And here is the next chapter :D ! Mainly Harry's punishment for Smith, and a prologue to the (soon, really soon, or at least I hope to be soon) courting ahead!'
littlesprout, xOxYourxDevilxOx, Sasukitsu, E-Loveless, fireycloud, Janara, femalefarrier, cjalabrat4 - thanks, hope you enjoy this chapter too! I'll see what I can do to update soon (but I don't think that's happening with my laziness).
KTT2123 - Yupp yupp, I just love oblivious Harry :) Well, the courting will occur together because being Slytherins, they plan everything before implementing anything, and he will be forced to face it soon (like next-chapter-kind-of soon). Jealousy, hmmm, maybe more of it after a while, but not now.
daithi4377 - Well, the Dark Mark is tied to their magic mainly to ensure that they cannot escape Voldemort's binding, and since they have survived for so long with the Mark, I don't think it will be more of a concern to them, especially since they see that Harry seems to know what he is doing. I couldn't let Remus abandon Harry, he might break down if that happened... Well, you'll see in this chapter that actually quite a few of them have realised the changing dynamics between the four of them. To be true, the lions are probably more shocked (especially Ron) but the snakes are equally stunned but they are better at hiding it. I don't think I made it clear before (mainly because I intended to explain later when the Goblins appear in the scene with the Sanctuary), but there is a difference between an heir by bloodline, and an heir chosen and recognised by Magic - in simple words, both Harry and Voldemort are heirs to Gryffindor (as if Voldemort would even acknowledge that) and Slytherin by bloodline, but Harry is chosen and recognised by Magic (which is tied to inheritance and entitlement to the property and heirlooms and stuff), while Voldemort is only self-proclaimed. Yupp, I had hoped to convey how relaxed and accustomed Harry had become to the Slytherins, I'm glad you thought that that was clear :) I'm only focusing on Smith's punishment, so let's just assume his two lackeys are not related to the DA.
OldestOfTheYoung - Well you'll see what Harry will do in this chapter ;) Muahaha, so a kick in Severus' rear it is, he's going to have quite a bit of a harsh wake-up call to pull his head out of whatever he's gotten it into soon. Once the Courting starts, there'll be more contact, cuddling and fluff, so just bear with me a while longer!
AchillesTheGeek - Well, Smith in my opinion is just a big bully so... Severus will be admitting it really soon, like really really soon. Voldie, the Elves and the Sanctuary will have to wait until the part on Yule break, and that comes after... a lot of things.
redcherry4 - Well, I have already decided on how the relationship is going to unfold, so sorry, no changes to the pairing. Lucius, Severus and Draco all play a different emotional/support role in the relationship (which will be revealed when the Courting starts). I enjoyed writing Salazar and Godric too, so I'll definitely be writing more of them in the future!
adenoide - Well, Severus did say that the potion required a month to brew, isn't it? So the part on removing the Mark will be later... much later, but at least before the part on the Yule break.
Mistress Lady Malfoy-Potter - (O.O) My first non-English review! With the help of Google translate, I hope I understood it enough... Well, I'm not very good at making things happen quick, but the main focus for the next few chapters will be the Courting, so in a way, it would be going faster. One thing is that I won't be writing everything about their relationship, so there will be background progress going on during the Courting that I'll leave to my readers' own imagination ;p I'm still undecided whether there'll actually be mpreg in my story, maybe mentions of it in the epilogue or something, but no, I don't think it will be a prominent part in my story. And yes, Draco will not be getting the Dark Mark, Severus and Lucius will be removing their Dark Mark before Yule break (the deadline set by Voldemort for Draco's initiation), and with their Courting of Harry (in future chapters) it will be made clear that they have switched sides.
Chapter Thirteen: Punishment and Discoveries
"Do any of you remember what the first rule was for DA when I explicitly stated it during the first meeting?" Harry asked, giving the crowd a general glance over.
Terry Boot, one of the original DA members, spoke up, "There will be no House rivalry in the DA, either between members, or between members and other students."
Harry smiled, "Exactly. I hope that all of you here have this rule imprinted on your mind by now, it would be extremely unpleasant when you are pointed out to everyone else as an oath-breaker by the magically binding contract you signed on the first day."
Hannah Abbott frowned as she turned to look at the immobolised Smith, "But Harry, I don't see anything on Smith…"
"He was caught in action by myself before the contract decided to act; the contract isn't that all sensitive to purely physical fights; something I'm sure will no longer be a limitation of the contract after tonight," Harry stated simply, a vindictive glare in his eyes emphasizing his point, "I hope that none of you get the idea to exploit any possible loopholes in the contract, I can assure you that being caught by myself, or anyone else in the DA, would guarantee an extremely harsh punishment, much more than the contract deems appropriate.
"Today in Hogsmeade, Smith was cornering a First Year Slytherin, dealing physical harm and threats of further bodily harm to the defenceless girl…"
Smith shouted hoarsely as he struggled against the spells keeping him down, "She is a dirty little traitor, a slimy snake tha-"
Harry merely flicked his wand in Smith's general direction casually, effectively silencing the rash boy. He turned to Draco and raised his eyebrow in question, "Draco, the girl?"
Draco nodded his head, he had sought out the girl along when they came back from Hogsmeade with Pansy to gauge the harm done, and left her with Madam Pomfrey after that, "Roslyn Bastilles, First Year, she has a brother a year older in Hufflepuff, and her elder sister graduated from Hufflepuff last year."
It was Pansy who replied, "Mainly bruising and swelling on her face and shoulders, and a few cuts from being pushed around; Madame Pomfrey healed her broken jaw and arm, and some minor burns. But she said that this wasn't the first time she was picked on by Smith."
Severus narrowed his eyes, he wasn't aware that one of his students was being bullied, why had the student not approached him and reported it? Perhaps he should have another talk with his snakes in the common room soon.
"You actually hurt a family member of our own Housemate?" Justin Finch-Fletchley demanded disbelievingly, "Our own Housemate?!"
"Finch-Fletchley," Harry looked at him, his tone asking Finch-Fletchley to calm down. Turning towards the silenced Smith, he started stating, "You've crossed boundaries you shouldn't have, Smith. For one, you shouldn't have picked on a girl who is so much smaller and younger than you, who had no chance of defending herself against you. For another, you shouldn't have used petty House rivalries to justify your assault against her; the assault shouldn't even have happened in the first place.
"What did you try to achieve by hurting her?" Harry stalked around Smith, studying him as a predator does a prey, "To intimidate her? What good would that have done? She wouldn't be able to change her House anyway, and definitely shouldn't just to satisfy your whim. To make yourself feel better, stronger, more superior? Now that's impossible, pride is the last thing that is associated to such a dishonourable act, after all. To avenge her family whom she supposedly betrayed? I suppose that responsibility doesn't even fall on you even if it was true. Do you know what I think, Smith?"
The room was absolutely silent as everyone watched Harry intently, mesmerized by the amount of power he displayed, at the same time disgusted at Smith's behaviour. None of them would deny the deadly attractiveness of Harry when he curled his lips in contempt at Smith, with magic and power practically oozing out of his lithe frame.
Harry stopped circling him, "I think you are a coward. You don't pick on someone your own level because you know you would lose on equal grounds, so you settle on those who are weaker than you, and you continued to pick on Roslyn all this time because she was brave enough to stand up against you, because she stood firm to her beliefs – every time she defends herself, you are reminded of your very lack of courage and loyalty, so you hit her. You don't even dare to face your own cowardice.
"In case you haven't realized, you are not the most popular Hufflepuff here, do you know why? Because you are selfish, arrogant and dishonest, because you go against all that your House stands for. I'm quite sure you are at least a little aware that you don't have any friends around here, except your two lackeys of course, but perhaps you need a stronger wake-up call."
Harry looked at all the others in the room as he announced the punishment for Smith, "From today onwards, Zacharias Smith is no longer a member of the DA, he is an oath-breaker, an outcast. No one in the DA should speak to Smith in class or in the dorms, or even acknowledge his presence in the room. You can partner him in class, if need be, but don't talk more than required to him, or offer assistance to him unless it is a life or death situation. I will not stop him from attending our meetings, but should he show up, he will be no more than a unwelcome guest, one to be ignored, and to be cast out at any inappropriate conduct."
Smith looked outraged at the Harry's words but Harry immediately whirled towards him with a narrowed gaze, "Don't even try to argue that this isn't fair, Smith. Victims of bullying and assault over a prolonged period of time would slowly start distancing themselves from all the others around them, they learn to become fearful, distrusting and ashamed. Mere social isolation that you are going to face now is nothing compared to what she might have faced if there was no intervention. The punishment will not be lifted until I am convinced that you have regretted your misdeeds and are ready to compensate for it."
As if suddenly remembering something, Harry grinned, "And I almost forgot to tell you, Professor Dumbledore and Professor Sprout have both approved of this punishment to its alternative – isn't this so much better than expulsion? – and Professor Sprout specifically told me to send you to her after the meeting. The other professors would probably be briefed by the Headmaster tomorrow morning, except for our two professors here."
Smith visibly paled as he saw the dark look on Professor Snape's face.
"Don't worry, Smith; I'm sure Professor Dumbledore will make sure that the isolation stays an isolation, and not active bullying – we can't all be like you, can we?" Harry continued to the rest, "Are we agreed that Smith has deserved this punishment? He shall be deprived of attention for he has yet to learn the importance of it, he shall be deprived of friendship for he attacked one affiliated to his own, and he shall be deprived of comfort from his House for he has betrayed his House values."
The Slytherins were the first to sense a magical agreement as they murmured in acceptance, "So mote it be."
The others followed in agreement, and not surprisingly, with the Hufflepuffs in greatest rage.
Harry bowed his head as a sign of appreciation for their agreement, "The meeting ends here. If you have an engagement otherwise, you can just leave, but I'll stay in the room in case some of you might want extra revision and practice."
Most of the younger years slowly left the room – many of them having daily study groups as encouraged by Harry and Hermione – but majority of the advanced level members stayed, pairing up and firing spells at each other or at the practice dummies.
Harry stupefied the bound boy and snapped his fingers, summoning a house elf to bring Smith to Professor Sprout's office. He turned to look at his friends, cautiously weighing whether he needed to justify his decision but Hermione beat him to it.
"I don't think that that was too harsh a punishment, Harry," Hermione supported him, "Isolation is what they do in normal prisons – well, muggle prisons, anyway – and this is not even complete isolation; only the DA is involved. He can still attend classes and complete his work normally, you didn't even restrict his movement or involvement in any other activities."
"Well-reasoned, Ms. Granger," Lucius came up from behind, "For the crimes the boy committed, he should have been expelled from Hogwarts and sent for juvenile detention, and he will probably end up with a few months in Azkaban after he reaches majority. Your punishment is much milder than that, but effective enough to force him to rethink his place and actions – I think you could lift his punishment in less than two weeks."
Severus snorted, "Given the boy's attention-seeking nature, he will not even last a week."
Lucius smiled as he saw Harry frown in slight confusion, "You might have been angered purely for the fact that boy assaulted another student, but intentional physical assault, especially those that result in injuries that require medical attention, towards children below the age of sixteen is considered a heinous crime in the Wizarding World, Harry."
Harry cocked his head to a side in question, "Why?"
"Because children are extremely precious for Wizarding families," Draco apparently gave up on practicing and joined them, "Every child is considered a gift from Magic Herself, and our magic doesn't reach its full potential before our sixteenth birthday, which only stabilises after our seventeenth birthday. When we are hurt physically, our innate magic focuses on healing our injuries and protecting our vitals; but our bodies require the constant circulation of magic to keep us healthy and magically sound. Self-healing, or protection, uses up majority of your magic at any one time, and it doesn't regenerate as easily as after sixteen years of age."
"Simply said," Severus continued as Harry slowly comprehended their explanation, "Constantly incurring physical injuries exhausts your magical reserves to the extent that some may lose the bulk of their magic, and the Wizarding World regards this as an offence against Mother Magic, as well as the injured individual; not to mention mental instability that occurs after a deficiency of innate magic."
Seeing the understanding forming on Harry's face, and the tightening of his lips following the comprehension, Lucius decided to see if their suspicions of Harry's home life could be confirmed, "That is why child abuse is one of the most serious offences in the Wizarding World – all magical children are monitored. Any detection of an abused child immediately renders the family as inappropriate guardians, and the child would be removed from the household to be placed in another willing foster family."
Harry's head jerked up at once, "Then why didn't the Dursleys-" His eyes widened in horror as he realized what he said, cutting himself off before he could divulge more information. "I need to see if the others need my help, sir; Hermione, please inform Professor Snape of our next meeting times."
Draco, Severus and Lucius watched as Harry scurried away hastily, stopping by Pansy to correct her wand movement, before heading to the other end of the room to offer assistance to another pair of students. They exchanged a glance as their suspicion had been confirmed by Harry's reaction – the boy has definitely suffered abuse at home.
"I suppose you know the reason for this reaction, Ms. Granger, Messrs. Weasley and Longbottom?" It was more of a statement than a question.
Hermione bit her lips, "I cannot betray Harry's trust and share his home life with you, sir – I don't think Harry has even told us all of it – but I can say that whatever Professor Snape had accused of him in the past is not true at all, in fact, it is the opposite."
Ron continued, "The thing is even though Harry understands that what they did was wrong, he doesn't seem to believe it. Every time we mentioned anything close to the word 'abuse', he denies it, and says that it was bad but not that bad…"
"Sometimes I think Harry feels ashamed about it," Neville lowered his gaze, "I cannot understand why, but I know that he feels ashamed – not of his muggle family, but ashamed of himself."He knew, because he once felt that too, before Harry convinced him that he was better than what Gran thought of him.
The Slytherins' frowns deepened, wondering how they should approach the topic with Harry. They know that they would need to deal with it sometime soon, such long period of abuse was bound to have negative effects on the boy – it was a miracle that he still has such high levels of magical strength. Even though Slytherin often turned out to be the House with the most number of abused students, they were often comfortable to relate to and seek comfort from their Head of House, but Harry… they should contact Narcissa to further discuss it – her charity efforts in some of the Wizarding orphanages might come in useful – and hope that she doesn't blow up at the first mention of child abuse.
Hermione knew that they were contemplating how to resolve the issue, and knowing Slytherins – they would get what they want in the end – they probably had a higher chance of helping Harry out; especially when she could see that they cared a lot about Harry… perhaps a little too much as friends or mentors, but she isn't going to say anything unless Harry starts showing interest or when they make a move. Seriously, Harry could be pretty daft!
She handed a fake galleon to Severus, "When the next meeting is scheduled, Harry will change the time and date on his Master coin, and this fake galleon will heat up to signal a change, reflected by the serial number on the coin."
Severus studied the coin closely, nodding his head; this way of communication was rather ingenious really, especially when they were under surveillance last year.
"Professor," Hermione glanced around to make sure Harry was not within hearing distance before she continued, "Harry will probably pretend that nothing happened just now when he decides to come back to us, please do not force the topic onto him now."
Severus nodded his head, "I understand, Ms. Granger. We will wait until he feels more comfortable sharing his more… intimate and unpleasant experiences," He exchanged a glance with Lucius and his godson, "In the meantime, I would think it prudent to subtly bring this topic up to allow him to understand that this is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of."
"I believe Narcissa has been offering donations to a Wizarding home for orphaned and abused children, perhaps we could organise a trip there during a weekend, or over the Yule break," Lucius suggested.
Draco agreed; knowing Harry, his desire to help the children would probably override his own fear and reluctance – a bit underhanded, but as long as it could help Harry…
Watching the Slytherins heading off to the other side of the room, presumably to observe the others and join Harry in his tutoring, Ron frowned, "'Mione, what are you thinking? Harry's growing close to them, I know, but he doesn't even tell us the full extent of what he suffered at the Dursleys! You think they…"
Hermione couldn't help but giggle, boys! "Haven't you seen them together, Ron? They are not friends, I'm sure that Draco at least, has no intention of being just friends with Harry."
Neville snickered, but Ron was confused.
"Seriously, Ron!" Hermione sounded exasperated. "Have you seen how Draco acts around Harry? He goes all soft and gentle, touching Harry all the time – his hands, his shoulders, the back of his neck; he monitors his meals, and helps him carry DA stuff around; re-doing Harry's wardrobe-"
"I get it, I get it," Ron mumbled, growing red as Hermione rambled, "Ok, he fancies Harry, I get it, no need to go on with the details."
Hermione suddenly felt very mischievous – if this was Ron's reaction to finding out Draco's attracted to Harry, she was looking forward to him learning that Draco was not the only Slytherin interested in Harry. "It's so romantic, Ron, I can't wait to see how they would try to get Harry's attention and Court him! Harry is so lucky!"
"Whatever you say, 'Mione… Wait, they? What do you mean they?" Ron spluttered as he found something wrong in Hermione's wording.
Neville couldn't help but laugh out loud, he knew what Hermione was trying to do. "You didn't realize, Ron? Draco's not the only one being extra nice and thoughtful towards Harry… I'm sure Professor Malfoy doesn't let every student consulting him lounge around and doze off in front of his fireplace, not to mention providing cushions and blankets for him to cuddle up to," – Harry was a little embarrassed when he told them about his meetings with the Defence Professor – "neither would Professor Snape allow anyone else to fiddle around his cauldrons and experimental potions, or poking and prodding around his private chambers while waiting for the potion to simmer." He'll probably kill them before they even get close to the cauldron.
Ron gagged this time, his face paling in disbelief, "You don't mean- surely you're not saying that- Oh Merlin, Harry, what have you gotten into- we have to- to…"
"I'm sure Neville is right, Ron," Hermione was amused, "And I really don't think we have to worry, Harry probably doesn't realize it yet – I swear, he is worse than you – but he is relaxed around them, and he probably trust them in a different way he does us. I think they might be good for him."
Ron pondered her point for a while. Well, Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape are both old enough to be Harry's father; but then again, considering the average lifespan of a wizard, combined with their creature blood, it's not that much of a difference after all, there were a lot more couples with greater age differences… Hogwarts apparently had no rules prohibiting teacher-student relationship either, as long as they at least sixteen years of age – a remnant of archaic rules when children were engaged or married early, especially girls to higher-status or well-established men, at least as long as there is a third party monitoring the fairness of the professor in class and examinations. And the three of them were all Slytherins, probably knowing more curses and hexes than any of them here, so Harry would be well-protected. He guessed they actually cared for Harry genuinely – emotional display and love confession (no matter how subtle it is) was so not Slytherin but they did it anyway – and Harry did really trust them… "Fine, then."
"Ron…" Hermione had to admit she was a little apprehensive albeit her amusement, worrying that they might have to try to convince Ron not to interfere, but it seems that Harry's recent influence had done well to Ron's short temper.
"But we can still do the if-you-hurt-Harry-we-will-kill-you speech right?" Ron asked hopefully.
Hermione sighed, "And here I thought you matured…" but Neville cut her off, "Admit it, Hermione, you want to do that too."
"Hmm, maybe. Just a little, to make sure they treat Harry right," Hermione sniffed, "You don't suppose Harry knows about Courtships, marriage or bonding patterns in the Wizarding World, do you?"
Neville shook his head, while Ron smiled brightly, "Why make it easier for them? The less Harry knows, the harder they'll have to work for Harry's attention, isn't it?"
"Oh Ron…" Was it a good decision to tell him after all?
Harry jerked awake in the middle of the night, clutching his forehead furiously as the curse scar burned, red and raw. Muttering a spell to cool his forehead, and after checking that at least it had not started bleeding, he called for Dobby.
Dobby appeared with a soft crack, his ears bobbing in excitement at being summoned by Harry, eager to help. "What can Dobby be doing for Mister Harry Potter, sir?"
Harry smiled weakly as he fumbled to get his glasses on, and to pull on a warm sweater before reaching for his Invisible Cloak, "Dobby, I want you to go to Draco Malfoy, tell him to get his father to head to Professor Snape's quarters, and prepare some healing potions. Can you do that?"
Dobby nodded his head furiously; he no longer feared or avoided the Malfoys after Harry re-introduced them and made it clear that they were supposed to behave civilly to each other; it helped too that the Malfoys no longer punished house elves as harshly as they did before they defected to the Light. "Dobby will be doing that, sir! Dobby be delighted to help Mister Harry Potter, sir!"
"Good. Go now, Dobby, and see if you can bring something warm but easy to eat after that to Professor Snape's rooms," Harry watched Dobby disapparate, checked to make sure he didn't wake up his dorm mates, and hurried out of the room quietly.
Harry walked towards the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where he knew the anti-apparition wards ended and waited. After a few minutes of silence, he heard a crack of apparition and Severus appeared, staggering for a few steps before stumbling to the ground. He rushed forward to check Severus' vitals cautiously, glad to find that the man's pulse was weak but steady; pulling the older man up closer to him, he murmured softly, "Professor, are you able to walk?"
Severus looked at him and gave a soft grunt which Harry interpreted as a yes, carefully supporting Severus as they both stood up, making sure that the Invisibility Cloak did not slip off as they made their way back to the ancient castle.
Severus' mind was in a mess, the loss of blood making him feel a bit light-headed, together with the lingering pain from the Cruciatus curse, he was struggling to keep a clear mind – Why was Potter here? Not even Albus or Lucius was aware of Voldemort's sudden summoning of him, surely the boy wouldn't have known! And why was he so calm as if he knew what had occurred?
Harry pulled him closer as the Invisibility Cloak threatened to slip off Severus' right shoulder, and Severus' sense of smell was overwhelmed by an intoxicating scent.
He could smell it – the reassuring scent of life-giving blood. Although Shadow Daemons do not require blood to survive like their Vampire cousins, blood was still a form of sustenance for their body, especially when they were in grave danger or stressful conditions.
The rich warmth coming from the scent wafted through his sense, he couldn't help but lean closer to its source. It was the pleasant smell of life and blood, but there was more. So sweet. It smelled not only of pure sustenance – it was the scent of spring, sunlight and the forest, everything that he admired – so sweet, so irresistible.
Severus could feel his fangs elongating as he shifted closer to his companion, nuzzling him gently in the neck. His tongue flicked lightly across the surface of the skin where the jugular vein throbbed beneath, if only he could slide his fangs in… He would be so gentle, and make it feel so good for his sweet little mate, and allow him to learn the intimate pleasure of sensual feeding…
So Severus is finally going to be forced to face and admit his true feelings in the next chapter!
Read and Review, please!