The Sugar Quill
Author: Dweo  Story: Watching  Chapter: Watching
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N: I want to thank Ada Kensington for beta-ing this.

Watching

I watch as Albus slowly picks up the remains of his possessions, scattered around his office after Harry left. The boy really knows how to throw a tantrum; most of Albus's priceless artefacts are destroyed. I wonder if Harry knows how valuable those artefacts were and I wonder whether Albus will repair them all. I suspect he will keep them; keep them as a reminder of the mistakes he has made. And he has made many mistakes throughout his very long lifetime, some insignificant and some monumental. He is not infallible, as many seem to think - not the great, omniscient wizard. He remembers every one of them: every single one. He realised the moment he made that decision, upon that fateful All Hallows Eve all those years ago, that he might have been making the single, biggest mistake of his life. Last night proved this.

A knock startles us both - waking us from our thoughts. The door to his office opens slowly and a dark-clad man walks in purposefully. He is another of his great mistakes. Albus Dumbledore pushed the man away when he needed him the most and even though he came back, the damage may be beyond repair. Albus knows this now and it weighs upon his heart. Not many truly know him. Most see Albus as the perpetual smiling wizard, but they cannot perceive the truth of the matter.

Very few can read Albus, really read him; Harry saw a small glimpse of the pain and weakness Albus hides. He does not realise yet how rare and valuable that glimpse was. I, however, can read Albus with pinpoint precision; I have seen him without walls, barriers. I have seen him as the man he really is. Albus is weak, just like every other man or woman, he just does not allow himself to show it. He puts the walls back up around him the moment Severus Snape walks in.

"Welcome Severus, I was just cleaning up." Albus says genially while he picks up the last scraps of silver. Severus looks around, a little surprised at the emptiness of the normally cluttered office. According to his custom, however, he does not comment on it, however, and instead, walks to a chair. He remains standing until Albus sits down himself and indicates that he, too, may sit. No matter how curious, anger or desperate Severus is, he still remembers his upbringing; respect your elders and wait until they allow you to sit.

"You are probably wondering what happened last night?" Albus starts while he holds out his bowl with lemon sherbets, Severus ignores the bowl with a curt nod, as always.

"Yes, the five students returning from the Ministry didn't know anything, except that Potter wasn't there with them and that somebody died." Severus places a subtly scathing stress on the word Potter, even in these desperate times he cannot control his hatred for everything Potter. Then I see something in the Potions Master's posture I do not see often. I can sense a strange tension, but the cause of it is not clear. It could be anger, hate, but then again they are normal feelings for Severus and would not make him so usually tense. Then the realisation hits me; it is uncertainty. If there is one thing Severus hates it is uncertainty and tonight he only has questions without answers. Why did Harry not return with the others? Who died? Was it Harry and with his death died the greatest chance to defeat Tom?

"Harry is alive, Severus," these words make the tension leave Severus body with a sigh. Albus continues, "Though I'm afraid though Harry may do something rash."

"What's new about that?" Severus asks dismissively, with a wave of a pale hand. "He does that every year, does he not? Why would this time be any different?"

"Sirius died last night." These words hit Severus like a Bludger. for a few short seconds there is no reaction and then...

I cannot see his face but the joy, the delight, the glee that is radiating from Severus is overwhelming. Gone is all the worry and fear - there is only happiness. I can see Albus's face however and the cold mask that slips into place there does not bode well for Severus. They say that those sorted into Gryffindor house wear their hearts too proudly on their sleeves. This time it is the Slytherin who reveals his true feelings for the whole world to see.

"Severus, may I remind you that no matter how you feel, people are grieving and hurting over his death. It would not be wise to show your happiness so openly." These words do not change Severus's stance, but the next words do. "Especially when you are partly responsible for his death."

It is a miracle how fast a person can change from happiness to rage in mere moments. Severus leaps from the chair like he is bitten and takes a few steps back, his hands clenched instinctively into fists. He does not say a word, probably because, at that moment, they elude him.

"Sit down Severus." The cold in Albus's voice makes even my spine tingle and the temperature seems to drop below zero. Severus sits down immediately. Not because he wants to, but because that voice does not stand opposition of any kind.

"Why did you stop teaching Occlumency, Severus?" Albus asks, looking him straight in the eyes.

"Potter," again the same bitter hatred, "flagrantly invaded my privacy," the words sound hard, suppressed with rage, but at the same time desperate. Desperate for Albus to not ask any further, desperate for Albus to believe him and punish Harry.

"Yes, I heard, but you were also invading his privacy, Severus," Still the same cold. "You spend every session watching his worst nightmares, his best-kept secrets. You never offered him the safety of the Pensive. What Harry did was wrong without any doubt." These last words make Severus react with surprise, like he had not expected that Albus would ever admit that Harry had been wrong.

"It is one of Harry's biggest faults, he is too curious for his own good, but doesn't know how to ask for the answers. I told him before to be careful with that curiosity. I know you value your privacy above all, but that doesn't explain your reaction. What did he see, Severus, that was so terrible?" The last question was asked softly and kindly, the temperature in the room seemed to return to normal levels. The change is so suddenly that Severus cannot stop himself from trembling as he says only one word.

"Owls."

I wonder shortly what on earth birds have to do with anything, when I see the realization dawn on Albus's face.

"Talk Severus, you always refuse to talk about it. What makes that memory so bad, it is not the worst they did to you." The scene in front of me reminds so much of a similar one, more than 15 years ago. Albus the Forgiver and Severus the Penitent meet each other again, after many years. The desperation radiating of Severus shoulders is so strong I feel sorry for him.

"I called her Mudblood," those four words are whispered. "She tried to stop them and I called her Mudblood." Albus looks curiously at him. It had been a normal occurrence for Slytherins to use that word; so I wondered what made this one different.

"I never used that word before. When I look back, that was the moment I started to deny my father, the moment I started to think in terms of purity of blood. I also swore I would get revenge on Potter and his friends. They knew how to get to me. They knew that using Levi corpus - my own spell - against me would hurt me far more than any other spell ever could. They got a good laugh out if it. Snivellus hanging by his own spell. That was the moment I decided that I would be on the other side of Potter. It didn't matter that I was worried about joining The Dark Lord before. I knew he could give me a way to avenge myself." It still surprises me how a name can put fear into a person, Tom has conditioned his followers and his enemies perfectly. The few that are not afraid to speak his name realise that using his name removes a part of his power.

"I decided to join the Dark Lord because then I could kill two birds with one stone. I could prove my mother's blood was more important than my father's and I could destroy Potter." Severus does not look at Albus, shame was clear in his voice.

"But I quickly discovered I made a wrong decision. The Dark Lord could not help me with the revenge I craved. It showed me that I'm as much my father's son as my mother's. The incident during the OWLs is the point that defined the rest of my life - that is why I'm so angry at Potter for having watched." I realised then what memory was so awful for Severus. It was the memory of hanging upside down from a tree during his OWL exams, James potter and Sirius black using his own spells against him. James Potter and Sirius Black both got a detention, but Severus got two, one for the use of Dark Arts and the other for insulting a fellow student.

Severus simply looks at Albus, waiting for him to comment. They have discussed Severus' reason for joining Voldemort more times than I care to remember, they both know there is nothing they can change.

"Severus, I owe you a life-debt. You saved my life once and besides I have seen what being a Death Eater has done to you. You also gave your Word as a wizard and that Word broken is worse than death…" Albus lowers his defences completely. He knows he has to reassure Severus, show him he is important to him personally; to show that Albus was the one who made the first mistake by ignoring Severus's needs when he was a student and came to him for protection. But Albus also needs to show that no matter what Severus did in the past, it is his current actions that count and currently he is disappointing Albus.

"I trust you beyond a shadow of a doubt Severus. I know you will never return to Voldemort." Severus flinches at the name of his former master. "But you did disappoint me. I have said it before and I will say it again, you have to learn to look beyond the hate and the hurt. As long as you don't leave the past behind you, you will never be happy. Your behaviour doesn't only hurt you; those around you are also hurt. You hurt me. I wish you would let other people in, show other people what a wonderful person you can be." Severus snorts softly at these words, clearly disagreeing with Albus.

"I know you are a brave and loyal wizard. You are a good chess player. You possess an uncommonly acerbic wit. You used to hate flying, but now you love it. You own a Firebolt, despite the fact that Harry also owns one. You fly the broom when you think nobody can see you. Minerva and you bet on every Quidditch game but never with money. And unlike most people seem to think, you are capable of love. You love Catherine with your whole heart and your behaviour hurts her. She misses you..." At the mention of Catherine's name, Severus blanches. Catherine, another reason he left Tom. I already know what his next words will be.

"You leave Catherine out of this," Severus sounds angry, "Catherine has nothing to do with the Wizarding world, let her enjoy her life. She doesn't need to about know the problems here." Albus puts his hand up.

"Severus please, it is Catherine's choice whether she wants to be informed about you. And we are here to discuss your behaviour towards Harry." All Severus does is give small nod, clearly rather being anywhere else but here and discus anything else but that particular issue. He knows Albus wants a reason for his behaviour and Severus knows Albus is not going to like it.

"Severus I understand why James's actions hurt you, but why can't you leave that hurt behind, instead of taking it out on Harry?" Albus asks.

"You want to know why I hurt Harry Potter?" Again the hatred at the name Potter. "You ask every year, but no answer I give will satisfy you. But you still want to know why? I will tell you why." Severus has become defiant, he knows he will lose, but he is going down fighting.

"He's going to get us all killed," Severus spat, "He is irresponsible, he will get himself killed and doom us all. He has no respect, no respect at all, for rules or for people. He is spoiled - an attention seeking brat…" Albus holds up his hand but Severus steams on, "he is ungrateful!"

"Severus, stop this" Albus sounds forceful, "that cannot be the only reason for you to hate Harry.

"He has everything in him to make him the next Dark Lord. He is exactly like the Dark Lord. He had a difficult youth, is a Half-Blood, he has a strong need to proof himself." Albus told Severus about tom's youth in a attempt to show him Tom's hypocrisy. It had made Severus think and plant the first doubt about Tom in his mind

"Harry has one thing that will stop him from turning dark; he has too much love inside him." Severus snorts at the word love.

"What good will love do against the temptation of all power in the world?"

"Harry will not tempted by power. He already had ample opportunity to embrace the Dark Arts in exchange for power. He never was tempted." Albus looks with a small smile at his potion master. "You of course realise there is one other that also fits this description?"

"Yes, the Dark Lord," Severus says with a sneer.

"Actually, I was thinking about you, my boy." Severus stares at Albus, his shoulders tense again. "Do you realise how well you fit that same description."

Severus spoke his voice filled with hatred. "He could resist temptation where I failed. And every one of his actions feels like an insult, an insult because I couldn't resist."

"In the beginning I could hate him because of who he was and who many expected him to become; either the next Dark Lord or their saviour. But now I hate him because of what he makes me." Severus is sitting, watching Albus in silence. Albus looks thoughtfully at his Potion-Master.

"Severus, I can't change your feelings towards Harry, all I can ask of you is to never let your emotions interfere with the task at hand again. If Harry had known Occlumency, this might not have happened."

"If Potter hadn't invaded my privacy, I would not have stopped teaching. But Potter wasn't making any effort anyway, so I doubt he will ever learn it." The words still radiate hatred and Severus will not take his portion of the blame. He will never admit that he made a mistake regarding Harry.

"Have you ever wondered why Harry couldn't do it?" Albus asks. I can see he is becoming desperate, he knows he will never be able to change Severus attitude towards Harry, but he will keep trying.

"No." The answer is cold and indifferent.

"His hate stopped him from doing his best. Harry doesn't trust you, which is the reason he never thought about you at the moment he should have. Besides he had a constant headache since you started teaching him, which increased his distrust even more. And you never once wondered why he didn't make any progress. No matter what you think of him, he should have been able to close his mind enough within a couple of weeks. But he didn't make any progress, quite the opposite actually…"

Severus folds his arms in front of him; he closes himself off from Albus. I know this behaviour, I have seen it before, it means Albus will not get anywhere with him today. Albus leans back in his chair, the resignation radiates from him. He will never give up and I sometimes wonder if he will ever win this battle. A part of me believes that Albus, although he would be overcome with elation within the first minute of victory, would be a mite disappointed deep. He wants Severus to be happy, but he will miss the mental battles…

"Severus, we will continue this discussion again. I want you to be careful. We cannot lose you… and I can't lose you." At these last words Albus lowers every one of his barriers and Severus recoils from the Albus' pain. Unlike Harry, Severus is very much aware of its significance and it is more powerful than any words Albus could have used. Severus stands up and leaves, outwardly calm and collective. But deep inside he knows he has disappointed Albus and that will, doubtless, eat away at his very soul… because Severus hates nothing more than disappointing Albus.

The door closes softly, Albus' head falls wearily into his hands - and I know Albus will need his Dreamless-Sleep potion tonight. The nightmares will keep him awake, otherwise. Nightmares of losing them, both Harry and Severus, probably the two pupils he loves the most. Several minutes pass by before he moves again. He stands up and approaches me.

"What do you think? Will it ever be over? Will he ever be happy?" Albus looks at me, "you have been here since the beginning. Perhaps you might answer that question?"

"I have seen it all before, Albus," I reply, and it is the truth. I have seen it all before, I have seen more Dark Lords than I am willing to admit.

"They always lose in the end and Tom will be no exception. But before he is defeated, he will do a lot of damage." I look down on Albus.

"May I ask one more thing of you? " Albus keeps his eyes on me.

"Of course." I reply courteously.

"I always wondered why you use first names for some persons and last names for most students and teachers." Albus looks curious, he does not ask many questions, but when he does it always is something either obtuse or profound - often both at once. It catches me off my guard. This one is too frivolous, too light-hearted. I hesitate in answering.

"I apologise for my impertinence, I shall leave you in peace," Albus looks ready to depart.

"I am, I must admit, rather surprised. It is unusual for you to ask those kind of questions. I expect questions of more importance." I reply, a smile forming on my face. "The reason is simple, for one word and one reason only: respect. You know Darkness. You have seen it and you know what it does, what it can do. The same goes for Severus and Harry. All of you have fought the Darkness." Albus nods, I know he understands.

"What about Tom Riddle, he never fought Darkness. He embraced it." Albus always knows how to hit the mark precisely.

"I understand why he hates Muggles and I agree with his objective. I just do not agree with his means of achieving that objective. I hate Dark magic." Albus smiles, he knows how I despise Muggles, but he also knows I despise Tom's approach even more. I think Muggles are uninteresting. I think we just need to ignore them and they will ignore us. Tom's killings will draw attention to us. They will beat us down and destroy the Wizarding-world completely, simply because there are too many. For each wizard born, Muggleborn, Half-blood, Pureblood or Squib, at least 1000 Muggles are born.

"Albus, Tom is my blood and blood is thicker than water. I do not like him, but I will never call one of my blood by a Muggle-name. And I will never call him Lord Voldemort. He is not a Lord now, nor will he ever be. He is just a stupid little boy who cannot handle the burden of hate he bears and lets that hate cloud his judgment.

Albus smiles and, mentally, I sigh with relief. I have missed that smile; it has been boring her when Albus left.

"Thank you Salazar, you have always been one of my favourites." He replies while he walks to his private room and closes the door after a last nod.

//
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