Disclaimer: I own nothing. (This goes for the entire story)
It was the day before school started, and Harry was sitting in the Owlery, spending quality time with his much missed owl, Hedwig. She had spent the majority of summer vacation at Hogwarts, since he hadn't required her help. Hedwig had practically ripped his ear off with her 'affectionate' nipping the first she saw him. Excitement would have been an understatement for the Owl.
Now, he sat in the relative peacefulness of the Owlery just to think. He was beyond worried about his friends' reactions to his new 'guardian.' He decided it was pretty much a given that Ron would have issues with this new development. He never got along with Snape, and now wouldn't be any different. Harry was waiting to see what kind of odd ideas his friend would come up with for why he was willingly doing this. Or rather, what drugs he'd been given to willingly do this. He only hoped Hermione would understand.
It was almost time for dinner and Severus had requested that he join him for the evening meal in his quarters. He could count the number of times he'd been in Snape's quarters on one hand. And that had all been in the past two weeks. He even had his own little room if he ever needed to visit. Now, he descended the stairs in a rush, knowing that lateness even for a meal wouldn't be taken lightly by his 'guardian.' Snape was strict on this point for some reason. The man was rather odd with his quirks.
The dungeons seemed even drearier when hardly anyone was presiding at the school. Bearing this fact in mind, he sped up, wanting to get there quickly. The portrait hanging on the doorway of Snape's quarters was quite interesting, in a morbid sort of way. It was a rather ghastly depiction of a man being hanged at the gallows. Perhaps this was a way of keeping anyone from bothering him in his private quarters. Harry thought it was rather effective, himself. He didn't want to look at that thing everyday.
Severus had developed a way for him to get inside without a password, in case he was ever followed, which seemed likely. There was a snake coiling around the hanged man's upper left arm, which was practically eye level with Harry. The whole thing kind of reminded him of those movies where a person's retinal scan would allow access into a highly secured office or room. The snake, Harry affectionately referred to it as Spawn as it was quite the evil little bastard, would identify that it was indeed Harry by observing the young man's retina. And occasionally trying to eat his eye. The frightening hanged man winked at Harry, causing the boy to shiver, and he quickly made his way into the living area within, as the portrait swung open.
Before Severus could get a word in edgewise, Harry began on his tangent. "That portrait is way too freaky, Professor. Can't you get something that doesn't wink at me?" he asked desperately. He hated the damn thing.
Snape could only raise an eyebrow in response. He was rather fond of the moments when the young man would actually allow himself to act like a teenager. He waited for the boy to realize he had just 'went off' on his Professor and develop the timid attitude again. He didn't have to wait long. Harry still wasn't completely comfortable with the older man, but Severus hoped to change that soon.
"Sorry 'bout that. It's your rooms; I'll just shut up now." Harry mumbled silently.
Snape continued with the raised eyebrow. "Harry, it's your opinion. You are welcome to have them. However, I happen to like that portrait." he smirked. "Now, it's time to eat, are you hungry?" he asked, trying to get the boy to relax.
Harry shrugged. "Sure."
He led the boy into an adjoining room, wherein was the kitchen and dining area. There was a small round table placed directly in the middle of the room, completely covered with delicious looking food. Harry was surprised to find that it looked a lot like a normal kitchen, minus the electrical items, such as a microwave or stove. There were, however, many items he thought should belong in the potions classroom. He'd have to remember to watch out if he ever ventured for a snack in the kitchen.
"Have a seat." ordered Snape. He pointed to the nearest chair. Harry complied. Severus sat in the seat opposite the boy and scooted up to the table. "I wasn't sure what all you would like, so I took the liberty of ordering a variety of foods from the house elves. Pick what you want, or if nothing agrees with you, we can get something else." he instructed.
Harry carefully looked over the vast assortment of foods and discovered there were quite a few things he would enjoy. "I'll find something here." he told the older man, and proceeded to cautiously grab a bowl of mashed potatoes. He half expected the man to snap at him for taking too much food, like the Dursley's used to do. Or get smacked for taking the first helping. When no such altercation occurred, and his guardian had started to heap his own plate full of food, he began to relax.
They ate quietly, neither wanting to break the calmness that they had found. Most times, any occasion spent in the same company made them, mainly Harry, jittery and tense. The fact that they had spent most of the summer together, and alone, seemed to not matter at all. Harry found that he was jumpy again in the man's presence. He thought it might have something to do with disappointing the older man. If Severus realized what a pain he was to have around, he wouldn't want to be his guardian anymore. He couldn't imagine having to go back to the Dursley's because he messed up this arrangement. He wasn't so thick to believe that the man would keep him forever. He knew that eventually the man could understand what a burden he was and give him back to his relatives. He'd just have to make sure that didn't happen.
He unconsciously ate a spoonful of lima beans, something he didn't even realize he'd put on his plate, and nearly gagged. He instantly spit them back out onto his plate. "Gross." he garbled, wiping his tongue with his napkin. He slowly looked up when he noticed that Snape had quit eating and was looking at him. The man had an odd look on his face.
"Couldn't you have found a more civilized way of ridding yourself of the vegetable?" he asked, brow raised.
Harry was internally berating himself. Stop acting like a moron, Potter! he told himself.
"Sorry, sir. I guess I wasn't paying attention to what I was eating. It won't happen again." he said, eyes lowered.
Severus watched the boy in confusion. He had actually found the entire scene rather amusing.
"Harry, I wasn't being serious. My apparent lack of humor etiquette seems to have thrown you off. If you want to pry food off your tongue with a napkin, by all means, do so. Be yourself, I don't mind. I realize things have been tense seeing as how I haven't been around very much these past two weeks. But, eventually, I hope you will find it in yourself to trust me." said Severus. The Potions Professor had been very busy since they had returned to Hogwarts. He hadn't had the chance to make up any lesson plans over the holiday and had to make up a year's worth of them in two weeks. It wasn't a simple task by any means. Harry had been left to his own devices mostly, with the occasional run in with each other. Severus had taken Harry to the manor as he had promised, but they hadn't been able to stay for very long. They were to return this coming weekend to finish arranging the home to their liking, and for Harry to design his room for the house elves.
Harry didn't know what to think at this point. He wasn't going to let his guard down so soon in the game, but perhaps he would relax a little when concerning the older man. He was trying hard to get along with him. "I'll try, Professor." he answered.
The older man realized that was all he was going to get out of the boy and let the subject drop. "What do you plan on doing today?" he asked instead.
The green eyed teenager was a bit surprised by the sudden change in subject, but didn't let on. He told his guardian what he would be doing that day, and made a few things up just to make his life sound more interesting. All he really had to do was homework, but he told the man he was going to stop in and see how Del was doing, and make a pit stop at Hagrid's hut to check on Zane. The dog had disappeared on him a few times, and it always made him worry. Del was currently residing in guest quarters somewhere on the third floor. He had yet to set foot in them, as she always seemed to find him first.
He hadn't eaten much more after the Lima bean incident, something which bothered Severus to no end, the child didn't eat enough to keep a bird alive, and excused himself from the table. "I'll see you later, Sev…Professor." He couldn't believe he'd almost slipped and called him Severus.
Severus eyed the boy as he left the rooms. He couldn't keep in the smile that wanted to escape.
The next day dawned slightly overcast weather. Harry hoped the sun would poke itself out from behind the clouds at some point this morning. He drug his weary body out of the bed and into the bathroom. A quick shower later and he was dressed and trying uselessly to tame his hair. No such luck, as usual, and he left it alone to fly about his face. Today the other students would arrive and he had the feeling things weren't going to go too well. He absolutely dreaded telling Ron about his new legal guardian. He'd have a fit.
It was almost time for breakfast and Harry quickly made his way down to Severus' quarters. He, for reasons he couldn't quite fathom, was looking forward to seeing the older man. Even though some times were tense, he still enjoyed his teacher's company. He was interesting if nothing else. He approached the frightening portrait, only to discover that it was missing. It had been replaced by a simple painting of two twisting dead trees that intertwined themselves together. He imagined this would be what two whomping willows would look like in a fight. There was a lone blossoming flower dangling from a branch, which seemed to be barely hanging on. And gliding up in between the trees was the snake which would identify him.
"He changed the painting." Harry murmured in disbelief. Of course this one was still disturbing in its own way, but not in a grossly morbid way. Harry grinned. He knew Severus had changed it because he'd asked, and it was a good feeling. He silently approached the new painting and the snake hissed in greeting. The snake even seemed happier due to the new surroundings. Harry couldn't blame him. He looked the snake in the eye and felt the by now familiar tingling as the snake scanned his retina. The door clicked open and he stepped inside.
"Hello?" he called out. When no response came, he walked further into the room. "Is anyone home?" he called again. Still no response. "That's odd." He couldn't imagine where the older man could be. He was usually right here. He decided to go looking for him in the Great Hall. For all he knew, the man might have had the inkling to eat with his co-workers. He left the rooms, walking through the dreary dungeon halls. The only thing he didn't like about coming down here were these damn hallways. Why couldn't they get some sunlight down here? Even if it was falsified light, it was better than this. He constantly felt like eyes were watching him from every dark corner. It was different when school was in session, he wasn't the only one walking the corridors. Now, he was alone and every shadow seemed to contain some hidden danger.
He took the steps at a quickened pace, wanting to reach the lighter halls of the castle. It didn't take long before he was in the entryway and went directly for the Great Hall. He was almost to the massive doors when suddenly someone grabbed his arm. Instinctively, he pulled out his wand from his back pocket and had it thrust in the person's face before he could even consider who it might be. He gasped when he realized who it was.
Severus gently took his wrist and pulled it and the wand from his face. "Well, at least you're on your guard." he muttered, still holding onto the boy's wrist. "Try and be a little more observant of your surroundings, child. I was standing here the entire time, and you never even saw me."
Harry pulled his wrist from the man's grip and took a step backwards. "You were standing in the shadows." remarked Harry, pointing in the direction the man had come from. "I couldn't have seen you even if I had looked closely." he said with a raised eyebrow.
Snape smirked. "Only to the untrained eye." he said as if teaching a class. "Perhaps you should have looked closer." Harry didn't have the chance to talk back as the man quickly left him and entered the Great Hall.
"Hey." muttered Harry. "What's that all about?" he wondered. Did the man want him to be more observant of the shadows, or what? Harry honestly didn't know what that guy was about sometimes. He went after him and entered the Hall. Most of the Professors were there, sitting at the head table, which also happened to be the only table set up. The teenager stopped in mid-stride. Was he even allowed to eat in here? He couldn't be sure. There were no tables set up where the students would normally sit. Harry came to the conclusion that most staff didn't even realize he was here, and no one had prepared for him to eat in the Hall. He realized that unless he went down to the kitchens, he wouldn't be getting breakfast. He suddenly felt hurt that the Potions Professor hadn't mentioned this to him.
He quickly turned and left the Great Hall, not seeing the concerned look thrown in his direction. Harry ran a hand through his hair, dishelving it even more than it already was, and headed for the kitchens instead. He wasn't surprised to see Dobby as soon as he entered. The little elf ran directly for him and threw his arms around his waist. "Harry Potter, sir! What are you doing here?" he asked, jumping up and down in his excitement.
"I came early, Dobby. Do you mind getting me something to eat?" he asked, taking a seat at the table.
"Oh, yes, Harry Potter, sir. Dobby will get it for you right now." he squeaked, and ran off. It wasn't much later when food of all kinds and amounts appeared in front of him.
Harry looked at the food in awe. He thought Dobby had outdone himself, big time, but didn't say anything to the house elf. After Dobby continued to ask question upon question, Harry asked if the elf would mind unpacking his things into Gryffindor tower for him while he ate. Dobby jovially agreed and disappeared. Harry liked Dobby, but the elf could be a little overbearing at times. Especially times like this one. He still felt a little saddened about the way Severus had just left him like that. He was beginning to think that this whole guardian thing might not be such a great idea. He dejectedly picked at some french toast, not noticing when the door slid open and someone entered.
Severus had watched in puzzlement as the young man had walked from the Great Hall and from the slump in his shoulders, the boy had been upset. He didn't think he had said anything that would have offended him, but something had happened. He excused himself from the table and headed after the child. He knew Harry was heading for the kitchens, by the direction he had taken. When he finally reached them, he saw the boy sitting at a table by himself. He wondered where that blasted house elf was, that constantly fumbled about the boy. Harry was picking at some kind of toast, not having touched a bit of it. The poor child looked quite miserable.
"Harry, what's wrong?" he asked immediately. The boy knocked the uneaten sandwich from the plate as he suddenly turned towards the voice.
The Potions Professor watched carefully as the boy seemed to stumble over his words, not knowing what to say. "Nothing." he said at last, but Snape didn't believe that for a second. The boy's voice and body language belied his words.
Severus stepped up to the table and took a seat beside the fidgeting boy. "Why don't I believe you?" he asked.
"I don't know, why the hell don't you?" he shot back, and then slapped a hand over his mouth. 'What the hell am I doing? Mouthing off to Snape!' he asked himself incredulously.
Snape's eyebrows nearly went beneath his hair line. "Excuse me?" he asked.
Apparently he looked intimidating, because Harry immediately shied away from the older man. "I didn't mean it like that." he began abruptly. "It just kind of came out."
"It just kind of came out? You need to watch your language, young man. I can officially take house points, as it is the first day of school." stated Severus, pointedly staring at the younger man.
Harry looked indignant and on the verge of telling Snape off when he finally looked away. Snape thought he had heard the word 'jerk', but let it go.
"Sorry." said Harry, clearly not meaning it.
Snape sighed, exasperated. He had come down here to see what was wrong and ended up getting into a quarrel with the boy. What is wrong with this situation? "Why didn't you stay in the Great Hall for breakfast?" he finally asked.
Harry swung his head back around, shock clearly displayed on his face. "What?" he asked confused. "I didn't think I was allowed." he muttered, starting to feel embarrassed.
"Of course you were." said Snape. "Why would you think you weren't allowed?"
Harry drew a hand through his hair again, making it fly around his face haphazardly. "Well, there weren't any tables for students to sit at, and I didn't think I was allowed to sit at the teacher's table, so I came to the kitchens instead."
"Oh." said Severus. "I suppose that is a logical conclusion to come to."
"Well, yeah." agreed Harry. He didn't feel quite as discarded as he had before. "Want to have some?" he asked, motioning at the food.
Severus let a grin slide onto his face, and nearly laughed at the shock on the boy's face. 'Yes, I do smile.' he thought. "Why not?" he said, and helped himself to some scrambled eggs.
Harry waited anxiously in the entrance hall. The other students would be there any second and he didn't know if he wanted to be happy or freaked out. Severus had left him after spending most of the afternoon together, to join the other staff members in the Great Hall. They had had a very nice afternoon, and got into no more petty arguments. Now he almost wished the day had lasted longer. He shifted uncomfortably. Severus had applied the healing ointment to his bruised body right before he left. Although it made the pain fade, it also made it worse for while he was spreading the stuff on him. He was pulled from his thoughts as several students came flooding through the doors, most passed him by and headed straight into the Great Hall. Others who knew him, mainly people from Gryffindor, stopped to say a quick hello before going in themselves. It wasn't long before he saw the two people he was hoping and dreading to see.
"Harry!" yelled a female voice, and the boy found himself ensconced in a firm hug. "How are you?" asked Hermione, concern clouding her voice. He hadn't been able to write to either of them, due to the circumstances of his summer. Ron was right behind her.
"Hey, mate." he said, clapping him on the shoulder. "You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Look, can we talk about this later?" he asked, knowing they wanted all the details of his summer.
"Sure, Harry, that's fine." answered Hermione. He saw his two best friends exchange looks before heading into the Hall. They both thought he was hiding something from them, something about the Dursley's. They knew his home life hadn't ever been great, but they didn't have a clue what was going on now, even if they thought they did. They weren't even close.
The meal seemed to fly by; he hadn't even noticed when the Headmaster had given his usual opening speech. He'd been thinking of how he could break the news to his friends. He thought he might as well just come out and directly say it. Urg, he did not want to do this.
Too soon, and they were sitting in the common room. Most of the others had already gone up to their dormitories. It had been a long day, and most of them were tired. There were a few stray students still lounging around, and talking quietly, but no one was paying attention to the trio in front of the fireplace.
"Harry, why didn't you write us this summer?" asked Hermione, cutting right into the subject. Ron watched him curiously as well.
The green eyed youth sighed. "Hedwig wasn't exactly nearby for me to write you guys." he stated, waving his hands around.
"What do you mean?" asked Hermione, worry flooding her. "Where were you?"
They were obviously jumping to the wrong conclusion. "Well, to make a long story short, I'm just going to spit it out, okay?" he asked. They both nodded eagerly. "Professor Snape took me from the Dursley's and I've spent my summer with him." he said all in one breath.
He watched his friends, as neither one had said a thing. They both looked at him with odd expressions on their faces.
"He took you?" asked Ron, not completely understanding. "Why?"
Harry sighed for the umpteenth time that night. "He saw my Uncle being his usual pratness and brought me back to Hogwarts. I ended up going on a kind of mission with him, and now...well, we're kind of friends, I guess."
"Friends?" asked Ron, slowly. "Friends?" he kept repeating the word, as if he couldn't fully wrap his mind around the concept.
Hermione just sat there, with what he hoped was understanding on her face.
"You're friends with him?" Ron finally spat out. "What the hell for?"
"Ron, he's helped me a lot this summer. He took me away from the Dursley's. As if that wasn't enough, he's saved my ass more times than I can count in just a few months time. He's not as hateful as he makes himself out to be." he found himself defending the older man, and didn't really know why. It just felt right.
"Well, you can stop being friends with him now. You're real friends are here. You don't need that greasy haired git." he ground out.
Harry threw his hands up in exasperation. "I can't, Ron. He's my guardian!" he practically hissed, and Ron nearly fell out of his chair.
"Guardian?" he asked, and began to repeat the word as he'd done earlier.
"Yes, Ron, guardian! Do you know what that means?" he asked.
"Yeah, I do." said Ron. "That git can control what you do. What were you thinking, Harry?" he spat back.
Harry just looked at his 'friend' silently. "I was thinking it would be nice to have someone else look out for me. Someone who actually cares." he deadpanned.
Ron stared at him, shocked. Hermione placed an encouraging hand on his arm. "Fine, continue to delude yourself. When you finally come to your senses, you know where to find me." argued Ron. He stood from the armchair he had been sitting in, and with one last hard look, left the room.
Harry dropped his head into his hands. "That went well." he said. He looked the girl in the eyes and saw only compassion and understanding. "What do you say about all this?" he asked.
"I say I think this is a good thing, Harry." she squeezed his arm. "But Harry, I realize you care about him, but I want you to be careful. He's still a spy," she whispered, "can you be sure he's trustworthy?" she asked.
Harry lightly took her hand. "I'm fairly certain. I'm not totally letting my guard down with him. But, I do feel as if I can trust him. That's got to mean something, doesn't it?" he asked.
"Sure it does. But, promise me you'll be careful. I won't trust this thing until I see him with you for myself." he nodded in acquiescence. "And if he hurts you, tell me. Understand?" she practically demanded.
Harry smiled despite the serious conversation. "I will. He won't, but I will tell you what's going on."
Hermione returned the smile. "I hope so, Harry." She noticed the sad look upon his face and realized he was worried about Ron. "Don't worry about him, he'll come around."
"Maybe." he replied. They both retired to their respective dormitories. When Harry entered his, he saw that Ron had the curtains pulled tight around his bed. The teenager sighed, pulled off his clothes and got into his pajamas. Climbing into bed, he quickly closed his own curtains and fell asleep.
In the next bed, Ron sat rigidly, a look of deep worry on his face. He had seen the bruises on Harry's body when he had gotten undressed. He knew for certain now that Snape was doing something to force Harry into this 'guardianship' thing. He'd tell Hermione tomorrow. With her help, they'd get Harry to see that the damn bastard was hurting him. This couldn't continue. He eyed his best friend's closed curtains and made himself lay down. There was nothing he could do now. Harry wouldn't listen to him right now anyways. He hoped the night passed quickly.
A/N: Well, what do you think of the sequel? I hope it is good. You can expect the next chapter to be longer, I'm sorry they keep being so short. Thanks for all the reviews to the last chapter of Somewhere I Belong. I really love you guys.
In the next chapter:
Ron tells Hermione about the bruises.
Harry and Snape spend more quality time together.
Harry finally has that vision.
Deliverance has a little conversation with Ron after running into an upset Harry.
What do you think, I appreciate any reviews.
Jade Caminus: I'm working on that chapter, so you can expect some of it in the next few days, if you're reading this.
Everyone: have a good week. Review! Love you!