Harry moaned. His mouth was dry and his head was pounding. He fought against consciousness, determined to re-enter the peaceful realms of sleep. A clatter disturbed his intentions. Opening his eyes slowly against the harsh light, Harry searched for the source of the noise. The offensive banging continued and, now more alert, Harry concluded that the noise was of pots and pans and was originating in the kitchen.
"Keacher." He groaned out, knowing the elf's sensitive ears would still hear him.
With what Harry suspected was a louder pop than usual, his disgruntled looking elf appeared before him.
"Master Harry, Sir?"
"Kreacher," Harry groaned again rubbing at his sore head. "Do you have to be so loud?"
"Kreacher is sorry, Master Harry." The elf apologised solemnly though looking at the elf through bleary eyes, Harry didn't think he looked particularly sorry. "Kreacher is just making sure the pots and pans is being clean, Sir, in case Sir is still being here for dinner."
"Dinner?" Harry sat up, realizing as he did so that he had slept on the drawing room sofa and was still fully dressed. "What time is it?"
"Half past one."
"Half one?!" Harry stumbled to his feet ignoring his pounding head as he checked the clock himself. "Kreacher, why didn't you wake me?"
"If Master Harry is wanting to go off without telling Kreacher where, and drink himself into a stupor then who is Kreacher to interfere?" The elf said unforgivingly.
"Ugh," Harry groaned, taking deep breaths so he wouldn't vomit on the carpet. "I'm sorry, Kreacher, alright? But now I am incredibly late to get back to the castle so will you please help me get ready?"
His begging eyes caused Kreacher's own expression to soften and placing one of his gnarly hands on his Master's arm, Kreacher took pity on the disheveled boy and 'popped' them both upstairs.
"Minerva, what time is Potter due back on a Sunday?"
"Hm?" The Scottish witch looked up from her pumpkin soup. "Oh, he said he'd always be back for lunch." She turned her eye to the Gryffindor table. "Is he not here?"
"Apparently not." Severus said dryly.
"Well perhaps he is having lunch in the 8th year dorms?" Minerva reasoned.
"Not without his fan club." Severus nodded towards Potter's friends.
"Hm, no that seems unlikely." Minerva conceded. "I can leave you to follow up on this?"
Severus gave a curt nod in reply, hoping that Potter's absence wasn't the result of something serious as he finished his lunch.
"Professor Snape," Hermione Granger approached him before he could leave the Great Hall, flanked by the youngest Weasleys.
"Miss Granger," the Professor acknowledged. "Mr Weasley, Miss Weasley."
"Sir, we're getting a bit worried about Harry." Granger explained. "He's usually back by now."
Severus nodded, that confirmed some of his suspicions. "You haven't heard from him at all?"
"Very well, I shall walk down to the main gates to ensure he is not just on his way. If I do not come across him I will head to Grimmauld Place and see if I can locate him there."
"Thank you, Professor."
Severus nodded and began the long walk down to Hogwarts' main gates.
He spotted Potter as he neared the end of the path, just coming in the gates. Though Severus had seen the boy from a short distance, Potter still seemed rather startled when he approached.
"You're late, Mr Potter." Harry looked up, eyes squinting against the harshness of daylight.
"Yeah, I know." He murmured, voice croaky from his nighttime escapades. "Sorry."
Severus' eyes narrowed, scrutinizing the boy closely. "Potter, are you drunk?"
"No!" Harry protested weakly. "This morning I was drunk. Now I'm just hungover." He admitted with little remorse. "I think." He grimaced.
Severus resisted the urge to clip the boy around the ear. "Come, Potter, your friends are worried. We will discuss this in my office."
Harry pulled a face. He had managed to worry his friends and royally piss off Snape all in one go. Snape set a quick pace back up to the castle that had Harry stumbling to keep up; neither one of them saying a word the entire way.
At the entrance to the castle Hermione, Ron and Ginny spotted them, relief evident on their faces. "There you are, mate," Ron said while the girls each gave Harry a brief hug. "We were getting worried."
"Yeah, sorry." Harry apologized sincerely, running a hand through his hair. "I overslept this morning."
Any further conversation was interrupted by Snape. "Mr Potter will see you later, he has an appointment with me first." The Professor stormed off expecting Harry to follow.
Harry grimaced at his friends apologetically and Ron patted him on the shoulder. "Good luck, mate."
"Sit." Snape commanded, once they were in his office. "Explain yourself."
Harry rubbed his pounding head. "I overslept?" Harry offered weakly, not sure what the Professor wanted to hear.
"You overslept because you were in an alcohol induced coma." Snape said severely, still stood up and looming over Harry from the other side of the desk.
Harry sighed, "I'm sorry, I just had to blow off some steam last night so I went out for a drink."
Severus scoffed. "More than a drink, Potter. How could you be so reckless? There are still Death Eaters out there, Potter. You might as well hand yourself to them on a plate."
"Look, I get it wasn't the greatest idea, and I'm suffering for it today, but I'm 18, it's not like I broke any laws."
"You were given special permission to leave the school on the weekends so that you may visit your godson, not so you could get plastered." The Professor scolded. "I have every right to rescind your privileges."
Harry looked up, suddenly panicked. "No, you can't!" Severus narrowed his eyes at the boy and witnessed the moment the calm mask came down. "It doesn't matter what you say, I'll still go. Even if I have to quit Hogwarts to do it."
Harry held the Professor's gaze, intimidating though it was, determined that he should know how serious Harry was.
"You have detention tomorrow evening." Professor Snape said instead of arguing.
"Can you do that? Technically I haven't broke any school rules." Harry quipped, apparently unable to filter anything between his brain and his mouth today. "I wasn't even at school."
Snape's glare turned icy and Harry gulped. "I am the Deputy Professor at this school, Potter, if I say you have a detention, then you have a detention." He hissed. "Your detention has been assigned for sheer stupidity."
Harry sighed, "Yes, Sir."
By dinner the next evening, Harry was feeling much recuperated from his night on the town, if still a little sleepy. Surrounded by his friends, Harry felt relaxed as he happily cleared his plate of chicken pie. He didn't even mind when Ginny silently refilled his plate with a second helping. It wasn't so unusual for his friends to clock his meal intake, given that Harry was used to smaller portions than was meant for a boy of his age. He realised suddenly that he hadn't spent much time with Ginny lately and, though they weren't officially together, he missed what it was like to just spend time in one another's company. Further down the table, Seamus and Dean were doing impressions of the Hogwarts staff to great amusement from the Gryffindors and Harry took a moment to savor the sound of Ginny's laugh and the brightness in her eyes as she sniggered. The girl in question turned to Harry as though she knew she was on his mind and tucked her shiny curtain of red hair behind her ear so she could look at him.
"What?" She asked quietly, the other Gryffindors' attentions still elsewhere.
"Nothing." Harry answered. "Just missed you this weekend, that's all."
Ginny smiled gently before raising a sarcastic eyebrow. "Oh sure, while you were partying Saturday night?" She teased.
"I wished you were with me." The Boy-Saviour told her honestly and Ginny smiled again.
"You think Snape will have forgiven you yet?"
Harry shrugged. "Maybe."
"You're not bothered?"
"The way I see it, there's more important things in life than worrying what someone else thinks of you."
"Oh yeah? Like what?"
Harry grinned, reaching across her for the dessert plate. "Like treacle tart!"
"You will be writing lines this evening. 100 lines of 'Drunkeness is not an acceptable form of stress relief.' There is parchment on the desk, you may begin."
Harry sighed and got to work with a respectful, "Yes, Sir." The Professor, though still fairly unimpressed, seemed a great deal calmer than he had the day before.
Harry worked steadily in the quiet of the DADA room. When Professor Snape had finished marking essays he moved from his desk to one of the classroom cabinets where he began auditing the contents. This brought him much closer to where Harry was working and the student was surprised when Snape started a conversation.
"You've recovered from your nighttime adventures, I see."
"Yes, Sir." Harry answered somewhat warily.
"You and I need to have a discussion about what happened." Snape said, his attention still on the cabinet as he rifled through its contents.
"I got drunk?"
"Indeed." Severus drawled. "I was referring more to the events which led you to think drinking your own body weight in alcohol would be a good idea."
Harry finished the line he was writing, causing Severus to turn around when his enquiry was met with silence.
"Harry?" The Professor prompted.
"So I went out drinking. Why's it such a big deal?"
"It is the reason for your excessive drinking which concerns me, along with the manner in which it was done. If it was a party and you were with your friends, all having a good time, then we would be having a different conversation right now." The Professor explained. "Don't think I didn't notice the high demand for headache reliever the day after Finnegan's birthday." He remarked pointedly watching Potter squirm. "But you told me yesterday that you needed a drink and wanted to blow off some steam. That concerns me."
Harry dipped his quill in ink and wrote another line as he thought about what, and how much, he wanted to say.
"Last week was…tough." Harry eventually decided on. Professor Snape nodded waiting for him to continue. "Then I had a kinda difficult conversation with Andromeda."
Severus looked at him curiously, turning back to his audit before he questioned, "I believed that you and Mrs Tonks had a reasonably amiable relationship."
"Yeah, we do!" Harry confirmed. "Andy's great. But – she thought I didn't want her to be Teddy's guardian."
"No, Andy's great at looking after Teddy. I'm so glad he's got someone who loves him to look after him."
"So what's the problem?"
"I just have to make sure he's safe." Harry said exasperated with himself for how he felt. "Teddy's got no parents so he needs all the people caring for him that he can get."
"Like you had?" Severus recognised the connection the Harry felt between Teddy's life and his own.
Harry snorted, "Like I should have had."
Severus' hand stilled from where it was jotting down numbers. He looked closely at his student, mildly surprised by the bitterness he heard in Potter's voice.
"Professor Dumbledore once mentioned that you do not have the best relationship with your relatives." A slight understatement Severus admitted to himself, since it was a matter of constant contention between the Slytherin Head and the former Headmaster.
The familiar mask that Severus was coming to hate came down over Harry's face. "Something like that." He replied off-hand.
Feigning indifference, Severus asked casually, "You didn't feel like you fitted in?"
"More like, it was made very clear to me that I did not fit in."
Severus frowned. "What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing." Harry shook his head as if realizing he'd said too much. "Doesn't matter."
Severus could see he wasn't going to get anything else out of the boy and so dropped the matter, for now at least.
"You forgot something on Saturday." The Professor said instead.
"You had other options." Severus explained. "You didn't have to go out drinking. If you were upset or feeling stressed you could have come back to Hogwarts and spoken to someone about how you were feeling; one of your friends or myself even."
Harry pulled a face which showed exactly how he felt about that idea.
Severus shook his head, unsurprised by Potter's reaction. "Just keep it in mind next time, Potter. You do have other options."
"Alright." Harry agreed amiably.
"Are you nearly done with these?" Snape nodded towards Harry's lines.
"I've got another 18 to do."
"Hm," Severus hummed. "You'll do. Go and get some sleep, Potter, you look like you need it."
"Oh, thanks, Sir." Harry stood up to leave and headed to the door.
"My door is always open, remember." Severus said just as Harry was exiting.
"Yes, Sir." Harry nodded. "Night, Sir."
Thursday evening took Severus and Minerva to the Burrow for another Order meeting, this time without its youngest members. Severus yawned internally. Order meetings were still as dry as ever.
Fortunately the formal part of the meeting was brief on this occasion, with Arthur wrapping things up and the group breaking off into smaller sets.
"Minerva, I wonder if we could have a word." The Weasley patriarch said as people began moving. "You too, Severus, if you don't mind?"
A smaller group made up of the Weasleys, Hogwarts Professors and Altheta gathered together in the Burrow's cosy sitting room.
"I just wanted to ask how the kids are getting on?" Arthur began, looking expectantly at the gathered Professors.
"Severus?" Minerva prompted.
"They're doing remarkably well considering." Severus answered. "Hermione experiences some flashbacks about an incident she had with Bellatrix last year."
"Flashbacks?" Altheta asked, medical mind at work. "Have you seen it happen?"
Severus nodded. "She enters a trance like state and becomes lost in the memory. Ronald was able to bring her back last time. He and Harry seem well practiced in what to do when it happens."
"Has she seen a Healer?"
"No, the three of them are very wary of speaking to outsiders about the things that happened last year. Although, I did convince Potter to get her to talk with me about the incident and she is beginning to open up." Severus continued, looking specifically at the Weasley parents. "Ronald still refuses to speak with me, I'm afraid. He and I do not have the best relationship and he certainly doesn't trust me yet. I will keep trying." He promised.
Arthur nodded, taking his wife's hand in his. "Thank you, Severus. And Harry?"
"He's…" Severus searched for the words. "…getting there." He's started talking to me about some things but can still be very closed off."
Charlie nodded in agreement. "I've seen that too with him, it's almost like he's hiding something."
Severus nodded. "That aside, whatever it maybe, the main issue is the guilt he feels over the deaths from the war. Last week he spoke to me about the death of that house-elf of his."
"Dobby," Bill supplied. "Harry buried him the muggle way at Shell Cottage. He was absolutely devastated."
"I can imagine. Talking about Dobby is the first time I've seen Harry get emotional and he was blaming himself for the elf's death, though it was Bellatrix who killed him."
"Oh, the poor boy." Molly said sympathetically. "He always takes so much on his shoulders."
"He'll get there." George surprised the group by speaking for the first time. "Harry's had a tough life, but it's made him resilient. He'll get through this, they all will."
When the group began to separate and Molly started making copious amounts of tea, Severus moved towards George for a quiet conversation.
"Mr Weasley." Severus approached sitting in an adjacent armchair.
"Alright, Professor." The Weasley greeted in turn.
"There is something I wished to talk with you about if I may?"
"Sure," George agreed amiably. "Fire away."
"You were present for that flying car incident in your 4th year, were you not?"
George grinned in a way that Severus had not seen on the boy's face in a long while, recalling the memory fondly. "Yeah. The first time not the second. One of our more outrageous schemes, that one."
"You went to Potter's house? What do you know of Potter's home life?"
The smile fell from George's face and he turned serious. "Fred and I always wondered when someone might take us seriously. Guess we never would have thought to speak to you about it, Professor."
Severus frowned and waited for George to continue. The red-head took a deep breath and launched into his tale.
"It started with Ron going on and on about how Harry hadn't replied to any of his letters that summer. He kept saying that Harry's family hated him. We just thought that he was being dramatic and when he said that we should go to Harry's house and rescue him, well it all just sounded like a fantastic adventure to us."
"And when you got there?" Severus prompted.
"There were bars on his bedroom window." George whispered. "Actual bars."
"Bars?" Severus repeated incredulously.
George nodded. "We broke them off and Harry came with us. All his school stuff had been locked in a cupboard, even his wand."
Severus was having his worst fears confirmed.
"We told Mum and Dad but they thought we were just exaggerating or trying to get out of trouble."
"Did you ever speak to Harry about it?"
"Once." George nodded. "But he kind of just shrugged it off, said it wasn't a big deal. He never really wanted to talk about home." George dragged a hand down his face. "We didn't know what was normal for muggle families. We were 14 for Merlin's sake. We didn't know."
"You are not responsible." Severus assured the younger man. "There were many adults, myself included, who should have followed up on Potter's home lfe."
George shrugged, not reassured.
Minerva interrupted then, "Severus are you ready to return to the castle? I don't want to leave the school so understaffed for much longer."
"Of course. Good night, Mr Weasley."
"Night, Professor." The young red-head returned.
The two Professors walked together to the Floo and Minerva eyed her colleague closely. "Is everything alright?" She held out the pot of Floo powder.
Severus took a handful and stepped in to the fireplace. "I'm not sure."