The bookcase closed with a thud, as Severus turned on his heels. He was winded as if he had just run several miles. He had been positive that he was ready for Potter's questioning, but it had stirred up many emotions that he wasn't expecting. Such an array of emotions hit him in the short span of time he spent answering the questions. Happiness, anger, hatred, fear, shame, and heart wrenching anguish were all running at once and he didn't know how to deal with them.
For so long he kept things boxed away in his mind. It was rare when he needed to think of something happy; the last time being when he needed to conjure a Patronus. His normal modes of being the sinister professor and loyal Death Eater the ones most often used. To Severus, he wasn't even sure if he were capable of being anything other then the sinister man the world knew him as. There was a time though when he had felt and had loved.
Potter's questions of Lily brought back those familiar feeling that he had buried deep within himself all those years ago. At first, it had felt so right to talk about her. To remember the good times they had before he went and messed it all up. That one word had ruined their friendship. If he could, he would go back in time and change it all there was no doubt that he would.
When Potter had asked, what happened to their friendship those pleasant memories left him. Instead, it was replaced with the malicious memory of being tormented by James Potter and his gang of fools. While he called the woman that he adored a mud-blood.
But that had brought him to Potter's statement that he saw the Dark Lord torturing him. Severus couldn't help but feel ashamed. He was a grown man, capable of withstanding the Cruciatus Curse. Now Potter would think he was weak and would now start to question how someone like him could keep him and his relatives safe. That was of little consequence now.
Severus went for some parchment and quill and scribbled a note to Dumbledore. "Fawkes!" He called, as a flame emerged in midair followed a fraction of a second later by the red-feathered phoenix. Severus tide the rolled up note to the bird's leg. "You know who to take this too." He muttered, the phoenix gave a squawk of acknowledgment and was gone in a flash.
Summoning his glass of whiskey he gave a heavy sigh before bringing it to his lips. It wasn't long though before Dumbledore in the dimly lit room looking perplexed. "Would you like something to drink Headmaster?"
"No thank you Severus. Could you tell me exactly what is going on?" Dumbledore asked as he pulled out a chair and sat down at the table. Severus followed suit.
Severus took his time explaining the best he could to the Headmaster, as he didn't leave the Potter boy much time to explain it himself. Dumbledore listened intently nodding in understanding as he retold Potter's tale.
"Ah, I see…" Dumbledore said, leaning back against the chair. "Well this is quite the development."
"That's all you have to say? This can't be normal. Shouldn't we be a bit worried? If Potter can see into the Dark Lord's mind who says that the Dark Lord can't see into his?" Severus asked his glass of whiskey forgotten.
"No one at all Severus. Of course if Harry can see into Tom's mind then the reverse can happen. I do not believe that Tom is aware of this at the moment, but it might not be long before he figures it out. You must prevent Harry from seeing into his mind and vice versa." Dumbledore replied calmly running his fingers over the length of his beard.
"I have to prevent him? Do you not think I have enough to cope with right now? Why don't you do it? I have enough on my plate." Severus' words were brusque, but didn't seem to have any affect on the elder wizard.
"Severus, I have never doubted your abilities. You can handle many things. I, unlike you am not quite as accomplished at Occlumency. Harry will do well under your teachings." Dumbledore replied with a small smile his blue eyes twinkling.
"This is ridiculous Albus! It's one thing to have them live here under my roof. I do not like it but I can deal with it. But now Petunia has become a complete nutcase. I am now overseeing Potter and his idiotic cousin most of the day. I have barely have time to prepare any potions, start lesson plans and on top of that I have to be on Potter about his homework. Not to mention the Order meetings, Death Eater meetings, and oh yeah the staff meetings I will have to attend in the next couple of months." Severus rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. He realized that he was sounding rather childish but he was sick of serving so many people. It only infuriated him more by the grin that the Headmaster was giving him.
"I did not realize Harry's education was of such importance to you Severus." Dumbledore replied, giving him a knowing smile.
"I do not care about his education. There are certain people however, who know that he is with me for the summer. I will not have him going back to school with the trash that he normally hands in." He crossed his arms tighter over his chest starring blankly at the headmaster. "Anyway that doesn't matter right now…"
"No, no…of course it doesn't. Severus, it is essential that you start teaching Harry Occlumency. He cannot keep seeing into the Tom's mind. It is too risky. Until you think he has mastered the art of Occlumency you should not tell him too much about Order. There is some information that I do not want Tom privy too." Dumbledore was no longer smiling the lines on his face drawn.
"Fine." Severus said at last. "I doubt he'll be able to learn. He is far too emotional."
"I don't think you give Harry enough credit Severus. He is able to resist of the Imperius Curse. With some dedicated practice I'm sure he will be a fine Occlumens."
Severus gave a grunt as the Headmaster rose from his chair.
"Headmaster, did you know that Potter lived in a cupboard?" His words were whispery as they escaped his lips. Dumbledore raised his brows, but it wasn't the response Severus was looking for. "You did know!" He too rose from his chair. "You knew that they let him sleep in a cupboard and you still thought it was right to leave him in their care?"
"It was what was best for him. The protection-"
"Who gives a damn about the blood protection. That is pure neglect! How could you turn a blind eye to something like that?" His voice was raised, a tone he normally wouldn't use with the headmaster.
"Severus, the protection that the blood wards offers is for Harry's own protection." Dumbledore stated smoothly.
"Yes, protection from the Dark Lord, but what was protecting him from his relatives?" Severus couldn't believe what he was hearing. It almost sounded as if he didn't really care about Potter's wellbeing at all.
Dumbledore sighed as he ran a hand over his furrowed face. "I had to think of things as a whole. Tom is much more a threat to Harry then his relatives are." Snape shook his head as Dumbledore continued. "Harry wasn't given an easy life, but he has come out of it rather well."
"You got lucky…" Severus said as he let out a great sigh.
"I suppose we did, but Severus I must be going. We'll be in contact soon."
Severus didn't get another chance to speak. As quickly as Dumbledore had arrived he had left again leaving a disgruntled Snape sitting at the table. He glanced quickly up at the clock noting the late hour.
He abandoned the office and headed for the stairs. He took his time climbing them, the healed flesh pulling at his wounds. It didn't take long however to reach the top. A light illuminated from under the first bedroom door. He could hear the muffled voices just on the other side.
Without any noticed he pushed the door open as two nightclothes clad teenagers stared back at him. Panic-stricken Potter went to reach for his wand.
"You wont be needing that." He muttered, as Potter's wand flew into his outstretched hand. "I've spoken with the Headmaster…" Severus cleared his throat and continued on. "He seems to think that you would benefit from some Occlumency lessons."
"What?" Potter asked as he sat up against the headboard. "You've already spoken with him? I was hoping-"
"It doesn't matter what you were hoping for. The Headmaster has given me orders to teach you Occlumency-"
"I don't even know what that is!" Potter yelled, causing the vein in Severus' forehead to throb.
"If you give me a chance I will explain." He said evenly as he summoned a spindle chair into the room and sat down closer to Potter's transfigured bed. He waited expectantly for Potter to continue arguing, but when he didn't he continued on. "Occlumency is a branch of magic that seals the mind against magical intrusion and influence."
"Andy why does Professor Dumbledore think I need this, sir?" Potter said, looking back into Severus' onyx eyes.
Severus looked back at him with a raised brow. "Surely even you could have worked that out by now, Potter? The Dark Lord is highly skilled at Legilimency."
"I have no idea what that is…"
"Legilimency is the ability to extract feelings and memories from another person's mind-"
"He can read minds?" Potter asked quickly, looking alarmed.
"Wow…that is not normal." Dudley said, looking similarly to his cousin.
"You do not understand fine distinctions. It is one of the shortcomings that make you such a deplorable potion-maker." Severus paused for a moment, savoring the pleasure of insulting Potter who merely rolled his eyes. "Only Muggles," His eyes darted towards Dudley. "Talk of 'mind reading.' The mind is not a book to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of the skull, to be perused by an invader. The mind is a complex and many layered thing, Potter…or at least most mines are…." He smirked. "It is true, however, that those who have mastered Legilimency are able, under certain conditions, to delve into the mind of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly. The Dark Lord, for instance, almost always knows when somebody is lying to him. Only those skilled at Occlumency are able to shut down those feelings and memories that contradict the lie, and so utter falsehoods in his presence without detection."
"That still sounds a lot like mind reading…" Potter muttered his face pallid. "So he could know what we're thinking right now, sir?"
"The Dark Lord is at a considerable distance and the wards around the house protect us. It also helps to have eye contact when doing Legilimency."
"Well then, why do I have to learn Occlumency?"
Severus eyed Potter, tracing his mouth with one long, thin finger as he did so. "The usual rules do not seem to apply with you, Potter. The curse that failed to kill you seems to have forged some kind of connection between you and the Dark Lord. The evidence suggests that at the time when your mind is most relaxed and vulnerable - when you are asleep, for instance - you are sharing the Dark Lord's thoughts and emotions."
"I don't want to sleep in here!" Dudley said, jumping off of the bed.
Severus however just eyed him with a raised brow. "If you don't want to sleep in here I'm sure I can find a cupboard for you…"
With that Dudley returned to the bed and Potter started in again.
"Why does Dumbledore-"
"Professor Dumbledore." Severus corrected.
"Why does Professor Dumbledore want it to stop? I mean I don't like it!" Potter added hastily. "But it could be useful, couldn't? We could know what he was planning then."
Severus stared at Potter for a few moments, still tracing his mouth with his finger. When he spoke it was slow and deliberate as though he weighed every word.
"It appears the Dark Lord is unaware of the connection between you and himself. We do not know how long this will last. If he does find out he could start putting false memories in your head. It is not your job to get inside information about his plans-"
"No, that's your job."
"Yes, it is." said Severus his voice dripping with venom. "So we will be having these Occlumency lessons once a week. If I feel you're not trying as hard as you should be I will make you have more lessons."
"You're going to be ransacking my brain? I would really prefer if you didn't."
"Trust me I don't want to spend my valuable time going through your mind, but I will only be seeing glimpses of your memories. If you really don't want me in your head then you will just have to work hard to keep me out." With a flick of his wand the lights dimmed.
"What are you doing?" Dudley asked his voice abnormally high.
"You're both going to go to bed." Severus said as he heard the rustling of bedcovers and the groaning of Dudley's bed. It surprised Severus that he didn't hear a single complaint from either boy, but was inwardly glad not to have to argue with either of them.
"Now Potter," His gruff voice broke the silence. "You are to clear your mind…"
"How do I do that?" A voice from his right asked.
"You need to void yourself of all emotions and all memories. Think of nothing and feel nothing." He muttered, leaning against the hard back of the chair.
"How do you stop feeling and thinking…" Potter asked as he tossed on his bed. "I can't do this. This is too weird. Do you have to be in here?"
"Yes, I need to be in here. Trust me I don't plan on staying all night…but I would like to get you started on Occlumency and this is a basic step. Now be quiet and clear your mind."
"Just because you tell me to clear my mind doesn't mean I know how to do it…." Potter groaned.
"You're making this far too difficult. Just stop thinking." Severus growled his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.
"How do you stop think-"
"Potter! Shut up." He waited for silence before continuing. "Now," he muttered. "Close your eyes and take slow, deep, breaths."
Twenty minutes passed in silence before Severus thought that both boys were asleep. He stood and moved his chair to an empty corner, before exiting the room.