Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters.
Web of Lies: Revelations
Christmas started out as a very cold day. It was snowing heavily outside and the wind was howling. Harry woke up slowly that morning and hearing the sounds coming from outside, he buried his face deeper into the blankets and closed his eyes, willing himself to fall asleep once more. Sadly for him, Severus didn't have the same idea. Barely a few minutes later, the man strode into the room and opened the curtains so that the slight, winter light filled the room. The teenager lying on the bed, buried his head deeper under the blankets, trying to ignore everything going on around him.
Severus snorted when he looked towards the bed and all he saw were a few strands of black hair. He had half expected to be wakened up very early in the morning so that they could open presents, but it seemed that Harry didn't share that with his fellow teenagers. A small voice in his head told him that he might never have had any reason to do such a thing. Trying to ignore that fact, the man walked over to the bed and gently shook the teenager.
"Come on, Harry, wake up."
The boy barely moved, he only mumbled under his breath and the few strands of hair disappeared completely under the blankets. Chuckling, Severus sat down, realising it might take some effort to get the young wizard out of bed.
"Don't you want to open presents?"
A muffled 'later' was all he got for his efforts. Resorting to something a bit harsher, he took the blankets into his hands and yanked them down a bit so that Harry's head was uncovered. He nearly laughed out loud when the boy turned around and hid his face into his pillow so that the light didn't disturb him.
The young wizard finally opened an eye and glared up to his uncle. "Ok, ok, I'm up, happy?"
Severus rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll have to see it to believe it. Come on, out of bed with you, lazy-bones."
Knowing he wouldn't be allowed to go back to sleep, Harry dragged himself out of bed and after picking up the clothes that Twinkle had put out for him, he locked himself in the bathroom. Returning to his room, he found Snape gone. Assuming that the man had gone to the living room, he left his quarters.
He was expecting Snape to be on his own, so Harry was quite surprised when he heard him talking to someone. Entering the brightly decorated room, his breath caught when he saw the tall form seated in one of the comfortable armchairs.
Both men looked up at the delighted cry, and Albus just had time to see the large smile that covered the youth's face before the small boy caught him in a dead-grip. Chuckling slightly, the old headmaster gently patted Harry's back.
"Hello there, my boy. How are you doing?"
Drawing away slightly, Harry sank to his knees in front of the old wizard. "I'm fine; Uncle Sev has been taking good care of me." Looking mischievously to the Potions Master, he added, "too good sometimes, he doesn't allow me to do anything!"
At once Severus slapped him lightly on his behind. "Careful, brat, or you'll be spending this evening in the Potions lab working with the most disgusting ingredients."
Knowing that the man didn't really mean it, Harry smiled lightly at him before returning his attention to the old man. "How about you, Granddad? I thought Madam Pomfrey wouldn't allow you to come here so soon."
Dumbledore smiled softly at the thought of the over-protective nurse. "She wasn't very happy with me, but I promised I would return after lunch. And she made Severus swear he would keep an eye on me and that he would drag me back at the slightest sign of tiredness."
Despite only having a few short hours with the man, Harry was ecstatic. He had wanted to visit the old man in the hospital wing before, but Severus had forbidden it quite forcefully. Not only because he was still recuperating, but also because it would attract unneeded attention. He had been able to talk to the old man through the fireplace twice, but it hadn't been the same. Now he had the whole morning to spend with Dumbledore and he wouldn't miss a single minute out of it.
Twinkle appeared with a large tray filled with breakfast and the three of them started to eat, while Harry explained in detail what had happened in the last few days, which wasn't much but helped to keep his grandfather amused. Once they were done, Dumbledore motioned towards the tree.
"I believe it is time to open presents. Why don't you go ahead, Harry?"
The boy looked at the large mount of presents with narrowed eyes before sighing and sitting down next to them.
"Let's see what store you emptied this time, Granddad."
As it turned out, the presents were not only from Dumbledore. Chris and Amanda had also added a few along with Aberforth, making him feel welcomed into a family that he was starting to consider his own. The Potions Master had given him a box full of potion ingredients that they would use in their lessons along with a wizarding radio. From McGonagall he got a book on animagus, which he had yet to try out. Even his friends had sent him a few things, even though they must have rushed to get them on such short notice.
An hour was spent admiring the different presents and joking about the things others had received. When the last present had been opened and the paper had been thrown away, Harry relaxed on the floor next to his grandfather.
Harry opened his brilliant green eyes and beamed up to the man. "It has been the best Christmas ever, Granddad, thank you."
Dumbledore chuckled lightly and gently ruffled the boy's head. "It was my pleasure, my child." Looking towards the tall man sitting quietly on the couch, looking through one of the books he had given him, Dumbledore decided it was time to have a serious discussion with the two. "Harry."
The boy looked up, a bit confused at the sudden serious tone. "Is there something wrong?"
Severus, who had also looked up from his book, frowned. "Are you feeling unwell, Albus?"
The old headmaster shook his head lightly and smiled reassuringly. "No, I'm fine. But I think it's time that we talked about what's going to happen now that everyone knows."
A feeling of dread started to fill Harry. Was he now going to lose the family he had just gained? Before he could start to sink into depression, a strong hand gripped his shoulder and forced him to look up at his grandfather's now stern face.
"Whatever it is you're thinking about, young man, if it has anything to do with breaking up this little family, you can forget it right now."
Harry relaxed immediately, it didn't seem like the man was going to abandon him yet. Smiling slightly up to his grandfather, he nodded lightly. He was about to comment when he saw Severus stand up and start heading towards the door. Before he could say anything, his grandfather's voice sounded through the room.
"Severus, where are you going?"
The man turned around, a startled look on his face. "I assumed you would like to talk privately."
Dumbledore sighed impatiently; both of his protégés could be so dense sometimes. "Get back here and sit down, this discussion certainly concerns you as well."
Rolling his eyes slightly, he obeyed the command and returned to his seat, half knowing what the man wanted to talk about. Returning his attention to the boy still sitting at his feet, Dumbledore started to speak.
"My time at Hogwarts has not only been spent by fending ministry wizards, reporters, and noisy people off. While they were all intent in trying to figure out everything you have been up to, I have managed to get guardianship papers over you, Harry. The only think that is still needed is your signature and after that, you'll be officially under my care, no matter what the Ministry says."
Harry couldn't repress a brilliant smile that grew on his face. To be Dumbledore's ward officially was a bit of a dream come true. Sure, he had been under his protection and care all this time, but it seemed silly how much a piece of paper could give him the security he had felt lacking till then.
"That's wonderful! Where do I need to sign?"
The old man chuckled softly and exchanged an amused glance with Severus, who was at the moment wearing a pleased smirk on his face.
"A bit of patience, my child, there is something I want to talk to you before we get to the paper work. I have been thinking…"
Harry rolled his eyes and grumbled under his breath. "Oh boy, that is always dangerous."
Severus had to stifle a chuckle as the older man continued imperturbably. "Next term you would have to return to fifth year, because it is quite ridiculous to have you in first year when everyone knows." Harry quickly nodded in agreement. "On the other hand, it's a fact that you are already past fifth level. I'm sure you could take most of your OWLs easily right now."
Harry frowned lightly. "I don't think I could pass potions or herbology, nor history of magic and divination."
Dumbledore smiled softly. "I know, child, and don't worry, making you pass your owls now was not the idea. Anyway, in some subjects you're far ahead of your peers and in the other ones, Severus could easily bring you up to level."
The wizard in question immediately opened his mouth to protest. "I absolutely refuse to teach him divination. I didn't take it when I was a student and I have no intention to start looking into it to teach someone, not even Harry."
Dumbledore couldn't help but laugh at the forceful statement. "Don't worry, Severus, I'm sure Harry can be convinced to take either ancient runes or arithmancy, maybe even both."
Placated, the Potions Master nodded in agreement and settled back. Harry was looking a bit confused at the two of them. "So, Uncle Sev is going to teach me after lessons? Will there be enough time for that?"
The old headmaster shook his head lightly. "Not exactly, Harry." He drew out an old book from the folds of his robes. "The apprenticing system was installed at Hogwarts at the time of The Founders."
Realisation started to dawn on the boy's face as he was given the book. "Salazar told me."
Dumbledore looked pleased at this. "Good, good, then you at least know the basic facts. There have been a few changes since Salazar's time, that's why I would like you to read that book and think about being apprenticed to Severus. I think that would be best for you, but I will allow you to choose since it will affect your future."
Frowning lightly, Harry turned to the silent man. "You would agree to be my master?"
Severus winced slightly at those words. "Only if you agree to only call me that in class, a bit as you would use my professor title; I refuse to be called that by you if it's not necessary."
Harry nodded, he didn't like having to call the man that either, so it would work out fine. Turning to Dumbledore, he nodded lightly. "I will think about it, but if you permit the question, what does this have to do with getting guardianship over me?"
Albus gently ruffled the boy's head. "Usually, when a master takes on an apprentice, he also gets joint guardianship over him so that he can act in case of something happening and the actual guardian or parent not being there. It also creates a deeper bond between Master and Apprentice that many think is very beneficial to the apprenticeship."
The teenager nodded in understanding. That would certainly be one of the good things about this, but still, he wanted to think about the whole thing. Sensing that the boy wanted to think about everything, Dumbledore engaged Severus in a conversation over the school and Harry moved to a couch and opened the book he had just been given. He didn't have much time till term started and he had to make a decision.
That evening, Severus was just bottling the potion he had started to brew after Dumbledore left when he heard a soft knock on his door. Having been expecting it, he cleaned the cauldron with a wave of his wand and opened the room. Harry was standing at the other side, as expected, a pensive frown on his face.
The boy nodded in greeting. "I have a few questions, Uncle, do you have time to talk now?"
The man smiled at the slightly anxious face. "This is about the apprenticeship, right?"
When Harry nodded, the man closed the door after him and wrapping a long arm over the boy's shoulders, he steered him to the living room. "Let's get comfortable and get some supper."
The two of them made their way to the large room and settled down on the round table situated to the right of the fireplace. Twinkle immediately popped their dinner on the table and after asking if they needed anything else, she disappeared with a soft pop. For the first ten minutes, both men concentrated on eating. By the time that dessert came around, Harry decided to broach the subject.
"So, you really would be willing to teach me? How would you be able to do that while teaching your classes?"
Severus placed his spoon down. "You would be doing quite a bit of work on your own while I teach, either in the library or with me in the lab."
"The book said I could have more than one teacher if the master chose so, would that be the case?"
The Potions Master shrugged lightly. "You would continue your lessons with Rowena and Salazar, and you could probably have a few lessons with Professor Sprout and Madam Pomfrey, but at least for the first year, you would be working mainly under my tutelage."
Harry nodded lightly and moved over to another subject. "Would I be allowed contact with my friends? From what I gathered from the book, apprentices usually lead a very lonely life."
Severus looked at the boy intently. His expressive eyes were trained to him and he could easily pick up the fear of loneliness in them. Even though during that year he had been forced to keep away from his friends, he had still had people to spend time with, like the Creevy girl. Sighing, the man stood up and went to kneel next to the boy's stool.
"Harry, you have to realise that as an apprentice, your workload will be heavier than that of a normal student. You won't only be expected to keep up with your own work, but also to help me with my duties." Harry nodded, he had read that part. "But, if you organize yourself well, you should have time to spend it with your friends. The only thing I will demand of you is that you finish everything first, ok? After that, your time will be your own, even if it might not be much, especially in the beginning. Will that be ok?"
The teenager nodded, reading in between the lines of what the man had said. He wouldn't be forbidden to see his friends, but he would probably not have much time for them. That made him feel sad and not so sure he wanted to go on with this. He knew he had power and that the apprenticeship to Severus would be the best way to learn to handle it properly. But on the other side he longed for a normal life, especially now that Voldemort was finally dead.
The Potions Master stood back up and returned to his place, he could see the doubt in those green eyes. He wished he could have told him differently, but he wasn't about to lie to the boy now and have problems later on. Harry had been right when he said that an apprentice led a lonely live; he didn't have much time beyond that what he spent with his Master. Was it right to ask him to make such a decision now? After he had had to spend so much time away from his friends? This would only make things worse and if he hadn't lost their friendship yet he was sure to lose it now. Not because of a fight or a misunderstanding, but rather because of lack of time spent together.
Both finished their dessert quickly and after that, Harry withdrew to his rooms to think. Severus debated for a moment whether it would be prudent to follow him, but after a moment decided against it and instead he went to Hogwarts, he needed to talk to Albus about this.
He was lucky; the old man had awakened shortly before and had just finished eating his dinner when he arrived. Madam Pomfrey looked a bit reluctant, but finally allowed him to talk to her patient. Albus listened intently as the Potions Master quickly told him the details of the conversation he had just had with the boy. After he fell silent, the headmaster leaned against his pillows and looked pensively.
"What do you think, Albus? Is there anything we can do about it?"
The older man frowned in thought, his eyes slowly starting to twinkle as an idea formed in his mind. With a sharp snap of his fingers, a house-elf appeared in frond of them.
"What can Dobby do for you, Master Dumbledore?"
The old man smiled kindly down to the exuberant house-elf. "Ah. Dobby, could you please go ask Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Vector if they can join me up here? Also, ask Professor Sprout but make sure to tell her to only come if she's feeling up to it."
The house-elf nodded eagerly and flapped his ears quickly. "Dobby will do so at once, Master Dumbledore."
Ten minutes later, all the heads of house were gathered around the headmaster's bed, looking curiously at the man lying there. As was usual with the man, instead of going straight to the point, he started to talk about other things.
"Ah, Pomona, it's good to have you back with us, how are you feeling, my dear?"
The witch nodded slightly, her face was still very pale, but the healers in St Mungo's had assured them that she would be alright as long as she took things easy. "I'm fine, Albus, how about you?"
The old man smiled brightly. "Fine, fine, I only whish I could escape Madam Pomfrey more often, but other than that I'm fine."
The soft chuckles turned to laughter as they saw the nurse poke her head around the door of her office and glare towards her patient. "I heard every word, Albus Dumbledore, and just for that you're going to spend a week longer in that bed."
Dumbledore shook his head in amusement as she disappeared again and turned his attention to Professor Vector. "How are things coming along?"
The professor sighed softly. "It will take some time getting used to being the Gryffindor head of house next year, Albus, my work load was already tight and now with this it will be worse."
The old wizard nodded in acknowledgement and his eyes turned serious. "That's actually what I wanted to talk to you all about. I have been thinking to reinstate the apprenticing system. It would only be for Heads of Houses since I don't want what happened a hundred years ago repeating itself."
At Pomona's look of confusion, he elaborated. "The apprentice system was disabled then because quite a few teachers used their apprentices to do all the menial work they didn't wish to do and didn't really bother to teach them anything beyond normal lessons. I know for a fact that none of you will abuse the students put in your care." Motioning to Severus, he continued with his explanation. "Severus has agreed to take Harry under his tutelage, but while talking about it with the boy, the fact that he is going to be spending a lot of time on his own came up. I would like it if some of you also took an apprentice, it wouldn't be an obligation, of course, but I think it would help you as well as the students under your care."
Minerva was looking pensively, it sounded like a good idea. "How would this work, Albus? I thought that apprentices only learned under their masters, even though there was more than one apprentice, they would still have to work on their own."
The old man nodded in agreement. "That's true in a way, as I'm sure you wouldn't teach the same things as Severus. But while you are teaching your lessons, your apprentice would either be with you in the classroom or in the library. You could agree upon a few hours each day of mandatory library time in which all the apprentices would be there together, even though they weren't working on the same thing."
Filius nodded. "I guess that would work, also, maybe we could design some kind of core lessons for all of them to take. I would like my apprentice to learn some advanced defence even though his main focus was charms, and maybe Severus could teach that to them all."
Severus was nodding in agreement. "That would work, and after the first year, maybe the each apprentice could teach his own core subject."
Nodding, Professor Vector took out a parchment and started to write down everything they were coming up. They would have to work hard on getting everything ready on such short notice, but she thought that it was a wonderful idea.
It was close to four in the morning when Severus stepped through the fireplace into the Dumbledore manor. He was nearly falling over with exhaustion but he was pleased. What had until then been only loose ideas in their heads, an application of an old tradition, was now a well defined plan that would be officially presented before the board of governors in two days. As soon as the board accepted, as he was sure they would, the other heads of houses were going to choose an apprentice. He was sure all of them already had someone in mind, so that shouldn't present too much of a problem, unless two of them choose the same student. The name of Hermione Granger came to mind at that, but he pushed it away, that wasn't going to be a problem for him.
As he was removing the ashes from his robes, he was startled by a soft sigh. Turning around, he saw Harry curled up on a couch, soundly asleep. Shaking his head lightly, he walked up to the boy and took him into his arms.
The movement jostled Harry awake. The boy peered up at the man that was carrying him in his arms with sleepy eyes.
The man started to walk towards the boy's room. "What were you doing there, Harry? I doubt that the couch is more comfortable than your own bed."
The boy yawned and leaned against the man's shoulder. "Was waiting for you. Twinkle said you had gone to Hogwarts and wouldn't be long."
Severus felt a bit guilty about that, he had completely forgotten to warn Harry that things would take longer than expected. "I'm sorry, Child. We got caught up in our planning."
Harry blinked, trying to keep his mind focused on the conversation. "Planning? What planning? Is everything ok?"
A gentle hand went up to gently rub his back. "Everything is fine, Child. I brought some of your concerns regarding the apprenticeship up to Albus to see if he had some idea of what to do. We have all decided that each Head of House and the Headmistress will have the privilege to have an apprentice. This way, you won't be the only one and you'll have companions to spend time with."
Harry was smiling softly. "Thank you, Uncle Sev. That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I accept the apprenticeship."
Severus hugged the nearly sleeping boy closer to him and chuckled softly. "Tell me again in the morning, when it doesn't sound like you're sleep talking."
Harry laughed softly but the steady rhythm of the man's footsteps completely lulled him to sleep.
Familiar screaming woke him up the next morning. Frowning, he sat up in his bed, barely remembering how he got there in the first place, and rubbed his eyes, trying to listen to who was making all that racket. He could easily recognise the voices now that he was more awake. Groaning, he forced himself to get out of the warm bed and into the cold room. He needed to get down there before his godfather killed his uncle, but on the other hand, he really didn't want to get in the middle of those two. Knowing he didn't have much of a choice, he quickly got dressed in warm clothes and hurried down the stairs.
He was shocked by the sight that met him downstairs; he had expected to find Severus and Sirius arguing with each other, he had heard that from his room. What he certainly hadn't been expecting was for his godfather to have his uncle slammed against a wall ignoring the werewolf who was trying to get his arms away from the Potions Master's neck.
Anger started to run through him at that sight of his uncle being pinned there, nearly defenceless, against the enraged man. Without even thinking about it, his magic surged, and sent an electric spark through the animagus' arms, forcing him to drop Severus with a cry of pain.
Before any of them could say a word, the youth's angry voice ran through the room.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Sirius?"
The two adult Gryffindors turned around sharply, coming face to face with him, while Severus picked up his wand and stood up. Without even glancing his way, the man left the room, slamming the door after him and making Harry wince internally. Before he could decide between following the man and make sure he was alright, or stay and yell at his godfather, strong arms enveloped his tense form.
"Harry! You're alright! I'm so glad to see you again."
As much as he would have liked to give in into his godfather's hug at any other moment, he was too angry to even consider it right now.
"Let go of me, Sirius!"
The man let him go, rather startled at the angry reception. "What's wrong?"
Harry blinked in disbelieve. "What's wrong? You're asking me what's wrong? I just woke up to your screaming and when I come down here I see you with Professor Snape slammed against a wall trying to throttle him. That's what's wrong!"
Sirius shook his head, clearly not understanding what the big deal was. "Harry, it was just Snape."
The boy narrowed his eyes. "And that's supposed to make it alright?"
The animagus opened his mouth to reply, but no answer came out. Instead, he started to frown. "What did Snivellus do to you?"
The anger bubbling inside him was growing with each word that came out of the man's mouth, but he was still barely managing to contain himself. "What makes you think that he did something to me?"
"Because you're defending him!"
The teenager clenched his fists. "So you're saying that just because I am mature and you are nothing else than a bully, he has to have done something to me?" Before Sirius had a chance to defend himself, Harry started to scream. "I am defending him because he has been helping me, because he has taken care of me, because I like him. I am defending him because you had absolutely no right to rush in here and attack him."
"I was trying to find you!"
Harry stepped closer, forcing the man to flinch back at the magic surging through the enraged boy. "Well, you've found me, and not only have you found me, but you've managed to prove to me once again that you're nothing more than an immature bully that justifies his actions through his own bloody prejudices."
By the time he said that, all the windows in the room were rattling under the assault of his magic. Remus, seeing that things were about to get out of control, firmly gripped Sirius' arm and dragged him to the fireplace. Without giving the man time to react, he tossed a bit of floo powder into the fireplace and called out for Hogwarts, sending his friend through the fire as soon as it turned green.
Once the wizard had disappeared, the werewolf turned around to face the boy, who was still trembling in anger but whose magic was starting to calm. "I'm sorry you had to witness that, Harry."
The boy pursed his lips together. "Don't apologise for him, Remus."
"I'm not, Child. Are you going to be ok?"
Silently the boy nodded causing the werewolf to sigh. "I'm going back to Hogwarts; I have to make sure Sirius isn't stupid enough to return here right now. Send me an owl if you need help, Harry."
Once again the teenager nodded and then watched as the werewolf left the room. Finally alone, he sagged against the wall and sat down on the floor, trying to let go of the anger still drowning him. He was snapped out of his dark thoughts when a small hand was placed on his knee.
"Is Young Master alright?"
The boy gave her a pained smiled and sat up straighter. "I've been better. Do you know if Uncle Sev is alright?"
The elf dropped her ears a bit. "Master Severus locked himself in his lab and told Twinkle not to bother him, Young Master."
Not having expected anything else, the teenager nodded and sighed. He would have to talk to the man, apologise for what his godfather had done to him, but right now he wasn't in the right frame of mind to do that. Standing up, he decided that the best he could do was to go back to his rooms. Twinkle frowned as she watched him move. "Does Young Master want breakfast?"
Without turning, the teenager shook his head. "No, thank you, Twinkle, I'm not hungry."
Harry spent his whole day locked up in his room. Not an hour after the fight, an owl had arrived bearing a letter from his godfather, but he had just taken it and thrown it under a few books without opening. He really was in no mood to hear what his godfather had to say. At lunch time, Twinkle came with food but once again he dismissed her, not in the mood for eating either. For the rest of the evening, he buried himself in his books, trying to ignore the dread that filled him on how Severus was going to react. What had happened that morning was bound to bring back awful memories, all related to Harry's father. Knowing how his Potions Master could be, Harry was in no hurry to see him anytime soon; he probably would be blamed and all the time they had spent together would mean nothing.
Twinkle appeared again at dinner time, he was about to dismiss her again when she spoke first.
"Master Severus told Twinkle to tell Young Master to join him for supper in the living room."
Harry tensed lightly, but didn't move his gaze from his books. "Please, tell Professor Snape that I'm not feeling well."
If he had been looking at the elf, he might have seen the disapproving glance she sent his way before disappearing with a pop.
Ten minutes later, his door opened without a knock and the man he had been trying to avoid entered the room. Turning around slightly, his eyes immediately fell on the man's throat and he could easily see the red marks that Sirius' hand had left there. Quickly turning back, his gaze became fixed once again on the page in front of him.
"Twinkle said you weren't feeling well?"
Much to Harry's surprise, the man's voice was fairly neutral, not the hateful drawl he had been expecting. Without turning, the boy nodded slightly. Repressing a sigh, Severus moved to his side silently and placed a cool hand on his forehead, startling the boy.
"You don't have a fever."
Harry went to lower his gaze when the hand moved under his chin and he was forced to look into the man's eyes.
"Twinkle said you haven't eaten anything today."
The boy sighed. "I wasn't hungry."
Severus shook his head and let go of the boy. "Come with me."
Harry frowned slightly. "But..."
"Harry. With me. Now."
Slamming his mouth shut, the boy quickly followed after the man, a bit intimidated by his stern demeanour. The man quickly led him to the living room where the table was already set for two. Severus motioned to a chair and after the boy was sitting, he took the other seat.
The food didn't appear at once, so Harry was forced to look up at his uncle. The man was watching him intently through narrowed eyes, which made him feel uncomfortable.
With his sternest voice, Snape started to speak. "I don't know what you're thinking. Rather, I don't know for sure what you're thinking. But if it has anything to do with what happened this morning being in anyway your fault you are going to forget it right now."
Harry blinked; clearly he hadn't been expecting those words. Bowing his head slightly, he sighed. "But it was my fault, if it hadn't been for me, Sirius wouldn't..."
Severus slammed his hand on the table, effectively cutting off what he had been about to say. "You are not responsible for Black's actions. In fact, you are not responsible for the actions of anyone beyond your own. The thing with the mutt started long before you were even born, and today you were just an outlet for his loathing towards me. And that is, by no means, your fault."
Harry bit his lip; he had been expecting an insulting speech or something like that, not this stern reprimand about how things weren't his fault. He didn't know how to react to that, but luckily Severus wasn't finished yet.
"If I remember correctly, you were rather adamant in your defence of me."
Harry looked up startled. "You heard?"
Snape smirked. "I had to leave the room before I started to curse the mutt, but I certainly wasn't about to leave you alone with Black in the state he was in." Pursing his lips, he added. "And though I can't say I disliked what you said to him, if you speak to any adult that way again you will be either grounded for a long time or spanked. You are still a child and you will show proper respect towards your elders or face the consequences, is that very clear? If for some reason an adult makes you angry or does something to you that you don't like, you will come to me or Albus or anyone you trust immediately, understood?"
Harry nodded, his eyes firmly kept at the table. "Yes, Uncle Severus."
"Something else." The boy didn't move, causing Severus to sigh softly and wonder if he was being too stern, but he needed to have these things said and there was no better time as at the moment. "Your magic sparked rather dangerously today, we will have to reinforce your control over it."
Harry finally looked up at those words. "We will?"
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Unless you have changed your mind about the apprenticeship?"
Harry quickly shook his head. "No, I haven't, but I thought you might have."
The Potions Master groaned. "Why would I have done that? There was no reason to change my mind."
The youth bit his lip and nodded hesitantly. "I think I know that now, but I thought so before."
"You don't have to think anything; there is nothing that would make me change my mind about this unless you tell me you don't wish to be my apprentice. So, is there anything else we need to talk about?"
The younger wizard looked hesitantly towards the man. "Are you alright, Uncle?" At the man's confused look, he nodded lightly to the marks. "That must hurt quite a bit. I'm sorry I wasn't down before."
Severus groaned and buried his head in a hand. "Harry, for the love of Merlin, nothing that happened today was your fault, so no apologies from you are required. I am fine, the marks will have faded by tomorrow, so there's nothing to worry about, ok?"
Harry nodded, finally relaxing against his seat. "Ok."
The Potions Master raised his head. "I trust you're hungrier now?"
The teenager blushed slightly. "A bit, yes."
"Good, I don't want you skipping meals; your grandfather would have my head if he found out."
Dinner progressed silently from then on, with Severus forcing his charge to eat quite a bit to make up from the meals he had missed that day. When they were finished, Harry was told that he was to go upstairs and go to bed. After all, the emotionally filled day and his magical outbursts had tired him out more than he thought. And indeed, when Severus went to check on him half an hour later, the boy was deeply asleep.
Harry was sitting silently between Ron and Hermione at the Gryffindor table. Everyone had come back from Christmas break an hour before and the feast was about to commence. The students had been shocked and happy to see Dumbledore occupying his seat for what would be one of the last times. The black haired Gryffindor knew how much of a fight his grandfather had had to put up with the nurse to get her to allow him to come this evening.
Once everyone was finally settled, Professor McGonagall stood up and gently ticked her glass with her fork, calling for silence. Normally Dumbledore would have stood up to make an announcement, but this time the old man remained seated. Even so, his voice carried through the room effortless.
"Welcome back to another term at Hogwarts, I hope that these holidays were restful for you all. I have many things to explain to you this evening, so I hope you can give me a bit of your time before we eat to listen intently to what I need to say. As you were told last term, this will be my last year as headmaster of this school and Minerva McGonagall was officially appointed as my successor a few days ago, so next year she will be the one leading things from where I sit now."
The students muttered softly, they had all known that and yet, when they had seen Dumbledore sitting there they had hoped. Smiling gently, the old man raised an old hand to ask for silence again.
"I think it is time for changes, big changes that won't only affect this school but also the whole magical community. Last term two of those changes were already implemented. Lord Voldemort was destroyed and a new minister was chosen, but that, as much as it will affect us latter on, is not of our concern right now. What will affect you right now are the changes that are going to be implemented in the school through this year. As stated before, Minerva will take the role of Headmistress leaving behind the position of deputy headmistress and Gryffindor head of house. After speaking intensively to all faculty and to the broad of Governors it had been agreed that Professor Vector will take on the role of Gryffindor Head of House and that Professor Snape will, from now on, be the Deputy headmaster."
Harry's head snapped up in surprise. Why hadn't he been told about that? He quickly looked towards his uncle and saw him smirking his way, his dark eyes twinkling in amusement. The boy couldn't help for his face to fall into a small pout, they could have told him about that before.
When the students finally became silent again, the headmaster was able to continue. "Moving on, you will have noticed that the table belonging to the fifth house is now empty. The students who lived in the fifth house will now be able to return to their own houses with the understanding that if they step out of line again they will find themselves automatically suspended." The whole student body tensed at the man's words, knowing that that was not an idle threat. "Of course, after the happenings of last term I hope that most prejudices have been erased and that a healthy rivalry will come from everything that happened." Dumbledore paused for a moment and took a long sip from his cup. "I imagine that by now you're getting tired of listening to me, but I have one last matter to address. As some of you may guess, the duties of the heads of houses have been increasing lately. Those of you who have read Hogwarts: A history, will know that to help out the professors an apprenticeship system was installed at the time of the founders. Now, this practice was suspended about a hundred years ago because of the abuse some apprentices suffered under their masters. Now, the heads of houses and myself have reviewed the rules in which the apprenticeship worked in the past and with the Board of Governor's approval, I'm happy to say that this ancient practice will be reinstated. Once the apprentices are announced, they will have up to a week to refuse or accept. You need to make sure that this is what you really want; because the apprenticeship will last for five years from the moment you begin. In your common rooms you will find a small book for each of you that will explain in detail what will be expected from you and what you can expect to receive from the apprenticeship. As said before, for now only the heads of houses and headmistress will have apprentices but if the practice works, then the other professors will be able to join the program if they whish to."
The students were whispering excitedly between themselves, no longer paying attention to Dumbledore. The old man, seeing he wouldn't regain their attention just snapped his fingers and made the food appear. The heads of houses would explain everything that he had forgotten later on, in the privacy of the common rooms. Looking towards his grandson, he couldn't help but smile slightly. The boy was chatting happily with his two friends. He was glad that they were working on repairing their relationship; it was just what Harry needed.
The boy seemed to sense his gaze on him, because he looked towards him and sent him a small wave with his hand. The old man returned it and finally turned his eyes to his meal. He had a feeling that everything would be alright.
A/N: Well, that's it, the final chapter of Web of Lies. I hope no one has complains about the length this time glares Anyway, as I'm sure everyone is interested in knowing whether there's going to be a sequel, the answer is: probably yes, but it will take some time. I have several ideas for a sequel, but I don't have much time to write and I want to finish at the very least Forest of Mystery before starting anything new, I really can't have so many stories running at the same time anymore. Anyway, I hope you liked this chapter and once again, thanks for all reviews and special thanks to Vinnie, who manages to still beta-read my fics after all this time ;)