Chapter 10, part 2

Harry walked quickly through the Leaky, and used his wand to open the gate to the magical alley. An unknown young wizard, followed by an older man and yung girl, was of little or no interest to the patrons of the Leaky Cauldron, nor to the people in Diagon Alley.

Harry said nothing to either Severus or Sara, but after a short while it was obvious to Severus that they were heading for Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions.

Harry smiled inwardly at the surprise Sara was going to get, before he remembered that he had given Sara new robes before, so she wouldn't be surprised by the quality of these new ones.

Madam Malkin herself was not in the shop. A portly older shop assistant with carefully drawn single-line black eyebrows and a Cupid's bow heavily lipsticked mouth, was waving her wand to shorten some robes that the young wizard in front of her had apparently bought 'off the peg'. She turned for a moment, looked at Harry, and not recognising anyone important, turned back again to the young man.

Harry said nothing. The woman had not noticed Severus or Sara, and Harry gestured that they should stand back against the wall to wait, while he himself leaned against the counter, and waited patiently until she had finished, and the boy had paid for his robes and left the shop.

However just as the woman was about to turn to Harry and ask what he wanted, other potential customers walked in. They were the Zambinis, mother and son, and they were far richer looking customers than was Harry in the robes he'd changed to appear to be of medium quality, and the shop assistant turned to serve the Zambinis first.

Severus was about to stride forward to do something about that, but a discreet hand signal from Harry stopped him. Harry leaned back, slightly smiling , and again waited. Severus itched to do something, but pleading looks at Harry just received a small head shake.

As Mme Zambini and Blaise finished their purchases and then walked out of the shop, Harry took a step towards the witch, let his magic flare so that the racks of robes and windows rattled and then passed his hand over his face to reveal who he was. "I think that before someone else walks in, you might find it advisable to serve me," he said softly.

The woman, her face paling almost as white as her apron, started to mutter apologies and that she had not known who he was, but that annoyed Harry even more, and he cut her off. "Who I am should have nothing to do with it! You should serve people in the order they come into the shop. I shouldn't have had to tell you my name before I got served. Either you personally are both rude and a snob, or you are very badly trained...Where is Madam Malkin?"

"She is supervising in the sewing room Sir."

"Go and get her."

"Sir, there is no need. I do apologise. I can..."

"No. Just get her."

"Yes Sir. I won't be a moment." She rushed out through a door at the back of the room and only seconds later Madam Malkin came in, followed rather apprehensively by the shop assistant.

"I do apologise Mr... " she stopped on realising that as Harry was disguised he probably did not wish her to say his name, and changed what she was about to say to... "'Sir'. Henriette did not realise..."

Harry interrupted her. "That is exactly what I'm objecting to! Who I am or how much I own should have nothing to do with how soon I'm served. I came in after the young student and before the Zambinis, so I should have been served in that order too."

"Ah yes of course Sir... I shall instruct..."

"I blame you, not Henriette. She was probably only following your instructions."

Mme Malkin was about to apologise again, but once again Harry interrupted her. He had calmed down a little, and he smiled slightly.

"You know, if your establishment was in muggle London and you ignored the worst dressed customers, then you would sometimes be ignoring members of the old aristocracy, some of whom are very rich. They don't care what they wear as their place in society is assured and unquestioned. They don't have to prove anything to anyone, and so are almost as likely to turn up in their old half-worn-out gardening clothes as in good looking ones."

"Is that so Sir? How interesting," Mme Malkin said insincerely, and faking fascination.

"Yes, the Wizarding world seems to be more like what we hear of American muggle society in that way...though that may just be rumour...that they think you have to prove how important you are by what you wear. It's very nouveau riche behaviour of us wizards."

Mme Malkin was thinking that it was all very well for the wealthy, and extremely famous, Mr Potter to say that customers should be served on a first-come first-served basis, but he didn't have to deal with angry pure-bloods, be they nouveau riche or real aristocrats, who thought they should always be served first. She must have a word with that fool Henriette though, and remind her to always look at people's wrists; despite his disguise, Henriette should have noticed that the young man was accompanied by two slaves and anyone rich enough to own one, let alone two slaves was extremely wealthy, whatever he looked like...

Mr Potter seemed to have calmed down now though; the walls no longer bulged so alarmingly and the windows were now rattling far more quietly than they had been a few moments ago... Her shop was no longer in danger. She hastened to ask what he desired.

"My friends here," Harry gestured towards his servants, who both stepped forward, "each need three full sets of new robes and underthings for the coming season in a draughty Scottish castle. The professor needs clothes and new protective robes suitable for his work as a potions master and school professor and Sara needs school robes, casual wear too, and they will both need a set of dress robes. I think you'll know from my previous orders the quality of material I require for them. I'll need a new set or two myself, but not dress robes as I only got some recently. Oh, I nearly forgot, do you have Percy, George, Fred, Ron and Ginny Weasley's measurements?"

"Yes, indeed I do Sir," she said eagerly. She could overlook or even forgive his quick and bad temper, as the Boy Who Lived was becoming one of her best customers.

"Then please make a set of school robes and a set of dress robes, and undergarments for each set, for each of them, and send them to the Weasleys in gift wrapping that shows no indication of who sent them...and charge them to me of course."

Harry knew that Ron and his siblings would almost certainly know who the robes were really from, but this way he could maintain that he knew nothing about it and they wouldn't be able to refuse the gifts . The amount he paid monthly into Arthur's vault to cover any expenses they incurred by looking after Sara, was generous. (It was not as much as he would have liked to give them, but was the most they would accept.) However, he knew that despite that, Molly and Arthur still often found it hard to find money to cover all the expenses of their large family.

...

Although Harry's anger had cooled, he was still feeling rather put out by what had happened in Mme Malkin's. He tried to shrug it off though, as he did not want to spoil Sara's enjoyment of the day. He turned to her as they left the shop and said quietly, "Okay Sara, I suppose we had better get you your wand and other supplies eh?"

She smiled at him excitedly. "Oh yes please Master."

He grinned back at her, "Okay, Olivander's first I think... here," he handed her a small draw-string bag that clinked, "you can pay for it yourself, and keep the change.

Sara took the bag gratefully and said, "Thank you Master." She could tell that there was far more than the seven or eight galleons she would need for the wand, and was pleased that it might give her the opportunity of showing her master how responsible with money she could be.

Harry turned again and led them towards the wand shop. As they entered Harry and his servants shivered from the ambient magic that permeated the ancient shop. Sara gazed up, and up, at the wand-crowded pigeon holes covering the walls. As was his wont—he did so greatly enjoy its effect on his clients—Olivander emerged silently from a hidden door and spoke softly from behind them.

"Ah, it's young Sara Fitzmontgomery; I expected your arrival soon and am delighted to see I was correct that your master is permitting you to have a wand."

When they turned towards him he smiled approvingly at Harry. "I believe your wand is happier in its master than was its brother in its master. It is still serving you well I trust?"

Harry and Severus were puzzled how Olivander knew,well, apparently knew at least, about Sara's parentage—that was something about which they themselves had been uncertain. Not for the first time, Severus wondered about Olivander's heritage. He had looked like an old man, a very old man, when Severus had been a child, and Severus' then owner had told him that Olivander had looked exactly the same when he was a child and even when his grandfather had been a child.

Harry shrugged. "Yes, thanks, it's a great wand. But we are here to get Sara's wand."

Olivander nodded, and handed Sara the first of several wands, all beautiful, and none of which gave more than a few sadly dispirited looking sparks when she held them.

She started to look very worried so Harry reassured her, "Don't worry, there will be one that suits you. Sometimes it takes ages to find the right one; it did with me too."

Sara nodded. "Thank you Master," and held her hand out for the next wand candidate. It was not until Mr Olivander handed her one made of sapient pearwood with a Norwegian Ridgeback heartstring core that Sara smiled at the warmth suffusing her and the sparks emitted from the wand resembled multicoloured fireworks.

"A powerful wand indeed, and one of only thirteen that I've ever made with sapient pearwood. It has always been of the rarest woods, and this one is the last of its kind, as of course the pearwood it is no longer available since the last portal closed. It makes the most faithful of all wands and only ever chooses a wizard or witch who also possesses that quality. With that and the strength of the dragon heartstring it will be strong in your defence." He turned to Harry; "that will be eleven galleons please..."

As Olivander spoke Harry gave a quick short shake of his head and indicated Sara with his eyes. Olivander smoothly turned his gaze to her.

Sara was shocked by the price."Eleven galleons? I thought they cost about seven?"

"Indeed Miss Fitzmontgomery, they usually cost about eight or nine galleons but the pearwood was expensive and is difficult to work with. I assure you, eleven galleons is barely over cost price."

Sara looked questioningly at Harry who gave a small nod, so she carefully counted out eleven galleons, slowly placing them one by one on the counter as if reluctantly saying goodbye to personal friends.

Harry was amused but also felt guilty, and so he leaned over and whispered to her, "Don't worry, I'll give you some more to make up for the extra expense."

Which of course made her feel guilty, and she placed the last two down in a rush, and was about to protest that giving her more was not necessary, but Harry placed his hand on her shoulder and herded her out of the shop, saying "Thank you Mr Olivander," as he did so.

He was appalled that he had never thought to give Sara an allowance; how on Earth had he never thought of that? Perhaps Mrs Weasley had been giving her pocket money, but even if she had, she should not have had to do so. He would have to speak to Molly about it as soon as possible, and reimburse her if necessary, and also start giving Sara an allowance. She would certainly need some pocket money when she started at Hogwarts.

Putting that aside for the moment, as they had reached Flourish and Blott's bookshop, he said, "Sara, if you've got your list, please go in and find the books you need and any three or four others you fancy. Just put them on the counter but don't, I repeat, do not, pay for them with the money I gave you, for one thing I don't think it will be enough... I want to talk to Severus for a moment but I'll come in in a few minutes, probably well before you've finished gathering your books, but if not, just wait for me."

As Sara entered the bookshop Harry spoke to Severus. "Please make sure to remind me later to talk to you about Olivander and Sara—he puzzles me, and his surname for Sara is a bit of a worry—but meanwhile, please go to Slug and Jiggers and get Sara whatever she needs for first year potions." He fossicked in an inside pocket, and produced a Gringotts'bank card, which he handed to Severus."Use this...I meant to give it you at least a fortnight ago but I keep forgetting...the one you have is still usable for your vault of course, but this is for one of my vaults for whenever you need to buy anything for me. Just tap you wand to it for here, and use the code number you'll think of when you hold it, if you're in a muggle area...well...actually, it's just like yours so you know all about it anyway, so I don't know why I'm telling you all this... I'm rabbiting on again and Hermione isn't here to stop me... I'll shut up now... Oh, except that Sara and I will meet you in the pet shop. Okay?"

"Ye Master," and Severus nodded then turned away to do as ordered.

Harry entered the bookshop and looked around for Sara. He soon saw her as she was looking along some books on the front row of bookcases, two books under her left arm and holding her new wand carefully in her right hand. I forgot to get her a wand holster, blast, we'll have to go back to Olivander's. Harry did not wish to approach her as he thought she would be more inclined to chose something she really wanted if he was not looking over her shoulder and passing judgement on her taste, so he stepped over to one of the sidewalls of the shop and waited.

Sara felt ill at ease. Her master's presence tended to frighten her,= so his absence should have made her feel better, but instead she felt quite nervous and wished he'd hurry up and come into the shop with her. Not only did she feel vulnerable with so many free wizards about, but also, how was she to make sure she was selecting books, the extra ones he'd said she was to get, that he would approve of? Anyway, she hadn't found all her text books yet. Perhaps he would come in before she had to find the extras... She stepped back–she had been standing very close to the shelves—and turned, intending to search further along the bookcase, but as she turned she tripped on a book someone had dropped on the floor and staggered back into the bookcase, making it rock unsteadily and several books fall from it and to the floor. She bent down to pick them up and someone bent down beside her to help.

Whoever it was also hastened to apologise. "Oh, Sorry! My fault, I dropped the book that tripped you ..." At which point he noticed the tattoo on Sara's wrist. "Why...you... Gods! I'm apologising to a slave! Get out of my way you little slut..." The late middle aged and bald man straightened up, and Sara also stood back up and started to apologise, for annoying him she supposed, not that she quite understood what it was she had done wrong, but her mind was more on how angry her master would be with her for upsetting a free person than it was on anything else. The man stepped forward, and Sara stepped back out of his way, but not quickly enough, and he raised his arm back to slap her, only to find it stuck in an upright position above his shoulder.

"I'd reconsider that if I were you," a cold voice advised.

"She's no lady, she's nothing but a slave, look at her wrist if you don't believe me—and mind your own business. Release my arm you young fool."

"Wrong answer... I know what she is, and slave or not, she is a lady, and people who hit ladies in my presence usually find out what it is to become one...when I rearrange their genitalia for them, so you can consider yourself let off lightly by this...your arm will remain stuck above your head for a few weeks, which should remind you, you ill-bred ignoramus, that a true gentleman treats all women, whatever their degree, the same way he would treat the queen."

Bertrand Rankin was furious. First he had lowered himself by being polite to a slave and then when he had tried to rectify that, some young idiot had taken him to task for his behaviour. Belatedly, and with some difficulty since he had to extract it from a right side pocket with his left hand, he grabbed his wand, and thrust it toward Harry. "I'll have you arrested for assault! Stupefiy! Incarcerus!" he shouted...then looked at his wand disbelievingly and then when nothing happened, shook it as if it might have a kink in it that could be shaken out, and tried again, but again with no result.

Harry grinned. "Oh dear. Your wand seems to be broken. What a pity. Never mind, somehow I think it will mend itself at the same time your arm starts to work again." Harry turned towards Sara but Rankin, red, enraged, rushed at him, his wand pointed as if to stab him with #it. Harry merely stepped aside, and the man crashed headfirst into the shop's glass front door behind Harry, and fell to the floor. He had knocked himself out. It was not until the crash that any of the shop employees did anything, then one of them ran over to assess the man's condition, but then, uncomfortably aware of the wizard who had used some unknown and wandless magic to protect himself, and had beaten the man, he decided to leave him on the floor for a little longer.

Harry looked searchingly at Sara, trying to assess how much the oafish wizard had upset her. She lowered her gaze and then, resolutely, raised it again for a few seconds, before looking down again. "I'm so sorry Master... to upset that wizard and cause such a scene," she whispered, and would have gone on apologising had not Harry interrupted.

"You did nothing wrong. Nothing at all. He is an ignorant prejudiced old fool, and had absolutely no right to be upset and be so rude to you. You are not to feel guilty...you understand, you are not to; I shall not be happy if you do...and you do like me to be happy don't you?" He grinned encouragingly at her. Sara gave a small smile of her own, but then saw that the audience which had accumulated during the small incident were still standing around and watching them. Harry followed her gaze and straightened up.

"Nothing left to see here people. Someone...you perhaps," he said, looking pointedly at the sales person, "had better attend to that idiot by the door, and take him St. Mungo's if he doesn't come around. Tell them the arm will unfreeze in a fortnight or two, unless they try to cure it, in which case it will last another week longer, or more, for each and every spell they cast on it... Well, my friend and I will get on with our shopping now, so move along everyone." Harry stepped towards the nearest of them, and they turned away, followed by everyone else.

Harry was more affected by the incident than he had let on to Sara. If she couldn't even be alone for a few minutes in a Diagon Alley shop without someone accosting her or being very rude to her, then she would need even more protection than he'd previously thought. The protective ring wasn't enough. First that very nasty incident with Fudge and now this, it meant he needed to do more.

(Finding more and more ways to protect her was to become something of a hobby of his, even an obsession, much to Hermione's amusement. She was later to comment to Severus, "All the things he's doing to protect her may be over-kill, extreme over-kill, but that doesn't matter: it's not as if he can't afford to do whatever he likes, and it's something he can do and succeed at, and it takes his mind of his other problems for a while.)

...

Harry had been spending a few evenings each week in the dungeon suite even when he had no Potions lessons from professor Snape. In the Gryffindor common room it was usually difficult to avoid either Ron virtually insisting on a game of chess—and for how long can you continue to be repeatedly soundly beaten at chess without loosing some of your enthusiasm for it?—or Seamus wanting to play cards, and in the study hall or library it seemed that every time he wanted to consult a book, other people had checked out all the copies. Whereas in his and Severus' rooms he had his own library, which over the years had been carefully assembled by Severus in preparation for the day Harry would be eleven and come to Hogwarts. The headmaster, as he had felt that Harry would think it important, or rather, he had hoped that Harry would think it important, had given Severus an addition to his allowance solely for buying books. Later, after Harry had arrived, the library was added to with books from libraries on estates he owned and by constant new purchases. Harry had told Severus to update the library with whatever books he thought it should have. (That he was soon to own almost every book ever published on Potions and the Dark Arts was merely a coincidence.)

Harry found it relaxing to sit at his desk and write his essays, while the professor sat nearby at his own desk, marking homework. It was great too, to be able to ask Severus to explain concepts he was having difficulty with, and to get him to read through any essays before he submitted them to whatever professor took that subject.

At first Harry had felt guilty that he had such a great advantage over his friends in having Severus around to help him, but then he salved his conscience by inviting Hermione and Ron to the suite occasionally so that they could benefit from it too. Ron, much to Severus' relief, never accepted, and Hermione was so aware of how easy it would be to take too much advantage of Professor Snape, that she very seldom interrupted his marking or lesson preparations to ask a question.

Harry had not realised that every time he held up Severus' work, by questions or in any other way, it meant Severus had to stay up that much later to finish the essay marking or any other of his Potions class related work. However on a few occasions recently Harry had stayed in the suite overnight because he could not be bothered to return to the dorm, and on one such occasion he woke to find that Severus was still working well into the early hours of the morning.

Harry had walked from his bedroom into the sitting room and was surprised to see Severus still working at his desk. "I thought you would've gone to bed long ago! It's just on three o'clock."

"I apologise if I disturbed you Harry. May I get you anything?"

"No thanks. You didn't disturb me; I just woke up for some reason, and then saw that the light was still on. Do you always have to work so late?"

"Sometimes yes, Master. It depends on how many essays I have to mark. Are you sure you don't want anything Harry? A mug of cocoa perhaps?"

"I took up so much of your time last night—that's why you haven't finished isn't it? Please tell me the truth."

Severus was not sure what to say. It was true that he hadn't finished the marking yet because Harry had required his help last evening, but Severus' primary duty was to his master, his master whose right it was to make whatever use of him he desired, and in any case, it was not his place to criticise him.

"Master, it is my duty and my pleasure to serve you before anything or anyone else. It is kind of you to allow me to work as a professor here, but that always must take second place to whatever you require. Please do not concern yourself about it Sir."

Harry stood, his head slightly to the side, looking at him and considering what Severus' had said. After a moment or two he shrugged.

"That's all very noble of you, but I know it's mostly just what you are forced to say, forced to believe even. So, from now on, every time I come down here to study or whatever, you will tell me how long the marking is likely to take you, and from that I will know how much I can talk to you without it meaning you have to work all night. I don't want you getting sick or being tired all the time because I've forced you to work such long hours! That would make me despise myself and feel really bad, and I know you're forever thinking about how to make my life better and make me feel good about myself, so you wouldn't want that would you?"

Severus inclined his head. "I shall do as you have ordered, I cannot do otherwise of course, but please know that I greatly appreciate your kindness."

Harry was still thinking about Severus. The headmaster had once said to him that it was Harry's responsibility to look after his slave, and that had struck such a chord with Harry that he had taken it on as a duty, almost as a sacred duty or calling, and was always eager to do what he could to improve Severus' life. He decided to see the headmaster tomorrow and talk to him about Severus' work load.

Meanwhile, he would try to do what he could to help him now, "Do you have many left to mark? Is there anything I can help you with? If some of those essays are first form ones I could probably mark some of them for you...not as well as you would of course, but well enough, probably."

"Thank you Harry. However there is no need as I am almost finished. In any case they are seventh form essays, so still rather beyond your skill."

Harry, after summoning a house elf to get cocoa for both of them, went back to bed and shortly thereafter he heard Severus go to his room.

The next day he went down to breakfast early. There were very few people at the Gryffindor table, but Hermione was, so he sat down beside her, and taking advantage of the comparative privacy of there not being many people down for breakfast yet, he said quietly, "The professor has been working too hard; his hours are far too long, and I've been making it worse for him by spending so much time in our suite, because when I'm there he is too concerned with helping me. I don't really want to give up spending time there so I thought I'd see if the headmaster could get him an aide or assistant teacher or something. What do you think?"

"Mmm, but isn't it a bit selfish of you to take up his time and then expect the headmaster to hire someone to help him?"

"Yes, well, that's what I thought you'd think, but try looking at it from my point of view: I've been thinking about it, and, like it or not, the fact is that he does belong to me, and in a lot of ways I belong to him too. He can't help himself wanting to do things for me before anything else, and if I stop going down there he'll know why I've stopped and be unhappy that I've stopped myself from doing something I like, just for his benefit. As for Dumbledore, he's just happy that I let Severus work for him as a professor and potions master at all—I know that because he was worried at first that I wouldn't let Severus work here, and he would have to find another teacher, so he's grateful that he works here at all—of course I could tell the professor not to work here anymore, and to just spend his time looking after me and maybe creating potions to sell…and…that's a thought actually, I think he would like that; he loves potions but teaching, no, not so much, and it would probably generate more income for him by selling what he made than he does from his teaching salary."

Harry paused and looked at Hermione expectantly; she did not disappoint him.

"Oh, please don't do that! Not right in the middle of term anyway; just ask Professor Dumbledore if he can get an assistant for him if possible...perhaps one of the seniors would like to earn a bit of extra pocket money."

Harry hid a smile; that was a quick turn-around. It was amazing what the threat of a missing professor could achieve.

"Okay. Thanks for the ideas; I'll go and see if the headmaster's available now; I've got a free period."

"I think all the ideas were yours; you just wanted me to agree to them, and not go off on one of my lectures," Hermione protested. Harry grinned and said that he would see her later.

After Harry had been standing in front of the gargoyle—or as Hermione had told him was the correct term for it, the grotesque—for several minutes while going through every sweet he could think of but with no result, he was starting to get frustrated.

It was made no better by the grotesque shaking its head 'no' each time and then starting to answer, equally unhelpfully, to each sweet: "nah" "nah" "not it" "nowhere near" "not it neither" "not very good at this are yer?" "Give up yet?" and then, "I ain't got all day yer know."

At which point Harry, stung, replied, "well at least I know I'm a wizard. You don't even know that you are a grotesque and not a gargoyle!"

"Am I now? A grotesque am I? What idiot told yer that?"

"Hermione did. She says that gargoyles are the ugly things on roofs which siphon off rain water, and grotesques are just as ugly but aren't water spouts."

"She 'as that right about the water, but not very h'observant is she? For one thing I'm 'andsome, so 'ow could I be a grotesque? and also me friend, I am a gargoyle, definitely a gargoyle...Ere, I'll prove it to yer," and the thing spurted a stream of cold water onto Harry, drenching his hair, face and robes.

"Oh you blasted...gargoyle. What did you do that for? Just because I got your species wrong?" Harry pulled his wet robe away from himself, which didn't help because the water then ran down inside it. Then belatedly remembering he was a wizard, he dried himself with quick 'Evanesco.'

"Look, okay, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I'll tell Hermione that you really are a gargoyle despite not being on the roof. Okay?"

"Oright. Yer a pretty little wizard so I'll forgive yer this time. I might 'ave to prove it to yer friend though."

"I am not little! Well, not any more; I grew just on five inches last year!"

Oo... Oo...Now 'ose feelin's got 'urt? Not s'nice on t'other side eh? Yer can give it but not take it eh?"

Harry shook himself and tried to recover some of his lost dignity. He bowed his head slightly to the gargoyle. "Mr Gargoyle, I apologise. Now can you let me go up?"

The gargoyle wasn't through with him yet though. "Well, y've gotta give us the 'arseword first ain't yer? Give us some more sweets...yer ain't tried nougat yet."

"Oh at last. Thank the gods. Thanks, 'nougat'."

"Nah, still not it. Try almond clusters."

"You... you...! It won't be them either will it? ... Oh, okay, 'almond clusters'."

"What yer try that for? Ain't no such sweet, far as I know, an I should know, c'fectry hexpert me. The 'eadmaster depends on me hexpert advice on sweets dun'ee?"

"Oh gods. Where is the headmaster when you need him?!"

"'E's in 'is office ain't 'e? Best place for 'im too. Come on... doan give up so easy! Lots of c'fectry yet."

"But I have already said all I can think of..."

"I'll give yer a 'int. Can't say fairer than that now kin I?"

"Okay! Good. Thanks. . . What's the hint?"

"'Ere's me 'int, an' a ruddy good'n it is too, if I say so meself; 'ere it is, 'Yer bin close 'afore'."

"Oh you blasted... I've been close before have I?" Harry sighed resignedly. "Oh all right; I'll go through them all again. You tell me when I get close, okay?"

"Sure thin'."

And Harry started again, about nineteen sweets later he said, "Botts' Every Flavour Beans... "

Then stopped as the gargoyle interrupted, "yer gettin' warmer!"

"Something like Botts' Beans then? Jelly beans? Jumping Beans? Sweets starting with a 'b' perhaps?"

"Nah, nah. Cold agin. Cold enuf ter freeze me balls orf. Bit slow on the uptake ain't yer?"

"Since when have you had balls?"

"Ah, now yer hinsultin' me agin! Nasty little wizard ain't yer? Yer mummy never tell yer ' 'andsome is as 'andsome does,' eh?"

"It's no insult not to have balls; why, my best friend doesn't have any."

"Think I'm stoopid? She's a witch ain't she!"

Harry decided he should get back to the password... "Please don't tell me it's one of the flavours of Botts' Every Flavour Beans?"

"Ok, I won't, but if I doan tell yer, 'oo will?"

"One of the flavours? There are thousands! This'll take all morning, all day probably. Why one of the flavours? Nobody will ever guess that!"

"That's the idea ain't it? Gotta 'ave good 'arseword secur'ty."

"I wish you'd stop calling it that...the word is 'password'...anyway I give up; I think I'll send him an owl."

"Ah young Potter. Run afoul of Gavin I see. I fear you must have offended him. Very sensitive is Gavin." Headmaster Dumbledore had appeared in the corridor behind Harry. Harry wondered how long he'd been there.

"He? Gavin? He's a he, and he has a name?"

"Naturally Gavin has a name, dear boy. How could we call him if he had no name? And Gavin is certainly male. Very macho, aren't you Gavin? Except during Lent, very feminine then of course. I advise you to call her Gertrude during Lent my boy."

Harry gave up. "I shall do my best to remember sir. Gavin except when he is Gertrude, which, of course, is during Lent."

"That's it my boy! You've got it. I'm sure you'll both get along famously from now on."

"I certainly hope so sir. Being drenched with icy water is not much fun. May I talk to you about something sir?"

"Yes, certainly my boy." Albus Dumbledore motioned for Harry to precede him up the stairs which were now fully accessible.

Harry turned back to the gargoyle. "See you again soon Gavin," adding "but not if I can possibly avoid it," under his breath, and followed the Headmaster up the stairs to his office.

Professor Dumbledore walked over to his desk, picked up a bowl of mixed sweets, and offered the bowl to Harry who declined. The Headmaster placed the sweets bowl back on the desk and shook his head.

"Ah. Nobody ever accepts the sweetmeats. Not that I blame them; I can't stand the things myself, but for some reason everyone always gives me confectionery for the Yule celebrations and my birthday: sweets and socks. You wouldn't happen to care for a lovely warm pair of purple socks would you? Or red? I have several dozen pairs of red socks, and some even have clocks on them, though admittedly it's rather awkward to tell the time with them unless you happen to be double jointed... No?... Ah, pity. Never mind, now sit down dear boy and tell me why you wished to talk to me.

You're not worried about Gavin are you? I'm sure he won't hold a grudge...unless of course you told him he was ugly. In 1247 the headmaster at the time, Edward Edbaston the Evil, compared him to a grotesque, and the poor man was never again able to ascend the stairs to his office without being deluged with freezing water, and he lived another hundred and thirty years. Pity it wasn't holy water as that might have washed away his sins."

Harry hesitated, stared at the Headmaster, and then started to grin. "You were there the whole time weren't you? And you let me get drenched and struggle through every sweet ever made! You had me going there for a while, but when you mentioned a grotesque I realised!"

Albus Dumbledore laughed. "I could not resist it. No my boy, you have no reason to fear retribution from Gavin. Even if he is angry that you said he was ugly, since he is rather vain, his memory is abysmally poor so he won't remember his ire beyond a day or two. Seriously though, it is wise to remember to call her Gertrude during Lent, as she has a far better memory than he has. If you are not certain if it's Lent or not, just check if she's wearing lipstick. Gavin has his own version of multiple personality disorder you see... Now, remind me; for what are we gathered together here today?"

"I want to ask your advice about Severus. I'm very worried because he's working too hard and for far too long hours. I don't want him to get sick because of it."

The headmaster started to look concerned."Ah... I sincerely hope that you aren't thinking of withdrawing his services to Hogwarts? That would make it rather difficult for us at the moment as I have no idea where to find another Potions Master."

"It need not come to that. As long as he's happy to be the Potions professor then of course he can be, but I want to reduce his workload... I have a suggestion, well it is mainly Hermione's actually; it's that you get an assistant for him. He spends hours and hours marking homework when anyone who has at least a decent OWL in Potions could mark the first and second years' work at least. If you could find someone competent they might even be able to teach the first years, perhaps even the second and third years too."

"I am not at all sure that I can find anyone, anyone at all..."

"Well, until you advertise we can't be certain. If there are no responses, or no suitable ones, then our other suggestion is that there may be a couple or more sixth and seventh year seniors who would like to make extra pocket money by tutoring, and marking essays and other homework. Some of the senior Ravenclaws are usually pretty keen to force-feed the Ravenclaw juniors their knowledge; they could put that experience to use."

"And you think that might be enough to reduce the pressure on Severus?"

"It would help. But please try advertising as well. A Potions teacher for the lower forms would be the best option for me and for Severus."

"I shall do my best my boy. I had not realised that Severus was feeling the strain to that extent. You are to be commended that you have realised it, as I am certain he would never have said anything about it."

"Yes, that's my problem; he would probably work himself to death rather than say anything. The only reason I know is because I've been spending a few nights in the suite instead of going back to the dorm. I woke up last night at about ten to three and he was still working."

"You could tell him to stop working whenever he is feeling tired, and when the workload is more than he can accomplish in a normal workday, or rather, the hours you consider to be a normal workday, which I feel may be rather less than the hours most masters think normal for their servants."

"Yes, and I probably will, but that'll be useless really, it might even be counter productive if it means there's work that he's not getting done. That would stress him even more than working all hours is now. No, the work load has to be reduced first."

Harry paused, and then, to increase the pressure on the headmaster, added, "I really don't want to have to stop him working here as the lab at Potters's Kiln would need extensive up-grading and re-stocking if he were to do research and make his potions there... though, come to think of it, I suppose he would enjoy planning the upgrade and buying new supplies..."

Albus recognised his defeat. "I certainly see your point my boy. I shall advertise for an assistant teacher at once..."

"Thank you Headmaster, and meanwhile I'll put a notice on the main message board that we are looking for students with a good OWL in potions who would like to make a bit of extra money marking forms one and two's potions essays."

"Perhaps you should ask Severus for his opinion about that? He may not think any of his sixth and seventh year students capable, or that it would interfere too greatly in their own studies. The seventh year seniors' workload is particularly heavy."

You're not going to get out of it that easily, Harry thought. "Yes, I will consult Severus, of course I will. He may even know of a student or two who could do with a little extra money, who we could approach directly. If he doesn't like the idea at all, then we shall just have to advertise for an aide for him as well as an assistant teacher."

Unfortunately for Albus, Harry held all the cards, as he could stop Severus working at Hogwarts at any time he liked.

Albus tried a last ditch effort. "I am not at all sure that our budget can stretch to both an assistant teacher and an aide my boy. We may need to have one or the other but not both."

"Ah, but I can help you there. The interest and returns from my properties and investments comes in much faster than I can spend it. I will be happy to pay for any aides, not the assistant teacher though, as I do think that's Hogwarts' responsibility, but for the aide or aides, yes."

The headmaster's eyes regained some of their twinkle. Harry had forced him to agree to his proposal, but at least had thrown him a small sop to sweeten the deal.

"That is generous of you my boy. I shall ask Professor McGonagall to place an advertisement for an assistant teacher in the Prophet immediately."

"And I'll ask Severus about the aides, and get that on the go. Thank you Headmaster...and it would be good to advertise in any professional journals and magazines too; would that be okay?"

Albus nodded his assent.

"Well, I suppose I'd better go now. Goodbye sir."

"Goodbye my boy."

...

"I think you may have miss-sorted that lad Alistair, " Albus addressed the Sorting Hat, as Harry's footsteps could be heard going down the stairs.

"I tried to put him in Slytherin with the other manipulative little buggers," the Hat protested, "but he utterly refused. Of course the most ambitious and cunning potential Slytherins often do get sorted into the other houses, as it's hardly cunning to advertise the fact of one's cunning by labelling one's self a Slytherin. Your own sorting being a case in point, if I remember correctly Albus, and as you know, I invariably do remember correctly."

Harry went straight from the headmaster's office down to the dungeons to see Severus, only to realise that Severus would not be there as he was taking a class. So he returned to the Gryffindor common room. It was only about quarter of an hour before he was due in Transfiguration anyway.

That evening he told Ron and Hermione that he was going to do his Charms homework down in Severus' rooms, and when Hermione asked if she could go with him as it was so much quieter down there, made the excuse that he needed to talk privately with the professor about something, so, sorry, but not this time. She looked at him searchingly but then nodded and turned back to the book she was reading.

He retreated quickly and walked down to the dungeons.

Harry, as was his habit despite the fact that in one sense the suite was really his own, politely knocked before he entered. Severus was marking essays again; just how many essays did the man set?

As he walked in Severus stood politely and inclined his head slightly. "Master."

"Hello Sev, er, sorry Severus. I still forget occasionally."

Severus was about to say that Harry could, of course, call him whatever he liked, but Harry waved that away and Severus fell silent.

"Can you stop marking for a few minutes please? I won't interrupt you for long, but there's something I want us to talk about; it's about the marking and your workload. Please come and sit in one of the armchairs." Harry waited until Severus sat down (in the one he knew was not Harry's favourite) and then sat down himself. Severus waited for him to speak.

Harry hesitated for a second or two, gathering his thoughts, took a deep breath and then began, "I think you're working for far too long hours. I know that quite a bit of that is my fault because I've been holding you up with all my questions, and with getting you to check my homework for me, so I suppose really that I should stop doing that, but I really don't want to. . . I know it's selfish, but I really like having you to bounce ideas off and to set me straight about things, so, sorry, but I don't intend to stop...anyway, even without all my interruptions, your workload is far too much. You have the most dangerous subject to teach, and all your duties as head of Slytherin house as well, and it's far too much for one person. So I've asked the headmaster to employ an assistant teacher for you. He or she will be able to take some of your classes, the first and second years at least I think, which will give you a few extra free periods that you can do other things in. Also they can mark a lot of the essays for you... Not that I have told the headmaster this next part yet, I forgot actually, but I will tell him when I next see him, that when he gets any replies from his adverts, I want you to check and interview them for suitability. Are you happy with that? With getting an assistant teacher I mean?"

"Yes Harry, very happy. I am most grateful." Actually he was slightly miffed that it had all been done without asking him about it first, but that was completely overlain by his appreciation of the fact that Harry cared enough to try and reduce his workload; most masters only thought about how they could increase their servants' workloads.

"Good. The other idea I had was that in addition to the assistant teacher, was to get either one or two, or more if necessary I suppose, of the seniors, the sixth and seventh year potions students, to mark the first to forth years' essays, or to hire someone from outside to do it. What do you think? Would that be okay? Are there any students you'd trust to do that and who'd like to earn extra pocket money?"

Severus answered slowly. "You have my gratitude once again for your thoughtfulness. I think that if an assistant teacher is hired then there would be no need of an aide as well... I am not so overworked that you should have concern for me. I am quite used to working while awake after all..."

"Well, you jolly well shouldn't be! You should have time for relaxation. It's no use your resisting it; I'm going to insist on getting you as much help as needed to make sure that you get a bit of time to yourself...if you can't handle just sitting around doing nothing occasionally, you can at least have more time to muck about in your lab... So, the next question is, are you happy for us to ask the sixth and seventh years if anyone wants to make extra pocket money by marking essays?"

"Yes Master, there are three or four sixth year students I can think of, and possibly one seventh year too, who might be interested in it for cash or extra credit, and who are knowledgable enough to mark essays from the lower forms. Apart from the one seventh year who is remarkably bright and well organised, I would like to avoid the others in that year; it would be too onerous for them to undertake more work."

"Oh good. Very good actually as I thought I might have a hard time convincing you."

Could Harry still not realise, after all this time, that it only took an order, or anything that could possibly be interpreted as an order by the bond, to convince him? He must remind him of the possible consequences of forgetting that a stray expressed thought of his could impel his slaves to act. He would do that later though.

"Do you wish me to approach the students Harry?"

"Would you? That'd be great. It was a good idea of yours about the extra credit, but tell them also...what do you think? Would three or four galleons an hour be enough?"

"That might be too generous Master. A few sickles or one galleon at the most, would tempt most of them and certainly be more than sufficient renumeration for the task."

"Oh, okay. Best not to tell them I'm paying for it though. Let them think Hogwarts is paying it."

Severus could not help himself. "I trust it is Hogwarts and not you who will be paying any assistant teacher."

"Yes, don't worry. That'll be the school's responsibility. I told the headmaster that when I volunteered to pay for the aides."

"That's good, although the school should be paying for the aides as well. I know your generous spirit, and do not like to see it taken advantage of." Honestly, sometimes Harry needed a keeper to protect his interests.

"Thanks...I think. Anyway the aides won't cost much at all, so there's no need to get your knickers in a twist on my behalf...anyway, you know I'm loaded, so why you should get upset about...well...anyway, how about you do whatever you have to get done, and I'll finish my Charms homework, and then I get something brought up from the kitchen for our supper—have you got many essays to correct?"

"There is at most only another half hour's work, so I will be happy to have supper with you once that is completed, or whenever you wish."

After Severus had marked the last of the essays he sat there for a few moments, surreptitiously looking at his owner out of the corners of his eyes.

Harry looked up. "Oh, you've finished. Would you like to call for a couple of sandwiches...or something a bit more substantial? Whatever you fancy for supper anyway, while I write the last couple of lines here? Order anything; I'm easy; I'll eat anything and everything, anything at all...well...apart from swedes and Brussels' sprouts of course. . . and gruel. I don't like gruel, or porridge much either for that matter, though it's far better than gruel, and tripe, tripe tastes disgusting, oh, and grapefruit or tangelos, have you tried them? The only tangelo I ever tried was very sour, much too sour... and I don't like liver... or plain boiled cabbage... What are you looking at me like that for?... Well, okay, I know that look, you needn't laugh at me; I suppose there are actually quite a few things I don't like much, but swedes and Brussels sprouts are the worst, so long as there are neither of them, or tripe, then just anything really."

"If you are not particularly hungry Harry, may I suggest an omelette? A mushroom omelette perhaps, with a side salad?"

"Yeah, er, I mean 'yes'. That sounds good. Could we have a treacle tart with clotted cream, lots of it, for desert?"

"Certainly Master... " "Elf!"

As they were eating their supper Severus noticed that Harry kept looking at his face and then away again. "Is there something between my teeth Master?"

"What? Oh no, they're fine, good in fact. I'm glad I suggested you get them straightened and whitened, because they look great now... No, it's not the teeth... I've just noticed how well you're looking lately. I swear you even look a lot younger now than you did when first we met... I know wizards age more slowly than muggles do, but even so... I know having your teeth straightened, and my asking you to see if you could invent a less greasy looking hair protectant made a big difference, but you even look younger than you did after that was done... Why are you looking so embarrassed?"

Severus' had hardly changed his expression at all, but after knowing him for so long Harry was adept at interpreting even minute changes in his face. At the question he looked even more embarrassed. The truth was that he had taken a de-ageing potion so that he might look more pleasant for his master to have around.

"I don't believe it - you're blushing .. well, almost blushing. What on Earth have you done?" Harry laughed.

If only his bond would allow him to lie to Harry without it exacting retribution! Severus looked imploringly at him and prepared to confess the uncomfortable truth... His master had never shown the slightest indication that he..."Master... I... "

Harry stopped grinning when he saw that Severus was embarrassed, and relented. Obviously Sev didn't wish to tell him, but was being impelled to answer because of Harry's direct question.

"No. Stop. Don't tell me... I suppose like most of us, it's just that you have a bit of vanity after-all. There's no need to be embarrassed about it; there's nothing wrong with trying to look your best—and I like whatever it is you've done. It looks really good... You still look imposing and scary, so that's good—you would hardly be recognisable as my Severus otherwise—and you'll still be able to scare the firsties to death, you just look much more healthy looking. Yes, it's really good; because now you look so well, people will think I'm looking after you properly at last."

Severus felt relief. He was almost certain that Harry knew there was more to his looking younger than just vanity, so he had countermanded his order, and allowed Severus to keep his embarrassing reasons private.

Severus lowered his head slightly. "Thank you Master."

The next evening Harry brought up the subject of Severus' improved looks again, but then said, "One day you may trust me enough to tell me the real reason. Until then you may keep it as private as you like... though it might be an idea not to tell anyone else before you tell me... I don't think I would like that much...Gods! I have become very possessive of you haven't I? ... No, tell whomever you wish to tell. I shouldn't have asked that of you."

"You have every right to ask anything of me, anything at all, let alone something as minor as this. In any case I will tell no one apart from you. I am truly grateful, very grateful indeed, that you have spared my embarrassment by countermanding your order to tell you why I did it, and what I did. I assure you that it was a matter of my personal embarrassment only, it it not because it was anything that would be detrimental to you."

"Of course it wasn't! I know that! For one thing the bond wouldn't allow it, but anyway, even if there were no bond, I trust you." Harry hesitated, looked a bit embarrassed, then muttered to himself, nearly, but not quite, inaudibly, "you're my real family now..." He broke off, looking appalled. "I've got to go back to the tower now; I should spend more time there I suppose," but he made no move to leave.

Neither of them said anything for a moment. Severus wanted to say that he was honoured to be thought of as family, but since Harry had not intended him to hear that muttered comment, he could only say, "I am honoured by your trust My Lord."

"Well, 'night professor. Probably see you tomorrow."