Harry made a face before he knocked on the door. He most certainly did not want to knock, and he most certainly did not want to be here. And that was why he made a face. Detention was never a fun prospect, especially detention with Snape.
Fine, fine, Harry admitted, he probably deserved it for his smart remarks earlier in class. But they were worth it. Even if he was missing quiddich practice for a detention with Snape. Harry had no idea what Snape would have him do tonight. There had been no ominous comment about scrubbing cauldrons or chopping potions ingredients. Harry knew better than to hope for anything easy though.
So he knocked on Snape's door. Momentarily, Snape opened it and sneered at him.
"Finally arrived, I see," he drawled, he eyed Harry like some extremely distasteful speck of dust. Harry refused to rise to the bait laid for him. He simply stepped past Snape and set his bag down. Snape returned to his desk and sat down, pointedly ignoring Harry.
"I believe you wanted me for a detention," Harry suddenly began. "But if you've changed your mind, I will very happily leave you alone."
"I believe you know better than to speak to me like that," Snape replied, but didn't look up. "But if you want another detention tomorrow night, I will very happily give you one." Harry sighed, but didn't reply. He certainly didn't want that, so maybe it would be better if he didn't push his professor too hard tonight.
Snape got up from his desk and pulled a chair away from a table nearby.
"Sit," he said. Harry looked around, a bit confused, but did as ordered, expectantly waiting what would come next. Snape went back to his desk and picked up a rather large pile of papers and brought them back to Harry. He impressively dropped them on the table with an intimidating thud. "The headmaster gave me these papers this morning and said I should read them. I do not have time read this, therefore you will read it and summarize it for me. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said, eying the stack of papers cautiously. Well, that was stupid, Harry realized. It wasn't like papers were going to hurt him. It wasn't even that hard an assignment. All he needed was simple reading comprehension. He didn't need any special skills, like to chop potions ingredients, and this wasn't going to leave him physically exhausted, like scouring cauldrons. Snape turned on his heel and returned to his desk. Harry pulled the stack of papers towards him turned the blank cover page over.
The first page bore a title, "Behind Closed Doors." Then, where an author's name should have been, Harry read "The Lonely God With A Box." Confused, Harry continued to read, hoping that the rest of the page would clarify what he needed to know to summarize it to Snape. It didn't take him long to realize that this paper was written by a witch or wizard. The first few sentences already referred to Muggles.
His professor? His head of house? Mentioned in the next paragraph? Harry began to become engrossed in what was clearly a story. He forgot that he was in Snape's chambers, and he forgot that he was serving a detention.
Harry narrowed his eyes at the page as he moved down, because there was his name. This story was actually about him. In his first year. Becoming more confused by the second, Harry couldn't take his eyes away from the paper.
Severus saw Potter's reaction to the reading. First he seemed bored when he looked at the stack of papers. Well, that was the point, to annoy the boy until he would show some proper respect. Then he noticed Potter become interested, and finally block out the world around him while he read quickly, and almost enthusiastically.
Severus shrugged, and went back to grading his papers. It wasn't his problem. Dumbledore had handed him the stack this morning and said he should read them when he had some time. Not only did he not want to read them, like he had told Potter, he simply didn't have time to read them. Dumbledore wouldn't leave him alone if he didn't though, so this was the most efficient way of killing two nifflers with one stone.
Harry finished the first story. It had been interesting, he had to admit. Horrible, terrible, and inaccurate, but interesting. He risked a glance up at Snape. Could Snape's father really have been like that? Did Snape actually love Lily, his mother?
Why was Snape making him read this? Harry looked puzzled as he turned the last page of the story, only to reveal another one.
This one was titled "Those Who Grieve," and by the same author.
Well, damn, this author didn't mess around getting to the point, Harry thought. It opened with the summer before his fifth year. Once again, it was interesting, Harry had to admit.
Wait. Stop right there. No. Why was Snape making him read this? Well, he wasn't going argue himself into another detention tomorrow night, so, after he paled, he continued reading.
Harry began swearing violently in his head. He looked over at Snape, concerned now. Was it, in fact, possible - ? A bit later, he realized the story wasn't even finished. He snorted, annoyed.
He turned the final page again. This one was called "I Just Wanted to Ask" but this one was by someone called "evil minded." Harry wondered if this author was any good. The first one had been interesting, and wondered if he or she was any relation to Rita Skeeter. They certainly would have gotten along well, Harry mused, the way they exaggerated things and were constantly just plain wrong.
So Harry began to read. Finally, after a few minutes of reading, he actually yelped and then, hearing himself, looked up at Snape, who was looking back at him. Why was Snape making him read this? He most certainly did not want to read about this.
"Um..." Harry finally began, eying his current story similarly to how Snape had eyed him earlier, "are you sure you want me to read this?"
"Why? What's wrong with it?" Snape asked, slightly concerned.
"I can understand why you're having me read some of it," Harry began. "It's downright humiliating. But why the hell - I mean, why are you having me read things that are just as humiliating for you?" Harry made a face.
"Let me see that," Snape said, coming over to where Harry sat and grabbed the top story, "I Just Wanted to Ask." He began to skim. Then Snape began to make a choking noise in the back of his throat and threw the story to the far end of the table.
"What else have you been reading?" Snape asked, grabbing the other stories, including the two Harry had already finished, and a couple others by evil minded, "Twenty-One Days" and "The Room of Requirement."
Obviously, Snape could read much faster than he, Harry, could. Either that, or he was skimming. Or both. Every so often, Harry noticed as he watched closely, Snape would glance up from what he was reading and look at him curiously.
Some minutes later, Snape tossed the stories away along with the first one.
"I would never have made you read that - that trash if I had known," Snape huffed. "You? Really? Me, and you?" Snape made a grotesque face. "The horror of the thought." Harry smirked at him.
"I didn't think you actually thought anything along those lines," Harry smirked, sounding particularly smug. "Though, I suppose if you wanted - "
"Stop right there, Potter," Snape growled, "if you have any sense of how to stay alive."
"What if I don't?" Harry retorted, still laughing to himself.
"What is your home life like?" Snape asked, his eyes narrowed.
"Nothing like that, if that's what you're worried about," Harry laughed. "I promise, nothing like that."
"Hmph," Snape said. "Take off you shirt." Harry rolled his eyes, and continued to laugh as he complied with the order.
"See?" he said. "No scars. Convinced?"
"You are thin," Snape pointed out. Harry shrugged, and put his shirt back on.
"I'm a teenager. What did you expect? I eat all I want at Hogwarts, and I haven't put on much weight."
"Your uncle - ?"
"No," Harry said in a horrified tone. "He doesn't. I promise. Run a diagnostic if you don't believe me." Snape did just that, and it came up negative for the type of abuse he was looking for.
"So you do live the life of the prince then?" Snape sneered at him.
"Absolutely not!" Harry protested. "I do have chores to do, and a lot of them. The part about the cupboard was right, and the bars on the window, and the cat flap." Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Really," he murmured.
"You? You loved my mum?"
"Hmph," Snape grunted again. "I suppose you could say that."
"And does You-Know-Who really - ?"
"No," Snape cut him off.
"Was your father really that horrible?" Snape rolled his eyes.
"He wasn't exactly the nicest," Snape admitted, "but this is most definitely an exaggeration. A cat flap? Really?"
"Yeah?" Harry said.
"It's fine," Harry laughed, although this time it was slightly more nervously.
"I'm not even kept in the cupboard anymore," Harry justified, rolling his eyes.
"A room with bars and cat flap is so much better," Snape drawled, leaning against the table, eying Harry again.
"It's not that bad," Harry insisted.
"Well, as much as these stories are absolute rubbish," Snape began, "I'm not put at ease by your description of your home life."
"It's fine," Harry repeated.
"Hush, no, it's not," Snape argued. "Would you say these stories have an accurate representation of your personality?"
"Um, well not really," Harry said. "I'm not nearly that submissive." Then he blushed, realizing how what he had said fit in with the story that neither of them had the stomach to finish. Snape snorted, understanding what he had said. "Would you say it's an accurate representation of you?"
"No, I'm not nearly that soft and caring," Snape said. "And I'm not nearly as good a person as portrayed." Now it was Harry's turn to snort. "You're not going back to your relatives," Snape continued.
"What?" Harry squawked. "I told you, it's not real."
"Yes, but what you've told me is real is disturbing enough that I don't think you should go back."
"Perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea - " Snape stopped suddenly.
"What?" Harry pushed.
"Do you have anyone else?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Who do you have to stay with? The Weasleys?"
"They already have trouble making ends meet," Harry said. "I wouldn't want to impose on them..."
"Anyone else? Your godfather is dead."
"I know," Harry muttered quietly.
"Sorry," Snape replied, equally quietly. Harry glanced up.
"Not really," Harry shrugged.
"Then it would seem the logical choice, no?"
"Oh, for crying out loud, don't make me say it!"
"Oh, I will," Harry taunted.
"Fine, it seems to me the logical choice that I may as well lay claim of your guardianship," Snape said, almost sullenly.
"If you're half the man of these stories, that wouldn't be unpleasant," Harry smiled.
"I'm not like the stories," Snape assured him.
"Neither am I," Harry replied.
"Then let's see to this new set of arrangements," Snape said.
"Maybe this was Dumbledore's plan all along," Harry said.
"How do you mean?"
"To get us to unite against something we found equally repulsive, so that we would actually have a decent conversation." Snape blinked at him for a moment.
"The meddling old coot."