Harry hadn't meant to do it. It had been a mistake, an honest to goodness mistake.
He had been helping Severus rearrange and organize his office before school began, and there had been loads to fix before Harry could start arranging the bookshelf and tidying up the boxes of papers Severus had brought with him. Harry had discovered the Pensieve stored in a small cabinet behind the door where Fawkes' perch used to be. The phoenix had taken off for parts unknown, and Harry was sad to see him go, but he wished him well.
Harry had set up Major's bowls and toys where the phoenix used to be, and hoped the gray tom would like his new quarters, though Major was free to come and go as he wished, Severus knew better than to deny Major his freedom. After he had done that, he opened the cabinet to place some cat food and extra litter inside and that was when he saw the stone bowl.
He had removed it and set it on top of the small cabinet, figuring Severus might need to use it.
Then the sixteen-year-old turned back to unpack a small padded case. Inside were several clear bottles, labeled, containing some of Severus' memories, which swirled around, silvery but neither liquid or gas, but a strange combination of both. Harry was curious and read some of the labels. They were dated and some were titled. To his surprise, he found a bottle labeled "Draco's Biggest Fear: Or Harry's Prank". With a grin, Harry realized this was his own memory of playing that prank with Vera on Draco in the bathtub, apparently Severus had considered it worth saving.
That was some fun! I finally got back at the prat and it was so hilarious! Especially the part when he comes out screaming, naked as a newborn, and streaks down the hall. Then he bangs right into McGonagall! I damn near wet myself!
Harry suddenly felt a strong desire to view that particular memory again. He reached into the case and picked up the memory. Then he carried it over to the Pensieve and dumped it into the swirling liquid.
Grinning, he dunked his head into the bowl.
He felt himself start to spin and then he was spat out . . .not into the memory he thought, where he had been watching Draco run butt naked down the hall, Vera slithering along behind him, but a memory not even his own, a memory that was familiar and yet completely strange . . .
I'm sorry, Lily," I began, determined to make this right. I regretted my temper that night as I'd never regretted anything in my life. "I didn't mean it."
Her eyes were like two chips of emerald ice, so cold that they froze me where I stood. "Save your breath, Snape! I don't want to hear it!"
"Please! Listen to me! I didn't mean it!"
"Then why did you say it? You don't usually say things you don't mean. Is it because that's what all your new Slytherin friends say? Because I've heard them, you know. They think Mudbloods are scum of the earth, vermin, that we all should be exterminated. Is that what I am to you, Snape?"
"No! I never . . .it never mattered to me, Lily . . .you know that!"
"Then why are you friends with people like Avery, Lestrange, and Mulciber? Why do you hang around such evil people?"
"I don't . . .not really . . ."
"I've seen you, Snape, don't try and lie, damn you!"
"I'm not!" I exploded. "Just because I'm with them doesn't mean I believe what they do! You're the one who said let's try and be friends with other people in our Houses, Evans! And look who you're hanging around with-the bloody Marauders! You're a fine one to talk, making nice with Potter, who used to hex me till I bled!"
She blushed. "At least Potter and Black don't cast dark curses on people! Look what Avery did to Mary the other week! What do you call that? How can you be friends with someone like that, Sev? He's evil!"
I gritted my teeth. "Oh, and like Potter and Black are any better? They might not use dark hexes, but they don't need to. What they do is just as bad, humiliating people for the fun of it. You don't need a dark hex to hurt someone, Lily! It might not kill or maim or whatever, but it leaves other scars, dammit!"
"Don't start, Snape! I'm sick and tired of you and the Marauders! I'm tired of making excuses for you. You're so obsessed with them you don't even care that you're hanging around people whose greatest ambition is to kill Muggles and join You-Know-Who! Maybe they were right about you!"
I gaped at her, too shocked to utter a word in my defense. Surely she couldn't believe that? I loved her, for Godsake. I would never hurt her, not intentionally.
She gazed at me, her eyes shooting sparks, and I snarled, hurt by her willingness to believe the worst of me, "Fine! Believe whatever you damn well please! You know best, don't you, Evans?"
"It's over, Snape," she declared coldly, then she turned and walked back inside the portrait hole.
I just stood there, her words echoing in my head like a death knell. What had I done?
That was the beginning of the end. After that I no longer cared much about anything, except my studies. I was moody, depressed, and my temper was as nasty as my father's at its worst. Everyone avoided me, which was fine with me. I was like a wounded dragon, ready to bite the head off of anyone who got too close.
I went home, and found that my mother was dying, and there was no magic that could save her. I tried, of course. Tried every remedy and elixir I could think of, every healing enchantment I knew. Useless. She died one freezing cold December night, just before Christmas. I was there, holding her hand, as she drew her last breath.
And with her went my last hope of anything resembling a family.
When I returned to school for second term, I was bitter and angry, torn all to pieces inside, but not knowing how to ask for help. All I knew was how to hide. So I did, and no one knew how close I was to the edge till after Black nearly killed me in the Shrieking Shack.
I went to the Headmaster, thinking surely he must act, I had nearly lost my life, the damn werewolf had nearly bitten me, and only Potter's quick reflexes had saved me, much as I hated to admit it. I owed the arrogant sod, and I wanted to see justice done. I thought Dumbledore would agree, but instead he told me to keep my mouth shut, that Lupin's secret must be kept, and swore me to secrecy.
"What about Black? He tried to kill me, damn it!"
"Now Severus, I highly doubt that. He says it was just a lark."
"Oh, brilliant!" I sneered. "Just a lark. It was really funny too, sir! I nearly died laughing!"
"My boy, you are overwrought. You ought to go and get some sleep. I shall settle with Mr. Black and the others."
I wasn't buying it, not for a minute. He didn't look the least bit angry, not the way he should have looked if he was really going to lay down the law. He looked concerned. But not for me. Oh no. He was concerned for Lupin, that someone might learn he had permitted a werewolf with an active curse to attend Hogwarts and endanger us all.
I was so furious I practically spit. But I managed, for once, to control myself, and all I said was, "Yes, sir."
I left, and only then did I realize just how much I was worth in the old man's eyes.
Harry gasped, for he knew then he had made a terrible mistake, and had dumped the wrong vial into the Pensieve. These were Severus' memories, not his. He had just invaded the man's privacy. But he couldn't stop watching as the memories unfolded, one by one . . .and in them he became not a casual observer, but Severus, feeling what he felt and seeing through his eyes. . .
A few days afterwards:
I longed for school to end, yet at the same time I dreaded it. For with my mother gone, I had no one to shield me from my father's temper and fists. Unless I just stayed from home when he started drinking and only came back when he was passed out stone cold on the floor.
But even dealing with Tobias was preferable to remaining at school, forced to realize that I had driven Lily away with my own horrible temper and watch her making out with Potter. I should have gone back again, tried to make her understand, but I was too much of a coward to face the lash of her tongue a second time.
I was miserable, I had lost the two most important people in my life and nearly been killed and nobody gave a bloody damn. Not the members of my House, not Dumbledore, no one. I wondered idly lying in bed after a long day of classes if my father would have cared if I had been killed by Lupin. Probably not.
I knew exactly what he thought of me, he'd said it often enough, drunk and sober. I was a no good lazy bum, a freak who had a smart mouth and needed to be reminded of my place. I was worthless except as an extra pair of hands to fetch a beer and cook.
Bitterness and revulsion consumed me then. I hated everyone then—my mother for dying, Lily for not understanding, the Slytherins in my House for not defending me, Dumbledore for treating everything the Marauders did to me as a joke, the Marauders for being the Marauders, but mostly I hated myself—for being utterly worthless.
I stared up at the ceiling, my canopy had a hole in it so I could see the ceiling of my dorm room as I lay down. After my conversation with the Headmaster, I had felt even worse, and for the first time ever today I had concocted an excuse to miss class. I knew I was too depressed to concentrate on anything, even potions. So I stayed in my room, pretending to be ill, when all I felt was numb inside.
I was sick of my life, sick of all these stupid promises people made and never followed through on. Lily had promised to be my best friend forever, look how she turned on me. Dumbledore had promised me once that he would treat Gryffindor and Slytherin alike, but he too had changed his mind. My new Slytherin friends had promised to support me, but when the Marauders had played their little joke on me, they were nowhere to be found.
I picked up a potion from my small stock of them called Extra Strength Dreamless Sleep and turned it over and over in my hands.
There was only one person who had always kept any promise he made, and who seemed to care about me. Hagrid. He had always invited me over for tea and blueberry scones anytime I wished. He never asked me anything about my home life, but I think he sensed all was not right there. But he wasn't one to pry, and so I felt safe with him.
Potion in hand, I slipped from my dorm room and out into the gloaming. It was that in between time where the sky is a mottled gray and at the same time a sunburst of color shades it. I headed quickly over to Hagrid's, and knocked a few times on the door.
"Hagrid? You at home?"
No answer. And the door was locked. I could have charmed it open, but I didn't want to pry. I have always been a very private person, and so try and respect the privacy of others.
My heart sank down to my shoes.
There was no one I could turn to. No one I could tell about how scared I was now to go to sleep without a light on. How just looking at a picture of a werewolf made me want to sick up. I thought I was a coward.
Useless, worthless, no good brat! Tobias growled in my mind. The only thing you can do right is cast spells! And lately, you can't even do that. You couldn't save Mum, you drove away the only other real friend you have, you're a pathetic bastard, unworthy of being loved. Why don't you do yourself a favor, and the rest of the world too, and just go to sleep and never wake up. Who needs you anyway?
I stared down at the vial in my hand, and felt tears sting my eyes.
I already knew the answer to that question.
I crept around the back of the hut, the front felt too exposed.
I sat down on the path leading to the back door and the pumpkin patch and turned the vial over and over in my hands.
When my mother lay dying, I had sat by her bedside and asked her once if she were afraid of leaving the earth and going to heaven. She had said no, because heaven was wonderful, a place where all your hopes and dreams came true.
I hoped she was happy there.
I shut my eyes, and uncorked the vial.
Maybe I should join her there. Anything was better than here.
I swallowed the draft and then I fell over.
I fully expected to never wake up again in this world.
Instead, I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the four walls of a familiar hut, lying on a comfortable straw stuffed mattress in a corner near a big black old-fashioned stove. My eyes darted this way and that, I was frightened and for an instant didn't know where I was.
Then a familiar shape came into view, and Hagrid stirred a pot of stew on the stove.
At first I was happy to see him, knowing he was the one who had saved me. But an instant later I was angry. Who had asked him to interfere? I wasn't worth saving. Surely Hagrid would know that. Wouldn't he?
This is something that's been nagging at me to write, and it will be a short piece, maybe 4-5 chapters, that details the bond that came about from a badly abused and depressed Severus and the gentle wise half-giant Hagrid. It was something I felt needed to be written. But please note, I do NOT approve or encourage suicide, a relative of mine once committed it, and if you or someone you know is contemplating it, PLEASE get help. Your life is a gift, respect it.
I have written the Pensive memories as if Harry were a part of them, instead of being an impartial observer, because I always thought it odd that a memory wasn't viewed/experienced from the POV of the person remembering it. When I recall something that happened to me, I see it as it happened from my unique perspective, and not from anyone else's perspective, unless we are having a discussion. Whenever Harry uses a Pensive in the books, I always got the feeling he was watching TV or something, not experiencing the memory the way the person who owned it did. I think the impact is much greater if you BECOME the person whose memory you're viewing, so that's why I've written this in first person POV, save for the beginning and end of this story.