AN: If you are a regular reader, please make sure that you haven't missed the last chapter or two due to a notification issue by this website. If you're like me and rely on the email alert to know when a new chapter is posted you may have missed chapter 16 or even 15. Otherwise, let me know how you're liking the story and of course I would love it if you want to make a guess, but do let me know if you want me to tell you if you're right or wrong. I don't want to spoil it for anybody! Also, just as a note to a guest commenter that I couldn't reply to, no apology necessary. I like when people make me think about why I'm doing certain things, and I appreciate the process I went through in response to your comment. Thanks!
The following night Snape wasn't surprised when Harry returned to his chamber. He had rather hoped that he would – though he told himself that it was just to make sure that the lad had completely healed from his ordeal the evening before.
"Okay, what did you do to Percy?" Harry asked, grinning.
Snape, somewhat affronted by Harry's completely casual demeanor, answered, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"It had to be you," Harry snorted. "He's wearing these dragon hide gloves that mean he has trouble doing much of anything! I don't think he can even use his wand; didn't you say in class that you couldn't because the dragon hide blocks the magic?"
"Indeed, I did say that," Snape drawled. "I'm surprised you remember; I actually said that during class."
"He also limped a bit," Harry declared, watching Snape closely. "And he didn't sit down, either. In fact, I would say he looked exactly how I felt the night before."
"Perhaps he fell and injured himself," Snape quipped.
"The last straw was detention tonight," Harry told him, sitting down easily much to Snape's satisfaction. "He barely said anything to me and just had me write lines, you know, with a normal quill and everything. I wrote, 'I will respect the legally appointed ministry and not contradict them in class' two hundred times."
"And that made you suspicious?" Snape asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Well, it's a bit different than last night," Harry shrugged. "And he seemed really weird and kind of scared of me. But the kicker was that he didn't sit the whole time – he had made one desk really tall so that he could grade papers while he stood up."
"That is indeed suspicious," Snape acknowledged, trying hard not to acknowledge what he'd done. "But didn't he get suspicious of your . . . lack of desire to stand?"
"I cast a cushioning charm," Harry acknowledged with a grin at his subterfuge. "Hermione taught me. I made sure he saw it, and I also tried to act like I was in some pain. It made him look pretty green, really."
"A cushioning charm wouldn't have helped him," Snape informed Harry, trying to keep the smugness out of his voice.
"I knew it!" Harry laughed. "What did you do to him?"
"Me?" Snape intoned. "Me? I'm a wizard that has dedicated his life to being a teacher, to trying to get people to see the effect for their actions. How could I have done something that would educate a former student while exacting revenge for my current ward?"
"Hermione said he had a nightmare of you giving him a severe caning, and that it still hurts," Harry leveled with him. "And everything he touches without the gloves on turns into a cane."
"As interesting as his memory of you telling him that Hogwarts will revenge itself upon students."
"I am beginning to think that a Gryffindor Legilimens is going to be very inconvenient," Snape intoned, though he realized that he should have known better. Although, a dream wasn't exactly incriminating, and he did not need to confirm nor deny anything.
"The things he touches turning into canes thing doesn't really seem like you, though," Harry mused. "I mean, it's not a potion or Occlumency."
"I have no idea what you mean," Snape sniffed. "You talk as if I were the only adult in Hogwarts that would possibly defend you. I think you completely underrate your head of house; Gryffindors always seem to act with passion and no thoughts to the consequences."
"McGonagall?" Harry asked, surprised. "Really? She always seems so stern."
"Professor McGonagall," Harry repeated, agreeing. "That was a wicked hard spell too if Percy couldn't have removed it himself, so of course it would have to be her or some other really powerful wizard. Although, I would be bloody hesitant to touch my wand in such a case."
"Watch your language, and I am not confirming or denying anything," Snape told him, looking austere. "But I do happen to know that if one of her current Gryffindors were ever seriously threatened by a teacher, particularly one that was formerly a Gryffindor, she would take that situation pretty seriously."
"How seriously?" Harry asked, eyes glinting.
"I've always thought that Professor McGonagall had an affinity for numbers," Snape replied. "For instance, she likes the number seventeen in terms of days."
Harry's eyes flew open. "That's how many . . ."
"Precisely," Snape nodded.
"Which means you told her," Harry's eyes glinted. "She wouldn't have known from Ron or Hermione; they didn't know the number."
"You are free to conjecture as you wish," Snape told him, though he was secretly proud that his ward was exercising his deductive reasoning.
"Is that Legilimency?" Harry asked suddenly. "Giving someone a dream, I mean?"
"Legilimency can give people dreams," Snape confirmed. "It's more than reading someone's emotions and thoughts – it can also change their emotions and thoughts. Sending dreams is a natural extension of that."
"Will the Dark Lord try to do that to me?" Harry asked, suddenly serious.
"Of course," Snape nodded. "And it will be especially tempting for him once he learns of your connection."
"I have been having dreams," Harry told him. "I've told you about them. But I didn't tell you that they're getting worse."
"Worse how?" Snape asked, studying Harry's face carefully.
Harry shrugged, not out of indifference but out of a lack of ability to describe it very well. "Just more . . . intense. The longing, the wanting. I see the door, I want in, I want something so badly – but I don't know what."
"I think you are still seeing things from his perspective," Snape told him, trying to reassure him. "There doesn't seem a particular action or anything that he's trying to entice you to take, so I doubt this is something he's sending you on purpose."
"Occlumency isn't helping very much so far," Harry admitted.
"Think carefully," Snape instructed him. "The days that you are better able to do your exercises before bed, are the dreams a little better?"
Harry thought for a moment, and then began nodding. "I think maybe they are," Harry answered. "I mean, last night it was bad – but I didn't do my exercises because, well, I guess you could say I was distracted."
"I healed you," Snape told him sternly. "Pain was no excuse."
"It wasn't the pain that was distracting," Harry admitted. "It was, you know, staying here."
"I'm sorry if your accommodations were not up to your exacting standards," Snape replied sharply, not admitting to himself that he was a little offended by the boy's comments. "I was putting your health before your taste in bedrooms."
"No!" Harry protested, his eyes becoming full and nearly panicking over the misunderstanding. "You don't understand, professor! It's not like that at all! It's just that, well, I couldn't believe I was allowed to stay."
"Why wouldn't you be allowed to stay?" he asked, genuinely confused. "You were in no shape to return after I treated your wounds."
"You are a man that likes his privacy," Harry admitted, looking down. "I mean, you've been so great and everything. I can't believe how much you let me invade it by nattering away at you all the time, bringing my friends around and making you give them extra lessons, and even interrupting you when I'd been caned so you can heal me. I mean, you warned me and everything, and I just went ahead with it. It would have been totally just if you'd turned me away to let me heal by myself. But no, you let me in without even so much as an 'I told you so' and you healed me, even though it was awkward and embarrassing. So I couldn't believe you were so kind as to let me stay the night."
Snape found his lip twitching a bit at the boy's naivety and kindness towards him. He didn't think he would ever get used to this emotional frankness that Harry was showing, there was no guile at all. "You could have an alternative perspective," Snape intoned. "Perhaps you have a guardian who is overprotective and controlling, wanting to know everything about you and even your friends. He forces you to take extra lessons, heals you when he should send you to Madame Pomfrey, and then insisting you stay in his dark dungeon overnight to monitor you. Perhaps you have an overbearing and insufferable guardian."
"Maybe I can use a little overbearing in my life," Harry smiled sadly, chagrined. "It just feels good to have an adult engage me and want to be around me."
Snape felt the grief in that statement, and let it settle in the room. He knew he could have said the same thing at Harry's age, which is what left him so vulnerable to the Dark Lord. Sighing, he said, "I thought you had a visit with your Godfather this last weekend."
"I did," Harry confirmed. "It was fine and all. I mean, he was great."
"You don't seem overly enthusiastic," Snape noticed.
"Well, it's just that, well, I wonder if he really likes me."
"Do you think yourself unlikable?" Snape asked blankly. Who wouldn't like this intelligent, honorable, trusting boy looking to attach to a father figure? It's like he was tailor made for Black to want to adopt.
"No, it's not that," Harry looked away. "I think he might like me just because of my dad. And he seems pretty cagey about Umbridge being killed, like he's ready to have me sent to Azkaban at any moment and is terrified about it."
"Well, he did really like your father," Snape agreed, tackling one complaint at a time. "If Mr. Weasley were to die tragically young, how would you feel towards his offspring? Especially if it was a boy that looked just like him?"
"I guess so," Harry nodded. "I could see that. But it doesn't stop me from wanting him to like me for me, though."
"I don't have to worry about that with you," Harry grinned. "I mean, I look like your worst enemy."
"I see it now," Snape told him. "You look just like the Dark Lord; no nose at all."
"Professor!" Harry laughed. "You know what I mean."
"I do," Snape nodded. "And I also understand why your Godfather is so upset about the possibility of you going to Azkaban as well. He spent many years there."
"I guess so," Harry shrugged. "It just gets a little old, right? But do you think I really might go there?"
"I will do everything in my power to prevent it," Snape told him seriously. And he realized that he was serious. Not just a good effort, but his best effort. Even if it meant smuggling Harry away to one of his protected hideaways he had set up for himself in the event that Voldemort found out his true allegiances. Even if it meant Snape himself giving everything up and going with him. "But you need to promise me something."
"Sure," Harry told him, intrigued.
"You need to promise me that if something happens, you will call Dobby and have him take you to the place that I tell him. It's better if you don't know where now, but I will tell him. If you get arrested or captured, you need to call him right away before you get within the wards of Azkaban, because I cannot reach you there."
"I will," Harry promised. "But will he be able to just come like that?"
"Only if called," Snape told him. "But you are his person, and he watches you closely. But he most likely won't come unless you call."
"And he can just apparate me out?"
"He has limitations," Snape explained. "He cannot apparate you out of the Ministry and Azkaban, and of course he couldn't apparate you out of Hogwarts without your consent. But a Hogwarts house elf can apparate a person out if the person consents to it. So when you call him it has to be at a time he can get you out."
"But if we can't apparate ourselves, then why are house elves allowed to do it?" Harry asked, confused. "I mean, couldn't they apparate in some death eaters?"
"They couldn't," Snape tried to explain. "House elves are considered of very little danger to wizards," Snape explained. "They cannot hurt a wizard, nor do anything against their family's will. And for school house elves their master is Dumbledore, and to a broader extent their family is the students."
"But Dobby is a free elf," Harry protested. "Dumbledore is not his master."
"True," Snape nodded. "In fact, I rather think he regards you as his master, or at least his main family. So he would be loyal to you above all else in Hogwarts. So he is in the position of having the abilities of a Hogwarts elf but feeling bound only to you. Which means that even if Percy ordered him not to help you, he should be able to get you out in time."
"That could be brilliant for pranks!" Harry laughed.
"Or I could ask you where you got some dubious potions ingredients," Snape intoned. "I wonder if there might be the same consequences for Gillyweed as there was for the Boomslang skin?" It had taken him several days before he had figured out who had pilfered items from his storage and to set the wards against house elves.
"No pranks!" Harry promised. "No pranks at all! And I didn't tell him to get it, he sort of did it on his own. You can't hold me responsible."
"I most certainly can if I so desire," Snape growled. "You certainly could work out where he got it and never confessed."
"I benefited but didn't do it directly," Harry protested. "Not my fault."
"Hmph," Snape argued, but he knew he wasn't going to pursue it further. "Next time ask."
"I will," Harry promised. "I didn't know you as well then."
"Tomorrow night we have Occlumency lessons," Snape told him. "I will see you and your friends then."
"Do you have plans tonight?" Harry asked, surprised.
"I do," Snape replied, nodding. "And no I'm not going to tell you what my plans are. I'm still entitled to some privacy."
"It's a girl, then?" Harry asked, arching an eyebrow in an uncanny and unconscious imitation of the Potions Master.
"I would hardly be thinking of romance at a time like this," Snape quipped, and then relented a bit. "I will see you tomorrow, Harry."
"Tomorrow," Harry nodded. "And thanks, you know, for Percy. I'm not used to having someone get revenge for me like that."
"Teaching, Mr. Potter," Snape drawled. "I teach, I don't get revenge. Good night."
"Good night," Harry replied, covering himself with the cloak and making his way out of Snape's office.
Sighing, Snape sat and watched the boy go. He then pulled out his wand with great reluctance, and soon a silvery blue doe pranced around the room and came to him expectedly. "Fetch me the wolf and the mutt," he told it briefly. "Tell them it has to be here, and that's it's important but not an emergency."
Watching the blue doe bound away, he wondered to himself if he were making the right decision. Was he over-planning? Although, knowing his ward, he doubted it.