Snape woke up the next morning after a surprisingly good night's sleep. He had been unable to sleep properly for so long, he had nearly forgotten what it felt like to wake up and feel refreshed.
His gaze drifted to the clock on his nightstand. It was still early in the morning, he could turn over and have a few more minutes of sleep. But now that his mind was awake, he knew sleep wouldn’t come. Snape held up his hands and looked at them critically. They were steady and the skin wasn’t burned. He hadn’t done too much damage this time. Black had made sure of that.
A sneer found its way to his face. Who would have thought he could have a civil conversation with the mutt? It had been a painful conversation, but somehow it was also relieving to finally give words to the thoughts that haunted him. Maybe this conversation was the reason that he had found some sleep that night? Snape shook his head and pushed the thought aside. Nonsense, conversations with Black tended to rob him of his peace of mind, not restore it.
The Potions Master got up. As he reached for his thick morning robe, he noticed cobwebs in the corners of his normally so meticulously kept bedroom. Dust had settled on his books. He retrieved his wand from the bedside table. How had he not noticed this before? A few muttered spells later and the room was fresh again, just how he liked it. Snape walked quietly into his living room, banishing dust and cobwebs as he went. A nice cup of coffee would be just what he needed now. It was still too early for breakfast, but he could use the time to come up with an idea how he could blackmail the mutt into silence. He should have obliviated him when he had the chance.
The ceiling of the great hall was blue this morning, mirroring the bright autumn day outside. The hall was filled with the chatter, munching and slurping of his schoolmates, but Harry only reluctantly dipped his spoon into his bowl. The porridge was lovely, like always, but somehow it tasted like cardboard to him. He forced himself to swallow it. His gaze drifted to the headtable where his teachers were sitting, sipping their coffees, and talking quietly among themselves. Well, not all of them, of course. Snape didn’t talk to anyone. He had his usual scowl on his face and his gaze scanned the students in front of him as if he was daring them to give him a reason to take points.
It looked as if the old Snape was back, as menacing as ever.
Harry wasn’t satisfied with that impression. What he had seen in his Professor’s eyes during their conversation after the incident in his last potions class had shook him to the core. Snape’s eyes had been dead as if the man had given up and his body was just an empty shell.
Harry shuddered and quickly looked back into his porridge bowl. Feeling sick, he pushed the bowl away. There was no way he could finish his breakfast with his stomach churning like this.
“Harry, mate, are you ok?” Ron, sitting opposite him at the long table, peered at him critically. Then his gaze fell on the half-eaten bowl of porridge. “Are you going to finish that?”
Harry shook his head and Ron took that as his cue to grab the bowl and finish what Harry had left.
Harry gave a quiet sigh of relief when his friend turned his attention back to food and didn’t question him further. Hermione wouldn’t have been distracted that easily, but she wasn’t there. She had said something about researching for an assignment and had left early to get to the library before their first lesson.
Double Potions. Again.
Scarping noises could be heard when the students around him got up and left for their lessons.
Harry gathered his courage and got up as well. “There’s no time like the present,” he told himself. If he wanted to talk to Snape, he would have to come up with something now.
He couldn’t imagine the man listening to him if he just went to his office or stopped him in the corridor. But he needed to talk to Snape, even if just to calm his worried mind. But how? Snape had to call Harry to him himself, otherwise he wouldn’t even listen to him. And what better reason would the Potions Master have to call Harry to his office than a detention?
Harry gulped, wondering if he had lost his mind without noticing. The Potions Master really was famous for coming up with the nastiest detentions. It would bring him to Snape’s office, though. Alone. And that was what he needed.
Students turned their heads to look at him and whispers followed him as Harry made his way to the dungeons that night. Someone thumped him on the back.
“Well done, mate!” It was one of the older students, Harry couldn’t remember his name. “Chin up! Show that greasy git what you think of him!”
Harry mumbled something under his breath and quickly walked around the next corner. Rumours about his potions lesson had spread like a fire through the school. Maybe he shouldn’t have called Snape an oversized bat. It would have been enough to let his cauldron explode. They were brewing a harmless potion. He had been drenched in it after the explosion and no harm was done. That would have earned him a detention, surely. But Harry had been so keen on getting a detention – he feared he had overdone it a bit. Inwardly he cringed when he recalled the murderous expression in his teacher’s glittering black eyes and the icy tone when he spoke to him.
“Detention, Potter. Report to my office tonight at 8pm sharp.”
He got his detention, but he had a feeling he would be stuck in the dungeons until curfew, maybe even past that. Well, it would give him enough time to come up with an idea of how to approach Snape. The Potions Master was probably still fuming even though hours had passed since their lesson. Would he even listen to Harry after his behaviour in class today?
A couple of ghosts floated by him and gave him the thumps up and a posh looking lady in a portrait winked at him as he passed her. Not even the ghosts or the portraits liked Snape. It made Harry feel even worse. He couldn’t have cared less a week ago, but now …
The closer he got to Snape’s office, the quieter the hallways got. No one, not even the Slytherins, dared to lurk here.
Harry reached the door that he had entered with dread so many times and lifted his hand to knock. Before he could do so, however, the door swung open by itself, revealing the office behind it.
Snape leaned against his desk, his arms folded over his chest. “Come in, Potter,” he said, a slight sneer creeping into his voice. “Postponing the inevitable has never worked in anyone’s favour. You are late already.”
Harry’s eyes darted towards the clock on the wall behind his teacher and really, it showed that he was ten minutes late. No way! Maybe he had taken his time coming here, but ten minutes? Snape must have set the clock to be fast.
“We’ll have to add those ten minutes to the end of your detention and another half an hour to make up for your tardiness. It seems you are going to stay here quite some time, Potter.” Snape’s dark eyes bored into him. “Come in, I said.”
Harry quickly stepped into the office.
The door swung shut behind him, causing a chilly gust of air to wash over him. Harry shuddered, cursing himself for his stupidity. What had he been thinking to get himself in a detention with Snape? The man was still angry, he could read it in his body language and he wasn’t a bit fooled by Snape’s calm demeanor. He had spent enough time in the man’s presence to know that a calm and angry Snape was worse than a snarling one.
Snape raised an eyebrow. “So, you finally found your voice again, Potter? For a moment I feared Filch’s nasty cat had gotten your tongue. Pity,” he turned away from Harry. “It would have been too good to have a silent Potter for once.”
Harry cleared his throat. There was nothing for it. The more time he spent here, the more time he had to lose his courage all together and not say anything. He figured it would be best to start with an apology, even if he suspected that the man wouldn’t accept it.
“Professor Snape,” he said, stepping forward a bit. “I wanted to …”
Snape whirled around and fixed him with one of his famous cold stares. “And why would I be interested in what the golden boy wants?”
“No!” Harry said quickly. “No, I meant to say – I … I want to apologize, sir.”
Snape’s eyebrow went up again and he opened his mouth to say something, but Harry quickly continued. “I’m really sorry for what I said this morning. I don’t know what had gotten into me, sir, and I … I’m sorry I said all those nasty things to you …”
Snape smirked. “My, my,” he said. “Who would have thought that I would ever hear an apology out of your mouth, Potter?” His face hardened. “Don’t believe for a second that this stammered apology will get you out of detention, boy,” he hissed. “If you know what’s good for you, you don’t try that again. Save your false apologies for those who are stupid enough to listen to them.”
“But …” Harry started to protest.
“Congratulations, Potter,” Snape sneered. “You just earned yourself an additional detention for trying to trick your way out of this one.”
Harry clenched his fists. He suddenly remembered why it was so easy to hate the Potions Master. Maybe he shouldn’t have been concerned. Snape seemed to be the same old git again.
Someone snickered behind him and Harry whirled around.
The Slytherin was kneeling in one corner of the office with his arms elbow-deep inside a slimy cauldron. Disgusting slime covered his robes. Nevertheless, an arrogant smirk was plastered all over his face when Harry gaped at him.
“You can join Mr. Malfoy in his task of cleaning those cauldrons,” Snape said behind him. A stack of crusty cauldrons, one worse than the next, leaned against the wall next to Malfoy.
Harry could have kicked himself. How could he have forgotten about Malfoy? The boy had gotten himself into detention for the rest of the week after he caused the explosion that nearly killed Snape.
Well, at least the Potions Master wasn’t going easy on the spoiled Prince of Slytherin. That was something to cherish in this whole damn situation. Harry walked over to the cauldrons, cursing himself and his luck. All of this was such a pointless waste of time. There was no way he would be able to talk to Snape with Malfoy present. He rolled up his sleeves, grabbed the cleaning supplies that stood next to the cauldrons and started on the most disgusting one. Snape hadn’t said anything about magic, but Harry had spent enough detentions here to know that using magic was out of the question.
He scrubbed away furiously, ignoring Malfoy’s whispered comments and focusing solely on his task at hand.
Maybe he had been worried for nothing. Snape seemed as evil as ever. Maybe he had imagined that defeated look in the man’s eyes after the explosion … Harry’s mind wandered back to their conversation that day and he shuddered. No, there was no way he imagined that. Something had been wrong with Snape and he wasn’t sure if that was all in the past now.
His musings were cut short by a sharp pain shooting though his scar. Harry flinched. The wire brush he had used to scrub the cauldron clattered to the ground. He felt Malfoy's eyes on him and gritted his teeth, suppressing the urge to press his hands to his forehead. He didn’t want to give Malfoy the satisfaction of seeing him in pain or give the Slytherin more reason to spread some Potty-is-possessed-rumours.
A quiet hiss could be heard from Snape’s desk and Harry’s eyes snapped up to his teacher.
Snape clutched his forearm and when he looked up, his gaze locked with Harry’s. For a moment, there was a silent understanding between them. They both knew what was going on. Harry couldn't know that Snape had returned from a Death Eater meeting only the day before and that a second one being called in so soon was never a good sign. He did know one thing, though, judging from the searing pain in his scar. Voldemort was angry.
Snape broke their eye-contact first. He released his arm and quickly stepped around his desk. Without a word, he walked through a door that led from his office to his private quarters. Harry's eyes stayed on the door that their teacher had left ajar. What would Snape do now? Would he get someone else to supervise their detention?
“What a lovely apology, Potty,” Malfoy hissed, making the best of the absence of their teacher, oblivious to what was really going on. “Oh Professor,” he said, his voice a high sing-song. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what got into me … Maybe the voices I keep hearing in the dark …”
“Stop it, Malfoy,” Harry grumbled, too occupied with his thoughts to get offended.
Malfoy snickered, but didn’t get a chance to answer as Snape stepped back into his office. He wore a long, thick traveling cloak. Harry was sure he wore his Death Eater robes underneath it and had the mask stuffed away in one of the many pockets.
“You’re lucky,” Snape said, his voice as cold and indifferent as ever. “It seems my presence is requested elsewhere. I can’t waste my time looking after you tonight. Get back to your dorms and be here tomorrow night at 7pm sharp to continue your detention.”
“But that’s an hour earlier than usual!” Malfoy called out. He quickly clapped his mouth shut, though, when Snape shot him a glare.
“You were saying, Mr. Malfoy?”
“Nothing, sir,” the boy mumbled and got to his feet.
“I thought so. Now leave, both of you.”
Malfoy didn’t need to be told twice. He hurried towards the door and with a quick “good night”, that was clearly only meant for Snape, he left.
Harry got to his feet as well, looking at Snape worriedly. “Sir …”
“Out of my office, Potter,” Snape snapped. “Now.”
Harry nodded. His Professor didn’t have any time to lose. He probably would be late for Voldemort’s meeting already. The boy quickly made his way to the door. When he pulled it open, he heard Snape’s footsteps behind him. The Professor left the office after him, pulling the door shut and muttering something under his breath, probably a charm that would seal his door.
Without so much as a glance in Harry’s direction, he turned around and strode down the dark corridor.
Harry glanced over his shoulder. When there was no sign of Malfoy or any other student, he looked back to Snape. “Good luck, Professor,” he whispered, not sure whether the man could still hear him.
Snape froze in his tracks. For a moment Harry thought he might turn around again, but then he just continued walking down the dark corridor. Harry followed him with his eyes until his teacher vanished around the next corner.