Wow, I updated at last. I am having trouble deciding where to go next, but all the emails I got asking me to continue wore me down. . . sorry it's been such a long time!


Harry looked at his ankle in horror. He didn't know how he was going to explain this. . .

"Start with the tattoo" said Snape, massaging his temples. "How did you manage to get a tattoo, for Merlin's sake?"

Harry tried to explain the dream. He was halfway through when Severus seemed to understand. His eyes glazed over a little and he nodded.

"Hmm. . .that explains it. . ."

"Explains what, sir?"

Snape looked up sharply as though Harry had disturbed him from a deep sleep and then relaxed his features.

"The venom should have killed you. But you merely lost consciousness. We knew there was something odd about that. I think. . .and I could well be wrong. . .but I think your spirit managed to fight the snake's venom. . .gods, I can't explain it!"

It struck Harry that maybe Snape didn't like not being able to explain things.

"Anyway, you're alive, and that's what is important."

Harry felt something swell inside him, and a sorrowful look appeared on Snape's face. He moved closer to Harry.

"Harry, I don't care what those stupid muggles said. You are so very important to so many people. Don't believe anyone who says otherwise, alright?"

Harry looked at him with those huge eyes and was silent.

"Harry, promise me you won't believe anyone who says otherwise."

Harry nodded tentatively and looked away. Snape debated internally whether he should press the point, but didn't. Harry looked stressed enough already; his skin had taken on a waxy pallor and he looked as though he was trying to sink into the pillows. Deep down Severus knew he should leave the boy be, but he needed to know. . .

"What happened to your feet?"

Harry still didn't look at him, and Severus knew that whatever came out of his mouth would be a lie.

"I think it was the dream. I was on hot coals."

Severus looked at him appraisingly. It would certainly make sense, but the boy exhibited every sign of lying.

"The burns are older than that" he commented, and while Harry tried not to tense up Snape could feel his muscles contracting beneath the sheets.

"I don't remember doing anything" he said casually, and Snape knew he could not afford to force the issue; could not afford to panic Harry. He shrugged and put a hand on Harry's forehead.

"Get some sleep" he said. "You must be exhausted. You're safe here."

Harry nodded, and gently closed his eyes, but as soon as he heard Severus leave they flashed open again, darting around the room like cats-eyes. He wasn't safe here. He was never safe. No matter what they said, the darkness always got him in the end. He could not fall asleep. He would not allow it.

Resolutely, he stared at the ceiling and wondered how soon Pomfrey would let him out.


"Ah, Severus. Tea?"

Dumbledore seemed entirely oblivious to the pallor of Snape's face and the lines of tension creasing his brow.

"NO" he ground out from between clenched teeth. "Thank you, headmaster."

"Oh, very well. You don't mind if I do, do you?" at Snape's nod, he poured himself a cup of tea and leaned back, inhaling the fumes. "Ah, a joy to drink" he breathed. "Imported specially from china, you know. I think it has a certain. . ."

Whatever certain something the tea had was never to be found out as Snape stood up angrily, upsetting the entire pot.

"Albus, I need to talk to you, goddammit, and if you're going to insist on fiddling around with your tea things then I'm leaving."

"There, there, Severus" soothed the headmaster. "I do apologise. Now, I presume you wanted to see me about Harry?"

Snape nodded again, and tried to think how to put the extraordinary occurrence into words. He finally decided on the simple option.

"Harry's spirit fought the snake's spirit and now he has a snake tattoo on his ankle."


They sat in silence for a few moments before Albus finally sat forwards.

"Amazing as that is, I have the feeling something else is on your mind. Hmm?"

Severus looked down, feeling inexplicably embarrassed.

"I can't stop worrying about Harry. I feel entirely like a mother hen, but I'm certain he's holding things back from me. Things about his relatives, things about school. I want him to trust someone but he shows no signs of opening up. He doesn't believe he's worthy of anyone's care. Gods, Albus, can't I go and torture those stupid muggles? Just a little bit?"

Albus' eyes twinkled.

"It's fantastic that you are worried about Harry. I would keep persevering. I'm sure he will trust you fully by the end of his school time, but his confidence must be won gradually."

He took another sip of his tea and Snape considered. He didn't want to leave the boy to follow any sort of self-destructive path, but on the other hand didn't want to drive him away with his worrying.

Why on earth had he become involved with this?


"Wingardium Leviosa" drawled Harry, watching his feather flutter in the air above him. He was, frankly, bored rigid. It was marginally better than being in the Infirmary, but still hellishly boring. Especially since the teachers seemed to be trying to hamper his progress in any way possible.

"Not so high, Mr Potter" reprimanded Flitwick, and Harry drew his feather down, seething inwardly. Draco shot him a sympathetic look and then swore as his feather floated out of the window. Harry stepped over and leaned over.

"Accio feather" he murmered, holding his wand loosely between his fingers. The feather fluttered gently towards them as though caught on a breeze, and Draco winked at Harry before taking the feather back and closing the window.

It was the third week running that they were working on levitation charms. Except for Hermione Granger who had moved onto summoning spells. Harry had been watching her and practising but he was still bored. He spent the lesson levitating his feather up and down, occasionally making Draco's chair lift a few inches when he was sure Flitwick wasn't watching. He was sure that he was growing a Slytherin streak a few times when he 'slipped' and levitated the red-haired Weasley up onto a candelabra. It had earned him a detention with Filch but he considered it worthwhile to hear the boy's high pitched squeaks.

Smiling at the memory, he almost forgot that class was ending. As everyone filed out, he remained behind at Flitwick's desk.


Flitwick looked up, his face lined with worry.

"I'm not Tom Riddle, sir. Please, don't hold me back. I came here to learn magic, and I honestly feel like I can go no further with levitation spells."

The elderly wizard sighed and rubbed his temples.

"I know, Mr Potter. Perhaps I was unjust. But you must understand. . .the worry, the panic that I felt. You cannot know the torture and grief that You-Know-Who caused; and I taught him. It is enough to prevent rational thought."

Harry nodded.

"Learn about summoning charms" Flitwick finally conceded.

Well, it was a start.


"Harry? Harry, where are you. . .oh! What are you doing here?"

Draco wrinkled up his aristocratic face at the Mudblood and tilted his head waiting for a reply. A petulant voice replied,

"Potter and I were studying charms. And you are. . .?"

He flushed; the stupid Mudblood knew who he was. Everyone did.

"Harry, there's a meeting. Come on."

Harry gathered his books up, nodded politely to the girl and left behind Draco. As soon as they were out of Madam Pince's domain, Draco glared at Harry.

"What on earth were you doing with her?"

"Talking about stuff. She gets more opportunity to learn than I do. The teachers aren't so biased against her."

Draco nodded slowly.

"Yes, but Harry. . .isn't there anyone else you can work with? I'll help if I can, it's just that. . ."

"Just that what?"

Harry's eyes were sharp, but Draco had to say this, had to make Harry understand.

"Harry's she's half muggle. She doesn't belong in this world. Her blood is tainted."

Harry flushed but his voice remained calm,

"I don't care. She's the best witch in our year."

"She's filth!" exclaimed Draco, and Harry fell back slightly. Feeling guilty, Draco forced himself to relax.

"Harry, I'm sure she's very clever. But you can't be associated with her. Not if you're in Slytherin. You have to choose, Harry. Her or us. It's as simple as that."

He stood in the corridor, suddenly looking lost which contrasted with his usual aloof demeanour.

And Harry chose Slytherin, walking with Draco towards the common room. And inside the library, Hermione sat stunned at her desk, having heard the entire conversation, tears of rage and frustration running down her face.