Before the Dawn
Disclaimer: Who me? Nah, I'm not responsible for these characters. Only for the mean things I do to them.
Warnings: Er . . . none?
Previously on "Before the Dawn":
Snape shook his head slightly, which Harry could see as he peeked through his fringe, then went into the cottage, presumably to start supper. Harry leaned back against the wall and stayed where he was a while longer, waiting till his headache faded a bit before heading for the washroom and a shower. He was tired of Snape acting like it was completely normal for him to have virtually no control over his magic, and for what was left of it to be pitifully weak. He was tired of Snape's positive everything's-going-to-be-fine tripe and his thinking it would make Harry all better because everything wasn't fine and it wasn't going to be fine and he was so tired of all this shit that he just wanted to lie down and fall asleep and never wake up again.
You know, once he finished in the shower.
From the Journal of Harry James Potter
Oct. 9th 6:35am
I don't know how much longer I can do this. The potions are the worst part of it, you know? Every time we try one, I get my hopes up that this will be the one that makes me dream, this will be the one that brings my magic back. Every time, Snape says to hope for the best, as if I had any hope left. Soon, I won't be able to use magic at all. Just last night, it took almost ten minutes for me to get a proper "Lumiere" going so I could see to read after Snape put the lights out. Sometimes I just want to tell him, forget it. Forget helping me. Go back to your Slytherins and your Godson, Draco, and leave me alone. I don't want to take any more potions and I don't want to spar anymore, when all it does is make me tired.
But he keeps on me, and keeps making these damnable potions, even though he has to know there's no use. That they're not going to work. He has to know that, doesn't he? But he's always encouraging me and badgering me and talking with me, and it's all getting to be too much. I just want to lie down and sleep forever, even if it does me no good at all. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be anywhere, really. I'm just so tired. I almost wish Voldie would find me and do me in.
Harry closed his journal and rubbed at his eyes. He could hardly believe they'd been here at this damnable cottage for a month. Every day was the same: breakfast, sparring, potion work, lunch, exercises, potion experiments (if the bloody thing was ready to use, or more potion work if it wasn't), dinner, school work and meditation, and then bedtime. Snape had scheduled almost every minute of the day, so he had no time to just lie down and rest like he wanted. Snape had told him, numerous times, that sleeping during the day was a sign of depression, and that one way to battle the onset of depression was to keep busy. But Harry didn't care if he was depressed. He just wanted things to be over.
And he wanted his magic back.
Sighing, Harry went to the bathroom for a shower before breakfast, since keeping clean was another way to stave off depression, according to Snape. Today was a potion work day, if he remembered right, and so he wouldn't be made into a guinea pig this afternoon. That was one good thing at least. But when he entered the kitchen after dressing, he knew something was wrong.
Snape sat scowling at the table, his hands curled into tense fists.
"What happened?" Harry asked.
"I have been out-voted."
That made little sense to Harry. "About what?"
Snape turned his scowl on Harry, making him take a step back. "You'll see."
It was Harry's turn to scowl. "Why can't you just tell me? I know, whatever it is, you don't like it, so it probably means Dumbledore-"
"Professor Dumbledore, Harry."
"Professor Dumbledore has done something to make you mad. If it's something that affects me, too, maybe I can help."
"Doubtless," Snape replied.
"Really?" Harry hadn't thought he really could help, but had offered as a way to get Snape to stop glaring at him.
"Indeed." Snape sighed. "The matter I was outvoted on is the matter of visitors. I don't believe they will be more than a hindrance, but both the Headmaster and Madame Pomfrey believe otherwise."
"Visitors?" Harry thought for only a second before his mind lighted on the likelu cause of Snape's frowns. "You mean Ron and Hermione? They're coming to visit?"
Harry smiled for the first time in what felt like ages. Truth be told, he hadn't thought about Ron and Hermione much over the last few weeks, mostly because he had been too busy – and when not busy, too tired – to think about much of anything at all. But it would good to see them.
"When will they be here?"
Snape sneered. "After lunch. We will have plenty of time this morning for you to moon over their arrival."
Harry refused to let Snape's bad mood ruin his own. "How did you arrange for them to come?" he asked instead. "Did Professor Dumbledore come again?"
"No. We talked via the Floo network. It's a private line," he added when Harry was about to rant about how they might be compromised by the Floo. Harry remembered too well how dangerous it had been for Sirius to contact him that way last year. He hoped Snape was right.
"Are they coming through the Floo as well?"
"No. The banes of my existence will come by portkey." Snape's words were sharp and short, and Harry knew it was going to be a hell of a morning. But he really didn't mind. His friends were coming to Dormenhaus!
True to his word, only moments after Harry had finished wiping down the counters from lunch, and had moved to the table, Snape's head snapped up from where he was putting away dishes. "They have arrived," he intoned.
Harry chucked the cloth he'd been using at the sink and dashed to the front door. Out in the field, he saw his two friends, along with Dumbledore. The three of them were hurrying toward the cottage. Harry opened the door and called out, "Thought you'd never get here!"
"Oi!" yelled Ron, and he ran up the steps and grabbed Harry around the neck. He was grinning. "We just found out we'd be coming an hour ago."
"Harry," Hermione said as she hugged him more gently – but no less fiercely – than Ron. "It's so good to see you." A worry line appeared in her forehead. "You look tired."
"I am," he admitted. "But it's okay. Nothing to worry about."
The worry line did not disappear, but Hermione gave a tight nod, as if she accepted his word. "Have you been keeping up in your studies?" she asked. "We've just started silent spell casting and-"
"Hermione," Ron warned, "don't start already. All right?"
"I assure you, Miss Granger," added another voice, this one low and belonging to Snape, "I have been minding his studies. He will not fall behind."
Hermione blushed and pressed her lips together, and Ron's face started to get red. He opened his mouth, likely to give a cheeky retort.
Before he could, however, Dumbledore said from behind them, "Perhaps we can move this enlightening discussion to the sitting room."
"Oh, yeah, let me show you guys around," said Harry, hurrying to get Ron away from Snape. "This house is really wicked. It stretches when there are more people here. I bet we'll find another bed in my bedroom and another bedroom for Hermione, that weren't there this morning." Snape had shared – to Harry's delight – that his friends were due to stay for a couple of days, all the way through the weekend, and this was only Wednesday.
"Potter, finish up in the kitchen before-" Snape started to say, but Dumbledore interrupted him.
"Oh, let them go, Severus. He hasn't had company other than yours in some time. I daresay he's been a bit cramped."
"As have I, Headmaster." Snape scowled at Harry for good measure, but then waved his hand magnanimously. "Go on."
"Thank you," Harry said sincerely, and turned to go with his friends. "Let me show you the kitchen first; it's huge!" He wasn't as excited about the kitchen as he sounded, but he knew if they went in the door to the sitting room first, and Hermione saw all the books there, it would take a blasting spell to get her out again.
"Oh, there must be an enchantment on the house," Hermione guessed, correctly of course. "It's much bigger on the inside than the outside."
"Yeah, you don't know the half. There's also a really huge basement, where Snape's got his potion lab and we're an exercise room, like a Muggle gym."
"Potion lab," Ron complained. "You really got it rough here, mate. I bet he has you doing potions all day long."
"No, not really," Harry admitted. He wrinkled his nose. "Every day, though, we do some work."
"I think that's wonderful, Harry," Hermione said. "You've always struggled with potions. And now you have a chance to make up for lost time."
"Yeah, it's just wonderful," Ron mocked. "Why, think of it, he'll be able to make a decent Polyjuice potion by the end of the year . . . oh, wait, he's already done one of those."
Hermione glanced all around them to make sure no adults were nearby. "Watch what you say, Ron."
"Oh, give it a rest, Hermione."
Narrowing her eyes, Hermione said, "Maybe you wouldn't mind getting in trouble for taking all those potion ingredients, but I'm not up for it."
"Both of you hush," Harry said. "No one knows we did it; let's keep it that way." He sighed. "Besides, I am doing better in potions now. Snape's real decent to me when we're working together."
"I don't know how you do it, mate." Ron shook his head. "I'd never be able to work with the greasy git."
Harry frowned. "Don't call him that, Ron."
Ron gave him a surprised look. "Why? Is he shampooing now?"
"No, er, I mean, I don't . . . it's just . . . don't call him that." Harry's stomach tightened as he spoke. He leaned against the kitchen counter and looked down at the floor.
"Obviously, Ron," Hermione said, "because it's not polite. And Professor Snape is Harry's guardian now—"
"I still don't see how that—"
"So it's only right that Harry should stick up for him."
"Er, thanks, Hermione, but I don't need you to explain for me."
Hermione huffed out a breath. "Well, fine. I was just trying to help."
"Aren't there any sweets?"
Hermione and Harry looked around to see Ron going through the cabinets. The redhead held out a pack of digestives and shook it accusatorially. "Is this it?"
"Sometimes Snape makes cake." Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "It's good."
A/N: I'm Baaaaaaaaack!
Cheers to all who read and/or review!
Sorry this installment has been so long in coming. RL has been a real problem. But I promise the next one will be along in much less time.