"Potter, are you incompetent?" Snape's angry voice sneered from above.
The man practically spat his name out as if it were a curse, like his Uncle always did. Funny how no matter where Harry went, someone found a way to make him feel small.
Harry couldn't believe he was getting in trouble on his first day here. He dared not look around, for he knew better than that. Uncle Vernon had made it clear that darting eyes were eyes looking for an escape, and Harry could only assume that Professor Snape would feel that same way. He lowered his eyes to the hands now trembling in his lap, just to be safe.
Still, the only thing the class had done was taken out their Potions books. How could he have screwed thatup? He would just have to wait for the Professor to tell him what he did wrong.
"I do not allow such insolence in my classroom," Professor Snape hissed, slamming a finger onto the thick book that Harry had pulled from his school bag.
"Do you understand, Potter?"
Harry felt as if he should answer yes, even if he didn't understand. He nodded.
"A verbal answer if you please," The man growled, still hovering above the arrogant Potter brat who actually had the nerve to look scared.
Well, he should be scared, pulling a prank like this on the first day, and in myclassroom, no less!
"Uh y-yes Professor Snape." The boy licked his lips. "I understand."
The man's eye's narrowed.
"You understand what?" The professor asked, crossing his arms, face falling into a practiced smirk.
Harry glanced at Ron beside him who sat stiffly, like the rest of the terrified class.
"Uh t-to not disrespect you, sir." He said in a confessing tone. In all of his excitement over magic and such he had forgotten what Hogwarts actually was — a school with teachers. And this one seemed particularly merciless.
Teachers often had problems with Harry, unfortunately, and mostly thanks to Dudley. His relatives received letters from teachers that always started off nicely and then ended with:
Harry would do better if he would just apply himself or
Harry needs to focus more in class to learn the little things or
Harry is just a little behind his classmates.
Would the professors here send letters home to the Dursleys? It was bad enough when Harry had to bring one home, but a letter by owl? Vernon would be livid.
"And you didn't think that purposefully bringing the wrong book for my class would be disrespectful?"
"I er I didn't…" Harry began. He glanced at his teacher's livid expression. "On purpose!" He added quickly. Apparently it wasn't the right book.
"Are you trying to tell me that you accidentally picked up the text that the third years are reading, when it clearlystated on your supply list to buy the green edition of Potions: a Subtle and Prestigious Art?" Snape asked mockingly. A few of the students chuckled at that. The professor shot them down with a glare. He was the only person in his classroom that got to make students feels stupid, not other stupid students.
This wasn't green? Harry thought. What will they do to me when they realize that the Boy-Who-Lived can't tell his colors apart? Did people get kicked out of wizard schools for this sort of stupid?
He quickly scrambled to remember what colors he often got confused. Green and red, sometimes. But sometimes gray and a few times even brown. It all depended on what colors he could see and the lighting.
Dread weighed heavy in Harry's stomach. He would have to go back to the Dursleys.
Harry shook his head and tried to force the tears back, but his eyes were starting to shine.
"I-I'm sorry, sir," he said, in a whisper. "I can get the right one. I have money left over."
Severus was disgusted. At least James had the balls to confess when he was caught in a prank. He didn't try to weasel his way out with money, and he surely didn't cry about it.
"Get out of my sight, Potter. Sit in the hall until this class is over," Snape said, and he said it lightly too, as if the relegation and Harry meant nothing to him. He turned away from Harry to walk back over to board.
The class was silent except the clip of Severus's shoes, until Harry protested, "But I didn't know it was the wrong one!"
Severus turned around degree by degree, and when Harry saw his face, he immediately regretted his outburst. He had never argued with an adult before, let alone one who seemed so powerful. But if he was going to be kicked out, he would at least have to fight or regret it for the rest of his life.
Snape seemed to be moving in slow motion as he clicked back to Harry's desk. He picked up the Potions book in long fingers and held it to the boy's face.
"What color is this?" He asked, so softly, perhaps the other side of the room didn't hear.
Harry was now panicked. What would happen when everyone realized-
"I asked you a question," Snape asked on the heels of his first question.
Harry shook his head and the tears came, running down his face, betraying him once again.
"I-I'll j-just go s-sit in the hallway, sir," he managed to say and picked up his bag, wishing fervently he weren't such a cry baby.
"You are not going anywhere until you answer my question," was Snape's reply, though inwardly he was growing curious. How could the boy be crying over something like this? He had obviously brought the wrong book on purpose. There was no other explanation.
"Please, sir…." Harry mumbled, wiping his eyes, "I-I'll just sit in the hall."
"I am asking you one more time before I send you to Headmaster Dumbledore. What. Color. Is. This?" Severus asked, and Harry's nose was practically touching the book now.
No one in the classroom, Harry noticed over his own labored breath, seemed to be breathing. At least, he thought with some relief, that they all seemed as shocked as he was that the professor was going to send him to the headmaster ten minutes into class.
Snape's face briefly showed disbelief before he schooled his face into indifference.
"I-I mean like blue-ish kinda."
Severus dropped the book back to the desk with a thud.
"Brown?" Harry asked, wiping at more of his tears.
"Are you telling or guessing, Potter?" Snape asked, though his voice was wearier than anything else, and a horrible thought ran through his head. Seven years. He had seven years to deal with this brat who was causing so much trouble on the first day.
In the silence, students began whispering. What was Harry thinking? How could he lie like that? Was he really blind?
"I am awaiting an answer."
"Oh, er guessing, sir," Harry said, feeling helpless. Colors just didn't make sense to him the same way it made sense to others. And obviously this teacher was not all right with that.
"Are you telling me that you are unable to distinguish the color green from the color brown? This is a brown book, Potter," the teacher explained. He continued to stare at the boy, trying to get something from his expression other than dismay. He'd actually seen a flicker of surprise when he'd revealed the true color of the book. If the boy weren't so heartbroken over the color, he could dismiss it as a joke. But the way Harry looked meant something was wrong. He obviously could not tell the difference, which meant…Oh dear Merlin….
"Everyone begin making the potion you will find on page 32!" He ordered, swiveling back to the front of the room. "The ingredients are on these shelves and labeled accordingly. Do not talk. Do not whisper. Do not do anything except brew this potion. It is quite a hard one to screw up, but we are in a room half full of Gryffindors," he said, casting a disdainful look at the left side of the room.
"Potter," Professor Snape called, "I can hardly allow you brew a potion if you cannot decipher a yellow flobberworms from a purple caterpillar. Come here."
" S'okay, mate. He can't be too bad. There's all of us in the room too." Ron said, patting the boy on the shoulder.
Hermione gave him a determined look. "And I'm already thinking about how to teach you colors. It seems that you may have a condition-"
Harry smiled his thanks, unable to contain himself. He had friends! And they cared about him and wanted to help him! Dudley would never believe this!
"Here," The man said and gave Harry a book, a green one, when he approached. "Copy from this book starting on page 32. We will discuss this issue of yours after class."
"Issue, sir?" Harry asked and unconsciously pushed his loose glasses to sit farther up on his nose.
"After class," the man snapped and tromped to the other side of the room.
Snape no more than glanced at him the rest of the hour. He was busy looking after the rest of the little dunderheads, or at least that's what he told himself. Maybe it was because he had planned on seeing a carbon copy of James appear, but instead this small, green-eyed boy was sitting down, following directions after Severus had yelled at him for a mistake. Harry was supposed to be reckless and not care for authority. And yet, the boy had answered with 'sir' or 'professor' even while being singled out, perhaps unfairly. How could the boy be so different than he was expecting?
After the class was over, Harry watched nervously as his teacher brought out six different vials and set them before him on the table. Harry's stomach turned at the thought that maybe his punishment would be drinking stuff that would make him sick.
"Potter, what color is this?" Snape asked from the other side of the table, pointing to the fist vial on Harry's left.
"Um green," Harry said. Then he looked at his teacher's face. "I mean brown." He quickly corrected himself.
Snape sighed. "Tell me what you see, not what you think you should see or this will not help at all."
Harry took a few breaths.
"Green and green"
Snape sighed, actually pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance.
"I can learn my colors! I really can! Please don't kick me out. Hermione said maybe she could help me. I'll get the right book too! I just thought it was green!"
"Potter," the professor snapped, "Hush. It is not that you do not know your colors. You know the names, but you are clearly colorblind."
Harry gasped, as if insulted, Severus thought with a bit of humor. "But I can see colors!" He said, and stood, as if to leave the false accusation.
Harry did as he was told.
"Listen carefully. Are you listening?" Snape began, boring his eyes into Harry's.
"Good, colorblindness does not mean that you cannot see any color. It could just mean that you cannot see all of the hues of a color or that two colors that don't look similar to others look very similar to you. For instance, you just called purple, amethyst, and magenta all blue."
Harry thought hard about amethyst. Was that even a real color? "I'm sorry sir," he eventually said." I can learn to tell them apart-"
"No you can't," Snape said.
Harry hung his head, eyes stinging. The man wouldn't even give him a chance. He would surely be sent home.
"Your eyes do not see colors like everyone else's do. It is nothing within your realm of control," the man continued. "You were born like that, just like your mother."
Did I just say that? Snape thought in disbelief. How did that brat wiggle it out of me?
"You knew my mum, professor?" Harry gasped eyes wide. "She couldn't see colors right either? Are all wizards like that?"
The professor sighed. "One question at a time, child," he said, and summoned a chair to sit in, suddenly feeling very old. Had it really been eleven years?
"Yes, I knew your mother when we were in school," he said slowly, as if weighing each word. "I suppose I could tell you more of that on a later date. This moment, however, hardly seems appropriate for such a conversation."
Harry's heart was pounding. He didn't speak.
"Your mother was also colorblind," Snape said after another long pause.
"Was she pretty?" Harry blurted.
Snape took a moment to collect himself. This child was grating on his nerves.
"You have surely seen a photo of your mother before, Potter. I would think-"
"No. I haven't. Aunt Petunia didn't allow me. Have you a photo of her, Professor?" Harry asked.
Snape was surprised by boy's lack of discretion among other things. He suddenly felt as if he had just learned a secret he did not want to know.
"That is unfortunate," he managed to say in a composed manner. "Now, as I was saying-"
"She was pretty, sir?" Harry asked.
"Would you kindly quit interrupting me, Potter?" The man snapped. "I will provide you with a picture so that you may decide for yourself," he said. Then, he realized that he would only snap at the boy further if they spent any more time in the same room. He said, "Now, I am sending you to Madam Pomfrey. Give her this." He pulled out a small piece of parchment explaining the situation, "And she will take care of you."
Harry nodded but still looked a bit uneasy and hovered at the table a moment longer.
"What, Potter?" Snape asked, knowing that he would regret it.
"So, I'm not in trouble, sir? Will I be sent home?" He asked tentatively, gripping the note hard in his nervousness.
"Were you even listening to me? I do not waste my breath, Potter. What part of 'it is beyond your realm of control' did you not understand?" He asked.
Harry looked as if he was doing some very hard thinking.
"I you-you mean I'm not stupid?" the boy asked, looking incredulous.
"That, Potter, has yet to be decided." Snape smirked. "Now, leave"
He watched as Harry practically skipped back to his desk to collect his things. There was a huge grin on his face when he turned around and waved goodbye to the professor.
"Infernal brat." He muttered and turned to pick up the six vials.
"Lemon drop, Severus?" Dumbledore predictably asked when the Potions Master stepped into the familiar office.
"If I say yes, will you stop asking?" Snape asked wearily as he slumped into the chair opposite of his longtime mentor. How many times had he found himself in this position? One too many, obviously, since this time it was about the spawn of Potter.
"Such a complicated brat," he muttered.
"What was that, my boy?" Albus asked, studying the younger wizard very closely.
Severus shook his head and sighed.
"I am not ready for this," he said, staring far past Dumbledore's worried expression.
Albus simply smiled. "Whether you are ready is not the question, Severus, for the time has already come. The question is: what will you do?"
"Is this supposed to be helping me?" Severus asked already exasperated with the short conversation.
"That is entirely up to you," Dumbledore said.
"Oh, spare me, Albus," Severus said, with his usual lack of vigor against the man. He stared at his hands and thought. "The boy is not as I expected. He is small and shy. He barely ate at the welcoming feast, quite unlike his pig father." Snape spat.
"Yes, yes I did notice such a thing," Dumbledore agreed, popping a small candy into his mouth. "I'm sure it was simply nerves."
"He has never seen a picture of his mother, Albus," he said, again feeling as if he was revealing a secret. "Who are these muggles he is living with? How has he never seen Lily's face?"
The thought felt heavy in his body as he struggled to compose a picture of what Harry's life had been like without ever seeing such an image, a necessary image of glorious light. It was enough to make Snape feel…compelled to do something for the boy, in the least.
"Perhaps you should speak to the boy about his relatives," Albus suggested with a contemplative look on his face and also a slight frown.
"I will be sure to do that," Snape said "After I have dealt with his…problem."
"Isn't that just grand?" Albus remarked, face shining suddenly "You, my boy, figuring out that Lily was color blind and then her son so many years after!"
"I suppose," Snape huffed, only idly wondering how the meddling fool knew so quickly everything that happened in the school. He'd learned that he would never know the secrets of Albus Dumbledore, but he was naturally curious.
"Well, I'm sure the boy would love to see you! He is rather excited about his newfound sight. Although I imagine he will be needing quite a few potions for his head during the time it will take for him to adjust." Dumbledore said with a small smile. "Perhaps he will see that your eyes are not truly black," he said and popped another candy into his mouth.
"My eyes are black," Snape said with a glare.
"Of course, my boy, of course."
"What is that supposed to mean?" The younger wizard asked.
"Your eyes are only completely black when you are angry or in pain. Otherwise there are quite a few other colors dancing about," Dumbledore informed him and continued to inspect the man.
"Perhaps we should invest in getting your eyes checked, barmey old man" Snape snarled as he went to the door. "Colors dancing," he murmured, clearly in disbelief. "Crazy old bat…."
Snape hesitated before entering the infirmary. Albus's pep talk had done nothing to reassure him. He was supposed to talk to the boy about his home life and give him a picture of Lily. It all seemed like a bit much to do for a boy whom he'd already decided he would hate before they'd met.
Sighing, Snape stepped into the infirmary, and his breath was pummeled from his lungs when a small body mass came colliding into his middle section.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you! Have you been seeing like this forever? Professor my eyes are green! I mean green-green. They're really bright! Did you know that? They're not even like Slytherin green, cause that's like what my potions book was supposed to be, and I thought it was brown, remember? But now I can see the difference! Brown and green are not the same at all. I looked outside at the trees! Professor the leaves and the bark don't look anything the same! Now I get why you had me name those potions because-"
"Potter! Hush, this instant before I douse you with Calming Draught," Professor said to the boy who was still clinging to his middle.
Madam Pomfrey came bustling in. "Ah, well if it isn't the knight in shining armor. I have heard quite a bit about you in the past hour. He wanted to leave straight away and tell you all of the colors of your potions," she informed him, as she gently unhooked Harry from around Snape and bustled him back to his bed.
How does she do that? Snape wondered. She made handling clingy children look as easy as brewing a blood replenishing potion.
Senses cleared from the recent detachment, Snape cleared his throat. "Yes, well I imagine he would be very excited," he muttered, not sure what to do with himself.
Madam Pomfrey gave Harry a potion for a headache that Snape had brewed himself and took Snape out into a different room, so that she could talk to him in private.
"Will the boy squint so ridiculously for his entire life?" Snape asked.
"I just updated his prescription." She explained, shuffling some potions around in a nearby cabinet. "Which, by the way, looked as if it had never been prescribed to him in the first place."
Snape filed that bit of information in his growing folder of things he would have to look into.
"I'm not entirely sure if he's squinting from that or from the sudden brightness of the world." She straightened up and smiled at him. "I thought you would have remembered how Lily squinted so after I healed her eyes, Severus."
He blinked. "I just need to know if the boy will blow up my lab if he tries to make a potion."
"From colorblindness, no," Poppy said, choosing to ignore the way he had switched the subject. "He may have a period of confusion as he learns the hues he's been missing, but that shouldn't blow up anything should it?"
"Perhaps not," the man said.
Her expression grew more serious as she asked, "Severus, what do you know about the muggles he lived with?"
"Very little. No more than you."
Poppy shook her head. "I did a physical while he was here just to be safe. The boy had several bruises and various cuts and a variety of bones that had healed badly. He claimed they were from his cousin whom he always fought with for fun." She shook her head and thought for a moment. "It seems that there may be more going on though, which would explain why he is undernourished and why he was so uneasy with my touch."
Snape looked contemplative. "I will see about it," he assured the mediwtich, whose only response was a curt nod before she was hurriedly off to another job.
"WOW, PROFESSOR, MY TONGUE IS REALLY PINK!" Harry bellowed from his bed.
Severus sighed. It would be a long seven years, indeed.
He had put it off for as long as he could, he supposed. He had planned to never do this, but after a day of dodging Albus and finally an unwanted conversation (it was mostly the headmaster's lecture and Snape's excuses being cut off) Severus was waiting outside of the infirmary, his hand resting unconsciously on a pocket inside of his robes.
"Yeah but he was so nice to me afterwards! And look at my glasses! They're new too!" Severus heard Harry's voice excitedly say.
NICE? Snape thought horrified. How many people had the boy told that to?
"Oi, Harry that's really brilliant! I guess he's not that mean like my brothers said. I should have known they lied about everything though, after I learned that Sorting doesn't involve spiders." Another boy huffed.
Another Weasley? Severus groaned. He had almost forgotten. And he doesn't dislike me? If Harry kept this up he would have all of the Gryffindor first years thinking the feared potions professor was…friendly or something. That little fiend.
Severus growled. And Poppy was letting the boy have visitors as excited as he became over the littlest things? Unbelievable. The boy should have been doing a quiet activity at the very least.
Well, whether he agreed or not, Harry was talking with friends. Surely that was a good enough reason to leave. It was not as if he wanted to have the discussion with the boy. Though he had told Harry he would show him a picture and on top of that Albus had practically ordered him to become a much needed (he grimaced) mentor to the poor boy.
"…quite like I became to you, child. I imagine that is exactly what the young boy needs."
I should have refused. Snape growled inwardly, though he knew he stood no chance against Albus's twinkling eyes and cryptic words. He never had.
Mentor, indeed. If the best example he had to follow was a barmy old man with a strange obsession with candy, then he and Harry were in more trouble than he'd originally thought.
Snape had tried excuse after excuse until finally he had proclaimed that he did not, in fact, know how to be a mentor. To which the headmaster had replied: "Of course you do, son. And now that that is settled, would you like to join me and Minerva for some tea?"
'Of course' my arse! I'll be a bumbling fool trying to speak with the boy. And what about his personal issues? Would he want to talk about those, as well?
"Oh, Severus, have you come to talk to Harry? Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley were just leaving," Poppy said and opening the door as Harry's friends walked out of the infirmary. The boy made some gesture that suspiciously looked like a bow.
They did not even flinch as they passed! Snape thought, utterly bewildered.
Exasperated, he turned and was almost blinded by the boy's smile.
"Hi, professor!" he chirped. "I was just telling Ron and Hermione how you helped my eyes!" He sat on the edge of the bed and kicked his feet idly.
"Were you, now?" Snape murmured. He almost didn't sit down but Harry offered, patting the seat and staring up with those bloody bright eyes, so he sat stiffly. Outwardly he looked the same as he always did — severe and collected, maybe a bit impassive. Perhaps only Dumbledore would have been able to tell from his overly tight lips and stiffer than usual posture how uncomfortable Severus felt with the whole situation.
How did I manage to fool the Dark Lord for so long if I cannot hold a brief conversation with a mere first year? I told Dumbledore I would try – no promises there- and all I said to Harry was that I would show him a picture. I'll give him the thing and then leave.
"Did you know that teal is a part of the blue group and not the green group of colors, sir?"
The man nodded, "Yes that sounds correct, Mr. Potter."
They sat in silence for a while until Harry reach behind him and pulled out a sizeable book with a rainbow background. Something stirred in the older wizard, something that had been kept dormant for too long.
He brushed a stray black lock out of his face, as if that single strand was obscuring his vision to the extreme. But he didn't even need to look to know that the LE was still penned on the bottom right hand corner. His fingers already knew the bent edge that had been damaged on a wild dash through a hallway at night.
And then he saw Lily's eyes, glittering with curiosity and hope.
"Madam Pomfrey gave me this. See?" He said quietly and ran his hands over the surface of the bold letters Colors of The World. Its rainbow, glittering cover seemed to illuminate the boy's face.
Snape stared for a long moment, first at the book he remembered so very well and then at the small boy, who opened it and for some strange reason began reading out loud.
"I hope you like this book. SS," Harry read, steadily moving his finger under the curvy text.
"I don't know who that is, professor, but this sure is a cool book," Harry said. He smoothed the pages out and set it on the man's lap.
"Here, you can read some if you want," he offered.
Still, Snape did not know what to do. Memory after memory poured through his mind. He and Lily reading by the lake, him quizzing Lily on the colors she easily forgot:
….no, that's yellow and that's golden-rod, just remember that yellow is brighter….
He and Lily practicing transfiguration with the book, trying to turn it into a cat but only ending up with a book that had 4 legs and a tail…Lily laughing so hard she cried as she tried to catch the thing as it scurried under a bush…
The man was brought out of his reverie when a small hand poked his shoulder gently and pointed to the book.
"I like this color," Harry said, indicating a deep purple.
Severus cleared his throat and stiffened a bit (had the boy really just poked him?)
"That is a suitable color, Mr. Potter," he said awkwardly. Did the boy want a pat on the back or something?
There was another silence, stifling to Snape yet easy for Harry, who seemed oblivious to the discomfort in the room. Finally, the professor reached into his robes and produced a picture.
"I believe I said that I would give this to you," Snape said and passed the picture into the small hands. And his hands were not trembling even the slightest.
Harry gasped loudly. "My mum?" He cried and gingerly took the picture from Snape's hand, his own shaking in what the professor could only imagine was reverence. He held the picture very close to his face, his eyes wider than Snape could have imagined.
"She's so pretty," he marveled, gently touching the surface.
And Sape could only agree. The picture of Lily in her school uniform, leaning against a tree, waving and grinning was one of his favorites.
He heard a sniff from somewhere behind him and did not have to turn around to know that it was Poppy.
Merlin save me from emotional women! He thought and was ever so thankful when she left, probably to blow her nose.
"You needn't strain your eyes so, Potter. Do not hold the picture that close to your face. You are a wizard, not a daft muggle child in front of a telly," Severus admonished slightly, and led the picture away from Harry's face by his wrist.
Harry jerked as if being pulled from a daydream and blinked rapidly.
"I'm sorry, sir! I was just trying to memorize what she looked like before I gave it back!" Harry explained. Then he looked down at the picture again. "Here!" He exclaimed thrusting the picture forward. "I'm sorry, sir. I shouldn't have looked at it for so long. Really, sir I-"
"-didn't mean to take so long if you want-"
"Potter!" Snape growled. "Do keep your incessant apologizing to a minimum." He took the picture from the boy's hand and Harry stopped babbling immediately.
He almost apologized again but thought better of it. He wondered if he would get in trouble. Nervously, he bit his fingernails and wait for a reaction.
Snape studied the nervous boy.
"What are you thinking right now?" He asked.
He was answered with a shrug.
"Do not shrug at me. When I ask a question I expect a suitable answer." Snape said, though he did not sound angry.
"I'm sorry, sir." Harry looked up through his long hair. "I-I just didn't know if I would be in trouble for keeping the picture so long and for apologizing like that. Uncle Vernon hates it when I take things longer than my share," the boy mumbled, nervously picking at his pants. The relaxed, happy boy that had been here mere minutes before had vanished. Now Harry was stiff and cautious, as if the mention of his uncle's name could summon him here.
With a heavy sigh Snape said, "Here. This is yours. I am giving this to you, as in it is now yours and yours alone, a concept that I am sure those muggles of yours did not particularly believe in."
Harry was too overwhelmed with joy to catch the insinuating comment about his relatives. Again, he found himself with tears in his eyes.
"Professor Snape…" He said looking up at the man with tears running down his face. "I-I-" But he could not get any words past the huge knot in his throat. So he settled for practically diving at the older wizard's chest and seemed to burrow into the black robes.
A noise escaped Severus's mouth, something in between a grunt and a manly squeak.
If Snape had been appalled by the first brief hug, he was mortified now. This sobbing mass of child was clinging to him like some sort of tree dwelling animal and dripping snot all over his clean robes. And, to his ultimate dismay, this hug was not brief at all.
He settled for placing a hand on the child's head and patting it, uneasily a first until he settled into a steady rhythm.
Snape could remember a time when he might have reacted similarly to an equally small gesture of goodwill, so he concentrated hard on not making a stinging remark, like he was so famous for making. After years of showing such apathy to others it was…difficult to do otherwise.
"There now, you're going to make yourself sick for crying," Snape said.
Harry jerked up suddenly wiping his eyes fiercely underneath his glasses.
"M'sorry, sir. I won't ever do that again. Please, sir I'm sorry," Harry said and scrambled off of his professor's chest, blushing madly.
"I dare say that was unusual for me as, well." Severus said straightening his robes. "However, there is no need for more apologies from you." There was a hint of sternness in his eyes.
"Yes, sir," Harry said and attempted to wipe at his nose with his sleeve, until Snape produced a clean handkerchief to stop him.
After Harry had tried to give the picture back once more and repeated many other expressions of gratitude, Severus was able to leave, feeling oddly satisfied with the whole ordeal.
He was left alone to his thoughts as he made his way back to the dungeons, trying his hardest to look somewhat menacing. (The boy was making him soft! Since when did Severus Snape have to try to scowl?)
He did not hum as he absent mindedly cleaned a tea set the muggle way and he did not hold back on insulting comments as he graded a stack of essays. And there certainly was not hint of a smile on his face as he remembered Harry's face when he had seen his mother.
It was the first time in a very, very long time that Severus went to sleep thinking of Lily, and instead of clenching in his chest, her memory flowed smoothly through him like water until he fell asleep, swearing that he smelled her favorite perfume.
"Good morning, my boy." Albus smiled, as Snape took his place at the table.
"Good morning," Snape said, reluctantly, as he had not had his morning coffee. He ignored Mcgongall's greeting, in favor of pouring himself a cup of the steaming hot brew.
"I'm glad to hear that your meeting with Harry went so well," Minerva said, looking at him.
Snape growled. "Albus" he said,"Must every detail of my life be conversation at this table?"
"Oh, Severus, theatrics do not suite you," Minerva said cutting into her omelet. "You're just angry that we discussed your hair a few days ago," She replied, laughing harshly.
"Actually I wasn't the one to tell her, Severus," Albus said softly.
"You shouldn't have been discussing my personal matters at the breakfast table!" Snape said to Minerva, before slicing into the bacon on his plate with a fury.
Minerva sighed. "Ah, I am only teasing Severus. Anyway, I'm glad that you were able to be civil and kind to Harry. He very much appreciated it," she said.
The man was about to shoot off a comment about what he'd appreciate, when Albus nudged him.
"Speaking of Harry, Severus. I believe he's trying to get your attention."
And there Harry was waving his pale hand foolishly in the middle of the Great Hall, a broad grin across his face.
Severus did not know what to do. He couldn't very well wave back with the entire population of Hogwarts watching! He chose to ignore the boy. He began cutting at the food on his plate with great force.
"I believe that Harry is still trying to get your attention," The Headmaster said, not bothering to hide his mirth.
Horrified, Snape looked up to see Harry practically jumping as flapped the pale limb to and fro like he was under the Imperius.
For a moment, Severus continued the internal debate over whether or not he should acknowledge the boy. But then-
"Professor Snape!" Harry called and pulled out a picture from his pocket. "Look!"
Severus watched his vision tunnel in on the boy as he waved the picture around. No, no, no. This could not be happening. The entire Great Hall was not witnessing this. Students were now curiously looking his way. He heard several snickers from beside him, and McGonagall was actually wiping at her eyes with her handkerchief.
Ignoring the professor's laughs to his left and to his right, he quickly shot an infamous glare at the Weasly twins who were, he could tell, about to do something they would very soon regret, finally gave the barest of nods towards Harry's general vicinity.
Apparently that was enough. The boy had simply wanted to be recognized. He headed off to a spot at his table to eat, while Severus spent the rest of breakfast practically fending off Minerva and Albus with a sharp stick.
Harry didn't know why his professor wanted to see him after class. It wasn't like he'd done anything wrong. He'd borrowed the text book that Professor Snape had given him. He'd been able to see all of the ingredients and the writing in the book. Harry smiled at that one. It was such a relief. Not only had Madam Pomfrey healed him to see colors, but she had updated his prescription as well! He'd even been able to help Ron. Maybe that's what was wrong! Did he think that Harry was cheating?
Instead of following his gut instinct to take off after class and hide, Harry explained to his friends why he'd be late for free time and stood awkwardly beside his desk while the professor arranged the bottled potions that the students has just made.
"Sit, Mr. Potter." The professor ordered, but Harry could tell that he wasn't angry.
Then what does he want me for? Maybe to give me another picture?
Harry's heart started pounding. He would not get his hopes up. The one picture he had was more than enough. He knew better than to be greedy and want another. Greedy people always deserved to be punished; he knew that. How many times had Uncle Vernon tried to teach him that lesson? And here he was being a greedy little freak and wanting more than his share.
The Professor strode to Harry's side.
"The picture, please," he said and held out his hand expectantly.
"No!" Harry exclaimed before he could stop himself. He quickly clamped trembling hands over his mouth. He needed the picture, and professor Snape said it was his!
"No I-I mean I'm sorry! P-please!" He could not keep the fear out of his voice nor the tears that seemed to come out of nowhere. What had he done wrong? He would do anything to fix it.
Harry stood up on instinct. He didn't know what his punishment would be for speaking out of line, but maybe he could run from it. Though, the professor's long legs seemed like they would catch him very quickly. He was no Uncle Vernon.
"Po- Harry, that's not what I-"
"Please, professor! I'll do whatever you want! I'm great at housework. I can clean a bathroom in 10 minutes, dead fast. I can paint anything you need without leaving marks or anything!" The boy was backing away and crying, choking out his words in one of the most desperate measures Snape had ever seen from a child.
"Harry-" If he could only get the boy to understand.
"Please, sir. I'll do anything. I-I can stop sleeping in the bed! I never really had one anyway!"
"Harry, stop talking!" Severus practically shouted over the boy's begging.
Immediately the boy shut his mouth. He stood wide-eyed and visibly shaking.
Snape did not move quickly toward the boy. In fact, he did not move at all, afraid that it would cause the boy to start in on another string of pleading before he could explain himself.
"Harry, I am not trying to take the picture from you. I only want to put protective wards on it. You've been carrying it around everywhere. I thought it would be wise to protect it."
"Oh," Harry said, suddenly feeling very small and stupid. Had he really offered to paint something? He couldn't really remember.
"It's perfectly fine, Mr. Potter. It is understandable that you would feel possessive, as it is the only picture you own of your mother."
Harry realized that the professor had actually been calling him Harry before then. But now it was back to Mr. Potter.
"I-I'm really sorry about that, Professor. I don't know why I freaked out like that," He said, trying to act nonchalant, while he reluctantly handed over the picture that had been in his pocket.
He eased back into the seat that he'd been in. He didn't want the professor to think that he was ungrateful for his help. Certainly no one else he knew would have thought to ward a picture for him if they could have. No one else had even given him a picture before.
Snape waved his wand a few times, speaking some spells. Then he handed the picture back.
"Now it is waterproof, fireproof, and no hex will work against it. Also, anyone who takes the picture without your permission or consent will…regret it." There was a slight smirk on his face, and Harry didn't know why. Did that mean that is someone tried to take it they'd be hurt?
"Umm, sir? If someone tries to steal it will they be hurt?" Harry asked quietly.
"No, but we will definitely know who attempted," Snape said.
"Thank you, Professor!" the boy cried, but he obviously restrained himself from giving the man another hug.
The man nodded.
Harry ran his hand over the picture again. He eemed as enthralled with the picture now as he had been 3 weeks ago. "I was just so scared it would be taken, ya know, if I left it in my dorm…"
"Things go missing in your dorm regularly, Mr. Potter?" The professor inquired stepping closer to the seat that Harry was in.
Surely no one would be stealing from the Boy-Who-Lived.
"No! Not anything worth…anything. I mean it was mine but…"
"But?" Snape asked. Someone had really been stealing from him?
"I mean it was just…mine." The boy finished lamely. He didn't know how to explain it. People weren't supposed to care if it was his things being stolen. How did the professor not know that? He seemed pretty smart.
"Someone has deliberately been taking your things in your dorm?" Snape asked again, his voice pressing.
"And have you told your Head of House?"
"No," The boy answered quietly.
Snape took a moment to stop himself from chastising the boy. Obviously, that did not go over well with him.
"What did they take?"
Harry chewed on his fingernail and thought it over. Snape had only helped him so far, first with his eyes then with the picture. Surely, he wouldn't be angry at him for getting his things stolen like the Dursely's had always been. He hadn't even punished him for speaking out of line, so maybe he would only get small punishment for being irresponsible enough to get his things taken.
"Just some things, you know."
"No I don't know," Snape said with a bit more agitation.
"I-I can't say I really want them back," Harry admitted, daring a look at his professor's face.
"Just tell me what they took," Severus said.
Harry could do nothing but stare at his professor, helpless. He didn't want to draw more attention to himself. Only Ron and Hermione really knew what some of the other Gryffindors thought of him, but he didn't even tell them that his things had been taken.
"You will not be in trouble for telling me," Snape said in an uncharacteristically gentle voice.
"It's…it's kind of embarrassing. They keep taking my clothes, so I've just been sleeping with lots of layers on, and I asked if I could keep some clothes in Ron's dresser. I-I think he was mad because he thought I had too many clothes to keep in my drawer…Ron's family- they don't have very much money, ya know?"
"They took your clothes, Mr. Potter? How many, what kind, and when?"
"Do you think you could call me Harry?" the boy blurted before he could talk himself out of it. "I-I mean only if you want to. It's just everyone calls me Potter. I don't really like it."
Why? Why do I always have to say something stupid? He'll hate me now.
The professor gave him an odd look and studied the boy for a long moment.
"I suppose I can do that, Harry. Tell, me what did they take?"
"Umm well a few of my…umm shorts-" Harry squeaked and his face colored. His fingernails seemed very intriguing. "And all of my trousers but two pair."
"They took your underpants and all of your trousers and you told no one? When did this start?" Snape demanded.
"The first week, sir," he mumbled.
"Someone stole your clothes, the only clothes you have at Hogwarts and you told no one?" The professor growled. "I don't know what those measly muggles made you believe, P-Harry, but you are to tell an adult when something is wrong. You are to tell an adult when someone is stealing your clothes or when you are struggling with something like seeing colors. You are to tell an adult when you a hurt or afraid or someone is making you feel uncomfortable, threatening you, or causing you harm is that understood?"
"I-uh." Harry looked bewildered. Why would anyone want to know if he was afraid? And did this mean he had to tell someone every time? That seemed like too much.
"This is non-negotiable." Severus said sharply. "No more of this Harry. No more keeping silent when you could easily be helped by an adult. I don't even mind if it is me that you come to."
Ahh. That last part was not meant to be said! Why do I always have trouble holding my tongue with this boy?
"Yes, sir. I'll tell an adult if you want me to."
"Harry, I want you to want to." Snape said after a long moment. "Your relatives probably discouraged such actions?"
Harry gave a hesitant nod of his head.
"And these chores that you spoke of earlier, cleaning and such, your relatives had you do these?"
Again Harry nodded, not sure where the conversation was headed.
"The lacking prescription in your glasses are a work of your relatives? You never went to an eye doctor?"
Harry shook his head, shrinking down unconsciously.
Snape sighed while Harry sat confused. It didn't feel like he was getting in trouble. The professor didn't seem mad at him, only a bit frustrated. No one had told him that rules were different at Hogwarts. If they wanted him to tell adults when things happened then they should have said something in the beginning!
"Harry answer me one question. Do you want to return to your relatives?"
"Please professor, I never said that-" Harry began in a panicked, defensive voice.
"It's a yes or no question. Just answer truthfully, that's all I'm asking," Snape said, against surprised by his tone of voice with Harry. James Potter would probably be beating at his grave if he knew what Severus was planning.
He knew that Dumbledore had placed Harry with the Dursleys for a reason- the blood wards. But blood wards meant nothing if a person was in danger inside the home as well. Harry had been neglected, most likely tossed around, possibly starved, based on his eating habits at Hogwarts, and maybe even beaten. There were other safe places for the child to go.
Severus had never thought of his own home as a possibility before, after all it was Potter's son. But, he admitted, it was a viable option. A fleeting thought wondered if Dumbledore had this planned from the beginning.
The angry potions master flew into the Headmaster's office, robes billowing behind him.
"My boy, what a pleasant surprise! I had not expected you to be back so—"
"You left the boy with those muggles? You know nothing about them!" Severus cried and slammed his fists on the Headmaster's desk.
" Oh, Severus, how bad can they be? Harry is family to them. Plus they are receiving a monthly stipend. If it is money you are concerned about, that has already been taken care of."
"That is not what I mean, old man, and you know it. How will you even know if the boy is in trouble?" Severus questioned as he began pacing the circumference of the headmaster's office.
"Arabella Figg lives right across the street. She will be—"
"Arabella Figg?" He asked, spinning to face Albus. "Arabella Figg was put in charge of protecting the bloody Boy-Who-Lived? You can't be serious."
"What other choice is there? Besides, I'm sure that Harry will fit in perfectly."
"He will not if Petunia is anything like she used to be!" Severus replied heatedly.
"You worry too much, Severus. It is not as if he could go to any other place- well, unless you are willing to take the boy in and-"
"Fine, Albus!" Severus snapped. "I've said my piece. There's no need to patronize me."
That had not be the last time Albus had suggested such a thing: Harry living with him. But until recently he had never considered the man to be serious.
"Do you want to return to your relatives, Harry" Severus repeated.
"No, sir," Harry whispered.
"Then you will not have to return," Severus said firmly.
He did not for a second miss the disbelieving look in Harry's eyes. He did not miss the boy's sudden angry tears or the look of betrayal that clouded his eyes. For a moment Harry looked like he was going to shout, but instead he stumbled backward and went running out of the room, choking back sobs.
What have I done? Severus thought, as he looked in disbelief toward the door that Harry had just run out of.
"He-he played the most cruelest joke on me," Harry said to Hermione and Ron.
They were the darkest corner of the library where they had found Harry thirty minutes ago. He had refused to leave and was crying so hard Hermione thought that he would be sick eventually if he kept it up.
"Oh, Harry but how do you know? He was so nice in the infirmary," Hermione said.
"Yeah, mate you don't know that he was making fun of you. He could have really meant it. Snape doesn't seem like he would ever joke." Ron said. He was trying to be sympathetic, really he was, but he also kept looking over his shoulder, expecting the greasy bat of the dungeons to appear hovering over his shoulder. He wished Harry had let them go back to the common room.
"Yes, Harry, Professor Snape does seem like a very serious man," Hermione agreed. "He probably really did mean it."
Harry shook his head and continued wiping at his nose.
"I think that teachers, well at least in the muggle world, must give a report if they suspect the abuse or neglect of a child. I am fairly certain that there would be laws similar to that in the wizarding world as well," Hermione said quietly.
"I just don't know," came Harry's voice from between his knees, where his face was buried. "No teacher's ever said anything before, even the few times when I was all bandaged up and stuff."
"Maybe they just didn't notice, mate," Ron said.
"Harry, I think he's just concerned about you, especially when you said someone was stealing your things and you hadn't told anyone," Hermione said.
Briefly Harry lifted him head from on top of his knees and wiped at his nose with his sleeve.
"No one told me that I should tell," he said, miserably.
Hermione felt like she could cry. Harry's view of authority was so skewed. No wonder he was having such a hard time with Snape. What would it be like, she wondered, growing up and never having anyone to trust? And then all of a sudden being at a school where people actually wanted to help him, well it must have been disorienting.
"Maybe we could talk to McGonagall and she could get your stuff back, Harry," Ron said.
"That was a rather startlingly good observation, Mr. Weasley." Snape intoned from behind the trio. "I'm sure that can be arranged. Now would you and Ms. Granger please leave so that I may speak to Harry?"
Ron swore he nearly peed on himself in surprise when the man's voice came from behind him. The man was out to scare him to death!
"Professor, don't you think it would be a good idea if-"
"Ms. Granger, if I wanted any more of your opinion, I would have asked. Now, please leave. I wish to speak with Mr. Potter. There appears to have been a bit of a misunderstanding," Severus said, giving one of his best scowls.
Hermione and Ron scrambled off the floor, grabbing their bags as they went and bidding Harry goodbye and good luck.
Harry did not know what to do. Obviously running was futile. The professor had found him here in the library probably with magic. If he was at a wizard school did that mean that they punished people with magic too? Harry expected to be yanked up and dragged back to the dungeons, but instead he was gently helped off of the ground and, after grabbing his school bag, led to a nearby deserted table.
He anxiously looked around to see if there was anyone in the general area and might hear their conversation.
"Don't worry, P-Harry. I have cast a charm so that no one will hear," The man said and sat stiffly across from the boy.
Harry nodded hesitantly. No one would hear them? Then, if something were to happen…
"I can easily cancel it, if it makes you feel uncomfortable." Snape offered, studying the boy carefully.
"No, it's ok."
With a short nod Severus began. "I think that you may have misunderstood me in my classroom, Harry. I am not a man who carelessly throws away words. When I said that you would never go back to the Dursleys, I meant it."
Harry was not looking at the professor. His eyes wandered over the library and the many books that lined the walls and filled the shelves.
"But I don't understand, sir. Why will I not have to go back? I've just lived with them so long…"
"Your relatives did not take care of you, Harry," the man said. "Look at me please." Harry gradually brought his eyes to the Professor's face, and again Lily's face was brought to his mind. "You were not given proper care regarding your eyes-"
"But I didn't even know I was colorblind!" the boy said, confused.
"No, but you needed glasses that worked for your eyes and you did not receive them. You do not know how to come to adults with your problems, and I'm guessing that your relatives never bothered with yours. Madam Pomfrey says that you are undernourished, that you have several injuries that were never attended to, and that you were uneasy with her touching you. And I don't know if you remember telling me this, but you said offered your…services to me in the way of cleaning and painting, and you said you did not have a bed at home."
He watched Harry for a moment. "I think that your relatives are unsuitable for you to live with, you don't want to live with them, so what is the problem?"
"I- I don't know." Harry said, and swiped furiously at his traitor tears. "I didn't think you meant it. No one's ever tried to help me before, sir. I was just…confused I guess."
That's quite understandable, Harry," Severus said and laid a hand on the boy's shoulder, despite his slight flinch. His face was unreadable.
"Now, I have a question for you. Would you like me to become your guardian? I would gladly accept the responsibility."
Harry noticed that the professor had asked him. It was almost too good to be true. Yes! Yes he wanted to live with this man. He'd been so kind already.
"Yes, sir! That would be fantastic!" Harry nearly shouted.
He ignored the fact that they were in a library and the spell prevented hearing, not seeing. He jumped up and gave the man a huge hug, and he smiled even harder when he felt the pressure of Snape's arms around his own back this time.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," he said, not even bothering to try and stop the few tears that were running down his face and into Severus' back.
The professor cleared his throat after a moment, and Harry dutifully let go, though Severus brought his hands to the boy's shoulders.
"Are you absolutely sure, Harry?" he said, looking the boy in the eyes.
"I've never been so sure of something in my life!"
Taking a moment to allow the boy to settle down, Severus nodded.
"Well, I believe we should speak to the Headmaster now. I hear he has lemon drops, Harry. I'm sure he'll offer you one," Severus said.
As they headed for Dumbledore's office, Severus could not help but think that the castle seemed brighter somehow.