Harry followed Dumbledore through the corridor and up the various flights of stairs that led to his office, his heart sinking more and more with every step. Dumbledore had said nothing; he hadn’t even looked at Harry since they left the class. Although Harry was certainly worried about what his punishment would be, his anger was still leading his emotions; perhaps he had been rude to Snape, but he had done nothing wrong. It was Snape who constantly insulted Harry, his dead parents, his dead godfather…it was Snape who made him duel…it was Snape who incited his anger with his cleverly directed comments about Harry’s dad and Sirius. Harry knew one thing; there was absolutely no way he would apologise. He would rather go back to the Dursleys than say he was sorry to Severus Snape.
“Inside please, Harry,” said Dumbledore heavily, holding the door to his office open and avoiding Harry’s eyes. Harry walked in stiffly, but held his head high. He sat down on the chair he always took and waited. Dumbledore sank down onto his chair, taking off his half-moon glasses and beginning to polish them on his midnight-blue robes. He suddenly looked very old, very frail, and very tired. Harry stared determinedly at his feet, waiting for the older man to speak. He did not have to wait long:
“That was entirely inexcusable, Harry. Whatever the circumstances, it is always completely unacceptable to attack a teacher.”
“I didn’t attack him!” Harry burst out angrily, glaring at Dumbledore, all worries momentarily forgotten.
“Indeed? Are you implying that Professor Snape stunned himself?”
Harry had never been able to abide the sarcastic way that teachers often told off students. He didn’t think that Dumbledore would ever do it, and the fact that he just had made him angrier still.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!”, he said, trying to control his voice and not shout. “He made me duel Malfoy, I won, and then stopped Malfoy trying to curse me behind my back. He then started insulting my family before making me duel with him, and then complains because he lost! What exactly have I done wrong?”
“He made you duel him, did he? Did he force you to? Did he threaten you with a detention if you did not follow his instructions?”
“No,” Harry admitted sullenly.
“Then he did not make you duel with his, as you claim. You had a choice, Harry.”
“I had no choice whatsoever! He would never let me forget it if I didn’t agree, he’d go on about me being as much of a coward as my dad was, he’d never let me live it down! What would you have done if you were me? Sit there and take it? Let him think you’re a coward?”
“There are worse things in life than a teacher’s bad opinion of you, Harry” Dumbledore stated calmly. “What does it matter what he thinks of you?”
“What does it…he…you don’t understand!” Harry spluttered, now furious that Dumbledore thought that this was his fault.
“NO! You think you do…you always think you do…but you don’t! You NEVER do! YOU’VE NEVER UNDERSTOOD!”. Harry was suddenly on his feet with no recollection of having stood up. He glared down at Dumbledore, mutinous.
“Harry, sit down,” said Dumbledore tiredly. “This is neither the time nor the place -”
“Oh it’s never the time or the place, is it?” Harry snarled irrationally. “It’s never the right time to address your little problem, is it? You just pretend its not there!”
“And what ‘little problem’ might you be referring to, Harry,” asked Dumbledore, still annoyingly calm.
“Um…how about the fact that Snape isn’t actually working for you…he’s still a Death Eater…he’s working for Voldemort and you know it!”
Dumbledore stood up and spoke sharply. “We have spoken of this far too many times already Harry, and my patience has thoroughly left me. Severus is not a Death Eater, he is loyal to the Order and only to the Order.”
Harry snorted to show his indignation and turned his back, glaring at the walls and rubbing his knuckles. He didn’t particularly want a repeat of what had happened in Dumbledore’s office after Sirius’s death, yet he was angry and hurt at Dumbledore’s refusal to accept that Snape was the one in the wrong.
“If this had been any other student, their immediate dismissal from Hogwarts would have been a possible outcome. However, you know as well as I do that for you, this is not even an option. For you to leave the safety of this castle as unprepared as you are would mean certain death. You will therefore serve detention every night this week.”
“Fine!” Harry snapped. The he whirled around to face Dumbledore again. “And what about Snape? What’s his punishment going to be? Or do you think what he said to me is acceptable too?”
“What did he say to you, Harry?”
“He…he insulted Lupin…and my dad…and Sirius. He said my dad was a bully, an arrogant thug, and so was I…he said he was a coward and he deserved what he got…he said…he said…” - Harry’s voice cracked - “he said it was my fault he died. Sirius.”
Dumbledore inhaled quietly. “No. I do not think he would say that, Harry.”
“HE DID! When we were duelling…he said if I’d bothered to learn all this before then maybe…maybe my DOG wouldn’t be dead!”
Dumbledore sat heavily back down into his seat. “I will speak to Professor Snape about that, Harry. It was indeed unacceptable, and I understand why it hurt you, why you got angry. But Harry, you used the severing curse against him…yes, I know you did. You stunned him. I fear he will refuse to teach you unless you apologise -”
“I’m not apologising!” said Harry loudly. “I’m not sorry I did it, I’m glad I did. I’d do it again if I had the chance! I don’t care if he doesn’t teach me again, I‘ll go to the library and teach myself.”
“That is not the right attitude to have, Harry! His refusal to teach you Defence Against the Dark Arts is not my main concern; I daresay your lessons from Kingsley and Tonks will suffice. It is your Occlumency lessons that I am concerned about. I do not think he will teach you -”
“Fine! I don’t care!” Harry growled, amazed Dumbledore could be so thick.
“It is not fine, Harry!” Dumbledore snapped, raising his voice for the first time. “This is not just about you! If you do not learn Occlumency it is not just you who will suffer! Think what happened with Mr Weasley in your dormitory when you had that dream! Think what damage you could do without knowing! You MUST learn Occlumency again - and Professor Snape must have a hand in that, even if he is not your main teacher.”
Harry said nothing. He knew Dumbledore was right, but somehow that made him even angrier. He breathed hard through his nose, clenching and unclenching his fists.
“Harry, I am not asking that you like Professor Snape. I am merely asking that you trust -”
“I don’t trust him! I cant trust him…ever! He hates me too much to be on your side…you don’t see the way he looks at me…he knows Voldemort wants to kill me, so why on earth would he try and stop him? He hates me more than he hated my dad, more than he hated Sirius…how can I trust someone who hates me that much? Who I hate back the same amount?”
“You must try, Harry!”
“I trust Professor Snape. If you trust me, Harry, then you should -”
“WELL MAYBE I DON’T! MAYBE I DON’T TRUST YOU ANYMORE! MAYBE I LOST MY TRUST A VERY LONG TIME AGO! Once trust is lost it’s very hard to regain, Professor! And you’ve been wrong before, haven’t you, sir? HAVENT YOU?”, he roared when Dumbledore did not answer. Dumbledore looked as though Harry had slapped him, and many of the portraits gasped loudly at his rudeness, some shaking their heads and tutting.
“I’ve never been able to understand why you held this boy in such high regard, Dumbledore,” Phineas Nigellus smirked from inside his frame.
“You shut up!” Harry snarled at him. And then, quite suddenly, all the fight went out of him. His shoulders sagged visibly; his heart thumped painfully, and he was left feeling ashamed, frightened and alone. He wasn’t really that angry with Dumbledore; he just seemed to be the person that Harry took it out on. Someone had to bear the brunt of his anger, and Harry felt sorry that it always seemed to be Dumbledore. He dropped back slowly onto his seat and buried his head in his hand. There was a complete silence in the office - even the portraits had stopped whispering amongst themselves.
“Professor, I -” Harry began, but his voice was muffled against his hands. He looked up slightly, his brow creased as if looking at his Headmaster caused him physical pain. “I…I’m sorry sir,” he said hollowly, looking up at Dumbledore. Dumbledore said nothing. If Harry thought this was because Dumbledore was angry with him, he was quite mistaken. The look in Harry’s eyes had caused Dumbledore’s heart to ache, and once again he cursed himself for making a foolish old man’s mistakes. The look of pain, of suffering, of complete and utter hopelessness that was etched in every line of Harry’s face made his throat tighten painfully.
“I didn’t…I didn’t mean that, sir. What I said about not trusting you. I do trust you. It’s just…sometimes I…” Harry shook his head in frustration about not being able to communicate how he felt, at not being able to justify his actions.
Dumbledore raised a hand as Harry attempted to speak again. “There’s no need to explain, Harry. I understand what you are saying.”
“No, Professor. I was out of order…I didn’t mean…”
“I know, Harry. I know. And I quite accept your apology. And now you must accept mine.”
Harry looked up blankly. “Sir?”
“Yes, another old man’s mistake…I fear I have forgotten that there are some hates that go too deep, some wounds that never really fade. Some people are not able to put their past behind them, Harry. And I’m sorry for putting you through that.”
“Are you talking about Snape, sir?”
“Professor Snape, Harry. And yes, I am. You are aware, of course, of the animosity that your father and Sirius shared with Professor Snape whilst they were at this school. I rather thought…hoped…that he would be able to forget about your relations after a certain while…especially after the events of recent years. But as I said, some hurts go too deep, and will never go away. Old habits die hard, Harry. But no matter.”
“Sir…if you want…if you don’t think he’ll teach me Occlumency otherwise…I will apologise to him. Not because I’m sorry,” he continued hurriedly, “because I’m not. But because I want this over with. I want stop all the dreams. They’re…they’re changing me. Slowly, but they are. I can feel it. I don’t want to keep losing it with everyone, I don’t want everyone to feel they have to tip-toe around me all the time. But however hard I try, Professor, I cant always keep it together. And I do try, I really do.”
“I know you do, Harry. I cant imagine how trying this must be for you. Sometimes I forget how truly young you are. You are stronger than you know. Your parents were both extraordinarily strong people…incredibly brave. And you are stronger than the two of them, Harry. You really are. One day you will see that.” Dumbledore smiled faintly at Harry. “And I am very pleased you can find it in yourself to apologise to Professor Snape.”
“Professor, I do have one condition, though,” Harry said quickly.
“And what’s that?” asked Dumbledore warily.
“If I apologise to him…I don’t want to hear him say anything else about my dad, or Sirius, or Remus…or anyone. Ever again. If I apologise I don’t want him to talk to me at all.”
“Well, I am sure that is a feat Professor Snape will manage to perform admirably,” Dumbledore replied, his eyes twinkling again.
“D’you think he will agree to teach me again, sir?”
“He will teach you again, Harry. His comments were out of line too and I will speak to him about that. He will most certainly teach you again. Now, you should probably return your common room…I’m sure your friends are most anxious to hear what has happened,” said Dumbledore with a smile. “But remember, Harry, what you did was very wrong and you will still serve detention with Professor McGonagall.”
“Yeah, I know, sir. Sir, d’you think I can apologise to Snape in a letter?”
“Professor Snape, Harry.”
“Yes, sir. D’you think I can, then?”
“Yes, I think that is probably the best idea. Now then, off you go. I shall send a note tomorrow telling you when your next Occlumency lesson is scheduled; it will probably be on the weekend, what with your detentions filling up most of your evenings.” Dumbledore was trying to look stern, but there was a faint smile on his face. “Off you go, Harry.”
“Bye sir. And…sorry again,” Harry said, swinging his bag onto his shoulder and hurrying out of the office.
When Harry stepped through the portrait hole and into the Gryffindor common room, he was immediately swamped by people eager to hear the full story. The people who had actually been in the class at that time seemed to have spread the story far and wide already.
“Harry, is it true you knocked Snape out?” asked Colin Creevey excitedly.
“Harry, that was wicked!” exclaimed Dean. “But what did Dumbledore say?”
“Are you in loads of trouble, Harry?” asked Hermione anxiously, hurrying towards him, followed by Ron. “Oh, why did you do it? I cant believe it…”
“Lay off him, Hermione, Snape was asking for it. You heard what he was saying to Harry,” Ron chimed in. “What did Dumbledore say, then?
“Oh Harry you’re not expelled are you? Snape said…but Dumbledore wouldn’t have…would he?” The look on Hermione’s face was one of pure terror.
“No! I’ve just got detention for a week.”
“Is that all?” asked Ron incredulously. “Mate, Dumbledore loves you! If that had been anyone else…blimey. You had a lucky escape there!”
“Yeah, I know,” Harry nodded. “Mind you, I’m still not sorry. He deserved what he got.”
“Exactly, Harry,” said Seamus. “I should think a years worth of detentions would be worth knocking out Snape…ah, did you see his face when Dumbledore woke him…classic. I’m never going to forget that, never.”
Harry couldn’t help smiling at everyone’s amazement. Ginny walked up to him and touched his arm lightly. “Nice one, Harry. It’s about time someone gave Snape what he deserves. Good on you.” She smiled and walked over to a chair, where she was quickly joined by Dean. Harry averted his eyes.
The next day Harry couldn’t through a single corridor without a Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or fellow Gryffindor congratulating him. The Slytherins contented themselves with hissing at him or shooting him dirty look, but Harry didn’t care - he was used to that. The news had spread throughout the school, with the facts becoming more and more exaggerated as the day went on. Harry couldn’t help laughing when a third year Hufflepuff stopped in at lunch and asked him if it was true that he’d turned Snape into a bug and spent the rest of the lesson trying to stamp on him.
“No, regrettably I didn’t,” Harry said, “but thanks for the idea, I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Harry!” said Hermione reproachfully. “You shouldn’t say things like that!”
“Why not?” asked Harry. “It IS a good idea!”
“Yes, maybe, but these things might get back to him…have you thought about what the next Defence lesson is going to be like? I’m dreading to think what Snape might do!”
Harry said nothing, privately agreeing. The next lesson with Snape was the following day, and Harry wasn’t looking forward to it. However, he needn’t have worried; when the lesson arrived, Snape simply acted like Harry didn’t exist. He didn’t speak to him, he didn’t check he had handed his work in, he didn’t even look at him…apart from at the very end of class where he shot Harry a repulsed look, which Harry ignored.
The thing he was most worried about was his approaching Occlumency lesson with Snape. Although he knew Dumbledore and Lupin would be there, he was not exactly savouring the thought of interacting with Snape, of letting Snape into his most private thoughts. He hoped he would be able to push him out quickly this time; although Dumbledore’s teaching had been excellent, and Harry found that he could close his mind to his Headmaster relatively quickly, he wasn’t sure if Dumbledore was using all his strength. He knew Snape would show no mercy, and vowed work particularly hard at his lesson on Saturday. He was not going to let Severus Snape into his mind again…not if he could help it.