4: Severe Truth
Looking once again over his lesson plans for the upcoming year, the 'greasy git' (known to some as the Potions Master) sipped his shot of good old-fashioned whiskey. He allowed a smirk to zap his features for a split second, wondering just who invented the everlasting term. True, his hair was slightly oily, but he would rather it be oily then anything like Lockhart's or Potter's. Now there was a disaster area, how he could even see the parchment before his nose was beyond the potions master's comprehension. It was constantly getting in the way, something that could prove deadly in serious potions making. With the shoulder-length locks he had, Severus could easily tie them back when needed, safely out of the way. He vaguely remembered some of his dreaded missions with Potter (James, not Harold) that was one man doomed when it came to potions. All that man was good for was illusions, charms (not as good as Lily though), some counter-curses, and (oddly enough) herbology.
At least young Harold was better than his old man was, Severus mused, shaking his head. The memories of his old 'partner' were never pleasant, and applauding his son was dangerous in the least. The boy was more like Lily than his father- Thank Merlin for that! She had always been the one to right the wrongs, help whoever asked it of her, and do whatever it took. James was always the one off making mischief and wreaking havoc along with his fellow 'marauders'.
A small knock pulled the wizard from his thoughts,
"Enter." He called in a cold, intimidating tone.
"We missed you at supper, Severus."
"Forgive the absence, Headmaster," He answered, altering his tone, "the time has slipped my mind I fear."
"Time has that tendency, my friend, but I do hope you shall watch it with a keener eye-hmmm?" Severus answered the pleasant twinkle with a curt nod, his eyes never losing contact with those of his superior. "I trust time will allow you to join the staff at breakfast tomorrow?"
"I will do my best, Headmaster."
"'Tis all I ask, Severus, 'tis all I ask."
"Tell me, Albus; is this the only reason for this oh-so-pleasant visit?"
"I am afraid not, Severus, the times are Dark, we cannot afford such pleasantries for now."
"You know what I think of the Light and the Dark Albus." The older man just smiled.
"True, Severus, but we can not simply dispel our ways."
"I never said we ought." Severus curtly answered. Dumbledore had always seemed like a father to the darkened professor, always finding some time, some energy, some humor to help the man most deemed doomed to rot in the deepest depths of Hell. He was, after all, a Death Eater, a spy, a skilled manipulator, and the list went on... Men like him deserve Azkaban, not compassion and second, third, fourth chances. Some of the things he had done would have made any other man instantly question his loyalties, doubt his word. Dumbledore understood him, allowed him to behave as he needed to while gracing him with never-wavering trust. This trust is what Severus found so important, so needed in allowing him to sustain this double life.
"Does Voldemort doubt you?" asked the Headmaster.
"And what came of it, dear Severus?"
"He trusts you now?" Snape nodded, pulling his eyes away from the spectacles, "Why?"
"I broke Veritaserum."
"How?" The twinkle, how Severus hated that unnerving twinkle! It never failed to make him feel so naked, exposed to the entire world.
"A built up tolerance, mixed with a few temporary memory charms and potions." He answered curtly, "You know no one has been subjected to the serum more than I."
"Are you whole again, Severus?" The Headmaster asked his voice tinctured with honest concern. "Do you need Madame Pomfrey have a look at you?"
"Keep that blasted woman away, Albus, you know I hate her probing!" The dark man burst out before the other even finished relaying his thought. It was common knowledge after all- Snapes and hospitals DO NOT MIX!
"Only a suggestion Severus… no force intended." The old man chuckled, calming the younger wizard almost instantly, "but you are whole, am I right, Severus?"
"I do not place myself in unnecessary risks, Headmaster; I would hope you had figured that much out by now."
"Alas, if only that were true my boy…" The old wizard whispered, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder as he leaned closer to him, "if only that were true."
"The report is on your desk, Albus." Severus added, leaning out of the Headmasters touch.
"There are things a report does not tell, my boy." The old man countered, his wit as sharp as Snape's, "We both know that, don't we."
"I would rather not speak with you like this Albus… you say yourself that the walls have ears."
"That they do indeed, my son, that they do."
"You have silencing charms in place then?"
"Always, Severus… always."
"What do you wish to know?" The younger man asked, inwardly knowing he would not be able to win, even as he wondered how the Headmaster had placed wards around Severus' own office without him realizing.
"Headmaster?" called a voice from the door, knocking softly. "Did I interrupt-"
"No Minerva, not at all." Dumbledore answered, giving a meaningful look to Severus,
"We will continue this later, Headmaster."
"You may count on it, Severus." The headmaster nodded, sensing the younger man already turning to other trains of thought.
Severus always kept his views on the dealings of Light and Dark as solid as the vaults of Gringotts. He saw as much evil in one as the other, and all the Darkness lacked was a 'righteous cause' and a hero to weigh their hopes on. In their present case, that 'hero' was young Potter… The-Boy-Who-Lived.
"That may be true, Severus, but let not your views seep onto the young… there are other differences, I assure you." Dumbledore had thus answered his ramblings, only to receive an earful of snide examples of misbehaving Aurors and corrupted ministry officials. The differences were minor- mostly. The Light's attempts to control people by exaggerating the Dark's evilness and legitimize similar tactics by deeming it necessary. The Dark simply controls people. The Dark uses their fear of failure and pain to force cooperation while the Light uses the fear to gain free reign on people's lives. The fear gives the Darkness power while the selfishness of the individual drains the effectiveness of the Light. Both use the same devices once other methods fail. Both hurt, torture, kill, and destroy whoever stands between them and their goals. Both do atrocious things to the other and both think they are the only way out of the turmoil that plagues this world. This not even Dumbledore could deny, though he did dislike Severus' ideas on the status of young Harry Potter. For a child to hold such power was idiotic in his eyes, that the spawn of a reckless troublemaker and a lovesick pacifist could amount to such lore. The simple fact remains that the child did nothing out of the ordinary. It possesses no spectacular power or blood, only a few well-chosen protection spells. Thank Merlin, Lily was a genius and scorn the spirits of hell she failed to pass anything on but her eyes. She did pass on her bravery, that was true, but that fool of a husband had to muck it up with his stupidity and headstrong attitude… that man ruins everything!
Potter had been on his mind lately, especially since the Dark Lord mentioned the damned imbecile. It was so like the dimwit to torture Severus, even nearly two decades after his final demise! Why Voldemort mentioned him, Snape could hardly figure out, it was probably an allusion to his precious son no doubt, but still… it did ignite many seemingly forgotten memories of the man. Ever since, Severus' loathing had stewed 'til even his potent glares could barely convey his inner loathing for the man- something they usually accomplished with ease. Either way, young Harold would get a most unpleasant Potions grade this year, of that Severus was sure. The boy was only too easy to use as a stress reliever- looking like a mirror image of Potter, Sr. All Severus needed to do was omit the boy's eyes- Lily's eyes. Severus had never once thought badly of Lily, even after she married the git of a Potter, many of the Slytherins did not even hold her blood against her while she was at school, or her House. Lily was just too nice to everyone to truly hate… no matter what she did. She wasn't stupid, per se, just bluntly innocent. She was an odd mix that he had not seen in the school since. Granger's brains combined with fairytale looks were as close as he could get to describing her. Lily could always find good in people, great good and greater potential, even if the person himself did not see it. Almost any boy would have loved to claim her hand, though she had stubbornly fallen for the local Quidditch star.
"What is it, Minerva?" Dumbledore asked as she led him down the familiar corridors. Even now, the walls whispered their secrets, though Albus did not heed their words. Their secrets, he learned long ago, they tell anytime one wishes to listen, though few can hear their soft-spoken words. No. At present, he intently wished to know why she had interrupted his conversation with Severus. She knew he did not like to be disturbed when he was talking with the man… Merlin knows it is hard enough to get him to actually open up to anyone, even him.
"Forgive me, Albus, but Remus said he needed to speak with you. I told him you were busy, but he said this could not wait… if it were anyone else-" She tried to explain, only to be cut off by the Headmaster.
"You were correct, Minerva. I trust Remus when he says something is urgent… the boy has more patience than most, good judgment as well." He calmed her, eyes gaining a subtle twinkle. "I take it he did not disclose what this matter involved?"
"No Albus, only that it was something that he needs to inform you of immediately, and that it involves Potter," she paused, knitting her brow, "I swear, Albus, if those awful people did anything to that poor boy-"
"Calm yourself Minerva." He said gently, raising his hand slightly, "I am sure the boy is fine. He will be arriving at the school in a bit more then a week and your protective eyes shall fall upon him once again."
"Along with Severus' glares." She huffed, "that man will give all the kids complexes Albus… I swear, if not for the fact that I do not speak ill of my coworkers-"
"Cherry chops" The gargoyle jumped aside, allowing the two to enter.
"Professor!" Remus called out as the two familiar silhouettes appeared at the door.
"Good day Remus, have you reconsidered my offer, dear boy?"
"Forgive me, Headmaster; I still cannot accept the position."
"You are too hard on yourself. The children would be ecstatic to have you reappear at the staff table." He said, settling into his comfortable old chair, "However, I do not believe your unwillingness to return into my employment is what brought us here today."
"No sir." Remus responded nervously, "I wish it were." Now curious, Dumbledore sat up, leaning onto his desk. Minerva graciously excused herself, slipping away as she sensed Remus' unease. "I found a journal, sir… about a month or so ago- James' journal. I… I thought I had best read it sir, before giving it to Harry…" He ran a nervous hand through his graying hair; this was going to take a while. "I… its contents were, well... "