Chapter 1: Chapter One
Arc One: August
Chapter One: Awake
Date: July 5, 2011
Time: 10: 32 am
“I hope you don’t mind me doing this. Seeing as you’re currently unconscious I’d say you’re in no position to argue at the moment.”
There was a pause, then:
“I’m not supposed to be here right now, you know. Visiting hours at Mungo’s don’t start until eleven. I had to play up the ‘war hero’ bit with the girl at the front desk so I could get back here before the reporters could catch me.”
Green eyes covered with round glasses gave the unmoving body on the hospital bed a quick once over, lingering over the scarred neck, then turned sad. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived Twice, slumped in the uncomfortable plastic chair and sighed.
“When will you wake up, Professor Snape?”
Date: July 17, 2011
Time: 1:05 pm
Harry stared out the window to the busy street below. Muggles walked at a brisk pace past the Wizarding hospital St. Mungo’s, and it never ceased to amaze him how so many people could be so close to something so magical, but so far away at the same time.
“Hey, Professor Snape, do you ever wonder how many of them want to be like us? How many of them like to pretend they can do magic, thinking it isn’t real, but…here we are.”
Harry turned to look over his shoulder at the pale, black haired Potions Master. He didn’t move. Harry slowly crossed to his bedside and sat down.
“Professor Snape?” No answer. “Did you ever want to be like the Muggles and pretend nothing happened? I know I do, sometimes.”
Even though there was no answer, Harry could practically hear the derisive insults Professor Snape would give him if he had heard his desperate tone; how incredibly weak he sounded. He shook his head.
“Never mind. But while we’re on the subject of ignorance, d’you mind if I call you ‘Severus’? Calling you Professor Snape is too much of a mouthful.”
“Good,” Harry slouched in his chair and flipped open a magazine. “Glad we’re in agreement.”
Date: July 20, 2011
Time: 3:45 pm
Harry straightened up suddenly, the thick potions book he had been reading aloud sliding to the floor.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” he reached down to pick the book up before hurriedly leaning forward to deliver the good news, “Kingsley’s been named the new Minister of Magic. Some people in the Order were upset, I think they wanted the position, but I’m glad. I think the Wizarding World could do with a man in charge who finally knows what he’s doing. What do you think, Severus?”
The older man only breathed steadily in reply. Harry slumped back and frowned.
“I know you’re stubborn and all, but you don’t have to keep this up. People are waiting for you.”
Date: July 29, 2011
Time: 11:01 pm
“You couldn’t have given me at least a little bit of warning?”
Harry didn’t bother with his usual greetings as he entered Severus’ hospital room. He flung himself down in his usual chair and pulled a rolled piece of newspaper from his robes. They were new, neatly pressed. He had to give a speech later about the war. He didn’t want to.
“Dumbledore showed up; guess you knew about that too, huh?” Harry opened the paper and turned to the second page. “First, I see this in the paper, then he shows up on my doorstep—well, it’s Sirius’s house, but you get the idea—saying he’s proud of my work and that I’ve done nicely! Old man. I knew all that eye twinkling had gone to his head. Listen to this: “…The famous wizard, Albus Dumbledore, was spotted a few days ago leaving Hogwarts School, which is currently under reconstruction. No reports have been made as to where exactly he’s been hiding, but witnesses have confirmed that this is in fact the very same man who was reportedly blown off the Astronomy tower by his faithful servant and Death Eater, Severus Snape, two years ago. Was the great wizard really dead all along, or did our Boy Who Lived spread his Death-defying powers to his favourite mentor? No comments as of yet from the Hogwarts staff, or Harry Potter on Dumbledore’s return’.”
The teen folded the paper down to sneak a peek at Severus. The corner of his mouth twitched. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
Date: July 31, 2011
Time: 10:27 pm
The small hospital room was dark, casting long shadows from the moonlight that streamed in from the windows. Everything was still in the quiet of the night, including the bed’s occupant. Severus didn’t even twitch was the door creaked open slowly and shut quickly. There was a slight shimmer of the air near the door, then:
“I’ll only be a mo,” Harry crossed the room, his golden robes glinting brightly to make the dark room a bit lighter. “I’ve only just managed to sneak away from the party the Order is throwing for my eighteenth birthday.”
He set his invisibility cloak down on the bed and stared down at Severus’s face. It was the first time he had been able to visit all day, and, the one time it seemed he didn’t come during the day, was the time Severus showed true progress. His skin wasn’t the unhealthy pasty white it had been, and his lips were flushed with colour. Even his black hair, which used to be greasy from being around potion fumes, was cut and didn’t look as lanky framing his face.
Not too much longer now.
Harry leaned down and, even though there was no one else around to possibly hear him, whispered softly, “I wished for you to wake up.”
Date: August 8, 2011
Time: 2:00 pm
Condition: Very Good
“Today was the day.”
Harry waited, just as he always did, to see if he would get a response. When there was none, he continued. Just like always.
“I had to meet with the Wizengamont about Dumbledore’s involvement in the war,” Harry ran a hand through his messy black hair. “Yours, too. It went…well. I showed them some of my memories and Dumbledore showed some of his. Together, it was enough. Severus,” he smiled at the sleeping man, “it’s over. You’re free.”
Harry let out a bark of laughter and slumped in his chair. It had been a stressful week for him. He had been pulling strings left and right to keep those he knew to be innocent out of Azkaban. Severus was one of them. Draco Malfoy was the other.
“I wanted to get you an Order of Merlin, you know, for everything you’ve done,” Harry said softly. “I managed to get you one without you having to go through the ceremony bit later, but Hermione said we should do something more. I didn’t think you’d appreciate it.”
The answering silence seemed almost grateful, though that might have just been Harry’s wishful thinking.
“You should wake up. Soon would be good. The Wizarding World is rebuilding itself. You would like it, I think, but you have to wake up first. Even Hogwarts is almost finished with renovations. It repaired without any help. Did you know it could do that?”
He was babbling. He knew it. His fists clenched and he stood quickly. The thought hadn’t occurred to him, but what if Severus never woke up? What if…
“Well, I’ve got to go. But…Hogwarts starts back in a few weeks,” Harry looked over his shoulder when he reached the door. “I’m going back, and so are Hermione and Ron. For once, I’d like to think that this will be a peaceful year. No dark lords trying to kill me every other class. You can be a regular teacher now, too, since you don’t have to worry about what Voldemort will think. I don’t think you’d want anybody taking over your position as Potions professor, so you should wake up and come back. Nobody can torture your students quite like you.
“Please, Severus. Just…wake up.”
Date: August 8, 2011
Time: 2:05 pm
Condition: Very Good
Severus Snape opened his eyes after the door to his hospital room clicked shut. He stretched his limbs, which creaked from being stiff for so long, and sat up slowly, allowing himself a small wince at the tiny bolts of pain that shot through his neck. He messaged the place where Nagini had bitten him and swallowed.
For the past week, he had been awake. He had heard everything that was going on around him while his visitors thought him to be unconscious. Including when Harry was around. He was always hovering over Severus, and it bothered him to no end.
“Insolent child,” Severus muttered more out of habit than anything else. His voice, which had always been deep and smooth, was gravely and cracked to his ears. The healers, he sneered mentally, obviously haven’t administered the correct dosage of the Muscle Fuser potion; otherwise I wouldn’t sound so weak. The sooner I’m out of this wretched place and back in my own home, the better.
“Now, now Severus. He did save your life. The least you could do is put his worries at ease.” Dumbledore walked into the room, his quiet appearance making Severus frown.
“And why should I?” Severus snapped. “He is nothing more than a child, waiting for the chance to use my weaknesses against me. Something you foolishly lead me to believe was necessary.”
The elderly wizard gave him a disapproving look.
“You know as well as I that Harry will do no such thing,” Dumbledore replied calmly. “He has stayed beside you these past few weeks, coming here daily, and encouraging you to wake from your unconscious state. He has asked for nothing in return.”
Severus narrowed his eyes. He clutched the white bed sheets in his hands. He knew what Potter wanted and he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He did not want to discuss his pensieve memories with the brat. Ever.
His shoulders tensed, but he raised his gaze to find Dumbledore staring at him almost…pityingly.
“Harry understands,” Dumbledore said after a moment. “He does not wish to relive the days of war, but move forward. If the reason you pretend to sleep when Harry comes is because you think he will mock your memories, then I implore you to see reason. Harry is above such petty things.”
Severus couldn’t help scoffing, but Dumbledore continued as if he hadn’t.
“Since this is nothing like your normal behavior, Severus, I assume you will stop pretending to be half dead any day now and swiftly begin your miraculous recovery. Time is running short.”
“Are you going to ask more of me, Albus?” Severus asked quietly. “After all that I’ve given you? Was it not enough?”
Dumbledore smiled at the thin figure that was Severus Snape.
“Yes, it was,” he admitted. “But I ask this of you, not for me, but for you.”
Severus opened his mouth to speak, but closed it. Albus was right. He was always right and the bastard knew it. Damn…
Seeing the fight drain from his face, Dumbledore patted Severus on the shoulder and started back towards the door.
“I think I might find this year at Hogwarts to be the most exciting yet,” he commented cheerily.
“Why? With Potter around, nothing will ever be normal,” Severus muttered.
“Because, my dear old friend,” Dumbledore turned and the sight of the twinkle in his blue eyes made the Potions Master want to wince. That was never a good sign. “Pretending to be dead can become terribly exhausting. I’m looking forward to being alive this year. Aren’t you?”
Severus just glared suspiciously.
“Your usual seat will be open. I’ll be expecting you two days before the start of term,” Dumbledore called behind him as the door closed.
With a growl that had his throat aching, Severus reclined back on the pillows and scowled. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Albus was right. For the first time in years he was a free man, and returning to Hogwarts would give him a sense of peace. He could finally teach the way he had always wanted without worrying if he was keeping up the correct image in front of the children of Death Eaters that would report his every move to the Dark Lord. There would be no more summons from the Dark Lord, having to act through scenarios with Dumbledore as to have something to produce while being tortured, or returning to the gates of Hogwarts bloody and trembling, but relieved at being able to survive one more night.
Severus recalled the words Harry had spoken before leaving his room:
“For once, I’d like to think that this will be a peaceful year. No dark lords trying to kill me every other class. You can be a regular teacher now, too, since you don’t have to worry about what Voldemort will think.”
“‘A peaceful year’,” Severus mused, rubbing at the scars on his throat. With the right potions, the internal and external scarring would be gone completely. He would sound like the same, menacing Potions Master he had been.
“We’ll see, won’t we, Mr. Potter?”
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Sirius hates Kreacher, Harry gets a visit, and McGonagall sends a letter.
Arc One: August
Chapter Two: Number 12 Grimmauld Place
Harry yawned and gave his dark hair a rustle as he sat down at the long kitchen table in Number 12 Grimmauld Place. After he rubbed his eyes, he opened them to find a bowl of porridge already in front of him. He smiled.
“Thanks, Sirius,” Harry said to the seemingly empty room.
A wet black nose peeked out from under the table and sniffed. Harry looked down and chuckled. The shaggy black head of Sirius’ animagus form stuck out all the way, black eyes sparkling with mirth. He sniffed a few more times then let out a sneeze.
“You might want to come out of there,” Harry suggested, taking a bite of his food. “There’s too much dust under there for you to be comfortable.”
With a huff, Sirius ducked down and squeezed in between Harry’s chair and the one next to him. There was the quick brush of air that gusted against the back of his neck, and the next thing he knew Sirius was leaning over him. Harry’s godfather dipped a finger in the brown porridge and stuck the appendage in his mouth.
“Not bad,” Sirius said after he had tasted it. “I’d say I’m improving.”
“Actually, this is really good. Although, anything is better than the stuff you tried to feed me the first few days. How did you manage to stay healthy the past few years?”
“Molly or Kreacher did all the cooking,” Sirius mumbled and Harry laughed. “And the food wasn’t terrible. Some of those things Lily taught me how to make.”
“Right,” Harry rolled his eyes, “because I’m sure you were paying attention to what she was telling you to do. Why don’t you just let Kreacher fix meals? You didn’t have a problem with it before.”
“That was before I was kicked out of my own house last year, only to come back and find out that the bloody thing had fallen in love with you.” Sirius scowled at the mention of the Black family house elf that had helped Harry, Ron, and Hermione get the horocrux locket, and then happily catered to their every need afterwards.
Just then, there was a tapping sound. The two lifted their heads to the kitchen window to see an owl resting on the outside sill. Harry, recognizing it to be one of Hogwarts’ owls, pushed back from the table and went to open the window. The bird raised its leg and Harry untied the white envelope from around it. Without waiting for a response, food, or pay the bird took off.
“Do you think it’s from…” Harry trailed off and looked at Sirius. He appeared as on edge as Harry felt.
Sirius just stared at the letter. They both knew who he was talking about. The greatest wizard to ever live, recently deceased, and even more recently, a bit more than not deceased, had appeared on the doorstep of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, explained almost nothing about how he was alive and where he had been for the past year and a half, and promptly left. It caused a giant uproar in the Wizarding World, but after Dumbledore gave them the story they wanted to hear (how he had to sacrifice himself for the sake of the world, that Voldemort wouldn’t have revealed himself unless they thought him to be dead, etc.) they embraced him with open arms. The only other times Harry had seen him was at the Ministry, though it was very brief. He suspected Dumbledore was out somewhere with Kingsley putting the Wizarding World back together, but nobody knew anything more.
Maybe he’s writing to me to say he wants to talk to me?
With anxious hands, Harry tore into the envelope and unfolded the piece of parchment inside. A quick glance over confirmed that it was not Dumbledore writing; his script was distinct, with its high strokes and curves, and skinny loops. The one on the paper was slanted to the far right with the letters so tightly packed they almost ran together. If he hadn’t gotten used to deciphering the illegible script in the past six years he had gone to Hogwarts, he certainly wouldn’t have been able to read it.
“It’s from McGonagall,” he told Sirius, who relaxed and asked what she wanted. Harry began to read.
Dear Mr. Potter,
It is our pleasure to hear that you, as well as some of your fellow classmates, will be taking up our offer to return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this upcoming term. Please note, however, that due to the presence of students such as yourselves, that there have been a few changes within the school ruling.
Please report to Hogwarts on August 29th,2011 at noon. There, housing arrangements, curriculum, and other such matters must be discussed. You may Apparate directly to the gates of the school with your trunks and head directly to the Headmaster’s office. A list of all the appropriate books and equipment has been included.
The password is Cherry Pips.
“McGonagall wants me to go back to Hogwarts a day before the start of term,” Harry summarized and folded the letter back up. “She said there were some rules and things she wanted to explain to me and the others who are returning for their seventh year.”
“Rules?” Sirius scoffed. “The only rule you need to be worried about is this one: Don’t get caught.”
“Sounds like that’s what you and Dad lived by,” Harry grinned. “But for once, I want something to go right. Now that I don’t have small things like saving the world on my mind, I’d like to experience at least one normal year at Hogwarts.”
After all, Harry was only eighteen. His whole life, nothing had been normal. Even when he had lived with the Dursleys, the safest most boring people to live in Little Whinging, if not England, his life had been strange with a splash of odd. Then he found out he was a wizard and had to keep Voldemort from killing him and taking control over the Wizarding World since his first year. Nothing had gone right the way it was supposed to. Nothing had been the magic filled stress-free childhood he had thought it was going to be.
“You don’t to go back to school, Harry.”
At hearing Sirius’ voice, the teen blinked a few times and stopped letting his mind wander. His godfather was strangely somber, an expression that didn’t sit right on his handsome laugh-lined face.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’ve been offered a position at the Ministry,” Sirius went on. “Kingsley knows how good of a dualist you are. There are still Death Eaters out there and he’s offered anybody who fought during the Battle at Hogwarts a position in the Auror department. You wouldn’t have to go. You could stay here with me.”
Ah. So that’s what it is.
With a sigh, Harry said, “I’m…sorry, Sirius. I really am. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that I’m finished. The last thing I want to do is fight more Death Eaters after having to do the same thing with Voldemort each year.”
Sirius’ face drooped slightly and Harry rushed to further explain himself before his godfather could get too put down.
“I just want to finish school and get the most boring job I can. Maybe the next Defense Against the Dark Arts professor? I think I might be good enough for the position. Plus, Charlie is only taking up the post for this school year, so when I finish at Hogwarts I can apply for the job.”
There was a moment of silence as Sirius and Harry stared at one another. As much as he loved his godfather, he wanted to do something for himself and not someone else. It would be the first time in his life, after all.
Finally, Sirius let out a groan of exasperation. “I can see you’re not going to change your mind. You’re too much like your father with your stubborn ways.”
“And you aren’t?” Harry chuckled, just as there was a loud, sharp crack followed quickly by a second.
“Harry!” Hermione gave him a hug when she saw him. Ron simply gave a customary guy greeting and mumbled, lifting an acknowledging hand in his friend’s direction.
“Hey.” Harry was surprised. He hadn’t expected to see his best friends until later that day after he visited Severus at the hospital. “What’re you two doing here?”
“We’ve just got letters from Professor McGonagall,” Hermione said with a beam. Her slightly bushy hair got in Harry’s face as she sat down, and he grimaced as a few strands got in his mouth. “Isn’t this exciting? We’re going back to Hogwarts!”
“Yea,” Ron mumbled and slouched in the chair across from Harry’s. “That‘s great. Are you done with that?” He pointed to Harry’s bowl of porridge. When he shook his head, the read haired teen slid the bowl across the table and began eating.
“Is there a problem that we’ve been given an opportunity to finish our education, Ronald?” Hermione asked her boyfriend frostily.
Recognizing her tone of voice, Ron shook his head quickly and stuffed his mouth with more porridge.
“So,” Hermione turned back to Harry, “have you heard?”
“Heard what?” Harry asked.
She frowned. “It’s Professor Snape. He’s been checked out of St Mungo’s as of early this morning.”
Harry froze. Severus was awake? He wasn’t in the hospital anymore?
A surge of relief washed through him at the news. Finally, after weeks of waiting, Severus Snape had risen from his comatose state.
“Is he okay?” Harry asked eagerly. “How did you find out? How long has he been awake? Can they really discharge him if he’s only been awake for a few hours?”
“I volunteer there, remember? And Harry, you forget, this isn’t the Muggle world,” Hermione pointed out. “Wizards can heal faster than Muggles because the magic inside their body can repair it quicker. If you add the potions and spells we use, that’s at least ten times as fast. So even if he had only been awake for a few hours, if he passed all the diagnostic tests they ran, he would have been free to leave.”
“Oh.” His shoulders slumped as he realized another thing.
Though it was great that Severus had woken up, it was more than likely that he wouldn’t get the chance to thank the man face to face for what he did. It had taken a while for Harry to become accustomed to the fact that the man who sacrificed everything each day he woke up was the same man he had hated for so long. But looking at the pensieve memories was the first step to forgetting his dislike, and seeing Severus look up at him with tears in his eyes was the next. He realised he had to save Severus, because, like himself, the one thing the outcome of the war could provide was peace, and it was something they both desperately needed. So when Severus was finally taken to St. Mungo’s, the day Harry had to demand they give him a room and begin healing him, the day he sat by his bedside for hours—the only place where he could sit in peace—was the day he threw his hatred away.
Harry spoke his mind to the unconscious man, told him things he had told no one else. He had made exceptions for him, visiting him all day or sporadically each day as time allowed. He had, in a way, become Severus’ friend just by one-sided communication alone. But now that he was awake it would be different. Harry might respect and like Severus Snape, but that didn’t mean the feelings were mutual. Speaking freely to the sharp-tongued Potions Master while sleeping was one thing. It was another when he was actually awake to respond.
But still, Harry thought, I will find him. I don’t care if he’s the same old snarky bastard he was at Hogwarts and hates me because I lived and my mother didn’t. As long as I can tell him thank you, just once, so he can hear it, I’ll be fine with that.
Hermione smiled sadly and gave Harry’s hand a squeeze. Out of all his friends, she understood the best his newfound respect for Severus and praised him for it.
“So,” she pulled her hand away and took out her Hogwarts letter, “what N.E.W.T. courses are you planning on continuing? Since I got all my O.W.L.s, I’m only taking Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Charms, Defense, Transfiguration, and Potions.”
“Bloody hell, Hermione,” Ron said around a mouthful of food. “Why’re you signing up for so many? We’re seventh years. We’re not supposed to do anything!”
“What do you mean we aren’t supposed to do anything?” Hermione looked affronted and Harry could tell she was going into lecture mode. “Since this is our last year, our grades are more important than ever. We even have study sessions every day for three hours after classes so that we’ll be prepared. I’ve been studying for these since the end of fifth year. This is the end-all of exams! If you don’t pass you N.E.W.T.s, how are you supposed to get a job?”
“I supposed I’ll just mooch off you for while,” Ron replied.
Hermione blushed at the implication he made, though she tried to keep her strict composure.
“You most certainly will not, Ronald Weasley!”
Sirius sniggered and so did Harry.
“You remind me so much of James and Lily,” the older man said reminiscently. “James wanted them to live with his parents after they graduated, but Lily told him she refused to marry him if he was still kipping at his mother’s.”
Harry smiled at the mention of his parents. It was true, it did sound a bit like Ron and Hermione. He knew, even after he would eventually move out, Ron would want to go back to the Burrow for meals and every holiday, if not most days of the week.
“Speaking of parents,” Ron started, “Mum was wondering if you two would like to come over for dinner. According to her, the end-of-war celebrations are still going on. Dad can’t get her to stop cooking.”
Harry glanced at Sirius for confirmation. He was never too sure how his godfather and surrogate mother were getting on, especially after their tiff during fifth year, but last time he checked they had seemed to be on good turns. That could change at the drop of a hat, though.
“We’d be glad to,” Sirius told Ron, tone light. “I could use a break from cooking now that Harry’s given my porridge high marks.”
“But,” Ron’s eyebrows dipped over his blue eyes in confusion, “this is Kreacher’s porridge. He always puts nutmeg and ginger in it when—”
“Ron!” Sirius stood up with a big grin on his face, gripped Ron’s shoulder in his hand, and pulled him up. “I think we should head over to the Burrow now, don’t you?”
With a crack, they Apparated away.
Hermione giggled. “Well, looks like you two will be spending the day at the Weasley’s. I’ll wait for you while you get dressed, if you want.”
“Thanks.” Harry gave her a warm smile. Since they were both only children (and in Harry’s case, more of an orphaned outcast) and grew up in the Muggle world, they had always been a bit closer to each other than Ron and Hermione had been. It was more than that though. She was like a sister to him; she never abandoned him and always supported him even when he pushed her away. After the war, he had gone to her the most for advice about sorting his mind and deciding what he was going to do, which ultimately made him decide to return to Hogwarts. Harry owed a lot to her.
He stopped on his way out the kitchen to look over her shoulder. Hermione’s expression was soft, but not pitying.
“I know you wanted to talk to Professor Snape while he was wake about…things, but give him time. He needs to get used to the way things are now and figure out what it is he wants to do with his life, just like you did. So promise me that you won’t go looking for him just yet.”
There was a pause, then:
Sirius is one of a handful of characters I've decided to keep alive, mainly for the sake of the plot later on (that and I want him alive). He was never killed in the Ministry of Magic during fifth year, and the spell Bellatrix hit him with (movie verse) didn't knock him into the archway.
Students take their O.W.L.s in fifth year and N.E.W.T.s in seventh year. The process of taking N.E.W.T. levels is a two-year process at Hogwarts, which is why you'll see them in these classes again. This, as well as the Trio's timetables, will be detailed later on.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Harry returns to the first home he's ever known, and so does someone else, although not for the same reasons.
Arc One: August
Chapter Three: Home is Where the Hogwarts is
After all this time, he was back.
Harry took a deep breath through his nose and released it slowly. The comforting smells that made up Hogwarts—minus the stuffy feel of too many students in a cramped hall during class changes—soothed him. Sure, he lived at Grimmauld Place with Sirius, and before that, the Burrow had been his refuge. One might even go so far as to say that Number 4 Private Drive had been a home of sorts. Not a very good environment, but a home nonetheless.
But it was Hogwarts—beautiful, magical, and sprawling Hogwarts—that was where he truly belonged. It was the first place Harry had felt safe and protected. It was the first place where had he learned to be himself, to become stronger and improve his magic instead of hiding it. He felt secure and cared for, something his childhood had been seriously lacking.
Hogwarts, with all its hidden rooms and winding towers, would be the place he would always return to; his true home.
Harry glanced over his shoulder, pulling his gaze from the wide doors leading to the inside of the castle, and saw Hermione and Ron approaching him. Their trunks were spelled to levitate behind them as they walked, and when they came to a stop on each side of Harry they lowered to the ground.
“When did you get here, mate?” Ron asked. “Hermione insisted on Flooing over to yours to see if you’d left yet, even though I told her you were probably gone.”
As Hermione huffed, Harry smiled.
“I just wanted to take a moment,” he explained, “to observe the school, now that it’s changed.”
His friends gave him understanding looks. They both knew how much Hogwarts meant to him, and he appreciated the fact that they didn’t press the matter further.
“We should head up,” Hermione said, brown eyes sparkling with excitement. “Professor McGonagall told us be here at twelve and it’s already eleven fifty. It’ll take us at least seven and a half minutes to make it to the entrance to Professor Dumbledore’s office, and that’s if we hurry.”
“Relax, Hermione,” Ron rolled his eyes, but started off after her as she began to swiftly walk through the doors and inside. “He won’t mind if we’re late a few minutes. This is Dumbledore we’re talking about.”
“Professor Dumbledore,” she corrected sharply.
Ron grumbled under his breath. Harry’s grin widened and he followed after the two, going at a bit slower pace, but not by too much to avoid rousing Hermione’s anxiety. After a few minutes, the three of them reached the gargoyle that stood guard to the staircase leading to the Headmaster’s office. While Hermione shrunk their trunks so they wouldn’t be left sitting in the hall, Harry moved closer.
“Cherry Pips.” The password was easy for him to recall, unlike some of the other more complicated ones Dumbledore had come up with in the past.
Immediately the winged animal began to twist to the right, which revealed a set of moving stairs as it did so. The trio stepped on and rode the short journey to the top. Harry got off first, followed by Hermione, then Ron, and they started to walk the few steps that would close the distance between the gargoyle and the door. Just as they reached it, prepared to lift the griffin shaped knocker, it swung open to reveal a teen, slightly older than the three of them, but not by much.
His white-blonde hair was a few inches longer, gently brushing the collar of his robes. It was no longer slicked back with product, just brushed, and the look gave him a more vulnerable appearance. Gray eyes set in an even paler face than Harry had ever recollected it being, stared back at them, unsurprised and resigned.
Draco Malfoy looked like he had been to hell and back, and Harry—who knew he was still suffering from the affects of the war—figured he had.
A terse nod was sent his way, which he returned with a “Hello”. He didn’t hate Malfoy anymore, not now that he knew why the Slytherin teen had been forced to make the decisions he made. They had come to an understanding the day Harry had defended him before the Wizengamont and saved him from Azkaban. Hermione, being the sensible one out of the three, also realised that Malfoy had been through a hard ordeal and set aside petty childhood grievances to forgive him. As far as Harry knew, she figured his upbringing alone was reason enough to justify his younger self’s prattishness.
Ron, unfortunately, didn’t share too much of the same enlightenment concerning their ex-childhood nemesis that the two of them did.
“What’re you doing up here, Malfoy?” The redhead spit out his name like a curse.
“The same thing I imagine as you, Weasley,” he responded. There was no real fire behind his words, Harry noticed. “What? Take too many bludgers to the head this summer and lost what little brain you had left?”
Ron’s ears went slightly pink. “Not as many curses as you took during the war.”
And just like that, Malfoy shut down and closed off. If his demeanor had been stiff and introverted before, that was nothing compared to the steely attitude he took at the mention of the war. Since it had happened only a few months ago, Harry knew it was still a sensitive topic for many, Malfoy being one of them. He would suffer for a long time.
“Potter, Granger,” Malfoy gave them another nod before abruptly pushing past them to ride the gargoyle back down.
Ron’s mouth was open, and he appeared to be confused.
“Did-did I just win a fight with Malfoy?” He asked incredulously.
“No,” Hermione frowned, “you brought up a very sensitive topic and all but shoved it down his throat.”
“What do you think he’s been doing to us for the past few years?” Ron replied, annoyed. “The ferret has been having a go at all of us since first year, but now that I’ve got something on the prat, you say I hurt his feelings?”
“Ronald,” Hermione’s tone was scolding, but before she could reprimand him Harry interrupted.
“Can we do this later?” He tilted his head in the direction of the door. “Dumbledore’s probably waiting for us.”
Without knocking, Harry pushed the door open and stepped inside. Everything was exactly as it had been in his sixth year (And when Severus was Headmaster, he recalled. Nothing in the office had been changed; everything had remained untouched) with Dumbledore’s trinkets lining the circular room on shelf after shelf. The pensieve was in its stone basin, and Fawkes was perched on his stand sleeping. It was all the same.
“Hello Ms. Granger, Mr. Potter, and Mr. Weasley,” Dumbledore smiled at them from behind his half-moon glasses. “Lemon Drop?”
Yes, even Dumbledore was exactly as he had been before his “death”, offering people candies laced with various potions from tin jars.
“It’s good to see you again, Professor,” Hermione beamed.
“I must say, Ms. Granger,” Dumbledore smiled in return, “it is good to be back. I trust you have all been faring well since our last talk?”
Harry briefly recalled the day they had gotten their letters from McGonagall; the day when Dumbledore showed up at the Burrow and actually offered him and his friends an explanation for the past year. Though most of what he told them had been in the Daily Prophet article (they had been surprised to learn that the newspaper had gotten something right for once), a portion of it had not.
“…Not until after Tom had taken the Elder Wand from me, could I be moved to a safer location. Professor Snape hid me inside the Hogwarts walls and continued to sustain my body until such time when the affects of the draught wore off.”
“But,” Harry’s expression turned dark, “I was there. I saw Severus hit you with the Aveda Kedavra curse.”
“Professor Snape,” he corrected gently. “And that, my boy, is the wonder of magic. With the case of the impossible, it is entirely possible for the impossible to occur. It is not widely known that the Draught of Living Death enables one to be temporarily immune to the effects of the killing curse. The body cannot die if it is already tricked into being dead.”
“Then what about King’s Cross? You were there!”
“Indeed I was. But then, so were you. And yet here we sit.”
When the three of them nodded, Dumbledore said, “Good”, and popped a Lemon Drop in his mouth.
“Now, on to the reason why the three of you have been summoned here to Hogwarts before the other students,” he sat back. “As you and a few others are returning for your seventh year, you’ll notice that your classes will be held with those who passed the requirements to take the N.E.W.T. level courses. House rules still apply, though we cannot allow you to stay in your old dormitories.”
“Why not?” Ron asked, taken aback. Out of everyone, Ron seemed to like their old room in Gryffindor Tower the most. It offered the best view of the girls who decided to hang around the courtyard below.
“Most of us that coming back are eighteen or nineteen, and old Wizarding public education laws deem it improper for those who are underage to sleep in the same rooms as someone who is of the potential marrying age,” Hermione explained quickly. “That’s one of the reasons why we all get separated by year when we arrive, instead of being mixed up.”
“That’s correct, Ms. Granger. But not only that, it is possible space could be made for the eighth years in your respected dormitories, only provided that Hogwarts is up to the task.” The corners of Dumbledore’s mouth tilted up. “As you know, Hogwarts thinks for itself. We cannot change this place through any magical means, such as expansion spells. To counter this problem, an old set of teacher’s rooms have been cleared out. I think you’ll find your new housing arrangements to be quite enjoyable.”
A glint appeared briefly in the old wizard’s eyes and a small shiver passed through Harry. The sight of it had never been a particularly good thing in the past, at least not for him. It was Dumbledore’s Meddling Eye Spark, something that always made itself known when he was about to do something particularly nosy usually concerning Harry.
“The rest of your classmates will be Apparating in tomorrow before the train arrives,” Dumbledore continued. “I will be putting the boundary wards back up after this, but I will allow you to leave in the case of an emergency. Unfortunately, since the numbers of returning students for each House are unequal, participation in Quidditch or other competitive school activities is prohibited, as it would leave some with an unfair advantage. However,” Ron had opened his mouth to protest at the no Quidditch rule, but a stern glance in his direction kept him silent, “I advise you to take up an apprenticing position in a subject you are interested as an activity. Mr. Weasley, I believe Madame Hooch is looking for an assistant with flying classes and refereeing games this year.”
A triumphant grin spread its way across Ron’s face, giving him a goofy appearance.
“Do we have to take one up?” Harry asked, thinking about the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. He didn’t want to be Charlie’s assistant; he wanted to actually teach the class.
“Of course not,” Dumbledore replied cheerily. “Though you may find yourselves more immersed in assisting your professors than originally planned.”
Harry frowned at this.
“Those are the only changes the three of you need to be aware of for your last year at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore’s blue eyes scrunched slightly as he smiled. “I trust you’ll make use of a peaceful day like this and take a moment to tour Hogwarts in its new state. If you chance upon a portrait of Tobias the Terrible, the password is ‘Gaberlunzie’.”
With one last serene smile their way, they understood they had been dismissed. Ron and Hermione stood.
“Thanks for speaking with us, Professor,” Hermione said, and, after a pointed glance from Harry made their way to the door. After gesturing that he would only be a few minutes and to wait for him, Harry turned back to face Dumbledore. He was giving him an expectant look.
“I thought you might have something you needed to say,” Dumbledore said calmly.
“Actually, I don’t,” Harry answered, “but when you visited the Burrow you said you had a question for me, though you didn’t get to ask it.”
“Ah!” The older man’s eyes lit up in recollection and pressed the tips of his fingers together as he leaned forward. “Forgive this old fool for forgetting. How exactly, Harry, did you save our Severus?”
Harry blinked at Dumbledore’s use of the word “our”.
“After Nagini attacked Severus and Voldemort left, Ron, Hermione, and I went inside,” he began slowly. He paused briefly then continued. “We saw Severus lying on the floor and, Merlin, there was so much blood, but he still used up a lot of his power to convert his tears into memory strands. I didn’t know what to do really. It’s a bit hard trying to save someone when you don’t know how or why, so it was actually Hermione who had—”
A knock on the door interrupted him. Dumbledore looked slightly disappointed.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to continue this another time,” he said.
“That’s fine,” he said shortly. And it was. To relive those days of the war were getting easier, but they would never really be forgotten, Severus’ almost-last moments being one of those days. “I’ll…see you later.”
Harry started towards the door, mentally punching himself for how awkward he had sounded just then. He reached forward and swung the door open only to be greeted by two figures on the other side.
“Hey, Harry,” Charlie Weasley grinned wide and waved.
But Harry only had eyes for the other person, the one who was scowling more than a little at having found out it was Harry who was on the other side of the threshold.
Now that the gang is back at Hogwarts, things will pick up a smidgen. All the others returning for their seventh year will be revealed soon.
The Wizarding World, as stated by our lovely creator JKR, has not moved forward into the 21st century, or the 20th for the most part. As such, I figured the society would be a bit old fashioned in terms of their laws and customs. Hence, the rooming laws.
Hogwarts is, in fact, her own character, so I don’t think she’d like being told to expand her insides when she already has plenty of room for any person’s needs possible. I imagine her to be a little annoyed with such attempts, actually.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Harry encounters Snape for the first time since the man was released from the hospital.
Oh, and Charlie is there, too.
Arc One: August
Chapter Four: The Potion Master’s Return
Severus’ eyes narrowed into slits and Harry resisted the urge to slap a hand across his mouth at the slipup.
“You cheeky arrogant—”
Charlie suddenly blocked Harry’s view of Severus’ angry expression.
“Harry! It’s been ages since we had a proper chat.”
A weak smile broke across the teen’s face as the second oldest Weasley brother attempted to nip any insults Severus might have given in the bud. Charlie’s returning grin was bright, and he moved forward to embrace him briefly. Harry blinked in surprise, but then remembered that, out of all Ron’s siblings, Charlie was the touchiest. He conveyed his feelings through contact and personal space meant nothing to him.
Though the latter might have something more to do with his job with dragons than anything else.
Since Charlie wasn’t the tallest out of his siblings (a plus), Harry had no difficulty seeing over his shoulder. His eyes sought out Severus’ again, only to find the man stiffly glancing around the hall to observe any changes that might have occurred. Despite the fact that he had almost been verbally cut to shreds, Harry felt something inside him ease at seeing the man at Hogwarts. Charlie’s smooth voice quickly became nothing more than a buzz as Harry focused all his attention on Severus to quickly survey him.
Usual black robes? Check.
Greasy hair? Half check. All those weeks in the hospital not being around the fumes of potions all day had temporarily fixed that problem.
Scowl directed at Harry?
Harry frowned slightly and pulled away from Charlie.
“—be studying under me this year?”
“Sorry,” Harry gave himself a little shake, “what?”
Charlie’s mouth quirked. “I hope you’re not this absentminded in school. You defeat the Dark Lord and suddenly you’ve seen it all.”
Another plus, his good nature.
“Can’t argue with that,” Harry shrugged. “So, how are you getting on?”
“I just got in from Romania this morning after I finished wrapping everything up,” the red head said, then ran a hand through his hair. It immediately fell back down to brush his shoulders. “Sudden detachment for a dragon is never a good thing; it has to be done slowly. I’ve been training another lad to take up my place with the clan, so they should be alright. Dragana was the only one who didn’t seem too pleased.”
“A Hybridean Black dragon.” Charlie flashed him another grin.
Harry opened his mouth to address Severus this time. He felt slightly awkward knowing the man was standing a few feet away listening to their conversation, yet taking no part in it. Before he could speak, however, Severus beat him to it.
“If you two have no intention of finishing,” Severus’ voice was even and deep, “I suggest you remove yourselves from this hallway and talk elsewhere.”
They turned to face Severus. His expression was one of boredom, but when Harry continued to look on his face tightened. Choosing to ignore the tension between the two, Charlie chuckled good-naturedly and clamped his tanned hand down on Harry’s shoulder.
“Don’t be so stiff, Severus.” Charlie ignored the sneer shot his way at the use of the man’s first name. “It’s not right to get jealous because you don’t have this war hero all to yourself. It’s good to share.”
Severus blanched and Harry could hardly suppress the expression of incredulity that crossed his face. He respected and liked Severus (At least a little in regards to the latter. That might change now that he’s awake to slander me), but still. He had known Severus for years, a majority of which had been spent hating the man. Plus, he was still Harry’s professor, which made it more than a little awkward. Charlie has no sense of embarrassment sometimes.
“I’ve had enough of listening to the problems of an insolent brat all summer,” Severus sneered. “This is a burden off my shoulders.”
A bolt of emotion shot through Harry, so quickly he almost didn’t notice. Almost. But he brushed it off. So Severus had a sharp tongue. That was nothing new.
“And Mr. Potter,” Harry met Severus’ gaze. It was cold. “Defeating the Dark Lord does not grant you the liberty of no restrictions. You will address me respectfully, is that clear?”
The man stepped forward to move around Charlie and Harry, but Harry found himself shifting to block his path. Severus’ jaw tightened and he glared in a silent command to move. Harry paid the look no mind.
“Actually…Professor,” Harry found it strange that after years of calling the man “Snape”, he was having a hard time calling him “Professor” and not by his forename, “I wanted to talk with you about the pensieve—”
“There is nothing to discuss, Potter.” Severus snapped and brushed past the two, briskly opening Dumbledore’s door.
“We have to talk about it sometime, Severus.”
There was a brief moment that made Harry think Severus would turn around and get on his case about using his name again. But the moment passed and he stepped inside the office. Harry got a brief glimpse of Dumbledore behind his desk, smiling, then the door closed.
“Well, Harry,” Charlie gave him a pat on the shoulder and a sunny smile to rival his brilliant red hair, “I wouldn’t worry about old Severus, there. It’ll take him a while to become accustomed to not having to pretend.”
Harry raised a brow.
“I’m not saying he won’t be a git, but just give him time to adjust.” Charlie rustled Harry’s hair and slowly moved to Dumbledore’s office. “The two of you will get on in no time.”
“Right,” he muttered and started for the gargoyle.
As the gargoyle began to move, Harry thought about his first encounter with Severus since he had last seen him in St. Mungo’s. Harry honestly wasn’t surprised from the amount hostility shown when he had tried to broach the subject of Severus’ pensieve memories. It was a sensitive topic, more than sensitive, to be sure. No doubt Severus thought Harry was going to take his memories of his childhood and love for his mother and use them against him. He couldn’t blame him. If the roles were reversed, he would feel the same.
Even so, Harry caught sight of Hermione and Ron leaning against the wall nearby. They straightened when they saw him slowly descending. I would never do that. I only wanted to let him know that I intended to return his memories.
“We saw Professor Snape and Charlie go up,” Hermione closed in on him quickly, and scanned him with concerned eyes. “Are you alright?”
“Fine,” he said and glanced at Ron. He had a sour expression on his face.
“Charlie reckons himself Snape’s mate now, or something,” the redhead said with a scoff. “Doubt that’s going to last. The git probably doesn’t even know what a friend is.”
Harry rolled his eyes, and ignored Ron’s hasty halfhearted apology at having called Severus a git. Again.
The trio made their way down the hall towards the great staircase. They noticed tiny changes along the way. The wall where the Room of Requirement entry used to appear was now an archway leading to a winding staircase. The portraits that had been destroyed had been removed and in their places were the simple gold frame that surrounded every portrait in the castle. It was almost as if the frames were waiting for the muslin to grow inside them. A few doors and passageways had appeared with the new renovations, and others had disappeared or changed into something else. In a passing, Harry noted that the pear portrait leading to the kitchens was still in place.
Around the fourth floor, Hermione tugged on Ron and Harry’s sleeves and pointed.
“Look! It’s Tobias the Terrible.” She dropped their sleeves and walked up the stairs to where a portrait of a man sitting on a throne, hung on the stone wall.
“It’s Tobias the Great, wench,” the brown haired man sneered.
Ron’s face coloured. “Don’t talk to my girlfriend like that!”
“I shall speak to her as I wish,” the man sniffed. “Such impertinence! Calling one such as I ‘the Terrible’. I ought to have your head!”
“And I ought to burn your picture.” Ron raised his wand.
“No, stop!” Hermione thrust Ron’s arm down. “Don’t you know who he is? This is King John of England, son of Henry the Second, and one of the few wizards to be a king.”
Harry was as equally lost as Ron. He hadn’t been aware of any kings that had been wizards, much less that there were pictures of them at Hogwarts.
“John, King of England was most commonly referred to as Tobias by close friends and family, though it originated with his father,” Hermione explained. “He battled France when war broke out in the early 1200s and was the first king to begin training a private wizard army. He gained land, made continental alliances, and reformed British laws. He was the one who proposed the idea that wizards and Muggles should fight and live together.”
“Well,” Tobias looked faintly pleased, “yes, that is accurate. At least someone in this dreadful place knows a king when they see one.”
When Hermione smiled bashfully, Ron’s face turned an even more violent shade of red than it had been previously. Worried his friend might actually hurt their dormitory portrait—or worse, himself—Harry cleared his throat.
“Gaberlunzie,” he spoke clearly.
Tobias gave him a irritated look, but swung open at the sound of the password. Harry, Ron, and Hermione passed over the threshold to their new living quarters and paused in the middle of the common room. It wasn’t too large, but was set up in much the same way as the other Hogwarts common rooms: fireplace with a couch and two chairs in front, a desk, a picnic bench, and two bookshelves. The colouring was House-neutral, something he was secretly relieved about, with dark brown furniture and light brown tapestries with wizards etched in them, on the walls.
“What was that about, Hermione?” Ron demanded once they had taken their surroundings in.
She rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Ronald, there was no need to be so upset. I was just being nice so he would let us in. There’s a reason he’s called ‘Tobias the Terrible’ you know. He was known for being a pompous, foul wizard who lost more land than he won. The Wizarding laws he created only caused a riot, and the wizards sided with the king of France to overtake him.”
“Then why were nice to the bloody git?” He threw his hands up. “I don’t understand you, you know that?”
“That’s nothing new,” she retorted with a sniff and crossed the room where there were stairs leading to the girls rooms. Ron appeared taken aback, then let out a snort.
“This is exactly what I mean,” he flopped down on the couch and Harry took a seat in one of the chairs. “Women are too complicated to figure out.”
“That’s not saying much,” Draco Malfoy’s voice carried over to them, “considering most things are too complicated for a Weasley to comprehend.”
Ron shot up quickly, as did Harry.
Malfoy was standing near the bookshelf closest to the girls’ stairs, his back to them. When he glanced over his shoulder, his gaze was cool.
“Nobody asked you, ferret,” Ron shot back.
With narrowed eyes, Malfoy turned to say something, but Hermione came rushing back down the stairs. When she saw his figure blocking the way, she cleared her throat. Malfoy glanced over his shoulder and stepped aside to let her by. Hermione blinked in surprise, but muttered, “Thank you” and moved past him to sit next to Ron on the couch. As she began to speak, Harry noticed Malfoy pause before going back upstairs to the boys’ rooms.
“I found this Spello-taped to outside of the rooms,” she said and laid the parchment on the table. Harry moved closer so he could see.
“‘Year Seven Returning Students’,” Harry read aloud. “So this is a list of who’s coming back to Hogwarts from our year?”
Hermione nodded. “And room assignments.”
“Bloody hell,” Ron groaned as he read the list of names. “We’re in a room with Malfoy!”
Harry twisted his head to the side so he could read the piece of parchment better.
Year Seven Returning Students
Boys Dormitory Room One: Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley
Boys Dormitory Room Two: Terry Boot, Anthony Goldstein, Zacharias Smith, Dean Thomas
Girls Dormitory Room One: Hannah Abbot, Mandy Brockelhurst, Leanne Simmons, Lisa Turpin
Girls Dormitory Room Two: Susan Bones, Hermione Granger, Daphne Greengrass
Please note there will be no changes in rooming assignments as per Professor Dumbledore’s instructions.
“That’s not all, Ron,” Harry brushed his fingers across a few names on the list. “Most of the people coming back are either muggle-borns or half-bloods.”
“I noticed that too,” Hermione commented softly. “It’s nice they’ve been given a second chance.”
The three of them went silent as they recalled last year. Harry had known every person on their side who had been killed at the Battle of Hogwarts, and every student that had been killed in their fight to defend their school. But he also knew how many students hadn’t been allowed to return to Hogwarts because of their blood status, how greatly the number of half-blood students decreased, and how the number of muggle-borns disappeared entirely. It was something he would never forget. Just like he would never forget what Severus had done for his mother and, indirectly, him.
“What are you thinking about?”
Hermione’s soft inquiry broke through his thoughts. He smiled slightly.
Ron rolled his eyes, stood, and stretched.
“The only thing you’ve done all summer is worry about the git—sorry, Snape,” he corrected at Harry’s sharp look. “Now that we’re back and he’s fine, you should stop worrying about him.”
“Yeah, I should.”
But I don’t think I will.
If you know your history, I based the Tobias the Terrible off John, King of England. Please forget any mistakes made, as my knowledge is purely Wikipedia-based. Tobias is an actual portrait at Hogwarts, though he’s the editor of Witch Weekly, not a king.
The returning students are all from Harry’s year; none are fabricated.
There are 1000 students at Hogwarts each year total. I figure the amount of pure-blood students would be the least, with half and muggle-borns being about equal. Cutting out all muggle-borns from each year would total about 322 students, with only about half of the 470 half-bloods returning.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
The annual start of term feast is had, Harry and Ginny talk about their relationship, and Theodore Nott turns out to be pretty cool.
Arc One: August
Chapter Five: The Start of Term Feast
When Harry woke up the following morning, he was alone in the room. He was grateful for this, as the events of last night had left a bad taste in his mouth. It was not that he had a problem sharing a room with Malfoy; it was that Ron did. From the moment they left Hermione downstairs and went up, only to find Malfoy had claimed one of the beds, he had been in a sour mood. After almost twenty minutes of watching Ron throw disgusted looks and muttering slanders under his breath at the blonde, Harry finally snapped and told him to shut up. He knew what Malfoy had done, and that he would always be a prat, but Ron would just have to deal with it.
Harry stretched and yawned sleepily, then shuffled out of bed for a quick wash. After he was clean, he got dressed into his school trousers and shirt but left off his tie, jumper, and robes. They could wait, he decided, until just before the other students began to arrive, before supper.
He descended the stairs, found the common room to be empty, and continued on to the Great Hall. Ron and Hermione were there eating breakfast. He didn’t see Malfoy. A few of the professors were trickling in, exchanging pleasant conversation, as they took their seats at the High Table, at the head of the hall. Harry sat down next to Ron and swung his legs over the bench.
“Good morning, Harry.” Hermione’s tone was bright and cheery.
“Mrnm,” Ron mumbled around a mouthful of sausage. He, unlike his girlfriend, was bent over slightly and still appeared to be half asleep. Despite having spent the last year on constant alert, Ron had easily returned to being the person who took at least an hour to fully wake up.
“Aren’t you excited?” Harry gave the High Table a brief onceover, and then turned to face Hermione.
“Excited about what, exactly?”
“The Hogwarts express comes this evening,” she said. A grin plastered itself on her face. “We’ll finally start school properly tomorrow.”
Harry nodded and began to spread jam on a piece of toast.
“Have you talked to Neville, since the last Ministry event?” He asked.
“I have,” Hermione smiled, “and he’s been doing well. Apparently, he and his gran finally sat down and had a chat about things. It’s good everything’s finally been sorted.”
“Right. Very good.” Harry’s eyes scanned the High Table once more as he mindlessly agreed with Hermione. When he didn’t find who he was looking for, disappointment caused his lips to turn down at the edges, in the hint of a frown. He raised a brow, when he saw Hermione shake her head.
“Professor Snape isn’t here,” Hermione said, with a knowing look. “He was one of the teachers assigned to help the students on the way over, so he won’t be back until this evening.”
Harry deflated slightly. He still wanted to talk to Severus regarding the pensieve memories. Even though he had been coldly shot down the day before, Harry wanted to try again, preferably when there would be a minimal amount of interruptions.
“What do you need to speak with Snape about?” Ron let out a tiny scoff.
“Nothing.” Harry took a bite of his toast. “It’s not important.”
After the three had finished up breakfast, they headed out to the Black Lake. Though it wasn’t particularly sunny, it was warm out, and the gentle breeze made for a nice afternoon. The lake was as black as its name, and for a while they had a contest skipping rocks. After losing four times to Hermione, Ron gave up and flopped down on the ground. Harry was glad for the peaceful afternoon, just him and his friends. He wasn’t sure how long it had been, since the end of the war, that it was just the three of them – no fake smiling and no extra company to interrupt things. Ron and Hermione seemed to share the same sentiments, and it wasn’t until the weather started to cool, and the sun began its descent, that they went back inside.
Ron and Harry went back up to their dormitory to put their robes on and came back down, just as the professors were taking their seats. When Dumbledore came through the door, he gave them a small grin, blue eyes twinkling.
Across the table from Harry, Ron was drumming his fingers on the table.
“How is it no one came out to get us?” Ron asked irritably, still drumming. “Merlin, I’m so starving, that I think my stomach is going to eat itself.”
“We’ve had worse, Ron,” Harry reminded him, thinking of their days spent in the tent, travelling.
“But I’m hungry,” he groaned. “I can’t believe we forgot about lunch.”
“That’s because the Lubberfae caused you to forget.” An airy voice came from behind them, and Harry turned to see Luna standing there. He hadn’t noticed that the students had started to enter the Great Hall. “You shouldn’t linger so long near the Black Lake. It’s surrounded by them.”
Hermione and Harry exchanged a glance.
“It’s good to see you, Luna,” Harry said.
She smiled, “Yes,” Luna began to drift away towards the Ravenclaw table. “It’s nice to be with friends again.”
Ron lifted his hand in a wave, then turned back to them. “What the hell are Lubberfae?”
“No idea.” Even though she shook her head disapprovingly, Hermione was smiling.
They didn’t have to wait too long for the older students to join them. Harry spotted Neville talking with Dean Thomas and waved them over.
“Hey guys,” Neville greeted them. “How was your summer?”
“Why are you even asking?” Dean gave a snort, but it wasn’t one of derision. “The only thing we did all summer was read about them in the Daily Prophet, courtesy of the Ministry, of course.”
“Things aren’t all bad with the Ministry of Magic, now that it’s been taken up by the right people,” Hermione interjected. “I think Kingsley’s been doing a fine job as Minister.”
“And Dumbledore?” Neville asked. “Have you talked to him?”
“Didn’t you get a visit from him?” Hermione looked back and forth between Dean and Neville.
“I did,” Dean said. “He came around sometime last week, saying he wanted to invite me back to Hogwarts and apologized for anything I had gone through, last year. Mum was relieved – said it was an honour to have the Headmaster come speak to me personally.”
“I heard from Seamus that he went around to all seventh years and asked them to come back,” Ron commented.
Harry looked at Neville’s cheery face and wondered if Dumbledore had finally told him about the prophecy, during his house call. After all those years of being told he should be braver, Neville finally stood up for himself and the school. They had both, in a way, fulfilled the prophecy Voldemort had been so afraid of: Harry by killing Voldemort and Neville by killing Nagini, an extension of his soul.
When someone sat down on his other side, Harry cast those thoughts from his mind. A strange feeling swept through him, when he saw that the person was Ginny.
“Hey guys,” she greeted smoothly, and turned to Harry. “How are you feeling?”
Harry managed a weak smile. “Fine.”
“Good. I was wondering if—”
Someone cleared their throat, and they both saw Ron giving them an annoyed look.
“I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen each other, but I’m your brother. Would it kill you to say hi?”
Ginny pursed her lips. “I did say hello – you just weren’t listening.”
Ron muttered under his breath for a moment, then went back to talking with Neville and Dean.
“Anyways,” Ginny moved in closer, lowering her voice, “I was wondering if you’d like to get together for a chat after supper. It’s been almost a week since I’ve seen you.”
“Sure,” Harry agreed. He opened his mouth to say something else, but a sharp poke in his right side stopped him. Hermione gestured that the first years were coming through the doors.
As the crowd of children made their way to the front of the Great Hall, Harry examined Ginny from the corner of his eye. They hadn’t seen much of each other, over the summer, and he had to admit that it was partially his fault; he was purposefully avoiding her. Not because he didn’t still care about her, but because he felt like there was something off between them. Before the Battle of Hogwarts, and even while it was going on, the one thing that weighed heavily on his mind was Ginny’s safety. Then it ended. He spent half of his time doing publicity things and the other half sitting in St. Mungo’s. She had come with him once, to visit Severus. It hadn’t ended well.
The last kid hopped down from the stood and raced over to the Slytherin table. The Sorting Ceremony was already finished. He repressed a groan. The Sorting Hat was something of a fortune teller; any song it sang at the beginning of the year would no doubt tell how the rest of year would be. Harry had been looking forward to seeing what it had to say.
Dumbledore stood and held out his arms. “Now, I’m sure there are some of us who are eager to start eating, so I won’t delay you. Dig in!”
Food magically appeared on the platters lining the table, and Ron dived for the plate of lamb chops.
“Slow down, Ron,” Ginny scolded, as her brother began to stuff his face, “the food’s not going anywhere.”
“Nn dn ndrnd—”
Hermione leaned away in disgust, as tiny bits of food sprayed her.
Harry chuckled and spooned some mashed potatoes onto his plate.
“Hey, Harry,” Hermione leaned closer as he began eating. “Did you see him?”
He stopped mid-chew, and his eyes darted towards the High Table. It only took a moment to locate the Potion Master’s black-haired head. He was seated next to Charlie, a scowl twisting his lips, as he spoke quickly. Charlie responded to whatever he said with a laugh, even though it couldn’t have been nice.
“You’ll get a chance to talk with him,” Hermione reassured him.
“Sure,” Harry muttered. Out the corner of his eye, he saw Ginny follow his gaze to Severus and frown.
When dinner and dessert were both over, there was a high-pitched ringing sound. Everyone in the hall quieted down and turned to see Professor McGonagall tapping on her glass. Professor Dumbledore stood, once he had everyone’s attention.
“As always, there are a few start of term announcements I wish to make.” Dumbledore’s voice rang out strong in clear in the hall.
“Each student should have gotten their school letters in July,” he began. “As such, you should all know that tomorrow morning a test will be given to determine whether or not you should proceed with your coursework. Do not worry, however. Any student that fails to pass will merely be given the proper tutoring needed, until such time when they have passed. For everybody else, classes will resume as normal. Though I have no doubt that our professors are capable of teaching you all the necessary curriculum, there may be some areas that could use improvement.”
Harry automatically thought about the Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, which had been taught by two Death Eaters. He highly doubted that there had been much teaching going on, in those lessons.
“Bloody hell,” Ron grumbled and rubbed his forehead. “I completely forgot about those stupid tests.”
“How could you forget?” Hermione was brimming with excitement. “I’ve been studying for the past two months. It’s a brilliant way to start off the year, don’t you think?”
“Sure,” Harry agreed, but not because of the reason Hermione thought. In truth, he had also forgotten about the testing, but he wasn’t too worried about it.
“We fought in a war,” Ron frowned. “Shouldn’t that count for something?”
Hermione let out a huff. “Honestly, Ronald, just because you fought in the war doesn’t mean you can use that excuse to get what you want.”
They turned back to Dumbledore, who went through, for a few more minutes, the rumours surrounding his return. Then he gestured to Charlie.
“This year, Professor Charles Weasley will be taking up the position as the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. Let’s give him a warm welcome,” he said cheerily, as Charlie stood and grinned impishly.
The applause was enthusiastic and took a while to quiet down. When it did, Dumbledore turned serious.
“Before we end this meeting, I would like to tell you that Hogwarts is a place of safety and refuge. If there are any reports of problems regarding students or teachers, the aggressor will be dealt with accordingly. The past few years have been hard, but we can move forward, as long as we remember to stand together.”
No one spoke. No one moved. It was obvious Dumbledore was talking about Severus and the Slytherins, the ones who would be most subject to hatred from the other students.
“And now, the school song!” Dumbledore switched from solemn to merry, and the tension in the hall eased. “Everybody pick their favourite tune and off we go!”
Harry went through the song quickly and waited. The lyrics were strange, and the tune as wonky as ever, but that was normal. It was just another thing that made Hogwarts home.
Everyone stood when the song was over, and began filing out of the Great Hall, seventh year Prefects and first years heading out first. Before he could get too far, Harry felt a tug on the sleeve of his robes. It was Ginny. She gave him a hesitant smile.
“You guys go on without me,” Harry told Ron and Hermione. “I’ll be up in a bit.”
Ron nodded and grabbed Hermione’s hand, as they left the hall. Harry and Ginny followed close behind but then went off in the opposite direction, once they got in the hallways. The new layout was quickly becoming familiar to Harry, especially after spending a better part of the previous afternoon browsing through the new halls, but Ginny had not had such a chance and was forced to let him lead. After a while, they came across an empty classroom. Ginny slipped inside first, and, after a quick glance around to make sure there were no professors around, Harry followed.
“How’ve you been, really?” Ginny asked, leaning against one of the desks. Harry went and stood next to her.
“I’ve been…good,” he said, after a moment. “I think coming back here, after everything, is helping a lot.”
“That’s fantastic.” Ginny reached out and gave his hand a squeeze but didn’t release it. “Have you thought any more about us?”
Harry took a deep breath and let it go slowly.
“I figured having some distance would help, and,” she moved closer, her floral scent filling his nostrils, “I’ve been waiting for you a long time. I’d like to get back together.”
A blanket of silence descended over them, as Harry examined Ginny carefully. She was just as beautiful as she had always been, if not more so. And she was his, if he wanted her. He couldn’t deny that he had kept her waiting – that it wasn’t fair of him to do that to her. But there’s something about her, he thought, looking at her big blue eyes staring up at him. Something that seems…
“Yeah,” Harry finally broke the quiet. “I think we should give it a go.”
Ginny’s face broke out in a wide grin, and she leaned forward to give him a kiss on the cheek.
“I’m glad you agree,” she gave his hand another squeeze and dropped it. “I’ll see you later then?”
“Sure.” He watched as she raced from the room. “See you.”
When he got back to the dorm, Ron and Neville were already dressed for bed. Malfoy and fellow Slytherin, Theodore Nott, were on the other side of the room, talking in low tones.
“Where did you go off to?” Neville asked, as Harry slipped out of his school clothes.
“If you were having a snog with Ginny,” Ron said, before Harry could answer, “then I don’t want to hear about it.”
Harry rolled his eyes and put his nightshirt on. After getting his head through the hole, his eyes met Theodore’s across the room. The boy nodded, and Harry nodded back. It wasn’t until he finished getting dressed, that he noticed no one was talking. Neville was looking at Theodore.
“It’s Theodore Nott, right? Why are you here?”
The question would have sounded rude coming from someone else, but Neville, who had always been a kind person, was merely curious. It seemed as though he didn’t hold a grudge against all Slytherins.
“Why am I here?” The brown-haired boy leaned against the post to his bed and crossed his arms. “The same reason you are, I imagine. I’d like to get a proper education for my last year. I plan on being a Healer, so I need to get my N.E.W.T.s.”
Neville nodded in understanding, then turned to Malfoy. Despite having turned his entire attitude around over the past year and a half and no longer seemed to be the shy teen he had been, he was still a bit hesitant.
Malfoy didn’t even turn around. “None your business, Longbottom.”
Tension was in every line of his back, and Harry knew he was being rude because he didn’t want anybody to know the truth. It wasn’t something Malfoy would just tell someone; that he was strictly back at Hogwarts for probationary purposes and that he had to get permission from the Minister, any time he wanted to leave the castle, for the next year.
“Ignore him,” Theodore rolled his eyes, choosing not to see the glare Malfoy shot his way. “He’s just being a prat. And call me Theo, please.”
“Okay,” Neville climbed into bed. “I think this is a good idea, putting Gryffindors and Slytherins in the same room.”
“What are you talking about?” Ron glared.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?” Harry questioned. He had noticed right away, though he chose not to comment on it.
“Professor Dumbledore is trying to erase the line between our Houses,” Theodore added. “This is the ultimate plan towards Inter-house Unity. We’re here to set the bar for the younger years.”
Harry saw the disgusted expressions on Malfoy and Ron’s faces and sighed, as he also settled in. If Dumbledore was shooting for peace between them, then they had a long way to go.
This chapter has been encouraged, Beta-ed, and Brit-picked by gbheart and loopyloo2610.
This is the end of the first arc. As you can see it was mostly setting up and explaining a few things. The next arc is where we really take off. Since there was no end of year testing last term—and I doubt there was too much real learning going on—I came up with the idea of testing. It wouldn’t make sense to have some people’s knowledge stunted and push them forward to the next year anyway.
Chapter 6: Chapter One
Harry and Malfoy clear the air, and Harry finds an unexpected ally in one Theodore Nott
Arc Two: September
Chapter One: The Tests
“Is he alive? Draco? Is he alive?”
With a sharp breath, Harry opened his eyes. The last tendrils of the dream clung to his mind, even as the bright morning sun washed away the rest. It had become increasingly harder to sleep over the years, even more so during the last, but that issue had ended once the war did. Now, it was becoming more difficult to actually dream.
As Harry sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, he vaguely wondered when the last time he had actually dreamed – dreamed, not remembered.
Harry rubbed his eyes, trying to rid them of the gritty feeling, and reached out for his glasses. He slid them on his face as he stood.
“Look like I’m late,” he muttered to himself, before he started to get ready.
A quick survey of the room told him that the others had already left for breakfast. Since they would be having tests most of the day, they had most likely risen early to do any last minute cramming in between bites of toast and eggs. Deciding this to be a good idea, Harry dressed quickly, grabbing a few notes from the bottom of his trunk that had been spared at the end of sixth year. It wasn’t until he spied Ron’s trunk, which had been left open, and moved to close it, that he saw a figure in one of the beds.
He froze. Since the bed was across the room, it could be either Malfoy or Theo. Theo, going by his words from the previous night, didn’t seem to pose any problem. Malfoy was a different story. Automatically, his mind supplied the dark images from his dream: Narcissa Malfoy leaning over his limp body, asking if her son was still alive, and Draco, shaking from endless fighting, being summoned by her from behind Voldemort – him refusing and staying on the side of Hogwarts, on Harry’s side.
Harry coughed and the slight figure moved. A blonde head emerged from the sheets, followed by grey eyes that, even just coming out of sleep, were hard as steel.
“What, Potter?” Malfoy’s voice was slightly scratchy.
“The tests starts soon,” Harry informed him. Getting only a snort in response, he pressed on. “I thought you might want to head down, before you’re late.”
There was a pause. Then Malfoy sat up quickly, throwing back his covers. The blonde glared at Harry, who stared back coolly. They would talk, no matter how stubborn Malfoy tried to be. He would make things right.
“I don’t need any help from you, Potter,” Malfoy spat his name out like a curse. “I don’t know what ridiculous notions you’ve had, but sharing a room doesn’t make us friends.”
“Really?” Harry took a step forward. “I thought maybe saving your scrawny arse from Azkaban might.”
Malfoy recoiled a fraction, features automatically tightening. It was a low blow, to be sure, but Harry knew that he was heading in the right direction. If he had approached Malfoy cautiously, with gentle and friendly words from the start, Harry would have been ripped to shreds. Harsh words and underlying meanings were the things Malfoy was use to. He knew the Slytherin wasn’t the type to accept things easily, so he wouldn’t give him the chance to shoot him down when he tried to make amends. He would head into it straight on, wounds bared and all; he would force Malfoy to accept.
“How does it feel? To owe, not just a Gryffindor, but Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, something?” Harry grinned, even as he hated himself for doing it. Knowing the more self-righteous he acted the more angry Malfoy would become, fuelled his intent. It wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed, but it appeared to have an effect. “You probably never hear the end of it from the others, do you?” If they even talk with you anymore, that is. Your stint at the end of the battle most likely turned them against you—”
Quicker than a flash, Malfoy reached under his sheet and brought his wand out.
The spell hit Harry’s shield and harmlessly bounced off. There was a tense moment, as the two looked at each other, Malfoy breathing slightly heavier than normal, with the force of his anger. His eyes burned bright with hatred and something unidentifiable. If there was a slight sheen of wetness to his eyes, Harry pretended not to notice.
“I hate you,” Malfoy said, voice filled with contempt. His voice was low and, though he tried to suppress it, held a slight tremor. “What would you know about my reasoning for what I did? Just because you’re the Golden Boy, you think you have the right to judge people, since you’ve been praised by every foolish wizard in our world for having a cut on your ugly head and killing a man, but don’t act for a second that you understand what I’ve gone through. So you pulled a few strings and rescued the poor, pathetic Death Eater from Azkaban.” Scorn dripped from every word as he spoke, “Were you under the impression that I would thank you? That I would fall at your feet? I may have been a Death Eater and I may have lost, but I will never stand down to you. I still hate you, and nothing will ever change that.”
As Malfoy spoke, the closed off and withdrawn persona he had taken on the past few days melted away. He was furious, Harry knew, and not just with Harry, but with himself for appearing so weak.
“That’s a relief. Being in a war...changes people, some for better and others not so much. Out of everything...” Harry trailed off as he didn’t say “I’m glad you’re still the same”, but it hung in the air nonetheless, heavy with its unspoken weight. He finished, “It’s difficult to let some actions go, but it’s usually best to start fresh.”
The blonde merely narrowed his eyes, a million snappy retorts probably perched on the tip of his tongue. Harry let out a quick gust of air and swiftly crossed over to Malfoy’s bed. He came to a stop, a few feet from him, and, in a very obvious move, put his wand away. Harry held out his hand.
“You wouldn’t want to go making enemies with the wrong sort this time. I can help you there.”
For a moment, Harry stared at Malfoy, as he stared at Harry’s outstretched hand. Several emotions crossed his face, and Harry could see he was contemplating whether he should hex him, curse the appendage, or both. Out the corner of his eye, Harry saw Malfoy’s right hand—the one not clutched around his wand—twitch slightly.
“Sod off. I don’t need your pity,” he muttered at last.
Harry dropped his hand, and took a step back. It was a minor victory, but it was one nonetheless. It could have been much worse, especially considering he could have been hexed.
“Fine,” Harry moved over to his bed and picked his stuff back up, kicking the top to Ron’s trunk closed as he went, “but you better hurry or you’ll miss breakfast.”
He turned his back and opened the door leading to the stairs.
“Potter.” Harry paused at the sound of Malfoy’s voice. “Next time you do that, I’ll curse you.”
With a sharp nod, Harry sprinted down the stairs and through the common room. It was empty, as he knew it would be. He continued out of the dormitory, down the staircase, and finally—after one wrong turn—made it to the Great Hall. He spied Hermione and Ron sitting next to each other and took a seat across from them. Hermione gave him a concerned look.
“Are you feeling okay?” Hermione asked, setting the papers she had in her hands, down. “You’re not usually one to oversleep.”
Harry gave her a tiny, fond smile. “It took me a while to get to sleep last night, is all. I’m fine.”
“Sorry, mate,” Ron grimaced. “I meant to wake you, but Dean promised me his Transfiguration notes, if I came early, and you sort of slipped my mind.”
“Did you copy them?”
“Yeah.” Ron grinned and slid the notes across the table.
As Harry snatched them up, Hermione narrowed her gaze and looked down at his meagre pile of messy and ink stained sheets of parchment.
“Harry, how many times do I have to remind you about the importance of retaining your notes for revision?” She asked sternly.
Simultaneously, Ron and Harry rolled their eyes.
“You don’t have to remind me, Hermione,” Harry said, sipping his orange juice. “You’ve been saying the same thing since first year. Relax; it’s only a few comprehension tests.”
Hermione’s face took on a pinched expression, but she shook her head after a moment. “Fine. Hurry and eat. You can go over these,” she handed him a stack of notes, “while you still have time. All seventh years are testing in McGonagall’s room, so you have about twenty minutes, before we have to be there.”
“Thanks, Hermione.” Harry grinned and started to eat.
For fifteen minutes, he alternated between taking bites of food and trying to absorb any information from the notes that he could. Ron was doing the same, although his forkfuls were a lot heartier. When Harry got to the last piece of parchment, he set the other papers down and sighed.
“How long are these tests?” He asked. He raised a hand to rub his forehead, letting his fingers rub his scar in a soothing, habitual movement, when she answered, “Most of the day,” and let his eyes wander for a moment.
Automatically, Harry’s gaze was drawn towards the High Table, where he immediately sought out Severus. Like the night before, he was seated next to Charlie—though he would bet it was more like Charlie was seated next to him—with a sour look on his face. He lifted his head to say something in response to whatever Charlie had said, and happened to glance in Harry’s direction. Severus met his gaze and looked away in one smooth motion, chastising Charlie when he stole one of the kippers from his plate. After a few more moments, Severus set down his fork, stood, and swept from the room. Charlie soon followed.
“That git,” Harry heard Ron mumble under his breath. He turned to see the redhead rolling his eyes, “Charlie never knew when to let up. Snape doesn’t stand a chance, now that Charlie’s got his mind set on them being friends.”
Harry guessed his tone was supposed to let everyone know he was annoyed, but the smirk on his face implied otherwise. If anything, he seemed to be enjoying watching his older brother smother Severus with his attempts at friendship.
“I think that’s a good thing,” Hermione interjected. “Everyone needs friends, and I think Professor Snape and the others will need a hand, now more than ever.”
“If by ‘others’, you mean Malfoy—”
“I do, actually. Ronald, you should really stop being so—”
“Guys,” Harry interrupted, before their argument could escalate further, “don’t you think we should go, before we’re late?”
The annoyance quickly melted from Hermione’s face, as she jumped up.
“That’s right! Oh, Harry, why didn’t you say something sooner? I hope we’re not late!”
She tugged Ron up and rushed him out the hall by the sleeve of his robes. He shot Harry a glare over his shoulder as they went, but Harry just smiled and followed behind at a slower pace.
“That was tedious.”
“Really?” Hermione smiled, as the three exited Professor McGonagall’s classroom and headed down the hall. “I thought it was quite enjoyable. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be.”
“Of course you do,” Ron grumbled under his breath.
“I’m sure you did good on all your tests,” Hermione commented, soothingly.
“You said you did well during the practical part of the Defence section,” Harry pitched in, though he wasn’t too sure if he had done particularly well, either.
“But it’s not just the practical part that counts, is it?” Ron began ranting as they walked, though Harry was only half listening. He had spied the hallway leading down to the dungeons and stopped, as an idea formulated in his mind.
“Hey, I’ll catch you guys later.” Hermione and Ron stopped walking and turned to look at him, as he started to back away. “I’m going to go see if I can speak with Sev—Professor Snape.”
“Sure,” Hermione grabbed onto Ron’s arm, before he could open his mouth. “We’ll meet you back at the common room, okay?”
Harry nodded and headed down the corridor. He took a left at the end and descended the stairs that were there, coming to a stop when he reached the bottom. Out of all the things that had changed in the past year, the dungeons, he noticed, had been one of the few things that remained the same. The corridor was dimly lit, and suits of armour lined the walls. As Harry began to make his way to the Potions classroom, he noticed that the stone floor was slightly damp. He didn’t pass by any Slytherins, and if they saw him, they didn’t confront him, something he was glad for.
He came to a stop in front of the door to the Potions classroom and knocked. Harry waited for a couple seconds before knocking again. When there was still no answer, he tried to open the door. Locked.
“It was worth a shot,” Harry sighed and headed back upstairs.
He bypassed the Great Hall, where the other students were enjoying their lunches, and headed for the common room. Two girls he didn’t know, one a Ravenclaw and the other a Slytherin, were sitting in front of the fireplace, heads bent over something. When he burst in, they stopped talking. The Ravenclaw, a dark-skinned girl, moved whatever they had been looking at out of his range of sight and scowled. The Slytherin, a petite blonde, on the other hand, actually blushed and dropped her gaze. Harry repressed an urge to roll his eyes—he was more than used to both reactions by now—and, with a stiff nod in their direction, continued on and took the stirs two at a time to get to his dormitory.
“—maybe it’s time you changed that,” Theo was saying, as Harry opened the door to their room.
Malfoy was flopped down on his bed and Theo sat at the end, looking down. When Harry came in, Malfoy raised his head to see who it was, scowled, and put his head back down. Theo stood and gave Harry a small smile, which was returned, albeit tentatively.
“Hey, Harry,” Theo greeted, then raised a brow. “It’s all right if I call you that?”
“I don’t see why not,” Harry crossed the room to his bed where he toed off his shoes. “It’s one of my names, after all.”
“Well,” Theo shrugged, “I’d prefer to call you by your first. It’s far better than some of the other names I’ve heard in the Slytherin common room. But, really, I’m not most Slytherins.”
Harry had to admit that this seemed to be true. While Theo had never been a part of the crowd that had fun picking on the younger crowd, or flaunting their wealth, he remembered Theo had often been mingling in the background, sometimes surfacing to hang out with Malfoy and his cohorts. Harry would be the first to admit that he was glad for Theo’s presence; he acted as a buffer, bringing down Malfoy’s hostility level to almost nonexistent.
Like now, for instance.
Harry blinked in surprise, when he saw, out the corner of his eye, Theo nudging Malfoy and the blonde sitting up slowly. When he greeted him with a begrudging tone, Theo nodded once in approval.
“Malfoy,” Harry responded.
A thick blanket of silence settled over the three of them, and Harry turned his thoughts back to the events from that morning. While it was possible that this was Malfoy’s attempt at being nice, he didn’t expect anything too soon. Then again, Theo might help speed the process along.
“So what did you think of the tests?” Harry raised his head to find Theo looking at him curiously.
He shrugged. “They were all right, I guess. It could have been worse.”
A tapping sound on one of the windows got their attention. Theo stood and crossed the room to open the window. Behind the tawny school owl that flew in were two more, each with a scroll tied to its leg.
Malfoy sat up and untied the letter from around the leg offered to him and asked, “So these are our results, then?”
After scanning his own parchment, Theo nodded. “It has our scores and our new timetables for the year. Did you pass?”
As he looked back and forth between the two of them, Harry quickly realized the question was aimed at him as well.
“Yeah,” he and Malfoy said simultaneously.
Malfoy glowered at him, but Harry ignored it.
“Did you pass all of yours?” He asked in return, and Theo nodded, holding up his timetable. Even from across the room, Harry could tell it was full.
“I’ve got a full day almost every day,” he replied. “What about you, Draco?”
“Full,” Malfoy agreed, then, once again with a reluctant expression, turned to Harry. “And yours, Potter?”
Before he could stop himself, Harry found his eyes darting over to Theo’s face, almost as if he were checking to see if it was safe to answer. A tiny grin played at the corner of the boy’s lips, but his head bent forward in a nod almost imperceptivity. Harry understood. This was Malfoy trying; this was Malfoy shaking his hand.
Harry said casually, “Mine’s not too full, so I’m sure we can find some time to hang out.”
Malfoy narrowed his eyes and said, “Who would want to hang out with you, Scarface?”, then turned away.
Behind Malfoy’s back, Theo gave Harry a thumbs-up.
Chapter 7: Chapter Two
Ron gets a job, Harry and Draco make a drunken truce, and Severus gets a few treats.
Arc Two: September
Chapter Two: Saint Potter
Tuesday, September 2nd, 8:27 am
“Where are you hurrying off to?”
Hermione looked up from her plate of food and raised a brow, as Ron reached over her shoulder. He snatched up one of the goblets filled with orange juice, raised it to his mouth, and began drinking without pause. Harry shrugged, when Ron didn’t answer Hermione’s question, and turned her gaze to him instead.
“I’ve got to go.” Ron finally finished his drink, setting the cup down heavily, and grabbed two pieces of toast. “I’m working with Fred and George in the shop this morning.”
“How did you get permission to leave?” Harry asked. “I thought Dumbledore said he had put the Apparition wards back up.”
“He did,” Ron eyed a roll, obviously contemplating whether or not to eat that, too, “but I told him yesterday that I was helping at Wheezes, and he was all right with it; he just told me to leave through Hogsmeade.”
“If by ‘helping’, you meaning testing their new experiments, you should be getting paid,” Hermione commented.
“I am,” he said around a mouthful of food. Harry had to crane his neck a bit to see his face, since he had never sat down. “They’re paying me two Galleons an hour, every time I come in.”
Hermione and Harry exchanged a glance. They both knew two galleons would hardly be compensation for acting as the twins’ lab rat. Before either of them could say anything further, Ron was already racing away, a shout of, “See you in Charms!” being thrown over his shoulder, as he went.
“He’s going to come back regretting this, isn’t he?”
Tuesday, September 2nd, 11:30 am
All around the classroom, students were practicing the Avis charm, under Professor Flitwick’s watchful eye. The first few days would be review, he had informed them at the beginning of class, and then they would move on to new things. Though half of the students in the class —which a majority of were actual seventh years, and not returnees like himself — had groaned, it was quite plain, now that they had begun, that most, if not all of them, needed the opportunity to relearn the spells.
“Need help?” Harry asked Ron.
The redhead had returned to school just in time for period three, which he had with Harry. He had told Harry he had mainly stocked the shelves before opening, and that Fred and George hadn’t made him test anything yet, but Harry knew it was only a matter of time.
Ron’s face was slightly pale, and he swallowed hard before speaking. “No, I can do this. It’s just…summoning birds.”
Harry watched, bemused, as his friend tried and failed to perform the Avis charm correctly.
“A-avis,” Ron forced out through clenched teeth. A yellow feather sprang forth from the end of his wand and floated down to the ground. He lowered his wand. “What’s the point of this? It’s not like I’m going to need to conjure tiny birds out of thin air, anytime in the future.”
Harry understood, and grinned. “Remembering sixth year?”
“Harry.” Ron’s tone was sharp. “I told you, don’t bring that up again. The pecking was bad enough without you…”
He trailed off, a scowl on his face.
Across the room, a seventh year accidently set one of the birds, that he had conjured, on fire.
Wednesday, September 3rd, 11:05, Transfiguration
“Did you see Ron?”
“I didn’t think it was possible to miss him.”
“But—I mean, did you see his face—”
“Everyone who was in the Great Hall during break saw it. As long as you don’t look at it…”
“Harry, the thing covers half his—Hi Ron!”
Wednesday, September 3rd, 7:00, Astronomy Practical
Harry squinted down at the parchment on his lap, then back up into his telescope. He was attempting to chart the Volans constellation – attempting…and failing.
“Remind me why I signed up for this class?” Ron moaned into his hands. He had given up a while ago on charting his assigned constellation, in favour of moaning over the amount of school work they had been given, over the past two days.
“You were the one who said having Professor Sinistra again would be fun,” Harry replied, only half listening.
“Yeah, but I didn’t think she’d give us actual work, this year,” he grumbled.
Harry ignored Ron’s complaints, until a few minutes later, when he asked: “Have you talked to Snape yet?”
Slightly taken aback from the question, Harry stopped drawing to look up at Ron. He knew that Ron’s dislike towards their professor hadn’t abated much over the summer holiday, but his attitude had seemingly taken a turn, over the past twenty-four hours. After supper the night before, Charlie had pulled Ron aside to talk, and when he later appeared in the common room, he had turned to Harry and said, “I still don’t like him, but I guess I’ve been outnumbered”. That morning, Charlie, who was, like at every meal previously, sitting next to Severus, had winked at Harry.
Now here Ron was, asking if Harry had spoken to Severus. Whatever Charlie had said to Ron the night before, to spawn the sudden change of heart, Harry wanted to know.
“Not yet.” Harry said. “I tried going by yesterday, but he was gone. We have Potions tomorrow, so I’ll just have to wait until then.”
“Why not just catch him after evening classes are over?” Ron commented casually. Harry gave him a strange look, as he suggested it. Now he really wanted to know what Charlie had said.
“If you two girls are done chatting, maybe you ought to shut up.” Malfoy cut into their conversation, from where he was sitting, a few places away. “Some of us are trying to work.”
Harry’s eyes darted over to where Malfoy and Theo were sitting. Malfoy had gone back to drawing his constellation, but Theo met Harry’s gaze, over the blonde’s head.
Theo rolled his eyes, and Harry smiled.
Thursday, September 4th, 9:00 am, Potions
“As you are all NEWT students — though I can’t imagine how some of you managed to pass—” his eyes darted in Neville’s direction, “I expect each and every one of you to act maturely,” Severus drawled, and the rest of the class tried not to visibly cower. “If you fail to turn in an assignment, I will deduct points. If you fail to take notes, I will deduct points. I am not here to coddle you, and detentions will be given out as I deem suitable.”
It was very much like his first year, being in the dank, dimly lit Potions classroom, with everybody trying not to catch the attention of the imposing figure standing in front. Ron’s eyes were glazed over already, but Hermione was sitting at attention, quill poised in her hand, as if she might have to begin writing at any moment. Harry, too, was focused on their professor, though not for the same reasons as Hermione, but when Severus’ dark gaze slid over his face, he had to fight the urge to look away. A muscle jumped in Severus’ jaw, when he didn’t look away, and his eyes continued on, attempting to scare the wits out of the other students with his glare and voice alone.
Harry frowned and pondered his reaction. It wasn’t as if it was the first time that Severus had looked at him since the start of the school year, and from the amount of time that they spent together over the summer—if one half of the party being unconscious counted as “spending time together” — the sudden wave of uncertainty he had felt shouldn’t have even happened. Most likely a reaction to being back in a classroom setting, Harry concluded.
“Childish behaviour from anyone, such as throwing unnecessary ingredients into other people’s cauldrons, will be…punished accordingly,” Severus continued, eyeing a few Slytherins, who seemed to get the message. “I expect your full attention at all times, as I will not be repeating myself. Now, turn to page fifteen, in your books.”
As far as Harry was concerned, this was possibly the nicest Severus had been to his classes, in the years he had known him. Whether that was due to not being under so much pressure anymore, or something else, Harry could only guess.
The entire Potions class involved only note-taking on the things that they had already learned. Though all the other teachers had done this, it wasn’t something Harry had anticipated Severus to do as well. Even as the time approached for him to stop lecturing and begin their practical, he continued to lecture on the different kinds of healing and poisoning potions.
When the bell rang, Severus held them back.
“Unless otherwise specified,” he said at the end, as everyone was closing their books and putting away sheets of filled with notes, “attendance will not be required during evening practicals. For homework, you will each write two rolls of parchment describing the side effects of healing potions, as well as which ones counteract poisons. They are to be handed to me on Thursday morning. Class dismissed.”
While the rest of the class jumped to their feet, Harry packed his things slowly, hoping to be the last person left.
“We’ll wait for you outside,” Hermione said. She gave him an encouraging smile, then she and Ron, who gave him a pat on the shoulder as he passed, slipped out.
Harry took a deep breath and turned around. Severus was sitting behind his desk, head bent over something. He approached the desk, trying to shake the nervous feeling that had appeared out of nowhere and decided to settle itself in his stomach.
“What is it, Potter?” Severus asked disinterestedly, without even raising his head.
“Professor, I wanted to talk with you about the pensieve memories.”
He paused in the middle of marking something big and red. Harry noticed his fingers clench slightly tighter around the quill, before relaxing and resuming their marking once more.
“There is nothing to discuss,” he said briskly. Coldly. “Now, leave.”
Harry felt a surge of irritation. “But, if you’ll only just—”
“I said,” Severus finally looked up. His eyes were empty of any emotion, but a small sneer twisted the corners of his mouth, “there is nothing to discuss. Leave, Potter, or you’ll find yourself with a month’s worth of detentions.”
When Harry opened his mouth again, poised to protest, Severus set his quill aside, rose, and crossed to a room a few feet away. Despite his composed exterior, the door closed a little too hard for him to be anything other than calm. For a moment, Harry didn’t move. He took a few controlled breaths, and, without thinking, began to rub the scar on his forehead. He closed his eyes. Obviously it wasn’t as easy as he naively thought it would be, getting Severus to talk about his memories. It seemed clear now that the things he saw in the pensieve were things Severus was never going to discuss with him.
In the time between one second and the next, Harry realised something.
“I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’ll say it again, if I get the chance. I understand now,” he said loudly, hoping Severus was at least nearby, and that he wasn’t just wasting his time. Or worse, that he would burst back out the door and throw Harry out for not having left yet. “You didn’t expect it, did you? To live to see the end of the war. That’s why you really gave me those memories, because you thought you wouldn’t have to talk about them. I’m sorry, then, for prying.”
Harry didn’t wait for Severus to appear but picked up his stuff and left, closing the room to the door quietly.
Back straight and hands clenched, Severus stood stiffly, on the other side of the door to the in-classroom potions storage, and waited.
The damn brat didn’t seem to shut up, even though he had told him quite clearly to leave.
“I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’ll say it again, if I get the chance.” He was half-tempted to go out there just so he didn’t have to hear it again in the future. “I understand now. You didn’t expect it, did you? To live to see the end of the war.” Severus ground his teeth together. “That’s why you really gave me those memories, because you thought you wouldn’t have to talk about them. I’m sorry, then, for prying. I won’t bring it up again.”
Severus closed his eyes for the briefest of moments. The Potter boy wasn’t right in any way about his deductions; he couldn’t be further from the truth. The way he made it sound, Severus was…embarrassed about showing him those memories. The very idea was ridiculous – preposterous, even.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t expected to live: it was that he discovered, after everything he had been through — the things he had witnessed, and the crimes he had been forced to commit — he didn’t really want to.
And even that was taken away, by Potter and his selfish actions.
Harry slid the invisibility cloak off and rolled it into a ball. It was merely a stroke of luck that the portrait with the bowl of fruit on it was still located in the same place. After all the other renovations that had been done to the castle, he had planned to subject himself to search for it, for at least two hours, before giving up. Starting at the place where it used to be had been a good idea, after all, and had saved him some time.
He reached out and gave the green pear a tickle. The pear giggled, squirmed, then turned into a handle. Before he could turn it, however, the portrait swung open, and a tiny elf attached itself to his middle.
“Harry Potter has come to visit Dobby, at last!”
Harry grinned down at the house elf and pulled out the pair of socks he had stuffed in his back pocket. Dobby let go of Harry and grabbed the socks.. They were new and striped with different colours, something he knew the elf would like, as soon as he saw it in the display window of a Muggle shop. He waited until Dobby had finished thanking him, before he climbed through the secret entrance to the Hogwarts kitchens. Immediately, at least a dozen elves had him surrounded, bowing and curtsying, asking if he needed food or something to drink. Being so surrounded, he was slightly taken aback to hear the low, gravelly voice of Kreacher begin to talk above the rest.
“Kreacher would be most proud to serve Master Harry, this evening.” The house-elf gave a low bow, and the other house-elves—except for Dobby—reluctantly left.
“Kreacher!” He couldn’t hide the surprise that coloured his tone. “What are you doing here?”
“My master told Kreacher to serve Master Harry, while he is at school.” Harry figured he meant Sirius. His godfather was too stubborn sometimes. He was most likely sitting in Grimmauld Place, hungry and bemoaning the fact that he had, stupidly, sent Kreacher away, or sitting at Lupin’s place, begging him to make Sirius something to eat. He would have to write to him tomorrow.
“Okay. Um,” He hadn’t thought too much about what exactly he was hungry for, only that he needed something to chew on, “what about a few biscuits? And some tea.”
“Right away, Master Harry.”
As Kreacher slouched away to get the food, Dobby gestured for Harry to follow him. He led him past the four long tables to one on the side. A stool was in front of the table, which was laden with bags of sugar and flour. He sat down, placing his invisibility cloak next to his arm, and turned to Dobby.
“You should sit down,” he offered.
Dobby got a pinched look on his face, and then it was gone, replaced by the carefree chipper smile that always seemed to be there. He quickly dragged himself up into the stool, though it took some effort, and began to speak.
“Dobby is very happy to see Harry Potter,” he said excitedly. “So much has happened, and Dobby has not seen Harry Potter since that day.”
Harry refrained from wincing. He knew which day Dobby was referring to: the day he had almost died in front of Bill and Fleur’s cottage on the beach.
“I’d rather not talk about that, right now. But next time I’m down here, you’ll have to tell me all about it,” Harry said, seeing Kreacher approaching with his food. It looked like a lot more than he had asked for. “Or you can come up to see me sometime, when I’m free.”
“Dobby would be most honoured, sir!” He beamed.
Kreacher set a tray down in front of Harry and another, which had been spelled to float beside him, was set down next to it. He picked up a teapot from one of the trays and began to pour him some tea. “Is there anything else Master Harry wants?”
Harry blinked down at the very full tray of brandy snaps, biscuits, and cream cakes, all of which he liked. There were also mint imperials and rhubarb and custards, which he didn’t particularly enjoy. He considered saying he didn’t need this much food, but then decided to just take some back for the others.
“No, this is fine, thank you,” he said. Kreacher moved away, but Dobby stayed by his side, informing Harry about a new friend he had made, Nooli, who was currently in search of a paying job. When he was finished with the tea, he quickly ate some of the biscuits and brandy snaps, and then loaded his pockets with cream cakes and mint imperials.
As he got up to leave, some of the other elves flocked to his side and began offering him more sweets. He politely declined and continued on to the door. Kreacher was waiting for him there and bowed low, as Harry came to a stop.
“If you don’t mind, could you go back to Grimmauld place and make Sirius something to eat?” Harry asked. “He’s hopeless, otherwise.”
Kreacher seemed to want to say something, but held it back, instead saying, “Of course, Master Harry.”
“Thanks.” Harry glanced over his shoulder and smiled at the elves that had clustered around the door to bid him goodbye. “And thanks a lot to you all!”
He waved and stepped out of the kitchens and into the corridor. The last thing he saw of them was Dobby jumping up and down, waving furiously.
Harry chuckled to himself and left the corridor. Just as he was about to shake out his invisibility cloak and swing it on, a voice made him freeze.
“Going somewhere, Mr. Potter?”
Harry had reflexively drawn his wand, before the speaker could finish his sentence. When he realised who it was, he relaxed his grip, though his shoulders were still tense. He turned around.
Severus was walking towards him at a very relaxed pace, black robes billowing out behind him. A scowl was etched on his face, and the way the moonlight hit his face, it made him look more intimidating than usual.
“Still unable to break the habit of wandering after curfew, I see.” One brow rose in derision.
Harry tried not to let it show how startled he was by Severus’ sudden appearance, and how even more nervous he felt at having to talk to him face to face, so soon. After his little stint in Potions that afternoon, Harry was sure he was going to get assigned an infinite amount of detentions. He had to find a way to distract him.
“No answer?” Severus asked, when Harry didn’t rise to the bait, like he would have done in the past. “Fine. Twenty points—”
Severus abruptly stopped talking and stared at Harry’s suddenly outstretched hand. In a last ditch effort to get out of trouble, Harry had reached into his pocket with his free hand and withdrew the only thing he thought might have some sort of effect. If he had offered a sweet cake, there was no telling how mad Severus might have gotten. A mint imperial was a practical sweet with a distinct flavour; one Harry was certain – Okay, he was stretching it a bit – Severus would like.
Severus narrowed his eyes, and looked back and forth between the sweet and Harry’s face. Harry tried to look as innocent as possible, even though he really just wanted to kick himself. No matter whom the teacher, a student offering any professor sweets out of the blue was a bit strange. It was even stranger since the hatred between Severus and Harry was the stuff of legends. He should have no reason to offer Severus anything really, unless…
Harry bit the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling as he realised what else the sweet could stand for, other than a means of distraction. Unless it was a peace offering.
“Do you want one?” Harry offered, an idea already formed on how to lead the conversation to where he wanted it to go. “I have a few, if you like them.”
“What gave you the impression that I ate mint imperials, Potter?” Severus bit out.
Harry searched his mind for a lie and answered smoothly, “There was a box of mint imperials sent for you, while you were in St. Mungo’s.”
“How did you know that?” Severus snapped defensively.
“I was there almost every single day you were,” Harry said, surprised that his lie had actually been the truth, then smiled wryly. “Well, except for the last day, when you woke up.”
Severus let out a snort. “It was no coincidence that I woke up the day you weren’t there. An unwanted presence tends to weigh heavily on the mind, so let me make one thing perfectly clear, Potter: What happened during the war between…us,” he spit out the word like a curse, “should have no influence on the present. Despite what your childish mind may think, we are not, and never will be, friends, acquaintances, or anything close to it.”
There was a long pause between them. Harry had felt a dash of hurt at hearing that the only reason Severus hadn’t woken up was because he had been bothering him, but he pushed that aside. Once again, they were back to where they had been that afternoon, with the pensieve memories, because that’s what this all boiled down to, even if Severus didn’t want to admit it. A few things had become obvious to Harry, in the weeks since viewing them, and some others had been made clear earlier that day. Now that he was sure he had Severus’ attention, seeing as the man seemed to be waiting for some sort of response, he could say some of the things that had been on his mind.
“I understand your perspective better now,” Harry said at last, lowering the hand with the sweets. His voice echoed slightly in the empty corridor. “I won’t pretend to know everything, but I get what I do know. I never intended to use your memories against you, or mock you for them; I just wanted to say thank you. You did a lot for me, and, well, I was ungrateful. But,” he met Severus’ gaze strongly, “I would like you to know that I think my mother would have forgiven you.”
Severus opened his mouth, a murderous expression on his face, and Harry quickly rushed to finish what he wanted to say – what he had been trying to convey, all this time.
“I know that you look at me, and you see my dad, and that you hate Neville because he wasn’t the Chosen One, but don’t hate what you’ve done. You loved my mother. A lot. Everything you did in the war was for her, to repay her, and you did. Being alive afterwards might not have been what you wanted, but I knew my mom would agree, when I thought you deserved a second chance to live. So…hold on to the memories you have of my mother—the good ones—now that you can do it properly.”
“You…” Severus trailed off. For the first time, in the eight years Harry had known him, he didn’t seem to know what to say.
While Severus was searching for the right words, Harry gave the sweets in his hand a tap with his wand and let them go. They promptly rose to eye level. He would leave the mint imperials behind.
“And…” Harry hesitated. What he was about to say would, without a doubt, be a bit too forward, but he decided to take a risk and make it quick. “We can be friends, I think, someday.”
He quickly swung the invisibility cloak over his shoulders and moved away to crouch down against the wall. Severus automatically noticed his disappearance and snapped out of whatever thought he had been entertaining.
“That damn brat,” he heard Severus mutter furiously, then started forward to try and go after him.
Harry watched, as he suddenly jerked to a stop. He raised a hand and grabbed the mint imperials that had been in the air. For a brief second, Harry thought he might let them go again, and he couldn’t help the small smile that turned up the corners of his mouth, as he saw Severus put them in his pocket instead.
He waited until the man had swept away in search of Harry, to stand and make his way back to the common room. He got there without incident this time, although there had been a small argument between him and the portrait, on the way in, even managing to finish the sweet cakes on the way, and, when the portrait closed behind him, he let out a sigh of relief. As he pulled the cloak off, Harry saw Malfoy reclining, on the sofa in front of the fire, with his eyes shut.
Harry walked over to one of the chairs next to the sofa and threw himself down on it. The chair was comfortable, but there wasn’t a lot of room, so he ended up with one leg resting over the arm and his head turned at an almost uncomfortable angle, so that it was supported by one of the wings.
It was because he thought Malfoy was asleep, that Harry had even sat down, with the past few days being strained between them, so when he started to drift off, the sound of Malfoy talking woke him right back up.
“I’ll never be one of you,” he slurred somewhat, and Harry cracked an eye open to see a bottle of Firewhiskey that he hadn’t noticed before. “A golden kid. Even though I should be, since I’m blonde. I’ll always be…people will only see this stupid mark. They look at me and think I’m evil, or they pity me. Disgusting.” Malfoy snatched up the bottle and took a swig. He let out a slight cough, as he put the Firewhiskey back down again. “I just want…more people. Like Theo. More people like Theo.”
Harry considered him, out the corner of his open eye, and how desperate he seemed to want something he thought he couldn’t have, and spoke up.
“You won’t get that from us,” Harry informed Malfoy, who barely moved. “We stick together, and we fight for each other, but we don’t pity. We pick up our fallen and drag them along, as we all move on.”
Malfoy scoffed. “What? Are you inviting me to be a Gryffindor now?”
“No.” He sat up and ran a hand through his messy hair. It was a good thing Malfoy had started talking; Harry would have sorely regretted falling asleep on the chair, in the morning. “I’m asking you to be our friend. Houses have nothing to do with it.”
He could see Malfoy contemplating those last words. It probably wasn’t the first time he had heard the words—Theo had most likely been saying something similar all week—but it would be the first time he had heard it from Harry.
At last, Malfoy closed his eyes and said, “Saint Potter: always trying to save people.”
“Not really. Just gits like you.”
Chapter 8: Chapter Three
Severus is a man of routine. He enjoys things to be how he expects them to be. Nothing more. And he certainly will not be swayed by one boy and his collection of sweets.
Arc Two: September
Chapter Three: Peace, Quiet, Order, Disturbed
Sunday, September 7 th , 1:45am
Severus walked leisurely down the corridors. He had been assigned the third shift of hall duty for the autumn term, something that had earned him a few sympathetic looks from his colleagues. To be fair, there weren't that many of them who wouldn't mind waking up to walk a large portion of Hogwarts' grounds in an hour. He wasn't one of those people. In fact, Severus found the late night air to be refreshing, and the quiet of the corridors to have a calming effect that could hardly be produced during the light of day. One could hardly blame him, then, for being sharp with any students found after curfew wandering, what he considered to be, his halls.
He liked it quiet.
He liked it peaceful.
He liked it—
Severus raised a brow, as he came to a stop in front of the dark-haired youth. Despite the fact that he was towering over Potter in a very intimidating the cheeky brat did nothing but smile. At Severus. As if he were happy to see him.
"What, pray tell," Severus started stiffly, "has compelled you to plant yourself outside the Hogwarts kitchens at this time of night? Believe it or not, Potter, you don't receive special treatment while at school, and you are currently out after curfew."
Potter shrugged and fiddled with something in his lap, before pushing himself up, leaving the bundle, which was most likely a robe, on the ground.
"I was just looking for something; I couldn't sleep, so…" Potter's voice trailed off, and Severus frowned, as he realised that the boy was actually—he shuddered at the thought—starting to make conversation with him. A wave of annoyance passed through Severus, and he opened his mouth to take fifteen points from Gryffindor for being out late, and another fifteen just because he could, but Potter spoke up, before he could even squeeze out a syllable.
"I don't really like being cramped up in rooms," he said, then gave a sheepish grin. "It's probably just some problem left over from when I was a kid, but I had the sudden urge to walk, and so I did. Because I could."
Severus narrowed his gaze. Was this brat trying to play the sympathy card? Oh yes, he had heard all about the boy's unfortunate childhood—Petunia had always been an ignorant and selfish creature who hated what she couldn't have, even as a child, so he hadn't been too surprised to hear how she had treated the boy—exclusively from the wizard who placed him in that household to begin with, but the information had lain forgotten over the years. It was never something the boy seemed to mention, so Severus figured him to be over it by now. To bring it up so suddenly took Severus, first by surprise, and then made him suspicious, as if his childhood were some sort of wild card to be played, to get out of trouble.
"Regardless," Severus snapped, "you have no reason to be out of bed, Mr. Potter."
"I'm sorry. I'll head back to my dormitory now."
Potter reached down where his robe still sat on the ground, swung it over his shoulders, and disappeared.
Severus muttered a curse. He should have known the robe on the ground was actually Potter's infamous invisibility cloak, especially as he had seen it being used a few days ago. He should have confiscated it, when he had the chance.
A slight movement caught his eye, breaking his train of thought. Two mint imperials had been charmed to hover a few paces away, at eye level, left behind in the same manner as before. Severus scowled, remembering Potter's ignorance from Thursday night, and grabbed the two sweets out of the air. He pocketed them.
Severus may not like the brat, but he would never refuse a mint imperial?
Friday, September 10 th , 12:30am
It had been almost a week since Severus had seen Potter out and about after curfew, something he was simultaneously grateful for and disappointed about. He had wanted a chance to take away the invisibility cloak. Even so, his nights had returned to being quiet, just as he liked them, and no other students dared wander about the halls while he was on duty.
Severus observed, somewhat smugly, that the corridors were empty, even though he wasn't monitoring tonight.
He passed Madame Hooch on his way back from the potions storage room, and she lifted a hand briefly to acknowledge him. He didn't make any sort of gesture in return, but even if he had felt like doing so, she had already headed deeper into the dungeons near where the Slytherin common room was.
Severus continued on in the opposite direction before eventually locating the stairs to the first floor. He walked across the wide hall and slipped through a small side door that led outside. There were a few potion ingredients he had to collect—Baneberry and Fluxberry—that produced the best effects when picked under a full moon.
He passed through the courtyard and the length of the walking bridge until he arrived to the grassy fields. He picked his way across, automatically heading for the Black Lake, where he knew the Baneberry and—if he was lucky—the Fluxberry would be.
The grass crunched softly under his boots. It began to thin out as Severus approached the tree that stood near the edge of the lake. A cool gust of wind snapped his robes back, tugging at the long strand of hair around his face. He came to a spot beside the towering beech tree and knelt, eyes trained on the ivy around its base. When the moon finally appeared from behind the clouds, Severus was able to see the near-imperceptible red berries attached to a sprouting stem. He donned a pair of gloves and picked a good amount, enough to fill the pouch he had hidden in the folds of his robes. A cursory glance proved there to be no Fluxberry on this side of the tree, so Severus stood, ready to move around to the other side and take a look.
Severus blinked once, hopefully not long or sudden enough to announce how startled he truly was. Slumped against a fairly decent sized dip in the base of the tree, was Potter. He had his knees bent up to protect the rest of his body from the cool air coming off the lake. His eyes were closed behind his glasses, and Severus could see no sign of the invisibility cloak.
Not that he would take it without the boy knowing, no. He would take it away when Potter knew what was going on and was actively handing it over. Severus repressed a smirk, as he imagined the disappointed look that would adorn Potter's face.
Severus knelt down. He set two other small pouches that he had brought down beside his foot, because despite what some might think, his first priority really was potions, not torturing his students. He surveyed the area around the tree carefully. A little sound of satisfaction escaped his lips at spotting the briefest of glimpses of Fluxberry. With one hand, he picked up one of the ingredient bags, and the other stretched out to locate the berry. He heard a slight shuffle to his left, a few seconds later.
"Out wandering after curfew again, Potter?"
"In my defence, sir, I wasn't actually walking around." The boy didn't even have the nerve to sound defensive.
"Your arrogant attitude will get you nowhere tonight. Now see yourself back inside before you spend the rest of the week in detention."
"Are you picking ingredients for more potions?"
Severus briefly lifted his gaze from the ground to shoot him a glare, and Potter smiled.
"I believe that is no business of yours, Potter," he sneered.
He resumed his search. Despite his annoyance over his order to return to the castle being ignored, finding the berries was much more important. So far, he had successfully found and managed to pick fifteen of Fluxberries, because finding them and actually seeing them long enough to pluck were entirely different.
"Right, sorry, stupid question. What are you looking for? No, wait, don't tell me…"
He rolled his eyes. As if Potter was good enough at potions that he could tell—
Severus contained his surprise just in time.
"Well, because," Potter started to explain, as though Severus had asked him to. Which he hadn't. "Fluxberries are best picked during a full moon, right? I think the book said that they were only seen during the mid-summer and early autumn months, and they're difficult to find because they blend in very well. Plus, they can be found near damp places, so near the Black Lake would be a good location to search."
Severus located a few more, stowing them in their tiny pouch. If Potter were in Slytherin—and were a Slytherin he liked—he would give him House points for being able to deduce such a thing. As it was, neither applied to him.
"And when did you become so knowledgeable on the careful process of ingredient recognition?" Severus asked coolly. He tucked the berries and the other spare pouch away, next to the others, and turned a sneer in Potter's direction.
His head was turned in Severus' direction, and there was an air of calm surrounding Potter that Severus had never seen before – at least, not while Severus was around.
"Actually, I had a chance to do a lot of studying, over the summer," Potter replied easily. He unfurled his legs and stretched them out, revealing a thin, but advanced potions book that had been hidden in his lap. "I learned a lot reading a few potion books to a friend of mine, so it's all thanks to him."
Severus wanted to gag. Instead, he stood up.
"Subtly doesn't suit you, Mr. Potter."
A peculiar expression crossed Potter's face, and, for a brief moment, as he blinked, Severus remembered a sunny day many years ago, sitting under the very same tree, looking back at a face similar to the one he was looking at now. Then, Harry smiled, and the memory was gone.
"You don't think so?" Harry asked, eyebrows furrowed. Severus felt something heavy sink into his stomach. Was he actually making pleasant conversation? Ridiculous.
He turned on his heel, "Ten points from Gryffindor," and stalked back to the castle.
It wasn't until he was back in his lab that it occurred to him that he should have taken away more House points. Not only that, but he'd thought of the brat as "Harry" not "Potter", something he regretted and was determined not to do again. And it wasn't until he had taken the three pouches out from the folds of his robes, that he realised the third one wasn't as empty as it should have been.
Severus placed the two mint imperials to the side for later.
Saturday, September 12 th , 12:22am
"Before you take any points away, or give me a detention, I'd like to say I'm only up here for my Astronomy practical."
"Potter, evening classes finished several hours ago."
"Yes, yes, of course…but I'm not quite finished."
"You can finish some other time. Ten points from being out after curfew, once again."
"Sorry, Professor Snape."
There was the sound of the shuffling papers, then, seemingly out of nowhere:
"I just—I noticed you and Charlie seem to get on pretty well, so I was wondering how he was. I don't get to see much of him, what with classes and all."
"He's a member of the Weasley clan – I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to approach him and ask him yourself. Now, leave, Mr. Potter, or you'll find yourself with a week's worth of detentions."
"Potter, don't leave your…mint imperials…That brat."
Monday, September 15 th , 12:41am
This time, unlike the previous ones, Harry – no, it's Potter. Potter, remember that – seemed to be less jovial and more solemn. Not that Severus cared one way or the other. He didn't.
"Professor, why did you come back to Hogwarts?"
Severus froze, the reprimand he was about to vocalise curling back up and dying on his tongue.
"Never mind." Harry – Potter – shook his head and turned back to look over the view that the Astronomy Tower provided. He frequented the area more than any place else, so it would make sense that Severus would find him there, out of bed. "That was a stupid question. I was only thinking about why I was here, and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't know why you were. I mentioned a few things a while back, but you weren't awake to hear them. At least, I don't think you were. But sometimes it just hits me that, all this time, my future actions have been controlled by others. I wasn't supposed to live, I know that, and now that I actually have time to do what I want, I don't really know what I'm supposed to do."
Severus, for a moment, found himself agreeing with Ha-Potter. Seventeen years of his life gone, working for Dumbledore and the Dark Lord; years that he couldn't get back. He, too, had thought he was going to die in the war—there really hadn't been any other way around it. Until there was. Until Potter showed up and saved the day. Coming back to Hogwarts was Severus getting satisfaction from actually being able to teach and to obtain closure. He would retire after this last year, if anything, because he thought that, after everything he's been through, he deserved it.
"If you're looking for pity," Severus cleared his mind and glared at the boy, "you won't find any from me. You did what you had to do, and now you move on. If there wasn't a future for you before, make one. Sitting around sulking will get you nowhere."
Potter stood up, coming to face Severus as he did so. When their eyes met, Severus felt somewhat unsettled at the look in his eyes. It was old and tired; they had seen a lot over the past years. The weariness behind the green eyes was something he had seen before.
Just as Severus realised that of course the expression was one he had seen previously – he saw it every day in the mirror, and it was something he was intimately familiar with – but to see it reflected back at him in the face of someone so young was disorienting, the look melted away, to be replaced by a more jovial one. Harry grinned at him, the years melting from his face, as if it had never been there at all.
"You're right. Sorry about that. Everything I have right now is more than I deserve, and I shouldn't be moping about."
It was fastest Severus had ever seen a person change moods, with the exception of his sister, and, for some reason, that alone caused the unsettled feeling he had to change into something else entirely. Something Severus had no desire to investigate.
Without even a parting glance, Severus began descending the winding stairs that lead down to the ground floor. Potter stopped midsentence, which was a boring tale on how he and Draco were getting along better now, coming to the realization that something he said must have put Severus in an even worse mood. Thankfully, Potter didn't call out after him.
As Severus took the stairs two at a time, he reached into his pocket to pull out a mint imperial—they had always been good for relieving him of stress, as Lily had noted—only to find none. For a second, he wished he had stayed long enough to get them, since Potter always seemed to have a few to give, when they crossed paths at night. He banished the thought.
Wednesday, September 17 th , 12:03am
Severus actually paused at the foot of the stairs. They seemed to beckon to him, and he scowled at them in return. It shouldn't matter that they led up to the Astronomy Tower, there was likely to be no one up there at the time of night.
And by that, he meant the mint imperials.
Because Severus would never go out of his way to seek someone whom he didn't really like, the years spent at the Dark Lord's side notwithstanding. If there was one thing he was certain of, it was that he didn't like Potter, so he certainly didn't want to talk with him. He was Severus Snape, and by Merlin he would—
He caught himself with a foot on the first step. A scowl darkened his features, and he quickly lifted his foot off and stepped back.
On the way back to his rooms, he ran into a Hufflepuff couple pressed up against a corner and took away fifty points. It was more than they deserved—Severus usually didn't bother the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff houses as much, and he never said he wasn't biased when it came to the other two—but he was in a foul mood.
Severus was a mature, adult wizard. Despite what the masses thought, he had feelings. He could admit when he felt things, when the time came, and he—Severus wanted—he wanted to—
Learn. About. Harry.
"Twenty points from Slytherin," he snarled at a tiny first year on his way back from who-knew-where. The boy stopped in his tracks and turned, and when Severus saw the green eyes wide behind round glasses, he could hardly refrain from adding: "And fifteen more points for wasting my time. Go to your dormitory, now."
The boy scampered away.
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. This attitude was very out of character, even for him. Never before had he acted this way, and he certainly wasn't about start now, especially over something so trivial. He had purposefully been seeking out Harry – What was the use in arguing anymore? – for the past few times, in order to…talk? Banter? He wasn't exactly sure what he would call their night-time "talks". But ever since the night before last, he had had time to think about things, and he came to the conclusion that he enjoyed, possibly even appreciated, their…whatever and wouldn't mind too much, if he happened to learn more about Harry. That was it. There was nothing else to it: just basic curiosity that would be gone, once it was satisfied, so he didn't know why he was getting so—
Severus gritted his teeth.
When he came to the portrait that led to his rooms, he stopped. There was small piece of parchment and a drawstring pouch, both of which had been Spell-o-taped to the portrait frame. He peeled them off.
Severus recognised the slanted, but spiky, scrawl. It was Harry, of course. He undid the strings on the bag and reached a hand inside. As he fingers made contact with the smooth, hard sweets of a handful of mint imperials, he felt he should have known, somehow, that he might do something like this. Harry was nothing if not persistent, even if it never seemed to be in the right areas. But Severus could be persistent, too. He would converse with the boy a few more times, enough to satisfy, and then that would be it. He would return to being Harry's most hated professor, and he would gladly despise the boy in return.
It was familiar.
It was order.
It was how things should be.
Happy Christmas, everyone!