ATTENTION: For those of you who may not be aware, this story was updated on May 5 with Chapter 35 "Phoenix Tears." Unfortunately, the FanFiction notification system was not working that day, and so notification e-mails were never sent out. So...if you didn't happen to stumble across the chapter in the past week, then surprise! I have two chapters for you! Make sure to go read Chapter 35 first!
As for this chapter, it is short, but I really wanted to get something out rather quickly after the updating issues with the last one. Enjoy!
And Happy Mother's Day! :)
Harry let out a sigh of impatience as he leaned against the stone wall outside of Dumbledore's office. It had been nearly ten minutes now and Snape was still inside, talking to the headmaster. What could they possibly be discussing?
And why wasn't he allowed to hear? They were talking about him after all.
The young Gryffindor grumbled in annoyance as he shifted his position and removed the photograph from his pocket. He smiled down at his mother then as his thoughts began to drift. He really should talk to Colin again soon. Maybe by now the first year would have found some new information about repairing photographs.
"Come along, Mr. Potter."
Harry jumped nearly a foot in the air at the sudden presence of the potions master. He had been so lost in thought that he hadn't even heard the door open behind him.
"You must learn to be more aware of your surroundings, Potter," Snape stated seriously, a deep frown settled on his face.
"Yes, sir," Harry replied automatically, his heart still racing from the surprise.
And with that, Snape was sweeping down the narrow staircase, giving Harry no choice but to follow.
"Um…Professor? What did the headmaster say?" the boy asked, when they had nearly reached the bottom.
"We will discuss it back in my office, Mr. Potter," Snape answered brusquely.
And Harry figured it would be best not to ask any more questions for now.
Snape's office door banged hard against the stone wall. Harry winced at the sound, but the man hardly seemed to notice. He quickly strode across the room and headed straight for an old wooden cabinet, throwing that door open as well.
Harry moved into the room more slowly, suddenly getting the sense that the professor wasn't happy about something. Even now, the man was grumbling under his breath, searching through the piles and piles of books that had been stuffed into that cabinet.
But finally, the potions master found what he was looking for, and he was soon moving towards his desk with a thick tome in his hands. He dropped the book on his desk with a loud thunk, before finally turning his gaze on Harry.
"Sit," the man said, waving his wand at the door. Harry heard it close and lock behind him, as he moved to take his usual seat.
"The headmaster and I have decided that it would be…wise… for you take on some additional lessons, Potter."
Harry frowned. "But I'm doing really well in all of my classes, sir."
"Yes, I believe we have established that," the man replied scathingly. "These will be a different kind of lesson. They will be designed to help you to control your mind."
Harry thought about that for a moment.
"So there is something wrong with me?" Harry suddenly felt afraid. "Am I losing my mind, professor?"
"There is no need to get hysterical, Mr. Potter," Snape answered harshly. "You will not be losing anything. I will make certain of that."
And just like that, Harry felt relieved, and the tension completely drained out of his shoulders. He knew he could trust the professor to do what he said he would do, and suddenly, Harry was glad that the man knew about the voice.
"But what is happening, sir? Why am I hearing a voice?"
Snape didn't answer right away. And when he finally did speak, he seemed to be choosing his words very carefully. "Neither the headmaster nor I can know for certain, Mr. Potter. But it is not unheard of for some witches or wizards to attempt to play with somebody else's mind."
"Like a prank?" Harry asked, frowning in thought.
"But who—?" And then Harry froze, his entire face suddenly turning white. "Is Voldemort doing something to my mind? Is he making me hear that voice? But how?"
"What did I say about getting hysterical?" Snape growled, summoning a small vial from a shelf across the room and placing it in front of Harry. "Drink it. You're as pale as a ghost."
Harry obeyed, downing the strange, sweet liquid in one gulp. And within moments, the color began to return to the boy's face as a warmth spread quickly through his entire body.
"What is that?" Harry asked curiously, examining the vial closely.
"A variation on pepperup potion."
Harry's hands immediately flew to his ears, fully expecting the steam to start pouring out at any moment. "You could have warned me, you know," Harry said, annoyed.
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Sir," Harry added quickly.
The man glared disapprovingly, but then answered Harry's question. "This particular version is very mild, and does not induce the usual side effects. Your ears are safe."
Harry dropped his hands, embarrassed. "Oh."
"Indeed. Now back to the matter at hand, Mr. Potter—"
"Voldemort," Harry interrupted, suddenly feeling nervous all over again.
"Do not say the name, Potter."
"But is he—?"
"I do not know. The headmaster believes it is possible that a mental connection exists between you and the Dark Lord. If that is the case, then you need to learn how to protect your mind."
Harry bit his lip. "How, sir?"
Snape pushed the large book across the desk then, so that Harry could get a better look at the title.
"Occlumency," Snape provided. "It is the ancient art of closing off one's mind. It is both very useful, and very difficult to learn."
Harry sighed. "Then how am I—?"
"With practice, and provided you follow all of my instructions to the letter, Mr. Potter, you will learn."
Harry nodded slowly. He supposed it was a good thing that the professor had such confidence in him. Because he sure didn't.
"What will the lessons be like?" he asked then.
Snape nodded his head towards the book between them. "Your first assignment will be to read the entirety of chapter one and write an essay for me, summarizing what you have learned."
Harry's face immediately fell. "But, sir. I have enough homework already! I don't have time—"
"You will make time, Potter!" Snape interrupted harshly. "It is of the utmost importance that you take this seriously."
Harry sighed, but otherwise remained silent.
"If you are unable to find time to devote to this task, then I will find the time for you," Snape warned. "Perhaps you would like to do this assignment during the next Gryffindor quidditch practice?"
"No, sir," Harry answered quietly. "I'll find time to do it."
"Good. Now, you are to pay particularly close attention to the section of the chapter that discusses different techniques for clearing the mind. It is absolutely essential that you master this quickly, Mr. Potter. I want a thorough summary on those techniques, and you are to use what you learn to begin practicing clearing your mind each night before bed."
Harry stared at the book for a moment. "How is that supposed to help?"
Snape simply pushed the book closer to Harry. "Read, Potter. I will expect you to complete this assignment by Tuesday evening. We will have our first formal lesson at that time. Any questions?"
Harry started to shake his head, but then a thought occurred to him.
"Are we still going to make potions in the evenings, professor?"
Snape raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Have I given you any reason to believe that those sessions are now cancelled?"
A smile broke out on the child's face, then. The first one Snape had seen in a while.
Snape gave a curt nod and then gestured once more towards the textbook. "You are to keep these lessons a secret, Potter. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said, finally picking the book up off the desk. It was really heavy.
"Then you may go," Snape dismissed.
Harry turned then to head for the exit, but the professor began speaking again just as he reached the door.
"Yes, sir?" Harry turned back around.
"If you hear that voice again, you are to seek help immediately. Is that understood? You will not simply ignore the problem any longer."
Harry shifted uncomfortably, but nodded.
Snape nodded his satisfaction to that answer then, and in the next moment, Harry was darting from the room, the textbook clutched firmly against his chest.
Thanks for reading!