A/N: Another sequel to "Finding a Family" and "Losing a Book". Harry is back – as is Draco – and so are the biscuits. Caution: this story contains corporal punishment.
Adding One More
Harry rubbed his backside as he left Snape's quarters. He had told his Quidditch teammates that stealing the Gryffindor banner from the Great Hall and affixing it to the spire of the Astronomy Tower was a foolish way to celebrate their team's win over Ravenclaw, but they had persuaded him that even if the faculty suspected the team's involvement, they'd never be able to prove it. And of course, Harry was not only one of the best fliers on the team, but also the smallest, so he had the best chance of remaining undetected while securing the banner in place.
It had been a tricky bit of flying. The winds had been quite strong the previous night, and Harry had had to stand up on his hovering broomstick in order to tie the banner in place. He'd nearly lost his balance on two heart-stopping occasions, but in the end, he'd managed it, and the entire school had been suitably impressed. With the exception of one decidedly unamused Potions Master.
Most of the students and faculty automatically assumed it had been the Weasley twins who had achieved the feat, but both boys had been serving a detention with Snape when the prank was committed so he knew better. The professor was well aware of Harry's prowess on the broomstick, and it hadn't taken him long to discover the truth. One stern question, and Harry spilled his guts.
It was all well and good for the other students to say that none of the teachers could prove who was responsible; it was another thing to lie to Snape's face – and Harry wasn't stupid enough to do that. As it was, he'd gotten a lengthy lecture on personal safety, had his broomstick privileges revoked again, and was told that if he couldn't distinguish between harmless pranks and ridiculous grandstanding that could get him killed, Snape would pull him off the Quidditch team entirely. In retrospect, Harry was pretty sure Snape hadn't really intended to make good on his threat, but in the heat of the moment, he'd lost his temper and told Snape to keep his big nose out of his, Harry's, affairs. And that was why he was presently nursing a sore rear, waiting for the last of the sting to subside.
Considering how rude he had been – the nose comment had merely marked the start of hostilities – Snape had actually been pretty lenient. He seemed to understand that Harry still wasn't accustomed to having an adult looking out for him, and that while he really, really liked having someone care about him, there were times when the unfamiliar restrictions chafed.
The chafing never lasted long, though – not when life at the Dursleys was still so fresh in Harry's mind. Memories of horrid names hurled at him, casual backhanded blows, being starved and ignored… Yes, it didn't take long for Harry to remember what it was like back when no one cared about things like whether he fell off his broomstick; the Dursleys would only have noticed, let alone minded, if he had gotten blood on their nice house. After all, they had had him working at plenty of things that were dangerous – from cooking when he could barely see over the stove to using hedge trimmers that could have taken off his fingers.
He still wasn't accustomed to people getting upset with him when he endangered himself, especially if he had gotten away without injury. So when Snape scolded him and said that the very act of risking himself was unacceptable, it was hard for him to understand why the professor was making such a big deal of it. It was only after his temper got him in trouble that he realized it was because Snape was concerned about him. That adults were supposed to get upset when their kids did something that could have ended badly. That if they didn't get upset, it was because they couldn't care less.
That's when the remorse started, and the worry that maybe Snape wouldn't like him any more. After all, Harry had just insulted him – to his face – and why should the Potions Master be bothered with such a rude and ungrateful ward? Maybe he would go to Dumbledore and insist that Harry's care be transferred to someone else. Maybe he would return him to the Dursleys. Maybe…
Even before the first slap ignited his backside, Harry was halfway to tears. Several smacks later, the glow in his behind was still miles behind the ache in his heart, but Snape was getting worried. It was one thing to swat a boy who yelped and complained, but tonight Harry had moved from defiant to anguished in mere moments. What was going on inside the brat's head?
He pulled the boy upright and frowned at him, trying to decide what to say. Before he could speak, Harry did. " 'M sorry," he hiccupped. "Please don't."
"Don't what? Spank you some more? When have I ever punished you twice for the same thing?" Snape demanded, offended.
Harry shook his head, still too distraught to speak clearly. "N-no. You c'n keep whacking me, but please don't send me back to'm."
"Send you back to who? …The Dursleys?" Snape asked incredulously. At Harry's tearful nod, he huffed in exasperation. "What on earth put such a ridiculous notion in your head, you idiotic child?"
"I w's rude,' Harry muttered, hanging his head. "I said you had a big nose and that –"
"Yes, thank you, Mr Potter. I quite recall the insults from our first go-around. But why would that automatically suggest to you that I would return you to those disgusting Muggles?"
Harry wiped his nose on his sleeve, oblivious to Snape's appalled expression. A handkerchief was pushed into his hand a moment later. "No reason you have to keep me," he pointed out dispiritedly. "If I'm bad enough, you c'n always tell the Headmaster to give me back."
Snape scowled. Those Muggles… Maybe it wouldn't be such a terrible thing to drop some Death Eaters an anonymous note with their address. "Sit down, Harry."
Still sniffling – but this time making use of his handkerchief – the boy obeyed. "My assuming responsibility for you was not something I did lightly, Harry," he said firmly, deliberately using the brat's first name. "If I had any intention of relinquishing your care because of some misbehavior on your part, I would simply not have accepted the role in the first place."
"So why did you?" Harry asked. This was the question that had plagued him for these past several months. What on earth had caused the snarky, misanthropic Potions Master to assume the role of his guardian? He had been awful to Harry all through his first year, and in all fairness, he wasn't exactly nice to any of the other students either, Draco Malfoy excepted. What – other than a direct order from Dumbledore – would have induced him to accept such a burdensome role? Even when Harry wasn't being insulting, he still took a lot of Snape's time. The man taught him good study habits, reviewed his homework, supervised his extra lessons, advised him on proper behavior (and the Dursleys' lack thereof), mentored him, engaged him in grown-up conversations, and even endured visits from not only Harry but also his friends. And, of course, took the time to punish him when he did something stupid.
But even Snape's punishments took time and effort on the part of the professor. Uncle Vernon just grabbed him, slapped him around, and stuffed him back in the cupboard, usually managing to squeeze the entire thing in while the telly was on a commercial break. By contrast, Snape first interrogated him about his behavior, then lectured him on its folly, quizzed Harry to be sure he understood why he was being punished, assigned or administered the discipline, then took the time to reassure Harry afterwards and join him for tea and biscuits.
Everything about caring for Harry had to be an annoying, time consuming burden for Snape. So why did he do it? Harry bit his lip anxiously, desperate to know but terrified of the answer.
Snape scowled. He had known that Harry would eventually ask this question, but he still hadn't decided how he wanted to answer it. In truth, he was surprised at how long it had taken the boy to voice the question. He'd expected Potter to demand explanations right up front. The boy's unquestioning acceptance of the situation had been concerning.
"It is …complicated," he finally replied. At the disappointment in Harry's eyes, he defended himself. "I am not trying to deflect the question, but the answer is complex. There are many reasons why I agreed to be your guardian, and I suspect that you will not be able to appreciate all of them for some years – perhaps not until you have children of your own. What I will tell you now is that even before you arrived at Hogwarts, I was prepared to care for you. Had I known the treatment you were receiving at the hands of those Muggles, I would have interceded well before now, but I was always assured that you were fine." He held up a finger when Harry would have spoken. "No, Mr Potter. I am answering your question. Do not interrupt. Besides, you should be able to figure out who told me so. Your brain is adequate for that purpose at least.
"Now. As I was saying, one of the reasons I was willing to accept this role is because – " Snape took a deep breath " – your mother and I were close friends for much of our childhoods." Harry nearly fell off his seat. "As a result, it is natural that I am concerned for your welfare."
Harry's eyes were huge. "So you mean it's because of my mum?" Snape nodded. "Then she's still helping take care of me?"
When Snape nodded again, Harry's tears overflowed, and once again, Snape's robe became wet with tears and – other fluids. The Potion Master rolled his eyes. First there was snot on the lower part of his robes from when the brat was being walloped. Now there was snot on the front of his robes from the brat's weeping for his dead mother. And all this splooge now coated what had until moments ago been his favorite robe, one of the very few miraculously free of repulsive potion stains. Lily, he thought, you owe me a new set of robes. At least.
Realizing that Harry was overwhelmed both by his own misbehavior and by the revelation that his mother continued to protect him, Snape did the only thing he could think of that might calm the boy before curfew (and salvage his own robe). He Summoned a house elf.
Sure enough, once the plate of shortbread was placed on a nearby table, its aroma had amazing restorative properties on the child. Harry mopped, snuffled, honked, and blew. Snape recoiled from the proffered handkerchief and banished the offending item directly to the laundry hamper. "Are you sufficiently recovered for tea and biscuits?" he asked, eyeing the boy narrowly and trying to estimate his residual snot factor.
Harry nodded. He was still a bit worried that Snape would hold his rudeness against him. Merlin knew that if he'd ever mouthed off like that to Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia, he would have gotten a lot more than a few measly swats on the butt. More like a kaleidoscope of welts and bruises, not to mention at least a week on crusts and water. They would never have forgiven such a show of temper.
But, over the tea and biscuits, when Harry had (again) apologized, Snape reassured him that such outbursts were normal childhood behavior. "…Just as my response was normal parental behavior," he informed Harry, eyeing him over the lip of his teacup. "This is a time in your life where you will naturally resist authority, and we shall doubtless clash over numerous issues when you feel you are mature enough to make your own decisions and I disagree. However, if you wish to further your argument, you would do well to state your case in a calm and logical manner, rather than resort to insults and name calling. That is unlikely to result in an outcome you desire, as you just discovered."
"No kidding," Harry muttered, squirming as he recalled how he had bawled during the spanking. However, he couldn't help but be delighted by Snape's words. "Parental behavior"? Did that mean that Snape was starting to feel like a parent? That he was starting to think of Harry as a… son?
Snape eyed the boy doubtfully. Why on earth should his scolding cause the brat to smile like that?
"Now that we have addressed the issue of your intemperate outburst as well as your foolish and dangerous prank, is there anything else we need to talk about? Your upcoming Potions class, for example?"
"Nope," Harry's quick reply sprayed biscuit crumbs over the couch, and he hastily chewed and swallowed. "Sorry," he said, catching Snape's long-suffering expression. "I've done all the reading and the recommended supplemental material and I asked Hermione to quiz me on it."
"Very well," replied Snape. "Remember our arrangement: if you do a satisfactory job, then we can switch one of our study sessions from Potions to an extra DADA lesson."
"I know!" Harry said eagerly, now fully reassured that Snape wasn't still mad at him. "I really want to get to the point where you can show me how to duel." He shot a sly look at his professor. "If we don't get to start soon, I may have to ambush Malfoy in the corridor to get some practical experience."
Snape narrowed his eyes. "I think you know exactly what kind of experience you'd get should you implement that strategy, Mr Potter."
Harry laughed aloud. Snape was so easy to tease, once you got to know him. "I can guess. I'm just kidding, all right?"
"Your Gryffindorish teasing is both impudent and imprudent when directed at a Slytherin," Snape warned sternly, but Harry just grinned and took another shortbread.
Yeah, Harry mused as he turned towards Gryffindor Tower, Snape wasn't all that bad… other than that hard hand, of course.
Unbeknownst to Harry, a pair of silver gray eyes followed his departure from the dungeons, noting with particular interest his occasional grimace and his habit of rubbing his bum every few steps.
While Snape's expanded relationship with the boy was well known to the faculty, most students assumed Harry's frequent visits to the dungeons were detention-related. Harry's close friends knew better, of course, but Dumbledore felt that the fewer who knew the details of Harry's relationship with Snape, the better for both of them. For that reason, Draco Malfoy was particularly intrigued by his observations. He had known that his godfather had been spending a lot of time with that dunce Potter, but he'd assumed that the Idiot Who Lived was having to take Remedial Potions or something along those lines. After all, considering how hard he and the other Slytherins worked to sabotage the Gryffindor cauldrons – particularly the one belonging to the Golden Git – it was hardly surprising that he would need extra detention time to reach basic levels of competency.
But to see with his own eyes incontrovertible evidence that Snape had finally given Prince Potter the hiding that prat deserved was like getting an early Christmas present. Draco didn't know how his godfather had managed it – the Head of Slytherin walloping the most famous (and most spoiled) Gryffindor? – but it was hard to imagine any other explanation that would lead to Potter's limping away in that particularly distinctive fashion. Draco grinned in anticipation; Potions class tomorrow was going to be the best one ever.