Title: Property of the Half-Blood Prince

Author: thesewarmstars

Rating: M

Summary: During his sixth year, Harry becomes very attached to the previous owner of his Potions text, but what will happen when he finds out who it really is? SSHP. HBP spoilers, obviously.

Disclaimer: I'm making no profit. Off anything, much less this.

Warnings: HP/SS slash (eventually), mentions of rape, torture.

AN: Many of the events of book six still take place, though some have been altered and I've messed with the timeline a bit to suit my needs. No beta, all mistakes are my own.

Chapter 1 – The First Day of Term

September 2, 1996: Harry

Harry lay on his bed in Gryffindor Tower thumbing through his newly acquired potions text. He had never had what you would call good luck—life-threatening situations aside, of course—but the spare book Slughorn had loaned him this morning in class had him thanking his lucky stars.

The margins of nearly every single page were filled with various notes, ramblings, tips, and explanations—it was almost like having his own private Potions tutor. He might actually do well this term, provided Hermione didn't confiscate his book first.

Harry couldn't see what the big deal was. Hermione said it was cheating, but it was just the previous owner—'This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood Prince,' it said inside the back cover, whoever that was—helping him out a bit. Hermione helped him out all the time, and she obviously didn't consider that cheating. She was just riled because he'd done better than her for once.

He had only deciphered the first few pages of notes, but he was already intrigued. The author of the scribblings had a singular way of putting things—it was almost like poetry. It was certainly eloquent enough to make Harry feel like an illiterate oaf.

For example. next to the sentence on page three that instructed 'stir anticlockwise,' he had written, 'move the stirring rod gently but firmly, smooth, like a not-quite-light but tender caress, like you care about the potion—you must care about it, you must treat it well.'

But, then again, he could also be rather blunt—on page two, he simply crossed out 'chop' and wrote 'dice' instead.

Who was this person who called himself the Half-Blood Prince? Harry didn't have any particular feelings about Slughorn one way or the other yet, but this Half-Blood Prince character was definitely a better teacher than Snape had ever been.

Ron popped his head in the door. "Quidditch, mate. You said you'd talk to everyone about when try-outs would be tonight. Come on, can't be late if you're the captain," he called then headed back down the spiral stairs.

Harry closed the book with something close to reluctance.

September 2, 1996: Snape

The first day of classes was finally over. Snape was not certain if he actually missed teaching Potions, or if it was just the familiarity of it. Certainly in times such as these, he would be much more effective trying to teach the dunderheads DADA, especially considering that the series of incompetent instructors they had been inflicted with the last several years had left them woefully ignorant.

The Dark Lord would never be defeated with that lot on the loose, unless he was able to pound a thing or two into their thick skulls before they graduated and moved beyond all aid.

Despite his somewhat noble intentions, he was still glad to be done for the day. There was only so much irritating adolescence he could handle in one day, and now that supper in the Great Hall had been endured, he was free. He had not even been required to assign any detentions for this evening.

It could not possibly bode well that he was welcoming the end of the first day with such relief—he still had an entire term to get through. He decided it would get better once he was used to it again, but he did not entirely believe it. Perhaps it was because he had now gone over thirty-six hours without brewing anything. He would have to rectify that tonight, because it certainly was not helping.

Without really planning where he was going, he strode from the Great Hall out onto the grounds. It was a perfect September evening, and he soon found himself standing in one of this favorite spots by the Black Lake—the view was breathtaking, it was close enough to the forest to deter the younger students from wandering over but not so close he had to look over his shoulder every ten seconds, and a willow tree (of the non-whomping variety) concealed his presence from the casual observer. He could breathe here.

He did not know exactly how long he stood there, watching the ripples move across the water when some unseen lake creature grazed the surface, feeling the sun and its clear reflection on the water warm his skin, letting the crisp evening breeze play though his hair and whip it across his face, allowing his mind to wander without thinking about anything at all, but suddenly the air was growing chill and the sun was sinking rapidly into the horizon.

It was time to go back to the castle. Back to his dungeons, dark and safe, to recover from this uncharacteristic foray into the great outdoors and maybe start this month's Wolfsbane, or perhaps some Fever-Reducing Potion—hadn't Poppy mentioned she was getting low on that?