Chapter 22: Detention
"You're not serious," Draco said, disbelieving. "Percy Weasley's actually a Slytherin?"
Harry rolled his eyes. Of course that'd be the part Draco chooses to focus on.
"He's not bad, you know."
Draco was incredulous. The thought that any Weasley could be Sorted anywhere other than Gryffindor perplexed him – if Father had been wrong here… It didn't bear thinking about.
"I don't know. He just… he's sort of like me, I guess."
"It's not remotely the same thing, Harry. You made Slytherin. He didn't. He's a – Weasley."
"You don't have to like it, although I'd much prefer you did. Just… be civil, alright?"
Draco frowned, shuddering at the thought.
"Did you really have to accept his offer?"
"There wasn't any reason not to," Harry shrugged. "You know I copped the better end of the deal. Besides, he couldn't be more different than his brother."
Draco grimaced, slowing as they neared Snape's office.
"You may be right, Harry, but at this rate, we'll both be Gryffindors by the year's end."
"I am a Potter, after all."
"Yeah, I forget sometimes. You're not who Fath– I thought you'd be."
Harry noticed the slip-up, but chose to ignore it. He could guess at Draco's upbringing, just as he was sure Draco had guessed his – but they were Slytherins, and none of that mattered right now. So Harry sighed and ran a hand through his – already – thoroughly mussed hair.
"I just wish Snape could see that."
Draco awkwardly placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, seeking to comfort, and hoping to Merlin that no one untoward would stumble upon them in such a position.
"If he knows you at all, he will."
"Thanks, Draco," Harry replied softly.
"And if he doesn't, well, he can sod off."
Harry burst into laughter, startled at the unexpected words.
"You're lucky no one heard that," he snickered, punching Draco playfully in the arm.
"I heard that."
Harry jumped, whirling around in search for the source of the sudden voice, while Draco looked on bemusedly.
"Didn't you hear that? I swear, someone–"
Then, Harry realised where he was. Oh.
"Hey," he said. "You scared me there."
The snake in the portrait hissed in amusement.
"You're an odd one, child."
"Yeah, I get that a lot," Harry snorted. "Is Snape in there?"
The snake bobbed her head in a semblance of a nod.
"He returned not long before you arrived."
Harry, already expecting such an answer, merely nodded. He turned back around to face Draco, who looked a mixture of discomfited and impressed.
"You sounded… I never – did you hear yourself? That was so weird. "
Harry furrowed his brow.
"It's just sounds like English."
Draco goggled, a rare display.
"You were hissing. What, how did you think Parseltongue worked? That snakes just suddenly learned how to speak English?"
Harry frowned, silent.
"But… they understand English."
"Really," Draco said, unconvinced.
"Yes, well, how did you think it heard me?"
"I don't know, magic," Draco shrugged. "Whatever. Just remind me never to get between you and a snake. It's cool, but still. It's creepy."
"It's just a language," Harry reasoned in return.
"What sort of language is it if it's only you who speaks it?"
Draco flinched; Harry pretended not to notice and continued.
"– was a Parselmouth too."
"Honestly, Harry, how many times have I told you–"
"That it's just a name. Honestly, Draco," Harry stressed, echoing his friend's earlier words. "It's ridiculous, and it's French."
Draco rolled his eyes.
"Between you and Hermione, I've heard it a hundred times. I know, and I still don't know what you have against French, but could we not discuss this now?"
"Fine," Harry sighed. "You win. Let's just…"
He trailed off, motioning to Snape's door. Hesitantly, Harry knocked; the sound echoed around them.
"Enter," they heard, and the door clicked open.
Taking a moment to collect himself, Harry nodded at the snake. Then, suddenly remembering his errant thought from the night before, he voiced it.
"What's your name?"
It eyed Harry, evaluating.
"I am Eshea," the snake replied eventually. "Daughter of Shivana."
"Thank you, Eshea," Harry acknowledged. "You have a nice name."
Looking over his shoulder, Harry locked eyes with Draco, offering him an encouraging smile.
"Yeah, you too," Draco said.
They shuffled into the office, faces betraying none of their apprehension.
Snape, quill still in hand, stared. The silence stretched on for an uncomfortable moment.
"We're here for detention, sir," Draco offered tentatively.
Snape's demeanour hardened immediately, and he rose, sneering.
"I am well aware of the fact, Malfoy."
The boys swallowed.
"What do want us to do, then, sir?"
"I want a hundred lines," Snape snapped, handing Draco a slip of parchment and jerking his head at the adjoining Potions classroom.
Draco stared at the line – no, the paragraph – and grimaced. He hadn't thought it was possible to lace written words with such biting sarcasm, and if not for the remorse he felt, Draco would have worked himself into a fury over the insult-filled tirade. He knew Snape was cruel, but not this cruel enough to be capable of dreaming up such a torturous punishment – it'd be a miracle if his hands remained steady the next day.
"But sir, it'll take the whole night!"
Snape glowered back venomously, and Draco flinched.
"I suggest that you get to it then."
"Yes sir," Draco mumbled, pushing down his distaste and preparing himself for the long night ahead.
Harry made to follow the despondent Draco, sure he too would be writing lines, but found his path blocked.
"Mr Potter, you will stay behind."
Harry gritted his teeth, – What's his problem now? – bunching his robes in his fists. He bit down a retort and forced a polite smile, knowing anger would do him no good.
"Was there something else you needed, Professor?"
Snape scowled, looking for all the world like he'd much rather toss Harry to the Giant Squid than keep him around. He pinched the bridge of his nose, reigning in his irritation, and exhaled.
"Yes, actually, I do. Sit," he ordered, in a tone that brooked no argument.
Harry, knowing it'd be doubly foolish to do otherwise, complied, though not without a longing glance at the door to the Potion's classroom. After a moment of tense silence, Snape cleared his throat.
"I am not a nice man, Potter."
Harry looked up in surprise – yes, he of all people knew it, but he hadn't expected such an admission from the man himself.
"Nor have I been an emotional man."
Snape paused, seemingly lost in his thoughts, and Harry blinked, left wondering at the sudden shift of mood.
"But around you, I seem to possess an inability to control myself," Snape said, raspy.
Oh joy, once more the world revolves around me, Harry couldn't help but think.
Snape held up a hand, glaring, though it held none of his usual disdain.
"Potter, don't interrupt me now."
Sensing the gravity behind this moment, Harry subsided.
"As I said, I am not a nice man, and you… you do so much resemble James."
For a moment, Snape's eyes held unfathomable sadness and pain; in the face of that, Harry, confused, but slowly understanding, could hold onto his anger no longer.
He cocked his head, trying to say what he felt – what the Professor needed to hear.
"I don't know what my Dad did, or what – what happened between you to hate him, but I… I'd like to think he'd be sorry. Or even if he doesn't, well, I apologise on his behalf. He was a kid, and kids don't always think things through, do they?" Harry finished, realising the irony in his rhetoric.
"It is no fault of yours, but I accept the apology nonetheless," he paused. "You surprise me every day, Potter."
Harry startled, wondering at the sudden, almost complimentary comment.
"Whatever you think… I'm not my father, sir."
"I have come to realise that," Snape answered, in barely more than a whisper. "Indeed, you remind me of your mother. You have her–"
"Eyes. Yeah, I know. It's all people seem to know about her."
Snape hesitated, then –
"If you wish, you may speak with me about Lily."
"I – I – you would… you'd tell me about my mum? I – thank you, sir," Harry returned stutteringly, more grateful than he could say.
Snape jerked his head in accordance, and the mask was back in place.
"But not tonight, obviously."
And there, Harry knew the conservation was over.
Snape stood, gathering his robes, and gestured for Harry to follow. They entered the private Potions lab, and Harry nearly gagged at the fresh pile of slugs and dismembered frogs that lay in wait.
"You recall the approved method of slug pickling, I trust?" Snape asked, and Harry could hear the thinly veiled amusement in his voice.
Harry's prior gratefulness vanished with a pop.
"Yes," Harry clipped, barely managing to keep his dinner down. "And the frogs?"
"The third years require a jar of frogs' brains for their next potion."
Harry swallowed, unable to help the jealously that flashed through him. And to think Draco thought the lines were bad.
"You're free to leave once you have finished."
"All I did was stay out past curfew," Harry muttered.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Good," Snape pronounced, and swept out of the room, leaving Harry to his misery.
Nearly four hours later, the boys were released, and Snape had no need to say any more. Aching and nauseous, they returned to their common room, vowing to never get caught again.
"I hate Snape."
"And I have to go back tomorrow."
They shared a look, one of pity and one of dread.
"Pickle," Harry snapped when they came to a stop, glaring angrily at the Slytherin wall. Funny as the password had been, it wasn't funny now.
If Draco could see straight, he would have cackled at the expression of utter indignation and revulsion on his best friend's face. As such, the completely exhausted pair retired to their dormitory, entirely missing the buzz on hospitalised Gryffindors and dead unicorns and hooded figures spreading throughout the room.
To be completely honest, this chapter was really hard to write. It's not one of my favourites, so I hope you still enjoyed it.
Thanks for sticking around so patiently, and as always, please follow, favourite and leave a review. They mean so much to me, and I wouldn't still be writing if not for all of you.
I hope to get the next chapter up within the next week or two, or bear with me!
Until next time.