Disclaimer: HP is JKR's not mine. See the long version in Chapter 1.
Author's notes: Sorry it's a long AN, but it's my last chapter to address questions.
This chapter took the longest time to write because I had a tough time with the Snape/Harry dialog in the headmaster's office at the end. I had originally set it up for Harry to call in his 'wizard debts' (heart like his mum's, rescued from Aunt Marge's dog, rescued from Crookshanks in Ron's bedroom, rescued from Crookshanks when they went flying) to snuff out any grudges Snape might have had from the summer. I changed my mind.
I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone who reviewed every chapter as I've been writing this. It is truly inspiring and motivating to keep writing when you know that someone is reading. This chapter is dedicated to you all and to my Green-cheeked Amazon parrot, Gusto, who was my model for the birdie behavior I wrote into this story. Yes, Gus crapped on my homework, once upon a time.
If I were naming chapters, the last one would have been titled "In Diagon Alley" or something like that. So the first part of this chapter, Remus's job interview, is chronologically out of sequence, but I thought I could hold the suspense one more chapter so that Severus could find out that Harry wasn't bad at potions. Preety-lady-serenity & Watashi , I didn't mean to confuse you by doing it this way. I hope this chapter answers questions on why nobody believed Ron and why Snape stayed a bird a while longer, even after Dumbledore found out.
Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter: Watashi no wa Baka, penny, 731nisei, eav, lillinfields, Romm, Kaaera, TeeDee, borne-shadow- childe, Lucky, athenakitty, chickens, ataraxis, preety-lady-serenity, insanechildfanfic, Daintress, xikum, starangel2106, Kateri1, Mikee, Ms. Padfoot.
Chapter 6 (uploaded 3/23/04)
A couple days after Remus had lunch with Harry at Fred and George's store, he went to Hogwarts for a job interview with Headmaster Dumbledore. Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, was present, as well. She opened her fireplace to allow Lupin to enter by Floo network and walked him to the headmaster's office.
Dumbledore greeted him, "Ahh, Remus, come in. Thank you for indulging us. As you know, this is merely a formality for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position."
"Thank you for inviting me, sir. I would love to teach again but conditions under which I left last time—"
Dumbledore held up his hand, "The conditions are a bit different at the moment. Severus is not here to keep you from the position. We may have some difficulty with the Slytherin upperclassmen, but that's nothing new. Severus was very good about managing his house. We'll try to carry on." The headmaster sighed.
"Then he also will not be here to brew the wolfsbane potion for me. This last transformation was very difficult without it."
"Yes, well, I am still searching for a substitute potions instructor until he returns. The ability to brew wolfsbane potion is one of the requirements of the position. I'm using that as a test to screen the qualifications of the applicants. Alright?"
Remus nodded. "Professor, may I ask why you are looking for a substitute potions professor?"
McGonagall brought a hand up to cover her mouth, her eyes glistened with moisture. "You haven't heard?"
"Sirius named me executor of his will. Between managing Sirius's affairs and my own lycantropy, I've been out of touch. Please enlighten me."
Dumbledore sat back in his chair and sighed, long fingers entwined over his stomach. "Severus went missing shortly after the end of term. I've had the Order looking for him. Aurors have been looking in their spare time. They followed a classified ad in the Daily Prophet. One of our former students, Marcus Flint was held for questioning and released for lack of evidence. He only said that he found black robes and cloak in Hyde Park. Madam Malkin identified them as the custom tailored robes that Severus buys. Harry found his wand, curiously, up in a tree in Surrey. That's where the trail ends." Dumbledore pulled a pile of black garment and wand from his desk drawer and put his hand on top.
Remus smiled and looked down at the floor to contain the chuckle that wanted to leak out from his throat. Fawkes, who had been quietly preening himself behind the headmaster's chair, suddenly lifted his head and flew to Dumbledore's desk to pick up a scroll, then flew to Lupin's lap with it. "You know! I can tell, you know where he is. You can still understand me, Master Remus, I can see it in your eyes. Tell them," Fawkes sang.
Remus stroked the phoenix's head a few times before unrolling the Ron's drawing of Professor Snape. He couldn't contain it any longer, the Lupin busted up and doubled over in laughter, sliding down in the armchair. His sudden movements startled the phoenix, causing him to fly back to his perch.
While Lupin hid his face in his hands to hide tears of laughter, McGonagall scolded him, "Remus! This not funny! Severus might be seriously hurt, we haven't heard from him all summer. It's not at all like him."
"He WAS hurt," Remus snickered, "but he's been taken care of," He gasped for air between laughing fits. "And apparently he's been trying to tell you."
"Remus, please explain before I run out of patience," Dumbledore warned. "We are very concerned."
Lupin let out a heavy sigh, "But if I tell you where he is, I lose the teaching position."
"Remus John Lupin! We are talking about a person's well being," McGonagall said sternly. "This is not a prank."
"What? Me? I have nothing to do with this! I just found out! I just told you I've been away. I thought Albus was on another one of his schemes," Remus covered his mouth to hide the next chuckle with a cough. "Obviously not."
Dumbledore started tapping a finger on the desk. "Remus," his tone turned up another dangerous notch.
"Wha', okay, fine. Severus is with Harry. I just had lunch with them the other day at the Weasley joke shop in London."
"Please explain," Dumbledore prodded, still tapping his finger.
Lupin replied, "Harry told me you know about the raven he's been (snort) nursing. That's Snape!"
"We know he's calling the bird after Professor Snape." Dumbledore looked over his half-moon glasses.
"No, no." Lupin had to pause to compose himself. He unrolled the parchment and displayed it for Dumbledore and McGonagall. Emphasizing each word, "Somehow Severus is Harry's raven." He pointed to the picture. "The broken wing, the scratch on his face, the streak of green on his head, just like the raven. There, the wand engraved SS." Remus pointed at the wand sitting atop the black robes.
"Ronald Weasley drew that as a joke. How do you know for sure?" McGonagall leaned forward.
"I talked to him. I heard his voice. Not too many people know that Severus has a unique drawl to cover the lisp he had as a child. He learned to cover it very well. My sense of hearing was still very acute that day. And then he stated his name, as if I couldn't tell by his snarky attitude," Remus snickered.
"Well why didn't you restore him?" McGonagall was practically yelling.
Dumbledore put his hand on her arm, "Minerva, please. Go ahead, Remus."
"I gave him a chance to ask. He and Harry were getting along so well together all summer. So I didn't question it, but I didn't know you didn't know. Harry said he told you everything at the meeting. Anyway, by then, it was clearly understood that I could hear him because of my condition at the time. He stuck his beak under his wing and wouldn't talk to me, the stubborn git." Remus shrugged.
"What are they up to now?" Dumbledore asked Lupin.
"Harry finished his summer assignments. He is working part time for the Weasley twins. Fred and George have him brewing their recipes in the mornings. With a bit of encouragement from a certain black bird and a certain bushy brown-haired bookworm, I imagine, Harry has been looking up potions in the afternoons for ideas to use in the shop. He's become a regular visitor at all of the bookstores in Diagon Alley."
"Wonderful." The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes had returned. "I'm sorry about the DADA position, Remus. I've a couple more interviews. But I could use some help in the potions classrooms. Severus usually restocks the ingredient cupboards over the summer but I think he will be away a couple more weeks. Would you—"
"You're giving me detention because I didn't transform him back?" Remus mocked anger. "Well, it's the least I could do to help YOU out. Just don't tell the berk, when he returns. Oh, and I don't want to be here when he does."
Returning to Hogwarts after Harry and Draco's confrontation in Diagon Alley, Hagrid walked into his hut and emptied his pockets, including the raven, onto the large table. He removed the splint from the raven's wing and stretched the it out for inspection. "Harry did a great job, didn't he?" Hagrid was surprisingly gentle as he stroked the raven several times before going about his supper.
Hagrid was stirring his dinner stew in the fireplace when someone knocked on his door. Fang got up to bark at the door, but his tail was wagging so hard Snape could feel the wind from atop the table. "Whoa dog, watch the tail. Watch the tail!" squawked Snape. Hagrid shushed them both.
"Perfesser Dumbledore, come in." Hagrid pulled out a chair for the headmaster, "Stay fer dinner, won't ye?" Dumbledore took the seat, Hedwig was riding his shoulder.
"Thank you, Hagrid, but I just came for Severus." Snape ran around the table in circles with his wings spread. "He knows! Hedwig, he knows! It's over, I survived the summer," Snape coo'd excitedly.
"Congratulations," Hedwig hooted back. "Harry sends his regards, he misses you."
"Right. Thank you, Hedwig. For all your help," coo'd the black bird.
"How'd ye know he was 'ere? Hold it, did you say Severus? This is Perfesser Snape?" A single wink from Dumbledore was all Hagrid needed for his answer. The jolly giant bit his lip to keep from laughing, at least until they left.
"Remus sent Harry's owl with a note that you brought the raven to Hogwarts. Thank you, Hagrid. See you at breakfast?"
"Right. See ye." Hagrid waved from the doorway as Snape rode back to the headmaster's office on Dumbledore's hand.
McGonagall was already waiting in the circular office when the door opened at the top of the revolving staircase. She stood up to greet the new arrivals and took Snape from Dumbledore's arm to caress the shiny black feathers and whisper her private greetings. 'Thank you, Minerva. Now end this blasted curse!' Snape thought.
When Snape started to struggle from her grasp, she held him firmly with both hands pinning his wings to his body, "Settle down Severus. You never let anyone close enough to touch you. This is probably as close to a hug as I get to give you. She planted a quick kiss on top of his head." Snape closed his eyes, thinking 'Enough mush already, get me out of these feathers.'
Meanwhile, the headmaster, hiding his amusement with action, retrieved Severus's robes from the desk drawer and placed it over the raven's shoulders. "Together, shall we, Minerva?"
"Wait, Albus. There's just one thing. A matter of one Harry Potter who would like to take NEWT level potions." McGonagall knelt over the bird to pet its head. Snape knew better than to snap at her fingers so close to returning to his normal form.
"Extortion!" Snape squawked, "Albus, she can't do this! This is extortion!"
"Well, what will it be, my fine feathered friend?" Albus asked while the raven sat on the floor with his mouth hanging open.
"Very well." Snape growled and bobbed his head, thinking, 'he actually proved he is competent at potions, but I require something in return.' Fawkes and Hedwig flapped their wings in cheer from the perch that they shared. Dumbledore took that as an agreement.
Dumbledore counted, "One, two, three!" As their spells combined, Snape grew taller and taller, his wings filling into his robes, turning into arms, until he stood eye to eye with the headmaster.
"Thank you," Snape flexed his arms and fingers, rolled his neck. He took his wand off the desk and gave it a flick in the air, causing green and silver sparks to emit from its tip. He closed his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. "In return for taking Harry Potter into my class, I do have one request concerning one Ronald Weasley." He looked directly at Minerva.
Arriving at Hogsmeade Station on the Hogwarts Express, Harry bolted out of the door as soon as it opened. He ran straight to Hagrid, who was calling the first years to the rowboats for their trip across the lake. "Hi Hagrid, how's Snape?"
"Hello, Harry. Snape is back to himself, thanks to you."
"Oh, he's gone now? Flew away already?"
Hagrid had a hardy laugh, "Go on with ya, now. He's waitin' for you. Visit me first chance ye get."
"Okay, thanks Hagrid." Harry waved and ran to the coach where Ron and Hermione waited with a caged Hedwig.
As the trio filed into the Great Hall, something caused Harry to trip and fall into no other than the platinum blonde Slytherin, Draco Malfoy. Malfoy shoved Potter back and a fight ensued. They were still yelling and shoving when Dumbledore and McGonagall put their hands on the boys shoulders, "Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley meet us up in my office. I'll be there shortly. The password is 'fruit jellies' "
When the door opened to the circular office. Professors McGonagall, Trelawney, and Snape walked in behind Professor Dumbledore. Ron's jaw hit the floor when he saw Snape looking exactly like the picture he drew, complete with facial scar, and white arm sling. Snape wore a toothy sneer for effect. Harry's eyes grew as wide as saucers at the resemblance to the picture.
Before anyone else said anything, Snape lowered his head, allowing his stringy black hair to fall in front of his eyes, "Mr. Malfoy, detention Monday night for fighting."
Draco protested, "Potter shoved me first!"
Harry defended, "I tripped and fell into him."
"No doubt, due to poor excuse for footwear," Snape drawled. Draco smirked at the comment, Ron muttered under his breath, "Ungrateful git." Harry quietly sighed, "My feet hurt."
"Malfoy, get out. You are dismissed," hissed Snape.
As soon as the door closed behind Draco, Dumbledore spoke from behind his desk, "Ronald Weasley, it has come to my attention that you are the artist of this picture. Do you deny your signature at the bottom?" He unrolled the parchment and held it for all in the room to see.
"N-n-no, sir," Ron managed to stutter with a guilty look. He looked at Harry, worry lines etching themselves into his forehead.
"I thought I lost that picture at the Burrow. How did you get it?" Harry asked.
Eyes twinkling, Dumbledore answered, "A little birdie gave it to me." Walking in front of his desk he said, "I'm not going to recommend punishment because this happened over the summer, but I do want to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand." Dumbledore leaned back on his desk with arms crossed over his chest. "Gentlemen, as long as you are students at Hogwarts, you are to respect your teachers. I will not let this attitude go unchecked. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Ron and Harry squeaked. The headmaster handed the parchment to the Divination professor to pass to Severus.
Sybill Trelawney brought her hands to her face and wispily gasped, "Mr. Weasley, you have the gift of the inner eye. I know for a fact that you have not seen Professor Snape since he flew in from his summer holidays." Her voice was airy and thin in her amazement. She looked between the drawing and Snape. "You absolutely must be in my NEWT level divination class, I will not take no for an answer."
Ron's bottom lip quivered and his head wouldn't stop moving left to right and left again. McGonagall shook her head too, "I can't believe it either, Mr. Weasley, it's absolutely amazing. I will rewrite your timetable immediately." Ron kept shaking his head, but no sound came from the redhead. His mouth repeatedly formed the word 'No,' but nothing was heard..
Dumbledore said to Ron, "Mr. Weasley, you are dismissed to the Great Hall. We have some business with Mr. Potter." McGonagall and Trelawney walked him out of the office.
Harry gaped at the black clad, green streaked wizard, "Were you really the raven, Professor Snape?" A parade of memories flashed through his mind of all the things he did this summer with the raven. From flying with him on the broom, to all the things he said in private. He had let it slip that Peter Pettigrew was an illegal rat animagus. Harry inwardly kicked himself for exposing so much to someone who, he felt, would use the information to humiliate him.
"Harry, if you'll excuse me, I have to start the Welcoming Feast. Professor Snape has a few things to say to you. Join us as soon as you can." Dumbledore passed him on the way out the door and patted him on the shoulder.
As soon the door closed, Snape took off the sling, wiped the scab off his face with it, and threw it into the bin. "Sorry about Draco. I set you up with a trip jinx."
"For the stunt he pulled in Diagon Alley. Yes, I was the raven, and Malfoy had his wand pointed at me threatening to use an unforgivable curse. I'll set him straight while he scrapes droppings off the floor in the owlry." He reached down and picked up a box and broom from behind the headmaster's desk and walked around to sit in the armchair across from Harry. "Go on, open it."
"You polished my broom? Um, thanks." Harry was suspicious that Snape might have hexed it so that Slytherin House would win the cup this year. He made a mental note to have Professor McGonagall check it before team tryouts.
Upon lifting the cover of the shoebox he exclaimed, "Trainers! The ones I wanted. Thank you, sir." A smile broke out over his face, his green eyes lit up with relief and happiness. "How did you know my size?" the teen asked as he ripped off his old, beat up shoes.
"I learned a lot about you over the summer."
"What happened? That is, if I may ask."
"I was careless. That is all I will say about that. I am told Hedwig and Fawkes finally communicated, with the help of Mr. Weasley's rudimentary drawing skills, the similarities between the picture and myself as a raven. I think the headmaster has too many things on his mind to think logically and Ronald Weasley jokes around too much to be taken seriously."
While Harry admired the shoes on his feet with a grin that stretched from one ear to the other, Snape continued talking. "Your OWL results are not good enough to qualify for my NEWT level Potions classes, however, I will accept you into my class for a probationary period. You have until Halloween, to show me that you can handle the work. I would not make this offer if I didn't think you could do it."
"Well, to be honest, this summer I found out how much I like potions and I'd like to continue, but I can't concentrate in your class."
"Potter, do not expect me to change my public persona. As you know, I am a spy. I have to put up an acceptable image in front of my Slytherin charges who will, no doubt, inform their Slytherin parents of what happens in school. My standing in their eyes would be compromised. If anyone were to start asking questions, somebody would be hurt, or worse."
'Death Eater parents, you mean,' Harry thought. "Speaking of worse, I never got to apologize for looking into your pensieve. I'm sorry for invading your privacy."
"Apology accepted. I am willing to resume occlumency lessons, as well, but it should appear you are making up for your potions inadequacies."
"In-a-de—?!" Harry stopped himself, looked thoughtfully at his new shoes and sighed, "Thank you, sir, but couldn't you be a little less personal in class?"
Snape smirked, "If you came to class prepared, perhaps you wouldn't be such an easy target for me."
Harry pouted, but then his eyes narrowed at the Potions Master, "Sir, I'm surprised that you haven't gotten the paint out of your hair."
The left side of Snape's face twitched, "The headmaster gave me a potion he said was safer than a cleaning charm. I think he called it Head On Shoulders? Interesting color of blue." Harry nearly exploded in laughter, but his hands flew to his mouth and his eyes shut tight. Nearly hyperventilating, he sunk into the chair and took deep breaths.
Fortunately, Snape missed the reaction, for his long legs had already carried him to the office door. He turned around as Harry wiped his eyes on his sleeve, "Just one more thing. I have a gift for your cousin. Might I have the address where I may deliver it?"
"You're not going to hurt him, are you?"
"Wizard's honor. I will not hurt him. I promise he will enjoy it."
Petunia Dursley was in the kitchen preparing supper when there was a sharp knock on the door. "Dudley get the door, love."
The tall, dark haired delivery man tapped his clipboard, "I have a delivery for Mr. Dudley Dursley."
"Yes? That's me. What is it?"
"When you sent in the product registration of your air gun, you were entered in a promotional drawing. You, sir, have won a generous supply of paint balls and a target gallery. I am here to install it."
Dudley left him standing at the door and ran to the kitchen, "Mum! Mum! I won paint pellets and a shooting gallery!"
While the Dursleys ate supper, Snape installed the gallery in the smallest bedroom, the bedroom that was Harry's during the summer holidays. Vernon lead his family into the room and rubbed his hands. "Finished yet, err Stevens, was it?"
"Mr. Dursley. I have stacked your supply of paint pellets against this wall and lined the walls and floor so that your lovely home does not get stained." Snape pulled a rat, which seemed to have a silver paw, from a plastic hamster ball and set him on a horizontal running board. Noticing the sour face that Petunia made upon seeing the rat, "Don't worry Mrs. Dursley, the rat can't leave the running boards. All you have to do is put food pellets into this tube and water into the other tube. Change the litter once a week. Pellets and litter are in that box," he pointed to the white box on top of the crates of paint pellets. "The rat's name is Peter. Enjoy."
Snape grinned with satisfaction as he left the Number 4 Privet Drive with Dudley whooping every time he hit his new rat target with a paint ball.
A/N: Whew! Ok, deep and heavy conversations aren't my thing. The chapter ran longer than I intended, but I just wanted to show the start of a new understanding.
I imagine the shooting gallery is like a hamster tube track. It's open so that paint pellets can hit the target but charmed to contain its inhabitant. Peter escapes when Dudley runs out of paint balls or breaks his air rifle in a couple months. If you've never been hit with a paint pellet, I'm told it stings on contact because of the force required to burst the capsule. It's probably enough to knock small animals unconscious. Snape gave Double-D magic paint balls. They don't hurt as bad so that Peter can keep running within his confines and the color won't wash out with Head 'n Shoulders™ shampoo.
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