Harry was passing Snape's office for the second time when he heard footsteps coming toward him. The sound seemed to be coming from one of the many narrow corridors that were the bane of Harry's existence.
If it was Lupin, he was going to ask him how the Map was coming along, because this was ridiculous.
But it wasn't Lupin - it was Malfoy.
"Hello," Malfoy said, stopping when he saw Harry. He shifted a cloth-covered box to his other hip.
"Didn't my dad tell you to go rest?" Harry asked suspiciously, eyeing the box. It was large and probably heavy from the way Malfoy was holding it.
Harry couldn't think of any way to demand to see what was in the box.
"Well, see you at dinner," Malfoy said, walking away from him.
Harry, silently fuming, watched him until Malfoy turned the corner.
He just knew Malfoy was up to something. Malfoy was always up to something.
He stomped off toward his room and this time managed to get there without making a single wrong turn, but without a clear idea of how he'd done it.
His clothes really did need a washing. He did a quick calculation and found that he had been at Hogwarts now for a full week. If Snape hadn't reminded him, he would have been pulling clothes out of the dirty laundry pile in a day or two. During the school year, clothes he took off at the end of the day simply vanished overnight and reappeared clean by morning. And at the Dursleys he went from one set of rags to another, and it didn't much matter if they were clean, because a few hours of chores would leave even freshly laundered clothes covered in sweat and grime.
Harry supposed that he would have to become more responsible about making sure his wardrobe stayed in good condition. It was nice to have decent clothes, even if the clothes Snape had provided were a bit odd. Well, it wasn't as if he ever got to choose his Dudley-castoffs, either.
He added the bedspread to the pile - it was hopeless - and then sat down at his desk, not wanting to give Snape anything else to complain about by sitting on the bed without the bedspread on.
He started to look over his Charms book, but that only reminded him about the wands and he pushed the book away with a grimace after reading less than a chapter. He reached for Magical Drafts and Potions instead.
The next time he looked up, it was because the chime of the school clock was signaling dinner.
Harry let the book fall out of his hands and checked his watch.
More than an hour had passed without him realizing it.
Harry scratched his nose and looked down at the book he had been reading. It was open to a page about one fourth into the book. Had he started at the beginning?
He flipped to a random page and covered half of it with his palm, reading only the description of the potion. It happened to be an antidote to common poisons.
"Crushed bezoar," Harry said aloud, uncertainly. "Uh... mistletoe berries... whole, and powdered unicorn horn."
He lifted his hand off the page and read the ingredients list.
He had got it right. Maybe he had read it.
"Weird," Harry muttered, letting the book fall shut. "Really, definitely, very weird."
He looked around his room to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything. His eyes fell on Neville's invitation, and he put it in his pocket to give to Neville. He took the time to brush his hair and take off the silly necktie he had worn to tea, and then headed up to the Great Hall.
By the time he made it (two wrong turns and one dead-end corridor later), everyone else was already eating.
Snape gave him a look, but didn't say anything as Harry slid into an empty seat across from him.
He helped himself to the beef casserole and stewed vegetables, while trying to listen in to the conversations around him.
"- and that is why we must have something in place by the time students arrive," McGonagall was telling Bill, who was nodding in agreement.
"- two! Two! How do you explain that?" Mrs. Weasley was demanding of Fred, waving her fork at him.
"Dunno, Mum," Fred said, giving Ron and George a sour look. "Maybe Percy took them."
"He did no such thing, Fred!"
"- low on sleeping potions, burn salve, and a few other things," Snape was saying to Lupin, showing him a list. "If I start now, I can have most of these done in a fortnight. That should save time closer to the start of term."
Harry looked around the table under the guise of reaching for the jug of pumpkin juice.
Hermione had her nose in a book. Her hair was tied in a thick, slightly unraveled braid, which made her look older and even thinner than she was.
Ginny was looking pensive and gloomy, stirring her soup and picking absently at the embroidered tablecloth with her other hand.
Luna was staring straight ahead, eyes glassy. Harry had never seen her eat without being prompted or helped by someone, and Mrs. Weasley was still busy berating Fred.
Neville was also reading; Harry vaguely recognized an advanced herbology textbook and figured Neville was trying to get a bit ahead in his studies.
Harry looked at Malfoy and found Malfoy already watching him.
Trying not to scowl, Harry went back to his food.
A dish of fried beans was set in front of him with more clatter than necessary. Harry looked up.
"You wouldn't mind helping with a few potions, would you, Hadrian?" Lupin asked, smiling his irritatingly benign smile. "I'm sure your father would appreciate it."
"I don't mind," Harry said automatically. He stuffed a piece of potato in his mouth to keep back another scowl. More time with Snape?
"There, you see?" Lupin said to Snape. "You need only ask. Children usually do want to be helpful."
"Not in my experience," Snape muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Harry to overhear. Aloud he said, "We can discuss it during your next lesson, Hadrian. Most of these potions should not be beyond your ability level, and will provide a good opportunity for extended practice."
"How come I can't help?" Malfoy asked, butting in.
"Because you should be resting," Snape told him shortly. "And eat more." With that, he spooned more vegetables onto Malfoy's plate, then fixed Harry with an annoyed look. "You, too."
Harry reached for the vegetable dish with a resigned sigh. It was easier to just do it.
"Have you done as I asked you?" Snape continued, apparently unaware that Harry wanted nothing more than to be left alone for the rest of the meal.
"I cleaned my room," Harry said, stabbing a piece of broccoli. "I have all my laundry ready. I studied."
Snape fixed him with a warning look, but his tone stayed even. "Good. Then your evening is free to focus wholly on your lessons and other productive endeavors."
"I already promised to help Professor Lupin right after my Potions lesson."
And now he was really glad he had. Who knew what Snape would find for him to do? Besides, he did still need to speak with Lupin.
"Good," Snape repeated. "That is precisely what I meant. Productive and out of trouble."
"There's plenty to do," put in Mrs. Weasley, who Harry hadn't realized was paying attention. "My boys are going to be cleaning the hospital wing just as soon as they finish the tasks I've already set for them. We can always use another pair of hands."
Harry saw the scowls on the faces of Ron and the twins, and that was enough to make him hold back his own. He wasn't going to act as they were acting, even if he felt the same about the idea of working together.
Lupin gave him an apologetic sort of look over the rim of his teacup.
He looked over at Snape, just waiting for Snape to volunteer him for a task that was likely to be one part hard labor and ninety-nine parts insults and bullying. Fred, George, and Ron were looking at him with narrowed eyes, and Harry was sure they would make him miserable if the four of them had to work together.
Snape took a leisurely sip of his coffee before speaking. "I have plenty of tasks to occupy Hadrian for now, but I will keep that in mind. A bit of hard work certainly doesn't hurt. Most students are so used to having everything done for them that they hardly know how much work goes into running a school this size."
"How very true," Mrs. Weasley agreed, giving her three youngest sons another pointed look. "And some have also yet to learn to appreciate the hard work of their parents, when at home. When I was a young girl, my mother made sure my brothers and I would be ready to run our own households by the time we were of age." She shook her head. "Poor Gideon and Fabian never got to, of course... Hardly out of Hogwarts when..."
Mr. Weasley patted his wife on the shoulder as she trailed off, looking dejected.
Harry recalled that Gideon and Fabian Prewett had been two Order of the Phoenix members who had been killed during the first war. Mad-Eye Moody had pointed them out the previous summer when he showed Harry a photo of the original Order. They had been Mrs. Weasley's brothers? Harry hadn't realized the Weasley family had suffered a loss this big because of Voldemort; now he understood better why Mrs. Weasley had been so set against her sons joining the Order and so shrill whenever the subject came up.
Harry finished the rest of his meal without any further incident - no one else spoke to him - and stood up to follow when Mrs. Weasley began leading her family, Luna, Hermione, and Neville out of the Great Hall.
"I just need to give this to Neville," Harry said to no one in particular, brandishing the invitation.
He caught up with Neville by the main staircase.
"Here -" he said, aware that Ron had turned around to see what was happening and was now tugging on the sleeve of either Fred or George to get their attention. "I said I'd come. Thanks again."
Neville smiled and took it from him. "I'm glad. Well, see you around."
In the corner of his eye, Harry could see Ron puffing up and turning red. He hoped Neville wasn't going to have any trouble over the invitation.
"See you," Harry said, turning away so he wouldn't have to look at Ron anymore.
He went back to the Great Hall, but got there just in time to be hustled out again by Snape.
"We will get your lesson over with early, Hadrian," Snape said, motioning for both Harry and Malfoy to follow him as he lead the way to the dungeons. "Draco, you should rest - I can tell you didn't before, and you are swaying on your feet."
"I am not," Malfoy muttered behind Harry, followed by, "Yes, I think I shall, sir."
Harry stifled a smirk. At least he wasn't the only target for Snape's nitpicking and need to control. Let Snape breathe down Malfoy's neck for a change.
A few minutes later Harry was being ushered into an empty classroom and Snape was warding the door. A set of three matching cauldrons sat on a table, something inside them already bubbling over low flames.
"You will be working on a forgetfulness potion," Snape said, striding to the front of the room. "All the ingredients are already laid out for you, and the directions are on the board."
Harry approached the table, looking over the tools Snape had laid out and the ingredients on a cutting mat.
"You will follow the directions precisely for the first potion," Snape continued, settling down behind his desk. "For the next two you will modify the potion in the manner of your own choosing."
Harry looked up, frowning.
"A simple task," Snape said, raising an eyebrow. "Make it stronger, make it weaker, change the duration of its effectiveness..."
"All right," Harry said uncertainly, licking his lips. "I can do that... I think."
Snape's eyebrow arched higher. "You may begin."
Harry turned to study the directions on the board. He could hear the rustling of parchment behind him, but he could also feel Snape's eyes still on him.
The potion was one he thought he had read about, though he couldn't remember actually studying it, nor ever making it in class. The steps felt familiar, anyway.
He looked the cauldrons over carefully. They were bubbling over blue magical flames, each filled about half-way with water. It was not exactly the setup he was used to from class, but not unfamiliar.
He decided to get the first potion out of the way first, which would give him time to think about the other two. At the moment, the thought of deviating from the directions gave him a panicky feeling in the pit of his stomach. What was Snape playing at? For five years, he had demanded students in his class follow instructions precisely. How many points had been lost because someone hadn't added precisely ten billywig stings or exactly a cup of river water or only a dash of shredded boomslang skin? Deviating from the directions hadn't been part of Potions class, ever.
He shredded the Valerian sprigs into small pieces before adding them to the cauldron. Carefully, he stirred the potion clockwise, counting to one hundred slowly. He poured in goat's milk and added a dash of powdered mistletoe berries, then stirred again until the color was even.
Then he ran into a problem.
Something thumped; Harry assumed Snape had set down a book, but it still made him wince and he was glad he hadn't turned toward Snape.
"What is it?"
"The next part calls for extinguishing the fire. Er... how do I do that?"
Snape made an impatient noise, but a moment later a spell swished past Harry's sleeve and the fire under the cauldron went out with a hiss.
"Thank you," Harry said.
His face felt hot. Imagine having to ask for such a stupid thing! He really was useless without a working wand... and what would happen when classes started, if it wasn't all sorted out before then?
He covered the cauldron with the heavy iron lid to trap the steam, then turned to the other two cauldrons.
What was he supposed to do?
Make it stronger...
Harry thought desperately, willing his brain to dredge up some useful bit of information from his reading. He must have read something about making potions stronger, mustn't he have?
He looked again at the tools Snape had laid out, hoping for some clue there.
There was a mortar and pestle...
That's right, he could crush the Valerian to get more of the juices into the potion. If he had fresh mistletoe berries, rather than dried and powdered, he could have done the same with them.
There was a small bottle of water...
Harry picked it up and forced himself to think harder. He could soak the powdered mistletoe berries, couldn't he? Some potions called for soaking powdered ingredients before use, didn't they?
It was worth a try, anyway, since he didn't have any better ideas.
He crushed the Valerian while the powdered berries soaked in a small dish.
This time, when he finished stirring the potion for the second time, Snape extinguished the fire without being asked.
"Thank you," Harry said awkwardly, not turning around.
He had no idea what to do for the third potion.
But he had to do something.
He looked at the tools again, but there was nothing else that stood out.
Maybe he was supposed to add more of one ingredient or less of another. But which one?
He suddenly recalled another potion - one they had made in class - that used goat's milk. It was a sleeping potion, and the amount of milk had to be precisely measured if the potion was to last a full night. Snape had taken points off his and Ron's potion because it wouldn't have worn off in time for the unlucky sleeper to get to class the next morning.
Hoping for the best, Harry followed the directions on the board until he came to the goat's milk, and then added only half the amount of milk called for.
Snape extinguished the fire and waited until Harry had covered the cauldron before he spoke.
"While we wait, write down the modifications you made and the results you expect to achieve."
Harry's shoulders slumped. It wasn't enough that he had done it - now he had to write about it? But he sat down and got started.
Snape hadn't set a length, so Harry wrote precisely six sentences; three for each of the altered potions.
"Finished?" Snape asked as Harry put down the quill.
"Bring it here."
Harry picked up the parchment and carried it to Snape's desk.
"Hmm," Snape said as he looked it over. "Playing it safe for once, are you?"
Harry chose to ignore the barb.
"Go bottle the potions," Snape said. He was dipping his quill into red ink, which made Harry's insides writhe uncomfortably. "Do not neglect to label them properly."
Harry bottled each potion carefully. One of them looked slightly lighter and less clear than the other two, and one had a bit of sludge on the bottom. Harry didn't have much hope for any of them but the first one, which was both clear and the right color.
By the time he had carried the flasks back to Snape's desk, the parchment was covered with more red ink than black.
Harry set the potions down in a row in front of Snape, resigned to hear the worst.
Snape picked up the sludgy potion first. "You would have got more out of the ingredients had you thought to soak the powder in the milk, rather than diluting it with water. Nevertheless, you were on the right track. This would be worth a half point if you were in my N.E.W.T. class."
Harry nodded, swallowing.
Snape picked up the milky potion next. "Likewise, while you were on the right track, you should have used water to dilute the milk, rather than merely adding less of it. Ideally, you should have left it to settle, then skimmed the top and used the remainder."
Harry nodded again.
Snape picked up the final flask.
"You are able to follow directions - a surprising turn of events," Snape said after peering at the potion as he held it up to the light. "This is passable - you could get worse at an apothecary of ill repute. It's shoddy, but it would not poison anyone."
Harry supposed both of those were meant to be compliments, and nodded again.
"Not bad for a first effort," Snape added grudgingly. "It's unfortunate you never displayed any talent in class." He paused, making Harry brace himself again for another insult or backhanded compliment. "One might have expected more from you. Your mother was one of Slughorn's top students, and Potions was one of her best subjects." He grimaced. "Not that there was much she was not good at."
Harry was left to make a fish impression for a good minute or two while Snape stared at the red-inked parchment in front of him without seeming to see it.
"Take this," Snape said, coming out of his trance abruptly and holding the parchment out to Harry. "Review where you went wrong and write an essay on the six basic potion modifications that don't require additional ingredients or specialized equipment."
Harry took the parchment and rolled it up slowly. "Sir?"
"What is it?" Snape asked irritably, frowning at him.
"Did you..." Harry paused, reminding himself that he had been going to ask Lupin first. But it couldn't hurt, could it? He would be seeing Lupin in a short while, anyway. "Did you say you were friends with my mother."
Snape continued to frown for the longest time before answering. "I did."
"And... and you really lived near each other?"
"It... wasn't anywhere near Little Whinging, was it?" Harry asked. He could imagine his mother maybe living in some nondescript suburb where people fancied themselves quite normal, but he couldn't imagine Snape. "In Surrey?"
Snape stared at him for another moment before he snorted with grim laughter. "No. Nowhere near there."
"Oh," Harry said, at a loss.
"Go see Lupin before he starts to wonder where you are," Snape said, waving him off. "I have work to do."
"All right..." Harry said, feeling confused. He found he would rather have stayed if Snape would keep talking, but staying around Snape for any reason at all felt so odd that he couldn't quite admit it. "Thank you for... uh..." He couldn't think what he was thanking Snape for, exactly. "The lesson."
Snape waved him away again. "Go on. I expect that essay to be done by tomorrow."
Harry left rather hurriedly. He hated feeling confused, and feeling confused about Snape was particularly irritating.
He would have to ask Lupin - well, that was where he was going, wasn't it? - before he would let his tongue get away from him again and ask Snape any more questions. For all he knew now, Snape was just winding him up.
Harry finally reached Lupin's office, feeling like it took him twice as long as it should have to get there. He knocked and waited impatiently.
"Oh, Hadrian," Lupin said, opening the door wide enough for Harry to enter. "I thought maybe you'd changed your mind or your father found something else for you to do."
"No," Harry said shortly. He stopped in the center of Lupin's office and tried to keep his feet from pacing.
"Something wrong?" Lupin asked, having locked and warded the door. "Have a seat. I would offer tea, but as you can see there isn't a free surface anywhere."
Harry glanced around, taking in the overflowing boxes and piles of paper that nearly overwhelmed the large desk and the area immediately around it. It looked like Lupin had got rid of Umbridge's things and had got around to bringing in his own.
Lupin cleared his throat. "Do sit."
Harry sat down in one of the chairs, feeling all out of sorts. He didn't know where to start.
"Clearly something is bothering you," Lupin said. "Is it what happened at dinner? I do apologize - that wasn't meant to -"
"No, it's not that," Harry cut in.
Lupin waited a few moments before trying again. "Did something happen at the tea? I understand some unexpected subjects came up?"
Harry stared at Lupin. Well, of course Snape would have told him. They were always talking about Harry behind his back. "Yes. And it happened again just now."
"I see. Would you like to talk about it?"
Harry opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He didn't know where to start - he really didn't.
Lupin scratched his ear and looked at Harry with a mixture of confusion and frustration. "I'm not a mind reader, you know."
Harry drew in a breath. "Did he know my mum?"
Lupin recovered rather quickly. "He did, actually. I believe they were friends before they came to Hogwarts."
Harry opened his mouth again, but closed it when he couldn't decide if he was going to protest or demand details.
After a few silent moments, Lupin decided to continue.
"I believe they lived in the same area. Somewhere in the north of England, if I recall correctly. Of course, they were sorted into different Houses once they arrived at Hogwarts..."
"He said -" Harry had to stop and draw another breath. "That they would still be friends over the summers. That... that they made up for being in Gryffindor and Slytherin."
Lupin scratched his head again. "I wouldn't know about that, but if he says so..."
Harry thought that was an infuriating answer. "Were they or weren't they friends, that's all I want to know!"
"Yes," Lupin said, firmly this time. "They were friends."
"How can you be so sure, suddenly?" Harry asked suspiciously. "You just told me you believed they were. That isn't the same thing."
Lupin sighed. "No, I suppose not. They were friends, that much is true. I don't know any specifics, however. I only got to know her after..."
Harry couldn't believe it when Lupin trailed off. "After what?"
"After their falling out, I suppose," Lupin said with another sigh. "We - that is, James and I and Sirius and... Peter - we didn't pay her much attention until James fell for her sometime in our fifth year. Before that, she was just the girl who insisted on being on speaking terms with a Slytherin we didn't like." Lupin looked at Harry apologetically. "I know you've got some inkling of what we were like back then."
"Bullies," Harry spat, more forcefully than he intended.
"Yes," Lupin said, with another sigh. "Bullies of the worst sort, I'm afraid. Four against one, and don't forget we had the Marauder's Map and the Invisibility Cloak. Lily always defended him..."
"And he called her a Mudblood!" Harry said, outraged. "I saw that in the Pensieve!"
"Yes, well... I did say they had a falling out."
Harry sat in stony silence for a while.
"Anything else?" Lupin prodded warily.
"Yeah," Harry said, sounding grouchy even to himself, but not caring. "There's this Slug thing..."
"The Slug Club?"
"Yeah, that. Were you in it, too?"
Lupin looked sour. "No. No, invitations to the Slug Club were reserved for the talented, the wealthy, the ambitious, and the likely to amount to something in life. Everything a dirt-poor werewolf wasn't."
Harry's mouth fell open again, this time in silent indignation.
"Your mother was in - she got in on pure talent, I'm sure. James didn't get invited, in spite that the Potters were wealthy. Sirius turned it down because James didn't get in."
"Snape was in it."
"Professor Snape was, yes."
Harry huffed irritably. "He said he would show me pictures. Or, at least, I'll see them because I'm supposed to pick one out for Neville. His father was in the Slug Club, too."
"I'm afraid you will need to ask Professor Snape if you want to know anything else about it. I don't know much more than that it existed and the students who were in it seemed to get enjoyment out of their membership."
"All right," Harry said grudgingly. He supposed he could ask Snape about it, if that was the only way to find anything out. He would rather ask than not know.
"Is that all, then? You still look troubled."
"Nothing -" Harry eyed Lupin, already anticipating the excuses Lupin would probably make for Snape. Just like he always did. "He did call me a liar when I said I'd never had a birthday before my eleventh."
Lupin studied him for a few moments before repeating, "Never had a birthday?"
"Never mind," Harry said, shaking his head. "It's not important. I'm just tired of being told I'm lying when I'm not." He gave Lupin another mistrustful look. "And it isn't a bid for sympathy, either."
"How did the two of you get on such a subject?" Lupin asked, scratching his ear again and frowning. "And with Draco there?"
"He'd left," Harry said. "He was tired or something. And I was being warned not to expect any presents... like I'm Dudley and want more each year than I got the previous one."
Lupin tilted his head to one side, as though that helped him study Harry better. "I see. Are you sure you didn't misunderstand?"
"Misunderstand how?" Harry demanded, exasperated.
"Perhaps he merely meant not to expect gifts from Hermione or Neville. Or even Ron, for that matter. They barely have their own things with them, and they're not exactly in any position to give you anything. He certainly couldn't have meant you would go completely without gifts this year - you're getting one from me, in any event."
Harry considered this, and grudgingly allowed for the possibility. "Yeah, all right... maybe. What does he have against birthdays, anyway? It's like he's going out of his way to make sure I know I won't be having one on the 31st and that I shouldn't expect much on the 1st, either."
Lupin hesitated. Harry could tell he was picking his words carefully.
"Perhaps he's thinking of his own childhood. It wasn't a very happy one, as I understand it. Perhaps he thinks that as Hadrian - as his son - you're likely to have some of the same social problems."
"What," Harry asked suspiciously, "no one showed up to his birthday parties or something?"
"I don't know if anyone did or didn't, to be honest," Lupin said. "It was just a thought."
"That's dumb," Harry said peevishly.
"I wish I could help you further, but at this point I'm only guessing. It's difficult to know why people do the things they do, unless you ask them."
Lupin eyed him meaningfully, but Harry was having none of that. He was most certainly not going to repeat the birthday conversation with Snape, if he could help it at all.
"I realize I've been less than helpful," Lupin said. "It's just that you're asking these particular questions of the wrong person."
"All right, then..." Harry had any number of things he wanted to ask, and he picked the most important one. "What's wrong with my magic and when will it sort itself out?"
"I believe -" Lupin hesitated, but after a moment continued. "Any number of things can throw off a wizard's magic, really. In your case I believe there was some interference -"
"Voldemort possessing me?" Harry cut in. A shiver ran down his spine at the reminder.
"Possibly, but I'm thinking the potion you took to change you into Hadrian is the most likely culprit."
Harry thought he was handling learning that it was Snape's fault quite well. All he did was draw in a long breath with an audible hiss.
Lupin frowned at him and went right on. "We have been overdoing it with the potions. Changing back and forth again and again is not a good idea. Polyjuice is not meant for long-term consumption, but when it must be taken for longer than an hour, it is best not to let it wear off before the next dose. There are documented instances of people suffering all kinds of consequences as a result of abusing the potion."
"Oh," Harry choked out. So they had just let him take potions over and over until he lost his magic? "Well, that's great."
"We had hoped you would escape any such effects, of course. The potion you took was only just based on Polyjuice, and since it would not wear off without an antidote, it should have been fine for longer use. Changing back, however..."
"I get it."
"Anyway," Lupin said, looking at him closely, probably for warning signs of an impending tantrum, "we expect your magic will right itself if you stay off the potions for a bit. Unfortunately..."
Harry already knew what was coming.
"Unfortunately that means you won't be able to visit with your friends for a while."
"How long?" Harry asked, swallowing.
"Just a few days, really, not long. You will be busy these next few days, in any case, so we were thinking we would test you again after your birthday passes and see if abstaining has made any difference."
"What if it doesn't?" Harry challenged. It was bad enough he wouldn't see his friends, but where was the guarantee it would help?
"We have other things to try, then," Lupin said. "Less pleasant, mind you. Don't worry, one way or the other you will get your magic back. I promise, this time."
Harry mulled this over. On the one hand, it was only three days until his birthday, and he had already willingly passed up the chance to see his friends. The next day after that was Hadrian's birthday, and he wouldn't be able to see his friends then, either. On the other hand...
Well, what choice did he have?
"I'm sorry it isn't as simple as going down to Diagon Alley and getting you a new wand," Lupin said when Harry hadn't answered. "We might have to do that, too, but as you saw, the wand you have is not the cause of the problem."
"Oh... all right," Harry said grudgingly. "I don't think I have much choice here."
Lupin smiled crookedly. "We make the best of the choices we have. That's life - a series of choices that aren't choices at all."
"Well, that makes me feel a lot better," Harry said. "Thanks."
"I can quote Dumbledore, instead," Lupin offered. "Our choices define who -"
"No thank you," Harry said flatly.
Lupin shrugged. "Well, if you're sure..."
Harry was entirely sure he didn't want to hear anything Dumbledore had ever said about life, choices, or any other subject.
After a few silent moments, Lupin must have decided to change the subject to distract him.
"Are your lessons going well, at least? I haven't heard complaints from either of you as of late, so I assume you're finding them tolerable and not giving Professor Snape any trouble?"
"I..." Harry shrugged, trailing off. The lessons hadn't been as terrible as he had thought they would be, back when Snape handed him the schedule. "We've missed some sessions, so it isn't that bad so far."
Well, other than having been unfairly berated over not being able to do magic, when it so clearly wasn't his fault. Even if the cause did turn out to be something other than his wand, like he had thought.
"I know it must sting to be told to revise from the very beginning, but it does give you something to do and it will do some good in the long run," Lupin said. "Especially since several subjects have not been taught properly. I do wish they would find someone else to teach History... perhaps it would stop repeating itself."
Harry started to ask what he meant, but decided against it.
"I still hope to start that Defense group," Lupin added. "If I can find the energy..."
"Are you still feeling ill?" Harry asked, looking at Lupin closely.
Lupin just looked tired, like he always did. At least he didn't look like he had almost died just days earlier.
"Only the usual," Lupin said with a shake of his head. "A few aches and pains and this tiredness... like a fog that won't lift."
"Maybe you should rest more," Harry suggested, frowning. "There's still a lot of time left before classes start up again. A whole month."
"I assure you, I am resting," Lupin said, more firmly this time. "And I have been worse, so this is not something you need to worry over."
Harry felt slightly guilty for having mostly forgotten about Lupin's illness until then. "Er..." He looked around sheepishly. "Should I be helping with something? That's why you asked me here."
"Actually, I asked you here so we could talk," Lupin said, grinning. "I could get this mess sorted in a few minutes - it's just that I like looking my books over and finding just the right place for everything."
"Oh," Harry said. "Well, I could still help, couldn't I?"
"Certainly," Lupin said. "We could even keep talking while we work. That is -" Lupin raised an eyebrow. "- if there is anything else you want to talk about?"
Harry opened the box Lupin indicated and started to unwrap what appeared to be a collection of large, shiny rocks.
"It's just that..."
"Yes?" Lupin prompted after a few moments. He paused in arranging a line of ugly, vicious looking statuettes with too many arms and legs on a shelf above his desk.
"How come no one ever talks about my mum?" Harry asked. "Everyone always told me about my dad - ever since I got to Hogwarts."
"That is unfortunate," Lupin said, nodding. "She made a lot of friends while at school... and afterward, too. Perhaps James was simply a louder presence and stuck in everyone's mind. James was very popular, you know. Smart, handsome, a born leader -"
"You're doing it," Harry said, exasperated. "That's exactly what I meant. Everyone's always had a lot to say about him."
Silently, because he didn't think Lupin would appreciate it, he added, Even Snape.
"Sorry," Lupin said with a shake of his head. "I'm afraid I just didn't know Lily as well. She and James didn't start going out until Seventh Year, and after Hogwarts..." Lupin trailed off pensively. "We had the Order, of course. All of us were in it together."
Harry, remembering that Lupin had eventually come under suspicion of being a spy, stayed quiet.
After a few moments Lupin shook his head again. "Anyway, haven't you found someone who knew her quite well?"
Harry gave him a sideways look. Maybe Lupin found it easy to ask Snape questions, but Harry would rather not, generally.
Lupin sighed and went back to arranging the statuettes.
"Do you think Fudge will get re-elected?" Harry asked, changing the subject. "He was in the paper again."
"No," Lupin said. "I don't think he will."
"Doesn't that just mean he's getting more dangerous?"
Lupin turned to frown at Harry over his shoulder. "Fudge is dangerous."
"I know it," Harry said. "I meant more desperate." He swallowed. "More desperate to get his hands on me."
"I can't imagine how he could get more desperate than he has been, really. I can't stress how important it is for you to stay on your guard."
"I am," Harry said quickly. "I'm being very careful."
Lupin shot him another piercing look. "Is it getting easier? Being Hadrian, I mean?"
"Maybe," Harry said. Was it? "Sometimes it is."
As long as Snape wasn't insulting him while Harry was trying to maintain his fake persona, it wasn't too hard to reply the way he thought Hadrian might. It was a lot harder when Snape was getting a dig in and Harry couldn't even retort.
"Well, it will get easier with practice," Lupin said. "I know it's a challenge, but you have faced worse."
"I know it," Harry said with another shrug. "At least I'm at Hogwarts. I've always wanted to be, during summers. Here or the Burrow, anyway. And except when we were at Grimmauld Place with... with Sirius." Harry bit his lip, waiting to see if Lupin would react. But Lupin just placed another statuette on the shelf, with a small sigh. "That was the best."
"Was it?" Lupin asked. "I suppose with everyone there it was something different and exciting."
Harry nodded vaguely. That wasn't the reason at all, of course. It had just been the closest he ever got to living with Sirius like he had wanted to ever since meeting him.
"I'm done with this," he said, showing Lupin the empty box. "What else can I do?"
"You can start unpacking the books. They go on that shelf in the corner, not the smaller one."
"I thought you liked to sort through them?"
"I will have to do without, this time," Lupin said with a soft laugh. "Go ahead."
Harry started to take thick, yellowed, faded tomes out of a large box. He placed them carefully on the shelf, though he suspected Lupin would get to sort them after all; many of them had cryptic titles that made it impossible for him to put them by subject or in any other kind of order.
"You know," Lupin said quietly, "we can talk about Sirius. I never meant to give you the idea we couldn't."
Harry swallowed, not turning around. "All right. Er... not right now. If you don't mind."
"Of course," Lupin said.
Harry worked in silence until he filled up most of the shelf and was surrounded by empty boxes.
"I'm done with the books, Professor."
"Thank you," Lupin said, looking over. "You know, you ought to get going. You will want to stop by Professor Snape's office on your way, if he's still there, that is. I left some things for you. If he isn't there, you can get them tomorrow."
Harry supposed Lupin meant the parchment and envelopes for his birthday tea invitations. He wishes Lupin had kept them rather than leave them with Snape and give Harry a reason to have to see Snape again before bed. Hadn't Lupin known Harry was coming up to his office?
"Good night and pleasant dreams," Lupin said, opening the door for him. Then he repeated, a little louder, "Good night, Hadrian."
"Good night, Professor," Harry said.
Harry walked down to the dungeons, hoping the whole way that he wouldn't run into anyone. Fortunately, Hogwarts might as well have been deserted.
There was a light under Snape's office door, so Harry - very reluctantly - knocked.
"Come in," Snape said in his usual impatient tone.
Harry opened the door and stepped just inside.
"Hadrian," Snape said, looking him over with a slight frown that didn't match his unusually light tone. "Well, come in... come in."
Harry shut the door so Snape could ward it, but Snape made no move to do so.
"I was hoping you would stop by before bed, Hadrian."
The double use of his name put Harry on guard. His heart started beating faster at the thought of another run-in with Fudge or Aurors. He thought quickly.
"I forgot to say good night earlier... Dad." It was still very uncomfortable to have to call Snape that, but he thought he had managed a convincing tone. "Also, Professor Lupin told me he left something for me."
"Yes," Snape said, reaching for a parcel that was sitting on the edge of his desk. "Here, take it."
Harry had to move closer to do so.
"Sit down," Snape ordered as soon as Harry was in front of the desk.
Harry was so shocked he dropped onto the bench with considerable force, causing it to rock and Snape to frown at him.
"Before I waste my evening, is there anything you would like to tell me?"
Harry stared at him blankly. "About what, sir?"
Snape scowled at him. "The potions you have been taking. Have there been any unusual effects?"
"Like what?" Harry asked; he was still confused about Snape's abrupt change of both tone and subject, and the earlier jolt of adrenaline wasn't helping as it wore off, leaving him feeling shaky and tense.
Snape gestured impatiently. "Tremors or sweating? Unusual hunger or thirst? Dizziness or light-headedness? Hallucinations or double vision? Wearing off earlier than expected?"
Harry started to shake his head after the first question, and he kept shaking it until Snape was done.
"You felt no ill effects any of the times you returned to your previous physical appearance?"
Harry nodded. He had felt fine every time he had visited his friends. Better than fine, really. Being himself again always made him feel great; lighter, somehow.
Snape looked at him suspiciously for a few moments. "Lupin seems to think the potions caused your problem with magic."
"Is that possible?" Harry asked, hastily adding, "Sir?"
"It is possible," Snape admitted. "Side-effects are common in experimental potions. Still, there is no evidence that the potions were to blame - as you said yourself, you felt no ill effects after taking them. I will, of course, look over my notes and test samples of the potions on lab animals."
Harry nodded, not prepared to thank Snape when it was Snape who might have made a mistake and put him in this predicament. Still, he supposed it was something that Snape was willing to look for the cause. Harry rather doubted that Snape really cared if Harry were able to do magic or not.
"I suppose Lupin told you that we expect the problem to resolve itself over the next few days?"
Snape relaxed slightly, leaning back in his chair. "We will cancel your morning lessons until then, though I expect you to continue reading your Charms and Transfiguration textbooks at a steady pace. We will still have Potions lessons."
"Yes, sir," Harry repeated.
He wondered if Snape had forgotten about History and Defense, but he certainly wasn't going to remind him if he had.
Snape stood up. "Come, I will walk with you as far as your room."
Feeling like he would rather spend the rest of the night wandering the dungeon labyrinth, Harry followed him.
It wasn't until they were walking down the corridor that it occurred to him Snape would have likely been interested in hearing that Harry had not been drinking the second of the two potions he was given each time he went to visit his friends. Not that Harry was very eager to tell him about it...
In fact, Harry quickly decided not to. Nothing had happened, after all. The first potion simply wore off each time and he was no worse off for not having taken the other one. He was just lucky Snape hadn't been using Legilimency on him, or, if he had been, Harry hadn't remembered about the second potion and so escaped being caught out.
"Is your room satisfactory?" Snape asked suddenly.
Harry jumped slightly, startled. "Er... Yes."
"Not what you are used to?"
Harry figured Snape was trying to goad him again. His bedroom at the Dursleys had been smaller than his current room. His room at Grimmauld Place had been even smaller than that. And any of the rooms were a palace compared to the cupboard that had been his bedroom for ten years.
"It's a great room," Harry said, trying for a tone of finality to head off whatever insult Snape was planning. "I like it."
"I know it does not get much sunlight," Snape continued, as though Harry hadn't spoken. "You may as well get used to it now. You very likely will be in Slytherin, and the dorms have no windows."
"It's fine," Harry said. He wondered wryly how helpful it would be to mention that his cupboard hadn't had any windows, either.
"I'm glad you are adjusting," Snape said.
Harry gave him a sideways look.
Snape cleared his throat. "Here we are. Good night, Hadrian."
This time, Harry turned and looked at him. There was something wrong with Snape, he was sure.
Just the same, he wasn't going to take any chances. Lupin had warned him to be on guard, and no one was going to accuse him of slacking.
"Good night... Dad."
Then Snape did a horrifying thing.
Harry stiffened as Snape's hand came down on his shoulder, patting him.
Fortunately, it was over a second later, and Harry was left to stumble into his room while Snape strode off like nothing had happened.
With the door firmly locked, Harry threw Lupin's package onto his desk and himself into the chair, crossing his arms over his chest and making a disgusted face.
Had Snape gone mad? What had all of that been about?
If Hogwarts hadn't been invaded, the whole thing, starting from the moment he walked into Snape's office, had been just bizarre.
To distract himself, Harry ripped open the package.
Lupin had sent envelopes - the Hogwarts crest had been charmed off, and much more expertly than on Neville's - parchment, and four tiny pots of colored ink.
He decided to just get it over with.
He picked up the first envelope from the stack and wrote 'Draco Malfoy' in green ink. Next, he did 'Ron Weasley', 'Fred Weasley', and 'George Weasley' in black ink, 'Neville Longbottom' and 'Luna Lovegood' in blue, and 'Ginny Weasley' and 'Hermione Granger' in red. He didn't draw any silly flourishes, which he supposed was what the colored ink was really for.
They could just decide for themselves if they wanted to come or not. If he suspected that Snape might be right and Ron and the twins wouldn't, he would just ignore that feeling until later.
The invitations themselves took longer. He wished he could just write one and use a duplication spell - Hermione was excellent at that spell and it was very useful for class notes - and then just write in the names. As it was, he had to write each one out. Not only that, but he had to hold his quill at an odd, uncomfortable angle. Lupin had shown him how, and it did a lot to change his handwriting.
He left the time and place blank, since he had forgotten to ask Lupin the details. He drew a line on the bottom and two boxes with 'YES' and 'NO'.
Lupin was probably going to say Harry should have asked for help with the wording, after all, but Harry was satisfied with what he had. It wasn't going to be some ridiculously pretentious event, anyway. Dainty sandwiches? No way.
He had parchment left over, so he used it to write a short letter to his friends. He wrote:Dear Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, Fred, George, and Luna,
Sorry, but I won't be able to come to Neville's party or visit for a while.
Don't worry about me, I'm safe and nothing has happened. I hope you're
well and I will see you later.
He wasn't sure how he was going to get the letter to them, but he rolled it up and tied it with a bit of string left over from Lupin's package. He would just give it to Lupin and explain that he didn't want his friends to worry about why he was staying away. He hadn't been told he couldn't write to them, after all.
That realization made him wish he had thought of writing to them before. He would definitely ask Lupin if he could. One lousy hour wasn't long enough to exchange all the information they wanted, or even just to talk. Even if he could visit every day, which was unlikely, it just wasn't enough time.
Happy with the thought that he had found a new way to stay close to his friends, Harry changed into pajamas and climbed into bed with his Charms book, thinking he would read a chapter or two. He still felt he needed to distract himself from how utterly strangely Snape had behaved earlier.
He just hoped he wasn't going to dream about it. His dreams were quite bad enough without adding Snape and his sudden disturbing inclination to treat Harry like Harry really was Hadrian.