A/N: Okay, so I had to go back and fix something in chapter one, and although I don't really think any of you picked up on it, I don't like to underestimate my readers… Long story short, I decided in Bio class today that I need to at least make my time line sort of match up with the one in the book, so the same sorts of events are happening, and I was also trying to remember when exactly Lupin and Harry started talking. I realized it was the first Hogsmeade weekend, so I flipped through the book and found it was on Halloween, same day as the Fat Lady's flight. Duh! And then I realized that I had in this one that it was a Tuesday and it was two days til November, which wouldn't make sense because that would make Halloween fall on a Thursday… So I changed it to four days until November, putting Halloween on a Saturday, which works… Just so you guys know… Also, thank you all for the reviews! I was on vacation for a week but I'm back now. And with that, ONWARD!
Harry awoke to find himself leaning awkwardly against another solid form. To his surprise, he felt oddly relaxed and for the first time in a long time he felt like he'd actually gotten an adequate night's sleep. He stretched a little, moving cautiously in case anything was stiff, but found that he was quite alright.
At that point he stood up and looked around. It was only then that the previous night came crashing back into his memory. He felt his face heat at the thought of his sobbing like a baby against Snape. Ron would be mortified if he found out. In fact, Harry thought, looking at the spot on the floor where he and Snape had dozed for the entire night, he was pretty mortified on his own. What had he been thinking?
Fearful that Snape would soon awaken, he snatched up his bag and moved toward the door leading out. He wasn't sure that he could deal with making small talk with the professor, not when his emotions were so jumbled. He winced at the prospect of having double potions with him later that day. And the detention that night at seven… Or counseling… Right now, he didn't know which Snape intended to turn it into.
He frowned, looking at the door that Snape had locked the night before to keep him in, and performed a quiet Alohamora. Why he hadn't done that last night, he'd never know, but at least it allowed him a quiet escape. He quietly made his way down to the Great Hall and thanked the moons that Snape hadn't awakened before now. It seemed as if the rest of the school was active; Gryffindor table was filled with his closest friends. Harry frowned when he saw Hermione and Ron sitting next to each other, as close together as they'd ever been.
"Uh, hey," he mumbled awkwardly, "How are you guys doing?"
"Great," Ron mumbled around a mouthful of eggs.
"Never better," Hermione added.
Harry frowned a little at her. A part of him wanted to blame her for the counseling that he now had to attend, but he knew that wouldn't be fair. McGonagall had known about it ahead of time, it seemed, so it must have been a planned thing. Snape would have found an excuse for it anyway… Or maybe he wouldn't have, and he just would have forced Harry into it.
Harry was almost through with breakfast when he noticed that his fellow Gryffindors had gone silent and were staring at a spot behind him. Filled with trepidation, Harry slowly pivoted on the bench and found himself facing his less than pleased looking potions master.
"Potter," Snape said, his cold tone revealing nothing of the night before, "finish your homework?"
"All of it?"
The entire table was staring at them. Harry could feel his face grow warm. He couldn't believe that audacity of Snape checking up on him, in front of everyone! He managed, barely, to contain his tone as he once again replied in the affirmative.
"Good," Snape said, "Then you should be able to make it down to my office at break for a session."
At this point, Harry's classmates' confusion and curiosity was palpable. He felt an intense anger at Snape for bringing the subject up in front of everyone. What was he supposed to say when they asked him to explain later on? Harry struggled to control the anger that was building inside of him. He refused to have another breakdown in front of this man, no matter what the cost.
"I'll be there," Harry said tightly, knowing he really hadn't a choice, and without another word he grabbed his bag from the floor and marched from the hall.
His mind was amazingly clear as he started towards the empty classroom which had once held the Mirror of Erised. He wanted to be able to avoid his friends for a while, at least until he came up with a cover story. Maybe he could do that during his session with Snape. At least that would be more productive than arguing about his lineage. And in that case, he'd only have to miss one class, History of Magic. Binns wasn't apt to notice his absence anyway.
"Leave your things by the door," Harry heard Snape say from his desk.
Harry allowed his bag to fall to the floor with a satisfactory Thunk! but kept his wand on his person. He figured Snape probably didn't want him to keep that, either, but he was hardly about to let go of his only defense. And this way, if he needed to leave in a rush and Snape tried to keep him in again, he wouldn't have to fumble around for it and give Snape time to put up more wards. Thus thinking, he made his way to stand in front of the man. Harry had a scowl etched across his pale face, his arms crossed in front of his chest as though he were bracing himself for some kind of attack.
Sure enough, the first words from Snape's mouth were, "Why weren't you in History of Magic."
Harry shrugged carelessly, "I needed time to think."
"To think," Snape repeated incredulously.
"Contrary to popular belief, I actually do that sometimes." Harry's voice was cold.
"That's not what I meant," Snape rolled his eyes, "I just never got the feeling that Professor Binns would hold your intention so much so that you would be rendered incapable of thinking about other matters."
Harry almost smirked at that, until he remembered what Snape had said that morning. His expression quickly hardened and he said, "I needed to think without being distracted by my friends' questions."
"Oh?" now Snape looked almost curious, "What questions would those be?"
That was the last straw for Harry. Surely Snape couldn't be so dense? He had to know what effect his words this morning had on Harry. Harry practically exploded, "You seriously don't know what they must be thinking right now? After you mentioned me having a session! God, Snape! Oh, sorry, Professor. Can't forget my bloody respect, although why I should have any for you when you have none for me is completely beyond my reckoning… Why don't we just advertise to the whole school, 'Harry Potter is so screwed up that he needs freeking counseling to get over what happened last year'!"
"If I hadn't had the foresight to put up silencing spells when you came in, I wouldn't have to," Snape replied coolly, "I do believe I mentioned that you could tell your friends you were having remedial potions with me."
Harry paled and sank into the chair across from Snape's desk. "I forgot."
"Clearly," Snape replied, and then, to Harry's surprise, "I should have anticipated the fact that you wouldn't have worried about the cover, with other matters foremost in your mind. I apologize if my words this morning seemed insensitive."
Harry couldn't believe that Snape had just apologized to him. He ran a shaky hand through his thick crop of black hair. "I shouldn't have yelled at you."
"No," Snape agreed, "You shouldn't have."
Harry waited for the other shoe to drop, so he was surprised when Snape didn't start issuing detentions for a month. When Snape finally did open his mouth, it was for something else entirely.
"You skipped History of Magic," Snape said blandly, "because you didn't want to face your friends."
Harry wincd. It sounded stupid when it was said like that, especially considering the fact that, had he been thinking, he wouldn't have had a problem at all. Snape probably thought he was the dumbest kid alive. Not that it mattered. It might even be a good thing- perhaps it would cause Snape to give up this farce about caring for him That thought in mind, Harry gave a shrug of nonchalance and said, "Yeah."
Snape's brow creased slightly, "You don't have a problem with that?"
"What can I say? I live to break the rules."
"Not everything I say is an attack against you, Potter," Snape muttered impatiently.
"No," Harry said slowly, "Sometimes you attack my father." He said it carefully, allowing no doubts to enter Snape's mind about who he really considered to be his father.
A muscle tightened in Snape's jaw. Harry found that he got a level of satisfaction from knowing how much he was getting to Snape. It was kind of nice to take his anger out on the man who had made him miserable for the past two years.
Snape seemed to be trying to hide his emotions. A moment later, he was even able to speak in his normal oily voice. "How are you going to make up for missing a day's work?"
"Borrow Hermione's notes," Harry said carelessly, "I don't usually pay much attention to Binns anyway."
He'd revealed to much, he realized a moment too late. Snape was bound to be irked that he was benefiting from another's work. Harry didn't think any adult he knew would really approve of that, and Snape was particularly vile when he disapproved.
When Snape did speak, however, his tone was amazingly gentle, "You don't want to be the type of person who takes credit for another's work."
"What the hell do you know about what I want?"
"I know that you were none too fond of your Defense professor last year, for just that reason."
"I'm not going to become the next Gilderoy Lockhart," Harry said coldly.
"This is how it starts," Snape insisted, "He didn't come out of the womb like that. It started with little things. The habits you develop now will carry on into your adult life, and at that point it's much harder to fix things.
"You should know," Harry muttered under his breath.
"Yes," Snape said, looking at him oddly, "I should."
Harry flushed and turned away. He saw Snape's point, annoying as that notion was. "So what am I supposed to do? I mean, if I don't copy Hermione's notes then I stand no chance for the rest of the year. If another kid was out for a class, it'd be okay if they borrowed a friend's notes."
"True," Snape conceded, "It'd be okay if they borrowed notes- once. You just said that you do so every class."
Harry frowned, "I can work on that, in the future. It's just that Binns is so boring! I can try, though. But what do you want me to do about today?"
"Are you really asking my opinion? Well, Mr. Potter, I am honored."
Harry glared at him, "There's something seriously wrong with you, you know? Yesterday I thought you were trying to make peace with me, or something, but I was clearly mistaken. Just forget I asked."
"You made it blaringly obvious that you want nothing to do with me."
"You made me miserable for two years and then expected me to welcome you with open arms!" Harry shouted, "And I half trusted you, you know that? Last night… I don't even want to think about it."
Breathing heavily, Harry hefted his bag onto his shoulder and made his way to the door. "I can't deal with this right now. Give me a fifty on whatever assignment this session counts toward. I'm out of here." He kept his wand raised in case he had to break through the door, but Snape made no move to contain him.
"I can't do this, Albus," Snape said, sinking into a chair across from the wizened old man.
"Do what, Severus?"
"This thing with the Potter boy."
"Potter boy?" Dumbledore frowned, "I thought that he was your son?"
"Not in name," Snape said impatiently, "Not in anything but blood... Sheer dumb luck, really."
"Ah," Dumbledore said, placing his fingertips together serenely, "Well, in that case, I can see why you may be having difficulties."
"How could Harry be convinced that you want him as a son when you don't want him as a son?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"How can you possibly gain his trust when you consider his very existence sheer dumb luck?"
"I've never said that to him!"
"I'm sure you haven't," Dumbledore agreed, "but as long as you feel that way, you'll continue to inadvertently send him mixed messages."
Dumbledore allowed Severus to ponder that for a moment before he asked the world's biggest question, "Why did you take the sudden interest in Harry? Was it just because he defeated Riddle?"
"Of course not!"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, and Snape sat back and thought about the question honestly. At last he amended his first statement. "It wasn't just because he defeated Riddle. It was how he looked when he did it. I was there, if you'll remember? I saw Voldemort inhabit the body of a mere child to advance in front of the boy-who-lived. I saw… Harry… cry, and I thought he'd be too weak. But then he killed him, the child and Voldemort both. He just killed them, as though he wasn't even thinking about it. And he picked the child's dead body up and looked at it as though it were insignificant. I thought he had gone cold in his need for vengeance. But then he spoke. I'll never forget the words."
When it seemed as though Snape were not going to continue, Dumbledore leaned forward and quietly prompted him, "The words, Severus?"
Severus looked away, but his eyes were glossy, as though he weren't seeing Albus's office, but something else entirely. "He said, 'I'm sorry, Tom. I didn't want to kill you, but I had to save the child'."
"Save the child," Dumbledore repeated softly.
Snape seemed to refocus on the room, "Sometimes death is a mercy, Albus. Even if the child had recovered, he never would have been the same. He would always be tortured with the memory. As it was, he was able to die with an unmarred soul. I was amazed that Harry would have the insight to realize what a blessing that was… And then I wondered if somehow he knew that because he himself was in the child's position, too scarred to ever really live. If there was any chance of saving Harry from such a fate, any at all, I wanted to do it."
"So what changed."
Severus sighed. He still wanted that for the Potter boy, but he felt as though it were an impossible thing. Not one to beat around the bush, he said simply, "The boy hates me."
Dumbledore actually smiled at that, "Harry doesn't hate you."
"How do you know?"
"Harry doesn't know how to hate," Dumbledore said, "As you yourself just proved, it was in fact his great capacity for love that allowed him to defeat Riddle last summer."
"But today," Snape whispered, "If you'd seen his face…"
"I'm sure he was quite upset," Dumbledore said, "but trust me when I tell you that Harry couldn't hate you… Not yet anyway."
Severus received the unspoken message. Harry didn't hate him yet, but Severus had to fix things now. If he waited too long, the damage may become irreparable. Severus stood and, without another word, left the headmaster's office. He had some thinking to do.