A Shocking Discovery
Severus Snape's unrelenting black robes billowed around his tall, slender form as he swept out of the Slytherin common room. He had decided earlier, against his better judgment to have a word with Draco Malfoy before the boy departed for home on the Hogwarts Express. He had felt the step necessary because it appeared to him that the young Slytherin was on the cusp of taking the step for which he had been moulded for the whole of his young life and which, Snape knew, was likely to be the boy's downfall.
Snape had known Draco's father since his own school days when Lucius had been a very impressive seventh year head boy against his own nervous, introverted first year self. He, Snape had been easy prey for the charismatic Slytherin. The smooth patter that Lucius had once spouted; the propaganda he had spread from his metaphorical pulpit, supported by his ancient pure bloodedness and old family wealth had seemed so romantic to the down trodden, poor, half blood boy whose life until Hogwarts had been entirely unremarkable.
Snape's muggle father had made his witch mother's life a living hell. Tobias Snape had thought that by marrying a witch, she would—by means of her magic—be able to give him the life of idle luxury he believed he was entitled to.
Unfortunately, all his mother had ever been able to give her husband was a son whom he most patently did not want, especially when he realised the boy was possessed of the same un-naturalness as his bitch of a wife.
Eileen Snape had been a good and loving mother who had made it her life's mission to protect the son she loved from his drunken, violent father. She had succeeded in this mission to her own detriment. She had fought tooth and nail to send Severus to Hogwarts and though she had won that battle, her own life had taken a steep downhill turn and the teenage Snape had never again seen his mother without her sporting numerous injuries.
Lucius Malfoy had continued with Snape's indoctrination into the Dark Lord's service and at the age of sixteen, he had proudly received his dark mark. The first task his Lord had allotted to him—and which Snape had accepted with determined ease—was to kill his muggle father.
Now, with his face set in its usual lines of discontent, Snape pulled his 12 inch ebony wand from a deep pocket within his robes and tapped it against each splayed finger of his left hand which he had placed flat against a robust wooden door.
This door was situated at the end of the longest, darkest, ancient greystone dungeon corridor and was the entrance to Snape's private quarters. The door swung open silently on well oiled iron hinges but this silence was immediately nullified by a loud bang as Snape slammed the door viciously after him. Unfortunately, the cause of his ire—Draco Malfoy—was not near enough to hear. He was afraid that his talk had had little effect on the sixteen year old junior Malfoy.
Little caring that it was only a ¼ to 10 in the morning; the potions master poured himself a hefty swig of fine, single malt Scotch whisky: muggle made and in his opinion, far superior to anything alcoholic that wizards had ever come up with. Snape smirked. The Dark Lord would not be happy to know Snape embraced anything muggle made. He did not doubt that the vicious bastard's ire would manifest itself with an excruciating dose of the cruciatus curse being cast upon his person Or, if he was in a really unforgiving mood—a much more likely scenario—Avada Kedavra would undoubtedly be the consequence.
Glass in hand Snape took a hefty swallow of his drink then leaned a shoulder against the mantelpiece and stared off into space. His less than stellar thoughts continued.
Draco Malfoy was now the age that Snape had been when the Dark Lord had inducted him into the ranks of his Death Eaters. And just like he himself had been twenty years earlier, Draco was very angry. He was determined to right a wrong and he thought that being branded and becoming a servant of the most evil dark wizard of all time; for what no doubt would be a very short life, was the right thing to do.
Snape had had to step very carefully. Draco, like most of the Slytherins thought that his head of house was a faithful servant of the Dark Lord; thought that he was stringing Dumbledore along and that his loyalties belonged unquestionably to the Dark Lord.
Snape was lucky that his end of term routine often included a chat with his departing Slytherins. And as he was an old family friend of the Malfoys—or at least he pretended to be—and had known Draco since the day the boy had been born, it was not unusual for him to see the young Slytherin off at the end of term.
The fact that several of his Slytherins were blindingly angry because of recent events had given him the means of making the chat specific to their plans for the holiday. Crabbe and Goyle's plans did not extend past cornering Harry Potter on the train and pounding him to a bloody pulp. As muscle-bound and dim-witted as they were, Severus had not expected anything different. Sophisticated they were not. His admonitions to use a little more finesse, he knew had fallen on deaf ears. Possibly because neither of the pair knew what 'finesse' meant. But as neither of them were magical or bright enough to interest the Dark Lord overly much, purebloods though they were, Severus had wasted little time on them. The Dark Lord may perhaps take them on for their brawn alone but neither seemed to take it as a given that they had to follow in their equally dim fathers' footsteps. Of course, they might not be given a choice if Lord Voldemort decided that they were his to do with as he saw fit, regardless of their lack of intellect.
Theodore Nott, another furious Slytherin and son of another Death Eater, was an unknown quantity. He did not wear his heart on his sleeve like Malfoy did and he kept himself very much to himself. Snape knew that even he himself did not make any impression on the boy. Neither anger nor reasoned argument elicited much in the way of emotion from the surly teen. He was brighter even than Malfoy; perhaps had as much brain power as the truly formidable Hermione Granger. He however did not exert himself, did not try. His grades were not an indication of his intellect. Nott had always frustrated the hell out of Snape because he kept himself very much to himself, refusing to even be a part of the Slytherin brotherhood. The seventeen year old was a total loner. Snape could not remember ever seeing him hanging around with any of his class mates
Snape wondered how much of the boy's attitude was due to his background. He came from as old a lineage of pureblood wizards as the Malfoys but without the accompanying wealth. A similar background in fact to the equally old and equally poor pureblood family, the Weasleys. The Weasleys however embraced the light with the same fervour as the Notts embraced evil.
Severus had always wondered how much Theodore's poverty rankled when his rich classmate, Malfoy never missed an opportunity to flaunt his family's wealth and prestige. The boy had never kowtowed to Malfoy as most of the Slytherins—even the older ones—did. But he had to be bitter. After all, his own father was as dedicated a Death Eater as Lucius Malfoy. And the boy had shown no outward emotion about the fact that his father was now an inmate of Azkaban along with Lucius Malfoy and the senior Crabbe.
Draco, on the other hand was an open book. He wanted revenge for his father's incarceration. He was loudly and frequently vocal about his desire to kill Harry Potter. He knew the Dark Lord wanted Potter dead. Draco thought their common goals would be more likely to come to fruition if he took over where his father had left off. And by taking such a drastic step he might even achieve the so far unattainable goal of making his impossible to please father proud of him.
Lucius Malfoy did not deserve a son. He had been tied to the Dark Lord long before Draco had been born. The child had been born to serve the Dark Lord; it had been inculcated into him along with his mother's milk; the idea of the Malfoy superiority within the wizarding world now totally ingrained. Pure blood rich mother; pure blood rich father. He, Snape could not think of any boy whose head would not be full of the perception of his own superiority, given that history.
Well, perhaps he could think of one boy.
Snape, who had until now been sipping his drink, grimaced as his thoughts turned to another young wizard. His eyes narrowed and he threw the remainder of the whisky down his throat in one swallow where it seared a fiery path to his stomach. Reaching for the bottle, he poured another slug before throwing himself into a chair and setting his mind along a path he did not wish to traverse.
Harry Potter: Draco's nemesis and his antithesis in every way imaginable, except for the fact of them both having pureblood fathers from ancient, wealthy lineages. Malfoy was fair, Potter dark haired. Malfoy was always well groomed and fastidious and very, very vain. Potter, though clean, often looked as if he had been pulled through a hedge backwards and had not a care about how others perceived his looks; the complete antithesis of his father at the same age.
Draco strived for excellence; Potter bumbled through his lessons but ultimately ended up with good grades; he had a sharp intelligence that for some reason best known to himself, he kept well hidden. Snape knew how smart Potter was, even though he had spent every minute he had been in the boy's company over the last five years denigrating him, hating him, trying to make him look small and stupid, particularly in front of his Slytherins. Snape knew his behaviour to be reprehensible but he found it almost impossible to ignore the boy because every time he looked at him, he saw James Potter glaring at him, laughing at him. He found it impossible to differentiate the boy from his toe-rag of a father. The senior Potter had been his, Snape's nemesis at school where they had both been in the same year. In fact he and James were less than three months apart in age; he Severus was the elder. They had become enemies within ten minutes of their first meeting aboard the train on their way to their first year at Hogwarts.
Though he and James had grown up knowing of the existence of the other, they had never met before the trip that was the beginning of their magical education; an unusual circumstance indeed as they had been the only sons of each of twin siblings: Severus Snape and James Potter had in fact, been first cousins.
Severus quickly cut off this line of thought, forced it deeply and determinedly behind his strongest occlumency shield—the one he rarely lowered,the place within the complicated landscape of his brain where he kept the memories he did not wish to dwell upon. This particular memory though had a nasty habit of worming its persistent way to the fore, somehow managing to find a breach in his most formidable defences. And it had been happening with more and more frequency since the fiasco that had been his attempt to teach the Potter brat occlumency. More specifically, since the nosey, impulsive little shit had trespassed into one of his most private and degrading memories, a memory that featured his dear cousin James and his equally hateful sidekick, Sirius Black.
Severus had not been gentle upon discovering the boy snooping into his pensieved memory. Potter was finely built, and was one of the shorter boys in his year. Unlike his father and unlike Severus, the boy seemed to have missed out on the Potter gene that gifted most of the family with tall, lithe physiques. Severus shut his eyes as he remembered just how easily he had thrown the boy across his office. He could remember how his hand had tightened around the thin arm with brutal strength, knew that his strong fingers would have left nasty bruises. He heard again the sound of the boy's body contacting heavily enough with the thick, wooden shelves that one of them had broken.
Potter had been terrified. And with good reason. Snapes anger had been totally out of control and the fact that the recipient of his anger had not ended up in the hospital wing was more good luck than good management.
Severus had never, in all his years of teaching and with much evidence to the contrary, physically abused a student. The fact that he had finally succumbed to temptation—and he had been tempted many times over the years—by abusing his only living relation caused him more guilt than he would have thought he could ever dredge up in relation to Harry Potter.
Severus sighed deeply and massaged his temples with cool fingertips. He was not happy that his thoughts seemed to centre more and more often on a boy that he wanted to abhor. But as Harry Potter's short life became more and more deathly complicated by the year, the potions master found his thoughts resting more and more often on Lily Evans, Potter's—Harry's mother and James' wife.
The only woman that he, Severus had ever loved.
Of course, the reason that he told himself he hated the boy so very much was much more complicated than the fact that James lived again in his son; it was also the fact that Lily Evans had chosen his cousin over Severus—the fact that Harry bloody Potter should have been Harry Snape.
Thrusting these less than cheering thoughts away behind his shield for the final time, Severus speared a long-fingered, artistically slim hand through his greasy hair and grimaced. His wand hand itched to cast a charm and clean his hair there and then but one of his students may well want him for something in the next hour or so before the train departed. Unlikely but possible and he needed to stay in character.
He would be so glad to be able to wash his hair and keep it clean for the weeks the students were away from Hogwarts. He hated the greasy, lank locks; he felt as unclean as he knew he looked but he also knew that it added to the image of the nasty, sneering, hated Hogwart's professor, the purported Death Eater; the one all the students wanted to think was evil; the one they all called, 'Greasy Git.' He looked like a servant of the Dark Lord and this suited his purposes well. It was not essential that he enjoy his 'Greasy Git' persona.
Severus had inherited his father's oily skin and hair. Even as a young child, his hair had needed washing daily. Once he had reached adolescence, he would have had to wash his hair every three to four hours, an impossible situation and one that had led to most of his fellows at school denigrating his appearance at every turn.
Severus' natural brilliance at potions had enabled him in his sixth year to come up with a potion that had kept his hair and skin oil free for twenty-four hours and Severus had been able to feel as clean as the other students. But by then of course, most people still saw him as the 'Slimy Slytherin; Severus Snape,' or, as Potter and Sirius Black liked to call him, 'Snivellus."
Severus placed his virtually untouched refill down on the small table beside his chair before conjuring a cup of strong black coffee. A slight headache was blooming behind his left eye and more whisky would only exacerbate it. He buried his miserable school days away behind his occlumency shield and dismissing Harry Potter from his mind, Severus shifted his thoughts back to the very real worry of the Malfoy heir. The whisky, on top of contributing to his headache, had done nothing to alleviate his worries regarding Draco. Of course, during there earlier meeting he had not been able to come right out and say that he hoped the young Slytherin was not considering doing anything as foolish as beginning an apprenticeship under the tutelage of the Dark Lord.
Being Lucius Malfoy's son, that scenario was certainly on the cards despite the fact that the teenager had only just turned sixteen. He, Snape did not want to see it happen. Draco was not Lucius. There was a softness in the boy that was totally absent in the father and Snape knew that Draco did not have the faintest concept of the reality that was a gathering of angry, vengeful, bigoted men who answered to a crazed xenophobe who had decided it was his mission in life to rid the wizarding world of all but those he considered worthy; on the whole, purebloods. He, Snape was one of the few exceptions admitted to the hallowed ranks.
Draco would not be able to stomach the sight of his father and other, purist bluebloods slaking their bloodlust on the females of all ages that they did not consider to be good enough to live but were not so fastidious that they were not loathe to rape them before they killed them by unimaginably horrific means. This was the sort of ritual that Lord Voldemort liked to initiate the new members to his ranks with.
But by then it would be too late. Draco would not be able to say, 'sorry, but this is not as fun as I thought it would be.' And when the boy would not be able to 'get it up' to join in the fun because he would be too busy emptying the contents of his stomach; the Dark Lord would see that as a sign of weakness and Draco would probably feel the effects of the cruciatus curse, many times over.
Snape gazed into the black depths of his coffee cup, his obsidian eyes troubled. Somehow, Snape did not think that the sixteen year old Draco would be able to withstand the excruciating rigours of the torture curse as well as a certain fourteen year old Gryffindor had done when he had been the victim of the Dark Lord's wrath
There was hopefully one small thing that Snape could grasp as a ray of hope for Draco's future and that was the fact that the boy had looked thoughtful when Snape had left him. Sullen and angry but thoughtful. His potions professor's words had not gone in one ear and straight out the other. Now, Severus rested his head against the back of the chair and shut his eyes. He was exhausted after trying to tip toe around the subject of the pros and cons of becoming a Death Eater at the age of sixteen whilst pretending that he personally had no regrets with regards his own choices but that perhaps he, Draco should wait until his bitterness and fury had worn off a little before he made such a life altering decision. Talk about a quagmire. But more than likely Severus realised that he had probably been talking just to create a current of air because it was more than likely that Draco would ultimately have no choice in the matter. He would certainly not have the balls to resist the Dark Lord's wishes; unlike a certain young and brave to the point of the ridiculous, Gryffindor. Harry Potter was even more foolishly reckless than his father had been.
Suddenly, the floo flared to life and Snape's head snapped forward. Albus Dumbledore was staring at him from within the emerald flames. Snape jumped up and strode forward.
"Severus, could you floo to my office immediately. I need you to undertake a task for me."
Harry Potter descended the stone staircase from the boy's dormitories in Gryffindor tower. Several exuberant first and second years already filled with the spirit of the summer holidays clattered past him knocking him against the wall so that the cage he was carrying clanged against it causing his snowy owl, Hedwig to screech indignantly.
"Watch it," Harry yelled after them, annoyed.
An indifferent "Sorry Harry," drifted back up the stairs.
Down in the common room, Harry put Hedwig on a table before flopping bonelessly into one of the worn, squashy armchairs, putting his head back and closing his eyes. He was so tired. He doubted he had slept more than a couple of hours a night since—since; hell, he couldn't even say it in his own mind.
"Get a grip Potter," he admonished himself out loud.
"Harry?" Harry's eyes snapped open. Ginny Weasley was standing next to Hedwig's cage, one finger extended through the bars so that she could stroke the snowy feathers.
Harry hadn't heard her approach. He studied Ron's little sister through tired, dark-ringed eyes. She was dressed in muggle clothes; tight jeans and a little white t-shirt with multi-coloured heart shaped sequins sewn around the V neck. The t-shirt was well washed and the soft faded fabric fit like a glove. Harry found it impossible to stop his eyes focusing on the delicious little mounds of Ginny's breasts where the soft, white fabric hugged them intimately. Streaks of red appeared on his cheeks when he realised where he was looking.
Ginny Weasley was delicate and petite and those tiny breasts were as perfect as the rest of her. Harry's eyes lowered even further to the glimpse of white skin and the neat little belly button that flashed into sight above the top of her jeans when she moved.
When she moved to sit on the arm of his chair, Harry snapped out of his contemplation of her delectable female shape. His brow creased as he focused his eyes on the much safer sight of the empty grate in the huge fireplace. God, what was the matter with him? He'd never before looked at Ginny Weasley like a horny teenage boy looks at a pretty girl. As she was Ron's little sister, he, Harry had always kind of looked on her in the same light. So why, as a big brother was he now taking note of silky smooth skin and burgeoning breasts. It was even more unexpected because nothing at all, not even pretty girls had interested him in the last week.
Most of the time; most especially when he was asleep, his thoughts were back in the 'Veil Room' in the Department of Mysteries, reliving the scene that he knew would haunt him for the rest of his life. Sirius duelling with Bellatrix LeStrange; Sirius, his face alight, laughing and taunting her; the look of shock when he had been hit by the curse that had sent him falling backwards through the veil. These dreams and retrospections always ended with Harry screaming; inside his head whilst he was awake but more often than not, out loud during the short hours when he actually managed to fall asleep. After the first time, when he had woken his friends with his anguished cries, he had taken to casting a silencio charm on himself before shutting his eyes; just in case he managed to sleep.
"You look really tired Harry." Ginny was studying him with concerned eyes. "You're not sleeping, are you?"
Harry quirked his lips into an approximation of a smile whilst keeping his eyes resolutely on the empty grate. "I'm fine."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "'I'm fine.' Harry Potter's stock standard answer even when it is patently obvious that he is not fine."
Harry looked up at her, his expression a little disgruntled. Ginny looked right back, totally unabashed. The pair of them were oblivious to the stream of people who were traversing the common room, leaving for the last time this term. Ginny didn't even hear two of the girls from her year calling out to her.
"Since when are you such an expert on me?" Harry asked tightly. He was very aware of Ginny's denim clad leg touching his own because of her position on the chair arm. He twisted slightly to the side, putting a bit of space between their lower limbs.
"Oh, you'd be surprised," Ginny returned quietly.
Her leg touching his seemed fairly innocuous seconds later when Ginny stood in front of him and leaned forward. His eyes snapped to her face when she put her small hands on his shoulders and looked into his wide green eyes. "Don't lock yourself away Harry. As one of the people who loves you, I am going to do everything I can to stop that from happening."
The next second, her lips were touching his cheek. Harry sat frozen with shock. But not so frozen that his mind did not register an objection when the contact ended. The skin her lips had touched felt branded but that was nothing to how his lips felt seconds later when Ginny shifted her focus to them with a butterfly light kiss.
Something inside Harry's chest broke free of the restraints he had erected to protect his shattered emotions. He had even gone a long way towards locking Ron and Hermione out and they were the two most important people in his life.
Just as Harry strained towards Ginny's lips; lips that were wonderfully warm and firm beneath his own, he vaguely registered someone wolf whistle as they rushed past and someone else crow; "Good one Harry, you lucky dog." Neither of these people distracted Harry or Ginny who were now totally absorbed in each other.
Harry put tentative hands on Ginny's hips and gently pulled her down onto his lap, all the time keeping contact with those sweet lips. Neither had any desire to end the moment; in fact Harry wished it could go on for ever. This kiss was what it was supposed to be like between a boy and a girl; totally focused on each other; with no ghosts coming between them.
No, a ghost was not the problem this time. The problem this time was Ron.
"Oi! What the hell's going on here?" Harry reluctantly pulled back from Ginny and opened his eyes. His startling green ones gazed into Ginny's warm brown ones. As Ron stomped over and planted himself in front of them, Ginny framed Harry's face with her small hands, totally ignoring her irate brother.
"That's the first step in my crusade to make you start living again Harry," she said quietly, her breath huffing, feather light on his slightly parted lips. Still ignoring Ron, she pushed herself to her feet, and then to both boys' surprise, instead of walking away, she leaned towards Harry again and put her lips to his ear. "And the first step in my quest to make you want me as much as I've always wanted you," she whispered.
Then she straightened and rounded on her brother; those small hands that had so tenderly cradled Harry's face moments ago were now planted on her slender hips. Despite having taken a hurried step backwards, Ron was not cowed and his ears were beginning to glow as he looked from Ginny to Harry. Hermione, who had entered the common room with Ron and who had also seen the kiss, placed a placating hand on Ron's forearm.
"What was that?" Ron demanded of his sister, moving his pointed index finger between her and Harry.
"That Ronald," answered a fuming Ginny, "was a kiss. Perhaps if you practised the art a little yourself instead of acting the part of a voyeur, you wouldn't have to ask the obvious."
The colour suffusing Ron's ears now extended across his cheekbones and when Ginny would have stalked off, he grabbed her arm and pulled her around to face him. Harry was on his feet in an instant, stepping between the two siblings.
"Let her go, Ron."
Ginny wrenched her arm out of her brother's grip then pushing Harry aside, she stood on tip toe to yell into Ron's face. "Yes Ronald. You are not my keeper, nor have you any right to dictate my actions. If I want to kiss Harry, I will." She poked a furious finger into his shoulder and Ron sucked in a breath and rubbed the spot. "And for future reference, I plan on kissing Harry a whole lot more in future so if you don't want to see, then look the other way." Finishing this little tirade, she then rounded on Hermione.
"For Merlin's sake Hermione, please start the ball rolling so he'll get off my back. Because I swear, if you're waiting for him to hit on you, you'll be old and grey before he so much as holds your hand. My dear older brother…well, this particular older brother; has never been particularly quick on the uptake."
Then, just to show Ron who was the boss, Ginny stood on tip toe and planted another kiss on Harry's surprised but grateful lips before turning on her heel and stalking across to the portrait hole and climbing through. Three Gryffindors—one bemused; one livid and one embarrassed—watched the angry little red head all the way through the portrait hole. Then Ron rounded on Harry.
"Well!" he demanded.
Harry sighed, his tiredness rushing back with a vengeance as his bemusement wore off with Ginny's departure. Picking up Hedwig's cage, he said, "Ron you're my best mate but I'm with Ginny on this one. It really is none of your business."
When he turned towards the portrait hole he half expected Ron to grab him and continue with the interrogation or else punch his lights out but the only noise that accompanied his retreat was a slight scuffling and a noise that sounded like 'mmfph'. Looking back, Harry was not totally surprised—but very grateful—to see Hermione taking Ginny's advice. He grinned as he watched Hermione snog Ron. And Ron, after several seconds of shocked indecision finally wrapped his long arms around the girl who had been one of his best friends for the last five years and pulled her to him, deepening the kiss that was most definitely long overdue.
"It's about bloody time," Harry called back to them. "But your actual timing leaves a lot to be desired. We need to get going or the carriages will leave without us. I don't fancy running all the way to Hogsmeade station."
Ron and Hermione broke apart reluctantly. Hermione took the lanky redhead's hand and pulled him towards the portrait hole, scooping up the cage in which her disgruntled cat Crookshanks was confined whilst Ron grabbed his owl's cage. When they drew level with Harry, Ron tried to give him a ferocious look but it didn't come off when he couldn't quite eradicate the soppy grin from his face.
However, he did manage to say, "We've still got to sort out the fact that you were snogging my sister, Potter."
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He turned away and led the way through the portrait hole. He could hear Hermione admonishing Ron; saying that it was really none of his business if Ginny and Harry wanted to snog each other and anyway shouldn't he be happy that it was Harry that Ginny was interested in now and not some other boy that Ron didn't even like—like Michael Corner.
"But that's part of the problem," Harry heard Ron whisper." "Harry's my best mate and if he and Ginny are now an item, I'll see them at it all the time because we hang around together. Besides, she's going through boys like they're disposable, don't you think?"
"Oh rubbish," denied Hermione hotly. "She and Michael Corner were together most of the year. Anyway…" she lowered her voice even further so that Harry had to strain even harder to hear. "I happen to know that Ginny has always liked Harry—more than liked but—typical male—he was oblivious so I told her to forget about him and get on with her life. She's obviously never really given up on him. And just for the record Ron, I think it's great. Ginny will be great for Harry."