The Taming of Harry Potter
by Mel J
CHAPTER TWELVE- A Time To Heal
"Where there is great love, there are always miracles."
~ Willa Cather
"Child of the wilderness
Born into emptiness
Learn to be lonely
Learn to find your way in darkness"
~ 'Learn to Be Lonely', written by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
"Pain of words long left unsaid,
aches in my ears that long for a kind sound,
nothing is ever done, instead,
swallowed words make my diet, days around,
tremblings, shakings, many shivers,
to bruise coloured clouds in sky lit with warm yellow,
small, shining, dot soul quivers,
I finally let out the screams and bellows."
~ lunas twin
Sighing in sheer contentment, Severus added another measured drop of essence of hellebore into the simmering cauldron with his left hand as his right hand never let up the steady rhythm of stirring the brew in a perfect figure of eight. It was moments like this that allowed him to cope with spending endless days of enduring dundering brats mutilate the beautiful art that was Potion Making.
He was only brewing a simple Draft of Peace, a task he could do in his sleep, yet it felt wonderful to indulge in his favourite activity. Not that he wasn't fond of Harry but there was only so long one could watch a small boy play. Severus' respect for Molly Weasley had shot sky-high; the woman had to have the patience of a saint to be able to spend the majority of her days over the past twenty-five years constantly with children clamouring around her. After only a month, he felt he would explode in frustration if he had to muster a smile at yet another picture presented to him or recite the blasted alphabet one more time.
Severus turned to the doorway of his laboratory to find Koosey standing there hand-in-hand with Harry. The child was fascinated, his eyes darting from the shelves of bottled brightly coloured and bizarre substances to the bubbling cauldron. It was as if he didn't know what to look and, judging by his fidgety fingers, touch first.
This was the only room in the house that was off-limits to the boy since there were so many deadly wonders within easy reach of small hands. There would be hell to pay if the Boy Who Lived was poisoned in the home of a Death Eater. Severus had thought to child-proof his lab but not only was he loathe to alter his little sanctuary, he felt that laying down some rules for Harry would provide the child with some boundaries and discipline, both of which would be essential if he were to attend Hogwarts.
"Koosey has made some scones for Lord Severus and Little Master Harry's afternoon tea. Will Lord Severus be coming to the Drawing Room?"
Severus mulled it over, studying Harry for a long moment. "No, I think we shall have it here for a change."
Koosey gasped at the announcement. "But Koosey thought Little Master Harry is not allowed in Lord Severus' laboratory. It is not safe for little boys."
"Little boys who are good may enter provided they are accompanied." Severus directed his next question at Harry. "Harry, do you give me your word you'll not to touch anything and to never come here unless I am with you?" The child jerked his head up his guardian, nodding solemnly. "Then if you're a good boy, you may come in and we shall have afternoon tea in here. Would you like that?"
Harry's face lit up and, shaking off Koosey's hand, he dashed into the lab and promptly plopped down at a table in the corner before the older man could change his mind. Severus nodded to his House Elf, who with a click of her fingers, produced the essentials needed for tea as well as a plate of hot, buttered scones and a dish of strawberry jam.
Once everything was laid out, Koosey vanished with a 'pop' leaving Severus to pour tea into two bone china cups, a strong brew for himself and a sweet, milky cup for Harry. The boy gingerly held the dainty cup in his hands, obviously aware of how fragile it was. He did have a special double-handled mug to drink hot beverages from but lately he wanted to emulate everything Severus did: be it rejecting his morning glass of pumpkin juice in favour of a milky version of Severus' morning coffee to stalking around the house in his robes rather than taking up the option to wear Muggle clothing to drinking from the same type of crockery as his guardian.
The older wizard watched the child struggle with the cup for a minute before drawing out his wand. Harry instinctively flinched at the sight of the wand, indicating he was not as comfortable with magic as Severus would have liked, but the fact he didn't cower under the table was enough to show his ability to trust was not impaired. The boy blinked in surprise when he saw the two delicate cups had been transfigured into chunky, double-handled mugs. He watched Severus casually lift his mug and take a sip of tea then turned dubious eyes to his own cup.
"Are you not thirsty?" Severus politely asked, as dignified as one could be when enjoying Earl Grey from a toddler's drinking cup. He picked up a nearby Potions journal and began reading, giving Harry the time to make his own choices.
Severus' prompting was all the reassurance Harry needed. Now his teacup was easier to handle, the boy happily slurped down his tea, stopping at intervals to gobble down three scones. Although Harry still ate like a horse, his appetite was that of a healthy boy. He no longer ate with the vigour only seen in those poor souls who never knew when their next meal would come.
And like any other growing boy, Harry polished off his tea and scones within minutes. His hunger sated, he was now able to properly focus his attention on his surroundings. From the corner of his eye, Severus watched in amusement as Harry discreetly edged off his seat, casting sideways glances to ensure his guardian was still reading the journal. When he thought he was safe to move, the child crept over to admire the bottles of preserved animal body parts before inching along to the simmering cauldron and, standing on his tip-toes, peered inside. Severus was ready to dive on him if it looked like the boy was liable to touch the contents of the cauldron and burn himself but, to his credit, Harry just gave a tentative sniff of the steam.
"It's called the Draft of Peace," Severus murmured. Harry jumped in fright, whirling around to face the other wizard. Severus set his journal down then stepped up to approach behind the child. "The one who ingests it will feel a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity."
Harry scrunched his nose at the sickly-sweet smell emitted by the brewing potion then looked doubtfully at his guardian.
"It's only in the early stages of the brewing process; when it is finished, I assure you its smell will be more acceptable." Severus paused thoughtfully. "Would you like to help, Harry?"
The child's eyes nearly popped out in surprise that such a question would be directed at him. He then heaved a sigh and gazed at his shoes in what could only be self-pity. Harry was a boy who had every right to indulge in feeling sorry for himself but Severus refused to allow him to wallow. Seeing oneself as the perpetual victim was an infamous Gryffindor trait, and one Severus did not want to see in a child who had already proven himself to be a fighter.
"There is much you can do to help if you are willing to put in the work," he curtly informed the youngster.
Harry started slightly at the stern tone but he didn't seem frightened. By now, he thankfully appeared able to discern the difference between Severus scolding or pushing him to be all he could be, and his uncle's cruel taunts. Gathering up his courage and straightening up, Harry bobbed his head in acquiescence then moved closer to the older wizard's side.
"*Accio stool*," Severus ordered, swishing his wand in the direction of a small footstool. He could easily have called the stool to him using non-verbal, wandless magic but it was imperative Harry grew used to seeing wands in action since soon the boy would be utilizing magic himself. It skittered across the floor to a halt in front of a nearby work table and he lifted Harry onto it so the child could reach the table without straining himself. "Is that better?"
The boy nodded, flashing a grateful smile.
"Good, now let us get you started."
After laying out a bundle of lavender on the worktable, Severus picked up a scalpel and, for a moment, he hesitated. Should he really be allowing a small child handle sharp objects? Albus and Minerva would have his head if he presented a fingerless Harry to them. He gazed down to meet Harry's expectant eyes then sighed as he handed the eager boy the scalpel.
It was easy to forget that Harry was *not* a small child. He was eleven years old and, under different circumstances, should have been a First Year at Hogwarts taking Potions classes alongside the other dunderheads who would have been his classmates. And in those circumstances, Severus wouldn't have given a second thought to him using a scalpel.
It was time to let the boy go; allow him to develop at his own pace and make up for four years of lost childhood. For how could Harry ever grow confident in his own abilities if his guardian showed no confidence in him?
"Be careful with that," Severus couldn't help but add, "it won't do to chop off your fingers."
Harry gave a vague nod, too focused in boyish glee on the scalpel he held in his hand. Boys would be boys. He was very vigourous in his chopping to begin with, thoroughly enjoying the feelings of maturity that wielding the scalpel gave him, but after a few minutes he relaxed and sliced in a more rhythmic manner, his full concentration on his task. The result of his efforts were clumsy but still as good as what the average First Year would produce. Perhaps Severus would make a Potions Master of the boy yet.
Under his guardian's supervision, Harry happily assisted with preparing the rest of the ingredients. He particularly seemed to enjoy using the mortar and pestle to grind up a selection of spices and, although he did struggle slightly with the hefty weight of the black marble utensils, he persevered.
"You're doing very well, Harry," Severus murmured, "You seem to be a natural."
The boy smiled in delight at the praise and Severus couldn't help but share in his smile. He'd always felt more comfortable dealing with the senior school when pupils were at an age when they actually wanted to work in class so he had little patience with the junior forms. He had forgotten, until now, that many young children needed praise- provided they deserved it, of course- to encourage them on with their lessons.
*I do believe that just as I am teaching you, child, you are teaching me,* Severus mused inwardly.
With curiousity and his usual fear, Harry watched as Severus stirred various ingredients into the brewing potion, fortifying the concoction with his magic and stirring the mixture at specifically timed moments. The youngster jumped down from his stool to stand by the older wizard's side.
Severus glanced down at the boy, whose head was tilted in askance. "Potion-making is not just about throwing ingredients into a cauldron. One has to enhance the blend with their magic, stir at the very right moment, know exactly when the add a particular ingredient and how much to put in. It takes great concentration. You see, Harry, it's important that this be done properly because these potions are used by people who desperately need them, people who are sick or injured."
Harry nodded earnestly before retreating back to the desk where there seemed to be renewed determination to his work. Severus watched him for a moment; classes would be so much easier if more of the dunderheads he had the misfortune to teach have just an ounce of Harry's drive.
Man and boy worked side-by-side through the afternoon and well into the evening. Severus had Harry assist in as much as the youngster was capable of, from chopping ingredients to gathering required tools to carefully adding particular ingredients to the brewing cauldron. He even had the boy once help stir the potion, with Severus guiding in movements. Harry had given a surprised squeal when he felt his guardian's magic wash through him and into the brew yet he seemed to enjoy the sensation and, from the briefest moment, Severus had felt the child's own raw magic burst out in response.
It was past tea time when the potion was finally complete bottled; Harry had taken particular joy in helping to bottle the draft and Severus tried his best not wince when more potion ended up spilt on the floor than in the bottles.
The older wizard took one of the bottles and held it up to Harry, letting himself smile in warmth and paternal pride. "Congratulations, Harry, you have just successfully brewed the Draft of Peace, a potion that children four years older than you struggle with. Never forget this moment. You're an intelligent boy who is capable of anything if you're willing to put your mind and determination into the task." He handed the bottle to the boy. "Why don't you keep this bottle as a reminder of how well you did today. And perhaps another day we will work on different potion."
Harry held the potion bottle reverently, his eyes bright with his own pride and excitement, and nodded happily at his guardian's offer to assist in more potions' making. The activities of the afternoon led Severus to have rethink the youngster's education. It was difficult to teach Harry basic lessons in maths and reading when he was unable to speak but that did not mean he could not start the child on wizarding subjects. Harry was never going to be at an age-appropriate level in reading if he were to start Hogwarts in the next school year but that did not mean he could not have an advantage in other subjects such as Potions, DADA and the like. Severus dearly wanted Harry's school life to be more enjoyable than his own and while he could not find the boy friends, he could help in ensuring he did not struggle too much with his lessons. He intended to hire a tutor for Harry to help with the core subjects but he resolved to begin him on a light curriculum of the subjects he would learn at Hogwarts.
For the first time since he met the boy, Severus finally had a vision of Harry standing before the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall dressed smartly in his Hogwarts robes.
Sitting around a table in the drawing room, Albus had come to Snape Manor to discuss a suitable tutor for young Harry. He had caught only a glimpse of the boy himself before the youngster had dived to hide under the table, a small hand emerging every so often to snatch a biscuit from the plate on table surface. Albus was desperate to enjoy the same regular, face-to-face contact with Harry as Minerva was starting to establish, and seeing the boy for those few seconds today only augmented that wish. He dearly wanted Harry to come to trust him, see him as an almost mentor who he could approach in times of need. But he knew not to push. For now, it was enough to take in the healthy, happy glow of the child and realize how far he had come under the watchful gaze of his young guardian.
Albus remained patient in the face of such opposition. "He would be very good with Harry, and already has a connection to the child."
"*Had* a connection," Severus said, firmly. "He hasn't bothered to see the boy in ten years. And if Potter had any sense, he would have put a stop to any visits with that craven cretin when Harry was born. He's certainly the last person I would let near my child."
"Now, Severus, do please try to be reasonable about this."
It was apparent Severus was not at all impressed with Albus' suggestion of a tutor. To work with a child as special as Harry, who was not only fragile but also very precious key to defeating a Dark threat facing the world, the teacher would have to be both patient and be trustworthy. With this in mind, Albus felt Remus Lupin would have been the perfect man for the job. He was a member of the Order, a good friend of the Potters' and had a smattering of teaching experience he had gleaned from his travels. Yet Severus still refused to see Remus as anything but a werewolf, a dangerous monster who was a threat to society.
Severus' silky tone cut through the elderly man's reverie. "I'm sorry, Headmaster, but I am being very reasonable. You wish to have a monster teach a traumatised child how to conduct himself in the civilised world?! What next- have us go to Knockturn Alley and hire any old Hag or vagabond to teach the boy manners? Hire in the Dementors to tutor him in lessons of love and affection?"
"Now, now, Severus, there's no need for sarcasm. Remus would make an excellent teacher for Harry; he is just the sort of man who could help you with the boy." Severus just glared back, unrelenting, and Albus sighed wearily. "Fine, I see there is no point in pursuing that line of inquiry...Who do you have in mind?"
Harry was Severus' child now; he was the one who had to make the decisions regarding the boy's care now. Albus knew he had to respect that the day the younger man agreed to care for the youngster and, just as he would not have interfered with how James and Lily raised their son, he had to stand back to allow Severus, acting in loco parentas, make most of the major decisions in Harry's life.
"Anyone but Lupin," Severus muttered. "I don't want that monster anywhere near m- the boy or my land."
"Have you considered Morag Wallace?" Albus watched, in amusement, as a small hand emerged from under the table yet again to snatch a biscuit. "I know she doesn't act as governess after her retirement but she might be willing to make an exception in this special case."
In her time, Madame Morag Wallace was a revered governess within the wizarding world, with prominent Pureblooded families vying for the chance for her to teach their offspring. She only accepted ten lucky pupils into her small class of four- to ten-year-olds so competition was tight, her former pupils often being the finest of Britain's wizarding population including a young Severus Snape and Lucius Malfoy. It had brought great shame to one particular Pureblood family when their spoilt six-year-old son and heir was expelled for acting up; the boy, none other than the infamous murderer Sirius Black, then went on to attend the prep school in London where he befriended the young Potter heir whom he would go on to betray to his death.
The little hand popped out again only for Severus to gently capture it. "Have you eaten the other biscuit? Remember we talked about this, Harry, you can have all the biscuits you want but you must eat the one you have before taking another." There was a pause then the distinct sound of crunching. Severus smiled and let the boy have his biscuit.
Albus smiled inwardly as he imagined the Gryffindors fainting in shock if they saw the dreaded Head of Slytherin House was capable of such firm yet gentle discipline.
"Madame Wallace is an adequate choice," noted Severus, moving back to the subject at hand. "She knows how to be firm and fair with young children. Do you think she would be agreeable? She would have to come here for the lessons as Harry is not yet ready to face the wider world."
"I'll talk to her, she's a friend from my own schooldays, but I'm sure she will be happy to do it."
And Albus didn't doubt his old school chum would be jump at the chance not help, not because Harry was the vaunted Boy Who Lived but rather because he was a little boy who needed her support. And it would do the child good to have female influence on a frequent basis. Yes, Minerva did visit but only for a couple of hours every other week. Severus had the makings of being an excellent father but Harry could do with being mothered too. Not to mention, Morag was the sort to take Severus firmly in hand too, respecting his role in Harry's life but also refusing to let him bully her. Any tutor of Severus' foster son would need to have a strong, no-nonsense nature!
"Be careful, Harry," Severus warned as he, hand-in-hand, led his young charge into the vast, dimly-lit attic of the manor.
Determined to follow through on his plans to begin Harry on some of the First Year curriculum, Severus decided the attic was the first place to start in setting it all into action. Although he kept a copy of all the potions' text books he utilised in his classes, he didn't have up-to-date books from the other Hogwarts' core subjects. Minerva would have gladly sent him all that he needed but he staved off on asking her. Somewhere in the upper echelons of the manor were all his old text books and equipment left behind from his own school days that could easily be used by Harry for now. And when the boy was ready, they would go together to Diagon Alley to buy him his own supplies, crisp and new.
Severus was of two minds to bring Harry with him up into the attic, unsure of how the youngster would cope with a gloomy environment so very much like the cellar that was his prison for four years. And there was also the fact that this was Snape Manor so Merlin only knew how many Dark artefacts were hoarded up here by his ancestors. However, the child was keen to join him so Severus relented, allowing himself to be guided by Harry's behaviour.
Slipping out of his guardian's hand, Harry wandered off as boyish inquisitiveness took over. He reached into a trunk, pulling out a leather-bound photograph album. As the boy flicked through it, Severus glanced over his shoulders to see the photographs too.
"Those were of myself and my parents taken when I was only a few years younger than you are now," the older wizard explained, taking in the moving images immortalised into the pages.
Harry gazed at one particular photo of a toddler Severus held in the loving arms of a woman with long dark hair in a grassy meadow. He gently traced over the woman's figure with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"That was my mother...She would have liked you. She loved children, would have loved to have seen the Manor filled to the brim with children." Unfortunately, for her, Cassius Snape had squeezed metaphorically, then later literally, squeezed the life out of her before she could have added to her family.
His young charge seemed to sense the melancholy in his guardian's voice and so turned the page to a picture of Severus, aged about six or seven, sitting in the library dressed in full proper wizarding robes, sky blue in colour and adorned in lace and bows. At this, a soft giggle escaped Harry.
"That is a very respectable outfit for a small wizarding child," Severus said, miffed. He knew to Harry's Muggle-polluted mind that, because full wizarding robes meant trousers were forgone, the outfit resembled something more suited to a female. He smirked at the child. "I have a set of robes for you stored away for special occasions."
Harry looked up sharply and have a fervent shake of his head.
"Oh yes, I think you will look very fine."
Now the boy was grinning, still shaking his head.
"Your robes are a striking shade of pink," the older wizard tossed over his shoulder before resuming his search for the text books.
As Severus busied himself with his task, he left the boy to his own devices. It was only when he looked up half-an-hour later, having finally located the books as well as his old school potions' kit, that he realised Harry had been awfully quiet. Perhaps too quiet as he knew from his experience with his Slytherins that silent children were usually children up-to-no-good.
"Harry?" he called, suspiciously. "What are you up to?"
Standing up from his old school trunk, which he had been thrifting through, he turned to locate the wayward child. He didn't have to look too far. In a dark corner, there sat Harry with a tatter plush bear clutched in his arms.
The bear's once pristine white fur was now a matted dullish grey but Severus would have recognised it anywhere. It was Jakey Bear, his favourite stuffed animal from childhood. It was apparently the first gift his mother bequeathed him when he was born and he had carried it everywhere as he grew up. That was, until the day his father wrenched it from him, viciously telling Severus it was time he stopped behaving like a little girly boy and started acting like a proper Snape heir. He had been four-and-a-half years old. It seemed his mother had saved it from the fire and Severus felt wistfully impressed with her for mustering up the nerve to quietly defy Cassius Snape.
And now it seemed Jakey Bear had found itself a new carer.
"Do you like it, Harry?" The boy nodded, his eyes riveted to the bear and his arms tightly squeezing it to his chest. "Do you wish to keep it?"
Harry gazed up at him with those wide, green eyes. He then gave a hesitant nod, as if terrified his guardian would say 'no'. It only served to remind the older wizard just how much this boy had been deprived of the simpler joys in childhood that a stuffed toy could bring him such pleasure. Part of Severus felt Harry was too old for the toy as a First Year boy dragging around a teddy at night would only open him up to ridicule. And seven years of misery at the hands of the Marauders left him determined Harry would never face such victimisation when it was his turn to attend Hogwarts. However, what right did Severus have to push Harry's development just because the boy was not behaving as what one would expect from a normal boy of eleven?
If a plush bear made the child happy then so be it. They would worry about Hogwarts another day.
"Then it is yours. I'm sure you'll take good care of it."
For a moment Harry just stared at him then suddenly launched himself, teddy and all, against the older man. Severus jerked slightly in surprise then, tentatively, he reached his arms around Harry's slight frame. Neither Severus nor Harry were too keen on tactile affection, both too damaged by their pasts, but they were learning through each other.
Severus regarded Harry carefully. Since today was a day of gifts, perhaps it was time to introduce the boy to something he had purchased in London...
"Come with me, Harry, there is something I wish to show you. It's a surprise so you must wait for me to ready it."
Leaving Harry in the study, Severus prepared his 'gift', for lack of a better word, in the boy's bedroom. The surprise wasn't so much some wonderful treasure to behold but Severus hoped it would be something which would help Harry make increasing progress in a manner that wouldn't push him if he wasn't able.
Once everything was ready, the wizard went back to retrieve his young charge. "I hope you like this as much as you do the bear."
Teddy bear firmly in-hand and curiousity piqued, Harry trustingly followed his guardian up the staircase to his bedroom. When he set eyes upon his new present, he stilled then turned in puzzlement to Severus. Gone was the boy's single bed and it was now replaced by a more impressive four-poster double bed. Harry was still such a very little boy so Severus has decided against a queen or king-sized bed lest the boy feel lost in it. The wooden posts of the new bed were shaped by castle towers, the head and foot boards were chiselled to resembled walls and heavy dark green curtains draped down.
"Do you like it?" Severus asked, after a moment.
Harry uncertainly left the older man's side to properly inspect the bed. He lightly brushed the foot board with a finger before turning to his guardian expectantly. Contrary to Harry's bewilderment, there was actually a method to Severus' madness. And now it was time to reveal all.
"You must be awfully cold and sore when you sleep under that bed so I thought maybe you can use the curtains to keep the...badness away." He knelt down, taking the boy gently by the shoulders as their eyes met. "This will be your little castle, Harry, your space where no-one can ever hurt you at night and where you'll always be safe...You can still go under the bed if you choose but you don't have to. At least this way, you'll be nice and warm and comfortable."
The child gazed at the man with his impossibly green eyes then, slowly raised a hand to rest it on Severus' upper arm, giving a nod that contained a thousand words that one didn't have to be an Legilimens to understand. 'I'm ready to try; I can do this'.
And that was all Severus asked of him.
Severus regarded his former governess warily from across the desk. Madame Morag Wallace had changed little in the subsequent twenty-odd years since she had taught the young Snape heir, as immaculate and prim as always and still with that discerning squint to her eye, honed especially to catch little boys playing pranks and little girls gossiping when they should be studying. Like the ever-spry Dumbledore, Madame Wallace did not look like she'd lived a fraction of her hundred-and-thirty years and Severus didn't doubt for a second that her age and formal robes could stop her from keeping up with the exuburance of primary school children.
But the question was, could she cope with Harry?
Albus had explained the situation to her, editing out the parts on relevent to the ears of Order members, when he convinced her to take the job but Severus felt the need to re-iterate everything. He remained uncertain if one even as formidable as she was up to the very important and special role of educating Harry.
"So, Madame," Severus said, scrutinising her carefully, "you understand that Harry is...not like other children. He is very different, special if you like."
Madame Wallace met his glare unwaveringly. "Child, surely you of all people, in your duties as teacher and Head of House, have come to realise all children different and special in their own way."
"I assure you that Harry is not like any child you've ever met."
The old woman looked at him thoughtfully for a long minute before framing her response, a soft Scottish brogue apparent in her accent. "I know the boy has been through something no child should go through and, for the most part, he will not be like any child I've ever taught in my century of teaching. But, Severus...I have cared for abused children before."
Severus swallowed and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He knew that; he had been one of those sad, pathetic children. And, with that thought, came the realisation that he had found the right tutor for Harry. Madame Wallace could not have actively intervened to protect her wretched waifs from their brutal parents; the wizarding world was only now waking up to the fact abused children had to have provisions there provided by the Ministry to care for them but when Severus was a child, the consensus was that heirs were the property of their parents and anyone who objected otherwise would be summarily dismissed from the child's life. Speaking up would only make matters worse so instead Madame Wallace quietly supported her pupils, providing them with the love and cuddles they lacked from home without treading on the toes of the children's formidable parents. It wasn't a perfect solution but she was a lifeline for many neglected and hurt Purebloods and, to this day, even the most hardened of her former pupils remained forever grateful to her.
"Yes, I suppose you have," Severus said softly.
She knew him well enough to understand he would never have tolerated a hug so she bestowed him a warm, motherly smile instead. "Why not introduce me to your boy now?"
Severus directed her into the Drawing Room where Harry was playing with his train set and teddy bear under the watchful eye of Coby. The boy looked up when they entered the room and jumped to seek comfort from this stranger by hiding behind his foster father.
"Harry, do you remember we talked about your new teacher yesterday?" When the boy nodded, Severus continued, "This is Madame Wallace, she is to be the one who will teach you."
Madame Wallace did not blink an eye at the boy's skittish behaviour, familiar with the ways of the very young and the very pained. "Hello, Harry, Severus didn't tell me what a handsome young man you were. You look just like your grandfather Henry Potter. Did you know that you were named for him? 'Harry' for your grandfather and 'James' for your father. I taught your grandfather too when he was a little younger than you were now."
Clutching Severus' leg, Harry watched her in interest, clearly taking everything she said in.
"*The ones who did this to him; they have been dealt with?*" Madame Wallace asked, switching her tongue to fluent Latin.
"*It's been seen to. They will never be a threat to the child again.*" Severus replied, equally as schooled in the ancient language.
Harry tilted his head up, obviously aware that he was the subject of their conversation even if he could not understand what they were saying (at least for now; Latin lessons were on the agenda for the boy).
"Good," the Madame said simply in English, "dangerous animals must be put down. Although, it's a shame the deed has been done. I have to say that the Slytherin girl in me does enjoy a spot of blood sport if the opportunity arises."
There was a dangerous edge in the old woman's voice that warned she had moved with the times and was no longer content to sit back if she knew a child was being hurt by those who were supposed to care for him. From Harry's frown, the child seemed to realise that Madame Wallace was no ordinary sweet grandma-figure but he didn't appear frightened by this revelation. If anything, his tight hold on Severus's trouser leg relaxed an incriment.
"Are you ready, Harry?" Madame Wallace asked, turning her focus to the child. "Are you ready to learn your letters and numbers, and show everyone what a clever boy you are?"
Harry leaned against Severus, mulling it over, then nodded decisively. Just as it frustrated Severus that his lessons with the child had not progressed much, it was evident Harry himself was annoyed by this obstacle in his path. Severus had seen the flare of a Ravenclaw thirst for knowledge within the boy and was pleased Harry was willing to put his worries aside to accept the strange Madame Wallace was to him if that was what it took for him to be tutored.
"And are *you*ready, Madame?" Severus inquired as he rested a hand on Harry's shoulder, unaware of how possessive and protective he looked.
"Severus, my boy, I know that not all of my children have grown to be good, wholesome adults but they certainly have all become strong, intelligent adults that not many would not dare to cross."
Lucius Malfoy, the Black sisters, Estelle Sinistra, Saudeep Patil, Sturgis Podmore, Alice Spencer-Longbottom and many more were all small, timid toddlers when they sent to Madame Wallace's care as four- or five-year-olds and all grew to be the brightest and most gifted in wizarding society, albeit some choosing to walk a darker path in life. And all owed their determination, confidence and studiousness to the lessons their aging teacher implanted in them.
"I don't know what the destiny has in store for this wee one." She reached, hesitantly, to smooth Harry's tousled mop of hair. The boy started at the touch yet allowed it. "However, I promise that I will fulfill my part to ensure he is prepare to meet it head-on."
As the days turned to weeks, Harry was kept busy with plenty of activities. He began his lessons with Madame Wallace, who arrived at the manor every weekday at nine o'clock sharp to tutor the boy in the basic subjects. She had quickly built a grandmotherly rapport with the youngster, gaining his trust and providing a maternal presence in his life that had been lacking. Severus, on the other hand, saw to Harry's magical curriculum as they gradually worked their way through the First Year Potions curriculum, occasionally touching upon other subjects like Charms, Magical History and Latin. And, like all young boys, Harry also loved to spend as many hours as possible outdoors. Severus allowed him this freedom as often as possible although it wasn't easy since the days were so short now that, in typical British fashion, winter had well and truly arrived.
Since the first night in his new bed, Harry no longer sought the safety of crawling under the bed to escape his demons and instead pulled the curtains around shut if his nightmares threatened him. Even then, those nights were getting fewer and fewer as his sleep was no longer disrupted and he grew more settled in himself. He was still so far from being a normal eleven-year-old boy- wizard, Muggle, or otherwise- yet he had come so far given all he'd been through. Lesser men would have crumbled but this young boy just went from strength-to-strength, proving he had inherited his mother's will of steel.
And Severus would never forget that frosty mid-November's afternoon when *it* happened...
He'd always imagine it would be over a fantastic event when it would occur, something spectacular or disastrous would elicit such a response from the boy, but instead it couldn't have been more mundane. And yet, it felt so right to have happened this way.
It was nearing three o'clock and Koosey was about to start the supper. Baked fish, boiled potatoes and vegetables was on the menu, a meal intended to nourish growing brains, and Severus always allowed Harry to choose desert to compensate for the fact he knew fish prepared in this way was not the boy's favourite dish.
"We shall be having baked fish tonight, Harry," Severus explained, without looking up from the potions' journal he was perusing. He and the child were spending a couple of hours in the library with Harry amusing himself with a few picture books, the teddy bear by his side as his ever present companion these days. "But you may choose what you wish to have for pudding, if you like."
It took Severus a long moment to connect the source of the brittle, harsh response and when he did, he looked up to see Harry staring at him in a mix of determination and apprehension from where he was sitting opposite. Suddenly, the man, who had faced down Death Eaters and a psychotic Dark Lord without a second thought, was terrified. He was fearful of losing eye contact with the child and breaking the spell. He was petrified of reacting in a manner that would spook Harry and leave him feeling more self-conscious and lost, thus losing the child to a world of silence forever.
Lost for words, he quickly managed to compose himself enough to probingly ask, "Is that a 'no' to baked fish, I hear?"
Harry bit his lip, nervously, then shook his head. "No..."
The child's voice was hoarse from years of disuse, more like an old man's than a prepubescent boy's, and was marred by an edge of anxiety but it sounded so beautiful to Severus' ears. Pride in Harry swelled within him as he marvelled at the boy's bravery and sheer nerve. In the space of a minute, he crossed two boundaries; firstly, he had spoken after four years of mutism and trauma and, secondly, he had gained the confidence to refuse food, knowing Severus would not punish or starve him for doing so.
"Alright, does battered fish and chips sound better? Followed by chocolate cake?"
"Ye-es..." Harry murmured with a shy smile, carefully enunciating the word out due to his unfamiliarity with pushing words through his rusty vocal chords.
It was all Severus could do not to reach and sweep the boy into his arms. He never knew one could possibly feel such warmth and admiration for another until this day. Of course, he had always been proud of Harry's continual development but nothing like this...He felt more than a flicker of jealousy towards James Potter for siring a child so wonderful and perfect as the one who sat in front of him.
"Then I shall have Koosey change the menu right this very minute," Severus responded warmly, sharing in the boy's smile.
And for the first time ever, that band of worry, that had entrapped his heart whenever he thought of Harry and what the future held for him, eased slightly. His boy could *talk* and suddenly the path of infinite possibilities lay sparkling before him. No-one could hold him back now and they had all better be ready for Harry Potter to take his place in the world.
End of CHAPTER TWELVE- A Time To Heal
I really didn't like this chapter; I felt it was too choppy for my liking but it had to be told. I'm really sorry it's taken me so long to get it up. I've not only been busy with my course, I also suffered quite a bit of writer's block. I have to admit 'Half-Blood Prince' knocked me for six, not that I've ever lost faith in a certain someone but rather I didn't like how Hermione, Ginny and Tonks were portrayed and that, in turn, sort of put me off HP for a while. However, I still love the series and am desperate to read book seven (and eager to be proven right when it comes to my theories!). Anyway, thank you to everyone who had reviewed and not given up on me, and I finish this story if it kills me. Also, thank you to lunas-twin for his/her poem, which I've used in the beginning and felt was quite fitting for this chapter.
Please let me know what you think of this chapter as well as any views you have on the rest of the story.