Author's Note: Hey everyone! We've finally come to the end of Family Night! I hope you all enjoyed the ride! I wanted to take this time to bow down in thanks to my wonderful friend and beta, ckat44. I wrote this fic for her in the first place, since I know she loves her angst and her Snape and Harry interaction, lol! She has done so much for this fic I can't even say. She has helped me tremendously with working on Snape's characterization in particular and I believe I have had a huge learning experience through working with her on this fic. She was never afraid to point out to me things that didn't seem to fit, even down to the tiniest thing that didn't seem right for someone to say. I couldn't have done this without her, so she deserves a huge thank you for not only giving me the motivation to write and post this fic, but for helping me shape it into what it is. Thank you so much Katie! You are a thousand different kinds of awesome.
Snape looked up from his grading with an eyebrow raised. Harry was sitting across from him, arms folded on the table, his chin resting on them. The boy was watching Snape grade and the man found it slightly daunting.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked.
Harry grinned drowsily and nodded, coughing hoarsely but not looking much bothered by it. Earlier in the day, his friends had stopped by and they'd had (in Snape's opinion) a disgustingly sentimental conversation about how dreadfully sorry they were, everyone trying to outdo the other in apologies. Though it had been a teary teenagery mess, Snape was glad to see Harry's spirits had at least been lifted.
"It's funny to see the grading process from this perspective. You seem to have some very creative insults stored up, just waiting to give to your poor, unsuspecting students."
"If they're unsuspecting at this point, their brains are obviously not sufficient enough to function and should not be in my class," Snape muttered.
"Why did that person get an F?" Harry asked sympathetically.
"Because it is obvious he did not read the chapter. He mixed up the ingredients of the assigned potion so horribly that if he had used this plan to concoct the actual thing, as he and his classmates are supposed to do this week, the result would be a mixture whose explosion would probably kill half of Hogwarts."
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Oh, well that's definitely not good then. You'll need to fix them with a particularly creative insult," he said, clearly amused.
"Any suggestions, or will variations of the phrase 'simpering idiot' do?" Snape asked with a slightly malicious smirk.
"How about, 'Mr. Kemmer, it is apparent that you do not know base ingredients from acidic ones. It is doubly clear that you do not know your head from your arse. Though it is obvious where the confusion comes in, please try to sort out the matter before entering my classroom again,'" Harry suggested with a tired chuckle.
Snape smirked with amusement. "Fitting," he commented and wrote it word for word in the margin, causing Harry to laugh despite himself. At a particularly painful sounding cough, Snape summoned a cup of hot lemon water and scooted it toward Harry who made a face. "Quit your grimacing; it'll soothe your throat. Breathe in as much of the steam as you can for your lungs. You'll thank me later."
Harry's nose crinkled as he sipped the hot liquid. "You have far too much fun with that," he said mischievously, indicating the papers Snape was grading, "but you know, I can see where the entertainment value lies."
"I do this to get students to pay attention to my comments and realize the seriousness of their blunders. It's for the sake of education," Snape insisted indignantly.
Harry grinned and sipped his lemon water. "Sure it is. Now, let me think of another good one, and I'll even try to work in 'simpering idiot,' just for you."
"You're putting up more of a fight than I'd predicted," Snape admitted.
"You'll never win," Harry asserted confidently.
"Checkmate," Snape declared.
"Bugger." Harry grinned sheepishly at Snape's stern look. "Oops? I mean darn."
Snape shook his head in amusement.
The past few days had been interesting, if nothing else. To keep Harry from stressing about school or dying of boredom, Snape had found himself trying to find ways of keeping the boy entertained and in doing so, the two had gotten along surprisingly well. Snape would never admit it, even fully so to himself, but he actually sort of liked having someone to take care of, a child who needed him as Harry did, especially due to his illness. He'd been trying to get Harry to realize that his relationship with Lupin wasn't a good one, that he shouldn't want a parental figure whose affections were conditional. At times, he thought he might have gotten through, and at other times he was sure Harry was trying to figure out if there was a possibility that Lupin would forgive him and rescue him from his miserable life at the Dursleys'.
In fact, now that their chess game was over, Snape could see Harry's thoughts were beginning to drift in that direction. He checked the clock. It was nine pm, and was now officially after curfew. He had a flash of an idea to get Harry's mind off things, one that would hopefully improve his spirits. He figured Harry was well enough to do it if he bundled up enough.
"Potter, go put on your scarf and gloves," he instructed suddenly. "And don't forget your cloak. We're going outside."
"It's night," Harry thought to point out.
"I am aware of that, thank you," Snape replied, rolling his eyes, "and I know from when I was a student that night is a particularly nice time to fly around the Quidditch pitch. It is much more peaceful."
"You're going to fly a broomstick?" Harry asked incredulously. Snape shot him a slightly exasperated look, silently asking him if he ever thought before he spoke. "Oh, you mean, I can go flying? I haven't been in so long…" he trailed off with a wistful look before racing off to grab his broomstick and put on the extra clothes Snape had suggested. Snape was relieved Weasley had simply brought down all of Harry's things rather than try to discriminate between what he would and would not need, as it made the whole thing much easier.
He threw on his own winter cloak and grabbed some essays he still needed to grade and soon the two were heading through the empty halls toward the Quidditch pitch.
Snape sat in the stands using a Lumos charm to see the papers he was grading, yet the miserable excuses for essays weren't holding his attention. Instead, he couldn't help but watch Harry and try to restrain himself from ordering the boy out of the air.
He inhaled sharply once again as Harry performed another death-defying stunt. When Harry playfully tried to stand and balance on his hovering broom, one foot in front of the other, Snape felt his stomach drop.
"Potter!" he barked. "Potter, you moronic boy!"
When Harry looked over, Snape shook his head angrily and pointed down. Harry plopped back into a seated position with a slightly confused look. Snape figured nobody had ever tried to stop him from breaking his neck before.
Snape felt his jaw clench anxiously as Harry zoomed around the poles, flipping upside-down and right-side up as he flew.
"Boy has a bloody death wish," Snape muttered to himself, wincing as Harry shot up and down in drastic dives. He hadn't known letting the boy go flying would result in needing a stiff drink. He watched as Harry shot up until he was a small dot and then spiraled back down. "What are you doing what are you doing what are you doing," Snape chanted under his breath as he watched Harry plummeted toward the ground at breakneck speed. Snape hadn't been an excellent flier in his day, but even he knew that if Harry was going to try pulling out of that dive sharply, he shouldn't be corkscrewing down, as it would throw him off balance when he tried to pull up. "Fuck!" he gasped as Harry nearly collided with the ground. But when Harry pulled up, because of the awkward momentum, he was thrown from his broom and landed with a thud on the field.
Snape jumped up with a curse of the most profane language and raced to the field where Harry was lying. As he drew close, he could at least tell that Harry was conscious and moving slightly, even if it was just to clutch his head with a groan.
Dropping to his knees beside the Gryffindor, Snape quickly scanned Harry for any sign of broken limbs or protruding bones or deep gashes. Harry's eyes were screwed shut and the heels of his hands were pressed against his forehead.
"Potter!" Snape shouted urgently. "Harry, are you injured? Open your eyes and look at me!"
Harry groaned and wrenched his eyes open to look into the frantic face of his teacher. "You called me Harry," he managed with a smile.
Snape rolled his eyes. "Where are you hurt," he demanded.
"I'm fine," Harry groaned, struggling to sit up with a helping hand from Snape. "Just knocked the wind out of me. And I think it jolted my head around a bit."
"Hold still," Snape ordered and ran his wand around Harry's head. He sighed in relief at the results. "Everything appears fine. No cranial damage" He glared at the teen. "What the hell were you thinking up there? You could have gotten yourself killed!"
"Well, I didn't," Harry offered and Snape growled in exasperation.
"Well you are certainly done with flying for tonight," Snape informed him sharply, summoning the broom and his papers. "And we're going to have a talk about these irresponsible stunts before you can go flying again and if I ever see you pull something like that again, I'm confiscating your broom."
Harry stared at him oddly and Snape jolted with the realization of how parental he'd just sounded.
"'Kay," Harry said, still looking a bit dazed, and not just from the fall.
Snape helped him to his feet and stilled as Harry gasped in pain. "What?" he asked urgently.
"My ankle," Harry admitted with a wince. "I think I might have sprained it."
Snape sighed. "Alright, let's get back to my chambers and I'll heal it."
"Sprained-ankle serum?" Harry asked cheekily.
"More like Idiot's Elixir," Snape grumbled, pulling Harry's arm across his shoulders and helping him hobble into the castle toward the dungeons.
"Are we almost there?" Harry ground out through clenched teeth, emitting sounds of protest each time he had to put weight on his bad foot, which was aching harshly after the long walk.
"One more staircase and a short hall," Snape informed him.
They turned a corner and froze in seeing who was blocking their path.
"Remus?" Harry asked meekly, the hopeful sound in his voice making Snape pull him just a bit closer to his side.
Remus approached them with an angry look.
"Where have you been, Harry?" Remus demanded.
"With Professor Snape," Harry answered guiltily. "I've been a bit ill so I haven't been able to go to classes."
"You couldn't go to class but you could go flying in the middle of the night?" Remus asked, gesturing sharply at the broomstick in Harry's hand.
"Harry's recent absence from classes is none of your business, Lupin, but I'm sure you've already been informed of the reasons behind it nonetheless. It's an order from his professors," Snape sneered.
"So now he's so special he shouldn't have to work as hard as the other students and must now take mandatory holidays to keep from becoming overworked?" Remus asked incredulously. "Did anyone stop to think that maybe if he worked a bit harder, less people would die? He needs to be pushed, can't any of you see that?"
"Remus, I'm sorry," Harry said distraughtly, pulling away from Snape and stepping toward Remus pleadingly.
"Get away from me," Remus barked emotionally and Harry jumped back, clearly upset.
"That's enough, Lupin." Snape snapped furiously.
"Keep out of this, Snape!" Remus yelled, turning on Harry and pointing furiously at the Potions professor. "What have you been doing hanging around with him?" Remus demanded. "James's and Sirius's worst enemy? What do you think they'd say if they were here?"
"I'd think they'd want me to get better," Harry said in a tight voice that betrayed how desperately he was trying to gain control of his emotions. "Sn—Professor Snape's treated me much better than the Dursleys ever did, even if it was only for a little while, so I think my dad would have been happy."
Snape looked at Harry in surprise. He would never have guessed Harry would have stood up to Remus, especially on his behalf. He felt an inexplicable burst of pride and hated Lupin all the more.
"Your dad would be rolling over in his grave if he could see you right now!" the werewolf yelled, half-hysterical. "He'd be ashamed! You got Sirius killed and you don't even care! You're running around with the person that probably wanted Sirius dead the most!"
"You are out of control, Lupin!" Snape warned, but that didn't stop the unhinged man's tirade at the vulnerable teen.
"Do you even care that you took away the last person who was keeping me sane?"
Tears welled up in Harry's eyes as he stammered apologies.
"It's unfortunate, but you are Voldemort's main enemy, Harry. The only one who can defeat him. You can't keep playing around like a child and I seem to be the only one who realizes that! I thought you were going to try to make up for causing Sirius's death by making sure it doesn't happen to anyone else! You've been working harder; you wouldn't have done that if you didn't know I was right! Dumbledore's accusing me of being to hard on you, saying that the best thing for you is to be alone with Snape! But until he…" He jutted a finger sharply at Snape. "…interfered, you agreed with me! I was helping you! Helping you so people we love don't keep dying and I can't help it if you're the only one who can stop that from happening!"
"That's rich, you delusional—"
"I was doing it for you!" Harry shouted angrily, interrupting Snape and furiously wiping at the wetness on his cheeks. "I just wanted you to be proud of me! I just wanted you to come and see me and talk to me about something else besides the stupid war!"
"You don't need to be coddled and told everything's all right! It's NOT! It's not all right! Sirius is dead! You have to think about your place in the war, Harry!" Remus yelled.
"I think about it all the bloody time!" Harry exclaimed. "You think I need help remembering about that! Well I don't!"
"Obviously you do or you wouldn't have let them take you away from training for it!"
Snape stepped forward with a sneer. "Don't kid yourself into thinking you're doing something noble here, Lupin. This isn't about the war and you know it! This is about misplaced revenge on a child! Harry has plenty of time to worry about the future without you trying to steal away any joy he has in life!"
"It is about the war! Harry's not a kid anymore! He can't be or people are going to die! I can't believe you of all people are buying into this shite, Severus. Surely you must understand what it's going to be like if Harry can't get his act together," Remus growled.
"I know what war is like, Lupin," Snape said darkly. "I also know Harry's going to have a big part in this one at some time and for that, he needs to be trained. But that doesn't mean you are allowed to use that as an excuse to mentally abuse him!"
"Shut up, Death Eater! You're just trying to make him forget what he's fighting for!" Remus practically screamed.
"I believe you're managing that well enough on your own," Snape said in a deadly voice.
Remus scowled at him and turned back to Harry. "We're at war, Harry, and like it or not, your choices affect people's lives. If you slack off like this, people are going to die! You're taking off the week? How many lives is that, Harry? How many people are going to die when you're too incompetent to do your job! You're supposed to be a savior, Harry! You're supposed to save people, not get them killed!"
Snape stepped protectively in front of Harry.
"Lupin, I'm warning you…" Snape growled. He drew his wand, but Harry grabbed his arm and shook his head pleadingly.
"But you didn't save Sirius, now did you? DID YOU? You let him die! You let him…"
There was an audible crack as Snape punched him across the face with his free fist. As Remus scrambled to his feet, he found himself at the receiving end of Snape's wand. Snape looked livid and Harry was staring at him with tears streaming down his face, his eyes expressing his emotions so clearly as they always had, as Lily's always had. Those eyes showed disbelief, whether at Remus's words or the physical violence that had just erupted between two supposedly mature adults, he couldn't be certain. He himself was shocked that Severus had thrown a punch. The man had clearly done it to defend Harry, to protect him. Had Remus somehow become someone Harry needed to be protected from?
What was perhaps worse was the mixed look of shame and guilt and misery and pain swirling around in those green depths. Remus was forcibly reminded of the times he'd comforted a distraught James back in school, and the time he had found Lily crying in the astronomy tower in their fifth year. It had hurt him so badly to see his friends in pain and here was Harry, a combination of the two of them, eyes brimming with all the horrible feelings Remus had prayed Harry would never have to feel. The same gut-wrenching feeling he used to have when his friends were upset was coming back and hitting him full force. But this was worse. So much worse. Because he knew, he suddenly knew, those eyes were brimming over with agony because of him.
"Harry?" he asked in a tight voice. To his horror, Harry flinched, he flinched, at his voice and Snape used his free arm to pull Harry closer to his back so to better shield him. Remus felt sick. He couldn't face the real reason he'd been so harsh on Harry, but suddenly saw the true degree of his demands on the boy and that they were not just because of the war. Most of all, he saw the pain he had caused. He had never, ever wanted to cause pain, one reason he'd been so ashamed of being a werewolf, because of the possibility that he might hurt someone. But look what he had done. He had somehow hurt a boy he truly did care about so much deeper than he could have as a wolf.
"You need help, Lupin," Snape said with a cold glare. "You're going to leave Potter alone, understood?"
Remus nodded almost imperceptibly and leaned heavily against the wall. Snape wrapped an arm around Harry and pulled him to his side both for comfort and to help him as the pair made their way toward Snape's chambers, Harry's face half-buried into Snape's robes.
Snape sat on the couch next to Harry and handed the distressed boy a cup of tea, laced with a potion to heal his ankle.
"I've lost Remus and I've got no one left," he sniffed mournfully, wiping at his cheeks with his sleeve.
"Oh really. Forgetting about Granger and Weasley? It seems they must be extremely attached to you if they're still trying so desperately to regain the close friendship you three once had after you've done your best to push them away this year," Snape pointed out.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I've been awful to them," he agreed, looking at his tea with a dazed look. "It's just that the only thing I've ever wanted in my whole life was for a mum or a dad or some adult that wanted me, you know? I know you probably think I'm being melodramatic but I have some pretty big things I need to deal with and all my friends, they tell their parents about their problems and suddenly it's like their parents are doing the worrying for them. And sometimes they just come back from a talk with their parents almost cured of their problems, saying it's not a big deal anymore. The only time I have ever felt like that was with Remus in third year, when I told him about the Dementors and he said he'd help me so I didn't have to worry about it anymore because I knew he would make things right. And there's other stuff too. Like when Ron got a really bad flu last year he went home and his parents took care of him. With me, no matter how sick I get I'm always in the hospital wing and the only adult worrying about me is Madam Pomfrey. I just wanted someone who would show up for this stupid Family Night because they wanted to and have them be proud to see what I had done, or even just because they didn't want me to spend it alone. And now Remus is gone, so what's the use? Why even care about grades if nobody's checking my report card?" Harry asked bitterly.
"Because you have a life to live," Snape said sternly. "You can't live that life for anyone else but yourself, Potter, or you're going to be in for some great disappointments." He paused but reluctantly continued. "Look, Potter, I was clearly never close with your father, but I think you should know you were his pride and joy. He prattled on about you so much at Order meetings that we nearly kicked him out; it was really quite disgusting."
Harry looked up at him with a teary chuckle. "Really?"
"I have nightmares of the sentimentality even now." Snape cleared his throat uncomfortably. "But you should know that your parents would have, you know, been proud of you and such."
Harry smiled. "You're getting quite sentimental yourself there, Professor," he teased, though Snape could tell how much his reassurance had meant to the boy. After all, Snape was hardly one to sugar coat the truth, especially for Harry Potter.
"Yes, I will be having a stiff drink after you get off to sleep and hope I can forget all about the wretched mush that I emitted just now," he said with a self-disgusted tone that caused Harry to laugh.
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said sincerely.
Snape nodded in acknowledgment, watching as Harry blinked and looked at him seriously.
"Um, I just realized that I was saying some sort of stupid stuff and wanted to apologize. I don't want you to think that I haven't acknowledged what you've done for me," Harry said guiltily.
"What are you blathering on about, Potter?"
"Well, before. I said I never felt that someone was making things better by just talking to them except with Remus and that's not true. I feel better when I talk to you. And especially this week, I knew I could tell you things and I had that weird feeling like I didn't have to worry so much about it anymore. It's sort of like magic, actually. And tonight, you know, I knew you'd take care of things with Remus, that you'd defend me, so it wasn't true when I said that Remus with the Dementors was the only time I thought an adult would take care of my problems for me, that wasn't true. And it wasn't true that I said I always have to stay in the hospital wing when I'm sick. I mean, that was pretty stupid of me to say when I'm sick and I'm here and you've been taking care of me. So I just wanted you to know that I do know everything you've done for me and I don't want you to think I'm ungrateful, because I am…grateful that is," Harry said awkwardly, but with the utmost sincerity.
"There's no need for thanks," Snape said uncomfortably after a moment. "Now drink your tea and let me see your ankle."
As it approached a time when both Harry and Snape were growing very aware that Harry would need to get back to classes soon, both secretly found that they didn't want that day to come. Harry had finally found an adult that had protected him and comforted him, however unconventionally so, and it was going to be very difficult to voluntarily leave. However, he wouldn't fight it. Harry wanted an adult that wanted him and that wasn't something he could force on anyone, especially Snape.
Snape felt very confused as the two ate their last dinner together before Harry would move back to the Gryffindor dormitory. He should have been relieved the annoying Gryffindor was leaving. He would be getting back his privacy, his time to think and wouldn't have to worry about entertaining a bored teenager. He tried to think of all the annoying things Harry had done during his stay, but instead of aggravation at the memories, he felt a strange sense of contentment like he had never felt before, not even once. Sadly enough, the short time he'd spent with Harry had probably been the most fun he'd had in his life, if only because he had actually spent time with someone whose intentions Snape never had to doubt. He never had to wonder if Harry was trying to plot around him, he never had to worry about Harry's possible underlying motives or allegiances were, and he never had to wonder if Harry was spending time with him out of some sort of misplaced pity. And Harry was different than most of the people he associated with. He was innocent and full of life; he had accepted Snape's sense of humor for what it was and actually laughed at his jokes. Nobody had ever laughed at his jokes. He had always wondered if they were too dimwitted to understand them or if they were just afraid of him.
But Harry hadn't been afraid. He had treated Snape like a person rather than an untouchable or as someone to avoid. Now that he'd gotten a taste for it, Snape was oddly uncomfortable with letting it go.
"Professor," Harry asked him curiously. "what do you do for fun? All you ever talk about is doing research."
Snape's eyebrow shot up. This was what he meant; nobody had ever asked him that before except as a derogatory taunt.
"That is what I do for fun. I try to invent new potions or spells, especially counterspells to darker curses." At Harry's raised eyebrow he frowned. "What?" he asked defensively.
"Well, no offense, sir, but that really does not sound fun," Harry admitted and Snape had to admit he was probably right.
"Expanding your mind is quite rewarding; you should attempt it some time," he said with a smirk, realizing quickly that it was probably not in good taste after all Harry had been through that year. He quickly changed the subject. "What would you propose I do for fun?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I dunno, go out with friends?" Harry paused and his eyebrows knitted together. "Do you have friends?"
At Snape's scowl, Harry hurried to apologize. "I didn't mean that in a mean way. Who would I be to talk? I never had a single friend until Hogwarts and each summer it's back to the loner life. I mean, I used to be a pariah at my primary school. I was just some shrimpy nobody who got bullied around all the time. I guess it was meant in some cosmic way to balance out this part of my life. But anyway, I'm just curious, have you ever been on a date?"
"Of course I've been on dates!" Snape snapped indignantly. "I'm thirty-six for Merlin's sake!"
"Can you tell me about them?" Harry asked excitedly. "I won't tell anyone, I swear."
"Absolutely not, or would you like me to inquire into your tryst with Miss Chang?"
Harry shrugged. "There wasn't really anything to tell with me and Cho. She cried a lot, even during the one time we kissed, she was very girlie, and then on the only date we ever had, she got jealous because she thought I fancied Hermione, and that was pretty much it. Your turn!"
"As much as I was enthralled to hear of your teenage romance woes, I am certainly not obligated to tell a dating tale of my own. If you had wanted that, you should have secured it before playing your own card. You really should learn to be a little more Slytherin."
"Aw, no fair," Harry whined playfully.
"Besides, why do you automatically assume I'm single?" Snape asked indignantly.
"Because you don't wear a wedding ring and never leave the school. Professor Flitwick has a wife and he leaves Hogwarts every weekend to spend it with her. Aside from him, I assumed most of the staff would have to be single in order to take a position in a boarding school," Harry explained tactfully.
"Perhaps I simply do not want to let anyone know I have a wife," Snape suggested. "I can be very discreet when I need to be."
"Why would you do that?" Harry asked playing along with the hypothetical situation.
"Perhaps she refuses to take part in the war and my position as a spy would have endangered her life and mine if the Dark Lord found out," Snape challenged.
"Of course you just had to end being a spy so you could have come out with it," Harry pointed out.
"She could still be in danger," Snape argued.
"Or maybe, it has to be hidden not because of you, but because of her," Harry suggested. "Because she has to be seen as single for her career." Harry lowered his voice to a near-whisper and leaned toward the Potions master in a conspiring sort of manner. "You're secretly married to a supermodel, aren't you?"
Snape surprised even himself by bursting into laughter. Real, out-loud laughter. He couldn't remember a time when he'd actually laughed in this carefree sort of way. "Well, Potter, I'd certainly hope I'd marry someone with a few brain cells."
Harry gave a fake look of indignation. "Supermodels can be smart too! I'm sure your secret wife would be furious if she heard you calling her dumb." He smirked and looked to his plate. "Besides, we both know it's just about the sex," he said casually, taking a bite of his food to hide his snickering.
Snape gaped at him. "Potter!" he admonished, but couldn't help but get sucked into their little game of teasing. "That is of course very true, but it's absolutely not polite dinnertime conversation."
He was very satisfied when Harry nearly choked on his food while breaking down into hysterical laughter.
When dinner was through, the atmosphere changed to a sad one as Harry dragged his trunk to the door. Snape cleared his throat to say his farewell, but found the words became stuck in his throat.
"Thank you so much, Professor, for everything," Harry said, radiating with sincerity.
Snape nodded jerkily. "You had better take care of yourself this time. Follow the schedule we worked out for you and don't get into trouble. Regular meals, sleep and free time, no exceptions."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I know."
The two stood there in silence for a few moments, not knowing what to say.
Suddenly Harry stepped forward and hugged Snape so briefly that Snape was almost unsure for a moment if it had really happened. But then Harry quickly wiped away a lone rebel tear.
"See you in class," he muttered before turning and hurrying out the door.
"Potter!" Snape called after a second's deliberation and the teen turned around hopefully. "If you are not otherwise occupied, come here for dinner tomorrow night. I'd like to be certain you're adjusting well."
Harry nodded with a bit of a lighter look than before. "And Professor? Outside of class, please, call me Harry."
Snape looked around at all the gaping faces, fixing his trademark glare on each and every one of them, which certainly stopped the staring problem momentarily. He looked to his side to see Harry trying desperately not to laugh, still looking a bit in awe of the situation himself.
"Quiet, Harry," he grumbled, practically growling at some third year who was staring at him with his jaw hanging open.
"You know, if you want to go, I'd understand. You don't have to stay," Harry repeated for the forty-seventh time.
"Don't be an idiot; of course I'm staying," Snape said firmly. "It was my idea after all. And if you tell me I don't have to stay one more time, I will carry out those threats I made on the thirty-fourth time."
Harry's thankful smile was all he needed as encouragement to hold strong in the extremely awkward situation. It was getting difficult, however, to ignore the tearfully grateful looks Mrs. Weasley and the Granger girl were casting at him, not to mention the hundreds of stunned gazes that kept sneaking his way.
The chattering quieted down as Dumbledore stood at the teachers' table where Snape would have usually been sitting.
"Welcome, to the year's final Family Night. It seems as though we were having the Welcoming feast just yesterday, but the truest testament to the time that has passed are the students sitting before us. Each of them has come far from where they were at the first Family Night and I'm certain no one can see that as well as their families and loved ones, the ones watching them from afar as they transform little by little from children into respectable witches and wizards. I hope all of you are very proud of the students you have come to see, as am I."
Snape was thankful when the food finally appeared and the horribly sentimental speech was over, trying to suppress his disgust at the cooing parents around him. He could feel people staring at him again, waiting to see if he'd fawn over Harry, no doubt. He shot them scowls in return that clearly said, "not in this lifetime" and also managed to implant the worry that he might still be able to change their Potions grades last minute if they didn't stop staring.
Of course, he actually did feel a bit proud of Harry. After all, he had come much farther than most of the other students who had merely gained book knowledge, or at least claimed to. Thankfully, Harry understood his policy on public displays of affection of any kind and had been satisfied (well, more like overjoyed) when Snape had managed to somehow, in an indirect way of course, get across that he was proud of him over dinner the previous night when it was just the two of them.
"So, Ron, Ginny, any grades you need to warn us about before we speak with your professors?" Mrs. Weasley asked sternly.
Ron went red and looked up at his mother sheepishly. "Er…I think my grade dropped in Charms."
Snape turned to Harry. "What about you?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "I've been keeping up with most of your marks, but anything surprising?" He was glad he had to ask since that meant Harry didn't obsessively talk about his marks anymore.
Harry and Ron exchanged a guilty look. "Er, yeah, I kind of might have failed Divination."
"Er, me too," Ron admitted.
"How did you two manage that?" Mrs. Weasley asked in exasperation.
"Well, we used to make up predictions and well, we were really good at it, but then Trelawney decided to grade this class based on if our predictions came true…" Harry trailed off with a helpless shrug.
Snape sipped his wine. "Good riddance. That class isn't worth the energy. I would be more concerned if you had passed that class."
Harry grinned and took a bite of his mashed potatoes. He couldn't believe Snape was sitting with him at the Family Night feast. It had floored him when Snape informed Harry he would be attending. He still couldn't believe how much had happened because of the Family Nightmares, as Harry had thought of it before this current one. Because of the week Harry had spent with him, he'd no longer been able to maintain his role as a spy. Harry had felt extremely guilty about it, but Snape had assured him during one of their usual dinners that it was for the best, as he was considering some plans for the summer where it wouldn't have worked anyway, but try as he might, Harry couldn't get him to spill what those plans were.
As dinner finished, students and parents filtered out of the hall. But Harry had already showed or told Snape about all his projects. He didn't care that the night was over, though. He was happy enough that Snape would have faced the awkwardness and embarrassment of sitting at the Gryffindor table at Family Night, just for him.
"Thank you so much for coming tonight, Professor," Harry gushed as soon as the two were out of the vicinity of gaping families or staff members. "I know it was sort of stupid and everything but…"
"Harry, I need to ask you something," Snape interrupted, actually sounding nervous. Harry looked at him worriedly.
"Is everything okay, Professor?"
"Yes, yes, I just need to speak to you about something." Snape looked suspiciously around and pulled Harry along the secluded hall, into a part of the castle where it would be very unlikely to meet anyone to interrupt them. "Harry, you've been asking what plans I have for the summer that would make my retirement as a spy be a beneficial move. Well, those plans are tentative, pending approval by one final person."
Harry nodded, trying not to look too eager to find out what the mysterious plans were, or too confused as to why Snape would be telling him of his summer plans in private.
"Now, during the summer, I stay at the manor I inherited from my family. No one lives in it except for me."
"Oh, you gave your supermodel wife her own manor?" Harry teased and Snape indulged him with a nervous smile, which only left Harry more perplexed.
"It's big, but there isn't much for a child…a teenager to do, though I do have a big yard that could be nice for flying. I have a huge library, and it may even contain books you'd be interested in. I own a lot of land with it and there's a creek right nearby. It's not near anything, rather isolated, though of course it is connected to the Floo system. It's very safe and protected, though after talking to Albus, he put up some extra wards, just in case…do you see where I'm going with this?"
Harry tried to see, he really did, but was forced to shake his head in response. It sounded as if Snape was trying to sell him his house, but he wasn't stupid enough to voice that guess as it didn't make any sense at all.
"I'm obviously not very good at this," Snape sighed, running a hand through his hair. Harry had never seen the man so discomposed.
"It sounds like a nice house," Harry offered.
"I'm not asking you to compliment it, I'm asking you to…to live in it," Snape said warily. "Live in it with me…as your guardian."
Harry was floored. He couldn't move, he couldn't speak, he couldn't do anything but gape at the Potions master.
"I'm not very fun, of course, but I do not want to see you going back to those abusive Muggles during the summer. And I'm not doing this out of pity," he quickly added, knowing Harry's sensitivity in that area. "I'm doing this because I would…enjoy…your company," he managed with some difficulty.
"Guardian?" Harry sputtered. "But the blood protection from my aunt…"
"I can protect you as well as your relatives, just in a different way. The wards around my home may not be as specific to you, but they should be sufficient. And if somehow they were breached, I would defend you. And, of course, I'll be able to protect you from your relatives," Snape said with a tinge of anger toward the Dursleys.
Snape watched as tears welled up in Harry's eyes. "Are you…really? Are you sure?" he asked in a tight voice. "You'd really want me to stay with you for the summer?"
"Not just the summer. If you'd be agreeable, I'd have custody of you transferred to me permanently, but if that's too much you could just…"
He was cut off as Harry collided with him, wrapping his arms fiercely around Snape and beginning to sob with happiness. Snape smiled and hugged Harry back, patting the boy's back as Harry chanted, "Thank you thank you thank you thank you," into his chest.
Harry hugged Hermione as Ron watched the fond farewell with a grin, happier than he could possibly describe to see Harry so cheerful and to have him back in the trio.
Hermione pulled Harry's cloak tighter around him in a motherly fashion, causing Harry to roll his eyes.
"You take care of yourself, this summer, Harry. I'm not kidding. You'll make sure he eats a ton, won't you, Professor?" Hermione asked the man standing behind Harry.
"Of course, Miss Granger," Snape said, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder as if to show her he was going to take his role as Harry's guardian very seriously, and do much more than make sure Harry ate food like a regular human.
"And now that you have access to a Floo, maybe you could come over occasionally," Ron said hopefully. Harry shot an inquiring look at the Potions master, who nodded in approval.
"That would be great!" Harry grinned, the two boys exchanging a quick, macho type hug.
A whistle sounded and the last of the stragglers jumped on the Hogwarts Express. Hermione gave Harry another quick hug before she and Ron jumped on the train. Harry waved to them cheerily as the train pulled out of the station.
"I saw you got an owl this morning," Snape mentioned as the two walked back toward the castle where they would floo to Snape Manor. "Was it Lupin again?"
"Yeah. He seems to be doing a lot better now with the therapy and all. He apologized again and went on about things you've already told me a thousand times, like how it wasn't me and about him misplacing his anger and everything," Harry said in a casual enough tone that Snape smiled just slightly, as it seemed Harry was starting to believe what Snape had been telling him. "And he asked me to live with him. Can you believe it? After I worked so hard for it all year and had just given it up for lost, he asks me to live with him!"
Snape felt his insides freeze, but made sure his emotions didn't show outwardly.
"What are you going to tell him?"
Harry looked at him in confusion. "What do you think? I sent an owl back right away and basically told him 'hell no'…actually it was more like a 'thanks but no thanks' sort of deal, but I let him know I was very happy to have you as my guardian." He looked up to Snape in fear. "Why? Would you rather I move in with him?"
"Of course not, you ridiculous boy," Snape said with an inward grin. It looked like they both had some insecurities that needed work, but they had time. Snape slung an arm of Harry's shoulders.
"So, I've made myself a rigorous study plan to make up for my dismal grades from the last quarter. I figure I'll be able to start pretty much right away," Harry said. Snape looked at him in a panic, but merely glared when he found himself faced with Harry's mischievous grin. "Well, fine, if you insist I fly around all summer, who am I to argue?"
Snape shook his head in amusement. It was definitely going to be a summer to remember.
A/N: Well, that's all folks! I hope you all enjoyed the fic! Please pop me a review to let me know what you think even if it's one word and fifty years from the posting date!