Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
A/N: Hello, everyone. I wasn't planning on posting anything until I finished the story, but I figured I'd get a chapter or two up. Yes, I'm still working on it, and yes it's slow going.
What's happened so far:
IM 1 & 2, Harry and Snape learn they Snape is Harry's father and although they end up trying to ignore the fact, circumstances (Dursleys dying and the Ministry attempting to find a guardian for him themselves) Snape takes guardianship over him. The Voices, unknown to anyone involved who they actually are, start talking to Harry and Severus does his best to help Harry escape them only to learn that when he was in school, he promised the Voices that a child of his would be under their control because he never wanted any children in the first place. Eventually, they do manage to separate Harry from them (mostly). During school, Severus encourages Harry in his studies and Harry pushes himself (first because the Voices are trying to prepare him).
After school, Harry tests for his Potions Mastery (and passes) and starts training to be an auror. During a practice assignment to determine why a picture of the Dursleys was being carried by a random person in the wizarding world. He's kidnapped and held in a room for several months by Mulciber, one of Voldemort's favorite torturers who's known for 'brainwashing' people.
After Harry is rescued, he is brought to St. Mungos, which they find to be mostly controlled by Death Eaters, so they must sneak out. Harry started to see a talking cat during his time with Mulciber (although he was blind during the time, so he only knew it was a cat because the Voices took it from his memories with his parents).
After a long sleep, Harry wakes up with no/very little memory of what's happened in the past few months because of precautions Mulciber took. Severus and Remus are no longer on the best of term. The cat convinces Harry to go to Hogwarts and into the Forbidden Dungeon (where the Voices seem to reside). The cat becomes solid, Severus finds out about the cat, and arrHarry visits a visitor who inadvertently convinces Harry that he should go after Voldemort.
Also: Remus is still having headaches, remember that Severus helped start up a muggleborn magic school during the summer, and the cats were given to Harry as a distraction.
Chapter 18 – The Road to Hell . . .
Harry woke to a strange sensation next to his head. It took him a few minutes to convince himself to open his eyes, and when he did, he sighed. The kittens had decided to pile up on the pillow next to him. Looking at them, he wasn't sure how that could be comfortable for them.
It wasn't until he standing did he realize it was still early in the morning.
"What do you have to do?" the cat asked, and Harry looked at it, confused.
"I don't know," he answered. It took a few more moments before he remembered his decision from yesterday, but he still didn't elaborate. Instead, he opened the door and walked into the sitting room.
He was surprised to see Hermione, Ron and Tonks. Even more surprised to see Remus, and from his dad's face, Remus was here against Severus' will. Even though he was happy to see them – he couldn't remember the last time they've been together – he couldn't seem to gather up a lot of excitement as Hermione squeezed him into a hug so tight he couldn't breathe.
"Hermione," he managed to get out.
"Oh, Harry, I'm so glad you're okay." When Harry stepped back, he saw Hermione was crying.
"I'm fine, Hermione. Really." She nodded, but didn't look like she believed him and he sighed. There seemed to be a lot of that going around. "Dad got me a couple kittens. Want to see them?"
"Maybe later, Harry," Remus spoke up, and Harry looked around.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, Harry," he answered, and silence fell over the room, and Harry took the time to walk over the Ron, who smiled and pounded him on the back.
"Glad you're safe, Harry!"
"Yeah," Harry said. "So, what is going on?" he asked as there was a knock on the door. "Who's that?" Ron shrugged as his dad answered the door and one of the Order members Harry was less familiar with walked in. "We're having a meeting?"
"Yeah," Hermione said. "I know I learned a few things I need to share. I'm not sure about everyone else though. It's a small meeting though."
One of the kittens stumbled out of the bedroom, and Harry walked over to pick her up and locked them in the room. No sense in them getting stepped on.
"That painting's nice, Severus," Tonks spoke up.
"Harry painted it," his dad answered, and a conversation picked up, but Harry didn't listen. To be honest, he wasn't sure if he wanted to attend the meeting. Now that he made his decision to take care of Voldemort himself, it felt pointless. He had his own planning to do; he didn't need a bunch of potions and research to get in the way.
By the time he focused on everyone in the living room, a few more people entered and everyone was giving him a wide berth. Hermione still looked like she was going to cry, Ron wouldn't meet his eye, and his dad and Remus looked like they wanted to get him talking. Deciding to sit, Harry glared at the rest of the room, not liking the attention.
"I don't really want to rush this," Tonks said suddenly, "but I have a meeting at the ministry. Can't miss it."
"We'll make this short," Hermione said, as Dumbledore walked in. Harry felt the headmaster look at him, but he didn't look up. He didn't want more pity looks. "The box that Professor Lupin brought up. And Ryan. After researching magical object, I think they may be related. Ryan's house being attacked and the box."
"Ryan? But he's trustworthy. I could have . . ."
"I don't think he knows, but putting all recent information together, I think the Death Eaters who attacked his house were looking for a certain patch of land. It's a . . . grounding thing, I think. And I think his daughter's in trouble."
"She's at the new school. It's secure."
"But she wasn't before," Hermione said. "She was with her mother, wasn't she? Look, I found this journal in the library in the town near where he lived. It's the closest one to the orphanage I work at, but . . . anyway, it was only by chance that I found it because I wasn't even looking for it. It was a journal, handwritten, and I thought it would make for –"
"What did you learn?" Severus interrupted, obviously irritated by her prattle, as he would call it.
"Oh, yes, well the journal was in French, so it took time to translate it. My French isn't very good, you see, as I've never had an actual teacher, but I manage. It wasn't very long, in any case. It was written by a girl, I think, although that part was rather unclear. She lived in this cabin when she came here . . . a place of power. And that power has something do with a box. The box. She mentioned it. A lot."
"This power might be the ananaqua we've been looking for," Dumbledore said quietly. "Good job. Remus, you speak French."
"Enough to get by with simple conversation. I never was one for language."
"Work with Hermione. I want to you to see if anything is familiar. For now, I will talk with Ryan and see if he knows anything about a cabin on his property. I think that will be all for now. As for the rest of you, keep up your research."
Dumbledore left before Harry looked up. Before long, everyone was gone but Hermione, Ron, and Remus. Severus had gone into the kitchen.
"Bye, Harry," Hermione said. "I have to get to the orphanage soon." She looked over at Remus. "Owl me?" she asked. "I left the journal at home."
"I will do that," Remus answered.
"You should come to the Burrow, Harry," Ron said. Everyone wants to see you." Harry nodded. He'd like that, but he wanted to stay at Hogwarts. Before he left, though, he'd definitely do that. It'd be good to say goodbye to everyone, just in case. "See you later, Harry. I have to go, too. But we really need to catch up."
Harry watched his friends go, wishing they were back to a time when all he had to worry about is getting out of studying with Hermione. Back before there was so much responsibility and . . . pain.
Remus came up to him and rested a hand on his shoulder.
"How long are you going to stay here, Harry?" he asked. Harry shrugged, not liking the cautious tone to his voice; he felt fine. It wasn't like he was going to suddenly break down.
"Maybe a week. I want to go through my lab in the old classroom, maybe work on a few potions, like . . ." Harry trailed off, thinking about his arm. They never had solved the phantom mark problem. Not that it was exactly phantom, now, but it had been light enough that through everything, he had forgotten about it. "A few potions I've been working on before . . . you know. I want to make sure I still remember everything."
There was a small pause. "What then?"
"Visit with Ron and Hermione. Then go back to the manner, I suppose," Harry answered, feeling doubt and guilt slip in. "Start up with auror training again. Hope everything stays quiet for awhile."
Remus nodded slowly, and Harry wasn't exactly sure what Remus wanted him to say. Harry looked over towards his father and saw that he was standing at the stove, waiting for water to boil. He couldn't help but think something was off about that.
"Would you like to have a seat, Harry?" Remus asked as he took a seat himself on the couch. Harry sat tentatively at the edge of the couch. "I asked Dora to marry me," he said suddenly, forced, as if he wasn't sure it was something he should say just yet. "She said yes!"
"Really? That's wicked!"
Remus nodded again. "I'll still be living at the manor, though. For as long as you need me. Dora wants the wedding to be in the summer, so it will be some time yet."
Harry's chest tightened. Remus was staying around for him, but he planned on leaving almost immediately.
"Thanks," he said quietly. "You don't have to if you would rather be with Tonks. I mean, she's going to be your wife . . ."
"She understands, Harry. You need support right now. Of course I need to stay." Harry wiped tears away from his eyes. He didn't need that right now. What he needed to was take care of the problem. Take care of Voldemort. He looked at Remus to find that he was looking at Harry as if he didn't recognize him. "You need a friend more than anything right now, and anyway, I seem to be the only one who has nowhere to be." He now sounded bitter. "I'd find a new job, of course, but Albus doesn't believe it's safe enough until we find out exactly what is wrong with me."
"I . . ." Harry found that he really, really wanted to tell Remus. What could he say that wouldn't ruin everything? "I have things I'll be doing, though," he continued, hoping he was saying the right thing. "So if you don't see me for awhile, that's why."
"Oh," Remus said slowly. "Of course. You'll be starting your training again. I expect you'll be busy."
"Right," Harry replied, feeling just as unsure as Remus sounded. He only could hope that it didn't show in his voice, too.
"I should really be going," Remus said. Harry looked up and saw Severus was bringing a tray of tea over and Harry sighed because of the tension between the two. "Perhaps I'll stop by later in the week for tea?"
"Yeah," Harry said, liking that idea. "I'd like that. Maybe in the afternoon. I'll probably sleep in."
"Perhaps someplace more private?"
"My old classroom. There are a few chairs and a table there. Dad set it up for studying, but we'd have tea there some times . . ."
They sat there in awkward silence for a few moments before Remus nodded and stood up. "Bye, Harry. Take care."
Severus traveled the rest of the way to the couch and sat down, placing the tea tray on the table. Harry picked up his cup but didn't drink. He wasn't really hungry or thirsty.
"What happened?" Harry asked." I thought you were getting along better with Remus."
"We never liked each other, Harry. Don't bring up the subject."
Harry sighed and leaned back. He knew something was different, but he just couldn't tell what. Was it because of him? Probably, Harry decided, but he was home safely now. He didn't get it.
"What are your plans for today?" Harry shrugged, not really liking this topic any better."
"Catch up on potions, at least. I want to make sure . . . everything's fine." As he said that, he realized at least that part was true. He hadn't used much magic lately. Who knows what else the man did other than make it so he didn't remember anything.
Severus nodded Harry got annoyed at the worried look his father tried to hide.
"Anyway, I know you have classes today, so don't worry about me."
Severus nodded and took a sip, seemingly accepting this. Harry felt a knot in his stomach as he thought about everything that was going to happen. He knew how he was going to get there . . . that was the easy part. He also knew he had to make himself look incapable, which is where a potion would come in useful. But as to what he would actually do? Harry was clueless. There was no guarantee he'd even get close to Voldemort.
Suddenly, his plan was looking less and less feasible.
"Harry?" Severus asked, and he looked up at his dad. He realized it had been a few minutes since they had spoken. "It's probably going to be hard for awhile. You'll cope. You always do."
Looking into his father's eyes, Harry knew he had to do it. He had to free his dad from the monster that had taken over his father's life, and his. He had to free Remus from the pain he was in, and the only way to do that was to get to Voldemort. And everyone else . . . Maybe it didn't need to be Harry to end the war, but it was going to be, he decided. And as he looked at his bedroom door, he knew he could do it. The cat could fill in the holes in his plan, couldn't it? The Voices were trying to train him for this. He wasn't sure why . . . why Voldemort, and why him? . . . and the cat said he wasn't ready yet, but he didn't care. To hell with the rules, Harry thought. It's my life. I'll make up my own.
Harry wasn't sure why, but he felt stronger than he ever had. His father was right. He'll cope. He'll cope and move on, but moving on now no longer meant playing it safe behind potions and books.
Now, moving on meant dealing with a problem he had to deal with.
"I am fine," Harry said. "And it can only get better."
Severus looked as if he didn't believe Harry, but he didn't say it. And that was alright, because he knew now. "I'm going to the classroom. See you later?" Harry stood up and moved to leave before he remembered the cat and the two kittens. He'd feed the kittens and bring the cat along with him.
"Don't forget to eat something, Harry. Breakfast will start in the Great Hall soon. Or find your way to the kitchens."
"I'm not hungry," Harry replied, closing his bedroom door. The cat had followed him out, so that had solved that problem. He didn't want to be seen talking to it with his dad around.
Severus stopped him before he got to the door. "Harry, I am fine with you taking time to review your studies and . . . feel more secure, but if you don't eat, I will put you under surveillance. You've lost so much weight already; you need to eat."
Harry sighed. Actually, he didn't realize he had lost so much weight, but as he looked at his hands, he now realized how bony they were. He thought he had eaten . . . he vaguely remembered food. Maybe eggs?
"I'll eat," Harry said, still staring at his hand.
"Something light," was his father's reply. "Anything too heavy would probably make you sick."
"I'll try not to eat an entire plate of sausage." For some reason, the idea pulled his thoughts toward Ron. Was Ron still working on charms? Hermione was still working at the orphanage, he gathered, but the short time he had with them wasn't enough. He definitely had to visit them before he left.
Finally, his dad did let him through, and Harry started the trek to the kitchen.
It wasn't until they were in the classroom, the door tightly closed, before the cat started pacing around him suspiciously.
"Oh, sometimes I hate this!" the cat said. "I can't tell what you're planning."
"I'm going after Voldemort," Harry said simply, and the cat stood stunned. The only thing missing was a dropped jaw. He didn't point it out to the cat, though, as he figured the joke would have been a miss.
"Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because, I'm going. With or without your help."
"You're not ready—"
"Ready? I've been attacked, tortured, chased, and who knows what else? This needs to end soon, and I'm apparently the only one who isn't going to tiptoe over the problem." The cat just stared at him in silence. "This is going to happen. It's just more likely to work if you help me."
Harry hoped he sounded convincing, but truth be told, although he was sure this was what he was supposed to do, he felt way over his head. How does one outsmart and kill a wizard who had managed to come back to life? How was he going to overpower a man whose sole purpose in life was to control everything he could?
"The box?" the cat asked, bringing Harry back to the present.
"What about it?"
"Remus' has had memories that aren't his. The box was in every one, as far as I know. Dumbledore thinks it has powers that could stop Voldemort, and he thinks Voldemort might be after the same power. I forgot what he called it . . ."
"The girl said something about land?"
"We need to get him there," the cat said.
"The power this box is connected to . . . I know it. We followed the girl until she got out of control . . ." The cat seemed to finally be able to move, because it jumped up on a lab table and sat slowly. "You need to get him to the cabin. Or what was the cabin. Hopefully, your friend was right and it was on the man's property."
"And . . . how do I do that?"
"I assumed you had already started a plan. We'll go from there."
Harry nodded. The potion. It would be the only way to get them to believe he wasn't there with a purpose. He was good at occlumency, sure. He didn't think he could trust himself to play this out without some help. He was surprised no one suspected anything yet.
Pulling a few select books from the shelf, Harry opened one to a confusion potion, hoping he was going about this the right way.
It was a couple hours later when one of the school bells pulled him out of his thoughts. Eleven o'clock. Nearly lunchtime, but Harry realized he was hungry already. Probably because he had only eaten an egg and toast for breakfast. Hardly filling.
Hiding the notes he made on his potion, Harry took to the hallway and made his way toward the chatter of kids. Second years, probably. They had a certain tone to them once they got that age. They weren't the youngest anymore, so in their eyes, they were better.
Nearing the Entrance Hall, Harry turned a corner and was surprised to find Dumbledore standing there. Harry narrowed his eyes. Was the old man waiting for him?
"Harry. What a surprise. I wasn't expecting you out here. From what Severus told me, you were going to be holed up in your old classroom for the remainder of your stay." Harry shrugged. "Perhaps . . . you wouldn't mind joining me for some tea? I know it's early, but we haven't gotten a chance to talk."
"Sure," he answered, not quite sure he wanted to. He trusted Dumbledore, but he had a habit of knowing things.
"Wonderful. We'll wait here just a moment, though."
Harry felt lost. First Dumbledore invited him for tea, and now they were just going to stand there? After staring at the headmaster for a moment, Harry started looking around, trying to figure out what he was looking for. It was maybe ten minutes before a small girl, probably a first year, pushed her way through the large doors into Hogwarts. Seemingly unaware that she had an audience, she looked like he headed toward the basement instead of classes, which should be starting any moment.
"If you could wait for me in my office, Harry? I will be there shortly."
Harry watched as Dumbledore casually followed the girl down the stairs, wondering how he did it. It was as if he knew when she would be there.
Finally, he did manage to make it to the headmaster's office, but he didn't know the password, so he decided to so sit on the ground. He was actually surprised at how tired he was, just walking around Hogwarts. Realizing he should ask Severus about it, Harry sighed. How was he supposed to do anything productive if he couldn't even walk around?
Dumbledore came around about half an hour later – enough time, Harry thought with irritation, to have eaten lunch. They didn't speak on the way up the stairs to the headmaster's office, and Harry was surprised to find a small lunch waiting for them.
"I thought I would give you a reason to not eat in the Great Hall," Dumbledore said, and Harry nodded.
"You seem to be doing well," the headmaster said as Harry sat in the visitor's chair.
"Yeah," Harry answered, not really sure how to respond to that. They ate in silence for a bit before the old man pushed his plate away.
"Harry," Dumbledore said simply. Harry waiting a moment, only to realize the headmaster wasn't going to go on until he answered.
"I understand you're starting your studies up again soon."
"Yes," Harry lied. "Maybe next week."
Dumbledore did a strange thing, right then. He sighed and suddenly looked really tired.
"Do you feel you're ready? After everything?"
"I can't just sit around," Harry answered. "I have to do something. What else can I do?"
"It's okay to take a rest when you need one. Even here, you've been working on something, holed off in a lab." Dumbledore gave a small, sad chuckle. "You become more like your father every day."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"No," the headmaster answered. "But he, like you, doesn't know when to just sit back, so I thought I'd spend the time with you to explain something he wouldn't understand."
Harry just looked at the headmaster, trying to figure him out. Was Dumbledore aware of what Harry was planning to do?
"What?" Harry finally asked, frustrated.
"You need to take some time off. Don't work too hard. Maybe work with the quidditch teams a bit. I believe all four teams have practice this evening. Maybe spend a little time with each-."
"Harry, you aren't in school anymore. You don't have to worry about your old house winning. Let the students have that."
Harry sighed, as that wasn't at all what he was going to say.
"I think I'll be too tired by then," Harry told him, quietly. "I'm already pretty tired."
"Of course, of course. If you find yourself with the energy by dinnertime, the first practice is at 5." Harry nodded, reaching for another half sandwich before realizing he was full. They ate in silence again, and Harry really did wish that he never ran into the headmaster. A fight between Severus and Remus was easier to get through.
Severus sat stiffly on his office chair. He just got news from Tonks that Lupin was stuck in bed again, his headache worse than it had been since the day Harry was rescued. It was probably for the best that Harry was at Hogwarts; he didn't need to know how bad off Lupin was at this point.
Why it was bothering Severus so much was a different, even more confusing problem. They did nothing but fight; they couldn't stand each other, but here Severus was, trying to think of something – anything – that could help the werewolf.
The full moon is coming up, Severus thought grimly. Another month has gone by, this one only better in the way that Harry was back with him. Something was off about the kid, though, and Severus wished deeply that Mulciber hadn't done anything to brainwash his son. The best they could do, though, is hope. Mulciber was about mental torture; a spell or potion wouldn't do anything to heal what could be wrong with Harry. Worse off, Harry himself probably wouldn't be able to tell.
It was an hour later that Severus found himself thinking so long, he couldn't remember what he was thinking about. Perhaps he had just been staring at the wall. Helpless. A horrible feeling, one that irked Severus to the edge.
Four rapid knocks on the door pulled Severus from his sulk; Minerva. He answered the door quickly, and she seemed startled at the suddenness of it.
"There is a problem, Severus," Minerva said simply. "Follow me."
Severus inwardly groaned. There always seemed to be a problem. He locked his door and followed quickly, though, wishing he knew what he was walking into. When they arrived in the headmaster's office, only Albus was present, staring out the window. Which meant the problem was more dangerous than he hoped.
"Albus?" Minerva asked.
"Yes," the headmaster answered. "We have a problem on hand, and for the time being, I wish it to be kept between the three of us." There was a pause, which Minerva took to mean that Albus wanted them to sit, and Severus followed suit. It was a few more minutes before the headmaster sat.
"I am not sure how to approach the situation. It appears, although nothing is conclusive, that there has been a leak at the new school." Another pause. "My only guess is that someone has tagged one of the students, but as the school wasn't full public knowledge and the students are mostly muggleborn, I'm not sure how. Minerva, I would like you to go over the student's files and history; try to pinpoint someone who might have had access to magic before their arrival. Severus." Dumbledore looked him in the eyes. "I know you would rather stay here, but I need you to sort out the students and professors personally. You know that school better than anyone else here, so after your teaching, I will have you floo there. See if you can find out how personal information is leaving that school."
Severus nodded, not sure he had the energy to speak. Albus was right; he would rather stay at Hogwarts with his son, but that school was important; with all the new restrictions on muggleborns, a place where they could learn without the interference of the Ministry was vital. He could only hope that by the time the students finished school, the Ministry would be set straight.
Since the situation was looking worse every day – a new law, another unwarranted arrest – Severus wasn't very hopeful.
"Tonight would be the best night to start. They are having a dance to celebrate a few achievements. I'm not sure when you'll find them all together again. Severus nodded, standing with the intent to find Harry and let him know he wouldn't be around for a few days, but Albus lead him toward the floo. "I'll let Harry know, Severus. He'll understand."
When Harry woke, he found himself on top of his covers, still dressed for the day. It took him a few moments to remember that he had sat on his bed briefly and found himself too tired to stay awake. Quite pathetic, he thought, as he barely did anything all day.
Checking the time, he wasn't happy to find it past seven. The potion he was working on was a slow work in progress and he had been hoping to work on it a bit more before dinner so he could spend some time with his dad.
Harry yelled out when a sharp pain penetrated his leg. A thump later, Harry looked down to find one of the kittens and jumped up onto his leg, probably with the intent to climb up, if what it did to the bed was any indication. Bending down, he picked the kitten up and held it close as it purred loudly. There was something very comforting about it.
Somehow, the other kitten had managed to stay sleeping through all the commotion, so Harry took the one he was holding out to the living room with him. "I'm going to have to give them names," Harry thought out loud, thinking about Hedwig. He decided to put it off for later.
Severus turned out not to be out in the living room or the kitchen, and when he knocked on his father's bedroom door, there was no response. He peeked in to find it dark and empty. And since it was seven in the evening, that probably meant he was still in his office, then.
Not really wanting to put the cat down, he did anyway, not wanting the cat to get loose and get lost in the castle; He wasn't sure how well kittens did with finding their way around. He could hear voices further down the corridor, toward the stairs that lead to the Entrance Hall, but he turned the opposite way, not really wanting to see anyone but his father.
Two detours later, Harry found himself at a presumably empty, locked office, and Harry kicked the door in frustration. "I'll just go the kitchens," he mumbled. He wasn't particularly hungry, but he wasn't really in the mood to do anything else at the moment.
"Harry, good, I found you. I was worried." Harry turned around to find McGonagall a lot closer than he expected. He hadn't even heard her coming down the corridor. Not good.
"I can't find my dad," Harry said, realizing afterwards how childish he sounded.
"Yes. He'll be away in the evenings for awhile. There's been an . . . issue."
"Right," Harry answered, feeling himself slumping.
"Were you going back to your room?"
"No. The kitchens. I missed dinner."
"I'll walk you. The corridors are full because all but Hufflepuff's dormitories have been flooded."
"Yes. A prank, we believe, but until we find the source . . ." McGonagall trailed off as they approached a group of first year Slytherins hovering around two older students. Harry couldn't hear what they two boys were talking about, but he had a feeling it was about getting back at whoever flooded the dormitories.
"Mr. Flum, Mr. George, I will not have talk like that in the corridors, nor anywhere else at Hogwarts. The flooding issue will be solved as soon as possible, and I will not have you taking these matters into your hands by causing more damage."
Harry followed McGonagall past the group, the Flum and George looking irritated, while the first years had a look that had to have been a mix of fear and amazement. It wasn't until they were further down the corridor did Harry hear talk about him being Harry Potter. He sighed; at least they didn't try to stop him.
The transfiguration professor left Harry to his own means once they reached the kitchens, and Harry walked glumly in. The 'issue' had to be something Voldemort related. Yet another reason to go through with his plan.
The next morning brought no sign of Severus, yet, and Harry decided to risk the Great Hall in hopes of finding him. The dorms must have still been flooded, because hundreds of sleeping bags were on the floor, most of them still filled with a student.
He didn't realize it was that early still.
"Mr. Potter!" Flitwick called from across the hall. He wondered if anyone remembered that his last name was really Snape, now. "I'm glad you're here!" Harry narrowed his eyes slightly, hoping he wasn't going to be bombarded with questions about his health. Flitwick looked almost mad, in his nightgown ruffled and his hair every which way. "If I could have you just watch over the kids a few moments. I really must step out for a bit. . ."
"Er . . . sure," Harry answered.
"I won't be more than twenty minutes or so," he said, then bounded out of the Great Hall. Harry wondered what was so important if he was going in the opposite direction of the bathrooms. Resigned to his fate, Harry sat at the head table, noticing a few of the kids who were awake staring at him.
In the corner of the Great Hall, though, the two boys from the previous night were talking in hushed voices. He wished he knew whatever spell McGonagall had used to hear them, because he was sure they were still planning something.
Sitting forward, Harry tried to think of what to do. He could wait until Flitwick got back and just tell him about them, but he knew from experience, it didn't always take that long to form a plan. The further into the plan they got, the greater the chance that they were going to go through with it. He rubbed his forehead as he tried to think about what his professors would do.
What would his dad do? Honestly, he would probably berate them until they felt too embarrassed to do anything, and that wasn't something Harry felt okay doing. So, he stood up and started walking toward them.
I'll just make it up as I go along, Harry thought. Harry smiled inwardly when the boys didn't even notice that they were his destination until Harry stood, staring at them for about a minute. It was almost comical the way they froze and turned to look at him.
"Hello," Harry said.
"Hello," they both answered.
"It was George and Flum, right?" They nodded. "You wouldn't be planning anything?" Harry asked, narrowing his eyes. He hoped it was intimidating, but he doubted it. He had tried for intimidating several times as Head Boy . . . all failures.
"No!" One of them answered. "No, we're just talking."
"Whatever it is, I wouldn't. Especially not with Professor Snape as your Head."
"Professor Snape wouldn't be mad," the same boy said.
"Oh?" Harry asked, curious. Did these two honestly think they would get away with breaking the rules when it came to his dad? "You think so?"
"Yeah, I do," he answered, his confidence obviously building. "Who are you, anyway? You're not a professor . . ."
Harry leaned in close, wanting to see the look on their face. Really, these two boys were old enough to remember who their Head Boy was last year, weren't they? They had to be third years. His memory wasn't that bad back then, was it? "I'm Professor Snape's son," he whispered. "So, I wouldn't get on my bad side, if I were you."
Harry left the two shocked boys, the quiet one giving the other one an annoyed look. Probably blamed him for getting them in trouble.
Severus walked into the Great Hall as Harry was walking toward the head table.
"What are you doing here?" his father asked.
"Babysitting." Severus looked at him with a small glare he hoped wasn't aimed at him.
"Flitwick needed to do something, and I was here. I came for breakfast. Has it been pushed later because of the flooding?"
"It's Saturday," Severus answered. "What flooding?"
"All the dorms are flooded. Well, except Hufflepuff." Severus sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Right." Severus looked around, looking as if he was ready to have the day over already. They walked toward the head table together, but Severus didn't sit when they got there.
"I'd watch those two in the corner," Harry pointed out, and Severus just nodded. "If it's Saturday, can we have dinner out?"
"I need to go back this evening," Severus answered, and Harry guessed the look on his face must have been pathetic because his father was quick to continue. "We can go somewhere for lunch. Minerva had been talking nonstop about a new restaurant in Hogsmede. Perhaps we'll go there."
Harry nodded, but Severus went back to being silent. It was a few minutes later when he spoke up. "When's breakfast?" Harry asked.
Severus raised an eyebrow at him. "If you're hungry, you can always go to the kitchen, you know. The house elves are probably preparing breakfast as we speak."
"Eh, I don't really want to disturb them, then," Harry responded. Really, he just wanted to stay with Severus.
Half an hour later, most of the students now talking quietly to each other, Flitwick bumbled into the Great Hall before noticing Severus was there. He walked a little more subdued to the table as the breakfast bell rang. The few that were still sleeping were rather rudely awakened by their friends. A banishing spell later, the tables were set up and food appeared. Hungry for the first time that he could remember, Harry filled his plate.
It wasn't until he was leaving did he realize that no one but the headmaster and McGonagall had greeted him.
Harry couldn't help but feel good about himself. He managed to brew a potion that should force him to appear ungrounded, perhaps even unstable, but still allow him to keep his senses.
He hoped. The only thing to do was to test it. He had brewed an antidote just for the test, so before he tried the potion, he bottled both and labeled the antidote . . . No sense in not being cautious. It was a tricky potion.
A large, disgusting gulp later, Harry moved around the room, trying to determine if he felt any different. He really didn't. Honestly, though, he had no idea how he was supposed to feel. Or if it would even start working right away.
There was scratching at the door, and Harry opened it to find the cat.
"Where have you been?" Harry asked, annoyed. The cat had disappeared sometime yesterday after he started brewing. He didn't know why he was so annoyed.
Maybe because he's your only lifeline soon, Harry thought, although he didn't know where that thought came from.
"Looking," was the cat's only reply. "What's wrong with you?"
"Testing the potion. So, is it working?"
"You sound . . . like you're not focused," the cat said slowly. "Is that working?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "I think."
"Help!" a voice screamed down the hall. Without thought, Harry bolted toward the voice to find the quiet side of the duo from that morning running down the corridor toward him. "Help, Ben's in the forest, I can't get him to wake up!" the boy said.
"What do you mean, wake up?" Harry asked, but the boy started running the opposite direction, toward the Entrance Hall, and Harry followed. He couldn't help think that he was out of shape, though. Just to the stairs got him out of breath.
At the edge of the forest, the boy stopped, but Harry saw movement and he continued on his way. The second boy – Ben, he figured – was slowly rising¸ looking terrified. Seeing Harry running toward him, Ben stood – fast – and started running around him. "Ben!" Harry yelled, glad the boy was leaving the forest, but he still felt it was important to catch up with him. Something had terrified Ben. Something had caused him to be unconscious for awhile, and whether it was the quiet kid or something else, the boy needed to calm down. "Ben, slow down, I need to talk to you!"
They approached the main gate and Harry almost stopped. The gate was open, which was an oddity in itself, but it looked like it was raining on the other side of the gate. Looking up, the sky was clear.
"Ben!" Harry called again, but the boy kept running, out into the cloudless rain.
Harry did stop when he reached the gate. It was rain, alright, but it wasn't raining . . . the water was hovering in the air, giving the impression that it was raining from a distance. An easy trick on a small scale, but this was . . .
The boy nearly forgotten, Harry stepped out into the water, walking out a few paces. Turning around he found that the water had soaked into his shirt, and he was leaving a path behind.
"Huh," Harry said before his head felt intense pain and he blacked out.