a heat that was protective and persistent. He felt his hands close into fists and his knees grow weak, his eye contact with Norberta unwavering. Her eyes flashed again and he felt a weight at his center. It did not lift, but grew heavier, and he felt his chest heaving and his heart pounding. Just when he thought he would be crushed from within, the weight sunk, as if absorbed, and that was when Norberta finally looked away. Harry tried to follow suit, but instead of simply looking away, his vision grew dark and he felt himself fall.

The next thing Harry knew was that he was lying in his bed in the Flamel's home.

"Well, Harry, I do believe you've made great progress today. Congratulations, you've just lifted about a quarter of the lock you had had," Mr. Flamel said, leaning over him.

Harry blinked. "What does that mean, sir?"

"Why don't you cast something and see?" he asked as Coral slithered off Nicholas' wrist and plopped onto the bed beside him.

Slowly, Harry sat up and pulled out his phoenix wand.

It felt different. It was definitely still his wand, but he could feel tendrils of warmth seeping to and from his palm and the wand's handle. It was amazing.

"What should I cast?" Harry asked.

Mr. Flamel paused, before taking out his reading glasses and promptly snapping it in two.

"How about Reparo?" he asked, placing his broken frames on the bed.

Harry blinked, before doing as suggested. He gathered his magic, a little nervous as this was the first time he had ever cast this spell—though he knew the incantation and wand movement. "Reparo."

His magic pulsed through the air, brushing through everything as he pointed his wand at the broken spectacles. There were odd popping, scrapping, and shuffling sounds echoing all around them as Nicholas' glasses magically unbent and were fixed. With that, Harry turned his eyes to the other things in the room, amazed to find them in even better shape than they were before.

Nicholas started laughing. "Well done, child! You see? And there is still three quarters of the lock left to lift, but before that you need to get used to the amount of magic now at your disposal."

Harry wholeheartedly agreed.

O o O o O

Remus entered his quarters within Hogwarts. Thanks to Dumbledore and the others, he would be able to remain as Hogwarts' DADA teacher for the foreseeable future. The curse was gone, well, both curses if you included his former Lycanthropy. Their work on the wards had produced a lot of benefits. Not only was the DADA curse gone, Hogwarts was more fortified than ever before. She had wards that would make Gringotts jealous and aggressive defenses that would activate immediately if anyone with ill-intent tried to break through, human or otherwise, particularly those under any kind of disguise.

He went to his couch, reclining back as he thought about recent events.

Albus would be returning to Hogwarts the following day, but would be confined to his bed for the next week. The surgery three days prior had been a success and the doctors were hopeful his recovery would be an uneventful one.

So far, the Headmaster's mental health was stable. He did admit to feeling a little fatigued, but that was to be expected. His speech patterns had improved, but he was going to a speech therapist just the same, as his pronunciation would falter when he was particularly tired. He was also seeing a physical therapist to help regain the bit of fine motor function he had lost on his left side. When he returned to Hogwarts, the therapists would work with him on Mondays and Thursdays. As for his attention span and ability to concentrate, it was still too soon to tell for sure, but it was looking much better than they had anticipated.

However, not everything was as positive.

After he had regained consciousness and received his first hospital meal, it soon became clear he had lost something. His sense of taste. At first, Pomfrey and the others had believed he just wanted them to bring him something sweet as he complained about the hospital food being bland, but after Severus took it upon himself to sneak in a lemon doughnut and transfigure the shape into a simple slice of bread, it became clear. After a few food experiments, they learned Dumbledore had hypogeusia—partial taste loss and hyposmia—partial smell loss. He could taste salt and sugar, but it had to be concentrated and not part of a complex sample of food. Such conditions were fairly common with frontal lobe trauma and Dr. Price said there was unfortunately nothing they could really do to help. It was up to Dumbledore's own body to repair the damage. Albus was disheartened, but took solace in the fact it may not be permanent. They remained hopeful this sensory loss would return eventually.

Remus closed his eyes, turning his thoughts elsewhere. He had just returned from visiting Sirius and sharing some news with him. He kept Severus out of the conversation, as Sirius was still immature where it came to anything related to the man. When he had briefly mentioned Severus to him a few days before, he had gone off, making outlandish remarks on how Snape was probably bowing at the Dark Lord's feet.

Remus had set the record straight, stating Severus was a spy and that Dumbledore himself trusted him implicitly. Remus had also made it clear he would not hear another negative word from Sirius about the man. Remus still neglected to state Severus was Hogwarts' Potions Master and had become Harry's favorite teacher and treasured mentor, but Remus decided that could wait. Sirius was still recovering and didn't need to suffer a stroke.

Sirius had questioned where Harry was, of course, but considering recent events, grudgingly accepted Remus' words of, 'Albus has promised Harry is in a safe place but hasn't told us where.'

Remus sighed. He wished he knew where Harry was, but Albus and Minerva were being tightlipped about it. All he knew was that he wasn't with the Dursleys anymore and would never return to them, thankfully. Remus almost wished he was still a werewolf. If Severus' venomous words about them were any indication . . . maybe just once it would have been alright to. . . .

He perished the thought. What a horrible thing to even imagine. He chastised himself, focusing on something else.

The Ministry and Press were slowly settling down, panic wise, but now things were being set in motion. New safety measures and laws were being proposed while Fudge assured the public they were working on ensuring their well-being and that Dumbledore was on his way to a full recovery.

Madam Bones, Remus knew, was annoyed by Fudge's lax and carefree attitude, as were many other people, particularly members of the Wizengamot. Fudge was taking a relaxed-in-the-face-of-danger-to-improve-public-opinion-of-himself stance and Remus was fairly certain it would not end well — for anyone.

O o O o O

"I'm serious, Albus. Light work!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed. "If I return and find you neck deep in paperwork and unconscious, I might just feel inclined to leave you like that!"

"Poppy, I assure you, I will not be doing any paperwork today. Minerva has already taken it upon herself to remove every sheet of paper that may need my signature from this office. I will simply be having a little meeting with Cornelius and Amelia Bones so they can honestly tell the public they've seen me and that I'm not about to expire."

Pomfrey grumbled at that, wishing Dumbledore would take things a bit more seriously and remain in bed for another week instead of return to his duties. But he was Headmaster and Head of the Wizengamot and tons of other things. Work needed to be done. She still questioned whether or not it was a good idea to have Albus keep all of his positions, but at the moment finding a replacement would do more harm than good. Merlin only knew what sort of person would take his place if he did decide to step down from a post. With Fudge, she wouldn't be surprised if someone like Yaxley got involved.

"Well, if you begin to tire, you best return to bed, Albus," Pomfrey stated.

"I will, Poppy, I will," he promised, going behind his desk as the fireplace flared green.

Madam Bones stepped out, soon followed by Minister Fudge.

"Good morning, Madam Pomfrey," Madam Bones greeted before looking to Albus. "How are you, Albus?"

"Much better than I was last week," Dumbledore answered jovially.

"Yes, we were told you were under the care of experts outside the Ministry," Fudge said. "They treated you well?"

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, as if wondering why Cornelius would think otherwise, but in actuality he was surprised they didn't know he had been under the tender care of muggles.

"Yes, perfectly well. I owe them a great deal," he answered honestly.

"Well, Albus, I'll see you later," Pomfrey said, heading toward the door as he bid Fudge and Bones farewell with a nod.

"Of course, Poppy," Dumbledore answered before motioning Fudge and Madam Bones to the chairs across his desk.

O o O o O

Severus exited Lucius' study and went to the library. They had just finished discussing recent events and their precautions for what may come.

Entering the darkened library, he cast a soft lumos and began scanning the shelves. There was a lot of useful knowledge here and Severus wanted to reacquaint himself with a few counter spells.

He closed his eyes, the dark bindings reminding him of Riddle's diary he had recently destroyed. It had been quite resilient and resistant, but in the end it could not withstand his fiendfyre. He had disposed of the evil thing in the Room of Requirement, and it had been a refreshing venture.

He knew Lucius wasn't happy that he had destroyed the diary, but even Lucius had to admit the world was better off without it. He just hoped the Dark Lord wouldn't be asking for it anytime soon.


Severus turned, not surprised to find Draco standing behind him.

"Yes, Draco?" he asked, turning as he removed a book from the shelf.

Severus took in Draco's appearance. There was no denying the boy was a pureblood prince, but there was something . . . a tightness in his shoulders, a wariness etched in his young face that shouldn't be there.

"I didn't know you were here," Draco said after a moment. "Mother didn't say you would be coming or that you had arrived."

"That is because she does not know. I came here to speak with your father and to do some research," he said, deciding there was nothing that needed to be hidden at the moment.

Draco nodded, his eyes flickering to the book's cover.

He didn't comment on Severus' reading material — 'Magicks of Darkness' — instead, he shuffled his feet and looked nervous.

"Is there something bothering you, Draco?"

Draco slowly nodded before Severus motioned him to sit in a nearby chair as he went around and stood in front of him.

"About a week ago, I, uh, overheard my parents talking," Draco began.

Severus listened as Draco summarized everything he had heard, including the precautions that had been set up, how his parents were no longer supporting the Dark Lord, and about Harry being the one who must kill Voldemort.

"I see. Why have you not told your parents that you overheard?" Severus asked.

"They have enough to worry about, and my telling them wouldn't change anything," Draco reasoned. "Besides, father hates when people eavesdrop."

"Why are you telling me, then?"

Draco shrugged. "I don't know. I'm just . . . uncertain about a few things. If mother and I do leave Europe, what about father and everyone else? What about you? Do you think things will really get that bad? Do you think You-Know-Who will become that powerful?"

Severus bit back a sigh.

"Draco, I have always been honest with you, so listen to me now. Things may not get that bad, but if they do, I and a number of others have a few back up plans in place to help protect as many people as we can. Also know that your father and I will not throw our lives away in a futile endeavor, nor will we take needless risks. The same goes for any other who chooses to remain and fight if the future becomes exceedingly dire. And as for what I think about the Dark Lord . . . it is no longer a question of if he becomes that powerful. He is already. However, power is not everything. There are some things the Dark Lord will never understand or have. He is not unbeatable."

Draco nodded, though it was clear he wasn't exactly comforted by Snape's words, just slightly eased.

"Is Harry . . . I mean, is it true? Will Harry have to face him?"

"I believe Harry has already personally faced him twice in the past year, but if I understand your question, yes, someday he will have to face him once again and permanently defeat him."

"Is it because of what happened before? When he was a baby, I mean?" Draco asked.

"Yes." Severus chose not to elaborate. The answer alone was troubling enough.

"Do you think he will succeed, Godfather?" Draco asked.

Severus didn't answer immediately, his mind going to Harry's future battles and struggles, the failures and close calls until, in his mind's eye, he saw a pair of intense green eyes — the last thing he had seen before appearing in his quarters, nine years into the past.

"He will," Severus stated firmly, never so sure of anything in his life.

O o O o O

Dumbledore was happy to see Fudge leave his office, and though he didn't mind Madam Bones, he wanted to be alone so kindly bid her farewell as she vanished into the floo.

What a boring and nearly completely pointless meeting. Well, he supposed he just hadn't been in the mood to endure Fudge's painfully self-important droning voice—not that he ever was in the mood to, but that was beside the point.

Madam Bones was doing a good job as far as he could tell. He was relieved someone like her had become the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He doubted there were many other people who would have responded as well as she had during the past few weeks.

As for Fudge, the man was hopeless. If it was possible, he had become more idiotic than ever before. It was as if he was in another world, oblivious to the current dangers threatening the Ministry and the general population of England — muggle and wizard alike. It was almost as if. . . .

Albus frowned as something seemed to mentally hit him.

Something was remiss. Something was off. Something was wrong with Fudge.

Dumbledore opened his side drawer, reaching for the bowl he had sorely missed the past week. He set the bowl of lemon drops on his desk and put one in his mouth. Disappointed by the near lack of flavor, he stuffed in five more, not caring about the odd look Fawkes was now giving him.

Was he wrong? Was he seeing problems that weren't there (not that Fudge himself couldn't already be deemed a problem)?

Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and began to occlude. Perhaps clearing his mind would help him get to the bottom of this.

As he did, random thoughts surfaced, thoughts and memories he was content to ponder on for a moment before pushing them aside and going on to the next.

Albus smiled, recalling what Severus had told him a few days ago about what he had done to Voldemort.

Only Severus would have the guts to seal foreign contaminants within a Dark Lord's body while being watched, not only by the monster himself, but by Bellatrix and Nagini. The man was bold, and while not fearless, he was braver than most gave him credit for. And though Albus knew consequences would eventually come, he desperately hoped Severus' actions would never be discovered by Voldemort and his followers. It would not end well.

As he pushed that memory away, he went on to the next, certain he was nearly done, but then something jerked. He opened his eyes, not liking the jarring sensation he had just experienced and knowing he needed to play it safe and get help. He couldn't risk whatever just happened getting worse. He had too many memories he needed to keep in order and frankly buried.

He turned his head to Fawkes who was looking at him in concern.

"Please send for Severus. I have a feeling this should be handled sooner rather than later," he said.

Fawkes left with a nod, vanishing in a ball of flame.

O o O o O

Severus threw his outer robe across his chair, quite ready to call it a night, when Fawkes flamed right over his shoulder.

He couldn't help but exclaim a surprised curse word as Fawkes gripped his shoulder and promptly whisked him away.

He quickly recognized the Headmaster's office and couldn't help but immediately fear the worst as he turned around to face his mentor's desk. But his fears seemed to be unfounded when he found Dumbledore sitting behind the desk, looking calm and perfectly fine. Severus forcibly quieted his raging heart, wondering at his abrupt summoning given the man's demeanor.

"Headmaster, I trust this is urgent?" Severus managed.

"I'm afraid it is, Severus. You see, I was occluding a moment ago and had to stop. I believe something is wrong. Could you . . .?" He motioned slightly toward his temple.

Severus frowned, but pulled out his wand and approached the desk anyway.

"What happened?"

"I'm not sure, but while I was occluding, I felt an abrupt shift. It's hard to describe, but it was most uncomfortable."

"I'll try to see what's wrong," Severus stated after casting a diagnostic spell and receiving nothing of note. "Ready?" Albus nodded. "Legilimens!"

Well, Dumbledore's mind was certainly layered, complicated, and eccentric.

The outer mental shield was a gentle lemon drop waterfall. When Albus' mental defenses were fully raised, it was an intense avalanche of impenetrable yellow candies. Thankful that the Headmaster had toned down his occlumency a bit, Severus continued on, trying to get a feel for what was apparently wrong.

He was almost beginning to think it was in his mentor's imagination when it happened. It was barely noticeable, but it was there.

"It happened again," he heard Dumbledore's voice state.

Severus went further, trying to find where the jolt had originated from when it happened again, directing him to a particular location.

He took a moment to examine what he was sensing, before backing out and ending the spell.

"I believe I understand the problem, Headmaster. Some of your defenses are slipping, and when your magic detects this, it tries to fix it — hence the jolts. I doubt this is permanent or a cause for great alarm, as I can sense your abilities for this magical art are still present and strong."

"What's caused this and how severe is it?" Albus asked.

Severus wasn't surprised by the question. It was difficult for anyone, no matter their expertise, to see and diagnose a problem within their own mental shields. It was why it was strongly advised to ask a trusted occlumens and legilimens for help when a problem was suspected. Sometimes someone on the 'outside' needed to take a look.

"I can only assume this is a result from your recent head injury. We don't fully understand the brain, as you know, but it's clear such injuries can have consequences in every aspect of the mind. I believe you will just need to re-strengthen and perhaps rebuild a few sections of your defenses. I also wouldn't be surprised if repairing this would aid in relieving some of your other problems, mainly that of concentration."

Dumbledore smiled. "I do believe you are correct, my boy. Thank you."

"As for where the fractures are located, I would focus on recent memories and then go from there. The damage doesn't seem to go too far back, memory wise."

"That shouldn't be too difficult," Albus said, privately relieved things were not as serious as he had initially feared.

"No, it shouldn't be, but if you do require my assistance, I'll be in my quarters," Severus said with a gentle nod.

With that, Severus exited through the fireplace, leaving the capable Headmaster to do some mental repairs.

O o O o O

A/N: Sorry this part took so long, but I had slammed into a huge wall of writer's block made of bad lemon drops.

Next part is under construction.