AN: I hope you all really like this chapter. I'm leaving for a trip tomorrow so the next chapter might be a day or so late, (or I could get lucky and it'll be early, who knows) Anyway, I'd love to know what you think of it!

Chapter 45

"Back?" Harry asked as innocently as possible.

"Yes, back," Snape said, his tone sharp. "I've just had a rather interesting conversation with Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, and the three of them seem to be under the impression that they saw you in Hogsmeade. Or rather, they claim to have seen your head. Would you like to tell me how it would be possible for them to see your head in Hogsmeade when your head doesn't have permission to be in Hogsmeade?"

Harry swallowed hard but he hadn't come this far just to give himself up now.

"I dunno. I've been here. I was with you this morning."

"So Draco is just making up lies, is he?"

"Well it wouldn't be the first time, would it?" Harry shot back.

"Harry." Snape crossed his arms and glared down at him.

"I'm not lying. I've been—"

"What's that in your pocket?" Snape asked suddenly, pointing to the edge of the map that he could see sticking out of the pocket of his sweatshirt.

Harry pulled it out. "It's just some extra parchment."

"And you've taken to carrying around parchment with you at all times now, have you?"

"Hello, all." Snape and Harry both turned to see Remus walking towards them. "Are you having a meeting in the corridors?" he asked with a laugh, his eyes twinkling nearly as much as Dumbledore's.

"Hardly," Snape replied sourly. "I've just caught Harry sneaking around. Apparently, he was seen in Hogsmeade a little while ago."

Remus's eyes flashed to Harry and down to the map in his hands. For a second, Harry thought he saw his jaw clench but it quickly passed as Remus turned to Snape. "Nonsense, Severus. Harry couldn't have been in Hogsmeade."

"And just why is that?" Snape asked.

Remus gave a half-glance in Harry's direction and Harry wisely stayed silent, wondering what Remus was going to say.

"Because he's been with me. We've been going over his vampire essay for the last hour. I sent Harry up to get his book so that I could show him where to make changes. I only came looking for him because he'd been gone for so long, but now I see why." Remus laughed. "Give the boy a break, Sev. He's not always up to mischief."

Snape didn't look like he believed Remus at all, though he didn't question him about it. Instead, he turned back to Harry. "Is this true?"

"Yes," Harry lied immediately.

Snape sighed. "Go inside and get your book." Harry turned to do as he was told but before he could say the password to the Fat Lady, Snape spoke again, "Harry?"

Harry looked back. "Yes, sir?"

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have accused you."

Harry's stomach dropped at the words and he quickly nodded before turning and climbing through the portrait hole.

He took longer to grab his book than he needed to, but he thought it would be best to give Remus some time to calm down. He wasn't sure how, but Remus knew the truth. He knew that Harry had snuck out and even though he had covered up for him, Harry didn't think he was just going to let this go.

When he did come back out, he found Ron standing next to Remus, his head bowed low. Harry didn't think this could get much worse.

"Remus, I—"

"I don't want to hear it," Remus said shortly. He motioned for them to follow him and they did. He led them to the nearest empty classroom and shut the door firmly behind them. "Give me the map, Harry."

Both Harry and Ron's eyes widened in shock and they looked at each other before Harry looked back to Remus.

"Yes, I know it's a map. I'm not going to ask you how you got it, but I will assure you that you won't be getting it back." Remus held his hand out and Harry sighed. He had no choice but to hand over the map, but he did so grudgingly.

Remus took it and looked at it for a long moment before putting it in the pocket of his robes. Then he glared at the boys. "I cannot believe that you would have something like this in your possession and not think to turn it in." His voice started out low and calm but rose as he went on. "What if Sirius Black were to get his hands on this?! Did you not realize that it would lead him straight to you?! After everything that has happened, you would still be so foolish as to keep this!"

"I'm sorry," Harry murmured. He didn't think he would ever get used to Remus being angry with him. It was almost worse than when Snape was angry.

"You should be," Remus said quietly. "Harry, I know that you know this, but your parents died to keep you alive, and I would have thought that their sacrifice would mean more to you than keeping something like this just to have a bit of fun."

Harry couldn't speak around the lump in his throat so he merely nodded his head, lowering it so that Remus wouldn't see the tears that had gathered in his eyes and were threatening to overflow. Remus didn't say anything as Harry focused on pulling himself together. He waited patiently, leaning against the edge of a desk with his arms in the pockets of his robes.

"Are you going to tell him?" Harry finally asked, looking back up.

Remus sighed. "I really should. He'd no doubt use me for potions experiments if he ever found out." Harry deflated even more and Remus moved away from the desk to stand directly in front of him. He put a hand on his shoulder and said, "No, but do not expect me to cover for you again. Harry, I'll be the first to admit that I don't mind a bit of trouble. I've already told you about some of the pranks I was involved in while at school, but this is different and you know it. Sneaking out under that cloak to Hogsmeade when you know that dementors and Sirius Black are all out there was more than just a bit of trouble. It was dangerous and none of us will ever be okay with you putting yourself in dangerous situations just for the sake of fun. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir," Harry said immediately.

Remus nodded. "Alright, now I want you both to go up to your dormitory. I think you've earned some time inside don't you think?"

"Yes, sir," Harry and Ron answered, though Harry was sure Ron was already debating the unfairness of it all.

"And don't even think of stopping anywhere else along the way," Remus said as he patted the pocket where he had placed the map. "If you do, I'll know."

"Just so you know," Harry said as he turned to leave, "I don't think that map always works."

"And why is that?"

"Because the other night it showed your friend on there, Peter Pettigrew. When I went to find him, his name was there, but the corridor where it said he was was empty."

"That's impossible," Remus said sadly. "Peter died twelve years ago. I told you that."

"Then the map has to be wrong."

Remus looked thoughtful for a moment before he shook his head. "Go on. And don't think I didn't notice that you just admitted to being out after curfew, Harry. Don't let it happen again."

Harry nodded and he and Ron left, closing the classroom door behind them quietly. They didn't say a word to each other all the way back to the tower and when they climbed back through the portrait hole, they found Hermione sitting alone in the Common Room.

"Come to have a good gloat?" Ron said sharply.

"No," Hermione answered as she held out a piece of parchment for them to see. "Hagrid lost the hearing on Buckbeak."

Both Ron and Harry sighed and Ron took the note. He read aloud Hagrid's words about how Buckbeak was going to be executed but that he had been allowed to bring him back to Hogwarts for now. The three of them sunk down onto the couch closest to the fireplace and Hermione pulled herself back towards the corner, drawing her legs up under her as she stared silently at the dying embers.

Harry and Ron exchanged looks above her head and then Ron spoke, "We're sorry, Hermione. But they'll be an appeal, right? We'll help you!"

"Ron's right. Everything will work out."

Hermione turned around as she wiped her eyes and then promptly threw her arms around Ron. "I'm really sorry about Scabbers, Ron!"

Ron awkwardly patted her shoulder and said, "Oh, er… it's alright. He really was kind of old. Probably was a better way for him to go anyway, I suppose. Quicker at least."

When Hermione finally pulled away, she wiped her eyes again before focusing on Harry. "Did you get back alright?" Harry groaned and dropped his head back against the couch. "You got caught? Was Snape terribly angry? How long are you in trouble for?"

"I'm not," Harry said quietly.

Then he sat up and told her everything, making sure to leave nothing out.

"And that's not even the worst of it," he said when he finished his story.

"You lied to Snape's face," Ron exclaimed, "How much worse can it be?"

Harry sighed. "I went to see him this morning. So that he would think I had stayed here instead of going to Hogsmeade. We talked for a bit and… well, I… I called him 'dad.'" He ignored the way Hermione's eyes lit up at the news and went on. "It wasn't the first time. But the first time was a few days ago and I didn't know what to do or say or how he felt about it so I sort of was avoiding him, I guess. But then this morning we had a talk and everything worked out and he said he thought of me like a son."

"Then what's the problem, mate?" Ron asked. "Everything's fine then."

Harry shook his head. "It's not. Because if he finds out I was only there because I was planning to sneak out, he'll think I lied about all of that, too. And what if he's so angry at me that he changes his mind about thinking of me as a son?" Harry's voice was rising slightly and Hermione reached over to place a comforting hand on his arm. "And I feel really really guilty about lying to him! How am I supposed to face him after this?"

"Harry," Hermione said softly, "why don't you just go and tell him the truth?"

"Because Snape will murder him, Hermione!" Ron was quick to answer.

"Oh, he will not. If anything, he'll be proud that Harry was able to admit that he had done wrong."

"I feel like you can't have ever really been in trouble with your parents before."

"Of course I have!"

"Name one time," Ron crossed his arms.

"Well, they weren't at all happy with me last year when we went into the Chamber. Or the year before that when we—"

"Those were extreme measures," Ron said. "They don't count because we were trying to help people. When have you been in trouble for regular kid stuff?"

Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment before replying, "I nicked an apple from a fruit market once when I was ten."

Ron rolled his eyes and Harry couldn't help but laugh. "My point exactly. If Harry tells Snape the truth, we won't see him outside of classes until the end of the school year."

By the next day, Harry wasn't feeling any better about lying to Snape. He tried to work out why exactly that it was bothering him so much. At the beginning of summer, Harry wouldn't have cared one bit about lying to him. For that matter, it wouldn't have bothered him too much even at the end of summer. He couldn't seem to figure out when everything had changed and gotten so complicated. He supposed when he and Snape had decided to continue with the guardianship into the school year, but even that felt different than this. This was something else entirely. It was like he needed Snape in all areas of his life. That was new to Harry because he wasn't used to needing anyone.

And it wasn't even just Snape. Harry was becoming unusually attached to Albus and Minerva and was beginning to think of them as his own grandparents. Remus had well and truly become his uncle. The only experience he'd had with uncles was Vernon, but Remus wasn't anything like Uncle Vernon had been.

When Harry thought about Remus, his heart sank a little lower. They had become rather close since Christmas. At least once a week Remus would send him a note asking if he wanted to have tea with him (this only happened when he wasn't sick of course), and Harry always went. They would spend a couple of hours talking about Harry and what was going on in his life. He'd help him with homework if he needed it or tell him stories about his parents or his time at Hogwarts. He usually had a few good ones about Snape as well. But now he was disappointed in him worse than he'd ever been and Harry wasn't sure what to do to make it right with him. He had already apologized, but surely he needed to do more than that.

Harry skipped breakfast that morning. His stomach was so tied up in knots that he didn't think he could eat anything even if he tried. Instead, he had stayed up in his dormitory all day. More accurately, he had stayed in his bed all day, staring listlessly out the window as rain pelted down outside. Hermione tried again to convince him to just tell Snape the truth but Harry wouldn't do it. It wouldn't even just be him that Snape would be mad at. He would be mad at Remus for covering for him, too, and Harry didn't want that.

When lunch time came around, Ron came up to the dormitory and handed Harry a note.

"It's from Snape," Ron answered Harry's unasked question. "He saw me in the hallway and asked me to give it to you."

Harry opened the folded piece of parchment and read Snape's neat scrawl.

"Family dinner tonight at six. We'll meet in our quarters at a quarter-til. Don't be late. Have a good day. I love you. -Dad"

Harry groaned and lay back across his bed. He held the note out for Ron to take.

"Look at this. Look what he said! What's he playing at?"

Ron read the note and then sat down on the bed beside Harry. "Mate, you know I hate to agree with her, but maybe Hermione's right. I think the guilt gut is getting to you. You haven't been doing this long enough to build up an immunity to it yet."

Harry sat up and looked at Ron. "What?"

Ron shrugged. "I dunno. It's what Fred and George say though."

Harry rolled his eyes and lay back down. "What about Remus?"
"Remus is an adult who can take care of himself." Ron stood up and then reached a hand out to Harry who took it and allowed himself to be pulled up to standing. "Look, you're probably going to get grounded for a while. Maybe you'll get extra chores or he'll make you write some ridiculously long essay, but you'll feel better in the long run. And take it from me: the longer you wait, the harder it'll be. Just get it over with."

Harry sighed. He almost wished he had just admitted it as soon as he'd been caught. Surely that would have been better than this constant churning in his stomach. He pulled out the chain around his neck that held the key to the magic door. Now that they were being open about everything, Harry hadn't needed to use it much, but he wanted to get this over with sooner rather than later. Before he concentrated on bringing up the door, Harry ran his thumb over the engraved phoenix on his arm cuff. He hoped that once Snape knew the truth, he wouldn't regret ever giving it to him.

Harry stepped into their parlor and called out for Snape who came out of the lab a moment later.

"We're not leaving for several hours, Harry," Snape said.

"I know," said Harry quietly. "I need to talk to you."

"Oh?" Snape took a seat in his chair and motioned for Harry to sit as well.

Harry sat down but didn't immediately speak. He kept his head down and was biting his bottom lip as he wrung his hands in front of him.

"Harry," Snape spoke softly, "whatever it is, it's alright."

"No, it's not." Harry looked up then and summoned all the Gryffindor courage he could muster. "I lied to you yesterday."

Snape sighed. "I see. Why?"

"Because I didn't want to get caught!" Harry said as if that much should have been obvious.

"Fair enough I suppose. Why are you telling me now?"

"Because I felt too guilty," Harry murmured.

"So then yesterday morning, when you came to see me, was that just your way of having proof that you had been here and not at Hogsmeade?"

"No. I mean, yes, I came down here because I wanted you to see me, but everything else with us talking wasn't part of it. I swear, I wasn't lying about any of that."

Snape could hear the sincerity in Harry's voice and knew that about this much at least, he hadn't been lying. He sighed. "I could yell at you because Merlin knows there is plenty that I'd like to say, but I have a feeling that Remus may have already gotten that point across."

Harry snapped his eyes up but before he could even begin to explain how Remus had become involved in all of this (not that he had an explanation), Snape spoke again. "Remus is not as good at lying as he thinks he is. I knew something was up last night but I didn't want to further accuse you without proof. I do try and not assume the worst from you, you know."

"I'm sorry," Harry said as he picked at a loose thread on his shirt. "But don't be mad at Remus."

"That's between me and him. Right now we're talking about you. This is serious, Harry. I know you understand the dangers you put yourself in. We've talked about this, and about you sneaking out and lying to me. Haven't we?"

Harry sighed. "We have."

"Do you remember what I said would happen if I found out you had snuck out again or put yourself in danger by disobeying me?"

"Dad," Harry whined.

Snape raised an eyebrow. "Harry, you've only just started calling me that. There's no need to already be using it with such a whiny tone. What did I say would happen?"

Harry groaned. "You said you'd ground me for a month."

"And since coming to live with me, do I often tell you things only to back out of them later?"

"It wouldn't bother me if you did," Harry replied cheekily.

"Well, it would bother me. It would bother me greatly to know that you couldn't rely on me to keep my word."

"So I guess I'm grounded, then?"

"You are. For one month you will not leave our quarters except for classes unless we are going somewhere together. You will not be allowed up in Gryffindor Tower and your friends cannot come down here."

"What about quidditch?" Harry was sure that he wouldn't be able to handle it if Snape took flying away from him too.

"Quidditch is a school activity, but you won't be allowed to fly unless you are at practice or a match."

Harry nodded. It was better than nothing.

"I want you to go and get your cloak and bring it back to me." At Harry's look of absolute horror, Snape quickly went on, "I don't intend to keep it forever, Harry. I'm just going to hold on to it until your grounding is over. Then you can have it back, provided you give your word that you won't use it for any more sneaking around."

"But that's not fair!"

"That's more than fair, young man. You can either go and get it, and I'll even give you a few minutes to explain what's happened to your friends so that they know where you'll be. Or if I do find it, I'll put it up until your graduation."

Harry didn't doubt that he would do it either. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at the floor. "Fine."

"Go on, then," Snape said. "You've got twenty minutes. That's more than enough time."

Harry was up and out of the door as quickly as possible, leaving Snape feeling like the bad guy.

Harry came back with barely a minute to spare and shoved the cloak into Snape's hands before stalking off to his bedroom.

When Snape came to get him a couple of hours later so that they could floo to Minerva's quarters, Harry was lying on his bed, glaring up at the ceiling.

"It's time to go,"

"Go without me," Harry snapped.

"I'll add that to the list of things that are absolutely not going to happen," Snape replied sarcastically, a smirk on his lips as he turned away from Harry. "We're flooing out in five minutes. You had better be ready to go."

"Or what? You'll ground me?"

Snape whirled back around. "You are not angry because I grounded you. You knew that would happen from the moment you decided to come and tell me the truth. You're angry that I've taken away your cloak. I promise you, Harry, this attitude will not get it back for you any sooner. Now, get up, put on your shoes, and let's go."

Snape left and went to wait by the fireplace. He took a few deep breaths and could already feel his irritation subsiding. By the time Harry had joined him, he was once again calm and in control.

That is until they stepped out of the floo and Snape caught sight of Remus sitting at the table, holding a cup of coffee between his hands.

He crossed the room in just a few long strides and leaned across the table with his hands gripping the edge.

"Problem, Severus?" Remus asked, barely glancing up at his brother.

"You lied to me, and you helped Harry lie to me."

Remus glanced sideways at Harry who ducked his head. "Severus—"

Minerva walked in from the kitchen and took in the scene in front of her. "No fighting at my table," she said sternly, correctly guessing that something was going on.

Snape and Remus continued to glare at one another before Snape stood up and walked out of the kitchen, Remus following behind him a second later. Once they were inside the living room, Snape threw up a silencing charm before he rounded on Remus once more, "It's not up to you how I take care of him."

"I never said that it was."

"Then why did you do that? You knew he snuck out and instead of letting me handle it, you covered for him."

"First of all," Remus said as he put his hands in his trouser pockets, "I didn't know he had snuck out until I saw the two of you in the hallway. It's not like I knew he was planning to and then just let it happen. Yes, I covered for him. What do you want me to say, Severus? I'm sorry? I'm sorry. But at the time it felt like the right thing to do."

"What if Black had—"

"He didn't. And believe me, I let Harry know in no uncertain terms that what he did was wrong and dangerous." Remus sighed, "If it weren't for Sirius, Harry would have been at Hogsmeade with everyone else. He just wants to feel normal for once, Sev. Can't you understand that feeling? I certainly can."

"That's not the point. These are not normal circumstances. If Black were caught, it would be different."

"And what if he never gets caught? Are you just going to forbid Harry from doing anything at all? He'll start to resent you, Severus."

"If it means he'll be safe, I can handle it."

"I think you're being a bit too overprotective." Remus took a seat in the chair and leaned forward so that his elbows rested on his knees. "But you're right. It wasn't my place and I'm sorry."

Snape sat down on the couch. "I suppose we're all still learning."

"How did you find out, anyway?" Remus asked.

"He confessed. The guilt was getting to him. Not that confessing has made him any less angry at me for punishing him."

"He's still getting used to punishments that don't include fists flying towards his face. Until you, he'd never known anything else. At least for you, you could remember a time before your dad was abusive, when getting grounded was what was expected. Harry didn't have that luxury."

Snape nodded, then after a moment he said, "He called me 'dad' the other day."

"I was wondering when he would finally pluck up the courage to say it," Remus said, smiling. "I bet that was surprising for you."

"I spent about thirty minutes wondering if I had actually heard him correctly."

Remus laughed. "So a real shock then?"

Before Snape could reply, Harry came into the living room. "Minnie says to finish your argument later and come sit down for dinner."

Snape stood up and tried unsuccessfully to ruffle Harry's hair, but Harry was too quick and ducked away from him. Then he walked out, leaving Harry alone with Remus who was also standing. He put his arm around Harry's shoulder and said, "How long are you grounded for?"

"A month," Harry replied sullenly. "And he took my cloak."

Remus chuckled, "I can't tell you how many times your Grandpa Fleamont took it away from your dad. He kept it for an entire summer after our sixth year."

"Really? Why?"

"Because he found out that we had used it nearly every night during the month of April to play pranks on the Slytherins."

"You played a prank on them every night for a month? How did you finally get caught?"

They had just sat down at the table, Remus on one side and Harry next to Snape.

"Someone," Remus shot a pointed look in Snape's direction, "couldn't take a joke and told on us."

"You let loose Cornish pixies in the dorm rooms! Avery ended up in the Hospital Wing."

Remus shrugged. "He had it coming."

"So then what happened?" Harry asked, grinning from ear to ear.

"Exactly what you would think," Remus said, "Mr. Potter took the cloak away from James when he got home that summer and grounded him, I got grounded for a month, and we all had detention for weeks. But it was worth it."

Minerva came in carrying a roasted chicken with Albus right behind her. "You should have been ashamed of yourselves," she said, putting the chicken down and taking a seat.

"Most of them were harmless." Remus defended with a grin.

"Harry, don't get any ideas," Snape said. "Besides, it's not as easy to get into the Slytherin Common Room as it used to be."

"It's not that hard," Harry said without thinking. He then turned a bright shade of red when he saw the adults all looking at him. Remus was still grinning but Snape's eyes were narrowed at him. "Er… I mean, I bet it's not as hard as you think."

"I think it's time we started eating now," Albus said, his own eyes glimmering with mirth as he winked at Harry, who quickly began to fill his plate.

The conversation quickly turned away from pranks and mischief as everyone ate and talked about their day. Harry was having such a nice time that he forgot, at least for the moment, that he was angry at Snape. When Snape offered him an extra bit of dessert, most likely as a peace offering, Harry took it with a smile as he said, "Thanks, Dad."

He didn't see the exchanged looks between Albus and Minerva, or the smile on Remus's face as he took a bite of the pudding, but when Snape dropped his hand down onto the back of his neck to give it a gentle squeeze, he leaned into the touch and thought about how glad he was to be there.