After Adair dragged herself off of the bathroom floor, she had taken a shower to clean herself off. She got dressed and headed down to the common room. It was still hours before dawn, but she knew she wouldn't be getting back to sleep anytime soon, and she couldn't face laying in her bed right now.
She brought Dimitri with her, and let him play on the floor while she tried to distract herself by working on the latest Charms assignment. She couldn't focus on anything, though, so after a while she just gave up and stared into the empty fire grate.
She watched as the dorms woke up around her. The common room eventually began filling with normal people, who's sleep had been uninterrupted by illicit nighttime lessons from the Dark Lord. Adair regarded them gloomily, and could not help feeling both jealous and angry at their carefree attitudes. Did they not know the wizarding world was in the midst of a war?
When Lavender inevitably descended the stairway, Adair almost jumped out of her skin with guilt. How would she ever look her friend in the eyes again? Suddenly, an idea popped into her head.
"Lavender!" Adair waved to her from her armchair, and Lavender switched course to head toward her.
"Morning, Adair. You're up early." Was Adair imagining it, or did Lavender seem a little down this morning? Adair tried to read the wash of emotions emanating from her, but it was hard to distinguish much from the usual overwhelming anxiety that followed Lavender around wherever she went.
"I… couldn't sleep. Look, I was wondering, do you think you would have any time today to play with Dimitri? He's seemed a little down lately, and I don't know what's wrong with him." Adair scooped up the rabbit and held him out to Lavender. "I know that you're really good with animals."
"Oooooh," cooed Lavender, holding out her arms for the rabbit. "Of course, Adair. I'd love to. You know, I used to have a bunny when I was little. His name was -"
"Binky. I know. I've heard you mention him before," said Adair with a smile. "What was he like?"
"Oh he was the sweetest little bunny. He used to run around and…" Lavender proceeded to launch into a monologue of the deceased bunny's best traits, and Adair nodded along, smiling. Normally, she would have been bored to tears by Lavender's prattling, but she viewed the girl in a different light now. It seemed that her life was not as perfect as she let on.
They ended up walking to the Great Hall together for breakfast, bringing Dimitri with them. Afterwards, they took him outside for a bounce around the grounds. Lavender was full of ideas for improving Dimitri's quality of life, some of which Adair thought she would actually use. She found herself enjoying Lavender's company for the first time in a long time. She had thought she was making it up when she said that Lavender was good with animals, but it turned out the girl actually had quite a vast knowledge about the care of many different types of animals, both magical and mundane.
After hearing Lavender speak for ten minutes straight on the proper care of bowtruckles, Adair asked her why she hadn't chosen to keep up lessons in Care of Magical Creatures. Lavender blushed and looked down. "I thought about it, but no one else seemed to be doing it. I didn't want to sign up alone."
Adair sighed, but tried not to let her frustration show. "You shouldn't let that stop you! Maybe you can ask Hagrid if he has any spare time for extracurricular lessons. It's not too late to catch up and be prepared to sit for your NEWTs next year. You should totally try for a job that lets you take care of animals."
"You really think so?" Lavender's eyes were shining in a way that Adair had not seen before. Suddenly, however, her face fell and she looked down. "My mom wouldn't be happy about it, though. She wants me to be a healer, like her. But I've tried it, and I'm just not as good at taking care of people as I am with animals."
"So? You're almost seventeen, Lavender. You don't need to listen to what she says forever."
Lavender gave a half smile, still looking at the ground.
"You know, it's funny that you reminded me of Binky this morning. I had a dream about him last night. It felt so real…."
Adair could see (or sense) that Lavender was about to cry, so she pulled her into a hug.
"It's okay, Lavender. It was just a dream."
At the end of March, Dumbledore finally summoned her for another lesson. It had been almost two months since her last, disastrous one. Adair received her note while she was in the Great Hall for breakfast and learned that she was expected in his office that very evening. After two months of radio silence, Adair was more than a little annoyed at the abrupt summons.
"Not like I had anything better to do," she mumbled, under her breath, thinking of the alarmingly large stack of homework awaiting her in her dormitory. Charms would just have to wait.
Despite feeling annoyed, Adair expected this lesson to go better than the last. She had been secretly practicing. Of course, she was mostly using what the Dark Lord had taught her, rather than Dumbledore, but he didn't need to know that. Especially since he seemed unwilling to try Legilimency on her.
She hadn't attempted Legilimency on another student. Instead, she had gone back to Dumbledore's suggestion and been practicing on animals. It had taken her a couple of tries, but she was finding it was simply more difficult with some breeds than it was with others. For example, cats were almost impossible to read. Any time she tried to enter the mind of one of the Gryffindor cats, she was met with a wall of static too thick to break through. Dimitri's mind also continued to be closed off to her, but when she had tried with an early season rabbit she had seen hopping around grounds, she could see flashes of vague memories and emotions coming from the animal, so maybe Dimitri was just special.
Unusually, she found that she had the most luck with owls. One day, she had gone up to the owlery to try her new skills. After closing her eyes and entering the meditative state where she could feel the outlines of the rooms around her, she had gently brushed her mental smoke over the eyes of a large tawny owl nearest her. Instantly, she had been soaring over the treetops, on the way to deliver yet another letter. Her heart was filled with pride at the important mission she had been entrusted with, and she reveled in the sense of absolute purpose.
Although she allowed herself to experience the feelings of the owl, she had not let herself get drawn in, as she had with Lavender. This was, of course, easier to do with an animal, since the simple emotions of the owl felt strange and alien when projected into her more complex human brain. She still worried that if she attempted to enter a human mind again, she would find herself getting lost.
Entertained and encouraged with her individual practice, she had not been tempted to call the Dark Lord again. She felt that if she could continue to make progress on her own, or perhaps even in the sessions with Dumbledore, she would not need to subject herself to his evil presence again.
Because of this, Adair was feeling confident as she walked towards the headmasters office tonight. She was sure that the headmaster would be impressed with her progress when she was able to read whatever creature he put in front of her, and she could get out of the lesson early and back to her homework.
When she reached the headmaster's hallway, Adair sidled up to the gargoyle and put up her hand for a high five. "Put her there, old pal."
The gargoyle left her hanging, and gave her a disgusted glare for good measure.
"Password?" he asked, in his most arrogant tone.
Adair sighed. "I really thought we had moved past all of this, Gargy. Can I call you Gargy?"
The gargoyle just stared.
"Fine. Password is 'Shrieking Sherbert.' I had just really hoped that by this point in our relationship..."
Adair was cut off by the gargoyle rotating out of sight.
"...there would be some trust established," Adair finished, under her breath. She sighed and trudged up the steps to the headmaster's office.
Dumbledore was seated in his customary position as she entered.
"Ah, Adair, welcome, welcome. Please do take a seat."
Adair sat in her familiar seat, leaning back to get more comfortable as she did so.
"I hope you did not think I had forgotten you."
"Not at all professor. I know you must be extremely busy with the war effort." Adair didn't mention that she had also not been eager to return to the office in the first place. "What type of animal will I be practicing on tonight? I think you'll find that I've improved a lot. I've been practicing on some of the creatures I've found around the castle."
"That's wonderful to hear, Adair. I'm so glad to hear that you have been taking initiative to hone your skills. Talents such as yours can be a major asset to the Order."
Adair was surprised. This was the first time Dumbledore had spoken outright about her potential membership in the Resistance. She had assumed it was implied, but it was sobering to finally know for sure that he had been making plans to use her as some sort of weapon.
Perhaps her surprise read on her face, or, perhaps, Dumbledore wasn't as strict to his vow to never use Legilimency on a student as he claimed to be because he immediately said, "Of course, that is a long way off yet. First, we need to ensure that you are comfortable and able to control it."
"That is why I have decided to accelerate your training. As we saw last class, training on animals was perhaps not an effective way to start, but I am glad to hear that you have progressed on this front." He nodded at her in acknowledgement. "I have, however, been pondering something you said in our last meeting. You asked me if I could use Legilimency, to show you how it is done."
Adair nodded, nervous now about where this was going.
"Well, I continue to stand by my principles and I will not use Legilimency on a student. There is, however, someone that is, let us just say, not as encumbered by those bothersome principles as I am."
Adair's eyes widened and her mind involuntarily jumped to Tom's dark, cold eyes and cruel smile as he, too, spoke to her of principles.
"Severus, you may enter." called the Headmaster.
Adair's heart quickened, as it did whenever Snape walked into the room. Adair had never personally had a problem with the Potions master; her marks in his class were decent and he seemed content to ignore her as he heaped praise on Malfoy while picking on Harry and Neville. But there was always a general sense of foreboding that followed Snape wherever he went. Adair guessed that most students at Hogwarts felt their heart rates go up whenever Snape was in the vicinity.
"Miss Robinson," Snape drawled, as he nodded at her.
Adair returned the nod and looked back to the Headmaster, questioningly.
"Professor Snape happens to be a master of both Occlumency and Legilimency. I have asked him here tonight to give you a demonstration of both.
Adair intensified her questioning gaze.
"And yes, Adair, Professor Snape is aware of your situation. I assure you, your secret is safe with him. He is a trusted member of the Order of the Phoenix."
Adair nodded, accepting this explanation, though it bothered her to realize that there may be other people out there who knew her secret without her knowing who they were. How many people did Dumbledore tell?
Adair had another question, this time spoken out loud. "Occlumency, sir?"
She heard a small huff from Snape in the corner and could swear she saw him shaking his head.
"My apologies, Adair. Of course, we have not yet covered that topic in our lessons. Occlumency, at its most basic level, is the opposite of Legilimancy. It is the ability to shield one's thoughts, feelings, and memories from those who may want to read them."
"Can there be natural Occlumens, Professor, like natural Legilimens?" Adair asked, thinking of Seamus.
"Very astute, Adair. Yes, some witches and wizards are born with an innate ability to shield their thoughts. Without further training, however, a skilled Legilimens would likely be able to break through their natural defenses, given the right conditions."
"Do you think I am a natural Occlumens, Professor?"
"That, I am not sure. Although there have been documented cases of witches and wizards born with the innate ability for both Legilimency and Occlumency, it is hardly a guarantee."
Adair nodded as she considered this new information.
"If it is alright with you, Adair, I believe we will start the lesson now. I thought we could begin with Professor Snape entering your mind through Legilimency, and you attempting to keep him out using Occlumency. I believe that this will help give you a first hand account of how Legilimency is usually practiced in a practical setting, as well as give you the opportunity to train your Occlumency skills, which can be invaluable in certain situations, as you can imagine."
Though spoken in a lighthearted tone, Adair could not miss the dark implications behind Dumbledore's words. "Practical setting?" "Certain situations?" Dumbledore was speaking of nothing less than warfare.
A stone dropped in Adair's stomach as the scope of this lesson finally hit her. Was she actually about to let Severus Snape go poking around in her head? What if he found her meetings with the Dark Lord? He would go straight to Dumbledore, and Adair didn't even want to think about what would happen next.
"You seem uncomfortable, Adair." The headmaster was peering over his half-moon spectacles at her.
"I just….wasn't prepared to have someone trying to break into my head today, Professor." She could not help but glance at Snape, still sitting in the corner, regarding her.
"Completely understandable, Adair. We all have thoughts and memories in our head that we would rather keep hidden. I'd like to offer you the use of my Pensieve, in order to keep these personal reflections to yourself." With that, he waved his hand, and the doors of a large, darkly varnished wood cabinet to Adair's left clicked open.
A wide, shallow bowl rose out of the cabinet and drifted toward Adair. As she leaned over it, she could see that the contents was like frozen smoke. It swirled and eddied around the bowl in white wisps. She was momentarily mesmerized.
"How does it work, Prof-"
She was cut off. "Dumbledore," Snape began with snide urgency. "I hardly think it is appropriate to allow a child access to an item such as a Pensieve. It is a highly volatile magical object and should only be attempted with advanced - "
Dumbldore had silenced him with a look. Adair was gratified to see that she wasn't the only one affected by the power of one of the Headmaster's glares. She was also more than slightly affronted that Snape has referred to her as a child.
"Do not underestimate Adair, Severus. She has demonstrated prodigious skill in the mind arts. Additionally, I will not repeat the same mistake we made last year. Even a young person has the right to the privacy of their own thoughts."
Dumbledore shifted his gaze back to Adair. "Are you willing to give it a try, Adair?"
Adair nodded, wondering about what mistake Dumbledore could be referring to.
"Excellent. This Pensieve has the ability to store memories outside of the mind, Adair. It is an excellent way to examine one's own thoughts and recollections in an objective manner. In cases such as these, it can also serve as a tool to protect memories from unwanted perusal, by temporarily removing them from your head."
He glanced at her, to make sure she was following. Adair nodded at him to continue.
"The process of removal is fairly simple, but can be disastrous if performed incorrectly. It could result in permanent memory loss, or worse."
Adair balked at the thought of "or worse," but, again, nodded at him to continue.
"Have you mastered non-verbal spell casting?"
Adair grimaced, thinking of the low whispers she often had to resort to in class as she attempted to perform a non-verbal spell. She shook her head, ashamed.
"It is alright, Adair. I find that this is one spell that is actually easier when performed non-verbally. The incantation is memoriam relinquent. You will recite this spell with your wand tip pressed to your temple. You will feel a strange sensation as the spell is sorting through your memories. The most difficult part of the spell is controlling which memories are removed during the extraction process. To put it simply, your life will flash before your eyes, and you will need to focus on the memory that you want to extract. This will bring them to the fore and they will be attracted to your wand. I must admit, it is a curious sensation when a memory is removed. You have a memory of the memory, and impression of what it was and the fact that it is missing, but you will no longer be able to recall the subjects or the details of the memory. Any questions?"
Adair was slightly stunned. That was a lot of information to take in at once, and now, no matter how eager she was to prove Snape wrong, she was feeling quite unqualified to take on the Pensieve. Still, she tried to put on a brave face.
"Can you extract multiple memories at once?"
"With experience, you can. For now, I suggest you start with one memory at a time. Do not be nervous, Adair. I have every confidence in your abilities." Dumbledore smiled warmly at her, and it made Adair feel slightly better. She squared her shoulders and moved to stand in front of the Pensieve.
"So, I should try it non-verbal?"
Dumbledore nodded, standing across from her on the other side of the Pensieve. Snape continued to lurk in the corner, staring at her and doing nothing to calm her nerves.
"Mem-or-iam rel-in-quent." Adair practiced, aloud. "Am I pronouncing it correctly?"
Dumbledore nodded again, with a hint of a twinkle in his eye. "Your pronunciation is impeccable."
Adair nodded one final time and brought her wand to her temple. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, trying to clear her mind like she did during her Legilimency practice. As clearly as she could, she thought the words memoriam relinquent. Immediately, she felt the power rushing from her wand into her temple. Just as Dumbledore had described, hundreds of images began flashing before her eyes. It was a confusing jumble of sensation, but, luckily, she had experienced this before in Lavender's brain and had an idea of what to do. She began to focus her attention on the memory of her latest meeting with Tom Riddle. Immediately, the sight of Tom in his green robes, standing in the middle of her dormitory, came to mind. Just as quickly as it had come it was gone, and all she was left with was a vague impression and a small sense of hollowness.
She broke contact between wand and temple and opened her eyes. She gasped to see a silvery thread of substance attached to the tip of her wand, drifting softly in a non-existent breeze.
Dumbledore was staring at her intensely from the other side of the Pensieve. "Very good, Adair. Now, gently place the tip of your wand into the Pensieve and your memory will be safely stored."
Adair did as he said and watched the memory drift into the mass of swirling smoke. As she watched, she felt a little sad. Although she may not remember what it contained, it was something that was once a part of her, and it felt strange to see it fade into a sea of other people's memories.
Once the memory has disappeared, Dumbledore clapped his hands. "Very, very good, Adair. Perfect execution. If this was an official class, I would award ten points to Gryffindor, but alas, I think that would be against my own rules. Still, very well done."
Adairs cheeks flushed slightly and she smiled. She was feeling rather proud of herself. She could not help but glance at Snape, and she could have sworn she saw a hint of admiration flash over his features.
"Now, Adair, repeat the process as many times as you wish, and we will get on with the lesson. But please, do keep in mind the time. I hope to have you back to your dorms at a reasonable hour tonight."
Adair nodded and repeated the process a handful of times, removing other traces of Tom, as well as some more typically embarrassing memories that she did not want Snape to see, such as her first kiss (Robby Parsons, behind the convenience store while she was home on break last summer) and the time she had tripped up the steps of the Great Hall and everyone had seen her childish underwear. (Now that she thought about it, she may just want to leave that memory in the Pensieve for good.)
When she felt that she was done, she nodded at the Headmaster and stepped away from the Pensieve, feeling strangely empty. Her head also felt funny. She couldn't describe it as a headache, but she felt a fuzziness between her ears that was not comfortable. When she tried to recall what she had just deposited, all she got was the frustration of an answer that's on the tip of your tongue, but will never come to you. All in all, she couldn't tell if she liked the Pensieve yet. Additionally, she couldn't believe that the lesson technically hadn't started yet. She was already exhausted.
"Very good, Adair. Now, if you will step this way, I will let Professor Snape take over and demonstrate the correct procedures for Legilimency."
Snape had moved to the center of the room. Adair slowly walked toward him and stood about six feet away, feeling awkward.
Snape gave her a sardonic smile, as if he knew how she was feeling internally.