His eyes snapped open and his whole body jerked. He could hear himself gasp softly.
His back hurt, as if it had been cramped into position too long. For a moment, Harry sat rigidly, every muscle tense and eyes staring blankly ahead at the fireplace, trying to assimilate where he actually was, and what had just happened to him.
Divinations. He was back in Trelawney's class again, his wand firmly in his possession. And ... a vision. He'd just had a vision.
He looked around quickly. Had anyone else seen what had happened to him? Surely Professor Trelawney had noticed - but no, she was sitting in her own armchair and appeared to be so deep in meditation that she was actually snoring. Genteelly, of course. Ron and Seamus were deep under too, and it seemed so was everybody else.
Well, there was no time to lose. He had to do something. He quickly hunted around his chair and found his bag, stood up and slung it over his shoulder, with a plan already in mind. Dumbledore. He'd go to the headmaster and explain what he'd seen, and everything would be all right. It was a warning of some kind, it had to be ...
Even though it was softly whispered, the word still nearly scared him out of his skin. He whirled to see Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown looking at him quizzically. Of course. It figured they'd be actually meditating while everybody else, even Trelawney, was taking the excuse to doze off. "I feel sick," he mouthed silently at them, desperately hoping no one else would wake. "Sorry. Got to go."
To do them both credit, neither caused a fuss; Lavender just frowned, while Parvati's pretty forehead wrinkled in concern as she nodded.
Harry hurried out of the room and down the seemingly infinite number of steps.
Twenty minutes later, he was hopping up and down in front of the stone gargoyle that guarded Albus Dumbledore's office. He'd long moved past candy passwords and was getting closer to obscenities.
"Nimbus Two Thousand!" he shouted, feeling like he could cry with frustration. "Cleansweep Seven! Firebolt! What, don't like broomsticks either? Maybe wands, maybe wands ... um, elm with unicorn hair. Willow and - this is HOPELESS!" How in the ever-loving world was he supposed to guess one phrase out of thousands when he had no idea where to start? The vision of Snape's body seemed to be burning holes in his brain, and all of a sudden he wanted nothing more than to just kick the bloody statue until it gave way and opened. He reared back -
"You'll break your toe, you know," said a genial voice over his shoulder, and Harry whirled to see the smiling face of Albus Dumbledore behind him.
"Headmaster!" he gasped in relief, and had to stop himself from throwing his arms around the old man. "Thank goodness - I've got to talk to you, but I don't know the password, and I've been standing here for ages - "
Dumbledore smiled again, and lay a calming hand on Harry's shoulder. "Steady on, my young friend. As you can tell, I wasn't even in my office, so nothing is lost. Ring Dings." The gargoyle swung aside and the door opened. "I've moved on to Muggle sweets," Dumbledore mused. "I was starting to run out of magical ones. Do come in, Harry."
The instant he stepped inside the circular office, Harry felt better. The portraits of headmasters and - mistresses past, all sound asleep, made the realm of nightmares and terror seem far away. And there was Dumbledore himself, of course, who radiated such a calm strength that Harry felt immediately soothed. He sat down in the comfy chair opposite Dumbledore's desk while the headmaster puttered around a sideboard. "Tea?" the other man asked kindly. "You look like you could use a nice hot cup of something."
Harry gratefully accepted the cup as Dumbledore settled himself behind the desk. He usually wasn't much for tea, especially in the summer, but right now it seemed the best thing in the world. Too bad there wasn't any magic chocolate. He sipped quietly at his cup for a few moments, letting himself calm down a little more and enjoying the pleasant, minty flavour.
"S'good," he mumbled, "thank you, sir."
"You're quite welcome," Dumbledore replied, his eyes twinkling with what looked like amusement, though Harry for the life of him couldn't see what would be funny about tea. "Now what had you in such a state that you left class to come see me?"
Harry set his cup down carefully and took a deep breath. "I - I think I had a vision. In Divinations. I mean, I don't normally, but it seemed so real. It was ... about Voldemort. Sort of."
Dumbledore sat up then, and the twinkle disappeared.
"And ... and Professor Snape," Harry added hesitantly. "I - I dreamed he was killed by the Death Eaters. That they'd learnt he was a spy, and they killed him. Then L-lucius Malfoy ... burned him." That last seemed particularly perilous to say, even in the confines of this office. "He ... he burned him with my wand." Feeling himself starting to shake again, Harry picked up the cup and took another long drink, letting the hot tea warm his throat and stomach.
For a long moment, Dumbledore said nothing, but looked at Harry with a keen, piercing gaze. Harry forced himself to meet it without squirming. Then, the headmaster said at length, "I think we'd better invite Professor Snape up here, don't you?"
Harry blanched a little; for some reason the idea of telling Snape himself about this dream discomfited him greatly. He'd rather hoped he could tell Dumbledore, and then the headmaster would just take care of everything. But ... "Whatever you think is best, sir," he murmured.
"I do," Dumbledore replied, and rose from his chair, to where Fawkes the phoenix sat on his perch by the door. The magnificent bird appeared to be napping, but stirred instantly at his master's approach. "Fawkes," Dumbledore said quietly, "I need you to go fetch Professor Snape here; I do not believe he has class right now."
Fawkes rustled and appeared to sniff disdainfully, as if he needed no instructions as to where a particular person might be, and rose into the air, flapping his incredible wings which, amazingly, didn't turn anything over. Then he disappeared in a small burst of flame.
"Even better than an owl," Harry said, aware of the weakness of the joke, but Dumbledore smiled.
"I imagine what you saw must have been particularly upsetting to you, Harry," he said gently. Harry nodded, and then Fawkes burst back into the room. "Ah. Professor Snape should arrive within a few minutes, I should think. Why don't you finish that tea - would you like a biscuit? They've got caramel chunks, I think."
Harry was so nervous now at the thought of seeing Snape that even the idea of eating anything made him feel ill. "No, thank you." Dumbledore nodded, and sat back down behind the desk, appearing to stare off into space. He ventured no conversation, no questions about Harry's progress this term, nothing; Harry reckoned he was thinking about what such a vision might mean, and how to act to prevent it.
After about five minutes had passed, when Harry had drained the cup and was trying hard not to fidget, someone knocked on the door. "Come in, Severus," called Dumbledore, rousing from his reverie, and the door swung open to admit Snape.
"Dumbledore? What the devil is so urgent you had to send the phoenix - " Snape shut the door behind him, turned, saw Harry sitting in the chair, and went absolutely white. For a second Harry was astonished by this reaction, until he realized how it must look to Snape, coming into this office and seeing a student he'd once kissed sitting in front of the headmaster with a terrified expression. Oh no. He could feel himself going red in the face, utterly unable to speak and staring right back at Snape, forgetting completely why he'd come in the first place. What if Snape said something, or told the headmaster -
Dumbledore allowed them to stay in this frozen scene for a few moments before taking pity on them both, though when he waved Snape into another chair it was with a faintly bemused expression. "Sit down, Severus, and I'll get right to business. Young Harry here says he has had a disturbing vision relating to your work with the Death Eaters."
Whatever Snape had been expecting, it obviously wasn't that. He blinked as he rather shakily lowered himself to the chair, eyes firmly fixed on Dumbledore. "What? I mean, a - a vision?" He frowned.
"Now, Harry," Dumbledore invited kindly, "why don't you tell us exactly what you saw in Professor Trelawney's class."
Professor Trelawney's class. Right. Harry jerked himself back to the present forcefully and began to recount what he'd seen as precisely as he could, from the time he'd dozed off to the moment of his frightened awakening. As he spoke, he glanced back and forth from Dumbledore to Snape; the former watched him attentively, while the latter kept his eyes fixed firmly on the wall ahead. Harry tried to speak dispassionately, but it seemed like he was reliving the whole thing, and when he got to the part about Malfoy incinerating Snape his voice shook so badly that Dumbledore handed him another cup of tea, abjuring him to drink it before continuing. He offered Snape a cup too, but for some reason the Potions Master glared at him ferociously and declined.
Finally Harry came to the end and took a deep, shuddering breath, ashamed of how he was trembling again. It had just been so ruddy awful.
There was a moment of silence.
"What do you think, Severus?" Dumbledore asked eventually, his even voice betraying nothing. Snape paused before replying, but his words shocked Harry when they came.
"I've no doubt Potter means well, Headmaster, but his ... overactive imagination is surely no secret. He admits he fell asleep in class - frankly, this sounds far more like a nightmare than a vision to me."
Harry's jaw dropped. He was so flabbergasted he could think of nothing to say. Was it really possible Snape was going to ignore this? Even after what had happened on Hallowe'en, did he still think of Harry as just a ... a "nasty little boy" with an "overactive imagination?"
Dumbledore frowned, and to Harry's amazement did not dispute the point. "Harry," he said kindly, "tell us about the details. For example, the clearing in which you saw the Death Eaters - can you describe it?"
"I - not really, it was just a clearing," Harry said helplessly. "I mean, it looked familiar, but I don't know where I've seen it before."
"Mmm. And you say that Lord Voldemort himself was not actually present at this gathering?"
"No," Harry mumbled.
"The Dark Lord is always present at a full Death Eater gathering," Snape said firmly. "Frankly, Headmaster, it sounds to me more like the boy's having nightmares of what happened to him - last year." His voice stumbled a little over the words, but that didn't keep Harry from being enraged.
"There's no need to talk about me like I'm not here," he said hotly.
"Quite right," Dumbledore agreed, his eyes twinkling again for the first time, and Snape finally leveled a glance Harry's way. But there was no heat in those dark eyes now, no expression at all except for irritation. Harry felt all the coldness of the vision rushing away to be replaced with warm, substantial anger. How could Snape dismiss him like this?
The Potions Master turned back to Dumbledore. "I see no need for undue concern," he said smoothly and Harry clenched his fists.
Dumbledore looked troubled as he glanced between the two of them, one an ice statue and the other set on 'boil.' "I am in something of a dilemma," he murmured. "On the one hand, what Harry describes does, I admit, sound more like a nightmare than a vision." Harry gasped. "But on the other, of course I do not wish to take any chances with your safety, Severus. If what Harry saw is true - "
Snape leaned forward urgently in his chair. "Headmaster, we can't turn back now. I'm far too close to - " he suddenly glanced at Harry, frustration crossing his face.
"Under the circumstances, I think it would be best if you spoke freely," Dumbledore said dryly. "I am quite sure that nothing you say will leave this room." He glanced significantly at Harry, who swallowed past the knot of anger in his throat and nodded jerkily.
Snape didn't look convinced, but he continued. "The next meeting is absolutely crucial," he said in a low, intense voice. "Ma - my contact is going to re-introduce me into the Inner Circle at last. I will actually meet with the Dark Lord face to face and hear his plans! We cannot lose this opportunity because of a boy's fantasy - "
"You can't go," Harry yelled, shocking Snape into silence and causing both men to stare at him. Turning red, he stammered, "Can't you get it? This is what I saw! They know you're a spy. They're going to kill you. And your 'contact' - it's Lucius Malfoy, isn't it?" Snape said nothing, but his face looked like it was chiseled from stone. Harry clenched the sides of his seat to keep from actually reaching out and shaking the other man. "How else would I know that? I dreamed it was Malfoy who got you!"
"You saw Malfoy," Snape said coolly, "at the Death Eater meeting in June. It is only reasonable that your mind should fixate on him."
Harry boggled. "How can you possibly - this is your life we're talking about! Don't you understand what I'm SAYING?"
Snape said nothing, but continued staring at Harry as if he were some kind of unpleasant bug. Dumbledore sighed heavily. "Harry, we understand all too well. And if this meeting were not as important as Professor Snape says, my decision would be only too easy. As it is," he paused, and seemed to struggle with himself. "Given that whatever Harry saw was not particularly clear, and that it is your own life at stake, I will leave the choice entirely to you, Severus. It is a choice I cannot make for you this time; I beg you to weigh the alternatives carefully ... "
"There are no alternatives," Snape said flatly. "Of course I'm going."
"When is it?" Harry demanded.
"That is no concern of yours," Snape snapped.
"I - " Harry gasped, and floundered helplessly, staring at Dumbledore in appeal. "Please, Headmaster, you can't let him do this - "
"Hadn't Potter better go back to class, Headmaster?" Snape asked frostily.
"Class is over by now," Harry retorted, absolutely furious. Dumbledore raised his hands in the air.
"Silence, please. Harry, we thank you for your concern, but it appears that Professor Snape has made his choice." He still looked troubled, but continued, "It is not for us to interfere."
Harry looked him dead in the eye, not quite believing his own daring. "And when he - when something happens to him, how will you feel then?"
"What utter rubbish," Snape broke in irritably. "Headmaster, I have a final exam to prepare."
Dumbledore continued to look at both of them, from one to the other, and his expression became unreadable. "You may go, Severus," he said quietly, "and you too, Harry. Might I suggest you study for your exams as best you can, and try to forget what you ... dreamed."
Defeated, and not believing what had just happened, Harry slumped back in his chair before grabbing his bag and rising out of it again. They'd done it, they'd actually done it. Ignored him completely, like he was some scared little boy. Dumbledore had ignored him, of all people. Was this particular meeting really so important that they were willing to take such a risk?
Following Snape dejectedly to the door, Harry paused to wonder for the first time: Was it a risk? Was it really possible he'd only had a nightmare? He'd had lots of them about the Death Eaters, after all. And he was so confused about Snape all the time ... maybe Dumbledore was right, maybe it only made sense ...
But it had seemed so REAL!
Distracted, he hardly noticed that Snape held the door open for him to pass, nor that Dumbledore watched them both leave with a very thoughtful expression on his face. Keeping his eyes on the floor, he began the long trudge back to Gryffindor Tower where, he supposed, he would find Ron and Hermione already studying, or arguing, or whatever else. And he couldn't tell them anything about what had just happened.
"Potter," came the quiet voice from behind, pulling him back to the present moment. He turned. Snape was standing still in the hallway, his dark brows drawn together in an uncharacteristic expression of hesitation. But all Harry could see, in his mind's eye, was that look of scorn back in the office, and all he could hear was Draco Malfoy's soft, seductive voice asking for private lessons.
"Don't," he said roughly, "just, just don't," and turned around and hurried away as fast as he decently could. Snape didn't try to stop him again.
Part 3 | Non Anime Fanfiction