Title: Apprentice: Chapter 8 (09/?)
Pairing: None yet, previous Snape/OC
Warnings: Violence, child abuse, manipulative but not evil Dumbledore, OOC-ness.
Disclaimer: Nope, doesn’t belong to me. I only play with them a bit.
Summary: The war had been over for several years, and Harry’s life did not turn out the way he expected it. He ended leaving England and travelling the world. That’s where death found him, but he was the Master of the Hollows and second chances were a given. He would not waste them.
THIS IS AN AU STORY (AUAlternate Universe), even though I try to follow the original novels as close as I can.
Not a native English speaker writing.
Characters might be Out Of Character (OOC)
There might be spoilers for all books.
Author Note: When I started writing this story, book five was not yet out.
I have decided to include details from the fifth book, not may and not yet, but there will be certain aspects of the book included.
Author Note: Well finally it’s here. Chapter eight, I hope you like it.
To some Severus might sound slightly OOC, but my beta Aphy and I believe there is enough explanation to his behaviour in this and the other chapters to justify the changes.
I can’t promise I’ll update this soon, but I’m working on the next chapter for all the stories I have pending. So will try to get something up soon.
I’d like to thank Aphy for betaing this chapter. The explanations were great 🙂
Matilda’s comment about the boy’s trust left Severus very thoughtful. He just could not think why Potter would trust him. He had not given the boy any reason to. In fact, most of his actions towards him would inspire just the opposite. Well, there was no profit in pondering that which only the boy could answer. That is, if he felt like he could confide in his git of a Potions professor; and Severus would not bet a flobberworm on it. The Potter boy was becoming an interesting enigma, so one more mystery to add to the whole puzzle would not change things at all.
After staying in thoughtful silence for a while, they decided to leave the conversation at that for the moment. There would be time to sort things out slowly during the next few days. As an afterthought, Severus informed Nan of his decision to leave reporting to Dumbledore until the following day. He did not have to give that much of an explanation as she agreed with him wholeheartedly. If she saw her old friend tonight, she might do something she regretted later; like trying to hex him when he was distracted.
There were some things Nan needed to do that Severus’ distressing phone call had kept her from finishing. She may have been the Snape family nanny when Sev was a child, but now she was a businesswoman in charge of both of his companies, a far cry from her initial job description at Snape Manor. Managing the businesses was also something Severus was not very good at, and it was not because he lacked the talent. He simply was happier behind a cauldron, in a chemistry lab surrounded by his ingredients and notes or, strange as it sounded, teaching.
Sev could be a shrewd negotiator, and quite ruthless at closing business transactions, but he lacked the people skills. He just was unable to do public relations often. He could be nice, soft spoken, even charming, – although she was sure 99.9% of those who had ever met him did not believe him capable of it – altogether the epitome of the perfect gentleman when he wanted to be, or when he was in the ‘mood’. The problem was, he seldom wanted to, and being surrounded by imbeciles and idiots ruined his ‘mood’ in seconds.
Matilda needed to send back the reports she had finished checking, as well as her comments on them. There were also some instructions for her secretary, or assistant as she preferred to call her, Mildred. Now that Severus was taking some time off, he was sure to want meetings with the department heads of both companies, as well as reports on the status of their respective areas.
She sighed as she picked up the documents and her notes from her small home office. It promised to be a busy week, and it probably would extend over to the next. The only ones she was sure were going to enjoy Severus impromptu visit were those in the New Product Development Departments on both companies. They all talked the same language, were usually on the same planet as her ex-charge, and right now both teams were stuck with their respective projects. If she knew Sev well, that would lead to gruelling twenty-four hour long brainstorming sessions, most of which he would be part off. Having Harry at home might change that schedule a bit, but she would not count on it.
Nan informed Sev that she was going to P by D – their potions company – and asked what messages he wanted delivered. Severus requested she floo Eldon Lloyd first, and ask when he could come to check on Potter, the sooner the better. Sev worried that if they let too much time pass, magic might not be able to do much to heal Potter completely. He was slightly apprehensive that it might already be too late.
The Potions Master also asked to her contact Dumbledore and arrange for a meeting the next day, preferable close to midday. He was not sure he could stand Albus cheerful attitude, and subsequent guilt trip – once he knew of the abuse his ‘Golden Boy’ suffered in a place were he was supposed to be safe – too early in the morning. He also wanted to have a couple of house-elves stationed at the flat. The boy would not be able to do anything for a while in his condition; even with whatever treatment Eldon advised he was probably going to be bedridden for several days.
As an after thought, he asked her to buy Potter a tasteful pair of wizarding glasses. They should let him see a bit more than he did now, perhaps not enough for much reading – though he seriously doubted Potter was the reading kind like his friend the ‘know-it-all’ – but he should be able to recognize people and watch the TV to keep himself entertained. After all, most muggle and muggle-born teens liked to watch the contraption. That should do until they were able to visit a specialist who would cast the necessary spells for the glasses to be completely adapted to the boy, he was not sure Eldon would be able to do that as it was not his field of work.
Once Nan left, Severus went to his room and rummaged in his bathroom’s cabinets for a headache potion; the strongest one he brewed. They always kept the basic healing potions within easy access, all the others were stored in his workroom which was most of the flat’s second floor, though no muggle would have guessed the place was actually two storied. After the potion took effect, he debated between brewing something to keep himself distracted, read one of the many pending books he had in the study or simply act muggle and mindlessly watch the TV. The thing was incredibly good for when he was not in the mood for thinking. It practically numbed his mind enough to avoid serious thought. There were also a couple of movies he bought at the start of the summer that he had yet to watch. In the end, reading won, he needed to update the content of the syllabus for his new potions seminar as well as choose a suitable textbook and reference material.
On his way to the study he paused by Potter’s door. He heard a soft noise, and was about to dismiss it when he heard it again. The boy was talking, and whimpering. His years as a Head of House made him enter the room without making any noise and observe. Potter was still asleep and he mumbled or frowned constantly, one scrawny arm covered his face protectively.
The children under his care often had nightmares, especially those that came from unloving homes. He was never one to coddle them, but he understood and listened if they needed to talk, and he ALWAYS helped in those cases where one of his little serpents was abused or neglected. Sometimes the first years got homesick, and usually needed a hug and soft comforting words. Severus was not the hugging kind, he could do it on occasion if needed; it just was not easy for him, it brought back painful memories he rather forget.
To make up for this, he selected among the girls in his house, and sometimes even the boys, those who were willing to comfort the little ones. Since he implemented that method, there had been a huge improvement in the way Slytherin House ran, in the camaraderie of its members, and no one outside was any the wiser, which was perfect for him. His evil ‘greasy git’ image went undamaged by showing he cared for the well being of his charges.
As he watched, it became clear that the boy’s dream was not a good one, and Severus debated waking the Gryffindor up. The decision was taken from his hands moments later. Potter thrashed wildly on the bed, screamed a couple of times and woke up terrified and disoriented. He was frantically searching for something on the nightstand, which Snape believed were his glasses, and when he did not find them he began to panic. The Potions Master approached the bed, Potter looked at him terrified, and he began apologizing in a panicked voice.
“I’m sorry uncle Vernon, I’m sorry… I… I didn’t mean to wake you up… I swear I won’t do it again… please… please don’t…” he began to crawl his way as far away from the approaching blur as he could.
Harry was not completely awake, but this had become a nightly ritual since he returned for the summer break. He would have a nightmare or a vision, scream, and wake the Dursleys. Then Vernon would come down to his cupboard and give him a few punches or kicks depending on how loud he had screamed. He knew that apologizing profusely usually helped in getting off lightly. Vernon liked the grovelling.
“I’m not your Uncle Potter, calm down!” Severus was aiming for a neutral tone, but it came out sounding harsher than he intended. The boy did not seem to recognize his voice, but the tone was familiar enough to scare him even more, and he kept trying to back up away from him although he had reached the headboard. Severus tried to get a hold of him before he ended up on the floor. He would only aggravate his recently healed injuries if he fell off the bed.
Severus caught one of the boy’s wrists in a light hold, and was completely gobsmacked by his reaction. Potter panicked, thrashed wildly to get away from him – completely ignoring his injuries – and fell off the bed, with only an indrawn breath to indicate that it had been painful. The boy frantically tried to stand, and when he could not he crawled backwards until the closet door stopped his retreat. For a moment he tried to find other means of escape and when it dawned on the terrified boy that he was ‘trapped’, he curled into a tight, trembling ball. Severus knew it was an effort to protect his most vulnerable organs from harm. Surprisingly Potter had not uttered a sound besides his pleading.
It happened so fast that the Potions Master could only stare in something akin to shock. What he witnessed told him beyond any doubt what the boy’s emotional condition was; and it was not good. Not good at all; this was not the arrogant, defiant and brave boy he pictured him to be. In his place was a very vulnerable and scared child. Potter had not even been completely awake yet, he probably still was not. The reaction he just witnessed was not ‘normal’; those filthy muggles had beaten him into it, he would find a way to make them pay. He wondered how in hell Potter managed to hide such extreme reactions from his dorm mates.
Those ignorant Gryffindor dunderheads probably thought nothing of it. Because of that Harry Potter had been sent back summer after summer to be mistreated by those appalling people. No wonder the boy ran away before his third year, never left Hogwarts during the winter break, and begged to visit the Weasleys every summer break. Well, the bunch of Gryffindors that shared a dorm with him were going to start the term with 300 points in the negative just for sheer stupidity.
Albus was in for it too, but so was Minerva. Did she not check on her foolish cubs every night? Perhaps that was why they were always getting into trouble after curfew. He had monitoring charms and potions – his own creations by the way – all over the Slytherin dungeons, including the halls outside. If one of his serpents was unduly distressed, injured, sick, or out of the common room at night he knew. Did Minerva not have something similar implemented in Gryffindor tower? He knew Flitwick did, although his Ravenclaws were not likely to go wandering after curfew.
It was their duty as Heads of House to see to the overall well being of the idiotic brats. Besides those measures, he made his rounds through the dormitories each and every night, never at the same time though. It would not do to have a predictable pattern; the little menaces were far too clever to risk it. He did all that for his charges, and he was not by any means, the paternal kind, at least he did not believe himself to be.
Why did Minerva not do the same? She was always bragging how much she cared for her cubs, perhaps it was just too much for her to juggle three positions, if something as evident as the boy’s condition had slipped past her. Had Potter been in Slytherin his actions would have caught either his or his prefects attention the first week of his first year.
‘Merlin’s beard! How am I supposed to deal with a boy in this condition?’ He thought watching the trembling, panicked lump that was Harry Potter. He wondered how this terrified child was ‘supposed’ to save the Wizarding World from the Dark Lord, when he needed saving himself?
“I’m not the right person for this!” He muttered as his hand went to his hair, combing the tendrils that escaped the ponytail out of the way. It was a nervous gesture he rarely allowed other people to see.
Severus revised his options; Nan would probably go to Potter and offer comforting words, soothing motherly hugs and caresses. She did it for him occasionally; even now that he was a grown wizard. There were still times when the nightmares became too much, he had seen and done far too many horrible things in his life not to have troubled sleep. He welcomed that gesture of affection, it was a reminder that things got better, that he had someone who cared, and it always helped him feel better. But she was not here to offer that kind of reassurance and comfort to Potter, just as she was not going to be at Hogwarts.
As he watched the frightened boy, his heart gave an odd painful lurch, reminding him that yes, it was still there, and it was not completely frozen yet. It was also now, as he watched the boy that the reality of Nan’s words finally dawned on him. There was only going to be the two of them at Hogwarts. He was responsible for Potter, and it was Severus who had to provide comfort, to soothe his fears, to get him back on his feet, to help him gain the knowledge and confidence he needed so he could stand a chance against the Dark lord.
Damn that old meddling coot! He probably had some of these things in mind even if he ignored the boy’s current condition. With a resigned sigh, Snape admitted that it no longer mattered how much he wanted to be emotionally detached from the whole apprentice/guardianship situation, he, in good conscience could not be. If he gave in to that impulse, Severus knew he would be no better than the muggles that ‘raised’ him; denying Potter that which he desperately needed. With another resigned sigh, he approached the trembling boy slowly, and hunkered before him. This time he refrained from touching him.
“Mr. Potter, you are safe.” He began talking, and immediately saw the boy cringe.
Severus frowned not knowing what caused that, and then he got the feeling that the child associated his last name with harsh words and ridicule. It was strange to get any type of feeling when he was not using legilimency, but he shrugged it off, he needed to concentrate on other things at the moment. Severus sighed again; he had brought this on himself for his treatment of the boy. He had not expected to have to completely drop his act so soon, but the situation called for a change in attitude if he wanted to get anywhere with the boy. For the moment, first names would have to be used.
“Harry, listen to me, you’re safe,” he spoke to him in his most soothing tone. The one that he had not used since the day his little fairy – the pet name he used to call his daughter – died. It brought back painful memories for him, even ten years later. But Harry Potter was not used to gentleness, especially coming from the ‘overgrown bat’ – as he had heard Ronald Weasley call him on more than one occasion- and it might just be strange enough to break through the boy’s panic. “You are safe here Harry, just remember where you are, your uncle can’t hurt you anymore. I won’t let him. Just calm down… Harry, and breathe… No one is going to hurt you, I promise,” he kept talking slowly in the same tone until the boy became aware he was being spoken to, and his panicked breathing slowed a bit.
When the child uncurled from his tight ball, Severus decided to pick him up. He could not leave him on the floor that would only aggravate his healing injuries. He informed Potter of his intention hoping the boy would not start to panic again. The moment he lifted him, Harry tensed up and began hyperventilating in terror. The Potions Master again got the feeling that Potter did not know who he was. He did not recognize him because of his gentle tone, and he remembered that the boy had not been afraid of his touch when he knew it was his professor that touched him.
“It’s me Potter, Professor Snape. You’re at my home, and those filthy muggles will never again lay a hand on you.” His voice was still velvety soft and gentle, but his words were much more in character with his Professor persona, the one the boy was familiar with.
Recognition flashed for a second on Harry’s face, but he was still a trembling mess and it seemed he was beginning to feel his injuries. His broken rib was probably hurting a lot if the shallow breathing was any indication. Severus decided to sit on the bed with the child on his lap. Potter was small and light enough for that, and the boy’s head fit well under his chin. One of Severus’ hands began carding through the unruly mop of hair. It was almost acting of its own volition, in a pattern he thought long forgotten. He had done it to soothe Pat when she had nightmares or was upset. His little fairy had loved when he carded his fingers through her hair. It calmed her, and most of the times put her to sleep. It seemed that caress had a similar effect on his apprentice. In the same tone of voice he had been using, he coached him into getting his breathing under control; he also kept muttering reassuring nonsense in between instructions hoping to relax the boy.
“Pro… Professor Snape?” Harry stammered shocked when it finally dawned on his fear muddled mind who the person holding and comforting him was.
Harry could not believe it. He must have lost his mind during one of his cruciatus infested visions. This was the first time that there was someone to comfort him after a nightmare. The fact that it was Snape, of all people, doing it was what had him believing he was St. Mungo’s psychiatric ward material.
Ever since he could remember this had been one of his dreams. To have someone, anyone, care enough about him to actually offer comfort; to hold him and hug him, to just BE there for him. His parents probably did when they were alive, but he could not remember. He had been too young when they died, and the Dursleys had never cared. A part of him wanted to stay just were he was and bask in the rare feeling of safety and caring, another – which was probably what remained of his survival instinct – was all for moving away to avoid the professor’s wrath.
Surely Snape would be angry with him, – Harry reasoned – furious even, for disturbing him. Vernon would be, and although the Potions Master had told him he would not hit him, he did have a sharp tongue and an even sharper wit that hurt almost as much as his uncle’s fists. The little rational part of his mind that had started functioning screamed at him that if the Professor was indeed angry, Harry would not be sitting on his lap, nor would his hand be messing Harry’s hair in such a nice relaxing way. Survival instinct won though, and he attempted to get away from the wizard. Snape’s other arm tightened around him when he tried to move. So Harry stayed put, and decided to accept the comfort offered, seeing as he did not have another option. His mind was still too muddled by his dream of Vernon, and by Snape’s strange behavior. Besides, he did not feel like wading through his confusion at the moment.
“What is it Mr. Potter?” Severus kept his tone soft, but decided to address Potter in a manner that was slightly more familiar to the both of them. He knew the boy was confused by his abrupt behaviour change, and he also felt a bit uncomfortable. He began wondering why it was that he all of a sudden had those slight insights onto what the boy was feeling, he would need time to think about that later.
“I’m… I’m s… so… sorry Sir,” Harry stammered ashamed of showing his weakness, of proving to Snape how worthless he really was; terrified of a dream. Well it was actually more of a memory, but he had let the Potions Master see he was a coward. “I… I…”
“There is no need to apologize,” Snape told him in a voice that held no condemnation. It startled the boy, because he actually sounded understanding. “You’re entitled to have nightmares, we all have them every once in a while. Some of us get them worse than others, but that is all Mr. Potter,” he added rationally. He needed to make a plan on making those muggles pay, especially the uncle. Why should the boy apologize for doing something that was beyond his control and part of human nature?
“But… but I…” Harry tried again mortified and tense, not knowing what to expect. But the older wizard’s comforting caresses did not let him remain tense long; he unconsciously leaned into the hand, it felt so nice he could get addicted to it. “I… I disturbed you!”
“You did not!” He stated firmly, Harry gave a startled squeak, and went rigid.
‘Now you did it idiot! He wasn’t angry and you had to open up your mouth,’ Harry berated himself.
“Rest assured that I will let you know if that occurs. Now, enough with the apologizing Mr. Pot… Harry.” He corrected himself. Calling the child by his first name was really going to take some getting used to. But he thought it might help in earning Potter’s trust, which he was going to need to get him through the emotional traumas of his life with his relatives. “As I said it was only a nightmare and no one should be punished for it.”
“That is until I do it again… and… again… and… again,” Harry muttered very low. Snape was not supposed to hear it, but he did anyway.
“You have them often?” The Potions Master inquired.
Severus was a bit concerned about that possibility, it just pointed at things being worse for the boy. Although he should not be surprised, Potter had seen Diggory killed, he had been there for the re-birth of the Dark Lord. Knowing that was enough to give him – who had seen a lot of horrible things in his life – nightmares. What could anyone expect from a boy Potter’s age? It was also no wonder that defensive reflex was so ingrained if he woke up screaming frequently. It would only make the uncle more violent towards his nephew. Potter was silent, not wanting to respond, and Severus did not blame him; it was understandable in lieu of their previous interactions, but he needed to know.
“Well Harry? I need to know if I’m going to do anything about it. How often do you have these… nightmares?”
“You can do something about them?” Harry asked in a timid voice, completely unlike what Snape was used to. It was also full of hope that he would finally be able to sleep without waking up screaming in either pain or terror. He probably had not slept well since his name came out of the goblet for the Triwizard Tournament, and it was almost a year since that happened. There had been nightmares before, but not as often. So he did get to sleep.
“In most cases, yes I can. There are potions to keep them at bay, but they are not a ‘cure’ by any means.”
“I… I remember there’s one called ‘Dreamless Sleep’. Madame Pomfrey sometimes uses it.” He ventured saying, he had taken it before and it helped him.
“Yes, that is one of them. The… type of ‘Dreamless Sleep Potion’ I brew for Madame Pomfrey can’t be taken continuously, no student has needed to drink it for more than a few days. The same happens with most of the other commonly known and sold potions. But I created one that can, and won’t cause addiction or disagreeable side effects. That is why I need to know Mr. Potter, so I can decide what potion will be best.” He had spoken in what most students called his lecture voice. The boy was again silent, considering his words.
“Every night,” he said ashamed, his blurry gaze settled on where his hands were supposed to be. Not all were nightmares, at least not since Voldemort returned, but he was not sure he could tell Snape of the visions; and there was the chance that the potion would stop the visions, so he need not tell. “Sometimes I have more than one a night.”
“More than one a night?” The boy nodded. “Are they about Diggory’s death? Is this just from the tournament, or have you been having the nightmares for longer?” He asked curious, though he really was not expecting an answer.
“Not… always. I’ve… I’ve always had nightmares, but… but they got worse last year… since… since the… the tournament,” Harry reluctantly responded.
“I see.” No wonder Potter had been on edge, and looking tired all that time. It also explained better why the scans reported him so weak. Well, he could do something about getting the boy some sleep, and he would have to see what to do about the nightmares. Talking things through usually helped, so much so, that even he did not have them that often now; and when he did, it was because something triggered them. “It seems you need potion 359. I haven’t named it since I created it mostly for personal consumption, I’ll give you a dose tonight with the rest of your healing potions.”
“Thank you Sir, I… I… appreciate it,”
“Are you more yourself now?” He asked waving aside the boy’s thanks.
“Y… yes Sir,” Harry responded amazed at the man’s lack of scorn, and surprised they had been conversing civilly.
Harry would have expected Snape to tear him apart with his sarcasm, to recriminate him for being childish, and acting up like a spoiled brat. Instead, his Professor was being very understanding. It was rather hard to believe, although now that he could think clearly, he remembered the Professor had not acted like he used to all day.
Snape had told him that he would take care of him, and he had not believed it. Now he was even calling him by his first name, and Harry found he actually did not mind, it meant the Professor was seeing him and not his father. Harry really could not complain. He had already gotten more than he ever expected to receive from anyone. The difference with the way the Dursleys treated him was huge; and this was a man that HATED him!
“Good,” Severus said and decided to settle Potter back on the bed since he no longer needed to be comforted. The boy had looked slightly disappointed for only a second before he composed his features into a neutral expression. That surprised Sev a bit, but he decided not to comment on it, no need to embarrass the boy when he was trying to gain his trust. “Now, Nan warned me that we might have to repeat the following until it is engraved in that Gryffindor head of yours, and I can see she was not far off. So I want you to listen carefully Harry,”
“Yes Sir,” Harry said softly, unnerved at the fact that he HAD wanted to remain sitting on Snape’s lap like a small child. He had felt so safe, and he began to attribute the feeling to the fact that he knew to what lengths his Professor had been willing to go to protect him. In his experience, only his parents had been willing to die to keep him safe.
“You are now my apprentice. That not only means that I will teach you. It also means I am your legal guardian.” He paused to let that sink in. By the look on the boy’s face he had forgotten that fact, even though he had mentioned it at least once since he picked him up. But then Potter had still been dazed and not completely ‘there’, so this little reminder was probably in order. “First and foremost, I will NEVER hit you in anger or punishment. I give you my wizard’s word Harry…”
“Your wizard’s word?” He could not help but ask, his face reflecting his surprise. He was not that well versed in wizarding customs, but Hermione had pointed this one out. A wizard’s word was something to take seriously; giving it in such a fashion was almost like a binding magical contract. It was never given lightly.
“Yes, you have my wizard’s word Harry. Second, I will take care of all your basic needs like food, medical attention, clothes and a place to sleep. Dumbledore chose me because he believes I can not only provide the protection you need, but also the knowledge; and I will do so to the best of my abilities. I’m sure you are aware that I’m not just an average wizard. Are you with me so far?”
“Yes Sir, you’re actually quite powerful,” Harry said staring wide eyed at his professor. His words were finally setting in his mind though it might still be a little while longer before he did not have to think hard about it to remember.
“We will be living together until you pass your Mastery exams. That on average – for a Hogwarts graduate – is about five years, quite a few more for Potions Masteries. I’ll need to assess your abilities outside my classroom to decide if you’re Potions Master material. You have not graduated yet, so do the maths. To survive that long without killing each other,” this brought a slight smile to both of them. Although Harry was not able to see his smile, the tone of Severus voice from that last statement was amused. “We must get along; don’t you agree?”
“Umm… yes Sir. You’re right,” Harry responded with a slight nod. He could see the merit in this. Snape was the adult of the two, and it seemed that he was finally acting like it. It also meant that the Professor was probably going to at least try and be civil with him, and expect him to reciprocate. Harry thought he might be able to do that.
“You have already learned more about me since I picked you up from your relatives’ house, than anyone else knows besides Nan, Albus, and Minerva.”
Harry frowned at this. He didn’t think he knew more about Snape than any other student, but then he realized that he did. Snape had told him his views on muggle inventions and that he didn’t believe in physical punishment of children. He also found out the man could drive a car, lived in a muggle flat – with his ex-nanny – he listened to muggle music, and he could be comforting. These were things he would never have believed of his potions professor. The sum of all that was why he believed the man was not acting like Harry was used to, because he was letting Harry know there was more to him than just the Potions Master of Hogwarts. His face lit up with understanding and he nodded.
“I have come to the conclusion that I can’t keep up the ‘overgrown bat’ act 24/7,” He was amused when he saw Harry look flustered and slightly ashamed. Did those incorrigible brats believe he did not know what they called him? He had been aware of their childish monikers since the first day he started teaching. “I am aware of what you students call me Harry, I’m definitely not deaf. They have called me that among other things; I’ve grown used to it. It is part of the role I’ve had to play.”
“I’m still sorry Professor Snape,” Harry mumbled still ashamed. “I… we… didn’t mean to be disrespectful.”
“Of course you did! Why go to all the trouble of calling someone names if you don’t mean it? But I won’t hold it against you at the moment. If I hear you calling me that later though…”
“Oh no Sir, I don’t think I could call you that ever again… you’re… you’re being,” he hesitated in mentioning the word ‘nice’. He got the feeling Snape might not appreciate it.
“Civil?” Severus supplied, glad the boy had the sense of omitting the word ‘nice’. He was not a NICE man, and would not become one, despite what the trio of Nan, Albus and Minerva believed.
“Umm… yes, civil Professor,”
“You do seem to posses some sense after all,” he mussed. His tone was neutral, so Harry felt it was not meant to insult him. It felt more like it was a ‘revelation’ to the man. “I am going to let you know more about me, since I don’t plan on keeping the act up in my home and in the privacy of my quarters, it would be too tiresome. This means I’m going to place some of my trust in you. In return, I expect you to at least try to return the courtesy, because it has come to my attention that you keep as many masks as I do.”
“Masks? I… I don’t know what you mean Sir,”
“Mr. Potter, I am neither blind nor stupid. So don’t offend my intellect by pretending not to know what I’m talking about.”
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled having the grace to look ashamed, and more than slightly uncomfortable. The conversation was veering to areas he did not want dwell in at the moment, perhaps never.
“You have managed to fool the whole Hogwarts staff for four years about the situation you were living in. I have to congratulate you on that, not even my most cunning Slytherin has been able to hide something like that for more than a couple of months, and I suspected for half of that time. No one suspected it of you. It’s not something a Gryffindor should be able to manage.”
“But… I… I thought they knew!” Harry stuttered surprised. “Or I thought that the Headmaster had at least an idea.”
How could they not know? Harry had believed it was his lot in life, he might not have liked it but there was no other way. That was also one of the reasons why he also did not say anything. Why mention it when he was sent there every summer despite knowing it was hell for him?
“What do you mean you thought we knew? Do you believe us so callous as to send you back to that?” He was appalled, what could have led the boy to believe that? Harry only shrugged a bit despondent. “No one deserves to live like that Harry, no one.” The boy looked away from him, and it told Severus that the child indeed believed he deserved it. “What made you believe we were aware of your home life?”
“Little things…” Harry said, but he decided not to tell, Snape sounded angry enough. He rather not return to dealing with the ‘greasy git’ from school.
“Like what?” He asked and the boy clamped his mouth shut refusing to speak as he shook his head. “Look Harry, I am not asking you to confide in me out of the blue, I’m aware that you don’t trust me…”
“It’s not that Professor…” He admitted, and would have loved to see the gaping face of his potions professor, as he had practically admitted that he trusted him. “It’s just that if you did not know then I rather not… talk about it.”
“I can assure you Harry that no one at Hogwarts knew about it. They would not have left you there this long. But I do now, and I really would like to know what it was that made you believe we knew.”
“I… really would like not to ever have to talk about it Professor. I’m not there anymore… you say you won’t treat me like they did. That’s fine with me.” He said fidgeting with the blanket, fixing his blurry sight anywhere but Snape’s blur.
“Look Harry, I know we have not been in the best of terms before. I have to admit I’m mostly the one to blame.” He saw the boy’s head snap up to look at him and his eyes widen when he recognized the apology, the only one Severus was likely to give. “But I know that in time you will have to talk about this, with me or someone of your choosing so you can get over it and move on. Believe me, you’re not the first student in that situation. I usually take it upon myself to detect them and do something about the situations at home, so I do know what I’m talking about.”
Harry was rather shocked; he was not the only one with nasty relatives? In his mind he believed it only happened to him because he was different, and no one else. It also amazed him that Snape appeared to actually care for his students enough to help. It also surprised ‘the-boy-who-lived’ that no one had been able to pull off what he did. But then, those other students did not have everybody looking up to them, their very lives exposed to the entire wizarding world like he did. All those people needed him to be strong, and he could not let them see that he was not; that he was weak, scared and a freak. He had to be better and work harder to hide his life at the Dursleys.
He had really thought Dumbledore and the other Professors knew. How could they not? Hagrid had to rescue him from some God forsaken hut on an island so he could go to Diagon Alley. He wore rags and always returned to school so skinny and tired. Ron and the twins had to rescue him from his locked room before second year; he blew up Aunt Marge and ran away in third year. He never got owls from his family. There were lots of little things that pointed out to the way his life was at home. He really found it hard to believe no-one noticed his flinching and cringing, even if it had not been as bad as it was now.
But now Snape knew, and even if he was not mocking him, Harry was still afraid to open up. He did trust the man, but he feared giving him the power to hurt him, even if it was also the power to help. He had never had anyone he could share all of his troubles with, not even Hermione and Ron. They knew bits and pieces but not all; he did not believe they would understand. What would they have thought about him? Would they have remained his friends? Ron had already proved that he was rather fickle, that he was not as good a friend as Harry had thought he was. He had forgiven him, but he was not sure he could forget and trust him the way he did before.
Snape was not fickle, that much Harry was sure off, and he did trust the Potions Master. He trusted the man more than he trusted anyone else after his visions this summer, and that included his friends, his Godfather and Professor Lupin. So the question was if he could open up to the man and let him know what he kept hidden. The Professor was not pushing him to speak; he had even let him know that he could talk with anyone he chose, meaning anyone that he trusted. The thought was rather frightening, and Harry reached the conclusion that it was too soon to talk about the Dursleys. But he was going to try to let Snape know a bit more about himself; it would be an even exchange of information for the sake of getting along. The Professor already knew he had never lived the life he believed him to be, and perhaps that was one of the reasons for the change on his part.
“The Sorting Hat wanted me in Slytherin, but I asked it to put me ANYWHERE but there, so it put me in Gryffindor.” Harry conceded after being silent for a few moments thinking.
“It did WHAT?” Severus asked rather shocked, he was not expecting Harry to say something like that.
Was Potter playing a prank on him? A look at the boy’s face let him know he was being sincere. Harry was offering something that he considered of equal value to what he had already learned of him. He was not yet willing to delve into the way he was treated by his relatives, but he was letting him know that he was not going to completely close off. It was actually very Slytherin of him. This information was not common knowledge; Severus could almost bet the rest of the trio did not know. This was also a rather subtle way of confirming that he indeed had his trust, and he was willing to return the courtesy he had asked for. How in hell did he earn his trust with the way he treated Potter? The Potions Master shook his head bewildered, perhaps he could ask about it later.
“How did you manage to make it change its mind? It’s completely unheard of. Besides, why go to Gryffindor? It’s the complete opposite of Slytherin; Ravenclaw is more of a match.” He decided to go along with the change of theme for the moment; pressing for answers in cases like his would only make the boy clam up.
“I just insisted until it finally gave in. If you remember my sorting took longer than the rest, and about Gryffindor? I suppose I have enough qualities from the house to stay in there. I have been a Gryffindor for four years and most people believe I was born to be there.”
“You are a better actor than I gave you credit for.” Harry just shrugged, he did not think about it as acting, but as doing what he had to do, to remain there. “So why didn’t you go to my house?”
“I met Draco Malfoy in Diagon Alley; he told he was going to be in Slytherin. Then I met him again in the train. He… he reminded me of…”
“Your cousin perhaps?” Severus supplied, Malfoy was as spoiled as that small killer whale.
“Yes, I’d had enough of Dudley types. I was also told that everyone in that house become evil Dark Wizards and that the one that killed my parents was a Slytherin.”
“Of all the biased ideas…” Severus began quite angry, and wondered who told the boy when he remembered Hagrid had been the one assigned to take the boy to Diagon Alley. The half-giant had reason to be prejudiced, even though they had a civil work relationship, and Hagrid had stood up for him at times, when he was a student.
“I know now that it’s not completely true Professor,” the boy interrupted him. “Voldemort did come from there, but not all Slytherin are evil… You’re not.” Now this comment surprised the Potions Master, he knew that until the end of term Potter did think him evil. So what made him change his mind? “But as you can guess, that was enough for me to want to be anywhere but there.”
“That would be understandable; Draco Malfoy is an unbearable brat after all.”
“You… you don’t like him? But… I… we… we thought he was your favorite!” Harry stuttered shocked.
“I detest the brat; he was number one in my list of spoiled children, even over you Harry. But I had roles to play…” He did not finish because he heard Nan had arrived. “We will finish talking later, right now I think you should have something to eat, and drink your potions.” He stood up from the bed.
“I’m… I’m not hungry… Master?” Harry said, the later a question as he was not sure what the correct way to address Snape was. He heard the wizard stop dead in his tracks before he spoke in an icy tone.
“Never, Potter, and I mean NEVER! Call me that,” he spat. His disgust for the title overrode his resolve to keep a neutral tone when addressing Potter. He had been forced for a long time to call that demented creature Master. He had too many bad associations to the word to let any being address him as such.
“I’m… I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” Harry stammered, back again to being the frightened child. Afraid ‘nice’ Snape was back to ‘bastard’ Snape. Inwardly the boy cursed himself for looking so weak. He heard the man sigh before he spoke.
“I’m not angry at you… Harry. Master is indeed the proper way to address me. I just…” He found himself explaining his words, something he seldom, if ever, did.
t”That’s what you called ‘HIM’. I… I… apologize Sir.” Harry had a moment’s insight. He knew Snape was forced to call Voldemort ‘Master’ and guessed it was hard to swallow for the proud Potions Master. It probably brought bad memories too, what he saw during his visions was enough to make his skin crawl, and Snape had been a Death Eater for longer than he had been alive. “What should I call you then?”
“Professor, Sir… even Snape would do for now,” Severus told him surprised at the understanding. He had not given Harry permission to address him by his first name yet. It was just too soon for him to feel comfortable with it, but he knew that he might give it sooner rather than later. “You will have some dinner Potter. I believe Nan prepared some kind of broth to introduce you back to eating again. You are skin and bones, and can’t afford to skip a meal. Besides, most of the potions you are taking work much better when taken on a full stomach. Understood?”
“Yes Sir,” Harry agreed. He was not very hungry because he had gotten used to not eating much, or often, but he could see the Professor’s point. With that he heard Snape leave the room, leaving him to ponder at how weird his day had become. No one would believe he had had a civil conversation with Snape.