Of Snape and Scars
The next morning was sufficiently awkward, what with Harry having to ask Seamus for his wand back, and seeing the wary looks he and Dean kept shooting at him. Harry knew neither Dean nor Seamus meant it nastily, and he knew if he were them he’d be the same, but it did nothing to improve his annoyance. Harry was a little late for breakfast and when he sat down next to Ron and Hermione he knew that Ron had told her about the previous night. She was looking at him carefully, noting his troubled eyes and the dark circles underneath. She took a breath, but Harry spoke over her.
“Yes, I know I should go and see Dumbledore, Hermione. I’m not stupid.”
“I didn’t say you were!”, she replied, looking hurt. “I wasn’t just going to say that, either. Yes, I do think you should go and see him, but I was also wondering how you are…you look awful. I think you maybe should go to Madam Pomfrey and ask for some of that dreamless sleep potion. You wont be able to concentrate on any of your lessons if you’re not managing to sleep properly. You look shattered.”
“Yeah, I am,” Harry admitted. He hadn’t gone back to sleep that night; he’d kept himself awake deliberating, propping himself up with his pillows, scared that if he slept he’d wake up to find himself strangling Neville, or something. “But I cant really take the dreamless sleep potion - it becomes ineffective if you use it too regularly, and its meant to be taken after a trauma or something, not as an every day relief from nightmares.”
Hermione nodded. “Alright, but you should still see Dumbledore about it, Harry. This is important. I know you don’t like going to him with every problem, but this is different - you know it is.”
“Yeah, I s’pose. But not today, alright? I’ll go tomorrow or something…I don’t really want to see him today.”
Hermione pursed her lips but said nothing.
“What have we got today?” asked Harry, trying to change the subject.
“Defence against the Dark Arts in the morning, and then Transfiguration in the afternoon. Come on, we’d better hurry…we don’t want to be late for Snape’s first lesson.”
They weren’t late, and queued up outside the class with the other students who, to Harry’s disgust, included Draco Malfoy. To Harry’s surprise he did not make any comments, just merely looked at them derisively from the corner of his eye, a small smile playing on his lips. Harry felt Ron’s elbow dig into his ribs and looked up to see Snape striding down the corridor, his black robes billowing behind him as per usual.
“In,” he said to the class, holding the door open. They filed in quietly and took their seats. Snape walked in front of his desk and leant languidly against it, surveying the class, his eyes lingering on Harry. His lip curled and Harry glared back until Snape looked away.
“I must say I was surprised to see so many of you pass your O.W.L in this subject, but then stranger things have happened,” he began silkily. “Your teaching has been exceedingly inconsistent, with your professors ranging from a deranged lunatic to a dangerous werewolf.”
Harry felt himself bristle at this slur on Lupin, but forced himself not to react, knowing Snape’s eyes were on him, and that he was looking for a reaction.
“Many of you will find that you will not be able to reach the high standards that I expect in this class. Perhaps some of you have been used to relying on other factors - like fame, for example - in order to gain a good reputation in this subject. You’ll find fame has no place in my class. I’ve found that the hype surrounding…certain people…” - here his eyes fell on Harry - “has often been used to cover up a complete lack of talent”.
Snape paused, clearly enjoying himself. Harry felt his classmates’ eyes on him as they wondered whether he would react. He gritted his teeth and stared determinedly ahead.
“If you are prepared to listen and learn, I can teach you how to defend yourself against far more than just the Dark Lord and his followers. This world is, sadly, also occupied by vampires, giants, werewolves and probably most dangerously…” his gaze lingered on Harry again, “murderers.”
Harry felt himself flinch; he knew Snape was referring to Sirius and didn’t know how long his temper would take to arise if he continued. He saw Seamus and Dean exchange puzzled looks, aware that Snape was goading Harry but not sure how exactly he was doing it. He caught Hermione’s eye and she gave him a sympathetic look, trying to warn him to stay calm.
“Today we will begin by practising non-verbal magic. Instead of bellowing out curses, which gives your opponent a split-second advantage, non-verbal magic means that you have the upper hand - you will have the advantage, as your enemy will have no warning of what you are doing. You must concentrate; think the spell over and over in your mind. Split into pairs and practise stunning. Now.”
The class was silent for a moment, slightly stunned by the lack of instructions, then they grouped into pairs, Harry with Hermione, Ron with Dean. It soon became apparent that no-one was able to produce the jinx without uttering the words; Snape prowled around the classroom looking more and more disgusted. It was only when the class was about to finish when anything at all happened; Harry once again attempted to stun Hermione, and although it didn’t quite work, she came over all faint and sank down to the floor. Snape had seen this, but when he saw that it was Harry who had done it, promptly turned his back again.
That was absolutely pathetic,” he sneered to the class. “I expect everyone to have shown signs of significant improvement by the next lesson. Go.”
Harry hurried out of the class, hating Snape, He didn’t care what Remus said - he would never, and could never trust Snape. Ron and Hermione followed him out, rolling their eyes.
“God, he’s awful isn’t he?” said Ron darkly. “The stuff he was implying about Lupin and Sirius…I wanted to hit him!”
“Yes, well, we should be used to it by now,” said Hermione briskly. “But well done for staying calm Harry - you know he was only looking for a reaction.”
Harry grunted in assent, and the three walked back to the Gryffindor common room. Harry couldn’t help noticing that Ron kept looking at Hermione when her back was turned, and that she did the same to Ron when she thought he wasn’t looking. Harry half wished they would just get on with it and admit they liked each other; this had been going on for a while now.
After lunch they had Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall, and so they arrived on time, knowing that, like Snape, McGonagall despised lateness. No sooner than they had sat down in their chairs then Professor McGonagall walked in. Seeing as to was not their first Transfiguration lesson of the year she did not have to underline what she expected of them, but she began talking seriously about whether she was not sure, judging by the state of many people’s homework from the first day, that some students were taking the subject seriously enough.
“You should know that your N.E.W.Ts are a big step up from your O.W.Ls, and you cannot expect to pass without putting in twice as much work as you did last year.”
Ron caught Harry’s eye and gave him a horrified look.
Professor McGonagall continued hammering the point home, and Harry tuned out, his eyelids drooping against his will. His lack of sleep from his previous night was catching up with him, and the warm September sun was making him drowsy. Safe in knowledge that he was hidden behind Lavender Brown, he dropped his head onto his hands and closed his eyes, letting himself have a little five minute doze.
Ron looked away from Professor McGonagall, hoping to catch Harry’s eye and share their disgust for McGonagall’s idea of what was necessary studying time. To his surprise he saw Harry’s face on his arms, his eyes closed and his mouth slightly open. He smirked and nudged Hermione, whose mouth went into a thin line as she saw Harry sleeping. She tutted.
“Wake him up, Ron, before McGonagall sees him,” she whispered from the corner of her mouth.
Ron turned obligingly, and tried to reach out his foot to nudge Harry’s. Their desks were separated by an aisle, so he could not nudge Harry as easily as he had Hermione.
“Oi! Harry!” he hissed. “Wake up!”
“Is there a problem, Mr Weasley?” said Professor McGonagall sternly, walking towards him.
“Er…no, Professor. I was just…clearing my throat,” Ron muttered unconvincingly.
“Hmm,” Professor McGonagall, clearly not believing him. Her eyes fell on Harry, and her nostrils flared. “Is Potter sleeping? Has he actually fallen asleep?”
The class looked at Harry, and some people started to laugh as they looked at Harry, who was completely oblivious to Professor McGonagall’s growing anger.
“Wake him at once, Mr Weasley!”
Ron nudged Harry hard. “Wake up, mate. You’re going to be in so much trouble…”
Harry twitched violently and muttered something but still didn’t wake. Ron gripped his shoulders and positively shook him, but still Harry didn’t wake although he moaned slightly.
“Is he ill?” snapped Professor McGonagall, walking closer to Harry.
“Er…no, I don’t think so,” said Ron, glancing at Hermione worriedly. And then suddenly, as though he’d received an electric shock, Harry jolted back into his seat, trembling, staring at the ceiling with wide eyes.
“Potter? Potter, what on earth do you think you’re doing?”
“Harry, are you alright?” asked Ron concernedly, leaning across the aisle. Harry’s eyes met his, unfocussed and blank. He stared at Ron for a while, and then he spoke.
“The Blood Traitor family will be one of the first to go,” he spat. “You’re hardly better than the filthy Mudbloods you associate with. But don’t worry, they’ll be the priority.” Harry’s eyes fell on Hermione, who was staring at him with her hand clapped over her mouth. “Yes, I think this particular Mudblood has been irksome enough to warrant my personal…elimination.”
The class gasped in horror, and Professor McGonagall’s nostrils flared.
“How dare you use such language, Potter! How dare you -”
“It’s not him, Professor!” squeaked Hermione. “It’s not him!”
Harry’s head suddenly dropped again, and the class fell silent. Harry’s hands gripped the desk and his breath came in loud, ragged gasps. For the first time in her life Professor McGonagall was at a loss for what to do.
“No…no…please,” Harry murmured, shaking his head violently. “No! No!”
“Someone do something!” Hermione whispered, her eyes glistening with tears, but before anyone could reply, the room was full of Harry’s yells as he collapsed to the floor, his hands pressed against his scar, writhing in agony.
“Potter!” Professor McGonagall rushed towards him, followed by Ron and Hermione. The rest of the class just stared, to stunned to speak. After a while his yells subsided, and Hermione drew his hands away from his face. She let out a small scream; blood was oozing down his forehead and over his eyes, and he seemed to be having difficulty staying conscious.
“Professor…I…I think his scar’s split open!” gasped Hermione.
Professor McGonagall went pale, and leaned over Harry. “Potter? Harry? Can you hear me?”
Harry groaned, indicating that he could. Ron slipped his arm under Harry’s shoulder and hoisted him up. “Come on, let’s get you to the hospital wing.”
Hermione ducked under Harry’s other shoulder, and they half dragged him out of the classroom, leaving behind a horrified class and a trembling Professor McGonagall.
Harry opened his eyes gingerly. His vision was blurred, and he blinked a few times to clear it. The first thing he saw was lots of bushy brown hair as Hermione leaned in.
“Oh Harry, you’re awake! We’ve been so worried…McGonagall’s been in to see you three times already.”
“Three…three times?” Harry murmured. “How long have I been in the hospital wing?”
“Only one day. I tell you Harry, you gave everyone such a fright. Everyone’s been talking about it; the whole school knows!” Ron said earnestly.
“Great,” Harry muttered dully. “That’s just what I need.”
“Harry, what happened? Can you remember what happened yesterday?”
Harry frowned. “Yeah, I can…but…I dunno…its weird.”
“What’s weird?”, Ron asked, leaning forward slightly in interest.
Harry didn’t say anything, still thinking. A noise made the three look up suddenly; Professor Dumbledore was standing in the doorway, surveying the scene with a small smile.
“Ah, Harry. Welcome back. I hoped it wouldn’t be long until you woke.”
Harry nodded, unsure what to say. He was still slightly annoyed with Dumbledore; if he had bothered to talk to Harry himself about what had happened on the train perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. Dumbledore looked at Ron and Hermione.
“Mr Weasley, Miss Granger, I appreciate your concern for Harry, but I must ask to speak privately with him for a moment. It is a matter of great importance.”
Ron opened his mouth to say something, perhaps to protest, but Hermione jumped to her feet, pulling Ron up with her.
“Of course, Professor. Harry,” she said, turning to him, “we’ll be up again later, okay?”
Harry nodded, and Dumbledore conjured up a small armchair next to Harry’s bed, which he sat down on as Ron and Hermione left. He surveyed Harry over his half-moon spectacles before speaking.
“How are you feeling, Harry?”
“I’m fine, sir,” replied Harry, rather stiffly.
Dumbledore nodded, obviously not believing him but not pushing it any more. “Harry, I need you to tell me exactly what happened in your Transfiguration lesson.”
Harry sighed, and put his hand up to rub his scar instinctively. To his surprise he found that his fingers touched gauze rather than skin, and realised that his forehead was bandaged over.
“Yes, I’m told that your scar split open,” Dumbledore said gravely. “And apparently, it wouldn’t stop bleeding.” He paused for a minute, looking at Harry very intently. “What happened, Harry?”
“You know already,” Harry said, not wanting to go through it all again.
Dumbledore nodded. “I do, yes. But I would like to hear it from you, as well.”
Harry sighed, then took a deep breath. “I’m not sure exactly what happened. I remember being tired, because I hadn’t slept well the night before -”. He paused, unsure whether to mention the dream, unsure whether Dumbledore already knew.
“Mr Weasley has informed me about the dream you had, Harry. Please continue”.
“Er…well, I fell asleep. And…and…I remember him speaking to me. Voldemort. I can’t remember specifically what he was saying, I think he was just trying to scare me, threaten me. Um…and then I woke up, but I don’t think I did fully. I mean, everything was blurry, and I could see Ron and Hermione and everyone, but it didn’t really register who they were, if that makes sense…”
“Perfect sense, Harry. Go on.”
“And then I could feel myself speaking to Ron and Hermione…but it wasn’t me. It was him, he was using me. I tried to stop it…but I couldn’t…at least not straight away. I think I managed to push him out because I remember feeling really tired and drained. And then…and then…he came back. He said he was going to remind me what pain was, because he thought I’d forgotten.” Harry stopped suddenly and was silent. He stared at the bed covers, trying to make sense of what had happened next. He had heard Voldemort say “Crucio”, he had felt a million knives sink into his body…but that wasn’t possible…
“He performed the Cruciatus curse on you, didn’t he?” asked Dumbledore quietly.
Harry looked up quickly, and then nodded. “But, sir…how could he have? We weren’t near each other…even Voldemort cant do magic like that…can he?”
“No, he cannot,” Dumbledore said simply.
Harry stared. “But then…how did he…?”
“I’m not entirely sure myself, Harry. I think it must be to do with the bond you share…the bond that is represented by your scar. I think that bond was pushed to its limits, which was why your scar burst open. And that is something we must make sure never happens again. I think your scar is of more significance than you realise, Harry. You were unconscious for over a day not because of being under the Cruciatus curse, but because your scar split. Voldemort will not do this again immediately, mainly because it would have drained him too…possessing you like that, even for that short while, would have caused him agony, as you saw when he attempted it at the Ministry. We must, however, make sure he is not able to do it again.”
“Occlumency,” said Harry dully.
Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, Harry, Occlumency.”
“I’m not doing it with Snape,” Harry said bluntly. Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak but Harry cut him off. “I don’t care what you say. I’m not doing it with him. I’m not letting him get in my head…I’m not letting him see -” He stopped.
Dumbledore sighed. “I understand that you don’t want to give Professor Snape access to your mind, to certain memories, Harry. Especially now, as I know some memories are very special to you now Sirius is gone.”
Harry said nothing, slightly put out by Dumbledore’s unnerving ability to know what he was thinking.
“That is why I will be teaching you, Harry,” he continued, smiling at Harry’s look of surprise. “Yes, I am a rather skilled Occlumens, if I do say so myself. But Harry, there is one condition; as gifted as I am at Occlumency, I am not as skilled as Professor Snape.”
“Yeah, well, is it any surprise he’s so good?” spat Harry before he could think. “All the work he did for Voldemort made damn sure he was a good liar, didn’t it? How do you know he‘s not still working for him? Snape could easily lie and fool you, you know he could.”
Harry knew he had crossed the line immediately. Although he did not speak, Dumbledore gazed at Harry with such severity that Harry suddenly wanted to hide under his bed covers.
“Professor Snape, Harry. We have spoken of this before, and I have informed you that I trust Severus inexplicitly. I do not appreciate your continued attempts to convince me otherwise.”
Harry said nothing, but glared at Dumbledore’s feet.
“As I was saying, there is one condition. After I have taught you the rudimentary basics, you will need to test yourself against someone who is as good an Occlumens as Voldemort himself. Therefore, you will need Professor Snape for that. Wait, Harry,” he said as Harry opened his mouth furiously, “you will not be alone. Your lessons will take place in my office, and I will be present, as will Remus Lupin.”
“Lupin will be there?”
“Yes,” agreed Dumbledore. “When I informed him that I thought Professor Snape must have some input in your learning Occlumency again, he…er…insisted that he be present too.”
“Right. Good,” said Harry. He closed his eyes for a second, suddenly tired. Dumbledore noticed this and stood up.
“Yes, you should sleep now, and regain your strength. You should be allowed out the day after tomorrow, provided you have no more nightmares. I think it’s important that you start your lessons as soon as possible, so perhaps we should start tomorrow evening, Harry, at eight?”
Harry nodded tiredly, settling back onto his pillows. Dumbledore smiled at him briefly, then crossed the room and shut the door behind him.