Professor Snape had been trying to corner Hermione for days to discuss her flashbacks, so when she eventually did decide she was ready, is wasn't difficult for her to find a moment to speak with the Professor.
Another Defence lesson came to an end, and, as he had done every other day this week, Severus thought of an excuse to keep Granger back. "Miss Granger, I need to discuss with you your latest essay, the rest of you are dismissed."
When Granger merely nodded, instead of making up an equally poor excuse not to speak with him, Severus was so shocked he almost forgot what it was he actually wanted to discuss with her.
"Miss Granger," He began when the classroom had stilled. "I realise this is very difficult for you, but we really must discuss what happened last weekend."
"I know, Professor." Hermione agreed, surprising Severus once more. "I've already spoken to Harry about it."
She nodded, curls bouncing. "Yes, we discussed it and I don't mind talking with you about what happened at Malfoy Manor."
"Well," said Severus. "I'm pleased that you have made this decision. I truly do believe that you will benefit from talking through your experiences; painful as they were."
Hermione nodded again, face solemn. "Yes, well, obviously they'll be some things I can't talk to you about."
Severus frowned, "I see."
"But Harry said you can go to him if there's anything I can't answer for you."
"Right, well I suppose that will do for now."
"We've got our meeting tonight, anyway right?"
"Of course, I shall see you then. Do you need a note for your next class?"
"Yes, please." Hermione stood a little awkwardly as the professor penned a short note. "Er, Professor –" She said when Severus held the note out to her. "Do you think you could write one for Ron and Harry as well? It's just, they're waiting for me outside."
Severus looked towards the closed classroom door and gave a long sigh of exasperation. Taking the note back without a word, he waved his wand over the parchment to produce two replicas of the original letter, each with a different name. He held all three silently out to his student who took them with a brilliant smile.
"Thanks Professor," Hermione said as she left, rejoining her friends outside. "You're the best."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Indeed."
Ron and Harry didn't have chance to speak with Hermione after her meeting with Snape, and so the morning after they were anxious to ensure she was alright. The trio attended breakfast early and picked a quiet spot on the Gryffindor table.
Hermione looked tired as she made herself a bowl of yoghurt and granola. Ron acquired some tea and poured a cup for his girlfriend, adding milk and sugar as he knew she liked it. She smiled warmly at him as he passed it to her, eyes still weary but her heart a little lighter.
"You got back late last night." Harry commented.
"Yeah, I was talking to Professor Snape for a long time."
"Did he pressure you to talk?"
"No, no, he was great actually." Hermione assured. "I told him a bit about what happened at Malfoy Manor and what it's like when I have a flashback. And we talked about my parents and the Obliviation; what it's like with them now."
Harry squeezed her hand across the table. "Sounds heavy."
Hermione smiled, "Yeah, it was. It was really hard, but I think it probably was for the best. Talking about stuff actually felt good."
Harry smiled, "I'm really glad that it helped 'Mione."
"You should try it, Harry."
"The 'Talking Cure'." Hermione waggled her fingers in the air around the words.
Harry frowned, "I'm talking to Snape." He defended. "And I talk to you guys."
"Not about everything. We know there's something else going on with you. And even when you talk about stuff from the war, you keep your emotions shut off." Hermione argued.
"I'm fine." Harry murmured, looking down at his plate, defeated.
Ron made a scoffing noise. "Yeah sure you are, mate."
Harry gave a friendly glare in return. "Traitor." The red-haired boy snickered and shrugged. "I'm going to eat my breakfast now." Harry turned determinedly to his plate and the conversation ended as they all attended to their breakfast.
The Great Hall filled up around them as they ate, including the staff table where Severus sat observing the Gryffindor Trio.
Granger looked exhausted, though Severus wasn't surprised given the long and emotionally draining conversations they'd had the night before. The trio appeared serious, Granger looking intently at Potter as he avoided her gaze. Severus wondered, as he often did, what was on the Gryffindors' collective mind today.
"Severus." Minerva appeared at his shoulder, tapping him urgently. "I need a word." She indicated the staff door through which she had just entered.
Severus followed her out, unaware of the pair of green eyes which noticed their sudden departure from the Great Hall.
In a discreet alcove outside the staff entrance, Severus turned to the somber looking headmistress. "What is it, Minerva?"
"I've just had word from Kingsley. There's been another Death Eater attack."
Severus dragged a hand down his face. "Go on." He said dejectedly.
"They targeted a muggleborn court officer from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He's dead." Minerva continued. "It will be in tomorrow's paper but I suggest we tell Potter before then."
"Agreed." Severus nodded. "I have a free period before the 6th Years so I'll collect him now and bring him to your office. Could you inform Filius that Potter will be absent on from Charms this morning?"
"Of course, I'll see you both in my office in 10." Minerva walked back through the staff door as Severus turned the other way and curled back round to the main entrance so he wouldn't miss Potter before he left for class.
The three Gryffindors were just leaving the Great Hall when Severus caught up with them. "Mr Potter, a minute please." He gestured him over to the side of the corridor.
Harry said something gently to his friends, who nodded and headed off in the direction of the Charms room, before he made his way over to the Deputy. "Professor."
"Mr Potter, I have some news for you."
"What's happened?" Potter became instantly business-like.
"I can't talk to you about it in the corridor. Come with me to the Headmistress' office." Severus turned on his heel and began walking towards the staircase. He was at the foot of the stairs before he realised Potter wasn't with him.
The hallway had cleared of the remaining students, all now on their way to their first class of the day. "Potter?" Severus scrutinized the student that was left. The shutters had come down over Potter's expression, Severus could tell, though he wasn't sure why.
"I don't have time," Potter insisted. "Tell me now."
"It's sensitive information, Potter, I'm not talking about it in the corridor." Severus walked back towards the teen. "Professor McGonagall has already cleared your absence from Charms."
Potter remained unmoved. "Ron and Hermione are waiting for me."
"Potter," Severus sighed, exasperated. "Harry, what is wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, I'm just not going to waste my time going all the way up to McGonagall's office when I've got a lesson to get to."
Severus took a deep breath, counting to ten in his head. With Potter's current attitude it was like how arguing with the teen used to be. The Professor brought forth all his reserves of patience to try and keep their conversation civil. "I had thought that you wished to be kept informed of events occurring outside the castle walls."
For a moment the façade dropped from Potter's features, replaced with pure fear. "The Order? Teddy?"
"They're fine." Severus reassured quickly. "Everyone of your acquaintance is fine, Harry."
The teen dragged a hand down his face, visibly relieved. "Here," Severus ushered the boy into a disused classroom. "You can spare five minutes."
Harry nodded, willingly defeated, and slumped into the nearest chair in the room. Severus perched on a dusty desk top in front of him, which creaked as he put his weight on it.
"There's been another Death Eater attack. A man from the Ministry has died."
Harry nodded. "So, what now?"
"Now?" Severus shrugged. "Now nothing. We let the Aurors do their job."
"But the Order…"
"The Order will do their bit to help locate those responsible." Severus confirmed. "But you, Mr Potter, will be here, finishing your education."
"Harry, there is nothing you can do. The Order and the Ministry know what they are doing, they can handle this without you."
Potter looked thoughtful for a prolonged moment. "Yeah, ok." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I should go. Ron and Hermione will be worried." He started to get up.
"No so fast, Potter." Severus became stern in the hopes it would keep the boy where he was. "Explain what is going on with you this morning."
"Nothing." Potter shrugged defensively.
"Then why are you so keen to get to Charms?"
"I told you, Ron and Hermione are waiting for me. I told them I'd only be five minutes."
"I don't believe that that is all this is."
"Well I don't know what you want to hear 'cause that's all there is." Potter stood up defiantly. "Can I go now?"
Severus narrowed his eyes, searching the boy's expression for any ideas as to what was going on in his head.
"You may." He allowed at last. "We'll continue this conversation tomorrow in our meeting."
Harry paused in his step, nodded stiffly and then was gone. When Severus exited the classroom himself, Potter had already disappeared into the maze of Hogwarts' corridors.
There was no way Harry could do this Transfiguration spell. He was agitated and tense, completely distracted by thoughts of the nameless Ministry man and who would be next. Physically he was exhausted, muscles aching from being tense all day and head pounding. His magic buzzed uncomfortably beneath his skin, apparently as agitated as he was.
He'd missed lunch in order to spend some time in the Room of Requirement, blasting Dueling Dummies to bits in a vain attempt to relieve some of his stress and use up some of his excess magic. It hadn't really worked. Now he was just tired as well as stressed.
Harry had managed to get through Potions by partnering with Hermione who did the brunt of the work and was able to correct his mistakes with relative ease. He'd told Hermione and Ron about the Death Eater attack as soon as he was able. They consoled each other, knowing and understanding each other's fears and pain. They talked, as they had done many times before, of where the remaining Death Eaters could be hiding, how they could be stopped.
Harry looked down again at the tea spoon which he was supposed to turn into a silver ornament of some kind. There was no partner work in this lesson and therefore no Hermione to cover for him. He stared at the teaspoon and gripped his wand firmly not knowing whether he would need to push his more power to make up for his exhaustion or withhold his magic so he wouldn't overdo it.
He decided it was better to be cautious than risk another incident like the one he'd had in Charms and took care to restrict his magic. He controlled his magic so much that when he cast the spell the spoon merely wobbled a bit and melted into a form which barely resembled a spoon, or anything for that matter. Harry looked up, hoping that his ineptitude hadn't been noticed by his classmates. Ron, on the desk next to him, looked at Harry's pathetic attempt with sympathy but otherwise the class seemed focused on their own transfigurations.
Looking around Harry caught the eye of Professor Weasley who was examining Terry Boot's work and had apparently not missed Harry's spell casting. The tattooed Professor walked over and put a gentle hand on his shoulder as he spoke quietly, "Mr Potter, will you come to my desk for a minute."
Harry nodded slowly and followed Charlie up to the Professor's desk. As he approached Charlie flicked his wand and Harry felt a silencing Charm go up.
Charlie looked sympathetically at him and Harry tried not to give away all the emotions he was feeling. "Harry, are you okay?"
Charlie's eyebrow rose in a disbelieving expression. "You seem to be struggling to concentrate today."
"Yeah, I guess I'm a bit distracted." Harry said, there was no point in denying it. "Did you hear about the Death Eater attack?"
"Yeah, Bill sent word this morning." Charlie said understandingly. "Do you need to talk?"
Harry shook his head. "Nah, 'm alright."
Charlie shook his head slightly, disappointed but unsurprised. "Ok, well, you know where I am, anytime you need." Harry nodded, glad that Charlie wasn't pushing any further. "Pair up with Hermione for the rest of the lesson, she can help you with the spell today."
"Thanks, Professor." Harry gave a small, rare, genuine smile and Charlie watched the boy as he went back to his desk and spoke quietly to Hermione. The Professor kept a close eye on the boy-Saviour for the rest of the lesson, knowing he would need to have a word with Severus later. The boy might fight it but they all knew Harry needed help.
"He looks exhausted." Minerva commented, watching the Boy-Who-Conquered from her centre chair of the staff table.
"Hmm, he's not eaten very much either." Severus agreed.
"And he wasn't here for lunch." Charlie added.
Severus frowned with concern.
"I had to speak with him in class today." Charlie continued. "He was so distracted he couldn't transfigure a teaspoon."
"Did he speak with you?"
Charlie pulled a face. "Not really. He just said he was distracted because of the attack. Asked him if he wanted to talk but he wasn't interested."
"Not surprising." Severus remarked dryly. "It can't just be about the attack though, he was mouthing off to me before I even told him this morning."
"That's not like Harry." Minerva noted.
"No," Severus agreed. "It's not. I have a meeting with him tomorrow night, I'll speak with him about it then."
"I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of things, Severus." The headmistress said confidently. "For tonight can we just make sure he gets a good night's sleep?"
Severus looked at the young man again as he pushed the food around his plate. The Professor nodded, "I'll sort it."
"Tappy!" Later that evening and back in his office, Severus call his assigned house-elf to him.
The little elf appeared in an instant, eyes wide and ears flapping as she bobbed her head unconsciously.
"Master Snape, Sir, you is needing Tappy?" The nervous creature squeaked.
Severus held a vial out to her without getting up. "Could you please deliver this Dreamless Sleep to Mr Potter's room." He let Tappy take the potion from his hand and went right back to his papers. He looked up again, however, when the expected pop of the elf's departure never reached his ears.
Tappy was still there, twisting her ear with her foot tapping rapidly. Severus put his quill down and gave the elf his full attention.
"Is something wrong, Tappy?"
If possible the tapping only got quicker. "Tappy, is very sorry, Master Snape, Sir, but Tappy is not being able to do what Master Snape is wanting Tappy to do."
A dark eyebrow rose on Severus' face. "And why is that?"
"Because Mr Harry Potter's room is being warded, Sir." Tappy twisted her ear some more.
Severus' brow furrowed. "Warded? How can it be warded?"
"Mr Harry Potter is warding it, Sir."
Severus sighed. Ask a stupid question…
"What I mean is, how can it be that the wards are preventing your entry? House-elves are not usually affected by wizarding wards."
"Mr Harry Potter is not a usual wizard." Suddenly, Tappy looked older, her eyes wise instead of wary. "Mr Harry Potter is having much power, Sir. Only Mr Harry Potter and Mr Ronald Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger and Mr Harry Potter's elf is being allowed in Mr Harry Potter's room."
Severus couldn't keep the surprise off his face, though Tappy didn't seem to notice, he couldn't believe Potter had managed to create a ward strong enough to keep the house-elves out. And yet, at the same time, it wasn't really surprising at all.
"So the Hogwarts elves don't go in Potter's room to clean or get his laundry?" He questioned Tappy.
"No, Sir, Master Snape, Sir. Mr Harry Potter's own house-elf is doing those things for Mr Harry Potter."
"I see." Severus mused. "Very well, Tappy, leave the potion, you may go."
"Yes, Sir, Master Snape, Sir." The little elf vanished with a pop.
Severus scratched his chin thoughtfully, unmarked essays forgotten. How could Potter have wards on his room that were strong enough to keep the house-elves out? And since when did Potter even have his own house-elf? Unless Tappy was referring to that strange little thing of the Malfoys that was always following Potter around. Mentally, Severus added 'How are you warding your rooms?' and 'Who is your house-elf?' to the ever-growing list of 'Things to ask Potter about', and returned, reluctantly, to his marking.