Chapter 20 : Firmer Foundations
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“Harry!” Hermione ran out the great hall and down the broken steps immediately. An uneasy feeling came over him as she let him out of her hug when Ron did not appear.
“Where’s Ron?” he asked, lump in his throat.
Hermione stepped back and said, “He’s ok. He’s up on the third floor on the East side heaving stones back into place so McGonagall can seal the wall up again…” Harry nodded and looked around.
“Where’s Draco?” but before she could answer, he spotted him at the top of the steps.
Harry marched up to him and handed him back his Firebolt. “Thanks for letting me use it,” he said, hoping Draco wouldn’t ask why Snape was still out on the lawn with Goyle’s broom, not advancing any closer to them.
“Yeah,” he trailed away as his gaze searched for the Potion’s Master.
“He’s down there,” Harry said, not turning. “Goyle’s father is dead. I killed him.” Hermione gasped, and Draco’s full attention returned to Harry.
“The sword.” Here Harry remembered Slytherin’s sword and pulled it from between his belt and pants where it had stayed securely even during flight. Draco’s eyes grew wide when he saw it.
“That’s not the sword you started out with,” he said, almost in accusation.
Harry shook his head. “No, this is the sword Lucius Malfoy tried to cut my head off with an hour ago.”
“My father?” Draco asked.
Harry handed him the sword. “He’s not your father… this is yours now. Right now he’s probably hiding somewhere from Voldemort.” For some reason Harry felt that he needed to clarify that Lucius Malfoy was not dead… or at least not by his hand.
Draco took hold of the sword, and as soon as he had, Harry strode away, off into the entrance hall. Hermione followed him.
“What happened Harry?”
He waved her question away. “I’m not talking about it.” He stopped and looked around. “Who is dead?” his question was blunt, and Hermione didn’t answer for a moment.
“Three first year Hufflepuffs… they snuck out of their common room and tried to take on Beatrice Lestrange. Professor Sinistra… Cho…” she paused here to see the effect on Harry after learning that his former girlfriend was dead. Harry still felt numb, and didn’t say or do anything, so she continued. “One of the Slytherins that was on our side was killed, along with about a hundred death eaters… they’re still out on the lawn. Aurors showed up right at the end of the battle and one of the older ones died… I don’t know what his name was, but he wasn’t in the Order. That’s it.”
Harry shook his head. Too many senseless deaths. They were quiet for a moment, and Harry finally said, “Give me something to do Hermione.”
She bit her lip. “Part of the Dungeons are flooding… they need help replacing stones there.” Harry didn’t look pleased with this idea, so she continued with suggestions. “You Know Who blasted half the roof away from the tallest East Tower… you know… the one with the attic you and Ron had to clean… Filch is there with Professor Flitwick and some students trying to replace that. Or you could go and help Ron and McGonagall with repairing the-” Harry walked away, not in any of the directions Hermione had given him. He wanted peace and quiet to work things out, but at the same time, did not want to be alone. What he really wanted was to be somewhere that Snape couldn’t find him.
Once Harry had disappeared up the steps and around a corner, Snape entered the Entrance Hall, leaning heavily on Draco, who had gone to retrieve him, for support. “What happened?” Hermione asked him. Severus waved her question away in the same manner Harry had. “He is angry with me. Do not worry yourself with it.” He paused, and then asked, “Where are the injured being taken?”
Hermione moved to support Snape’s other side as he almost collapsed forward, and Draco strained under the weight of his Head of House.
“In here,” she said quietly, helping Draco move him to lay on a table in the Great Hall.
Harry walked through the castle, surveying the damage done. Every once in a while he found a scorch mark on a wall or the floor, or a place where a blasting curse had taken out a chunk of stone. Quietly he waved the easy spells that would fix these damages, and moved on. As he walked, he wished that he could get rid of the numb feeling overtaking all of his senses. Even anger would be better than what he felt now.
He was careful to avoid the magical corridor on the third floor, and after a short while found himself standing next to a group of third years trying to repair an intricate stained glass window.
“No, that doesn’t look right,” Marcus Delwin, the tallest of the third year Hufflepuffs said.
“I agree,” Harry said. He startled the boys, and they jumped at his presence. None of them said anything, and Harry moved to look at the window. A few pieces of it were still missing. The boys had been piecing it together like a puzzle and then sealing the pieces into place.
“Try this,” Harry said. He motioned for the boys to put the remaining pieces down, and when they did so, he moved his wand in a semi circle and said, “Restituo statua vas.” The pieces flew into place, and some of the misplaced ones rearranged themselves and sealed into a whole window again.
“Wow,” one of the smaller boys said. “What did that mean?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know… something in Latin. We broke one of the windows in Gryffindor tower once and the Weasley twins knew the spell to fix it.” Harry remembered he and Ron breaking the window because they had been throwing around a Muggle football that Dean had brought back with him after Christmas break one year.
Harry showed them the spell again on the next broken window in the hall, and then told them to go and find whatever windows they could and repair them. The boys ran off eagerly, again leaving Harry alone. He pondered on the meaning of being left alone after they had gone. This was the way he was supposed to end up, he told himself… alone. No parents, no girlfriends, no anybody. Eventually he would lose Ron and Hermione too, and then he would lose himself eventually… if he hadn’t already.
He shook his head. Whatever God there was didn’t like him very much, he thought.
Down in the Great Hall, Madam Pomfrey hurried from table to table tending to injured students and staff. She had just finished applying a burn salve to a first year boy who had gotten caught in some crossfire when Hermione came and found her, and told her that Severus was in dire need of attention.
Severus lay on his back on the table quietly, Draco by his side, waiting to be looked at by Pomfrey. Neither of them said anything as they waited. From the next table over there was a moan as a Ravenclaw girl began to regain consciousness. She already had one arm bandaged and some kind of salve on a scratch across her left temple. Severus sighed. By all rights, he did not deserve to be here. The scene of Harry screaming at him to fight back in the woods kept running across his mind. Coward! he had screamed, stand and fight me like a man! Fight! Harry had almost been in tears, and his arm had been shaking as he held the sword. Being called a coward by any one else he knew would have drawn rage from him… but being called a coward by Harry made him feel as if he was being torn to shreds inside and out. He knew he was a coward… but hearing a friend say it… hearing a son say it…
Severus turned his head slightly and looked over to Draco, remembering he was there, who was gazing across the hall at the injured students and staff… Draco didn’t know the names of half the people… he had only ever associated himself with Slytherins… Slytherins who hated him now for choosing the other side.
“Why?” Severus suddenly asked. Draco looked over and down at him from where he stood.
“Why what sir?”
Severus paused to think. For some reason it took some kind of nerve he wasn’t sure he had left to confront Draco about what he had overheard in the garden before the battle.
“Why me?” he finally settled with. “What did I ever do to deserve such loyalty from you?”
Draco looked away immediately, knowing what he was referring to now. Years of being tormented, beaten, and yelled at by his father flashed before him, as if they had happened just that day. He didn’t know why. His head of house was the next closest thing he had to any kind of father he guessed. Draco had always felt a kind of gratitude that he hadn’t ever felt for anyone before, towards Snape, for looking out for himself and other Slytherins when every other Professor and student in the school hated him.
“I do stupid things,” Draco finally said quietly, still not looking Snape in the eye. “I’m not a good person… people hate me… but you still looked out for me while I was here,” he paused, and then said, “I didn’t deserve that, but you did it anyway.”
Severus sighed again and looked back to the enchanted ceiling, which had a massive scorch mark directly above him. He knew what it was to be Slytherin… and he knew what it was to be hated. Sometimes he saw so much of himself in Draco that he could not help but feel sorry for him. He hadn’t known everything of the boy’s situation at home until now, but he had had an idea.
Some people were evil from the start, he knew… like the Dark Lord, and Lucius Malfoy, but others didn’t start out bad. He had known Draco as a small boy, and remembered the light in his eyes… that light had not been there when he started at Hogwarts. It had been taken from him by force. He tolerated the boy’s acts of rebellion most days because he knew that down inside there was still something left to save… still some kind of good to be seen.
As he lay there in thought, he didn’t notice the visitor approach until a brilliant pair of blue eyes appeared from above, looking down into his. The headmaster’s face was worn and tired, but the light of triumph and hope still shone in his eyes.
“You survived Severus, I was most overjoyed to hear of your return.”
Severus raised a brow. Beside him, Draco was pretending to look around the Great Hall again so that they would ignore his presence there.
“I should not be here,” he told the old man, voicing his thoughts allowed. “He had every right to kill me…”
“Voldemort?” the Headmaster inquired, knowing that wasn’t whom Snape was referring to. Across the table from the Headmaster Draco flinched at the mention of the name.
Severus shook his head. “Harry.” This drew Draco’s attention.
The Headmaster looked over at Draco with a warm smile, and said, “If you could please excuse us for just a moment Mr. Malfoy… I would like a word with Severus before Madam Pomfrey realizes he needs medical attention.”
Draco nodded with a quiet, “Yes sir,” and moved off, unsure of where to go. He spotted Hermione, and not knowing why, made his way toward the girl he had always picked on and called names.
“I was pleased to see young Mr. Malfoy’s eyes opened last night as he ran repeatedly back into the fray for a cause that he chose, and not one that was chosen for him,” Dumbledore said.
Severus nodded. “He is no longer safe outside the castle walls… Lucius and the Dark Lord both intend to kill him.”
“Alas,” Dumbledore said, “the price we pay for making our own path in life…” he trailed away and Severus swallowed.
There was silence between them for a few moments, and then Snape said quietly, referring to Harry, “He knows who told the Dark Lord of his prophecy.”
“When he flew in without you, I wondered,” Dumbledore told him. He was quiet in thought, and then, “It was one of those truths that could not be kept a secret forever Severus. Whether you had told him, or the Dark Lord, or another, he would have found out eventually.”
“Then I wish he would have found out before this year,” Snape said angrily. If he would have known, he would have kept his distance and held his hate for Severus, and neither one would have felt the pain they did just then.
“Severus,” Dumbledore put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “The heart tells no lies, remember? When your mind leads you astray, your heart will always endeavor to bring you back to the place it feels to be right. If it is in his heart to kill you, then he would have done so. Let him work things out on his own. Sometimes there is no other way then to leave your fate in the hands of a higher power.”
“What higher power allows the evilest wizard of all time to roam free?” Severus sat up with difficulty, angry now. He knew that the old man held some higher power in high regard… knew he believed in something greater than himself… something that controlled the universe and all it’s mysteries contained within. “What higher power allows children to suffer at the hands of parents? What higher power allows us to feel so much pain? Is this not an evil power? Is this not the description of Lord Voldemort?”
Gentle surprise showed in Dumbledore’s eyes as Severus said Voldemort’s name… a first since he had known him. Severus too seemed to realize his error, because he sank into quiet contemplation.
“Severus, can you see darkness?”
Frowning, he looked up at the Headmaster. What kind of question was that? “Of course I can see the dark… who can’t?”
Dumbledore shook his head. “Once a room is dark, can it grow any darker?”
“Why?” Dumbledore seemed to fall into Professor mode, and it annoyed Severus. He did not feel in the mood to be taught anything at the moment.
“Because, it cannot,” Severus said through gritted teeth, half because of the pain in his side, half because of annoyance.
“What about light?” Dumbledore asked him. “Can light grow any lighter?”
“There are variations on the depth of light… a room can be dim but still be lit.”
“Why then can darkness not become darker?”
Severus sighed. “Darkness is simply the absence of light.”
The Headmaster smiled now. “Darkness is the absence of light,” he repeated calmly. He paused for a moment, hoping that that would sink in for Severus, but it apparently did not, so he continued. “We can see evil all around us Severus… we witness it daily in the form of cruelty towards others… we witness it in the form of Voldemort, in the form of hate, and in the form of war mongering and violence… there is obviously evil in this world. We also see good around us… sometimes it is not as evident as evil… sometimes the good in the world is in the form of love, or kindness, or an act of bravery not for oneself, but to save another. Is one evil thing worse than another? Is one murder less of a crime than beating a defenseless child? You see Severus, like darkness, evil can become no more so than it already is… it is simply the absence of love, kindness, and righteousness on the behalf of others rather than yourself. Because there is so much evil in the world does not mean that it is caused by whatever higher power you believe in… it is simply caused by the lack of that higher power in some people. Would this not be a safe assumption?”
“Your logic is flawed,” Severus said calmly now. “Any being with power like you insist that it has could make itself present in any place at any time… therefore eradicating evil.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Yes, it could. How do you know it isn’t everywhere at once? Tell me… a student has an assignment in your class… one that you assign every week and is graded on completion, not the right answer… all they must do is take the time to write out one answer to one question… if they do not do the homework, what do you do?”
“I give them a D for dreadful dunderhead,” Severus answered. “Assignments are not that hard to complete.”
“And if they complete the assignment?”
“I give them a passing grade. Is there a point in this that is relevant to my situation?”
A small amount of pity displayed on Dumbledore’s face, only for a moment, before it was gone, and he said, “Severus, if there is some higher power… which I do not expect to persuade you to believe in, and he she or it was everywhere at once, trying to eradicate evil, how would that power do so if people did not want it there? How would it do so if they make it so that there is an absence of that power in their world or their lives? People choose to be good or evil Severus… Voldemort for instance, had every chance to change his thinking… he still does. Young Mr. Malfoy however, has chosen a different path for himself than the one that was so strenuously laid out for him by his friends and family.” He paused to let Snape think on this, and then continued, “Severus, you chose a different path for yourself at one time… for whatever reason. Something happened, and you chose a different path, the one that you are on now. We all have a million paths to choose from every day… turn left, or turn right. Do the homework, or don’t do it… Harry chose not to kill you in the Shadowland… he chose to let you live. Perhaps it is because his heart is leading him on the path that he should be on, as I believe yours has done.”
Dumbledore removed his hand and took a step back as he saw Madam Pomfrey begin to make her way over to them. Before he turned to walk away, he said gently, “To answer your question Severus, it is the kind of higher power who wants to be let in, but is pushed out by so many. It is the kind that tries to make the sun shine out the clearer in the end, even if we do not see how that is possible with all the things going on in our lives. Because we don’t understand something, does not mean it can’t be… for instance… we still have no clear grasp on the meaning of magic, and why some of us have it, and others do not, or why there is magic in the rest of the world, but not in Shadow land…”
Madam Pomfrey was almost to them now, and Severus glared at the old man in front of him. Why did he always have to be so wise? Severus could never win an argument with him… ever. He had been given a lot to think about.
“I will return later,” Dumbledore told him as Madam Pomfrey bustled over, looking frazzled.
As the Headmaster moved his way between tables, giving words of comfort to others, and Madam Pomfrey forced Severus to lay back down, he thought to himself, Why couldn’t he have just given me a pat on the back and told me it would be ok? It was a juvenile thought, and he scolded himself for it silently as Pomfrey pulled a burn salve from her bag and began to apply it to his injury.
A/N: Ok, about the “higher power,” conversation between Dumbledore and Severus… just wanted to let you guys know that I’m not trying to force my opinions on anybody or convert anybody or make anybody believe something they don’t… it’s just a conversation between two characters in a made up story… so please, no e-mails or angry reviews about God vs. science or this religion vs. that religion. I definitely do not mean to offend anybody with the story. If anybody cares to have a chat about God or religion privately feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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