Chapter 9 : The Truth Hurts
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Snape stopped dead in his walk to the castle as he tried to make sense of what he had just been told. Did Alexis just say that he would be working at Hogwarts?
“You looked almost as shocked as I am,” Alexis said with a dry smile.
“What will you be doing?” he asked.
She sighed deeply. “I will be taking Madam Pomfrey’s place in the infirmary. She has decided that it is time for her to retire. Minerva did not share with me the reasons behind her decision to leave, but I got the impression that the battle was the primary reason behind it.”
“I get the impression that you are not particularly thrilled with the idea,” Snape pressed carefully as the slowly continued their walk.
She was quiet for a long time, during which Snape stole sideways glances at her. He was certain that he saw her blinking rapidly as if she were fighting against the urge to cry. Snape waited patiently not wanting to push her, but was becoming afraid she was not going to answer him.
Finally she said quietly, “It’s a long story. A complicated long story. I think for now it is safe to say that I feel like I was tricked into coming here. I know this is going to sound really odd, but I can’t help but think that this is what Dumbledore had in mind when he asked me to return here to begin with. Like he knew that I would end up working at the school.”
Snape snorted and said, “Unfortunately, I have found that there is rarely anything that Albus Dumbledore did, that did not have some greater purpose.”
“Heh. Great,” she said with a forced laugh.
Snape overcome with the odd sensation of feeling as though he needed to say something to help make her feel more at ease said conversationally, “It will be nice having another Slytherin Alumni on the staff. I’m afraid Slughorn has turned a bit soft on me and hardly seems to count as one.”
This time Alexis did not have to force her laugh. “You can’t be serious! What is he still doing here?”
“Albus called him back out of retirement for reason unknown to the rest of us. The only good to have come out of it was that I was finally allowed to take over the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes,” he replied.
“What? You are not teaching potions? I would have thought that you would be a natural for the post. Of course I guess with old Sluggy back it would make sense, but still…” she marveled.
He eyed her carefully to see if she was poking fun at him before saying, “I found that I grew quite tired of potions. Defense was something I always felt that I was more qualified for.”
“Is that because of the things that ‘The Prophet’ said about you?” she asked softly. “Were you really one of his Death Eaters?”
Snape grimaced. He should have known that this was coming. “I was,” he confessed slowly, “immediately after leaving Hogwarts.” He stole a look at her reaction of the corner of his eye. Her expression told him nothing. “But you must know, three years after I left school, before Voldemort fell the first time, I joined forces with Dumbledore as a spy from within. It was the only option I had. No one leaves his service without getting killed. I knew that he needed to be stopped and I did what I felt needed to be done. When he came back, I was forced to resume my activities,” he said. He forced himself to stop talking, completely unaware of why he felt the need to justify anything to this woman.
“Geez! And he never suspected you?! No wonder Harry thinks so highly of you! Although personally I do not know if I would call you brave or just plain crazy. Or maybe suicidal. Who knows,” she said admiringly.
As Alexis spoke, Snape was astonished to realize that she didn’t seem disgusted, frightened or judgmental towards him at al. She seemed, in fact, nearly unaffected by his confession. She almost acted as if she were in awe of him, he dared to think.
“Is this what you showed to Harry when he found you? He said that he felt so bad for the way he had treated you and guilty for the things that he had accused you of,” Alexis was saying.
“There seems to be a great many things that Mr. Potter has assumed the guilt for. I am sure that his treatment of me is rather the least of his concerns, as it should be,” he added quickly.
“I think that is where you are wrong, Severus. I believe that you are one of the foremost things on Harry’s conscious right now,” she said quietly.
“That does not make any sense,” he said. “Potter treated me no differently than what would have been expected based on what he knew of me.”
"Why do you only ever refer to him as ‘Potter’ or ‘Mr. Potter’?”
“Isn’t that his name?” Snape sneered.
Alexis smiled. “Of course it is. But he also has a first name which you seem to be against using.”
“I refer to all of my students by their last names. It is only proper,” he countered.
“While this may be true, I somehow doubt that you speak their last names with such contempt as you do when you speak Harry’s,” she said carefully.
He immediately began to protest this observation when she cut him off and continued speaking, “It’s no use arguing with me about it. You see I have this…ability I guess you could say, to sense people’s emotions. Sometimes I not only sense them, but feel them as my own. It’s an unfortunate talent that I have had my entire life,” she scoffed. “I am easily able to a person’s feelings and decipher them even when they themselves may not be able to pinpoint what it is they are feeling.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” he spat coldly, feeling somewhat violated by this intrusion of his emotional state.
“I don’t care if you have heard of it or not. The point is, when you speak the name ‘Potter’ you do so with nothing but hate and loathing in your heart. And I think I know why,” she said as she stopped walking suddenly. “You use his surname to always keep reminding yourself that Harry is James Potter’s son, so that you can always keep Harry at a distance from you.”
Snape felt the fury rise up inside of him like a fire. “Don’t you dare speak that name to me!” he spat dangerously. “You have no idea—“
“No! You have no idea! I remember how James and his friends used to torment you, Severus. So I can only imagine what it must be like for you to now be in a position where his son is depending on you for so much. But it is time for you to finally stop feeling sorry for yourself because of how you were treated and realize that Harry is not anything like that cruel obnoxious bully that his father was!” She took a step closer to Snape. “You have had so many chances to prove to yourself and to Harry that you are a better person that his father was and yet judging from what he told me about how much you hated him I can see that you failed miserably! You have been just as bad…no worse than James! Worse because you know how it feels! Worse because you are a grown-ass man who couldn’t see past his own childhood prejudices! Worse because that boy feels nothing but admiration for you and guilt, not only for what he wrongly believed about you but also, for the way his father treated you!” Alexis finished hoarsely.
Snape stared at her unsure of what to think or say. He wanted to scream at her and tell her how wrong she was, but he could not find the words. There were many points that she had made that were possibly to close to the truth.
“I had no choice but to treat him as I did,” he managed. “It was necessary for me to be able to maintain uh…position,” he finished weakly. He knew that she wasn’t buying his lame excuse but he tried to stand his ground.
Thankfully she chose not to challenge him. Instead her intense glare softened and she moved to stand and face him.
“Now that you no longer have to live that life anymore, maybe it is time for you to start again. Whether or not you want to believe it, Harry needs you. His is, in so many ways still only a child. A child that was forced to grow up too fast and has been through more than anyone else can hardly imagine. He needs someone that knows what he has been through to give him the strength to tackle the things that still lie before him,” she whispered.
Snape looked down into her silver eyes that seemed to plead with him and was astonished to see a reflection of Harry mirrored in them. He pushed a little further into her mind and heard as Harry screamed at Alexis about his failure in the shrieking shack. He watched as Harry was reduced to a heart wrenching sobbing making him look so much younger than he actually was. His grief was almost palpable even in her memories. It was an image that he would not be able to force easily from his mind.
“He is waiting for us. We need to get going,” Snape muttered as he withdrew from her memories, stepped around Alexis and resumed his walk to the castle.
Harry landed in the main courtyard of the school where he decided to sit and rest as he waited for Snape and Alexis to walk up from Hogsmeade. He was surprised by the unseasonable chill in the air tonight. He considered for a moment, going up to the tower and grabbing his cloak, but dismissed the idea thinking that he could stand the chill for the short time that he would be waiting.
Deciding that he could stay warm if he kept moving, he began to pace around the courtyard. He supposed that he should be nervous about having to try to explain to Alexis about the fits that he has been having, but instead all he could feel was relief about the possibility of finally having his living situation figured out.
He truly had been astonished when Snape had offered to help him find a place to live, but he was more than anything grateful. He didn’t have the first clue about how or where to even begin looking for a place to live in a magical community. Him and Ron had talked about trying to find a place together, but he didn’t figure that would be for quite a while. He was certain that Snape would be able to help him find something.
Of course finding a place to live wouldn’t cure all of his worries. He still needed to figure out something that he could do for some income. He had been trying not to think about how he was absolutely unemployable in not only the magical world, but in the muggle world as well but he knew that he would not be able to live forever on the monies that his parents had left him. He supposed if things really got desperate for him he could always take Mr. Creevey’s offer to join him in the milkman business.
He had met Mr. Creevey several days ago when he had attended Colin Creevey’s funeral. When he had asked what Harry’s plans were now that he had been done with school, Harry had found himself confessing that he had very few options available to him. Being a milkman for his entire adult life, Mr. Creevey assured Harry that if was a profitable and well-respected muggle job. Harry was unsure of which one of them he was truly trying to convince with this information, Harry or himself.
It had been a nice service that had been packed primarily by muggles since Colin & Dennis were muggle born wizards. Under most normal conditions, Harry would have been more than happy for the animosity the he experienced amongst muggles, but he thought that it had been horribly unfair to the memory of Colin’s heroism for his non-magic friends and family to be told that he had been killed in an automobile hit-and-run accident. If it hadn’t been for Hermione, Ginny and the rest of the members of Dumbledore’s Army that had been there, he might have gotten himself into some serious trouble by blurting out the truth about what had happened to him.
The hardest part of the day had been the viewing following the memorial service. He had to summon all of his strength to even approach the statue. Looking down into the face of the boy lying there before him, the guilt he felt once again nearly overwhelmed him. He did not even try to hold back the tears that escaped as he wondered how no one had noticed him returning back to Hogwarts.
Colin, who had even not attended Hogwarts that year because of the muggle-born status, had been carrying the charm galleon that Neville had used to summon the DA members to assemble for the battle. Somehow he had managed to sneak through the Hog’s Head and into the castle despite his being underage.
Harry had slipped the autographed picture of him that Colin had begged for since his first year at school, next to the stuffed Gryffindor lion that someone had placed in the casket before him. He turned with a glare at his friends behind him just daring them to make some snide remark about this gesture, but was met instead with grim faces that showed nothing but complete understanding about the significance of the gift.
With his thoughts as absorbed in his memories as they were, and the unseasonable chill in the air, Harry was taken quite by surprise when he began to hear the screams and echoes of the battle in his head.
Instantly disorganized and confused, Harry closed his eyes to attempt to block out the noise when he saw an image of Tonks across the courtyard battling with Bellatrix in his mind.
“No!” he heard himself scream.
He watched in horror as he saw Tonks getting pushed further and further back barely able to keep up with the barrage of attacks being thrown at her by her aunt. He knew that he had to do something to help her before she was struck down before his eyes.
“Bellatrix!” he shouted at her as loud as he could manage.
As she turned her attention from Tonks, trying to locate the source of the distraction, Harry saw the blinding green light. It was not coming from the direction that he was looking, but from off to his right from where he had been dueling with Dolohov.
He was surprised that he felt no fear, but happiness as an image of Tonks holding baby Teddy in her arms materialized from the center of the bright green light that was coming nearer and nearer to him.
Someone was calling him. He could feel himself shivering and shaking. He tried taking a deep breath and was overwhelmed with a sharp pain in his chest.
“What’s happening to him?!”
“This is how I found him before.”
He heard the voices, but they sounded like they were echoing from very far away, as if they were inside of a cave. He struggled to take a deep breath and felt a heavy warmth covering his shoulder.
A voice very close to his ear spoke to him gently, “Harry, breath. You are all right. No one is hurting you. Open your eyes and look at me.”
Very much unlike the previous time that he had been found in such a state he was not embarrassed or worried about what Snape was thinking about him. Instead he felt overwhelmed with relief. He reached out blindly searching for the man that he knew was kneeling at his side. When he found the arm that was nearest to him he gripped it tightly.
“I saw Tonks…fighting Bellatrix…” he whispered before he took a ragged, painful breath. “And Remus. No…I was Remus…I had his thoughts…I-I saw what he saw. And thought what he thought. He died because he was trying to distract Bellatrix to give Tonks a chance to kill her! But Dolohov killed him in the process.” Harry rambled. “I saw the curse coming at me. I saw Teddy and Tonks in the light! I thought that I was him!”
When opened his eyes and saw the concern in his former foe’s expression he found that he almost could not continue.
He lowered his eyes and mumbled, “That wasn’t even the worst part. The worst of all of it was that when I heard you talking and I realized that I wasn’t dead I…well…I-I was relieved that it wasn’t really me that had died,” he exclaimed as the flood gates opened and for the second time in a week he found himself sobbing uncontrollably.
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