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The portrait of Dumbledore sighed then, stroking the beard that went below the frame, so that his hand was hidden from view for just a second. He looked sadly at Hermione and when Professor Snape cleared his throat impatiently, his sad gaze was redirected.
"I'm an old fool," he said then, capturing the attention of not only the three people he was addressing directly but also the hundreds of past masters and mistresses. Minerva had shakily stepped back and sunk into her own seat and with a reluctant glare Professor Snape had done the same.
"I don't understand how that's possible, " Hermione said. Albus shook his head and gestured for her to return to her seat as well. She did.
"That day you left, Hermione, I had realized something very important," he began and then suddenly addressed the other two, "Yes Hermione was a 'student' in the year 1977. I knew that she was from the future as did you Minerva. She was there for several months and as she said, had begun a serious friendship with Severus. "
Minerva nodded, letting him know that she had heard and Professor Snape had that flash of awe on his face once again. He turned to Hermione and blinked at her before turning back to the Headmaster's portrait.
"We, of course, all know of the fateful prophecy made so many years ago that had targeted young Harry as the savior of our world," Dumbledore paused here, shaking his portrait head and taking a moment to collect his thoughts.
It was alarming Hermione, the state that he was in. She had never seen the Headmaster so disoriented and guilty, even in portrait form.
"That wasn't the only prophecy spoken about the Lily and James Potter. In 1960, while researching a dark charm that had begun to become quite popular in Ireland, I began a beautiful friendship with a seer, Melampus Argos. He was widely known in Greece and had left his homeland for a bit of peace in Ireland."
"Not many knew his talent and I'll admit that neither did I. He kept his secret well hidden, preferring to live his life quietly and with those who wouldn't take advantage of his gift. One evening Melampus and I had stopped by an old Inn for a bit of food."
Dumbledore looked lost in memory.
"Melampus entered a prophetic trance that evening, as we ate our Shepherd's pie. I immediately knew what was happening and requested a room. I had managed, on sheer dumb luck, to drag him up to the room and secure it's privacy before he began to speak."
Dumbledore paused and looked sadly at Professor Snape, who was watching him with interest.
"The power to vanquish the Dark Lord comes with the marriage of the cruel doe to the cocky stag. Only this union will teach the doe to feel truly and to give herself to another. Thrown together by fate's manipulative hand, their bond will ensure a power the Dark Lord knows not. Her personality mustn't shine too brightly for she will surely be left alone and with her deserved loneliness the Dark Lord will remain on his throne."
The words sunk into Hermione as Dumbledore spoke. She memorized each one as they left his lips and traveled to her ears, but at the moment, she could not process their meaning.
The room was quiet as the occupant's thought about Melampus' prophecy and what it meant to the alteration of events that lay before them. Hermione's own mind was racing as she picked apart the prophecy bit by bit.
The meaning was simple, really, but the consequence of the actions taken to fulfill the prophecy was both unsettling and hard to come to terms with.
Albus didn't wait for the odd trio to fully comprehend his words.
"Melampus and I parted ways shortly after that, as he truly had no trust for those who knew of his power. I went back to England, unsuccessful on my journey, and began a new school year. Voldemort hadn't truly come to power yet but it had been a deep fear of mine and I knew he was working on collecting supporters. Melampus' prophecy only confirmed my guesses."
"I knew that the prophecy applied to Lily Evans and James Potter after the incident that nearly involved your death Severus. James cover was blown as a stag animagus and it was truly enlightening for me. I began to watch James Potter and his friends more closely and eventually discovered that Lily Evan's corporeal Patronus was a doe."
"In your 5th year Severus, when Sirius Black and James Potter lifted you in the air by the lake, I recognized that your friend Lily Evans was not who she said she was. After I watched the incident in my pensieve, having collected the memory from an eyewitness, it was truly sad for me to realize that someone you called a friend, someone you loved had taken amusement from something that was a tragedy to you. It reall-"
"HOW DARE YOU?" Professor Snape interrupted Albus, leaping form his chair and roaring the words. His eyes had a mad glint to them and spittle flew from his lips.
"Are you trying to imply, Albus, that Lily Evans was cruel? That she was mean hearted and mean spirited and that our friendship didn't end that day because I called her a MUDBLOOD but because she wanted it to?" Professor Snape yelled.
Hermione took a deep breath and tried to collect her senses. This was painful to watch when she and Severus had been friends just a few weeks ago, but even more so know that she was here with his adult counterpart, Professor Snape.
Hermione looked to Minerva, who usually would have stopped Professor Snape's outburst at this point, but noticed that the older witch had her lips drawn into that familiar thin line that meant she was pretty angry herself.
As was Hermione of course. This could only mean that Professor Dumbledore had somehow found a way to erase her and the events she participated in that uncovered Lily's true personality, from their memories.
This could only mean that Professor Dumbledore willingly let Professor Snape sacrifice his life and time over and over again under the pretense that he was cherishing the memory of someone he believed was good, someone he believed HE had wronged, someone he loved.
"Severus, Lily Evans was indeed cruel," Dumbledore began, addressing Professor Snape's accusations, "She was drunk with the idea of power and she was not afraid to sacrifice others to get what she considered success. Her friendship with you was one of those sacrifices and though I believe a small part of her was guilty and truly sorry for what she had done to you, a larger part didn't care."
"NONSENSE," Professor Snape stood and grabbed the nearest trinket from Minerva's desk, throwing it against the Headmaster's portrait. It shattered with a satisfying tinkle of broken glass and though Hermione didn't condone such actions usually, there was something satisfying about the way Dumbledore had flinched.
"Professor," Hermione interjected quietly, laying a hand on his arm. He started at her touch and turned to her, shaking her hand from his person and sneering down at her unattractively.
"What is it Miss Granger? You expect me to believe this hobble because you claimed you traveled in time and we were friends? Idiotic girl." He spat the words and though Hermione felt each and every one she understood his anger. He had been lied to for so many years, lied to by someone he had trusted more than anyone.
"Professor, perhaps I should show you the events of my time travel," Hermione said, knowing that in doing so he would realize her feelings for him, but in the grand picture of things it was a small sacrifice to bring truth to a man who more than deserved it.
"I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOUR SILLY MEMORIES GIRL," Snape yelled at her, waving his hands wildly before him. She had never seen him so angry. She stepped back, a little frightened by the intensity of his anger.
"Really Severus," Minerva piped in, affronted that he had treated Hermione, who she considered an innocent bystander, in such a way.
"Don't." He snapped at the older witch, turning his attention back to the Headmaster.
"Severus, I cannot tell you how inexplicably sorry I am. I cannot tell you how guilty I felt, fueling your own guilt, knowing that it was given to a person you owed little too. The only thing you should have done to repent your previous actions, was to make up for giving Voldemort the information about the Prophecy, something that would have required much less than what you gave. But you must understand, Harry had to be kept safe and I knew that side of yourself you kept so secret, that compassionate side, would only do us good in this war. Please know that it was done for the good—"
"Don't spew that nonsense at me Albus. I have given more than enough for the greater good. What you are telling me now contradicts everything I know. Lily Evans was a beautiful person, she was kind hearted, and the only friend I had growing up. The only cruelty she ever showed me came at my own actions and fault," Professor Snape's words were saturated with a deep sadness that pierced the room and tainted it's occupants. He didn't deserve this.
Hermione took a deep breath, knowing that the next words she spoke would only serve to anger Professor Snape further.
"She was not a good person Professor. She was cruel, she took pleasure in humiliating you, and she only ever wanted power. It's hard for me to speak of her that way, knowing that she is the mother of one of my best friends, but I saw the real Lily Evans when I traveled in the past. She was not a good person." Hermione said the words quickly, alarmed by the increasingly crazy look that was in Professor Snape's eyes.
"Don't you EVER talk about Lily Evans that way in my presence, EVER AGAIN," He shouted before stalking to the door, opening it, and slamming it shut behind him. She could hear his angry curses follow him down the stair steps and she felt sick—sick with herself, sick with anger, and mostly sick with Professor Dumbledore.
"Hermione," Minerva said, "Surely Lily Potter wasn't all that bad. I remember her as being a lovely person who touched several people's lives. Her love was the only thing that kept young Mr. Potter alive! She had to have been good."
"Ah, Minerva." Dumbledore said sadly, "I believe that eventually Lily began to truly love James Potter and with that she had begun to change into the person that most people remember her as. I was concerned for Harry's wellbeing when he was first born, but it was clear to me that Lily had changed and that she truly had loved her son. She didn't deserve to die, by any means, but she was not a good person while she attended Hogwarts."
Hermione watched Minerva McGonagall as she contemplated Dumbledore's words. Finally she nodded her head with a firm shake.
"Well then Albus," Minerva spoke again, this time her voice shaking in its anger, "You have a lot of explaining to do."
The late Headmaster hung his head guilty and only nodded, sadness filled his blue eyes and it became more than Hermione could take.
"I can't listen to this right now," she whispered, aware that the morning's events were beginning to affect her. Tears would start pouring down her face at any moment and she was not ready to place herself in such a vulnerable position.
She shakily stood up from her chair and walked to the door, opening it and leaving quietly.
"She loves him," Minerva said with awe after Hermione had left, forgetting for a moment that the Headmaster she had trusted had been quite dishonest.
"Yes," Albus said, "I believe she does."
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