A Very Albus and Severus Advent

Welcome, one and all, to the SS19 2011 advent calendar. Twenty four nights of Severus and Albus one-shots with one theme in common - er - Albus and Severus!

Dedicated to every Albus and Severus fan. Merry Christmas! ~ SS19

1st December: 'You Don't See'

Minerva challenges Albus over his treatment of Severus, leading Albus to make a judgment of his own. Dedicated to His Lil' Half Blood Princess.

There was a knocking at his door, and his visitor was lucky he was dressed. It was only just seven o clock, after all. Albus Dumbledore moved across his office, listening to the stirrings of portraits as they shifted position and awoke at his soft footsteps, opening the door. "Minerva." He greeted cheerfully, looking at his Deputy Headmistress who half smiled at him, "Albus. Did I wake you?"

"As if I could sleep in and miss the dawn chorus, Minerva." Albus replied, "Come in, come in, I just had tea brought up." He gestured to the armchairs in his office, "I must admit, I am slightly bewildered as to your visit so very early in the morning. Is everything well?"

Minerva glanced at him as she sat down, "I do not think so. I was awoken, this morning. I went to the staffroom at three o clock, to find..." She paused. Albus watched her expectantly, "A student?"

She shook her head, "No. It was Severus."

Albus stiffened despite himself. He lingered before speaking again. "How was he?" He had turned away, busying himself with serving the tea.

"Not good, Albus." Minerva shifted position uncomfortably in her chair. "Albus. I have stood by this and watched what has been happening for nearly a year now - but I cannot stand by any longer. You need to address this situation."

Albus put the teapot down and turned to face Minerva, "Which situation are you referring to, Minerva?"

"Do not do this, Albus. You know what I am speaking about. Severus cannot keep playing this game." Minerva clasped her hands together in front of her, "You know that I trust you and that I will always trust your judgment - except in this. I do not understand why you are doing this to Severus. Forcing him to spy."

Albus hesitated before answering, "I have no choice, Minerva, and you know that well."

"He is falling apart. I sat with him until six o clock this morning, Albus. He hardly said a word. He just needed the company. You realise, of course, what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is doing to him."

"Severus will come for support when he needs it." Albus turned away from her, "When he needs me, he will come."

"He's frightened, Albus. He is frightened for his very life and you would do nothing to reassure him!" Minerva's tone had hardened and sharpened, "He is just a man - "

"Severus is in no danger when he is with Lord Voldemort, Minerva."

Minerva stopped, mid sentence, incredulous at this statement. "Is that what you think?"

"Voldemort will never kill Severus because Severus is the one link that he has to me - a spy, in my camp - a weapon, to be used against me when he needs be - he will never kill Severus, he will never mortally injure him, because he needs Severus. He needs Severus more than he will ever admit." The words were recited so bluntly, so monotonously, that Minerva knew this could not be - would not be - the truth. "You do not believe that, surely, Albus?"

"He is in no danger when he is with Voldemort - "

Minerva leapt to her feet, "Voldemort would kill him without a second thought!" She shouted, "You did not see him, last night, Albus! You did not see the blood and the paleness of his skin and the gauntness of his cheeks and the expression of utter hopelessness in his eyes - "

"I look at him every day, Minerva! I look into those eyes every day! I look at those cheeks and that skin and I see the many injuries that have torn him apart -"

"But still, you do not see." Minerva whispered. "You see what you want to see, Albus. You see a man who is willing to do what you command because he loves you, and he would sacrifice everything he owns for you. You see a spy, when you should see a weary soldier."

"I see Severus, Minerva. Do not think the emotions he feels for me are not mutual."

"Do you care for him, at all?"

This seemed to incite Albus' anger, "I care for that child more than you could imagine, Minerva!'

"He is no child, Albus! He is a man who is far older than he should be - living on borrowed time and paying the price for his mistakes - and for trusting you!" She stopped, realizing what she had said. "I didn't - I don't - that's not what I meant."

Albus had flinched, as if hurt by her words, "You think he should not trust me."

"I think - I just want someone to help him, Albus. I just want someone to stand beside him."

"Minerva. I appreciate your concern and I understand your intentions. But you have to trust me on this, Minerva. You have to understand that I have no choice in this matter - and neither does Severus, for if he were to turn from Voldemort now, Voldemort would kill him. If he stays near me, he stays the safest he could possibly be."

Minerva shook her head, "I cannot believe that you can truly stand here, in front of me, and say that, Albus. It - it breaks my heart. I thought you were stronger than this." She headed for the door.

"I love him, Minerva. I do love him - and it hurts me to send him to Voldemort, but I have no choice. That is the price I must pay - I must risk harm to those I care for." He looked down at the table before him, "Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

It seemed the conversation was at an end - but Minerva looked back at the final moment. "Have you seen him cry?"

Albus looked up, "Pardon?"

"Last night. When I found him. Severus was crying. Never, in twenty years of knowing him, have I seen Severus cry. Please, Albus. Do something. I beg of you, do something." She closed the door behind her.

Albus stared at the wooden archway for a long while after she left.

"Am I interrupting something, Severus?" Albus murmured from the doorway, eyes focused on what was the back of an armchair, where he imagined his friend and spy was seated.

"No, Headmaster. Please, come in." Severus did not turn to look at him. He continued to stare into the fire. Albus moved closer, glancing at the empty potion bottles on the table beside Severus and understanding that the other was struggling with his addition to those substances that could relieve the constant pain of his existence. He moved into Severus' eye line, "I have been thinking, Severus."

Severus' eyes flickered to Albus', "Is that so?" His voice was neutral.

Albus stared at the pale skin and the gaunt cheeks and examined the black eyes that met his, seeing the untold story of Severus' suffering. He lowered himself to his knees before Severus, realizing that of all the sins he had committed in his life, this one was most likely the worst. Who was he to do this, to Severus? Who was he to command this of the man he had grown to care for, so very deeply? Who was he to ask him to give his blood and his mind and his life, for a cause Severus no longer cared for? "This will not make what you do any easier - what you do for me. But I need you to know that I am very grateful for everything that you do. I know that these are just words and you - the words will not make you feel any better. But you need to know the emotion behind them." He reached out and took Severus' limp fingers in his, wrapping his own around the calloused and rough skin. "I am here for you - I will never leave you - and no matter what I ask you to do, please understand that if I had a choice, I would keep you safe. I would protect you. I am doing so, by ensuring that you have value to Voldemort. But I am here. Always."

Severus continued to stare at him, looking for something, although Albus was not sure what. After a moment, he looked away. "Thank you." He murmured, and his fingers tightened in Albus'.

"We will find the way through this, Severus. Until then, I will be your support. I will be here for you, no matter what hour of the day, no matter what he does to you - come to me, and I will find a way to make things better - because I owe you that."

Severus shook his head, "You owe me nothing, Headmaster. I will find a way through this. You do not need to pretend that I mean something to you."

Albus straightened his back and reached out to stroke Severus' cheek with the back of his hand. "No, Severus. I owe you everything, and you mean everything to me." He paused. "I just needed someone to help me see that."