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Induction

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Severus Snape stormed through the empty corridors of Hogwarts, glad in the back of his mind that the students were primarily in class at this time of day, but regretful even so that they were, as he could not intimidate and terrorize them as he passed by on his way to the headmaster’s office.

At length he arrived at the gargoyle guarding the entrance and snarled the password, waiting impatiently for the second it took for it to leap out of the way and allow him access. He stepped onto the staircase, snarling until it began to twist upward, and wondered what it was this time that the old fool wanted of him. That strange feeling in his gut was hardly reassuring, as it had always before been a signal to him that Albus was ‘up to something’.

He rapped sharply on the door to the office and whipped it open without bothering to wait. Striding through, he kicked it shut with his heel and stomped over to a chair and sat down heavily. When he looked up he saw the genially smiling face of Albus, and groaned internally at the infuriating twinkle in the old man’s eyes. Yes, indeed, he was in for it again.

“Ah, Severus. So glad to see you looking so well. Sherbet lemon?”

Severus snarled and shook his head in negation, crossing his arms over his chest as though to ward off whatever was coming.

“No?” asked Albus, looking a touch sad. “Well then, on to business! I have,” he said, pausing dramatically, “a task for you.”

“I figured as much. What is it now?” Severus snapped out ungraciously.

“It’s about Harry,” said Albus cheerfully, then continued after seeing Snape’s scowl deepen. “This is, I’m afraid, a very serious matter. Harry must be trained. Occlumency is now, even more so than in the past, a necessity. We cannot allow his mind to stay unprotected any longer.”

“And I suppose you expect me to be the one to achieve this miracle,” Severus replied flatly.

“I have complete faith in you, Severus.”

“Albus, the boy is a menace. He’s uncontrollable! I don’t see how you expect me to get it through his thick skull that he needs to set aside his silly whims and actually work at something for once in his life.”

“Now, now, Severus. I realize that the two of you have problems relating to one another, but I think if you simply took the time to know Harry, and not the image, you’d feel a bit differently about things.”

“I cannot for the life of me imagine how. The brat thinks only of himself, and has no problems whatsoever in leading others to danger or death. I highly doubt there is anything in that excuse for a brain I could possibly find interesting.”

“That’s part of the problem, Severus. You have never seen anything other than what you wished to. But again, I will insist. You must train him in Occlumency.”

“The little brat will only come crying to you if I train him properly, claiming Merlin knows what,” Severus shot back.

“He did not do so last year. I doubt he will this year. However, this year you must not and will not allow the lessons to stop. You will use any means necessary to get him trained. I don’t care what you have to do, so long as he isn’t harmed, or broken. He must be ready.”

“Anything, Albus?” Severus asked.

“You know I trust you, Severus. Use whatever method or methods it takes. Negative reinforcement, so long as it’s not harmful. Positive reinforcement, if you think it will motivate him. Though, I do think you should back off a little in public with your treatment of him. If he could come to trust you even a little it would make things easier. And naturally, I will not allow you to use anything you might see in his memories against him . . . such as past deeds or adventures.”

Severus snorted, loudly. “Is that all, Albus?”

“Almost. Here is a copy of Harry’s schedule this year, along with his practices filled in. Pick at least two times a week to meet with you for at least an hour or two each time. More sessions if you think it’s best. Just be sure to leave him time for his matches and homework and studies. Oh, and of course, you’ll want to send him a message with the days and times once you’ve decided.”

“Fine,” Severus said as he took the parchment Albus held out to him. “I’ll just be off, then, to contemplate my doom.” He stood as Albus laughed merrily and left with a low growl.

His return to the dungeons was much like his earlier walk. His robes billowed out behind him, snapping as he turned corners quickly. When he reached his office he threw himself into the chair behind his desk and spread the parchment out in front of him.

He had thought that with the failure of Potter to get into his NEWT level Potions class he’d seen most of the last of the insufferable brat. So naturally, Albus had interfered in order to assure that was not the case after all. He’d had three blessed weeks without having to deal with Potter, only seeing him at meals and occasionally in the halls. Three blessed weeks now shot to hell by the interfering menace of a headmaster.

He pushed his hair back roughly and focused on the schedule on his desk, eyes flicking across the empty spots to see when he could best fit in the Occlumency lessons. Not that he cared if the boy objected to what he chose; he was being forced, so the boy could hardly complain if he felt the same.

Eventually he opened a drawer and pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment, slapping it onto the desk and reaching to uncap his inkwell and grab a quill. He dashed off a short note to inform Potter that he was expected each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday evening at 7 pm for a resumption of his Occlumency lessons by order of the headmaster, in the Potion Master’s office.

After scribbling his name at the bottom, he dried the ink, folded the note and placed it in an envelope, finishing it off by scrawling Potter’s name on the outside. Severus whistled sharply and gave the envelope to his raven, instructing him to deliver it immediately. When the bird was gone he slumped back in his chair and sighed.


Potter arrived a few minutes early on the following Wednesday, and sidled into the room uncomfortably after Severus opened the door at his knock. Severus closed and warded the door against use, then cast an imperturbable charm on it, finishing up by casting a silencing charm on the room. Turning, he looked coldly at the boy.

“Sit,” he snapped, pointing at the chair and desk he’d placed in front of his own. As Potter obeyed he strode to his desk and picked up a thick book, then turned and slammed it onto the desk the boy sat at.

“For the next two hours you will read. Take any notes you feel are necessary, because you will be tested on this next session. There will be no questions. Do you understand, Mr Potter?”

“Yes, sir.”

Severus could tell from the mulish expression on the boy’s face that he was holding back a retort. He could only assume the boy had gone to Albus and pleaded for a way to get out of this, and been denied. Severus could just imagine the things Albus had had to say, and sneered at the idea of Potter not getting his way like usual.

“Good,” he said. “Now begin. I will inform you when time is up.” Severus walked around his own desk and sat down, leaning back in his chair for a moment. He cast a subtle charm to let him know when he could send Potter back to his own territory, then sat forward and began marking papers from his class.

Scarlet ink bled across the students’ papers as he worked his way through them, cursing under his breath at the stupidity of children. So many of them, and yet so few who had any real knack for potions. Even so, his mind kept wandering to the boy before him, head bowed over the book he read, or turned slightly to the side as he scratched out lines on parchment.

A pretty child, but that was all Severus could say for him. Far too much like his wretched father, and no doubt the boy knew it, what with everyone constantly telling him how much they looked alike. Foolish people praising the boy for his stupidity, his rashness, his recklessness, his arrogance, and his utter lack of regard for the safety and well-being of others.

Severus wanted to snort, but held it in so as not to alert the boy, and went back to marking the current paper. But then, his mind wandered again a few minutes later, sizing the boy up mentally and idly thinking of ways to put him in his place once and for all. He still didn’t know what the prophecy was about, but he’d be damned if he agreed with anyone that Potter was the answer to their troubles.

Eventually, after many papers were slashed through with scarlet, his alarm went off and he lifted his head in relief. He uncast the charms on the door and room quietly.

“Potter, desist.” When the boy had looked up he said, “Leave the book exactly as it is and gather your things and be gone. You’ve wasted enough of my time for one evening.”

He watched as the boy carefully rolled up his notes and stuffed them in his bag, then stiltedly left the room. Only then did Severus stand up and check to see where Potter had been interrupted in his reading. He sneered; the boy read not fast enough for his tastes. It would take a number of evenings before he would be finished with the text.

He carefully marked the place and closed the book, returning it to his own desk before vanishing the furniture he’d made for Potter.

Lessons from then on, until Potter finished the text, went much the same. Each session started with a test on the chapters the boy had finished, checking retention and comprehension, while Potter continued reading. Though Severus would never admit it, he tempered his normally vicious remarks when grading the boy’s tests.

Potter was actually doing quite well, though it remained to be seen if that held true in practice. As much as Severus might wish to take out his anger on the boy, he also wanted to get these lessons over with as quickly as possible and once again have the brat out of his hair. On the day of his final test he let the boy go when he’d completed it, warning him that the next lesson would begin his practicals.


Potter sidled in again, sideways like a crab, much to Severus’s disgust. When the protections were set, and after a last glance to make sure the cupboard containing his pensieve was locked, he turned toward his charge.

“I trust that in anticipation of this lesson you have been practicing the clearing of your mind whenever possible, especially at night before you attempt to sleep,” he stated, eyeing the boy carefully, “and have been doing the other mental exercises you studied in the text.”

Potter nodded, then spoke up when Severus arched his brow. “Yes, sir.”

“We shall see just how well you’ve succeeded. Clear your mind now and nod when you’re ready.”

After several moments the boy nodded, and Severus hissed out, “Legilimens!”

He felt at first the boy’s resistance, like a mental wall from which he hoped to hide behind. But it was badly constructed, with crumbling mortar and split bricks which allowed him the opportunity to slide his way through cracks and holes. Once inside the protections he sought after memories of things he knew the boy would never answer on if questioned about.

He waited as a series of memories flashed by, then latched on to one in particular; Potter was sitting on the floor of what looked like a bathroom with his two friends talking as the girl added lacewings to a cauldron. He was just beginning to focus on what the trio were saying when he felt the boy finally reacting, rudely pushing him out of his mind.

Severus took a step back and straightened. “Potter, while I can see that you have been putting at least a modicum of effort into your preparations and defenses, they are without a doubt horribly weak. It took far too long for you to even start resisting the penetration.”

He paused long enough to note the boy’s clenched fists. “I should not have gotten so far. Shall I tell you the physical analogue of your defenses, Potter?”

The boy hesitated for a moment, then said, “Yes, sir,” in a low voice.

“An extremely shoddy brick wall. Cracks, chinks and holes, letting in anyone persistent enough to try. Merlin forbid you decide on a career as a bricklayer, lest we all see stories in the Daily Prophet on the frequent collapse of your creations.”

Potter flushed slightly and he continued. “Again! Prepare yourself and nod when you are ready.”

The remainder of the session went not much better. While Severus could see that Potter’s mental wall improved fractionally each time they repeated the exercise, it was clear to him that it would never withstand the attack of someone determined. Or at least, not without a great deal of time.

He dismissed the boy with relief and headed to his quarters to collapse on his couch with a glass of firewhiskey.


When Potter returned for his next lesson, Severus had already decided to try something different. “Sit!” he barked, then waited for the boy to obey. “You and I will be having a little fun today, Potter,” he said, watching as green eyes widened in apprehension or alarm.

“You are going to prepare your defenses, and then I will be asking you a series of questions. Call it a game, if you will. You can answer however you like; some of the questions are intended to throw you off guard. I will determine whether or not you are lying, and you will tell me if I’m correct. Clear so far?”

“Yes, sir,” was the boy’s quiet reply.

“As I’m sure you well remember, a Legilimens can tell if a person is lying, so the stronger your defenses are, the better chance you have to fool me. So, prepare!” he barked, “and nod when you feel ready.”

Then began a series of questions, lasting the entire length of the lesson. Severus kept his eyes locked onto the boy’s, resolving only to blink when it mattered not.

“Are you Harry James Potter?” A standard enough question, even under veritaserum questioning.

“Yes, sir.”

Severus nodded, as did Potter.

“Did you steal boomslang skin from my office in your second year?” Something he’d always wanted proof of.

“No, sir.”

Severus considered for a moment, his gaze intent, then said, “Truth.”

The boy nodded, though Severus had expected nothing less. He was, however, annoyed that the boy was not only being honest, but that he’d been able to see it to begin with. So much for the defenses of the mind. Still, it was a memory he could attempt to examine at leisure later on, to see the whole truth of the matter.

“Are you in love with Miss Chang?”

“Yes, sir.”

A slight hesitation, then, “False.”

Potter nodded.

The questioning continued for another five minutes, mundane and outrageous mixed, before Severus paused with a vexed sigh. “Potter, rest quietly for a few minutes and concentrate on your defenses. They are currently useless for this exercise! Shore them up for Merlin’s sake.”

As he waited, he thought. Perhaps the questions he was asking were not enough to trigger a marked response. Perhaps the questions he was asking were not things that discomfited the boy, things that he did not care enough about to want to protect.

“Potter,” he said, and continued when the boy’s eyes lifted. “Do you consider your home life normal?”

A strange expression flitted across the boy’s face before he said, “No, sir.”

“Truth.” The boy nodded, though with this type of questioning, Severus could not tell how to interpret the response. Never mind that he guessed on the answer that time; it was simple logic to assume the boy wouldn’t consider things normal.

“Is your favorite subject Charms?”

“No, sir.”

He paused again, trying to push aside the obvious answer sitting in his head and concentrating solely on the boy’s eyes and what was behind them. “Truth.” Potter nodded again.

Severus kept up the questioning for a full hour, pausing occasionally to let the boy try and work out a suitable defense, then unleashing another barrage of queries. He asked if his family loved him, if Miss Granger was his girlfriend, if the Dark Lord was invading his dreams, and if he was practicing every moment he could, and through all of it he could usually tell immediately.

Finally he said, “The wall you’re using is not something you’re comfortable with, that much is painfully obvious. If you cannot think of a way to make it less permeable, then consider a different method.”

“Sir?”

“What is it? Have you already forgotten the many examples given in the text?”

“No, sir. I just wonder what you mean by permeable. I keep trying to plug up the holes you were talking about, but new ones appear instead.”

“Have you considered, Mr Potter, that brick and mortar might be fairly unstable? Much like the vines of ivy which creep up the side of a house by working tendrils into the cracks and widening them, thoughts can also pass through, whether in or out.”

Potter’s face twisted slightly, his brow puckering in thought.

“I’ll give you ten minutes to think about that and prepare. Then we’ll continue.”

By the time the lesson ended, the only times Severus could get the boy to close up was when he approached certain topics, usually those dealing with family, though in a few cases he had to try very hard on questions that for the life of him Severus could not figure out why’d they’d affect the boy so.

Over the next few days Severus spent a considerable amount of his free time investigating alternate methods of handling the situation, even going beyond standard wizarding solutions.


“No!” Severus shouted in exasperation after an hour of trying to break past the boy’s barriers. Each time he’d attempted it he could feel it getting easier and easier. “You didn’t even appear to be trying that time, Potter. Sit down right now and place your wand on the desk.” If he didn’t come up with something soon, Albus would have his head at their next meeting to discuss the brat. It was time to try something only a Squib would consider, or a muggle. He paced back and forth for a minute before halting in front of the boy.

“Good. Since you appear to be incapable of finding a suitable method of defense, you will try one of my own choosing. Close your eyes,” he said in a smoother tone of voice. “That’s right. Concentrate on your breathing as you listen to me speak.”

Severus lifted himself onto his desk so he could sit facing the boy and braced himself with his arms.

“Now I want you to imagine that you can see yourself sitting there, just as if you were looking through my eyes. Now, when I ask you any questions during this I want you to respond with only a yes or a no. Understood?”

“Yes.”

Severus kept his voice quiet and even, letting no emotion colour his words. “Good. Now as you look at yourself I want you to consider several types of materials. First, you’ll think about cloth. Cloth is a flexible material, able to take some hits without being breached, but it will not hold up against a real attack, isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s right. Now remember to concentrate on your breathing as you listen to me, and as you imagine looking at yourself sitting there. So cloth wouldn’t be a very good choice of defense. Now you’ll think about bricks and mortar. They are able to withstand much more pressure, but sharp hits can chip off pieces of the blocks and create cracks. A good solid blow can cause them to disintegrate, isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. Now think about metal. It can be very strong, and seamless. Things can slide right off it, or bounce, but it’s a very obvious kind of material. Anyone attacking it will know immediately that they’ve hit a barrier, won’t they?”

“Yes.”

“That’s right. So I want you to think about foam, but not ordinary foam. Really thick foam like you’d find in a bath, but I want you to imagine that the foam is made from metal. A kind of material that can let things slide off it’s surface, but can also bend without breaking, to absorb things that hit it. Can you do that?”

This time there was a decided pause before Potter said, “Yes.”

“Good, that’s perfect. I want you to imagine that metal foam is forming a sphere around your mind, encasing and protecting your thoughts from outside interference. Can you do that for me?”

“Yes.”

“Now I want you to imagine that you see someone else in the room with you, someone you don’t know. Imagine that he’s trying to attack your mind. But when he does, it just slides away, or sinks into that foam you have around your thoughts and feelings. He can’t get at anything at all. Are you able to see that?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect. That’s good. Now, do you think that with this image in mind, you can practice with it every day and be ready for your next lesson with me so we can see how well you’re doing?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. You’re going to practice this every night before you go to sleep, and whenever else you think of it. I want you to remember how relaxed you feel right now whenever you think of that foam. How you’re able to just let attacks slide right off you, or be absorbed without harming you, all right?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now, I want you to open your eyes, gather up your things, and go back to your dorm and go to sleep. When you wake up in the morning you’ll feel refreshed.”

He watched as Potter slowly opened his eyes, rubbed them, then slipped his wand off the desk and into his robes. After a moment, Potter stood up, stooping slightly to grab his bag, then quietly left the room without another word.

Severus looked down at the floor. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In fact, it could be quite useful for his personal agenda as well. He smirked and stood, then left his office, locking up behind him. It was strange, though, because if it worked it made little sense to him.


When Potter arrived three days later for the next lesson, Severus was very interested to see if the little exercise in creative visualization had had any effect. If it produced a marked effect, he knew exactly how he was going to conduct further lessons.

“Potter, I want you to sit down, wand on the desk.” When the boy had complied he asked, “Have you been practicing your defenses every day?”

“Yes, professor.”

“Lovely,” he replied with a hint of sarcasm. “Nod to me when you’re ready.”

Thirty seconds later the boy nodded, so Severus hissed, “Legilimens!”

After a few moments he could feel his attack dissipate, and knew that Potter had managed to retain the protections they’d discussed during the last lesson. The question then remained—would the boy be able to maintain it against repeated attacks of the same kind.

He continued his attempts to break into Potter’s mind for the next hour, taking careful note of the speed with which each was fended off. Every time they repeated the exercise, the boy’s defenses became weaker and weaker, and he carefully considered how to overcome that issue after having instructed Potter to rest for a few minutes.

It was important, he decided, despite his rampant dislike for the boy, that he remain calm if his ideas were going to work. Initially it would probably confuse Potter and make him distrustful, looking for the hidden catch or the surprise attack, but that wouldn’t matter after a while if Severus was successful.

“Potter, we’re going to try another visualization exercise,” he finally said. “The last time we tried it, you were able to clearly picture the kind of defenses I described. You were able to do so well enough that you could continue to do so for practice. However, over the past hour I think you’ve noticed that it’s been weakening. Correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So we’re going to go over what we did last lesson, and then discuss ways for you to keep it strong even through repeated attacks. Since you’re already sitting down, go ahead and close your eyes.” When the boy had done so, Severus continued in a calm, low tone. “Good. As you listen to my voice I want you to concentrate on your breathing. I want you to feel as the air is drawn into your lungs, and then as you exhale it back out.”

He sat down on his desk again and crossed his ankles, letting his hands rest on his lap. “Now, just like before I want you to imagine yourself in that chair, as though you’re looking at yourself through my eyes, or as though there’s a mirror in front of you so you can see your reflection. Are you able to do that?”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said after a few moments.

“Good. You may dispense with calling me sir or professor while we’re doing this. Just concentrate on how it feels to breath, and imagine how you must look sitting there with your eyes closed. As you do this you’ll probably begin to feel relaxed. That’s normal and it’s how you want to feel. Nod your head when you start to feel yourself relaxing. It will happen when you’re ready for it to happen, so do not be concerned if you don’t feel the need to nod right away.

“I want you to imagine the foam we talked about again, just like you did before. Very thick foam made from metal, slippery and absorbent. The more clearly you can see it in your mind, the more relaxed you’ll begin to feel. Nod your head when you start to feel yourself relaxing. You’ll feel relaxed because you know the foam can protect your mind from attacks, so the more clearly you can picture it, the more protective it will be for you.”

The corner of his mouth quirked up when he saw Potter’s head dip slightly, so he kept an especially close watch on the boy’s closed eyes.

“Good, that’s right. I know you’re able to picture it clearly because you’re relaxing. You feel safe because the foam is there to protect you, isn’t that right?”

Potter dipped his head again.

“You can see it very clearly, forming a sphere around your thoughts and protecting you. You can imagine how a mental attack would be absorbed right into the foam, making it stronger and helping you to maintain its strength, can’t you. Yes, that’s right. You can see how the energy someone might try to use against you is something you can use to stay strong against them. Are you able to imagine that?”

“Mmm,” mumbled Potter.

“Excellent. It makes you feel very relaxed, almost like you’re deeply asleep, doesn’t it?”

Severus was starting to notice movement beneath the boy’s closed lids and smiled to himself.

“Now while you hold that image in your mind, I want you to feel the air being drawn into your lungs, and then back out. And with every breath you feel more relaxed.”

Potter breathed deeply and evenly, his eyelids fluttering as though he was observing something; Severus decided it was time to try something a little different.

“Now, I think it would be beneficial for us both to set aside some negative associations, don’t you?”

The boy nodded again, slowly.

“Good. To help with that, why don’t we move beyond the names we’re accustomed to, and try something different. Would you object if I called you Haze while we continue with this exercise?”

Potter shook his head lazily.

“That’s good. I’m going to call you Haze, and you won’t associate that with anything negative. Haze, in a minute I’m going to ask you to open your eyes. I know that you can open them without leaving this peaceful, relaxed state, isn’t that right?”

Potter tipped his head forward, then back.

“That’s right. Haze, I want you to open your eyes for me, and you’ll stay peaceful and relaxed.”

Slowly the boy’s eyes opened; they were bloodshot, and began tearing slightly moments later, making them glisten.

“That’s very good, Haze. Are you still able to imagine the metal foam protecting your thoughts?”

He nodded, blinking slowly.

“You feel very good right now, don’t you. Very relaxed, and very safe. I want you to tell me if you like how you feel, Haze.”

“I feel good,” was the mumbled reply.

“Excellent. Would you like to play a little game, Haze? A game that will make it easier for you to feel like this again very quickly?”

“Mmm.”

“That’s right, you would. All right. Haze, whenever you hear me, and only me, say the phrase, ‘Haze, go under,’ you’ll feel an irresistible urge to return to this safe, relaxed state. Do you think you’d like that, Haze?”

“Yes,” Potter said, hissing a little.

“Good, Haze. So when I say, and only I say, to you, ‘Haze, go under,’ you’ll feel an irresistible urge to return to this safe, relaxed state. Would you like to play more of this game, Haze?”

He dipped his head in agreement.

“Very good, Haze. The next part of the game is this. Whenever you hear me, and only me, say the phrase, ‘Haze, go deeper,’ you’re going to feel twice as relaxed and safe, aren’t you. Isn’t that right, Haze?”

“Yeah, twice.”

“That’s right. You like feeling like this, safe and protected. So when I, and only I, say to you, ‘Haze, go deeper,’ you’ll feel twice as relaxed and safe. You’re doing very well, Haze. You should feel proud of yourself.”

Severus checked the time and realized he needed to hurry this along; it was getting much too late.

“Haze, I want you to practice visualizing your protection every night. And I want you to practice whenever you think to do it during the day if you have spare time. I want you to remember that the sphere protecting your mind can absorb the energy of attacks thrown at you, and use it to make your sphere stronger. Will you do that for me, Haze?”

“Yes.”

“Good, that’s very good. Now, Haze, there’s one more part of the game I think you should hear. Do you want to find out what it is?”

Potter nodded.

“That’s right, of course you do. Because the game is fun. Haze, from now on whenever you hear me, and only me, say the phrase, ‘Haze, wake up,’ you’re going to come fully awake. Do you understand me, Haze?”

“Mmm.”

“Good, that’s perfect. In a minute I’m going to wake you up, Haze, and when I do you’re going to gather up your things and head to your dorm to get ready for bed. You’re going to practice visualizing your defensive sphere, and then sleep. Do you understand me, Haze?”

“Yeah.”

“All right. Haze, you know that your sleeping mind is aware of everything I’m saying, correct?” He paused for a nod. “That’s right. So when you’re fully awake you don’t need to remember any of this, because your sleeping mind already understands. It’s all there, Haze. You won’t forget anything, and you won’t forget anything you’re supposed to practice on or the parts of the game I taught you. It’s all safely behind your defensive sphere, and your waking mind doesn’t need to consciously remember any of this. All that your waking mind needs to remember is that we practiced very hard on your defenses, and that you feel proud of yourself for doing so well. Do you understand me, Haze?”

“Uh huh.”

“Good, Haze. You’re doing very well, so I think you should reward yourself after you’ve gone to sleep tonight by having a pleasant dream.”

Severus stood up and walked around his desk, then sat in his own chair. After dispelling the temporary wards on the door and room he said, “Haze, wake up.”

Potter blinked rapidly a few times and started gathering his things, nodding to Severus before he slipped out the door.

Severus leaned back with a sigh, using his wand to shut the door. It was, he thought with a measure of amazement, interesting that while Potter could not be controlled with Imperius, he was highly suggestible nonetheless. He would have to give ample consideration to what possibilities that offered.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 3 November 1996

Severus once again found himself striding forcefully toward the headmaster’s office, muttering under his breath at the waste of his time. However, he knew that if he did not go to Albus, Albus would come to him, and it was a foregone conclusion that the headmaster would pick a very bad time to do so.

He hissed the password as he approached the gargoyle, not even breaking stride as it leapt out of his way and he stepped onto the staircase. Reaching the top, he walked the remainder of the distance to the office door, knocked sharply and yanked it open and stepped through, kicking it shut behind him.

He sat down and leveled a dour glare at the elderly man who was in the act of reaching for his dish of sweets. “No, Albus, I would not like one.”

“Ah, Severus. So good to see you, dear boy. I trust you have come to update me on Harry’s progress with his Occlumency lessons.”

“My day would hardly be complete were I to miss such a golden opportunity, Albus,” he deadpanned.

“Well then, what have you to report?”

Severus tactfully refrained from speaking his mind plainly and instead settled for saying, “He progresses. Potter has finished the text I provided him with, and been tested on his retention and comprehension of the contents. After sorting through several ways for him to try to visualize the kind of defenses he’ll need, we finally settled upon one which seems to be holding up fairly well. However, it will still be quite some time before I can be sure of that. In the meantime, I’ve been continuing to investigate alternate methods in my copious spare time in the event that our current handle on the situation disintegrates.”

“Oh my, that does sound interesting, Severus. So he’s been creating an image in his head and concentrating on how that could reasonably react to such an attack. Yes, yes, he is a rather visual sort, isn’t he.”

Severus arched a brow at the headmaster.

“Do you have any idea how long it will take before Harry is as skilled as he must be at Occlumency?”

Severus shook his head slightly. “No. It will take quite some time before I’d have a reliable indication. Just because his defenses usually stand up does not mean they will continue to do so without regular practice and reinforcement, not to mention testing. I expect that the Christmas holiday will be a different kind of test as well.”

“Yes, I see,” Albus said, reaching out to grab a sweet and popping it into his mouth.

“You can rest assured that they are at least holding for the nonce. Every lesson I must endure with the brat will reinforce those defenses as reflex, not reaction, and that is all to the good.”

“All right, Severus. It appears that everything is in your capable hands. Please do let me know if you run into any problems.”

Severus stood up smoothly and said, “As you wish,” before exiting.


Potter arrived right on time, knocking politely to let Severus know he was there and waiting for the door to be opened. Seeing Severus jerk his chin toward the chair, the boy quietly went to it, lowered his bag to the floor, and sat down.

“Good. Wand on the desk, Potter. You should know the drill by now.” After the smooth cylinder of wood clicked against the surface, Severus finished setting the privacy wards and moved to stand between the two desks, facing Potter.

“Now, you should also know by now that I expect you to be prepared from the second you walk in that door. In fact, I would expect you to be prepared if I bumped into you in a hallway and attempted to break into your mind. So from this point on I will dispense with the pleasantries. With me so far?”

“Yes, professor.”

“Good. From now on, when you step into this room you will seat yourself as you are now and place your wand on the desk in front of you. If you prefer, you can simply leave it in your robes or your bag. And I will not coddle you and give you a moment to prepare yourself, because I am quite certain you will have already done so.”

He paused to give the boy a significant look then said, “So once you are seated in that chair, expect to be attacked without warning. Are you clear on this, Mr Potter?”

“Yes, sir.”

It was an hour into the lesson and Potter’s defenses hadn’t faltered once, so Severus told him to rest for a few minutes before they would continue. He paced back and forth for a few minutes to stretch his legs, then turned to face the boy. Clearing his throat, he said, “Haze, go under,” the moment his eyes lifted.

Potter immediately sagged in his chair, his eyes rolling back slightly before they closed entirely.

“Haze, go deeper,” Severus said, and watched as the boy’s body seemed to bleed out tension, then repeated the trigger several more times with a short pause in between each repetition. When he was satisfied he said, “Haze, wake up.”

Severus shifted position, then started the process once again, repeatedly having the boy fall into a trance, bringing him to a deep state of relaxation, then waking him. A half hour later, he decided that he’d given Potter enough reinforcement for the moment, and allowed him to remain in trance.

“Very good, Haze. Tell me how good you feel.”

“Feel very good,” he mumbled softly.

“That’s right. You feel very good. You like this feeling a great deal. You’re happy when you feel like this, and you’re happy to obey me, aren’t you, Haze?”

Potter nodded a few times.

“Haze, I’m going to ask you to open your eyes in a moment, and when you do you’ll be able to see, but you will remain in this pleasant, deeply relaxed state. Any time I ask you to open your eyes, you’ll remain like that, because it feels so very good. Haze, open your eyes for me.”

Such pretty eyes, Severus thought, as the boy slowly opened them, much more interesting than his father’s had been. “That’s very good, Haze. I want you to know that every time you answer my questions truthfully you’ll feel a pleasant sensation flow through your body. Something that encourages you to always answer me truthfully. Isn’t that right, Haze?”

Potter jerked slightly, nodding his head. Severus took note that his lids half closed for a moment and smiled, knowing that the boy would never remember seeing such a foreign expression on his face once he was awakened.

“We’re going to go over a few things to make sure you understand what’s expected of you, things that will make you feel happy and relaxed when you do them. Now repeat after me, Haze. Every night before I go to sleep I will spend at least ten minutes working on my visualization for my sphere defense.”

Potter dutifully repeated the statement, so Severus moved onto the next, pausing in between each of them so the boy could respond. “Repeat after me, Haze. If I have a bad dream or a nightmare when I’m asleep at night I will let it slide off my defenses and replace it with something that gives me pleasure.”

“Repeat after me, Haze. If I have a vision of Voldemort, I will write it down as soon as I am awake and make sure to deliver it to Professor Snape.”

“Repeat after me, Haze. Obeying Professor Snape and answering his questions truthfully makes me feel pleasure.”

“Repeat after me, Haze. My waking mind will never consciously remember the details of these lessons unless Professor Snape specifically instructed to do so.”

“Repeat after me, Haze. After every lesson I will know that I worked very hard and that I feel proud of myself for doing so well.”

“Repeat after me, Haze. The only people who know how to make me feel this relaxed and this good are myself and Professor Snape.”

“Repeat after me, Haze. The only people I will allow to make me feel this relaxed and this good is myself or Professor Snape.”

“That’s very good, Haze. You feel pleasure because you’ve done so well in obeying me, don’t you?”

The boy nodded.

“That’s right. I’d like to know a little more about you. Tell me what has bothered you the most in the past month, Haze.”

“‘m lonely.”

“You’re lonely?” Severus asked in surprise.

“Lonely.”

“Why are you lonely, Haze?”

“Can’t trust nobody t’see me fer me.”

“I see. What would make you feel less lonely, then?”

“Someone t’talk to ‘bout stuff. Trust.”

“You can trust me, Haze. You know that don’t you?”

Potter’s forehead wrinkled slightly as though in confusion.

“We’ll come back to that later,” Severus said smoothly and was rewarded when the boy’s expression relaxed again. Haste would get him nowhere fast. “What’s something that makes you feel good, Haze?”

“Flyin’.”

“What else?”

“Learnin’ stuff.”

“That’s right. Learning new things makes you feel good. Do you ever have trouble learning some of the things you’re taught in classes, such as Transfiguration?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it because you get frustrated or distracted, Haze?”

“Mebbe. Dunno.”

“Would you like me to tell you how to help learn better?”

The boy nodded.

“When you’re in classes, Haze, I want you to remain focused on what the professor is saying, and ignore any distractions around you. You will not become tense if you’re having trouble. You will remain calm and think about what you’re trying to accomplish before trying again. Sometimes if you want something too badly, you can’t do it. Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ll do that for me?”

“Yeah.”

“Excellent. You’ll start to see very quickly that you’ve become much better at learning new things. I have a new thing for you to learn, Haze. Do you want to learn and feel even more happy and relaxed?”

“Mmm.”

“That’s right, of course you do. From now on, whenever I tell you to open your eyes, you will not only remain in this deeply relaxed state, but you will act normally, almost as though you were awake. You will remain respectful at all times, though you do not need to call me sir or professor unless someone else is present. You will continue to feel mild pleasurable sensations when you obey me and answer my questions truthfully. Do you understand me?”

Potter nodded.

“Good. As your eyes are open right now, Haze, I want you to act normally.”

Potter blinked his bloodshot eyes and slowly straightened in his chair, gazing steadily at Severus, his expression alert and slightly wary.

“Very good. Tell me, Haze, how do you feel about being a parselmouth?”

Haze, as Severus was quickly beginning to identify him as in this state, looked off to the side for a moment before replying. “I’m not sure. I mean, it’s just something I can do. I don’t think it makes me a bad person, or that it means I will become bad.”

“Do you wish you weren’t a parselmouth?”

He shrugged and wrinkled his nose. “I like it. It can be a very useful ability. If someone told me they could take it away, I’d refuse.”

Severus nodded and stepped back, lifting himself with his arms so he could sit on his desk. “Why do you think it could be useful?”

Haze tilted his head to the side and said, “Snakes are hard to pin down, mostly. I think that a parselmouth could find some willing to scout out unknown territory or spy with very little danger.”

“Yes, I can see where that might be the case. But suppose that you sent a snake on a mission to spy on the Dark Lord. What about the fact that he can also speak Parseltongue?”

“I’d like to think I’d be clever enough to warn the snake against him beforehand, and let it know he’s not to be trusted. But anyway, obviously the snake could understand anything he said in Parseltongue and be able to tell me when it returned.”

“A very good point. I bet that right now you feel a warm sensation flowing through your body, don’t you?”

“Yes, it feels good.”

Severus said, “And you’ll do anything to feel good like that, won’t you, Haze?”

Haze’s brow crinkled and he replied, “Well. . . .”

“Would you like to know an even better way to feel good, to feel pleasure?” Severus asked, distracting the boy from his previous question.

“Yes, I would.” The boy’s glistening eyes were fixed on his.

“I’ll tell you what, Haze. If you continue pleasing me like you have been, I’ll tell you when you’re ready for that particular lesson.”

Severus shifted uncomfortably on his desk, glad for his robes. “Haze, I need you to tell me what you’re going to do when I allow you to leave at the end of the lesson.”

“I’m going to gather my things and go to my dorm and get ready for bed. Then I’m going to practice my defense sphere for at least ten minutes before I fall asleep.”

“Very good. You’ve been so good that you feel tingles of pleasure all over your body. Give in to them for a moment and let your eyes close so you can concentrate. That’s right. You’re going to feel those tingles all the way up to your dorm, Haze. You’ve done very well, and you deserve it. You won’t even question why you feel that way. You’ll just know you’ve done very well and you feel good because of it.”

Severus pulled his wand from his robes and removed the privacy wards, then said, “Haze, wake up.”

Potter’s eyes blinked open, he gathered his wand and his bag, then stood. “Good evening, professor,” he said, before exiting the room.

Severus glanced down at his lap, snarled, and stood. His last thought before sweeping out of his office and locking it behind him with a backward wave of his wand was that one boy may have been denied him, but this one was looking very promising indeed.

Wednesday, 6 November 1996

Potter was sitting in his standard, student-type wooden chair resting when Severus looked over and said, “Haze, go under,” followed by several spaced repetitions of, “Haze, go deeper.”

“That’s right,” Severus said in a silky, slow voice. “I know that because you’ve done very well so far today that you’re currently feeling pleasurable tingles all over your body, Haze. I want you to sit there and relax, and concentrate on those feelings. The more you concentrate on them, the deeper your relaxation becomes. That’s right. Feel the tingles move through you and let yourself give in to the sensations. You’ll know when you’ve been rewarded enough, Haze, because your eyes will open of their own accord, and you’ll act normally, just like we discussed last time, though you’ll still be in this same deeply relaxed state.”

Several minutes later, Haze opened his eyes and sat up straight, his gaze casting around the room for a moment before coming to settle on Severus.

“Why don’t the two of have a conversation then, shall we?”

Haze nodded agreeably.

“Would you be happy if you needed to do homework for these lessons?”

“I’m not sure I understand. Aren’t I already?”

“Yes, but I’m referring to things like research and essays, Haze.”

“Oh. I don’t know. Um. . . .”

“You know that research means you’d be learning things right?”

“Yes,” Haze replied thoughtfully.

“What does that tell you?” Severus prompted.

“That I’d like it if you gave me more homework to do, because then I could learn more, and learning makes me feel good.”

“Very good,” Severus drawled. “In that case, I have an assignment for you. You know how you’ve been using visualization to effectively defend your mind?”

Haze nodded and looked expectant.

“I want you to consider that in conjunction with two things, and write me an essay that details how these three things are alike and how they differ. All right?”

“Yes.”

“Good. You already know the first, and that’s what you’ve been doing with the defense sphere. The second is the effects that harsh words and taunts have on you. I know you understand what I mean by that, Haze, so there’s no need to comment yet.”

Haze nodded, more slowly this time.

“The third thing is the Imperius curse. We both know you cannot be controlled using it. Those are the three things. I want you to consider and detail how they are alike and differ. I want you to consider and detail why you think you’ve been able to resist Imperius for several years, and yet have had so much more trouble with the other two. And last, I want you to outline how you think you could improve, knowing what you do now, and what you can find.”

Severus paused, shifted further back on his desk, and said, “I will give you two weeks to work on this, Haze. I’m not going to specify how long the essay must be, because I know you’ll do your best to obey and do an excellent job, won’t you?”

“Yes, I will.”

“That’s right, you will. Now, let’s move on to other things, shall we?”

Haze nodded.

“That chair doesn’t look very comfortable, Haze. Would you like me to start conjuring a nicer one for your lessons from now on?”

“I guess I don’t mind. But it would nice all the same.”

“You don’t have an opinion either way?” Severus asked, arching one brow.

“It’s irrelevant, because I’m here to learn, not to be comfortable.”

Severus smirked with pleasure. “Yes, but if you’re even more relaxed than you are now, you won’t be distracted by how uncomfortable that chair is, and you’ll be able to do better, won’t you.”

Haze considered that, then nodded. “Yes, I expect you’re right.”

“I usually am, Haze. I usually am. Starting with your next lesson, I’ll make sure we have better seating.”

“That would be nice.”

“I want to know more about you, Haze. I know that when I ask questions, you’re happy to answer them for me to the best of your ability. So let me ask you—does it bother you that people compare you to your father so much?”

A frown appeared immediately on Haze’s face and his mouth tightened slightly.

“We’ll come back to that one. Do not answer.”

The boy nodded, his expression relaxing at once.

A sound from outside caught Severus’s attention, but it faded away almost immediately. Now, Severus was not a stupid man by any stretch of the imagination. He used wards that specifically kept those outside from hearing himself and Haze, but they did not prevent him from hearing what went on outside.

“Good. But I want you to remember that if anything upsets you, you can just let those negative feelings just slide away and not affect you. If you don’t wish to answer something, you don’t have to, but it pleases me when you do. I’ll ask you something simpler, then.”

Severus was part way through asking, “Were you directly involved in the escape of Sirius Black during your third year?” when he sensed movement outside the door again. By the time he was finished speaking, the door had unlocked itself and Albus’s head became visible through the opening.

As the headmaster stepped into the frame he said, “Why exactly would you need to know that, Severus? Don’t you think that’s a rather odd thing to ask under the circumstances?”

“Stop interfering, Albus. No one is going to use Legilimency to discover the boy’s favorite colour. If we don’t practice with things he wants to keep secret, it’s pointless. I gave you my word that nothing I learn would leave this room or be used against him, and I will keep that promise.”

Severus shot an exasperated look at the headmaster and asked, “Why are you here, anyway?”

“Oh, I was just checking to see that everything was going all right, Severus. I haven’t seen Harry here in a while and I wanted to pop in and say hello,” he said with a cheerful smile in Harry’s direction.

“It’s good to see you, professor. I trust you’ve been well since I last saw you,” said Harry in response, making Albus’s smile widen.

“Albus, either come in and close the door, or find trouble to get into elsewhere so we can continue our lesson,” demanded Severus with an icy stare.

“Oh, I will, I will. I just have a small question for Harry here. I won’t take but a moment.” Albus twinkled his eyes at Harry and asked, “Are the two of you getting along all right, Harry? You do know if you have any problems you can come see me, or even if you just want to talk.”

“Everything is fine, sir. Professor Snape is teaching me a great deal. I don’t understand why it was so hard for me before, actually. I’m quite lucky to have him as my instructor,” Harry said sincerely.

Albus shot a startled look at Severus before gracing Harry with another smile. “Yes, then, I’ll just be on my way. Do come see me if you need anything, Harry. My door is always open to you. Good evening, Severus.”

A moment later he had wandered out the door, which closed and relocked itself behind him. Footsteps could be heard fading off into the distance, so Severus held back the growl that threatened to escape and checked the integrity of the privacy wards he’d cast, then turned his attention back to Haze.

“You did very well, Haze,” Severus said in a very soft voice. “I bet you’re feeling those tingles of pleasure throughout your body again, and you feel the need to close your eyes and give in to them. I want you to close your eyes and focus on the sensations coursing through your body. The more you concentrate on them, the deeper your relaxation becomes. You’ll know when you’ve been rewarded enough, Haze, because your eyes will open of their own accord, and you’ll act normally, just like we discussed before, though you’ll still be in this same deeply relaxed state.”

While Haze was lost in what he was feeling, Severus spent a moment trying to burn a hole through the door with the glare he was sporting, then snorted and waited for the boy to wake up again.

A few minutes later Severus had Haze’s attention. “Let’s continue our discussion, shall we?”

Haze nodded.

“Were you directly involved in the escape of Sirius Black during your third year?” he repeated.

Haze shifted a little, his eyes flicking to the floor. For a moment Severus thought he’d balk again, but he was proven wrong, though the boy’s voice was soft and hesitant.

“Yes, I was.”

“You helped save an innocent man’s life. I know that makes you feel good. Doesn’t it.”

“Yes,” Haze replied, his voice still soft and his eyes still averted.

“I’m pleased that you trusted me enough to be honest with me, Haze.”

“Mmm,” the boy said, his voice a little stronger.

“I know that you feel so good about it that those tingles are back, sweeping over your body, forcing your eyes to close so you can concentrate on them and slip deeper into relaxation. Yes, that’s right. It feels so very good, Haze. It feels so good that you answered my question and were honest that you’re having a little trouble sitting up straight. Yes, I can see that you’re sliding down a little in your chair, because the feelings are intense. It will always feel good when you obey me, Haze. And over time, it will feel even better, because the more you obey me, the more of a reward you deserve.”

Severus continued to drone on softly, repeating the same concepts in various ways for several minutes. His eyes widened slightly as Haze’s face began to flush and his arms hung limply at his sides, twitching occasionally. Haze’s lips parted in a soft exhalation that Severus could barely hear, causing the professor to shift uncomfortably and grasp the edge of the desk tightly.

“That’s right, Haze. You feel so very good right now. You’d do almost anything to feel this good. You feel so deeply relaxed that you can’t even lift your arm, Haze. Try to lift your arm and you’ll see that you can’t. Your limbs are loose and you feel boneless right now. The harder you try to lift your arm the deeper you relax until finally you can’t try any longer. That’s right. Haze, go deeper. You’re such a good, handsome boy, Haze. Soon you’ll have made me so pleased that I won’t be able to help showing you how to make it feel even better.”

When Haze rolled his head back and moaned softly Severus bit his lip hard. It was getting to be way too much, and he couldn’t risk furthering his plans just yet. And for that matter, he needed a much better way to tell if interfering old coots like Albus were roaming the dungeons.

“You feel so very good, Haze. You deserve this reward and you know it. But the sensations are starting to fade away, leaving you deeply relaxed. You’re getting ready to open your eyes again, Haze. I want you to enjoy the fleeting sensations as they fade from your body, and when you’re ready, you will open your eyes and sit up a little straighter. You’ll know when to do this. That’s right.”

He watched hungrily as the flush began to drain from Haze’s flawless complexion and his head began to tilt forward, until at last the boy was sitting as he’d been before. The major difference this time was that his eyes were hazy instead of alert; it gave him a distinctly debauched look that Severus found nigh well irresistible.

“Breath deeply and evenly, Haze. That’s right. In a moment I’m going to wake you up completely, Haze, and you’ll be able to go. You know what to do when that happens, don’t you.”

Haze nodded lazily and flashed Severus a silly little smile.

“Good, that’s perfect. I think you should have a very pleasant dream tonight, Haze. In fact, I insist that you do, so you can feel just like you did a few minutes ago during your reward. That’s right. You’re such an obedient, pleasing boy, Haze.”

Severus removed the wards, inhaled sharply, then said, “Haze, wake up.”

Potter gathered his things and stood. “Thank you for the lesson, professor. I’ll get started on that essay tomorrow morning during my free period. It should be very rewarding.”

Severus nodded, then watched as the boy left. As soon as the footsteps had faded he stumbled out the door, closed and locked it, then fled to his quarters.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 9 November 1996

Severus had a problem. It was a very large problem in his opinion. He lay back on his bed and stared at the velvet canopy, letting his eyes wander over the fluctuations in how the nap was directed. In another situation, with another set of colours, one might, if one had particularly bad eyesight, almost mistake the fabric for waves in the ocean seen from a great distance, frozen in one moment of time.

However, that was not the case, and Severus had a very large problem.

He had his plans, which evolved from moment to moment, and he had every intention of going ahead with them. The headmaster would get what he wanted, and at the same time, Severus would get something he had wanted since he was still in school.

There was still a “but,” though. How in Merlin’s name was he to assure that Albus didn’t unexpectedly arrive again and catch Severus in the middle of something . . . compromising?

A raucous squawk broke into his thoughts; turning his head he saw his raven perched on his nightstand, flapping its wings. In its beak was a note, which Severus took, and was rewarded when the bird ceased its antics and flew off.

He relaxed onto the bed again and unfolded the paper.

Severus,

I would adore having a chat with you at your earliest convenience in my office.

Albus

Severus crumpled the note and tossed it aside. Just what he needed, another nosy little meeting with a meddling old coot. He sighed heavily and rolled off the bed and onto his feet, straightened his robes, and headed off to the headmaster’s office.


“How lovely to see you, Severus!” Albus declared, his eyes twinkling in a way that never failed to infuriate the potions master.

“I’m sure,” he replied, not bothering this time to keep the sarcasm from fairly dripping from his voice.

“I wanted to talk to you about Harry.”

Severus nodded automatically. What else but that?

“I was quite surprised when I popped in the other day. I decided to think about it for a few days before I spoke with you though.”

Severus nodded again and waited.

“You and Harry seem to be getting along rather well. Better than I expected, really, though I’m pleased to see it,” Albus commented genially.

Severus stared. He wasn’t going to be the one who gave.

Albus nodded and went on. “I find myself quite curious to know how you managed it.” After a pause, in which he gave Severus a wide-eyed look at his continued silence, he asked, “How did you?”

“We agreed to call a truce for the lessons. Nothing more. He remains polite and respectful, and puts the proper amount of effort into this venture, and I refrain from tormenting him just to get a reaction, and make sure that I have alternative methods at hand should what we’re using fail to work for him in protecting his mind.”

“Ah, Severus. You have no idea how pleased I am to know that you could finally call a truce. After all, you and Harry will need to work together in the future, so it is good that you’ve been able to manage to cooperate now.” He paused again, appearing to consider something, then said, “Has he said anything about having visions, or any strange dreams?”

Severus shook his head. “No. I made it quite clear to him that he was to report anything of that nature immediately, even if it was just something that made him feel vaguely disturbed. He wasn’t very happy about that at first, but I pointed out that with another’s eyes looking at the matter, something that didn’t make sense to him personally might turn out to be of importance, or even critical.”

Albus smiled and nodded. “Very good, Severus.”

“Now are you going to stop interfering, or am I going to have to find someplace else to conduct the lessons? You’ve already told the brat to come see you if he’s upset about something, and I’m sure he’d come running to you in a heartbeat,” Severus said snidely.

“Yes, quite so. No need to go to ground, Severus. Though, that is something I may have to consider should any rumors start up because of the lessons. After all, Harry isn’t taking potions this year, so some might find it a little odd that he’s going down to your office several times a week.”

Severus nodded, having already thought of that potential problem. Perhaps he should ask the boy if anyone had questioned him about it recently. “If that will be all?” he inquired testily.

“Of course. Have a pleasant day, Severus.”


On reflection, Severus thought that his plans were working quite well so far. Certainly, he could have managed to teach the boy properly without adding his own personal agenda to it. It was, after all, a stroke of pure luck that the boy was so susceptible to hypnosis.

There were many ways to get a person to do something they normally wouldn’t do, but they varied wildly in execution. The Dark Lord gained obedience through pain and fear. But that wasn’t what Severus wanted from the boy, a boy who looked so very much like James.

Severus thought his method was far more interesting. Young people were, on average, very distracted while growing up. Past a certain age, their minds were forced to deal with feelings they’d never encountered before, because their bodies simply weren’t ready for it.

Unleashed, those feelings and urges would distract them and slow them down, make it harder for their professors to teach them. So Severus had hit upon what he thought was an excellent method of extracting obedience from Potter.

Using the boy’s burgeoning sex drive, which he had probably sublimated into other things given his earlier comments on loneliness, Severus could set up an action and reward loop that would take very little effort to maintain, never mind the charge Severus got from doing it in the first place.

Granted, Severus didn’t want to tinker too much with what made the boy who he was. Too much interference and he could be ruined past the point of use in the struggle ahead. But certain things, other things, he could get away with, and end up with a student who was far more pleasant to be around, not to mention willing and tractable.

Having control of what made the boy’s hormones threaten to spiral out of control made Potter pliable to his will and his will only. Because he wanted to feel good, he would continue to obey his professor, so that he could feel good again. All in all, Severus considered it a brilliant plan.

And in the end, the boy would do anything to please his professor, regardless of his conscious feelings for the man. He had almost two years to work with, and he intended to use them, even if it meant maneuvering Albus into suggesting that he start tutoring the boy in potions in addition to the Occlumency.

It was those thoughts Severus was running through his mind when a knock sounded at his door.


Severus looked at the boy for a moment, admiring the sweep of dark lashes against lightly tanned skin. “Haze, open your eyes.”

“That’s right. Do you recall when we discussed what’s expected of you, and I had you repeat some things after me for you to remember?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. Haze, from now on, when I, and only I, say, ‘Haze, directives,’ you will tell me each one of directives I told you to repeat and remember. All right?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect,” he purred. “Now, Haze, I need to change one of those directives a little, so first I need you to tell me what they are. Haze, directives.”

The boy reeled off a list immediately, reminding Severus of how the one he needed to change went originally.

“That’s right, good. In fact, you did so well, I know you feel very good right now, very relaxed. Haze, go deeper. Excellent. We’re going to change the directive about bad dreams and nightmares, Haze, so repeat after me. If I have a bad dream or a nightmare I will let it slide off my defenses and not allow it to upset me. But I will remember everything that happened, and I will tell Professor Snape about it as soon as possible.”

“Good, very good.” And thus was his lie to Albus made truth.

“I’d like to know more about you, Haze. Did you sleep well the night of your last lesson with me?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did you have a dream about something pleasant, Haze?”

“Yeah.”

“What did you dream about?”

“I don’t remember. I just know it made me feel good.”

“I think you deserve a lot of nice dreams, Haze, for doing so well in these lessons and being so happy to obey me. Would you like that?”

Haze nodded.

“That’s right. And I know that you like that idea because I suggested it. I think that every night after you’ve had a lesson with me that you should have a pleasant dream, like the one you just told me about. But do you know what?”

Haze’s brows rose questioningly.

“You know you feel good because you obey me, and obeying me gives you pleasure. So I think that your dreams after your lessons should focus on those pleasurable sensations and you should imagine, while they’re happening, that you’re sitting here with me, obeying me. You know that obeying me makes you feel pleasure, so it makes sense that you should dream about it, and feel pleasure doing so. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“But I know that you won’t consciously remember the dreams, will you?”

“No.”

“That’s right, good boy. You’ll only remember how good you felt, and that will help you to remain relaxed and calm during the day so that you can do better in your classes. In fact, you’ve probably been noticing that your memory has gotten better. You only need to read something once to remember it, and are able to recall the information easily. Isn’t that right, Haze?”

“Yes.”

“Perfect. Haze, has anyone questioned you about these lessons?”

“Not really. I mean, my friends always ask, but I just tell them the same old thing.”

“What is that you tell them?”

“That we’re working on my defenses for Occlumency.”

“Do they seem upset that you come down here so often?”

“Well, they don’t really like you, but Hermione insists that this is a good thing, so she usually makes Ron shut up about it.”

“Good, very good. You’ve done very well. If anyone starts getting nosy about these lessons, Haze, I’d like you to feel you can tell me about it. Or if you overhear people talking about how you come down here so often.”

“I will.”

“That’s right, you will. I’m very curious about some things. Do you remember the night at the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries?”

Haze’s eyes narrowed, then went glassy. “Yes.”

“You looked upset for a moment, then you didn’t. Are you letting negative feelings just slide off your defenses, Haze?”

He nodded.

“Good. Do you remember what happened to the prophecy sphere?”

“Yes, it broke.”

“And you were unable to hear what it said?”

“There was too much noise for me or Neville to hear much of anything.”

“I see. It’s really a shame that it broke. I bet you wanted to know what it said, don’t you.”

“Yes, but I do know what it said.”

Severus blinked, leaning back in his armchair. “How did you find out what it said, Haze?”

“Professor Dumbledore showed it to me the night I destroyed his office.”

Severus blinked again and tilted his head forward. Right. “Do you remember what it said?”

Haze nodded.

“Tell me what it said, Haze.”

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. . . . Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. . . . And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. . . . And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. . . . The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies. . . .

“You’ve been such an obedient boy, Haze. I want you to reward yourself. Haze, reward yourself.”

For a moment, Severus didn’t think Haze would understand what he was asking, but suddenly the boy’s eyes dropped shut and he sagged bonelessly in the squashy chair.

Severus needed some time to think. He would have thought that Albus would have shared this with him. Then again, Occlumency wasn’t everything. The Dark Lord could still have used veritaserum to get at the truth if he’d suspected that Severus knew he held critical information.

While he was not actively spying on the dark faction, if he were captured, it could spell serious trouble now that he knew. The Dark Lord had raped the mind of Bertha Jorkins without a second thought, and she’d been memory charmed to the point of permanent damage before he’d gotten his hands on her.

Severus let his eyes wander over the boy’s flushed face. So it wasn’t all just hype and rot after all. Potter really was the one intended to defeat the Dark Lord. Still, he wouldn’t let that interfere. But it might give him an excuse to continue lessons, or to add more as he’d considered earlier. His thoughts wandered back to the blissful expression on Haze’s face.

“Haze, open your eyes. Good, that’s right. You look a little warm, Haze. You think it’s too warm in here don’t you. Does that make you uncomfortable, Haze, that it’s too warm in here?”

“A little bit,” he admitted.

“Yes, it is rather warm in here. Why don’t you take off your outer robes, Haze, so you can cool off a little. That would make you feel good, wouldn’t it.”

And like a good, obedient boy, Haze stood up and shucked off his robes. After laying them carefully over the arm of the chair, he sat back down again.

“That’s right,” he said, then frowned slightly. “Are all your clothes like that, Haze?”

The boy looked momentarily confused. “Like what?” he asked, glancing down at his shirt and jeans.

“They’re awfully loose, and much too big for you. Why don’t you have better fitting clothes, Haze?”

“I’m not allowed to.”

Severus paused again. He opened his mouth to speak, but shut it just as abruptly. No, his curiosity on this was irrelevant.

“Haze, repeat after me. The only time I will respond to the name Haze is if Professor Snape uses it.”

“Good, that’s right. Haze, that was a pretty big secret you just told me. Why were you willing to tell me?”

“I trust you, so it’s all right, isn’t it? The headmaster trusts you.”

Severus exhaled sharply. “Haze, does it bother you when people compare you to your father?”

This time, the boy answered without hesitation. “Yes. No. I’m not sure.”

“Sit quietly for a minute, Haze. Do not move from your chair.” Severus stood up and went over to rummage in his desk. After pulling out a notebook he grabbed an inkwell and a quill, then settled himself back in the armchair across from Haze. The inkwell went onto the side table, uncapped, and Severus dated the page and wrote down ‘comparison to his father’ and ‘clothing’. After a moment’s consideration he added ‘muggle family’ to the list.

“You weren’t happy talking about that before. Why do you trust me, Haze?”

“Because you gave your word that nothing you learned would leave this room or be used against me. You promised.”

“I see. It’s safe to trust me because of my promise, and because the headmaster does. You believe I’ll never break that promise, don’t you.”

Haze nodded, which gave Severus an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach. He considered for several minutes the merit of locking that trust in with a directive, but something niggling in the back of his head said no, and kept saying no, despite his normal inclination to take immediate advantage of the situation.

“Haze, I’m very pleased that you feel that way, and you decided you could trust me of your own free will,” he finally said. “One of the things you told me you wanted was someone to trust, and I think now that you’ve found that, you should deserve a reward. Haze, reward yourself.”

Several minutes later, when his own condition was threatening to get out of hand, Severus said, “Haze, open your eyes. Do you remember the night you looked in my pensieve?”

Haze nodded.

“Did you tell anyone what you saw in it?”

“No.”

“You didn’t tell anyone what you saw?”

“I told no one.”

“Why?”

“Because I shouldn’t have looked in the first place, and it wasn’t my business to speak of.”

“At the time, I told you to tell no one of what you’d seen. Did what I said then even matter?”

“No.”

Severus arched a brow, then tilted his chin down a bit. “Explain.”

“Because the result would have been the same as if you’d said nothing. Though”—Haze paused to furrow his brow for a moment—“it is better to know what people’s preferences are regardless.”

“You have an interesting way of looking at things, Haze. In fact, you’ve been such a good boy that from now on when you reward yourself, it will feel twice as good, won’t it.”

“Yes.”

“Haze, when you reward yourself, what are you aware of?”

“How good it feels, how relaxed I am, your voice.”

“That’s right. Very good. And when you reward yourself, do you feel the urge to do anything at the same time?”

“I . . . I’m not sure. But I’m so relaxed that I can barely move, so it doesn’t matter.”

Not sure? Severus wondered just how innocent the boy actually was. “Haze, from now on, when you reward yourself while you’re here with me, you’ll be able to move a bit, all right? Good. Your eyes will stay closed, but you’ll be able to move a bit, so if you need to, you can. Do you understand?”

Haze nodded.

“That’s right. Haze, do you think it’s wise to trust your two friends with everything?”

“No.”

“You don’t?”

Haze shook his head.

“Tell me why you think that.”

“I think that Hermione is generally trustworthy, but she never knows when to stop nagging. She doesn’t understand that she doesn’t need to know everything inside my head. And Ron tends to blurt things out sometimes, so I don’t think it’s safe to tell him everything.”

“Have you told Ron or Hermione the contents of the prophecy?”

“No.”

“Have you told anyone besides me the contents of the prophecy?”

“No.”

“Good. It would be unsafe to tell anyone else the contents of the prophecy, Haze. Don’t you agree? That’s right. In fact, if anyone besides Professor Snape or Albus Dumbledore were to ask you about it, you wouldn’t remember that you knew. Isn’t that right? It would be as though you’d never heard it.”

Severus shifted. “Are you starting to learn things more quickly and easily in your classes, Haze?”

“I am.”

“That’s right. It makes you want to do even better, doesn’t it, so that you can keep on feeling good. Are there any classes you wish you could be taking that you aren’t?”

Haze dropped his eyes to his lap, apparently struggling with something internally.

“Haze, directives.”

After he’d reeled off the complete list, Severus tried again. “Are there any classes you wish you could be taking that you aren’t?”

“Potions,” Haze replied in a soft voice.

“Why would you like to get back in potions classes?”

“Because you teach it.”

“Do you even enjoy potions?”

“I don’t really know.” Haze fidgeted.

“Tell me why you don’t know.”

“Because I never really got a chance to try. And Slytherin students were always sabotaging me in class.”

Severus knew that to be only the truth. However, it tended to be a necessary thing. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, thinking about his long-term plans. “Over the next few weeks, in the back of your mind, I want you to think about potions. You’re going to think very hard about it, though you will not let that interfere with your current lessons. Eventually, you’re going to decide whether or not you want to take potions classes again. Understand?”

Haze nodded.

“Good, that’s right. If you decide that you do want to learn potions again, you’re going to ask to see Professor Dumbledore. And when you are able to talk to him, you’re going to ask him if it would be all right if I could tutor you in potions. You’re going to get his permission, and then you will come and ask me if I will tutor you. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“If you decide that you don’t want to learn potions again, you will stop thinking about it and forget that you had been. Isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve been very obedient, Haze. Should I let you reward yourself for being obedient and pleasing me?”

“Please.”

“Please, what?”

“Please let me reward myself.”

“Good boy. Haze, reward yourself. That’s right, it feels twice as good, Haze. Give in to those sensations, Haze. Feel the pleasure coursing through your body. Remember that you can move around a little, Haze, if you need to. That’s right. Give in to the feelings, Haze.”

Severus let his voice drift off to a whisper and just watched for a moment. Haze started arching slightly in his chair, moving his hips suggestively.

“That’s right,” Severus whispered. “It feels so very good, Haze. It feels so good you want to move a little more. In fact, it’s hard for you to keep your hands still. Give in to the feelings, Haze. Your eyes are closed and you can’t open them. You feel so good right now, so relaxed. That’s right.”

Haze moaned, shifting his right hand into his lap. Severus got the distinct impression that the boy didn’t have a clue what to do with himself.

“That’s right, Haze. Your hand feels good there. It’s hard for you to keep your hand still. You want to use it to make yourself feel even better. Yes, you do. You want to move your hand to the place where all these pleasurable feelings converge. That’s right, good boy. Give in to the feelings, Haze.”

Severus had his own hand down, lazily stroking the fabric that covered himself. Watching the boy fumble his way along was strangely intoxicating, and when Haze began hesitantly caressing himself through his baggy jeans, then with more surety as he realized how much better it felt, Severus had to bite his lip against a low moan at the sight.

“That’s right, Haze. Right there. That feels so good, Haze. But the sensations are starting to fade, Haze, and you’ll be opening your eyes soon.” The last thing he wanted was to explain away the results if he let the boy continue through to a climax. “That’s right, the sensations are starting to fade and your hand is moving away, back to the arm of the chair. Good boy.”

Sitting up straighter and fixing his robes, then removing the wards, Severus said, “Haze, wake up.”

“That was a really informative lesson, professor. Thank you.” Potter pushed himself out of his chair, grabbed his bag, and exited the room.

Severus didn’t bother to try to leave this time. He used his wand to cast every silencing and privacy ward he could think of, then hastily opened his trousers and began to stroke himself, eyes closed and thinking only of what he’d just seen, until his world exploded in a blindingly intense array of bright lights.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 10 November 1996

Potter had barely slid into his armchair when Severus whipped around and shouted, “Legilimens!” His attack was absorbed in seconds, never giving him a chance to see a glimpse into the boy’s mind.

Severus stalked around the classroom after that, randomly attacking and testing the strength of the defenses Potter had erected. As the hour went on, Severus began noticing that it was taking a second or so more each time before the energy of his thrusts was assimilated.

He sat down in his armchair and considered. “Potter, how much time are you spending each night to work on your defenses?”

“Around ten minutes, sir.”

“Make it twenty. And that goes for any other time you remember to work on them.”

“All right, sir.”

“We’re going to try something a little different this evening. Did you notice that you were getting slower in absorbing the attacks?”

The boy nodded.

“Hopefully practicing longer will take care of that, but just in case I have something else that might work. I want you to start taking the time to imagine that if your defenses are weakening, you need to employ a second-stage function.”

“Sir?”

“Refresh my memory. How would you describe your current defenses? How do you visualize them when you think about it?”

Potter fidgeted slightly. “I see them as a really dense, pliable metal foam.” He looked up, clearly uncomfortable. “I picture it as a sphere encasing my thoughts.”

Severus nodded. “And how is this sphere actually protecting you?”

“Since it’s a thick foam, it can absorb the attacks, and try to use that to strengthen them. But I guess since it’s metal, the attacks could slide off, too.”

“Except that sliding off means you can’t use the attacks to your advantage, is that the idea?”

“Yes, professor.”

“Consider the following. Your defenses are starting to weaken, and absorbing the attacks is no longer effective, so when it gets to that point, I want you to try using the metal to reflect the attack back. That metal is nice and shiny, so the attack bounces right back off. With me so far?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you can’t use that energy to strengthen your defenses any longer, you can try reflecting it back at the caster so you attempt to incapacitate them momentarily and give you a chance to either get away, or decide on what spells might be effective in that situation.”

The boy didn’t respond, so Severus left him alone in his thoughts for a few minutes, finally speaking up to say, “Potter, do you think you’ll be able to visualize all that and use it with enough practice?”

The boy’s head snapped up. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now that you’ve had a chance to rest, let’s try again.” Severus lifted his wand and said, “Legilimens.” The attack was absorbed again within seconds. Obviously those several minutes had been enough to refresh things.

However, he started to realize that he’d told the boy something that contradicted his directives; he wondered how that would play out. He had no idea if it would integrate in properly, or if it would create a conflict issue, but decided to wait until the next lesson to find out. Instead, he was going to test something else.

“Haze, how are your classes going?” he asked smoothly.

“Fine, sir. It seems like lately I’ve been doing a lot better. Like I’m able to concentrate more and learn things faster.”

Severus thought that was quite interesting. The boy hadn’t even blinked over the change in name. He wondered just how obedient the boy would remain while awake and more or less one hundred percent aware—well, aside from the obvious—and how suggestible he’d continue to be.

“You look a little warm, Haze. I’m glad to hear you’re doing well in your classes,” he commented evenly, then changed the subject. “Have you had any visions lately? Bad or disturbing dreams? Nightmares?”

“No, sir. Nothing like that. I’ve been sleeping pretty well actually.”

“Is there anything you feel the need to talk to me about before we begin practicing again?”

Haze appeared to ponder that, then shook his head. “No, sir. Nothing that I can think of.”

“You haven’t been experiencing any residual pain, or felt like your mind was being left wide open to attacks because of our lessons?”

“No, sir.”

“Excellent.” Severus took a second to check the time and realized he’d have to let the boy go soon. “Haze, have your muggle relatives ever abused you in any way?”

Haze answered without hesitation. “Yes, sir, they have.”

“Haze, go under.” Once the boy had sagged, Severus put him through several rounds of deepening, then woke him. For the next ten minutes he kept repeating the process and reinforcing the triggers. Before he let Haze wake for the last time, he re-stressed how well the boy was doing in his classes, his memory retention and reading comprehension, and finally added that Haze found his magic even easier to work with and how it just flowed effortlessly, like breathing.

“Haze, wake up. You’ve done well this evening. See that you continue to do so.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

“You may go. I’m sure there are some innocent pleasures you can into that won’t cause trouble.”

If things kept on this way, he’d probably only need to put the boy under for new suggestions and reinforcement. Well, that and for his own perverse pleasures.

Wednesday, 13 November 1996

It took over an hour of constant attacks, but one was finally reflected straight back in Severus’s face. Several memories raced by before he gathered his wits and pushed the intrusion away. By that time, Potter was breathing heavily from the strain, and Severus needed a rest himself.

“Let’s discuss what just happened, shall we?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You were able to successfully reflect back an attack, which is good. Now, assume that it wasn’t me who was attacking you. It was, oh, Lucius Malfoy. What might you have done differently given that? Take your time and think about it before you answer.”

After several minutes, and a number of expressions flitting across his face, Potter said, “Well, I guess that all depends. I’m not even sure I was aware when it reflected back on you, professor. Assuming I was in a position to run, that’s one option. Assuming I’m aware when it does reflect, then I could try to stun the attacker, bind him, or something that would hold him for long enough that I could make a break for it.”

Severus frowned. Potter, Haze, obviously needed some work on his visualizations. Or did he? “Let me make sure I understand what you said. You aren’t sure you were aware when it reflected. Are you telling me you saw nothing of the memories that flashed by in my head?”

“Yes, sir. I mean, correct, I saw nothing of them.”

“Indeed.” Severus arched his brow. He really hadn’t considered this all the way through. Making a mental note to berate himself later for a lack of thoroughness, he decided to see if it was possible to get the boy to take note of the distinction between the two functions of the sphere defense.

“Haze, go under.” After bring him deeper several times, he relaxed back in his chair and studied the boy for a minute as he thought about ways to accomplish his goal.

“Haze, open your eyes. Tell me how it feels when your defenses absorb an attack.”

“Um. . . .”

“Take a minute to think about it. See if you can figure out how it feels.”

“I don’t know,” he finally said.

Severus closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers, and sighed. After a moment he looked at Haze and said, “Haze, do you know what I’m referring to when I say subconscious mind?”

Haze raised his brows for a second, then nodded.

“Then you know what I’m referring to when I say conscious mind as well, right?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. Haze, when you’re in this very relaxed state, as you are now, you should know that it means your subconscious mind is in control. All right?”

Haze nodded again.

“And when you’re completely awake, such as when you’re in your normal lessons or on the quidditch field, it means your conscious mind is the one you’re using.” Seeing the boy nod, Severus continued. “Good. You should also know that your subconscious mind still has control while you’re awake, and that’s important. With me so far?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now that we’re clear on the proper terms, Haze, repeat after me. Each time my defenses absorb or reflect an attack, my subconscious will pay close attention to how it feels when that happens, and remember.”

After Haze obeyed, Severus questioned his understanding. “Can you explain why I want you to do that, Haze?”

“You want me to be able to tell the difference so that I can use it to my advantage later on,” Haze replied.

“That’s correct. Haze, directives.”

Severus took note that the directive about practicing each night had changed on its own. However, hearing the list made him realize he should probably consider making his comments about not revealing the prophecy into a directive, since those could be a lot more easily reinforced. Casual comments were one thing, and they stuck, but he didn’t think testing the durability was a wise idea in the long run.

“Do you remember when we talked about the prophecy and you told me what it said?”

“I do.”

“Haze, repeat after me. If anyone asks me to repeat the words of the prophecy I will not be able to remember them no matter how hard I try, unless the person asking is Professor Snape or Albus Dumbledore, and they can prove who they are.”

“Good, that’s right. Haze, you look warm.”

“I do?” asked the boy as he touched his cheek with the back of one hand, then his forehead.

“Yes. Haze, you look warm. Maybe you should do something about that,” Severus suggested.

Haze stood up and shucked his robes, laying them across the arm of his chair before sitting again.

“You feel better now, don’t you,” Severus purred.

“Yes, thanks.”

“You did really well tonight, Haze. You worked very hard. Haze, reward yourself.”

This time Haze didn’t need any prompting to begin stroking the fabric that encased him. His right hand immediately moved down as his head lolled to the side.

“That’s right. Give in to the feelings, Haze. Make it feel even better, yes. Soon you’ll be able to go even further into the sensations. Such a good boy.” And Severus kept on speaking in soothing, coaxing tones until Haze looked and sounded like he was becoming frustrated.

“Haze, the sensations are starting to fade away, and you’ll be opening your eyes soon. They’re fading and you’re enjoying the last lingering feelings. Your hand is moving back to the arm of the chair, that’s right. Haze, wake up.”

As the boy stood and started to gather his things, Severus interjected with a question. “Haze, how are you doing on the assignment I gave you?”

“Fine, sir. I’ll have it ready by next week.”

Severus dispelled the wards then said, “That’s good to hear. You may go.”

Two minutes later Severus was in his bedroom taking care of his own frustration.

Saturday, 16 November 1996

Mornings were hell, he decided, but at least it was the weekend. Albus wouldn’t care if he was nowhere to be found during the morning meal, and that was all to the better. After several minutes of intense thought he came to the conclusion that Haze hadn’t seen his memories, because Haze wasn’t consciously (or subconsciously) trying to. He was literally reflecting back the magical energy Severus had thrust at him, essentially giving it back, and keeping no hold on the results.

In effect, Severus had attacked himself, just like bouncing a spell off a mirror.

He spared himself a silent, internal laugh over the idea of that happening to the Dark Lord, then moved on to consideration of his prophecy directive. He couldn’t very well bring in a third party to test its effectiveness, and he definitely couldn’t involve Albus. That would be suicide.

He was also curious to find out if it would hold up under the influence of veritaserum. The mind and body were capable of a great many things, some of which even bordered on the miraculous. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to test it, now would it? But again, he would have the same problem as before.

He supposed he could haul some unsuspecting student into the room and try it, but then he’d have to obliviate the child, and that was definitely not something he had any interest in doing. Polyjuice was an option, but he’d be stuck with a new form for an hour, which could cause complications. Unless. . . .

No, that wouldn’t work. Dragging the boy into an empty classroom unexpectedly and questioning him was all very well, but it wouldn’t prove much of anything except that the boy was stubborn. He also didn’t feel like having to obliviate Potter in the aftermath, since he’d be unable to bring him under.

Severus rolled off the bed and onto his feet, taking the time to run through his morning routine before searching through the many shelves of books in his quarters. Having selected a stack of likely tomes, he sat down near the fire, placing the books on the side table, and called for a house-elf to order breakfast.

Several hours, several dirty dishes, a pile of books, and a headache later, Severus settled on using a glamour to test out his theories. That, and a temporary directive he could give Haze so that it seemed as though Severus was also present as his normal self, assuming it worked. He didn’t think Haze would be too thrilled at being subjected to veritaserum by a complete stranger, and alone with him to boot.

He just needed some practice before he attempted anything.

At the monthly staff meeting later on, after lunch, he was amused to note that most of Potter’s professors were clumped around one end of the table, talking about how remarkably well Harry had been doing in his lessons of late. Albus was smiling and twinkling away like it was all his doing. Severus resisted the urge to roll his eyes and hoped the meeting wouldn’t last too much longer.


It had taken another hour of intense and fast-paced attacks, but the boy reflected one back at Severus, who then called for a short break. There was obviously some obscure decision-making process going on in the boy’s subconscious which triggered the reflection reaction that Severus didn’t understand. Potter, Haze, whatever . . . Haze was the only one who’d be able to explain.

“Haze, do you have any idea why your defenses aren’t reflecting back the attack as soon as they begin to weaken?” Severus held up a hand to silence the boy so he could finish. “From what I’m able to discern, you’re waiting for some reason before you switch to reflection. I’m curious as to whether or not you know why.”

“Well, sir, you said I should try to do that when I couldn’t use the attacks for strength any longer.”

“Yes, but I don’t understand what’s going on in that head of yours. Explain in more detail.”

“Oh,” Haze said, with an expression that could have passed for mild incredulity. “You said I should try when the attacks didn’t help me, and they do, up to a certain point. I can still feel it helping. But then it just doesn’t work anymore, so I think about reflecting instead. Except I don’t really think I’m thinking about it, if that makes any sense, sir. It just happens.”

Severus rubbed his temple. Yes, of course. Why didn’t he think of that? “So you’re saying that the absorption is still helping, just not enough to keep your defenses at full strength. And it isn’t until you can’t make use of the energy used in the attacks at all that your reaction changes. Does that sound right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right. We’re going to try again, but this time I want you to try to reflect as soon as your defenses begin to weaken. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Severus stood up and started prowling the room, launching attacks at random, and with very little time between. This time the reflection came quicker, probably owing to the lack of a chance to properly recuperate. Severus didn’t stop to rest, but continued to launch attacks at Haze for another ten minutes or so.

Sitting down, Severus tapped his wand on the arm of his chair as he looked at Haze intently. “Better. To reaffirm something, I need to ask if you’re seeing any of my memories when you manage to reflect my attacks?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting,” he said softly.

“Professor?”

Severus blinked and looked up, realizing he’d become lost in his thoughts. “Are you aware now of when you’re reflecting the attack rather than absorbing it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very good. We’re going to move things up a step, then, though we won’t try it until your next lesson. You’re going to try to learn something new to do with those defenses.” Seeing that Haze perked up he went on to say, “You know what a battery is, correct?”

Haze nodded.

“Then I want you to imagine that your defenses have one. You’re going to make sure that battery is always charged up.” Severus saw Haze nodding his head, with a focused expression on his face. “The reason for the battery is to provide extra power for the reflection. Think of it as . . . draining the battery to augment the attack energy, then reflecting it. Questions?”

The boy furrowed his brow. “Is this so I could incapacitate the attacker for a longer period of time, sir?”

“Yes, very good. Excellent deduction, Haze. And if you can do that, you have more time to make a decision on what to do then. Escape, stun, whatever is needed.”

Haze gave Severus a smile. “I noticed that it took you a few seconds to handle the reflected attack, sir, so that’s why I wondered. I mean, I know you’re a master Occlumens, so. . . .”

Severus nodded. “This little truce of ours is proving to be beneficial, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, sir. It is.”

“Is there anything you feel you need to talk to me about, Haze?”

“Um, not at present, sir, no.”

“It’s a little early, but that’s all right, you may go. I’m sure you’ll find a way to reward yourself, Haze.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Sunday, 17 November 1996

Albus was, by nature, a very curious sort of fellow. Had he been a cat, he would have no doubt long since used up all his nine lives, and not be in any position to explore his current curiosity. However, since he was indeed not a cat, he saw fit to have a short note delivered to Harry Potter during breakfast, inviting him for a chat directly he’d finished eating.

So it was that Harry arrived promptly after breakfast and took a seat in one of the several plush chairs available in front of Albus’s desk. After greeting the headmaster and accepting a sherbet lemon, Harry settled back.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes, Harry. I’ve been hearing some good things about you lately. Though that is not to say I normally hear bad things, please don’t misunderstand.” Noticing the confused and curious look on the boy’s face he went on to say, “Yes, good things. Your professors have been noticing a marked improvement in your school work, Harry. I think it’s rather marvelous myself.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“And is everything else going well? No problems to report?” he asked, fishing, as always.

“Everything is fine, sir. I can’t think of anything wrong. . . .” Harry trailed off.

“But something is obviously on your mind. Is it anything you can tell me about?” Albus asked gently.

“Well. . . .” Harry took a deep breath and exhaled. “Yes, sir, there is. I was wondering . . . well, would it be all right with you if I asked Professor Snape to maybe tutor me in potions?” he asked, then fidgeted.

“Harry, you don’t even take potions.”

“I know, sir.”

“So why do you ask?”

“It’s just that I’m still disappointed that I wasn’t eligible. I was hoping that maybe he’d agree to tutor me, you know, because the Occlumency lessons are going so well. Maybe he wouldn’t mind, and maybe I could learn well enough now that he might let me into his NEWT classes, sir.”

Albus stroked his beard in contemplation. “Won’t that take up too much of your remaining free time, Harry? You do have homework for your other classes you need to get done, and Occlumency takes up three evenings a week.”

“I don’t think so, sir. I do most of my assignments in my open periods, and they haven’t been taking me as much time as they used to. I’ve even got homework for my Occlumency lessons that I’ll be turning in on Wednesday, and I still have free time. May I please?”

Albus looked at his favorite student, taking in those wide green eyes that looked so sincerely hopeful, and caved. “Yes, Harry, you may ask him if he’ll tutor you in potions if that’s what you really want. But you must realize that he might say no. I know that the two of you are getting along, but he may not have the time to spare.”

Harry beamed. “Thank you, professor.”

“Now, Harry, I must caution you. Don’t get too excited just yet. You still have to ask Professor Snape.”

Harry nodded and said, “Yes, sir.”

“All right. Now remember, you can come see me whenever you feel the need. You run along and have fun, Harry.”


Severus, in the middle of marking some third year papers, was startled to hear knocking at his office door. “Enter,” he called out, and watched as the door opened and Harry Potter fairly bounced inside, though it was clear he was trying to behave normally. Severus arched a brow and set down his quill.

“Mr Potter, to what do I owe this visit?”

“I had a question, sir.”

“Indeed. Close the door, then,” he responded dryly, then cast a few privacy spells. “I’m surprised you knew to find me here. I’m not normally in my office this early during the weekends.”

“Oh, I used my map, sir. I didn’t want to check all over the castle the usual way.”

“Map?” Severus asked sharply. “What map?”

“Here, sir, I’ll show you.” Haze reached into his robes and pulled out a vaguely familiar bit of parchment, then stepped forward and spread it open on Severus’s desk. “See?”

Merlin’s beard. Severus watched with carefully concealed astonishment as Haze pointed at a spot on the map, which showed to be Albus Dumbledore pacing around in his office, represented by tiny moving shoe prints and a small label with his name. Haze then stabbed his finger at a different spot, and Severus switched focus to see another set of prints, this time for Blaise Zabini, who was heading up toward the owlery.

“The map. It’s quite useful, sir. So I knew exactly where you were.”

“Is this the same . . . thing . . . that I caught you with in your third year that insulted me?”

“Yes, sir. But I didn’t have anything to do with that. I just inherited it.”

Severus widened his eyes and blinked, then rubbed his forehead. “Inherited like your invisibility cloak?”

“Not exactly, sir. You see—”

“No, never mind. We’ll discuss the map another time, I think.” After Haze had folded it carefully and tucked it away, Severus prompted, “Your question?”

“Er, right. I was wondering if you might, um, consider the idea of tutoring me in potions, professor?”

Severus held back a pleased smirk. The boy really was delightful at times. “Why, pray tell, would you want that when you don’t even take potions?”

“Because I want to learn, and maybe if I did really well, you might consider letting me into your NEWT potions class, sir?”

“I see. I can’t make that decision until you’ve gained permission from the headmaster for tutoring and the possibility of adding an extra class this far into the year.”

“I already asked him, sir. He said it was all right if that’s what I really wanted. I thought it would be better to see him first before I came and asked you.”

“You realize that this would take up a lot of your time, correct?”

“Yes, sir, but that’s fine. I have way too much free time as it is.”

“Is that so. Well then, since I would normally adjourn to my private lab at around this time, you shall come along with me and we’ll see what you can do. That is, if you don’t have anything better to do today?”

“No, sir. My friends are in Hogsmeade. I didn’t feel like going.”

“Then let us be off.”

Chapter Text

Sunday, 17 November 1996

Haze was looking around with wide eyes as Severus led him into his quarters. This was not, strictly speaking, the done thing, but Haze had made his plea for additional lessons, and Severus saw every reason to handle them in the privacy of his own rooms. Especially, he thought triumphantly, as Albus could not enter the rooms of the staff members without being let in.

And of course, Albus did say Severus could do whatever it took, even if he hadn’t been referring to anything other than Occlumency. Severus was willing to allow that Albus probably would extend that particular statement over any private lessons, given a little nudge and a reminder that potions tutoring meant that Haze had a viable excuse, should anyone ask, for spending so much time in his company.

Glancing back to make sure the boy was behaving himself, Severus crooked a finger at Haze and swept off through the door to his lab. Now that he had Haze inside the safety of his quarters, he felt oddly like humming. Severus pointed at a stool and snapped his fingers, and the boy immediately went to it and sat down, hooking the heels of his shoes on the rungs.

“Now, as I usually spend this time making potions to replenish the infirmary stocks, or in experimental work, you shall assist me. Given that a variety of potions is used above stairs, I am quite sure I can start you off with something fairly simple, and we will work up from there. As some of these are taught in first year, I am quite sure you will have no difficulties to begin with.”

Severus turned away from his shelves and placed a variety of ingredients on the well-worn table, noting as he did so the rapt expression on Haze’s face.

“As I know you have your map with you, and you would not like it to be damaged were there an accident, I suggest you remove your robes and place them back in the living area before we get started.”

Haze nodded and hopped off the stool, disappearing through the door and returning in time to see Severus drop a book on the table as well. As Haze moved to sit down again, Severus said, “I have taken the liberty of providing you with a text so that you have the ingredients list and instructions at hand.”

Severus moved back to the shelves and started plucking jars and phials off them. “You will work at that table, and start with a boil cure potion. As we have several hours before lunch, you have time to make plenty of samples. Though, if you get bored with that, you can attempt making quantities of burn-healing paste.”

He placed his selection on a different table and looked at Haze again. “If you have any questions or need my help if something goes wrong, just say so. Are we clear? Good. You may begin.”

Severus kept a careful eye on Haze as he worked, taking in his careful perusal of the text before placing the necessary ingredients in an arrangement that probably only made sense to Haze himself. Everything else was carefully slipped onto the shelf under the work surface.

After Haze had successfully completed one cauldron of the boil cure potion and bottled the results, taking the time to neatly label them, he spent a few minutes looking at his work table with his head cocked to the side. Then he nodded and rearranged the surface again, and began on a batch of burn-healing paste. Severus stayed quiet through all this, wondering what the boy was up to.

Some time later Haze finished the paste and transferred the results to wide-mouthed, low jars, labeling them as well. Severus arched his brow, stirring his own, much more complicated potion, and waited for the boy’s next unvoiced decision. After staring at the work surface again for a minute, Haze looked up at Severus.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Haze. What is it?”

“There wouldn’t be any problem with me doing both at once, would there, sir? There’s room enough here.”

Severus tilted his head to the side and said, “If you think you can manage both simultaneously, I see no reason to object.”

“Thank you, sir.”

By the time lunch rolled around, Severus noted that Haze had produced enough of both concoctions to last months, if not well over a year. As both had a shelf life of several years if properly stored, he made no comment on the quantity. Gesturing to the boy, he swept out of the lab and back into the living area, knowing that Haze would follow him.

Crossing to a different door, he pushed it open. “Through here is the bedroom. Inside is the entrance to the bathroom. I’ll ring for lunch while you’re washing up. Is there anything in particular you crave?”

“Anything will be fine, sir, really.”

Severus nodded and set about ordering, taking his turn after Haze had emerged and was seated on the couch. Once both had their plates filled and they’d started to eat, Severus decided it was time for a friendly chat, not that he normally condoned such practices, never mind friendly ones.

“After we’re finished eating, I’ll take a look at what you’ve done this morning. If your work is up to standard, I’ll arrange to have them delivered to the infirmary.”

Haze looked up from his plate and smiled.

“It is up to you if you’d like to continue this afternoon with more potions, or if you’d rather go off and do something else before your Occlumency lesson.”

“Oh, no. I’d prefer to stay here, sir, if that’s all right. For the first time I felt like I could do something right with potions.”

Severus nodded and lunch continued on, punctuated with light conversation revolving around what Haze perceived as his deficiencies when it came to potions in general. While Haze was finishing up his meal, Severus went back into his lab and checked over the results of the boy’s morning efforts, and was satisfied to proclaim them more than suitable for delivery to the infirmary.

Perhaps the boy was a candidate for NEWT classes after all, but it would take many more sessions in the lab before Severus was truly convinced. In his opinion, the quantity Haze produced was of little concern; if he made far too much, that was fine, and far too little was also agreeable. What mattered was the time spent, his growing confidence, and the hours spent under the influence of Severus’s personality and designs.

The boy’s trust had been given to him willingly, serendipity perhaps, but it was nonetheless fortunate. The more time Severus spent being gently commanding, and demonstrably trustworthy, the deeper that conviction would sink, all without Severus having to employ underhanded methods. And for the most part, it would be an honest trust.

He wasn’t quite sure why it was important to him, but it was. Some small part of him danced in the back of his head at the idea of Haze extending that trust. Perhaps it was simply because he was one of the few who had. Severus shook himself out of his thoughts when the boy’s presence impinged his awareness.

“You did very well this morning, Haze. I’ll be pleased to deliver the fruits of your labor above stairs. Since you appear to be faultless with those two, perhaps you would like to try your hand at sleeping and calming potions this afternoon? Or anything you find in that chapter.”

“Does this mean you’ll tutor me, sir?”

“Do not get too far ahead of yourself, Haze. I won’t make that decision until I’ve watched you work for at least several sessions. Only then will I bestow or deny your request.”

“Oh.” The boy seemed a little lost for a moment, then brightened. “I’ll just get started then, sir.”

“Mmm,” Severus uttered. “Anything you need can be found on the shelves. Clean cauldrons are underneath as you can see. Again, if you have any questions or concerns, simply say so. You may begin,” he said, and was amused to see that Haze immediately started flipping through the text on his table, and having apparently found what he was looking for, moved swiftly to the shelves to gather supplies.

Again he kept a discreet eye on the boy as he handled himself and his current charge, his face creasing as he started to notice lines forming on the boy’s forehead, as though he were in pain. A pain, Severus noted, that Haze didn’t even seem aware of thus far in his current state of focus. As an hour passed by, the lines deepened, and Haze was occasionally rubbing his forehead absently, his fingers lingering over that infamous scar.

Severus was beginning to get quite worried when Haze’s actions showed a marked decrease in speed as his attention was more and more often taken up by whatever he was experiencing, until finally the boy winced and bit his lip.

“Haze, leave off what you’re doing and extinguish the fires. You and I need to have a little talk,” he commanded.

The boy looked up, startled. “Sir?” he asked uncertainly, but did as bidden.

“Go sit on the couch, Haze,” Severus said as he pulled several completed potions from a cabinet, then left the room after his student. Taking a seat in the armchair adjacent to the couch he angled himself and took another look at the boy.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were in pain, Haze?” he asked, watching as the boy’s hand automatically rose to his scar and rubbed.

“I . . . I guess I didn’t really notice it, sir.” Haze gave him a strange look. “It’s not that bad,” he offered. When Severus arched a brow he said, “Really, sir. It’s like . . . when you have a mild headache, something you can easily tolerate? You tend to just ignore it, not even realize it’s there, sir.”

Severus raised both brows in a quick show of interest. “Yet your scar is obviously bothering you, Haze. Is this coincidence, or is the Dark Lord involved?”

The boy looked confused for a moment, then intense. “It prickles,” he admitted.

“And do you sense anything odd? Pressure on your mind perhaps?” Severus ventured leadingly.

“Well, now that you mention it, sir. . . .” Haze trailed off for a moment, his now tilted head and expression reminding Severus quite strongly of a bird eyeing something. “It feels like rain—no, fog. Mist?” Haze looked up, puzzled.

Severus rubbed his own forehead with one hand, digging at his temples with thumb and fingers in circular motions. “I am well aware that you will probably not be able to recall this the way I’d like, but I want you to think back to the dreams you were having last year. The long hallway, the door at the end.” He paused, and Haze nodded, still mystified. “The Dark Lord was sending those dreams to you, correct?”

Haze nodded again.

“He was being, for lack of a better term, sneaky. Slipping into your mind, subtle in his actions.”

Haze went through a quick change from suddenly raised brows to suddenly narrowed eyes.

“Now, as I said, I do not expect that you’ll recall how that felt, and by that I mean how it felt as he initiated the dreams. But I must wonder if that is what he’s up to at the moment. Your description of fog or mist seems oddly . . . relevant, even if it is a peculiar time of the day.” Severus shot a meaningful look at the boy, and was rewarded with a sharp nod.

“However, you feel nothing but some degree of pain. A prickling in your scar,” he stated. “If that scar is indeed the source of your connection, then the defenses currently in place seem to have the effect of cutting off whatever access it has, or should I say had, to your mind.” Severus tilted his head again. “Does that sound like it fits?”

After a moment Haze nodded.

“I’d like you to keep those thoughts in mind. Even if you are to all accounts closed off from him, you are still affected. I will have to update Dumbledore. . . . Haze, any time your scar prickles or hurts, you will tell me. We will then be at least aware that something has probably happened, or will shortly. It may be that he will become frustrated or angry at his lack of success, and change his tactics.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, would you like something for the discomfort? Or would you like to continue in the lab?”

“Maybe just a little something, sir. But I’m all right, really. I’d like to get back to the lab.”

Severus handed over a vial. “One small sip. That should be enough to help without impairing you. No, go ahead and keep it handy.” He stood, saying, “Come back to work once you feel normal,” then disappeared through the lab’s door.

He made short work of disposing of the now ruined potions, and checked to see that his own was still simmering gently. When Haze stepped into the room, his face fell at the sight of his worktop, then hardened in an expression of resolution and determination as he began again.

By the time another hour or so had passed, Severus was feeling rather fidgety and unsettled. The logical part of his brain likened it to an addictive going too long without the source of his obsession. As he stirred and fussed over his potion on auto-pilot, and kept a sidelong eye on Haze, outwardly calm and in control, he found himself once again comparing the boy to his long-dead father.

Though shorter than he remembered James being, the boy was exceptionally like him in looks overall. The same messy hair that brought to mind a welter of memories, the same finely shaped face, though with a touch of Lily’s fiery sweetness, and the same wiry build. The eyes, of course, were purely Lily, and made it easier for Severus to make that small dissociative leap from one man to another.

James wouldn’t have remembered. A memory charm took care of that problem. Yes indeed. Arrogant and cocksure, it was one less thing to remember to use in his torments. But this boy, Haze. . . .

Severus blinked and glanced down at his potion. It was ready. With sure hands he banished the flame and left it to cool, then looked over at Haze and spoke. “When you’ve finished that lot, come on out. That’s enough for one day.” Then he swept off to his bathroom and washed up, coming eventually to settle on the arm of his chair by the fireplace to wait for the boy.

When he finally came in and took a seat on the couch, Severus immediately said, “Haze, go under,” and the boy obediently dropped into a trance. After commanding him deeper several times in a row, Severus went back to his lab to check over the boy’s work, nodded in satisfaction, then went back out.

“Haze, open your eyes. That’s right. Good. Haze, you look warm,” he said, casting a cooling charm on himself, and urging the fire higher, taking care to use his wand behind his back where Haze couldn’t see.

“You’ve been very productive today, and you’ve obviously decided you want to get into my NEWT potions class.” He slid down into the chair. “I asked you once before if it bothered you when people compared you to your father, Haze. Why don’t you tell me about it.”

Haze shrugged and ruffled his hair. “I don’t know. I never know . . . what people see. Like Remus and Sirius? Who do they see? Did see. Me or my dad? Am I really so much the same that there’s no difference? Am I really such a lousy bastard that any day now I’ll start tormenting people simply because I can? But he couldn’t have been all bad. I mean, mum married him.”

Haze let out a deep sigh and slouched. “It was already so hard just being Harry Potter, you know? People seeing what they wanted to see, expecting so much from me, when half the time I hadn’t got a clue what was going on, and just did what I thought was right. And then, out of nowhere, suddenly there’s Remus, not that I understood anything then, not at first. And Sirius. I was so happy to think, for those few moments, that I’d be free. And then Peter escaped and it was all gone, stolen away.”

Haze shifted sideways and stared into the fire. “Later on, listening to people talk, and wondering again. How could they be so good, and yet such gits. Mrs Weasley accusing Sirius of treating me like James. I loved him, but did he love me, or a memory? I hate thinking things like that, I really do. And I’ll never know. Maybe Remus. I guess I’d have to ask, wouldn’t I.”

Severus thought it interesting that Haze never once brought up Severus’s own treatment of him, or his accusations and recriminations. “Free of what?”

“The Dursleys,” Haze replied morosely.

“There were”—and here Severus grimaced—“some very good qualities in your father,” he said supportively, then backtracked to say, “But you had to dig deeply to find them.”

Haze shrugged again.

“You look warm, Haze,” Severus persisted.

“It is rather hot in here, isn’t it,” replied the boy absently, moving a hand to pluck at the front of his shirt.

“Do feel free to get more comfortable, Haze. I surely won’t mind. What about your mother, then?”

Haze scratched the back of his neck and said, “What about her? I know very little. Nobody ever seems to want to talk about her. Sure, I’ve got pictures, but that’s not saying much. And only the one memory of her.”

“Memory?” Severus inquired.

The boy glanced over at him briefly then resumed his study of the flickering flames. “Didn’t anyone tell you?” When Severus didn’t respond he said, “I’m surprised. It’s the dementors mostly. Every time. Just like on the train that year. All that screaming, and later on, the bright green light. Her begging Voldemort to take her instead, leave me to live. Persisting until he couldn’t take it. And then she died. Just like that.”

After a pause he said, “Somehow I doubt Voldemort will ever tell me why he told her to stand aside. You’d have thought he’d be pleased to kill a muggle-born.”

“Perhaps,” murmured Severus. “Do you feel guilt over their deaths?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I didn’t kill them. He did.”

“Quite so,” Severus agreed. “A commendable attitude, Haze.”

The boy made a noncommittal noise and sat up, swiftly pulling his shirt over his head and dropping it on the floor before laying back into the embrace of the couch and fanning himself with a lazy hand.

Severus grinned. “How about Cedric? And yes, it is terribly warm in here. Let me see about adjusting the fire,” he said casually, using his wand to force it hotter. He smirked when Haze didn’t even comment on seeing the flames leap higher.

“Cedric? He shouldn’t have died. Voldemort called him the spare, you know,” Haze said in confiding tones. “I wish I’d done things differently, but I thought, if we both win, that’s okay. It’s still a Hogwarts victory, and Cedric didn’t mind sharing.” Haze shifted position again, laying his head on the arm of the couch and stretching out one leg, letting the other slide off the side so his foot rested flat on the floor.

“And guilt?” Severus prompted.

“No, no guilt. I did at first. He kept telling me to take it, I insisted he took it. Neither of us would back down. Under different circumstances, it might be funny. Then I suggested we both take it. There was no way I could have known what would happen. Eventually I got over it. I wasn’t the one to kill him, so I refuse to take blame.”

Haze cleared his throat. “It’s really hot in here. Is it just me?” He glanced over at Severus again.

“I am fine, Haze. But as I said, feel free to make yourself comfortable. What about Sirius?” he asked, wondering if it was a mistake to broach a much more recent wound.

“A lot of things went wrong there,” the boy replied, pausing to toe off his shoes. “I thought it was all my fault at first. But it’s not.”

“How so?”

“How could it be? I’m not saying I don’t have a part in the blame, but it wasn’t all me. Small things, over time. Little decisions, or large.” Before Severus could prompt him again he said, “Like Dumbledore. He refused to even look at me all that year. Wouldn’t tell me why, never told me his suspicions. Just said, do this, do that. If he’d said something, I wouldn’t have believed the dreams. Like Sirius himself. If he’d just told me what he’d given me, and let me know it was safe, I’d have opened the mirror, and used it.”

He paused again, starting up when Severus made a quiet noise in his throat. “Did you know, all those Occlumency lessons I took, they made my scar hurt badly. It was like they stripped every defense I could muster. Every time, every night I tried to clear my mind, and every time I was dragged into dreams and visions. I guess I was stupid. I can’t remember if I said anything. So it’s my fault, too. But not entirely.”

“Indeed. You seem to have a very mature outlook on all this, Haze.”

The boy snorted. “I’m not a child. People might wish to keep me one, but I’m not. I can’t be, seeing what I have. Feeling what I have. Dumbledore may think it wise to shelter me in the darkness of ignorance, but he’s quite wrong.”

“No,” agreed Severus. “You are far from a child, Haze,” he said, eyes lingering on the boy’s now damp chest. “Not a child at all.” He blinked. “In fact, perhaps it’s time for something more adult. Haze, the last time I let you reward yourself, you became frustrated. Why?”

“Because it wasn’t right,” came the simple reply.

Severus’s brows shot up. “Why wasn’t it right?”

“I couldn’t feel things well enough.”

“Is that so. Then I expect you might wish to learn how to do things properly. Hmm?”

“I would, yes.”

“Then I suggest you remove the rest of your clothing. You look far too warm as it is, and clothing will only get in the way.” Severus sat there and waited to see if he would.

And he did, rolling off the couch so he could unfasten and shrug down his jeans and kick them away, then remove his socks and shorts. Haze stood there, naked, staring at Severus expectantly. “What now?” he asked without a trace of guile.

Severus closed his eyes briefly and inhaled, letting out his breath in a long, slow exhalation before opening his eyes. “Lie back down on the couch like you were. That’s right, foot on the floor. Very good, Haze. You know how you feel when you’re rewarded, Haze? There’s another way to go about that, something you can build up from the start, fanning the feelings until you can’t bear it. And then, just when you think you’ll die from so much pleasure, it almost is like dying. Some people even call it the little death. It’s a pleasure so intense it’s almost painful, Haze.”

Keeping his eyes on the boy he said, “You know how the last times you’ve rewarded yourself, you felt the urge, the need, to use your hand, Haze? Why don’t you do that now, just soft strokes, gentle fingers. That’s right. Good boy, Haze. That feels good, doesn’t it. Mmmm. I’m quite sure that you’re feeling the urge to do something more, maybe stroke harder, or maybe even explore with your fingers a bit. That’s right. I see that you’re closing your eyes, Haze. You must feel very good indeed do be doing that. Go as slow or as fast as you need, you’ll know what to do.”

Severus continued to speak softly, not much above a whisper, though he doubted very much that Haze was registering his words with any degree of coherence. The boy’s hips were arching off the couch, aided by that one foot pressed hard against the floor, and twisting slightly as his hand continued to stroke and squeeze, his other arm flung back over his head. Haze’s actions quickened, the movements of his hand becoming stronger and surer, and his shadowed face was twisted in what could have been mistaken for a grimace were you only to see that one part of him.

“That’s right, give in to the sensations, Haze. Build them up, higher and higher until you can’t stand it any longer,” Severus whispered harshly, his own chest heaving with hitched breathing. “You’re almost there, aren’t you, Haze. So close to that pinnacle of pleasure. You can feel it intensifying, centering under your hand, leaking out to the rest of your body. That’s right, Haze, give in. Let it peak, now. Cum for me, Haze. Finish your reward.”

A second later Severus let out an exultant, “Yes!” in a thick, strangled whisper.


“Haze, wake up. You nodded off,” Severus said with languid amusement. “It’s dinner time. Are you hungry?”

The boy yawned and stretched, then nodded sleepily.

“I’ll just order something, then. And after we eat, we’ll move on to your Occlumency lesson. Agreed?”

“Yes, sir.”

Over dinner Severus brought up one of the things he’d been wondering about. Wondering, because to his knowledge, it was and had always been, impossible to lie under the influence of veritaserum. So he broached the subject with Haze, making it known that he wondered if the kind of defenses Haze had erected were of a type, mentally and visually, that could in fact do the impossible.

Haze, for his part, looked interested in the idea. Then again, Severus knew why the boy trusted him, so it came as little shock when he asked if he could offer himself up as the test subject. The only oddity about the entire exchange was Severus’s realization that it may well be only Harry Potter who could pull it off. Then again, it might depend entirely on hypnosis. But, those conjectures would have to wait.

After an hour spent repeatedly attacking Haze’s mind, he called for a rest.

“Now that we’re both worn out, what is your assessment of the past hour?”

“The battery, as you term it, has its good and bad points, sir,” replied Haze.

“Explain.”

“The first time it’s fine. Unless I’m mistaken, you paused longer than normal when the attack reflected, and that’s good. But then the battery is drained, sir.” He paused and flicked his eyes toward Severus.

“I know there’s more there, so out with it.”

Haze gave Severus a small smile, shrugged, and said, “Muggles have different kinds of batteries. Some you just use and throw away when they’re drained. Others can be recharged, sir.” He glanced over again, possibly to gauge Severus’s reaction. “I mean, it’s not like I’d expect to get hit repeatedly with Legilimens in a showdown, but . . . since I can’t use the energy from the attacks for very long to strengthen my defenses, I may as well switch to siphoning them into the battery. Or at least at that point. Just in case.”

“True, you could. Though as you pointed out, it might be a meaningless gesture. On the other hand, there’s no reason not to try, if only to see if it works. However, I do suggest you increase the capacity of the battery you’ve established. What slows me down for a hand span of seconds may not make the Dark Lord so much as blink. For that matter, you could consider adding a perimeter alarm to all this.”

“I’m not sure I understand, sir.”

“All right. Up to this point, you’ve been able to successfully maintain a defense against intrusions into your mind, and keep doing it against repeated attacks. This is good and well. You have also succeeded at the task of reflecting an attack, and magnifying it on the return. This is also good and well. Add to that the fact that your scar is no longer the Dark Lord’s personal entrance into your head, though it still serves as some kind of a warning of activity.”

Haze nodded.

“It is entirely likely, though we have no real way of knowing, that the Dark Lord’s attempts thus far have resulted in him acting as though trying to grasp smoke. He may well have no idea what’s gone wrong for him, since your mind is not shielded in a fashion common to those who master Occlumency, or are even training in it.”

Severus rubbed his chin, and throat, and said, “However, as much good as all those things are, there are things we could try which might serve to further confuse him, even if we aren’t sure of the exact results. So long as the integrity of your defenses remains sound, it should not matter though. As for the perimeter alarm, consider this—there are spells, wards, enchantments, which when placed on or around an object will warn someone if it is touched. Correct?”

Haze nodded.

“Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume, for the sake of theory at least, that the same could be done to your defenses. Except, in this case, the intent is not to warn you. Your scar can already serve that purpose. Hypothetically speaking, your defenses could be expanded to do two things beyond what they already handle. One is to warn someone like myself if an intrusion is being attempted. Two is to induce a real sense of confusion in the Dark Lord.”

Severus glanced over. “Rather like casting a Confundus charm on him. His mind attempts to touch yours, and your defenses not only have him grasping at fog, but induce it. You see?”

Haze grinned, then sobered. “Yes, but as you said, there’s no real way of knowing, sir. And I can keep you out, but. . . .”

Severus tilted his head. “I understand. Which is why we will continue to have these lessons, you will continue to practice at making them stronger, multi-faceted, and reflexive. The only way to know is to try, though the ultimate test will not be for some time, I’m sure. Until then . . . well, here we are.”

“Sir, what about other things?”

“Such as?”

“Other defense, sir. Knowledge, practical applications thereof. I’m sure that the standard curriculum here at Hogwarts is fine for the average person. But I hope you’ll forgive me when I say that given what I’m expected to do, what’s offered normally falls short of the mark.”

“I would have to speak to the headmaster about that. In the meantime, I want you to consider the potential of your defenses when you’re working on them. Visualization can be and is a very powerful tool. You’ve been using it to excellent effect already, so you know that to be true.”

Seeing Haze nod, Severus moved on. “As far as potions goes, we shall see. Do you still have your potions texts?”

“I don’t, actually. Since I wasn’t going to be taking the class I saw no reason to bring them this year, sir.”

Severus waved his hand negligently. “When you arrive for your lesson on Wednesday evening, I’ll provide you with some. Since you’ll be handing in your assignment, you can go over potions for the second hour. You’ll also need to determine just how much of your time you’re willing to give up to it, so I expect to see you appear with something detailing exactly when you’re free, even if you normally use it for homework or relaxation.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

“Good. I’d expect just as much devotion to potions if I tutor you as you give to Occlumency, understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ve done well today, Haze. I’m quite pleased with your progress. Now run along and assure your friends I haven’t killed you and stuffed you in a dark hole somewhere. Pleasant dreams, Haze.”

Chapter Text

Monday, 18 November 1996

“Ah, Severus, my boy. How good to see you once again.” Albus aborted his attempt at offering a sherbet lemon on seeing the ice cold glare from his potions master and settled for smiling benevolently.

In all his years within the influence of the old man, Severus had yet to determine just how daft he really was. Not wanting to waste the short-lived little trick he commonly employed to negate the need for blinking—staring people down was difficult otherwise—Severus moved right along to the point of the meeting.

“It’s about Potter,” he began, then stared at the meddlesome coot until his mouth shut on whatever it was he had been about to say (no doubt an admonition). “It seems there’s been a rather unexpected side effect of the lessons.”

“Oh?” inquired Albus, looking both interested and faintly worried.

“Yes, oh. While I was having the brat do some potions work for me I noticed he was in a bit of pain, not that the boy even noticed until I mentioned it. He kept rubbing his scar, so I sat him down for a little chat, and pointed out to him that he was supposed to be informing me of these things, not waiting until someone called him on it.”

“Do go on, Severus.”

Severus shot Albus a harsh look for interrupting. “He felt—and this is the best way he could describe it—something like mist hitting his mental shields. His scar was prickling, but aside from that he could sense no actual intrusion. I hypothesized that it could be something similar to when the Dark Lord was sending those dreams to the brat, but there’s no way of knowing. The time of day was also suspicious.”

After another quelling look he continued. “The point is, the defenses are holding for the time being. And however it is that the scar affects the boy, it does not seem to be able to allow access to his excuse of a mind even through dreams. He’s placed a barrier between the scar and his thoughts. With any luck, and some experimentation, those shields might become more useful than we could ever have imagined.”

Severus gazed at Albus and waited.

“More useful?” came the expected inquiry.

“The boy has learned, to some extent, to reflect attacks, and I do not mean push me out of his mind. While I do not expect, nor does he, for the Dark Lord to waltz up and try brute Legilimency on him in the near future, it goes without saying that it could buy him time if it happened. With that in mind, depending on the brat’s unique abilities—not one word, Albus, or I’ll hex you—he might be able to use those same defenses to alert you and me when the Dark Lord is trying to sneak in.”

“Oh my, that is good news. But what exactly do you mean by alert?”

“Don’t you think it would be useful if we felt what he felt? At least to the extent of knowing that Potter is affected. His scar prickles, his shields are touched, and we sense it too. If the boy is prevented from seeing out, at least we’d know when the Dark Lord is feeling high emotions, or potentially planning something.”

“Mmm,” said Albus, nodding sagely. “And this reflection you mentioned?”

Severus glared again. “Perhaps it would be beneficial if you were to attend part of one of his lessons and see for yourself.”

“That would be lovely, Severus. His next lesson is Wednesday evening?”

“Should you wish to drop by, then I’d suggest you come at seven, when he does.”

“I’d be delighted!” Albus declared.

Several minutes later, once he’d escaped the headmaster, Severus sent a note to Haze letting him know of the slight change of plans.

Wednesday, 20 November 1996

Haze arrived early to the lesson, and paused for only a split second after seeing that the squashy armchairs had been replaced by a student’s desk and chair before taking his seat.

Severus watched as the boy investigated the texts he’d placed on the desk, and made no comment, waiting instead for the headmaster to arrive as planned, which he did a minute later after knocking politely before stepping into the room, and closing the door behind him.

Haze looked up and said politely, “Good evening, professor,” before shuffling the texts around and checking out the various covers, missing the subsequent, slightly surprised smile.

Severus cast the usual privacy spells and cleared his throat. “Mr Potter, if we may have your attention.” Once Haze had pushed the books into a neat pile at the corner of his desk, Severus continued. “The headmaster is here to gain a better understanding of what your defenses are currently capable of, so for the first part of the lesson you will be facing off against him. As this is the case, you are requested to display both facets of your shields, absorption and reflection, preferably several times each. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. You have the floor, headmaster, and I’ll remind you that you need not wait between attacks,” Severus said as he settled more comfortably in his chair. He had no doubts that Haze would perform as instructed.

Albus gave the boy a smile and gestured that he stand, then asked, “Are you ready, Harry?”

Haze gave a nod and replied, “Yes, professor.”

“Splendid!” Albus exclaimed, then looked the boy in the eye and said, “Legilimens.”

A second or two later Severus noted an odd look flash over the headmaster’s face.

After shaking his head slightly, Albus said again, “Legilimens,” this time with more force, but with the same results.

Severus carefully hid a smile, enjoying the rare sight of a nonplussed Albus. After several more attacks he caught Haze’s eye and gave a slight nod. The next time Albus attacked, Haze reflected it straight back into his face at twice or more the strength. The old man reacted by standing stock still for a bit, a blank, though focused cast to his visage.

Albus attacked several more times with the same results, and finally lowered his wand, the vague signs of confusion wrinkling his brow. The old man blinked at Haze and asked, “When you do that, Harry, are you seeing what flashes through my mind?”

“No, sir.”

Albus went silent again, stroking his beard in contemplation. “Remarkable, quite remarkable,” he mumbled to himself, casting the occasional glance at the boy, before turning to Severus. “I begin to see what you mean, Severus. Perhaps we should discuss this again at a later time?”

Severus nodded. “Of course. Naturally I assumed that would be the case.”

“Yes, yes. I shall be going then, so that you may continue with your obviously fine teaching methods, Severus. Harry, I’m glad to see you’re doing so well, and expect that with this sturdy foundation you are well on your way to mastering the subject.” Albus smiled again and took his leave before anyone had a chance to respond.

Haze cast a lingering gaze at the potions texts the moment the headmaster was out the door, then looked up at Severus.

“You did well, Haze. I’m proud of you,” Severus responded to the unspoken question. “Did you bring the things I requested?”

“Yes, sir.” The boy reached down into his bag and rummaged around, eventually producing a thick stack of parchment.

Severus stood and walked over, quite curious as to the sheer quantity revealed, and took the parchments back to his desk to peruse. Sitting down he said, “You did well enough with the headmaster that you can start looking over those books now. They are yours to keep for the time being, but I expect you’ll see that they remain in good condition. Inside the cover of the first is an guideline of sorts you should read before getting into them.”

Looking down Severus saw that the top sheet of parchment was a chart detailing Haze’s schedule, clearly showing what classes he was expected in and when. The boy had lucked out this year, as all his classes were mornings, leaving him every weekday afternoon open. Severus decided privately that Albus had most likely arranged this miracle, specifically to make things easier for his Golden Child. Quidditch practice took up two of his evenings, while his Occlumency lessons took another three. And, of course, the boy’s mornings and afternoons at weekends were free as well.

Haze had made additional notations, marking each afternoon as time he used for assignments or private research, with further notes on the weekend days showing that he’d been using them for a mixture of frivolous activities (such as chess or Exploding Snap with Ron) and more revision and research, though he did not specify exactly what he was engrossing himself with.

To that end, Haze had indicated he was perfectly willing to give up his weekends for potions tutorials, or even his remaining two free evenings. However, as there was more time available at the weekend, he thought it would be more productive.

Severus was beginning to once again wonder at the reactions of the boy’s two closest friends. It appeared that Haze was turning into even more of a bookworm than the Granger girl. A quick glance over at the boy showed he was concentrating deeply on the contents of a book. Severus shook his head and looked back down.

Setting aside the schedule, he quickly realized that the remainder of the stack was the essay he’d assigned. All twenty pages of it. Severus stifled a groan at not having placed a specific length to it, and began to read, occasionally pushing his hair back when it threatened to obscure his vision. Luckily for him, he was a fast reader.

And the more he read, the more he became interested. Apparently, a little encouragement went a long way, especially when reinforced. He’d even included an outline of the paper before he started the actual content, which showed he’d used both a summary and conclusion portion to begin and round off the assignment. All in all, Severus felt like he was reading something he’d more expect to see in a trade publication.

Once he had waded through the exhausting examinations of each of the three topics—he was very pleased to note that Haze never wandered off topic as his friend tended to do—Severus moved on to the sections which detailed the comparisons Haze had drawn.

A slight noise made him look up, and he absently took in that Haze had set one book aside and was reaching for another.

Haze had allowed that resisting the Imperius curse was very likely something of pure will and a deep seated sense of self. This didn’t surprise Severus given that he’d always thought the boy was arrogant and confident, but Haze was speaking of a deeper meaning. There were different aspects to labels such as strong-willed or self-assured.

All people were at times unsure, harboring deep-seated doubts about one thing or another, and usually related to how they viewed themselves. All people had different buttons to push, triggers to pull, which resulted in generally predictable behavior. All three topics had a very simple thing in common, among others: self-control.

Haze had written that, in allowing himself to rise to insults from people like Malfoy, he had lost the control which he easily kept when subjected to the potential loss of self created by Imperius. He went on to say that it was much the same case during his original Occlumency lessons of the previous year. In allowing the harsh words and underhanded accusations to undermine his control and distract him, he found his defenses next to useless against the mental intrusions that followed.

In the end, it was about control, about knowing who he was and what he was capable of, or could imagine, and not letting those facts be submerged by things he could not control. Words only hurt if you let them. Spells only subverted your will if you hadn’t the sense of self to withstand them. Intrusions only succeeded if you couldn’t hold fast to the idea that no man’s thoughts or memories were free for the taking.

All in all, Severus came to the conclusion that he had no bloody idea why hypnosis had worked. And quite frankly, he wasn’t sure he wanted to dig deeply enough into the boy’s psyche to find out.

When next he looked up, Severus saw that Haze had moved on to a fourth book, and had only two left waiting. Severus blinked at that, checked the time, then went back to the essay, getting out his scarlet ink and quill, and taking his own sweet time in highlighting any sloppy turns of phrase, weak logic, and such. It went unsaid, even in the privacy of his own thoughts, that he did not mark harshly, for he was truly impressed with what he’d read.

By the time he was done there were only minutes left in the time normally allotted, so he shuffled the parchments back into order and cleared his throat.

Haze gazed up immediately with an expectant look on his face.

“I’ve looked over the schedule you brought. For the time being, you should present yourself to me each Saturday and Sunday after breakfast. We will be spending from nine until noon in my private lab working on potions. The afternoons are negotiable, depending on various factors. If I am not in a staff meeting, or otherwise unavailable, you may use that time as well to work. When you come on Saturday, I’ll have ready your instructions for those sessions. Any questions?”

“Not about that, sir. I’ll just wait until then. But I do have one question, about the essay?”

Severus inclined his head slightly.

“How long do you think before I might see how I’ve done, sir?”

The boy looked strangely anxious, perhaps, Severus thought, because the feedback was not instantaneous. “Possibly by Saturday, Haze. Do you have any objection to me showing this paper to the headmaster?” he asked curiously.

“No, sir. If you think he should see it. . . .”

Severus nodded. “Lack of objection noted. We’re done for the evening, then. You may run along and amuse yourself, Haze.”

Thursday, 21 November 1996

Severus, having taken the time to hide the old man’s supply of sweets when he’d entered the empty office, had settled himself stiffly in one of the waiting chairs. When Albus arrived a few minutes later and sat down, Severus was laughing internally over the look of surprise and consternation that resulted when the headmaster reached out automatically and found nothing to appease his cravings.

After several more minutes, in which Albus fussed around in mild distress, the headmaster finally got around to welcoming Severus with a rather pained expression.

“Severus, dear boy, I really am amazed at the things you come up with, and with how well Harry is progressing. Perhaps I should give you a pay rise.”

“It would be my life’s dream,” Severus replied dryly.

Albus responded by brightening up enough to chuckle, then said, “It was really the most interesting sensation, trying to penetrate Harry’s defenses. I could feel the energy I’d put behind the attack simply vanish. Quite remarkable indeed. And the reflection you spoke of—I do believe I now understand what you meant. The return on that was far stronger than I anticipated.”

The headmaster gave Severus an inquisitive look.

“There are very few people who would use Legilimency, and two of them are sitting in this room. I’m quite sure I don’t have to point out the third,” replied Severus. “If he can put a person out of commission for long enough, he has a better chance of escaping or potentially binding his opponent.”

“Yes, but how is he doing it?”

“It’s quite simple. As the visualization process I spoke of is working quite well, I told him to add a battery with which he could augment the energy before reflecting it. He’s had no trouble doing so, which is why you noticed a definite change when it came back.” He added sarcastically, “You do know what a battery is, Albus?”

Albus’s eyes twinkled merrily at the explanation and gibe. “I definitely need to see about giving you a rise, dear boy.”

Severus ignored that and said, “I’ve had him working on strengthening that response, though I plan to try a few other things as well. I believe I mentioned an alert the last time I was up here.”

“That reminds me, Severus. Has anything come through on recent activities?”

After giving the headmaster a sharp look over the abrupt change of subject, Severus said, “Yes. Epsilon got word to me. As soon as I’ve had a chance to look it over I’ll send you the report.”

“Any of the others?”

“No. Though Theta is still investigating the town mentioned in the last report sent in. I don’t expect to hear anything until there’s something of substance to send along.”

Albus nodded, clearly lost in thought, which Severus was more than happy to snap him out of.

“Aside from that, there are two things I wished to discuss, both of which concern the boy.”

“Oh?”

Severus reached into his robes and produced a copy of Haze’s assignment, then tossed it on the desk. “You can read that after I’ve gone. It’s a copy of the essay I gave him for homework. I believe you’ll find it quite illuminating.”

“And the other?”

“I want to know if the boy has a family vault, and if there’s anything in it that might suit him for Christmas this year,” he said insouciantly. “Oh, don’t look at me like that, Albus. The brat’s done exceptionally well this year, especially compared to the utter waste of my time he made of the previous lessons due to his antagonistic and rebellious displays of temper and arrogance.”

Albus interrupted immediately. “Speaking of which, he does seem curiously calm this year. I don’t suppose you have any idea why?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Severus snapped.

“Now, now, Severus. I am simply asking. I would have expected Harry to avoid me this year, and so far he’s been nothing but polite and respectful. Merlin knows he was ready to bring this office down around my ears last June.”

“I’ll get to that. Now let me finish.”

Albus folded his hands on the desk patiently.

“Setting aside the technical meaning of the phrase, positive reinforcement is not to be overlooked. The more confident the boy becomes and the more willing he is to listen and trust, the stronger his defenses will become.”

When Severus paused long enough, Albus asked, “And what has that to do with whether or not he has a family vault?”

“Everything or nothing. It had occurred to me that someone may have retained his parents’ wedding rings, and that Potter might like to have them as an early gift this year.”

“Ah, yes, and if you were the one to see that he received them. . . .” Albus began stroking his beard again, no doubt running the idea through his mind a few times. “Well, it is true that I have the keys to those vaults until Harry is old enough. The one he currently uses contains nothing more than funds set aside for his school years.”

Severus waited.

“And it is true that such a thoughtful gesture on your part would do much to show Harry how pleased you are with him of late, not that you have grown in any way fond of the boy, naturally.”

The look Severus shot Albus spoke volumes.

“Dear me no. As it happens, Severus, I do believe I recall seeing their wedding rings in one of the vaults, yes, since I made sure they were put there. I suppose I see no harm in the idea,” he said, tapping the side of his face. “I’m sure I could find the time to make a quick journey to Gringotts.”

At about the time Severus was picturing himself strangling the old man with his own beard, Albus said, “Yes, yes. Quite so. Now, what is this about how calm he is this year?”

Severus snorted. Finally. “I think you may find his essay to be illuminating, as I said. However, aside from that, we had a little chat about death and guilt and it appears he has come to terms with what happened to the mutt.”

“Hmm,” Albus replied. “I’m surprised he was willing to talk about it.” He gave Severus another curious glance. “But that is good to hear, certainly. I hated to see him so lost and angry last year. I shall definitely take the time to read what you’ve brought me. Now is a good a time as any to start. Was there anything else, Severus?”

“No, so I’ll just be on my way.”


Back in his private quarters, Severus spent his evening working out a list of instructions for Haze to start in on for Saturday. Having compiled a list of every potion taught during first through sixth year, he transferred the information to sheets based on year, including a note for each about the length of time it took to complete.

It was, perhaps, a cruel way to go about things. The only exceptions he made were for those potions Haze had done Sunday last, placing a thin scarlet line through each one. Another sheet was prepared, this one detailing directions for the boy to follow, with basic instructions like proper labeling, where to place the completed concoctions, and that he could do them in any order he preferred.

When he was done, Severus made two copies of every page. One he tacked to the wall in his private lab, one was for his own use, and the last was for Haze to keep. When Saturday arrived, he would be ready. After placing the graded research essay in his notebook and putting it on his normal station, Severus went to bed.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 23 November 1996

Severus heard knocking, far earlier than expected, and a quickly enacted charm allowed him to see that it was Haze waiting outside his door. He left his breakfast and opened the door, closing it after the boy had entered. Resuming his seat, he went back to his meal, pausing long enough to say, “You can wait until I’m finished, or start immediately, Haze. I’ve left instructions for you in the lab.”

Haze smiled and ducked through the lab door.

Severus leisurely finished his food, washed up, then went in himself. Haze already had several cauldrons going, and Severus was pleased to note that the potions chosen were ones a competent brewer could easily do simultaneously. After a quick nod, Severus went about setting up his own work station, gathering the ingredients for veritaserum, and starting a flame under a large gold cauldron.

Several hours went by, and it was approaching lunch, when Severus was able to leave his potion to simmer. The next steps could be done any time after an hour had passed, but before three, lest it be ruined. He looked up at his student and cleared his throat gently so as not to startle him.

When Haze responded, he said, “When you are finished with those, lunch will be waiting.” Then he swept out to the living area, rang for lunch, and washed up, seating himself in his usual chair just as the meal appeared. The boy joined him shortly thereafter, sinking onto the couch and filling his plate with enthusiasm.

The meal itself was quiet; Severus was lost in his own thoughts, and Haze appeared to be anxious to get back to the lab. After that, the next four hours or so went by as quickly. Haze continued to churn out potions from the lists he had, and Severus attended to his cauldron of veritaserum, glad for the fact that he could handle it mostly without thinking.

His thoughts were entirely focused on the boy, and what he wanted to do with him, or more accurately, to him. When his inner clock signaled that the potion was complete, Severus extinguished the flame and set the cauldron aside to cool, casting a quick charm over the top so that no foreign matter could drift into it. After telling Haze to come out when he’d finished, Severus went to wait in his chair.

The moment Haze was seated on the couch Severus said, “Haze, go under.” He ran the boy through deepening several times, then had him open his eyes. “Haze, remember when you were here last and you brought yourself pleasure?”

“Yes.”

“I’d like to try something a little different today.”

Haze nodded lazily.

“But in order to do that, you need to undress first, just like you did last time. Will you do that?”

The boy didn’t speak; he stood up and stripped, dropping his clothes in a pile on the floor, then waited.

Severus let his eyes wander over the boy’s body and said, “You like to please me don’t you, Haze? And obeying me makes you feel good, doesn’t it. That’s right. I have another way for you to please me, Haze. Are you willing to try?”

Haze nodded.

“Very good,” Severus said and stood up. “Follow me, Haze.” He turned and went into the bedroom, tugging off his robes and tossing them to the side. His shoes and remaining clothing followed, after which Severus laid down on his bed and spread his legs.

“Get on the bed, Haze. Kneel between my legs. That’s right. Do you know what I want you to do, Haze?”

“The same thing I did to myself?”

“Yes, but there’s more than that. I’m sure your mouth is just as talented as your fingers, Haze. So use both,” Severus said smoothly.

“But what about. . . .”

Severus arched a brow, then smiled. “That’s why you can swallow, Haze. Does the idea bother you?”

Haze was silent for a full minute. “I don’t know. I guess not,” he said finally.

“Do you like men, Haze? Are you attracted to them?”

“I guess so.”

“What about women?”

Haze gave a slight shrug. “I thought I was once. I don’t know.”

“Interesting. Well, Haze, if you’re willing to please me, perhaps you can figure that out a little better.”

“Yes.”

“Then go ahead and please me, Haze,” Severus coaxed.

And Haze did.

As Severus came down from his bliss high, he looked at his student, seeing immediately how aroused the boy was. He smirked and pulled himself up to a sitting position, scooting back to lean against the headboard.

Haze wiped his mouth and chin, then licked his fingers clean.

“Why don’t you stretch out, Haze. That’s right. Haze, reward yourself.”

The boy used his tongue to clean up after that, too.


Dinner passed, with Severus telling the boy he planned to try the veritaserum experiment during their lesson. Haze was more than happy to participate, telling Severus that it would be quite an accomplishment if he could succeed in lying, or at the least refusing to answer.

The first thing Severus had him do, once they were done eating, was fill out a short questionnaire. Nothing on it was particularly difficult to answer; it contained questions such as the boy’s favorite colour, which quidditch team he favored, and other, similarly light topics.

When Haze was done, Severus pulled out a vial of veritaserum, giving the boy the standard dose and giving it time to take effect. He rattled off each question, watching as the boy appeared to struggle against the compulsion to answer truthfully. Each time he attempted to lie, trying to force out the wrong answer, but he was not successful.

Severus sighed and gave Haze the antidote, then sat back and pondered the situation.

“You did well, Haze, even though it didn’t work. I know you tried very hard.”

Haze didn’t answer, though he looked a little happier despite the failure.

“I want you to try, for next time, to visualize defenses, like the one you use for Occlumency, but to work against veritaserum. It can be a part of what you already have, or something different. I want you to visualize the defenses as a barrier between what you know is true and the compulsion to be truthful. Can you give that a try?”

“I think so, sir,” Haze replied solemnly.

“Good. On to other business, then. Wait here a moment,” he instructed, then stood and went into his lab, emerging a few moments later with a stack of parchment in his hand, which he handed to Haze. “Your essay. I’ll have to give some thought as to what you can work on next.”

Haze nodded and glanced over the first page.

“I think we’re done for the evening. I’m proud of your efforts, Haze. It’s a little early, but you may go.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Severus nodded and watched as the boy gathered his things and departed quietly. After a minute of silent contemplation he went back to the lab and started checking the potions Haze had made that day, putting a thin scarlet line through each one on the lists.

Sunday, 24 November 1996

Sunday was a repeat of the day before, except for three things.

Severus ate breakfast in the Great Hall, and Albus passed him a small, plain box during the meal, giving him a meaningful look. Severus pocketed the box, saying nothing.

Severus spent the hour he had used the day before for pleasure as a time to run Haze through repeated triggers, putting him under, deepening, and reeling off directives instead.

And Haze, during the second test of defenses against veritaserum, managed to stutter out a partial lie before the compulsion to be honest won out. It was counted a small victory, and Severus encouraged Haze to take that success and build on it.

Wednesday, 27 November 1996 - Wednesday, 11 December 1996

The days flowed by for both Severus and Haze. Every Wednesday they would discuss Haze’s defenses, and what additions they were attempting to make, even though some of them were unable to be reliably tested.

Haze had managed to modify them to alert both Albus and Severus of the times Voldemort was trying to touch his mind. Both men were on the look out for news following soon after, either as stories in the Daily Prophet, sent to them by other members of the Order, or through one of the several spies that reported directly to Severus. The Dark Lord had been making some rather odd choices lately.

Every Saturday Haze would work on more of the potions on his list, and would later be prompted to please Severus in a far more direct, intimate way, before being allowed to reward himself. The Occlumency session was devoted to lying under veritaserum, and Haze continued to become more apt at blocking the pressing urge to be truthful.

Sundays were much the same, except that Haze underwent conditioning to reinforce the triggers and directives Severus had implanted, much as before.

Saturday, 14 December 1996

Severus shooed Haze off just before noon, citing the staff meeting he needed to attend after lunch. He ate in the Great Hall with his fellow professors, then trooped along with them to the teacher’s lounge and settled in for what he assumed would be another boring several hours.

After the usual round of reports, most of which Severus considered to be a waste of breath, Minerva decided to speak up.

“Albus, I don’t know whether to be concerned or pleased beyond words,” she began, her face reflecting her turmoil.

“What is it, Minerva?”

“It’s Harry,” she replied, sparing a sharp look to the side when Severus snorted quietly. “He stayed behind after class yesterday. He wanted some advice on a spell I wouldn’t normally be teaching the sixth years until late March or early April at the earliest. After talking to him for a few minutes about it, he was able to perform the spell flawlessly. I don’t understand it.”

Several of the professors raised their brows.

“When I asked him why he was even attempting it he said he was bored in class, having already mastered everything up until that point. I knew he was doing much better at his schoolwork, but I hadn’t realized until that point that he was actively reading ahead, and that classes were becoming a burden to him at the pace we normally go.”

“Now that you mention it, Minerva,” added Pomona, “Harry has been exceptionally useful in Herbology of late and has been turning in top quality assignments. He doesn’t seem to even listen to the lectures, but he has the answers and knows what to do.”

“He doodles in defense,” chimed in Johnathan. “During practical duels, though, he’s been using spells the others haven’t learned yet.”

Filius and Hagrid were nodding through the statements, obviously in agreement.

Albus stroked his beard and shot Severus a quick glance; Severus gave him a nearly imperceptible nod.

“Perhaps I should have young Harry in for a chat,” Albus finally ventured.

Sunday, 15 December 1996

“Ah, Harry. Please come in and make yourself comfortable. Sherbet lemon?”

“Thank you, no, professor.”

Albus smiled at the boy and folded his hands on the desk. “I’ve been hearing some very good things about you again, Harry. I’m quite proud of you, you know.”

“Thank you, sir. I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?”

“Dear me, no. I simply wanted to ask you some questions if that’s all right.” Seeing the boy nod, and ignoring the slightly wary look on his face, Albus continued. “Some of your professors seem to have the feeling that you’ve been getting ahead of the usual pace in class. Is that accurate?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Just how far ahead do you think you are, Harry?” Albus asked with genuine curiosity.

The boy shrugged, seeming uncomfortable. “Well, March or April, sir. We don’t get a syllabus in every class, so I’m not sure for all of them.”

“Is there any particular reason for this, Harry?”

“Classes are sort of boring, sir. With so much free time I decided I may as well do something useful, so I’ve been going through my texts and practicing. I’ve been doing so much better lately. I told you that before, I think. And it’s much easier to get my assignments done, and correctly do the spells, that I’ve been reading ahead and working on stuff as I go along to keep myself occupied.”

Albus furrowed his brow and tapped his thumbs together for a moment. “And how far ahead do you think you’ll be by the last week or so of the Christmas holiday, for curiosity’s sake?”

“I don’t know, sir. It’s hard to say for sure, but I guess I could be done with the sixth year texts by then.”

“How are your potions sessions with Professor Snape going?”

“Very well, sir. I’m just about done with the list of potions he assigned me.”

“Assigned?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve been working my way through all the potions taught at Hogwarts from first year through sixth so that Professor Snape knows I can properly brew them.”

“I see. Very good. Very good indeed. You may run along now, Harry. Have a pleasant afternoon.”


Albus brought the impromptu meeting to order; only Harry’s professors had been invited, along with Severus, who was mightily curious to hear what all the fuss was about.

Albus opened the meeting by stating that he had in fact talked to Harry. After playing with his beard for an infuriatingly long time he said, “It appears that young Harry will have completed his sixth year texts by the end of Christmas, if not sooner.”

Everyone started talking at once, aside from Albus and Severus; they simply sat back and tried to make sense of the conflicting speech and escalating voices. After several minutes of wrangling for control, Minerva finally won out.

“Albus, if that is true, then what is he going to do for the remainder of the year? He’ll be bored to point of apathy.”

“Quite possibly, yes.” Albus turned to Severus and said, “Harry tells me he’s just about done with the potions comprehensive you assigned. Is that accurate?”

Severus ignored the odd looks he was getting; apparently Albus had never mentioned the tutoring request to anyone, not even his deputy Minerva. “He’s in the middle of sixth year potions at present, to be specific.”

“And he’s doing well?” persisted Albus.

“Yes, surprisingly enough. Given that I’ve watched the brat make all of them, I know there’s nothing underhanded afoot.” Severus turned to Minerva and said, “If you’re so concerned about the remainder of the year, why not simply have the boy take the year end exams now?”

“What, and pass him up into seventh year if he succeeds?” she parried.

“Why not? You are the one who brought up how this might affect him. It seems to me that if the brat is capable of moving up, then so be it. Either way, at the rate he’s currently progressing, he’ll have finished the seventh year texts by the end of the year and be ready for the NEWTs, which means next year he’ll be even more adrift, assuming he lives so long.”

“Severus—”

“That is enough,” interjected Albus firmly. “The suggestion is not without merit. It would mean I’d need to speak to the board of governors on the matter. They may not be willing to make such an exception.”

Everyone stared at Albus silently.

“If there are no objections, I shall do just that.” Looking around and seeing or hearing no protests, Albus said, “If they can be persuaded, I shall talk to Harry and see if he’s willing to avail himself of the opportunity.” Turning back to Severus he asked, “And do you feel he’d be up to the potions examination?”

“I don’t object, Albus. If he passes it he will be placed into the seventh year NEWT potions class, though he’ll have to continue with the tutoring long enough to catch up to where they are.”

Albus nodded, smiling gently at everyone. “Well then, I’ll arrange to meet with the governors.”

Friday, 20 December 1996

“Thank you for coming to see me, Harry. Please have a seat.” After a pause for the boy to get situated he said, “I have a proposition for you, my boy.”

“Yes, professor?”

“When we talked last you said you thought you’d be done with your sixth year texts shortly, correct?”

Harry nodded.

“Would you be willing to spend the last week of the holiday taking the exams you would normally take at the end of the year?”

“Er, yes, but. . . .”

“If you were to pass them, Harry, we would move you up into seventh year studies,” Albus explained.

Harry gaped.

Chuckling, Albus waited for the boy to speak.

He was mildly surprised when a sly look crossed Harry’s face before he asked, “What about potions, sir?”

“That too. Professor Snape has already agreed.”

“And my friends, sir? Would I even still be in the same dorm as Ron?” Harry persisted.

“If you would prefer it, yes. I see no reason to move you if it would make you unhappy.”

Harry went silent, eyes narrowed. After a bit he asked, “You said if I passed them I’d be moved up, professor. Does that mean I’d take the NEWTs this year, then?”

Albus nodded. “It does.”

“Then what about next year, sir?”

“Well, there are certain rules about residency at Hogwarts that even I cannot abrogate. However,” he said, holding up a hand to silence his student, “an apprenticeship of sorts could be arranged so that you could stay and be trained further. You need not fear that you would be left to the Dursleys simply because you availed yourself of this offer.”

That seemed to decide him, as Harry immediately said, “Count me in, sir.”

“Splendid, Harry! Come the 30th of December, your sixth year examinations will start. You’ll receive a schedule in the next few days so you know what to expect. If you don’t have any questions, you may run along.”

“Thank you, sir!”

Once Harry had whisked away, Albus pulled out parchment and began to write a series of notes, one to each of Harry’s professors, and one to Severus Snape.

Wednesday, 25 December 1996

A cheerfully smiling Harry arrived at the table and sat between his two friends. All of them filled their plates with enthusiasm, though Hermione spent a good part of her time leaning across Harry to admonish Ron on his lack of table manners.

Severus watched from the far end of the table, wishing he could push the two brats away and drag Haze off to his chambers. He had missed having the boy at the weekend, no doubt because his own needs had not been properly attended to he told himself, and knew that he might have to wait until the second week of January before he could have the boy again. That is, if his discreet little invitation for that evening didn’t work.

His sharp hearing picked up bits of their conversation; the girl seemed overwhelmed and pleased that Haze would be taking his exams so early, while the Weasley boy was less than happy. No matter, as it wasn’t their decision. He was somewhat surprised, though, that Granger wasn’t jealous.


A knock came at his door at precisely 7.05 pm. Severus opened his door to an empty hallway, and frowned. As he was about to close the door and curse over insufferable brats and their ill-humored pranks, he felt someone brush by him and heard the rustle of fabric against his robes.

He closed the door and turned in time to see Haze slide his invisibility cloak from his form and drape it over the arm of the couch.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes indeed. Would you care to take a seat?” he asked, then strode quickly to one of the shelves when the boy complied. The box was where he’d left it. He had not bothered to wrap it, considering it a waste of time and effort better used elsewhere.

He picked it up, crossed to and sat down in his chair, then held out the box to Haze, who took it with a vague look of confusion.

“Go ahead, open it. Consider it an early gift for when you pass your exams.”

Hazed stared at the box for a minute, then shot Severus a look, before popping the lid and inhaling sharply.

“They belonged to your parents. I thought you might wish to have them, perhaps wear them on your right hand. They’ll size to fit automatically,” Severus explained calmly.

“But . . . how?”

“Even I have secrets, Haze.”

The boy gave him a look Severus couldn’t decipher, then pulled the rings from the box, slipping each one on his right ring finger to form a double band. After they’d sized themselves, Haze said simply, “Thank you, sir.”

“You’re quite welcome. Though, I suggest if your friends should ask after them that you say the delivery was by owl, and anonymous, or something to that effect.”

The boy nodded absently, holding up his hand for a moment.

Severus, unable to hold back any longer, said, “Haze, go under.”

What followed was a fairly standard reinforcement routine, with one exception.

“Haze, repeat after me. Every time I notice my parents’ wedding rings I will subconsciously remember the directives Professor Snape has given me.”

“Good boy. Haze, repeat after me. I will not remove my parents’ wedding rings for any reason.”

“Very good, Haze. Would you like to pleasure me? I missed you.”

At the boy’s nod, Severus gestured for him to follow and headed for the bedroom. A short time later he was once again thanking Merlin for the permanent silencing and imperturbable charms on his quarters.

Chapter Text

Monday, 30 December 1996 - Friday, 3 January 1997

Severus planned to keep a careful eye on the boy. He’d not been having his usual lessons with Haze during the holiday, so he was to be found in the Great Hall every day for meals, just like any other student staying at the castle. Severus’s only chances to see him were then, much to his distaste.

Severus knew from the schedule that had gone out to the involved parties that Haze had his Care of Magical Creatures exam Monday morning, while the afternoon was set aside for Herbology. That same evening, Severus noted that Haze looked quite relaxed as he ate, and assumed the boy had done well.

Tuesday brought the Charms and Transfiguration exams, followed by Defense and Potions on Wednesday. Severus might have otherwise been concerned about things, but knew that Haze had already proven his brewing skill over the past month. He need only worry about the written aspect, so that was exactly the exam Severus set the boy.

On Thursday he spent the hours after dinner going over Haze’s efforts. His writing was eloquent, he didn’t stray off the subject of the questions or become unappealingly verbose, and he had remembered perfectly everything necessary. He was quite pleased, knowing that even though the boy would go up into the seventh year classes, he’d still be seeing him every week for private sessions, even after the tutorial to bring him up to speed for the first term was over. He had far too many things he wished to do with Occlumency to stop now. And besides, Haze was quite talented with his tongue.

Saturday, 4 January 1997

“I assume you’ve all had a chance to grade Harry’s exams,” Albus said, gazing around the table. When everyone nodded he said, “Good, good. If everyone could please hand over the results?”

After much paper changing hands, and a few minutes of reading on the part of Albus, he looked up again. “Well then, it seems our Mr Potter will be advancing into seventh year, which means we will need to update his schedule to reflect that. If you would be so kind, Minerva, as to handle that? I would like a copy as well when you are finished.”

Albus stood, gave a nod, then exited the teacher’s lounge.

Severus saw a copy of the schedule several hours later, once everyone had finished rearranging things so that Haze could attend all six of the classes he’d just taken exams for. Minerva left, presumably to go see Albus. The others drifted off as well. Severus took a copy down to his quarters.

After looking it over, he added notes for Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. On weekends he would have Haze in from 9am-1pm (with an allowance for the boy to eat lunch with him as he’d miss the usual spread in the Great Hall), and the normal time on Wednesday evenings, from 7pm-9pm. Once Haze was caught up in seventh year potions, the Wednesday session could be dropped, and the weekends devoted entirely to Occlumency . . . or whatever else caught Severus’s fancy.

With a tap of his wand he made a copy of the schedule, then wrote in additional notes at the bottom explaining the new schedule. Even though the majority of the students wouldn’t be back until sometime Sunday, Severus let Haze know he could come in the next morning and start in on new potions if he wanted. Otherwise, they’d begin the following Saturday. He rolled it up and sent it off to Haze with his raven.

Some time later, a note arrived with his raven.

Professor Snape,

As you’ve said I may, I’ll come tomorrow morning after breakfast. I’d like to get started on the seventh year potions I’ve missed as soon as possible.

Harry Potter

Short, and to the point, which was just as well. He would find out soon enough if the boy wanted to extend his lessons at the weekends as they’d been doing previously. Severus put the note on his desk, gathered up his cloak, and made his way out of Hogwarts. Once past the wards, he went to Diagon Alley.

A quick stop at Gringotts provided him with funds, and from there it was a short walk to the apothecary, where he purchased a kit designed for seventh years, plus a number of miscellaneous ingredients for his own dwindling, private stores. He also purchased several cauldrons, as the boy would need them for his lessons.

He could always hand Haze a bill and expect him to ante up the costs, but it could also be seen as a goodwill gesture, one that would affect Potter directly. He supposed he’d have to wait and see how the boy reacted. On that thought, he collected his bags and left the shop, then returned to Hogwarts.

Sunday, 5 January 1997

The expected knock came, and Severus stood and crossed to the door, opening it long enough for Haze to step inside. When Haze started toward the lab, Severus stopped him with a word and gestured at the couch, then sat down in his armchair.

“As you know, your potions classes will be a single period Monday mornings and a double on Thursday morning. Given your work to date, I foresee no problems. Since you need to catch up to where the class already is, that’s why you’re here. However, I will state that while the morning sessions at the weekends are mandatory, you may still remain here through the afternoon if you wish to progress faster. Again, that is with the provision that I must not be elsewhere during those times, such as staff meetings.”

Seeing Haze nod, Severus continued. “On a related note, I have taken the liberty of collecting a seventh year potions kit for you, along with the necessary extra cauldrons, as you will not have had a chance to do so yourself.”

Severus waved a hand at the bags on the floor nearby and kept right on talking. “In my lab, things will remain as they have been, so do not feel you need bring your own equipment with you. I have already prepared a list of what you’ve missed from seventh year potions and have it waiting on your usual workstation. Now, let us begin.”

Severus stood up and turned toward the lab.

“Sir?”

Severus glanced over his shoulder and said, “Yes?”

“Sir, shouldn’t I be paying you back or something? You didn’t say.”

“It is not necessary, though if you feel strongly enough about it, I will inform you of the cost. However, as you cannot go to Gringotts any time soon, the point is somewhat moot. I suggest you worry about it at the end of the year, if indeed it is still a worry.” Severus turned and entered the lab.

A moment later, Haze followed and went directly to his station to check over the new list.

Haze stayed for lunch, saying he didn’t feel like visiting the kitchens, then plowed right back into another potion during the afternoon.

With just over an hour to go before dinner, Severus bade Haze to finish up, since he wouldn’t be seeing him later on for Occlumency. He waited in the lounge for the boy to come out, then put him under.

“Follow me, Haze.” Severus went into the bedroom and undressed, telling Haze to do likewise. Once their respective clothes were in puddles on the floor, Severus led the boy into the bathroom and stepped into the shower. After adjusting the flow of water to suit himself, Severus crooked a finger at Haze.

“We’re going to try something new this evening, all right?” he said soothingly, then returned the nod the boy gave him. “Join me, and we’ll have a little fun together.”

“And, Haze,” Severus said as the boy stepped under the water, “I want you to remember what we do in here for later. Understand?”

“Yes,” Haze said, shaking the water out of his eyes.

“Good, that’s right. Now I want you to wash every inch of my body from the neck down. When you’re done with that, I’ll have something else for you to do.”

Haze nodded as Severus turned around, and picked up one of the many bars of soap that rested on a shelf cut into the wall of the stall and rubbed it between his hands, generating a fine foam. Starting with his back, the boy began to lather Severus up, slowly working his hands across his professor’s shoulders and down to the small of his back using lazy circles that were half washing, half massage.

Using Severus for balance, Haze crouched down, then smoothed the foam over the older man’s backside, running his fingers down the crack between before moving to his thighs and then calves. When Severus braced himself with one hand on the stall’s wall and lifted a foot, Haze soaped that as well, though firmly, and then slid a finger in between each set of toes. Severus might have considered that suggestive if he didn’t know any better.

Once he’d finished the other foot, Severus turned around, already rising to the occasion. Haze stayed low, working the fronts of his professor’s legs, then stood as he swept his hands up along Severus’s stomach. After making his way over the strong chest, he gently stroked Severus’s neck. From there Haze slid his hands across one shoulder and to one arm and down to the hand, where he massaged each finger individually, then switched to the other arm.

Crouching down again, Haze slowly ran his fingers over the remaining portions he’d not yet touched, having saved them for last for some obscure reason . . . or not. He lavished them with attention, seemingly pleased with how upright his professor was being about things.

“Step back a moment while I rinse off,” instructed Severus. When the boy had moved, he stepped under the stream of water and let it flow down his body, turning to be sure of getting everything. When he felt clean, he turned back to Haze.

“Two things. You missed a spot, and you still need to please me. You can do both at the same time.”

Haze gave him a confused look as he played with the soap again.

“Down on your knees, Haze. That’s right.” Severus closed his eyes for a moment, blessing the fact that the floor was anything but slippery. “You’re going to please me, just like you’ve been doing, but at the same time, you’re going to use your fingers to give me a little additional pleasure.”

Haze stared up at him with those big green eyes and waited as Severus placed both hands on the wall in front of him and spread his legs a bit.

“One hand on my hip, that’s right, and the other I want you to slide between my legs. Yes, like that. Now, press the tip of your index finger against my anus. Push harder, Haze. Slide on in, good boy.” Severus shifted slightly, tilting his hips. “Oh yes,” he hissed, “that’s exactly it. Deeper, Haze. Work your finger in and out, that’s right. Now please me as well.”

Haze licked the underside of Severus’s cock, letting his tongue curl slightly around his fullness, before taking the head into his mouth and engulfing the length. Severus inhaled sharply and squeezed his eyes closed. He could feel Haze’s nose brushing the hair nestled at the base of his penis, disturbing the lay, then Haze pulled back and started to slowly slide his head up and down the length of Severus’s achingly erect shaft.

“You’re doing beautifully, Haze, that’s right. I want you to add a second finger. Yes, like that. Nice and deep, Haze,” he groaned harshly.

Severus could feel his hips moving of their own accord, and did not attempt to hold himself still, letting his body’s instincts take over and begin gently fucking the boy’s mouth. Haze responded by wriggling his tongue as his head moved in a steady rhythm, teasing and flicking at the underside of Severus’s cock, especially the sensitive spot just beneath the head, making Severus thrust harder into his mouth.

Lances of pleasure radiated outward as he did so, twisting through his body in a wave of tingles. When Severus’s body started to tense up, Haze increased his pace and hummed softly around the erection filling his mouth, and worked his fingers more aggressively and deeper, hitting a spot that made Severus release a strangled noise from deep in his throat.

Severus could feel himself ascending new heights, like reaching plateaus scattered up the side of a mountain, each one making his body tighter and tighter until at last every muscle seemed to freeze solid and his cock began spurting in orgasm.

Haze continued to move his head, swallowing rapidly until the seemingly timeless moment passed and Severus’s cock began to soften. Then, Haze gentled his attentions, using his mouth and tongue to lave clean what he had missed, and slowly slipping his fingers out of Severus’s body.

Finished, Haze sat back on his heels and waited. Severus stayed braced against the wall for a few moments, breathing heavily, then straightened and stepped out shakily. After grabbing his wand and casting a drying charm, he looked over and said, “Haze, reward yourself.”


Back in the living area Severus said, “Haze, wake up.” As he sat down in his armchair the boy spoke up, confused.

“Sir? Did I blank out or something?”

Severus raised a brow.

“I remember coming out of the lab, there, and now I’m standing here, sir.” Haze looked around curiosity tinged with worry.

“I wasn’t looking, Haze. Perhaps it is just that you spent so much time over a cauldron. Do you feel all right?” Severus replied after a heartbeat of thought, making a mental note to scold himself for being so foolish as to not remember where he’d put the boy under.

Haze wrinkled his brow and looked down. “Well . . . I am rather tired, sir. And hungry.”

“I shall endeavor to keep a closer eye on you, then. It would not do to have you stumbling about and possibly passing out from overwork or lack of nourishment. If this happens again, you’ll have to see Madam Pomfrey.”

Haze grimaced, a perhaps eloquent testament to his dislike of the infirmary, despite the lack of words to confirm it.

“Which reminds me, there’s something I should say, just so that you’re clear on what will happen.”

“Sir?”

“You will be in my potions class again, but you must know I need to keep up appearances, Haze. However, I know that whatever happens, you’ll be able to let things slide right off you. Despite the necessary evil, your grades will be based solely on the quality of your efforts. Understood?”

“Yes, sir. I do.”

“Good. Dinner should be starting shortly. I suggest you bring your new things up to your room so that you aren’t late.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you for picking these up for me. I hadn’t even thought about it with everything else going on,” said Haze as he hefted the bags and headed for the door.

“Oh, Haze. . . .”

The boy turned slightly, looking back.

“Pleasant dreams.”

Monday, 6 January 1997

Monday morning dawned far too early for Severus’s tastes. But then, it always did. And by some bizarre twist of fate, Harry Potter was once again in his class—on a Monday. Severus rolled out of bed and went about his morning routine automatically, skipping the shower as the previous evening had been ever so delightful.

Breakfast, with all the students back again for the start of term, found him looking anywhere but at the Gryffindor table, and most often down at his plate where it was reasonably safe. It wasn’t that he was worried about the class to come—and thankfully it wasn’t a double—but even so a part of him felt unsettled. It wasn’t a feeling he particularly wanted to explore, so he ignored it all through breakfast, and on his way down to the dungeons.

When he arrived, he entered as he always did, with a loud bang of the door and his robes billowing out behind him. As he reached the head of the room he turned sharply and graced the class with one of his harsh stares that said to each, “Woe betide those who cross me.”

Haze, he noticed in his peripheral vision, had surrounded himself two deep with non-Slytherin students. Difficult to say the least, given how few students actually were a part of the class to begin with. And on that thought, he launched into his lecture for the day: memory potions.

It was fortunate that all of his students in this class were studious; they scribbled down notes as he spoke, and did not bother to look up or antagonize anyone. Severus wasn’t so sure that would be the case on Thursday. When the class was over, Severus noticed Haze giving him a perfectly polite nod of the head before he slipped out the classroom door.

Wednesday, 8 January 1997

Severus spent the first part of the lesson testing Haze’s defenses, then moved on to a session of veritaserum testing. Haze was able to lie through just about everything he was asked, including the contents of the prophecy, so Severus administered the antidote and sat back down.

“You do understand that the purpose of this exercise is to ensure that no one can make you spill your secrets such that you bring harm to yourself or the Order. This is not a frivolous party trick, Haze, I want that to be clear in your head. Should the Dark Lord or one of his people get their hands on you and manage to drug you for interrogation, you need to be able to fool them completely.”

Haze nodded agreeably.

“Good. I have another assignment for you, as I know how much pleasure it brings you to spend time in the library researching.”

Haze perked up and leaned forward.

“You are to spend some of your free time thinking up ways to defeat the Dark Lord and using the resources of the library to research your ideas. As a seventh year you have full access to the restricted section, but if you feel that what you need is not available to you, you are to tell me what types of books you want to read. We’ll find a way to obtain them if at all possible. Understood?”

Haze nodded again.

“Excellent. As a starting point I would theorize that the killing curse would be useless, or certainly not have the effect we’re after. Given that the last time, when it reflected back on him, his body was destroyed but his soul lived on, you might want to start with that.”

“What about physical weapons, sir?” Haze asked.

“You mean like swords and such?” When the boy nodded Severus replied, “That depends. If sticking a blade through his heart has the same effect as when he tried to kill you, then obviously no. But I see no reason not to keep them in mind.”

“It’s just that I think if I asked, Professor Dumbledore might allow me to use Godric’s sword again,” Haze pointed out.

“Quite possibly, yes. I would suggest you ask him to be allowed to work with the blade, or at least study it, to see if there’s anything unusual about it that would assist you.”

“Sir, do you think it would be a bad idea to have someone go dig up what’s left of his father and move the remains elsewhere?” Haze asked.

Severus stared at him for a moment in confusion, then remembered when the night of the third task had been explained. “Actually, no. Perhaps I should speak to Albus. . . .”

“I know that the idea is to make that unnecessary, but I thought maybe it’d be wise to consider it, and do something about it.”

Severus nodded. “Yes. Even if it does become irrelevant, there’s no harm in asking. Just keep thinking about what you know of your encounters with the Dark Lord, and work outward from there. Now, to other questions. Have you been having any trouble in your classes during the past few days?”

“I haven’t had any problems learning the new material, and I’ve been practicing outside of classes, sir,” said Haze.

“Are any of your friends giving you grief over being moved up?”

Haze shook his head. “Not really. Ron is still a little miffed over me spending so much time revising and looking ahead, but I guess that can’t be helped. I’ve been deliberately putting aside time to spend with him on silly things so he doesn’t feel left out. It probably doesn’t hurt that I can help him with his assignments.”

“I trust you aren’t doing them for him.”

“Oh, no! I’ve been helping him with things like theory, wand movements, pronunciation, and reading over his essays to point out where he’s missing stuff. I think it helps that I can explain things in a way he understands, sir, or at least better than how Hermione does.”

“And Miss Granger?”

“I think she’s a little torn between being happy that I’m doing so well, and wondering how I managed to do it. You know, she’s always wanting to know all the details, but some things I just can’t explain. I’m just doing a lot better, and I don’t question why, I just enjoy it, sir.” Haze shrugged. “She doesn’t like that I can’t explain, and wonders how to emulate me to do even better than she normally does. But really, for the most part she’s just happy for me.”

“Anyone else?”

Haze pondered for a moment, then said, “Colin Creevey follows me around more now, snapping pictures. But that’s just annoying.”

“So the seventh years in Gryffindor don’t seem to have a problem with you being moved into their class year.”

“No, sir. None of them have said anything other than welcome.”

“Good. Tomorrow we’ll be starting in on one of the lesser memory potions in class. I trust you’ve already read up on them because of the lecture.”

Haze nodded.

“Remember, I will not be kind to you in class. Keep yourself calm and simply do your work.”

“I will, sir.”

Thursday, 9 January 1997

Severus slammed through the door to the dungeon classroom like a violent storm overtaking a defenseless village, coming to an abrupt stop in front of his desk, facing the class. He gestured at the board with his wand, making potion instructions appear.

“You know the drill. Now get to work,” he snapped, crossing his arms over his chest.

Many of the students scribbled down notes from the board contents, then gathered ingredients from the student stores. Severus kept a watchful eye on Haze out of the corner of his eye so as not to be obvious. Haze had not bothered to write anything down, but instead went straight to get the supplies he needed that were not a part of his own kit. After arranging his station to his satisfaction, Haze quietly cast a spell over his area before beginning to process his ingredients prior to actually starting to brew.

Once everyone had begun their potions Severus stalked up and down between the tables, barking out snide comments and insults to the non-Slytherins, and merely nodding at the students of his own house or offering low-voiced helpful information.

When he reached Haze he said, “Are you too good to begin brewing, Potter? Or is it that you’re too stupid to know how to begin, so you spend your time mangling your materials. Chop those more finely, you dolt! I won’t have you blowing up my classroom because of foolish mistakes or a lax attitude toward doing the work properly.”

Severus was pleased to note that Haze remained perfectly indifferent through the diatribe, calmly continuing to chop and grind with precise movements of his hands. In point of fact, he was working exactly as he did in Severus’s private labs, processing all of his supplies prior to commencing brewing. After sneering darkly at the boy, he moved on to his next victim and verbally lashed out with his extensive vocabulary.

It wasn’t until one of the Slytherin students attempted to botch Haze’s potion that Severus understood what the boy had done; the launched ingredient hit an invisible shield and slid down to the worktop. Severus ignored sabotage attempts after that, knowing they wouldn’t do any harm.

The class continued on in their diligent (and no so diligent) efforts, with Severus stalking up and down the rows, until finally the students began to transfer their completed potions into phials. Haze was one of the first people done, and cast an unbreakable charm on his phial before placing it on Severus’s desk.

On seeing that Severus said, “As soon as you’ve completed your potion and turned in the sample, you may clean up and leave as soon as that’s done.”

Haze was out the door minutes later.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 18 January 1997

Severus was slouched in his chair, his head resting against the plushy back and his legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. Haze was in the lab, working on his potions. Severus didn’t see the point in watching him so closely now, as he had every expectation that the boy would do just fine, and there wasn’t anything in particular Severus needed to brew himself.

He watched the fire in a vague way, enjoying the play of colour through the flickering flames, and listened to the quiet movements of Haze in the next room. A publication lay on the table beside him, untouched. It would be lunch time soon, though Severus was feeling lazy enough to not work up too much enthusiasm over the concept.

The noises in the other room changed; the sound of glass was heard clinking together. Severus presumed that Haze was finishing up his current batch, or batches, and would soon be out. If the boy kept on this way, he’d have his make-up work complete well before expected. But that was all right, as he’d still be coming back every weekend day for Occlumency, even if it wasn’t for both morning and afternoon.

Severus thought perhaps it was time to change things a little in anticipation of that. Maybe a little something to work up an appetite he wasn’t currently feeling. Footsteps sounded, and Severus knew that Haze was indeed almost done, and listened more carefully as his eyes continued to watch the dancing flames. It wasn’t as though he needed a fire going; it was there simply for looks.

He heard Haze enter the room, the leave again, this time through the bedroom door. Several minutes later he returned, coming to rest on the couch in his customary spot.

“Done already?” Severus asked lazily.

“Yes, sir. I think those went quite well.”

“I’m sure they did. Were you planning on working through the afternoon as well?”

“Yes, if that’s all right, sir. The sooner I’ve completed what I’ve missed, the better I’ll feel about things.”

“It’s fine. Getting hungry?”

Haze nodded.

“Haze, go under. Good boy, that’s right. Open your eyes, Haze. Have you ever had sex, Haze?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Who could I possibly trust? Well, aside from you.”

Severus raised his brows for a moment then nodded. “Do you ever fantasize about sex, or dream about it?”

“Sometimes.” Haze shrugged slightly.

“Do you think you’re old enough to have sex?”

“I’m of age. Isn’t that what counts?” countered Haze.

“So it’s all right if you were to have sex now, is that right?”

“Yes, but I think it would be smarter for me to wait.”

“Until?”

“Until I’m an adult.”

“Why so?”

Haze shrugged again. “It just is. Just because I could doesn’t mean I should.”

“So next year it would be acceptable in your mind.”

“Yes.”

“Interesting.” Interesting indeed considering that they’d been engaging in sexual acts for months, but apparently it was only full-on intercourse that counted in Haze’s mind. “Haze, I know it gives you pleasure to obey me, but do you enjoy what you’ve been doing aside from that?”

Haze tilted his head to the side and gave Severus a curious look.

“When I tell you to please me, do you enjoy what you’re doing, above and beyond the pleasure you get from obeying?” Severus asked.

“Yes, I do.”

“Let me try that another way, to clarify. Assuming you did not get pleasure just from obeying me, would you still get pleasure from pleasing me as you have?”

Haze smiled and nodded.

“Such a good boy. You like men, don’t you.”

“Yes,” Haze replied firmly, without any of the ambivalence he’d displayed almost two months ago.

“And you like me, don’t you.”

“Yes.”

“Why is that?”

“I didn’t at first. You were always so . . . harsh. But I know it’s something you have to do, have to be like. When we’re alone, here or in the classroom, you’re different. I feel like I’m seeing something very few people ever get to see, and I find what I see attractive.”

“You aren’t speaking of physical attractions,” Severus stated.

“Not really. That’s nice, but it’s not everything. It’s like, Hermione is beautiful to me, because I’m so close to her, and I like the person inside. The more you get to know someone, and the more comfortable you feel with them, the better they look to you. Or, well, the less looks matter.”

Severus nodded, despite the fact that his initial interest in the boy had almost everything to do with his looks. Well, and . . . but he didn’t need to finish that thought.

“Have you ever wanted to please me, even when I hadn’t told you to?”

“Yes.”

“You know, Haze, when we’re here alone in my quarters you can always ask. It doesn’t have to go beyond that door.” Severus pointed to the door leading to the hallway. “Right now, you know, your subconscious mind is completely in control, but I wonder if you’ve ever wanted to please me even when you’re fully awake. Have you?”

“Yes.”

“And if you were to ask while you were fully awake you would consider it entirely your own idea, wouldn’t you.”

“It would be, so yes.”

“And that’s because even though right now your subconscious mind is in control, you won’t consciously remember this conversation when you’re awake, just like you never consciously remember anything that happens when your subconscious is in control like it is now. If you were to ask me then, it would be because you did trust me, and you wanted to ask. Correct?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“But if you were to ask me, and I said yes, you’d never tell anyone, and it would be our secret. I know how fond you are of secrets, and this would be a very special one.”

Haze nodded.

“One that you wouldn’t tell anyone, ever, even if they used veritaserum. Isn’t that right? Because if you were to tell, people would stop you from enjoying yourself.”

“Yes.”

“You’re a very good boy, Haze. I’m quite proud of you. Haze, wake up.” After a second pause Severus said, “I suppose I should order some lunch.”


Hours later Severus was still slouched in his chair, his head resting against the plushy back and his legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. He held a publication in his hands, one of the trade journals he subscribed to on potions, and was reading about the most recent advances made, reported by fellow masters of the art. Haze was in the lab, working through another set of seventh year potions.

It lacked about an hour until dinner time, and Severus could feel the stirrings of hunger in his stomach. He could tell by the sounds from the next room that Haze was almost done, so he went ahead and ordered a meal. If Haze wished to stay, he could. If not, that was all right too. Severus was more curious to see if anything would happen.

He was in the middle of eating when Haze appeared, glanced over, then disappeared into the bedroom. When he returned Haze asked, “May I join you, sir?”

“Certainly, if you like.”

Severus watched as Haze filled a plate, then they conversed of inconsequential things between bites. Haze allowed as how he was feeling challenged again with his new level of work, and that he felt confident that he’d pass his NEWTs with good marks. He also mentioned that while the seventh year Gryffindors made no real attempts to get closer to him, neither did they exclude him in classes. Jack Sloper had taken to sitting with him as a fellow quidditch team member.

Ron was still upset, Haze revealed, but beginning to accept things, especially as Harry was making such a point of being sure to spend quality time with him and had opted to remain in the sixth year dormitory room. Hermione, on the other hand, was practically beside herself to finally have a fellow Gryffindor who was as interested in spending time in the library as she was.

Once she’d realized that no amount of questioning would cause Harry to confess to some whopping big secret of success, she’d dropped the matter entirely but for the occasional quizzical glance. The fact that Harry was staying strictly out of trouble was a bonus which helped to distract her from such minor details. He had, Haze pointed out, told her that he was merely learning from her excellent example, and that he saw her as an exceptional role model when it came to scholastics.

Apparently, Severus decided, Haze was a very good at rationalizing what he couldn’t consciously explain. He’d have to be to get the insufferable little know-it-all off his back. Either that, or she was too caught up in the plausibility of the explanation to notice the minor, straight-faced sarcasm. If anything, she’d been too busy pouting over not being allowed to assist Harry with his current research, and had supposedly gone straight to Dumbledore to ask if she could do her own for extra credit in Defense.

When they finished eating, Haze did not ask for anything. He simply wished Severus a good evening and said he’d see him in the morning.

Severus was rather disappointed, but he hadn’t really expected the boy to jump on the subconscious invitation that quickly anyway. Other realizations had taken time to work themselves out in the boy’s brain, so Severus fully expected this one would as well. He’d keep on as he had been, but if Haze decided to come to him willingly, so much the better.

Saturday, 1 February 1997

It wasn’t until several weeks later that anything really showed signs of change. They were part way through lunch when Haze, who’d been shifting around in his seat a bit, finally showed signs of opening up to certain topics. Severus had not yet put the boy under that day, and had not planned to until it was prior to the dinner hour.

“I was wondering, sir,” Haze said a touch diffidently, “if I could ask you about something.”

Severus arched his brow momentarily and said, “You may.”

“You don’t. . . .” Haze said, and trailed off. “You don’t, er—you’re proud of me, sir, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” replied Severus, somewhat mystified as to where this was going.

“Do you . . . think I’m arrogant, sir?”

Severus gave Haze a piercing look before answering. “I have not thought so since shortly after we began practical lessons in Occlumency.”

Haze nodded vaguely and looked over at the fire.

Severus continued with, “Since we established our little truce, I’ve seen firsthand that you can remain polite and respectful, and that when you honestly put forth the effort to learn you do very well indeed.” He paused then said, “I get the feeling that this isn’t entirely what you’re asking about. Was there something else on your mind?”

Haze looked over with wide eyes for a moment, then back at the fire.

Severus pondered. The boy’s eyes had given nothing away, but he hadn’t really expected them to. “That’s all right. If whatever it is is important to you, I know you’ll find a way to ask,” he said mildly, then went back to his meal.

The conversation went back to more normal topics, and after lunch Haze went back in to the lab for more work.

Sunday, 2 February 1997

“I never knew how many different ways there were to supposedly deal with evil spirits, sir,” Haze said over lunch. “I mean, did you know that some people believed you could press the hair of the person you’re dealing with, or whatever else you can get, into beeswax, then insert it into a hole you’ve bored in a tree and plug it with a wooden peg you drive in?”

Severus quirked up the corner of his mouth.

“Or that there are specific rituals for binding a person from doing harm? Even ones for returning negativity back on the originator, sir.”

“And how much of this is relevant to the issue of the Dark Lord?” Severus asked with faint amusement.

“I don’t know, sir. But paganism has been around for ages, and I sometimes wonder if our magic had its own roots there. Perhaps some people realized that they could do more than what they had rituals for, and broke off to create something new. In any case, it’s just that I keep thinking about how his soul escaped true death when his body was destroyed. If the one could be bound, then perhaps killing the body would actually accomplish something this time.”

“I suppose that could be possible,” Severus allowed.

“I guess what I’m trying to—” Haze stopped then said, “Is there such a thing as soul magic, sir?”

“There must be, as the Dark Lord has proven it to some extent,” replied Severus thoughtfully. “It is said he traveled far and wide learning from every dark wizard he could.”

“Which sounds like it isn’t the sort of thing you’d find in a book, sir.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not.” Severus knew that attempts to locate texts on the subject might not only be difficult, but also dangerous. On the other hand, the Dark Lord’s success in perverting the natural way of things indicated that there must be a counter, somewhere. He should have become nothing more than a powerless ghost, not a spirit who could not only possess people, but recreate his body.

“I shall have to look into it,” he said finally.

It was at the end of dinner, hours later, when Severus saw the next example of Haze trying to bring up a subject he was uncomfortable speaking on, evident in his sideways, crab-like approach.

“Do you . . . like . . . me, sir?”

“When you’re behaving yourself, as you have been, and applying yourself as you should, I find you to be fairly pleasant company. Certainly articulate and intelligent, unlike many of your classmates, and able to converse without wandering all over the proverbial landscape. So yes, I do.”

“Oh. Thank you, sir.” Haze then quickly finished up his meal and stood, hefting his bag over his shoulder. “I guess I should get going,” Haze said with a touch of reluctance. “I’ll see you tomorrow in class, sir.”

Severus inclined his head briefly. “Pleasant dreams, Haze.”

Saturday, 8 February 1997

Severus had finished his morning’s work in the lab and sent it up to the infirmary via house-elf, and was currently sitting in his chair reading the latest edition of Potion Master’s Monthly. He distantly heard Haze moving around in the lab as he read, but didn’t pay the noises much attention. Several minutes later he heard footsteps passing through the room and back out, the distant sound of running water, then footsteps back into the living area.

He thought nothing of it, that is, until he sensed Haze by his chair, then a warm weight pressed against his leg. He glanced away from the journal to see Haze kneeling on the floor at an angle, and watched as the boy laid his head down on Severus’s knee and stared at the fire.

He turned his attention back to the journal, though his attention was scattered, and said nothing. A few minutes later, when he’d read the same page several times over, he felt Haze wrap one of his arms around the leg he was resting against.

Severus responded by reaching down with one hand and running his fingers through the boy’s hair, still not saying a word, not wanting to spook the boy so early on. This time he was able to move on to the next page and continue reading, pausing in his attentions to Haze only long enough to turn the page as necessary.

As the minutes passed, he increased the pressure of his fingers on the boy’s scalp slightly, and reached further to caress the back of Haze’s neck as well. He finally gave up on reading and set the magazine to the side. His free arm dangled over the side of the chair as he continued to stroke gently, and smooth the untamed hair back from Haze’s face, who had by then closed his eyes and tightened his hold on Severus’s calf.

The idyllic tranquility of the moment was eventually shattered when Haze’s stomach made it quite clear he was hungry. Severus hid a smile at seeing the boy’s face flush in embarrassment, and instead said in a low, soft voice, “Shall I order lunch, then?”

When Haze loosened his grip and nodded his head, Severus removed his hand. After a moment, Haze let go entirely and sat back, pushing to his feet and moving to his usual spot on the couch. Severus set on ordering a meal, and when it arrived, they fell back into a more normal pattern of behavior, with no mention of what had just happened.

Haze, apparently, was feeling a bit frustrated, and expressed this to Severus. “Ron seems to think I need a girlfriend, sir.”

“And what do you think of that particular notion?”

“Not much, sir. He seems to think that because he wants one, so should I.”

“It seems that your friend ought to learn that his needs are not necessarily yours, nor is it his responsibility to try to push you into things you’d rather not experience just yet.”

Haze shrugged and picked up a sandwich. “Yes, but I don’t think he’s the type to understand that without a lot of plain speaking. Subtlety isn’t his strong suit, sir.”

Severus snorted quietly.

Haze immediately said, “I don’t mean that in a bad way, really. It’s usually pretty easy to tell what he thinks of something, and he doesn’t trouble himself to hide it, sir.”

“A trait that can often get one into serious trouble, depending on the situation,” Severus pointed out.

Haze shrugged again and bit into his sandwich, taking the time to chew and swallow before responding. “But that’s just him, sir. I don’t want to offend him, I just want him to stop bugging me about it.”

“I’m not quite sure what to tell you. Interpersonal skills were never my strong suit. But you might consider making it plain to him that if he’s bent on hanging out for a girl himself, he’ll never get one if all he does is talk to you, and never to them.”

Haze nodded slowly, then finished his sandwich and brushed off his hands. “Is it all right if spend the afternoon in your lab, sir? I’m getting really close to finishing the first term work list.”

“You may, but not this coming Saturday. I have a staff meeting that afternoon.”


Some time before dinner rolled around, Haze repeated his actions of earlier, sliding down onto the floor next to Severus and resting against him. Severus reached out a hand and began stroking his hair idly. When Haze cozied up to him more closely, Severus trailed his fingers down the side of the boy’s face and started stroking him under the chin lightly, causing Haze’s eyes to flutter shut and soft, pleased noises to issue from this throat.

As before, when Haze’s stomach decided it needed attention, they separated and Severus ordered dinner. Haze left that evening after giving a tentative smile to Severus before ducking out the door.

Saturday, 15 February 1997

The staff meeting was, as usual, boring. Severus was quietly sitting in his chair wearing a mask of complete indifference when the subject of Harry Potter finally came up. Last month’s meeting had hardly been an appropriate time to discuss the boy, seeing as how he’d only been in seventh year classes for two weeks at the time.

But they’d had an additional month to keep an eye on him, and were ready to comment on his progress. What followed was not unexpected to Severus. Much like Haze was doing in his own classes, he had gone to every other teacher and received a list of what he’d missed during the first term, and had been practicing during his free afternoons to be sure he understood the material.

In some classes he had stayed behind once a week, or dropped in during the open time after the last class of the day and before dinner, to demonstrate his knowledge either practically or in writing. Thus far, not one of his teachers could see that the boy was having any real difficulty in keeping up, and making up past work.

Severus left the meeting with a smirk. They’d never know just how much the teacher who had a reputation for hating the boy had had a hand in making him as hard-working and dedicated as he was today.

Sunday, 16 February 1997

When lunch rolled around Haze did not come and sit by his chair, but instead went straight to the couch. Severus ordered a meal after a moment, and they both ate when it arrived, Haze talking about his morning’s work and his other classes.

Afterward Haze stood and disappeared into the bedroom, which left Severus feeling a bit confused, and he wondered if it would be necessary to go back to bringing the boy under to get what he wanted out of him. But then Haze arrived back in the room and knelt by his chair, this time turned around. With his head resting on Severus’s knee, Severus could now see his eyes. The boy gazed up at him solemnly, closing his eyes when Severus reached down to play with his hair.

After a few minutes of running his fingers through Haze’s soft hair, and thinking about the situation and where he wanted it to go, Severus spoke softly and slowly. “You know, Haze, you might be more comfortable if you were to sit between my legs. Surely my knee isn’t that soft.”

Several moments passed by, long enough for Severus to think that perhaps nothing would happen, when Haze opened his eyes and gave him a faint smile. After lifting his head he straightened, then shuffled around on his knees as Severus shifted his feet apart.

Whereas Severus had envisioned Haze sitting facing away from him with his head tilted back, the boy instead moved forward and fitted himself between Severus’s legs, draping his arms over Severus’s thighs and lowering his head so that his cheek and mouth rested directly against his professor’s fabric-covered cock.

It was, in Severus’s opinion, an extremely awkward position to take. But on the other hand, the boy’s mouth was so very close to where Severus wanted it to be. He reached out again to stroke the boy’s head and neck. He could feel Haze’s hot breath even through his trousers.

He closed his eyes and simply let his hands wander as they would, seeing the boy in his mind’s eye kneeling before him, imagining Haze wrapping those soft lips around his cock and using his tongue to drive him wild. As those delightful images flickered across through his head he could feel himself stiffening in response. And each time the boy shifted slightly, as though trying to get more comfortable, he hardened further.

Severus finally realized that Haze was rubbing his face against his erection in a rather methodical and calculated manner, which only served to make him more aroused. Haze was asking all right, and when the boy became bold enough to lift his head enough to place firm kisses along his shrouded length, Severus bit his lip and moaned, his fingers tightening momentarily in Haze’s hair.

When Haze licked the fabric covering him he wanted to die on the spot, and didn’t object in the slightest when the boy pulled away—Severus’s hands fell limply to either side—and then stroked him several times before slowly undoing each button that held his trousers closed.

He felt Haze carefully release his cock from its confines and kiss the head, then swirl his tongue around, spending extra moments on the spot just beneath the head underneath before swiftly engulfing the full length. Severus slouched in his chair, one hand creeping back to entangle in the boy’s hair, but applying no real pressure.

Haze wrapped one hand around the base of his cock while the other gripped his thigh, his thumb stroking back and forth over the fabric that covered the junction where Severus’s leg met his body. Haze kept his head moving smoothly, up and down the hard shaft, occasionally letting his teeth graze lightly over the moist skin, sending confusing signals to Severus’s brain of pleasure and anticipated danger.

The boy pulled back, continuing to suck gently at the head, and tried to work his fingers further inside Severus’s trousers, but failed and made an irritated noise in his throat. He pulled back entirely and freed his hands, only to firmly grip the waistband at the sides and start tugging.

Severus lifted his hips and allowed Haze to draw his trousers and boxers down to his ankles, then settled back in the chair. He could not open his legs wider, especially as the boy knelt directly on the fabric shackling them together at the ankle, and settled for slouching further.

Haze wrapped a hand around his cock again and took him fully, letting his other hand brush down to Severus’s balls briefly, then further down to press against his anus. Severus moaned as he felt a finger enter him, and pushed, losing himself in the slight violation. He felt Haze smile around his cock then fellate him with more enthusiasm, working his finger in time with his mouth and tongue.

Soon a second finger was added, stretching Severus and stimulating him further and deeper, and Haze pulled his mouth away from his cock to duck his head and wetly lick his balls, taking each into his mouth and bathing them with his tongue.

Severus strained and arched his hips off the chair, rubbing his cock against the side of Haze’s face until the boy took him in his mouth again and began sucking hard, with swift movements of his head. Severus’s grip in the boy’s hair tightened and he began to guide Haze’s rhythm, urging him to go faster until at last he exploded into that hot, wet mouth in a series of pulsing jerks.

Haze’s fingers moved more lazily then, slowly withdrawing from his body as the boy lapped his rapidly softening cock clean with long strokes of his tongue. Severus, spent, let his hand fall to the side. He heard Haze murmuring a cleaning charm, then felt the boy lay his head down again, just where it had started.

Five minutes passed, perhaps ten, before Severus felt like opening his eyes. Haze looked almost like he was sleeping, and there was a faint smile touching the corners of his mouth. It was at that point that Severus really wondered if he should return the favor. He’d always been careful to be the one receiving, the one who didn’t touch, but he’d already broken that rule by allowing himself amusement and pleasure in the feel of the boy’s hair and skin.

Then again, the boy had said he wanted to please him. And though he quite obviously enjoyed rewarding himself, he’d not said anything about being pleased by Severus. He cast his thoughts back, his expression momentarily hardening, and decided; the boy would have to ask.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 16 February 1997

He must have done something, for Haze opened his eyes and gazed up at Severus, the gentle smile still lingering at his lips. After a moment he placed a final kiss, then sat up and shuffled back a little on his knees, off Severus’s trousers.

Haze reached down and began to pull Severus’s clothing back up, but was waved away with an idle gesture. The boy cocked his head to the side, then shuffled back even further, bumping into the low table. A faint flush coloured his cheeks, and Haze got to his feet rather awkwardly, stepping to the side so that Severus could stand.

When his clothing was back in place, Severus gave Haze the barest of smiles, just the slightest upturn at one corner of his mouth.

“If I may, sir, I’d like to continue in the lab,” Haze said quietly, and when Severus nodded, he edged sideways until he was clear of the chair and disappeared.

The remainder of the day went smoothly and quietly. Haze seemed to be acting as though nothing untoward had happened, and Severus was happy to not comment. He figured, after only a brief amount of time examining the situation, that if the boy wasn’t willing to talk about it, neither would he.

Saturday, 22 February 1997

He felt strange, strangely enough, but passed it off as simply an odd mood. The fire wasn’t very enticing, no matter how often in the past he’d been able to stare at one for hours and be entranced by the ever-changing shapes. His books and publications didn’t hold much appeal either, for all that they contained a wealth of knowledge about his one true passion in life.

Severus was, to put it mildly, discontented. Monday had gone well enough; his lecture on invisibility potions was well received, even after he’d sternly expounded on the punishments which awaited those who used them for pranking. He’d noticed Haze looking interested but slightly jaded, which was understandable given the cloak Severus knew he possessed. The essay he assigned on the benefits and drawbacks as compared to using a spell or one of the rare invisibility cloaks had perked him up though.

Wednesday evening was spent on testing the boy’s defenses repeatedly until they were both tired, then another round of veritaserum tests to verify that Haze was keeping up with his efforts.

The students had worked well enough on Thursday, and only a few incidents occurred. Haze had shielded his work area as usual and the attempts made to sabotage him had resulted in a little something different this time. Severus would have thought that by now the seventh years would have realized it was pointless to try and ruin the boy’s potion, but they persisted.

The first attempt saw the lobbed ingredient bounce back and smack an innocent Hufflepuff in the back of the head, resulting in the student’s cauldron being knocked over and an expression of abject dismay. Severus watched out of the corner of his eye as Haze looked up briefly, furrowed his brow, and then went back to work.

The second attempt went much the same except that a Slytherin was caught out, having made the mistake of watching what happened, and ended up with a mouthful of rat spleens, which weren’t even used in the day’s potion. Severus ostensibly neglected to see that as well.

As expected, Haze turned in a perfect potion, in a phial charmed to be unbreakable, along with his essay. He had, oddly enough, been very slow to clean up his area and was the last to leave. Before he ducked out the door, Haze had come up to Severus’s desk with a question.

“I should like to go to Hogsmeade this weekend, sir,” he’d said quietly, “and I wanted to know if that was all right with you because it would mean missing my usual time in the lab. My friends have really been bugging me about spending so much time in study.”

So Severus had given his permission to skip a lesson just the once, thinking nothing of it.

Earlier in the day, this day, Severus had gone on a little field trip to a certain graveyard and done a little digging. Obfuscation and repelling charms had shielded him from view, and when he was done and had replaced the dirt and sod he’d temporarily moved aside, Severus banished his spellwork and apparated back to the dark forest and returned to the castle. After delivering the results of his foray to the headmaster, he’d come back to his quarters to sit in his chair and contemplate before the fire.

The same fire which for once he found uninteresting. Perhaps it was the lack of background noise, the lack of the soft clink of glass, or the sound of muffled footsteps. Perhaps it was that lunch had long since passed, and he’d taken it in the Great Hall, an unusual occurrence for him of a weekend. Perhaps it was that time seemed to move strangely, slower than normal.

With a stilted sigh, Severus stood and entered his lab. Working with potions could be addictive, like a calming drug. He checked the current list from the infirmary and set to work.

Sunday, 23 February 1997

Severus gathered up the multitude of potions he’d been brewing since the night before. He absently chided himself for working so late, knowing that Haze was due for his lesson in less than six hours. However, this would bring the infirmary back to full supply, and quite probably last through the end of the term.

Madam Pomfrey was often up at odd hours so he knew there would be no trouble delivering them now. A walk before he took his rest would not hurt him, and likely help, for he still felt strange.

Having packed everything in a charmed container, Severus set off toward the hospital wing. On his way he walked silently, ghosting along the corridors, and on finding the occasional rapscallion he used his extensive vocabulary and command of inflection to reduce them to quivering masses of flesh. The detentions assigned to Filch were simply a bonus.

Striding through the doors to the infirmary Severus breezed on past the rows of beds and toward the back, intent on gaining entrance to the supply room and relieving himself of his burden. It was a flash of reflected light that caught his attention, just as he was about to walk deeper into the wing.

Pausing in mid-stride and glancing over he saw a familiar pair of glasses. Then he saw a familiar form, sleeping in one of the beds with a peculiar expression on his face. Severus frowned and changed direction, walking over to the boy to examine him more closely. Bruises and scratches marred Haze’s otherwise clear skin, but he couldn’t see more as the boy was tucked in well under the covers.

Frowning more deeply, Severus stalked off to his original destination and dropped off the supplies he’d brought, then returned to his quarters, sending one final glance at Haze before he left the wing. He didn’t sleep well.


When he awoke later that morning he felt cross and uptight. Anyone looking at him would not have noticed anything untoward; his expression was much as usual, fit to frighten fish out of water. Muttering the whole way through his morning routine, Severus finally resolved to speak with Albus, especially if the boy wasn’t present at breakfast, which he himself planned to be at.

And so it was that he found himself seated at the high table, scowling fiercely at anyone who dared to so much as look in his direction, and very aware of the fact that Haze was indeed missing. When the meal ended, he ghosted up behind Albus and said, “A word.”

Albus nodded, and the two made their way to the second floor, and up into Albus’s office.

Severus didn’t bother to sit, and instead stood in front of the headmaster’s desk, looming over it as though he were the devil himself, come to take a victim. “What happened to Potter?” he asked unceremoniously. “The boy had a lesson this morning, and I know he was in the infirmary last night.”

“Do sit down, dear boy,” responded Albus, waving a hand at one of the comfy chairs. Ignoring the fact that Severus remained standing, he spoke further. “I was aware of his most recent trip to the hospital wing. I should have had a note sent to you, Severus, so that you’d know he’d be unable to come this morning.”

“That is all very well, Albus, but you didn’t answer my question. What happened?”

“An altercation in Hogsmeade, Severus. Nothing serious.”

Severus snorted. “In conjunction with that boy, nothing serious generally means it wasn’t life threatening. The fact that he’s in the infirmary tells me it was anything but minor, especially in light of his record number of visits.”

“Yes, yes. It would seem that way, wouldn’t it. Rest assured, he is fine. Poppy merely kept him over to make sure there were no repercussions from the incident.”

“Which was?”

“A fight broke out in town and Harry happened to get caught in the crossfire.”

Severus arched his brow and waited.

“Unfortunately, Harry was hit from behind and took quite a tumble. He said he must have blacked out, so he isn’t sure how long it was before his friends found him. They informed me that once they realized he’d been gone considerably longer than they’d expected they went looking for him. When they finally located him, Miss Granger levitated him back up to the castle. Neither of them saw anyone else in the area.”

“I see.” When Albus shot him a knowing look Severus sneered and said, “I should not have given the wretched boy permission to go to Hogsmeade. That’s two lessons now he’s missed.”

“Were it not for the words you tend to speak, one might think you’d grown passing fond of the boy.”

“Oh, assuredly,” drawled Severus with dripping sarcasm. “And next I’ll decide that chartreuse and puce make for a lovely combination and purchase myself new dress robes so that I might be the height of fashion.”

Albus chuckled, then said, “Was that all?”

“No. I received word this morning from Omega, who says that the Dark Lord is giving out some rather odd orders of late. I tend to think, after reading through the report, that the brat’s attempts at confusing him may be working.”

“That is very good news indeed, assuming all is as it seems. I assume you’ll pass on a copy of the report later today?”

“Yes, fine. Now I’ll leave you to your rapacious hunger for sherbet lemons, though at least you had the good sense not to offer this time.” Severus nodded curtly and swept out, down the stairs, and toward his quarters, scattering unsuspecting students in every direction as he stalked by.

Haze was indeed to be seen at lunch, which made Severus feel somewhat less discontented. But still, he’d now missed two days of the boy’s company, or more accurately of his attention, and he could not shake off the irritability that resulted.

Monday, 24 February 1997

When Severus arrived in his classroom Haze was sitting in his usual place looking a little worse for wear, but with a calm expression. Severus watched him carefully during the lecture without seeming to, and became satisfied that whatever exactly had befallen the boy, it hadn’t done much harm in the long run.

On his way out after the lesson, Haze paused long enough in gathering up his things that he was the last to go, allowing him to aim a rather apologetic look at Severus on the way out.

Wednesday, 26 February 1997

“What, exactly, happened?” Severus asked from his seat in the squashy chair across from Haze’s.

The boy gave him another apologetic look before answering, and an ironic smile. “More of my exceptionally good luck, I suppose, sir. I wanted a little time to myself because I was feeling a bit smothered, so I took a walk off toward the Shrieking Shack. There were some others there, but they didn’t seem to notice me. They were just talking quietly, so I went up to the fence at the far side. I didn’t think anything of it. The next thing I knew, they were shouting at each other, so I started to walk back to town. I didn’t want to get involved.”

Severus interrupted. “Were they students?”

“I don’t know, sir. Their cloaks weren’t any fancier than mine, and their hoods were up against the cold.” Haze shrugged slightly. “Anyway, I was walking away when the casting started, and I guess for once my speed counted for nothing. I hadn’t even turned around to look when I was hit from behind. I vaguely recall flying through the air and crashing into something, and the next thing I knew, Ron and Hermione were there.”

“So you have no idea who they were,” Severus stated.

Haze shook his head. “The voices were too rough to recognize, even if I could.”

“Very well. I strongly suggest that you not venture out alone past the castle grounds in the future. While I can understand your need for a breather of solitude, I am far from convinced that this was a mere accident barring any solid evidence.”

“Yes, if you think so, sir.”

“If?” Severus asked.

“Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking. Nothing really bad ever seems to happen until the end of the year, you know? It just didn’t occur to me that there could be a problem walking by myself, sir, that’s all.”

Severus bit his tongue to keep from saying the first thing that came to mind. After taking a deep, calming breath, he spoke. “Indeed. It has been said previously that luck has much to do with your continued survival. However, you must look beyond such a capricious mistress as Fortune. You cannot rely on luck forever, Haze.”

He sighed and said, “If nothing else, it deeply underscores that you need real training, and soon. You’ve done the best you could so far, and you’ve managed to get out alive, but it can’t continue. At some point you’re going to have to face him down, and until then, you need to be far more aware of your surroundings. Much as I hate to repeat anything spoken by that trigger-happy old paranoiac, his mantra of ‘constant vigilance’ is nothing to laugh off in this age, especially when it comes to you.”

“Yes, sir,” Haze said in a somewhat subdued voice, his expression ruminative.

“Speaking of which, have you given any thought at all to next year? Yes, you’ll still be here, because the headmaster will find a way to make it happen, but even intensive training for the battle ahead won’t take up all of your time.”

The boy angled his head to the side as he looked at Severus curiously.

“Let me rephrase that. What are your plans for the future, once this is all over. And don’t tell me that you never expected to live that long.”

Haze blinked at him slowly. “I don’t know?”

It was, Severus thought, at times like these that he wanted very badly to shake the boy until his brains rattled. Instead he asked in a patient voice, “What interests you the most? I do not mean what is easiest for you. You are good at defense, but do you really wish to hunt down erring wizards all your life? You are an excellent seeker, but do you believe you could be hired on skill and talent alone, and not your reputation, or that you would not become bored? So, what is it that interests you the most, that you could see yourself doing for years to come?”

Haze continued to stare at him, offensively blank in expression.

Reining in another urge to shake the boy, Severus said, “Think about it and get back to me. Now, Occlumency. . . .”

Saturday, 1 March 1997

Haze arrived promptly that morning and the door was barely closed behind him, invoking the wards, when Severus found himself being pushed back slowly by persistent hands, one of which roamed across his chest while the other teasingly rubbed in circles lower and lower.

He found himself not at all unwilling, and allowed the boy to continue his devastating guidance until Severus bumped against the wall. Haze dropped to his knees, deftly and quickly dealing with the annoying issue of trousers, then reversed their positions.

Cooler air wafted across Severus’s heated flesh, and he braced his hands against the wall, letting his head drop down to see Haze propped against the wall below him. What followed was quite similar to their initial encounter in the shower, except that as with last time, there was that delightful additional friction from lack of any lubricant on the boy’s gently questing fingers.

It wasn’t long before Severus felt himself tensing involuntarily and he knew it was almost over, something that occasioned a moment of sadness. The boy’s sweet lips and tongue were devilishly clever, leading him almost against his will to a culmination quicker than he’d like.

And then, it came.

Several minutes later, when his breathing and the beating of his heart had settled back into a more normal range, Haze carefully restored his clothing and slipped away and back onto his feet.

Severus pushed away from the wall and turned. “What was that for?”

“Because I wanted to, sir,” replied Haze evenly. “And to thank you for letting me miss my lesson so I could go to Hogsmeade.”

Severus didn’t respond at first, then nodded. “You should be almost done with your catching up, Haze.”

“Yes, sir. After today I should be completely caught up.”

“In that case I shall have to consider a pre-NEWT test as there are only twelve weeks remaining until they begin. It would, certainly, highlight any problem areas in your theory.” He gave the boy a considering look, then nodded again. “Proceed, then.”

Saturday, 8 March 1997

When Haze showed up for his Occlumency lesson Severus directed him into the lab, waved him at a chair and dropped a stack of parchment on the worktable. “I shall be in here working on some rather delicate concoctions so try not to disturb me. As a normal written NEWT in Potions is three hours, so will this be, covering even areas I expect to be on them that you may not have read up on yet, but will be included in classes during the time until then. Naturally, the questions change from year to year, so this is merely practice. You may begin.”

Severus was actually doing experimental work rather than brewing anything of a more ordinary nature and his work was accompanied by the quiet, irregular scratching of Haze’s quill. After an early lunch he dismissed the boy and set to checking over the exam, red ink and quill in hand.

Sunday, 9 March 1997

At the end of a grueling Occlumency lesson, and after Haze had shown his unprompted willingness to please Severus prior to lunch, Severus flipped the sheaf of parchment across the table, noticing that the boy caught it neatly in one hand.

“I see no glaringly obvious area of deficiency, Haze. Though you did somewhat worse on the areas the class has not yet covered, even in those your understanding of the principles of potion making and knowledge of ingredients served you well. It is quite clear that you have been taking your studies seriously, and I’ve no doubts that you’ll score well on the NEWT.”

Haze smiled at him, proud but not unduly so, and tucked the parchments into his bag, presumably to study later.

Chapter Text

Severus spent the better part of March, and all of April, working diligently on the problem of bringing knowledge of soul magic to light without alerting either the Ministry or the Dark Lord to his actions. His cadre of spies and contacts were all involved to some degree, trying to track down any hint of books, scrolls, or anything related. Thus far, not even a whisper had come back in the normal reports. Every last one of them concerned only the activities of the Death Eaters and sympathizers.

As frustrating as Severus found that, he was compensated by the time he had with Haze. His weekends were brightened with the hours spent outside of the lessons in mental self defense, always initiated by Haze in his sideways manner, like a crab scrabbling across the sand.

Severus was amused by it. Haze was not, however, likely to cause any pain. He had not even yet asked for anything other than to be able to please Severus. Whether the boy cared or not about his own needs Severus could not tell. It was only clear that Haze was willing to continue as they had been.

With the NEWT exams looming on the horizon, Severus gave Haze more mock tests in all his subjects. Had anyone been aware of what he was doing, there might have been an accusation of favoritism; as Haze never mentioned the exact details of his lessons to Severus’s knowledge, it became a moot point.

His one concern during all this time was the sudden tendency of Haze to have accidents. It was as though the boy had become clumsy. One day he might trip and barely miss tumbling down a staircase, though no one had been nearby at the time. Another he might end up in the path of a hostile spell during a class.

Knowing this was completely uncharacteristic of the boy, Severus spoke of it several times to the headmaster, but in every case it seemed to be nothing more than coincidence. However, coincidence was not a part of Severus’s vocabulary, especially not when it came to a certain Harry Potter.

Since the boy was never seriously hurt, and indeed he was often only graced with bruises or a moment of embarrassment, no one was inclined to take the situation very seriously. Severus found the whole thing quite irritating, especially when he considered his own plans for Haze in the long run.

On another note, he had been starting to catch Haze staring at him at odd times. The boy’s expression was always neutral, so Severus did not trouble himself to ask what Haze was thinking on those occasions.

Instead, he took the time to set aside at least a half hour of each meeting to reinforce the suggestions that dealt with academia, memory retention, and associated subjects. He left the directives he’d established to the wedding bands on the boy’s hand, trusting that set-up to do the job adequately.

Sunday, 1 June 1997

“You’ve already been given the exams schedule. While I find it unfortunate that Potions will be your last exam, it will give you additional time that weekend to put in more time toward revision.” He paused and gave Haze a sharp look. “Have you come to any conclusions as to your future?”

“I have, sir.”

“Then let us hear them.” Severus reached over and grabbed his cup to take a sip of tea.

“I think,” the boy began, “I should like to do something that would always be new to some extent. Something more than just a faster broom or a new move. Something where I’d have to fail or succeed on my own merits, and something where I could help others, yet not necessarily have to bow down to the wishes of anyone but myself.”

“And this something is?”

“Why, a Potions Mastery, sir.”

Severus could not help but blink at this bland pronouncement. While the boy had long since admitted he’d wanted back into Potions so he could find out if he even liked he subject, and because Severus himself taught the class, did that logically progress into wanting to sit for the Mastery exams in it? Did Haze feel that way because of how his psyche had been bound up with his professor?

“Haze, go under.”

The boy obediently slipped into a trance. While Severus didn’t think the boy would lie to him while awake, he did think Haze might not tell the whole of the truth if it suited him.

“Haze, you told me a moment ago your reasons for wanting a Potions Mastery. Are those the only reasons for that decision?”

“Yes.”

“It has nothing to do with me?”

“Yes. No.” Confusion crinkled Haze’s brow for a moment. “Only to the extent that you were able to give me the opportunity to see if I truly enjoyed them. Under different circumstances, or with another professor, I might not have cared to find out, or I might have found out from the beginning.”

“So you’re saying that I have done nothing to push you into wanting to study them more deeply. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. You’ve been a good boy to answer me, Haze. This is entirely your decision based on your experiences of the past year then, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Haze, wake up.”

“Is something wrong, sir?”

“No, nothing. You simply surprised me a little, that is all.”

“Besides, I bet I’d have far less trouble getting certain ingredients, sir,” Haze said impishly, then made a wicked little hissing noise.

Severus coughed and took another sip of his tea. “All right. I trust you’ve taken the time you’ve had to spare to adequately revise for the coming week?”

“Yes, sir. I plan to spend this evening with Charms, and then each evening this week for the next day’s exam. And of course this coming weekend on Potions.”

“Then as soon as I finish my tea, we shall begin with your Occlumency.”

Monday, 2 June 1997 — Friday, 20 June 1997

Deprived of the boy’s company again, Severus became more and more irritable. He saw Haze only at meals, and those instances were not enough to lighten his mood. The boy looked well enough, and had had no more of the accidents that had been plaguing him over the past several months.

He arrived each morning bright and awake as breakfast was served, even more alert than his two companions, and again at lunch looking quite relaxed. By dinner he would appear, a touch less alert, but no less enthusiastic about his meal, and would disappear up to his tower directly they were finished eating.

By the time the weekend arrived, Severus was devoutly wishing he could snatch the boy out of the hallway and haul him down to his quarters. It never once crossed his mind that he was being irrational about the whole thing, no more so than it had occurred to him on the previous occasions when the boy’s absence had badly affected him.

There was one remaining exam for Haze to take—the most important one in Severus’s mind. He took what the boy had said at face value and assumed he was even then tucked away in his tower diligently revising away.

By late Sunday afternoon Severus was feeling quite out of sorts and distracted. He chided himself for bothering to care whether or not the boy did well the next day and tried to distract himself with the ever-changing patterns of his fire, which failed him miserably.

He spent some time bemoaning the fact there was still two weeks of classes he’d need to teach, all of which were after the normal exams, which would contain students who thought of nothing more than the upcoming end of term and going home, and not on what was being taught.

He glanced over at the clock and heaved a sigh, then stood up and went through his room so he could wash up before dinner. He walked briskly to the Great Hall and seated himself at the end in his normal spot, and bestowed myriad glares and scowls on the populations which chattered so brightly at the tables below.

Haze was spotted in his usual seat, halfway up the Gryffindor table, flanked by his two friends. Making the mistake of letting his eyes linger a moment or two too long, Severus watched as Haze looked at him directly and gave a tiny smile, then turned away to respond to something the Weasley boy had said.

Severus snorted and stabbed his chicken viciously.

When he was free to go, Severus stalked off toward his quarters with the intention of taking a sleeping draught after a bath and going to bed early. He had been there perhaps ten minutes when a knock came at his door.

Grumbling and grousing he moved to open it, only to see a breathless Professor Flitwick waiting for him.

“Severus, Madam Pomfrey asks would you please gather up your strongest pain relieving potions and strengtheners and get up to the infirmary as quickly as possible,” the little man gasped out.

“What is it?”

“The Potter boy. Tumbled down three flights of stairs and—”

“Right,” Severus cut in. “I’ll be there directly.” Slamming the door rudely, he dashed into his lab and tossed a multitude of vials and phials into a bag and took off for the infirmary with unseemly haste.

When he arrived there were several people clustered around the boy’s bed, all gabbling like geese. Even as he drew closer Madam Pomfrey rushed in and pushed people away from the bed, giving Severus a clear view of Haze.

A very bloody Haze, that is. A Haze that appeared to be barely breathing.

Severus pushed forward to Madam Pomfrey’s side and dumped the bag at the foot of the bed, opening it with a practiced flick of his wrist.

“Good, you’re here.”


An hour later Severus stormed up the staircase to Albus’s office, not waiting for it to finish its rotation, and barged in without so much as a may I. He arrived to see the Granger girl standing in front of the headmaster’s desk and the Weasley boy slumped in a chair with a vacant expression.

“I know there was someone there!” Hermione wailed, flailing her arms helplessly. “I know there was! There was!”

“Did you happen to see exactly who it was?” asked Albus calmly, though his eyes were flat and dull.

“No! But—isn’t there some way I can prove it?”

Severus caught Albus’s eye for a moment, then jerked his chin toward the cabinet where the headmaster stored his pensieve.

“There may be a way,” intoned the headmaster gravely. “Yes, perhaps. Severus, if you would be so kind, would you please check the third cupboard on the left on the second level? I think you’ll find what is needed there.”

Severus nodded curtly and walked up the winding staircase outwardly calm, locating an unused pensieve that Albus had laying around, probably for when his current one became full. With it in hand he returned to the tableau below and deposited it on the desk.

“Miss Granger, I will need you to extract the memory for us. To do so you will need to concentrate on your memory of the incident and touch your wand to your temple. Focus on transferring that memory over and you will know when it is time to draw your wand away. Do not be alarmed at the sensations you may feel during the process. Please try to calm yourself and begin.”

After taking several deep breaths, the girl closed her eyes. A minute or so later she raised her wand to her temple and furrowed her brow. When the transfer was complete, she drew her wand away, pulling with it a long, silvery strand, which she placed into the waiting pensieve.

“Very good, Miss Granger. If you would please take a seat while we examine this?” His tone called for no argument on her part and she promptly sat down and began to wring her hands.

Severus exchanged a look with Albus, then both entered the memory. When they emerged they wore identical grim expressions.

“Mr Weasley,” said Albus, startling the boy out of his thoughts, “did you also notice that there was someone present during the incident?”

“Uh, yes, professor.”

“Then we will do the same with you.”

After viewing the boy’s version of events, the two professors were decided.

“The two of you may go, though I do not think it would be wise to storm the infirmary. Mr Potter was quite badly hurt and will not be awake for some time. Please return to your common room knowing that you will be informed the moment he may have visitors.”

The girl looked mulishly stubborn but complied, dragging the Weasley boy out behind her, much to Severus’s relief.

“So. . . .”

“I do not like it, Severus, but it must be done. This looks to be a deliberate attempt to kill Harry. Even if the Ministry is not inclined to see things my way, I do hold the power to expel them, even if I may not be able to get them properly dealt with. For the moment, say nothing to alarm them. You will, however, wish to conjure up some veritaserum so that we may question them. Once you have that, gather them up and bring them to your office. I will get Minerva.”

“Immediately.”

Albus nodded. Severus left to open his private stock of potions. He thought in passing that it was as well that the headmaster’s office wasn’t on a higher floor given the amount of running around he was being forced to that evening.

When he had secured the potion and re-locked his stash, he took himself off to the Slytherin common room and located the three in question.

“You will come with me. There’s a little matter of your exam results we need to discuss.” It was a safe a reason as any; they all had normal end-of-year tests, and he had often brought them in for discussions about them.

Leading the errant trio to his office, he ushered them in with a wave of his hand, noticing that Albus and Minerva were already present. He deftly secured the door behind him and divested the boys of their wands. Then he pulled out the truth serum.


The boys were incarcerated for the night in an unused, dirty, and damp room in the dungeons, sans wands and sans comforts. And Severus took a draught to finally get to sleep after visiting the infirmary again to make sure Haze was still all right.

Many of his bones had broken—including a fracture of the skull—and several of them had punctured the skin, providing a ghastly amount of blood. Still, Haze would live. The bones would mend and the scars be taken care of, though he would likely be unconscious for a week.

Scans showed that there was no damage to his brain, much to the relief of everyone concerned. But it was a delicate thing to not only mend the damage to his skeleton, but to soothe and heal the tissues that had been ripped and shredded as a result of his fall.

Severus woke late, unworried about classes, as he’d remembered to put a cancellation notice on his classroom door before drugging himself into oblivion. After bathing and dressing he called a house-elf to provide breakfast and stoically plowed through it.

By the time he reached Albus’s office, the trio of offenders had been retrieved from their impromptu cell and summarily dealt with. As Albus had suspected, the Minister was not of a mind to take their allegations or evidence seriously, especially as the boys were just that—boys. So Albus had done the only thing he could—expelled them.

So, Draco Malfoy, Gregory Goyle, and Vincent Crabbe had been hustled off the grounds as soon as possible. Their memories of the interrogation had been placed in the same pensieve as that used by Harry’s friends, and locked away in the headmaster’s office for a day when it might become of use.

There was a rather heated debate as to whether or not Harry should be returned to his muggle family’s keeping for the summer holiday. The blood protection was no small thing, but the general neglectfulness of his family was a serious consideration.

In the end, after much arguing, it was decided he would be returned, but that members of the Order would stop by on a daily basis to assure that the boy was not being harmed in any way, and that he was being properly fed, and he would be removed as soon as the headmaster was sure that the blood protection had been renewed for another year. As it was, there would be members on duty in the vicinity even as they had been in previous years, so it would be no trouble for someone to pop in daily, or even in the middle of the night if necessary.

Naturally, Haze missed his Potions NEWT. Another argument ensued over that, with the Ministry handing down the decision. Citing that a huge exception had already been made on the Potter boy’s behalf—having allowed him to take his NEWTs a year early—they could not make a further exception and allow him to take the Potions NEWT as soon as he had recovered. He would have to wait until the next regular session the following year.

Albus, for his part, did not protest very strongly. He wanted Harry within the walls of Hogwarts for the following year, and the ruling catered to that desire. Albus finally shut down all arguments by calling for a meeting of the Order to be held at the school, then shooed everyone out of his office.

Severus was glad to go. And through all this, Haze lay unconscious in an infirmary bed. Severus went up to check in with Madam Pomfrey—he had never felt comfortable calling her Poppy—and see how the boy was doing.

On his way out he spied Weasley and Granger lingering around the corner and promptly took an alternate route so as not to let himself be waylaid.

It was a week before Haze stirred himself awake; Severus was pleased to be there when it happened, and promptly measured out a dose of pain potion to be handed to the boy as soon as he was aware of his surroundings.

He watched as Haze rubbed his eyes and blinked furiously against the light, then finally reached over in an automatic gesture for his glasses. Once they were in place Severus held out a small cup and said, “Here.”

Haze blinked up at him for a moment, then took the potion, draining it swiftly but carefully. “Wha—?”

“You are, as you’ve no doubt surmised, in the infirmary. You have been unconscious for the better part of a week. However, you are healing up quite well and need fear no long-term repercussions from this latest adventure of yours.”

“Um . . . sir?”

Severus reached out and took the cup, placing it on the table at the end of the bed. “How do you feel?”

“Muzzy, sir. Stiff. And my head hurts.”

“That is to be expected. I will be right back.” Severus turned and located Madam Pomfrey, telling her to come do her usual tests and scans. When she finished fussing over the boy—up to and including fluffing Haze’s pillows and tucking him back under the covers—she bustled off to inform the headmaster.

Severus took the time alone to give Haze a faint smile that might be misconstrued as teetering on the edge of affection—were a person crazy or drunk. Footsteps had him blank all expression from his face as Pomfrey rounded the corner for another round of fussing.

“Is he well enough for visitors, then?”

“Yes, but not until after the headmaster has spoken with him.”

“Then I shall leave it in your capable hands.” He gave a slight nod to Haze and left.

When the final day of the term arrived, Haze did not take the train home. Severus saw him one last time before the boy was escorted by members of the Order back to his muggle family. The last thing he saw was a small, brave smile.

Chapter Text

Some say the mind is a mystery never to be fully explored, a black hole from which almost nothing escapes but for a timely progression of memories that gives a creature a somewhat steady foundation on which to build and continue from. The consciousness was inclined to agree.

It existed, floating in that black abyss, intimately connected to its physical host, and yet not. It transcended and co-existed. It knew, at this level, that the mind was a confliction of physical and mental, picking and choosing what it would be able to access and what was too painful to remember. And over time the conditions of those choices would change, and time itself would bring about a massive change in many, to the point that the black hole would spit up old, forgotten things, and steal away what once had been part of the foundation.

It was the consciousness’s opinion that scientists were correct. The mind never truly forgot anything. But it would store things away behind barriers of its own making. Every sight, every sound, every touch or taste or smell was there, somewhere. And it was the way of things that if a portion of the physical mind was damaged, nature’s decree insisted that corrections were to be made, to try to preserve all that a person was.

People were layered beings—nuclei for cells, cells in clusters, clusters to perform certain functions. Great rivers in miniature to act both as delivery of nourishment and remover of wastes. Pieces and parts to cleanse, create, dissolve, communicate and learn. And along with all that, something that had for centuries mystified and delighted countless men and women. The soul.

Was there really some divine being or beings? Was humankind its own creator and creation? Did it matter? The consciousness was ultimately indifferent. In the things it could understand and relate to, it saw far more clearly than what normally merged with its physical host to create and display an example of man.

It didn’t have shoulders to bow beneath the burdens placed upon it. It didn’t know fear or worry or pain. Or, for that matter, anger, lust, or love. Its lesser self was starting to become a bit more like it, though not quite. His host had been freed, though, to a large degree of those things which had chained it and restrained it, blinded its eyes and ears.

And the consciousness was well aware of how that had come about, and who was responsible. It knew about the myriad manipulations. It knew that the being called Severus Snape, for all his ulterior motives, rationalizations, and hidden goals, had done a great deal for the betterment of its host, which could now make decisions from a position of greater security and strength. It knew that the one called Dumbledore also manipulated, pulling the thin threads like spider silk that bound one person to another by shared experience, or memories that could be used to induce guilt or gratitude as befitted his intentions.

The host, like it, could see beyond the superficial layers of interaction. The host could also see that like the body, with its many pieces and layers, people as a whole worked in much the same way. Disease and cancerous growths could and would invade, attempting to subvert and corrupt, maim or kill, until it was either forcibly excised, driven to death by chemicals or radiation, or was allowed to remain unchecked to the point where it caused its own annihilation out of victory by destroying that which it had fought so dearly to conquer.

The Dark Lord was like that. And his minions. The consciousness imagined a scenario in which they had won, only to lose because with no more opposition to strike down or convert, they would take to fighting among themselves, or become complacent enough to start the entire cycle over again.

The consciousness knew that its lesser self wanted to eradicate the entire group as though it were a cancer of the body of earth. Not merely to strike the head from its own host, or bind its soul in helpless neutrality, but to take them as a collection of cells bent on destruction and wipe them clean.

It also knew its host was worried, feeling the very things it could not feel, and was beginning to strive toward an answer to the problem of its current mentor, and dare it think, friend. Safe within the new cocoon of obfuscating and reflecting barriers, the host was thinking of striking out and striking back to find its own answers to the questions that had come up, and had not yet been addressed, even if it was not yet aware of what percolated in the back of its mind.


Harry was safely at the Dursleys, though one might wonder at the term “safe” given their reputation. However, as there were members of the Order on duty every hour of the day and night, it might be construed that way. And at least once a day one of those members would enter the house, usually as the new guard came on duty, and go up to Harry’s room to visit with him.

Severus had heard that the Dursleys were beyond scandalized by this turn of events, not to mention outraged that they could not command the services of the boy during his sojourn with them. It had been made quite clear to them by Moody, Lupin, and Tonks that no such trivialization of the boy’s condition was to be allowed. Nor would they be able to get by on shoving cold soup through the flap, still in its tin, and call having fed him good.

They did not, however, insist that any of them actually lower themselves to playing nursemaid to Harry. Severus could not help but smirk at the idea of the florid Vernon heaving his fat carcass up the stairs several times a day to deliver a decent meal to the boy or assist him to the facilities. Not that it would have been any great strain on an able person.

After a week of the boy’s absence, Severus was moved to visit, to ensure that Haze was not being damaged in any way. After all, the boy would be of little use to him broken; he was only protecting his investment. And so he appeared one evening as Lupin was getting ready to go off duty and the stars were just coming out in the dimming sky overhead.

Lupin, who had been leaning against a tree nearby and appeared on the surface to be half asleep, straightened up directly Severus rounded the corner. For a few heartbeats they stared at each other, then Severus walked easily over to the tree and gave Lupin a brief nod of greeting.

“I didn’t expect to see you here, Severus. Is there something the matter?” asked Lupin, now more obviously keeping an eye on the surrounding territory.

“No,” he said curtly. “I merely wish to ascertain the boy’s condition as I know Pomfrey cannot be at his bedside, and I seriously doubt he would mention if he were ailing more than he ought to be. I did not spend so much time shoring up his defenses to have him fall apart now.”

Lupin gave him a curious look, one that invited further elaboration, and one that Severus ignored. “I suppose that’s just as well. He’s not had a visitor yet today. I was going to go up when Tonks got here, but since you’ve arrived. . . .”

Severus nodded. “I will tell him you were here.” He paused, glanced at the house, then asked, “The Dursleys are within?”

“Having dinner, I believe, which makes it a good time to check,” supplied Lupin with a slight smile. Severus got the distinct impression that the werewolf would have enjoyed seeing him intimidate the muggles who were supposedly such a blight on Harry’s life.

“Very well.” Severus gave another nod and turned, missing the feeling of his robes swirling around his ankles, and stalked up the drive to the front door to ring the bell. He affected obliviousness to the intense eyes of Lupin on his back.

Several long moments passed before he heard footsteps within the house and the door was opened. He looked down at a rotund whale of a boy approximately Haze’s age and sneered. The boy took a step back and widened his eyes.

“I am here to see Potter,” he stated, giving the young man one of his most potent expressions of disdain and disgust. That the boy wouldn’t be sure if it was meant for him or for his cousin was a bonus.

“W-who are you?” stammered Dudley.

“One of his professors. Were you going to keep me standing here like a tradesman, which is highly insulting I might add, or let me in that I may discharge my duty. I should think you would know better by now than to upset a wizard.”

Dudley couldn’t seem to decide between flushing or blanching, stepping back hastily in order to make room, then closing the door quietly once Severus was inside. “He’s upstairs, the room at the end of the hall to the left. It’s not locked.”

Severus gave Dudley a sharp look. “And why, pray tell, would you find it necessary to impart that little bit of knowledge to me, hmm?”

Dudley shook his head and backed up, turned, and dashed the length of the hallway and through the door at the end.

Severus snorted and looked around. Spotting the stair he advanced, taking the steps two at a time and trying to ignore the astonishingly tidy surroundings. He glanced into each room as he passed, noting the horrendous display of materialism and bad taste. He would have nightmares if he had to sleep in this dwelling. It was a wonder Haze had turned out as well as he had.

At the end of the hall he stopped beside the only possible door which Haze could be behind. His eyes scanned the numerous locks that adorned the frame and took in the flap at the bottom he’d heard about. Standing there he was forced to acknowledge a part of those things he’d prevented Haze from telling him months earlier.

Severus rapped on the door three times, then entered when he heard a faint voice from the other side, closing the door behind him firmly. It was definitely not locked.

Haze was propped up in bed with a book in his lap, looking a bit bored. His expression changed when he got a good look at who his visitor was.

“Hello, sir,” he said, letting his book drop flat onto the covers.

“Haze.” Severus scanned the room quickly. There was only one chair, a rickety affair that looked as though it might collapse at the slightest provocation. Mentally shrugging, Severus pulled it over to the bed and sat down.

“I’m happy to see you, sir. Though, I didn’t expect to.” Haze angled his head, plainly curious.

Before he could answer a knock came at the door. After calling out, “Come in,” the door opened to reveal Petunia carrying a tray. She sidled into the room, keeping a nervous eye on Severus, placed the tray on the desk, then scurried out of the room and closed the door.

“I came to check up on you. I—” Severus stopped and pulled out his wand, layering a few spells on the room to prevent eavesdropping. “I would not put it past you to remain silent on the subject of your condition if it were worsening or if you were feeling anything they had not led you to expect. So I will ask, how are you feeling?”

“I’m all right, sir. Just some residual aches, I suppose.” Haze looked off to the right for a second, then flicked his eyes up to meet his professor’s gaze. “I’m rather . . . bored, though,” he said, then lifted his chin.

“Are you now. And what do you suppose would remedy that condition?” The boy’s manner was perhaps laden with innuendo, but then again, it might be innocent. After removing the book from Haze’s lap, he twisted in the chair and grabbed the tray, settling it where the book had rested.

“Well, I’ve got nothing to do all day, sir,” said Haze, watching him closely. “I’ve read all the books here, and they weren’t that interesting to begin with. And while I’m happier when they stay downstairs, it means I haven’t got anything to do besides sleep, read, and eat since I’m not supposed to get out of bed.”

Severus suspected that while his muggle relatives might bring his meals up, he doubted that they did anything more than placed them on the desk and forced Haze to struggle over to get at them.

Haze picked up his knife and fork to cut into the breast of chicken on his plate, slicing off a neat portion and swishing it in gravy. He added a bit of potato and popped it in his mouth, waiting patiently for a response.

After a lengthy pause during which Haze had devoured half his dinner, Severus said, “I think it would be useful, then, for you to have some advanced Potions texts.”

Several things crossed the boy’s face—surprise, worry, and hope. “But I wasn’t able to take the Potions NEWT, sir.”

Severus waved his hand in dismissal. “That is of no consequence, Haze. You will take it at the end of the coming year. But in the meantime there is nothing to stop you from continuing your stated aims. I have every expectation that you would have passed the NEWT admirably, so I see no reason to hold you back simply because there is a delay in the quantified result.”

“Oh,” said Haze, then brightened up considerably. “I would like that, sir.”

“Then I will arrange it, and one of your . . . guardians . . . will bring you a selection which should suit your need.”

“Not you, sir?”

“Possibly. Given that Lupin was on when I arrived and gave up his visit with you, it may be him.”

“Well, that’s all right too, sir,” said Haze, then attacked his meal again.

Severus made an agreeable noise and took the time to give the room a once-over. It was not much to look at, all told. The walls were devoid of decoration aside from what he presumed were artistic efforts on Haze’s part, and the floor was bare wood. The furnishings, much like the chair he sat on, were clearly outcasts from the remainder of the house—there was no sign of conspicuous consumption here—and on the few shelves was a motley collection of dusty books and broken muggle artifacts.

“Charming, I’m sure,” he murmured with a sneer, quite without thinking.

“Sir?” came Haze’s voice.

Severus turned back. “The room.”

“Oh.” Haze shrugged, clearly uninterested. “It does have a nice hiding place, though,” he said rather cheerfully, “so that’s all right.”

Severus arched a brow.

“I considered sprucing it up a bit, sir, but then they told me that taking the NEWTs doesn’t absolve me from the statute about underage magic,” the boy said mournfully. “And then they scolded me for even thinking about exerting myself unless I had to.”

Severus almost smiled at the petulant look on Haze’s face. “You will need somewhere to place your books, even for the short time you must be here. Continue your dinner while I consider the omission.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Severus pushed back his chair, wincing at the sound it made, and stood. Pursing his lips for a moment, he considered where to start. While it wouldn’t hurt to make this a nicer room for the boy’s sake, it would be a foolish waste of energy in the long run.

The current shelving was inconvenient to the bed, and filled with rubbish besides. As Haze was supposed to stay in his bed and not wander around, the desk was likewise useless. He considered simply transfiguring something into a bookcase, but decided that with Harry’s condition as it was, something more complex was in order.  In the end he decided that it might be wiser to bring in something Haze could take with him when he left, and resolved to hunt down some sort of chest or trunk that could be placed by the bed, which was easy to open, and could store things in such a way that Haze would not need to get up to access them.

By then Haze had finished his meal and looked to be a bit sleepy, so Severus removed the tray and placed it back on the desk. One of the muggles could fetch it later. He also removed the book from the bed and placed it on the chair, which he moved closer.

“I will make up a list of texts for you presently. For now, though, I think you need to get some sleep, so I will take my leave.”

Haze gave him a relieved, sleepy smile and wriggled down further under the covers, pulling his pillow flat. “Good night, sir.”

Severus removed his earlier spellwork and left, closing the door quietly behind him. On reflection, the only thing that bothered him about the encounter was his last view of Haze. Was the boy relieved to know that his boredom was about to be dealt with, relieved that Severus had come to see him, or relieved that Severus was leaving? He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer.


It never occurred to him to worry about the cost. He checked his own shelves and cases first, then made up a list to take to Flourish & Blotts. What could not be purchased could be duplicated. He spent an hour browsing the shop, pulling down various books, then paid for them, after which he stopped in at the Apothecary to drop off an order to be delivered to the castle.

Another shop provided a portable bookcase, one which could be packed like a trunk, and when opened would raise selected sections in turn for perusal and use. As the current list of texts he intended Haze to have would fill only one of those sections, it should be useful for quite some time.

It wasn’t until he had finished duplicating those tomes from his own collection that were needful and had packed the trunk, that he realized his fellow Order members which visited the boy would wonder about the largess of his gift.

He left his rooms mumbling, glad that the castle was nearly devoid of inhabitants during the summer holiday, and made his way up to the headmaster’s office. Once he was settled in he explained the issue.

“So you see the problem,” he said, casting an absently disdainful look at the headmaster’s supply of sweets, prominently displayed on his desk.

“Of a certainty, Severus. You have already determined which books?”

Severus nodded. “I will need to duplicate some of my own as well, as they cannot be purchased without a great deal of difficulty. The main issue is what to place them in that will not only hold them, but will not cause the Potter brat to overexert himself in trying to get at them.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” said Albus vaguely as he rooted around in a drawer.

“I am aware of something which might solve that problem, sold in Diagon Alley.”

Albus looked up and smiled. “Would you like me to send someone out to fetch things, Severus?”

Severus shook his hair back and stared down his nose at Albus with half-lidded eyes. “If you wish, though I will need to place a few spells on the trunk before it is delivered, to protect it from both the muggles and from the overly curious.”

“It does not matter to me who goes, dear boy. You might consider picking it up yourself, then, so you are certain it is suitable before you work on it.” Albus glanced in the drawer again and brightened. He pulled out a small sack and tossed it Severus, who caught it neatly.

“I’m sure that will cover things. If not, let me know.” Albus peered over the rims of his spectacles and said with an alarming twinkle in his eyes, “Are you quite sure you wouldn’t like a sherbet lemon?”

Severus shot him a deadly cold look, which didn’t daunt Albus in the least, then turned and stalked out, reveling in both the feel of robes swirling around him and that he’d got the headmaster to ante up the cost of the supplies. He could honestly say to anyone that asked that it was not he who had laid out his own money for this venture. He did, however, disappear from the castle again for a time before going back to his rooms.

Deciding to build on that, Severus sent an owl off to Lupin before settling down to enchant the trunk. Muggles would only notice it enough to realize it was there, and would be subtly deflected from investigating it. Wizarding folk were dealt with in a similar manner, keeping away questing and curious fingers with few exceptions: Severus, of course, and Lupin, who needed to be able to transport it, and naturally, Haze.

Lupin was obviously not a busy man that day as a knock sounded on Severus’s door that afternoon.

“As I do not have the time to waste further on this, there is something I’d like for you to deliver to Potter,” Severus stated without preamble and gestured at the trunk.

“What is it, Severus?” Lupin was more curious than offended.

“The trunk contains Potions texts,” he said curtly, then added, “Since the brat has nothing to do all day, he may as well study, and this is designed so that the boy need not leave his bed in order to use it.”

“Ah, I see. May I try it out so I can explain the workings if necessary?”

“Do so, then, though only one section is filled.” Severus turned and took his usual chair, neglecting to invite Lupin to sit down.

After fiddling with it for a minute or so, the werewolf straightened up and smiled. “This is a lovely gift, Severus. I think he’ll quite enjoy it.”

“Gift?” Severus sneered. “Save your admiration for Albus. He’s the one who paid for it all. Are you quite done? I have things I need to be doing.”

Lupin raised his brows ever so slightly and grabbed the trunk by the convenient handle. After a nod goodbye, he took himself off and left Severus in peace.


It was perhaps a few days prior to Haze’s birthday when Severus next visited. When he knocked on the front door this time, he was ushered in by a silent Dudley and left alone immediately to seek out the boy.

The trunk was sitting next to the bed, currently closed, with a tray resting atop it. Haze was propped up again with a fat book supported by his blanket-covered legs. Severus recognized it as the second book of the collection.

“Hello, sir,” said Haze brightly, looking altogether more alive and alert than he had last time.

“Haze.” Severus inclined his head briefly and pulled up the chair. “You appear to be feeling better,” he said as he seated himself, “so I trust that you are making good use of this.” He indicated the trunk with one hand.

“Absolutely, sir. Some of this stuff is fascinating.” Haze cast a slightly furtive look at the trunk and added, “Remus did add some books to it, though. He thought all Potions and no fun wasn’t very . . . fun.”

“Did he,” drawled Severus.

“But I only read those when I need a break, sir,” said Haze hastily.

“Mmm. I would ask that you be very careful with these texts, Haze. Some of them cannot easily be obtained.”

Haze nodded soberly after another glance at the trunk. “It comes with me, right, sir?”

“Of course. While it is not what I would normally recommend, there is no reason for you not to keep it, and every reason not to leave it here when you go.”

“And never come back,” Haze said quietly, more to himself than anything else.

“One imagines not. Unless, of course, you enjoy this hovel and the delightful company herein.”

“Dear Merlin, no, sir,” said Haze with wide eyes. “If I never see this place again it won’t be too soon.”

The intensity of the response told Severus more than he was comfortable knowing. “A wise decision, I’m sure. Are you experiencing any difficulties—your health or the texts?”

Haze shook his head. “Not so far, sir. I’m actually getting rather restless—they still tell me I shouldn’t get out of bed if I can avoid it. I feel fine, though, and it’s frustrating.”

“I imagine it will take another going over by Madam Pomfrey before you’ll be given leave. The headmaster is most solicitous of your health.”

Haze wrinkled his nose in response. “Then I hope that will be soon, sir.”

“As do I.”

He was given a strangely blank look by Haze, then an abrupt smile.

“And the texts?” Severus asked, slightly unsettled.

“Oh, like I said, sir, these are fascinating. I don’t suppose there’s a book somewhere that self-updates when new potions are registered, for a complete list? I didn’t notice anything like that in the trunk.”

“Probably. I would have to investigate. I’m not sure why you’d be interested, though.”

“To see what’s missing, sir. If you can tell what’s already been done, you can see the gaps that remain, and consider if you’d want to fill them. Besides, simply seeing things laid out often sparks ideas.”

Severus blinked. “I suppose so.” Severus made new potions out of necessity more than from inspiration or curiosity. Perhaps long ago, but with the advent of the Dark Lord, necessity was a cruel mistress, and far more demanding. It surprised him that with so many burdens, Haze was thinking along those lines.

A reflection caught his eye and he looked down to see the twin wedding bands on the boy’s finger. Glancing up, he noticed Haze presenting another blank expression.

“Haze?”

The boy blinked and jerked his head slightly, then looked at Severus attentively. “Yes, sir?”

“Are you quite sure you’re feeling all right?” he asked in a tone that demanded honesty.

“Quite well, sir.” Haze looked down at each of his arms then back up. “Do I look pale or something? I don’t feel feverish or sick, and I’ve been eating plenty.” The boy’s gaze wandered absently off to the right for a moment, then snapped back. “I feel fine, anyway.”

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and nodded. “As you say. Well then, we shall see how far you get with those by the next time I see you.” He pushed back the chair and stood.

“Leaving so soon, sir?” Haze had his head tilted to the side, his brow slightly furrowed.

“There are things I must attend to, so yes. Do not spend too much time on the frivolities Lupin included.”

“Of course, not, sir,” Haze replied archly.

Severus took himself off before the urge to put the boy under overcame his good sense.

Chapter Text

For once that summer, Harry was still awake well into the evening. He’d spent most of the day in a state of restless excitement, trying very hard to read through some of his books. One in particular from Remus had been very useful. Reading it had been illuminating, and putting the contents into practice not nearly as difficult as he’d expected. However, it had a few odd side effects. Professor Snape’s last visit had been especially troublesome with his mind wandering all over the place.

Harry glanced at the clock again, just as he had several dozen times already. It would be another ten minutes until midnight, another ten minutes until he was seventeen, and considered an adult in the wizarding world. Of course, if he so much as lifted his wand, he had no doubt someone would somehow see it and take him to task for daring such an exhausting feat when he hadn’t even been given a final check-up by Madam Pomfrey.

He rolled his eyes and sighed, hoping that he’d finally been at Privet Drive long enough, and hoping that Professor Dumbledore would finally take him away from his oh-so-loving family. They were so terrorized by the daily visits of wizarding folk that they refused to meet his eye, or even speak to him much above a whisper. But, he could often hear his uncle’s voice, ranting about the injustice of it all and how badly they were being treated.

The window was already open in anticipation of owls. How they always seemed to know to appear just as the clock ticked over to the new day, Harry didn’t know. Every time he had thought to ask about it, he’d been hit with a feeling of foolishness, as though it was simply too stupid a thing to mention. He did think, though, that it would be a nice birthday gift to receive his NEWT results.

Harry glanced back at the clock again to see one minute remaining. This time he kept a constant watch as seconds moved from future to present to past. Right on cue, as midnight arrived, owls flew through his window and vied for space to perch. Harry sat up and swung his feet to the floor, pushing the blanket back so he could stand. After he’d unloaded each package and offered the unburdened owl some water, Harry tucked himself back in, the presents piled on his lap.

From Hermione, a book; she’d sent him a revision guide for the Potions Mastery exams. From Ron and his family, food; they’d sent a selection of home-cooked comfort foods that wouldn’t spoil. Harry got the idea that Ron assumed he wasn’t being fed well. From Hagrid, a surprise; once unwrapped, the groundskeeper’s gift was revealed as several hand-carved figurines, and not rock cakes. Luna sent a rather odd little book about mythical creatures, and Neville sent a guide to easily-grown potions ingredients for the home. Remus, however, sent something more immediately useful, a wand holster, even though he’d already purchased books for Harry earlier.

And from the Ministry, Harry’s NEWT results.

The following scores listed are the final averages. For more
detailed information as to results of both theory and practical
scores (as applicable) check page two of this package. Please
see page three for a listing of potential career options and
appropriate contacts for each.
O Care of Magical Creatures
O Charms
O Defense Against the Dark Arts
O Herbology
— Potions
O Transfiguration

Harry was gratified to see all his hard work pay off. It was just a shame that he’d been attacked, for he was quite sure he’d have received an Outstanding on his Potions NEWT as well. He didn’t even feel smug or prideful in thinking that; he just knew it to be the truth. Harry carefully placed the results back into the envelope and opened his trunk. The books and envelope were tucked away inside. The figurines and food went into his school trunk, though he kept out a muffin to eat before finally settling down to sleep.

He spent the next morning reading Neville’s book, making fanciful plans for a garden of his own at a house he couldn’t even envision yet. But, he still found it an amusing way to spend the first part of his birthday. Petunia arrived in due time carrying a lunch tray, which she slid onto the desk without comment, then left without a backward glance.

Harry shot a dark look at the door and slipped off the bed to sit at the desk. He’d only been eating for perhaps a few minutes when he heard a knock. He called out, “Come in,” then twisted in the chair to see who it was. He was very surprised to see the headmaster walk through, close the door gently behind him, and take a seat on his bed.

“Hello, Harry,” he said simply.

“Professor, it’s good to see you. I hope you don’t mind, I was just having lunch.” Harry jerked his chair around and angled his tray.

“Of course not. I came to see if you were just about ready to leave.” Dumbledore wore a gentle smile and his eyes were bright. “You’re an adult now after all, and I should think you’d be wanting to move on.”

“You bet I am,” breathed Harry, letting his fork dangle down onto the plate. “I can really leave?”

“Yes. I thought that after we got you moved to Hogwarts, I could arrange for you to get training so you can get your apparation licence. I think you’ll agree with me that it’s an important skill.”

Harry nodded, trying not to look overly enthusiastic. “I do. How long does that normally take?”

“It depends on the student. For you, I would expect not long—perhaps a week or two. Have you received your exam results?”

“Yes, sir. All outstandings.” Harry allowed himself a smile of quiet pride. “They were a lovely birthday present.”

“Very good, Harry. Very good. When do you think you could be ready?”

“Sir, I’ve not been allowed out of bed, so I haven’t bothered to unpack really. I’d just need to gather up a couple of things that aren’t in either of my trunks. Personally, I’d be thrilled to see the infirmary again, if only because it should mean I can get up and about.”

“Excellent. In that case, I will have a crew come to collect you this afternoon, if that’s all right with you. That should give you enough time to take care of the last minute details, and be ready when they arrive.”

“Who, sir?”

“Oh, the usual. Moody, Tonks, Remus, along with a few others. I’ll send Fawkes along as well, so you’ll have no doubts.” Dumbledore gave him a meaningful look over the rims of his spectacles. “I’ll be off, then, so you can finish your lunch, and I’ll see you later today.”

“Thank you, sir.” Harry gave him a brilliant smile, watched as the headmaster left, then tackled the remainder of his meal with renewed enthusiasm. The minute he was finished he pushed the tray aside and knelt by the bed, pulling up the loose boards to retrieve his wand, photograph album, and cloak. They went into his school trunk with the exception of his wand, which was secured in his new holster and attached to his forearm.

However, he felt a little silly when he realized he was still wearing his bedclothes, and quickly got changed. After looking around to see what else needed to be packed away, he realized he’d been more truthful than not. Harry picked up Neville’s book again and sat down to read until it was time.

Their arrival was heralded by a burst of flame. Fawkes appeared in his bedroom and trilled a welcome as he settled onto the back of the single chair. Harry closed his book and put it away, saying, “Fawkes!” Seconds later, his door opened and Remus and Tonks piled through, shoving each other good-naturedly as Moody watched from the hall.

“Harry!” cried Tonks, bounding over to grip his shoulders. “You look just fine. Ready to go?”

“I don’t know,” he said nervously. “I kind of like it around here.”

“Harry?” she asked. “What—?”

Remus stepped up and tousled Harry’s hair, making him duck away and laugh. “Yes, Tonks. I’m more than ready to go. Hello, Remus, Moody. Good to see you again. I’ve just got the two trunks, Hedwig’s cage, and my broom to go.”

“No problem, then.” Tonks levitated Harry’s school trunk and headed back downstairs, while Moody stepped into the room. Remus made sure the other trunk was properly closed and carefully tipped it over so he could take it by the handle. Harry grabbed his broom case and the cage, taking a final look around.

“Let’s go,” said Moody gruffly. Fawkes trilled again and launched himself up, disappearing in another burst of flame.

Downstairs the Dursleys were nowhere to be seen, probably having retreated to the lounge so as to not have to see anything unnatural. Harry said a mental farewell to his childhood home and strode out the front door into bright sunshine with his escort forming up around him. Once they were all settled in—the additional cars functioning as a secondary escort—they began the journey to London. The last Harry saw of № 4 Privet Drive was the twitch of a curtain as his aunt watched them drive away.

When they arrived at the castle—via a floo at The Leaky Cauldron to Hogsmeade, and a short carriage ride—Harry was steered in the direction of the infirmary as soon as he walked through the main doors. Madam Pomfrey was delighted to see him and had him sitting on a bed undergoing scans with her wand within seconds. After an agonizing—for Harry—wait, she pronounced him fit and healthy. He gave her effusive thanks and dashed off before she could think of any other tests to run.

It was when he was a safe distance away that he realized he had no idea where he’d be living in the castle. He dithered for a minute, walking back and forth across the hall, then made for the Great Hall. If no one was there, he’d try Dumbledore’s office. He was in luck, though, and quickly approached the gathering of Order members at the end of one of the house tables, sliding quietly onto the bench.

“—on Monday,” Remus was saying.

Albus nodded and turned to Harry with a smile. “Does that sound good to you? You can begin training for your license.” When Harry nodded he turned back. “So long as we have a proper rotation set up for those days, it should be acceptable, and we’ll work around any problems that crop up.”

“When’s dinner?” asked Tonks brightly.

“Remus, would you like to show Harry his new quarters?” asked Albus.

“Sure. Come on, Harry.” He was led, not up the main staircase, but down into the dungeons. “Albus thought you’d be more comfortable nearer to where you’d need to be in order to work toward your mastery, and it won’t interfere with the other training you’ll be undergoing. This way you’ll have your own private lab to work in and room enough for whatever else you need.”

Harry certainly hadn’t expected that much thoughtfulness and was already feeling pleasantly surprised. The door Remus stopped at was down what appeared to be a fairly unused corridor. Though it wouldn’t be hard to find or remember where it was, Harry didn’t recognize the area. He was a little concerned to note that there was no portrait, but the door was nearly invisible and featured a subtle etched design of intertwining serpents.

“You can change the password as soon as you decide on what you want,” said Remus. To the door he said, “Cadbury Flake.” It slid silently aside and Harry stepped into a short entry which opened into a cozy, medium-sized lounge. “That door there off to the side leads to the lab and the one at the back leads into a short hall. Off that is a small kitchen area in case you feel like cooking or eating in, your bedroom, and bathroom.”

“It’s not huge, but it’s still amazing. Plenty of room for me—it’s not like I have all that much stuff.”

“Well, I’ll sit here while you explore, and then we can think about dinner.”

Harry poked his head into the kitchen; it was snug, but big enough to prepare a meal for one and had room for a small table. The bedroom wasn’t large, but it didn’t need to be. Doors led off into a closet—something Harry considered to be a luxury—and the bathroom. All in all, it was a lovely little flat, despite the bare white walls and lack of personal possessions. Walking back to the lounge, he nodded approval at the wall of built-in shelving, then checked out the lab.

It, in contrast, was spacious, with plenty of storage space, shelving, and counters. It was also already outfitted with a selection of cauldrons, beakers, and various other pieces of equipment. He was amazed at how much trouble they’d gone to in order to make him comfortable and to make sure he’d be well set for his goal. It made him wonder just what the year would be like between that, his additional training, and what he was expected to eventually do.

When he re-entered the lounge, Remus had his feet up and was watching the flames in the fireplace. “I think it’s brilliant. It’s so much more than I ever expected.”

“That’s good to hear, Harry. You’ll have a few days to settle in, so why don’t we go hunt down dinner?”


Harry started the walk back toward his rooms, thinking about what would make for a good password. Having normally dealt with English passwords, he wasn’t sure if his door would accept one in Parseltongue, though he knew that Salazar Slytherin had managed it with the doorways to the Chamber which used equally odd guardians. As he turned at the first intersection a shadow appeared at his shoulder.

“So.”

“Hello, sir. I’d wondered where you were.” Harry continued walking, though he slowed his pace a little.

“Given that you’re walking around, I can only assume you’ve been deemed fit.”

“Yes, sir. I was just heading to my rooms to unpack. Would you like to join me?”

Severus nodded and said, “And are you satisfied with them?”

“Very much, sir.” Harry glanced sideways to see that Snape had his arms drawn across his chest, with the folds of his robes enveloping him like a shroud. “I didn’t know what to expect, so I was quite surprised, and pleased.”

“It is only fitting. You no longer attend Hogwarts, and you must have a place where you can comfortably work and live that isn’t in the domain of the students.”

They reached Harry’s rooms, and he felt a moment of embarrassment over the password as he spoke it and the door slid aside. “I really need to change that,” he said as he gestured for Severus to enter first. “Do you think it would accept a Parseltongue password?”

“I do not see why it wouldn’t. The worst that could happen is you try and it doesn’t. In any case, I suggest that you share it with no one aside from perhaps myself and Albus, not even your friends. Though, if you do go with Parseltongue, we might want to arrange for an override in English so that in case of emergency, help can reach you.”

“Yes, sorry, I hadn’t thought of that, sir.” In the bedroom Harry opened his school trunk and started tossing things onto the bed haphazardly. “I guess it would be a bit rude, and foolhardy.” He stopped and looked around for a moment, then opened the closet door and shoved the trunk in and against the back wall. “That wouldn’t be a problem, would it—an override?”

Severus, who was standing just inside the door, shook his head and said, “No.”

Harry spent a couple of minutes putting what clothing he had away, then looked up at his mentor and smiled faintly. “I missed you,” he said in a whisper, then started to gather up the odd bits and look for a place to put them. The figurines ended up in the lounge, and his writing supplies ended up in the small desk behind his couch.

When Harry began to unpack his book trunk, Severus took a seat in an overstuffed chair. He left a couple of books unpacked, being careful to hide the omission from his mentor’s line of sight. When he was done he closed the trunk; he’d move it to the closet later. Instead he moved to kneel by Severus’s side and rest his head on Snape’s knee.

He really had missed him. Even with the addition of books to read and learn from, Harry had been keenly lonely. And while his experiments had been interesting, they hadn’t been able to take the place of companionship, or any of the things he’d felt he was missing. When Severus began to run his fingers through Harry’s hair, he felt almost like purring. He had definitely missed this.

Severus—Harry called him that privately—was an intelligent, well-spoken person who held a wealth of information, and more importantly, seemed to actually understand him. He wrapped his arms around Severus’s leg and sighed in content. The previous year had given him something he hadn’t really known he was lacking—that is, once they’d got past their mutual and irrational antagonism. Since then, he’d been happy to set aside the past and do what he could to please the man, and to try to reach his own potential. That he’d begun to realize a great number of things about himself, and Severus, was an unexpected benefit.

His friends hadn’t understood his change of attitude, though Hermione had taken it as a sign of his growing maturity. When he’d then begun to take his studies as seriously, or more seriously, as she did for her own, she’d been extraordinarily pleased at the turn of events. Of course, she was and had always been an intellectual. Ron, on the other hand, had floundered, whined, and eventually given in sullenly to Harry’s change of priorities. Harry hoped that his friend would find his own satisfaction in a job well done—not just in a game well played.

It would be harder this year, being apart from them. He’d have to make even more of an effort to set aside time to spend with them, preferably in less studious pursuits. Meeting only to study or revise seemed like a half-hearted attempt, selfish in nature and miserly of his time. He’d also have to overcome Ron’s upset over quidditch; no longer a student, Harry had of necessity retired as seeker.

The stronger motion of Severus’s fingers brought Harry out of his thoughts and back to how he felt. He sighed again and twisted to look up at his mentor. “May I?” he breathed.

“No, Haze.” Before Harry could do more than jerk back slightly in confusion and burgeoning hurt, Severus said, “Not here. There’s something I want to show you.” Harry nodded and pulled away so he could stand, then followed Severus into his bedroom. With furrowed brow, he watched as his mentor approached the bare stretch of wall on the far side of the bed. “Come here, Haze,” he requested, and when Harry was standing next to him, said with the barest hint of a smile quirking the corner of his mouth, “Open sesame.”

Harry blinked as a section of the wall disappeared, then followed Severus through. “How—?” He was standing in the living area of the professor’s private quarters.

“Very simple, Haze. I was not unaware of this entrance, and it has always been heavily warded. However, with you in those quarters, I decided to make use of it. This way you will be able come here without sacrificing anyone’s privacy.”

Harry grinned and stepped into the room, past Severus, and turned around. Reaching out to touch his mentor’s sleeve he repeated, “May I?” A second later he pulled on his arm, backing up toward the bedroom, then turned and walked through and began to undress. Severus stood watching him from the doorway, stepping in only after Harry was naked. Harry slowly undressed him and drew him onto the bed, then knelt between his legs.

Several minutes later, when Severus was groaning in pleasure, Harry lifted his head to speak. “I want—” he began, then stopped.

“Yes?” Something indefinable flared in Severus’s eyes.

“Will you—” He crawled up the bed so that his face was directly over Severus’s, their bodies pressed together. “I want to know what I’ve been missing . . . sir.”

His mentor’s eyes widened slightly, then half closed. “I think,” he said as he reached up to place a hand on the back of Harry’s neck, “that you can drop the sir in private.” Then Harry was pulled down into a kiss that was rough and spoke of barely controlled savagery. He felt almost as though he was being violated as Severus explored his mouth, his head swimming as though he couldn’t get enough air into his lungs.

This was nothing like those tentative—and in retrospect, horrible—kisses he’d shared with Cho so long ago. This was every nerve of his body coming to life, every muscle straining to be closer, and his hips moving with a will of their own. Without warning he was flipped over and pinned to the bed beneath Severus’s greater weight and his neck attacked with sharp teeth and a tongue that seemed to be everywhere at once.

Harry closed his eyes and just let the sensations wash over him, moaning out his pleasure and trying to arch upward to create a delicious pressure and friction. Barely heard was the sound of a drawer opening and closing. When he was on the verge of hyperventilating, Severus pulled back, making him want to weep for the loss. He opened his eyes enough to see Severus liberally applying a lubricant to himself, and then his neck was being savaged again.

He strained up, but could not make contact, for Severus was holding himself apart. A moment later he arched involuntarily as a slick finger entered him and smoothly moved inside, then two, which tore a groan from his throat, then three. Harry honestly thought he might die, and wouldn’t have cared if he did at that moment. Severus continued to work his fingers as his mouth moved back to claim Harry’s mouth a second time.

Despite the preparation, Harry wasn’t actually prepared for the feeling of Severus entering him, slow as it was. His body contracted in sudden fear and some pain, but as the moments passed he willed himself to relax and accept. Severus stung his lower lip with a sharp bite and sank himself fully, momentarily confusing Harry’s sense of pain. They stayed locked together, motionless but for their mouths, and then Severus braced himself with his arms and began to move with smooth, long thrusts.

With the little part left of his mind that could think, Harry knew that there was nothing of sweetness here. It was primal and rough, tempered only enough to assure that he wasn’t reflexively trying to pull free of what was being done to him. But, as the seconds ticked by, and Harry became adjusted to things, it all came together in a melange of delicious friction, soft tongues, and the increasingly pleasurable feeling of Severus moving inside him.

And when it ended, as it must, Harry felt his world threatening to slip away for one, long exquisite moment. Now he had a pretty good idea what he’d been missing.

Chapter Text

Harry stretched luxuriously and rolled over, deliberately ignoring the lingering sense of discomfort he felt from the previous night’s activities. He knew it was well past the time he normally awoke and that he was being unusually self-indulgent, but he didn’t particularly feel like getting out of bed just at that moment. For once he did not allow any feelings of guilt to colour his mood.

Eventually, however, the things he was of a mind to attend to during his free weekend had him sliding out of bed and padding sleepily into his bathroom. As he passed the mirror it responded with a low whistle, causing him to double back to take a good look at himself, and flush deeply almost as soon as his gaze connected. All along his neck were raw red marks, a legacy of last night’s dissipation of his ignorance.

After giving the mirror a sheepish grin, he resumed his journey to the shower and stripped down. A short time later—he’d figured out how to disguise the condition of his neck—he was enjoying a simple breakfast in front of the fireplace. When he had conscientiously cleared away after himself, Harry was ready for his morning exercises. As had been the case since he’d received his book trunk with the additions from Remus, he had two goals: getting over his mild phobia of portkeys, and trying to train away his tendency toward being a slugabed in the mornings. Given that Remus had a muggle parent, Harry wasn’t entirely surprised at the man’s unique answer to the issues Harry had given voice to.

Though he would have normally used a candle for this, the fireplace would serve as a suitable substitute—he hoped. From his book trunk he produced the magical recording device Remus had provided as an aid and set it on the table. Seating himself comfortably, Harry activated it and focused his gaze on the flicker of flames and began to listen to his own voice coaching him.

It had taken him a few days to get the patter down, having felt more than a little silly during his initial attempts. But, after several tries, and with his goals firmly in mind, he had pushed aside such inconsequentials and settled down to come up with something that worked. And now, as he gazed at the flames, he could feel himself easing into a deeply relaxed state that would allow him to speak directly to his subconscious mind and tell it what he wanted to work on.

The first few times he’d tried self-hypnosis he’d experienced—to him—alarming gaps in his memory he couldn’t account for, even though he appeared to making minuscule progress toward his goals. In consequence he had re-recorded his spiel to assure that he would remember everything that happened to him during his experiments. It wasn’t that he was worried he’d somehow inadvertently mess something up, he was just uncomfortable with rendering himself so unaware of the passage of time. It reminded him a little too strongly of what had happened to Ginny when she’d been abused by the memory of Tom Riddle.

An hour or so later, awake and alert, Harry packed his device away from prying eyes. And as an afterthought, remembered his intention to move the trunk to his closet, and took care of that before he could forget. Then he tackled the issue of a new password, eventually settling on something simple and having a short talk with the serpents. He wandered out of the dungeons well pleased with his morning and went to find the headmaster, and when he found him, they retired to Dumbledore’s office to talk.

“So, I changed the password on my door, sir, but it was brought to my attention that it might be wise put in place an emergency override password. I used Parseltongue, you see. And even though I’m not quite sure what could happen to me in my rooms, I see no reason to disagree with the suggestion,” Harry explained.

“Yes, I can see why it came up,” said Dumbledore, “and it presents no real problem in execution. I can take care of that myself today.”

“I just want to make sure that it’s only for an emergency,” Harry stressed. “While I feel comfortable with certain people being included in this, sir, I don’t think it should be a widespread deal. You, sir, of course. Professor Snape, certainly. Perhaps even Remus. But I’d hate to think that every staff member or Order member could intrude on my privacy for the flimsiest of reasons. I mean, part of the reason I chose Parseltongue is so that it would be more or less impossible for the average person to guess the password. I don’t even intend to tell my friends what it is, though I don’t object to visits, you know?”

“I quite understand, Harry, and I agree. Personally, I would consider adding Professor McGonagall to that roster as she is my Deputy, but aside from that, there is no reason for the majority of people to even be aware an override exists, never mind know the password. You are no longer a student of Hogwarts, though you are housed here, and as such you should be able to feel confident of your privacy.”

Harry smiled in relief. “That makes me feel a lot better, sir. It’s not that I want to cut myself off from people, but I know that there’s so much I need to be doing this year, and it will be good to have a quiet place to retreat to and relax.”

“Do you wish to know what the password will be? No? All right. As you do not have a conventional portrait guardian, has anyone taught you how to render your door transparent so you can see who’s knocking?”

“That’s a one-way spell?”

“Indeed. It’s very simple, Harry. All you need to do is. . . .”


After lunch, Harry made a visit to the owlery to check on Hedwig and see how she was faring after her flight to the school. She was quite pleased to see him and they spent a short time together before Harry returned to his rooms. His only real regret over his housing was that Hedwig had no way to enter and exit his quarters without assistance and could therefore not share them with him with any degree of comfort.

Harry spent a comfortable few hours at his desk writing letters to his friends, both to keep in touch and to thank them for their gifts. By the time he was finished bringing his friends up to date and had set the letters aside to be delivered the next day, Harry realized he was at a bit of a loss for something to do. Since dinner was hours away yet he made a trip to see Hagrid and spent several more hours getting an impromptu lesson in carving. He learned that while his hands were sure and steady when dealing with ingredients, he was hopelessly inept when it came to the meticulous practice of creating miniatures, and spent a great deal of time laughing at himself and his mistakes.

It wasn’t until he finished dinner that Harry got out his broom and took to the skies, flying through the encroaching twilight and into the darkness. When he’d become nothing more than a shadow he dismounted outside the main doors with a flourish and trekked back to his rooms disheveled and happily tired out. After a bath and a bit of reading, Harry went to bed. The next day was spent in much the same fashion, keeping mainly to himself and doing the kinds of things that were rewarding without necessarily being . . . necessary. Reading for pleasure figured largely in his day, though he did set aside time to take his letters up to Hedwig for delivery.

When Monday morning arrived Harry was up early and without undue trouble. He’d resolved to use the time before breakfast each weekday for more than just having a wash—he could also use the time to revise for the day, which is exactly what he did by skimming through the small book he’d been given on the principles of apparation.

The lesson actually took place on the outskirts of Hogsmeade with Remus as his primary instructor. Harry affected not to notice the cadre of Order members hanging about as though innocently enjoying the day, and paid close attention to all that Moony had to say. As he’d expected, visualization was essential to the art. Though some people had the ability to apparate with only a sketchy idea of their target, it was strongly discouraged and considered sloppy and dangerous.

Harry’s first attempts at transporting himself even a short distance away within line of sight were shockingly loud, enough so that he felt slightly embarrassed despite Moony’s reassurance that it was normal. He was not surprised, however, that he was able to increase his range fairly easily, or that visualizing his destination was as simple an exercise as imagining his mental defenses. The one’s practice had transferred over nicely to this new application.

On the way back to the castle Harry asked Remus how long he thought it would be before he could take the exam for his license. “If you keep going at this rate, not more than a week or two at most,” Remus replied with a grin.

“That’s what Professor Dumbledore said, too.”

“Well, now that you have the basic idea down, we can work on expanding your range. After that we’ll move away from line of sight and have you apparating to and from different spots in Hogsmeade that you’ll have to visualize from memory.”

“When do you think the other training will begin?”

“Not until after this,” Remus said, shaking his head slightly. “It’s something we can incorporate into that, though it will be partly theory since Hogwarts isn’t the best place for it, and I don’t think it would be a good idea to use Hogsmeade. The residents might get upset with us popping around and firing off spells.”

“I can imagine,” said Harry with a smile as they passed through the main doors to the castle. “It’s a shame, though, the restrictions. But I guess it would be as well to wish that none of this was necessary to begin with, huh?”

Remus clapped him softly on the back. “One day, Harry. We just need to get there.”

Yes, Harry thought. Preferably without losing any more people we love.

In his rooms after lunch, Harry got a feel for how his lab was set up. While some of the books Severus had given him did contain potion formulas, they tended to focus almost exclusively on history and theory. The Mastery exam was much more than simply showing you could brew a potion or could name all the aliases of the same ingredient.

One needed to be able to reel off formulas just from the potion name, know how different ingredients would interact, and how that would change depending on varying conditions. Knowing who created a potion was important, as well as what breakthroughs had to be accomplished and what problems had cropped up during testing.

So, Harry was pleased to see that in addition to those books, his lab was stocked with a fine selection of formula texts. The shelves were labeled according to type; medical potions were in one section, those commonly used in law enforcement in another, and so on. Cabinets at the back held just about every conceivable ingredient he could want or need; shelving and cupboards boasted cauldrons of every size and material, racks of vials, bottles and beakers; drawers opened to reveal sealing wax and stoppers, plus stirrers, knives, and other implements; and several scales decorated the counters and worktops.

He was even more impressed than he’d been when he first looked in. And it reminded him that Severus had not given him any kind of a revision guide for the year. He had Hermione’s gift, but he wanted his mentor’s opinion on what was important, having far more faith in that. With that in mind, he shadowed Severus after dinner, following him right into the professor’s quarters.

“What is it that you need, Haze?” asked Severus once he was seated by the fire.

“Hermione gave me a book for my birthday—a revision guide for the Mastery exam—but I’d feel more comfortable learning from you what my progression ought to be. You are a Master, after all.”

“Yes, I could see why you would want my opinion. It has been some time since I took my own exam, though. It might be wise if I were to look over the guide your friend got for you to see if it lacks things I consider important,” Severus suggested.

“Would you? And yes, your opinion is important to me. If you don’t think the guide is suitable, I’d rather use something you did approve of. I want to do well—on both exams.”

“And I have every expectation that you will. In fact. . . .” Severus pinned him with those liquid, dark eyes and said, “Haze, go under.”

Harry felt himself go curiously blank, and his eyes closed for no reason he could discern. He was perfectly content to just sit there and wait. When he heard a very familiar voice say, “Haze, open your eyes,” he obeyed without question, and opened them to gaze into those of his mentor. Some distant, detached part of his mind took careful note of what was occurring, but made no move to do anything else.

“Haze, you still feel an intense desire to do well at your studies, don’t you.”

“Yes,” he said, wanting very much to agree with this man.

“And isn’t it right that all you need to do is read something once and you’re able to recall the information without any difficulty?”

Harry nodded.

“That’s right, Haze. It makes you feel very good, doesn’t it, being able to keep track of so much so easily.”

“It does,” Harry agreed while that corner of his mind turned things over, such as how the professor was calling him Haze.

“And you like to feel good. Isn’t that right, Haze?”

“Yes.”

“The other night you told me you wanted to know what you were missing. Do you think you know now?”

“I do, yes.”

“You obviously feel old enough. What do you think about it?”

“I want to do it again.”

“With who?”

“You.”

“Just . . . me, Haze?”

“Yes. Just you.” Harry watched as a smile formed on the professor’s face and felt a corresponding sensation of pleasure sweep through his body, knowing he’d pleased the man.

“You’re such a good boy, Haze. Such a good young man. Haze, wake up.” After a split second pause he said, “I think you won’t have any trouble at all. I think you’ll make the both of us proud. I suggest you drop off that gift within the next few days so I can look it over and let you know if it will be a suitable guide.”

Harry, who felt a great deal like shaking his head, nodded instead and said, “I will do that. I should be able to get it to you sometime tomorrow, after my lessons.”

Severus nodded. “Was there anything else you needed to discuss this evening, Haze?”

Harry looked off to the right, then shook his head. “No, that was it. Thank you.” He produced a smile and said, “I’m going to get started on the next of the books you got for me.” Harry stood up. Before he opened the door to the hallway he glanced back over his shoulder and said, “After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you,” then left.

Outside he slumped against the wall for a moment, then continued on to his own rooms. When he gained that dubious privacy he sat on his couch and stared at the fire and tried to make sense of what had just happened. He felt shock; there was no doubt about that. He felt strongly inclined toward anger, but found it strangely hard to work up or maintain. He felt—he wasn’t honestly sure what he felt.

With a start he realized he’d been sitting there for at least an hour and had decided nothing at all. He wasn’t tired and it was hours yet before he’d normally head to his bed, so Harry got up and fetched a number of items, then returned to his lounge and looked around. The only rooms he had with a single entrance were his bathroom and the lab, and he chose the lab to work in. Once through that door, he closed it, locked it, and warded it against intrusion with every spell he knew of.

The candle he carried was set on a worktop and a stool pulled into place. A notebook and writing supplies were also placed down, along with his recording device. After roughing out the additions he wanted to add to his original patter, he made the necessary modifications. As soon as he felt ready, Harry lit the candle and started the device.

Over an hour later he had pages of his notebook filled and ready to read. The protections were removed from the door, the candle blown out, and everything he’d brought in was taken back to his bedroom and packed away except for the notebook. Harry drew himself a bath and got a tall glass of chilled pumpkin juice from his kitchen, then settled into the sloping embrace of the tub.

Harry had been very deliberate in what he’d done and that was reflected in the pages of text. Recorded from his memory were a list of commands Severus had implanted in him, including a series of triggers designed to prompt an immediate response from him. What surprised him the most was the directive for him to not remember any of the times that Severus had taken him under. Harry could only speculate that his weeks of self-hypnosis—where he’d specifically reinforced his remembrance of the episodes—had clashed with and won over what his mentor had intended. Granted, he remembered writing these things down, but reading them while fully awake and aware was a different, more emotional experience.

Again he wanted to be angry. He wanted to feel strongly enough that he’d storm into Severus’s rooms and cast Imperio on the man. But he couldn’t, not quite. Reading further, he shuddered when he saw the command that ensured his honesty and obedience, and again when he saw what Severus had done in conjunction with his parents’ wedding rings. There were a lot of questions forming in his head he wanted to ask directly of Severus.

Flipping the page he began to read the most important part—he’d asked his subconscious a number of pointed questions—and not knowing exactly what he’d find, Harry had instructed himself to write it all out then read it, and use that information to continue. The answers were listed out neatly, though apparently he should have told himself to separate them. He knew the questions, and now he had the answers.

And he had to agree with his subconscious—he did trust Severus, despite not actually knowing why he’d implanted certain directives and trigger phrases. Regardless of the reason for them, they didn’t appear to have any relation to Voldemort or his Death Eaters, so Harry didn’t see them as anything other than personal. Most of what his mentor had done was intended entirely for his own benefit and Harry had unmistakable proof that it had worked and continued to work.

Severus had made one telling mistake, though, which made Harry almost sneer to think of. His mentor had done a very sloppy job with his sealing commands, and should never have included Harry himself when it came to who was allowed to hypnotize him. But, one man’s mistake was another man’s opportunity, and Harry had every intention of capitalizing on it.

What made him feel the most relieved was his realization that Severus had not forced him into feeling anything in particular about him. He’d only suggested that things would go much smoother if Harry remained respectful, and that he would derive pleasure from honesty and obedience—Severus had not tried to sway his emotions toward the personal attachment that had actually developed. In fact, seeing Severus in private was like watching a knight remove his armor and expose himself to a very select audience. Harry’s newfound remembrance also told him that this had begun in innocence, though it had not remained there for very long. Severus had made the first move, but it had been Harry’s own decision to act while awake.

And though it raised some very interesting questions in Harry’s mind, he knew that he would be better served by undoing some of what Severus had done, without leaving himself open to exposure. A smirk spread across his mouth as he recalled that he could lie, and with creative reconditioning of his own design, his mentor would never need to know he’d been found out.

Feeling renewed energy he stepped out of the tub and dried off, then padded into the bedroom with his notebook in one hand. Since it was not yet his normal bed time, Harry grabbed his tools again and headed back to lab, not at all bothered by being dressed only in a towel. He had several quite specific goals in mind: removal of the directive to be honest and to obey; removal of the directive to not consciously remember what happened each time Severus took him under; to continue to list each of the currently existing directives even though he was about to remove two; to not reveal the truth about his tampering; to not reveal any current or future plans regarding the reversal of the situation for his own advantage; and most importantly, to remember what he wanted to remember when he looked at his parents’ rings.

By the time Harry had finished tinkering with his subconscious he was tired and a bit strung out, and made a mental note as he got ready for bed to ask Remus for more of the recording devices when he saw him the next morning. He decided to sleep on the idea of turning the tables on his mentor.

Chapter Text

Harry and Remus, accompanied by their generally unseen escort, arrived at the Ministry in good time for his apparation test. Over the past week Harry had trained hard for this, even to the extent having been taken to far distant places in order to acquire the proper visualization cues, though many had been gained through the use of clever photography. On those trips and tests the guard had been doubled, with contingents waiting at both locations—one set would take point and go ahead to the destination while the other waited for Harry and Remus to apparate. After several jumps around the island, they would all return to Hogsmeade to assure that Harry made it back to the castle unscathed.

Thus far Harry had not made the mistake of splinching himself, and that boded well for his exam. He had even redeemed himself for the embarrassing amount of noise he had produced the first day of lessons. Displacement of himself—which caused the air to rush into the suddenly empty space, or be forced out of the space he appeared at—could be more closely controlled. One did not have to sound like a gun shot if one took the time to learn that control.

Harry received his wand back from the guard and turned to Remus, who smiled and led him to the testing facility within the complex. Harry was treated to another group of officials—these were bored and entirely unimpressed by his identity—who shoved a handful of forms at him to complete after verifying his age, then handed him over to the man who would be testing him. After that it was a foregone conclusion. Harry retreated with Remus from the sanctum of bureaucracy fully licensed, and dragged his friend off for a celebratory meal in a private room at the Leaky Cauldron.

Harry was in such a good mood when he returned to the castle that he decided to begin his plans that evening. He had considered waiting until the school year had begun, but after some thought dismissed the delay. That evening he reviewed what little documentation he possessed and his plan of action. Then, he waited.

Several hours after midnight he activated the secret door in his bedroom, slipping through into Severus’s living area silently. That in itself was not entirely unusual. Seconds later he had eased into his mentor’s bedroom and was kneeling next to the head of the bed. Settling back on his haunches he spared a few moments to study the man’s face in repose—even then it showed deep lines and a downward turn of the mouth. Smiling faintly, Harry leaned closer and started to whisper.

“Hello, Severus. You look stressed. Do you sleep well or is even this something to be endured? I would hope that sleep is a time when you really can relax and let go of things, even if your subconscious is busy at work trying to find solutions for your problems.”

Harry paused, waiting to see if his words had disturbed Severus enough to wake him. After a minute or two of silence he said, “I think it would be nice if you could sleep easily each night, and always wake up feeling refreshed, don’t you? So relaxed, so comfortable, so free from conscious worry.”

Harry kept his voice very soft and his cadence measured. He wanted to tap into the condition his mentor was already in, bypassing the need to try and take him under from a waking state. His book, though more geared toward self-hypnosis, had given him an overview of various techniques that could be used on other people.

“You don’t need those lines and that unhappy expression. You feel very relaxed, don’t you. I think those lines are just going to smooth right away and you’re going to relax more, aren’t you.”

Harry jerked back when Severus shifted unexpectedly, his heart pounding in his chest. He waited several more minutes before whispering again, now worried that his mentor slept so shallowly that his goal might be a good deal more difficult that he had anticipated. Still, he couldn’t make progress without trying, so Harry continued speaking, working on the premise that Severus would get used to his voice over time. And then, he’d be able to start getting serious.

Luck wasn’t in the cards—at least not for that night. Harry was just about to start his next set of vague statements and suggestions when Severus’s eyes fluttered open and gazed at him in mild confusion. “Haze?” he murmured sleepily.

Thinking quickly, Harry said, “I couldn’t sleep.” He was thankful it was dark enough to mask most of his expression.

“And you came here?”

Harry shrugged and gave his mentor a faint smile. “I didn’t want to trip over Mrs Norris in the halls, but I didn’t feel like being alone either. I hope you don’t mind—I didn’t mean to wake you. I can go if you prefer.”

“It’s all right, Haze.” Severus propped himself up slightly. “Why couldn’t you sleep?”

Harry dropped back on his haunches and rested his hands on the edge of the bed. “I guess I was a little too excited about getting my license. It’s not as good as flying, but it makes me feel a lot more free nonetheless.” He looked at the ceiling and sighed. “It’s a hopeful thing.”

“I suppose I can understand that. But what exactly did you hope to accomplish by kneeling at my bedside?” Severus arched a brow.

Harry laughed softly, and a little uneasily. “I don’t know. I really didn’t mean to wake you, but it felt nice to be in here for a little bit. I thought it would relax me enough to be able to sleep, that’s all. I’m not usually so restless.”

If possible, Severus’s brow raised higher. “Restless? Well, as I am unquestionably awake, perhaps I can suggest several ideas. Your lessons are over, so you need not be up at any specific time. You could try any number of the beginning series of potions for your Mastery, for example.”

Harry kept his mouth straight, repressing a grin that threatened to erupt. “I could do that, yes.”

“You could also take a half dose of sleeping draught. Or, a very warm bath along with a dry text and a glass of wine.”

Harry laughed again. “I don’t even know what good wine is, and in any case, I think a dry text would just make me more restless. I suppose the half dose would be the most expedient. Thank you for the suggestions.”

“You’re welcome, Haze. The next time you feel restless, however, come see me before I’ve already gone to sleep. Now, if you don’t mind. . . .”

Harry knelt up and casually moved a hand onto his mentor’s covered leg. “I understand. You’re tired. Thank you for not getting angry.” After giving him a soft pat, Harry got to his feet. “I’ll let you get back to sleep.”

Severus rolled over onto his back and cleared his throat. Harry paused in the doorway and looked back. “Unless you’re also feeling restless. . . .”

“You did wake me,” Severus pointed out.

“I’d be . . . happy . . . to make it up to you,” Harry said with ingenuously wide eyes. He reversed and stepped back into the room. The subtle yet unmistakable changes in his mentor’s face told him all that he needed to know about his best course of action. Harry moved back to the side of the bed and sat on the edge. “So. Just how restless are you?” he asked archly.

After getting a narrow-eyed glare for his attempt at levity, Harry stood back up and shrugged his robe off his shoulders, then tugged off his boxers. Pulling back the covers took but a moment, and Harry was happy to see that Severus didn’t believe in overdressing for bed.

Some time later, as Harry was preparing to return to his own rooms, Severus said sleepily, “I shan’t be upset in the future either if you continue with such an effective method of apology for your transgressions.”

When Harry stepped back into his bedroom a satisfied smile etched his mouth. But when he sat down a sense of disappointment swept over him. He flopped back with a heavy sigh and stared at the ceiling blindly.


It took almost a week for Harry to research deep enough to find a temporary solution. Severus was a rightly paranoid man and that was something Harry had to work around, over, or under. He had still gone to his mentor’s room every night and spent a short time whispering suggestions about deeper relaxation and comfort at the sound of his voice. And every night he sneaked back out as soon as Severus seemed in the least disturbed or about to wake up. He was able to extend his time by a few minutes each time, and took that as a hopeful sign.

But it wasn’t enough, and it was taking too long. Dobby turned out to be the perfect accessory to his plans. Though he worked for Hogwarts, he did not have a Master. Add in his near-worship of Harry and it was a perfect combination. Dobby was more than happy to fall in—even though he wasn’t the one to prepare Severus’s food that night, or even deliver it, he had no trouble whatsoever making sure it had that extra special touch Harry had arranged for.

When Harry sneaked in that night, the stage was set. Severus wouldn’t be waking up unexpectedly, even if Harry danced on his bed, though that might have caused some odd dreams. He conjured up a chair next to the bed and sat down.

“Severus, I want you to listen to me very carefully,” he said in a low, soothing voice. “I know you must be feeling so very relaxed right now, and that’s good, because you should be relaxed and comfortable. Right now you can’t think of anything you’d rather be doing than to be lying there and listening to the sound of my voice. With each word I say you sink deeper into the embrace of your bed, deeper into your relaxed state. You can hear me, but you feel absolutely no desire to wake up, do you?”

He heard a vague noise from the bed. “In fact, you won’t wake up until your normal time in the morning, isn’t that right?” Another vague noise prompted Harry to say, “Yes, that’s right. And when you do wake up you’ll feel refreshed and alert, like you’ve had the best night of sleep in your life.”

Harry spent a half hour speaking in the same vein before expanding his focus. “Severus, I want you to tell me if you can hear me.”

“Yes.”

“But you’re still asleep, aren’t you, Severus.”

“Yes.”

Harry nearly clapped in excitement. “You feel incredibly relaxed, isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me who I am, Severus,” Harry commanded quietly.

“Haze.”

“That’s right, Severus. But you won’t remember any part of this conversation when you wake up in the morning, will you?”

“No.”

Though his mentor’s monotonic responses were vaguely unsettling in comparison to his normally rich speaking voice, Harry persisted with his plans. “Very good. Right now your subconscious is in control while your waking mind is deeply asleep and relaxed.” He felt a surge of satisfaction when he realized that his mentor’s eyelids were fluttering as though he were experiencing a dream.

“Severus, I’m going to set up a few rules, and I know that will make you happy. From now on, when you see me twist the rings on my finger, you’ll fall into a deeply relaxed trance.” Harry paused a second, then asked, “When you see me twist the rings on my finger, what will you do, Severus?”

“I will fall into a deeply relaxed trance,” Severus repeated obediently.

“That’s right. Very good. Now, when I ask you to open your eyes, Severus, you will do so, but your conscious mind will stay deeply relaxed and asleep. Only your subconscious mind will be aware. Severus, open your eyes.”

Harry held his breath as his mentor’s eyes slowly fluttered open. Looking closely he could see that they were reddened, and slowly exhaled. He remained silent for several minutes, until he was reassured by the way Severus’s eyes kept tearing up and causing him to blink rapidly every so often.

“Severus, I want you to tell me what the rules are so far.”

“Whenever I see you twist the rings on your finger I will fall into a deeply relaxed trance, and when you ask me to open my eyes I will, but my conscious mind will stay deeply relaxed and asleep, with only my subconscious mind being aware.”

“All right, that’s very good. Severus, it’s also a rule that you will never consciously remember anything of what happens during the time you are in a trance. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Severus, you understand that the trance you’re currently in, this deeply relaxed state, is also called hypnosis, correct?” When his mentor agreed, Harry said, “The next rule, Severus, is that the only person who can induce this trance in you, this state of hypnosis, is me, Haze, also known as Harry Potter. No one else, not even you, can cause you to fall into a trance. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“That’s right. You’re doing exceptionally well, Severus. I’m very proud of you. Will you please repeat back to me all of the rules so far?” A minute later, after his mentor had complied, Harry said, “You feel so deeply relaxed, so deeply hypnotized. Now, I don’t want your subconscious mind to forget any of these rules, so each and every time you eat or drink I want your subconscious mind to remember all of the rules I’ve stated. That will include any rules you learn from me in the future. Do you understand, Severus?”

“I understand.”

“In a minute I’m going to let you go back to a normal sleep, Severus, but before I do that I have a couple of questions for you. How are you going to feel when you wake up in the morning?”

“Refreshed and alert.”

“That’s right. What are you going to remember after you’ve woken up in the morning?”

“That I went to sleep and then I woke up.”

“So you won’t remember any of this conversation, or anything that happened while you were in this trance.”

Though Harry had made it a statement, Severus said, “No.”

“You’ve made me very happy, Severus. I’d like you to close your eyes now and drop into a normal, very restful sleep.”

In seconds Severus was sleeping peacefully once again, so Harry stood and vanished the chair he’d made. After leaning over to brush the hair back from his mentor’s face, he left quietly and returned to his rooms. In his own bed, Harry was able to finally relax. Everything had seemed to go perfectly—all the signs had been there that were said to be hallmarks of a true hypnotic state, supposedly ones that could not be faked.

However, he knew that he was taking some risks regardless. What he had read suggested that a subject ought to be taken in and out of trance several times once a rapid induction method had been established. But, he hadn’t wanted to interfere with the potion he’d had Dobby slip into Severus’s evening meal. He had to make sure to find a reason to visit, not only to verify that the rapid induction method would work, but to introduce a wake-up rule and get started on the real reason he had done all this in the first place. With those thoughts in mind, Harry focused on getting some sleep himself.

When he did wake up later that morning it was well past his usual time. Not really feeling like making his own breakfast, Harry firecalled the kitchens and requested for one to be delivered, then headed for the bathroom to wake up properly in the shower. His meal was waiting when he emerged in a dressing gown—he wasn’t sure who’d put it in his rooms, but it was more comfortable than just a towel—so he sat down to enjoy the food while he read the morning edition of The Daily Prophet.

It took him a while to decide on what excuse he would use with Severus, and what additions he wanted to make to his plan. Eventually Harry got dressed and pulled out his current Mastery-related book, then read until it was almost time for lunch. After marking his spot, Harry tucked the book under his arm and took the conventional route to the Potions Master’s rooms, hoping as he knocked that Severus would be in. And he was, inviting Harry in simply by stepping back and gesturing.

“Haze,” he said once the door was closed.

“Sir.” Harry gave him a lopsided smile and flipped the book into view. “I had a question for you, and I thought—well, it’s been a while since we’ve had lunch together, so I was hoping you might like company, and I could get your opinion at the same time.”

“I don’t see why not. Is there anything in particular you were looking forward to?”

Harry shook his head and went to sit down while Severus ordered a meal for two. While they were waiting he opened the book at his marked spot and showed it to his mentor. “I wanted to know if you thought I was doing well as far as time went. Am I getting behind, or. . . ?”

Severus’s reply was cut off by the arrival of the food, but after the house-elf popped out he said, “You’re a bit ahead, Haze, so there’s nothing to be concerned about. If you’re interested in being more self-aware about your progress—at least as far as retention is concerned—I can recommend a test booklet that covers all the areas you’d be expected to know. It’s similar to what I did prior to your NEWTs last year.”

“That would be great,” Harry said between forkfuls. “I thought that was really helpful. It made me a lot more confident and less stressed.”

The remainder of lunch was spent on potions talk. Harry outlined what he had done so far in terms of working through the curriculum according to the guide Hermione had gifted him and asked for tips on managing his time and workflow on some of the more difficult concoctions. Severus seemed almost happy to be discussing his favorite topic with someone knowledgeable enough and intelligent enough to appreciate it.

When they moved to the grouping by the fire, with Severus taking his customary chair, Harry decided to take the plunge. After a quick check to make sure Severus was actually looking at him, he turned his gaze toward the fire while absently twisting his parents’ wedding rings around his finger. A moment later he looked back to see his mentor sitting quite still with his eyes closed. Without stopping to think about it, Harry said, “Severus, are you all right?”

“Yes.”

Harry rubbed his nose then propped his chin in the palm of one hand. “How are you feeling right now?”

“Deeply relaxed.”

“Severus, open your eyes please.” His mentor’s eyes were already reddening, so Harry felt it was safe to proceed. “Severus, I have a new rule for you. Whenever you pass from a hypnotic trance to normal consciousness the passage of time will not concern you, and you will simply feel that you have been deeply in thought. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

That’s right, very good. Severus, here’s another new rule for you to remember. From now on, whenever I tell you to wake up, you will go from a hypnotic trance to normal consciousness. But before that happens, I want you to repeat back to me all of the rules.” A minute later Harry was satisfied and said, “Severus, wake up,” after he had turned his head back to the fire.

Awareness immediately changed the cast of his mentor’s expression, as Harry saw in his peripheral vision. He angled his gaze back and smiled. “Would that test booklet be something I could get right from Flourish & Blotts?” he asked.

“Indeed. If you’d rather not ask for someone to go fetch it, you can order by owl as well.”

“Brilliant.” Harry made a bit of a show shifting his position in his chair to get more comfortable, stretching his legs out in front of him, and catching Severus’s eye again by the movement. Then he fiddled with his rings again.

He spent the next hour taking his mentor in and out of a trance before getting down to his specific goals. Harry had no intention of interfering with whatever Severus did, even when it concerned losing control to the man’s designs. He could always modify anything he didn’t agree with after the fact. But he did mean to find out a great deal more about the Dark Mark, and Severus was the only person he knew that could begin to provide him with information from the point of view of one who must live with it.

“Severus, I several more rules for you. First, I want you to pay very close attention every time you feel any activity from your Dark Mark. You will be able to remember every detail of how it feels and what it does to you. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. Next, before you go to bed tonight you will feel the urge to write down everything you remember from when you were given the Dark Mark—how it felt, how it was accomplished, and what you remember of the Dark Lord’s actions at the time. When you are finished you will place the written account into an envelope and seal it, then deliver it to my bedroom through the secret door and return to your quarters the same way. Then you will forget all of what you’ve just done and go about your normal business before bed. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

And then one just because—Harry said, “Severus, you will invite me to call you by your given name the next time we meet, and feel perfectly comfortable in making the offer, isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve made me very happy, Severus. Does that please you?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s all right. Severus, what will you do each and every time you eat or drink?”

“My subconscious will remember the rules you have taught me.”

Harry unleashed a brilliant smile that was, unfortunately, wasted on his mentor, then said, “Severus, wake up. Do you have a brochure or something from Flourish & Blotts, or should I just send them the request and they’ll know what I’m asking about?”

“No, I have one you can use. But I suggest that when you send in the order you request a catalog of your own.” Severus pointed over at one of the shelves. “Over there, but I would appreciate if you returned it when you’re done.

“Of course.” Harry immediately leapt up to secure the catalog, then paused to flip through it quickly. Turning back he said, “Thank you for letting me join you for lunch, and for your advice. I don’t want to take up all of your afternoon, so I’ll go get started on this.”

As he’d hoped, Severus didn’t appear to notice how much time had actually passed. He merely inclined his head and picked up a book he had waiting on the small table next to his chair and began to read. Harry grabbed his book and left quietly.

Later that evening Harry heard soft footsteps and went still, waiting. When he could hear nothing more from his bedroom he went in to check, finding a thick envelope on the table beside his bed. He went to sleep that night very, very pleased with himself.

Chapter Text

As it turned out, the notes Severus had written didn’t tell Harry much more than he already knew or had assumed. It was certainly a painful initiation into the cadre of Death Eaters to be marked. More curious was the fact that the a single spell was used both to create a Dark Mark in the sky and on a person. In the one instance, it created an image in the sky—with no actual target, that was all it could do. Its value and purpose was in the fear or confusion it caused in the populace.

But when used on a person the effect was multiplied. The Mark was created, to be sure, but in addition to the fear it inspired, it served as a means to summon all others so marked, and to serve as a beacon for those same people. Harry knew from his own training that one must have the proper visualization in order to apparate. Death Eaters could apparate to an unknown location simply by virtue of another of their member having their Mark touched by Voldemort.

It had not occurred to Harry that a spell could have such diverse functions. Certainly, one could cast Incendio in an attempt to have it act as a flare rather than to set something on fire, but that wasn’t quite the same thing. Perhaps it was just that he wasn’t thinking clearly to find other, better examples of multifunction spells. Perhaps he needed to understand his own link with Voldemort better.

Harry reviewed what he did know. The Mark may or may not be permanent—in his fourth year he had overheard the conversation between Severus and Karkaroff where they had discussed how much darker it had been getting. He could speculate on whether or not it would have disappeared entirely if Voldemort had in fact died, but that probably wouldn’t get him anywhere. However, the intensity of the colour could be used as an indication of how healthy the Dark Lord was.

Based on what he’d witnessed in the graveyard at the end of that year he could say that the Mark functioned as a beacon, but he couldn’t say definitively if it could also be used to cause pain to an individual not in contact with Voldemort. Harry had spent very little time around Death Eaters, with very little evidence in consequence. Since there were no reports—that he was aware of—of fatalities among the Death Eater contingent when Voldemort had been defeated, he could suppose that the Mark was not a way for the Dark Lord to drain his followers for his own benefit.

In other words, he thought, it’s unlikely that the death of Voldemort would mean the death of Severus.

But Harry wasn’t so sure he wanted to take that chance. He did feel something for the man, after all, something more than just admiration for Severus’s intelligence and talent in the lab. Seeing what Severus had written wasn’t enough, and the only place he was likely to find what he needed was from the mind of his nemesis. How he was going to accomplish that. . . .

The pages went back into the envelope and then into his school trunk in the closet. Harry couldn’t conceive of a reason why Severus would check inside. He didn’t have a better place to put the information in any case. Unless he felt like making the Chamber of Secrets into a storage facility, he would have to trust in the basic nature of his mentor, or pester Remus for an alternative.

Everything he’d been brought through, been taught, was designed to keep him safe from the depredations of Voldemort—to deflect and confuse. Nothing of that was meant to give him a safe bulwark to hide behind if he decided to do a little bit of purposeful spying. It was possible that any of the times he decided to question Severus that he might find out more information, such as when the last time was that Severus felt his mark burning, and how he knew what it meant. And in fact, that probably wouldn’t be a bad angle of attack. But it still came down to figuring out how to spy safely from within Voldemort’s mind.

Harry did know—subconsciously at least—when he was being attacked. That much he understood from what he had gleaned after calling up his memories of the sessions Severus had put him through. If he knew that consciously, it would be a start. Harry didn’t think it was unreasonable to assume that if hypnotism could give him that original measure of safety, that it could also assist him in remaining invisible if he chose to allow the connection to happen. It would, however, take some very careful wording, as he didn’t want to disturb what his protections were already accomplishing.

Harry sat back, suddenly aware that he had no idea if they were working as designed. He moved out to his desk and sat down, pulling out a fresh sheet of parchment. On it he wrote down his current questions for Severus: an accounting of the last time he’d felt the Mark burn or activate; and whether or not his protections were working properly. After drawing a dividing line, he started in on what he needed to do to his own conditioning and reinforcements.

1. I must not interfere with the current function(s) of the protections.

2. I must be able to know consciously when I am being attacked.

3. I must be able to maintain a one-way connection.

4. I must be invisible while spying through the connection.

5. I must still be able to experience things from Voldemort’s POV.

6. I must be able to withdraw at will without alerting Voldemort.

7. I must remove Severus’s directive that I will write down any visions I have of Voldemort for delivery to him, but continue to include that in the list he can trigger.

Harry included the last one as an afterthought. While he had every intention of being awake when he attempted to spy, he couldn’t guarantee that the wording of the directive allowed him a loophole. It was safer to remove it entirely and pretend that it still existed. Even then, he did not plan to try spying the moment he realized he was being attacked—he wanted to get comfortable with the sensation first, and give himself time for the changes he planned to make to entrench.

It was a lucky thing that Harry had already requested and received from Remus several more recording devices. He could create an entirely new induction routine for himself, one that depended on a rapid induction directive inserted into his original device. He would be able to leave out all of the normal patter designed to take him under and devote the time instead to a listing of directives he could continue to expand as necessary.

But, he thought suddenly, it would be wise to include a directive making sure that no one could use the devices against me.

After revising his list in his warded lab, and then drafting out a new speech to record, Harry went ahead and made the recording. He listened to it to make sure he hadn’t made any mistakes, then marked it with the number two and made a note of where each directive began and ended. He made an addition to the end of his original recording, adding the rapid induction trigger, then labeled that with the number one and fixed the notations.

Satisfied, Harry set up his candle and played the first recording. When he was returned to full consciousness, he played the second recording. Finally, he packed everything away in his trunk and went to meet Remus for lunch.

“Do you think it’s possible to get so good that you’d be utterly silent when apparating?” Harry asked once they had been served.

“In theory, yes,” replied Remus. “But it seems to me that going slowly enough to make that happen would mean you’d be taking a long time to make the transfer, which could render you vulnerable in an emergency.”

Harry thought about that while he ate several forkfuls.

“Why are you asking, anyway?”

“Oh, just curious, Moony. I always wondered why it could be so loud. I understand the whole air displacement thing and reckoned speed was a factor.”

“You weren’t thinking—no, never mind. That’s an unworthy question. I know you’re a curious person, Harry, and that’s a logical question for you to ask.”

Harry shrugged and gave his friend a smile. “I’m not thinking of doing anything foolish, if that’s what you meant. I just like to know how things work. Anyway, it’s not like I’ll have many chances to test theories, if any.”

“How’s the revision going?”

“Great, actually. Professor Snape tells me I’m a little bit ahead—I showed him where I was up to the other day. I think that’s pretty encouraging, and he also lent me a catalog so I could owl order a test booklet. I wanted a way to check my retention, you know?”

“That’s wonderful news, Harry. Have you ordered it yet?”

“No. I haven’t looked through it yet to see what it is I need to order. I was going to do that after lunch.”

“If you want it sooner, I could go. I don’t mind,” Remus offered.

“I’d rather go with you,” Harry said, fluttering his lashes in an exaggerated manner, then held up his hand. “But I know I shouldn’t. I won’t object, though, if you wanted to pick it up. Besides, then you could have dinner with me.”

“If you insist,” Remus said and smiled. “But we have to actually finish lunch or we won’t get anywhere.”

“There you go being all rational again. But all right. After we finish up you can come with me so I can figure out what I need. And since I’ll just be reading in my lounge, I’ll hear when you knock.”

“Done.”

Approximately two hours later, Harry heard the expected knock at his door. He marked his place and set down his book, then got up to let Remus in, after checking to make sure it was, in fact, the right person. Remus dutifully handed over the booklet and a catalog, which made Harry smile, then seated himself on Harry’s couch. Harry sat down in his chair, placing the booklet on top of the book he’d been reading, and faced his friend.

“Moony, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Remus leaned forward slightly and said, “Yes?”

“It’s kind of a delicate subject.” Harry looked down for a second before continuing. “There’s been some things—well, one thing—I hadn’t been ready to face.”

Remus straightened up and arched a brow.

“And see, I thought—I’d like to think—that I can trust you, and be open with you.”

“I’d like to think so too, Harry.”

“Remember how you gave me that book on self-hypnosis? Well, I tried it. I was thinking, you know, that I could maybe help myself get over how much portkeys still tend to upset me? And I’ve been working on that, not that I’ve had a chance to test the results. But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about. It’s just the beginning. See, I thought, as long as I was messing with my head, that I could get a few answers out of myself about certain things.” Harry felt the faintest stirrings of guilt at not being completely honest, but then, Severus had used hypnosis to reveal the truth, so it was close enough.

“What kind of things?” Remus seemed to be torn between sitting back and leaning closer again.

“That’s where it gets delicate. I don’t know your views on it, so I’m worried—worried that you won’t approve. I’m not trying to be coy, Moony, I’m just nervous.”

Remus patted the spot beside him and said, “This is really awkward with you sitting way over there.” After Harry had taken the indicated spot, he resumed. “Look, I can’t promise you anything, Harry, but I do know this—you’re one of the few people who accepted me being a werewolf. You even gave us the chance—Sirius and me—to explain what had happened all those years ago. Maybe we haven’t been as close as I would have liked, but if I can’t accept whatever it is you’re trying to tell me, then I’m less of a man than I ought to be.”

Harry took a deep breath. “All right. I’d been thinking for a long time that maybe something wasn’t right, but on the other hand I didn’t want to think about it too hard either.” He rolled his eyes and smiled. “I feel like such an idiot. I’m supposed to be brave and courageous, right? So, I’m gay. Does that bother you?”

When Remus didn’t respond immediately, Harry looked down at his hands. A second later his head shot up when Remus said, “That’s it? I thought you were going to tell me something horrible, like you were planning on having a torrid affair with Minerva.”

Harry’s relief came in the form of shaky laughter.

“She’s much too old for you, after all,” Remus added with a grin. “Really, Harry, I don’t care if you fell for the giant squid, except I don’t think he’s your type. Is it a he? I really don’t know.” Remus shrugged and pulled Harry in for a quick hug. “Seriously—I don’t care, Harry. It doesn’t bother me in the least.”

Harry flopped backwards and exhaled. “Well, I feel better now. I don’t think I could stand it if—”

“I take it you haven’t told Ron or Hermione?”

Harry lifted his head up enough so he could shake it, then sat back up. “I thought it would be better to start with you.”

“I realize you took a big risk here, Harry. Personally, I have no idea how either of them would feel about it, and I’m not sure how you’d find out without actually telling them. It isn’t very subtle to walk up to either of them and ask how they feel about homosexuality.”

Harry ruffled his hair and sighed. “Yes, I know. It’s also not very polite to obliviate your friends if it turns out they’re horrified by the very idea.”

Remus chuckled. “No.” He started to look away, then snapped his head back. “Harry, you weren’t flirting with me earlier, were you?”

Harry burst out laughing. “No, not really. Just having some fun. Considering I think of you like an uncle or something, that’d be pretty odd of me.” He paused, frowned, then said, “Well, an uncle I actually care about.”

“Ah, that’s all right, then.” A heartbeat later he said, “Do you really?”

Harry experienced a moment of confusion before he realized what Remus was referring to. “Of course I do, though I know you can’t actually be that. I still care about you, and not just because you were so close to my dad. It isn’t like you had to stick around or anything, but you are still here. I assume it isn’t because of some sick fascination, though I guess maybe you might feel you ought to try to look out for me.” He shrugged. “I would hope you like me for who I actually am, and not just because of who my father is.”

“I do, Harry. I do. Things didn’t start out in the best way, I admit, but I do care about you. The question is, Harry, how do you feel about what you’ve found out?”

“I’m fine. I mean, I knew there had to be a reason I kept—well now I know, and I’ve had a chance to get comfortable with the idea. I’d say it’s just another aspect of being so different, but I know there’s got to be plenty of people like me, so I won’t kid myself. After all, it would already be a circus if I were to start dating a girl. It can’t be that much worse, then, if I were to date a man, right?”

“I suppose not when you put it that way. All that matters is that you’re happy. It would be a different story if you couldn’t accept a part of yourself, because then you’d never be happy no matter who you chose, or didn’t.”

“I reckon I won’t say anything to Ron or Hermione just yet. Maybe it is cowardly, but we’ll all be here all this year, and I don’t think I could handle being estranged from them if the worst happened.”

“That’s your choice, Harry, and I won’t try to change your mind. But I think you know I’m always happy to talk if you need to.”

Harry nodded and smiled, then changed the subject. “It’s almost time for the students to be returning, which should mean my training should also be starting. Anything you want to share about what I should expect?”

They spent the hours up to and through dinner discussing what was in store for him over the year to come when he wasn’t studying for his Mastery. When Remus did eventually leave Harry felt incredibly relieved and comforted. Someone he cared about was perfectly all right with who and what he was—Severus didn’t exactly count.

And speaking of Severus, he thought, I need to have a little talk with him. But first. . . .

As it was still fairly early, Harry went in search of the headmaster, and was lucky enough to catch him on the second floor landing. “Sir, I had a quick question for you, if that’s all right.”

“Of course, dear boy. What is it? Should we go to my office first?”

Harry shook his head. “No, I was just wondering—when the school year starts, where should I be having my meals? I’m no longer a student.”

“That is up to you, Harry. If you wish to sit with your Gryffindor friends, that is fine. If not, you can either sit at the head table with Remus or eat in your rooms. Whatever is most comfortable for you.”

“Oh, all right. Thank you very much, sir. I didn’t realize I’d have so many options.”

“Was there anything else you needed to discuss, Harry? I always have time for you, dear boy.” Dumbledore wore his customary gentle smile and his eyes twinkled merrily.

Harry smiled back and said, “Not really. But you might like to know that Professor Snape tells me I’m ahead of where I ought to be in my studies.”

“Excellent news! Listen, I want you to be able to come and see me at any time, so I’ll be sure to let you know from now on when the password for my office changes. At the moment you can get in using Refreshers. And now, I’ll just be on my way. I have some fresh fruit for Fawkes.”

“Thank you again, professor. Please give my regards to Fawkes?” Harry gave a little wave and loped off once Dumbledore had nodded. Back in his room he grabbed one of the catalogs and went back out and around to Severus’s door, then knocked. Thirty seconds later he was admitted to his mentor’s rooms.

“I wanted to bring back the catalog I borrowed,” he explained. Severus nodded and returned to his chair, so Harry placed the catalog back where he had got it from.

“Haze, as you’re no longer a student, you may call me Severus, but only in private. I still expect you to be properly respectful around others.”

Harry whipped around, startled, and said, “Oh! Thank you, sir. Severus.” He stepped closer and asked, “Have you found anything on soul magic?”

“Unfortunately, no. But I did warn you it would be extremely difficult.”

Harry sighed with disappointment and dropped to his knees. “Oh well.” It had the effect of solidifying his intention to spy, not only for information on the Dark Mark, but also for some kind of weakness he could exploit. He raised his eyes slowly.

“I have not given up, Haze.” Severus favored him with an impatient look.

“Sorry,” Harry said as he twisted his rings. Severus closed his eyes, all expression draining from his face like water sheeting down glass. Harry maintained his position on the floor. “Severus, open your eyes.”

Despite his earlier successes, Harry couldn’t quite trust that it would work each time, so he waited until the signs he knew to look for began to appear. “Severus, I have a new rule for you. You will not, under any circumstances, look in any of the trunks I have in my quarters. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Very good. I also have some questions for you. Do you know if the protections you helped me to set up, the mental defenses, are working as you expected?”

“To the best of my knowledge, yes.”

“So the attempt to use the confundus charm against Voldemort is having an effect?”

“I believe so. The Dark Lord has been making some very odd decisions of late, giving strange commands to his followers.”

“All right. Severus, please tell me what you feel when your Dark Mark activates.”

“I feel a burning sensation coming from it.”

“What does that mean, or tell you?”

“It is a summons.”

“For all those Marked, or just you?”

“It can mean either.”

“Are you able to tell the difference?”

“No.”

“Do you know if Voldemort can exclude specific people from a general summons?”

“To the best of my knowledge, yes, he can.”

“Who are you loyal to, Severus?”

“Myself.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Are you loyal to Albus Dumbledore?”

“Yes.”

“Are you also loyal to Voldemort?”

“No.”

“Severus, I have another rule for you. Any time you intend to use the secret door in your living area, the one that leads to my bedroom, you will check to see if my bedroom door is open or not before you speak the password. If my bedroom door is closed you will not open the secret door. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Brilliant.” Harry made sure of the position of his hands, then said, “Severus, wake up. I’ll try to be more patient.”

“See that you are, Haze. Now, unless you plan on making this interruption worth my while, please take yourself off.”

“I never mind making it worthwhile, Severus.” Harry got to his feet and advanced, something between a smile and a smirk on his lips. “It’s my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until the day the students were to arrive that Harry felt comfortable enough to move ahead with his newest plans. He had been made aware of several attacks against him, keeping his definition of attack to mean any time Voldemort either deliberately tried to access his mind, or when it happened inadvertently because Voldemort’s emotions were running high. However, because the students were expected, he thought it would probably be a bad idea to render himself unavailable just then.

So, instead, Harry set to thinking about what he wanted to do about Severus’s Dark Mark. Assuming he could actually figure out how to remove it, he had no idea what he would actually do at that point. If he were to remove it, a lot of questions would be raised—questions Harry wouldn’t want to answer. But leaving it in place presented a different kind of danger.

Well, he thought, I reckon there’s no sense in getting wound up about it until I have more information.

After coming to that conclusion, Harry went back to his studies. His morning was spent in the lab working on another new potion he needed to master. Lunch was a quiet affair in his lounge after having firecalled for a meal, and then he was back in his lab for another potion. By the time he left to take a shower before dinner, Harry’s hair was feeling decidedly oily, making him all that much more ready to clean up. In retrospect, he felt a slight pang of guilt for having called Severus a greasy git in the past.

He dried himself off and dressed, then walked to the main entrance and spoke to Professor McGonagall. “Would it be all right if I went down to meet the train, or should I remain here?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “I see no reason why you cannot. But I trust you will be cautious and watchful.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Harry took off before she could change her mind, jumping into a carriage outside before it had a chance to start its journey down to the station. When he arrived, Hagrid was already waiting, so they chatted until the train pulled up. Hagrid began his calls for the first years, so Harry waited patiently for his friends to disembark.

“Harry!” came a shout from further down the platform. He turned to see Ron and Hermione racing up toward him, dodging around other students and garnering more than a few dark looks in the process. He caught Hermione in a hug, then exchanged a round of back slaps with Ron in greeting. They immediately made for a carriage and piled in.

“I thought I’d sit at the Gryffindor table tonight so we can catch up,” Harry said.

“I’d been wondering about that,” said Hermione. “You aren’t a student now, so we had no idea where you’d be sitting for meals.”

Harry nodded. “I have a choice, basically. I can sit with you, at the head table with Remus, or eat in my rooms. And I’ll probably end up doing all of those depending on how busy I am or how I feel at the time.”

“I still can’t believe you’re going for your Mastery,” said Ron with a slight frown. “But if it makes you happy. . . .”

“It does,” Harry affirmed. “I’m having loads of fun.” He cut himself off, continuing once they were inside the Great Hall and seated. “That guide you got me for my birthday has been lots of help too, Hermione. I also picked up a test booklet so I can gauge my retention of the material.”

She gave him a bright smile in response. “That’s very nice, Harry. But shush now. They’re bringing in the first years.”

Ron rolled his eyes and settled into a bored expression—leavened occasionally by morose glances at his empty plate—as each new child was sorted into a house. Harry clapped for all of them, even the new Slytherins, and was not in the least surprised when Dumbledore stated during his start of term announcements that Hermione was that year’s Head Girl. He did, of course, give her a pleased hug before loading up his plate.

In between bites he told Ron, “Your mum’s cooking is just as good as this, so I was quite happy with what you sent for my birthday. Aunt Petunia isn’t that good of a cook.”

Ron grunted; his mouth was stuffed.

When the meal was nearing its end, Harry said, “Do either of you have to be in a meeting or anything right after? I know you must have been in one already on the train.”

“No,” Hermione answered. “Why?”

“Why? I wanted to show you my rooms. Thought you might like to see where I’m living. I reckon if I don’t, you’ll be asking soon enough.” Harry gave her a cheeky grin.

Ron nodded vigorously as Hermione shot Harry a dark look. “Yes,” she said primly, “I would like to see them.”

“Great. It won’t take but a few minutes and I assume you’ve already told the Gryffindor prefects the password for the tower.”

“Did you want to know it as well?” she asked.

“Should I? I’m not a student anymore, or staff.”

Hermione frowned slightly and tapped her chin. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “I’ll have to ask and get back to you on that.”

Harry nodded, and, when Ron had finished eating, he led them down into the dungeons, ignoring the horrified look on Ron’s face during the short trip. At the door he hissed the password, then gestured for them to enter ahead of him.

“It’s not much, but I rather like it,” Harry explained. “I’ve got a lab, a small kitchen, bedroom, and bath, but I might have told you that in my last letter.”

“It’s very nice, Harry,” Hermione commented, then stuck her head into the lab and gasped. “Merlin, Harry, you’ve got everything in here.”

Noticing a faint look of unease on Ron’s face, Harry said, “Yeah. I was really surprised when I saw what they’d done. I’ve been using it a lot, though, and it means I don’t have to intrude on classes or anything. At least if I blow something up I won’t have any witnesses to laugh at me.” That made Ron grin, so Harry relaxed.

“That fireplace doesn’t allow for floo travel, does it?” asked Ron.

“No. Just firecalls. I’m not even sure I can firecall to anyone outside the castle—I’ve never bothered to try.”

“Well, Harry, if things get really rough this year, I might ask you occasionally if I can work here to get away from the hordes of people in the common room or the library.”

Harry shrugged and nodded at Hermione. “As long as I can be here, I don’t see why not. I don’t know yet what kind of schedule I’ll be on. The Mastery work is mostly self-study, but the Defense training schedule is something I have to work out with Remus.” He turned to Ron and said, “Do you know yet who’s Captain this year?”

Ron puffed out his chest and said, “I am. Got the letter just last week.”

“That’s brilliant, mate! I’m really proud of you. I knew you could do it.” Harry smiled widely and slapped Ron on the back. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me at dinner.”

Ron gave him a sideways look and said, “I was busy eating. You know.”

Hermione spoke up to say, “It’s getting on, so we should head up to the tower. Harry, I’ll ask Professor McGonagall about the password, all right? Come along now, Ron. We don’t want to set a bad example.” Before Harry had a chance to say anything else she had taken Ron by the arm and dragged him out the door.

Harry didn’t sense any attacks that night, or for the next few. He did, however, get to talk to Remus about his Defense training and begin his lessons. Going on the theory that after a hard morning of work at Potions Harry would be less alert, Remus scheduled training on weekday afternoons. He had said by way of explanation, “If you’re tired, your reflexes will be blunted, so if I can get excellent results out of you now, you’ll be even better when you’re refreshed.”

Rather than start Harry out immediately on dueling, though, Remus had begun forcing him to inventory the contents of the room they were in, plus provide a use for each item in a combat situation. For example, if there was a blanket or other covering of some sort available, Harry could try to maneuver his opponent around so that he could—in theory—levitate the material up and over to drop on his opponent and temporarily blind him. Benches could be kicked or flung across the room, dirt could be scooped up out of sight and thrown into his attacker’s eyes. Rocks could be used to divert a spell off target. Harry recognized that Dumbledore had used similar tactics against Voldemort at the Ministry, and applied himself industriously to the mental conditioning.

The second aspect of his early lessons was to moderate the volume of his voice as he cast spells with the aim of bringing it down to a mere whisper. What one’s opponent couldn’t hear, or lip read—assuming the wand movements didn’t give the spell away—they couldn’t counter as easily. And because wand movement recognition was a risk, Harry concentrated on reducing those to the absolute minimum as well.

The first time Harry did feel an attack was the first Friday night of the term. He had eaten dinner in the Great Hall with his friends, then gone up to visit in Gryffindor tower for several hours, and was only just back in his rooms when he felt the peculiar sliding sensation over his barriers that heralded an attack. After checking to be sure his bedroom door was closed, Harry flung himself on the couch and closed his eyes, reminding himself to breathe normally.

A second later he was carefully inching along the connection he could feel—that was the image supplied by his mind—working his way closer and closer to the source. Abruptly, he was seeing out of eyes not his own.

He laughed wildly as he stared at the heavily-breathing figure on the floor. “Crucio!” he said in exaltation, cackling as the figure erupted into fresh spasms and earsplitting howls of pain. “You’ll have to do better than that,” he scolded. “I don’t think you quite understand who is in charge here.” When the sight no longer amused him, he lifted the curse with a flourish of his wand.

“The next time I ask you for your boy, you will bring him. I don’t care if he’s at Hogwarts or not. Find a way. If you fail again, I can’t be held accountable for what I might do to you.

“Bella!” he roared. “Take this sniveling fool out of my sight.”

“Yes, master,” she breathed as she stepped forward, then immediately turned to levitate the man and march him out of the room, not caring when his head smacked into the door frame. A moment later he heard a loud thump and a smiling Bellatrix sauntered back in to take her place.

“Would anyone else care to tell me of their failures? Are you sure?” His mouth stretched into a wide grin. “The next one dies, my loyal friends. The raid tomorrow will go off as planned. If even one of you blithering idiots fails I may well kill the lot of you! Now get out!”

Harry spent the next ten minutes listening to Bellatrix—who hadn’t left with the others—simper at and fawn over Voldemort. When he started to feel like he might gag at the sight, he opted to try to get out. He followed the same line he had used to get in, though his progress felt faster. After having read a number of books in his search for possible ways to deal with Voldemort he supposed there might be some validity to the idea that returning to one’s own physical form was always easier.

When Harry was entirely in his own body and staring at his own ceiling, he felt both excited and disappointed. The line was there; the line was always there. He could visit Voldemort’s mind at any point. It didn’t mean he was going to find out anything interesting. On the other hand, he could visit at any time, and apparently get right back out.

He wrestled with his conscience briefly. It was a step toward endorsing cruelty to be disappointed that he hadn’t witnessed a Marking, and he didn’t like that about himself at the moment. But he wasn’t going to learn anything if he couldn’t see what he needed to see, and that required some poor fool being hauled before Voldemort. Logic stepped in at that point—unless Harry truly defeated Voldemort more people were going to be Marked. He couldn’t yet prevent it, so he might as well learn from it so he could. Nothing said he had to enjoy it.

He had learned two things, neither of which was very useful. He couldn’t warn anybody about the raid, and he wasn’t sure the boy Voldemort wanted to see was to be Marked. The only thing he could do was to keep checking in, and not always when he sensed an attack.


Harry was watching the next morning, having kept to his quarters. He had one of his books in hand to read, and checked every so often to see if Voldemort was doing anything interesting. He knew that it was unlikely for Voldemort himself to participate in a raid, but without being able to discount the possibility, he felt it was wiser to keep a weather eye open.

By the time lunch rolled around nothing of interest had occurred, and Harry was getting restless, though his forays had become much easier to accomplish. Putting his book on the table, Harry left his quarters to eat in the Great Hall. His seat conveniently placed him between Remus and Severus. When he was not there, the empty space was a silent reminder for Remus to leave Severus alone, and when he was present, Harry got to sit between two of his favorite adults.

Remus was happy to have the additional company, and a constant stream of low-voiced talk passed between them as the meal progressed. Sensitive topics were avoided in favor of discussions on training, news, quidditch—anything safe. Two odd things happened, though, before Harry left the Great Hall.

The first was a note that Severus slid across the table to him. Harry shifted it so it was centered below his plate and read it while he toyed with his food.

We should discuss Occlumency soon.

Harry slipped the note off the table and tucked it into his pocket, giving Severus a tiny nod in the process. Several minutes later, when Harry was about to rise, Albus came to stand behind him. “Sir?”

“There is something I forgot to do earlier, Harry. Would you be so kind as to come with me?”

“Of course, professor.” Harry noticed in his peripheral vision that Severus tensed slightly and wondered why. When the headmaster stepped back, Harry rose, then followed him to his office.

“Harry, I realized when I saw you at lunch today that I have been remiss in my duty to you,” Dumbledore began. “I should have done this the day of your birthday, but I had other, more pressing concerns at the time. That is no excuse, of course.”

“Sir?” He was totally mystified, as usual, by the headmaster’s tendency toward rampant vagueness.

Albus pulled open a drawer of his desk and extracted a small ring of keys. “This, dear boy.” Intrigued, Harry stepped closer, taking the keys the headmaster extended to him. “Those are the keys to the vaults your family held. As an adult, they rightfully belong to you.”

Harry didn’t want to appear to be an idiot, so he nodded and said, “Thank you, sir.” Perhaps it was obvious—or had been—to everyone but him that this was to have been expected, but that didn’t mean Harry had to openly admit he never saw it coming.

They stared at each other for a full minute before Dumbledore said, “Yes, yes, it was certainly time for you to receive those. But, I realize this is a day of relaxation for you, so I won’t keep you any longer, unless there is anything you need to talk to me about.” A benevolent smile was aimed at him.

“No, sir. I expect Remus has already told you how things are going.” Harry slipped the keys into his pocket and smiled. “Thank you, again.” He ducked out as quickly as he could without seeming rude and hastily sought his rooms. The whole encounter left him feeling unsettled and disturbed. The headmaster had acted almost as though he had expected some deep and startling revelation to spill from Harry’s mouth, and Harry hadn’t the faintest idea how to react to the implied questions. He made a mental note to ask Severus if the headmaster knew exactly what he’d been up to when it came to his method of teaching Harry Occlumency.

When he gained the privacy of his quarters he searched out his map and activated it, then spread it over the table next to his couch. If he did actually sense an attack from Voldemort that afternoon or evening, he wanted to know if Severus responded to it by seeking out Albus. Harry sat down, checked in on Voldemort and saw nothing of interest, then picked up his book and resumed reading where he’d left off earlier. He hadn’t been there much over an hour when someone knocked on his door. When he cast the revealing spell he saw Ron pacing back and forth. Harry set down his book, quickly hid the map, then rushed over to allow his friend entrance.

“Harry, you’ve got to come,” said Ron seriously.

“Come in, and what?” He closed the door and spun around to see Ron pacing again. “Ron?”

“The quidditch tryouts.” Ron gave him a slightly wild-eyed look and said, “We have to pick a new seeker, remember? I don’t care if you aren’t a student. I want you there where I can get my hands on your opinion.”

Harry relaxed. “You had me worried for a moment.”

“And you should be! Without you—” Ron stopped pacing and glared at him. “You’re coming even if I have to drag you to the pitch.”

Harry glanced all around the room, even over his shoulder, then back at Ron. Grinning, he asked, “You and what army?”

“You’re coming,” Ron insisted.

“Of course I’ll come. But if Madam Hooch gets testy, I’m not taking the blame.”

Ron stumped over to the couch and flopped down. “We’ve got about a half hour before we need to head over. Say, do you ever wonder what happened to Malfoy?”

“Now that you mention it, I hadn’t thought about him and his friends.” Harry dropped into his chair and frowned. “I expect they’re over at Durmstrang?”

“Do you think the headmaster would tell you if you asked?”

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “Why?”

“Are you feeling all right, mate? Malfoy tried to kill you, remember? I’m curious about what happened to him.” Ron’s voice rose in pitch with each word.

Harry held up his hands in surrender. “All right, I was just asking. I can try.” He shrugged and continued, “Though, I don’t know if he’ll be able to tell me anything.” Harry checked the clock and stood up.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting ready.” Harry went down the hall and opened the door to his bedroom. He stashed the keys from his pocket in the library trunk, then grabbed a set of robes and pulled them on. Exiting, and tugging the bedroom door closed behind him, Harry returned to the lounge.

“No broom?” Ron asked.

“I’m only going to be there to watch.”

“But—”

“If Madam Hooch doesn’t mind that I’m there, I can use a school broom to hover so I could watch more properly. I don’t need my Firebolt for that.” After another look at the clock he added, “And we should get going.”

The walk didn’t take that long, Madam Hooch wasn’t annoyed, and Harry was soon hovering on an old broom high up, watching the seeker hopefuls race around the pitch. When their trial was over, he retired to the side of the field and got comfortable on the grass, resting his back against one of the stands. Then he quickly became bored, and spent the majority of his time suffering through yawns that threatened to break his jaw if he resisted. He was exceedingly grateful when it came time to discuss who was to be added to the team, and even more grateful when he could trudge back up to the castle.

He split off from Ron at the second floor landing and headed toward Dumbledore’s office, whispering the password and letting the stairs twist him upward. Still yawning, he knocked on the office door and stepped in a moment later.

“What is it, Harry?” asked Dumbledore with his usual smile.

Harry was beginning to get a bit wary of that smile, but returned it nonetheless. He felt a little silly showing up so soon, but figured he might as well get it over with. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “and was wondering if you might be able to answer something for me, sir.”

“I’ll certainly do my best, dear boy. What do you wish to know?”

“It occurred to me that, while I know the immediate result, I never did wonder until now what happened to Malfoy and the others after they were expelled. Do you? And do you think they’re a threat of any kind?”

Dumbledore didn’t speak for a moment, his eyes taking on an odd gleam—one that Harry immediately associated with an evening encounter approximately three years prior. Then he said, “I’m afraid I don’t know, Harry. After they were removed from the school, I lost sight of them.”

“I thought they might have ended up at Durmstrang,” Harry said with a slight shrug.

“I can check. Were you worried that one or all of them might attempt to return to the castle for something . . . underhanded?”

“I’m not really sure, professor. I just realized I’d never asked, and questions unasked tend to become irritatingly persistent thoughts after a while.”

Dumbledore nodded in understanding. “I will check with both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, and let you know as soon as I receive answers. Will that suit?”

Harry nodded and said, “Yes, thank you, professor.”

After a quick pause, presumably for Harry to voice any other thoughts, Dumbledore said, “Very well. I will send out letters tomorrow first thing. You run along now and enjoy your evening.”

Harry flashed the headmaster a smile and left, quickstepping back to his rooms. Inside he wondered if he should continue to spy or if he should take care of speaking to Severus. The note had said soon. Coming to a decision, he reversed himself and took the long way around to his mentor’s door and knocked, stepping in once the door opened and closing it behind himself.

Severus promptly dropped a thick tome into his hands. “Soon,” he said. “Look it up.” Then he turned his back on Harry and stalked off to his chair.

Harry winced, put the book back on a shelf, and sat on the couch.

“Now that you are here”—Severus favored him with another one of those looks—“you will tell me if you have anything in particular planned for your weekend mornings.”

Harry shook his head.

“Splendid. You do now. In here, with me, both days.”

“All right. If you think that’s best, who am I to argue?” Harry replied agreeably.

The corner of his mentor’s mouth quirked up. “It will not be much different from before, Haze. Testing your defenses, your ability to lie under veritaserum, and so forth. I plan to work you just as hard as I ever have. I am quite sure it will continue to be a learning experience for you.”

Harry grinned without even thinking about it, immediately wondered why, then recalled the reason. He briefly considered a flippant reply, but he hadn’t worked for so long on his self-control as to give in to the impulse.

“Since there is time yet before dinner, I suggest you go into my lab and demonstrate to me just how well you’ve been doing on your Mastery work.”

Harry leapt to his feet like a good, obedient boy, and headed for the lab.

Chapter Text

Harry rolled out of bed, wide awake, and headed for the bathroom to shower. When he later walked back into his bedroom, he shut off his alarm, which hadn’t been ringing earlier. He smiled to himself, pleased at the evidence that his mental shenanigans were working. Harry got dressed and settled on his couch to continue reading where he’d left off the evening before, then abandoned the effort when it was time for breakfast.

Sliding in beside Ron, he said, “Morning,” then repeated the greeting to Hermione across the table, who looked up from her book long enough to smile and nod at him.

Ron paused long enough in his savage decimation of a pile of eggs to grunt, swallow, and say, “Hey, mate. I thought the trials went well. Of course, the new seeker will never be as good as you.” He looked a bit dejected by that knowledge. “Hopefully he’ll work out all right this year.”

“I have faith in you,” said Harry equitably as he loaded up his plate. Turning back to Ron, he said, “Besides, the Slytherin team has suffered quite a bit and has to replace a number of people.” He shared a wicked grin with his friend, then started to eat.

Ron eventually sat back and patted his stomach with a satiated smile. “You coming up this morning? Ginny is no fun to play chess with,” he complained.

“Can’t,” replied Harry. “I still have those, er, special lessons.” When Ron frowned his confusion, Harry jerked his chin slightly toward the head table.

“Oh. Those. Bad luck, Harry. I’d have thought you’d be done with that by now.”

Harry shook his head. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got everything down, but they think it’s wise to keep up regular testing, just in case.”

Hermione, who had apparently caught the comment, looked up and said, “That’s right, Harry. I’d be surprised if they stopped.”

Since Harry didn’t mind either way, he was able to agree with a smile. A minute later, after saying his good-byes, he left. It was precisely 8am when he knocked on Severus’s door.

They were having a bit of a breather between attack rounds when Severus said absently, “You look a bit warm, Haze.”

Harry hadn’t even really been paying attention to the attacks, letting his subconscious handle how he responded to them. He was in the middle of replaying in his mind the way Severus had been swooping all around the room like an elegant black bird when he realized he was removing his robes and laying them over the arm of his chair. After seating himself again, he looked up to see his mentor’s opaque gaze.

“Haze, go under.” As before, Harry felt himself go curiously blank, his eyes closing automatically. “Open your eyes, Haze.” And they did. “I’d like to know more about you, Haze.”

Harry found himself nodding.

“Why do you persist in wearing such outsized clothes?”

“I’ve not been allowed to wear anything else,” he replied calmly.

“By whom?”

“My family.”

“You have enough money to buy what you wish. How is that their opinions carry any weight?”

“They believe I’m a burden and a freak, and that they’ve never been adequately compensated for being forced to house me. If Uncle Vernon knew I had money of my own, he’d try to take it from me on those grounds.” The detached part of his mind watched as Severus blinked in surprise over what he was saying.

“But you aren’t with them any longer, and need never go back.”

“Yes,” he agreed. Several emotions flickered across his mentor’s face, capped with obvious frustration.

“Then why haven’t you corrected your clothing situation?”

Harry shrugged. “It never occurred to me to do so.” A faint scowl etched lines on Severus’s forehead. A corner of his mind speculated on why it mattered to the man, and why he seemed to be having so much trouble with it.

“So, you’re trying to tell me that you’ve accepted it, become used to these rags you call clothes, and did not see the point in doing something about it once you were able to, is that right?” Severus finally asked.

“Yes.” Other than seeing the corner of his mentor’s mouth tighten, no other reaction could be discerned.

“Haze, directives.”

Harry reeled off the entire list, nonfunctioning directives included. He watched as Severus sat down in his customary chair and muttered to himself for a minute. The detached part of Harry reminded him that Severus had often asked peculiar questions, and had just as often abruptly changed the subject.

“Why are there locks on the door of the room you used at Privet Drive?”

“Uncle Vernon intended for me to never return to Hogwarts after my first year. He put locks on the door, bars on the window, and included the cat flap so they could shove food through and not have to bother with me except to let me use the bathroom twice a day.” That response had the effect of hardening his mentor’s expression, though if it was due to anger he could not tell.

“You’ve been a good, obedient boy, Haze. I think you deserve some kind of reward, don’t you?”

Harry nodded. Even though he was no longer compelled to be so agreeable, it was easier, and less suspicious, to be so. After a long pause, Severus spoke.

“Over the next week or so I want you to think about your clothing, Haze—whether you’re truly comfortable being dressed like that, and whether you would like to own clothes that actually show you off to your best advantage. These thoughts will not interfere with your Mastery study or your Defense training, understand?”

“Yes.”

“That’s right, good. If you do decide you wish to purchase a new wardrobe, you will . . . tell Remus Lupin how you feel, and ask if he is willing to help you, understand?”

“Yes.”

“Haze, when I wake you back up, you will think I had already been sitting down, isn’t that right?”

Harry nodded.

“What was it that Dumbledore wanted to speak to you about after lunch yesterday?” Severus asked tersely.

“He wanted to give me the keys to my family vaults.”

Severus relaxed. “Haze, wake up.”

Harry didn’t suffer any confusion this time from the command, though he was confused about the reasons behind Severus’s seemingly benign interest in his wardrobe. Why should Severus care how he dressed? Unless . . . his interest in Harry was a bit more long term than Harry had ever anticipated.

“Let us begin again, now that you’ve had a chance to rest,” Severus said, and stood.

This time, though Harry continued to watch his mentor’s movements as he reflexively responded to the attacks, he wasn’t thinking about how much they fascinated him. He was contemplating a rider to his own conditioning that would make any new directives or suggestions from Severus subject to dismissal based on whether or not the part of him that stayed aware thought they were harmless.

Severus straightened in one smooth movement and lowered his wand just as Harry felt a peculiar sliding sensation. “That should be enough for now. Next time we’ll work with veritaserum. I’m sure you’ll find something to amuse yourself with for the rest of the day, Haze.”

Harry, more than willing to stop so he could find out what was happening, gave Severus a smile and took himself off after grabbing his robes and wishing his mentor a pleasant afternoon.

He skidded through his own door and threw the robes on the couch, then ran down the hall to kick his bedroom door shut. Back in the lounge he checked the time, then stretched out and immediately sought to follow the link outward.

Laughter always felt good, but it was even better when it was at someone else’s expense. He dismissed the current bunch of faceless minions and called forward Watkins.

“I trust you brought your son with you today,” he said sibilantly.

“Y-yes, master.” Watkins turned his head quickly, making impatient gestures at a shorter figure off to the side.

He waited until the figure approached, then said, “So, this is young Nigel. Do tell me, Nigel, what you were doing at Hogwarts when you should have been here before me?”

“I was scouting the dark forest,” was the prompt reply.

“Crucio!” After watching the young man writhe on the floor and scream for a short time, he lifted the curse and said, “You would do well to remember your manners, whelp. Now get up. And whose brilliant idea was it for you to do that? I don’t recall making any such request.”

“Nobody, my lord. I thought it would be a good idea to check for weaknesses.”

He looked out over the massed figures and smiled. They twitched, but held their ground. “Dear me, someone who believes he can think.” Looking back at the young man he said, “I don’t recall asking you to make my decisions for me. Crucio!”

He hummed tunelessly to himself as the boy dropped a second time in agony, an obscenely twisting display against the damp, dirty floor. When he lost track of where he was in the melody, he lifted the curse. “However, such initiative should not go unrewarded. Prepare yourself,” he commanded, and was pleased when the brat hauled himself up shakily and stepped closer, baring his arm.

“How charming,” he murmured. He touched the tip of his wand to the young man’s forearm, then pushed, intent on making this as painful as possible. “Morsmordre,” he intoned, and inhaled deeply as the flesh beneath his wand burned, drawing in the sickening scent.

Harry was almost frantic in his need to understand everything that had gone into that spell, and paid close attention to all that was running through Voldemort’s mind during those critical seconds.

The sizzling stopped; a cause for regret, perhaps, but also a reason for him to draw his wand back and admire the harsh black brand on the young man’s formerly pristine forearm. “Very good,” he said briskly. “I trust you will refrain from having any more bright ideas. Now, you two, back into place!”

He gave his followers another ghastly smile as he considered what to torture them over next.

Harry took that as his cue to depart and did so, and was back in his own body within seconds. A moment later he was on his feet and pacing the room in thought. Knowing what it felt like to place the mark wasn’t going to be enough. After ten minutes of fruitless pacing, Harry left his rooms and headed for Gryffindor tower.


By the time December was half over, Harry had experienced a number of markings firsthand. The only thing that varied was how cruel Voldemort was feeling at a given moment. And at that, they all ended up branded like cattle by a farmer who was a little too free with his irons. Harry was currently reading on his couch, one ear open for any questions that might issue from his lab where Hermione was in a frenzy over some potion or other she hadn’t managed to do perfectly in class. She had told him quite seriously that she wanted to get it right before they broke up for the holiday, so Harry had given her free rein to try it as often as necessary in his lab.

Word had long since come back from Dumbledore that Malfoy and his cronies were enjoying the dubious comforts of a year at Durmstrang, and Harry had promptly passed the information along to Ron and Hermione. He had been somewhat surprised to find his guess verified. Harry had almost expected Voldemort to kill them out of hand, either for failing in their attempt, or for having tried to kill Harry in his stead. But their fate was hardly important in light of what Harry had finally discovered.

It was an accident more than anything, though some might have been tempted to call it serendipity, that Harry realized after some time that whatever he was concentrating on while he lurked in the back of Voldemort’s mind often triggered corresponding thoughts on the part of the Dark Lord. While it pointed out some obscure flaw in the protections Harry had designed for himself, it was also fortuitous. He had first made the connection when he’d been struggling with the problem of the Dark Mark’s removal.

After realizing that Voldemort’s own train of thought had shifted to a similar topic—though he was gloating over the sheer beauty of his creation—Harry purposely began to concentrate on what a shame it was that he couldn’t remove the Dark Mark from those who proved out to be traitors to his ideals and cause. And, while Voldemort didn’t make any obvious moves to consider that idea, Harry could sense that something had changed. From that point, when he wasn’t actively storing up the details of what he was witnessing, Harry would concentrate on that single thing.

He knew he had succeeded when Peter was killed, but not before his Mark was removed. Voldemort had delivered a scathing diatribe to his minion covering every fault and weakness he’d ever witnessed, plus a great deal he made up on the spot, then removed the brand. And before Voldemort had proceeded to torture, and finally kill, Peter, he’d told the sniveling man that he didn’t deserve the privilege of death while still one of his followers. It was on that day that Harry knew he could remove Severus’s Mark whenever it was convenient.

That, naturally, presented an entirely different set of problems. How often did Severus feel his Mark burn? How could Harry remove it and not make others suspicious? Would any of his mentor’s contacts report back exactly what had happened to Peter? Could Harry replace the original Mark with one he made himself to disguise the fact that Severus was no longer bound to Voldemort? Was it ethical to even consider the idea? Moral? Should he be—

“—in here for a moment, Harry?” Hermione called from the lab.

Harry collected his scattered wits and called back, “Just a second.” He ruffled his hair absently then marked his book and set it down. Entering the lab, he moved to stand across from her on the other side of the station she was at.

“Thanks, Harry. Listen, what do you think of this one?” She indicated her most recent attempt.

“The colour is right,” he said, then picked up a stirrer and coated the end lightly to hold up to his nose. “Smells right, and the consistency looks correct as well. I do believe you have a winner, Miss Granger.” Harry gave her a playful smile as he replaced the stirrer.

She gave him a look that was full of happiness, then frowned. “Oh dear, look at the time. We’re going to be late for dinner.”

“Then I’ll help you clean up. Just cover the cauldron—it should be fine cooling down by itself, and I can bottle it later to bring up to the infirmary.”

“Really, Harry?”

“Yeah. I made a lot of potions for the infirmary last year, so why not you?” He grinned at her and began collecting unused ingredients to put away. She immediately followed suit by gathering up and washing a number of tools, and they were able to head out to the Great Hall in good time.

“You never told me you made potions for the infirmary before,” she said thoughtfully as they headed for the stairs to the ground floor.

Harry shrugged and said, “It never really came up. It was when Professor Snape was first checking to see if I really could make them, and then after when I was doing all that remedial work. Since everything was coming out well, he saw no reason to waste them. I didn’t think it was all that important at the time.”

“I suppose,” she said, still thoughtful. “Then again, you are going to sit for the Mastery exams, so I shouldn’t be surprised.” Hermione flashed him an understanding smile as they stepped through the double doors and walked to the Gryffindor table to find seats.

He couldn’t be upset that she’d broken his train of thought earlier. It was something best dealt with alone. He slid in next to Ron while she sat across the table—without a book in her hand for once.

“Are you finally done?” asked Ron with a scowl. “Are you even packed yet?”

“Yes, Ron,” Hermione replied with a long-suffering sigh. “And yes, I am packed.”

“Good.” Ron dove for the food the moment it appeared, provoking another sigh from Hermione and a shake of the head.

Harry chuckled and filled his plate at a more sedate pace, then settled in to catch up on their plans for the holiday.


Harry and Remus shared a carriage with Ron and Hermione. Moony had already assured Harry’s two friends that he would be keeping a close eye on Harry over the holiday and that they were not to worry about a thing. When they arrived at the station, hugs were exchanged and well wishes, then Ron and Hermione boarded the train, levitating their trunks behind them.

Harry looked at Remus and said, “Soon as it’s gone, we can go shopping?”

“Absolutely, Harry. I’ll even point out what I’d like so you don’t have to wonder,” Remus replied with an unrepentant grin.

Harry grinned back a bit sadistically. “Great. Then you won’t mind helping me shop for a new wardrobe.”

Remus stepped back with a comical look of horror and held up his hands. “Anything but that! You better not be like Sirius, Harry. He was always dragging me into shops looking for just the right outfit to make an impression with.”

Harry snorted and raised his hands, forming a cross with his index fingers. “Silence, foul blasphemer!” he mock-thundered. He dropped his hands with a grin and said, “No, I’d just like some stuff that fits properly.”

“Whatever you say, Harry. But for this, I deserve two presents.”

“Sure, Moony. I may even buy you three.”

They spent the entire morning browsing through shops and purchasing gifts for people, though the bulk of it was spent getting Harry’s wardrobe brought up to speed. The first time he’d tried on a pair of trousers that fit properly, Harry felt almost as though they were obscenely tight and was quite diffident about showing Moony. When Remus whistled at him, he blushed and ducked back into the fitting area. As revenge Harry pleaded and begged and made a total nuisance of himself until Moony gave in and agreed to accept some new clothes for himself, then gleefully shoved him into the waiting hands of the shop girls.

Harry’s good mood continued all the way back to the castle and to his rooms, where he sat Remus down on the couch and ordered lunch for them. Afterward, they spent another hour or so wrapping presents, though Remus was quite careful to not reveal whatever it was he’d got for Harry despite his sly attempts to peek.

Harry took the time to box everything up and write out addresses for each package, and followed Remus out when he decided to take his leave. They split part way up the castle, with Remus heading for his own rooms, and Harry heading to the owlery. He was puffing slightly when he reached his goal, not having bothered to float anything, and paused for a minute before calling to Hedwig and several other owls. Hedwig got special attention, and plenty of affection, before Harry gave her a package to deliver. When she flew off he apportioned the remainder out to the waiting owls, watched as they left, then trekked back down to his dungeon lair.

He had two presents for Severus, though only one of them would be given openly. Harry intended to deliver both personally.


Harry silently watched the clock. Old fashioned timepieces were useful that way, having hands and the ever important one that ticked off the seconds. Digital might be easier to read and wizarding versions might be very useful in allowing you to see if a loved one was all right, but nothing beat being able to watch as time flowed forward before your eyes in quite this fashion. When the second hand returned home and the others adjusted to reflect the change, Harry stood up. It was midnight, and therefore Christmas day. Harry scooped up a package from his nightstand and approached the bare stretch of wall. “Open sesame,” he whispered, and stepped through the opening that appeared.

He placed the package on the table in Severus’s living area where it could not be missed, then padded on silent feet to the bedroom and slipped in. Harry stripped as he approached the bed, placing his wand on the bedside table, then sat down and brushed loose strands of hair away from his mentor’s forehead.

His wrist was immediately caught in an iron grip. “What,” said Severus, “do you think you’re doing?”

“Seeing if you were too far gone in sleep for this to have any effect,” said Harry softly, then bent over to kiss him. He felt the loss of the fingers wrapped around his wrist as Severus opened his mouth and darted his tongue forward. Harry surged forward with his own, and didn’t resist the sudden pressure on the back of his neck or the unspoken demand that he lay himself out properly forthwith.

But the moment he had the chance, he twisted the rings on his finger and watched as Severus went limp against the yielding surface of the bed. Licking his lips, Harry sat back up and smiled in satisfaction. “Severus, I’m going to do something in a moment which may cause you pain, but you will not resist, and you will not remember anything of what happens, just like you never recall consciously anything that happens when you’re in this deeply relaxed state, isn’t that right?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, that’s right, Severus. Very good.” Harry took a deep breath and grabbed his wand, then touched it to the Dark Mark which stood out in clear relief on his mentor’s forearm. He had decided on a compromise of sorts. While he would not remove the Mark itself—thereby rendering moot the ethical question of having to replace it with his own version—he could snap the bonds associated with it, freeing Severus from any potential ill effects from Voldemort’s death.

When he was done, it was nothing more than an ugly black brand, a disfigurement he would take care of when he was ready to remove the threat of the Dark Lord. Though he was not Voldemort, he did hold the brother wand, and that counted for something. After another deep breath, Harry put his wand back on the bedside table and returned to the same position he’d been in and said, “Severus, wake up.”

His mentor grabbed him and flipped him over so he could loom ominously, then lowered his head to continue ravaging Harry’s mouth. When Harry did return to his own room, he was satisfied on a number of levels. He fell asleep almost before he’d finished the visualization exercises for his defenses.

Chapter Text

Harry sat waiting in front of his pile of presents, tapping his foot impatiently. A knock came at his door after what seemed like forever and Harry leapt to his feet to let Moony in. Remus came with his own bunch of gifts, making a neat pile of them for himself. Harry, who always thought presents were one of the best things in the world, was nearly vibrating with anticipation. The second Remus was seated Harry dropped to his knees and yanked a gift from his stack.

“Feeling a little savage this morning?” asked Remus in amusement.

“I’ll give you savage,” said Harry. “I’ll take you shopping again,” he threatened and glanced at Remus long enough to wrinkle his nose in a playful snarl, then ripped off the wrappings and flung them aside. It was not by chance that the present from was Severus. Harry had found it on his bed earlier and placed it at the top. Inside was a book, the one he had asked about almost six months ago on a whim.

It gave him a warm, happy feeling that his mentor had not only remembered, but was feeling so unlike himself as to obtain it—obviously Severus had been having a bad day. On the other hand, Severus had provided him with all those supplies for the seventh year NEWT Potions class without expecting a return, so perhaps he was being unfair. And of course, the rings, though those had an ulterior motive. Harry settled on just being pleased, without worrying over the why of things.

He spent a couple of minutes flipping through the pages before he showed the cover to Remus, who smiled and held up a new winter cloak. They spent the next half hour tossing brightly-coloured bits of paper into the fireplace as they revealed the mystery of each gift they’d been given. Eventually, as was always the case, the gifts ran out, so Harry transferred most of his to his bedroom while Remus packed his up for later return to his rooms.

They went to the Great Hall together for breakfast, sitting side by side. There were only a few students staying that year, many of whom were quite young and rather uncertain looking. Severus was nowhere to be seen, but that didn’t surprise Harry in the least. He wouldn’t have expected his mentor to enjoy a meal at such close quarters to anyone but staff, and even then he never seemed happy about it. Harry made it a point to stop by Albus’s seat before he left to thank him for the gift, then headed straight for Severus’s rooms.

He almost wished the man would just tell him the password, but he knew better, and it would be very, very bad for anyone to witness him barging in as though he had every right to. Once he was admitted he gave Severus a bright smile and crowded in a bit close. Severus, however, had other ideas.

“Tell me, Haze,” he began as he took a step back, “how it is that you came to decide on these as your gift to me?”

“What? You don’t like them?”

Severus turned and made for his chair to sit down, so Harry dropped onto the couch. “I do. What I wish to know is why you thought I would.”

Harry thought his mentor seemed awfully suspicious for no good reason. “Well, I thought it was kind of obvious, actually.” He turned slightly and pointed at one of the highest shelves in the room. “That was one clue. You don’t often see a phonograph, never mind one that, despite being set up so high, has none of the dust that many other things in here do.”

“Point taken. Now, about the precise selection?”

“That was for a couple of reasons. First, you have a wide selection of books here, and not all of them deal with Potions.” He raised his brows at Severus. “I’d have to be blind, or really inattentive, to not notice what they were about, even having looked only casually. I have a pretty good memory.”

Severus smirked slightly.

“Second, I recognized those names. I never would have guessed in the beginning you liked opera, but you seemed to based on the evidence.”

“Anything else you’d like to add to that?”

Harry shrugged slightly and brushed the hair away from his forehead. “I thought it would be nice to get you something . . . for you. Not obvious. Not work-related. Something you’d enjoy just . . . because.”

“I see. In that case, thank you. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated.” Severus gave him a faint smile.

Translation being, Harry thought, thank you for not snooping where you don’t belong. “You’re welcome. And thank you very much for the book. Maybe over this holiday I can puzzle out things I’d like to work on in the future.”

“You should have ample opportunity to page through it before lessons resume.”

Harry gave a vague nod as his gaze slid off to the left. “Severus?”

“Yes?”

“What would happen if Voldemort was defeated? I mean, what happens to his Death Eaters?”

“You’re making the assumption that they would not die with him?”

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. I can’t know everything—I’ve been going off what I’ve witnessed. I haven’t really seen anything to suggest that the Dark Mark is much more than a means to summon. So if Voldemort died, they’d still be running around loose.”

“Witnessed?” Severus tilted his head back slightly.

“I remember—it was fourth year—Karkaroff talking about his Mark and how it was getting more distinct. If how faint it became is any indication of Voldemort’s strength—maybe I mean health?—then. . . . Nobody died that I know of is all I’m saying, even though Voldemort lost his body. And then, in the graveyard. He used Peter’s Mark to summon everyone. Peter seemed like he was in pain, but honestly, I couldn’t say why he reacted the way he did. So maybe it could be used to drive people crazy from an overload, but . . . I can’t say with any degree of surety that if Voldemort died that his Death Eaters would follow him. If not, does that mean I end up behind safe walls while Aurors go out and track them all down? Does that mean . . . you . . . might die?”

Severus looked thoughtful. “I think you have drawn reasonable conclusions based on the evidence you do have. As to the final question, I do not know. The Dark Lord has always been much more in favor of causing death personally and immediately to those among his people who offend him past reason. I would not, however, make the assumption that he has not used the Mark as a way of extending his own life at the expense of his followers.”

Severus looked Harry in the eye and said, “If I die, Haze, I die. If I die because of the Dark Lord’s defeat, then I will die satisfied, and that is all I could ask for.”

Harry rose and moved to kneel at his mentor’s side, laying his head on Severus’s knee. “But I don’t want you to die.” It seemed to him that Severus automatically reached down a hand to tangle it in his hair.

“As for your other question, if his Death Eaters are not affected by his death, I’m not sure. I could easily see a division, with some clamoring for you to personally clean up, and others insisting you be kept safe.”

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life chasing people,” Harry said softly. “I’m not whining, Severus, really. I know it could happen and I accept that. But I don’t want any of this. I don’t want to be a living touchstone. I don’t want to be special,” he said, his voice rising with each word. “I’m just an ordinary person. I don’t want people to look to me as the end-all, be-all of Voldemort’s defeat!”

“Shhh,” said Severus, his fingers moving lightly through Harry’s hair.

“I’m sorry. I guess I am whining after all. You don’t deserve to have to listen to this.”

Severus made an odd noise that wasn’t quite a snort. “Haze?”

“Yes?”

“It is my great pleasure to inform you that you have used up your quota of self-pity for the next decade or so. Do try to remember that, won’t you?”


Harry wore a pensive look as he entered his quarters. He wasn’t worried about Severus dying—he could prevent that, and indeed, already had. He knew, despite his brief lapse, that it would fall to him to figure things out overall. He sat down and propped his legs on the table, crossed at the ankles.

Forget the Death Eaters and concentrate on Voldemort. They don’t matter at the moment. How can I use what I know to my advantage? He is being affected by my defenses, and I’d bet he doesn’t even realize it, nor does he necessarily realize he’s been trying to link to me half the time. I can influence what he thinks about. I’ve already proven that. But what does that give me?

Harry tilted his head back to rest on the top edge of the chair and stared at the ceiling.

Can I confuse him even more? Make him believe certain things? He did it to me, so why can’t I do it to him? But, how? I don’t want to end up with the same situation as before. Severus hasn’t got any information on soul magic yet either. I don’t have any idea how to make sure he doesn’t split. Those pagan rituals were no help at all. How the hell is it that Voldemort can know about these things and I can’t find it?

The clock chimed, causing Harry to lift his head briefly. It was coming up on time for lunch. He spent another few minutes thinking about nothing he didn’t already know, then rose and headed for the Great Hall. He got a surprise when he arrived; Tonks had come to visit and ended up sitting on Harry’s other side. Aside from making conversation with Harry, and past him, with Remus, she spent a great deal of time amusing the few children there by changing her features. By the time the meal was over, all of them looked a great deal more relaxed and happy, possibly not regretting as much having had to stay at school over the holiday.

It gave Harry the barest wisp of an idea. Her innocent deceptions were important, somehow. He didn’t try to force it, or attempt to bring it to the forefront. He left the seed he knew was there to sit at the back of his mind to hopefully, eventually, blossom into something substantial.


The students returned to the castle for the beginning of the second term. Hermione and Ron were both agitated, though for different reasons. While Hermione had begun to obsess even more over her studies than usual, Ron was usually found obsessing over her obsession or complaining privately to Harry about her near-constant nagging regarding his own studies and progress. Neither one of them spared a thought for the problem of Voldemort, and that was just fine with Harry. The more normal their lives could be, the happier he was.

Harry resumed his lessons with Remus, though they had abandoned the classroom in favor of a disused wing. Remus, always ready with a logical explanation, told Harry that classroom work was all very well, but it was generally the furthest thing from reality. In getting Albus to direct them to a new practice area, Harry could get used to battles that involved hallways, multiple rooms, and all manner of new situations to deal with.

Things became more difficult, and therefore more exciting, when Tonks, Kingsley, and even Moody began to join them on occasion. How they divided out depended on whim. On one day it might be Harry against everyone. On another it would be Harry and Remus against the others, or even all of them playing a game to see who could come out on top. Aside from giving Harry broader experience with his environment, it gave him a much better feel for teamwork. His experience at the Department of Mysteries had been illuminating, but most of that had been a matter of luck and guesswork.

He also learned, as he had only started to during his own adventures, that every person had their own style, their own ways of processing a situation before coming to a decision as to what to do, and did his best not to get so bogged down in his own habits of thought. He had no wish to clash with anyone he needed to cooperate with, and certainly not to the point that a disagreement could herald defeat. And yet, he had no wish to simply give in to greater experience on every issue; new things came about because people took chances.

As before, the one thing Harry wished he could incorporate into his training was the ability to apparate, but there was no place they would dare bring him to do so. He did, however, learn a great deal about what aurors in training went through, and the signals they used among themselves for silent communication. And, Remus was careful to always point out instances when it would have been fruitful to use apparation.

The days seemed to slip by. Between his self-study and his lessons with Remus, which had moved out onto the school grounds so that Harry could get used to a whole new set of circumstances, Harry often pondered the question of Voldemort, and brought Severus into a trance several times to ask more questions he didn’t think his mentor would answer while awake and aware. On one occasion, he asked about what work Severus actually did for the Order.

“I want to clarify some things,” he said, laying on the floor with his chin propped on his palms. “You used to be a spy, Severus. Are you still a spy?”

“Of a sort, yes.”

“Will you please explain what it is you actually do as a spy?”

“I am a spymaster. There are a number of people who report to me as director of operations. I, in turn, pass everything on to Albus as the Head of the Order. If I or Albus need to know something, I send out the request.”

“Is this also how you’ve been attempting to find information on soul magic?”

“Yes.”

“So, you no longer spy directly. Why is that?”

“The Dark Lord knows I betrayed him. It would be my death were I to get close enough for him to capture me. Quirrell was the cause.”

Harry nodded; that made perfect sense to him.

“Are any of your spies Death Eaters?”

“No.”

“Then I guess I’m a little confused. Do they actually get information from Death Eaters?”

“It depends, but that is one source.”

“They’re seen as sympathizers?” Harry ventured.

“Yes.”

“Have you ever asked them to pass information back to actual Death Eaters?”

“On occasion, though it is not common.”

Very interesting, thought Harry. He had already begun to form a vague plan in his head, and this was something he might be able to take advantage of. As it seemed that Severus’s contacts were trusted among at least some portion of the Death Eaters, it might be a way for him to nudge certain things into action.

He spent another twenty minutes asking questions, trying to get every nuance, then called it a night, capping it by luring an unprotesting Severus into the bedroom.


Cornelius Fudge was killed near the middle of March, sending the British wizarding public into a frenzy of fear and suspicion. Though many had begun to see through his pompous, self-serving attitude, they were still frightened by the implications his death dredged up. After all, if the Minister of Magic could be picked off that easily, what did that say for the rest of them?

The Daily Prophet had a field day with the news, doing more to scare the public in the end than the death had thanks to the efforts of fine, upstanding journalists like Rita Skeeter. A stranger to Harry was appointed as acting Minister until the next election. Melrose had a spotless reputation within the Ministry, but even that made Harry a bit suspicious, and he began to worry that he might never be able to accept anyone new at face value again.

Hermione began to request the use of his rooms on a far more frequent basis, citing the appalling conditions in the library and the tower. She was convinced that she’d never get any of her revision done if Harry didn’t help her, and often pestered him about the details of when he had taken the NEWTs and what his advice was as a veteran of the exams. Harry bore with her as patiently as he could considering his own workload and how frequently he came back incredibly tired from his lessons with Remus.

And those lessons had been changed yet again, adding another wrinkle to Harry’s life. Because Remus wanted to introduce Harry to nighttime combat, and since the students were expected to be in their towers after a certain point in the evening—prefects and detention-attenders aside—Harry was not getting to bed until the wee hours of the morning. He would wake sometime shortly before lunch, eat, then work on his Mastery in the afternoons.

They often spent the early part of the evening together in Harry’s rooms simply talking. He still hadn’t said anything to his friends about his little secret and had been worrying over it again.

“I don’t want to throw them off stride,” he said, fully aware that he was rationalizing his reluctance to speak up. “The exams are getting so close, and even Ron is buckling down and trying.”

“Harry, if you aren’t ready to tell them, then don’t,” Remus said. “If you’re all wound up and showing it, they’re going to assume that something really horrible is in the works, like you’ve had a vision of Voldemort coming after their families. And while that might soften the potential blow, I don’t think it’s worth rushing things over just for a perceived advantage of circumstance. Either way, it would probably be unkind.”

Harry was sitting close enough that Remus was able to pull him in and gently press Harry’s head down against his shoulder. “I know you can’t help it, but try not to worry about it for now.”

“Moony?”

“Mm.”

“What do you think of Professor Snape?”

“In that sense?”

“Well, I know you two have some unresolved issues, but. . . .”

Remus twisted his head so he could look into Harry’s eyes for a moment, then straightened and said, “I think a lot of things. He’s undeniably talented, and even brave. He’s cunning and sly, works as hard as any other member of the Order, and despite my initial doubts, I think he’s been a good role model for you when it comes to certain things. In his own way, I think he’s quite honest, though I won’t say he always sees things clearly, because I don’t think he does. There are some things Severus can’t seem to let go of.”

Remus glanced down again and said, “I think I know, Harry, but why are you asking?”

Harry took a deep breath and said, “I like him, Moony.”

“I assume you’re not telling me you want to be his pen-pal when you leave Hogwarts, huh.”

The corner of Harry’s mouth quirked as he shook his head gently.

“Do you know how he feels?”

Harry dropped his gaze slightly. “I’m not sure. Sometimes, I think I see—I don’t know.”

“All right.”

“Does it . . . bother you?”

“Harry, let me explain. Overall, I don’t have a problem with Severus. Yes, he can be caustic and very difficult to get along with, but that doesn’t really matter. The biggest reason Severus and I aren’t friends is because I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven me my part in what happened that year, even though I was an innocent party to it. I don’t know if he ever will, but if he did I would still be right there, hoping we could move past it.”

He reached across his chest for a moment to brush Harry’s cheek with his fingertips. “You see, it doesn’t matter how ornery he can be because it’s you that we’re talking about, though I’d say this about anyone. If a person treats you with respect and honesty, then the surface is just that, a façade . And if he makes you happy, treats you right, and feels the same way, I’d be the first person in line to congratulate you and wish you well. Does that answer your question?”

Harry closed his eyes and snuggled closer, enjoying the warmth of Remus’s body. “Thank you for understanding.”

Remus dropped a kiss on Harry’s forehead in response.

“I love you, Moony.” It came out as a whisper.

“I love you, too, Harry.”

Chapter Text

Harry had spent quite a bit of time lurking in Voldemort’s mind, and it was paying off. He had started to feel a peculiar sensation like mist hitting his shields more than once, and had finally opted to check to see what pleasant little dream Voldemort had been trying to insinuate into his head. What he saw confirmed his guesses and strengthened his resolve for the plans he had already set into action.

His time in the background also confirmed that Voldemort was becoming more and more susceptible to his subtle tampering, even to the point where Harry could be more forceful in what he was trying to do and still have it take effect. Because of that, he tried for, and was finally able to, manage a light link that stayed open unless he purposely shut it down. He needed to know when Voldemort intended to act, not find out later, after it was too late for him to do anything. He knew it was a risk, but at least it was calculated and not a whim or a response to being foolishly brave and unwilling to admit that he could conceivably die if he fouled things up.

Though he was often distracted as he went about his daily routines, no one saw cause to comment on it much. His friends were too caught up in their own worries to be very perceptive, and Remus assumed that Harry was worrying about things he ought not to bother with the time being, but was more or less helpless to prevent. It was only around Severus that Harry had to be careful in how he acted and appeared. Such as it was, Harry had the good fortune to be sitting with Severus when everything started to come together.

Voldemort was going to move, that very night. Harry caught Severus’s attention and twisted his rings. His mentor’s body went slack immediately, his eyes closing as his face drained of all expression. Harry felt a sense of urgency the likes of which he had never felt before, and purposely took several deep breaths to settle himself.

“Severus, I want you to stand up and walk into your bedroom.” Harry followed him, then said, “I want you to undress just as though you were going to sleep for the night, then get into bed.” When Severus was in position, Harry stepped to the beside and said, “Severus, I am about to do something to you that might cause you pain. You will remain still and you will not cry out if it does. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“As before, you will not remember any of this when you are allowed to wake. Understood?”

“Yes.”

“That’s right, very good.” Harry took several more deep breaths to steady himself, then set about removing the remainder of the Dark Mark from his mentor’s forearm, checking frequently to see how far Voldemort had progressed in his plans for the evening.

He still had time, so he said, “Severus, I have a new rule for you. You will not notice that your Dark Mark is gone unless another person points it out to you, even when you stare directly at your arm where it should be, and you will do everything you would normally do to keep it covered and out of sight of anyone but yourself or me, just as though you still had it. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Severus, repeat all the rules back to me.”

“Very good, Severus. Now listen to me very carefully. When I tell you to go to sleep, you are going to fall into a very deep, natural sleep, and you will not wake up under any circumstances until your normal time in the morning unless I come here to wake you early myself. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“When you do wake up, Severus, you will only remember that you went to bed early. It won’t occur to you to question why. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Severus, go to sleep.”

Harry moved away, trusting that his hold on his mentor would stay sound.


Voldemort and his handpicked followers apparated out, stealthily entering the Ministry building minutes later. And it was only minutes later that he approached the plain black door he had used two years ago to lure the boy in. Had his followers at the time not failed, he would have had his revenge, and not be forced to play these silly little mind games again. However, he knew the brat was coming, and that was what mattered.

He walked as though he owned the world, supremely confident and proud that tonight would be the beginning of the end for those useless, pathetic people who clung to the so-called Light. His people crept along behind him and he sneered. Considering just how bad security was at the Ministry, he couldn’t see why they persisted in such behavior. But, as it didn’t interfere with his plans, he made no comment, and instead went through the door, letting them pile through behind him.

In a peculiar sort of way, he liked this room. Large and circular, the shivering blue flames on the walls revealed a deeply glossy floor and a multitude of featureless, identical doors in the oppressively black room. It made him think that perhaps a torture maze would be a nice thing to have once he’d regained all of his power and more. It would be amusing to watch those he persecuted run around like that rat, Peter, persisting in the foolish hope that they could escape his dominion, even for one more hour. But, he had work to do.

“Find the damn door!” he shouted once the door they had entered by was closed and the walls had finished their dizzying rotation. He moved carefully to the center of the room, no closer to any one door than to any of the others.

His Death Eaters converged on one at random and tried to open it. When it did, another slashed a line across its surface and allowed it to close. They repeated the process over and over again, until he grew bored watching them, preferring to study the flooring instead and watch the way the light made such interesting patterns.

It was when the realization that his minions were attempting to force a door would not open, no matter what spells and tools they tried, that his head snapped up. “That’s enough! You found the door, you pathetic dolts. I never said you should try to get in. Don’t you people ever listen?” Voldemort sighed heavily, shaking his head.

A familiar sensation flowed through the link he had with the boy, making him smile with anticipation. “Remove the marks from the other doors, quickly!” When they had scurried to do his bidding and finished, he commanded, “Now fix the mark on the locked door. Make it inconspicuous, but so you can still find it. Hurry! The little brat is somewhere nearby.” Again, they hastened to comply, no doubt afraid that he would punish them at any moment. And he liked it that way.

“Now hide,” he snarled, “and remain here to guard that door! Do not touch the boy, and do not reveal yourselves unless it is to stun the little bastard.” He inhaled sharply. “Do you understand me?” he roared.

A chorus of agreement sounded from somewhere over to one side of the room. Voldemort closed his eyes and cast out his thoughts; the boy had arrived before him somehow, no doubt drawn to this place earlier than he had anticipated in a desperate attempt to find another way into that room.

He himself didn’t understand what lay inside; he only knew that he could not stand to be near it. But then, that was what minions were for, and best of all, they were sometimes expendable. He smiled, for it was a good day, and he would not fail this time. He would revenge himself on the precocious little brat and go on to much greater, much more terrible things.

He picked a door at random, knowing that many of the rooms led into corridors deeper within the department, allowing access to much of the contained mysteries without having to suffer the circular room’s vagaries. He pushed it open and walked through without breaking stride. Voldemort didn’t recognize the room as the one he felt the boy was creeping around in and kept right on walking, picking another door at random and exiting.

Twenty minutes passed as he exited and entered rooms, growing more frustrated with each minute. The tantalizing and lingering feeling of the child was growing stronger as well, so he persisted in his efforts, eventually passing through into a dimly lit, rectangular room with the back center portion of it sunken to form a kind of pit.

It was an odd room, though; the tiered seating did not bother him, as he knew that the design of the room allowed for ample hiding places. It was strangely foreshortened, as though someone had cut the room in half, and placed a plain black door directly in the center of the wall at the bottom of the well.

He could hear whispers of sound, and his connection through the link almost vibrated; the boy was very near and probably very lost. He could not see any movement near the door, and so cast his gaze over the interior, his slit-pupiled eyes very well able to see in the dim light. And there, off to the side, was a hint of movement. He whirled and aimed his wand, letting a stunning spell whisper through his lips. It crashed into one of the tiers, missing, but that was all right, as it flushed the brat from his hiding place to dart across the room for better cover.

Five long minutes passed as the child continued to elude him with his damnable luck, but he knew that it was only a matter of time before Potter tired and slowed down. He didn’t bother with wasted words this time. The boy would not win this night, and Voldemort was keeping him well away from the upper levels of the room, slowly working his way downward, and dodging with equal ease the pathetic spells the child kept casting in his direction. Potter would never reach that room of power, never learn of whatever it was he thought would save him.

Another whisper of sound caught his ear, though he did not turn from where he knew the boy to be. A glint of light revealed that the boy had heard it as well, turning his head to locate the sound. Voldemort almost laughed; Potter probably thought someone had come to save him, just like the last time. And just as he cast another spell to flush his quarry, the boy broke cover and ran, straight toward the lowermost door with the speed of a gazelle.

Voldemort adjusted his aim and took off after him, casting a volley of spells the child somehow managed to anticipate. But he was gaining on him. Potter slammed into the door frame, letting out a loud huff of pain, then shifted and pushed against the flat surface. Voldemort was right behind him, a spell half formed on his lips as he plowed through the door.


Harry fell over, literally. His breath was coming in horrifying, stuttering gasps as though there was not enough air in the world to give him just one solid inhalation. Wrenching himself away at the last second possible had been almost more than he could handle, so caught up had he been in what was going on. But he was safe, and he was whole. He kept thinking that to himself as he struggled to breathe, marginally relaxing with each effort, and his pounding heart calmed.

It had been a mistake to remain standing, he decided. Maybe. It didn’t matter. He. Was. Alive. And Voldemort—well, he wouldn’t be bothering anyone any time soon. Never, in fact. For the first time in his life, Harry felt almost religious. Breathing evenly again, he rose to his feet, staggering slightly and clutching onto the nearest upright object in order to steady himself, then let go.

Feeling more than a little giddy, he raised his arms up into the air and turned in circles like a child, nearly giggling. There wasn’t anyone to see him, so he didn’t care how foolish he looked. Eventually though, dizziness and exhaustion took their toll on his mood, and he knew he ought to seek sleep. But first, he had to check on Severus. He had to see with his own eyes that his mentor was still there, sleeping soundly and safely in his own bed.

Harry approached the bare wall of his bedroom and spoke the password, stepped through, and walked into Severus’s bedroom from the living area. As he had left him, Severus was resting. His chest rose and fell rhythmically, his eyelids betraying the fact that he was having a dream. Harry stumbled back out, back through the secret door, and pulled his clothes off, flinging them any which way before tumbling into his own bed and passing out.


He sat up in bed, wondering. Had it been some bizarre dream? Harry checked, sending a thread of consciousness down the link. It didn’t go anywhere. Feeling cautiously optimistic, Harry tried again, and again. He was finally willing to believe after ten tries met with the exact same failure. He stopped himself just short of letting out a yell, covering his mouth hastily to keep the sound in. It wouldn’t do to disturb Severus, or give him cause to come racing in to find out what Harry was doing.

When he felt as though he could contain himself he removed his hand and slipped out of bed, padding into the bathroom to take a long, deliciously warm shower. It wasn’t as though he had to be anywhere except for lunch, and he would be in good time for that. He had finished his Mastery studies and lessons with Remus, though his friend was to remain at the castle. Harry got the idea that Albus had noticed how close they had become, and made sure it wasn’t tampered with.

After drying himself off he got dressed, and went to the Great Hall to sit between Remus and Severus. He tried very hard to keep his ebullient mood tamped down to a level that would not make people wonder why he was feeling so perky. He ate a lot more than usual, thinking it would help keep him occupied, and he found out quickly that it was difficult to chew and smile at the same time without disgracing yourself.

After that, life went on. Students—some more than others—obsessed over their upcoming year end exams or OWLs or NEWTs. Harry spent a great deal of time just sitting with Remus, talking about whatever came to mind. But as the days slipped into weeks, he realized something important. Something he had forgotten to do. So he decided to check.

“Severus, have you had any reports recently from your spies?”

“Yes.”

“Do any of them contain information about Voldemort?”

“Yes.”

“Please tell me what information, briefly.”

“They report that he has not been seen for approximately three weeks, but that it has not been uncommon over the past year for that to be the case. The Death Eaters appear to be frustrated by this, but not unduly surprised.”

He went away from that session with a frown that didn’t appear until he was out of sight of his mentor. He had told himself, months ago, to not worry about them. Now he should, and he did. Unfortunately, the one thing that might possibly have given him some sort of idea to work with was gone forever.

As it turned out, he need not have worried. Opportunity knocked on his door and held it wide open.

Harry and Remus were enjoying a late lunch in Hogsmeade, as they had taken to doing occasionally, when a heavily cloaked figure approached their table in complete silence. As it approached, it produced a wand and laid it flat on their table before sitting down uninvited.

“I want to parley,” said a female voice.

“What?” said Harry and Remus together.

“You heard me,” she repeated, a definite edge to her voice. “Much as you both disgust me, I know you to be honorable. I think you will deal with my proposal fairly and without guile.”

Harry and Remus exchanged a bewildered glance. After a solid minute of silence, Remus placed his hand atop the woman’s wand and said, “Then I think it would be wise for us to repair to the castle. After we make sure you aren’t hiding anything dangerous.”

She gave a sharp nod and stood, not protesting when Remus slipped her wand into his robes. Harry urgently signaled one of the serving staff and thrust a handful of coins at him, probably tipping outrageously in the process. The three of them moved to a more secluded location where Remus could pat her down quite thoroughly as Harry held his wand ready and waiting for any trouble. When Remus was satisfied they left the building and started for Hogwarts, the woman walking slightly ahead of them at a decorous pace.

Once they arrived they headed straight for Albus’s office, though the headmaster did not appear to be surprised by their appearance. He invited everyone to sit down, though Remus placed her wand on the desk before doing so, and asked the obvious question. “Who are you?”

The women threw back her hood and Harry let out a soft gasp. Bellatrix Lestrange wants to make a deal?

Albus simply nodded and wrote out two short notes which he gave to Fawkes to deliver. Several minutes of silence later, Severus Snape burst through the office door, kicked it shut behind him, and dropped into a seat that faced Lestrange.

Her reaction was fairly mild. She sneered disdainfully and said, “Ah, another blood traitor. How amusing.”

Minerva also arrived, taking a seat without speaking.

“Now that we are all here, perhaps you will tell us what it is that you want,” said Albus calmly.

“As I told these two, I wish to parley. Protection from you in exchange for my fellow Death Eaters.”

“May I ask why?”

Bellatrix turned a scornful gaze on Harry before saying, “It is very simple, old man. The brat told me something once and I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t.” She shook her head for emphasis. “But I could not rest until I had proven him wrong for my own satisfaction, so I undertook a great deal of research.”

“Voldemort’s parentage,” said Harry.

“Yes.”

“Please go on,” prompted Albus when she said nothing more.

“The little half-blood here was correct. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise, and perhaps even my feelings of betrayal and anger at being played for a fool. All these years I have been his most loyal servant, and for what? To serve someone with blood as dirty as this child here?”

Harry frowned at the insult, but held his tongue. His own personal feelings were hardly important.

“So that is why. If I am proven a fool, so are the rest. I want out—they can go to hell for all I care.”

“What exactly are you prepared to offer, and what precisely do you expect in exchange?”

“I can give you the names of every single Death Eater. I want you to arrange for me to go free so I can leave the country without fear of reprisal.”

Harry reminded himself to breath occasionally as Albus stroked his beard thoughtfully. “And their locations?”

“I don’t have all of that, only some. I do have the name of every living Death Eater who is not already in Azkaban, including”—she paused to sneer at Severus—“his.”

“Then I see we shall have to negotiate if we wish to come to an agreement. Rest assured, if we cannot, we will give you a sporting head start off the premises.”

“How very kind of you,” she said sarcastically. “But then, that is why I approached these two. Everyone knows about their puerile sense of honor.”

“I do believe we shall need to discuss this before we come to any kind of decision. Would you object to being held in protective custody here at Hogwarts? There will be no Ministry interference.”

“Fine.”

After she had been led to a fairly comfortable, but small suite of rooms and set under guard, they proceeded to discuss her offer, even before certain members of the Order who were requested to come to the castle had arrived.

“If we don’t know where they are, Albus, how are we supposed to catch them all? I realize it would completely wipe out Voldemort’s power base were we able to accomplish it, but. . . .” Minerva trailed off. They had already been talking for an hour, and had got nowhere nearer a decision.

Harry had been thinking the entire time, not contributing much, when a thought struck him unexpectedly. He had always had a link with Voldemort since that day. He held the brother wand. He had felt and witnessed things from Voldemort’s point of view when he summoned someone. And it was he who had not only snapped the bonds holding Severus in service, but removed it entirely. And he was not Voldemort.

“Excuse me,” he interrupted, causing no little surprise. He thought he might have been so quiet that they had forgotten he was even there. “I, er, have an idea.” The looks on their faces made him say hastily, “I’ve no idea if it would even work, but it might be worth talking about, or even trying.”

“All right, Harry. Please explain, and let us see what we make of it.”

Harry, feeling uncharacteristically nervous, spilled out his theory and the evidence to support it. He especially stressed something Albus had said years ago about Voldemort having transferred some of his own power when he failed to kill him as a baby. “So I don’t see why it would hurt for me to try to use her Dark Mark to summon a Death Eater into a nice little trap. If it doesn’t work, all right. But if it does, we could capture them all, one by one, without a lot of fuss. And when we had everyone, turn them over to the Amelia Bones at the Ministry.”

They thought about that for a few minutes. “Why not just try this theory with Severus?” asked Albus curiously.

“No,” replied Harry sharply. “Professor Snape isn’t a Death Eater, and besides, it would be painful, and since it isn’t though I’ve ever tried this before, I have no idea what will happen. He is a member of your staff and a friend, I presume. I won’t experiment on him.”

Albus peered at him over his rims, his eyes taking on a familiar twinkle. “All right. And what if Bellatrix refuses?”

“She’ll probably think I couldn’t possibly manage it. She’d laugh in your face if you asked and let me do it just to prove us wrong. You heard her earlier.”

Albus sat back and shrugged. “I have no particular objection to the idea. What of you three? No? So be it. We will try Harry’s idea.”


As Harry had anticipated, Bellatrix laughed uproariously when presented with the idea, having to dash tears from her face with the strength of her reaction. Albus obtained several names from her and arranged for a trap to be sprung. A number of Order members were waiting when a heavily drugged and bound Bellatrix was placed at a table, her forearm the only thing free.

Harry looked around and saw nods from each person, so he touched his wand to her Dark Mark and called. It took several minutes, but it worked. A masked and cloaked figure apparated into the space and was immediately stunned from several directions. Removal of the mask revealed the figure to be exactly who Harry had summoned. Nigel Watkins.

After nabbing the remaining names on the list, they all returned to the castle. Severus and Poppy slapped each one of them but Bellatrix into a magically-induced coma and placed them in a normally unused room in the infirmary. Guards were posted, and Bellatrix was returned to her suite, unbound, and left to sleep it off.

Harry’s only comment about their success was that he hoped nobody would start calling him the next Dark Lord in training again. He was met with blank stares at first, then laughter.

So they went on. When they had most of the Death Eaters Bellatrix provided by name, Albus called in Amelia Bones for a little chat. She, after seeing what they had already managed, accepted his assessment of the situation and that he and many others were willing to testify on the behalf of Bellatrix in order to secure her release and pardon on the understanding that she would leave the country and never return.

She also had a bit of a soft spot for Harry, so she did not react badly when Albus explained exactly how they were accomplishing this particular miracle. Amelia was present when they were about to begin summoning the remaining Death Eaters. Bellatrix had written out a final list before submitting to the usual. Harry could tell that she found the entire treatment repugnant, but she never once voiced a complaint. So it was that when Harry reached the last name on the list, he choked in surprise.

Wordlessly, he handed the list to Albus, who raised his eyebrows and handed it over to Amelia. Harry went ahead and summoned the acting Minister Melrose to the room. Naturally, he was stunned out of his wits before he had a chance to react, just like everyone else. But before they could gather up their captives for transport, Amelia voiced a concern.

“I want to make very sure that this deal is completely straightforward. This isn’t an issue of trust; this is about being thorough. Now, Mr Snape, you aren’t included in this. What I’d like Harry to attempt, if he thinks he can, is a general summons, just to be absolutely clear that we have everyone. Obviously, those already in Azkaban or being held, and these we have here, can’t and won’t respond. If we can do that, I’ll go ahead and sign the paperwork for Mrs Lestrange immediately and give her an escort to the continent as soon as she has recovered from this.”

After a minute of everyone looking around at everyone else, Albus nodded at Harry. Harry, however, was quite nervous, knowing what might happen, but went ahead with the summons anyway, very carefully not looking at his mentor when he did it.

But someone was. Severus would, after all, have felt the summons, and could have confirmed that Harry had managed it correctly. After a few moments, Harry heard Albus say, “How very strange. Severus, my dear boy, did you feel anything?”

Harry looked sideways to see Severus shaking his head, a completely bewildered look on his normally closed-off face. Harry then asked, “Am I doing it wrong, do you think? Maybe I just can’t.”

Harry was asked to try several more times, and he was thinking fast during the entire period, letting an increasingly distressed and perplexed expression dominate his face as a first line of defense.

“Severus, please show me your arm?” requested Albus. When Severus did so, several gasps rang out. “Severus, my dear boy, I would really like to know when your Dark Mark disappeared, but I can see by your expression that you have no idea, nor recollection of it happening.”

After releasing Severus’s arm from his grasp, Albus said, “We shall try something different, because I would like to get this over with. Severus, do you have any veritaserum on you, or will you need to obtain some?”

“No—I—” Severus flipped aside his robes to reveal a case strapped to his thigh. He opened it and drew out a vial of clear liquid.

“Splendid. If one of you over there would be so kind as to rouse one of our guests and bring them forth?”

Moody hauled over a random body and ennervated him, propping his mouth open so that Severus could place drops of the potion on his tongue before replacing the vial in his kit.

When the man was properly prepared, Albus asked Harry to try one last time. When questioned, the man affirmed that he had felt the summons, and that was all Amelia needed to be on the sunny side of legality. She arranged with Albus for the captive Death Eaters to be delivered to the Ministry in stages, then returned to it with Bellatrix in tow to start the paperwork and assemble her people for the upcoming trials.

Harry maintained his innocence when questioned and could not be shaken from his seemingly honest and genuine confusion about what had happened to Severus. As Albus and Severus both knew he could lie under any circumstances—thanks to them—they left off questioning, hoist on their own petard. And Severus also knew, or thought he did, that Harry would never lie to him.

Harry did, however, notice that Albus was twinkling in his direction quite a bit and seemed privately amused about something.

It was during the trials that the third surprise was revealed, and it did not happen until near the end of them, by chance or by fate. But it did relieve another of Harry’s worries without him having to do a thing.

The Death Eater in question had been in the last batch but one to be captured, and subsequently was one of the last to be interrogated. They had almost finished with him and were ready to lock him away for life when a routine question on his knowledge of Voldemort’s current whereabouts or last known location turned up something puzzling, but gratifying.

The man revealed that the last time he had seen his Lord was on Easter Sunday, inside the Ministry of Magic. Further questioning turned up that he had been brought along in order to help several others guard a door down in the Department of Mysteries. When Voldemort had left them to investigate the area, he had realized he badly needed to use the lavatory, as he was the nervous type and subsequently was not often used on missions of that nature.

He was, the Ministry officials decided, rather thick. At any rate, during his search for a place to relieve himself, he had witnessed something peculiar—his Lord racing full tilt through a crumbling stone archway hung with a tattered black veil. He had no idea what it was, though, and could only describe what he remembered of the room to them. He had not stayed long, being smart enough to realize that this was not the room he was looking for.

After that, the word was out. Voldemort was gone for good, and all of his minions were enjoying a nice long stay in Azkaban, minus two. It was also announced that Amelia Bones had been appointed acting Minister of Magic, which pleased a great many people. Celebrations were common over the next few weeks, and things slowly settled down as they were wont to do.

But, that wasn’t the end, was it.

Chapter Text

It was the last full week of May and Harry and Severus were sitting in his quarters that Sunday talking. The upcoming exams loomed, and it was only natural that the conversation turned, with Severus bringing up the subject with his charge.

“I trust with not only your Potions NEWT up next week, and your Mastery exam a fortnight later, that you have been revising adequately?”

Harry nodded and outlined what he’d been doing to prepare, getting the occasional nod from Severus of approval.

“So,” Severus said softly. “So, it soon ends. Voldemort is gone, his minions are incarcerated, and you . . . you will also be free.”

Harry wrinkled his brow at the look on his mentor’s face. It was at once distant and pained, and somehow, frightening.

“Yes,” said Severus, so softly that Harry had to strain to hear him. “So soon, and when that happens, it will all be gone. All for nothing.”

Harry said, “Sir?”

Severus didn’t seem to hear him and said, “I won’t have succeeded, will I. All this time. And how is it that you look so much like that time, those years, come back to haunt me.” Severus’s brows rose and his eyes widened. “And what to do now. Hm?”

Harry was becoming distinctly nervous, and beginning to wonder if during his removal of the Dark Mark he had somehow damaged his mentor in some obscure, unseen way.

“Yes. . . .” And then, without warning, the faraway quality in Severus’s eyes disappeared, replaced with a sharply focused gaze directed at Harry himself. Before he could react, Harry heard Severus say, “Haze, go under.”

After a moment, Severus said, “Haze, open your eyes. That’s right, good boy. Haze, you like to please me, don’t you.”

“Yes,” slipped out of his mouth easily. That detached, aware corner of his mind made a distinction though. Harry didn’t please Severus because he demanded it, or at least not any longer. He did it because he wanted to.

“And you feel pleasure when you do please me, don’t you, Haze?” Severus’s voice was a silky purr, and a slight smirk graced his mouth.

“Yes.”

“That’s right, you do. Haze, I want you to stand up and strip.”

The detached corner, not seeing any harm for the moment, didn’t object. Harry rose and removed his clothing, then stood there waiting.

“Such a pretty boy, and so obedient. You like being obedient to me, don’t you, Haze.”

“Yes.”

“Then you’ll like what I have in mind. It would please me, Haze, if you were to sit back down. That’s right. Now spread your legs for me, that’s a good boy. Now, Haze, I want you to stroke yourself for me, nice and slow, while we talk.” Severus smirked again and purred, “Very nice.

“You know, you look so very much like your father. He was pleasing to look at too. I like that you look so much like him, Haze. It means that I can finally obtain what I’ve wanted all these years. Doesn’t that make you happy?”

“Yes.”

“No need to speak, Haze. Just nod or shake your head unless you must use words. That’s a good boy. Yes, you look incredibly like him, and you see, I could never have him. But I can have you. It would please me, so I know the idea makes you very happy, isn’t that right.”

The corner was starting to have its misgivings about what was happening, but remained firm for the time being in its neutral stance, despite the increasingly ugly expression that was forming on Severus’s face.

“You told me once that that it was just me you liked, isn’t that right? Of course it is, because I am the only man that you’ll ever like, don’t you agree? Mmmm. Haze, you should know that from now on it’s impossible for you to cum without my permission. You’d like that wouldn’t you. Haze, repeat after me. I will no longer be able to obtain orgasm unless Professor Snape gives me permission.”

The corner knew that the directive could be removed later and remained quiet.

“Very good. Stroke yourself a little harder, Haze, that’s right. And I think . . . yes. Haze, repeat after me. Professor Snape is the only person I will ever feel lust for. That’s right. And it’s so pleasurable for you to agree to these things, isn’t it, because it means you’re pleasing me. Isn’t that right, Haze.”

Again, the corner knew the directive could be removed and Severus would never know the difference. But the once pleased smirk gracing his face had become an ugly sneer, and his eyes were bright with something other than mere joy. Then Severus’s expression cleared, and the corner felt a moment of relief.

“You like stroking yourself, don’t you, Haze. Of course you do. You look so nice and hard. You want to speed up and eventually cum, don’t you. But you can’t, not yet. I also think you like it when you go down on me, isn’t that right? You like the feeling of me filling your mouth, stroking in and out so that sometimes you find it hard to breathe. But it pleases me, so it pleases you to do it. I think you would do it any time I asked, wouldn’t you.

“I also think you like it when I fuck you. I see how you writhe on the bed and moan my name, how your face gets all flushed and you can’t keep your eyes open. You’re so desperate to arch up against me and take me deeper. You’re like a little whore under me, performing for her trick, making sure I enjoy the experience as much as humanly possible. Isn’t that right?

“I think you like it when I shove my cock so deep into you, threatening to split you apart, and you don’t even care if it hurts, do you. You just want it, because I want it. Isn’t that right, Haze? I think the pleasure you want, that you get from pleasing me is like a drug, an addiction. Every time you please me and get that rush, you want to do it again, and again, until you can’t think straight anymore and you’d do anything, anything at all to make me happy.” Severus’s voice had been rising steadily, and became even louder. “Isn’t that right, Haze?” he practically shouted. After a pause, his voice dropped again.

“Yes, I think that’s exactly how it is. See, you want to make up for what your father did to me, don’t you. And you want it so bad you’ll hang on my every word and fulfill my every need and desire. You’ll do that for me, won’t you. And you’ll enjoy it. You’ll take his place, and pay his price, that’s right. In fact, after your exams, you could just disappear off the face of the earth with no one able to find you.”

The corner was getting confused about what to do. Part of it wanted to call a halt to this grotesque soliloquy right that second, and part wanted very much to know just exactly how this would end. As Harry’s mind wrestled with the decision, Severus kept right on talking to his subconscious.

“Except me, that is. Because, you’d be right here with me, Haze, living in my quarters, ready at a moment’s notice to make me happy. That’s what you’d live for, isn’t that right. And I think you secretly love being dominated by me, giving up your control and handing it to me on a silver platter. Don’t you think it would be amusing? You could be my little toy, my little pet. I could even keep you under my desk in the classroom during tests so you could suck me off, and nobody would ever have to know. You would only exist in my eyes, in my rooms, in my life. And there would be no one else for you, but me. Tell me you’d like that, Haze.

“Yes.”

“Oh, sweet Haze. Give me a little time and that’s exactly what will happen. You’ll become my little whore, and the only thing you’ll ever think about again is pleasing me.” Severus’s eyes had a fanatical glow about them. “You won’t even take a piss unless I tell you it’s all right first,” he said savagely. Then, an idea seemed to take hold of him, and Severus relaxed again, an oddly sweet smile curving his lips.

“I know,” he said brightly, which scared the detached corner of Harry’s mind more than anything else had so far. “I have just the thing. I know how badly you want to please me, so I’m going to let you try. And if you do very well, Haze, I may even let you cum. Doesn’t that sound good? That’s right. You’re going to beg, Haze. You’re going to beg with every fiber of your being for me to fuck you. And if you please me, I will fuck you so hard you can’t sit down without pain for a week,” he said, finishing with a growl.

“So, go ahead,” he said lightly. “Be a good little pet and beg. Now, Haze,” he commanded.

Harry tipped forward off the chair, still stroking himself, and crawled awkwardly toward his mentor, the beginnings of soft words slipping from his parted lips. He pleaded and cajoled, coaxed and rubbed himself up against Severus’s leg. During the next several minutes, the corner wondered if it was doing the right thing, letting this go on, not paying attention to what was spilling out to Severus in words. When Harry knelt down with his back to Severus and plastered his face to floor, then began to move his backside in lewd and obscene ways, it wondered where on Earth it had ever learned how to perform in such a debased and degrading manner.

Severus had begun slapping his ass sharply, telling him that he liked it, and moving his hands roughly over the reddening skin. Harry’s pleas had become mixed with moans as he continued through everything to stroke himself, aching for release, and then it slipped out in the midst of his babbling, “I’ll do anything, anything you want. You can brand me and put me in chains and make me call you master. Anything that pleases you, just please, please fuck me.”

Severus suddenly went stiff and said a moment later, quite clearly, “Stop.”

Harry froze in place, a vast sense of relief sweeping over his body, emanating from that corner in his mind. Maybe it hadn’t been wrong. Severus left his hands exactly where they had been, and nothing was said for several minutes. The only sound to be heard for Harry was his own breathing and the pounding of heart.

Then, Severus removed his hands and spoke. “Harry, take your hand off yourself, then stand up.”

Harry did ask he asked and waited, still facing away.

“Please go sit in that chair. Now, Harry, I give you permission to cum.”

And he did, so hard that his vision went white from the intensity. When all of him, including that corner of his mind, was out of the subsequent daze and breathing normally, Severus spoke again.

“Harry, I would like you to please go into the bathroom and clean yourself up, and when you are done you will dry off, return here and get dressed, then sit back down in that chair.” His voice was flat and lifeless, and his eyes were wide and staring.

Harry did as he requested, arriving back in the room some minutes later, then finishing the list. When he was seated, there was silence for a time. But eventually, Severus began to speak in a distant, detached voice, and his eyes had a faraway quality that bespoke remembrance.

“Harry, I know that you won’t remember any of this, and I’m grateful for that. I almost made a huge mistake. You’d know that if you could. It’s better that you don’t. I think I may as well tell you, so you can understand what just happened. I know, you won’t remember, but I think I’d feel better if I did.

“You see, all those years ago in school, your father and I didn’t start out as enemies. I think it would be safer to say that I was just another Slytherin and he was just another Gryffindor. We didn’t go out of our ways to run across each other, but neither did we avoid it. We were just two students in a huge school, that’s all.”

“I was a quiet boy. Studious and even a bit withdrawn, but I hadn’t let the house rivalry affect me. Oh, there were always students who acted based on which house you were in, but that wasn’t a factor between me and your father. I guess I’m not really getting to the point, am I?

“Every so often when we did cross paths, we would talk, or even sometimes lend a helping hand. I’d like to think that while we weren’t friends exactly, we weren’t enemies. More like cautiously hopeful acquaintances. And over time we crossed paths more frequently and spent more time in each other’s company.”

Harry, who had been caught up in the recitation, realized that there were silent tears streaking down Severus’s cheeks unheeded.

“There came a point where I began to like James a great deal. I became infatuated with him, and thought often of what time we spent together, wishing it could be more. I even convinced myself he was beginning to feel the same way. He was always happy, always ready for a laugh. I thought he felt the same. I had got very close to him, and he hadn’t moved away. I tried to kiss him, and that’s when it all went wrong.

“It was like I had tried to slap him. I honestly can’t say if he was just surprised, or if he was genuinely upset, even disgusted. Your father became quite vocal, started berating me, and saying things I couldn’t stand to hear. I felt like my heart had been crushed, like there was a gaping wound in my chest I could never repair. To this day I don’t know if he rejected me simply because I was another boy. Both of us handled it badly, Harry.

“I was so hurt, so humiliated, that I lashed out myself. I obliviated him, Harry. I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t good with words, and I was so afraid that by the next morning, the entire school would know what had happened. I couldn’t bear it. I’m not even sure I cast the spell entirely correctly.”

Harry noted that Severus’s face had become blotchy and his nose was red. The odd tear continued to slip down his cheeks and he made no move to wipe any away.

“I obliviated him and fled, back to the dorms. After that, I couldn’t stand to be around him, remembering what he’d said, knowing how he’d hurt me. He took it badly and things went downhill. We started avoiding each other, and eventually it escalated into verbal abuse in the halls with the help of his Gryffindor friends, or pranks that left me seething in anger. As I said, neither of us handled things well, Harry.

“And honestly, I wonder sometimes if the reason he saved me that night was because some small part of him remembered that we had once got along. Or maybe it really was that he would have done the same for anyone. Maybe he didn’t want Remus to be blamed for my death and possibly locked away or executed as a dangerous creature. I just don’t know. But I’ve never been able to let it go.

“I was all right when I heard James married Lily. She was, despite my own actions toward her, a very nice girl. I was all right when you were born, Harry. I thought I had pushed everything so far down that it no longer mattered. But then, you came to Hogwarts. And you looked so very like James that all of it came back. One look at you and that anger, that hurt and humiliation, transferred to you, an innocent child.

“All the things I’d learned to hate about James, I ascribed to you. But I had a life debt, and I honored it. I saved you more than once, because I had to, because I needed to. But I hated you with a passion. It was so easy to do, Harry. And I was the one in a position of power, and you couldn’t stop me. But still, aside from having to actually deal with you on occasion, I was all right. You would make it through your years here and leave, and that would be the end of it.

“But then Albus insisted I teach you Occlumency. I looked for a reason, any excuse, to deny you those lessons. I used every weapon I had, every word, every memory, the things I knew would hurt you the most. And then you solved my problem for me. You looked in my pensieve, and that was all I needed to shove you back out of my life. I thought, there we go. I’ll be fine.

“Then Albus came again, insisted I teach you, for I was the only one capable of it. And still you resisted me. You were stubborn and willful. And I admit, that was a problem of my own making. I cannot blame you for that, Harry. Desperate, I looked outside the wizarding world for a solution, and I found one. Hypnosis. With it, I could get you to learn, and learn well, and get you back out of my life again. If you were taught, I could avoid you.

“But then, the idea came. It was sweet, Harry, that feeling I got. I realized I could get my revenge through you. And that’s exactly what I started to do. Right up until just a short while ago. I don’t know if I can explain it properly. You . . . got under my skin, made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to see or acknowledge the things that had been hinted at or even displayed openly. I didn’t want to hear that you were nothing like your father. You had to be him.

“But somehow you changed things. I don’t know how exactly. Maybe it was the day you told me you trusted me, and proved it. Maybe it was how sweetly innocent you were despite everything. Somewhere along the way, a part of me began to care about you, and it became harder to push away the unpleasant things, like your situation with the Dursleys.”

The tears were slipping down his face more quickly, but Severus continued to ignore them as though they did not exist. His expression was twisted as though in pain, or reliving the internal struggle he’d been waging. “You’ve made me so proud of you, Harry. You took what I gave you and built on that and achieved so much more than I had dreamed of. And you actually cared about me. You saw things others never bothered to look for. You came to me willingly, trustingly, and gave yourself to me.

“And look what I did. I force you to the point of mindless begging, pleading with me to treat you the same way Voldemort might have treated me. Clap you in irons, brand you with my own special mark, and control you like dog or a house-elf.” Severus finally focused on Harry, his eyes wet and shining. Severus slipped out of his chair and came to kneel before Harry, placing his hands on each of his knees.

“Harry, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I was so afraid of losing the one person who seemed to actually like me that I couldn’t bear it. I should have known, should have remembered. It was your choice all along, not mine, and you had chosen me. I wish you could forgive me, Harry, but I’m not sure I can forgive myself. But I’m going to do everything I can to make it all right. Please believe me, Harry. I’m going to do whatever I can to try to fix things, even though I know for you, this never happened. I know you aren’t James. You never were, and I can’t pretend otherwise any longer.”

Severus fell silent, staring downward, for several minutes. When he looked up his face was full of quiet resolve. “Harry, I would like you to stay here while I go clean up. I’ll only be a few minutes, I promise, and then I’ll come back and try to fix this. Would you be willing to wait for me?”

Harry nodded, though not as enthusiastically as the corner of his mind did.

“Thank you, Harry. I’ll be right back.” Severus rose and disappeared into the bedroom, and presumably the bathroom. Harry sat in silence and waited, not particularly concerned about the passage of time. When Severus did return, he knelt again, then began the painstaking process of modifying or removing every directive he’d given Harry to remember. He left the useful ones, such as the directive to visualize his defenses every night before he slept. He modified the directive that dealt with his nickname, changing it so that Harry would only not be unaccustomed to Severus using it.

The directive he had included intended to seal Harry’s mind away from anyone but himself and Harry was likewise modified, removing himself from it, and leaving Harry sole keeper of the ability to induce a hypnotic trance. The corner was nodding away happily, even though it wasn’t particularly concerned with what Severus was changing. The fact that he was doing it at all meant good things. Severus didn’t need to know that half of what he was doing was redundant, as Harry had already taken care of things on his own.

Naturally, Severus left in place the directive to not remember. The only trigger he left in place was the one to wake Harry up. He also very firmly instructed Harry to wipe from his mind all the suggestions he had made just that day in his obsessive state. Then, when he was finally satisfied with everything that he had done, Severus moved back to his chair and said, “I am sorry, Harry.” A moment later he said, “Haze, wake up.”

Harry blinked and shook his head slightly, then looked at Severus. “Did I doze off or something? Maybe I did. Your voice was so soft when you were speaking just now.”

Severus, who had been sitting rather stiffly, relaxed and let the corner of his mouth quirk. “Are you trying to imply I am so boring as to surpass Binns?”

“I would never do that,” Harry said with a straight face, trying to ignore the part of himself that was dancing around in happy circles.

“For your information, we were discussing your upcoming exams.” Though he looked not much different than he had, Harry thought he detected a certain sense of relief in Severus, the lifting of a burden.

“Oh, right. I’m not all that worried. I have a pretty good memory, after all.”


Wednesday rolled around and Harry sat his Potions NEWT. The answers seemed to fly from his mind to the paper and he had no trouble remembering anything, nor in creating the potions necessary for the laboratory portion of the exam. He left with a sense of quiet pride and immediately dashed off to tell Remus how he thought he’d done.

Two weeks later he sat his Mastery exam, walking away from it quite sure that he had done everything perfectly. He returned to the castle and sought out Severus, cajoling him into having dinner in his rooms for once, and to hell with Albus.

“You know, you are free now, in all senses of the word,” said Severus, looking faintly sad.

“Pardon?”

“There’s no more evil wizard lurking around the corner, nor his foul minions. You’ve taken all your exams, Haze. You can do anything you want now. I should think the worst you’ll have to face is adoring fans.”

“What if I don’t want to go anywhere?”

“But you should. There’s so much out there to see. You’ve been insulated here, as a student, and for being who you are. Life isn’t all about Potions or classes or even learning how to defend yourself against the man who persists in trying to kill you.”

“And if I were to go out and explore, would you be here when I returned?”

“I would,” Severus agreed.

Harry reflected for a moment, over the past fortnight. Since the macabre experience he had gone through, he felt slightly cautious, even though Severus had done all that was necessary to fix his mistakes. Severus had also given him space without saying a word about it. He never mentioned that Harry had stopped being as affectionate with him, or that they had not gone to bed together either.

It wasn’t that Harry was afraid. He just had wanted time to think, and to see what Severus would actually do after his quiet, though sincere request for him to consider forgiveness. If Severus was suggesting now that Harry walk his own path for a while, then perhaps that would be wise thing to do. And Severus would be there when he returned. Harry smiled and looked up.

“Severus?”

“Yes, Harry?”

“Will you come with me, into the bedroom?”

Severus arched a brow, then nodded. Harry could see the change in his eyes and expression, and stood, leading the way. That day, their coupling was sweet and unhurried, and Harry finally learned what it was like not only to feel Severus’s mouth on him, but to sink himself deep within the body of his lover.

Two days later, the term ended. Harry had no home to go to, but he rode down to the train station with his friends to see them off. When he returned to the castle, he packed up his things and shrunk them, then said good-bye to the staff members and to Remus. He saw Severus one more time, then left without a backward glance.

Chapter Text

Clarissa had just filled her plate and begun to eat when movement by the doors caught her attention, causing her to stop and stare. A young man she didn’t recognize had stepped through and was making his way toward the head table, striding easily and seemingly unaware of the mild chaos that ensued at his arrival. His longish hair was in disarray, as though he had been subjected to a strong breeze, and his skin glowed with a healthy tan. He waved, and she turned to look briefly at the head table, noticing as she did that many of the staff looked delighted.

She didn’t really understand what made the man so compelling to look at, but he seemed to exude joy and a love of life, so much so that it spread like a mist across the hall, turning previously unaware heads in his direction. When he reached the foot of the dais he turned and strode over to and took the short flight of steps off to the side.

As he walked the length of the table, he paused at each chair to say something to the professor seated there, and often laid a hand on their shoulder briefly. When he stopped at the headmaster’s chair, he leaned down and exchanged several sentences with Professor Dumbledore, nodded, then gave the older man an exuberant hug. Before letting go he pressed a kiss to the headmaster’s cheek, then spoke to the remainder of the staff as he passed them, finally sliding into a seat next to the Potions Master.

After watching him for a moment or two longer, Clarissa found her meal was much more pressing, and resumed eating.


Harry slipped into the empty seat next to Severus, thinking for a brief moment that it was odd it remained unused, but grateful nonetheless. Very much aware that a stranger was sitting to his other side, he twisted and said, “I’ll be one of your seat mates for a few days at least. I’m Harry Potter. Pleased to meet you.”

The gentleman smiled and introduced himself as that year’s Defense professor, and said his name was David. After an awkward shaking of hands, Harry smiled and faced forward again, tilting his head to the right to say to Severus, “Good afternoon, sir.” He filled his plate with a selection of his favorites from what was offered and began to eat.

However, he carefully dropped his right hand under the table and brought it to a rest on Severus’s thigh and squeezed gently, feeling the sudden tension and relaxation that his action had caused. A second later, a hand covered his in a momentary caress.

“I see you have returned,” stated Severus in a low voice.

Harry nodded because his mouth was full.

“And are you staying?”

“For at least a few days,” Harry replied, then angled his head again toward Severus. “It depends.”

“On?”

“Professor Dumbledore says my rooms are still there for me if I want them,” Harry said. “Though, I don’t know what I’d do here.” He shrugged and shoved a piece of potato into his mouth. Now, Severus was not a stupid man. Harry assumed that when he sidestepped the question, Severus would understand it was something he considered best touched on in private.

Severus gave a light snort. “It is true that normally only staff and students live within the castle, and then normally only during the school year itself.”

“Mm. It isn’t as though the Potions position is open,” Harry said teasingly.

Severus ignored that and said, “Of course, Albus is rather fond of you, so he might manage an exception in your case.”

Harry shrugged and said, “He did ask me to come see him directly lunch is over. Who knows? If not, I’ll just have to find myself a nice little place somewhere with room enough for a lab.”

“Dare I ask what you have been up to over the past year?”

Harry flashed Severus a smile and said, “What else? Filling in the gaps in that book. Well, among other things. I know you noticed I’m a bit taller.”

“Among other things, yes.”

Harry was silent for a minute, finishing the last of the food on his plate. Then he reached for a sandwich and served himself a bowl of soup. “Nothing gets past your keen eye, sir,” he said archly.

“Indeed.”

As lunch was ending Harry asked Severus if it was all right for him to stop by when classes were over for the afternoon, then went to meet with Albus in his office. He gave Fawkes a fond greeting, then sat down to see what the headmaster had to say.

“It is very good to see you again, Harry. And you look quite well.”

“Thank you, sir. It’s been great seeing everyone again.”

“Ah, Harry. I think that by now you ought to be calling me Albus.”

“All right.”

“Now, how long are you staying?”

“I have no idea. It’s lovely that I can use my rooms, though. But what would I do? I considered finding a house somewhere, but I hadn’t yet decided whether I wanted the anonymity of a muggle area, or someplace like Hogsmeade where I might be more comfortable, even though everybody knows exactly who I am.”

“I see. And what have you been up to while you’ve been gone?”

“As I told Professor Snape, filling in the gaps. There are a lot of things magic can’t do yet, and I’ve been trying to create potions for some of them. Those that make sense, anyway. A bit of travel as well.”

Albus peered at him over the rims of his spectacles, eyes twinkling. “Harry, I’ve been quite curious about something for a while now. Just over a year, in fact. Were you responsible for the removal of Severus’s Dark Mark?”

The barest smile touched the corner of Harry’s mouth. “Albus, you and I both know I could not have done that without Professor Snape being aware of it.”

“Yes, of course,” replied Albus, the twinkle in his eyes not diminishing in the least. “Quite so, dear boy. But, on to other business. Harry, there are a few options open to you if you wished to stay here at Hogwarts.”

Harry raised his brows in question.

“Granted, you could find or build yourself a home in Hogsmeade and still be nearby, but there are things you could do here. For instance, you could become the administrator for the various clubs the students have, rather than them being divided up among the professors. Or, you could become a dueling instructor. And, Filius has been thinking of retiring—says he’s getting old.” Albus went so far as to roll his eyes slightly.

“We would need a replacement for him, and I know that despite your preferences, you excelled at Charms as much as anything else. The first two would leave you more time for your own personal agenda, of course.”

Harry furrowed his brow in thought, his eyes dropping to gaze at the surface of Albus’s desk.

“For the time being, I would be delighted if you were to avail yourself of your old rooms and continue to eat with us up at the head table.”

Harry blinked his gaze up and smiled. “I’d like that. Thanks.”

“Why don’t you go get settled in, then, and we’ll discuss this again later when you’ve had a chance to think things through.”

Harry spent the next several hours packing, moving, and unpacking. He had been putting his clothes away in the closet, going in and out with piles of shirts and robes, when he was brought up short by the fact that Severus was in the room, casually leaning against the wall.

“For someone who might only be staying a few days, you certainly need quite a wardrobe,” remarked Severus. “Did you join the Gilderoy Lockhart Fashion of the Week Club while you were away?”

Harry smirked. “Ha, bloody, ha.”

“If I neglected to say so earlier, there’s no need for you to be calling me sir any longer in public.”

Harry wrinkled his brow, then said, “How about Sev?”

Severus straightened and said, “Do, and I shall use your liver for my next class.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine, Severus.”

“Are you quite done for the moment?” He nodded at the clothes Harry was still holding.

“Oh.” Harry dropped the pile back on the bed. “Of course I am, but I think standing around holding a bunch of shirts is loads of fun. You should try it sometime.”

“Spare me your pathetic attempt at humor. Instead, let us discuss how long you’ll be here.”

“Not here, then. I won’t be able to think if everything is still laying about in front of me and I can’t take care of it.” Harry turned and exited the room, heading out to flop onto his couch.

Severus joined him a moment later, taking the chair. “Now, what did you mean, ‘it depends’.”

“Just what I said. It depends. Albus has given me several options if I wanted to stay at Hogwarts. Otherwise I would probably find a place in Hogsmeade. And of course, it depends on a few other things.”

“What options?”

Harry briefly explained his meeting with Albus, then said, “I’m not sure yet what to think. I mean, can you imagine me as the Charms professor?”

“I think you can do whatever you set out to do, Harry. What are these few other things you referred to?”

“Those have to do with you and me. I have a few confessions to make, Severus.”

“Do tell.”

“First, I’d like to say I missed you a great deal. Things just aren’t the same without you around.”

Severus arched a brow. “You were missed as well.”

“By you?”

“Yes.”

Harry smiled briefly, then bit his lip. “My second confession is a bit more complex. I hope you’ll forgive me.” He took a deep breath and said, “Severus, the Archbishop of Canterbury likes to wear lace underpants.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Severus asked, shaking his head as though he’d not heard correctly. Harry bit his lip again and waited, watching as Severus’s expression slowly morphed from vaguely confused to downright angry.

“You obnoxious little brat. How dare you!?” Severus wrenched his sleeve up and thrust out his arm. “And this—this was you!? You lied to me. You used me! You sodding little—” Severus raged on for a good ten minutes, using his extensive vocabulary to verbally rip Harry to shreds, finally winding down to a seething silence.

Harry cleared his throat, catching the older man’s attention, and calmly said, “May I address one of your questions now? Splendid. I dared to do that to you, Severus, because you did it first, and it was nothing more than what you did to me. In fact, it was much, much less.”

“You—” Severus snapped his mouth shut. “No,” he said, shaking his head.

“Yes.”

Severus slumped in the chair, his face betraying his growing horror and guilt. “You . . . knew. Everything?”

“I did, and I do.”

“When? How?” Severus asked, keeping his eyes averted.

“I knew the first time you put me under after I returned from my convalescence at the Dursleys. You remember those books you had Remus deliver? And how I told you he included others? You see, I had told Remus early that summer that I was afraid. Afraid of portkeys and afraid of making a fool out of myself. I knew it was possible that at some point I would be forced to use one again, and it might be urgent. So he gave me a solution. Self-hypnosis.”

Severus nodded.

“So I tried it, but one thing really bothered me. I wasn’t remembering what happened, and I couldn’t help but think of when Ginny had been taken in by Riddle’s diary and kept experiencing time gaps, not having any idea what she’d been doing. Of course, I knew who was fiddling with my head, so I wasn’t worried about that part of it, but I did want to remember all of it.”

Severus nodded again, his hands clenched against the arms of the chair.

“I can only assume that since I told myself to remember, it clashed with, and won over, what you’d put in place. You put me under, and I realized what you had done. When I left that day, I wanted to be so angry with you, so hurt. Sure, you were doing a lot of good things for me with hypnosis, but we both know that wasn’t everything. I wanted to go back to your rooms and tear you apart, hurt you the way you’d hurt me. But I couldn’t.”

Severus flicked his eyes up for a moment.

“I came back here and thought about it. Then I devised a new session for myself to get some answers. I wanted to know exactly what you’d done to me, what I should change, and how I honestly felt about it without my emotions clouding over my reason. And I did remove several of the directives you put in place. I was able to lie to you from that point on, Severus. And I didn’t feel compelled to please you any longer. You just thought I did. I think I was a bit too sneaky for you on that score.”

“Indeed,” said Severus in a faint voice.

“And do you know what I found out, Severus?”

He gave a tiny shake of the head.

“I found out something interesting. I felt the way I did about you, not because you made me, or forced me to—I simply did. I liked you for you. I admired you, looked up to you, and was very attracted to you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Don’t understand what?”

“All of this. You knew I was using you, but you let it continue. Then you did the same to me, but for different reasons. And yet, you’re here. Why?”

“I wanted to know why, Severus. I wanted to know just how far you might go. And believe me, once I understood what you’d done, I made very sure I could undo anything you attempted. You scared me that day. I was horrified at what was happening. But I needed to know the truth—would you stop yourself, or would you really go ahead with your revenge. I needed a little time afterward to figure out how I felt, but I forgave you. I think, if you remember back, that I just didn’t say it in words.”

Severus made a vaguely agreeable noise.

“As for why I turned the tables on you—well, that would be my next confession.”

“There’s more?”

“Yeah. I didn’t do much to you, Severus. I asked questions I thought you’d never answer, but that I wanted the answers for. I couldn’t ask you normally, because then you’d be suspicious of what I was up to.”

“A wise assessment, I’m sure.”

Harry grinned, even though Severus still wasn’t looking at him. “You gave me the idea, Severus. I built on what you started. I found a way to use the link I had with Voldemort against him, and to use your ideas for my mental defenses against him even more. I used it to find out how to place a Dark Mark, and once I realized that I could influence his thoughts, used it to get him to remove a Dark Mark. He killed Peter because of me, but I’m afraid I don’t feel very guilty about it. You’re free and alive, Voldemort is dead, and his people are in prison.”

“The reports say he went through the veil. Why?”

“He did. I was in his mind the whole time, right up until the last second. It was the night I removed the last of your Dark Mark. He was so confused by then, so malleable, that I planted the idea in his mind that he should try and influence me through dreams to seek out that room of Power at the Department of Mysteries so I could learn how to defeat him. Naturally, he thought it would be a trap for me. He just couldn’t understand that the trap was for him. Once he managed to get to the veil room—he thought I was there in person—he saw what I wanted him to see. In his eyes, we dueled, and I tried to escape through one of the doors. He chased after me and killed himself when he stepped through.”

Silence reigned for a time. Harry sat back, as he had leaned forward during his oration, and waited for Severus to respond. And eventually, he did. “Why did you even reveal to me what you’d done? You could have gone on without doing so and I never would have been the wiser.”

“Isn’t it obvious? I wanted—want—to be honest. Because I can be, not because I must. I couldn’t come back here and pretend everything was all right, Severus. You knew what you’d done, and almost did do, and I thought . . . if I wasn’t honest, it would be a lie. You’d always worry why I came back. Was it because of something you did when you were mucking around in my head? Or was it because I actually wanted to. I already know your reasons, now you know mine. We’re even.”

Severus finally looked up at him and met his eyes.

Harry smiled and said, “Besides, it depends how long I stay because I think I may be in love with you. It depends on if you even still want me here, knowing all this. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”

Severus could, and did, pushing out of his chair to join Harry on the couch. “You came back because you wanted to, with full knowledge.”

“Yes,” Harry said with a nod.

“I cannot argue with that, Haze.”

The couch made a lovely substitute for a bed, but the floor was even better as they quickly found out, so long as you didn’t mind its unyielding nature. Some time later, Severus finally remembered what they’d discussed earlier.

“Charms, dueling, or Club Administrator?”

“I don’t think the latter. It sounded like Albus was dreaming things up in order to give me a reason to stay.”

“Mm. I agree. So, which?”

“I take it that means you could stand to have me around underfoot all the time.”

“Yes, I could. And if you upset me in any way, I’ll have you preparing ingredients every night for a month.”

“Brilliant. I’ll go tell Albus tomorrow.”