A/N: It has been a long, long, long time since I updated. But I am sure any fans of this story who have it on alert, do not need me to tell you that.
The muses have been on strike for a long time.
Severus had not been able to sleep, even though it was Saturday, and six o'clock saw him showered, dressed and indulging in his second cup of tea. The beverages had comprised the whole of his breakfast as his appetite had quite deserted him.
A quick check on Harry after he was dressed had shown the boy to still be asleep, huddled in his usual tight ball. It was all for the good because Severus did not feel up to a battle; not yet anyway.
No, Severus's thoughts were centred on another of his many headaches—or more specifically, what he was going to do about said headache. For do something he knew he must.
Severus walked aimlessly into the living area, his face thoughtful. He ran a rigid fingertip along the crease between his eyebrows. There was no getting away from it; he could not leave things as they were between Dumbledore and himself. He knew he had been totally over the top the previous evening; he admitted to himself that his bollocking of the headmaster was partly due to the old man's outrageous high-handedness when he had first silenced Severus those several days ago, then dosed him with Dreamless Sleep potion and then (he must have) levitated Severus to the bed in the guest room in the Head's quarters.
Just thinking about the episode made Severus want to explode all over again, but there was little point because his explosion of temper last night was what had led to his sleepless night and the churning in his stomach right now. Taking a deep breath in preparation for the coming confrontation, Severus stalked to the fireplace and before he could second guess himself he reached for the Floo powder and threw it onto the fire.
When he stepped into Dumbledore's office, it took but a few seconds for him to ascertain that neither Dumbledore, nor Minerva were in the office or the living quarters above, and gritting his teeth to contain his ire, he slammed his way through the heavy oak door and swept down the moving staircase. His flight along corridors and down staircases until he reached the Great Hall was an exercise in frustration, but it did give him much needed time to calm himself.
Even so, the set face, the angry echoing footsteps and flaring robes were enough to warn the few early-bird students he encountered on his journey from the seventh floor, to stay well clear of the intimidating figure of their Potions professor. Severus would have given out detentions with impunity if he had been accosted, or even if he had had to slow his rapid flight.
As he entered the Great Hall, he could immediately see that the Headmaster was not partaking of breakfast and a small bubble of anxiety flared in his chest. It was very early; where was the old man if not here or in his rooms? Minerva was here however, and if the look she bestowed upon her young colleague was anything to go by, she was not very happy with him.
Severus approached the teachers' table and sat next to Minerva and ignoring her obvious ire, he asked in a low voice, "Where is the old coot?"
"Why?" bit back Minerva, the low volume of her angry hiss did nothing to disguise her displeasure with Severus. "So you can continue to harangue him as you did last night?"
"And just exactly what did he tell you about last night, Professor?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Severus Snape. Albus was perfectly happy when he went to your rooms last night, but when he came back, he was quiet and obviously upset and preoccupied."
"And did your paramour relate the evenings happenings to you?"
Minerva's lips pursed even more than was usual but she still managed to take an angry sip of her tea before continuing. "He has said nothing to me, but his silence speaks quite loudly enough. I do not know what you said or did, but by upsetting Albus, you have upset me, and I am not as forgiving as that old man."
Severus took a deep breath in an effort not to lose what little patience he was in possession of. "It was not my wish to upset you, Minerva, but our esteemed Head has the ability to drive me out of my mind. I know he does the same thing to you, so in this, we are on the same page."
Minerva's cup was dangerously close to breaking as she slammed it back into its saucer; the noise attracted the attention of Poppy Pomfrey and Filius Flitwick further down the table, the only other staff members partaking of an early breakfast, and had the few students present glancing toward the top table. An all-encompassing glare from both Severus and Minerva had them quickly returning their attention to their breakfasts and in a couple of cases, their books."
Minerva turned a baleful eye on her younger colleague and her voice was no less poisonous for its lack of volume. "You are wrong Severus Snape. I do not think we have ever entirely been on the same page, though I have been closer than most of our associates, except for Albus.
"It is impossible to stay on the same page as you, because your more-often-than-not noxious attitude to almost everything and everyone pervades every inch of any and all relationships that people try to develop with you." She shifted her gaze away from the set face of her young adversary and took another sip of her tea, the warmth of the brew no longer soothing. "Though I do concede that you have succeeded—against all the odds—in developing and maintaining what appears to be a steady relationship with Harry."
When Severus's face became even more of a mask than it had been, and he raised that supercilious eyebrow—a pointed indication of his boredom with the lecture—Minerva wanted to hex it right off his disdainful face.
"And do not scorn my words, young man" hissed Minerva. She took a deep breath and with every appearance of trying to rein in her ire, she leaned closer.
Her furious expression softened a little as she stared into the strong face of the man she had known since he was a scared and bewildered eleven year old. But she had not finished with her lecture. "I do not understand, when there are so many good people willing and wanting to be friendly with you, why you have to be so consistently unpleasant and standoffish."
Severus inhaled again, the action dripping scorn. "I have no desire to win any popularity contests, Madam..."
"Well, that is just as well," Minerva bit out, "because you are on a hiding to nowhere if that is your desire!"
"Is there a problem, children?"
Minerva and Severus both spun around; Albus was behind them, having come in through the staff entrance behind the high table. Severus noted that he was wearing a cloak, and though he did not want to be aware of such things, he
saw with a jolt of guilt, that the old man looked very tired, and very cold.
Minerva sprang to her feet with the vigour of a much younger woman. She too noted the dark shadows under her beloved's eyes and because she was concerned, but already in a fine snit, she unleashed her anger—though to ensure privacy and to deny the many pairs of straining ears, her voice was an emphatic hiss. "Where have you been, you foolish old man? I was in your room at five and you had already departed. I thought you would be here, but clearly I was wrong."
Albus held up a pacifying hand. "I am sorry to have worried you my dear, but I felt the need of some fresh air and so..."
"Fresh air! Fresh air...it is freezing out of doors. It is a wonder your lungs have not crystallised."
Albus held out the Gryffindor coloured scarf that was dangling from his hand. " As you see, Minerva, I was prepared and I am perfectly well." The tired blue eyes travelled from the lined, worried countenance of Minerva to Severus. The younger man's face was its usual inscrutable mask; except the slightly tightened skin under his eyes, combined with the overly relaxed hand resting on the tabletop, told Dumbledore the events of last evening were plaguing the younger man as much as they were him, but Severus was determined not to let it show.
"Did you wish to see me, Severus?"he asked in a tired voice. "I see that breakfast is not the reason for your presence here. Is Harry well?"
Ignoring the question about Harry's well being—because Dumbledore would know that he would not be breakfasting away from his rooms if there was anything untoward about his son's present state of health—Severus said, "I desired a word with you, and like Minerva, I found your chambers empty."
Albus raised his white eyebrows and opened his mouth to reply, but at that moment, Pomona Sprout clomped into the hall in the noisy and—to Severus's mind—totally inappropriate wooden clogs she favoured. Very rustic, but far from what should constitute the appropriate footwear for a witch who taught at Hogwarts, albeit outside the castle walls. Pomona was followed by Septima Vector and Aurora Sinistra talking animatedly together, and they all made for the top table, Sprout checking the Hufflepuff table to see if any of her students were abroad yet; they were not.
The witches offered cheerful greetings and while they settled themselves Severus turned back to Albus who was also in the process of pulling out a chair preparatory to seating himself. Avoiding the censorious eye of a still disgruntled Minerva, Severus said in a tight voice, "I would prefer a private word."
Dumbledore nodded and pushed his chair back in again. "Then shall we adjourn to my office? I am sure the House Elves will not mind accommodating my need for sustenance there."
Minerva sniffed. "As I am sure Severus does not require an audience..." She bent a baleful eye upon the young wizard again, "or perhaps a more appropriate term would be 'witness', I will allow you two your privacy." She narrowed her eyes even further when she returned her focus to Albus. "But I will be checking later to make sure you have eaten."
Although Albus smiled indulgently at his lady, Severus thought there was something strained about the action; as if smiling was an entirely alien action for his lips to be partaking in. Severus's guilt ratcheted up another notch, but he made sure that emotion was not writ large across his face. Instead, he rolled his eyes at Minerva's domineering attitude.
As he followed in Albus's wake, she hissed in his ear as he passed, "do not upset him any further or you will have me to deal with." Severus bestowed his patented look of arrogant disdain upon his old Transfiguration teacher which left her supremely indifferent, and she had reseated herself and begun to converse with her female colleagues before he had entered the antechamber.
Albus retrieved the pot of Floo Powder from the high mantel and he held it out to Severus. "I hope you do not mind Flooing, Severus, but I do find myself a little too weary to tackle seven flights of stairs this morning."
Severus made no comment, but the guilt bit even more deeply.
Severus stood with his arms crossed while Dumbledore faffed about hanging his cloak and scarf and petting and crooning to Fawkes. Eventually the old man crossed to his desk and sat, leaning forwards to clasp his hands together on the desktop. He raised his eyebrows, indicating that Severus begin.
Severus raised his own questioning eyebrow. "I thought you were hungry."
Albus waved an airy hand. "I will eat later."
But Severus just clucked his tongue and returning to the fireplace, he contacted the kitchen and ordered breakfast for one and tea for two. Albus watched disinterestedly—perhaps unseeingly—as Severus returned to the desk and cleared a space for the expected tray of food before seating himself opposite the old man. Dumbledore looked even more weary in the bright light of the office and once Severus was seated, the old man shifted his tired gaze to stare out the window at the brightening sky.
Severus felt a hint of disquiet at Albus's apathy. In normal circumstances, a less apathetic person than Albus Dumbledore would be hard to find anywhere within the Wizarding World, or indeed the Muggle world, Severus was sure.
When the tray popped into existence on the desk, Severus acted as mother and poured the tea. His brusque, "Drink some tea, Albus," had Dumbledore transferring his attention back to his visitor. But instead of emulating Severus and picking up his cup, Albus just sat back and crossed his hands over his stomach; he made no effort to partake of any of the food, or the tea.
"I appreciate this concern for my well-being, Severus, but I do not understand it; your lecture last evening made it abundantly clear that you would prefer further communications between us cease...unless, of course, you wish to speak of matters pertaining to your classes, or perhaps your duties as head of Slytherin House.
Severus took a sip of his own tea and when he lowered the cup, his face was a stiff mask, his eyes hooded. He had not expected Albus to be quite so confrontational considering his apathy of moments ago. This attitude would not make his task easier; he had never found it easy eating humble pie—he could not remember the last time he had. Perhaps his dealings with Harry constituted eating humble pie. But Harry made said pie easily digestible: one of the many things, Severus was loath to admit, that Dumbledore had been right about.
Where to start? Severus leaned forward and picking up Albus's cup between his long, slim fingers, he placed it directly in front of the old mage. Albus needed to warm up, he was very pale and his nail beds were slightly blue. "I would prefer that you not fall ill on my watch. Minerva will have more than my hide."
Dumbledore shifted in his chair but made no move to pick up the cup. "Severus..."
Severus slammed his own cup down and chopped a hand through the air. "Just drink the bloody tea, Albus!" Albus blinked at the brusque order. "You are tired and you are practically frozen to the bone—what could have possessed you to go out so early and when the temperature was probably below bloody freezing is beyond me—and if I have to crawl back into your good books, I would prefer that you not become ill while I do so."
Severus stood and swung away from the desk. Albus watched as the younger man strode backwards and forwards several times, his robes billowing in tune with their wearer's mood. "I am sorry. There, I have said it," growled Severus, in a far from conciliatory tone.
"Severus!" Severus stopped his pacing. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was in front of one of the windows and he stayed there, his back to the room, the side of his fist against his mouth.
"Severus, I do not need an apology. Yesterday, you said what you needed to say. I know I tend to take over and of course, I always think that I know best, but that is because I usually do know best." Severus's snort showed exactly what he thought of that statement.
"Mock all you will, dear boy. I would be lying if I said you were not exceptionally intelligent and that your magic is not some of the most powerful I have seen in all my years. But years is where I have the distinct advantage, my boy."
Severus snorted again, but he turned around. "Please, Headmaster!" We all know that your venerable age puts you light years above the rest of us and that your magic is unsurpassed..."
"Yes, Severus, age equals experience, of which I have plenty. And yes, my magic is powerful. But nor am I lacking in brains department, regardless of how senile you might think me."
"Life would be so much easier in certain circumstances if senility was beginning to set in," said Severus, under his breath as he walked back to the desk.
Albus, who had succumbed to the lure of the hot, fragrant tea, put his cup carefully back in its saucer. "Nor am I hard of hearing. I believe you need lessons in how to do penitent, dear boy."
"Did you not just say, penitence is unnecessary?"
Dumbledore leaned back in his high-backed chair. His pallor was as prominent as before but now the tea had leant a light flush to the prominent cheekbones, however, weariness still cloaked him like a mantle. "Severus, I am too tired to play games with you. If the reason for this audience is because you wish to apologise for the peremptory way you dismissed me last evening, then I accept. Now..." Dumbledore pushed with his arms against the chair arms to assist him to gain his feet, "if there is nothing else, I do believe my bed beckons."
Severus could see there was no help for it: Dumbledore definitely needed his bed. He did not like putting off the inevitable, but his plans had definitely gone awry this morning. He watched as the old Mage grasped the banister to assist his ascent to his chambers above.
"Can I prevail upon you to grant me an audience after this evening's meal?" Dumbledore turned and looked down at the young wizard where he still stood beside the desk."
Severus could see the request had not fallen on receptive ears and he felt another wave of remorse as well as regret. It was most unlike Albus to deny such a request if it was in his power to assent. "I must insist, Headmaster," he said through gritted teeth. "There are things we need to discuss without the presence of Harry and his friends."
Dumbledore sighed and raising a weary hand in acquiescence, he continued his upward journey. Severus watched the slow progress and unable to help himself, his snide side took over and he said, "I gather you are not in need of a Sleeping Draught, then?"
Dumbledore's only reaction to the question was a slight hesitation in his step, and for a second, Severus was afraid the old man might stumble. But he steadied himself, and without looking back or deigning to give Severus the satisfaction of acknowledging the tacit reminder of his unwanted actions against the younger man days before, he finished his ascent and disappeared onto the floor above. Severus was left with the feeling of having been thoroughly chastised as if he was a recalcitrant schoolboy.
Though it was Saturday, Severus was on duty in the morning keeping track of student behaviour within the castle and the grounds, and in the afternoon, he had several detentions to supervise. He returned to his rooms to eat the evening meal with Harry, before his meeting with Dumbledore.
Much to his satisfaction and relief he was pleased to see an obviously fit and healthy Harry slouched side-on in a chair in the parlour; his legs draped over one of the arms and his head at an impossible angle against the other. Severus was aware of a flurry of movement when he first entered his rooms from the dungeon corridor, but after hanging his outer robe on the coat-tree and crossing to see what Harry was up to, Severus found him reading, of all things, his new copy of Advanced Potion-Making. Severus felt inordinately pleased.
"I see you are taking your education seriously this year," he said, but all he got for his effort at starting a communication after the unsettling happenings of the previous evening, was a scowl and a hostile look.
"Why didn't you come down at lunchtime? It is Saturday, after all." The voice was surly and when Severus raised that intimidating eyebrow in a gesture that easily expressed his growing displeasure, Harry tightened his lips and lowered his gaze to the book propped on his thighs.
"I was on staff duty all morning and through lunch, and this afternoon saw me supervising several students in detention. Not that I have to explain my whereabouts to you."
"You know," said Harry bitterly, "your workload would be halved if you made an effort to not give out so many detentions."
Severus glared. "Perhaps if moronic students made more of an effort to take an interest in and more care with their practical work, and their general behaviour improved, then I might not have as many reasons to hand out detentions."
Harry's scowl deepened and Severus sighed. "I gather you are still put out about the events of last evening?" Harry's only response was a further tightening of his lips and after a few seconds of sullen silence, Severus took up the verbal slack in a voice that reflected his growing ire.
"I abhor it when you sulk, Harry, so a change of attitude would be advisable."
Harry sighed dramatically. He shut the book and with slow, deliberate movements, he swung his feet to the floor and straightened to a sitting position. He raised his eyes to his father's carefully blank face. "You shouldn't have spoken to Professor Dumbledore like you did last night."
Why you little whelp!
Severus's eyes narrowed and he could feel the colour suffuse his face at his son's rebuke. But he wasn't going to admit that the boy had hit that guilty nerve that had been thrumming since the night before. Despite the guilt, anger radiated from him in waves and he was gratified to see the look of trepidation that finally crossed Harry's face. He must have felt at a disadvantage sitting, because he scrambled to his feet, nearly tripping over in his haste—not the most gainly of manoeuvres.
Severus took a step closer to the boy, but Harry's self-preservation instinct was finally activated and he took a rapid step back. But when his sock-clad heel caught on a corrugation in the rug, he windmilled his arms in an effort to maintain his balance and Severus shot an arm out to grab a handful of the baggy windbreaker, and with a jerk, he yanked his son closer.
"You are hardly the one to lecture meon the correct way to speak to Professor Dumbledore, now are you Harry?" Harry's face blossomed with the same angry colour his father's had moments earlier, but on Harry, the colour enhanced the green of his eyes rendering them uncommonly attractive, so that even when they flashed with a fury almost equal to his own, Severus could not help comparing them to Lily's.
Severus was distracted from his anger just enough to enable Harry to wrench himself from his father's grip and fall back a step. Severus shut his eyes and tried to reign in his memories and his anger. "I am sorry for manhandling you, Harry, but you do not make it easy for me to keep my temper."
Harry half turned away from his father and thrust his hands deep into his jeans pockets. "Ditto," he mumbled.
Severus narrowed his eyes "I beg your pardon."
"Nothing," said Harry in a slightly more audible voice.
Severus knew exactly what the boy had said, but he decided to let the cheek slide. Not the confrontation about Dumbledore though. But as time was passing and Severus had an appointment with the headmaster, and as he wanted to eat a meal at the dining table with his son for the first time since Harry had left for the Burrow the day before term had started, he turned from the sullen teen and set about ordering their evening meal.
Crossing to the dining area, Severus wielded his wand and banished some paperwork to one end of the small table just in time for their meals to materialise in the vacated space. "Come and eat, Harry," ordered Severus, and not being game enough to push his father any further, Harry complied.
Severus poured Harry a glass of pumpkin juice from a small carafe and a glass of red wine for himself. He ignored Harry as he threw himself into his chair, and continued to ignore him as he slouched in the chair so effectively that his chin was almost level with the tabletop. When Severus put a plate of lamb casserole and broccoli in front of Harry before serving himself, he waited until he had partaken of several mouthfuls of the meal to see if Harry would begin eating.
Severus lowered his fork and picking up his wine glass, he watched his son turning his own fork over and over on the pristine tablecloth but make no attempt to actually eat. After a couple of minutes of this supremely irritating behaviour, Severus was at the end of his tether; he slammed his hand down on the table.
Harry jumped so high, his hand jerked and the fork clattered to the stone floor. He looked at Severus reproachfully before pushing his chair back to pick the fork up. "Leave it!" ordered Severus. He picked up his own knife and without bothering with his wand, he transfigured it into a fork which he pushed across the table.
"Now sit up straight and use that implement to eat!" he barked and Harry, seemingly aware he had pushed the envelope as far as he could, complied. He did straighten up and he did eat, but not with any enthusiasm, nor indeed, apparent hunger.
"The longer you eschew food, Harry, the longer it will be before you begin classes for the year." Harry didn't respond but he sat up straighter and ate with a little more speed.
Severus was satisfied though, and after watching for several seconds, he returned to his own meal. For a while the only sound was that of the food and drinks being consumed. Severus finished his serving first and he sat back with his wine glass held loosely between long fingers while Harry battled on; his short burst of seeming enthusiasm had again petered out.
Severus watched the painful activity on the other side of the table for a couple of minutes before saying out loud, "I gather you've had as much as you can tolerate?" and adding in a much quieter voice which Harry heard none-the-less, "I know I have."
Harry scowled. "I can't help it if I haven't got any appetite."
Severus took a sip of his wine. "I suppose you're doing better than you were a couple of days ago. But you do realise that until you are consuming an adequate number of calories, I cannot in good conscience allow you to commence classes."
Harry threw himself back in his chair again. "What exactly do you consider an adequate number of calories," he asked acerbically.
Severus drained his glass and placed it on the table. "To count the number of calories will get too complicated, but I would consider a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner a necessity. And I do not consider that a half slice of toast for breakfast, half a bowl of soup for lunch and three mouthfuls of your evening meal is adequate."
Harry's scowl deepened and he reached forward to pick up his fork to make track marks in the gravy on his plate. "Don't even think about it," bit out Severus, moving his hand in a short, sharp movement and vanishing the fork. "If I have to watch you creating abstract art in your food one more time, Harry, I'm going to have to kill you."
"Exaggerate, why don't you?" huffed Harry. He pushed his chair back preparatory to standing, but Severus forestalled him.
"Stay where you are, please. I wish to readdress your monumentally ill-considered comment of earlier."
Harry dropped his eyes to his plate. The hand that was resting on the tabletop twitched as if he would dearly love his fork back, though whether to continue with his artistic endeavours or to stick into Severus was debatable.
"You do not have the right to admonish me for my behaviour, whether it be toward the headmaster, another member of staff, or indeed a student. It is my job to monitor your behaviour, not vice versa." Harry seethed, as was evidenced by his crossing his arms tightly over his chest.
When there was no verbal response, Severus leaned forward and said menacingly. "Do you understand?"
Harry looked up; his face was red and his eyes were flashing green fire. "But you were in the wrong!" he yelled.
Severus banged his hand down on the table again. "In your opinion! You do not even know what I said to the headmaster."
"You were in a foul mood when you dragged Professor Dumbledore off, and if you needed to put up Wards, then you must have been giving him a bollocking!" Harry was not going to back down.
In truth, Severus could not argue with Harry's logic. But then he narrowed his eyes as his thought processes bypassed his anger and caught up with Harry's words. "How do you know that I erected Wards?" he hissed. "Did you sneak across to the closed door of my lab where I had gone to have a private word with the headmaster?" Severus was furious.
"No!" Harry yelled. "We couldn't hear anything at all, so of course you erected Silencing Wards, at the very least."
"Come on, Harry. I know you and your penchant for sticking your nose in where it doesn't belong. Professor Dumbledore and myself might have been having a perfectly civil conversation"
Harry snorted his disbelief. "Yeah, right! That's likely considering the mood you were in when you stalked into the lab?"
Severus narrowed his eyes in clear warning.
"I didn't leave the sitting room!" insisted Harry loudly, pushing his chair back and jumping to his feet. "Ask Ron, Hermione and Ginny."
"Oh, what a good idea," drawled Severus. "I'm sure your little friends would never lie for you."
It was obvious Harry was putting a lot of effort into not letting his temper reach detonation point. He took a deep breath, but his eyes radiated green fire. "They might," he said through clenched teeth. "But about this, there isn't any need for them to lie. I—didn't—leave—the—sitting—room!"
"Then how could you know I..."
"I felt them!" yelled Harry. Severus went very still. The two black-haired wizards stared at each other. As the silence stretched and Severus did little to hide his astonishment, Harry turned away, his expression one of embarrassed belligerence.
"What do you mean, you felt them?" asked Severus in a very quiet—but no less intimidating for its lack of volume—voice.
"I don't know!" yelled Harry. "I can't describe it."
"Try!" The voice dripped with impatient frustration and issued from between gritted teeth and lips that barely moved.
Harry stalked into the sitting room where he threw himself into what had become 'his' chair. He leaned forward resting his elbows on his thighs and grabbed two hanks of hair in a painful grip. Severus followed and stood over Harry, his arms crossed.
Harry was aware that Severus was waiting impatiently, but he didn't speak because he really didn't know how to describe the phenomenon he had experienced the evening before. It had been so strange.
He had stared at the closed door of the lab; Ron, Hermione and Ginny had faded into the background, though he had vaguely been aware of Hermione's voice droning on about Professor Snape's impressive library. Ron had responded in an offhand voice because of course, books and reading did not even register on his personal radar of pleasurable activities, unless said book was about Quidditch, or at a pinch, chess strategies, and Ginny—seemingly more attuned to Harry and his moods—had taken his hand and squeezed it gently.
He couldn't remember if he had squeezed back, so focused had he been on the door.
"Harry! I would appreciate an answer," said an increasingly frustrated Severus. In truth, he was more than a little panicked. He was very much afraid that what Harry was speaking of was another manifestation of his augmented powers.
"All right!" Harry ran a nervous hand over his mouth, then, elbows still on his thighs, he wrung his hands together. "I stared at the door because I was frustrated with you for dragging Professor Dumbledore away when it was obvious he was going to tell me what's been going on with me; why I've been sick."
Harry licked his lips. "As I stared, it's like the door...well...um...it's like it suddenly lost its substance...it kind of started to waver...like I was looking at it through a heat haze."
Severus stared at the boy. He refrained from groaning aloud. It certainly seemed...but wait... "Are you sure you weren't overtired; that your eyes weren't playing tricks on you? You said you felt the Wards."
Harry shook his head, but he kept his eyes focused on his clenched hands. "I thought that at first too, but then I realised that the longer I stared at the door I began to feel...well...it felt like a vibration...a thrumming. It was like I was holding Uncle Vernon's electric razor, only there was no noise and the vibration was much more gentle. An...and I didn't feel it in my hands, but in my chest."
Severus groaned internally; he sat on the edge of the other chair and clasped his hands between his thighs. "Harry," he said gently. "yesterday was the most active you had been since you became ill. Perhaps you were overtired."
"No!" cried Harry, jumping to his feet. "I knew you wouldn't believe me! I know what I felt."
"How do you know? Had you ever felt anything like that before?"
Harry shook his head. " A...at least...I...I don't think so." Then he seemed to reach the end of his tether. "I don't know!" he cried in frustration, slashing a hand through the air. "Maybe I have felt something like it before. It seemed familiar, somehow, but I don't know when I could have felt it."
Severus knew. Albus had said that Harry had countered Poppy's Protective Charm in the Hospital Wing, so it stood to reason that he must have been able to detect the charm and dismantle it wandlessly because he had not set it off.
Severus rubbed rigid fingertips over the frown lines that seemed to have become permanently etched into his forehead since he had become responsible for Harry; since he had found out he was, in essence, a father. And not a father to any ordinary teenager. Oh, no, that would have been too much to hope for, if in fact the hope of fatherhood had ever crossed his mind, which it most certainly had not. Fatherhood had been thrust upon him in the form of the most foolishly brave and recklessly impulsive boy he had ever known.
And now these augmented powers had to be added to the equation that equalled Harry Potter. Not for the first time Severus thought that being responsible for Harry Potter was definitely more than a one-man job. He never stopped wishing that Lily was alive, but he would even go so far as to be quite amenable to James still being around to share the burden of their sixteen year old problem son.
Harry Potter was definitely a three parent obligation, though if James were still around, Severus was very sure he would not take kindly to Severus's role in the creation of the entity that was their son.
These thoughts flitted through Severus's mind in less than a second; he was aware that Harry was still talking and he forced himself to concentrate, despite his growing disquiet. "I knew almost at once that you'd erected Silencing Wards. And I knew when the Wards were dismantled because the heat haze disappeared and the thrumming stopped. Though it was a few minutes before Professor Dumbledore opened the door and came out.
Severus was distracted for a moment; he narrowed his eyes. "What did you hear from when the Wards were dismantled till when the headmaster and I exited the lab?"
Harry ran a hand through his untidy mop of hair; he sighed dramatically. "Nothing," he said, slightly aggressively. "You must have had it yelling at Professor Dumbledore by then."
Severus glared and Harry knew it would be wise to back off. He really didn't want to bring the full wrath of Snape, the sadistic Potions Master down on his head. He turned away from those obsidian eyes, and began kicking mindlessly at the bricks in the hearth. "I didn't hear anything," he reiterated more quietly. "I could hear murmurs, but couldn't make anything out."
Severus thanked Merlin for small mercies. If Harry had actually heard Albus's pronouncement that there were things that Harry needed to know for the future, then he knew the boy would haunt him into an early grave if those secrets were not forthcoming. Severus refused to entertain the thought of telling Harry anything about what the future would bring until it became obvious that the future was the here and now, and until he was entirely sure himself what the future was going to bring for his young Gryffindor.
Severus knew these augmented powers of Harry's could not remain secret much longer; indeed he was amazed that Ronald Weasley had not cracked under the pressure of keeping such a secret from his best friend. Of course, their interactions had been minimal since that fateful day outside King's Cross, but the banned subject of what Weasley had seen that day must be building up in the boy's head and would no doubt reach detonation point if Severus did not act before Harry rejoined the other Gryffindors in the tower.
Harry needed to get back to classes. But before then the boy needed to be informed about what they had all been keeping from him and he needed time to become accustomed to these new powers so that he could hide them from forces within the school who would be only too eager to report their manifestation to the Dark Lord.
With that last, unpalatable thought, Severus pushed himself to his feet and crossed to the coat tree to get his gown. Harry watched him put it on, but then lowered his gaze to the gentle flames in the fireplace.
"Where are you going?"
Severus made a welter out of doing up his many buttons before looking at Harry. "I have an appointment with the headmaster. "
Harry's question had been asked as a matter of form; he just assumed his father was going to supervise another detention. But at Severus's words, his head snapped up and he watched with ill-concealed hope as Severus stepped up to the mantel and reach for the Floo Powder.
"And, no, you cannot come," he said when Harry opened his mouth to voice the expected request.
Severus held up the hand that was not holding the powder. "No, buts, Harry," said Severus in his 'do not push this, Harry', voice. "I have much to discuss with Professor Dumbledore and I do not need your input tonight."
When Harry's lips thinned with irritation, Severus said in a conciliatory tone, "I promise you that when it is convenient for Professor Dumbledore, we will talk to you about the happenings of the last week and a half." Severus only hoped that this statement was not overstepping the mark so far as Albus was concerned; he was far from convinced that he had not entirely burned his bridges with the old man.
And that thought upset Severus much more than he thought it would. His temper and his petty need for revenge because of the perceived injustice of being put to bed like a child, might have, in the end, destroyed the closest relationship he had had with anyone since his mother; Harry notwithstanding. Severus realised—perhaps too late—that he did not want to forego Albus's friendship and mentoring.
Harry shoved his hands into his pockets. He still looked mutinous but he stepped away from the hearth so Severus could access the Floo. But he seemed to think of something else and he opened his mouth to speak again when there was a knock on the door. Harry looked at Severus who mumbled, "Timing is everything."
"Are you expecting someone?" Harry asked not hearing his father's quiet words
"I am. And perhaps our visitor might make your enforced isolation a little more palatable." Harry looked his confusion.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Perhaps this particular conundrum might be more easily explained if I tell you that I have given Dobby the night off."
If Severus thought this pronouncement might put Harry in a better frame of mind, he was sadly mistaken. "Good," he said aggressively. "I don't need a babysitter; I'm a big boy now, in case you haven't noticed. And I'm no longer sick."
Severus's eyebrow rose lazily. "Really," he drawled. "So, I should tell Lupin to go back to his rooms?"
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Of course not," he bit out. He stomped over to the door and threw it open. "Hi Remus," he said to the visitor. But before Remus could return the greeting, Harry rounded on Severus again. "Remus is welcome here anytime, you told me so yourself. But I want him here as a friend, not a babysitter."
Remus entered the room; he gazed at Severus, his eyebrows raised in question, as he pushed the door closed. "Trouble in paradise," he asked, good naturedly.
Severus rolled his eyes. "I imagine there will be if I send Harry to bed before I leave," he answered in a tone that indicated he was fast reaching the end of his tether with one very mouthy Gryffindor. "I don't imagine you will mind, Lupin," he added, "as you have told me on more than one occasion that you find my library very much to your taste."
"OK," said Harry, back-peddling fast. He turned to Remus. "Sorry," he said, sounding as if he really meant it. "I should have greeted you properly."
"Perhaps it's your father you should be apologising to, Harry," said Remus calmly and entirely reasonably.
Harry reddened under the gentle chastisement, but he turned to Severus without hesitation. "Sorry, Dad. I was totally out of line."
"Yes," responded Severus. "But your name is Harry Potter, so I really am used to you being totally 'out of line'." Harry's colour intensified and Severus's stern expression softened slightly.
Harry could only marvel, even despite his recent show of temper, that this was the same man who, just over two months ago—and after just such a show of cheek from himself—would have got in Harry's face and belittled and demeaned him, and then have taken a thousand points from Gryffindor and given him a months worth of detention and post-dated it till the new school year.
When a slow smile curled Harry's lips, Severus frowned. "What is so funny?"
Harry waved off the question and pressed his lips together in an effort to be seen to be contrite; after all, he didn't want Remus to be sent packing.
Severus, after glaring beadily for a moment, decided not to insist on an explanation; he was, after all, in a hurry. "I am not sure how long I will be; so make sure you are not up too late. You are well on the way to total recovery, but I know you still need a good night's sleep."
"Yeah," said Harry with a theatrical sigh. "Not sure I'll ever be up to playing Exploding Snap past midnight again."
"Heaven forefend! What a loss that would be," drawled Severus with an impressive eye roll. Then without further ado, he finally tossed the Floo powder that had become unpleasantly gritty between his fingertips into the flames. The three wizards watched as the dancing yellow fire turned a cool green. Severus stepped into the flames.
"We will talk in the morning," he said to his son, and with a nod to Remus, he called out his destination and disappeared.
Harry gazed at the empty fireplace as the flames returned to a gentle yellow burn. When he finally turned to Remus, his friend was watching him with an indulgent smile.
"How times have changed," said Remus.
Harry grinned. "Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing."
Remus's eyes crinkled as his smile widened.. "I am happy for you, Harry. You deserve happiness." Harry ducked his head and Remus squeezed his forearm. "Now," he said in an obvious ploy to get past Harry's embarrassment, "though we will be finished well before midnight, how about one or two games of Exploding Snap?"
When Severus stepped out of the fireplace in the Head's office, it was to find it devoid of its present incumbent. Severus felt his stomach drop a little: was the old man avoiding him? He crossed to Fawkes's perch and raised a hand to stroke the magnificent scarlet plumage of the bird's breast. Fawkes looked at him from eyes as black as Severus's own. The large bird dipped its magnificent head and let out a trill of sound that resonated deeply in Severus's chest, immediately making him feel more positive.
"So, my handsome friend," said Severus, "where is the old coot, then?"
"If by 'old coot' you mean me, then I am right here, Severus." Severus, embarrassed colour invading his face, spun to face the stairs where Albus was descending from his private quarters. The younger man's first thought was that the old coot looked closer to his normal self than he had early that morning, though perhaps the twinkle in his eyes was still somewhat diminished.
"Albus," greeted a discomforted Severus with a slight inclination of his head. "I trust you are rested?"
Albus dipped his own head in acknowledgement of the question. "Perfectly," he replied, succinctly. Severus stepped back so that Albus could seat himself at his desk, where he leaned back and folded his hands over his satin-draped stomach, his questioning gaze fixed on his guest.
As an invitation did not appear to be forthcoming, Severus swallowed his uneasiness and seated himself in front of the desk. Silence ensued for at least a minute—a minute which was highly uncomfortable to Severus—and it was Albus who broke the impasse. "You desired this meeting, Severus, so what can I do for you?"
Severus rested an elbow on the arm of his chair and rubbed his hand over his mouth. Albus certainly wasn't planning to make things easy. He really must have hurt the old man last evening, but even so, he had never known Dumbledore to hold a grudge.
Unable to remain seated under the steady blue gaze, Severus jumped up and began to pace; he rubbed his mouth again. Albus watched his agitated Potions Master, but he made no further attempt to initiate conversation.
After a minute of agitated movement, Severus finally threw himself back into the chair. He sat forward and rested an arm on the desktop; unable to meet Albus's eyes, he watched his fingers quietly drum the desktop. "This morning I wanted to apologise to you for my behaviour last night, but you told me it was unnecessary."
Albus leaned forward and placed his folded hands on the desktop. "You have nothing to apologise for, Severus..." Dumbledore began, but Severus cut him off.
"I do have something to apologise for. I just wish you would allow me to do so, so that we can get past this..." Severus waved a hand in the air, "this unpleasantness."
Albus spread his hands. "You obviously had a reason for taking me to task as you did, dear boy. I told you last evening—and I stand by my word—that I will no longer interfere with your parenting of your son."
"Albus," cried Severus, exasperated and ashamed, "if not for you, I would still have my head stuck firmly in the sand, refusing to acknowledge that I even have a son. And as said son is Harry Potter and as Harry Potter comes with a prodigious set of unique problems—and as I am new at this parenting lark—then I need all the help I can get.
"The fact that I am an ex-Death Eater is my cross to bear, but, unfortunately for you, my being a foul tempered bastard is your cross to bear because, more often than not, you are the recipient of my ill-humour."
Severus, uncomfortable under Albus's understanding regard, once again threw himself out of the chair to wear a path in the office floor. He did not see Dumbledore wave his wand to conjure a tray of tea; the headmaster obviously felt a calming brew was needed. Severus continued to pace and rant while Dumbledore poured tea into two delicate porcelain cups.
"Yesterday, I admit that I lost it when you appeared in my chambers and proceeded to insist it was high time we tell Harry about the happenings of the last week and a half, and more importantly, that we do so with his friends being present."
Dumbledore nodded solemnly. "In retrospect, dear boy, I can see my actions were unforgivably highhanded, and I do not blame you for taking me to task." He pushed a full cup across the desk. "Come, sit and calm yourself."
"What?" Severus stopped his pacing long enough to notice the tea. With a sigh, he threw himself back into the chair and picked up the cup. He and Albus often took tea together and Severus enjoyed the headmaster's special blend; it certainly always calmed him if he was feeling agitated, which he often was when sitting in this chair.
After a couple of minutes while both wizards sipped and slowly relaxed in each other's company again, Severus put his cup back in its saucer and placed both on the desk. He hitched his robe a little and crossed one foot over the other leg. Still uncomfortable looking his old friend in the eye and showing just how off-balance he was by picking imaginary specks of lint off his pristine robe, Severus began, "I am here to ask of you that which I told you last evening I do not desire."
Albus opened his mouth to respond, but Severus held up his hand to stop him. "No, please, allow me to finish. As you said this morning, I need lessons in how to do penitent, but perhaps you need lessons in how to allow a person to be penitent."
Albus inclined his head and Severus continued. "I had been in a foul mood with you since last Monday and my subsequent words and actions were the result. It was not so much your suggestion of telling Harry and his friends everything—though I do maintain that Harry needs to be told first—as it was my inability to let go of a perceived slight to my ego.
"There was no excuse; I know your actions were not vindictive in any way and that you were only concerned for my wellbeing." Severus looked as if he was sucking on a lemon, and always uncomfortable talking about 'feelings', he once again eschewed sitting to cross to a window to look out over the darkening grounds. "But I know you more than most know how I abhor not being in control of my own life."
Albus chuckled and Severus rounded on him. "You find me baring my soul amusing, Headmaster?"
Albus shook his head. "Not at all, dear boy," he said around a smile. "I was just wondering when, since the end of the last school year, you have found yourself in any way in control of your own life."
Severus went very still, then with the slightest telltale quiver of his lips that someone who knew him less well would have been unable to detect, he turned back to his contemplation of the evening sky. "A valid observation."
Albus poured himself some more tea while he waited for his companion to relax enough to come back to his seat. When he finally did, Severus touched his wand to the teapot and warmed the brew within before pouring himself a second cup.
"So, my boy, let us get onto the subject that brought you here. I have no wish to hear anything more about last evening, or the happenings pertaining thereto. It is over and done with, except for what I told you earlier...from now on, I will follow, rather than try to lead in matters pertaining to Harry. If you wish for my help, then you have it."
Severus cleared his throat. "Thank you," he said uncomfortably. "But I fear I must warn your that the chance of your running amok of my foul temper again, will no doubt still be inexcusably high. So, I hope you will, in future overlook any inappropriate outbursts. But hopefully I can spare you a repeat of last evening's particularly vitriolic diatribe."
Albus bowed his head in acknowledgement of his young protégé's words, but he also held up his hand to stem the flow of self recrimination. He smiled and his eyes twinkled with their usual good-natured brilliance. "So, life will now revert to normal," he stated, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Quite."
"Very well, dear boy. So, what is it you require of me?"
"What you attempted to do last evening. Explain to Harry what has been happening to him, and why it has had such a detrimental effect on his health."
"I can do that," said Dumbledore. "With your help."
Severus was grateful for Dumbledore's words, but he was under no illusion that his contribution would add much to the revelations that would highlight Harry's differences from his contemporaries; Severus only hoped he could help assuage the boy's belief that he was in any way the 'freak' he had been so consistently labelled by the foul Dursleys.
"And the other three young Gryffindors?"
Severus took a deep breath. ""I do not wish them to be present at first. When Harry has had time to process these changes, and when the inevitable—shall we say—distress has run its course, then we can ascertain what Harry wants them to know."
Albus put his fingertips together in front of his lips, taping them together lightly. "As I said before, I was over-zealous last evening; your plan is much the better one."
Severus's eyebrow rose on cue and Albus, smiled from behind his fingers. "Yes, Severus, I was wrong. It has been known to happen...though rarely."
Severus snorted. "You keep telling yourself that, old man."
The next hour was spent with Dumbledore telling Severus his theories as to why sixteen year old Harry Potter had powers that most adult wizards would not even dream of possessing. Severus was pleased to discover that he had been on the right track with his own thinking. He then told Dumbledore of Harry's latest foray into the world of extraordinary powers with his having 'seen' and 'felt' the Privacy Wards that he had erected the previous evening.
Dumbledore was not surprised by this news; indeed, he had been wondering when this particular manifestation of Harry's new powers would come to light again.
"So, what happened yesterday evening is a variation of what happened when Harry was in the Hospital Wing?" asked Severus with a weary sigh.
"I believe so," replied Albus. "But Harry had no memory of what he did in the hospital wing. I am not sure if this was because that particular episode was because Harry was still not recovered from the magical exhaustion bought on by his demonstration of wild magic at King's Cross, or whether it was because he might have been operating in his sleep. Indeed, it might be because his brain refused to register this strange new power. Or perhaps it might have been a combination of all three.
"Most competent wizards, Severus, can 'feel' a magical aura if there is a massive amount of latent magic in or around a structure or even a place. I am sure that you feel the latent power within these castle walls. And Hogsmeade, being a totally wizarding village has its own atmosphere, as does Diagon Alley.
"Another example of latent magical energy is Grimmauld Place, though most of us feel that as an all pervading darkness. Harry has always hated Grimmauld Place, even when Sirius was alive; now I am convinced it is because he has always been hyper-sensitive to the malevolence that permeates every room."
"But if Harry is so attuned to this latent magic and with there being innumerable spells cast on any given day in his presence, why has this power not come to light before?"
Albus sighed. "Not all witches and wizards are as attuned to latent magic as Harry is; the more powerfully magical the witch or wizard, the more magical atmospheres register. I can easily detect its presence, and I am sure you can, Severus. Luckily our brains allow us to assimilate its constant presence and eventually, we do not even think about it: we just know it is there."
Severus shook his head. "I grant you that I am very aware of the magic that permeates a dwelling or a place, if it is present in any great quantity...I found Hogwarts quite overpowering for several days after first coming here after living mostly as a Muggle for the first eleven years of my life.
"But I cannot touch or hear magic as it appears Harry can. But I am sure you can, can't you Albus?
Albus dipped his head in acknowledgement. "It is not a talent I often have need to tap into. But I well remember when I first realised that I could detect the presence of specific spells, rather than just be aware of latent magic in the atmosphere. It excited me, but I fear that Harry will not find the knowledge exciting."
Severus could only agree. Since he had gotten to know the 'real' Harry, rather than continuing to heap the sins of James and Black onto the boy for five solid years, Severus had discovered that Harry was as dissimilar to his father and his Godfather as it was possible to be.
Severus rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Surely he has not always had this ability?"
"No, I am sure he has not. But Harry is nearly of age, dear boy. And as you know, a wizard begins to realise the full potential of his power as he nears the age of seventeen; it can continue to increase up till the time he turns twenty-four or five.
"Which is no doubt why these augmented powers are finally coming to light. After all, Severus, though we did not know it, Harry has always had three parents.
Severus decided to walk back to his chambers after making arrangements for Dumbledore to breakfast with him and Harry the next morning. He figured that taking a meal together would be more informal than actually sitting Harry down and presenting the facts of his situation and what it meant for his future.
Another reason he had elected to walk was because he needed to work off his frustration; when he had asked the infuriating old man to expound on his statement of the previous evening concerning the 'things' Harry would have to be apprised of concerning his future, Dumbledore had reverted to form and kept his cards close to his chest.
The old mage had sighed and looked regretful when he had told Severus that it would be best to get the present situation out in the open and make sure Harry was coping with the new mindset that his augmented powers would most certainly engender, before they heaped more upon the boy's head.
Severus had tried very hard to keep his temper under control; he had asked the old man how he was supposed to just shelve the knowledge that there was something in Harry's future that was going to be so traumatic, the boy had to be in a perfect headspace before it could be divulged.
Albus had apologised sincerely and told Severus that he had only said what he had yesterday evening because he had truly thought that Severus would no longer allow any interaction between himself and Harry and that now things were back to normal, there was plenty of time for these new revelations to come to light. Severus had had to be satisfied but he was far from happy with the bloody infuriating master manipulator.
Severus outdid himself on his march back to the dungeons: he gave detention to two Ravenclaw second-years who were within feet of the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower, but who were, nonetheless, out of bounds one minute after curfew. And shocking himself in the process, he gave detention to two of his Slytherins. Draco and, of all people, Astoria Greengrass were trying to sneak back into the Slytherin Common Room after what must have been—if the state of their robes was any indication—an intense snogging session. Seemingly, Draco's misery as to the unenviable state that was his life at the moment, could not entirely block out the siren call of his hormones.
Severus was admittedly a little shocked at discovering the identity of Draco's current amore, as the girl was just starting her fourth year. But as he walked away from his clearly shocked Slytherins (Snape never gave them detention) he then recalled—thanks to his dedication to his role as Head of Slytherin House and his prodigious memory—that the girl's birthday was on the second of September and therefore, she was nearly a year older than most of her classmates. If she had been born three days earlier, she would have been in her fifth year.
With his dark mood somewhat assuaged by making four students miserable and—in the case of Draco, resentful—Severus countered the wards on his door and entered his dimly lit sitting room. He came up short when he saw Lupin relaxing in one of the deep armchairs reading one of Severus's few novels, and enjoying a glass of whisky. He had almost forgotten that Lupin would be there.
Remus smiled a welcome but falling short of exercising his own facial muscles, Severus settled on a short nod of greeting before concentrating on doffing his robe and hanging it up. When he crossed to the seating area, Lupin had closed his book and poured him a drink. Severus settled in his own chair and reached for the glass.
"You look as if you need it," said Remus with quiet amusement.
"Dealing with that bloody old man would be enough to drive even a saint like you to drink, Lupin, I have no doubt." growled Severus.
Remus chuckled. "Perhaps. You should learn the art of 'going with the flow', Severus."
Severus glared. "Unfortunately, the direction of Albus's flow is often opposite to where I wish to go. But thank you for the advice, Lupin, trite as it is."
Remus was too used to Severus's acerbic nature to take offence. He drained his glass and stood to return the book to its place in the smaller of the two bookcases. In the room.
"Dickens, Lupin?" asked Severus. "Did you want to cast your mood into the doldrums, then?"
"There is generally sufficient cheer somewhere within the pages to counter the doldrums, I find," contradicted Remus.
"If one trawls deep enough, I suppose."
"If you are not a fan, why do you have an omnibus in your collection?"
'Oh, I never said I was not a fan. But then, you and I both know I have a much more dismal outlook on life than do you."
Severus raised his eyes from their contemplation of the amber liquid in his glass. Remus said, "Perhaps not as dismal as it once was?" while jerking his head in the direction of Harry's room.
Severus did not answer immediately but drained his glass and Remus, not expecting a reply, headed for the door. "Undoubtedly dismal is not the adjective I would use to describe life with Harry Potter," said Severus in a contemplative tone, pulling Remus up short with his hand on the door handle. "Perhaps exasperation, rage and fear would more adequately describe the emotions Harry arouses in me; there is certainly no room for dismal. Oh, and let us not forget cluelessness."
Remus laughed. " I think cluelessness would probably describe the parents of any teenager, not just Harry." He opened the door. " You have been a teacher for a long time, Severus. I think you sell yourself short."
" Not at all. Just giving credit where it's due. Goodnight, Severus." When Remus would have stepped into the corridor, Severus pulled him up.
"Lupin, would you join us for breakfast in the morning?"
Remus managed to not look too surprised. "To what do I attribute this invitation?"
"Severus rolled his eyes. "Certainly not to an increased desire for your company on my part, I assure you." Remus smiled, not in the least insulted; he knew that Severus had to work really hard to dredge up any real hatred for him these days.
"Dumbledore will be joining us. We are going to tell Harry about his augmented powers and why he has been so ill. I thought your presence might help smooth the way with his reception of the news.
"You, probably more than me know just how much the boy hates to be seen as being different."
" I'll be here. What time?"
"As a teenager is to be one of the party, anytime before nine would be considered ungodly. And even though Harry professes to be heartily sick of bed, it does not follow that he would wish to be awake before nine in the morning."
With another chuckle, Remus closed the door.