Chapter 21: Allied
Severus swore, his glass of Ogden's Finest Firewhiskey sloshing as he slammed it down, unable to bring himself to care if anyone discovered he'd been drinking on the job.
"Enter," he snarled, and swore to Merlin that if another one of his sixth-years had come whining for him to settle their inane drama –
His thoughts ground to a halt as Harry Potter shuffled, albeit hesitantly into the office. A faint sense of surprise flared within him, and he set down his quill and its acerbic remarks for later.
"Extraordinarily early, Potter," Severus commented, arching a brow.
Harry made a noncommittal noise.
"I believe I would know if I had missed dinner."
Severus raked his eyes over the boy, and his unspoken question was answered as an irate Minerva McGonagall followed a boil-covered Draco Malfoy through the door.
"Merlin," Severus breathed, then rounded on the uninjured Potter, furious. "Was I mistaken, boy?"
"S-sir?" Harry asked in confusion.
Severus was not fooled. And to think, just seconds ago, I'd thought this spoilt, arrogant brat above his immature, brutish father. He cursed himself, wondering what on earth had possessed him to spew such sentiment last night. And to think I'd thought him too much like his mother.
"Your father," he hissed, imbuing those two words with as much hate as he could summon. "Could never control himself either."
Harry snapped his head up in shock.
"Sir, you think I–"
"Perhaps it is something you should do more often, Potter," Severus sneered.
Harry flinched and brushed a hand over his eyes, his heart seizing. Look where trust gets you.
Without warning, McGonagall barked, "Professor Snape! That is enough!"
Draco gaped, though he looked at Harry in worry.
Severus flicked disdainful eyes towards his colleague. Of course she'd defend her golden boys, he scoffed. The Marauders, oh how could they ever do wrong.
"Mr Potter is not responsible for this," she explained. "It appears that Weasley threw the first curse."
Severus paused, a retort on his tongue. His eyes widened fractionally. Sweet Salazar…
"There was an exchange on the sixth floor," she elaborated, and Severus felt winded, almost as if he'd been punched. "Messrs Weasley, Finnegan and Thomas have been adequately dealt with."
Severus rose, gripping the arms of his chair for stability. He glanced at Harry, but the blasted boy made no move to look at him, and he was reminded of an unfortunate incident almost fifteen years ago.
"I highly doubt it, Minerva," he spat, the anger a channel for his remorse. "Neither you nor Albus are capable of objectivity when your precious Gryffindors are involved."
McGonagall gave him a pinched look.
"You'd better handle your own, then, Severus," she said, clipped. "Fifty points each have already been taken."
Merlin, the woman had nerve. He couldn't very well return those points immediately – her skewed sense of fairness would ensure the prolonged suffering of his students, otherwise.
Severus scowled and shot a significant look at the door.
"Might I inform you, also, that had I not arrived when I did, Mr Weasley may likely have been nothing more than a pile of dust and goo."
McGonagall glared down her nose at Draco, and he squirmed uncomfortably.
"Mr Malfoy had been in the middle of casting a Reducto."
Severus scowl deepened.
"Their wands, Minerva," he demanded eventually, and sent the woman packing. "Do try not to come complaining should you find Gryffindor's hourglass empty of rubies by the week's end."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, his scowl vanishing. Merlin, Lily. Wordlessly, he summoned a dose of Cure for Boils and placed it on the table before him, motioning the boys closer.
Draco approached, looking at the vial suspiciously.
"I assure you, if ever I am inclined to poison you, I would not do so in front of eyewitnesses."
Draco, naturally, was no more assured, though he did still down the potion. Draco spluttered in revulsion – it tasted like old socks and rotten eggs – and wondered if Snape could have done anything to improve the taste, and deliberately didn't. Draco breathed a sigh of relief, though, at the almost instantaneous effects, and that he'd returned to normal – and not, instead, turned into a toad or something equally as nasty.
"Do explain," Severus sighed, hating his flair for jumping to conclusions, especially when it concerned one Harry Potter.
Draco nudged Harry, who shook his head, eyes stoically pinned to the floor.
"We didn't start it, sir," Draco stated then, growing more heated. "We were just talking, and that stupid blood-traitor–"
Draco stopped short, swallowing. He'd not forgotten Snape's reaction the night before. However, though Draco saw his eyes grow colder, Snape merely held up a hand.
"I do not want to know your father's opinions on blood, Malfoy. Do refrain from speaking such terms in polite company."
Draco frowned, but continued.
"Weasley hit Harry with the Jelly-legs, then he hit me with boils, the git. We didn't do anything back, Professor, I swear."
Severus eyed the boy, then inclined his head.
"And the Reductor Curse?"
"I was angry," Draco mumbled.
Severus studied the boy, his gaze intense and searching. Finding what he'd been looking for, he nodded.
"Kindly restrain yourself in future, Malfoy. I would rather not have to deal with the paperwork should one of my charges find themselves in Azkaban before they come of age."
Draco nodded, a silent promise.
"Potter?" Severus offered, extending an olive branch, turning his attention to Harry.
Merlin, I once said that Slytherins were to be united, didn't I? What had I been thinking, accusing Potter, like I'd once been accused? But Severus knew – all he'd seen in that moment was a carbon-copy of James Potter, his tormentor, whom he'd also lost to, and Severus had lashed out on impulse. He sighed.
"My conduct was unacceptable. For that, I apologise."
Draco gaped again – Harry had said so before, yes, but he'd failed to believe that Snape could ever apologise, and to a student, at that. For just a second, jealousy flashed through him. As though it had been sensed, Harry shot him a look that spoke volumes.
I'll trade my life with yours any day, it seemed to say.
"Yeah, well, you should," Harry replied spitefully, behind hooded lids, more hurt that he was ready to admit. "But it's not like that changes anything."
Severus itched to reprimand the boy, or even take points for disrespect, but he knew that if he did so – if he pushed too far – the last remnant he had of Lily might slip away from him, forever. So, instead, Severus only glared. He desired to unravel the enigma that was Harry Potter, but he needed peace, and so be it if that meant shirking his duties, and drowning his sorrows alone.
"Watch yourself," he said, – no Slytherins had ever lost a hundred points in one go, after all –knowing that Draco, at least, would understand. "We will discuss this tonight."
The boys knew a dismissal when they heard one, though Harry stayed a while, eyes blazing.
"You know, I hope Draco's right, Professor. That it's not you who's after the Stone."
The words lingered in the air for some time.
Hermione found them in the courtyard, sequestered at a bench behind the rose bushes.
"Harry, Draco! Are you alright?"
The boys, pulled from their moping, shushed her.
"Granger," Draco hissed, "Are you trying to get us killed?"
"Yes, killed. Murdered, slai–"
Harry elbowed Draco in the ribs, and the blond made a strangled sound, halfway between surprise and outrage.
"We're fine," Harry answered, forcing a smile – one that Hermione saw through, of course.
"Are you really?" She pushed, eyeing them critically.
"No," Draco retorted, along with Harry's quiet yes.
He arched a mocking brow.
"I don't know about Harry here, but I had to endure a horde of gawking and sniggering while your Head of House dragged me through the castle, so no, Granger, I am not alright."
"I'm sure Professor McGonagall had a reason–"
"Oh yes, I'm sure she had a reason to procure the potion from Snape, in the dungeons, instead of the Hospital Wing, just one floor above."
Hermione crossed her arms, mind racing, unwilling to believe that Professor McGonagall was just as prejudiced as the rest of the school. But she couldn't find fault in Draco's logic and so, instead, settled for a change of subject.
"Ronald is a prat, isn't he," she said, lips puckered as though she'd swallowed something sour.
Draco's eyes snapped up to meet hers, and he let out a genuine laugh. Hermione's eyes widened, both in surprise, that she'd startled a laugh out of the masked Slytherin, and also – she rather thought Draco had a nice laugh, and if only he could do it more often. Harry, startled into a laugh too, smiled gratefully at Hermione – not forced, this time – and felt the tension drain out of his person.
"You should say prat more often, Hermione, I quite like it," Draco shook his head, amused. "Well, who would've thought, we've managed to corrupt her."
Hermione smiled back brilliantly, suddenly registering that Draco had, for the first time ever, used her given name. Then, she remembered Draco's words from earlier.
"What did you mean, get you killed?"
The boys' laughter faded.
"That prat lost us a hundred points," Draco looked pained. "And Slytherins aren't known for forgiveness."
"They won't know it's you–"
"Well, at least Ronald did too," she joked uncertainly.
Almost as if they'd forgotten, Draco and Harry perked up.
"So they did," Draco sniggered. "What was it, a hundred and fifty?"
"Sorry, Hermione," Harry said, though she just shrugged. They'd earn it back – she hoped – and neither did she much care if the three boys spent the rest of the term being glared at by her housemates.
"Serves them right," Hermione declared. "I know you two didn't start it."
Draco glanced at her with newfound respect.
"Thanks," Harry grinned.
They spent the next hour reading in comfortable silence.
As he tripped – yet again – upon leaving the Great Hall, his appetite gone in the face of snarled words and dirty looks, Harry was immensely relieved that he hadn't been a victim of 'Death by Tripping Jinx'. He flushed, and picking up the pieces of his dignity, scurried quickly away – and so missed the look of concern in Snape's black eyes.
Draco made the smart choice, Harry thought, sneaking dinner in the kitchens instead.
Rounding the corner, Harry collided with Blaise – who was as usual, late to dinner.
"I didn't start it," Harry began, after he'd recovered.
"I couldn't care less about those points. You and Malfoy worked it out, that's all I asked."
Blaise gave Harry a curt nod and brushed past him into the Hall.
Harry sighed, relieved. That makes one less enemy to watch out for.
He almost swore – in Muggle expletives an eleven year old should not have known – when he collided with someone else. Gripping the wall to steady himself, Harry saw the shock of red hair before he placed its owner.
"You," he hissed.
Blue eyes stared back at him, ashamed.
"I apologise for my brother's actions earlier."
"Oh. I thought you were Weasley."
He didn't have to explain – Percy Weasley understood.
"May I speak with you for a moment?"
Harry narrowed his eyes, seeking to understand the reason for – this.
"Believe me, though we may share a name, Ronald and I are nothing alike."
"Alright," Harry decided, though still guarded. "But not here."
He let Percy lead him to a disused classroom in the dungeons. As the Gryffindor locked the door and lit the sconces, Harry briefly pondered how exactly Percy had found this room, seeing as he hadn't, even despite it being Slytherin territory.
"My brother does not understand that the world does not exist in black and white," Percy said, his speech refined and posture perfect, completely unlike his youngest brother.
Harry couldn't help the snort that escaped him, but Percy didn't seem to take offence.
"But I suppose you do?"
"Yes," Percy replied bluntly, as Harry had expected of a Gryffindor. Then – "I admire you, Potter. You don't allow expectations to define you."
That, Harry did not expect.
"I like you, Percy."
"And I you."
"Were you offered Slytherin?"
"The Prewetts had been Gryffindors for three generations, and the Weasleys for five."
"The Prewett line ended with my uncles' deaths."
"I'm sorry," Harry began automatically.
"I don't remember them," Percy said, dismissing the apology.
"I don't remember my parents either," Harry admitted softly, not knowing why he'd revealed it.
"Right. Well," Percy said after a moment of silence, fidgeting awkwardly. "My family may not be wealthy, nor are we as influential as names like Malfoy, but we still are a member of the Sacred Twenty-Eight."
Harry nodded slowly, understanding.
"Ronald will have a fit, won't he."
And so will Draco. Harry smirked.
"Ronald does not know what it means to be a Gryffindor."
Percy extended a hand, expression cool.
"I think," Harry said, as he took it. "We will get along very well, Percy Weasley."
Hello, my readers.
I'm back with another chapter - you may think it slow, but it is an important step in character and plot development. Don't worry, you'll get your long-awaited action soon enough. But I apologise in advance - school starts back up this week, and inevitably, there'll be a delay in updates. (I promise, though, I won't be six months this time.)
I dearly hope you enjoyed this chapter, and please, as always, do favourite and leave me feedback.
Thank you all - you new readers, or you who have been with me since the beginning. You mean the world to me.
Until next time.