Harry helped Snape into an armchair before collapsing onto the couch, breath coming in rough gasps.
“Well that could’ve gone better,” Harry commented, closing his eyes.
“Yes,” Snape replied simply. “Nimby,” he called.
The house elf appeared looking worried. “Master needs something?”
“Bring me my case,” Snape told him. The elf nodded and disappeared. Snape gave Harry a sideways look. “Are you hurt?”
“No,” Harry replied. “I’m fine.”
Snape nodded, then grimaced in regret. “I suggest you get some rest then.”
“I could help-”
“I would rather you go.”
“Oh,” Harry replied. “Okay.”
With one last look over his shoulder at Nimby handing Snape a case filled with potions and him selecting a few, Harry left the room, retreating to his own.
Later that day, Harry woke, thinking it impossible that nothing could have changed between the two of them. Similar to way back in first year with Hermione and the troll, there are some things that cannot be gone through without a change. Harry wondered if Snape was an exception.
It seemed to be around lunchtime as Harry wandered downstairs. He was not overly surprised to find it empty. It was understandable that Snape would need a good long while to recover. Harry decided to use the time to find out a little more about Snape. It wasn’t really prying, it was simple curiosity, wasn’t it? It was totally normal, Harry told himself.
The door to Snape’s study was, unusually open. Harry supposed that there were other things on his mind this morning than worrying about locking every door behind him. Deliberately defying his conscience, Harry pushed the door open farther and stepped in.
The study was nothing unusual. One wall featured a tall bookcase filled half with large volumes and the other half with jars and the odd trinket. A large mahogany desk occupied most of the center of the room, a leather chair sitting behind it. Along the other wall was a small cabinet next to what Harry recognized as a Pensieve. Snape must have somehow brought it along with him.
Harry stepped closer to it, then paused. He knew that he shouldn’t look in it. It was wrong, it was invasive. Yet something puled him towards it. Whether curiosity or something more, Harry justified it with the fact that he needed to know whether to trust the man he had just saved. Willing himself to look in before he changed his mind, Harry gripped the edge of the bowl, falling into a memory.
In truth, it was not one memory but several. Harry stood off to the side, watching as they unfolded.
Snape and Lily lay there on the grass, staring up at the sunlight filtering through the trees and casting dancing shadows on the tree trunks. A tall willow provided them with shade at the edge of the small pond by which they lay. The wind was gentle, just enough to make the leaves rustle. After a long period of silence, Lily sat up abruptly.
“Come on, Sev. Let’s go for a walk.”
“Okay,” he agreed readily, hopping up to follow her down a winding path through the woods. “Where are we going?”
“I just found this shortcut to my house,” Lily said. “It comes out in that little patch of trees by my backyard. Neat, huh?”
The scene morphed into the young Snape comforting a crying Lily. Harry frowned. He felt a little bad watching this. Quickly enough, it melted away into another memory. Harry only needed to see a flash of it before he recognized it as the one he had glimpsed in fifth year.
“I don’t need help from a filthy mudblood like you!”
The hurt on Lily’s face spoke volumes. James simply looked triumphant and Harry felt a stab of sympathy. For Snape. Luckily, before the feeling could build, it switched to another memory.
“Lily Evans, the most beautiful, perfect girl in the world. Lily, will you marry me?”
Snape pushed through the people blocking his view. The look on his face was unfathomable. Snape broke through the ring of people just as Lily looked up, her green eyes bright with happiness.
“Of course,” she breathed.
Snape’s face morphed into one of horror, shock and devastation.
And another memory followed close on its heels.
“Please, protect her, please. The prophecy,” Snape gasped, begging desperately to Dumbledore. It was as emotional as Harry had ever seen him. “The prophecy, He thinks it’s about the Potters. I didn’t know when I told him, I swear I didn’t.”
Harry mind was spinning so fast that he missed what Snape had just admitted to.
“We will do what we can to keep them all safe,” Dumbledore replied. “But in return, I will need you to do something for me.”
“Anything, anything,” Snape replied breathlessly.
“I’ll need you to keep me informed about the Death Eaters’ movements to save other lives, not just the Potters’.”
Snape nodded. “I understand. Thank you.” He turned to go, still obviously shaken.
“Severus,” Albus called him back. “Lily, after all this time?”
Harry’s heart ached as it hadn’t since Sirius died. How strange it was that he could feel Snape’s hurt as acutely as his own.
“No, no, please God no,” Snape whispered, standing in front of a blank space with the Dark Mark floating in the air above the lot. Harry figured that was where his family’s house was, hidden by the Fidelius Charm. The wail of a baby split the night. It was he, Harry realized.
With a pop, Dumbledore materialized, stepping right up to the empty lawn and disappearing. As the roar of a motorcycle sounded above, Snape melted into the darkness.
Harry wished it was over. He wanted these memories to end. They were forcing him to know, to feel. How could he deny that Snape was telling the truth now? Harry had never known the depth of Snape’s love for his mother but now...Harry wished that he didn’t. But the memories didn’t stop.
“The Dark Lord grows impatient,” Snape reported with his usual stoicism. “He wants the boy to do it now, as soon as possible.”
Dumbledore turned, looking concerned in a way that Harry had never seen him. “I thought he was to wait until he was sixteen, in his sixth year.”
Snape shook his head. “He wants you gone now.”
With a jolt, Harry realized they were speaking of Dumbledore’s death. Dumbledore drew in a breath. “I suppose it is for the best that I destroyed the ring already. I had truly wished for an opportunity to discuss it with Harry. Do you think there will be time to explain it all?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea. It all depends on how quickly Draco can come up with a plan,” Snape replied. “He refuses to tell me anything,” he said with a hint of irritation.
“Remember what I said, Severus.”
Snape’s head snapped up. “You didn’t mean that.”
“I won’t do it.”
“You will,” Dumbledore challenged. “I would not have Draco ruin his life, his soul, for the sole purpose of killing me. You must be the one to do it.”
“I trust you.”
Snape frowned. “That is foolish.”
Dumbledore gave a small smile. “I also must ask one more thing of you, Severus.”
“What?” Snape asked tiredly.
“If I do not get the chance to explain to Harry, you must be the one to.”
Snape looked horrified. Harry felt equally so. What was Dumbledore playing at? “Why in Merlin’s name would you pick me? No, I won’t be the one.”
“Severus, please. You are the only one who knows everything,” Dumbledore said. “You are the only one who can help him through this.”
“Help him? You go too far, Albus.”
“I trust you, Severus. I trust you.”
Harry staggered back from the Pensieve and was forced to catch himself on the desk. He stood there for several minutes, breathing heavily. This couldn’t be. That couldn’t be real. There was no way. Snape was really...good? All this time? All through Hogwarts when Harry had hated him so? Even on the tower when Snape had killed Dumbledore. It was all planned. It was all for the good.
Harry couldn’t breathe. He hurried from the room, darting up the stairs to his own. Immediately, he closed and locked the door and sank to the floor.
He was now bound to get revenge on Snape for a crime that Harry no longer blamed him for. In his ignorance, what had he done?
Harry stayed in his room for the rest of that day and night. He couldn’t, wouldn’t leave. As if sensing his intention of staying holed up alone, Nimby brought him a sandwich around dinner time.
“Thanks, Nimby,” Harry said gratefully. “Is Snape up?”
“Master is still in his room,” Nimby replied.
Harry nodded. “Good. Thanks.”
Finding no reason to stay up any longer, Harry went to sleep early, having finished the one book he had in his room.
Sleep did not come easily to Harry. The memories in the Pensieve kept swirling around his mind, causing him fresh pain. How could he have been so wrong? What was he to do now? Harry pulled the covers over his head and tried unsuccessfully to block out his thoughts.
After a fitful night, Harry lay curled in his bed as the morning light streamed in the window. In vain, he wished that it was the day before, that he had never left his room yesterday. Shortly after Harry woke, lacking the will to move, there was a knock on the door. Harry didn’t answer.
“Potter?” a familiar voice asked, lacking the harsh edge that it usually had.
Harry still said nothing.
“Nimby is holding breakfast for you. Are you awake?”
Numbly, Harry thought that it was good that Snape was up and moving again. Even so, he squeezed his eyes shut and willed Snape to go away.
“Potter, answer me,” Snape replied, getting annoyed. Harry heard him try the locked door.
Harry knew that he couldn’t face Snape. It was more than his confused emotions that held him back, it was also the fact that, with legilimency, Snape would see right through him. He would know that Harry looked into his Pensieve. Harry could not imagine that he would be happy.
After another minute, Harry heard Snape’s footsteps disappear down the hallway. He must have given up. With a sigh of relief at dodging that bullet for a little while, Harry climbed out of his bed and stood, staring blankly out of the window.
From his vantage point, Harry could see a willow tree at the edge of a pond of sorts. A nearby break in the forest hinted at a pathway through. Harry’s breath caught. He had never realized... This was Snape’s childhood home. That meant that Lily Evans must have lived nearby, judging by what Harry had glimpsed in the Pensieve.
Harry turned from the window, trying to escape the guilt of the crumbling illusions around him. Instead, he caught sight of the silver and green bedsheets, of the tall wardrobe with wooden snakes winding around the edges. This could very well have been Snape’s room.
Harry slumped into the chair at the writing desk, absentmindedly fingering the tattered gold ribbon tied to the back of the chair. His once elusive professor was now far too much revealed. Seeing Snape in such a human light, in one that evoked more sympathy than Harry could stand, was too much to bear.
Making his mind up, Harry stood and strode from the room before he could change his mind. He would confess to Snape and take his punishment accordingly. After all, Snape deserved it.
AN: Ok guys, last chapter until the next round of the Writing Games! I hope it wasn't too much like The Prince's Tale, I tried to keep it as short as I could without missing anything important. I really hope you are all liking this, remember the more favorites, the longer I stay in the competition and the more chapters I post! If you've got any friends who are Potterheads, feel free to refer them :) Thanks! I'll post again next round.