AN: Thank you everyone for reading! I know my updates are slow, but I promise I'm still plugging away at it! All comments and suggestions are appreciated :)
Adair felt as if Snape's eyes were boring into hers. Her palms were sweating and she attempted to wipe them subtly on the folds of her robes as she continued to make eye contact with the professor.
"Legilimency is so much more than simple mind reading," began Snape. "It is the art of delving into the complex and many-layered thing we call the mind, and interpreting what is found there. Yes, an accomplished Legilimens will be able to ascertain if someone is lying to them, as if they were reading their thoughts, but in reality what they are doing is far more complex. Therefore, Occlumency is more complex than simply throwing up a wall. An accomplished Occlumens can set traps and snares that will confuse the invader to the mind, making them see what they want them to see. In this way, Occlumency can be its own weapon." Snape was glaring at her as if daring her to contradict him. She nodded to indicate her understanding.
"Today, we will start with Occlumency at its most basic level. To do this, you will need to clear your mind and keep it as free as possible from emotion or thought. If done correctly, this will create an impenetrable wall in your mind. Clumsy, yet effective in an emergency. Are you ready, Miss Robinson?"
Adair did not feel ready at all. How in the world was she supposed to clear her mind? All her training in Legilimency had been the opposite. By allowing her thoughts to wander, she had been able to enter a state where she could control her entrance into other creature's minds. She could sense she was going to struggle with this direction.
However, she took a deep breath, and tried to do as he asked. She closed her eyes and tried to picture a black void, as black as she could make it. However, it was impossible to keep all the stray thoughts and emotions she was having from popping into her head. She continued to take a few deep breaths, and when she was as calm and empty as she thought it was possible to be, she nodded her head.
"On the count of three, then. One… two… three… Legilimens!" she heard Snape say, and opened her eyes to meet his as he uttered the spell.
Almost instantaneously, it was as if his black eyes had grown huge enough to engulf her. Suddenly, Adair was awash in flashes of her own memories.
She was six and she had just fallen off her bike. Her dad was running across the street to help, but he was never going to make it in time before the car that was coming right at her. Suddenly, though, she was in his arms and safe on the sidewalk, heart pounding.
She was eight and she was in the principal's office for the first time. She was crying because she was confused. She didn't know why all the boys who were teasing her had suddenly had all their pants pulled down to their shoes, but afterward everyone looked at her accusingly as if she had done it.
She was eleven and she could hear her parents having a loudly whispered argument through the vent in her bedroom. She had just gotten a letter from a place called "Hogwarts" and she could hear them debating on whether or not she should be allowed to go...
The memories started to come faster and faster, in shorter and shorter flashes. She could just glimpse scenes of places she recognized. The backyard of her childhood home. The inside of her cabin at summer camp. The Great Lake and the grounds of Hogwarts. Her dormitory. A crackling fire in a fireplace. A birthday cake with nine candles. Hagrid's Hut. An empty classroom. A -
Suddenly the flashes stopped and Adair was gasping for breath on the floor of Dumbledore's office. Her wand was lying on the ground several feet from her hand and Snape was standing above her, tucking his wand back into his sleeve. Dumbledore kneeled beside her, offering her his uninjured hand to help her up.
"There, there, Adair. It would be the rare witch indeed who would be able to fight off an accomplished Legilimens in their first go. I thought you did rather well, actually. You were able to hold onto your wand and stay standing for quite a long time. That means you were fighting. Here, have some chocolate." Dumbledore was handing her a generous block of milk chocolate.
Adair took it, shakily. She hadn't felt like she was fighting at all. It was as if, at the moment Snape had entered her mind, she had panicked and forgotten all her training. She was angry with herself. She had felt the same helplessness she had felt when she had entered Lavender's mind for the first time. Had all her training with animals been for nothing? Or perhaps was it a different experience when the mind being explored was her own?
"You must focus on keeping the mind blank, Adair. I know it is a foreign concept, and very difficult to do in practice. Are you up for giving it another shot?" Dumbledore's voice was gentle, but Adair could hear the challenge in his tone.
She nodded and popped the last of the chocolate in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. They said that she was to keep her mind blank, but something about that didn't seem right to Adair. She thought about the smoke she visualized when she was trying to use Legilimency. Could it be used in the opposite way, as defense?
She stood facing Snape again. This time, she closed her eyes and let her mind wander as she did in her Legilimency training, attempting to explore and recreate every nook and cranny of the room in her mind's eye. The smoke began to swirl around her, emanating from the top of her head. This time, instead of focusing it into a sharp point, she imagined it hardening into a smoky wall around her, forming a barrier. Dimly, she heard Professor Snape hiss "Legilimens!" yet again. This time, she could visualize the spell as it hurtled toward her like a dagger, and watched it trying to break through her smoke barrier as if in slow motion. She focused her smoke on that point, enveloping the spell, slowly inching it backward. She could dimly feel herself gritting her teeth and her brain felt like it was splitting in two at the effort. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she could sense she was making progress and the energy cast by the spell was moving away from her. She made one final push and flung the spell back toward its caster, as she, again, collapsed to her knees on the threadbare rug of Dumbledore's office. Her eyes sprung open in time to see Snape flick his wand in a defensive motion, diffusing the spell.
This time, she was able to stay upright on her knees, though she swayed on the spot. Dumbledore was there to catch her by the elbow and help her to her feet, and he, again, offered her a square of chocolate.
"Well done, Adair! I've never seen anything like it! You were able to completely deflect the spell on only your second attempt. Most grown witches and wizards would not be able to do what you have just done, even with years of practice."
"It was a clumsy attempt, but nonetheless effective," Snape begrudgingly admitted. "Your extreme effort was, of course, obvious to behold. If someone had truly been trying to force their way into your mind, they could have used the many breaks in your defense you left open while trying to deflect my spell."
Adair could have sworn she saw Dumblefore give Snape an exasperated glance before turning back to her. "Nevertheless, Adair, it was extraordinary for your second attempt. Were able to clear your mind?
"In a sense," Adair replied. "I used some of the same techniques I've been practicing for Legilimency.
"Extraordinary," Dumbledore repeated. "It obviously seems to have worked for you, and I couldn't be more pleased. With practice, I am confident you could master the subtleties of Occlumency."
Adair shrugged, at a loss for what to say. In all honesty, she was feeling very tired and all she wanted was to go to bed.
Yet again, Dumbledore seemed to read her mind, but Adair didn't have it in her to be suspicious of more Legilimency. "You must be very tired, Adair. I think that is quite enough for one night. I hope that we will be able to resume these lessons in the future, but in the meantime, I hope that you will be able to continue your own practice."
Adair nodded, relieved and already dreaming of her four-poster bed. She turned to the door but was stopped by the sight of the Pensieve in the corner.
"The process to retrieve memories is a simple one, Adair," said Dumbledore, gently guiding her toward the Pensieve. "Simply place your wand on the surface and nonverbally incite the spell memorium revoco. All memories deposited by you will be attracted to your wand and you will be able to replace them in your mind."
Adair did as she was told, and let out a big sigh of relief when the process went smoothly. Almost immediately, the sigh turned to a sharp intake of breath when all the memories that had been so vague to her a moment before came rushing back with full clarity. The shock of seeing Tom Riddle in her dorm room was not as strong as it was the first time, but still jarring. Luckily, the pain in her head subsided a small bit, as if her brain was happy to be reunited with her memories.
"Thank you for letting me use it, Professor," said Adair, when her initial shock had faded. "I see why people use them now."
"Of course, Adair, of course. Now run along back to your dorm. Filch will have my beard if I keep sending students to roam the corridors after curfew."
Adair nodded and said goodnight. She turned to wish Professor Snape a goodnight as well, but he had already vanished from the room. She thought it better anyway, as she could not genuinely say she wished Snape anything, most especially a good night.
As Adair walked the deserted corridors back to Gryffindor tower, she was feeling pretty proud of herself. Finally, a meeting with Dumbledore had gone well and she had been able to do as he asked. Plus, her secret with The Dark Lord was still safe and she had possibly learned a valuable new skill. Despite her exhaustion, she felt content.
Then, as she was about to turn the final corner onto the hallway that led to the portrait hole, she heard a drawling voice behind her say, "A word, Miss Robinson?"
She turned to find Snape standing in the middle of the darkened hallway.
"Professor Snape, I'm quite tired. Maybe I could come to your office in the -"
"It will only take a moment," Snape interrupted.
Adair nodded, tiredly, and waited for him to approach.
"I would like to discuss, Miss Robinson, a most peculiar scene I witnessed in your memories."
Instantly, all the weariness drained out of Adair's body, and she felt immediately on edge and violated.
"Whatever it was, Professor, I'm sure it was private -"
"It was a certain fireplace. A fireplace I know to exist only in the home of a very dark wizard."
Adairs eyes widened, but she attempted to control her shock. She tried to think back. Had he somehow seen the memory of her lesson with the Dark Lord? But she had removed it! Dumbledore had said it would be impossible!
She frantically tried to recall if there was anything else he could be referring to. Suddenly, she realized there had been a single flash of the fireplace that had popped up in the final moments before she had collapsed on the floor. When she had removed her memories, some fragments must have remained in her head.
"I'm not sure what you mean, Professor. I certainly have never been in the home of a dark wizard before." This was, technically speaking, not a lie. "Perhaps you are mistaking it?"
"I am most certainly not mistaking it. The markings are distinct and linked to an ancient family known to have produced many dark wizards."
"Well, sir, I'm not sure how you would know about the markings on a dark wizards fireplace, but I'm sure -"
"Don't play the fool with me, Miss Robinson. It doesn't suit you. Now, tell me. Where in the world would a young Gryffindor like yourself could have seen this dark fireplace?"
Adair chose not to respond, simply shaking her head in dumb refusal. She inwardly cursed herself for not thinking quicker on her feet.
"I'm sorry professor, I really have no idea what you are talking about."
Snape stared at her for a long time. Adair was terrified he was going to try Legilimency on her again. She knew she would not be able to fight him off in her exhausted state. Finally, however, after what felt like an eternity, Snape broke eye contact with her and huffed.
"Fine, Miss Robinson. Don't tell me. But know this, I will be watching you very carefully. If anyone at this school is having contact with Dark Wizards, it is my job to know about it, and eliminate any breaches in security." His tone was threatening.
Adair nodded, trying to disguise her trembling limbs. "Of course, Professor."
Snape regarded her for a few seconds more, then spun on his heel, disappearing quickly into the shadows.
Adair felt frozen to spot after he left, trying to control her beating heart. That was a closer call than she cared to have again, and she knew that Snape's suspicions were far from assuaged. She was going to have to be more cautious than ever not to let any whisper of her secret slip.
"It was the Gaunt's fireplace, Dumbledore. I'm sure of it."
Snape was back in Dumbledore's office, his hands planted on the headmaster's desk as he leaned forward, as if trying to physically impress on the headmaster the seriousness of the situation. Dumbledore sat reclined on his swiveling leather chair, hands tented and face impassive.
"Nonetheless, Severus. We have no proof."
"We don't need proof, Albus! There is something she isn't telling us. If she is having contact with The Dark Lord - "
"And you've heard nothing on your end?"
Snape began to pace. "Death Eaters are, of course, rife with speculation about the possibility of the Dark Lord having a living descendant. Although her existence is a commonly acknowledged rumor, he has not yet revealed her identity to anyone outside of his most trusted inner circle. The foot soldiers only whisper about the possibility of another Heir of Slytherin. But I have heard no word, from him or anyone else, that he has actually made contact with her."
Dumbledore's gaze was fixed upon his own hands; one whole, one ruined, and he was quiet for a time, considering. "I suppose, if he has made contact, it would not be the worst eventuality."
Snape stared at him for an indeterminable length of time before speaking. "You cannot be serious, Albus. The temptation for her may be too great."
"You've met her, Severus. Do you see a Dark Lady in the making?"
"She is full of Gryffindor principle and a childish belief in right and wrong, yes, but she is also gifted and intellectually curious. She could be driven by a need to explore her powers by whatever means necessary. I have seen it before."
"Do you mean to say you see yourself in her, Severus? How touching. I've never heard you speak so highly of a Gryffindor before."
Snape only glared at him, arms crossed.
"I appreciate your concerns, Severus," Dumbledore continued, "But I trust the essential goodness in Adair to keep her safe from temptation. Everyone has a right to be curious about their own past and ancestry. If it is the case that Adair has had contact with the Dark Lord, I trust that she is using the opportunity appropriately to learn more about herself and her powers. It must be admitted that there are perhaps elements of her magic that we would not be able to properly instruct her on."
Severus opened his mouth to object but Dumbledore held up his hand and continued, "However, I do agree that she needs monitoring. You will take on this task, Severus. Keep an eye on her. If she shows signs of distress, or an enhanced predilection for Dark Magic, we will intervene as necessary. For now, I think it is best to let fate take its course."
Snape continued to stare at the headmaster, fuming. But the headmaster's words had an air of finality that the Potion's Master knew there was no use in challenging. He turned on his heel, robes swirling, and left the office.