Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to J.K. Rowling. This story belongs to me.
A/N- Hello, and welcome to the newest instalment of this mammoth story! When I was writing this chapter, it actually flowed really well, but I had to spend quite a bit of time making sure that it wasn't too confusing. It's all essentially one scene, but it does jump around quite a bit from flashbacks to the present, so I hope it comes across okay. I also should add that a fair bit of this chapter actually comes from Order of the Phoenix – although the majority is paraphrased rather than directly copied from the text. All will make sense soon, so without further ado, enjoy!
~Strength in Weakness~
From the second he slipped into Potter's mind, Snape desperately wanted to leave.
It was chaos – undeniable, overpowering chaos. He felt the very air freeze in his throat and all sensible thought fly from his own mind as he tried to navigate through the boy's wild consciousness. It was impossible though; it was as if he'd stepped straight onto a battlefield where two sides were warring against each other with indiscriminate rage, destroying everything in their path.
Snape forced himself to take a deep breath in an attempt to anchor himself more solidly, but it was more than a little difficult; he'd never felt so overwhelmed in another person's mind before, and it was next to impossible for him to get his bearings. Concentrating, he could make out the two very distinct, separate entities fighting over one space, but other than the fact that they felt as different as fire and ice, he could make out little else.
In the background, Snape could feel his body tense, but his mind – now linked to the boy's, and in turn, the Dark Lord's – took all focus away. His physical body didn't matter anymore. The only thing that mattered was the war going on inside Potter' head.
"Potter," his mind called out, reaching for the boy's consciousness. There was darkness, and then just as suddenly, there was light. Bright light, full of colour and sound.
And then scenes were playing in front of him as if they were from a muggle film.
Memory after memory flashed up erratically as the Dark Lord rifled through Potter's thoughts – no doubt still searching for their location. The evil wizard searched painfully, and without care. In fact, it was almost as if the Dark Lord was trying to cause as much damage as possible…
A black-haired, green-eyed boy wearing broken glasses and a split lip, being shoved bodily into a small space that Snape now knew to be the cupboard under the stairs.
That same boy, older, on a broomstick, feeling the cold hit him as the dememtors grew near, then falling, falling, as he heard a woman scream so loudly that it was as if it was from inside his own head.
"Not Harry! Please…"
Snape wanted to be sick. It was too much. It hurt.
"Potter…" he called out again desperately, his mind still reaching out. The Dark Lord was unrelenting in his search, but the memories never played out to the end, and it took a few seconds before Snape realised that it was not the Dark Lord's doing, but Potter's.
Potter was there, and he was fighting back against the evil presence.
It wasn't enough to throw the Voldemort out completely, but quite honestly, Snape didn't know how Potter was resisting even as much as he was. The Dark Lord's assault…Snape had felt the man's intrusion before, but this time it felt as if his own mind was burning with the strength of it all. It was too much…
And that was only second-hand. What Potter himself must be feeling…
The little black-haired, green-eyed boy was staring at him. There was another bruise on his face and tears in his eyes.
Help me, he was saying. Help me, help me…
Snape pushed on and forced himself to concentrate on what he had to do.
With an effort that hurt as if the devil himself was drilling holes in his skull, Snape forced his way through the flashes of memory and doggedly began his search, well aware that the clock was ticking.
This time, of course, he wasn't looking for confirmation of Potter's awful childhood, nor any evidence of possible wrong-doing on Potter's part. No, instead he was looking for the good memories. The ones that Potter didn't quite have the strength to find himself.
After all, the only true way to counter darkness was with light.
Seeing one flash up of Weasley and Granger laughing along with Potter, Snape latched on to it and tugged it to the forefront. He felt the foundation of Potter's mind shake, the boy instinctively fighting his presence, but he held firm. Potter would remember…
He felt the warmth of the memory begin to overtake Voldemort's ice, starting to melt it away. Voldemort clung on though and –seeming to realise what Snape was trying to do - retaliated with a memory of his own.
Diggory was lying on the grass, face up, eyes staring up at nothing, no light beneath those irises. Potter was struggling, but he was weak and scared and in shock, and Pettigrew was easily able to force him against a gravestone. Potter tried to jerk away, but it was already too late. He was trapped.
"No…" Snape muttered, though he couldn't truly be sure whether he had said the word aloud or simply thought it. It was a singularly unusual and destabilising feeling to be so utterly entrenched within someone else's memory, even more so when two separate minds were playing tug of war over the third.
Potter was holding the Dark Lord back, but Snape knew they had to go on the attack if they had any chance of surviving the encounter. Remembering the last time the teenager had encountered the Dark Lord's ferocious mental attack, Snape began desperately pulling up every good memory he could find before throwing it forward, forcing the boy to relive them over and over again. It would be painful, there was no doubt about that, but it would work, just as it had last time. Snape would make it work.
"Potter, you must remember," Snape told the boy's fractured mind. "All is not lost. There is always hope – always. You are no alone any longer. He will not win."
Potter was on his broom, soaring through the air without a care in the world. Truly free, for the first time in his life.
Then Molly Weasley was there, taking the boy into her arms and hugging him, allowing his worries to fall on her shoulders, if only for a moment.
Remus Lupin, teaching him how to combat the Dementors.
Sirius Black, offering Potter a place to love only hours after first meeting him.
Lily Potter singing softly to her baby boy, only hours before they would part forever…
He felt the Dark Lord scream, and Potter's mind shook with the force that was now coming from the evil presence. It was fire and ice and pain, and Snape felt so connected to it that he wasn't sure he would ever be able to break free.
Lily continued to sing to her baby.
Sensing an opportunity to end it, Snape focused on images of Potter's mother. Lily did not feature in the boy's conscious memories for obvious reasons, but Snape was so deeply entrenched in Potter's mind that he was able to dig more deeply than even the boy would be able to manage, pulling forward memories that Potter would not be remember by himself.
Lily was holding her baby as she danced around the room with him. She was singing to him. She was kissing him on the forehead. She was telling him that she loved him and that everything was going to be okay.
Snape felt the Dark Lord scream again, this time in desperation not anger, and although he'd braced himself for a final attack, Snape was unprepared for the sheer force of it. Snape shook with pain. He felt Potter scream.
No, no, no…
He couldn't hold on – the Dark Lord was too strong. As he felt Lily's face slip away, he heard himself scream too…
And then he was a child again. Greasy black hair, clothes that didn't fit. Lonely and hurt and angry at the world and everything in it. Until a redheaded girl with green eyes had flown into his life and brought light to his dark existence.
Then he was at Hogwarts. They were at Hogwarts together, except he was sorted into Slytherin and she was sorted into Gryffindor and although they tried not to let it bother them, they both knew everything would change. Everything always changed.
Everything did change.
Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew found him an easy target at first, although he quickly fought back, his anger – festering within him from early childhood – fuelling his cruelty. He vowed to himself that he would never be weak again. He would search for power, strength, anything so that he would never be weak.
He attacked them as often as they attacked him.
Snape was drawn to the Dark Arts, and he and Lily – who was pure and good and everything light – grew apart. She could not bear to be near him, and he could not bear to change.
He had to be strong.
"Stop…" Snape whispered, although he could do nothing but watch – just as he knew Potter was watching, the last person he wanted to see him at his weakest…
They were by the side of the lake when James Potter and his gang took him by surprise.
"No," Snape gasped. He struggled, but the force of the Dark Lord's mind was too strong. He couldn't give up though; he desperately didn't want Potter to see this memory, not this one. In his panic and shame, he tried to wrench himself away. He didn't even want to see it himself…
"Alright, Snivellus?" James Potter said loudly.
Snape dropped his bag, plunged his hand in his rope, and had his wand halfway in the air when James shouted, "Expelliarmus!"
The wand flew from his hand and Sirius Black laughed before shouting "Impedimenta!"
Snape was knocked from his feet by the force of the spell, and he felt humiliation and anger burn through him as a crowd of students gathered around him to watch.
"How'd the exam go, Snivelly?" said James, twirling his wand in his fingers.
"I was watching him, his nose was touching the parchment," Sirius said viciously. "There'll be great grease marks all over it; they won't be able to read a word."
Snape struggled to get to his feet. He tried to fight back, swearing and cursing, even though he no longer had a wand, but it was four against one. He was vulnerable and they were hurting him, and then…
"Leave him ALONE!"
She was there. Lily…
Snape stiffened, but still couldn't push the memory away. Voldemort was forcing them to watch. He was forcing Potter to watch…
"Leave him alone," she repeated. "What's he done to you?"
"Well," Potter replied, "It's more the fact that he exists, if you know what I mean…"
As they continued to argue, Snape took the opportunity to inch toward his wand. If he could just reach it, he would be strong again. He would be able to make Potter pay…
He grasped it, and pointed it straight at his childhood enemy with unerring accuracy.
A flash of slight, a scream and then blood was soaking James Potter's robes. Snape revelled in it – in causing the boy pain – but it was short lived. He was still out-numbered, and in another flash of light, Snape found himself hanging upside down, his robes falling over his head to reveal skinny, pallid legs and a pair of greying underpants.
"No…" he muttered. As much as the humiliation of that day burned within him still, what came next hurt was much worse. He didn't want to see it, but he couldn't pull away…
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Lily shouted. She had her own wand out now.
"Ah, Evans, don't make me hex you," James replied.
"Take the curse off him, then!"
Potter followed the order, sighing deeply as he turned to Snape and muttered the counter-curse.
"There you go," Potter said, as Snape struggled to his feet, face still burning with humiliation. "You're lucky Evans was here, Snivillus!"
"I don't need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!"
The words had slipped from his mouth amid his anger and shame. He'd regretted them immediately, but had no time to make amends. Lily had left immediately – rightly so – and he was once again outnumbered, having successfully pushed away the only friend he'd every truly had.
When Potter had turned his attention back to Snape with the purest look of loathing he'd ever witnessed, and had flicked his wand again until Snape was once again in the air, Snape had been glad.
He'd deserved nothing less.
And when Snape had joined the Dark Lord's forces only a couple of years later, that thought would still be on the forefront of his mind, although it would have morphed into something different by then. The need for power, strength, an end to the pain.
He'd deserved nothing less.
"Do you see, Harry?" came the voice of the Dark Lord himself, reverberating around Potter's mind. "Do you see who you stand beside? Who you fight beside? Do you see now how futile it is?"
The Dark Lord was trying to break them both in one go, and Snape knew the evil wizard was close to succeeding. He himself was done, taken apart by a memory of something that happened over twenty years ago…
"No!" came Potter's reply – Harry not James. Suddenly, the boy was there, everywhere, emotions building so quickly that Snape could barely differentiate between them. Before he had been fire to Voldemort's ice. Now he was a Volcano, about to erupt.
"No!" Potter repeated within his mind. "I know who he is. I know who I am. And we are stronger than you, Tom. We always have been and we always will be."
"You're weak," Voldemort hissed back. "Severus is weak."
"He's strong," Potter retorted. "Stronger than he was then, and stronger than you will ever be."
"Potter…" Snape gasped, but the memories came forward before he could stop them. This time Potter was in control, and the light he brought forth was almost blinding.
Potter was eleven, and flying in his first Quidditch game. He was a natural, undoubtedly, however he was no match for Quirrell's curse. But Snape was there, muttering a counter-curse, saving Harry's life even though he already despised him…
The scene flashed forward years – what felt like a lifetime - and suddenly they were in the living room of his personal quarters, sat by the fire, playing chess as Snape tried to help the teenager come to terms with his relative's abuse. Snape wasn't judging him, he was just trying to listen in a way that no one ever had before…
The scene flashed again, and Snape watched as the two of them walking in the rain – Snape barely conscious, Potter dragging his injured body down the street towards the abandoned house. They had fled from Voldemort and the Ministry, only for him to die in the gutter…
Except he hadn't died – he and Potter had both lived – and he'd spent the next couple of days talking Potter though his grief, his guilt, his role in a war he didn't want to fight in.
"You will tell me what is bothering you, and I will attempt to help you," he watched himself say. It felt like it had happened years ago now, before everything had changed, even though in reality it had been mere weeks.
"You are not weak, Potter. Far from it, if even half the stories about your adventures are true."
"You were abused, Potter. You were beaten, bruised and degraded by the people who were supposed to be looking after you. It was not fair."
"You are not weak…"
"You are not, nor will you ever be, alone in your fight!"
"You are not weak…"
It was his face, over and over again, telling Potter things that he had desperately needed to hear.
"Your friends are behind you, the Order is behind you, Dumbledore is behind you. Potter, even I am behind you," the Snape in the memory said.
"You are not weak…"
"He hated my father," Potter continued. "Apparently he hated my mother as well."
The word Mudblood flashed up again, and Snape flinched.
"But," Potter continued, "He doesn't hate me. And I don't hate him. And because of that, you won't win. You can't. You need hate to survive, and there's no hate here!"
Potter's friends flashed up again, along with Black and Lupin and the Weasleys and Dumbledore and Hagrid, and even the boy's owl.
And then Snape's face swam up to join them, as memory after memory appeared, bombarding the Dark Lord in an assault of such goodness and light that even Snape could barely stand it.
"You will not win!" Potter shouted in his mind, fire burning through any remaining ice until the Dark Lord's mind couldn't sustain the connection to either Snape or Potter. With a monumental push from the boy, Snape felt their connection snap, and he was forced from Potter's mind with a force so strong that Snape could hear himself screaming.
"Potter!" he called as his mind catapulted back to his own body.
He blacked out for a second, and when he came to, he felt shaky, clammy, and he couldn't stand. At some point, he'd fallen from his chair onto the carpeted floor, but he couldn't pick himself up. He could barely even see.
He could hear banging on the door outside, and he wondered idly when it had been locked.
Snape blinked hard, fighting against unconsciousness with a stubbornness few could hope to match, searching for the boy. He had to know if he was alright. Potter had to be alright…
He blinked again, and this time saw the boy, still sat in his chair, eyes wide open, unblinking and clearly in shock.
Slowly, Potter turned his head to meet his gaze.
"He's gone, sir," Potter said hoarsely. "And this time, I don't think he'll be coming back."
Potter's expression was so stark that Snape gasped aloud. There was pain, shame, exhaustion, and something that felt a little like pride. It was confusing, overwhelming, and Snape's headache was building to a crescendo that he couldn't hope to curtail.
"He's gone," Potter repeated. Then he closed his eyes and slumped forward in his chair.
From his positon on the floor, Snape finally gave in and followed suit, the darkness swallowing him up until he was falling, down, down, until he knew no more…
A/N – Phew. So, what did you think? This is probably the most intense chapter so far, and definitely the most significant in the developing mentor relationship between Harry and Snape. I've wanted to get the Pensieve memory into the story from the beginning, but I couldn't find a good way to do it until now. Hopefully it was worth the wait? The aftermath of this chapter will hopefully be coming soon, and I haven't forgotten about the trial either, don't worry. For now though, please let me know what you think so far, and until next time, thanks for reading!