Title: Lost Memories
Pairing and Characters: Pre-Severus Snape/Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore
Beta Reader: opaljade
Beta Viewer: lariopefic
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): EWE.
Summary: Harry didn't catch all of Snape's memories that night in the Shrieking Shack.
It took a moment for the image to become clear, and when it did, her eyes widened as if she hadn't known what she would find here, as if she hadn't expected to recognize the faces before her.
"Perhaps I have misunderstood you," Snape said, rubbing two fingers between his brows to the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes. "It sounded to me as if you asked that I contribute to the protection of the Philosopher's Stone by devising a logic problem designed to keep out everyone but an eleven year old girl."
"Precisely," Dumbledore replied. "Though I should add that I have a particular eleven year old girl in mind. Which is not to say that a pack of them might not frighten even the Darkest Lord." Dumbledore chuckled to himself, apparently pleased with his own wit. "Come now, Severus. I hardly think it will be a stretch. You've always had a gift for logic… so rare in wizards. Won't you have a sherbet lemon?" He nudged the bowl toward Snape with his forefinger.
"I do not want your bloody Calming Potions," Snape snapped. He paused and seemed to enjoy the rather pained look on Dumbledore's face. "And there's no need to look so surprised. Did you really believe that I wouldn't deduce the nature of your eccentric little affinity for Muggle sweets?" His voice became mocking. "'He's just a boy, Severus; have a sherbet lemon.' 'Look after Quirrell, Severus; have a sherbet lemon.' From now on you will tell me plainly what it is you wish for me to do, and we'll skip the coercion tactics, shall we? It is nothing less than insulting. I am the Potions Master, after all."
"Quite right," Dumbledore said mildly. "Which brings us back to the point. I have asked each of the professors to tailor an enchantment according to his or her subject. And so I had hoped that you might contribute a game of Potions or somesuch… the details being entirely up to you, of course."
"Up to me, is it?" Snape muttered. "And have they all been apprised of the need for Miss Granger to be able to break through?"
Dumbledore smiled. "No, Severus. Miss Granger will not be working alone. I expect young Neville Longbottom to work out Pomona's defence, and Ronald Weasley, Minerva's. Filius has been given the task of devising a task suited to Harry Potter's strengths, and Miss Granger, I have left for you."
Snape glared at the wall beside Dumbledore's head, shifting slightly in his seat. "Should I be flattered?" he asked. "You've saved me the only one with a scrap of sense."
Dumbledore seemed unwilling to acknowledge this, and silence stretched between the two men like a taut string.
"You realize the danger you're putting us all in? Protecting something so valuable, so essential to the Dark Lord with a series of flimsy enchantments meant to be breakable by first-years? We'll be lucky if he hasn't risen again by term's end."
"Do not fall into the trap of underestimating youth," Dumbledore said beatifically. "For what is long since past to us is fresh and immediate to them. Besides, Severus, you know where his weakness lies; we have discussed this. School things, children's lore, the pleasure of Quidditch on a warm Fall afternoon…"
"You plan to defeat the Dark Lord with Quidditch?"
Dumbledore gave a muted huff. "I expect that Harry will defeat him, when the time comes, and what pleasures and fortifications will line his personal armory, I cannot begin to imagine."
Snape pursed his lips until they very nearly disappeared into a fine white line. He leaned forward, took a sharp breath, and then seemed to reconsider.
"Out with it," Dumbledore said.
"You don't find it abhorrent?" Snape said. "Sending children after Quirrell, knowing what he is, what he harbors? When you could dispose of him now, here in this room? All you would have to do would be to summon him here on some school business and…"
Dumbledore cut him off. "Voldemort is weakened. I think it would be best for Harry to see him now, to take him on before his strength has returned. Harry needs confidence, the sense that he is capable, so that later—"
"So you admit that you intend to let Voldemort rise to power once more? When it is within your abilities to end him now."
"What barriers lie between Voldemort and death, we cannot know. He has survived the Killing Curse, Severus. Something sustains him, weak as he may be now. I will not let the Philosopher's Stone fall into his hands—Harry will prevent it—but I do not pretend that I am powerful enough to end him tonight. I simply think that we must take the opportunity that presents itself, so that Harry might learn a bit of what he will need to defeat him."
"It is… you have at your disposal…" Snape sputtered, "Albus, you employ some of the finest minds and magics working for our side! Why do you insist that it must come down to the Potter brat? What possible advantage could there be in resting our world on the shoulders of an imbecilic child?"
Dumbledore took a long time in answering, and when he spoke, his voice was quiet but hard. "Harry Potter is pure. Pure in a way that we can scarcely imagine. Pure in a way that means nothing to those who claim to care for purity of bloodlines or ancestry. But they are right in a way that they will never guess—legacy does matter. And Harry Potter was born of love—born of two parents of strong accord and love for him—"
Snape's face contorted, and he seemed to recoil from Dumbledore's words. "Love again," he said. "Always the preoccupation with love."
Dumbledore gave him a pointed look, but Snape was not quelled.
"Do you truly think it would have lasted—this perfect accord that you speak of? They were little more than children themselves. She would have outgrown him, and Potter Junior would have been no different from the rest of us poor sods."
Dumbledore's chin dropped, and he looked sadly at his desk for a moment before he looked up again and seemed to trap Snape in his piercing gaze.
"Perhaps. Perhaps she would have, Severus. But she was killed before she had the chance."
There was more, she could tell, but it grew… grainy… grey like the wood she had leached it from. Hermione shifted her wand slightly to the right. The strength of the Tergeo Charm she cast vibrated right up to her elbow, and her fingers had begun to tingle and numb against her wand, but she persevered. Whatever was left might make a difference—might make all the difference—and if there was anything of use here, she intended to find it. On her knees in the Shrieking Shack, the fingers of her left hand trailed her wand, eager to touch whatever it brought to the surface, to plunge her into the swirling dream-world of Pensieve memories.
Snape's eyes were wild, and he paced the corridor outside the hospital wing, waiting, it seemed. His stride was both halting and aggressive, as if he were already in the midst of an argument and was frequently stopping to address his opponent or to refute a point.
After a few moments of this, Dumbledore appeared from within the hospital and used his wand to set a warding spell upon the door of the room he had stepped from.
"Severus," he said calmly.
"You cannot possibly believe him," Snape said immediately. "I am telling you, Pettigrew wasn't there! This is clearly the fabrication of a man who wants to keep out of Azkaban—which, if it has escaped your recollection, he has recently escaped from! He is a criminal; he cannot be trusted—"
"Severus, you are hardly in an unbiased position," Dumbledore said, moving past Snape, who had stepped into his path.
"Unbiased? I was there! Pettigrew was not in the Shrieking Shack tonight, I assure you. He was not there because he is dead. Black killed him, just like he tried to kill me when we were sixteen, just like he killed Lily Evans!" Snape's voice rose in pitch and volume, approaching a breaking point.
"I understand your feelings," Dumbledore said quietly as he lifted his wand. It was not pointed at Snape; in fact, he held it up as if it were his index finger, casually raised to stay Snape's words, but the gesture was so powerful that it seemed to fix him in place. "It is much neater with Black as the culprit, is it not? One of the most hated figures of your childhood betraying the most beloved, and in doing so, giving you a focus for all the guilt that you so naturally feel…"
"Guilt!" Snape shouted. "Guilt? What I did, what I told…" His demeanor changed suddenly from sonorous to deadly quiet. "It would have meant nothing if he had not given her away."
"Yes, I know, Severus. But if you had never told Lord Voldemort what you heard that night, there might have been no reason to hide her in the first place. And Black might not have feared so for Lily and James's safety that he sought to hide them beneath another layer of protection… a false trail leading to him, when in fact, the secret keeper was Peter Pettigrew."
"Lies," Snape said, turning away. His shoulders shook slightly, but no tears reached his eyes.
"I see how difficult this will be," Dumbledore said, "to have to work with him, to trust him with your very life—"
Snape's head whipped around, and he stared at the headmaster. "It is impossible. You cannot stay the Dementors, Dumbledore, no matter what you believe."
"Perhaps not," Dumbledore replied. "It is one of my chief objections to them; once they begin to thirst for a particular soul, they almost never stop until they have acquired it. But if Black were gone before they ever arrived…"
Snape moaned, a pathetic, animal sound rising from his belly. "No—tell me you haven't—"
"What could I have done?" Dumbledore said, but there was a muted twinkle in his gaze. "You have been with me all this time."
Snape made for the door. "Potter! You've set him loose somehow—" He tried the handle, but it was locked as he must have known it to be, having watched Dumbledore ward it.
"Set who loose, Severus? Harry Potter is not a prisoner, only kept in Madam Pomfrey's excellent care. Sirius Black is being detained in Filius's office, where you left him."
"Dumbledore," Snape said. "Albus, please—"
"But I would like your oath, I think. After all, accidents happen all the time. Even the Fortress of Azkaban did not prove inescapable."
"My oath," Snape repeated dully.
"Your wizard's oath," Dumbledore amended, "that you will work with Black. That if he is in hiding, you will not reveal his location—"
"As he revealed hers?" Snape asked, but Dumbledore ignored the interruption.
"That you will accept him as a fellow member of the Order of the Phoenix and take on the opposing of common enemies and the common goal of protecting Lily Potter's son. I assure you, he will take to the tasks with equal fervor. He is, perhaps, the one person who could truly understand your feelings about that evening."
A strangled snarl escaped Snape's lips then. "You think that I would ever—EVER—desecrate her memory by consorting with the men who lured her to her death—"
Now Dumbledore did aim his wand at Snape. "Your oath," he repeated, implacable. "For her son."
Snape accepted defeat without grace, touching the tip of his wand to Dumbledore's, but never meeting the man's eyes. "I would prefer act for the good of our world, rather than on a promise that you will never free me from," Snape said quietly. "But you make it very difficult."
Dumbledore's reply, if he made one, was lost to the wood on which it had been spilled, and for a moment, Hermione seemed to exist both outside the Hospital Wing and in the Shrieking Shack. Both appeared insubstantial and shadowy, and she was afraid for a moment before she reappeared fully in the Shack. After all, it was not common practice to touch Pensieve memories with the hands, to gather and view them without the magic of the Pensieve to contain them. However, though she'd tried multiple times to remove the memories from the dusty floorboards where they had fallen, uncollected, she was unable to cast a charm strong enough to collect them in a bottle. She had only been able to bring them close enough to the surface to press her fingers against the moistened boards and find out for herself what had been left behind.
Snape's memories—the ones she and Harry had managed to collect on the night of the final battle, the night Nagini had struck—had been seized by the Ministry. She couldn't truly blame Harry for leaving them behind in Dumbledore's office when he'd set off for the Forbidden Forest. How could he have known that Snape would survive, even that he himself would? And yet, the situation was so desperate without them that she knew if she had a Time-Turner now, she would not hesitate to go back and change that last mistake, that last flaw in the plan. Harry had told her all that he could recall of what he'd seen in Snape's memories, but without actually possessing them, she had little faith that she would be able to reopen Snape's case, to bring people to see what she felt certain of in her heart.
She was reminded of her own conversation with Dumbledore in the hospital wing on the night that they had rescued Sirius. There is not a shred of evidence to support his story, Dumbledore had said, except your word—and that will not convince anybody.
There simply had to be something here that she could use.
Hermione knew she had little time left…. either for the day's viewing—already she knew she was tiring, that the strength of the charms she was casting and the repeated trips into Snape's mind were weakening her—or time in which to save the man who waited in Azkaban. Kingsley had done what he could, but even he could not postpone the inevitable forever, not against the full power of the Wizengamot.
She braced herself and tried again.
"Boomslang skin," Snape thundered as he crashed through the door to Dumbledore's office.
Dumbledore looked raised his head slowly, a look of polite interest on his face. "Mmm?" he said.
"Boomslang skin and powdered horn of Bicorn—those are the ingredients that went mysteriously missing from my stores after a firework landed in young Goyle's cauldron this afternoon," Snape said.
"I see," said Dumbledore. "That is unfortunate. I hope that whatever was in the cauldron in question was not too toxic. Were you able to attend to the students?"
"Of course I was able to—it was only—Do you not see what this means?"
Dumbledore said nothing, but continued to look calmly and expectantly in Snape's direction.
"Polyjuice Potion," he spat. "Someone—and I do not suppose you will need three guesses as to whom it might be—stole from me in order to brew a restricted potion."
"A restricted potion?" Dumbledore asked. "Polyjuice is tricky, to be sure, no easy feat to brew. But so far as I know, the Ministry does not regulate it."
Snape stood before Dumbledore's desk in silence, staring at the man for several drawn-out moments.
"Are you indicating that you wish for a second-year student to attempt to brew the Polyjuice Potion unsupervised and with stolen ingredients, Dumbledore? Dare I ask if this was your idea? And for what possible purpose—surely if you required Polyjuice, you could simply have asked."
Dumbledore laughed, his eyes closing, and his head rocking back against his chair. If Snape's anger in any way discomfited him, it did not show on his face.
"Harry?" he gasped out. "I believe Harry is familiar enough with his own limitations never to attempt such a thing. I'm afraid he'd turn up all noses, or with a goat's beard or somesuch—Poppy would be kept busy for weeks."
Snape did not appear to share Dumbledore's enjoyment of the idea, despite the fact that it involved Harry Potter's incompetence and possible consequences thereof.
"I think you overestimate Potter, as usual," Snape said. "And I find it difficult to believe that he was not at the heart of today's incident with the Swelling Solution."
"Hmm," Dumbledore said noncommittally. "Have you had any further thoughts about the Heir of Slytherin, Severus?"
"Do not change the subject," Snape spat.
"Oh, I assure you, I am not," Dumbledore said. "However, it seems to me that you and I are not the only ones speculating as to his or her identity."
"What would a second-year want with the Polyjuice Potion?" Dumbledore said, tenting his fingers as if he were deep in thought. "What need could possibly be so great as to attempt theft from one of the most feared professors at this fine institution? And then, of course, if the theft were successful, the difficult, month-long brewing would commence. Do you know of many students who would undertake such a task for the pleasure of a prank or an illicit Hogsmeade visit? Do you know of many second-years who could possibly brew the potion successfully?"
Snape's eyes widened. "Granger," he breathed.
Dumbledore did not confirm nor deny Snape's words, but gave him a slight twinkle as he continued. "Only someone who was at direct risk of the Heir might attempt such a thing, or a group of someones, motivated by fear for each other—or the wish to vindicate one of their own."
"By visiting those places they might be unable to go with their true faces and questioning those who might otherwise remain silent."
"You assume it is a Slytherin," Snape sneered, and Dumbledore tipped his head to one side.
"Well, the culprit does call himself the Heir of Slytherin, Severus."
Snape turned away. "And you intend to permit this… investigation," he said.
"Perhaps they will discover the identity of the Heir," Dumbledore said. "It is not impossible. And if they do not… the effects of the Polyjuice should not be harmful."
"Presuming it is brewed correctly," Snape muttered. "And you think this… group, you said, of second-years to be better suited to revealing the Heir of Slytherin than perhaps… you… would be?"
"Oh, I have my suspicions," Dumbledore said. "But as I was unable to conclusively prove them during the last opening of the Chamber of Secrets, I am, of course, grateful for any help I might receive." He gave Snape a sharp look.
Snape merely grunted in response.
"How is Moaning Myrtle, I wonder?" Dumbledore said, seemingly apropos of nothing, adopting his musing stance once more. "An unfortunate moniker, to be sure. And yet—I do hope these students… whoever they might be… are successful. It would be a terrible blow to lose another student like young Myrtle."
Snape stood abruptly, and Hermione knew that their meeting was drawing to a close and prepared herself for the uncomfortable sensation of being in two places at once as the memory dissipated. She was shocked to learn that Dumbledore had known what they had been doing; she had thought they had kept the secret well. Although it did account for Madam Pomfrey's relative lack of curiosity regarding her stint as a cat—
Hermione snapped out of her musing to find herself not in the Shrieking Shack once more, but following Snape down a deserted second floor corridor. He opened the door to the deserted girl's bathroom, and she followed, close on his heels. She held her breath as he opened the stall door to reveal her Polyjuice Potion. Time had clearly passed since the memory she had just witnessed in Dumbledore's office—the potion was bubbling and frothing in the cauldron and had turned the characteristic muddy gray that indicated it was nearly complete.
He picked up her notes and flipped through them for a few moments. Then he bent and examined the empty packet of lacewing flies, a sprig of fluxweed that had been left on the floor. "At the full moon," he murmured. He sniffed the cauldron, wafting the fumes toward himself and then rose without stirring or otherwise altering it in any way.
"Acceptable," he pronounced, and turned on his heel, and it was then that Hermione began to lose her grip on the fading memory. She became aware of the ache of her knees where they pressed against the floorboards, the hum of her wand in her hand, and slowly, the rough hewn walls and dusty draperies of the Shrieking Shack began to materialize around her.
It was still not enough.
She stood in the rain at the harbour in Aberdeen where she would be ferried across the North Sea to Azkaban. Because the wards surrounding Azkaban made arrival or departure by magical means impossible, the only option was to spend several damp hours in the company of the wizards who operated the ferry and the family members and visitors of the prisoners. Although, of course, the slipway was hidden from Muggles, it was even more deserted than usual on that dismal Saturday in September, no one, apparently, wanting to compound the dreariness of the day with a trip to Azkaban. The Dementors were gone—Kingsley, at least, had seen to that—but an aura of despair lingered around the Fortress, as if they could never be eradicated entirely.
The day was cool, and the damp air, compounded with the drizzle and sea spray, chilled Hermione. The Warming Charm she cast compensated, but just barely. She still felt the stinging droplets as they hit her face, and she blinked against the wind and rain. The old wizard who operated the small ferry sat on the wooden bench beside her and looked out over the water.
"You visitin him again?" he said at last.
Hermione said nothing, but gave a curt nod. This seemed to satisfy the man for a time, but finally he spoke again. "People talk, you know. War hero like you visitin a man like that."
Hermione turned and caught the man in an unyielding stare. "I don't know why people would talk, when the visitors to Azkaban are to remain confidential."
The wizard bobbed his head in agreement, but went on, affably enough, "That they are. But there's more than just you and me here, most days, isn't there? And you can't keep them all quiet. They haven't all taken that Silencing Charm. They're civilians, aren't they? Can't Silence them." Then he lapsed into silence himself, apparently content to look out at the sea.
It was a warning, most likely. And she was sure the man did hear all kinds of talk from the witches and wizards who visited Azkaban. Before long, it would probably turn up in the press that she'd been here. She'd hoped to avoid it, afraid that if the Ministry realized what she was up to that they would try to stop her. But time was so short now that it probably mattered very little. Either she would get what she needed or she wouldn't. Coming here to tell him about it would become obsolete.
Hermione went through the customary rituals at the mouth of the prison: registering her name, surrendering her wand. She needed no guard to guide her way through the labyrinthine stone passages of the Fortress; she had been here frequently enough to know the way, though the corridors were dimly lit. So little natural light entered the building at all that it was possible to believe that Azkaban existed underground as a series of dungeons.
She drew up beside Snape's cell and waited, watching him. He sat on the edge of his cot, dressed in the customary loose-fitting gray robes, staring at the far wall as if he had not heard her footfalls echoing off the stone.
She knew that he would not acknowledge her, that for some unfathomable reason, she would have to speak first. It had always been this way.
"Sir," she said.
"I find it odd that you continue to address me as 'sir,' Granger," he said by way of greeting. "This is Azkaban, in case it has escaped your notice."
She did not reply, as anything she might have said would have been trite at best. Nothing seemed to comfort or reassure this wizard except facts. "I've been back to the Shrieking Shack," she said. "I was able to view three more memories, though I was not strong enough to bottle them."
"I see," Snape said quietly. "Which… three?"
"Sir, forgive me, but I still don't understand why you refuse to submit to Legilimency. The memories are still in your head. And Kingsley says—"
"Nothing useful, then," Snape muttered. "Miss Granger, do you think that I refuse the Auror's Legilimency simply to be obstinate? You are aware of the task I undertook in spying on the Dark Lord, are you not? I have suffered more Legilimency that you can possibly imagine."
"But it would only be once more. And it might be the thing that—"
"My head is full of memories, Granger!" Snape said, becoming animated for the first time and smacking his palm against the thin metal of his cot. "Some real, some false, most carefully tailored to be seen only by the Dark Lord. And those that were removed for Potter, those that are of such interest to you—it would be clear immediately that they had been tampered with, that they were but copies of copies."
"But, sir, Harry told me that in his private lessons, Dumbledore showed him many Pensieve memories from various people—and he wasn't concerned for the legitimacy of those memories should they have been called up in court."
"Dumbledore was not concerned about acquiring evidence, Miss Granger; he was concerned about winning a war. Believe me when I tell you that anything that comes from my head will be declared traitorous or inadmissible. This is a fool's endeavor, as I have pointed out to you on numerous occasions."
Hermione stared at him, but he kept his eyes resolutely on the far wall.
"Thank you for explaining," she said. She was sorry to have pressed him, sorry to be reminded that he felt more caged and hopeless even than she did. And she was sorry, too, to have angered him sufficiently as to render the rest of their visit pointless. Although he gave no sign that he took comfort in an hour's companionship, she could not imagine that he took any pleasure in being abandoned here. She turned to go.
And then he looked at her, staying her retreat. "Which three?" he asked again.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, as if remembering. "I saw you talking to Dumbledore about the enchantments guarding the Philosopher's Stone," she said. She opened her eyes to find him watching her, his gaze probing her own. He nodded.
"I also saw that you checked on our—on my—Polyjuice Potion." She was reluctant to mention the memory of Sirius Black. She did not want to answer the question that she knew he would ask, to admit her role in helping Black escape behind his back, even if she knew her decision had been the right one.
"I might have called it an acceptable attempt had you not turned yourself into a cat," Snape said.
She inclined her head to concede the point.
"And the third?" he asked, and she could not help but feel that he sensed her discomfort, that he knew what was coming next.
"The night that Sirius Black…" she whispered. "The night at the Shrieking Shack... I saw you and Dumbledore. Outside the hospital wing."
"Ah," Snape said, almost inaudibly. He looked at the floor for a time, and Hermione remained rooted to the spot. Either he would not speak again, in which case she would have to summon what dignity she could in leaving, or he would raise his head and ask her—
"What happened behind that door, Miss Granger?"
She said nothing for a moment, and he went on, "The Philospher's Stone, the Polyjuice Potion… it was always you behind it. Tell me what you did."
"I had… I had a Time-Turner," she began haltingly. "I had a Time-Turner, and Dumbledore asked me—that is, he suggested that—"
"I know all about Albus Dumbledore's methods of suggestion," Snape said, "as you are well aware. How did you do it?"
"Harry and I rescued the Hippogriff, Buckbeak, from execution. Sirius escaped from the tower on his back."
Snape said nothing, but instead of his reproach, she felt that the air was filling with his expectation. She had saved one wrongly accused man from the Dementor's Kiss. Who was to say she could not perform the extraordinary a second time?
Her eyes stung, but she would not cry in front of Snape. Didn't he see? Didn't he realize? She'd been guided by Dumbledore; she'd been told what to do. She'd been goaded and suggested, just as he had been. How was she supposed to do it again, now, when there was no one?
"I will do my best," she said quietly. Then she turned and headed back down the draughty corridor.
Over the sound of her own footsteps, she heard his exhaled breath and his rueful reply.
"Only of you could I ever believe that."