Harry clawed at the duvet desperately, his mouth open in a silent scream. Tears and sweat poured down his face as Harry's eyes shot open, though he still seemed oblivious to Ron's frantic shaking and repeated urgings to "Wake up, Harry!"
At last, Harry managed to pull himself into a sitting position and shove his glasses onto his nose, still panting heavily, to take in the dorm and its occupants. They were all awake and watching him worriedly.
There was silence for a second as Harry tried to lower his heart rate.
"You...you were having a bad dream, mate," Ron said at last, his face white. "I've been trying to wake you up for ages; I thought you were having a fit or something at first, you were shaking so much."
"I was about to get McGonagall," Dean admitted.
"I'm fine," Harry muttered, his face flushed from embarrassment as much as from the dream.
"My Gran says that when you have a temperature you get really bad dreams. Maybe you should go to Madam Pomfrey." Neville's face looked so white that Harry was tempted to offer him the same advice.
"I'm fine," Harry repeated.
"Maybe you should anyway — you know, just in case." Ron's ears burnt as Harry sent him a scorching glare.
"I said I'm fine, Ron!"
Ron opened his mouth as if to continue, but his Gryffindor bravery didn't withstand him and he shut it again instantly.
Harry rolled over to his side as if he were going back to sleep. "Good night."
He squeezed his eyes shut; then, unnerved at the silence, opened them a crack. He watched everyone else reluctantly get back into bed, still eyeing him warily as if he were going to start thrashing around again any second.
Ron was the last to get into bed, and once there he lay staring at Harry until long after the rest of the dormitory had started softly snoring. He was waiting for something, and he seemed to know that Harry was not asleep despite the boy's careful deep breathing.
Eventually, sleep overtook even Ron and Harry sat up quickly, gazing round at his sleeping friends. Embarrassment filled him again as he remembered that these people had seen him having a nightmare. Harry had been plagued with them for so long that he put Silencing Charms up on reflex, but this time...he mustn't have done it. But that wasn't what was keeping Harry awake, and his fingers were still shaking slightly. It was the dream; this dream had been different.
It wasn't Uncle Vernon and his beetroot face pushed against Harry's; it wasn't Aunt Marge and her way of making him feel like a stray dog; it wasn't Dudley and his gang playing at Harry Hunting; it wasn't even Ripper chasing him up a tree. This dream had been about his parents, and Harry was sure it was real.
It was like in third year when he was learning the Patronus Charm with Professor Lupin, when he heard his mother screaming and his dad trying to hold Voldemort off. But this was a bit different even from that, because this time it was longer and Harry couldn't just hear them...he could see them. He saw his mother's long, red hair and her emerald eyes, identical to his. He saw his dad blowing bubbles with his wand, his eyes brown and loving, his hair sticking up in tufts just like Harry's...he even saw himself, a little toddler, catching the bubbles in his pudgy little hands and squealing with laughter.
He saw a very young Professor Lupin come through the fire, and his dad bragging about what a great Quidditch player Harry was going to make. He got Harry to demonstrate his catching skills, and Professor Lupin had given him a chocolate frog.
He saw a handsome, non-Azkaban-soiled Sirius. Joking loudly, carrying Harry around, and teasing the pretty Lily Potter.
It had been such a nice dream, the best sleep Harry'd had for ages. Then it had changed.
Professor Lupin and Sirius had made their excuses and gone back home, and then it was just the little Potter family cuddled up on the sofa. The banging had been the first signal of danger — the only signal.
He saw the fear and desperation on his dad's face as he told Lily to take him, the baby version of him, and run. He saw the love in his mum's eyes as she looked at his dad for the very last time. He heard the pounding of Lily's feet on the staircase, which was drowned out halfway up by the sound of James's unconscious body hitting the floor.
He saw his mother die for him after refusing to step aside. Her beautiful red hair spilling across the floor in a fan and his baby self still grinning and holding his pudgy little hands out to the strange figure in anticipation of being picked up.
But he wasn't picked up; the green light was blinding and he couldn't get away. The teenaged Harry tried desperately to run forwards and grab his baby self, his feet kicking out unconsciously and tears and sweat pouring off of him, but it did nothing.
There was the loudest noise Harry had ever heard, and then it was over, and Ron was shaking him and the boys were all gawping at him like he was some sort of free entertainment.
Harry's face burned again, heating up the tears which had slipped down his face as he recalled the dream.
Harry lay back down, but he didn't close his eyes. He didn't want to fall asleep. Not while that dream was still so fresh in his mind.
"Merlin, you're up early!" Ron exclaimed, rolling over in bed and seeing his friend fully dressed.
"Hmm," Harry agreed noncommittally. He was hoping Ron wouldn't remember the previous night.
"How are you...erm...feeling?" Ron seemed embarrassed. He didn't look at Harry as he asked, pretending to make his bed instead (a first for Ron), but Harry could see from the back that his ears were burning red.
"Fine," Harry said calmly despite his quickened heart rate. "I just didn't sleep very well, it's not anything big. Everyone has nightmares sometimes."
Ron turned to face Harry. "Yeah! Look at me, I'm always dreaming about spiders and stuff."
Ron had the air of trying to make a small child feel better about something really stupid that they had done; it didn't make Harry feel better at all.
"Besides, mate, you know what day it is today, right?"
Harry looked up at Ron with a frown. What day was it? "Erm..."
"It's Halloween! The Feast is always fun, and so you can forget all about...it and enjoy yourself. They have so much great food! Apparently, a house-elf told Fred that they were even going to have pumpkins made entirely out of sweets this year! And there'll be pumpkin pasties, and chocolate witches — you know, the ones which really fly! And those jelly eyeballs which shoot red stuff like blood all over you, and liquorice bats, if you can catch one, and how about those cats which came around the tables and they puked up those little sweet things in different colours? I know most people thought it was gross but they tasted so nice! Then there's — "
Harry tuned out. His dream had driven all thoughts of the festivity out of his mind. Maybe that was why he had had the dream?
Despite the fact that he hadn't eaten anything yet, Harry immediately felt like retching. Today was the anniversary of his parents' deaths; how had he never thought of it like that? Every year he went down to the Great Hall and enjoyed himself...enjoying himself on the day which destroyed his family.
"I've...I've got to go to the bathroom, Ron." Harry stuttered, before rushing into the washroom attached to the dorms and sinking down on a closed toilet lid.
He couldn't go to the Halloween Feast, not today.
All day Harry tried to tell Ron and Hermione (who thankfully had not yet heard about his dream, or she would be frog-marching him to Madam Pomfrey herself, which might be a good thing as it would at least give him an excuse to miss the Feast) that he didn't want to celebrate Halloween. It was hard to fit it in, what with Ron still parroting a never-ending list of food that would be served and Hermione angrily berating Umbridge and every aspect of her pink appearance and black teaching methods.
In fact, it wasn't until Hermione said it was about time to start heading down that Harry had a brainwave.
"Eh, I've got a bit of a headache. You go on without me; I might catch you up later," Harry lied.
Ron looked alarmed. "Maybe that's from the nightmare. I really think you should go to Madam Pomfrey and — "
"What nightmare?" Hermione interrupted.
"Nothing, nothing. Just go to the feast and enjoy yourself," Harry said hastily.
"What nightmare?" she demanded.
"He had a really bad nightmare last night, shaking and everything," Ron said traitorously.
"Ron! It was nothing, really. I was just dreaming that Slytherin beat Gryffindor in the Quidditch match next week."
Hermione did not look convinced.
"Really, I mean it. Just go on without me. I'll be fine. I think I'll just have a bit of a rest." Harry lay down on his bed to prove his point.
"Harry, I think you should go to Madam Pomfrey," Hermione insisted stubbornly.
"I just want to sleep, okay?! I have a headache because I didn't get much sleep. I'm fine other than that."
"Back me up, Ron!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Maybe you should just let him sleep," Ron said weakly.
"We'll stay with you, then," Hermione decided, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
Ron looked horrified at the idea of missing the Feast, but he grudgingly nodded. "Yeah, I suppose the house-elves will give us some food if we go down to the kitchens later. I bet they don't have any jelly eyeballs left, though...or chocolate witches, or — "
"No, you two should go!" Harry said desperately. "I'm just going to sleep, it will be boring sitting there and...and...and I need you to get me some jelly eyeballs. Please, could you just slip some in your bag, Hermione, and bring them up when the feast is over?" Harry's improvised favour sounded weak to his own ears, but Ron, probably from desperation to get to the Feast, seemed to believe it.
"Of course we will, mate! Won't we, Hermione?"
"I suppose so," Hermione said reluctantly.
"Brilliant! Well...have a nice time!" Harry closed his eyes quickly so they would leave before Hermione could change her mind again.
He lay perfectly still until he heard the bang of the Fat Lady's portrait closing. He breathed a sign of relief. He was alone.
But he couldn't stand to lie there any longer, and so he jumped up and paced the room, trying to think of a way to spend the evening which would savour his parents' memory. His mind was blank.
He hadn't even had the chance to know his parents, so how could he possibly know how they would want him to spend the day? He had a niggling feeling that if they were as nice as everyone said, they would want him to be enjoying himself at the Feast, but it seemed so disrespectful. There had to be some way he could pay his respects to them.
The Gryffindor fifth years' dormitory was too small, Harry quickly found. Walking up and down in such a short space was making him dizzy. He went down the stairs, intending to sit in the common room instead, but found himself opening the portrait and stepping out.
He went down the moving staircases, not even paying attention to where he stepped and only luck preventing a fall. He walked through the third floor, the fourth, the third again, the second, back to the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh and then all the way back down to the first. Aimlessly, he just wandered the corridors. He could hear the excited talking and laughter from the Hall occasionally, but it didn't make him jealous. He didn't really notice it.
The danger didn't even register as he took a steep flight of stairs down into the dungeons; Snape's lair. No Gryffindor ever went there unless they had a lesson, for the toll was House points and they lost many in a mere quick jaunt to find someone, or even just trying to find their way around (Snape's tactics usually cured the first years of getting lost).
Harry jumped violently, looking round in surprise and then dread as he realised he was in Snape's territory.
"Why are you not at the Feast?" Snape demanded suspiciously.
"I...erm...didn't really feel like it."
"A Gryffindor resisting an opportunity to pack his large mouth with as much food as possible? A rare occasion."
Harry glowered and, due to his present black mood, ventured his own question. "Why are you not at the Feast, then...sir?"
Snape's face darkened. "I do not have to answer your questions, you impudent child."
"Got something to hide?" Harry taunted uncharacteristically. Today he didn't care how many House points he lost or how many detentions he gained.
"Fifty points from Gryffindor. I don't accept cheek from anyone, Potter, not even Hogwarts' little celebrity. I have nothing to hide, I simply am brewing a potion that needs constant attention. I never participate in these ridiculous traditions anyway — all that noise and over-consumption just to celebrate the Muggles' version of our world, far-fetched as it is."
Harry's eyes widened; he had never even noticed that Snape had not attended in previous years. What a grumpy old bat he was.
Snape's eyes narrowed as he saw what was on the boy's mind. Ah, a grumpy old bat, am I? That may be, but I did attend the feast as a child, and later as a teacher...up until Lily's death. I just couldn't do it after that, not on that day. They ought to stop it, or at least reschedule it. But of course he could never voice that to Dumbledore, not with all that sentimentality behind the reasoning. I light a candle each time instead, but it isn't enough; nothing is. I wonder if that is the reason the boy is not up there, too...but no, the little dunderhead probably doesn't even know what day it is.
Snape snapped back into reality quickly as he realised that the brat was still there, staring at him curiously.
"If you aren't going to grace the Hall with your presence and attend the Feast, then you may as well be productive and continue learning Occlumency. Come along."
The sentence came out before he realised what he was doing; it was subconscious, and it was perhaps...the right thing to say. He needed to see those green eyes today. He needed an excuse to look at them...
Harry's mouth dropped open. The very last thing he wanted was to have Snape rampaging around his mind just now, when it was even more mixed up than normal — but having little choice, he followed the billowing robes and scuttled into the empty Potions classroom.
Without any pause or instructions, Snape turned and pointed his wand at Harry. "Legilimens."
Instantly Harry was thrown backwards, forced to watch episode after episode of the Dursleys and their main source of entertainment: him. Snape was relentless, and it seemed like an hour, though in reality it must have only been a couple of minutes, before he withdrew.
"Each lesson, I think you cannot get any worse, and each time, you surprise me, Potter," Snape snarled.
"You aren't telling me what to do!"
"Close your mind, Potter."
"But you aren't telling me how!"
"Ten points from Gryffindor, Potter, for I dislike your tone. Gryffindor seem to be quite out of the running for the House Cup this year, I believe."
Just as Harry was about to make an angry retort, a flustered Filch rushed into the room.
"Weasley...twins...pumpkins...flying...everywhere...bombarding...Slytherins...come quickly," Filch panted.
Without saying a word to Harry, Snape strode out the door, banging it loudly behind him.
Harry ran over to it, glad to be able to escape, but when he yanked on the handle...it didn't move. Snape had locked him in.
He kicked a chair across the room angrily, but hurt his toes more than the chair. He sank to the floor, clutching his foot in pain, and glowered at the room in general.
Stupid chair, stupid door, stupid Snape, stupid Occlumency lesson, stupid room, stupid desks, stupid...
Harry sat up.
The Pensieve was in the corner again, all shimmering and glowing. It reminded Harry of when the ceiling of the Great Hall showed light fog and you could just see the stars twinkling from behind it.
Without thinking, Harry was beginning to move towards the beckoning glow. Closer...and closer.
He raised one finger and hesitantly prodded the substance filling the basin. It pulled at his finger, like some sort of mysterious power was tugging him in. Past caring, Harry bent over and submerged his head into the water. Suddenly, his whole body was falling. He was going down, down, down.
His feet almost gave way from underneath him with the strength of his landing; his head swam, and it took a minute for the dizziness to dissipate. When it had, he discovered he was standing in the middle of a large playground, occupied by just two young girls and...Snape, crouched in front of him. A young Snape, barely ten years old. The boy appeared to want to remain unnoticed, even keeping his breathing quiet as he watched the young girls, longing on his face.
Harry watched him curiously. What was Snape doing in a Muggle place like this? His attention was stolen by the girls as he heard one call out.
"Tuney! Tuney! Watch this!"
Harry's heart thumped heavily and he almost ran towards the girls.
"Mum says you aren't supposed to do that...get down, Lily!" the older girl ordered, her eyes scared.
Harry watched as the red-headed girl leapt from a swing and literally flew, raising high in the air before sinking lightly to the ground.
"Lily! Mum said you aren't supposed to do that," 'Tuney' repeated.
Harry knew there were many redheads called Lily in the world, but he also knew that this was his mother and Aunt Petunia as young children. He came closer and closer, until he could see her bright emerald eyes, laughing in exhilaration from her flight. Her skin was smooth and flawless, flushed from the cool wind. He reached out one shaky hand to touch her arm, but felt nothing.
Harry forgot that this was Snape's memory, forgot to wonder why the boy was watching his mother. He just sank on the grass; for the first time since he was six years old, he wanted to cry. But he couldn't. He was too well practised with ignoring his aching heart, with forcing the tears back, and with ignoring his feelings. The one time he wanted the tears to come, they remained barricaded inside.
The two girls had remained facing each other, Lily still slightly breathless. Petunia Evans looked disapproving, but there was a faint longing and curiosity in her eyes. There was silence as the conflicting emotions battled, but at last, the latter won out.
"How do you...do that?" she whispered, as if it were a dreadful secret that not even the greenery and silent landscape around them could hear.
Lily seemed to ponder the question, but was not given much time to answer when a raggedly dressed boy came bounding out of the bushes.
It took Harry a moment to realise that it was Snape — that he had stood with him behind the bushes just ten minutes hence. It seemed like a long time ago now.
Petunia squealed and took several paces backwards, but Lily, though startled, stood her ground.
"Isn't it obvious?" the boy demanded, breathing hard. His imperious tone was just like that employed by the adult Snape, and even now when it was not addressed at him, Harry's stomach squirmed.
Lily frowned. "Isn't what obvious?"
Snape leant over slightly and whispered, "You're a witch."
Lily's frown deepened and she took a few steps back to join her sister. "That's not a very nice thing to say to someone." She sounded highly affronted.
"It's true!" Snape sounded defensive, the very first time Harry had ever heard him as such. "You're a witch, and I'm a wizard. My mum's a witch too."
Petunia seemed extremely angry and disapproving while Lily merely seemed sceptically curious. Neither of them said a word, and so Snape hesitantly continued.
"You are one," he assured them. "I've been watching you, and — "
"Why have you been watching us?" Petunia demanded shrilly, her fingers looping around her little sister's wrist.
"Not you." Snape sneered. "You're a Muggle, wouldn't want to watch you."
"You stop watching my little sister!" Petunia ordered. "I know you, you live on yucky Spinner's End down near that horrible river...You keep away from her."
"What do you know? You're just a Muggle. She's a witch and she'll go off to Hogwarts and — "
"You're mad! Come on, Lily, we're leaving."
The younger girl trotted after her sister obediently, neither looking back.
All of this time, Harry had been crouched on the damp grass, but now he got unsteadily to his feet. Snape stood watching the disappearing figures, looking intensely disappointed and upset. Harry felt a pang of sympathy for the boy who grew up to make his life hell. Snape had obviously been planning this for a long time and it had disastrously backfired.
He was almost tempted to reach out a hand and pat the boy on the shoulder, despite the fact that he knew he would not feel it, when the whole world began to spin. Harry was thrown forward, and the next thing he knew, he was in Dumbledore's office.
He peered around anxiously for a clue to tell him what time period he was in. Maybe he was in the present and Snape had discovered him in the Pensieve and Apparated him straight here to be expelled. The second that thought had crossed his mind he heard Hermione's voice echo, "Oh, Harry, you know you can't Apparate in Hogwarts, you really ought to read Hogwarts: A History!" right through his head.
He was just about to go and tentatively attempt to open the door when it swung open. On instinct, Harry dived to the floor despite the fact that he knew that if this was still in the Pensieve, and Snape hadn't thrown him out yet, then whoever came through the door wouldn't be able to see him anyway.
Dumbledore strode in and settled down at his desk, sighing heavily, and browsing through a stack of papers. Harry could not tell the time period from him; Dumbledore looked as he had looked the evening before at the staff table in the Great Hall. Harry crossed his fingers that this didn't mean his early theory was correct...but then again, the elder man had not seemed to notice him cowering on his floor like a deranged first year.
It was only seconds later that the fire roared and Severus Snape stepped into the room. To Harry's relief, it was not the present-day dungeon bat; rather, he was a very young man. Twenty, perhaps.
"Professor Dumbledore, I — "
"You have told Voldemort of the prophecy?" Dumbledore inquired.
The young man flinched at the name, but nodded. "Yes, I told him. I told him everything I heard. But...he thinks it means Lily."
"The prophecy merely mentioned a baby, I believe."
Snape wrung his hands, his usually pale face blanching beyond all proportions. "Her baby, yes; she just had a child. He thinks it is her baby. He will...hunt them down. Kill them all. You must protect her. Please. Please. Protect her."
Dumbledore's eyes lacked their twinkle and his face showed nothing but severity. "Have you not asked your master to spare her in return for her son?"
"Yes, I have asked. I have...asked him."
Dumbledore's face twisted. "You disgust me. Do you care nothing for her husband and baby boy? Are they meaningless so long as you get what you wish?"
"Fine, hide them all. Just please, keep her safe."
Dumbledore's expression did not falter or soften. "In exchange for?"
"Exchange?" Snape looked blank, his tortured face and haunted sleepless eyes showing confusion.
"What will you provide me with in exchange for keeping the family safe?"
Snape paused before finally whispering, "Anything."
Harry watched in horror. He had no idea what prophecy they were talking about. Only that it was the reason his parents had been killed, and that Snape had been the one to tell Voldemort about it. But Snape had gone to Dumbledore to try and save Harry's mother. Dumbledore was going to save them. What had gone so wrong? How could Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of his time, have failed?
The scene disintegrated again, but when it cleared, Harry was still in the same office, where a few possessions had changed position and Fawkes was teetering at the edge of being reborn but otherwise all was the same. There was a curious sound, continuous and unlike anything Harry had heard before. He peered up at the headmaster's desk, Dumbledore was sitting there frowning just as he had been in the previous memory. His eyes were locked onto something on the floor beneath his desk. Harry tiptoed over, sure the source of the sound was below.
His heart jumped at the sight which met his eyes; Severus Snape was curled up, sobbing unrestrainedly. Harry felt his face heat up as he thought about what his professor would say if he knew Harry was seeing him like this. What Dumbledore would say if he knew Harry was witnessing this. It felt like he was spying on them. As if on cue, the deep voice of Albus Dumbledore cut into his thoughts.
"Sit down, Severus my boy."
Snape either couldn't or wouldn't move. Sighing, Dumbledore came round the desk and half lifted him into the chair in front of it.
"You...you said you would p-p-protect her," Snape sobbed.
"Lily put her faith into the wrong person, much like you. Your lord did not show the mercy you requested, did he?"
"Don't. Not my lord. Killed her...dead."
"Lily's son lives."
This short sentence had no effect on the distraught man, who just shrugged it off.
"He has precisely Lily's eyes. You remember her eyes, Severus? Emerald green, very distinct and beautiful and — "
"Don't. Gone. Never see again. Never."
"Did you love her, Severus?"
"Then prove it, Severus — help me protect her son. Her legacy, the only thing left of her."
The shudder seemed more violent than ever before at the name. "Gone. Dead. Like her."
"He will be back, Severus, and when he does Harry will be in grave danger. He needs your protection. Lily would want you to protect her son."
"Very well...very well. But you must not...ever...tell anyone. Swear it! Especially not Potter's son. I couldn't bear...I want your word!"
"My word, Severus? That I shall never reveal the best of you? If you insist..."
Harry's mouth was still open and his heart still pumping loudly in shock and disbelief when the world began to spin once more.
Pain exploded through his body as the memory threw him out and across the floor. He lay where he landed, gasping for breath.
He only just had time to scramble to his feet when the lock clicked, the door flew open, and an irate Snape entered the room.
Harry attempted to calm his breaths, but he couldn't seem to stop the raspy panting.
"What have you been up to, Potter?" Snape demanded suspiciously.
Harry was silent, just staring up at the man who had saved his life so many times and didn't even want him to know about it. The man who had known his mother...had been so close to her, yet seemed to hate her son. Why?
"You...you were the one who stopped my broomstick from being hexed...and you were trying to protect the Stone; not steal it, and — "
Snape's glittering eyes slipped to the Pensieve and then back again. "You went through my personal memories. You waited until I was called away and then you amused yourself with my private memories! Going to go and laugh about it with your friends, Potter? Going to tell that the greasy old dungeon bat lost the love of his life to James Bloody Potter? That he was rejected from the one person he wanted? Enjoy it, did you, Potter? Enjoy seeing my pain? My humiliation? My life being destroyed?!" Snape's voice rose an octave and sounded like a wounded animal. His voice was strangled, and if Harry hadn't been facing him and seeing his lips move, he would never have believed that these words came from his surly teacher.
"No! No, sir, I promise. I-I-I hated watching it. But...I can't believe you vowed to protect me, and that's why all those times when something happened and everyone thought it was just luck that got me through...that was you, wasn't it?"
"Will you stop thinking about yourself, Potter? You invaded my private memories!"
Harry's temper flared. "You do that to me every lesson!"
Snape's face twisted unimaginably, causing Harry to step back in fear. "Get out!"
Harry didn't move.
"I said get out!"
With one last, fearful look at his teacher, Harry raced to the door.
In blind rage, Snape grabbed a jar and threw it at the retreating figure as hard as he could. It caught the doorframe and shattered with a huge crash.
Snape sank into a chair, listening to the slapping footsteps of Harry running back up the stairs. What had he done? Potter knew; Dumbledore said he would never find out, but he had. Now the whole school would know before morning. Snape would be a laughingstock, and he would have to leave. He couldn't stay near that boy anyway, the temptation to strangle him was too strong.
Snape looked over at the Pensieve, dreading to imagine what the boy had thought about the last memory. He frowned suddenly; surely that's what the boy would have confronted him about first? Maybe...maybe he hadn't penetrated the wards around that memory. Maybe the brat hadn't had a chance to see it before he had come back.
Rising hopefully, Snape went over to the calm waters of the Pensieve and slipped his hand in. He felt the tug, and the memories swirled; they were all a deep gold, his own colour-changing spell to know if they had been watched by anyone but himself. Only one was silver.
He already knew which one it was. Relief flooded through his body as, with his wand, he lifted each strand and placed it back in his head, leaving just the silver memory in the Pensieve.
He bent over and let the memory pull him in. It was time to relive the memory he had not watched since the original occurrence.
"Lily, just tell me what the matter is, please."The sobbing redhead collapsed against the twenty-year-old man. "Oh, Severus!"
"Have you decided to leave Potter?" Snape asked, hopefully.
"No, but I think — I think — he'll throw me out...if he finds out..."
"Finds out what?" The young Snape blanched.
"About...about us...last month. When he was away on Order business and..."
Snape watched his younger self brighten up at the reminder of the best day of his life, but then his face darkened. "He will never find out, Lily."
"How could he possibly?"
"Oh, Severus, I'm p-p-pregnant." The young witch was inconsolable. "I'm late, I worked it out...five weeks ago, Severus, James was away and — " The redhead collapsed into tears, unable to continue.
Snape watched himself casting a charm on Lily's stomach so the baby would look like James...he watched himself promising to guard the secret forever...he watched himself insist the baby would be James's in all the important ways...watched himself relinquish all responsibility...watched himself ruin his life.
Then he withdrew, unable to watch Lily leaving. That had been more painful than anything; he couldn't go through that again.
With a bang, his feet regained contact with the floor and he slipped the memory back into his head. No one could ever watch it. Even he had not watched it for a very long time, blocking it from even his own memory. Now it hurt as much as a fresh wound. He buried his head in his heads, the cheerful singing from the Great Hall making him clench his fists. How could they sing so merrily when everything had gone wrong?
Potter now knew that he was protecting him. His image would be ruined. A new thought suddenly crossed his mind: Potter still could not grasp Occlumency...he had those memories in his head. Voldemort would easily get into the brat's head, just as Dumbledore feared, which was the whole point of the doomed lessons, and he would see those memories. Snape's life was in jeopardy because of the brat's stupidity, and the brat's life, too.
Snape stood up quickly, sending his chair flying. He was a wizard — Potter was a poor excuse of one — Snape could overpower him easily. One simple charm and all of the memories would be removed from Potter's mind, or at least concealed in such a strong way that even Voldemort would never find them. No one knew Occlumency like Snape did.
The door of the Potions classroom banged again as Snape left and headed towards the Gryffindor common room.
No one could or would ever know that he was protecting that boy...his son.