Harry Potter and the Long Summer by Mirriam Q Webster
Summary: At the end of Harry's fifth year everything changed. And when Snape answers a call for help during the summer afterward, everything changes again.
Categories: Parental Snape > Guardian Snape Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required), Dumbledore, Remus, Voldemort
Snape Flavour: None
Genres: Drama
Tags: None
Takes Place: 6th summer
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Harry Potter and the Long Summer Series
Chapters: 15 Completed: Yes Word count: 50780 Read: 100767 Published: 06 Feb 2005 Updated: 25 Nov 2005

1. Chapter 1 by Mirriam Q Webster

2. Chapter 2 by Mirriam Q Webster

3. Chapter 3 by Mirriam Q Webster

4. Chapter 4 by Mirriam Q Webster

5. Chapter 5 by Mirriam Q Webster

6. Chapter 6 by Mirriam Q Webster

7. Chapter 7 by Mirriam Q Webster

8. Chapter 8 by Mirriam Q Webster

9. Chapter 9 by Mirriam Q Webster

10. Chapter 10 by Mirriam Q Webster

11. Chapter 11 by Mirriam Q Webster

12. Chapter 12 by Mirriam Q Webster

13. Chapter 13 by Mirriam Q Webster

14. Chapter 14 by Mirriam Q Webster

15. Chapter 15 by Mirriam Q Webster

Chapter 1 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Harry was still in shock when he crawled out of the car in Privet Drive. The Order of the Phoenix had just threatened the Dursleys! He could hardly believe it. Dazedly he lugged his trunk into his aunt’s house. He had just gotten it through the entry way to the foot of the stairs when his Uncle Vernon took the trunk away from him and shoved it into the tiny cupboard under the stairs.

“Now, is everyone packed? We want to get a nice early start tomorrow morning.”

“Packed?” Harry inquired in some consternation.

“Yes, packed,” Vernon said maliciously, “We’re off to Majorca tomorrow morning for a well-deserved holiday.”

“Off to Majorca?” Harry blinked owlishly. “All of us?” Questions filled his mind, were they taking him, too, did the Order know about this, when Uncle Vernon cut in, causing all his thoughts to grind to a halt.

“No, boy, we’re going to Majorca. You’re going to stay here and watch the house. It’ll be easier for you to stay in touch with those freaks we met at the station that way.” Vernon just sneered at Harry’s look of surprise. “Now go upstairs and carry down our bags, boy. Want to have everything ready for tomorrow morning!”

That night Aunt Petunia cooked a lavish meal. What little of it Harry was allowed to have he could scarcely choke down. It had never occurred to him that the Dursleys might just leave him behind while they went on an extended vacation. He kept thinking that his godfather would never have done anything like that, but then he remembered that Sirius was dead, and that it was mostly his fault. All of which made it quite impossible to eat.

“All done, poppet?” Aunt Petunia’s sickly sweet voice cut cross Harry’s musings. “Off to bed then, love, we want you to be nice and rested for our trip tomorrow.” Dudley leered at Harry, and then waddled off up the stairs to his bedroom.

Meanwhile Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had decided to have a talk with their nephew about what he would be doing while they were on holiday. They had prepared a long list of chores to hold him responsible for. Things like mow the lawn and weed the flower beds were to be expected. Harry was slightly more surprised to see clean the dishwasher and sweep the chimney. While he was looking over the list Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were telling him what he could and couldn’t do. “Don’t touch the car, don’t let strangers into the house, don’t invite any of your freaky friends over don’t touch any of our things, don’t break anything.” As expected, it was mostly what he couldn’t do. Harry wondered how he was going to do the assigned chores without touching anything.

“Now!” the suddenness of the exclamation startled Harry out of his reverie. “Off to bed, boy! And mind you no noise tonight! We need our rest!”

“Yes, Aunt Petunia.” Harry trudged up the stairs closely followed by Uncle Vernon who slammed the door and locked it the moment Harry had stepped into the bedroom. Uncle Vernon was so eager to shut his nephew in that he actually clipped Harry’s heel with the door.

The next morning, after a restless night in which he dreamed that Cedric and Sirius stood staring at him with mournful eyes, Harry awoke to Aunt Petunia opening his door and hissing at him. “We’re leaving now,” she said. “Get your lazy self out of that bed and do your chores. And mind you follow the rules!” She slammed the door behind her but did not lock it.

Harry stretched and rolled over listening to the sounds of the Dursleys’ departure as they floated up the stairs and through the door. Soon he heard the front door slamming and a car driving off. He slipped his glasses on and looked out the window to see a taxi driving away. He felt a curious sort of freedom. The Dursleys were gone. He could do whatever he wanted.

It was a delicious feeling. He decided he’d get up and get some breakfast. Maybe he’d watch a little televisions before getting started on the chores he’d been left. He slowly got dressed and wandered down the stairs. Opening the refrigerator he pulled out some bread and eggs.

Then he paused. There was very little food in the fridge. Startled he turned to the cupboards and opened them. They, too, were barely stocked. Harry sat down at the kitchen table. He should have known this was too good to be true. He had no muggle money to buy more food, and even if he did, he couldn’t get to the store anyway. He was stuck. As he sat there it occurred to him to wonder what else the Dursleys might have done that he didn’t know about. He figured he might as well eat something. After all, who knew how long his “loving family” would be gone. As he sat down to eat he flipped on the kitchen television.

The first channel to pop up was a children’s program, so he changed channels. Or rather, he tried to change channels. The numbers just kept rolling and the screen was filled with static. It seemed Uncle Vernon had had the cable turned off. What else had he gotten turned off while his family was away on holiday? As if in answer to his question the TV flickered off and the hum of the refrigerator subsided into silence. With an awful sinking feeling, Harry walked over to the wall switch and flipped it up and down a few times.

Nothing happened. Desperately he ran to the sink and opened the faucet. He heaved a big sigh of relief when he saw that, for the present at least, the water was still working. He figured it would probably stay on since Aunt Petunia wanted him to water her flowers every day.

What should he do? Harry wondered.

He had little food and no way to cook it. His aunt and uncle were gone on an extended vacation and he had no way of knowing when they would be back. He needed help, Harry decided.

But who to call?

The End.
Chapter 2 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Who to call? Who could he ask for help? Harry sat pondering those questions for a long time. The first person he thought of was Sirius. Merlin! How he missed his godfather! He had been waiting to really grieve until he had some time alone. Well, Harry thought, I’m alone now. The young wizard allowed his head to fall forward and hit the table. All of his friends had told him that it wasn’t his fault, but he couldn’t help feeling it was.

If only he had refrained from looking in Snape’s pensieve. If only he had taken Occlumency more seriously. If only he had trusted Snape. But he hadn’t. And now the one person who had always wanted him was dead. His fault. These thoughts repeated themselves over and over in Harry’s brain, an endless refrain.

As the sun continued its daily trek across the sky it shone in the kitchen window onto Harry’s back. With the power turned off the air conditioning had stopped. Soon Harry began to notice that not only was he very slightly hungry, he was uncomfortably hot. It was these realizations that eventually pulled him out of his stupor.

Alright, he told himself, so I can’t call Sirius, there’s still an entire Order of people who are willing to help me. Maybe Professor Lupin could come or Mrs. Weasley. Running up to his desk, he pulled out paper and pen. He sat down to write his letter, only to realize that he didn’t know what to say. “Sorry to bother you, but I can’t take care of myself?” Harry muttered aloud. “I don’t think so.” Sighing, he put down the pen and began to think some more.

The refrigerator, he reasoned, would only keep the food in it cold so long without power. He couldn’t cook it because the stove wasn’t working either.

“Unless...” he began, unless he used the fireplace. It would be hot, but he could pretend he was camping or something. He had never really been camping before, and for a brief moment he irrelevantly wondered if it was fun. That’s what he would do, he decided. He would cook all the food in the refrigerator and make it last as long as he could.

Purposefully he stood up and headed down the stairs. When he reached the kitchen and began actually pulling out things to cook, he saw that there was far less than he had originally thought. Some of the things he simply had no use for, like the Worcestershire sauce, or the half bottle of ketchup he found in the door. Also, some of the fruits and cheeses looked decidedly questionable, and he couldn’t really cook them. He slumped for a moment, but then straightened. I will just have to make do, he told himself firmly.

Gathering the items he was able to salvage, Harry walked to the fireplace in the front room. Carefully he started a small fire and, after making certain it would burn steadily, walked back into the kitchen to collect a couple of pans.

Cooking over the fire was very different than cooking at the stove, and different from potions class, too. For one thing he had to hold the pan up himself with one hand; he didn’t want his aunt to be angry about a burned pan when she got home. All in all, the operation was far more difficult and tiring than he had expected.

He continued, however, in part out of Gryffindor stubbornness, but also because it was the only way he could see to keep going without asking for help. And Harry did not want to ask for help. He could just picture what Snape would say about that, how the precious boy-who-lived needed someone to coddle him at every turn. When he was finished frying the various bits of meat and eggs he had found, Harry carefully carried the pans back into the kitchen and deposited them in the sink. Then he wrapped his food and stored it in one of the empty cabinets. By this point he was feeling rather hungry, but he knew he had to ration out his supplies, so he resolutely drank a glass of water and then headed out to weed and water Aunt Petunia’s flower beds.

Just before dusk fell, Harry wearily trudged back into the house. He was so hungry his stomach hurt, but he didn’t want to give in yet, so he had another glass of water, then dragged himself up the stairs and pulled himself into the shower. The water felt good and eased his muscles, allowing him to release some of the tension he had unconsciously been holding on to all day. Unfortunately, the tension seemed to be all that was holding him up. As he slumped against the shower wall Harry turned the water off. He dried himself and crawled into bed thoroughly tired.

After another restless night filled with guilt-laden dreams, Harry awoke to a sunny and already warm day. Sighing, he stretched and reached for his glasses. When he had slipped them up his nose, he glanced over at Hedwig’s cage. The snowy owl had just returned home from a night of hunting and blinked tiredly at him. She hooted softly, and then hopped into her cage and tucked her head under her wing to nap for the day.

Harry walked into the bathroom and drew a glass of water from the tap. He carefully poured the liquid in the bowl at the bottom of the wire cage. He petted Hedwig’s head and said to her, “at least you can stretch your wings this year, girl. That’s one good thing.”

He stumbled downstairs into the kitchen, grabbed some fruit, and looked over the list his relatives left with him. He figured he could wash the car and mow the lawn today. He still wondered how he was going to clean the chimney, and why they wanted him to do it in June anyway.

Oh, well, he thought, he’d better just get started on the list. He worked all that day, and that evening had water and a little cheese. He had to come in earlier than if his relatives were home so that he could actually see to take a shower. Then again, if his relatives were home, the electricity wouldn’t have been turned off.

That night was as torturous as those previous and the next day was just as tiring. At noon he stopped for a few minutes and realized that it was the third day since the Order had met his uncle at the train station. He had a letter to write unless he wanted them breathing down his neck. And he definitely didn’t want that. After sending Hedwig off with a brief note saying that all was well on Privet Drive, Harry decided that he should make a calendar of some sort so that he didn’t forget a letter. He soon fell into a routine. Work; eat a little, try to sleep, and every third day write to the Order. He tried not to think too much about Sirius during the day, but at times it was unavoidable. He tried to keep busy, but sometimes apathy overtook him and he simply lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling.

Harry continued in this manner for about two weeks. Then one day he passed out in the garden. When he awoke later that evening he crawled into the house, ate the last of the food, and fell asleep slumped over the table. What Harry didn’t realize was that it was a third day, the day he had to write a letter to the Order.

At the headquarters in Grimmauld Place, several members of the Order of the Phoenix were very concerned that they had not heard from Harry Potter. Remus Lupin, normally calm, paced back and forth in front of the kitchen fireplace while Molly Weasley sat at the table playing with the handle of her tea cup. Albus Dumbledore, head of the Order dedicated to fighting Voldemort, was speaking from the fire. “You haven’t heard from him today?”

“No, Headmaster, not a word,” Molly responded.

“To tell the truth,” Lupin said, “I’m nervous. His letters don’t sound right. I think that there is something he’s not telling us. And last summer those muggles locked him in his room! Also, Mrs. Figg says she has seen Harry, but she hasn’t seen any of the Dursleys. I think we should send someone.” He turned toward the fireplace. “I’d like to go and get him.”

“You and Molly, Tonks and Moody, go and check on him. Don’t let him see you. If everything is fine, leave him there for a little longer. If not,” he paused. “If not, bring him back.”

“Yes, Sir.” As the flame in the fireplace went back to its normal orange and gold color, the two left in the kitchen snapped into action. “I’ll go and get Moody and Nymphadora,” Remus said.

“Right. I’ll just let Arthur know we’re going and round up some brooms,” replied the Weasley matron.

“Good, meet you back here in fifteen minutes.” Nodding, the pair moved off to complete their tasks. Exactly thirteen and a half minutes later, the four witches and wizards took off into the night, heading for Little Whinging, Surrey.

The End.
Chapter 3 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

The houses along Privet Drives were well lit, except number four, which was completely dark.

It was a steamy night, the humidity seemed to choke them as they stood on the street, and it was for this reason that the windows on the houses along Privet Drive were open to catch any breeze. The sounds of laughter and televisions and radios floated out into the darkened street, but number four was completely silent.

It was faintly unnerving to the four who stood watching the house. It was almost as though the house were haunted by some sort of malevolent sprit. But Molly Weasley, Remus Lupin, Alastor Moody, and Nymphadora Tonks were fully grown and fully trained witches and wizards and more than capable of taking care of themselves, so they carefully approached the house and peeked in the windows. Nothing was moving inside.

Cautiously, they approached the kitchen door and a whispered “alohomora” caused the latch to click open. Moody entered the kitchen first with his wand held in front of him. When everyone had filed in another whisper, this time “lumos,” caused a wand-tip to flare to life. As they looked around, they saw a small figure with tousled black hair slumped at the table. “Harry,” Molly breathed as she started forward, only to run into Mad-Eye’s outstretched arm.

“Wait, it may not be him.”

“Alastor,” Tonks rolled her eyes. “I doubt a Death Eater would go to all the trouble to look like Harry just to fall asleep at the kitchen table.”

Remus moved forward, “Let’s go search the house.” Nodding, the other three moved to follow him. They tiptoed silently through the house, slipped up the stairs and opened the bedroom doors. The Dursleys’ were locked, but discovered to be empty after the swift application of an unlocking charm.

Harry’s door made Remus shiver as he moved toward it. This time, he thought venomously, it was unlocked. Not like the last time he had come to get Harry. Molly slipped forward too, turning a bright shade of crimson when she saw the many locks on the outside of the door.

The window set into the wall across from the door was open and a grey shadow swooped in, hooting softly. “Hello, Hedwig.” The owl pecked at the werewolf’s outstretched fingers. Then she hooted again and swooped through the door, flying carefully down the stairs. The adults followed.

As they went, they talked softly amongst themselves. “Looks like those muggles went away without him,” Moody said.

“Yes,” Molly agreed softly. “How could they leave him here?” she asked, righteous indignation coloring her voice.

“I don’t know,” said Lupin with a sigh. “Hedwig seems to be in good health, maybe Harry just forgot to write us.”

“That doesn’t seem like Potter,” Moody growled.

“No, it doesn’t,” Molly said with a worried frown.

Tonks suddenly said, “I’m hungry. Do you think Harry would mind if I had a snack?” She bounced into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. “Hey!” she exclaimed. “That little light didn’t come on when I opened the door!”

“Use your wand, dear,” Molly said absently, not really paying attention to the younger and much clumsier witch.

Suddenly, Remus stiffened. “I just remembered, from Muggle Studies class at Hogwarts, eckeltricity hums. We should be able to hear it.” All of them were silent a moment, listening. They heard nothing.

“Well, there’s an easy way to find out,” Tonks said, full of false bravado. She walked over to the wall plate and swiftly flipped the switch up. Nothing happened. She tried again, several times. Still nothing happened. “Maybe he blew a fuse,” her voice squeaked with uncertainty.

A horrid idea began to occur to them just when a tired voice said, “Tonks, I really hope that’s you.”

“Harry?” Remus asked.

“Lumos,” barked Moody looking Harry over and taking in his curious, sun-burned pallor and the dark smudges under his eyes.

“Hey, guys,” Harry’s mouth curved into a smile though his eyes remained dull.

“Wotcher, Harry. Mate, I think you blew a fuse or something. The wall plate’s out, and so is the fridge light.”

She watched carefully as Harry said, “Oh?” neutrally.

“Maybe we should check the circuit breakers in the basement,” she continued.

Harry squirmed, “I don’t think that will help much, Tonks,” he said blushing.

“And why’s that, Harry?” Remus inquired gently.

“Because...” Harry trailed off, then took a deep breath and muttered quickly “my uncle had the power turned off while he’s in Majorca.”

“None of the eckeltricity in this house works?” Mrs. Weasley’s voice was rising dangerously.

“No, Ma’am,” Harry whispered.

“Harry, why didn’t you tell us?” Lupin asked quietly.

“I didn’t want you to think I couldn’t take care of myself,” he said, his eyes on the ground. “Besides, Dumbledore said I had to stay here for a little while to renew the blood magic.”

“Harry, no one here doubts your ability to take care of yourself. And I doubt very much Professor” he emphasized the honorific slightly, “Dumbledore would want you to stay here alone without eckeltricity.”

“We should get going,” Moody growled, “before any of the other muggles notice we’re here.”

The others nodded and Tonks said, “You mind if I have a snack, Harry, I’m dead hungry.”

Harry turned a shade of crimson that rivaled the Weasley hair color. “Um...” he began.

“Harry, is there something else?” asked Remus.

“Well, the cupboards are a little...um...empty.”

“I’m not picky, Harry,” Tonks tried to reassure him as she moved to open a cupboard door. She stopped dead when she had looked inside. “Gee, Harry, I guess you weren’t kidding, huh?”

The adults were stunned. Harry Potter had no food. A child had been left in a house, alone, for an extended period, without food or power. It was not to be borne!

“Come on, Harry, we’re going!” Molly grabbed his hand and said to the others, “We’re apparating ahead. You lot get Harry’s things and bring my broom.” With that Harry found himself rushed down Privet Drive and the next thing he knew he was in Grimmauld place watching number twelve appear before his eyes. Swiftly Mrs. Weasley led him to the kitchen. She fixed him toast and tea and watched him closely as he ate. “Now, Harry,“she said as he finished, “you go on up to the room you shared with Ron and get some sleep. We’ll talk in the morning.”

“Alright. Thanks, Mrs. Weasley,” he murmured sheepishly. She nodded maternally as he walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Harry walked into “his room” and collapsed into an exhausted sleep.

Downstairs Molly Weasley was sitting quite still at the kitchen table. When the others arrived she looked up sharply and rose. She walked to the fireplace and tossed in a handful of Floo powder. “Albus Dumbledore!” she called as the flames roared green. Almost immediately the wise, old head appeared

“Molly! Wait a moment, I’ll step through.” Half a moment later the tall wizard was ducking under the mantelpiece and stepping into the kitchen of the late Sirius Black. “Molly, what happened?”

“Wait a moment, for the others to come in.” Albus Dumbledore had seen many things, but a furious and silent Molly Weasley was enough to make even him nervous. He regarded her carefully.

“Harry is here, then?” he inquired after a moment. She nodded shortly. He continued to watch her. The silence between them was just beginning to become uncomfortable when the other members of Harry’s rescue team traipsed into the kitchen. Dumbledore observed the group; the twinkle in his eye was damped by what he saw, agitation was still visible in their ever-so-slightly jerky motions. When they had all got tea, or something stronger, and Tonks had pulled some leftovers from dinner out of the cold-box, they sat down at the table. “What happened?”

“They left him!”

“He had no food!”

“He had no power!”

“He was left alone, Albus!”

They all continued on, shouting in this manner until he finally said, “Enough. If you don’t quiet down not only will you wake Madame Black, you will wake Harry, whom I believe is sleeping upstairs?” he looked askance at Mrs. Weasley.

“Yes,” she said. “And a well-deserved rest he’s getting, too!” Dumbledore held a hand up to forestall her.

“There is no question of him going back to Surrey?” They all just stared at him for a moment and just as Molly was once again opening her mouth he said, “Well, then, we will just have to find a place for him to spend the summer.”

“I’d be happy to take him, Albus,” Remus said.

“No, I need to send you away for a bit, and anyway it would be too easy to take advantage of the full moon.”

“Harry is always welcome at the Burrow,” the Weasley matriarch said indignantly.

“I need you to stay here at headquarters, and I doubt Harry would like to stay here all summer.”

“Then where will you send him?”

“I think I know just the place,” the old wizard said. The twinkle was back in his eyes. “I’ll be back to talk to Harry tomorrow,” he said standing up and walking through the fireplace.

He had known Harry didn’t get along well with his relatives, but he had thought it had been taken care of. He had sent a letter to Petunia Dursley, and he knew some of the Order members had had a little talk with Vernon. He didn’t really approve of threatening the muggles, but he definitely didn’t approve of the muggles mistreating Harry. He sighed. Who could he trust to take care of the boy? Minerva was busy, he couldn’t do it himself. None of the other teachers could be trusted not to overindulge Harry except Severus, who was a Death Eater.

Severus. If he could convince him, he would make a powerful protector for the boy. Severus could tell Voldemort that he was trying to convert him. Maybe, just maybe, this could work. After a few more minutes of strategizing and carefully balancing options, he threw a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace and called for the potions master. A moment later the man stood before him.

“Headmaster,” he said by way of greeting.

“Severus, my boy, how are you? Have a seat. Would you like some tea, or perhaps a lemon drop?” The older man’s eyes sparkled.

“No, headmaster, thank you. Was there something in particular you wanted? Or do you merely like exercising your power by calling me up here? Merlin knows you don’t do it for the company.”

“Why, Severus,” Dumbledore replied laughing, “I enjoy your company greatly. Nearly everyone else is far too respectful.” The dark man across the desk sneered, although without quite the usual amount of venom.

“I’m so glad, Albus. If you’ll excuse me, however, I have some potions to brew for Poppy...” he trailed off as he rose from his seat.

“Stay a moment longer, please, Severus. I have something I need to ask of you.”

Snape reseated himself with a wary air. “What is it?”

“I wondered if you would mind very much keeping an eye on someone for me.”

“Oh, no, Albus,” the spy interrupted, “I already told you, I am not going to get stuck on guard duty in Surrey!”

“I wasn’t going to ask you to do that, Severus.” Snape breathed a small sigh of relief. “I was going to ask you to take Harry with you when you go home tomorrow.” The request hit Snape harder than a Goyle in a bad mood. Two bright spots of color appeared on his cheeks, and then disappeared almost as quickly.

“Now why would I do that, Headmaster? Isn’t poor Potter happy in Surrey?”

“He cannot stay in Surrey anymore this summer, Severus,” the old wizard replied sadly.

“What about London, or the Burrow, why can’t he stay there?”

“I’m afraid neither of those options are really appropriate, Severus.”

“Why?” Snape asked bluntly. The patient tone that his employer was using was starting to worry him a little.

“Because there is no one at the Burrow and Harry hardly needs to be constantly reminded of his godfather just now.”

“Oh, yes,” came the sarcastic response. “Can’t have precious Wonder Boy feeling upset, now can we?”

“Severus,” Albus was actually frowning, “Harry has just lost the only person who loved him as a parent would. And unless I am much mistaken, he believes it to be his fault. Could you refrain from taunting him about that, please?” Snape just snorted, but Dumbledore’s comment gave him pause for a moment. Surely those muggles would have spoken to him? After all, he lived with his mother’s sister, didn’t he? Somehow, Severus couldn’t imagine any sister of Lily’s not being open and affectionate. Besides, Potter was a spoiled little boy, wasn’t he? Maybe, if he took the boy in for the summer he could do something about that? And it would make his boss happy, always a good thing, in Snape’s opinion.

“I suppose, if I must, I can handle Potter for a few extra weeks. Provided, of course, that he follows the rules while he is in my house.”

“I think that is more than reasonable, Severus. I’ll tell him the good news tomorrow.”

Severus grimaced. “If that is all, Headmaster,” he said, preparing to rise again.

“Of course, my dear boy. Of course. By all means, enjoy yourself.” Snape sneered as he swept from the room.

The End.
Chapter 4 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

The next day, when Harry awoke and stumbled down the stairs to the kitchen, he found the Headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry waiting for him. Mrs. Weasley was cooking and, as soon as he sat down, put a plate heaped high with eggs, bacon, and toast in front of him. Harry eyed it with some trepidation. It had, after all, been some time since he had eaten that much.

“Good morning, Harry,” Albus Dumbledore said.

“Good morning, sir,” Harry mumbled through a mouthful of eggs.

“I’m afraid you won’t be going back to your aunt’s house this summer, Harry. I’ve found somewhere else for you to go.” Harry looked at the Headmaster in some confusion, excited not to be going back to Little Winging, but wondering where else he would be sent. He couldn’t think of anywhere but Hogwarts or the Burrow.

“Where will I go, sir?” Harry asked before taking another bite of toast.

“Professor Snape has agreed to take you in.”

Harry choked. “Snape?” he gasped.

“Yes, all that he requests is that you follow the rules. And it might be a good opportunity for you to work on your Occlumency, too.”

“But, but, but,” Harry spluttered, “what if Snape gets summoned? And what about the list of chores Aunt Petunia left?” Harry was grasping at straws, there, he knew, but he loathed Snape. It was almost as much his fault as Harry’s that Sirius had died.

“I am sure your chores can be taken care of,” the Headmaster smiled. “Severus will tell Lord Voldemort that he is giving you the opportunity to study the Dark Arts without my knowledge. I dare say he will believe that, don’t you, Harry?” The Headmaster of Hogwarts peered over his glasses at Harry. Harry looked down at his plate. He knew Dumbledore was referring to attempt to use the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange.

“Yes sir.”

“Eat up, Harry,” Molly Weasley said suddenly, “Professor Snape should be here soon.”

“I’m not really hungry anymore, Mrs. Weasley. I’ll just go wash up and get changed so I’ll be ready when its time to leave.” Harry slipped out of the kitchen and up the stairs. “Snape!” he thought to himself in disgust.

A few moments later, just as Harry was putting his things back in his trunk, which he had found in his room when he awoke that morning, the sound of the front door told Harry that someone had just arrived. Probably Snape. Mrs. Weasley confirmed his suspicions. “Harry, she called. “Come on down, dear, Professor Snape’s here!” Harry closed his trunk and began trying to tug it one handed down the stairs behind him.

Meanwhile, Molly Weasley was talking to Professor Snape in the hallway just above the kitchen stairs. She approached him with a determined air, as though she doubted he would appreciate her efforts, but she had decided she must speak with him anyway. “Severus,” she said carefully.

“Molly,” he acknowledged.

“Make certain Harry eats, will you? And take good care of him. He is not...entirely well just now.” She looked closely at him. It was apparent that she loved the boy from the maternal gleam in her eye.

Snape just rolled his eyes. “Molly,” he sighed, “I am hardly going to hand him over to the Dark Lord, nor am I going to string him up by his thumbs, regardless of how tempting it is.” He glanced toward the door and wondered where that blasted boy was.

Suddenly after a flurry of bumps, he saw the boy land on his rump on the floor with his trunk beside him. It was not a soft landing, and Severus walked toward him in some concern, though he advanced at a much more sedate pace than Molly Weasley, who immediately ran to him.

“Harry!” she gasped, “are you all right?”

“’m fine, Mrs. Weasley.” He looked slightly winded but was picking himself up, nevertheless.

“But what happened, dear?”

“I lost control of the trunk.” he said, blushing a little and glaring at the offending luggage.

Severus strode forward and murmured, ”Can’t even carry a trunk downstairs, eh, Potter?” The glare was intensified and transferred from the trunk to his person. Mrs. Weasley also cast a reproachful glance at him. “All ready then, Potter? I wouldn’t want to rush you, after all,” he asked in mock civility.

“I’m ready,” Harry said, lifting his chin in quiet defiance.

“As long as you are in my care, Potter, you will address me with proper respect. Is that clear?” His gaze was hard.

“Crystal, Professor Snape.”

Snape glowered at him a moment longer, then turned. “Come,” he ordered.

Potter, he noticed, turned to Molly and gave her a hug. “Say hello to Ron and Hermione for me, will you?” he asked, “and Ginny and the twins too?”

She nodded and made to shoo him along. “Don’t keep Professor Snape waiting, dear. And be good!”

“Yes, Mrs. Weasley,” he said with a small smile. Severus turned at the door and stood impatiently. Potter picked up the handle of his trunk and an empty wire cage and began dragging it.

Severus noticed that he seemed to be struggling slightly more than he should, but he immediately wrote it off as fishing for attention. “Hurry up, boy!” he snapped. Harry jumped slightly, very slightly, though he quickly recovered, glaring at him but redoubled his efforts. Soon he and Harry were standing outside Number 12, and Severus put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. With a pop, the pair dissapparated.

They reappeared outside a house that appeared to be old and was very isolated. It was a large house, obviously belonging to an estate that was the seat of a wealthy and moderately powerful family, though upon closer inspection there were scattered hints that that family had fallen upon hard times.

The taller of the two began walking toward the rather imposing edifice. “Come along, Potter, I haven’t got all day!” he called over his shoulder. With a flick of his wand the large trunk rose off the ground and began floating along behind him. As amusing as it would be to watch the impertinent brat struggling, Snape wanted to get Potter inside and establish the ground rules of his stay. He didn’t want to have to answer questions from any of his...acquaintances...who might drop by just yet, and he had thought of several new techniques he wanted to test, in addition to a list of things Poppy needed and the Dark Lord had requested. Maybe he could put off brewing a few of the darker potions for a time, using Potter as an excuse, of course.

Soon they had reached the entrance hall and Severus snapped his fingers. Instantly a small green house elf appeared before him. “Cinder,” he permitted his face to soften slightly as he gazed upon the small creature who had known him since birth. “This is Mr. Harry Potter. Put his things in one of the guest rooms and see that you set two places for lunch.”

“Yes, Master Severus, sir,” the house elf said, snapping her fingers as Harry’s trunk once again levitated into the air. This time it followed the house elf and both disappeared down a dark hallway.

Suddenly the Potions Master whirled on Harry. “I think we should go over a few rules, don’t you? You will not give my elf a hard time, nor will you distract it as you do that ridiculous creature, Dobby. You will treat me with respect. You will do as I tell you. Occlumency lessons will be from nine to eleven a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You will ask me before leaving the house. You will not go wandering about my house poking your nose into things that do not belong to you.” Harry, who had been meeting his gaze, flushed and looked down. It was obvious that both of them were thinking of the pensieve incident earlier that year. “And Potter,” Harry glanced up, “when you are not with me, you will be in your room. I’m sure you can find some way of entertaining yourself there. Come,” he barked, abruptly walking off down the same hall the house elf and his trunk had gone down earlier. “That is the dining room. You will find your way to it and eat at least twice a day. I want no melodrama from you, Potter.”

As they passed the doorway, Harry peeked in and glimpsed a long table in an elegantly appointed room. They continued and, after a few more turns and a flight of stairs, Snape stopped and pushed open a door. “This is your room. See that it stays neat; Cinder will not be cleaning up after you.”

Harry entered with a nod. He sat Hedwig’s cage down on a desk and looked around. The room was done in blues. It was simple, but nice. Nothing was broken or even visibly patched. It was better than anything Harry had ever been given before. He continued gazing around with wonder.

“If everything meets with you approval,” a cold vice cut into his reflections. Harry turned to look at his professor. “Lunch is in two hours. You will be there.”

He had turned to go when Harry said, “Wait, where will you be, sir?”

Snape sneered as if questioning whether or not Harry was seriously asking. “I see no reason to tell you where my rooms are; I have no desire to be the victim of any expressions of your sense of humor. If you need me, you can ask Cinder to find me.”

With a final swirl of his robes Snape stalked off down the hallway and out of sight. Harry’s cheeks were flushed angrily, but after a moment he turned back to resume his inspection of his new room.

A bed, surprisingly soft, a desk, and a chest of drawers comprised the furnishings. Harry’s trunk sat at the foot of the bed. Harry opened his trunk and pulled out his clothes. It looked like he was going to be there a while, so he might as well put his things away properly. As he did he mused on how odd it seemed to get such nice things form Snape, of all people. Harry had no delusions on this matter; he was not wanted in this house. But he hadn’t been wanted at the Dursleys' house, either. They had shoved him into a closet for ten years then moved him to a too small room filled with broken toys, ripped books, and very battered furniture. Even at Hogwarts, the one place he considered home, the furniture was slightly worn-looking from the generations of witches- and wizards-in-training who had used it, and there was no privacy. Even abandoned girls’ bathrooms were usually haunted by some ghost or shade.

Harry finished unpacking quickly and was seated on the bed, thinking and absently tracing a design on the coverlet when Cinder appeared in his doorway to announce lunch. Harry rose and followed the hose elf to the dining room. Snape was already seated at the head of the table. Harry was idly wondering how far away he could sit without getting into trouble when his professor spoke, “Potter, so glad you could join us.” Harry briefly considered being angry, but decided that it was too much effort and anyway that was positively kind for Snape.

He wasn’t really sure why, but something about the house was reminding him very strongly of Sirius. The boy couldn’t help wishing his godfather was there, but quickly repressed the thought. No reason to give Snape any more ammunition.

The two passed a mostly quiet meal. Severus silently eyed the small amount that Harry ate. Well, if the boy wanted to make himself sick, who was he to stand in his way? He watched as Harry suddenly stood up from the table without excusing himself, honestly, did the boy have no manners? Well, maybe he could change that, too. No reason why this shouldn’t be a productive summer, after all, he smirked cruelly. Potter-baiting was always entertaining, it always had been, and he assumed it always would be.

The subject of these thoughts was currently reentering his room. Snape was a snarky bastard. Harry had seen him watching him at lunch. Harry hated being stared at; it was so annoying. Not to mention he would have assumed that Snape’s house would be the one place in the wizarding world he would be safe from all that. After all, he was the one who had said "clearly fame isn’t everything,” the first time they’d met. Harry huffed and flopped on the bed, which was when he realized that he was tired. It had been a rather hectic morning, and two weeks of starvation-rations and copious amounts of yard work had taken more of his strength than he was willing to admit.

Harry was walking down a very familiar corridor. Not this again, he moaned. Upon opening a door he found himself in the room with the veil and the dais. Harry walked toward the dais sadly.

Suddenly, the veil began fluttering, though Harry could feel no breeze. A hand pushed it aside, and there stood Sirius. Harry rushed toward him, but stopped abruptly upon seeing his cold eyes and outstretched hand, ordering him to halt. The veil moved again and Sirius was joined by Cedric Diggory and Lily and James Potter. Harry just stood there watching them, and they watched him.

Finally Cedric opened his mouth. “It’s your fault.”

“What,” Harry asked, startled.

“Your fault,” Sirius repeated.

“That we died,” Lily and James clarified, speaking in unison.

“But I never meant for you to die!” Harry protested violently.

“But we are dead,” James replied.

“And it’s your fault,” Sirius declared.

“I, I’m sorry,” Harry stuttered. “I didn’t want you to die!”

“Sorry isn’t good enough,” Cedric proclaimed with a steely expression.

“You must join us to prove your remorse,” Lily declared. The four wraiths advanced on him. Harry began struggling frantically as they seized him and dragged him up to the dais and tried to force him behind the veil.

“NO! NOOO!” he was shouting.

“MR. POTTER!” the sudden noise brought him out of his nightmare and he jerked upright, gasping. “Mr. Potter, must you seek attention even in your sleep?” The hard but quiet words brought Harry back to himself more quickly than his Uncle’s roaring ever had. “Mr. Potter,” Severus repeated himself, seeing that the boy still looked fairly disoriented.

Harry turned to the older man and blinked. “Professor Snape?” he asked wondering for a moment what the man was doing in Privet Drive when he suddenly remembered everything. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, sir,” he said as he once again fell backwards against the bed. Snape jut stood there for another moment. Harry wondered if that had been the wrong response. His uncle always demanded an apology, though he did very little to acknowledge it, Harry thought to himself wryly. He was just beginning to get nervous when his professor turned away and walked down the hall.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he saw this. After a few more moments he sat up and walked to the desk. Since he had the opportunity this summer, he might as well start his summer homework early. It would be nice not to have to wait until two a.m. for a change.

Snape meanwhile walked down to his private lab. He had better start making some Dreamless Sleep potion if he wanted to get any rest this summer.

Dinner that night was another tense and very quiet affair. Once again Severus couldn’t help noticing how little the boy ate. Just as Harry was about to get up Severus spoke. “Have you no manners, boy?” he growled.

“What?” Harry asked.

"Manners, boy! Didn’t your Aunt and Uncle ever teach you any manners, Potter?” Severus had to fight the urge to roll his eyes.

Harry just looked at him, who was he to speak of manners? “Of course they did,” he said finally. He knew to say sir and ma’am; he knew to be quiet and unobtrusive, and not to ask questions.

“Well,” Severus paused, “Use them!” Harry just looked at him. What did Snape want from him, he wondered. “Say ‘excuse me,’” Snape sighed noisily while rolling his eyes. Really, the boy’s ignorance was ridiculous.

“Excuse me, Professor,” Harry said, getting up from the table and walking away.

Severus nodded and let him get nearly to the door before he spoke again. “Potter,” the boy paused. “Don’t forget we have Occlumency lessons tomorrow.” The boy nodded and continued walking.

Snape rubbed his temples. That boy was perhaps the single most annoying example of youth he had ever met. Perhaps he had better add a simple headache potion to the list of things he had to brew this summer.

The End.
Chapter 5 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Harry walked into his bedroom struggling not to show how he truly felt. Snape made him so angry sometimes! What did Snape think, that he was stupid? Of course he hadn’t forgotten that Occlumency was tomorrow. Really! Harry snorted.

As he rolled his eyes he saw a snowy owl perched on the wire cage on the trunk. “Hedwig!” he exclaimed, forgetting his anger. “You found me! Good girl!” He reached out to pat her. Carefully he lifted her cage over to the desk where she resettled herself. Harry rummaged through his trunk, and then he stood and offered one of the owl treats he had been looking for to Hedwig.

He stretched and yawned, then caught himself. How could he be so tired at—he glanced at the clock—nine o’clock? For Merlin’s sake he had even had a nap that afternoon, though it wasn’t exactly restful, a bitter voice whispered in the back of his mind. Since when do you deserve rest, another asked coldly. “Enough!” Harry said aloud, causing Hedwig to cock her head slightly as she looked at him.

He would just work on his summer work a little more, until he fell asleep. With a sigh Harry pulled his Transfigurations text and a roll of parchment toward him. An hour and a half later he slumped forward on the desk, his forehead smudging the still-wet ink as the quill fell out of his hand and traced curlicues across the parchment.

Harry slowly came awake after a night of surprisingly refreshing sleep. He stretched and smiled a little until he saw the clock. Eight forty-five! He had fifteen minutes to get dressed and find Snape. Harry was dressed and out the door in five minutes. He was halfway down the hall before he realized that he didn’t even know where his beloved Potions Professor was. Making an executive decision, Harry headed for the dining room. If Snape wasn’t there, maybe he could at least find what-its-name the house elf. Ash? Ember? What had Snape called it? It was just as Harry remembered the elf’s name, Cinder, that he realized that he didn’t even know if it was male or female.

Severus Snape sat in the library and snarled. Trust Potter to be late for the first lesson. Severus snorted. Probably wants to make some sort of grand entrance, he thought to himself as he glared at the clock. Nine-oh-seven. Ah, but the Great Harry Potter was above such petty considerations as punctuality. He would have to come up with a suitable punishment for the brat. Just as he was turning his mind to the very pleasurable contemplation of what that punishment might be, the door slammed open and a panting, red-faced Potter burst into the room. “Professor, I-“he began.

“Legilimens” Snape murmured as soon as he had his wand in his hand.

Anger. Harry saw Sirius falling, heard Bellatrix laughing. He saw his uncle advancing on him, face purple with rage.

The Potter Boy was on his knees, gasping when Snape pulled out. “Let’s try that again, shall we?” he inquired archly. Potter pulled himself to his feet and was just going for his wand when Snape invoked the spell again, “Legilimens”.

He saw his trunk being shoved into a cupboard, which was locked. Saw himself being shoved into a small, untidy room. He saw Sirius staring at him with reproachful eyes.

Potter was kneeling again. “Come on, Potter,” Snape growled. “You aren’t even trying!”

“Am!” Harry gasped out. He heaved himself up again and pulled his wand out.

“Legilimens!”

His aunt was swinging a frying pan at his head. His cousin was Harry-hunting. Cedric was glaring at him.

“Tarantallegra!”

“Finite Incantatum!” Snape bellowed as he calmed his dancing legs. “Well, at least you’re fighting back now,” he sneered. “Not that it greatly matters.” Harry’s face was coloring as Snape once again said “legilimens.”

He was yelling at his friends, and they were looking at him with concern. Wormtail was groveling on the floor of the Shrieking Shack. Sirius was yelling at him.

Wait, Snape thought. Black yelling at Potter? That doesn’t make sense.

He was just consternated enough to miss the curse hurled at him. “Rictusempra.” He belatedly processed what his ears heard.

“Finite Incantatum!” he gasped out, trying not to giggle like a pathetic school girl. “Funny how we keep coming back to you godfather,” Snape said with an appraising look in his eyes.

“You leave Sirius out of this!” Potter ground out.

“I didn’t bring him into it in the first place, Potter,” he murmured with a raised eyebrow. “Legilimens.”

Harry was furious. First Snape attacked him the moment he walked in the room, and then he had the nerve to speak of Sirius! Well, if Harry couldn’t stop him maybe he could manipulate which memories he saw.

He saw that moment in second year when he and Ron were peeking into the Great Hall. “Maybe he died!” Ron said with glee. Third year, he saw Snape in a dress with a vulture hat on his head, stalking out of the coat cupboard in the staff room. He saw Snape later that same year, foaming and enraged by Sirius’s escape.

When Snape pulled out this time they were both standing, breathing hard. “Thank you for that fascinating insight into your opinion of me,” Snape hissed. “It’s eleven o’clock. Get out.” Harry was only too eager to comply.

When Harry left, Severus was furious. Any concern over any of the memories he had seen was gone; all he could think about was the insult Potter had dealt him. His rage was such that he did not even stop to consider the strength it must have taken for Potter to manipulate him that way. Very quickly the Greasy Git of the Dungeons fell once again into pleasant contemplations of ways to punish Potter.

Perhaps he should give him some menial task, like cleaning? That was usually a very good punishment for those students who were as arrogant as Potter. But something was niggling at the back of his mind. Something about the boy, perhaps? Well no matter; if it was important he would remember it later.

For now it was nearly time for lunch. Potter wasn’t in the dining room. Oh well, if the worthless brat wanted to sulk Severus certainly wasn’t going to stop him.

Harry, meanwhile was in his room, napping. Oddly enough, although he was dreaming of Sirius it was not one of the guilt riddled nightmares he had been plagued with recently. He was remembering the first time he had walked into 12 Grimmauld Place. He remembered the heaviness of the air; he remembered the way the Darkness seemed to ooze out of the very walls and pool in unnoticed corners while so many of the house’s inhabitants fought that same Darkness by cleaning and purging. Harry jerked awake later that afternoon knowing exactly why Snape’s house reminded him so strongly of Sirius; the same feeling of oppression could be found here.

Dinner was promising to be entertaining for both Harry and Snape, and no doubt would have fulfilled its vows admirably, except that Snape never made it to dinner that night. Approximately forty-five minutes before dinner was served, Snape felt a familiar but unwelcome burning on his left forearm. Quietly gathering a few necessary effects, he instructed Cinder to serve Potter without him and ran out the front door. He apparated as soon as he got beyond the wards surrounding his family home.

When he arrived, he surreptitiously looked around. It was a small group tonight. Not that that was going to make lying any easier. Those who were present promised to be the smarter, or at least more fanatical, of Voldemort’s Death Eaters.

Severus quickly made his obeisance and faded back into the circle surrounding the Dark Lord. “My faithful Sservantsss,” the villain formerly known as Riddle hissed. “Welcome. What newsss have you for me?” His voice was deceptively clam. Severus listened attentively while the others made their reports. Finally the serpentine being turned to him. “Sseverusss,” he crooned. “My faithful sspy. How goesss it?”

“My lord, I have been given care of Harry Potter for the summer. The Muggle-loving old fool thinks the boy will be safer with me.” It was always better to start with a bit of truth, and build the lie up from a solid foundation.

“A grievousss misscalculation on hisss part,” Riddle hissed appreciatively. “But why have you not brought young Potter to me, Sseverusss?” There was a dangerous edge in his voice now. It felt like a knife blade drawn slowly but carefully down Snape’s spine, creating chills but no blood.

“Forgive my presumption, my lord, but the boy has expressed an interest in the Dark Arts. I thought perhaps he might, with a little time and tutelage, join you. He would make a formidable ally.”

“And what of the prophecy, Sseverusss?”

“It was made by Trelawney, lord,” distaste was evident in his voice.

“Ah, yes. Our dear Ssybil. A pity she isss not more often accurate. And how isss the whelp responding to the losss of hisss godfather?”

“The boy is very depressed, my lord. He sulks constantly. He has only perked up when speaking of ways to get revenge on Bellatrix Lestrange.”

“It isss well known that Harry Potter ssneaksss into the restricted section at Hogwartsss,” the self-titled Dark Lord said contemplatively. “Sseverusss,” he seemed to have come to a sudden decision. “You will woo the boy. Teach him more of the Dark Artsss, but don’t go too quickly. Be patient with the child, Sseverusss; I’ll not losse thisss opportunity because you held a grudge against hisss father.”

Severus hadn’t realized he was holding his breath until that moment, when he exhaled almost imperceptibly. “Yes, my lord,” he bowed his head in what he knew was a suitably obedient and contrite manner.

“Perhapsss you had better go, Sseverusss. After all, we wouldn’t want to frighten the boy.“ Severus bowed and backed out of the circle. He walked away at a stately pace, staining to hear every last word he could. He heard nothing of further use, however; as he disapparated Voldemort’s comment “You’d better watch you back from now on, Bella,” and his Death Eaters’ raucous laughter was echoing in his ears.

The instant he got back to the Snape home, Severus went to his room and put away his cloak and mask. He then washed his hands thoroughly with both soap and water and the strongest cleansing potion he could use without burning his skin.

When his ablutions were completed he went to the top drawer of the desk in his study and removed the false back. Furtively he pulled out a small, round mirror with a plain, tarnished back. “Dumbledore,” he whispered to it. After a moment the old mage’s face appeared.

”Severus,” the headmaster greeted him. The benevolent twinkle was gone from his eyes replaced by a righteous fire. “You have news for me?”

“Yes, Headmaster,” Snape replied in the affirmative. Clearly and concisely the Light’s spy related the evening’s events to his handler. The older man nodded occasionally but did not interrupt.

“Albus,” Snape said near the end of his narrative, “I am not entirely certain that the Dark Lord has fully accepted my explanation. He asked me to leave before the end of the meeting. It is possible that I am no longer a reliable source of information.”

Dumbledore sighed heavily. “Do what you must, Severus, I will support you. But please, be careful. You would be greatly missed if you were gone and not only for the information you provide.”

“Thank you, Albus,” the austere Potions Master inclined his head. “I will communicate with you again when I have more to report.” Dumbledore nodded once more and was gone.

Silently Snape returned the mirror to its hiding place. He stretched and sighed; perhaps he would go to the kitchen and look for Cinder. She would probably be willing to fix him something light. As was frequently the case after a meeting with his own failings, Snape found he was slightly nauseous.

The End.
Chapter 6 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

The next day, to both Harry’ and Severus’s joy was not an Occlumency day. Neither of them really felt up to dealing with the other in a reasonable manner. Consequently, most of the day they spent trying to avoid each other as much as possible. Harry stayed in his room working on his summer projects and reading a couple of books he had stolen from Dudley, who never seemed to notice. Severus stayed in his laboratory brewing large cauldrons full of potions for the Hogwarts infirmary. The only time they saw each other was at meals, or more correctly, dinner, since Severus skipped breakfast and Harry skipped lunch. At the evening meal they pretended the other didn’t exist; Severus because both his “superiors” wanted him to be nice to Harry and he still hadn’t decided whether or not he wanted to be a good little subordinate. Perhaps he could just go on ignoring him for a while. Harry figured that like sleeping dragons, it was better not to tickle sleeping Snapes.At Occlumency the next day Snape hurled legilimens at Potter, and Potter hurled protective curses at Snape. It was a remarkably quiet lesson, but Snape found himself irritated by how easily he was able to break into his student’s mind. He ignored this as much as possible and simply said, “perhaps the Great Harry Potter could find some time to practice between lessons? Then again, we all know how busy he is.” Harry was angry, but he didn’t feel like arguing. He was too tired. Everything seemed to make him tired lately; though every time he tried to sleep he had nightmares.

Things continued in much the same manner Thursday, but the quiet didn’t last. Friday morning at Occlumency Snape snapped at Harry. “Don’t you practice at all, boy? Oh, wait, no, you don’t. The Golden Boy doesn’t practice, it’s beneath him.”

“I do too! What do you know about it, anyway, huh?” Harry yelled back.

Snape snorted. “You have nightmares that make you scream in the night. I can get into your mind without even trying! Are you trying to make yourself easy prey for the Dark Lord, boy? Because if you are then perhaps I should step aside and let you!”

“Are you sure you haven’t already?” Harry muttered under his breath.

“What’s that supposed to mean, Potter?” Snape hissed venomously.

“Just that you don’t seem to be doing a very good job teaching. Are you sure your heart is in it? Or do you not have one?”

“Perhaps I’ve been too lenient, Potter. I told you to address me with respect. Some discipline is in order, I think.”

“Discipline?” Harry asked with a nervous glint in his eye that he tried valiantly to hide.

“Yes, discipline,” Snape’s voce was low and slow and his face was suffused with a malicious joy. “Perhaps some manual labor will do you good. I can only hope it will build your non-existent character.” Harry’s face took on a reassured look that completely befuddled Snape. “Cleaning, I think. After lunch you will come with me to an old laboratory of mine which is a little the worse for wear. Once you begin you will not leave the room until I determine that a reasonable portion of the work has been done. Is that clear, Potter?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry spat, all bravado again. Who did Snape think he was, anyway? Aunt Petunia? Attempting to push away the rather disturbing mental vision of a slightly buck-toothed, long-necked Snape in a pale peach apron, Harry stalked out of the room.

It was about an hour until lunch, and it took everything in Severus not to run down to the lab and cast a couple of dirt spells and some mild sticking charms. Harry knew he should make some effort to calm down before lunch, but the truth was he didn’t want to. He wanted to be angry at Snape. It gave him energy and made him feel closer to Sirius.

Lunch, therefore, when it came, was a silent trial in which the food was swallowed mostly un-tasted and the air crackled with barely suppressed magic. It was over quite soon. Snape rose from the table and strode off toward the basements without a word. Harry was severely irked, but followed him nevertheless.

The room he was to clean, Harry soon found, was the size of his aunt’s living room. Three of the walls were covered in shelves with various jars, bundles, and drawers of ingredients. The fourth had racks of cauldrons and utensils. There were three tables in the middle of the room that were stained and coated with some sort of dried sludge. The entire room was covered with a thick coat of dust, as though the room had been undisturbed for many years.

Harry’s mouth fell open in disbelief. Snape wanted him to clean this? It was atrocious! Noticing Potter’s look of surprised disgust with a sort of grim satisfaction Snape grabbed his shoulder and led the boy forcefully into the room. He waved his wand and some cleaning supplies appeared. Muggle cleaning supplies, Harry noted. “Well, Potter what do you think?” Snape asked in mock solicitousness. When Harry didn’t answer the professor said, “I’ll come back to check on you at dinner. You’d better have something significant to show for your time.” Snape spun on his heel and slammed the door.

Between his swirling robes and the door a huge cloud of dust was created that choked Harry and sent him into a coughing and sneezing fit that lasted for several minutes. Harry looked about the room and for a moment allowed himself to feel overwhelmed.

Well, at least I know what I’m doing; Harry thought to himself dryly as he pulled his collar up above his nose and tied a small knot behind his head to hold the shirt in place. The nice thing about wearing Dudley’s old clothes was that he, Harry, didn’t really care if they were ruined.

The first thing he decided to do was get rid of the dust. Harry had to use a chair to get to the tops of the shelves. It was frustrating, dirty work. Every time he thought he had finally cleaned a shelf dust from another shelf got onto it. Harry found himself growing angrier and focusing more intently on his work. When he finally got the dust cleared up to the point that it would be worthwhile to move on Harry had decided that Snape had probably decided to make him do this to humiliate him and prove that he was worthless. What then would make him more furious than Harry’s success? He would do so well, he decided, that neither Snape nor Aunt Petunia (a veritable queen of nit-picking) would be able to find fault in his work.

By the time Harry had thoroughly denuded the first table of its encrusting filth, he realized how good having a goal made him feel. He felt he had a purpose and direction for the first time since Sirius died. It was only a temporary reprieve, a part of his brain told him, but still, he thought, perhaps the reprieve would make it easier for him to break free of the depression and apathy and guilt that were devouring the rest of his life.

It was not long after this that Snape returned. Harry did not immediately notice him. Severus was gobsmacked when he saw how much had been done. The room was still disgusting, but the progress was nothing short of amazing. Just then, Potter looked up. He did not look upset. He looked tired, and he had dark half-circles under his eyes. “Come, Potter. Dinnertime.”

Harry nodded. “I’ll go get cleaned up a bit.” Severus tipped his head forward in acknowledgement and walked up to the dining room to wait for the boy. Harry ran up to his room and dressed as quickly as he could. He was extremely hungry.

Snape was vaguely surprised again when he saw how quickly Harry returned. Harry was distantly startled when he saw that not only had Snape waited for him to start eating, he had, in fact, placed a rather large portion on his plate.

Well, of course, Harry thought, this isn’t the Dursleys’ after all. That much should be quite obvious. Snape noted the expression of puzzlement flitting across Harry’s face. Surely the child didn’t expect him to prevent him eating, he wasn’t that cruel!

They were eating in silence when Harry said, “When shall I finish up the room?”

Snape looked at him a moment then said, “You can work on it again tomorrow afternoon” Harry nodded briefly before returning to his mashed potatoes. Snape looked at him a moment longer before turning his attention back to his own plate.

Later that evening, after Harry had retired to his room, Snape sat reading. Actually he sat gazing in the direction of the book while reflecting on the day. Potter was annoying, it was true. But Snape was slightly disturbed that the boy was able to surprise him so frequently. Was it possible that he had misjudged the boy? Was Harry Potter more than just the arrogant son of arrogant James Potter? Perhaps he should consider reconsidering the boy. Bah! he thought. I’m reading too much into this. Potter is Potter, a brat, just like his father, just like his godfather. Hastily he stood up, closing his book and leaving it on the chair. He threw back the rest of his tea and went to bed hoping that Potter would sleep quietly that night.

Potter did, in fact, sleep quietly that night, and quite well. Better than he had in some time. When he awoke the next morning he felt fairly well-rested, which was a definite change from the exhausted feeling he’d had upon waking for the last while. Harry bounced out of bed, got ready and was down in the dining room in no time. Not even Snape would take the spring out of his step, he promised himself. Severus noticed that the boy looked better than he had and went back to his breakfast and copy of the Daily Prophet.

After he had finished eating, Harry walked back up to his room. My room. How strange to think of a room in Snape’s house as mine, while at the Dursleys’ it was always Dudley’s second bedroom. Very strange indeed, he mused. He pulled out his summer work and was just about to sit down at the desk when he decided that, much as he liked the room, he was a little tired of staring at the same four walls. He had been there for a week and since he wasn’t actually locked in, he might as well go somewhere else.

Harry gathered up his things and walked down the stairs to a small library he had seen. Rather, the room was small, the library was quite large. Harry figured some of the bookshelves had to be magicked in. He sat down in front of the fireplace and began working. Perhaps half an hour later the fireplace roared, startling Harry. He backed up just in time to watch a tall, blonde man stepping out of the Floo connection.

It was Lucius Malfoy.

The shock on Harry Potter’s face was priceless; Lucius rather imagined that it was the same look that would be on his face when the Dark Lord killed him. If the Dark Lord kills him, Malfoy thought sourly. He seems rather convinced that Severus will be able to turn the boy. Lucius was rather skeptical, himself. And the fact that Severus even wanted to try rather suggested to him that his fellow Slytherin was not all he claimed to be. Then again, when has a Slytherin ever been all he claimed to be? Malfoy shrugged slightly and said, “Mr. Potter. How lovely to see you again.”

“Mr. Malfoy!” the boy gaped. “What are you doing here?” Dislike was evident in his voice.

The boy has no tact, Malfoy thought with a sniff, and he looks like a street urchin to boot. Then again, what else can you expect from a boy with what he had as a mother. “I am here to see your mentor, boy.”

“Shall I go get him for you?” Harry asked, not wanting to be alone with the Death Eater any longer than he had to.

“No, I expect he’ll be up in a moment,” he paused. “How are your studies going?”

“Well enough,” Harry replied carefully. Something in the older man’s voice made Harry feel he wasn’t referring to Care of Magical Creatures.

“Learned anything particularly interesting yet?” Lucius asked with a slight sneer.

“I have learned many things, Mr. Malfoy,” Harry said neutrally.

At that moment Severus entered the room. “Lucius! How are you?”

“Quite well, thank you, Severus. I’ve just come to ask you a few questions about a potion...” he smiled.

“Ah, of course, Lucius. I must admit I am a bit surprised to see you, though.” Snape raised an eyebrow.

“Come, come, Severus, don’t be silly,” Lucius replied, raising his own delicately arched brow. “Surely you didn’t expect Azkaban to hold me very long, did you? Especially now that the Dementors have joined our Lord?” Harry raised his own eyebrow at the thought of Snape being silly.

“If you’ll come down to my lab, I can answer your questions.” Lucius inclined his head and the pair walked out.

Harry sat a moment longer, pondering the conversation he had just witnessed. Then he gathered his materials and walked back up to his bedroom.

Severus led Lucius down to one of his less secure labs and answered a few questions the man had about a poison. They were inane questions, obviously a cover story. What Lucius had really wanted to do, Severus assumed, was check up on whether or not Harry was actually learning Dark magic. And the boy played right into his hands. Severus had been apprehensive when he heard the wards go off, telling him that someone had Flooed into the house. He had been horrified to discover the boy-who-lived sitting in his library. He hadn’t gone over the story he had told the Dark Lord with Harry yet. In truth, he hadn’t expected any visitors that quickly. Thank heavens the boy wasn’t as dense as he looked and was able to respond to Lucius’s inquiries appropriately.

After Severus managed to shove Lucius back through the Floo, he decided he’d have a little chat with Potter. It was more than likely sheer luck that Potter hadn’t given the whole game away. And anyway, what was the brat doing in the library without permission?

Severus stalked up to Potter’s room. Did he say Potter’s room? The room he was so gracious and generous as to allow Potter to occupy for a brief period of time. “Potter,” he growled, standing in the door way of said room. “Would you care to explain your presence in the library?”

The boy had the grace to flush slightly. “I was bored. I didn’t think you’d mind me just sitting in the library.”

“You certainly didn’t think, Potter. Your boredom could have gotten both of us killed! But then what more could you expect from Golden Harry Potter?”

Harry pursed his lips and glared.

Snape sneered back. “Lunch, then cleaning,” he paused. “NOW!”

Harry snapped into action. Stuck in a house with a slightly disgruntled Snape was one thing, stuck in a house with a seriously angered Snape was quite another.

The End.
Chapter 7 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

By the time Harry got to the dining room he realized that it was far too early for lunch. In fact, it had been little more than an hour since he’d eaten breakfast. He did not want to go back up to his room and risk running into Snape. Harry looked down at his clothes; they were by no means the nicest ones in his trunk. With a small nod to himself Harry turned and left the dining room.

He made his way cautiously to the laboratory he’d been cleaning yesterday. For a moment Harry considered how odd it was that Snape, a normally meticulous man, would allow one of his laboratories to get in such a shape. On the other hand, the man didn’t seem to wash his hair, either. Harry dismissed both thoughts with a shrug and pulled his shirt up bandit-style again. Time to get to work. My, didn’t that particular clump of dirt remind him of Snape? Harry attacked it ferociously.

By dinnertime Snape, who had skipped lunch in an attempt to avoid Potter, realized that it had been quite a while since he’d heard from the boy. He should probably go and find him. Snape rubbed at his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation. Foolish child could have gotten them both killed that morning. Lucky he didn’t ask what Lucius was talking about. Then again, that was Potter’s forte, luck. He’d better talk to Dumbledore about it later.

Potter wasn’t in his room. Snape cursed under his breath. Hadn’t he told the boy to stay in his room unless he was with him? Hadn’t today taught him anything? But of course, precious Harry Potter was above the rules. Why worry about pesky little things like rules, anyway? So what if they were meant to keep him safe, Potter didn’t need them. Severus walked through his house looking for Harry and mentally complaining when he couldn’t find him.

Ungrateful boy.

Useless whelp.

Severus had reached the basements and nearly given up when he thought he heard noises. It sounded like someone moving something. If Potter was in his lab Snape promised himself, he would skin him, Dumbledore and Dark Lord or no Dumbledore and Dark Lord.

He was, therefore, shocked speechless when he realized that not only was Potter in the unused laboratory, he was cleaning it and was very nearly done. “Potter, what on earth are you doing?” Snape asked before he could stop himself.

Harry looked up and blinked warily. “Cleaning, sir. Like you told me to,” he continued seeing the shock on Snape’s face.

Severus recovered quickly and sneered. They both stood there silently for a moment before Snape said, “Time to eat, Potter. Get cleaned up.”

Harry nodded and walked out of the room. As soon as he was out of Snape’s sight he ran up to his room.

Snape looked about the lab. The tables were clean. The floor had been swept, though it wouldn’t hurt to do it again. Half the shelves were spotless. Suddenly he remembered what had been bothering him a few days ago. How, Snape wondered, did Potter learn to clean like this? He thought back to a few of the detentions he had given the boy scrubbing cauldrons. When Potter was finished with them, they looked like new. He hadn’t paid much attention before, but now it was a question to which he wanted an answer. In the meantime he’d better get back up to the dining room before there was no dinner left.

Potter hadn’t started eating yet, he saw when he arrived. In fact, the obviously hungry boy hadn’t even sat down yet. Severus looked at him speculatively a moment before sitting down and serving himself. Potter, he noted, quickly followed his lead.

Severus was halfway finished when he sighed. No time like the present he told himself. “Potter, I have told the Dark Lord that I will be teaching you the Dark Arts.” The boy nodded as though this was no surprise. “It is more than likely that Lucius dropped by earlier to ascertain whether or not I was telling the truth.” Potter glanced up at him but again simply nodded. “It is also likely that he will wish to return at some point.”

“How will we convince him that I am learning, sir, when I really won’t be?”

“Well,” Severus began, it was a much more intelligent question than he had been expecting, truthfully he had been preparing himself for questions like “why” and “who would believe that he, Harry Potter, would turn to the Dark Arts”. “The Dark Lord has anticipated that you will need some time and delicate handling. It will therefore be quite a while before I actually have to tell him that I am teaching you. I am supposed to gain your trust first,” Severus said dryly.

Harry gave him a small smirk, and then asked, “And Mr. Malfoy? What about him? I won’t be able to answer satisfactorily if he asks for specifics.”

Another intelligent question, Severus noted absently, he must have just used up his quota for the month. “With some luck Lucius won’t be back. I can point out to the Dark Lord that having a known Death Eater, and one that has previously attacked you and your friends, come visiting is hardly going to convince you to stray from the path the Light has set for you.” Harry simply nodded. He stared off into space for a few moments, apparently thinking. “Eat boy, before it gets cold,” Snape grunted, startling him out of his reverie. Trust Potter not to be able to do two such complicated things at once.

Not long afterwards, Snape excused himself and walked to his study. He retrieved the mirror he used for contacting Dumbledore from its hiding place. A few moments later a familiar visage popped into view. “Severus? Is something wrong?” the wise old man asked after seeing Snape’s slight frown.

“We had a visit from Lucius Malfoy today, Headmaster. Ostensibly he came to ask me about a potion, but it was obvious he was here to check on Potter’s progress.”

“And?” Albus prompted.

“And he managed to find the boy alone before I could reach him. Fortunately Potter managed not to give anything away, Merlin only knows how.”

“How did Lucius escape Azkaban?”

“I don’t know,” Snape admitted with a sigh. “He only said that it wasn’t difficult since the Dementors had joined the Dark Lord.”

“Ah, of course. And Harry did not give you away? Perhaps you have underestimated the boy, Severus.”

Snape snorted, “I highly doubt that, Headmaster.”

“We shall see, Severus. At any rate Harry’s birthday is coming soon. He turns sixteen on the thirty-first.”

“Why should I care about that?”

“It might be appropriate to have something special for dinner that night.”

“No, Headmaster, I am not throwing that spoiled brat a party!”

“I didn’t suggest a party,” Dumbledore reproved mildly. “I merely meant that perhaps you could let Harry choose dinner or dessert.”

“Right,” Snape rolled his eyes. “Maybe if he manages not to get into trouble this week.”

The older man frowned slightly at Snape. “I do wish you would let the foolish grudge against Harry go.”

“I am well aware of your feelings on this matter, Albus. And I would rather not discuss any of it tonight.”

“Another time, then. Good night, Severus.”

“Goodnight.” Snape sat quite still for a moment. That meddlesome old man was always trying to get Severus to forgive his precious golden Gryffindors. How could he forgive James Potter, or Sirius Black? Especially after all they’d done to him! Even their deaths mocked him; they had managed to achieve peace while he was forced to go on with his troubled and troublesome existence. And Potter, as their son and godson, was the living representative of both of them.

Severus exhaled loudly and rose. He wanted a cup of tea and to read some of his potions journals before he went to bed. Time enough to worry about Potters in the morning.

The rest of the weekend passed quietly and the week began with another Occlumency lesson. Neither of them said more than they considered strictly necessary, though Severus did make a comment about the repetitiveness of Harry’s emotions after seeing Sirius again for the umpteenth time. “Really, Potter, I see that mutt so much I’d never know he was dead.”

This, understandably, made Harry very angry and he found himself voluntarily scouring the laboratory Snape had assigned to him. The room was perfect by the time he left.

Severus noticed Harry’s disappearance into the room and slipped in himself shortly after Harry had left it to return to his bedroom.

To say the man was shocked would be an understatement. He had feared that the boy might destroy some of the ingredients or kill himself in a foolish attempt to brew a poison for Severus. It was therefore inconceivable to him that Harry Potter, arrogant, spoiled darling of the wizarding world, perfect Gryffindor, and golden boy of Albus Dumbledore himself would slip supposedly unnoticed and entirely unprompted into an abandoned room and clean it.

At first he had believed that there must be some glamour on the room to hide the mess that the boy had really made, but a moment later that conviction was shot down by a counter spell. The mystery that had begun to form in his mind surrounding the Potter-boy had just grown. The sense of enigma deepened during dinner when the boy never mentioned the room or his birthday.

When Tuesday came Snape was absolutely certain that he would hear something about the approaching “holiday” from the boy. The disappointment of this anticipation served only to heighten Severus’s anxiety. When Wednesday passed with nothing more than Potter’s inquiry as to whether or not he was allowed to use his owl, Snape gave a cautious affirmative and decided the boy was plotting some sort of foul surprise for him.

For his part, Harry knew it would be his birthday in a few days, but he saw little reason to get excited about it. He was far more concerned about he subtle signs of nervousness emanating from Snape. Years of living with the Dursleys had taught Harry to recognize the symptoms of fear, first as he watched Dudley beat up anyone smaller than he (practically everyone) and later when he realized that his enormous cousin was afraid him. The Potions Master’s unease made Harry jumpy. After all, anything that could chip away at Snape’s poise like that had to be serious.

After writing letters to tell Ron and Hermione that his summer was going well and that he had rather not spend too much time in Grimmauld Place and another note to Remus to say he was well and making progress on his summer work, which included a review of basic potions, Harry dressed for bed and soon dropped off into a slightly disturbed sleep.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning a piercing scream shook Snape Manor. Harry jerked upright in his bed, panting. He was pale and trembling after the horrible nightmare he had just had. He tried to reassure himself that it was just a nightmare and not some Voldemort-induced-vision, but the thought that his own subconscious could come up with the images he had just seen was not particularly comforting. He was really not even particularly aware that he had screamed.

Severus Snape, on the other hand, had jumped out of bed, wand in hand, and was halfway to Potter’s room before he realized that not only were there no Death Eaters or other assassins in the house, he had forgotten his robe. He accio’d it from his room and after knotting it firmly about his waist he stalked the rest of the way down the hall to the boy’s room.

Potter, he noticed was sitting up in bed, playing absently with the corner of a blanket and did not immediately react when he entered the room. “Potter,” he growled, yanking Harry out of his reverie. The young man fumbled for his glasses as the elder continued, “I suppose you think it’s funny, screaming like that and waking the entire household?”

“No, Professor,” Harry shook his head.

“Good, because I certainly don’t. Do not let it happen again.”

“Yessir,” Harry said quickly.

Snape eyed the boy a moment then asked, “Do you need to contact Dumbledore?”

“No, it wasn’t that kind of dream.” Harry stumbled over the words and closed his eyes for a few seconds, but then they flew open as if his mind conjured images he’d rather not see.

Grumpy and ungenerous as he was feeling that moment Snape summoned a potion and handed it to Harry. “Dreamless Sleep, I do not wish to wake to such a horrific noise again.” He then spun around and left.

Harry let out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. He had been half afraid Snape would react like his Uncle Vernon and start screaming at him and maybe slap the side of his head, which had happened once. He knew of course, that Snape was no Vernon or Petunia Dursley, not that they treated him too horribly of course, but a summertime habit of cautiousness had asserted itself and Harry found himself unconsciously stepping softly.

After another moment’s reflection Harry turned his attention to the bottle in his hand. He took off his glasses and replaced them carefully on the nightstand. He then uncorked the bottle and took a swallow. He had just time to cap it and set the potion next to his glasses before Harry fell back to sleep and did not wake again until late that morning.

Harry slept in on Thursday and spent a quiet morning reading and drawing. Snape looked at Harry sharply at meal times but otherwise left him alone. Harry returned to his room and played a few games of solitaire with the muggle deck of cards he had found among Dudley’s discarded belongings. It was missing the queen of spades and the seven of clubs was torn nearly in half, but Harry had mended the deck as best he could with tape and a joker he had found in another card box which was mysteriously empty. Harry found himself looking forward to his annual tradition of staying up ‘til midnight; it was nice to have something he could control, and to know that some things didn’t change.

Meanwhile in the private potions lab of one Severus Snape a very confused man was brewing a very complex potion for a werewolf acquaintance of his. It was not the potion that confused him; however, it was the fact that tomorrow was July 31st and Harry blasted Potter still hadn’t said a word about it.

When Snape finished the potion he checked the muggle clock he kept in his laboratory; it was much more convenient for potion brewing than any magical timepiece he had found. It was just before midnight. He cleaned up and walked up the stairs to his room.

As he was passing Potter’s door he noticed that the light was on and he heard the rustle of many wings. Curious he knocked on the door.

Harry jumped, and then called, “Come in.” Normally he would have answered the door himself but he was engaged in trying to revive an extremely exhausted Errol.

Severus opened the door but stopped short when he counted no less than seven owls perched in various places around the room. “This is a bedroom, not an owlery,” he snarled, trying to use sarcasm to mask the fact that he had been startled.

“I know that, Professor,” Harry said wryly. “They’ll all be leaving in a few moments, well all except Hedwig, that is,” he gave the great snowy owl a fond pat as he straightened. Errol was still quite weak but perked up a bit at the owl treats and water Harry was distributing. After relinquishing their burdens and accepting refreshments the owls took off through the open window.

“What was all that?” Snape inquired with the barest hint of curiosity in his voice.

“They were just delivering my birthday presents.” Snape raised one eyebrow at the statement then another when he saw Potter sit down in front of a small stack of letters and a few parcels.

“Is that it,” he asked, “or should I expect another flock of owls through the window?”

“No, that’s all,” Harry said unconcernedly. He began to open a card with Hermione’s writing on the front when he noticed Snape watching him; interested despite himself. He paused and glanced at Snape, then smiled and gave a small laugh.

“And what, pray tell, do you find so amusing?” Snape snapped, indignant at Harry’s seeming rejection and ridicule. “Well, it just occurred to me, sir that since you are here too, this could officially constitute my first birthday party.” Harry gave him a small half smile, flushed a little, and turned back to his card.

Snape’s mouth nearly fell open in disbelief. Potter’s first birthday party? Surely he was joking? “What are you talking about?” Snape demanded.

“Birthday parties, sir,” this time the youth did not look up. “I’ve never had one before.”

“Don’t lie, Potter. I know you’ve had parties before.”

Harry was quiet a moment then said, “Have you ever seen any in my memories, sir” his voice icy. “In any event, I refuse to spend my birthday arguing with you.” He resolutely opened the parcel that came with Hermione’s letter. It was a book about famous aurors.

‘Thought you might find this interesting,’ a note in the pages before the title page read. ‘It has a few people you know. Turn to page 278.’ Harry did so and saw James Potter and Sirius Black waving at him before turning and hitting an imaginary dark wizard with simultaneous curses. Harry smiled but his eyes were sad.

He closed the book lovingly and set it aside before reaching for Ron’s letter. He grinned then turned to open the package which included a cake from Mrs. Weasley and a bunch of chocolate frogs from Ron. ‘I’ve got a feeling, mate,’ read an extra note, ‘that you’ll get a really good card in this batch.’

He also got a few canary creams and a trick wand from the twins who sent him a letter to say that business was still thriving and if he wanted anything to use on Snape (tough luck on that, mate) he shouldn’t hesitate to ask, it would be on the house. Harry smirked then turned to Hagrid’s package which contained a bunch of inedible rock cakes and fudge and another picture he’d found of Harry and his mum. Once again Harry smiled with tears in his eyes. He stood the photo up and watched longingly as his mother cooed over the baby. She looked up, smiled warmly at him and waved.

He smiled and picked up Remus’s letter. It told him not to worry, that Sirius’s death was not his fault, Happy Birthday, and that Moony couldn’t wait to see him again. The next letter had his list of school supplies and included a fairly general text on Defense Against the Dark Arts which told Harry exactly nothing about who the new professor would be. It also contained a note saying that his OWL results would be along in a few more weeks.

Harry yawned suddenly. He’d had a very good birthday and was just getting up to go to bed when he realized that Snape had been watching him silently the entire time. He looked thoughtful for a moment then recalled a party Dudley had had once when he’d listened through the grate in his cupboard door. “Did you want some cake, Professor?” he inquired politely.

“Certainly not at this time of night,” Severus sniffed.

“Oh, well,” Harry said looking slightly disconcerted, none of his cousin’s guests had ever turned down cake. “Um, goodnight, then, sir.”

“Goodnight, Potter.” He turned but paused in the doorway. “Happy Birthday.” He stalked off so quickly that Harry wasn’t entirely sure he’d heard correctly.

“Thank you,” he called finally, just in case, closed the door and went to bed. Severus heard the thanks just before he entered his own room. He paused, looked back, and then went to bed himself.

Though Harry had no trouble falling asleep Severus found himself tossing and turning. He kept remembering Harry’s question, “Have you ever seen any parties in my memories, sir?” The answer was no, he hadn’t. In fact, he had seen hardly any happy memories in Harry’s head at all, and all of them seemed to take place at Hogwarts. Perhaps the headmaster had been right. Perhaps it was time to reassess Harry Potter, boy-who-lived and thorn-in-side-extraordinaire.

A few moments after reaching that conclusion, Snape sank into sleep. When he awoke mere hours later, he wanted nothing more than to go right back to sleep and forget all about Harry Potter. Unfortunately it was an Occlumency day and he had to be ready in—forty-five minutes!

Snape leapt out of bed and rushed through his morning routine. As he was brushing his teeth he remembered his decision of earlier that morning and groaned. He supposed the best way of starting to get to know the boy would be to go through his memories. It wasn’t like the boy could actually block him yet, though he was becoming rather adept at throwing him out. Maybe in the long run it would help the brat as well.

That morning instead of hurling legilimens at him before he’d even sat down, Snape was waiting for Harry. This was rather unusual and frankly disturbing. “Potter,” he began. “The laboratory was cleaned quite adequately,” he paused. “Where on earth did you learn to do it?” The slight emphasis he put on the word “you” clearly indicated that he thought Harry must have somehow cheated.

Harry bristled slightly and said, “My aunt taught me.”

Snape sneered, “The same aunt whose dog chased you up a tree?” Not a bad idea on his aunt’s part, the cleaning bit, not the dog. Probably, he thought, there was nothing wrong with the way he saw Potter.

But it couldn’t hurt to look, now could it. It never hurt to have a little more information. Besides, he had made a decision and he would bloody well follow through, even if only to get Dumbledore off his back. The Potter-boy was still glaring at him.

Oh well, “Legilimens” he said. As soon as he gained access to the boy’s mind he started working his way toward the lad’s earlier memories.

The first one he found was Harry’s memory of the night his parents died. He watched most of it before moving on. He noticed that Harry’s mind naturally jumped to Dementors; apparently that was what he considered his worst memory. Snape smirked.

The boy was trying to shove him out now. Nimbly, Snape eluded him and dove back into Harry’s early memories. He saw fragments of a purple faced man, an enormous boy, and a shrill-voiced woman. He also found lots and lots of memories of a tiny, dark space with a lot of spiders, what was that place? He was just preparing to look into it further when Harry shouted.

“Protego!” The link was severed.

Snape looked at the panting, kneeling boy before him. He had gone quite pale. He looked up and glared. “Are we even now, Professor?” he spat.

“Perhaps,” Snape raised an eyebrow. “In any event you can go.”

“Thanks awfully,” Harry sneered back with a curled lip.

“Manners, Potter,” Snape said mildly. If it made him angry when Albus was mild with him, he figured it might work on Potter too. Potter just snarled and left. “Hmmm,” Snape sighed to himself and headed to his lab. He knew Potter had had no control over what he had seen, despite his struggles, so that ruled out the possibility that any editing had occurred. In which case Potter’s early childhood at least did not appear entirely...satisfactory. On the other had, early memories were always hazy. It probably wouldn’t hurt to do a little more digging.

And in the meantime, it was always amusing to anger Potter.

The End.
Chapter 8 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Harry was fuming. How dare he! How dare Snape go through his memories like that! How dare he! His personal experiences were not a book to be casually perused and cast aside! They were his life. He felt violated and used. Thank Merlin he had the entire weekend before he had another Occlumency lesson. He just wanted to get away.

But where could he go? He couldn’t go outside, though he rather wanted to. He couldn’t go to the library he had seen or go exploring in Snape’s house. He didn’t want to sit in his room or the dining room.

What about that lab? True he had finished cleaning it but Snape hadn’t actually told him he couldn’t go back to that room. And Snape didn’t appear to use it. Surely he wouldn’t mind, and if he did, Harry decided, too bad.

Harry got together a few books and snuck down to the small room. It looked much better than before, even if he did say so himself. The glass jars shone and the cauldrons gleamed. He could very nearly see his reflection in the table tops they had been polished so much.

Harry spent a very enjoyable morning there working on his summer assignments. He had managed to finish most of them already this year, which made for a nice change, he thought. A little before lunch he crept back up to his room and deposited his books and parchments on his bed. He strolled down to the dining room significantly more relaxed than he had been.

The beginnings of a very good mood evaporated the moment he stepped through the door and saw Snape already seated at the table. The miserable git had the nerve to look at him! As though he had done nothing wrong!

Severus was watching the boy when he entered. He had nearly been smiling, but his face fell abruptly when he caught sight of the older man. Potter threw him a glare that, with a little time and practice, could develop into something worthwhile.

Snape had spent the time between lesson and lunch thinking about Potter. The memories he had seen were incoherent and indistinct, practically useless, but interesting, nevertheless. No doubt the three people he’d seen were Potter’s relatives, he’d seen enough now and during the previous term to realize that. Odd that none of the bore even a passing resemblance to Lily, but never mind.

But what was that place? It was dark and nearly sufficient to induce claustrophobia even though he normally had no problems with that sort of thing. What was it? Where was it? And why in Merlin’s name did Potter have so many memories of it? He intended to find out.

In the meantime, however, he was going to eat lunch and enjoy some quality summer potion brewing.

All that day and the next, however, Severus found his mind wandering to a small dark space. It was in the middle of the night that Snape remembered an outline of light in the darkness, almost like a door in a darkened room. But really, the space wasn’t big enough to be considered a room, more like a cupboard. For some unfathomable reason Severus found that a chilling thought. After a few minutes, however, he was able to convince himself that this was nothing but middle-of-the-night melodrama and that if Potter remembered a darkened room—not closet—it must be because he looked back on that darkened room with fondness. Maybe he had hidden there to avoid chores or something. Yes, that was it, Potter, lazy from an early age. Having comforted himself Severus slipped back into slumber.

Harry woke that night from a bad dream. He hesitated to call it a nightmare, especially now that he knew what a nightmare could be. The dream had been something like those he used to have, before he’d gone to Hogwarts, but he hadn’t had one like that in a very long time. He had dreamed of being in his cupboard and hearing voices outside the door.

At first, it had been the Dursleys calling to him, taunting him. They called him a freak, told him he wasn’t worth the food they gave him. Then it was Dudley and his gang telling him he’d never have any friends, that he was too strange. He was just thinking that it wasn’t so bad, thank goodness for Hogwarts though, when the voices changed again.

This time the voices he heard belonged to Ron and Hermione. They told him that they couldn’t believe they’d wasted their time on him. He was worthless, he couldn’t do anything properly. The voices told him they were glad he was locked away under the stairs because at least there he couldn’t contaminate their world.

Harry had awakened with tears in his eyes. It wasn’t until he remembered all the letters that his two best friends had sent him and thought about the way they always pestered him when he was upset that he could convince his eyes to close and his heart to stop racing, and it took quite a long time before he had relaxed enough to go back to sleep.

The next morning was remarkable in that both Harry and Severus showed up for breakfast. Severus was slightly tired but after a little coffee he began to pick up a bit and notice his surroundings. Potter, he saw, spent more time staring into the middle distance than eating the toast on his plate. The boy had dark smudges under his eyes and every now and then blinked at the food before him as though he had never seen anything like it before and half expected it to disappear. That was rather unusual. Customarily the boy gulped down food as quickly as he could before dashing off to do something else.

Severus watched the boy for a few moments. He was rather pale; he realized a moment later that the boy hadn’t been out of doors since he arrived. He could just imagine the look on everyone’s face if Potter went back to school with a vitamin-d deficiency. He could use some of the ingredients in the back gardens, too. Perhaps he should take the boy out with him. The useless brat could zip about on his broomstick wasting time while he, Severus, got some work done. “I am going out to the gardens today,” Snape stated.

Harry started and looked up at him. It would be nice to go outside again; the sunburn he had had earlier that summer had long since faded to a slight tan. “What needs to be done in the gardens, Professor?” Maybe if he were particularly useful Snape would let him fly, Harry mused wistfully.

Snape raised an eyebrow. Was Potter volunteering for work? “I will simply be gathering a few of the plants that grow there. Sprig takes good care of the gardens here.”

“Sprig?”

“My other house elf.”

“Oh.” The boy was silent for a moment. “Do you need any help sir?”

“Do you think I am incapable of getting the supplies I require, Potter? Do you think you could do a better job?” Snape asked him sourly.

“No, sir!” Harry replied quickly. That wasn’t what he’d meant to imply at all.

“No?” Snape pounced on the answer. “No, you don’t think I am capable of gathering a few herbs?”

“No, that’s not what I meant!” Harry protested.

“Then what did you mean, Potter?” Snape said acidly.

“I just wanted to know if you wanted any help!”

“Oh, you are so arrogant as to believe that your own skills would be indispensable to me. Now I see,” Snape nodded and smirked.

“NO!” Harry shouted in exasperation. “That’s not what I meant either. I just wanted to know if you wanted me to help you! If you don’t want me to I don’t have to.”

“Well if you are offering I suppose I could come up with something for you to do.” Snape’s voice was filled with mock thoughtfulness, and he fully expected Potter to decline.

“Alright, then,” Harry nodded.

Severus was stunned. ‘Alright then?’ What did that mean? That Potter wanted to work? “I would have thought you would prefer flying to gardening.” It was more of a question that Snape made it sound.

“I do,” Harry said. “But I don’t particularly mind gardening,” he had a strange look on his face at that moment that told the world there was a ‘but’ attached to the statement, “and I was hoping that if I was helpful I might be able to fly later. Even if I can’t, I’d still like to go outside.” Harry hadn’t realized how much he liked going out until he hadn’t had the opportunity. He couldn’t help wondering how Aunt Petunia’s plants were doing since he hadn’t been there to care for them. He hoped they weren’t dead; Aunt Petunia would kill him if they were.

Snape was watching Potter closely. The strange look when Potter mentioned gardening hadn’t gone unnoticed and neither did the pensive and slightly worried look he wore now. “Potter, I am not going to keep you locked up inside when I go out of doors, that’s just ridiculous. And when have you ever gardened. Herbology class?” he sneered. Except as a punishment he still doubted Potter would get his hands dirty.

“I take care of my Aunt’s flower beds, when I’m there,” he said absentmindedly.

“Voluntarily?” Snape drawled disbelievingly.

“It’s one of my chores,” Potter said.

Chores? Harry Potter had chores? “Do you have other chores, Potter?”

Harry looked at him suddenly. “Yes, I have other chores. Why do you ask, Professor?” his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“I am surprised that you would be required to work, that’s all,” Snape said dismissively. The answer seemed to satisfy Potter as he turned back to his now cold breakfast. Privately, Severus was thinking about how much work it took to properly care for a garden, even a small one. He remembered Potter also said his aunt had him help her clean, too. Judging by the way Potter worked, his aunt was a stickler for perfection. Perhaps Potter wasn’t spoiled. It was good to know that the muggle world at least was not so blinded by Potter’s fame that they let him get away with anything.

It was with these thoughts firmly in mind that Snape finished his own meal.

When he had carefully wiped his mouth with the napkin and laid the linen down by his plate he looked over at the boy, who was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “I believe, Potter, that even muggles are familiar with the concept of napkins,” he remarked scathingly. Potter looked up and glared a little but had the good grace to redden slightly. At least the boy didn’t talk with his mouth full or chew with his mouth open like so many of his peers did! Severus offered silent thanks to any listening deities for that small grace; there were times in the Great Hall of Hogwarts that he nearly lost his appetite.

Snape rose from the table and said, “Come along, Potter.” He led the boy out of the room and began down the hallway toward the back of the house.

“Are we going now, sir?” Potter inquired in a surprised tone.

“Would you prefer to wait until next year, Potter?” Snape asked sarcastically.

“No, I’m just not dressed for gardening. Can you give me two minutes to change?”

Snape turned and said harshly, “Hurry it up then!” Change? What did the brat mean, change? The clothing he was wearing was already worn and looked to be many sizes too large. The collar of the shirt kept slipping to reveal the majority of one or the other of his shoulders and there were holes in the knees of the pants.

Just as Snape was about to sigh with impatience, the boy returned. Severus’s eyes widened slightly in shock. He called those clothes? They were practically rags! They were exponentially more ragged than the clothes he had worn to breakfast. The shirt had several holes and the collar seemed to have been ripped out entirely. The cuffs of the pants were frayed and long strings hung from them in a few places. Both shirt and pants were too short but still managed to be too loose and the trainers on his feet not only seemed to be too small, they had several holes and the outer sole was separating from the rest of the shoe.

Snape was not completely ignorant; he knew that in some muggle circles it was fashionable to wear clothes too large or “deconstructed” or even with gaping holes, but he had never heard of any fashion that included all of those traits. Also, he noticed that as he stared at Potter’s clothes the boy’s eyes found the floor and the tips of his ears showed red through his hair. Definitely something unusual going on here then, but whatever it was, it would have to wait. Snape needed some knotgrass and heartsease and he didn’t fancy waiting all day to get them.

He turned and continued walking down the dark hall. Every now and then a portrait would glower down at them from the walls, but Harry ignored them and breathed a small and, he hoped, inaudible sigh of relief. He had felt quite uncomfortable when Snape stared at him and when his eyebrow went up Harry had been almost certain Snape was going to make some comment on his attire. He knew he looked like some sort of ragamuffin, Aunt Petunia’d said it often enough, but he hadn’t really much choice in the matter. He hadn’t gotten his usual allotment of hand-me-downs that year and the Dursleys had left too quickly for him to have time to try to convince them that he needed new shoes. He had to try to preserve what clothing he could, especially since he needed something to wear on the weekends at Hogwarts; he could just imagine the looks he’d get if he tried to wear his uniform! Ron would declare him out of his mind and Snape would most likely find a way to take points off.

They walked out the final door into the bright sunlight. The sudden contrast in light nearly brought tears to Harry’s eyes and both men found themselves blinking furiously. The terrace they were standing on was wide and flat and Harry found himself thinking that it would have been very good for the roller skates Dudley had got for his birthday one year. The garden was just beyond the edge of the patio and there were several pots and beds of flowers that bloomed profusely and spectacularly. Beyond that the herbs and vegetables grew and more exotic and magical plants grew in greenhouses surrounding the area. The whole thing was green and growing and had an incredible aura of being vibrantly, ecstatically alive.

It was not a feeling that Harry would have associated with Snape ever in a million years. He remembered suddenly that Snape had said he had a house elf to take care of it. Seeing his potions professor take a deep breath and nearly smile, however, Harry wondered if perhaps he had judged the man too harshly. A moment later that charitable thought was obliterated when the older man turned to him and snapped, “Come along boy! We’ve not got all day to waste.”

Snape led Harry to a small shed which was weathered but tidy-looking. The professor stepped inside and quickly found two baskets and a pair of trimmers. Upon exiting the tool shed Snape shoved the baskets at Harry and stalked off down a path lined with dianthus.

Harry was struck by the image and stood still for a moment appreciating it. Snape, in his billowing, black robes looked something like Death, and he found himself checking the flowers the man had passed for signs of blight. He came back to himself abruptly and scurried to catch up with Snape, who had turned and was scowling at him.

Sprig did a wonderful job, Severus noted. Not that he expected anything else. He expected excellence from Sprig and Cinder, of course, but he knew that Sprig also genuinely enjoyed her work. Potter, he realized after a moment, was lagging behind, but a good scowl remedied that. After a few moments’ walking he found what he was looking for, a hearty bed of heartsease. He knelt and began clipping a few of the healthier and larger blooms and stems and leaves. He laid them carefully in one of the baskets that Potter dutifully held.

It didn’t take long for the boy to look rather bored. Severus had known this would happen and braced himself for the boy’s whines and requests to go fly. To his very great surprise, however, despite the heat and sweat and boredom Potter never opened his mouth.

It was a beautiful day and Harry very much wanted to be doing something, even gardening with Snape. Honestly, Harry knew his way around a garden and he could clip those plants as easily or well as his professor. After perhaps half an hour Snape rose again and they headed off toward a small, marshy field where a tallish, reedy plant Harry recognized as knotgrass was growing. Snape picked his way carefully through the patch snipping the occasional stalk and glaring at Harry as he tried to follow in Snape’s footsteps. It took quite a bit longer in this field, perhaps an hour and a half, but at last they were done.

They trudged back to the small shed. Snape put back the clippers and led Harry back to the house. They deposited the baskets in the dungeon and, after much fussing with them, Snape finally turned to Harry with a scowl. “Go and get your broom, boy.”

Harry’s face lit up brilliantly as he turned and ran up to his room to retrieve the cherished Firebolt. In what seemed no time at all Harry was zipping through the air on his broomstick. He did all sorts of tricks and was enjoying himself more than he had at any point thus far that summer.

Severus watched his charge from the ground where he sat with a cup of tea and a potions digest. Every now and then he found himself looking up and inhaling sharply as the boy did another spiral or dive or loop-the-loop. Potter flew well, he admitted, but Severus still remembered the boy’s first quidditch match.

The rest of the day passed all too quickly and it seemed mere minutes before Snape was yelling for him to come down and eat dinner. Harry was quite hungry but the treat of flying in good weather was enough to make him consider ignoring his professor. He did not, in the end, and dinner seemed like just the thing. The only trouble was that he seemed unable to keep his eyes open.

It was long after young Potter had gone to bed for the night that Snape was sorting out the day’s harvest. Carefully he separated the plants into reasonable quantities for the next week and prepared the samples for preservation, except for some of the knotgrass, which he needed right away for a batch of polyjuice potion he was working on for the Dark Lord. He was nearly finished with the task when he felt his Mark burning.

He was being called again.

The End.
Chapter 9 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Harry was sleeping peacefully when he became dimly aware of his scar burning.

He was standing alone on a slight rise in the open ground. His faithful were coming. Suddenly several tall, dark shapes with cadaverously pale faces popped into existence around him. He greeted them and they bowed before him, professing their fidelity and allegiance.

He had his doubts about them, of course, most of them were Slytherins, after all, but they would stay with him as long as he had power. This time he did not intend to fall. One by one he called on them to make their reports, and they answered him. Most were satisfactory, but some reports were not. “Nott!” he called. A man stepped forward, trembling slightly. “You have failed me, Nott.”

“Yes, Master,” the man choked out.

“You musst be punished, then. Crucio!”

It was an odd sensation indeed, Harry noted, not for the first time, to be both casting and experiencing the Cruciatus. After a few agonizingly long moments it was over and Nott was allowed to crawl back to his place in the circle.

He continued to question his servants until finally he reached, “Sseverusss.”

“Yes, my lord,” Snape stepped forward. In contrast to Nott his knees did not shake and his voice was steady.

“How goesss your training of young Potter, my Sseverusss?”

“We are making progress, my lord, but Potter is still wary.”

“The summer wanesss quickly, and you have failed to make him trusst you,” his voice was light but it had cooled somewhat.

“Forgive me, lord, but we suffered a slight setback.”

“What ssetback isss thisss?” he asked in a dangerous tone.

“We had a visitor, lord.”

“Who?” he asked sharply.

“Lucius Malfoy,” Severus said with a slightly inclined head, as though it pained him to reveal his old acquaintance that way.

“Luciussss!” he barked and another figure stepped out of the ranks before him.

“My lord,” he acknowledged.

“Why did you visit Sseverusss, Luciusss?”

“I wished to inquire about a potion, my lord.”

“I fail to ssee how thisss would negatively impact your work, Sseverusss.”

“He spoke with Potter, lord. The boy felt threatened and withdrew from me when I had to speak with Lucius.”

“If you were so concerned, Severus, perhaps you should not allow the brat free run of your house!” Malfoy spat venomously.

“I do not allow the boy free run, Lucius,” Snape replied with glacial calm, “but neither can I restrict him overly much.” Malfoy’s hand moved toward his wand.

“Enough!” Voldemort bellowed. “I grow weary of your petty dissputesss. Luciusss, sstay away from the boy! Sseverusss, redouble your effortsss! I do not wish to losse everything when he returnsss to Dumbledore’sss ssupervission.”

“Yes, my lord,” both men acquiesced.

“Oh yesss, one more thing, Crucio!” Both men writhed on the ground before him.

Just before he woke up, Harry noticed that Snape somehow writhed with more dignity than Malfoy Senior. Pulling himself out of bed and over to the desk, Harry forced himself to wake up and write a letter to Dumbledore describing what he had seen and heard. He was just finishing up when he heard floorboards creaking in the hall.

Snape must be back, he realized. The footsteps moved rather slowly down the corridor to Snape’s room. Harry waited a few moments, wondering what he should do. He looked down at the letter on his desk. Maybe Snape would know a better way to get the report to the Headmaster than owl post.

Harry picked up the parchment and walked to the door of his room. Cautiously he opened it and stepped out into the hall. Snape’s door was firmly shut. Most likely Harry would get yelled at, but he figured Professor Dumbledore would probably want the letter as quickly as possible. Harry plucked up his courage and walked down the hall. He rapped softly on Snape’s door.

There was no answer. Harry stood there for a moment before trying again. Still, there was no answer. Harry took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

There was no one in the main room, Harry saw, but there was a light under what he guessed was the bathroom door. He heard the sound of retching from the other side of the door. Harry stepped forward, concerned. He dropped the parchment on the bed as he passed it and opened the second door.

Snape knelt in front of the toilet. He appeared to be loosing every meal he ever ate. Harry grabbed a washcloth off the towel rack and dampened it. He handed it to Snape who took it and wiped his mouth then refolded it and pressed it to his forehead without comment.

Harry let the tap run for a moment while the water grew cold, before drawing a glass of water and passing it to the older wizard. Snape took it with closed eyes. He rinsed his mouth and spat but drank the water gratefully. After a bit he rose and moved slightly so that he stood before the sink, forcing Harry to back up until he stood framed by the doorway.

Worry was clearly written across the teen’s face as the dark man turned the hot water tap until it was fully open. He let it run, heating up, before getting some soap and scrubbing his hands.

It was the most vigorous cleansing Harry had ever seen; it rivaled the intensity of Aunt Petunia when she was in all-out spring cleaning mode. Not even Dudley could track dirt in the house when she was in that mood.

Harry’s eyebrows went up a little when he saw the steam rising from the sink. The water temperature must be near boiling.

His eyebrows flew higher when Snape stopped and reached into the cabinet under the sink. The man pulled out what Harry recognized as fairly strong cleansing solutions; the antiseptics, he hazarded, were probably on the same level as what hospitals used for surgery patients and cleaning up biohazardous wastes.

Snape applied the potions to his hands in liberal doses. Harry’s anxiety only grew as he watched his professor continue until the boy thought the flesh would be stripped from the bones. Snape was uncorking yet another flask—the smell alone told Harry it was the most potent yet—when Harry’s hand darted forward and grabbed the man’s wrist. “Don’t,” he whispered.

“Let go, Potter,” Snape growled. “You don’t understand.”

“I understand something of guilt,” Harry said bitterly. “It isn’t your fault. Please stop,” the boy pleaded. His heart despaired when he saw the hardness in the older man’s eyes.

“You know nothing, Potter! Nothing!” Snape hissed, turning on the boy. “What could the golden boy know of pain when there is always someone there, waiting to spare him the burden!”

“Always someone there...! Now who knows nothing? Open your eyes, Professor!”

“Open my eyes? You ungrateful little brat! You’re so spoiled you don’t even know it! You know nothing, Potter!”

“I know more than you give me credit for! But why should I expect anything else from you? You’ve always tried to hold me back!”

“Hold you back? You ridiculous whelp, I’ve saved your life!”

“I’m sure you have, but when was the last time you tried to teach me anything? You just keep trying to make me look ignorant!”

“That’s because you are ignorant, boy!” the professor shouted. A hint of color tinged his cheekbones. “You think you can strut about and not try to learn and somehow you’ll just ‘magically’ beat the Dark Lord! You are weak, Potter, and ignorant, and you revel in it, despite all the things that have happened!”

It was obscenely obvious that Snape was referring to Sirius’s death. Harry looked pained, as though someone had just punched him in the stomach. “No,” he gasped. “No, you’re wrong.”

“Am I?” Severus asked, sensing the other’s weakness and stepping forward to press his advantage. “Then why is it that you still fail at Occlumency, Potter? Don’t you love your godfather enough to remedy that? Or did you consider him beneath you, expendable, like you consider everyone else?” Snape took another step towards Harry, who retreated before him, pale and trembling.

“No,” he mouthed silently, shaking his head violently. “No!” he yelped before turning and running all the way back up the hall. He slammed the door to his room closed and sank down against it, shaking and sobbing. “Sirius,” he moaned. “Sirius.”

Back in his own room Severus stared after the boy. He had just been unconscionably cruel, he knew. Closing his eyes briefly, he dragged a hand through his hair and felt all the hostility drain out of him. He was always at his worst right after a summons, and the realization that Potter, of all people, had seen this weakness unnerved him and made him inexplicably furious. Severus now felt even worse than before. Potter hadn’t done anything, after all, and had actually been helpful and almost comforting.

After a moment Snape realized with a small trace of guilt that the boy’s intervention in his routine had been a misguided attempt to protect him. Ridiculous hero-complex, Severus snorted.

Then he realized that he had probably just alienated the boy more than Lucius Malfoy. If the Dark Lord found out he would kill him. When Dumbledore found out he would likely kill him. And just when I was getting to know him, too, Severus remarked to himself dryly. He wouldn’t—couldn’t—apologize to the child.

Snape suddenly recalled the boy’s eyes when he had said he understood guilt. There had been something of truth in his look, which made Severus stop short. Potter got to be a bigger mystery all the time.

The next day was Monday, an Occlumency day. Then and there Severus swore to himself that he would solve the riddle of Harry Potter the next day, even if he had to go through every single memory in the boy’s head to do it.

The End.
Chapter 10 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Harry, though he did eventually drift off into slumber, did not relax again that night. The dreams that plagued him featured Sirius, Cedric, and his parents standing before him with accusing eyes and Professor Snape standing to the side laughing.

Severus had crawled into bed after making his vow. As he slipped under the covers he unknowingly kicked the roll of parchment Harry had left off the bed. It landed on the floor where it rolled under the edge of the dresser, unnoticed.

The next day came far too soon in Harry’s opinion. He was unusually tired and doubted he would be able to do a good job at Occlumency that morning. After finishing a light breakfast he headed to the usual room to meet Snape.

Severus was waiting for the boy when he came in. Harry wouldn’t look up at first, he thought he should sit down before letting Snape try to breach his mind. He didn’t fancy spending all morning falling on the floor.

“Potter,” Snape said, trying to get the boy to look him in the eye so he could get started. When he was settled, the boy looked up.

“Legilimens.” Right away he could tell that Potter was weak from fatigue and worry. The boy fought, but it was only a few seconds work for Severus to get past Harry’s mental barriers. Severus had decided to pick up where he had left off on Friday; accordingly he began looking for early memories. When he found another memory featuring the tiny hole he had seen before he tried to look at it. Suddenly Potter was struggling with him furiously and this new-found strength felt very similar to panic. More intrigued than ever, Severus backed away intent on coming back.

He moved on to the next memory which consisted of a garden. Extreme thirst stood out as well as hunger and fatigue. A woman appeared and began yelling at a small child, Potter, Snape realized, after a moment.

The scene changed abruptly. Potter was running as fast as he could, but he suddenly tripped over a crack in the asphalt. Two larger boys grabbed him and hauled him, kicking and squirming, back the way he had come until they reached the largest child Severus had ever seen. The boy grabbed Potter’s glasses and threw them over his shoulder then started punching the smaller boy.

An enormous man was dragging Potter along by the ear, lecturing him for picking fights and breaking his glasses.

Potter was sitting in that dark place, crying silently, remembered hunger gnawing at his belly.

A girl smiled at him but turned away when the whale tripped him.

An enormous woman appeared and began insulting Potter’s parents. She handed the whale a twenty pound note and gave Potter a toothpick.

Potter was cooking bacon when his cousin shoved him into the cabinet.

The tall, thin woman had cut off Potter’s hair and the boy was crying about it. The next morning his hair was back to normal and the woman screamed at him, calling him a freak.

Potter was running away from his cousin again when he found himself on the roof. The large man was dragging him by the ear again. He opened a door under the stairs and tossed Potter into the small, dark space. The click of a lock was heard.

Potter was watching a car drive away when a cat crawled over his shoulders. Arabella Figg was approaching him with a large photo album.

Potter was sent to get the mail and found a Hogwarts envelope addressed to H. Potter, Cupboard under the Stairs.

Potter was standing before a window with bars on it, looking out at the setting sun.

Potter was watching out the same window as a taxi drove away.

Potter was hungry, so hungry, but he had to keep going.

Potter was sitting in a darkened room, listening to voices.

Potter was casting the Cruciatus Curse.

Wait! Severus examined the last memory more closely and saw himself and Lucius Malfoy as they had been last night, under the Dark Lord’s wand. But the memory was seen as if from Voldemort’s point of view, and highly colored by pain.

Potter was dropping a scroll on his, Severus’s bed.

Potter was handing him a washcloth.

Potter was leaning against his door sobbing.

Severus blinked as he exited Potter’s mind. All he could do was pant as he sat back in his chair and tried to process all he had just seen. Potter seemed to have had a singularly unhappy life. He needed to think about this.

Harry was curled in the chair across from Snape. The boy was trembling with a mixture of emotions. He was tired; he was hurt; he was furious with Snape; he was afraid that the man would use his memories against him; he was grateful he hadn’t seen anything worse. Both of them sat there for several minutes trying to collect themselves.

Finally Harry stood up and strode unsteadily toward the door.

“Potter,” Snape’s voice interrupted him. “I don’t think I gave you permission to go.”

“Forgive me, sir,” the boy said sarcastically, “but I just don’t care right now.” He opened the door and left the room, practically running to his bedroom.

Snape just sat, angry with Potter but not ready to confront him yet. He needed time to let his own mind stop spinning. He let his mind wander back to Potter’s memory of dropping a scroll on his bed last night. Severus hadn’t seen any parchment lying about. He made his way pensively up to his own bedroom and looked around the room. He didn’t see anything out of place.

He walked down the hall to Potter’s room. Severus knocked before entering. The youth was sprawled face down on his bed, shoulders shaking. As soon as he heard the door open, Harry sat up and wiped furiously at his face, although tears were not immediately apparent. He stared mutely at Severus, who was feeling very unsettled.

Somehow knowing that Potter had cried was very different from seeing him cry. “Potter,” he said after a moment, “did you leave anything in my room, last night?”

Harry stared at him a moment longer, trying to remember where he had left his report. “Yes,” he said at last, “a report for Professor Dumbledore. I think I dropped it on your bed.”

“A report on what, precisely?”

“The meeting last night, or what I saw of it, anyway. I was going to ask if you knew a better way to send it than Hedwig.”

Many things sprang to Severus’s lips, waiting to be said, none of them kind. He wanted to berate the boy for not practicing his Occlumency and not telling him sooner about the report and ask him how long he had been having visions and what he had seen last night. After a moment Snape satisfied himself with saying, “I’ll see that it is delivered.”

He left and returned to his own rooms. Severus looked around again and finally, when he saw nothing, he pulled out his wand and said, “Accio Potter’s report.” A scroll of fair size flew at him from beneath his dresser. He had better go and contact Dumbledore. Not only did he have Potter’s report to deliver, he had his own to make as well.

Severus quickly made his way from his bedroom to the study. It was much earlier in the day than he usually spoke to Albus, but he knew the older man always kept the mirror on his person. “Albus Dumbledore,” he breathed, fogging the glass slightly. A few moments later the familiar face came into view.

“Severus!” cried the old man delightedly, “this is indeed a very welcome surprise!”

“Perhaps not quite so welcome, Headmaster. I am afraid I have a report to make on last night’s little get-together.”

Much of the twinkle left the kind blue eyes. “Why did you not call me sooner, Severus? Are you hurt?” Concern laced Dumbledore’s voice.

“No, but I am afraid I was rather distracted by a few things that happened here.”

“What things, Severus?” Albus inquired sharply.

“Your golden boy saw what happened last night is all. He inquired after me when I got back. I am not used to such attention.”

“I see,” the older man was thoughtful a moment. “Is Harry alright?”

“I believe so,” the young wizard shifted slightly.

“Severus?”

“At any rate he will be with a little time.”

“Severus, what happened?”

“You’ve been pestering me to get to know the child for years now, Albus. I simply took advantage of this morning’s Occlumency lesson to do that,” he said defensively.

The Headmaster closed his eyes a moment. “Severus,” he said at last, “when I said you should get to know him, I meant you should talk to him, not ransack his memories.”

“Think of it as killing two birds with one stone. Not only do I know more about the brat, he now has greater incentive to learn Occlumency.”

“I highly doubt Harry needed more incentive, Severus,” the old man frowned. “I believe you have a report to give me?”

Properly chastened, Severus told his superior what he had seen and heard the night before. When he had finished he held up the scroll. “Potter wrote a report as well. How shall I send it to you?”

“Just read it to me, if you would, Severus.”

Snape dutifully read all that was written on the parchment. It was much the same as his own report but included small details about how Voldemort had felt about certain things. Severus was amazed that a child of sixteen remembered everything in such detail. At first he was curious about why Potter included the Dark Lord’s emotional reactions, but he realized after a few minutes that the self-styled aristocrat’s disappointments revealed which plans were most important to him.

When Snape had finished he stared at the report a minute longer. It seemed that, in this regard at least, he had underestimated Potter.

“Is that all, Severus?”

The words pulled him back to the present. “I’m sorry?” he looked up.

“I said, is that all, Severus?”

“Yes,” Snape nodded.

“Perhaps I should leave you to think, then. I would like to talk to you and Harry later on.”

“Alright, Headmaster.”

The mirror went dark and Severus was left alone with his thoughts. He called Cinder and requested a cup of tea. When it arrived Severus settled himself to do some hard thinking about what he had seen that morning.

First things first, Snape decided. Identify the participants in the memories. The tall, thin woman must be his Aunt Petunia; Potter had mentioned she made him garden. The man was next, Potter’s uncle, what was his name? And the small whale would then be their son, Potter’s cousin. Snape didn’t know his name either. The large woman he had seen resembled the uncle, his sister perhaps. Hadn’t Potter once mentioned he had another aunt; Aunt Meg, or something?

At any rate none of them seemed to treat Potter as though he were a hero, or even particularly special. In fact, Snape mused, they seemed to hate him. He thought a little longer. Aunt Petunia yelled at Potter. Aunt Other taunted him. Cousin Whale beat Potter up and Uncle What’s-His-Name dragged Potter along by the ear and tossed him into a cupboard. Granted, these could be isolated incidents, but Potter had had no control over the memories Severus had seen, so if the behavior was unusual he should have seen some happy memories of the Dursleys too.

Suddenly Severus realized what exactly it was he had thought a minute ago. Uncle tossed Potter in a cupboard; a small, dark space like the one Potter had all those memories of. It couldn’t be, though...could it? Potter would have had to spend a lot of time there. While Snape knew Potter was no angel, even he doubted the boy had done enough wrong to merit that much punishment. This led to the rather disturbing conclusion that Snape had been entirely wrong about Potter. It seemed the lad was not spoiled at all; he was mistreated.

Severus Snape was not a nice man, he knew it. He often taunted and teased his students and said things that made them cry. At the same time, however, he was very protective of the students he thought of as his children. The very idea that someone could physically mistreat a child, even an annoying one like Harry Potter, was utterly repugnant to him. It was a sentiment that had gotten him in trouble more than once, but it was his sentiment, and he fancied that as long as it was his he was redeemable.

Perhaps Albus was right, and he should talk to the lad. Severus looked up at the clock. It was long past lunch, nearly dinner. That would most likely be the best time to talk; the boy would be too busy eating to run away.

Harry had not gone to lunch. He had lain curled up on his bed for awhile feeling sorry for himself for being required to deal with Snape and hating Snape for being so cruel and for betraying him by violating his memories that day.

For all he had thought he hated the man before it had never occurred to him that the man could be so hypocritical. After the pensieve incident Harry would have thought that Snape would be he first to respect the privacy of his memories. Apparently he had been wrong. Snape had gone digging through his memories twice, not just probing for weaknesses, digging.

Harry couldn’t understand why his professor was being so mean to him, especially after Harry had been nice to him. He had suffered under Cruciatus, too, and he would have been grateful if anyone had been around afterward to take care of him. Unless that was Snape’s problem, he was embarrassed that Harry had seen him when he was weak. And Snape called him arrogant, Harry snorted.

What did he hope to accomplish, looking through his memories like that? It was almost as though the man was looking for something. But what could it be? Harry didn’t know of anything Snape would find valuable. The only thing it could be, Harry decided angrily, was more ammunition to use against him in class and elsewhere.

Well, Harry thought standing quickly; he wasn’t going to allow Snape to take advantage of him that way! Harry made his way stealthily to what he had unconsciously dubbed “his laboratory.” When he had reached his haven safely Harry seated himself on the floor in a corner of the room where he could lean against the walls. Sitting in a cross-legged position Harry began trying to clear his mind. It was quite difficult.

Harry had been practicing since he had arrived at Snape’s house and it was much easier than it had been, but Harry had a fair amount on his mind that day. Once it had been accomplished, Harry focused on building his defenses. This was also difficult, particularly since Snape had never told him how exactly to do it. Harry imagined that he built brick walls around his mind and reinforced them with steel.

He had been practicing for several hours when Cinder appeared before him. “Harry Potter must go to the dining room!” she squeaked. “Master Snape is waiting for Harry Potter, sir!”

“Alright,” Harry said with a hand on his chest; the small elf had startled him. He got up hurriedly and ran to the dining room where his professor was seated.

Severus had made his way impatiently to the dining room. He wanted to talk to Potter as soon as possible, before the child did anything to annoy him and make him change his mind. Severus had been sitting at the table for twenty minutes waiting for Potter. He wondered if the boy was planning to skip the meal. Snape called Cinder and asked how man meals the boy had eaten that day. “One, Master Snape, sir,” was the prompt reply. One? That meant that the boy definitely had to come to this meal.

Ten minutes later Potter still hadn’t turned up. A very exasperated Snape sent Cinder to find and fetch him. It was time he and Potter had a talk.

The End.
Chapter 11 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Harry stumbled into the dining room fully expecting that Snape would be ranting at him. The man was curiously silent, however. Harry sat down at the table, waiting.

Severus watched him a moment then said impatiently, “Well, Potter, why aren’t you eating?” Harry opened his mouth then shut it. “Gaping like a fish, Potter, how impressive. Do you remember the rules I gave you when you arrived here?” Harry nodded. “Then why did you not come down to dinner? Cinder tells me you skipped a meal already today.”

“I was busy; I forgot,” Harry said softly.

“And what was so absorbing that you were going to skip two meals?” Harry hesitated for a long moment. “Well, Potter?” Snape snapped, losing patience.

“I was trying to practice Occlumency,” Harry blurted.

Snape raised his eyebrows “How surprising.” Then he narrowed his eyes, “What do you mean ‘trying?’ Either you were or you weren’t. Which is it?”

“I was trying, Professor. You never told me how to do it so I have had to figure it out for myself.”

“Yes, because no one else has ever had to learn Occlumency so obviously there can’t be any books on the subject,” Snape replied snidely. Harry glared at his plate. “I would, however,” Snape continued after a moment “be willing to provide a book on the various techniques for you.”

Harry’s head snapped up and he stared at his professor for a moment. “Thank you, sir,” he said softly.

They ate quietly for several minutes before Severus spoke again. “Potter,” he paused for a moment, “I want to talk to you about what I saw today.”

Harry was looking murderous, “I don’t want to talk to you about it.”

“You would prefer, perhaps, to talk to the werewolf about it?” Snape sneered.

“I don’t want to talk to anyone about it.”

“Why?” Snape asked, narrowly avoiding some sarcastic remarks about glory seeking by creating mystery.

“Because I just don’t!” Harry exclaimed.

Severus frowned; Potter was being difficult, he’d have to go about this in a different way. After a few minutes he asked, “Why did it become necessary for you to stay here for the summer?”

Harry looked at him in puzzlement. “Didn’t Professor Dumbledore tell you?”

“No.”

“Oh.” Harry stared at his plate meditatively. “Didn’t you ask?”

“Yes, all the Headmaster said was that you couldn’t stay in Surrey anymore.”

“Oh,” Harry said again.

“Are you going to tell me?” Severus inquired acerbically.

“I suppose,” Harry replied pensively. “It wasn’t anything big; I just forgot to write a letter.”

“You forgot to write a letter?” Severus repeated skeptically.

“Mmhmm,” the boy nodded, “I was supposed to write one to the Order every three days, and I forgot one day.”

Snape stared at his student. He knew there was something Potter wasn’t telling him; he could feel it. “So, if I were to floo Headquarters right now and ask why you left your aunt’s home Lupin would say he felt that you had to come because you didn’t write a letter? That although you were perfectly fine he thought it best to give in to your demands that he bring you along back to Grimmauld Place?”

“Uh, yeah,” Harry said nodding vigorously.

“Potter, don’t try to lie to me; I’m a legilimens.”

“I know perfectly well that you’re a legilimens,” Harry snarled bitterly. “If you want to know so badly, why don’t you just look,” he sniped.

“I am not here to test your Occlumency skills, Potter, I want to know why Dumbledore felt you couldn’t stay with you relatives any longer!” Snape retorted heatedly.

“You want to know? Fine, I’ll tell you!” Harry’s voice rose, “Sure, I’ll tell you and you can make fun of me for it and tell Voldemort and everyone else about it and everyone can laugh at the boy who lived!” Harry was shouting now and had stood up from the table.

Severus was sitting back and had a curious gleam in his eye. After a moment, he spoke, “Sit down, Potter. I would like to know. I don’t promise not to say anything, especially if you’ve acted stupidly, which I rather suspect. I do promise, on the other hand, not to tell the Dark Lord your secrets, and if they are truly important, I will refrain from bringing them up in front of the general public, or in class if you are so lucky as to earn a high enough OWL.”

Harry just stared at him with narrowed eyes. He could hardly believe this was Snape, the teacher who had hated him for the last five years. The man before him was practically patient! Harry never would have believed Snape would be so close to nice or curious about him. Maybe it wasn’t Snape? Maybe Voldemort had somehow replaced him after the last meeting? Or even before then?

Severus growled in impatience, the boy was staring at him suspiciously. “If my word isn’t good enough for you, Potter,” he began dangerously, but Harry interrupted him.

“No, your word is good enough, Professor.” Harry felt he would recognize that growl and tone anywhere, it was pure Snape. Besides, if it wasn’t the real Snape Harry had no doubt that he would have been handed over to Voldemort long ago. “When I didn’t write the letter Remus, Tonks, Mad-Eye, and Mrs. Weasley came to check on me. They were...not pleased with my relatives. Actually it was Mrs. Weasley who brought me back to Grimmauld Place. And the next morning Professor Dumbledore came and said I’d be staying with you.”

Severus was more than a little frustrated. It had been a lot of work to get Potter to tell him anything and he still didn’t know any more than before. Anyone else though, might believe that they had learned something. Apparently Potter was cannier than he’d thought. Harry held his breath and prayed that Snape would let it drop. “What, precisely, displeased them?” Snape asked. There was no way he was giving up now; things were just starting to get interesting.

“Displeased who?” Harry asked pretending to be puzzled. If he acted dumb maybe he could irritate Snape into leaving him alone. Unfortunately for him, Severus saw through his trick.

“Don’t play dumb, Potter,” he snapped, “the Order. What made the Order angry?”

“My relatives went on vacation.”

It was a deceptively simple statement, designed to lull him into a false sense of security. He didn’t fall for it. “And they left you behind?”

“Yes,” Potter was studying the table cloth.

Severus watched the boy’s face carefully. “I see,” he said neutrally. “So the Order objected to you being left alone.”

“Yes,” Harry said in relief. Maybe there was no need to tell Snape the other reasons.

“Why were you writing letters to the Order? Didn’t like being left with your common muggle relatives?” Snape asked snidely. Perhaps he could count on indignation to help his investigation.

“Not particularly.”

The answer surprised Snape greatly and made him uneasy. “No?” he asked. “Not after they took you in and cared for you as a baby?”

“I am well aware of everything my relatives have done for me.”

“And you aren’t at all thankful?”

“My relatives did as little as they could and told me it was more than I deserved,” Harry whispered savagely.

“They mistreated you?” Severus inquired carefully, dreading the answer.

“Define ‘mistreat,’ Professor. Did they beat me? No. Did they neglect me? More or less. Did they make sure I knew that I should have died with my parents or at any of the half dozen points I’ve had the opportunity since then? Absolutely.”

Severus was watching the boy’s rant with a carefully blank face. It wouldn’t do to let the boy think he pitied him, and it was clear from his general behavior that Potter did not want to make this a big deal. “I see,” he said at last. “I may have misjudged you,” he offered. He hoped the Gryffindor could see that for what it was, because he certainly was not going to come any closer to saying ‘I’m sorry’ to an annoying 16 year-old brat.

Snape’s words shocked Harry back to himself. It was a major concession from Snape, he knew. “The last time the Order came to pick me up I was locked in my room. That’s why I write the Order. That’s why they threatened the Dursleys,” Harry said. He figured as long as Snape was suggesting a reconsideration of their relationship he might make an effort.

Severus blinked then nodded. “I can see how that might arouse Molly Weasley’s ire.” The two shared a look of understanding. After a moment Severus said, “finish your dinner, Potter.”

“You might call me Harry,” the younger said off-handedly as he picked up his fork. The older wizard looked at him a moment and nodded ever-so-slightly. Harry caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and smiled slightly.

The remainder of the meal passed quietly and the two wizards separated afterwards without having said another word.

Severus walked into his study and checked the clock. He decided he had time for a cup of tea before he contacted Albus again.

He allowed his mind to drift to dinner. Potter—Harry’s—revelation had been completely unexpected. Well, maybe not completely unexpected, he had seen the boy’s memories, but he hadn’t really been prepared. Nor had he considered that this might be a turning point in his relationship with the young man. His request to be called Harry was not unreasonable given the circumstances.

Severus glanced at the clock again; time to get out his mirror.

“Severus, twice in one day, what a pleasant surprise,” the wise man twinkled.

“I spoke with Harry,” Severus said without preliminary.

“Harry?” the old man questioned with a raised eyebrow.

“He requested that I call him Harry. How much do you know about his life in Surrey?”

“Not much,” Albus admitted with tired eyes and slightly pursed lips. “Minerva expressed concern about the Dursleys fifteen years ago, but Poppy says that aside from being rather delicate there haven’t been any unusual injuries. Remus has mentioned that he doesn’t think things are quite right there, but although Harry has asked to stay at Hogwarts for the summer he has never complained to an adult of the way his relatives treat him. And unfortunately the blood Harry shares with his aunt and cousin does keep him safe from Voldemort. Has Harry mentioned anything to you?”

“He indicated that they neglect him and hinted that they might verbally abuse him, but he said outright that they don’t ‘beat’ him.”

“Until he actually says something there isn’t much we can do,” Dumbledore sighed.

“I do not believe he will say anything.”

“That is a shame.”

They sat quietly a moment before Snape said,

“I did not realize that Harry was skilled at making covert conversation.” He laid a curious sort of emphasis on the word Harry, pronouncing it carefully as though it were Russian or Arabic instead of English.

“I imagine there is quite a lot you don’t know about him, Severus,” replied the Headmaster as the sparkle returned to his eyes.

“If I didn’t know better, Albus, I would have thought I was speaking with a Slytherin student.”

“I am told that the hat did offer to place Harry in Slytherin House.”

“He got to pick his house?”

“He chose Gryffindor over Slytherin, if that’s what you are asking.”

Another period of silence followed this statement but at last Severus said, “I have noticed some...disturbing similarities between Harry Potter and the Dark Lord. How do we know he will not deliver us from the current dark wizard only to take his place?”

“Do you truly think it likely that Harry would do that?”

“Yesterday I would have said no, but I believe we have established already that I know very little about him,” Snape retorted sharply.

“I do not believe we need fear that Harry will turn to Dark Magic,” Dumbledore reassured him mildly.

“If Bellatrix is to be believed, he already has.”

“And he has seen that that particular spell requires feelings which he does not harbor. Harry has asked me before about this, I told him then that it is our choices that determine who we are. I do not believe young Harry will be the next dark wizard. And in any event he has quite a bit of knowledge of exactly what Dark Magic does to its sufferers.”

“His nightmares,” Snape murmured.

“Many of them, yes. How is he progressing in Occlumency?”

“I discovered this evening that he had not the faintest idea of how to go about occluding his mind. I promised him I would lend him a book about various techniques.”

“That was very generous of you, Severus,” Albus smiled.

“We have agreed to try again, more or less.”

“Good, good,” the old wizard nodded.

“When do you anticipate coming to speak with Harry?”

“I may be by tomorrow evening, if that is acceptable?”

“Of course, Headmaster.”

“Until then, Severus.”

“Until then,” Severus affirmed.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and sunny and Harry found himself eager to go to breakfast and begin the day. He walked into the dining room confident that he would have the meal to himself since Snape usually skipped breakfast. To see his professor carefully eating a grapefruit, then, was not a particularly welcome sight. “Good morning,” he said sitting down.

“How did you sleep, Harry?” Severus asked solicitously.

When Harry looked up his eyes were wider than usual, “better than usual, thanks,” he replied.

“You normally dream of the Dark Lord?”

“No.” Snape gave him a questioning look. “I’ve been dreaming of Sirius and Cedric, and my parents,” he said with a haunted look.

“You know that you bear no responsibility for their deaths, do you not?”

“I know that, but I still feel guilty.”

“Perhaps you should talk to someone about those feelings.”

“Who would I talk to, you?” Harry asked incredulously.

“I doubt either of us are ready for that, or capable of discussing your godfather without hexing each other,” he replied with a twist of the lips. Harry smiled in response and turned back to his toast and fruit.

“I think you will find this book useful,” Snape said indicating a volume Harry hadn’t noticed sitting between them. The title page said “Defense of the Mind: A Study of Various Occlumency Techniques” “The style is more entertaining than the title,” Snape commented.

“That’s reassuring,” Harry said as he absently flipped through a few pages.

“Look through it and we can discuss tomorrow morning.” Harry nodded in acquiescence. “Also, Professor Dumbledore is coming to talk to you tonight.”

“Talk to me about what?” Harry asked in alarm.

“I believe he wants to discuss what happened yesterday,” Snape replied evasively.

“Oh, okay.” Harry wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He didn’t want to tell Dumbledore about his memories, but if he did maybe he wouldn’t have to go back to Little Whinging. Unlikely, he knew, but he could dream, right?

“It’s a nice day out,” Harry said.

“Yes,” Severus nodded.

“Are you busy today? Or could we go out again?” There was a trace of wistfulness in his voice.

“I suppose we could go out,” Snape said. Harry whooped and ran to get his broom. Severus shook his head and left the room at a more sedate pace to collect his own entertainment.

The End.
Chapter 12 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

The warm summer day passed quickly and though the pair ate lunch outside Severus insisted that dinner be taken indoors and at a proper table. Harry would have stayed out longer, but he was very hungry and decided that he probably didn’t want to antagonize Snape now that they seemed to be actually getting along.

He might have argued a little with any other teacher; but he doubted Snape would yield on dinner, especially since they had gotten to eat lunch out of doors. Harry found that he didn’t mind his professor’s company nearly as much when he wasn’t making comments about his fame or how spoiled he was, and, having arrived at whatever truce or agreement they had reached, Harry was reluctant to endanger their new rapport.

The conversation at dinner began when Harry hesitantly asked Snape whether the book he had received that morning had been useful to Snape when he was learning Occlumency.

In the downstairs library the fire flared emerald green and a tall wizard stepped through. He looked around the room swiftly and made his way silently towards the dining room. He slowed when he heard voices.

“Well, if you were imagining your defenses that way, it’s no wonder I was able to break into your mind,” an exasperated sounding man exclaimed.

“Of course it’s no wonder,” a younger voice replied hotly, “you’re the professor after all, and it’s not like I knew what I was doing!”

“I believe I have now taken steps to address that issue,” the older man said firmly.

“Fat lot of good that is, you’ve already gone rummaging through my brain!”

“I was under the impression that we were endeavoring to keep the Dark Lord out of your mind, not myself. Besides, you’re one to talk about watching other’s memories,” the voice cooled rapidly and became acidic.

“I am sorry about that, but it’s not like I did it maliciously or anything! Besides, that was one memory, I didn’t watch you whole life.”

“Now you’re just exaggerating, I didn’t watch you whole life, Potter. Why would I even want to?”

“Oh dear, arguing already, are you?” the tall wizard remarked as he stepped into the doorway. Harry had twisted in his chair and Severus stood between the child and door. Both of them held their wands out in front of them. “Though I will admit that both of you make very good points.”

“Merlin, Albus! Don’t you know better than to sneak up on people like that? You might have been hexed!” Snape said as he retreated towards his chair and tucked his wand back into its holder.

“Hello, Headmaster,” Harry said lowering his own wand and slipping it into his back pocket.

“Hello, Harry,” Albus Dumbledore replied amiably. “I daresay, Severus, that being hexed would be just the excuse I need for a bit of a holiday. I don’t suppose you could arrange to wait a little longer though, could you? I’m rather busy with start-of-term preparations just now,” he smiled as Severus muttered something about “Barmy old men.”

“Will you sit down, Albus, we were just having dinner?” Severus inquired politely.

“I won’t say no to a cup of tea. You wouldn’t happen to have any lemon drops, would you?”

“No,” Snape said curling his lip as a steaming cup of tea appeared before the old man along with a creamer and a small sugar bowl.

“I do hope you two are serious about getting to know one another and not just saying that to humor an old man,” he examined them shrewdly as both shook their heads. “Good, good,” he nodded. “Harry, if you are done I would like to speak with you.”

“Yes, Professor,” Harry replied, pushing his chair back from the table.

“If you don’t mind, Severus, I think we’ll use the sitting room.” Snape nodded his acquiescence. The elder wizard rose, tea in hand, and led Harry down the hall to a door he had passed many times but never opened. Behind the door lay a modest and tasteful parlor. Dumbledore ushered Harry in and seated himself on an upholstered chair. Harry sat in a similar chair just across from him.

“Professor,” Harry said almost immediately, brow wrinkling.

“Yes, Harry?”

“How did you sneak up on us like that? Shouldn’t Professor Snape have known you were in the house?”

“I was able to sneak up on you because the wards on Severus’s house are set to recognize me. Severus and I set it up that way so I could enter and leave as necessary without drawing too much attention.”

“Oh,” Harry nodded his understanding.

“What were you and Professor Snape arguing about?”

“Going through other people’s memories.”

“People often feel that their memories are very private.”

“Which is why I am so angry that Snape went rifling through mine!” Harry exclaimed.

“And perhaps why Professor Snape was so furious when you looked in his pensieve last year.”

“I thought the Order was keeping things from me last year,” Harry explained softly. “I just wanted to know what was going on.”

“Perhaps Professor Snape had a similar reason. In any event that is not a good reason to violate someone’s privacy and trust.” Harry’s shoulders were slumped. “Have you apologized to him?”

“Only just now,” Harry answered.

“Perhaps you should.”

“I will,” the young man promised.

“Good. How are you handling the other events of last term?”

“I’ve been having dreams.”

“You are not to blame for his death, Harry,” Dumbledore said gently.

“That’s what everyone keeps saying. Even Professor Snape said that.”

“I should think that’s ample proof that you are not guilty?”

“Yeah, well, there’s a tiny little corner of my brain that knows it wasn’t my fault, but I feel so guilty. I keep thinking about all the stupid things I did...” he trailed off and his eyes had a faraway look.

“Harry, it is not your fault,” Dumbledore repeated.

Harry came back to himself with a jerk and said, “Snape suggested I might talk to someone about all this, but I can’t really see myself doing that.”

“Professor Snape is a very intelligent man. I know that I or any of the other Order members will always be glad to speak with you, Harry. However, if you do not feel comfortable with that you could try writing it down.”

“Like a journal?”

“Yes, exactly like that.” Harry’s nose wrinkled with uncertainty. “You needn’t preserve any pieces of yourself in it, just your memories. Keeping a journal may also help you improve in Occlumency.”

“Hmmm,” Harry said, “maybe then. Professor Snape gave me a book on different techniques I could try.”

“Good. Occlumency is a highly personalized form of magic, Harry. What works and what does not work depends greatly on the individual. It may help, however, to order your mind. The journal can help with that.”

“Okay,” Harry conceded. “I’ll give the journal a try.”

“Excellent!” Professor Dumbledore said, clapping his hands on his knees. “Now, is there anything you’d like to tell me, Harry?”

Harry was slightly taken aback by this question, things seemed pretty quiet and he couldn’t think of any big secrets he had. Certainly nothing like the voice he was hearing the last time he had heard that question. “No, I don’t think so, sir,” Harry answered with a slight frown.

“Nothing at all?” Dumbledore pressed him.

“No,” Harry said decisively. “But I would like to ask you a question.”

“Yes, Harry?”

“How are Aunt Petunia’s flowers doing?”

“Quite well, I believe. Molly Weasley cast a few watering and weeding charms not long after you left.”

“There’s magic in Aunt Petunia’s garden?” Harry asked with an incredulous grin.

“Yes,” Professor Dumbledore said with an answering smile. The thought was too much for Harry and he burst into laughter imagining what his aunt would say if she knew an abnormality was keeping her flowers alive.

“Was there anything else, Harry?” Professor Dumbledore asked when at last Harry had subsided into breathlessness.

“No, sir,” Harry gasped.

“Would you mind telling Severus I’d like to speak with him?”

“Sure, Professor,” Harry said as he slid out of his seat.

Harry found Snape sitting in the library. “Professor?” he called from the doorway.

“Yes, Harry?” Snape looked up from the book he was reading.

“Professor Dumbledore would like to see you, sir.”

“Thank you,” Snape said as he rose from his chair. “Why don’t you go get started on that book?” he suggested.

“Alright,” Harry nodded and strode off toward his bedroom.

Severus seated himself in the chair Harry had vacated moments before. “You wished to speak with me, Headmaster?” he queried the older man.

“Yes, Severus. I’m afraid I have another favor to ask of you.”

“Another favor?” Severus said looking nonplussed. “What is it?” he asked carefully.

“I’m afraid there was a slight mishap with Remus’s Wolfsbane potion.”

“What sort of mishap?” Snape sat up straighter.

“This morning, when Nymphadora was pouring some out for Remus, she accidentally knocked over the jar. Most of the potion was spilled.”

“Most? Not all?” Snape asked sharply.

“No, not all. I believe there are two days worth left. Could you make more?”

“I can, but it won’t be aged the same as the rest of the potion he’s been taking. It may not be as effective,” Snape frowned thoughtfully. “Lupin has been staying at Headquarters?”

“Yes,” the Headmaster confirmed.

“I’ll need a little time to properly brew the Wolfsbane,” Severus mused. “Better have Lupin come here on Thursday. I’ll fix a room up for him.”

“Are you certain, Severus?” Albus asked with arched eyebrows.

“Well we can’t have him killing anyone, now can we?” Snape asked snidely. “Besides,” he continued as his employer frowned, “it’s what you wanted anyway, and I really don’t have time to brew more than one batch of the potion a month.”

“You know Remus is very careful, Severus,” Albus admonished.

“I know that,” Snape responded seriously. “Do you think I’d invite him to stay here if he wasn’t?”

“Thank you, Severus,” Dumbledore said inclining his head Snape merely nodded in return. “You may want to consider apologizing to Harry at some point.”

“I do not apologize, Headmaster. That would imply that I was in the wrong.”

“But were you not in this instance, Severus?”

“It seems that I was,” he admitted hesitantly. “But Slytherins simply do not walk about announcing their failings like that.”

“I know, Severus. Still you might consider it.”

“I will consider it,” Snape promised after a long moment.

“Good. I must be getting back. Keep me appraised of Harry’s Occlumency training, won’t you?”

“Certainly, Headmaster,” Severus assured him, rising to show him to the library fireplace.

As Severus walked up to his bedroom he glanced in Potter’s door. Harry, he told himself firmly. Harry was stretched out on the bed and had the Occlumency book propped on his chest. It was clear, however, from the way the book was slanted backward that the boy was asleep.

Quietly Severus tiptoed into the room. He took the book from Harry’s hands and the glasses from his nose and folded them carefully before placing them on the night stand. Then he removed the worn trainers from the boy’s feet and pulled a quilt up over his shoulders. He briefly considered waking the child up and making him occlude his mind, but he decided against it. It wouldn’t do any good if he really hadn’t figured out how. Besides the boy had tired himself out on his broomstick and seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Nodding once to himself, Severus turned and left the room, closing the door gently behind him.

Wednesday morning promised to be the beginning of a beautiful day. Harry woke early and studied the book Snape had given him before it was time to head down for breakfast. He had been a little confused when he awoke to find his book and glasses on the bedside table and himself neatly tucked beneath a blanket. He could have sworn that he had fallen asleep reading; he dismissed the thought with a shrug. He had been pretty tired; it was possible he had forgotten. The only other possibility was that Snape had tucked him in, which was an absurd thought.

When Harry arrived in the Occlumency room he was pleased to see that Snape was seated and holding a cup of tea rather than his wand. “Good morning, professor,” Harry said.

Snape nodded in acknowledgement and gestured towards a chair. “Sit,” he commanded though not gruffly. Harry obeyed Snape as he continued, “How far did you get in that book last night? Not far, I expect, since you were out playing quidditch all day.”

“Not far,” Harry admitted. “I fell asleep last night rather sooner than I meant to,” probing.

“Understandable,” Snape nodded, revealing nothing. “Why don’t you tell me what you were doing again, and then we’ll discuss where to go from there.”

“Alright, ummm,” Harry began. “I pictured a wall. I sort of bricked myself in with stones and mesh.”

“No wonder it didn’t work,” Snape said with a twist of his mouth, "You’ve never done well with captivity. You’ve got to work with your subconscious, Harry, not against it. Also, your construct was far too rigid. Your mind is not just there to fill the space between your ears, though there are those who behave as though it is. Your mind is a living, expanding, changing being; you can’t just wall it up.”

“I thought I wanted to keep you out,” Harry said with a frown.

“You do, but it won’t do you any good to be able to keep me out if you can’t keep yourself in.”

“Oh,” Harry said sitting back in his chair. “I suppose that makes sense,” he continued after a moment, “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Obviously,” Snape commented without malice.

“So, how should I picture it?” Harry asked.

“That depends very greatly on the individual. There are a variety of well known methods; most people pick one and adapt it to their use. Some people picture a forest with a lot of underbrush growing round them. Others picture themselves in a ring of fire. It depends on what you are comfortable with.”

“What do you picture?” Harry asked. Severus hesitated a long time. “You don’t have to say, if you don’t want to,” Harry said quickly.

“Perhaps someday you’ll be able to figure that out for yourself,” Snape said at last. Harry nodded. “Why don’t we cut this lesson short?” Snape suggested, “That way you can read a bit more and think before we do any practical work.”

“Okay,” Harry said rising. He paused in the doorway and turned back to his professor. “Professor Snape,” he said, "Do you think we might go outside again this afternoon?”

“No,” the older wizard replied briefly.

“Oh, alright,” Harry said as he turned to leave. The slight note of disappointment in his voice made Severus look up. He saw the boy’s face, which had been remarkably open moments ago, begin to close off.

“Harry,” he said catching the youth’s attention.

“Yes?” Harry asked flatly.

“Why I am explaining myself to you, I can’t imagine, but I can’t go out today because I need to brew some Wolfsbane potion. Lupin is coming tomorrow evening and he needs it.”

“Oh,” Harry exclaimed face brightening. “Professor Lupin is coming?”

“Yes. He’ll be staying for the full moon.”

“You’re letting him stay?” Harry asked with arched eyebrows.

“Yes, I’m letting him stay,” Snape replied a bit sourly. Harry nodded and left quickly. A moment later Severus heard loud whoops of joy echoing down the halls. Snape smiled slightly then turned back to the papers he was gathering before striding quickly down to his laboratory.

The End.
Chapter 13 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

Thursday evening couldn’t come soon enough for Harry. He was looking forward to a chance to see Remus and he wanted to talk to the former professor about the many things going on in his life. Severus, though initially amused by Harry’s enthusiasm soon found he had little patience for its continual expression. Harry disregarded his professor’s irritability at first, but after the man snapped at him to calm down or go away, Harry decided to avoid Snape and work on hiding his emotions when he couldn’t just stay away from the man.

It was surprisingly easy for him, or perhaps not so surprising, considering Harry’s time with the Dursleys. Snape thought it rather curious when he noticed, but dismissed it as the boy’s Slytherin nature peeking through.

The anticipated hour, however, arrived at last and Harry and Severus found themselves standing in the library watching the grate in anticipation of Remus’s arrival. The cheerfully burning flames flashed bright green and the shabby, wraithlike figure of Remus Lupin stepped through. “Hello, Severus, Harry,” he said tiredly as he brushed the soot and ash from his robes.

“Lupin,“Severus replied inclining his head ever so slightly.

“Remus!” Harry cried and threw his arms around his friend.

Remus smiled and embraced the child in return. “How are you, Harry?” he asked kindly.

“Um, I'm fine,” Harry mumbled stepping back quickly and looking at the floor, his cheeks a bright red.

“I imagine you are tired?” Snape asked neutrally.

“A little, yes,” Remus answered apologetically.

“I set up a room for you. I presume you took a full dose of the potion today?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Come along then. There’s a safe box where you can keep your wand in the room. Will you put up wards and silencing charms, or shall I?”

“I’ll do it Severus. Though of course if you wish to put up more...” he trailed off.

Snape simply sneered at him and turned away. “Come,” he ordered exiting the room and heading towards the staircase. Harry and Remus followed him and Harry was somewhat surprised to see that Lupin’s room was between his and Snape’s.

“Thank you, Severus.”

“I’ve a cauldronful of the potion downstairs. I’ll bring some up for you tomorrow,” he said shortly.

“Thank you,” Remus said politely.

“Good night, Severus, Harry.” He smiled at both of them before stepping into the room and closing the door firmly behind him.

Snape and Harry looked at the door a moment before Severus turned and said, “Instead of coming down for Occlumency right away tomorrow I want you to meditate and decide what sort of defense you’re going to use. We can have the next lesson on Monday morning as usual.”

“Alright,” Harry acquiesced in confusion. Snape wanted to skip a lesson completely? How bizarre. “Good night, then, sir,” he murmured but stood still staring at Lupin’s door.

“Goodnight, Harry.” Snape was just inside his own door when he heard the boy’s voice calling him.

“Professor?”

“What is it?” he asked rushing to the door. He was slightly concerned, though he hadn’t heard anything to indicate danger.

“I just wanted to say, thank you for letting Remus stay and,” the boy took a deep breath, “I’m sorry about-about looking in your pensieve. It was wrong of me.” It was one of the most difficult things Harry had ever said. More than anything he wanted to look down, but he also wanted Snape to know that he wasn’t lying. “I-I just wanted to tell you,” he stuttered at last when Snape didn’t respond. Harry wheeled around and fled to his room, certain that the stillness his declaration was met with was a bad sign.

Severus was stupefied as thoroughly as if Harry had spoken the spell. He had never expected Harry Potter, son of James Potter, to say those words to him. He knew that the boy wasn’t the brat he’d always believed, but he hadn’t seen anything particularly special about him, certainly not the extraordinariness that Albus claimed the boy had. Maybe, though, just maybe Albus was right.

Well, only time would tell, he thought at last. In the meantime, he needed some sleep so that he could get up and talk to the werewolf in the morning. He hadn’t forgotten that Harry hadn’t told him the whole story about leaving Surrey. Who better to go to, Severus reasoned, than one of the official members of the ‘rescue squad.’ And since he just happened to have one in his house, he smirked as he climbed into bed, he might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

Remus took down the wards and silencing charms he had put up around his room the night before. He looked around the room and grinned. He had been more than a little surprised when Severus had led him upstairs to a proper bedroom rather than downstairs to some sort of cell in the basement. Actually, Severus had been far more polite than usual, and it made Remus wonder what he wanted. If there was one thing he knew about Severus it was that he didn’t do anything without a reason.

The room itself, thought Spartan, was comfortable. He was pleased that the potion he had taken worked well and he had been able to curl up quietly rather than acting like a caged animal.

It was still early and he decided he could probably go back to sleep for a bit. Surely no one in the house would be up at seven o’clock during the summer.

Apparently someone would, he corrected himself as he got up to answer the door. Severus was standing just outside it. “Good morning, Severus,” he greeted the tall, sallow man.

“Good morning, Lupin. I wonder if I might persuade you to have breakfast with me?”

Remus blinked at him before answering. “Certainly, Severus. Is everything all right?”

“I merely wished to speak with you.”

“Of course.”

Severus nodded and turned to lead him down to the dining room. After seeing his guest settled with a large breakfast, the man really was painfully thin, Snape examined the gentle werewolf. He looked tired, but didn’t seem to be disoriented or in any pain.

“Spit it out, Severus,” Remus said with a smile.

“I want some information from you.”

“About what?” Lupin asked warily.

“About Harry.”

“Harry,” his tone was questioning.

“Yes. I wished to know why he left his aunt's home. He told me, but he left quite a bit out, I think.”

“Hmm,” Lupin took a sip of his tea. “Well. You probably should know, since Harry is staying with you. But I don’t want you to use this against him.”

“I hadn’t planned to.”

“I’m serious, Severus. I won’t tell you unless you promise me that it won’t be something you use to needle him.”

“I seem to have given up Potter-baiting, at least for the present.”

“Have you?”

“We seem to have reached a truce.”

“That’s good. I think Harry could use a constant paternal-type figure.”

“Paternal!? Lupin, if you think I’m—“

“Calm down, Severus. I’m not saying you should adopt him or anything, I’m just saying he needs someone to look up to who isn’t going to disappear every full moon and who isn’t trying to escape Azkaban. He needs someone to be there for him.”

Severus was stunned. “And it’s obvious that a Death Eater-turned-spy is the perfect choice. Why can’t his relatives do that?” The idea of anyone looking up to him was more than a little frightening.

“Well, for one thing they’re muggles, Severus; they don’t really understand what Harry is going through. For another I don’t think a flesh-eating slug could look up to the Dursleys.”

Snape was looking at Remus with narrowed eyes. “Just tell me what happened, and then we’ll address this ridiculous idea of yours.”

“Fair enough,” Remus replied with a nod. “Harry’s letters, though they sounded a little off, were definitely from him and came regularly. A few weeks into the summer, however, he missed a day. That didn’t seem like Harry, and we had told him that if we didn’t hear from him every three days, we would come and check on him.”

“Why? And how did you know he wasn’t just trying to get attention?” Severus broke in.

“Harry isn’t the sort who usually goes looking for attention. If you’re asking why he was to contact us every three days, well, I suppose you’ll be able to figure that out in a minute,” the wolf answered darkly.

“Molly, Alastor, Nymphadora, and I flew to Surrey and noticed right away that something was wrong with number 4. It was completely dark and silent while the other houses were brightly lit and most were humming slightly. When we went in we quickly discovered that Harry was the only person in the house. Furthermore, he had no food. Though Arthur tells me that any food he had would have gone bad without the eckeltricity to keep the frigidator working.”

“Let me get this straight,” Snape said in a soft voice, “Harry Potter, one of the best guarded personages in the Wizarding World, was left unattended and unprotected without food or power for a space of some weeks?” He continued at Remus’s nod, “how is it that we didn’t know about this?”

“Harry never mentioned it in his letters. No one on sentry duty reported particularly unusual behavior, and the Dursleys’ car was still in the driveway.”

“I see,” Snape said with a sneer, “We all depend on a boy who does not seek attention to tell us when he’s been mistreated. How perfectly logical.”

Remus looked at him ruefully. “You’re right. That was pretty dim of us.”

“Dim is an understatement. Why is it that Harry was supposed to be writing, exactly? Please don’t tell me there is a history of this sort of thing.”

There was a long silence before Severus spoke again. “So there is a history, then. How bad is it?” he asked resignedly.

“They were keeping him locked up last year when we went to pick him up. That’s why we stepped in. I think there’s more, but I don’t know for sure. Certainly Harry’s never mentioned anything.”

“He wouldn’t, would he, Lupin? Not if you’ve got his character right.”

“You are right, of course, Severus.”

“Of course I’m right.”

“I don’t know what else you want me to say. We’ve failed him, I know. All we can do is try not to let it happen again.”

“And if that’s not good enough?” Snape asked sharply.

“I don’t know, Severus, I really don’t.”

“Humph,” Severus huffed, indicating what he thought of that answer. “I think I need hardly point out that the Dark Lord’s mistreatment at the hands of muggles influenced his adult behavior,” he continued caustically.

“No, you don’t. But I doubt we need to worry about anything like that.”

“Why, because he’s in Gryffindor? Because Pettigrew turned as easily as any Slytherin. Or maybe it’s because he’s James Potter’s son?”

“No, that’s not why,” Remus exclaimed, interrupting. “I think it’ll be alright because despite everything, Harry chooses to care.”

“Caring? You think caring will defeat Lord Voldemort?” Severus had a look of utter incredulity on his face.

“I think it stands a good chance, yes,” Remus said quietly. “And so does Dumbledore.”

“Hmm,” Snape looked less than convinced. “Harry should be up soon,” he said.

“Since when is he Harry?” Lupin asked teasingly.

“Since the truce. And since he asked to be,” Severus replied tartly.

“Ah, of course, the truce. Shall I ask how that came about?” Upon seeing the other man’s glare he laughed lightly and said, “Perhaps not, then.”

Harry had awakened at his usual hour and found that despite the opportunity he was in no mood for a lie in. With a small yawn he stretched and sat up, reaching for his glasses.

Now, what to envision for Occlumency? Snape had mentioned several options, which would work best for him? He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of the forest; it sounded more like Neville’s cup of tea than his. The ring of fire didn’t sound like him, either. It reminded him of Dumbledore, but also a little of the chamber where he had found Quirrell and the stone.

What did he like? He enjoyed flying; maybe he could do something with that? Harry thought for a few minutes. An idea slowly took shape in his head. What about a cloud? Like fog? Really dense fog. He could hide in it, let people see what he wanted them to, even sneak up on them to launch his own offensive. Briefly he wondered if the other person couldn’t hide in the fog, too, but after a moment he concluded that he would be able to tell where they were by feel, they were going to be prodding at him, after all.

Yes, he nodded decisively, fog it was. He leaned back against the head board and began visualizing it. When he had finally gotten the image worked out to his satisfaction, Harry stretched again and looked over at the clock. It was a little past breakfast.

With a gasp Harry jumped out of bed and threw on clean clothes. He hoped that there was something left in the dining room. He rushed through the house and arrived in the dining room just in time to hear Remus laugh and say “perhaps not, then.”

“Good morning,” Harry said, walking in.

“Good morning,” Remus replied cheerfully.

“Oversleep?” Snape asked with an arched eyebrow.

“No, I was just practicing my Occlumency.”

“Well, we’ll see, won’t we?” Snape said disbelievingly. Harry just grinned at him.

At that moment there was a tapping at the window. An owl was fluttering just outside with an envelope tied neatly to its leg. Snape opened the window and the tawny owl glided gracefully toward the table where it landed in front of Harry. Harry took the letter after he rubbed the owl’s head and offered it a piece of bacon, which it accepted and flew back out the window.

The envelope was of heavy parchment and sealed with an ornate seal that Harry didn’t recognize. After a moment’s hesitation Harry broke open the seal and pulled the letter out of the envelope.

It was his OWL results. Harry held his breath and unfolded the parchment, his eyes falling to the summary of overall scores at the bottom. He couldn’t believe it; he’d gotten seven OWLs. O’s in DADA and Charms, E’s in Potions, Transfigurations, Herbology, and Care of Magical Creatures. He scraped an A on History of Magic, but he’d got a P for Astronomy and a T, which he saw actually meant terrible, for Divination.

He grinned hugely for a moment before realizing that with only an “E” on his potions OWL he wouldn’t be allowed in Snape’s class. Without that class he would never be able to take the required NEWT to become an auror.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” Remus asked when Harry’s face fell.

“Nothing, I just got my OWL results is all.”

“Didn’t get the scores you wanted?” Snape asked with a very slightly curled lip.

“Not quite,” Harry said curtly.

“May I see?” Lupin asked, extending his hand.

Harry handed him the parchment and scowled at his toast. Oh well, he thought, what guarantee was there that he’d be alive at the end of his seventh year?

“These are very good, Harry!” Remus’s voice broke into Harry’s reverie. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Really?” Harry smiled at Remus.

“Absolutely!” Lupin grinned back at him. “And I know your parents and Sirius would be, too.” Harry’s smile grew even wider at that thought.

Severus was watching the exchange closely. He knew Potter wanted to be an auror, Merlin knew Minerva had talked about it often enough. He guessed the boy was disappointed about not getting an “O” in potions. What did the boy get, though? “May I?” he inquired suddenly, extending his own hand.

“Certainly,” Lupin said handing him the parchment, “Alright Harry?” he asked with a small frown. Harry nodded and glanced at Snape before turning back to Lupin and asking how his mother had done on her OWLs.

Severus examined the paper carefully. He knew he had not been easy on Potter in class. If the boy could score an “Exceeds Expectations” on the OWL on his own, he might be a fair student with a little encouragement and tutelage. Perhaps, if the rest of the summer went well, he’d offer the boy a spot in his class anyway, on a trial basis.

He nodded to himself. The rest of the scores weren’t bad at all, really; if he could keep up that level of performance there was a good chance Potter might become an auror after all. He pushed the parchment across the table toward the boy, who was hanging on every word the werewolf said. Satisfied that neither of the others was paying him any attention Severus left the room to work on some potions for Poppy Pomfrey.

Harry was avidly listening to Remus, but he was also watching Snape from the corner of his eye. He saw the man nod, as if making a decision, and hoped that whatever it was it didn’t mean that Snape thought less of him. When the dark man stood and left, Harry refocused his attention on Lupin. The werewolf was only too happy to answer all of Harry’s questions about his parents and indulge in reminiscing about Sirius. They spent the rest of the morning talking about Marauders-era Hogwarts and all the good times there had been.

A little after lunch Snape brought Lupin a steaming goblet. Shortly after that Remus declared that he was tired and wanted to lie down for a bit.

Harry was sitting at the dining room table looking out the window, head propped up on his hands, legs swinging, when Snape walked in. “Honestly, didn’t anyone ever tell you to keep your elbows off the table?”

“Sure,” Harry said with a small start, “but I thought it only mattered at mealtimes.”

“Typical,” Severus replied with an arched brow. Harry had the strange sense that he was being teased. “Where is Lupin?”

“Resting.”

“Was he alright?” Harry looked at him confusedly and said, “I think so, he said something about getting up early this morning and being more tired than he thought.”

“Did he seem disoriented in any way?”

“No, just tired,” Harry said bewilderedly. “Why, is something wrong?”

“Most likely not, I merely wish to ensure that there is no negative interaction between the potions.”

“Should we go check on him?” Harry asked, brow furrowed in concern.

Severus’s eyebrows quirked but he nodded and led the boy up to the wolf’s bedroom. He rapped softly on the door and opened it when he heard Remus’s muffled “come in.”

Severus strode into the room and over to the bed with Harry trailing along behind. Snape stopped at the edge of the bed and surveyed the weary man critically. His pupils were not dilated and his skin was neither flushed nor overly pale. Severus picked up his wrist. His pulse was not racing, there was no fever, nor was his skin clammy. “Let me know if you feel anything out of the ordinary,” Snape admonished.

“I will,” Lupin promised. Severus nodded and swept from the room.

“Rest well,” Harry smiled at him before likewise leaving the room.

“How much of your summer work have you completed?” Severus asked Harry as he walked towards his lab.

“I’ve finished it,” Harry replied, following his professor without much thought of where they were going.

“All of it?”

“Yes,” Harry confirmed.

“I hope it’s not your usual rushed work,” Snape said with a hint of disapproval in his voice.

“No, I got to take my time this year, so it’s much better than usual,” Harry assured him.

“Do you normally put your homework off to the end of summer?”

“No,” Harry said squirming a little. “It’s just difficult sometimes to find time at my relatives’ house.”

“Why is that?” Snape asked, watching Harry closely. The boy just shrugged without answering.

They arrived at the lab and though Severus walked in, Harry hesitated in the doorway. “Come on,” Snape said impatiently when he realized that his shadow was no longer following him. Potter approached him slightly nervously.

“Relax,” he ordered the boy. Harry nodded and inhaled deeply while jiggling his shoulders. “Bring me the size 4 pewter cauldron.”

Harry scurried to find the cauldron on the shelves and, upon locating it, placed it on the stand on the table in front of Snape. The professor nodded and gestured toward another set of shelves with ingredients. He rattled off a list of things he needed and Harry found himself transporting bottles, jars, and bunches of odd looking plants to the table. Soon he was dicing and chopping and stirring as he followed his professor’s instructions carefully. Although Harry’s hands shook just a little the potion came out far better than anything he ever produced in class. Snape narrowed his eyes and dismissed Harry to clean up for dinner.

Dinner was a quiet meal, and Lupin retired early.

Harry went to his room and read a bit more of the Occlumency book before meditating and falling asleep.

The next morning, Saturday, found Remus knocking on Severus’s door. “What do you want?” he growled when he opened the door and found the wolf smiling at him.

“You said we would talk about my ‘ridiculous idea.’ I thought we could chat over breakfast,” Remus replied cheerily.

Severus glared at him before he said, “I’ll meet you in the dining room.”

After Severus seated himself and drank a strong cup of coffee he looked at Remus. “You think I would be an acceptable guardian for James Potter’s son?” he asked skeptically.

“No, I think you would be a good mentor for Harry. He is more than simply James’s son, you know.”

“What makes you think I would be good for anyone? I am not equipped to nurture anyone, nor do I inspire confidence.”

“Just keep talking to him. Harry needs someone steady, someone who will be there for him.”

“I am no steadier than you, my life is in danger because of my position, and though at this moment I need not publicly despise him next week or next month may be different.”

“That’s your public treatment, not your private treatment. And your presence is far more constant than mine or even Molly’s. I won’t hound you into it, but think about it, won’t you?”

Severus nodded exasperatedly. He found himself liking Harry more than his student Potter, and more than most of his other students as well, but he was getting tired of everyone pushing him closer to the boy. The rest of the meal was consumed in silence.

Soon after, Harry came down for his own meal. He and Remus quickly fell into another conversation that focused on the old days. Severus found himself irritated by their happy chatter and said snidely, “If this keeps up you won’t need a journal. Who knew you were such a chatterbox?”

Harry looked up at him, hurt showing in his wide, green eyes. He didn’t say anything and after a moment his eyes were shuttered. Severus was briefly sorry. The boy shouldn’t trust him, but it was refreshing that he did. Severus sighed before turning and stalking from the room.

Remus watched the scene with some small disappointment. He knew that was quite mild for Severus, but he hoped the man hadn’t made the comment just to push Harry away. The young man didn’t need that. His curiosity was piqued, however; what had Severus meant, Harry wouldn’t need a journal? Well, the best way to find out he decided, was to ask.

“Harry,” Remus began gently, “what did he mean, about the journal?”

Harry blinked at him and flushed ever-so-slightly. “I sometimes have trouble talking to people about-about how I feel about things. Headmaster thought it might help if I wrote it down.”

“A very sensible idea,” Remus said encouragingly.

“Yeah” Harry agreed half-heartedly.

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to talk, Harry. Just as there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to talk.”

“I know,” Harry said defensively.

Remus nodded. After a few moments he began telling a rather humorous story about one of James’ and Lily’s first dates. It took several minutes for Harry to relax, but by the end of the story he was laughing and smiling again.

After lunch Remus once again left to take a nap and Harry decided to find Snape.

Severus had gone immediately to his lab and proceeded to get involved in something that made him look exceptionally busy but in reality left his mind free to wander. He had felt a small amount of remorse when he hurt Harry, and he found it an uncomfortable feeling. His busy-work was an attempt to quash the sensation. It seemed to him but a few moments later that he noticed a smallish shadow in the doorway. Harry.

“Professor?” the lad questioned nervously.

“Come in,” Severus said with a small sigh.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Harry said without preamble.

“I beg your pardon?” Snape said, confusion coloring his voice.

“I’m sorry,” Harry repeated without looking at him. “I know you didn’t like Sirius or my dad, and I know they didn’t treat you particularly well. I didn’t mean to offend you.” Severus’s head had tilted slightly to one side as he listened. “I just wanted to know, you know,” Harry explained pleadingly. “I wanted to know more about my parents.”

“That...is understandable. After all, you did not know them.”

Harry looked at him with relief and determination, “I also want to say I’m sorry for looking in your pensieve last year.”

Snape froze for a moment, uncertain of what to think. Harry misinterpreted that uncertainty as anger and rushed on, “I know I shouldn’t have; I know it was wrong. I didn’t realize that that was what you didn’t want me to see; I thought it was Order stuff. And I want you to know that I didn’t tell anyone except Sirius and Remus about what I saw, since they were there. And I didn’t laugh, not after all that’s happened to me. I thought my dad acted a right prat.” Harry stumbled on through his apology, having decided that he was going to do this.

Finally he stopped and looked fearfully up at his professor, whose mouth was opened slightly and whose eyes were widened in disbelief. Yes, Harry had apologized before, but he had run away before it could be acknowledged. This time, Severus decided, he wasn’t going to allow the boy to run away. Snape closed his mouth and pursed his lips. Harry backed up a step.

“I cannot say it is alright,” he began. “It is not. No matter what you thought I was keeping from you it should have been enough that I didn’t want you to know. I can, however, accept your apology and move on,” he continued sounding strained. “And I am not offended that you wish to speak of those who have...gone on. I merely had other things on my mind.”

Harry looked at him with wide eyes. He was speechless.

Snape looked at him and smirked a little. Then he queried, “Shouldn’t you be eating lunch?”

“No,” Harry said, snapping back to himself with a jerk.

“No?”

“Lunch is over.” Severus looked up at the clock as though to verify Harry’s statement. Then he strode over to a covered cauldron and summoned a goblet. Carefully he ladled some of the contents of the cauldron into the cup and re-covered the cauldron. Then he left the laboratory.

Harry, though taken by surprise, hurried after him. “Where are you going?” he called.

“Lupin needs his potion,” the older wizard said tersely. How could he have forgotten? It was bad enough with just him in the house, but with a student as well...it was inexcusable.

In a few minutes Snape was tapping on Lupin’s door. When there was no reply Severus opened the door and looked in. Remus was sleeping sprawled out across the bed. Snape walked in quietly and shook his shoulder. Lupin came awake with a small jump. “Huh?” he mumbled.

“You need to drink your potion.”

“Yuck,” the graying man said, pushing himself up and reaching for the goblet.

Severus smirked as he handed it to him. “Got up too early again, did you?”

Remus grimaced as he drained the cup. He yawned and collapsed back onto the pillow.

Severus sneered and left the room, heading back to the laboratory. “Coming?” he asked as he passed Harry. The boy goggled at him for a second but was quick to fall in behind him.

“Let’s see what you remember from yesterday, shall we? Go and get the cauldron and ingredients you need.”

Harry walked over and got the cauldron he had used the day before. He walked over to the shelves of ingredients and looked at them, running through the potion in his head to make sure he didn’t miss anything.

Severus was certain that the boy had frozen and started forward to help him when Harry began selecting ingredients from the racks with more confidence than he usually showed when preparing to brew a potion. To say that Severus was surprised when Harry moved to the table with everything he needed is an understatement. He had prepared himself to talk the child thorough the entire process again and to try to do it patiently. The eyebrow that twitched upward was indicative of this, admittedly pleasant, surprise. “Do you remember what to do?” he questioned.

Harry paused and nodded, “I think so.” The eyebrow twitched again but Severus gestured for his student to go ahead.

Harry was pleased to find he did quite well until a third of the way through the actual brewing when he couldn’t remember if he put in nettles or beetle legs first. He paused and concentrated, hoping that the memories would come to him. When he realized that he simply could not remember his shoulders drooped. “I don’t know what comes next,” he admitted softly.

Severus had been watching and heard him. “Beetle legs,” he prompted the boy.

Harry nodded and continued on stirring the crushed beetle legs in slowly before tucking in the stewed and shredded nettles. After a while Harry again found himself stumped.

“Vinegar of rose hip,” Snape reminded him.

Once again, Harry continued brewing and this time managed to make it all the way through to the end. When Harry had removed the flame and relinquished his stirrer Severus asked him a few questions about the decanting and storage of the potion Harry had created. Harry answered the queries correctly, causing the single black eyebrow to flick upward again. “I have not taught this potion in class; did you study it on your own?”

“No, sir,” Harry said. “I’d never seen it before yesterday.”

“Do you recognize the potion?”

“It looks like the burn-paste Madame Pomfrey had after the first task in the tournament.”

“It is. You did much better than your classroom performance would have led me to believe.” Harry looked away. “We will try another potion tomorrow,” Snape stated. Harry nodded. “Go wash up,” Severus commanded. “It is nearly time for dinner.”

“Yes sir,” Harry replied before leaving the room.

Snape walked to Harry’s cauldron and looked into the potion. It was imperfect, being just a little too thin and its color was off, just shy of the vibrant orange it should be. These flaws, however, would not affect its efficacy greatly. As soon as it had finished cooling Severus would bottle it and include it in his stores for the school nurse. Tomorrow he would teach the boy a simple stomach soothing solution. If the boy completed that potion as well as he had this one Snape really would need to offer him that place in the NEWT class.

As he washed his hands Harry thought about how relieved he was that Snape had not bellowed at him when he had forgotten the correct ingredient order. The aloof man might even have complemented him. Potions, though not Harry’s favorite class, was not his least favorite class either; that dubious honor was shared by Divination and History of Magic. The subject interested him; it was the teacher who had made potions classes unbearable.

Well, he thought, I won’t have to deal with that anymore; I didn’t get the grade Snape wants. Maybe I could do an independent study of sorts? I could get Hermione to supervise and I could take the NEWTs I need.

A smile curved Harry’s mouth as he straightened his shoulders. Maybe he wouldn’t have to give up on being an auror after all.

His smile did not go unnoticed by the two older wizards. Remus met Harry in the hall outside the dining room and noticed it first. He assumed that it sprang from spending time with Severus. Severus, on the other hand, first saw Harry smiling as he walked in with Lupin. Obviously Lupin had just told some joke, he told himself.

For a brief moment, each man wished it had been he and not the other who caused Harry to smile. This thought was quickly dismissed by Lupin, who concluded that it didn’t matter who made Harry smile as long as he was happy. Snape also put the thought from his head. Harry was a good child, a likeable one even, which in his experience was rare, but he didn’t want the boy getting too close, that could hurt either or both of them. No, let Harry look up to the werewolf, let him grow closer to his father’s friend rather than his father’s enemy.

Harry was oblivious to it all.

“Tonight is the last night of the full moon,” Remus pointed out after they had begun eating.

“Yes,” Snape agreed.

“I’ll need to go back to Headquarters.” Harry looked up. “Thank you, Severus, for letting me stay here.”

“Don’t mention it, Lupin.”

“Severus,”

“Don’t.”

Remus nodded and the two men silently returned to their meals. Harry looked at Remus a moment longer, then glanced at Severus, and finally turned his attention to his own plate.

Late the next morning three wizards once again stood clustered around the floo grate in Snape’s library.

“Thank you again, Severus.” The dark man just nodded in return. “Goodbye, Harry. Write me when you have time. Maybe we’ll see each other again soon.”

“I hope so,” Harry choked out. “I’ll see you, then.”

“Sure thing,” Remus replied. Merlin but it broke his heart to leave Harry! With a final glance Lupin turned and grasped a handful of greenish-grey powder from the jar on the mantle. A moment later he was gone.

The two remaining stood in silence until Harry’s small voice broke the quiet. “Professor, do you think we could get started on that potion?”

The End.
Chapter 14 by Mirriam Q Webster
Author's Notes:

A/N: Revised chapter

The stomach soothing solution had gone better than Snape had expected. Despite Harry’s OWL success and his performance in brewing the burn-paste, Severus had still expected to be required to dump out a potion gone horribly wrong. This potion was not up to the same quality as the first burn-paste, or even the second, to be honest, but it was definitely better than many of the potions Harry had made in class. Perhaps he would stage another practice run before he let the boy try on his own.

Severus crossed the room to the rack of cauldrons and selected one. Then he began collecting supplies, seemingly at random. Brewing had always helped him think, and Severus desperately needed to think. Potter’s apologies were unexpected and disconcerting.

He could accept that Harry’s childhood had not been the best and that the boy was neither spoiled nor as arrogant as his father had been, but he still would not have believed that a Potter would apologize to him. He knew that he had been wrong about the boy, but how could he have been that wrong. He was a spy for Merlin’s sake! His very life and the lives of others depended on his accurate character judgments! Harry had apologized twice. Three times really, if you counted that thing about his parents, though why he felt he should apologize about asking questions when anyone would be curious in that position Severus didn’t pretend to understand. Amazing.

He was still angry about the little brat looking in his pensieve, and rightly so. That was a horrible breach of his privacy and, in his mind, nearly unforgivable. No one should be able to see what he thought, no matter how vaguely. Granted, he had to put up with Voldemort looking on a regular basis, but Severus felt that was a sort of penance for the mistakes he had made, which were quite as unforgivable if not more so.

Given that Harry had apologized though, and that he, Severus, had seen more of Harry’s memories than Harry had seen of his, he was prepared to forget the incident. After all, it had probably hurt the kid more, and it wasn’t as though anyone had died.

Now that was settled, Severus still had half a potion to brew. This was handy because it meant that he finally had time to think about what Lupin had told him about Harry’s home life.

Harry’s relatives, his family, the ones who were supposed to protect him and keep him safe, had abandoned him. Severus wondered what that would do to the wards and blood magic that was meant to safeguard not only Harry, but his relatives as well. Abandonment and imprisonment, possibly neglect. What had those muggles done to the boy? And more importantly, were they likely to do it again? He would have to have another talk with Harry. This time, however, Snape was armed with a significantly better idea of what he was looking for. And forewarned was forearmed.

Harry was sitting on the bed in his room with the occlumency text in front of him. He had told himself that he was going to practice meditating and working through the fog, but in reality he was thinking about the weekend that had just passed.

Harry had loved having Remus come over. It had been nice to talk about his parents and Sirius. In a way he felt much less guilty now; certainly all that talking had been more beneficial than everyone telling him that it wasn’t his fault and that everything would be okay. How did they know, anyway?

Harry also felt better now that he had apologized to Snape and Snape had accepted it. Harry understood why his professor hadn’t just forgiven him. Memories were incredibly private, Harry appreciated that. It was lucky that Professor Dumbledore hadn’t got angry with him about that before; though if he had, Harry might not have looked in Snape’s memories. If he hadn’t looked, though, he wouldn’t know the truth about his father. Harry still wasn’t certain if that would have been a bad thing.

On the other hand, it was wonderful to see his parents, even if they were just memories, and now Harry had a better idea of why Snape hated him. Or, why Snape had hated him. Harry could have been wrong, but he rather thought that the dark wizard didn’t hate him now. If he did, he did an awfully good job hiding it. Harry found himself inordinately pleased at the thought that Snape no longer despised him. When he wasn’t being a mean git, the professor was actually almost likeable.

Harry was definitely pleased that Snape was helping him brew the potions. Harry thought the extra work had been really useful. He had learned a fair amount about the ingredients they had used and the most effective way to prepare them.

Harry stretched and yawned, then looked at the clock. It was nearly dinner time. Harry slid off the bed and made his way to the dining room. He would work on occlumency after he had eaten, he decided. No use trying to work on an empty stomach.

Harry walked into the dining room anticipating one of the lovely dinners he had got rather used to receiving at Snape’s house. For the first time since he had started school, and indeed since he could remember, summer was not synonymous with hard, sweaty work in the hot sun and not quite enough to eat or drink. It was nice. Something Harry felt himself luxuriating in and praying that he wouldn’t have to give up, although he knew he would.

It had been difficult to go back to the Dursleys after the Weasleys, but he had rationalized that the Weasleys seemed to like him while the Dursleys despised him. The differences in care provided, therefore, were perfectly reasonable and only to be expected. That line of reasoning had collapsed when he had come to stay with his sour, sarcastic professor.

The man absolutely detested him and could hardly see him without sneering and making some disparaging remark, yet Harry had been given a comfortable room and plenty to eat. He had been allowed and even expected to complete his homework and behave like a normal wizarding teenager. It was slightly terrifying to know that this was what should be, and it made him even more resentful that the people who seemed to care for him, who constantly assured him that they did, kept sending him back to the relatives who clearly provided less than was necessary.

He knew, of course, that he desperately needed the protection that his mother’s sacrifice and his aunt’s blood afforded him, but intellectual understanding could not assuage the bitter emotions that Harry felt he was drowning in at that moment. When he stomped into the room and threw himself into the chair, he therefore took Snape by surprise.

Severus had assumed that Harry would be disappointed that Lupin was gone, but he had not been prepared for an angry, angst-filled teen who wanted nothing more than to explode at the man who had engendered such uncertainty in him. Severus had planned on discussing the child’s home-life but after one look at the sullen face just down the table decided that questions of a sensitive nature would be neither well received nor well answered that night. Accordingly, he said nothing.

He watched Harry pick at his food, a roast which was one of Harry’s preferred dishes, only occasionally putting a bite in his mouth before pulverizing his mashed potatoes and turning the meat into an amorphous, brown goo that only vaguely resembled the perfectly cooked beef Cinder had pulled out of the oven less than an hour ago. Severus also noted that Harry threw him furtive, expectant looks that seemed to reflect a vague sense of defiance.

At long last, the boy threw down his fork and glared at his professor. “Aren’t you even going to ask what’s wrong?” he demanded.

A somewhat startled Snape said smoothly, “Do you want me to?”

Immediately, the hard look on Harry’s face was replaced by something vulnerable and hurt looking. “I just thought you would,” he said looking down at his plate and giving a one-shouldered shrug.

Snape regarded him a moment longer before taking a breath and saying, “Harry, what’s wrong?”

He had nearly despaired of receiving an answer when one came, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” Snape repeated in disbelief.

“No,” Harry said petulantly. “I’m tired, I’m going to bed. I’ll see you at occlumency tomorrow.” He pushed back his chair and hurriedly left the room, leaving behind his highly exasperated professor.

That night, Harry was plagued with recurring nightmares. They began as the Dursleys taunting him, but then Snape came. For a brief moment every time Harry hoped that his professor would save him, but every time Snape berated him and joined his relatives in telling Harry how worthless he was. For some indecipherable reason, the sarcastic barbs that fell from the dark wizard’s lips were more painful and disheartening than any of the others’ callous remarks.

Consequently, Harry slept through breakfast and found himself scrambling to get to his tutorial on time. He half remembered some of the things dream-Snape had said to him and the tiny voice in his head was murmuring that after the way Harry had behaved last night it would be reasonable to expect Professor Snape to be somewhat less tolerant, if not outright hostile.

It was not, however, a hostile Severus who awaited Harry, but one whose curiosity was severely piqued. He was very surprised when Harry did not come to breakfast; he understood from Cinder that it was a meal the boy usually took. His absence was at least partially explained when Severus caught sight of the dark circles under his charge’s eyes. He made a mental note to ask Harry about it later. It was possible that he would need to make a trip out specifically to pick up that journal instead of waiting until they went to Diagon Alley, as he had planned.

As he sat regarding the boy, Severus noted that Harry was fairly reluctant to meet his eyes. “Are you ready?” he asked neutrally. Harry took a deep breath and looked up, nodding.

“Legilimens.”

Severus found himself floating in a white, misty place. Suddenly the mists before him parted and he saw...himself. He watched as he belittled Harry. At first he thought it was a fragment of a class until he noticed the three figures beside him. He had seen these people before, though not in real life.

He retreated and observed Harry for a moment. “I gather you did not sleep soundly last night?” he inquired.

“No, not really,” Harry flushed faintly.

Snape nodded acceptingly and said, “Take a deep breath. Calm down and focus yourself. I promise I won’t chop you up for potions ingredients until after the lesson.”

Harry looked up and noted the older wizard’s smirk in some consternation. Professor Snape had just made a joke to Harry Potter. Harry’s face split into a wide and somewhat manic grin before he shook his head slightly and closed his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, jiggled his shoulders and then opened his eyes. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“Legilimens.” Snape found himself in the fog again. When there was no immediate clearing in any direction he picked one at random and began walking.

Suddenly, he was ambushed and he felt Harry trying to shove him out. After a few minutes’ struggle, he retreated. “That was good,” he commented. “Shall we try again?” At Harry’s nod there was a whispered spell and the older man once again tested the younger’s mental defenses.

They continued in this manner for some time, but at last Snape stopped. “You’ve made quite a lot of progress. I take it the book helped?”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded enthusiastically.

“Good.” Snape watched him a moment before saying, “I did want to talk to you last night, but it seemed to be a bad time.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry blushed.

“What was wrong?” Snape asked, leaning forward slightly.

“I was confused,” Harry said slowly.

“About what?” Snape inquired, curiosity coloring his voice heavily. Harry shrugged rather than replying. Severus frowned a little and sat back slightly. “I wanted to discuss your relatives,” he said after a pause.

“Do we have to?” Harry questioned, grimacing.

“It would be better if we did,” Snape replied.

“I thought we dealt with them?” Harry evaded hopefully.

“I have more questions,” Snape said firmly.

“You talked to Remus, didn’t you?” Harry accused.

“Yes. I practically had to twist his arm to get any information. He’s promised to kill me if I use it against you,” he reassured the boy dryly.

“Well that’s comforting,” Harry remarked sarcastically.

“It would appear that I know rather more about your home life than the others,” Snape said delicately. “It would also appear that their attempts to deal with the situation have been rather less than successful. Therefore it is only reasonable to gather more information and formulate a new plan,” he concluded logically.

Harry looked at him measuringly. “No amount of argument is going to get me out of this conversation, is it?”

“No,” Snape assured him bluntly.

Harry sighed and his shoulders drooped. “What do you want to know?” he asked in resignation.

Snape leaned forward again and took a breath before starting. “First, I want to know exactly why you didn’t stay in Surrey this summer. I’ve already had Lupin’s account and I won’t hesitate to owl Molly Weasley if I must, so don’t skip the details.”

“Have I really been such an awful houseguest?” Harry asked plaintively.

“Not lately. Nevertheless I cannot help wondering why you never seem to spend the whole summer with a family you can only see for three months out of the year.”

“We’d rather not see each other at all, but none of us have much choice in the matter.” At Snape’s raised eyebrows Harry sighed and continued, “They’ve been all ready to kick me out a couple of times, but Dumbledore’s always made them keep me. This summer’s behavior wasn’t all that unusual for them, even if it was a tad unexpected.”

“What happened, Harry? The whole story.”

“What, from the beginning?” the boy asked incredulously. When he saw his professor’s nod he took a deep breath.

“Clearly they were unhappy when we left the station. But they had just been threatened by Moody when we left so that wasn’t too unusual. What I should have noticed was that they were not particularly vocal in their protests to me, but I was just as shocked as they were.”

Snape’s eyebrow went up at that, it almost sounded as if the boy didn’t believe himself worth it, or that anyone would make an effort to protect him, but rather than interrupt the boy he filed that note away for future consideration.

“The car ride home was pretty quiet,” Harry was continuing, “it wasn’t until we got home and Uncle Vernon announced their vacation that I had any clue. He said they were leaving the next day and I wasn’t to disturb their rest in any way. They gave me a long list of things I couldn’t do and a longer list of chores to do while they were away. We all went to bed and the next morning they took a cab to the airport.” Harry paused and shifted uncomfortably. Clearly he did not want to continue his story.

“What happened then?” Snape prompted him. He had the feeling Harry was glossing over things and he didn’t want the boy to stall on him.

“Well,” Harry began again hesitantly, “at first I was excited. I mean, I don’t usually get left home alone without,” he stopped abruptly.

“Without what?” Severus asked patiently.

Harry glanced up at him furtively and licked his dry lips as he stared down at the patterns in the wood floor. “Without being locked in,” he blurted out hurriedly. He said the words so quietly it was as though he hadn’t decided whether he actually wanted Snape to hear them. “Anyway,” Harry continued just a trifle too loudly, “I reckoned it might not be so bad, to have everything to myself like that. I went down to fix breakfast and that’s when I noticed that there wasn’t really much food in the house. A little after that the power went off, too.”

“And it didn’t occur to you to write to someone for help?” Snape broke in.

“Oh, it did,” Harry assured him, “but I didn’t want everyone thinking I couldn’t handle it. I could just see what you would say, about how I was so spoiled I couldn’t stand not to be waited on or being alone. So I didn’t write. I cooked the food in the refrigerator in the fireplace and got started on the chores.”

“Typical Gryffindor, motivated by foolish machismo. You just had to prove me wrong,” Severus sneered at him, but Harry privately thought that the man’s heart wasn’t in it.

“Absolutely,” Harry grinned cheekily at him.

“Brat,” Snape smirked. Harry’s grin grew broader. “So then what?” Snape asked.

“Then one day I fell asleep at the kitchen table over lunch and completely forgot to write the letter to the Order. The next thing I knew I was hearing voices and waking up to bluish wand light.”

“I see,” Snape said contemplatively. “And after that you were here.”

“Yes,” Harry agreed.

“While I am impressed that you were able to make plans for your own survival, I feel it is necessary to tell you that no one expects you to do everything by yourself. You could have, and should have, asked an adult for help.” Harry’s shoulders tightened before Severus continued, “Not that I intend to reprimand you for your very admirable behavior in a situation that was not at all your fault.” The boy relaxed. “I think, if you do not object overmuch, that this situation should be discussed with Professor Dumbledore.”

“I suppose I expected that, though he must know already. He’s Dumbledore for crying out loud, how could he not know? The man probably still knows more about me than I do.”

“That is entirely possible, and probably not that difficult,” the professor said with a hint of a smile. “But the fact also remains that you have not complained of your treatment. It is possible that he took the others’ tales as exaggerations or descriptions of isolated incidents.”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s it,” Harry rolled his eyes and snorted contemptuously. “Besides, even if I did complain, what good would it do? I haven’t got any other relatives except Aunt Marge, and that’s hardly an improvement, not to mention the blood magic.”

“All very valid points,” Snape acknowledged, “but I’m certain that a solution could be found if it became necessary.” Harry looked unconvinced but did not reply. “Now, I believe it is time for lunch. After that perhaps we could take another look at that stomach soothing solution.”

“Could we?” Harry asked, face lighting a little.

“If you wish,” Snape said.

“All right,” Harry said. “What do you think is for lunch?”

Snape merely rolled his eyes in mock exasperation when he heard the question and waved his hand to shoo the lad off to eat. He shook his head slightly as he thought about the conversation he had just finished. It was another thing for him to think about. He had never expected his summer to play out in this fashion.

Lunch went smoothly. Harry suggested, and Severus agreed to, a scheme to spend the next morning out of doors. The potion brewing also went well; Severus was confident that he could have Harry try on his own the next day.

Really, he considered it a miracle that they were getting on as well as they were. He was slightly fond of the child, truthfully, and Harry seemed eager to please. Perhaps a little too eager, the boy was acting more like a lost puppy than the independent and high spirited young Gryffindor he recognized. Severus supposed he would have to find a way to reassure the boy that it was acceptable to be himself. How to do that he would have to consider. In my copious free time, no doubt. Ah well, Snape didn’t particularly mind being busy, especially when none of the tasks were life-threatening.

Tuesday morning was another of the hot, clear days that meant drought in much of the country. Harry arrived at breakfast in high spirits and toting his broom. “To save time,” he said explanatorily when he saw the older man’s inquisitive look. The answer garnered him a small, indulgent smile.

Harry raced through his breakfast and sat impatiently while Severus finished his. When at last they were able to go out, Harry led the way, and he was on his broom and in the air almost before he was out the door, a feat which caused Severus to roll his eyes.

Harry was zipping about a little later, skimming the lawn and playing chicken with some of the larger rosebushes when he slowed slightly. Usually when he was in the air he was with the Weasleys or his house team. Harry loved to fly and he treasured the time he was allowed to spend doing it, but just now he was feeling a bit lonely. He wondered if Snape would fly with him. Maybe they could toss around a quaffle or something.

Harry looked down at Snape who was sitting comfortably with a thick tome on his lap. His professor could fly, Harry knew, but somehow it was impossible for him to picture Snape playing. Harry did a half-hearted barrel-roll and sighed. He spiraled in for a landing and walked toward Professor Snape who was looking at him curiously.

“Something wrong?” he asked as the boy approached. Harry shook his head. “Done flying?” Snape asked, head tilted to one side. Harry half nodded and stood staring at Snape. “What?” asked Snape gruffly; Harry’s stare was vaguely disconcerting.

“Nothing,” Harry said pulling his shoulders up and shaking his head a little, “I was just wondering,” he paused.

“Wondering what?” discomfort made his voice rough.

“Do you think,” Harry said, “we could go inside and brew a potion or something?”

Snape’s eyes widened slightly as he regarded the teen before him. He could not conceive that Harry Potter would rather go inside to brew potions than stay outside to fly. Why on earth was he even suggesting it?

It suddenly dawned on him that young Harry was rather isolated and might be lonely. Merlin knew Severus had been lonely often enough when he was younger. Obviously, therefore, what the boy really wanted was for him, Severus, to fly, too. The boy was trying to convince him to do something and, having given up on doing something he wanted to do, had decided to feign interest in something Snape wanted, or presumably wanted, to do. Well, the best way to teach Harry not to be so eager to please would be to take him up on his offer. Hopefully it would frustrate the boy and force him into saying something. “Good idea. You can try another batch of the stomach soother you’ve been working on.”

Harry’s face twitched a little and his smile was not so bright as usual as he said, “Ok,” a gesture which was not lost on Snape and made him smirk inwardly.

Harry didn’t particularly feel like studying just then, nor did he relish the thought of spending the whole sunny afternoon in the cold, dank basement. Honestly, Harry reckoned he was getting as pale as Malfoy.

“Very well,” Snape said, standing. “Come along, then.”

Harry followed along behind him, secretly wishing that Snape was just going to get a broom. Firmly he told himself to forget about it. He should be happy that the man who had once despised him was consenting to spend time with him rather than wishing for unlikely things. For the most part Harry listened to himself, but there remained a small corner of his mind that refused to give up hope.

Wednesday morning was another occlumency day. Harry made fast progress with the work. It surprised Severus, but Harry soon realized that now that he knew the basics it wasn’t difficult. And Harry could sense similarities between occlumency and the basic emotional control he had practiced at the Dursleys’.

Towards the end of the session, Harry tired and Severus was able to slip past his defenses. He glimpsed a few superficial memories and was just retreating when one caught his eye. He paused a moment and discovered it was the apology Harry had tendered him that weekend.

When he terminated the spell he found Harry glaring at him. “I thought we were past the rummaging through my brain stage?” he inquired testily.

“That one caught my eye,” Severus explained. “It’s not everyday a Potter apologizes, you know.”

“I am not my father!” Harry exclaimed archly.

“I know that. But did it ever occur to you to apply the principle to others?” Snape’s tone was cutting now.

“What?” Harry asked in confusion.

“Draco Malfoy is not his father either.”

“I do know that,” Harry said. “For one thing the Ferret is shorter.”

Severus nearly smirked but instead said, “I don’t appreciate that comment, Potter.”

Harry grew serious. “I met Malfoy the younger the first time I went to Diagon Alley. I disliked him very quickly because he was a prat. I didn’t meet Mr. Malfoy until just before second year. I did not judge the son by the father.”

“Perhaps not, but you did just say you disliked him very quickly. What gave you the right to judge him so quickly?”

“He insulted Hagrid,” Harry replied matter-of-factly.

“He insulted Hagrid,” Severus repeated disbelievingly.

“Hagrid was the first friend I had. Besides, Malfoy said people who didn’t grow up in the wizarding world shouldn’t be allowed to attend Hogwarts!” Harry cried defensively.

“I see. So you’re saying it’s his fault you hate him,” Snape said skeptically and with a bitter edge.

“Not precisely; but he didn’t set himself up to be my best friend. And it’s not like I run around hexing him just for being alive.” Snape raised his eyebrow. “Our loathing is mutual. He’s drawn his wand on me as many times as I’ve drawn on him. I never hex him until after he’s insulted me or my friends.”

“Ah, and that justifies your actions completely,” Snape said sarcastically.

“Better to finish it than to start it,” Harry said grimly. “At least I don’t walk about looking for fights.”

“Humph,” Snape snorted. He was just opening his mouth when the door creaked open and Cinder stepped in.

“Excuse me, sirs,” she squeaked, “is sirs not wanting lunch today?”

“Yes, I think lunch is a great idea!” Harry exclaimed, standing.

“We’re not finished yet.”

“Look, its not the same between me and Malfoy as it was between you and my dad. I’ll try to stay out of his way more if you want, but I can’t promise that nothing will happen. I can’t let him win outright; he already rides roughshod over most of the school’s population!”

“Odd, he said the same thing about you,” Snape commented.

To his surprise, Harry laughed. “I bet!” the boy said before turning to search for the lunch Cinder had promised him.

Severus sat some little while longer pondering the conversation and especially the last comment before rising and finding his own meal.

Harry and Severus got through Thursday and most of Friday in much the same way, each carefully avoiding the topic of Draco Malfoy, though for vastly different reasons.

At dinner on Friday evening, there was a sharp tapping at the dining room window. A large owl with malicious yellow eyes and particularly sharp looking talons and beak swooped in when Severus opened the window. It alighted in front of his place and screeched at him impatiently when he did not take the letter from its leg fast enough. Snape’s face had gone very still when he caught sight of the owl and he now sat eyeing the letter with narrowed eyes and curled lip.

Harry looked askance at him until he was distracted by a second assault on the window. This time Pigwidgeon fluttered outside and Harry hastily let him in. Harry had to chase the hyper little owl around the room, but once he caught it he found that he had letters from Ron, Ginny, and Hermione.

Ron’s letter was full of the good cheer that Harry had come to expect from his friend.

Harry, mate!

How are you? I can’t believe you’re staying with the Greasy Git instead of with us. Lupin came back acting very strangely, you don’t suppose Snape did something to his potion, do you? Every time we ask him how you are he just gets this odd little smile and says that you’ll be fine. What does that mean, I ask you! Fred and George say to tell you if you need anything from the shop feel free to owl them. Just don’t do anything to get turned into potions ingredients. Think we could meet up at Diagon Alley again?

Ron

Hermione’s letter reflected her bookish nature as much as Ron’s had reflected him.

Dear Harry,

I hope your summer is going well and that you aren’t brooding too much. I also hope you’ve got your schoolwork done; the new term is only a few, short weeks away. How did you do on your OWLs? I got all O’s, of course, though I was quite nervous about a few of them. I’m staying with the Weasleys again this summer, so do owl and tell us when you’re going to Diagon Alley. If Professor Snape will allow it, it would be great to meet up there. See you soon!

Love,

Hermione

Ginny’s letter, though entirely unexpected, was welcome, even if its message proved to be a bit less comfortable than the others’.

Dear Harry,

It seems like forever since I saw you last, even though it’s only been a few, short weeks. Listen, Harry, I know this probably isn’t your favorite subject, but when we all meet up again, Ron and Hermione and me, at least, and probably Neville and Luna, too, you’re going to have to tell us all the whole story. Starting with what happened after you chased Bellatrix Lestrange out of the room. You’ve been so close-mouthed about it all I know that you’re hiding something big. Don’t put it in an owl, though. We deserve to hear it in person, and there’s no telling if owls are safe or not. Constant Vigilance, as Mad-Eye would say. Well, hopefully we can meet up in Diagon Alley. Gred and Forge say to owl if you want anything, but for Merlin’s sake don’t run us into negative points yet; no sense making it easier on the Slytherins!

Ginny

Harry laughed a little when he read Ginny’s letter. He could just picture the petite red-head flourishing her wand over her head as she shouted ‘CONSTANT VIGILANCE!’ Severus had opened his own letter and was scowling at it when Harry’s laugh made him look up. He realized that he couldn’t remember the last time he had heard Potter laugh freely. Too often it was an adult’s laugh that fell from the youth’s lips, strained or bitter, forced or mocking, much like his Slytherins’.

It really was a pity that wizarding youth, who should have been able to stay innocent longer, grew up so quickly. Perhaps, when all this was over...

”Something wrong?” Harry interrupted his thoughts when ho noticed the dark expression on his elder’s face.

“No,” Snape said shortly as he tucked the letter into a pocket. “Letters from the Weasleys?” he inquired, attempting to distract Harry.

Harry threw him one last curious look before he replied. “Yes, from Hermione, Ron and Ginny.” Snape nodded as Harry continued. “Actually they want to know when we were planning to go to Diagon Alley. We all meet up there usually.” He had a slightly wistful expression, as though he half thought he wouldn’t be allowed to see his friends.

Snape regarded him a moment and said, “I was planning to go on the twenty-fourth. Usually I would move back into the castle immediately after that. We will have to ask Albus about arrangements for the last week before term starts; I doubt the ministry will want you in Hogwarts before your peers.”

Harry frowned but nodded. “May I write that I’ll be on the Alley then?”

“I suppose. Will you be sending the letter with your own owl or,” his eyes found and tracked the still-swooping Pig, “that creature?”

“Hedwig, probably. Unless you think she’s too recognizable?”

“She should be fine.”

“Right. I’ll write the replies tonight and send them off tomorrow.”

Snape nodded and said, “Excuse me,” as he swept from the room. Harry gazed after him then at Snape’s plate, which was still half full of food. Harry heaved a sigh and turned back to his own meal as he began planning out the responses to his friends’ letters.

Severus strode hurriedly to his study and locked the door behind him. He sat down at his desk and pulled the letter he had received from his pocket. It was from the Dark Lord, he had known that the moment he had seen the owl hovering outside the window. The evil wizard was asking about Harry’s progress.

The response had to be a carefully crafted mélange of truth and fiction. Too much of either would reveal his position as the spy in Voldemort’s ranks. Severus put his fingertips together and began plotting.

Some time later Severus locked both the original letter and the final copy of his response in one of the drawers and walked tiredly up to his bedroom. Just as he passed Harry’s room the door opened, startling him. He recovered quickly enough not to send a blasting curse flying at the boy’s head. “Potter!” he exclaimed.

“Sorry professor,” Harry said sheepishly.

“I presume there is some reason why you attempted to frighten me? A deep-seated death wish, perhaps?” The letter had reminded Severus of who and what he was. It had been foolish of him to think he could actually grow closer to the boy. Potter. It would be safer for everyone if he withdrew, drove the boy away. It shouldn’t be hard, all he had to do was go back to treating the boy, Potter, the way he had. And ignore Harry—Potter’s—protests.

That was, assuming he made any protests.

“Actually, yes, I do have a reason. I wanted to ask you about the letter. What did it say?”

“That is none of your business, Potter,” Severus said disdainfully, drawing himself up to his full height and glaring down his nose at Harry.

“I think it is,” Harry protested.

“Oh, really? I suppose you expect me to bow before the Great Harry Potter and tell you everything you want to know?”

“Don’t be stupid, of course I don’t want that! I just want to know about the letter. It has to be from Voldemort, and I highly doubt he’d mail you directions to the next revel, so it’s got to be about me. I want to know.”

Severus was taken aback by the accuracy of Harry’s guesswork, not that he was going to tell him that. “Actually, Potter, it’s from a cousin of mine.”

“Sure it is,” Harry snorted, “and Voldemort wears pink panties with ruffles. And what’s with all this ‘Potter’ stuff? Did I do something wrong?”

For a moment Severus was caught between wanting to reassure Harry and trying to expunge the vision of the Dark Lord in frilly, pink knickers from his mind. After a few long moments he jerked back and said, “What makes you think you’re right?”

“My scar started burning the second you opened the window, so it had to be Voldemort. Like I said, I doubt he’d send you a letter about the next get together when you’re supposed to be teaching me the Dark Arts.”

“It was from the Dark Lord,” Severus admitted after consideration.

“Okay, what’d it say?” Harry asked.

“I’ll tell you when and if you need to know, Potter,” Snape replied coldly as he turned on his heel.

“But—I don’t understand,” Harry spluttered behind him.

“I wouldn’t expect you to, Potter,” Snape called as he entered his bedroom. He spat Harry’s last name like it was something foul-tasting and slammed the door behind him.

Severus leaned back against the wood and exhaled loudly. He hadn’t dared look back at Harry as he left, not after the way he’d looked when he asked if he’d done something wrong. No, not Harry, Potter, he reminded himself.

And it was better this way. It would have been impossible for them to behave civilly when they returned to Hogwarts without drawing unwanted attention, and who knew if Potter would have been up to acting appropriately. It truly was better to get this idyllic vision out of his system before term started. But why didn’t he believe it, he wondered.

Harry stood in the hall where Snape had left him. His mouth was slightly open. Why, in Merlin’s name, was Snape acting that way? Unless the letter had affected him, too? Perhaps he was sick? Harry straightened his shoulders and walked up to his professor’s bedroom door. He rapped firmly on the wood.

With a silent groan, Severus pulled himself up and answered the door. “What do you want?” he asked, sneer fixed in place.

“I want to make sure you’re all right. You’ve been acting oddly all evening, since the letter came.” Severus blinked before he could respond.

“Yes, Potter, I’m fine.”

“Then why-“

“Why what, Potter?”

“Why are you being such a git?” Harry exclaimed.

Severus shot bolt upright for a moment then leaned menacingly toward Harry until their noses were mere inches apart. “What did you call me, Potter?” Harry’s eyes grew very round. “I suggest you go to your room, now,” Severus growled.

Harry stared at him, took a step back and shook his head a little, then turned and hurried to his room. He heard Snape slamming the door again and he couldn’t resist the temptation to slam his own door. He hadn’t been expecting that sort of response. Certainly not after the way they had been getting along lately. Harry frowned.

Maybe Snape was just worried about something. Or maybe he had realized that he was being nice to Harry Potter and decided that had to change. Perhaps the best summer in Harry’s memory was over. Harry looked at the wall nearest Snape’s room. He’d just have to wait and see how the man was in the morning, he decided.

Harry didn’t see Severus the next morning. He wasn’t at lunch, either. In the mid-afternoon Harry decided to go looking for Snape. He found the door to the basement laboratory locked. Harry supposed he’d found his professor and sat down to wait in the hall.

Severus had owled his reply to the Dark Lord early that morning and locked himself in the laboratory immediately after. A little before dinner time he finally emerged, only to find Harry sitting on the floor waiting for him. “Potter!” he shouted, “Did I or did I not give you strict instructions as to your location when you arrived here?”

“Yes, but-“Harry began as he jumped to his feet.

“I don’t recall asking for your excuses, Potter.”

Harry looked at him in shock but rapidly flushed with anger. “You know, last night I thought you were just sick or something, but I guess I was wrong. You really are a miserable, greasy git!” The boy spun on his heel and ran.

“Potter!” Snape bellowed. The infernal brat didn’t stop. Severus huffed and whirled back into his lab.

Harry ran all the way back up to his room.

Neither of them went to dinner that night.

The End.
Chapter 15 by Mirriam Q Webster

Harry found himself brooding. Why was Snape being so mean? Was it just his contrary nature? Had it all been a plot? This rejection hurt worse than if they had continued as they were before the truce. The professor said some truly awful things at times, but Harry had borne it because Snape hated him and always had hated him and always would hate him. Except now that wasn’t true anymore.

Harry had begun to look up to Snape. If felt like he was losing Sirius all over again. True, Snape wasn’t dead, but that made the whole thing worse in its own way. Sirius couldn’t help leaving, but Snape had chosen not to stay. Harry found that he was furious with his professor. He didn’t think he’d been this angry since the time he’d blown up his Aunt Marge. The ministry might not be able to detect his use of magic here, but Harry didn’t want to take any chances. He also didn’t want to give Snape the opportunity to finally expel him.

Harry suddenly jumped off the bed and looked around his room. He felt like doing something, anything. His eye fell on the potions text sitting on his desk. He had left it out instead of packing it back in his trunk so that he could go over a few of the last things the class had covered at the end of the previous term and also so he could study the few potions they hadn’t got to.

Quickly he grabbed the book and the box of assorted basic potions ingredients he kept and headed for his laboratory. He’d never gotten around to telling Snape about it and he hadn’t been caught in it; it was the perfect place to get away. Harry stayed up late studying that night and spent the next day studying potions and occlumency and avoiding his housemate whenever possible. The one time they shared a meal it was filled with prickly silence.

Severus found himself feeling miserable though he didn’t want to admit it. It had been much easier to hate the Potter brat before he knew Harry. He had half a mind to give up on the whole plot and try to explain it to Harry, but he repeated endlessly that really he was doing this for Harry; the child would be safer this way. Besides, no sane person in the wizarding world would want Harry Potter to be attached to a Death Eater, spy or not.

His determination was aided by Harry’s new behavior toward him. The boy who had smiled at him was replaced by a sour-faced youth who sneered and glared when he deigned to look at him at all. Apparently, Severus thought bitterly, our truce meant less to Potter than I thought. Aside from the first few attempts, Harry didn’t seem to be protesting his course of action at all; in fact, Harry seemed to be shoving him away. It hurt more than he would have imagined.

Monday morning dawned despite the fervent hopes of the two wizard inhabitants of Snape Manor that it would not. Harry had been practicing his occlumency very hard. He figured he had to assume that anything Snape saw would be fair game for torment, so he didn’t want to give the man any opportunities to learn anything he didn’t already know.

Severus had no plans to look for anything in particular Monday morning. He was not, however, looking forward to spending two hours in the same room with Harry.

They walked into the usual room at the same time and settled into their usual positions without a word. When he was comfortable, Harry looked up to meet his professor’s eyes. Severus noted that he had dark circles under his eyes again; usually a sign that Harry’s sleep was once again being disturbed by nightmares and it sent a spasm of guilt through him before he could stop it.

“Legilimens,” he said in a cold voice. He found himself in the fog and was thrown out a few seconds later. Severus blinked, took a breath, and repeated the incantation. Once again he was hurled out within moments.

They continued in this pattern for much of their allotted time but toward the end of the session Harry began tiring. It took him longer and longer to hurl Snape out until the last fifteen minutes when he found he could not force Snape out at all.

For a moment Harry nearly panicked but then he got an idea. He forced himself to calm down and pictured Snape’s form in approximately the place where the man was probing. Next he imagined himself dressed in white a little way behind Snape. He snuck as close as he dared and snapped his fingers. When Severus whirled around Harry took a step backward and snapped again. Snape moved toward the sound cautiously.

Harry kept snapping, leading him in circles. He was scrabbling to find a better plan to confuse his professor as fast as he could. Suddenly, he recalled the image of Snape in a dress. Picturing the figure very clearly, he multiplied it and had the figures ring his professor and move toward him.

Severus, who had been following the noises warily, froze when he heard multiple simultaneous footsteps. He held very still as a group of tall, green-clad figures with vaguely bird-like heads appeared out of the mists. He let them get a bit closer before recognizing them. Then he popped out of his mind and back into his own.

“Very funny, Potter,” he growled.

“Yeah, I thought it was,” Harry replied defiantly.

“You are dismissed,” Severus snarled.

“Thanks awfully,” Harry sneered as he rose and left the room.

Harry was making his way back to his room when he realized he had a terrible headache. “Figures,” he muttered as he stretched out on his bed. In a few moments he was asleep.

He was still sleeping an hour later when Snape snapped his fingers to call Cinder.

“Yes, Master Snape, sir?”

“Is Potter in the dining room?”

“No sir, Harry Potter is asleep, sir.”

“Thank you, Cinder.” Cinder nodded before snapping her fingers and disappearing. Severus stood and stretched. He decided he was hungry and walked toward the dining room. He had just arrived when he heard a tapping like fingernails on glass. The owl with the evil eye was back.

Severus opened the window and the owl dropped its letter in his outstretched hand before flying off. The instant he drew himself back in and closed the window Harry screamed. Severus clutched the letter convulsively and ran to Harry’s room.

Harry had been sleeping peacefully when Voldemort appeared before his eyes. Instead of sneering at Harry, as he might have done, the serpentine figure smiled, sending shivers down Harry’s spine. The Dark Lord reached a hand out toward Harry as if to welcome him. When Harry didn’t take it the red eyes glinted oddly though the smile never faltered. Voldemort dropped his hand and stepped to the side slightly, gesturing that Harry should look past him.

When Harry did the first thing he saw was Draco Malfoy crumpled on the ground, twitching as curses hit him until at last a bright green light kissed his brow and he was still. Next he saw Snape bound and obviously being tortured. Then Sirius came.

He spoke the only words Harry heard in the dream. “Harry, I miss you. Come with me, Harry.”

Harry extended one hand a few inches from his body. “Sirius,” he mouthed. Voldemort grabbed at his hand and the touch shook Harry awake with a scream.

He flung himself upward, gasping noisily. A few heartbeats later Snape threw open the bedroom door, causing Harry to jump again as his breath caught in his throat.

“Potter?” Snape questioned tersely.

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t occlude, I had a bad dream.”

Snape’s face darkened considerably. “You’re lucky the Dark Lord didn’t decide to visit while you were being careless. Foolish boy, do you want to get us both killed?” he hissed furiously.

“No,” Harry said with a half-twisted eyebrow.

“Don’t forget again!” Snape ordered. Harry simply nodded his acquiescence. As Snape stormed off he went back to trying to breathe evenly and struggling not to remember how cold the bony hand that had grasped his was.

Severus stalked away from Harry’s bedroom mentally railing at the boy. That would be just perfect, for the brat to be careless and give away his position as spy. That would just make his life so much better. Severus rolled his eyes.

He walked back to the dining room and filled a plate with food then strode to his study. He set the plate down on the desk and fished the letter out of the pocket he had shoved it into just moments ago. He forced his hands not to tremble as he slit the envelope and extracted the paper inside.

Severus, the note began, and he absently noted that the Dark Lord did not write with the same hissing sibilance he affected when speaking.

I have received your report with some disappointment. It seems you have taken a wrong turn in you efforts, my Severus. It is not necessary that the boy-who-lived like young Malfoy or even me. He need only trust you enough to receive your instruction. As the Darkness within him is fostered I shall make my own overtures. Do not fail me in this. We shall speak again soon.

At the bottom of the page there was a request that Severus prepare several potions to bring to the next meeting. They were primarily strength and nourishment potions though there were others with more sinister functions. Severus stared off into space for a moment considering. Then he shook himself out of his reverie and retrieved the hidden mirror to contact Albus.

Harry meanwhile, had long since calmed down and was considering what to do. Snape’s words stung, especially since Harry thought it was rather a lucky thing he had forgotten to occlude his mind; it meant Voldemort didn’t know yet that he could. Harry decided to write a letter to Remus to ask how they would be able to hide his new abilities when Voldemort realized that Harry wasn’t going to join him. As he approached the end of the letter Harry paused. After a little thought he mentioned that the truce had apparently been dissolved. Then he closed and blew on the ink to dry it before folding and sealing the letter and sending it off with Hedwig.

After he watched his owl fly away Harry turned back to his room and looked around. That headache was still lingering a bit so Harry decided to play a few games of solitaire. That wasn’t particularly mentally strenuous and it would kill the time until dinner.

Harry was beginning to think time at the Snape House had slowed down just to spite him when he finally looked at the clock and saw that it indicated dinnertime. Impatiently he raced down the stairs and into the dining room where mouth-watering aromas indicated that Cinder had once again out-done herself.

Snape, who swept in a few moments later, said, “Professor Dumbledore will be by to speak to you tomorrow,” in a very neutral voice. Harry nodded curiously as he began serving himself. Snape followed suit and the meal proceeded silently.

In a darkened room a skeletally thin man sat before a fire with an enormous snake curled at his feet. The man’s elbows were propped on the arms of the chair and his fingers were steepled contemplatively in front of him.

He had left Severus Snape and Harry Potter alone for some time. He had hoped that time would allow Harry to become enamored of the Dark Arts, but his contact with the brat indicated that, so far at least, that was not the case. It was most disappointing but perhaps only to be expected.

Severus had never liked the boy or treated him well. Abrupt changes in this behavior would arouse suspicion. He had thought Severus was capable of subtlety, but Severus was not a man who understood emotions well enough to play them appropriately. Perhaps it was no great surprise that his potions master had shown such little progress. It might even be that something within the whelp prevented too much Darkness.

Not that any of that would excuse Severus from punishment, of course. No, he would wait to see how Severus would report at the next meeting, and then he could decide on an appropriate course of action. Severus’s potioning skills were indispensable, but perhaps his time as a free agent was limited.

Harry woke on Tuesday with a sense of anticipation. He wasn’t sure when Dumbledore was coming that day, but he hoped it was soon. With Snape being as mean as ever Harry had no one to talk to and felt more isolated than ever.

Harry ate hurriedly at breakfast but found himself lingering at the table. He got up and walked up and down the halls for a while, then found his way back to the dining room for lunch. After lunch he went back up to his room. Obviously the professor wasn’t coming until later, so in the meantime he might as well do something useful. Harry picked up his potions text and forced himself to read through the last three chapters. He didn’t absorb much but it got him to dinnertime. Maybe he’d pick it up subconsciously somehow.

Harry was pushing the food around on his plate and ignoring the glares Snape was shooting at him when Albus Dumbledore once again startled them by walking into the room unannounced. “Good evening,” the white haired wizard said as he pulled out a chair.

“I’ll be in my study if you need me, headmaster,” Severus said abruptly as he stood.

“I’ll come with you,” said Remus as he arrived in the doorway. “I wanted to talk to you anyway.” Snape scowled and pushed past him. “Harry,” Lupin nodded before turning to follow the dark wizard.

“I see things aren’t going as smoothly as they once were,” Dumbledore noted as he peered at Harry over his glasses.

“No,” Harry said with a scowl, “he got a letter from Voldemort one night and he hasn’t been the same since.”

“Oh?” the old wizard asked, tilting his head a little.

“He’s been mean again, acting like he hates me. I liked it better the other way. I wish,” Harry stopped and shook his head.

“What do you wish?”

“I don’t know,” Harry sighed. “I guess I just wish I were like everyone else.”

“Everyone wishes they were like everyone else but no one ever is.”

“That’s not very encouraging, Professor.”

“Remus is having a word with Severus, but I feel this is a good sign.”

“How can this be good?” Harry exclaimed. Dumbledore just twinkled at him. Harry sighed explosively and threw himself back in his chair. “Professor,” Harry began after a moment.

“Yes, Harry?”

“If I only spent one night with my aunt and uncle, do I still have the protection from my mother’s blood?”

The twinkle in the blue eyes faded a little and Dumbledore said, “No, I’m afraid not.”

“But I need that protection, right? What am I going to do?”

“Your relatives got home today. I’m afraid that to renew the magic you’ll have to go back and stay with them for a while.”

“When do I have to go?”

“The last week before school starts should be sufficient.”

“Right,” Harry said forlornly. “Well, it is only a week, I guess.”

“This isn’t the way anyone wanted it to be, Harry, least of all me. I had hoped you could be happy with your aunt. I will speak with her before you go back.”

“Thanks, Professor.”

“I only wish I could do more, my boy. In the meantime, I have these letters, which I believe are from your friends.”

“Really?” Harry asked, perking up.

“Yes. I believe they mention your plans for Diagon Alley, though I could be mistaken.”

“Wow, thanks!”

“Certainly, Harry,” Dumbledore smiled at the boy who was already flipping through the envelopes he’d been handed. There was one from Hermione, one from Ginny, one from Ron, and one from Mrs. Weasley.

“What’s this?” Harry asked, holding up the last letter.

“Molly had a few things she wanted to say to you before you went back, and she wasn’t certain there would be time at Diagon Alley.”

“Ah,” Harry said, turning back to examining the envelopes.

As Harry and Albus were sitting in the dining room Severus and Remus were closeted in the study. “I know you are trying to protect him, Severus,” Remus said without preamble, “but that is one very hurt young man you’ve got sitting at your dining room table.”

“What?” Snape started inelegantly.

“Harry,” the werewolf replied sharply. “You’ve hurt him, Severus.”

“No I haven’t,” Snape protested, “I’ve saved him.”

“From what?”

“Myself.”

Remus sighed and sank down into a chair. Although he was the one sitting behind the desk, and across from one of his classmates, Severus felt like a child about to be disciplined.

“Let me see if I can tell you what happened, shall I, Severus? You were getting along with Harry. You liked it and it frightened you. The first night you got that letter from Voldemort you saw your chance to destroy the thing that scared you. Turn Harry against you and you could crawl back into your shell and say that you had good reason; wasn’t it Harry’s fault he let you go?

“At the same time, you could say you did it for him. You told yourself that when you received the letter you realized what you were and that Harry shouldn’t be anywhere near you.”

“And is that not so?” Snape interrupted angrily. “Why should the hope of the light reside with one blighted by darkness?”

“The healthy have no need of the mediwizard, Severus, that is the province of the ill.”

“And so? What would you know about it?”

Remus laughed grimly before replying. “Really, Severus, I should have thought that would be the one thing you would never forget. Even the kindliest werewolf is counted a Dark creature.”

“Even if what you say is true, what’s done is done, there is no undoing it.”

“That, Severus,” Remus said as he smiled for the first time since entering the room, “is where you are wrong.”

“Harry would never forgive this,” Snape said flatly.

“I think he would,” Lupin contradicted. “But, Severus,” he continued firmly, “you will have to explain yourself. And you will need to apologize.”

“I will need to give this some thought,” Snape said reluctantly.

“Of course think about it, but you will need to do something before Harry leaves. Otherwise he might well not forgive you. And his hurt may well turn to hate in time.” Severus nodded to show that he had heard. “Right. I’m going to go and say goodbye to Harry.” Severus simply nodded again as Remus left and a few seconds later stood up to follow him.

The werewolf walked purposefully to the dining room. As he entered he heard Harry ask the same question that had been in his letter. “How will we keep Voldemort from knowing that I’m becoming an Occlumens? He can’t find out now or he’ll know Snape taught me that instead of the Dark Arts he was supposed to.”

“Remus, I believe you mentioned some ideas on that,” Dumbledore said, startling Harry, who sat with his back to the door.

“I do, Headmaster. I think we should tell him.”

“What?” Harry squawked. “Remus, have you lost your mind?”

“I don’t think so,” Lupin replied cheerfully, with amusement dancing in his eyes.

“Why would we tell Voldemort something we want kept secret?” Harry questioned, shock and confusion evident in his manner.

“We’re not sending him an owl announcing it, Harry. We’re going to have Severus leak the information.”

“Why?” Harry obviously still didn’t understand.

“If we have Severus include it in a report then He doesn’t know we know he knows. And we control what he knows about it.”

Understanding was beginning to dawn on Harry’s face. “So if we say someone else taught me Voldemort’ll think that Snape is just spying on us like he’s supposed to.”

“Exactly,” Remus beamed at him.

“So who do we say told me? I haven’t spent much time with anyone but Professor Snape.”

“I could say Lupin gave you the book while he was staying here.” Severus suggested from the doorway. “I would have had to leave you alone with him most of the time to avoid arousing suspicion.”

“That makes sense,” Harry nodded pensively after he had recovered.

“Then we are agreed?” Dumbledore asked. When the other three affirmed that he gave his own nod. “Severus, the next time you are called on to report you will reveal this shocking discovery. Say perhaps that Harry isn’t very good yet but is improving. I’ll leave the details to you; you’ll know what you need to say.” Snape nodded soberly.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore clapped his hands together. “On that note I think we’d better be going, Remus. We don’t want to overstay our welcome.” The old mage was twinkling full force.

“Yes, Headmaster. Harry,” he turned to the youth and smiled fondly, “I’ll see you soon. Severus,” Lupin followed the Headmaster out of the dining room and both left the same way they had come.

After they left Snape regarded Harry with slightly narrowed eyes then turned and walked away without a word. “Goodnight to you, too,” Harry grumbled as he gathered his letters, which he had yet to open, and headed for his bedroom.

The next morning Harry performed flawlessly throughout his occlumency practice. It exhausted the boy-wizard, but not once was his teacher able to gain any reliable impression of his thoughts or emotions. Harry left the tutoring session hoping for a nap before lunch. Severus left filled with a pride in his student that he dared not show even the slightest hint of. Contact with his own mentor, he determined, was in order.

Later that afternoon, after several exercises intended to calm himself so that he would betray no emotion, Severus used the mirror to call on Albus. “Severus, what a delightful surprise,” Albus exclaimed when he saw him. “How are you?”

“Well, Headmaster, but I have news.”

“Yes, what is it? Though I had hoped you just wanted to talk to me,” Albus teased gently.

“I thought you would want to know, Potter just completed his first perfect occlumency session.”

Dumbledore’s face lit up. “Yes, that is good news. Thank you, Severus.”

“Certainly. Albus,” he paused. “Lupin said, last night,” he stumbled.

“Severus, whatever Remus said last night, I’m almost certain was true and justified. I talked to him quite a lot yesterday before I let him at you.”

Snape compressed his lips, “I see.”

With a small sigh Dumbledore asked, “What is it, Severus?”

“It would seem that I have made a mistake,” he answered slowly. “I’m not sure how to rectify that.”

“Explain it,” Albus said gently, “apologize for it. He doesn’t understand, and he very much wants to.”

“I see.”

“Think about it,” the old mage advised before he disappeared. Severus stared broodingly at the mirror.

Severus spent the rest of the afternoon holed up in his study contemplating the situation he had created. To a certain extent, he decided, Lupin had been right. It had frightened him, the way he and Harry had been getting on. He hadn’t allowed anyone to get that close to him, or to mean that much to him, since long before he had become a spy.

On the other hand, he found himself missing Harry. They were still in the same house, but it seemed that they were worlds apart. A tiny part of him worried that, without the tutoring in potions, Harry wouldn’t be ready for the advanced class in the fall.

That surprised him, not only had he still been subconsciously planning to give Harry the spot, he genuinely wanted him to do well in the class. Then again, he thought, attempting to justify those feelings, who would make a better auror than Harry Potter. The attempt failed and he knew it, thought he chose not to examine it too closely.

Snape’s thoughts continued in this track for some time. Eventually he concluded that he missed the relationship he had shared with Harry, he missed having someone look up to him and liking him for who he was, and he should try to get it back. The only thing left to do was try and work out how he was going to get through apologizing to a boy less than half his age.

Harry, after a nap and lunch, found himself in his room looking about for something to do. Four envelopes on the dresser caught his eye, and he suddenly remembered that he had not yet read the letters that the headmaster had brought him the evening before.

The first three were from his friends and assured him that they would meet him at Diagon Alley. The final letter was from Mrs. Weasley and began by wishing him a pleasant summer and expressing several motherly sentiments. Toward the end she told him that a few days after he left she had gone back to Privet Drive and surreptitiously cast a few charms that would take care of the general lawn keeping. She also mentioned that Professor Dumbledore had written to his aunt and expected to call on her very soon.

Harry put the letter down with a sense of relief and the vague hope that perhaps the Dursleys might get a little of what was coming to them. He wondered what his Aunt Petunia had said when she came home to an empty house and a well-kept garden. He wondered if she would realize it was magic, and, if so, what she would do about it.

Harry pensively gathered his potioning kit and books and crept down to his lab. It wouldn’t do at all for Snape to catch him, especially now that he had fallen from grace.

Friday morning’s Occlumency lesson went as well as Wednesday’s had, and Harry wasn’t anywhere near as tired afterward as he had been. He was beginning to feel that, with practice, he could become rather good at this particular magic. Severus said as little as possible and went back to ignoring Harry immediately following the practice.

It was after they had both retired for the evening that the burning came. The Dark Lord was calling again, and Severus duly made his way to the apparation point and went to his master’s side. When Severus arrived at the meeting place he knelt to Voldemort and took his place in the circle. The others’ reports were heard and punishment or, more rarely, praise, was meted out according to the Dark Lord’s whim. Severus was called upon last.

“Sseverusss, what newsss have you for me?”

It was, Snape reflected, one of the most dangerous questions he had ever heard, and it did not become easier to answer with repetition. “I have just discovered, my lord, that the werewolf, Lupin, gave Potter a book on Occlumency. The boy seems to have some natural talent for it.”

“Crucio.”

What seemed to be a very long time later, Voldemort lifted the curse and said, “What other newsss have you?”

“Potter will be returning to his relatives in a few days.”

“I ssee,” Voldemort hissed softly. “I don’t ssuppossse you know where hisss relativesss are?”

“I have not yet discovered that secret, my lord.”

“Crucio.”

At last Riddle ended the curse and said, “Do you have anything to redeem yoursself, Sseverusss?”

“Apparently Potter is very restricted at his Aunt’s home. He will not respond favorably to that, I think. Especially if he thinks he would be indulged elsewhere.”

“Ssuch asss with you, perhapsss?” Voldemort inquired with a smirk. “Excellent. Ssee that he leavesss you on good termsss, my Sseverusss,” he instructed in a voice filled with casual menace.

“Yes, my lord,” Snape replied with a bow.

“And Sseverusss, ssee that you don’t alienate him when you return to sschool, but don’t give yoursself away, either. It will be good to have him trusst you; it may provide usss with certain opportunitiesss we might otherwisse not have.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And Sseverusss,”

“Yes, my lord?”

“I’m watching you.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Voldemort issued a few other instructions and shortly after the meeting broke up.

Severus noticed, while walking down the hall to his rooms, that there was no light under Harry’s door. Cautiously he pushed open the door and peered inside. He had intended only to ensure that Harry was sleeping soundly, but his plans were changed when Harry sat up and said, “Professor?”

“Yes.”

“Is anything wrong?” Harry whispered.

“Nothing new,” Snape remarked dryly. “Go to sleep.”

Harry nodded absently, lay back down, and was asleep in moments. Severus watched a little longer before continuing on to his own room and slipping into bed.

Severus woke up on Saturday and thought back to the meeting of the night before. He needed to report to the Headmaster. He rolled over and sat up, or rather, he tried to. He had completely forgotten to take any pain reducing potions the night before and the two cruciatus curses from the meeting had caught up with him. Severus was by no means an old man, but even he had trouble recovering from that particular spell. Snape mumbled a curse as he collapsed back against his pillows. Severus attempted another stretch and sighed when he had to stop in mid-motion.

Reluctantly he resettled himself and stared up at the ceiling. Well, as long as I’m temporarily incapacitated, he decided, I may as well figure out what I’m going to do about Harry Potter.

He had been ordered to make nice with him by the Dark Lord, who, thankfully, did not know there had been a falling out. Dumbledore felt he should apologize. And, he realized, he agreed. Somehow he had become fond of Harry, which had probably been the Headmaster’s plan all along. Surprisingly, that didn’t rankle as much as it should have.

Severus was very hungry, and lying about in his clothes wasn’t at all comfortable. He gave another sigh that turned into a half-strangled yelp when he heard a knock at the door.

Harry had awakened after his usual Saturday morning lie-in and gone to breakfast. He hadn’t been at all expecting to see Snape, but he thought it rather odd not to have heard from him at all. He hadn’t even heard any footsteps, for Merlin’s sake! Though it wasn’t so much the actual footfalls one heard with Snape, it was more the creak of floorboards and occasional murmurs from portraits. It made Harry very curious, but, mindful of Snape’s injunction against sticking his nose where it wasn’t wanted, he went about his own pursuits.

By lunchtime, Harry began rethinking that course of action. It had been rather curious when Snape had checked in on him the night before. And his scar had burned before Snape appeared, which led him to the conclusion that there had been a meeting the night before and he hadn’t seen it.

Harry allowed himself to bask in the novelty of that thought for a minute before he realized that it meant he didn’t know if Snape had been crucio’d or not. At any rate, Harry decided at length, it wouldn’t hurt to walk past Snape’s room, just to see if he was there, though why he cared, he had no idea.

The door to Snape’s chambers was, as expected, closed. For a moment Harry considered opening the door but concluded that knocking would be more prudent. There was a small noise behind the door. After a slight pause, Harry knocked again and this time heard, “Enter!”

A moment of surprise later, Harry turned the doorknob and went in. “Professor?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

“Bloody marvelous,” Severus replied a trifle sourly. “Make yourself useful, Potter, and hand me that vial on the shelf.”

“This turquoise one?” Harry asked, picking up the vial in question and holding it out.

“Yes, hand it here,” Snape said impatiently.

Harry extended his arm then stopped, a thoughtful gleam in his eye. “Are you in a lot of pain?” he inquired.

“No, I’m having loads of fun,” Severus said sarcastically.

“Oh good,” Harry cut in before he could continue, “then you won’t mind answering a question I have.”

“Potter,” he growled.

“Why did you suddenly decide I wasn’t worth you time again? Did I do something? Or was it that letter from Voldemort?”

Severus closed his eyes and ground his teeth. The boy would choose the most inopportune moment to let his Slytherin side show. On the other hand, it did provide an interesting opportunity. He tilted his head to look at Harry and said, “Give me the potion, and I’ll tell you.”

Harry frowned. There was no way Snape was going to tell him after he’d gotten the potion he wanted. Then again, the man was also perfectly capable of holding out on him, even without the potion. Finally, Harry handed over the bottle with a scowl. “Why prolong the inevitable?” he asked bitterly and turned away.

Snape’s voice stopped him before he actually managed to get out the door. “If you think I’m going to shout through the house to satisfy your curiosity, you’re more of a dunderhead than I thought.”

Harry turned back to see his professor grimacing at the taste of the potion. “You don’t even make you own potions taste good?” Harry asked with a sneer.

“Efficacy, not taste, is the important factor in potions brewing. Unfortunately, no one else seems to be capable of grasping that concept.” With a stretch and a sigh of relief, Severus sat up. He looked at Harry for a moment then said, “You might as well sit down, I suppose. This is likely to take a while.” Harry wordlessly acquiesced, perching at the foot of the bed with his back resting against the foot board. “It wasn’t anything in particular that you did, and I didn’t exactly write you off.”

“Could have fooled me,” Harry remarked to the ceiling.

“If you interrupt, this is going to take forever, and I suspect you may wish to eat again at some point.”

“And you don’t?” Harry asked impishly.

Severus glared at him a moment before continuing. “The letter I received, which, incidentally, was from the Dark Lord, served to remind me that I am hardly the sort of person that you should befriend. Certainly anyone with any ounce of sanity would disapprove.”

“Dumbledore approves.”

“Note that I said an ounce of sanity.”

“Er, right, that does let him out, doesn’t it?” Harry said with a fond smile. “So what changed your mind?”

“Who says I’ve changed my mind?” Snape asked sharply.

“You’re talking to me, aren’t you?”

“Humph. Well, it was pointed out to me that it wouldn’t hurt and might actually be beneficial to continue our relationship.” Was that pain he saw in the boy’s face?

“Oh, I see,” Harry exclaimed, “You’ve been ordered to make up with me. Which was it, Dumbledore or Voldemort? Or was it both?” Harry laughed bitterly and continued, “Well, you needn’t do anything that’s too distasteful to you, Professor!” He stood up.

“Will you sit down and shut up?” Snape exclaimed in irritation. “I have no intention of doing anything ‘too distasteful.’ The fact that I have strict instructions not to alienate you has never stopped me before. I wouldn’t be doing this at all if I didn’t...regret the way I behaved.”

Harry sat back down as though his legs could no longer support him. “You needn’t look so surprised, I am not entirely heartless,” Severus scowled at him.

“No, it’s not—I mean—I just,” Harry stammered before gaping at him again.

“You just what?”

“I just wasn’t expecting this, I guess,” Harry replied slowly. “Not many people like me for just me, especially when they hated my father first.”

“Please, everyone loves you and you know it,” Snape rolled his eyes.

“I have my doubts,” Harry countered, “but now that we’re speaking again I don’t really feel like arguing about it.” Severus raised his eyebrow but did not reply. “Are you feeling better now?”

“Yes.”

“Good. It’s only a few hours until dinner,” Harry stood. “I’ll meet you in the dining room,” he said before exiting.

It was a bit longer to dinner than Harry realized, and Severus had plenty of time to get cleaned up and report to Dumbledore before he had to make his way to the dining room. He didn’t mention the fact that he and Harry had talked, but the Headmaster seemed to know anyway.

Harry was feeling very bewildered. He found himself sitting on his bed staring out the window. He had been furious with Snape, but he was slowly beginning to realize that he wasn’t as much anymore. He was a little hurt, but Snape’s explanation went a long way to soothing that pain. Harry slowly realized that over the last few weeks he had come to respect and look up to his snarky, cranky professor.

In a way he supposed it was odd that he was so willing to accept care from a man who had made his life miserable for so long, but he found he didn’t mind so much, and, he reasoned, it wasn’t horribly different from discovering that the man you thought had betrayed your parents was your godfather.

When dinnertime came, Harry was feeling better, but he was still a little off balance. At dinner, the conversation was stilted, despite the best efforts of both Harry and Severus. When Snape asked what he’d been doing for the last few days, Harry heard himself answering “nothing much,” in a bland tone. Somehow he could not bring himself to tell Snape that he had been practicing potions. Severus knew by Harry’s tone that there was something the boy wasn’t telling him, and it hurt. He told himself that he was lucky the youth was talking to him at all and that he should be grateful, but it didn’t ameliorate the pain.

When Severus and Harry ran into each other again at lunch the next day there was awkward silence. Finally, however, Harry broke the ice by saying, “So, when Voldemort said you should be nice to me and all,” he paused and saw that Snape was regarding him intently, “did he say anything about when we go back to Hogwarts?” It had occurred to him during the tossing and turning of the night before that all of this might be an act and that the return to school might herald a return to the chilly and ridiculing behavior of before.

Severus, despite Harry’s best efforts at indifference, saw that this worried Harry and that the basis of all future interactions between them would be laid by his response. “I am not supposed to raise suspicion too much. I think I can afford to be less scathing than usual, and of course I will make arrangements to talk to you, should you so desire,” he responded carefully. Severus was relieved to see that Harry looked reassured by this. Now that he had secured his second chance, he was determined not to bungle it, particularly since he was even less used to having people like him than Harry.

“Is there anything in particular that you would like to do today?” Severus asked a few minutes later.

“Not really. What do you normally do?”

“Double check the labeling on the potions I brewed for Poppy Pomfrey.”

“You could do that, if you want. Do you want any help?”

“I suppose I could use a little.”

“Okay.”

Harry and Severus worked all the rest of that day sorting, labeling, and boxing all the vials Severus had filled with brightly colored potions for the hospital wing. Whenever there was an opening, Severus told Harry how each potion should be stored, whether in light or darkness and at what temperature, and how long it would last before losing potency. Harry tried to absorb as much as possible, but it was difficult to keep the temperature ranges and shelve lives straight when there were so many different potions. He finally resigned himself to remembering what he could and hoping to learn the rest later.

On Monday morning Harry went to his last Occlumency session of the summer. He performed even better than he had before, and Severus smiled a little at him when the clock signaled the end of the lesson. “You’ve made a great deal of progress. I have never had a student who learned this so quickly.” More than anything, Severus wanted to say that he was proud of Harry, but he wasn’t sure how that would be received.

Harry had seen something very like the smile Snape was giving him once on Uncle Vernon’s face when he heard that Dudley had won a boxing championship. Harry examined the expression more closely and decided that, despite the fact that there was only a slight twist of the lips, it was pride shining out of Snape’s eyes. Harry grinned back at him, basking in the feeling that he had done something right enough to get his dour professor’s approval.

“Since I had your help yesterday, I finished much sooner than usual. If you like, you could go flying this afternoon.”

“I’d like that,” Harry said. “You don’t have a quaffle or anything, do you?” he continued impulsively.

“Yes,” Severus said slowly, “Why? You don’t think I am going to let the Gryffindor seeker practice with my snitch do you?”

“No, and I may not even be the seeker...” Harry trailed off before shaking his head. “I thought we could play catch or something. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to,” he finished when he saw disbelief appear on Snape’s face.

Here it was, handed to him on a golden platter, the chance to show Harry how he felt, how proud of him he was and how happy that he had gotten a chance to try again. “Get your broom,” Severus said with the beginning of a wicked grin, “and prepare to have your tail kicked.” Harry smiled big enough to split his face before he tore out of the basement and up to his room.

They stayed out until they were both late for dinner and came in arguing fiercely but good naturedly about who had gotten the most catches and drops. The discussion ended with dinner and the consensus that it had been a tie, even though truthfully Harry had won. Just before he left the dining room Severus reminded him not to stay up too late; they were going to Diagon Alley and “I don’t want to have to go hunting through all the grates because you can’t keep your eyes open long enough to get out at the right one.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry said cheekily before returning to his room. He placed his broom on his trunk and lay down on his bed intending to think, but he was asleep in moments.

Harry woke up the next morning with the dim impression that he had been trying to do something and been unable to. When he couldn’t remember what it was he had been trying to do, he decided he must have been dreaming and climbed out of bed to set about getting ready to leave for Diagon Alley. He was early to breakfast and looked up from his toast and eggs when Snape walked in.

“Anxious to leave?” the tall wizard asked.

Harry shook his head, “Just to see my friends.”

“How long will take you to pack up?”

“Not long, I really don’t have that much out,” Harry replied frowning slightly. They lapsed into silence while finishing breakfast. When they finished Harry stood and politely said, “Excuse me,” before running up the stairs at Snape’s nod.

Harry pulled on his cloak and shoved his booklist and wand into his pockets. Severus was waiting for him in the hall outside the library. “Come along,” he said as he led Harry into the room and handed him a canister of ash-like powder. “I presume you have flooed before?” Snape said with a quirk of the lip and eyebrow.

“Yes,” Harry said with a faint smile. He stepped into the fireplace and said very clearly, “Diagon Alley,” before throwing the powder downward. In a whoosh of green flame he was gone. Severus took a deep breath before following him.

Harry stumbled out of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron and began trying to knock the soot off his clothing. Snape stepped gracefully out behind him without a speck of dirt on his robes and Harry sighed with envy. At least he hadn’t fallen or broken his glasses this time.

“Where are your friends?” Snape asked softly.

“I’m not sure, maybe at Florean Fortescue’s, or, or somewhere,” he had been going to say ‘at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes,’ but he wasn’t sure if the professor knew about it or not, and if he didn’t Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to be the one to tell him. “I need to go to Gringott’s,” Harry mentioned, “so we could look for them after.” Snape nodded and the unlikely pair strode into the goblin-run bank. Forty-five minutes and a wild cart-ride later they walked out and down the alley toward Fortescue’s ice cream parlor.

They hadn’t gone very far before they met the Weasley party and Harry disappeared into a flurry of greetings and hugs from Hermione, Ginny, and Mrs. Weasley.

“You lot run along now and we’ll meet you at Florean Fortescue’s in an hour,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Okay,”s and “Yes, mum,”s were heard as the group of teens moved off.

“Harry’s looking much better now,” Molly commented to Severus as they watched the students walk away.

“Yes,” Severus paused for a long time before saying, “Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”

“I told you as much as I thought you’d listen to,” the red-head responded.

“Molly Weasley, how practically Slytherin, they may kick you out of Gryffindor for that.”

“Severus,” Molly exclaimed, “who told you I was in Gryffindor?” Severus just stared at her. Molly smiled at him as she said, “I need to pick up a few things while I’m here; shall I meet you with the children?” Severus nodded and swept off.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were wandering down the street arguing about where to go first. Ron was set on going to visit the twins before buying their school things so that they didn’t have to carry their books around with them. Hermione was equally insistent that they go to the bookstore and apothecary first to get them out of the way. Harry and Ginny shared an amused look as the two continued to bicker.

As they were passing Ollivander’s wand shop they met Neville. “Hello,” he greeted them brightly.

“Hello, Neville, what are you up to?” Harry asked.

“Just buying a new wand for school. I think this year will be a bit better, now I’ve got my own wand, and now that I don’t need to take potions anymore.”

“I know, isn’t it terrific?” Ron said, “No more Snape.”

Neville nodded enthusiastically before Hermione asked, “Was your grandmother very upset about you other wand?”

“She was at first,” Neville replied, “but after I told her the whole story she didn’t mind as much. I think she might even be a little proud of me.”

“That’s great,” Harry said, smiling at the other boy.

“Luna Lovegood is here, too, have you seen her yet?” Neville asked.

“No, not yet,” Ginny replied.

“I think she was headed to Flourish and Blott’s, but I’m not quite sure.”

“We were just going to run into the apothecary before we went to the bookshop, but maybe we’ll meet her,” Hermione said.

At this moment Neville’s grandmother walked out of Ollivander’s shop. The vulture on top of her hat looked even more moth-eaten than the last time Harry had seen it. “Neville,” she called, looking about for him.

“Got to run, see you all on the train. Coming, Gran!” he hurried off through the crowd.

“Just going to the apothecary!” Ron huffed, “We were just going to see the twins!”

“Don’t be silly, Ron, the apothecary will take two seconds. If you don’t want to go, just go into Flourish and Blott’s and we’ll meet you there.” Ron rolled his eyes and mumbled under his breath, but went into the apothecary all the same, for which Harry was grateful because he needed to refill his potions stores and didn’t fancy trying to come up with a good reason to do that when he hadn’t gotten the right potions OWL.

Harry tried to wander away from the group to buy what he needed, but once in the shop Ron seemed not to want to leave his side. Finally Harry just went ahead and made his purchase in front of Ron.

“What are you doing? You don’t have potions, do you?” Ron exclaimed.

“No, but you never know when it’ll come in handy, right, and Hermione will have a fit if we’re always using her kit.”

“That’s true enough,” Ron said thoughtfully, “maybe I’ll buy a bit myself. ‘Sides, if you want to be an auror you should know that stuff, right?”

After Ginny and Hermione had finished the quartet made their way across the alley to the bookstore. There they split up with the agreement to meet just outside when they were finished.

Harry had gotten the rest of his books when he headed over to the potions section. He was relieved to see that Hermione was the only one in the aisle he wanted. “Hello, Harry,” she greeted him. “Did you get advanced potions too?”

“Er, no,” Harry admitted. “But I was wondering, do I have to take the class to sit the test?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Hermione answered in some confusion. “Why do you ask?”

“Well,” Harry took a deep breath, “I really want to become an auror, and I need potions for that. So, I was wondering,” he paused, “I was wondering if you could help me do an independent study. I’ll get the book and do all the work,” he assured her, seeing that she looked skeptical, “I just wanted to borrow your notes occasionally, and I thought,” he trailed off.

“I’m not sure I’m really the person you should ask, Harry. What about Professor Snape, have you talked to him about it?”

Harry shook his head, “You know he wouldn’t let me in his class, ‘Mione, I didn’t get a good enough OWL, and he can’t set up a special class just for me, right?” He could see she was beginning to be convinced despite her better judgment. “Besides, they say the best way to learn anything is to teach it,” he added.

“I suppose...”

“Thanks, Hermione! You’re the best!” Harry exclaimed jubilantly. She gave him a half-smile as they turned back to the stacks in front of them.

After visiting the apothecary on Diagon Alley and another, less savory, one on Knockturn Alley, Severus stepped into the bookstore. He wandered about for a bit before making his way to the potions section. He was quietly browsing when he heard voices.

The Granger-girl and Harry were talking in the next aisle. He listened carefully. So, Harry wanted to keep studying potions, eh? Well, if he was prepared to do it on his own then he definitely needed to offer the boy a spot in his class. Advanced potions were often difficult and it was downright dangerous to attempt some of them without proper supervision. Fleetingly, as the conversation ended, Severus wondered if this was what Harry hadn’t told him, but he quickly pushed the thought aside with contemplations of how he could get Harry into his class without raising suspicions.

While Severus was plotting the others were paying for their books at the counter. When they were all checked out, the four students made their way to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. The store was a bit smaller than its immediate neighbors, but every possible inch of space was used to display the things Fred and George had invented. Harry spotted trick wands, fireworks, skiving snack boxes, and disappearing hats among the myriad other items. Judging by the fair crowd in the store the twins were doing a brisk business. Harry was unsurprised to see Lee Jordan in the store as well.

The moment Lee caught sight of them he shouted to the twins. “Hallo!” called one of the red-headed look-alikes.

“Never thought to see you in here, Hermione!” the other said cheekily.

“Ron wanted to come in,” she said with a shrug.

“And you didn’t, I’m hurt!”

“I guess business really is going well then,” Harry commented to George.

“Absolutely!” George told him.

“We’re very disappointed that you never sent for anything, Harry,” Fred told him with mock severity.

“Yes, well, I did think about asking for a portable swamp to set off in the dining room, but as I actually had to eat there too,” he trailed off with a shrug.

“Next time then, I suppose.”

“Speaking of the bat, what’s his house like?” Ron asked curiously. “Was there Dark Arts stuff everywhere?”

“Not in the places I was allowed,” Harry said. “The whole place felt a bit like Grimmauld Place, really. Sort of abandoned and empty.”

“Was Snape awful?” Ginny asked.

“No worse than usual,” Harry replied. He thought about adding that he was a good deal better some of the time, but didn’t on the grounds that they would never believe him.

“Tough luck, mate,” Ron attempted to console him before Hermione said, “As long as we are here we might as well look around before we’ve got to leave.”

“Yes,” the twins snapped into action, “You’ve got to see this new thing we’ve just finished,” and with that they led Harry and the others on a very thorough tour of the premises with lots of demonstrations. Harry was very impressed and said so. The twins replied that they couldn’t have done it without him. At this point Hermione mentioned that they had to be going if they were going to make it to Fortescue’s in time. A few moments and discounted purchases later, the group was on its way to the ice cream parlor.

They saw Mrs. Weasley waiting for them just outside, though there was no sign of Professor Snape. Mrs. Weasley had just finished making sure that they had got everything on their lists and was about to lead them in when a tall, blonde witch glided up with her son in tow. “Molly,” the witch said, “a word, please.”

“Yes, of course, Narcissa,” Mrs. Weasley said, looking more than a little surprised. “Why don’t you go inside?” she said, turning back to the parcel-laden students.

“Yes, you go, too, Draco. And do try not to get hexed this time,” Mrs. Malfoy said in a cool but slightly exasperated voice.

The five of them hurried inside with many backward glances and glares between Malfoy and the others. They took a table as close to the two older witches as they could, though it was still to far away to hear anything. All they could tell was that Mrs. Malfoy was slightly more animated than usual and whatever she was saying was agitating Mrs. Weasley. “Anybody got any extendables?” Ginny asked.

“No,” Ron said, I was going to buy some more but I forgot.”

“Extendable whats?” Draco asked, his ears perking up.

“Right, like we’re going to tell you anything,” Harry said.

“I know more than you think I do, Scarhead. Had a nice summer?” he sneered.

Harry wisely said nothing as he remembered his promise to Snape, but Hermione said, “Are you sure you want to pick a fight, Malfoy? Your mother did just say you should try not to get hexed again, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, I reckon she’s getting tired of undoing them all,” Ron cackle. Malfoy snarled but was silent. He looked as though he were trying to appear indifferent and above their pettiness, but he was failing abominably.

A few minutes later Molly and Narcissa walked over to the table. “Come, Draco,” his mother said, and the pair swept off imperiously. The Weasley matriarch took the chair Malfoy had just vacated and Florean himself walked up to take their orders.

When he had gone Ron asked, “What did she want, Mum?” Mrs. Weasley just shook her head and steadfastly resisted all their attempts to interrogate her. Eventually she turned red and snapped, “Just eat your ice cream!”

They had finished and paid before Severus reappeared. “All finished shopping?” he asked Harry coldly. Harry nodded. “Come along then. I’ve got to deliver you to your relatives.” Harry turned and said goodbye to his friends and was hugged by Mrs. Weasley. At last, however, he was ready to go and he and Snape returned to the Leaky Cauldron where they flooed back to the Manor.

When they arrived in the library Harry pulled his packages out of the fireplace and brushed himself off. He was just picking up all his packages when Severus stepped out and Harry hurried up to his room without a word. Severus frowned and followed him, albeit more slowly.

When he got to Harry’s room he found that the boy had washed up but changed into noticeably more ragged clothes than he had been wearing. Severus’s frown deepened as he watched the youth darting about the room. At last he offered, “I did not intend to hurt you; I merely wished to avoid a scene with your friends.”

Harry stopped and blinked at him. “It wasn’t that,” he said with a shake of his head. “I knew that was coming. I was just thinking, mostly.”

“Thinking about what?”

“Wondering what Narcissa Malfoy said to Mrs. Weasley, wondering what Aunt Petunia is going to say when I go back, and if they’re very angry with me, or just a little,” he paused before he admitted, “I don’t want to go back.”

“I know that,” Severus leaned against the doorframe. “I happen to know for a fact that Professor Dumbledore met with your aunt and had a long talk with her. If she is so foolish as to be angry with you for anything that happened this summer, I doubt anything will come of it. It is only a week,” he continued, “Where is your Gryffindor courage?”

“I think my sense of self-preservation has beaten it into submission,” Harry said straight-faced.

“That would be a first,” Snape commented with what might have been a smile. “A week isn’t that long. You may, if you like, owl me at any time.”

He said this with a sense of hesitance that revealed more than he would have liked, but Harry smiled at him. “I might take you up on that. This is your last chance to retract the offer.” Snape scowled at him, which made Harry laugh a little. “Right,” Harry said, turning back to his trunk. I think that’s everything.”

“You are dressed appropriately?”

“Yeah.”

“You haven’t left anything in the dining room or elsewhere?”

“Nope.”

“Alright then.”

“I’ll just let Hedwig go and then I’ll be ready.”

“I will take your trunk downstairs.”

“Thanks,” Harry said. “I’ll be down in just a minute.” Snape nodded as he levitated the trunk and left the room as Harry opened the window. “See you in Surrey, Hedwig,” he murmured as he carried the snowy owl to the window. He stood for a moment, watching her fly away, and then he picked up her cage, took one last look around the room, and walked down the stairs to meet his professor by the front door.

They walked silently to the wards at the edge of the property and Severus put his hand on Harry’s shoulder before apparating them into an alley near Privet Drive. Wordlessly Harry picked up one of the handles of his trunk and, after the swift application of a notice-me-not charm, they walked to number four.

When they found the house, which Severus sneered at, Snape knocked on the door and it was opened by Vernon Dursley. “Boy, you’re back,” he said nastily.

“Hello, Uncle Vernon,” Harry replied as neutrally as possible as he moved into the house. “Put your trunk in the cupboard, then go to your room,” Vernon said, eyeing Severus warily.

Harry did as he was told but walked up the stairs as slowly as possible. Aunt Petunia stood in the kitchen doorway glaring at him, so he hurried his pace a little. Harry reached the top of the stairs before anyone spoke, so he stepped into his room and looked around. It had always been disappointing since he had come back from Hogwarts the first time, but just now the let-down was worse than ever.

“Are you the one?” Aunt Petunia inquired archly.

“Which one?” Snape asked her with his own raised brow.

“The one who magicked my flowers!” she scowled at him.

“No, that was not I. I will point out, however, that Harry turns seventeen soon, and when he does he is no longer forbidden to do magic at home.” Vernon started swelling and had just opened his mouth when Snape continued, “Until then, he has several people looking out for him. You may have met the others,” he looked at them questioningly. Aunt Petunia nodded silently. “Then you know they are all formidable. I feel obligated to tell you, however, that while they are all nice people, I am not. You may ask your nephew if you don’t believe me.” He glared at them for a moment longer then walked up the stairs.

He knew the instant he saw the doors which room was Harry’s, and it drew a snarl from him, but he walked into the room as calmly as he could. “I am leaving now.”

“Did they say anything?” Harry asked, trying not to sound as anxious as he felt.

“Not really,” he smirked, “Especially when I pointed out that you come of age soon.”

“You didn’t,” Harry said pleadingly.

“I did. Owl if there are problems.”

“Now they’re likely to kick me out the moment I turn seventeen.”

“You will not be left with nowhere to go. The Weasleys will take you in, if nothing else. And you are welcome with me, though it is rather a last resort.”

“Thank you,” Harry said and Severus nodded and turned to leave.

A moment before he stepped out the door he turned back, “Did you remember to pick up a journal in Diagon Alley?” Harry flushed slightly and shook his head sheepishly. Severus withdrew a small, blue, cloth-bound book from his pocket. “Here.”

“I’ll see you in a week,” Harry said.

“A week,” Severus agreed.

With that the tall wizard left and Harry was left alone. Curiously, he did not feel as alone as he had at the beginning of the summer. Harry sat down on his bed clutching his new journal and Hedwig soared into the room and over to him. “Well, girl,” he whispered, “this is certainly going to be an interesting year.”

The End.
End Notes:

Well, that was it, the end. Hope you all liked it, I certainly enjoyed writing it. Thank you so much to everyone who read and reviewed, or even just read, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it! As always, please let me know what you think of this chapter, and thanks again!

MQW



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