Authors Note: Thank you my lovely readers, for reminding me why I love to write and post stories. Thank you to all who took the time to review last chapter! And another thank you to everyone who favourited or followed me or my story! You all make me so happy and keep me motivated to keep going. I hit over 5000 words again for this chapter, which I'm super pumped about because I got out the habit of writing longer chapters and I'm slowly working my way back up there.
We have some fluff and some more drama, because can we really expect Harry to stay out of trouble for long? We all know the answer to that one. Let me know what you think! Also let me know if there are any scenes or situations you want to see between Severus and Harry, or between Harry and another character! I know all of the main plot points along the way, but I am fairly flexible with integrating your wishes in between.
"Harry! How are you doing?"
"What? Oh, hi professor! I'm doing well, and yourself?"
Harry was startled out of his thoughts and hesitantly answered his professor. Professor Lupin was standing in the doorway of his classroom and seemed hesitant to Harry. Finally, after a moment of silence Lupin smiled at him.
"Very well thank you, Harry. I suspect your relatives didn't sign your permission form for Hogsmeade? Oh well, perhaps for the best. Would you like to come in for tea perhaps?"
Harry wasn't sure what to say. He liked the professor well enough, and defense was his favorite class, but he had never interacted with him outside of class. There was also the matter of whatever was going on between Severus and Professor Lupin, which made Harry slightly wary.
"Great! I'll have a house elf bring up some lunch too."
Harry followed the young man through the classroom and up the staircase to the defense professor's office. He had only been in here once before when Lockhart was trying to run away before having to deal with the Basilisk. Harry looked around with curiosity. The space had really changed since the previous year. Books of all kinds covered most surfaces. In the corner by the desk was a large tank filled with water, and some sort of scaly monkey inside. When the creature saw the two enter the office, it slammed itself up against the glass and scratched at it with its long claws.
Lupin chuckled when Harry jumped and peered into the tank with a mixture of revulsion and intrigue.
"That's a Kappa. We will finish up with Red Caps this week and then move onto these little guys after that."
Lupin barked a laugh at this.
"They are ugly little blighters, aren't they? Sugar in your tea?"
"No thanks. Just black"
Harry had gotten into the habit of drinking his tea black, just like Severus preferred, while he was at the Manor this summer. Lupin tapped the kettle with his wand, and steam immediately whistled out of it. He quickly levitated the kettle, tea bags and cups to the desk and soon after, a house elf with a plate of sandwiches and two bowls of soup popped into the office. The two tucked into the food and sat in companionable silence for a few moments, Harry still wondering why exactly he was here.
"I've only got tea bags, but I figure you are tired of tea leaves for right now"
"You know about that?" Harry grimaced.
"Professor McGonagall told me. You aren't taking that old coot seriously, are you?"
"Not really. It's more irritating than anything. I think it's just giving Malfoy more things to taunt me for."
"You aren't still worried about what happened on the train?" Professor Lupin asked, setting his spoon back down.
"A bit. It's just so unfair that they affect me worse than everybody else!"
"It's the way dementors work, Harry. They feed on high emotions and misery. You have had a lot more misery and horror in your life compared to your comrades. It doesn't mean you are weak."
A lot more misery than you even know about, Harry thought.
"Yeah, that's what S- Professor McGonagall said." Harry said instead, correcting himself at the last minute. Lupin nodded and sipped his tea, not noticing his slip up.
"Hermione said you made the dementors on the train go away." Harry continued.
"Yes, I did." Professor Lupin replied slowly. "But that is a very difficult spell Harry. Even most seventh years struggle with it."
"I really don't think you have need for it Harry. You are safe in the grounds of Hogwarts."
Harry knew this was the end of this particular discussion and he worked to keep the frown off of his face. The pair finished their lunch in companionable silence for a few more minutes before the professor spoke again.
"How are you enjoying all of your classes Harry? Your professors treating you okay?"
"Yes, I suppose so." Harry said cautiously, trying to figure out what the professor was after.
"Even Professor Snape?"
"No worse than he treats any of his students. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious. He just seems to take a peculiar interest in your affairs, that's all. I wanted to make sure he was treating you well at school. You could tell me if he wasn't."
"Oh, do you mean that night of the sorting feast?" Harry asked, trying to think quickly. "I think he asked Professor McGonagall a question about something on his timetables and then left. We don't have much interaction outside of class."
"I see. Well that's very good, my boy!"
"I should get going though. I was just on my way to drop off my school books."
"Studying instead of goofing off on your day off! Your mother would be so proud. She took school quite seriously as well."
"You knew my mother?" Harry was out of his chair, but he froze and looked at the professor.
"I - well, yes I did. We were in the same year. But that is a story for another day. Go off and enjoy your afternoon!"
He smiled at Harry, and rounded the desk, clapping him on the shoulder. Harry had to suppress a flinch from the sudden unexpected contact but managed a smile. He was preoccupied all the way back to his dorm room. Even if Professor Lupin didn't know his mother very well, perhaps he had some stories he could share about her. He tried to wrack his brains to remember if his parents were in the same year. No matter, they had to be close in age. Perhaps Professor Lupin knew his father as well! With a bubbling feeling of joy, he grabbed his invisibility cloak and stuffed it under his robes, waiting to put in on until he ducked into a small alcove in the hallway. Professor Lupin seemed very suspicious of his guardian and he didn't want to risk him seeing Harry going down to his office.
Moving quickly through the castle, he arrived at the potions classroom in just a few minutes. Making sure no one was inside, he took off his cloak and quickly crossed through to the office, and then through the hidden passage to Severus' private quarters. His guardian looked up from where he was reading a book on the couch and gave a small smile to his ward.
"Did it really take you that long to complete your charms essay?"
"Of course not," Harry replied, letting his bag drop with a thump and sinking into one of the squashy chairs in front of the fire. "I finished it before lunch."
"Did you now? See, here I thought that you were slaving away in the library and happened to work through lunch. Because I know you wouldn't purposely skip a meal." Severus said smoothly and Harry had to suppress an eye roll. Severus was way too serious about the three meals a day thing.
"Don't worry Severus, I did eat, promise! I was having tea and lunch with Professor Lupin."
"You were doing what?"
Severus sat straight up, and gave Harry that assessing look that Harry always associated with when Severus thought he might be hurt and was trying to survey the damage.
"Drinking tea?" Harry responded meekly, confused by his guardian's reaction.
"I don't want you associating with that man Harry, do you understand me?"
"No arguments Mr. Potter. You will not interact with him."
"He's a professor!"
"I know that. You will go to class, do your work, be polite, but there will be no more one-on-one lunch dates or tea times. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, sir." Harry growled, glowering at the stone floor. He then took a deep breath and then smoothed out his glare. There was no need to ruin a perfectly good day by starting an argument with Severus. Anyways, it wasn't like the man could monitor his whereabouts every moment of the day. He would go see Professor Lupin if he wanted to.
"Do you have time for a game of wizard's chess? I was thinking I might go read my book out on the grounds after while it's still nice out."
Severus seemed to sink with relief that Harry wasn't going to argue with him on this point. He flicked his wand and the chess game set itself up on the coffee table between them and a plate of biscuits landed beside it.
"I hope you've improved some or this is going to be a very short game."
Dear Mrs. Granger,
Thanks for the sweets! Yes, Hermione did share them. She likes to pretend she's very put out about it but I don't think she really minds. Maybe you could teach me how to make those biscuits I like so much once we are home for the Christmas hols? I don't think Severus knows much about baking.
How are things going in the muggle world? All my classes are going well, except for divination. I agree with Hermione on this one. I think the class is a joke and there's really no point to take it, except for maybe and easy O. It's getting tiresome to have my death predicted almost every class. I really like our Defense professor this year, although Severus doesn't like him for some reason. He has forbidden me from seeing him outside of class, which I think is completely unfair. I think I might go anyways. Professor Lupin says he was in the same year as my mum! He might have known my dad too, and I really want to ask him.
Malfoy is being a prat as usual. I really am trying to ignore him, just like you said to, but it's hard. He didn't even appreciate the fact that I saved him from that stupid hippogriff and that I got in trouble for it too!
P.S. Hermione seems a bit homesick. She won't say it, but I think she is.
Harry looked up from his letter as Hermione sniffled again. It was late, very late, and they were the only two in the common room. Harry had woken up from yet another nightmare and had decided to sit in front of the fire for a bit before going back to bed, but had found Hermione there instead. She was sitting in front of a low table in front of the fire, books and papers spread out around her. Harry had taken a table nearby, not wanting to disturb her from her work but now she was simply staring into the fire, one hand idly fingering the gold bracelet around her wrist, and trying to make her sniffles as unnoticeable as possible. Harry sighed and moved to sit on couch behind Hermione.
"Is that from your parents?" Harry asked softly.
Hermione was startled out of her musings and glanced up at Harry, her eyes red-rimmed. She leaned back against the couch, her shoulder resting against Harry's leg.
"Yeah. They gave it to me right before I left for Hogwarts in my first year. It's engraved on the inside. 'Family is never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart.' I like having it. It makes me feel closer to them."
"You know Hermione, Hogwarts has always truly been my home. I've never had anywhere else where I felt safe before this summer. I was only at the Manor for a month or so, but even still I miss it. I can't imagine how much more I would miss it if I had grown up there and my parents were back home."
"Oh, I'm fine, really. I'm just being silly."
"Of course you aren't Hermione,"
This time both friends jumped as Ron's voice came from behind them. They turned around and saw Ron approaching from the staircase, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He sank down into the couch on the other side of Hermione, and she settled easily between the two, snug between both sets of legs. She leaned her head sleepily against Harry's knee.
"I get homesick all the time, and I have tons of siblings around to bother. I can't imagine how much worse it would be to be away from home, and mum and dad, and not have any sort of family around. It's okay to be homesick."
Hermione's response was so quiet that if they weren't the only three in the room, Harry doubt he would have heard it. The three sat in a comfortable silence for some time before Harry broke it.
"What are you doing up Ron?"
"What? Oh. I got up to use the loo and noticed you weren't there. I was coming down to see if you were here when I heard you two talking. Why are you two here anyways?"
"I couldn't sleep."
"I was just finishing up some work. Are you having nightmares again Harry? I thought you said they were better since you got more potions from Professor Snape last weekend?"
"It's fine, really. I just thought I would be okay not taking the dreamless sleep tonight. Guess I was wrong."
"Do you want to talk about it mate?"
Harry smiled over to where Ron was sitting and shook his head.
"Thanks, but I'm fine. Just more of the same old stuff."
"I'm sending mum and dad a letter tomorrow. I can tuck yours in with it if you'd like." Hermione said suddenly.
"How'd you know?"
"Seriously, Harry?" Hermione chuckled. "It's not like you sit writing things down for fun, and mum's the only one you send letters to."
Silence washed over the group again, and Harry sat reveling in the warmth of his friends and the fire.
Severus sat in front of the fire, a potions book on his lap and a piece of parchment with his notes hovering nearby. He reached out for his glass of elvish wine and was just about to take a sip when a loud knocking startled him. He gave a puzzled look at the clock. It was half past 11. Who would be knocking this late at night? Harry perhaps but he would most likely use the entrance from his office. Giving himself a shake, he stood up and went to the door, opening it cautiously. He was most surprised to be face to face with a very disgruntled Poppy Pomfrey. A quick glance around found a miserable looking Harry standing behind her. He quickly ushered them both in, glancing around to make sure no one saw Harry standing in the courtyard.
"What's wrong? Are you hurt? Sick?"
Severus felt worry bubble in his chest as he quickly assessed the child in front of him. He forced himself to slow down and think when Harry stifled a flinch when he reached for him. No, he most definitely wasn't hurt. His ward looked guilty, scared, and overtired if the bags under his eyes were anything to go by, but not hurt. He turned his attention back to Poppy.
"Come, sit. Would you like some tea?"
He ushered them towards the chairs and sat down. Poppy and Harry followed, but neither sat. Harry still positioned himself so that Poppy and a chair were between himself and Severus. Interesting.
"No thank you Severus. What I would like is for you to deal with your child. This is completely unacceptable!" she nearly shrieked. Whatever Harry had done had upset her greatly.
"I see. And what trouble has Mr. Potter found himself in?" Severus said silkily, leveling his ward with a stare.
"Well I woke up to my alarms going off that someone was in the potions stores up in the hospital wing. Imagine my surprise when I find Harry trying to pilfer multiple potions."
"Was he now? Which ones might I ask?"
"Dreamless sleep, calming draughts, and a draught of peace if I saw correctly. But that's not all!"
"Please don't ma'am! I'm sorry. Really!" Harry nearly whimpered, finally speaking up for the first time.
"Silence, child. Go on, Poppy." Severus kept his tone level, taking in the shaking hands and near tears of his ward. Whatever else had happened he knew he had to keep his temper.
"When I asked him what he was doing, he cursed at me!"
"Did he?" Severus closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose and sucked in a few deep breaths. When he was sure he was completely calm, he looked back up. "Thank you, Poppy. Go to your room and to bed Harry. It's late."
Harry quickly moved towards his room but was stopped when Poppy's hand shot out and grabbed his arm. Severus couldn't contain his glare anymore at this.
"Excuse me Severus, but I demand this doesn't go unpunished. The sheer cheek of the boy. If you aren't going to do anything about this, I'm taking him to Minerva."
Severus stood up and scowled down at the woman.
"Firstly, remove your hand from my ward madam. Secondly, don't question how I am raising the boy. I know him better than you think." he said icily.
"Something like this cannot be let go Severus."
"And rest assured that it will not be."
"Sending him off to bed is not any sort of consequence Severus!"
"Not that it is any of your business Poppy, and just so we are clear it is very much not, but I know my ward and what he can handle. He has hardly taken his eyes off my glass of wine since he got in here and is on the verge of a panic attack. I promised him I would never drink around him and I'm not going to break that trust and dole out a punishment even if this is my first glass. He can go to bed and we will talk about it tomorrow. He knows very well what the consequence for cursing is. Now I won't ask politely a third time, but take your hand off him please."
Poppy just stared at him, a mixture of chagrin and offence on her face.
"I didn't mean to suggest-"
"It's quite alright. It's quite late, why don't you go to bed. I promise this issue will be dealt with and you can expect a proper apology soon." Severus said smoothly, his angry outburst dissipating. He held up a hand to stop Harry's protests. "Bed. Now Mister Potter. There's a calming draught and dreamless sleep in the drawer. You will take both and go straight to bed, am I clear?"
"Y- yes sir," Harry muttered miserably, rushing to follow orders.
Severus let Poppy back out of his chambers and then sank into the couch. Why couldn't he have one peaceful week with this stubborn child. With a sigh, he flicked his wand and banished his books and glass back to where they belonged. He may as well go to bed, tomorrow was going to be a long day.
The next morning found Severus up bright and early, sipping his cup of coffee and reading the Daily Prophet as usual. His wards had let him know that Harry had been awake for at least half an hour, but he wasn't going to rush the boy. He would come out whenever he was ready. The door creaked open to his right but Severus didn't look up.
"You aren't still scared of me, are you?" Severus asked lightly, glancing up at the child hesitating in the doorway.
Harry's face flushed and he shook his head, though he made no move to enter the living room.
"No sir. And I wasn't last night either. Well not really of you, you know? It's just that I was really bad and you were angry and then I saw the wine and I just…" Harry trailed off
"Calm down child. I understand. Now are you going to stand there all day or are you going to come eat some breakfast?"
Severus flicked his wand and the breakfast dishes flew from the counter to the low table in front of the fire.
"You're not mad anymore?" Harry asked hesitantly, approaching Severus and sitting in the chair across from him.
Severus rolled his eyes and his first instinct was to brush off the question with a snide remark, but he forced himself to think about it and answer the child. He was trying to get Harry to open up about his feelings after all, so what better way to do that then to show him how to do it. Was he angry? A bit he supposed, at the sheer audacity of his charge to steal from a staff member and then cursed at said staff member. He was mostly disappointed in the boy and hurt that Harry seemed to trust him so little that he would resort to theft instead of just coming to talk to him. No, that was definitely anger there when Severus ran the list of potions Harry tried to steal through his mind. How dare the dunderhead try to take a peace draught, not knowing what it was or how potent it could be.
"I am a bit angry still Harry, but I'm mostly disappointed in you. This is not the kind of behaviour I expect out of you. I can't believe you would pull a stunt like this."
Harry seemed to deflate at Severus' words and Severus studied him carefully. His disappointment seemed to have more of an effect on the boy than even his anger. Interesting.
"I'm sorry sir, I really am. I- I don't know what I was thinking." Harry seemed to steel his nerves before looking up at Severus with the most imploring green eyes that made it hard for Severus to harbor any negative feelings towards the child. "I know you were probably going to wait until after classes to punish me, but please could we just get it over with? Please?"
Severus had to smirk at the near whine in Harry's voice. He had been mulling the situation over all night and still hadn't quite come to a decision as to what to do. He remembered all too clearly his threat to Harry if he ever caught Harry cursing again and he knew that Harry remembered too. He didn't want another repeat of what happened last time he didn't follow through on consequences. A quick glance at the clock told him it was just after 7. Two hours until Harry's first class. He sighed and pushed the food towards the child.
"Perhaps. Let's talk and then I'll decide what to do."
Severus waited until Harry put some food on his plate and began picking at it to start talking. He decided to start with the biggest issue. The stealing.
"Should I be giving you the benefit of the doubt here that because of the horrid upbringing you've had so far that you somehow missed the lesson in life that stealing is wrong?"
"No sir," Harry replied meekly. "I-"
"Look at me when we are talking Mr. Potter."
"I knew it was wrong to steal the potions sir." Harry said, looking up.
"Then why did you do it? There is nothing in the hospital wing that I couldn't give you from my potions store. Hell, there's hardly anything in the hospital wing that I didn't brew myself. Why didn't you just come to me?"
Severus had to stop here. The hurt and frustration he was feeling was starting to leak into his voice and he was trying to keep this conversation going as smoothly and calmly as he could.
"I'm sorry sir. I know I should have come to you. I know I should have. I just didn't want to feel like a burden."
"I know. I really do. You don't think I'm a burden and I'm probably bothering you more by getting in trouble than just coming to see you in the night, but I wasn't thinking too clearly last night."
"I'm not bothered Harry. I'm disappointed. Kids make mistakes and they do stupid things, I just thought you would be above doing this particular stupid thing."
At this, Harry couldn't meet Severus' eyes anymore and lowered his gaze.
"I'm sorry," he said shakily.
"Please tell me you were at least going to look up the potions you tried to take before just drinking them because their label seemed like it could help."
"I-I probably would have looked it up." he murmured unconvincingly. "Is the peace draught really that bad?"
"Seeing as you probably would have taken a dose similar to your calming draught, yes you dunderhead. You would have been completely stoned and may have even overdosed on it."
"I'm sorry. That was really stupid."
"It was." Severus replied wryly. "Never take any sort of potion without an adult's permission, especially if you don't know what it is, understood?"
"Very good. For trying to steal from a staff member and the sheer stupidity of attempting to take a potion that you had no idea what it was, you are grounded."
"Grounded? For how long!"
"A week. You will go to class and to meals but all of your free time will be spent down in our quarters."
"What! You can't-"
"Watch it child. I can ensure that you spend your nights down here as well."
"But quidditch try-outs are on Saturday! And practice starts after that!"
Severus looked at the devastated face of his ward.
"You may go to try outs but you will have to miss practices for the next week."
He wasn't going soft he insisted to himself, he was just being practical. The child hadn't misbehaved so severely to enforce a punishment that would affect him for the rest of the year. Harry opened his mouth as if to argue but thought better of it.
"Thank you, sir."
"You will of course have to apologize to Madame Pomfrey for your deplorable behaviour as well."
"As for your unfortunate use of foul language, do you remember what I said would happen if you used it again?"
"Yes, but please don't sir! I'm-"
"What did I say Harry?" Severus interrupted the child's pleading.
"You said you would wash my mouth out but you don't have to sir, please! I promise it won't happen ever again."
Severus forced himself to maintain his stern mask and stood up, making his way to the washroom. He opened the door and silently waited for Harry to follow. Tears were already gathering in the child's eyes and it tugged on something deep in Severus' chest. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that doling out consequences were part of the job.
Harry looked utterly miserable but followed Severus into the bathroom. Severus wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible so he wet a cloth and lathered it up with the bar of soap on the counter.
"Open up," he said gently.
Harry looked like he was about to refuse but sighed and opened his mouth a crack. Severus decided not to force the issue and gently took the boys chin in one hand and worked quickly, scrubbing the inside of Harry's mouth, tongue and teeth included, making sure not to miss an inch.
Harry coughed and sputtered when Severus was done, tears still running down his face. He felt a twist in his gut at seeing the child so upset but he pushed it down. Harry needed boundaries and clear consequences. He may be upset but he wasn't actually hurt.
"You may rinse."
Harry dove for the sink, wrenching the tap open and immediately trying to rinse the horrible taste out of his mouth. Severus stifled a chuckle as he watched his ward. He knew the child's efforts were futile. He could get most of the taste out, but he would still taste the bitter bite of soap for some time before it all washed away.
Eventually, the raven black head came away from the tap as the child turned to look at Severus. More prepared for his ward's reactions by now, he was able to open his arms before Harry launched himself at him. He let Harry clutch his robes as he cried and Severus wrapped his arms around the boy.
"I-I'm so sorry. Please don-don't hate me. I'll never misbehave again."
"Silly child. Of course I don't hate you. And don't make promises you can't keep. We both know you will find some other trouble to get involved in by next week."
This pulled a small chuckle from the boy and Severus allowed a small smile before smoothing his features and pulling back from the hug.
"You are forgiven Harry, but I want to emphasize that this can't happen again. Stealing is wrong, especially for something I can so easily provide for you. These nightmares have gone on for too long. You have to talk to someone about them."
"I know Severus, honest. I feel so stupid for doing it in the first place. And I will tell you. Soon even. I'm just not ready to talk yet."
"Alright, I can accept that. It's okay if you don't want to talk to me Harry, you can talk to Professor McGonagall or your friends, or Mrs. Granger even."
"I know, but I want to tell you."
Severus couldn't hide his smile this time.
"Very well. You still have about half an hour before your first class. Why don't you go for a nice warm shower to calm down and clean up before you have to go meet up with your peers?"
Harry nodded and Severus left him to do his own thing, returning to where his coffee was left abandoned on the table. He felt relief that everything was dealt with. Well, almost everything. Harry still had to apologize to Poppy, and who knew how that would go. She had a soft spot for this child though, so he wasn't too worried.
Her words from the night before came back to him. 'What I would like is for you to deal with your child!'.
How odd that he had hardly even registered her description of Harry, never mind protesting it. Even now when there was no one around to protest to, or perhaps because of that, he didn't find he minded.
Harry was definitely not his child. Not in the traditional sense anyways. He was no father, especially not a father to a Potter. But being his guardian made Harry his child in a way.
He found he didn't mind the title so much.