Heat Wave by Ebbtide Cheque
WOMAN OR MONSTER
The potions classroom became quiet as the seventh years got themselves settled into place. Harry felt a growing curiosity. After all of the good things that Snape had to say about the woman, he could not help but wonder what Sandra Higgnite would be like in person. He pictured a female version of Snape...and shuddered. Long black hair, deep sallow cheeks and a quick frown were not his idea of an attractive teacher. Though he would never say a word to his adopted father.
There was a shuffling sound outside of a door at the head of the room behind the teacher's desk. The door vibrated for a second before blasting off of its hinges in a cloud of smoke. It landed harmlessly on the stone floor. All of the chatter stopped abruptly and Harry waited expectantly for the first site of his new potions teacher.
A small silhuoutte left a dark shadow on the doorframe before an average looking woman walked into the room. If Harry had not known better he would have classed her as a muggle. Small, almost non-existent glasses perched pecariously on the edge of her nose and she looked over them at her students. Her long brunette hair was curled up over her head and kept in place with a pink pencil. The woman wore jeans and a loose black turtleneck with an incidental robe over them. She had a kind, but average face and nothing about her seemed even remotely witch-ish.
The woman straightened her robe and clapped her hands together unnecessarily to gain their already gathered attention. She smiled.
"Sorry about that rather dramatic entrance. I've been having some problems with my wand lately." She shrugged as if it was an ordinary occurance. "Now on to the lesson for today: applied brewing using golden cauldrons and the effect of heightened temperature on potion results."
Harry looked around himself and found the other students already opening their books to the correct pages. He took out his own potions book and snatched a glance at Hermione's page number before turning there himself. His desk darkened as a shadow fell over him, he glanced up and found himself staring at professor Higgnite. She was looking him up and down with pursed lips.
"Harry Potter, I presume." She said with a significant glance at his exposed scar. "I was told that you need special treatment. I don't care who you are - in my class you do not get treated any differently than the others. If you chose to neglect the beginning of the year then you will have to catch up in your free time. I will give you a list of missed lessons, but I expect you to keep up with my class. Do you understand?"
The average, unthreatening woman had been replaced by a dark scowl and harsh tones. Harry could have groaned aloud. Why did he always seem to draw out the negative side of his teachers? He wondered in self-pity. He slid down farther in his seat.
"Yes, ma'am." He said in a soft tone. The boy remembered feeling like this in front of his Aunt Petunia a thousand times. "I'll try my best."
The Potions Professor snorted and turned away from his desk to return to her own. "See that you do more than try, Mister Potter."
Harry's mouth fell open in disbelief. He knew those words. He knew that tone. He decided he was still dreaming. No way had that woman just sounded exactly like Snape. No way in the world. A light poke on his side from Hermione brought his attention back to the class and he listened attentively as Sandra Higgnite began a complicated explanation of the affects temperature had on brewing potions.
By the end of the first class Harry had to admit that she was really good at explaining things. He felt like he had learned more in that one class than the entire summer weeks he had spent with Snape. It was not that his adopted Dad was bad at teaching - he just tried to get as much across as possible with the least amount of speaking. Sandra had no problem elaborating on the different techniques and causalitites. Harry would have probably liked her if she had not frowned every time she looked his way. The teenager had no idea what he had done to displease her, but he knew that before the next class he would have to read the missed sections of his potions book.
Hermione volunteered her help when he mentioned studying in the library during dinner. So after a few quick bites of food that night they headed out of the Great Hall together. Ron, upon hearing their plans, suddenly remembered a Quidditch move he wanted to try out. With the red head boy outside, Harry and Hermione started studying in earnest soon losing track of time.
"Where is that boy?" Snape asked his chocolate chip cookie before visciously biting into it and chewing it a bit too vigerously.
He did not want to be angry with Harry, that was the last thing his adopted son needed right now, but he felt a well of annoyance threaten to end his attempt at patience. The man had expected Harry to come down to the dungeons directly after dinner so that they could together move his stuff up to the tower room.
It was now three hours later with no sign of Harry. Snape had searched much of the castle and still he could not find the boy. Worry warred with impatience. He began to pace, banishing the cookie bag. The treat could not console him any longer. The way he felt surprised him a little. Severus knew that he had grown attached to the boy - he had adopted him for Merlin's sake! - but this worry over the boy was much deeper than it had ever been. Even when Lucius had kidnapped Harry he had only been concerned for the saftey of a child. Now it was the safety of his son. At the same time he was upset at Harry for leaving him there to worry. It was all so confusing for the man. He was not quite sure how to deal with this new found parental instinct.
Snape shook his head and stopped pacing. His dark eyes found the fireplace and he cursed himself internally for not thinking of it earlier. He would talk to Dumbledore. The old man may have his moments of manipulation, but he was foremost Severus' best friend and mentor. Taking a handful of gray floo powder, Snape transported himself to the Headmaster's office.
Dumbledore was sitting behind his large desk, Fawkes on one shoulder, both seemed to be looking at a scroll. When Snape exited the fireplace, Dumbledore looked up. The old man smiled.
"Severus! How are you today, my friend?" He asked with a knowing glint in his eyes. "Lemon Drop?"
Snape took his usual seat and rubbed his forehead with his hand.
"I am looking for Harry, Albus. I cannot seem to find him and we were to move his things into the Gryffindor tower today. He has not contacted me in any way and I do not know where he could be, I have searched much of the castle. I know that he likes the astronomy tower sometimes and I even went so far as to firecall Hagrid! Do you know where Harry is? I saw him briefly at dinner, but then he was gone and I do not know where he went or if he is okay or who he is with or -." He realized that he was babbling anxiously and abruptly cut himself off. He fidgeted with the cuff of his long sleeved robe. He bowed his head. "I am worried."
Albus studied him for a moment and then a bright smile erupted onto his face. "Yes, I can see that." He said with a chuckle.
Severus scowled. "This is not funny, Albus. What if he is hurt and cannot get to the infirmary. What if he got lost in the dungeons - he really is no good with directions - or what if one of the Slytherins attacked him - they have not been taking the adoption very well and there have been some recent additions to my house, as you know. What if he is gone!" The potions master felt himself tense and his breathing became labored. "I do not know what I would do without him, Albus." He looked up at the old man in pleading.
Dumbledore stood and walked around the table to stand beside his friend. An old and wrinkled hand came to rest on Snape's shoulder. "He's in the library."
Harry rubbed his eyes trying to fight off the exhaustion and pain. His back was aching from sitting so long pouring over his potions text. Hermione had left with Ron over an hour ago, but Harry stayed behind knowing that he would have to be prepared for the next class taught by Sandra Higgnite. Then maybe she would cease with her harsh attitude towards him.
All he wanted to do was sleep.
He felt Snape's approach before he heard the soft footsteps. He turned with a smile to greet his Dad, but stopped short at the thunderous exression on the man's face. Harry's smile faded - he knew that look - it was the same one that Uncle Vernon had before dealing out punishment. Usually physical. Harry shrank back a little from the man's approach.
"Dad?" He asked uncertainly.
Severus pointed at him with an accusing index finger. "You - were - suppose - to - come - down - to - the - dungeons." He said, emphasizing every word. "Because - we - are - moving - you - into - the - Gryffindor - tower."
Harry relaxed slightly. That was all, he thought. By the look of anger on his Dad's face he had figured it would be something much worse.
"I was busy with homework." He tried to explain. "Professor Higgnite said I had to catch up in my free time and since I really wont have a lot of that anymore I thought that I would get it done through dinner."
Severus inacted a tempus spell without breaking eye contact with Harry. It read ten thirty, post meridiam. Harry flinched - no wonder his Dad was so mad at him.
"Look, I'm really, really sorry, Dad. I lost track of time, that's all." He tried a tremulous smile. The intimidating stance Severus had adopted put Harry on his guard. Years of abuse made his body react without coscious thought. His eyes going to every escape route to make sure they were clear while his mind calculated how long it would take Snape to reach him if he chose to act out the punishment there.
"Dungeons." Snape said with a low growl unaware of the affect he was having on Harry. "Now."
As Harry followed his Dad down the darkened corridors of the school he felt his anxiety growing. He knew - well, he was pretty sure - that Snape would not actually hurt him, but still he felt an almost overwhelming desire to turn and run away. His Dad had remained silent through the entire walk down to the dungeons, but as they approached their quarters he finally spoke.
"I am disapointed in you, Harry." He said quietly. "I thought you would know better than to just go off without telling someone. I was very worried about you." The last said so softly that it was nothing more than a whisper.
Harry felt like his entire world had come crashing down around him in a million pieces. He felt his heart stop for a very long second. All he had been able to hear through the roaring in his ears was Snape saying in what Harry took to be a defeated tone 'I am disapointed in you', the rest was lost to Harry. The teenager could not move. His father had opened the door to their living place and then he turned to see why the boy was not following.
"Harry?" The black haired man asked.
Harry could not move, he could not think and breathing was becoming a problem as well. He gasped for breath trying to forget the hurtful words that had cut straight into his heart. 'I am disapointed in you', these words kept replaying in his mind over and over until everything else was blocked out. How could Snape want him now? The teenager thought frantically. The adoption papers had not even been returned to them with official stamps of approval and already he had messed it up. How could Snape want him now - all he ever did was mess up. The Dursleys, Sirius, Lupin. Harry gasped for breath.
He could see his Dad standing in front of him, he could feel the hands on his shoulders, but he could not move. So much had happened to him in the past months and the one constant thing had been Snape. Granted, the man had moments of impatience and sarcasm, but the potions master had always been there to support him. Without that support to guide him, Harry did not think that he could have survived the aftermath of his capture by Lucius Malfoy.
"Harry! Breathe, everything is going to be okay -I'm here for you."
Harry felt himself enveloped in a hug, his breathing hitched painfully and he smelled the comforting scent of potions ingredients. He hugged the man back tightly and sobbed.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I'll never do it again I promise, just don't leave me, please, I'll be a good son." He cried in a rush. 'I'll do whatever you want - I'll never leave without telling you where I'm going. This will never happen again! I-."
"Harry." Snape interrupted pulling back. He shook the boy's shoulders gently. "I will never leave you, Harry."
Harry hiccoughed. "You won't?"
"No. Never." Snape said firmly.
"But you said I was a disapointment...and I thought that you wouldn't want me anymore. I know that I messed up and I'm sorry, but I just wanted to do my homework."
Snape bowed his head, veiling his face with long black bangs so that Harry could not see the look of pain that flashed across the man's face. When Severus looked back up his experession was calm.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I should have never said that - its not true. You don't disapoint me, you could never do that."
Harry's brow furrowed in confusion. "But you said?"
His adopted father shook his head. "I was angry and worried. I was not thinking very clearly." He took the boy by the shoulder and gently led him into their rooms and out of the cold stone corridor.
Harry sank onto the couch cushions and let out a relieved sob. Tears were still running intermittently down his face, but they were slowing. He wiped at them, trying not to feel too embaressed about what had just happened. He should have known better, Snape had never given him a reason to doubt. Every other adult in his life had though, he thought sarcastically.
Severus disappeared into his room for a second and when he returned there was a small vial of clear liquid in his hand. He handed it to Harry and motioned for the boy to drink it all.
"That is a calming potion. Not very long lasting, I'm afraid, but highly potent." The man sighed. "I am truly sorry that I was not more clear with what I meant. This unfortunate misunderstanding could have been avoided. I was just...angry."
Harry nodded. As soon as the liquid slid down his throat a peace and focus entered him. He could think about everything clearly and he smiled up at his Dad. The angst of mere minutes ago gone in the blink of a potion.
"It's alright, Dad." He said reasonably. All negative emotions drained magically from his mind. "I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, but..." Even under the influence of the calming potion he felt his earlier memories of his Uncle make him feel a little nervous. "You seemed really upset for no real reason. It was just homework."
Snape bowed his head. His first instinct was to defend his angry remarks, but Harry deserved better than that. Much better. The man sighed.
"You are right, Harry." The man took a deep breath as he added. "I was very worried about you...son."
It had taken a lot for the man to say that. He had been attached to the young wizard for a long time now - months longer than Harry realized with his lack of proper time perception. To Snape it had been almost six months of constant worry and concern for the boy. Every day he had wondered if that would be the day he would hear from Dumbledore and everything would be over and it would be all his fault.
Now Harry was alive, he was no longer in immediate physical danger and Snape had let his anger get the better of him. He knew it was not the boy's fault. He knew that he had overreacted, but so many hours and days of his past months had been spent in constant worry over Harry Potter. Relief was short lived once the boy had moved in with him in anticipation of the adoption, they had both entered a deep connection. Every time Harry left his sight, Snape worried he might never see his son again. He had grown to think of Harry as a son...his son. The man shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Harry." Severus looked deep into Harry's eyes trying to convey the depth of his regret.
The boy smiled hesitantly. "You scared me when you started yelling like that...it...it reminded me." He breathed deeply to stave off another panick attack as flashes of his Uncle's "talks" reminded him of the painful past. He winced at the images and closed his eyes tightly.
"Oh, Merlin!" Snape exclaimed when he realized what the boy was saying. Instantly, the man was on his knees in front of the boy, his hands coming to rest lightly on the youths forearms. "I would never hurt you like your Uncle did. I thought - I thought..." His voice cracked. "I thought that you knew that by now."
Harry shook his head, unable to speak. He knew that the man kneeling in front of him would never do more than raise his voice on rare occasions. It had taken six month for something that dramatic to happen...Snape was so much better than Harry felt he deserved. Tears welled up under his closed eyelids and he cursed himself for being so weak. Why would Snape want someone as pathetic as him? He wondered with a sob catching in his throat.
He must have said it aloud, because Snape gathered him up in a gently hug, being sure not to aggrivate his back injury any further, and whispered softly.
"You are not pathetic." The man sounded like he was about to cry himself. "You - You."
"I killed Voldemort." Harry finished for him. "Why does everyone think that's such a great thing?" He pushed away from the embrace, he had wanted the reassurance, but at the same time thoughts of Volemort set him on edge and he did not want to be touched. He shifted uncomfortably as he remembered the Unforgivable surging through his skin and out through the magical conductor of his phoenix feather wand. He shivered.
Snape sat back on his heels giving the boy the room that he obviously needed. "You saved us all, Harry. Not just you, me, Dumbledore and everyone else in that room that night...you saved the whole magic world! How can you not see that?"
Harry still had his eyes closed, his tears had receeded somewhat and he felt more in control, but he was not ready to look into his adopted father's onxy eyes. He was afraid to see something there that might confirm his insecurities.
"Harry I want to show you something...open your eyes?" Snape requested softly. He did not want to push the emotionally fragile boy any further, but he needed Harry to understand how much he cared and why he cared so much.
Harry obeyed, it was second nature to just do exactly what he was told no matter what the circumstance, and he found himself looking into Snape's dark eyes. They were full of caring and hope and regret and something else. Something safe.
"What do you need to show me?" He asked softly, afraid that any second he would see the anger and disapointment he so feared.
Snape slowly pulled up the robe sleeve that covered his left forearm. The fingers of his right hand flitted over the pale, bare skin lightly. The potions master felt a thrill of awe at the sight - he always did. It would never cease to amaze Snape how liberated it made him feel to see the scarless tissue where once a reminder of his dark past had haunted him daily.
"The tattoo." Harry said softly, his gaze glued to the spot. He looked up then, confused. "That was Fawkes, not me." He said.
Snape shook his head and let the black fabric of his robe settle back over his arm. "No. All Fawkes could do was take away the pain...it was you, and the death of Voldemort, that removed the Dark Mark completely. I am free because of you, Harry. I owe everything that I am now and everything that I will become to you and to you alone."
"Is that why you're adopting me?" Harry asked saddly. "Because you think that you owe it to me?"
"No, I am adopting you because I ...I love you."
Harry felt his body freeze. The last time he had heard those words - in the graveyard after the Tri Wizard Tournament - it had been from the lips of his dead parents. No one in his life, not even his two best friends, had ever spoken those words aloud to him. He felt a grin break out across his face.
"I love you too, Dad."
Ron held Hermione's hand loosely in his own as they both watched their best friend unpack a second suitcase. They were standing in the men's dorm of Gryffindor tower.
"So, you're really back?" Ron asked uncertainly. "No more running off to get tortured by Death Eaters?" He joked weakly.
Hermione shot him a hard glare. "That's not funny, Ron." The young woman turned to Harry. "We are both glad that you are back. It's been...difficult without you." She admitted, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
Harry put his wand away and closed the suitcase, putting it under his maroon and gold colored bed. He sighed heavily and sat down on the edge.
"I'm sorry, guys." He said looking up. "I know that it has been hard on both of you." He breathed in a deep, cleansing breath. "But, yes, I am finally home."
It felt so good to know that he had been missed, that he had been needed. He stood and impulsively pulled them both into a tight hug, ignoring the protest of his back. He never wanted to let them go. He had his friends back, they were his strength, they had given him the self-assurance to reach this point.
"Thank you, Ron - Hermione." He said thickly, still not letting go of them.
Severus Snape leaned against the bench in his personal potions lab. He had been in there just staring at the stone floor for the better part of an hour, unable to turn his thoughts away from what had happened the night before. He had confessed his paternal love for the boy. He had actually said the words. He shook his head.
"Who would have thought it possible." He whispered to the empty room.
A year ago he would have thought it impossible to love again - and never in a million years would he have accepted the idea of Harry Potter as his son. That had been before. Before months of heartache and soul searching. Months of long nights where all he could think of was the boy lying in St. Mungo's...it had been his fault. Severus had blamed himself, but he had worked through the pain and regret to reach a place where he could truly come to love Harry. It shocked him and now he did not know how to deal with these new emotions.
Never before had he said those words: 'I love you'. His family had been more than nonverbal in their declarations of love, they were completely silent on the subject in words and in actions. Snape felt scared by the well of love that he felt for the boy who, only a year before, had been a bitter enemy. He would never admit it to anyone, but Severus Snape was unsure of what course of action to take.
How could he show Harry how much he loved him if he lost his temper at the slightest thing. Snape winced at the memory of his angry tarade the night before. It had been stupid, petty and unthoughtful of him, but Snape was so used to defending himself with sarcasm and anger. Love was a completely new place for his heart to visit. He needed a road map to help him through, but he had none. Albus was there, of course, but Snape knew that would not be enough.
As he stood there leaning against the lab bench considering the ways that his life had changed a pop announced the arrival of an apparator. His wand was in his hand and pointed in the direction of the sound before he could even turn to see who had arrived. Old habits were hard to break and as a former double spy, he had made caution and self-defense a habit. There was no one there, just a slip of rolled up parchment paper. He reached down and picked it up.
"I have a son." He spoke in disbelief when he recognized the approval seal on the paper. He stood in shock for several seconds unable to move. "I have a son."
The aproved adoption form slid out of his fingers and fluttered back to the stone floor.
Cool sunlight filtered through the window. It was raining again. Harry stood surveying the room he had just finished organizing. Hermione and Ron had went down to lunch early, but Harry had wanted to stay up in the tower a little bit longer. He wanted to see his father's map, but first he had to wait for everyone to leave and Nevil Longbottom was running late for the meal. The tall dark headed boy was lingering behind talking softly to himself as he watered several large and colorful plants. They were potted and set on a table next to the boy's bed.
"Are you going down to lunch?" Harry asked. After his argument with Snape last night he did not want to be late either, but the desire to see his father's map - to feel it in his hands - was too strong. "You'll be late."
Nevil looked up in surprise. "It's lunchtime already? I thought I had a few minutes." He finished watering the last plant and then carefully re-checked the soil in each to make sure that he did not overwater or underwater any of the precious plants. Everything seemed to be in order so the young wizard left with a parting smile.
Harry waited until he heard the portrait door swing shut before he went down and his hands and knees to pull up the loose floorboard. He could have simply accioed the parchment paper, but he wanted to feel the invisiblity cloak as he reached in. The parchment paper appeared blank, but Harry knew its secret. He brought it up to his chest and hugged it to himself, his thumb rubbing the tan paper lovingly. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, a single tear slipping down his cheek.
His father and mother would never know the pain he had lived through, they would never know his accomplishments. They were dead and gone. Another tear slid down his cheek and Harry held the map tighter against him. He never wanted to lose the last connection he had with his parents. Harry wondered if his father knew how important the map would be when he made it. Harry shook head, probably not, he thought.
The Maurader's Map.
The boy wizard thought about how ironic it was that although the Mauraders had began as best friends - inseperable and closer than most brothers - they had ended as bitter enemies. Their lives in shambles. With the death of Remus Lupin, the last of the four best friends, a tragic relationship had ended.
Sirius Black, imprisoned for crimes committed by Peter Petigrew, had lost twelve years of his life to the nightmare of Azkaban. Harry hated to think about those dark times. He knew that his godfather had endured more horrors and pain than anyone was ever meant to. The fact that he had went through more in his teenage years did not occur to Harry. All he could think of was the injustice done to his family. They may not have been family in blood, but in spirit he knew that Sirius, Remus and even Dumbledore would always be considered a family to him.
Snape. Well, Snape was different. Harry had never truly known his parents, but he had recognized the love he felt towards their memory was stronger than most. He was beginning to feel that same love towards Severus on certain occasions. Like the other night when they had been sharing cookies in the living room of their dungeon home. Their home...Harry reveled in the feeling of joy it brought him to know that he shared a home - that he, in fact, had a home.
"I have a Dad." He whispered to the map he still stroked lovingly in his arms. "A real Dad."
He knew that this would not be like the fake family the Dursley's presented to the world, but at the same time it was not quite the same as the undying love and desire that accompanied memories of his father and mother. This newfound relationship with Snape was different. Not better, not worse, just different. Harry smiled.
Hermione and Ron sat next to each other, whispering and writing quick notes to each other on a piece of parchment that lay on the desk between them. Each times their hands brushed against each other they would share a happy smile.
They were the first to arrive for potions class and so there would be a few more minutes without interruption...or, at least, that was their plan. A sharp tapping noise repeated at the front of the class caught their attention. Hermione's eyebrow raised.
"Hello? Is someone there?" The young witch asked.
The tapping continued, increasing in loudness as it grew nearer to their position. Ron gulped nerveously and his right hand inched down to the pants pocket where his wand had been carelessly stashed earlier.
"H-hello?" Ron called false bravado in his tone.
The sound paused, the silence almost as disconcerting to the teenagers, then it returned with even stronger fervor. The tapping increased.
"Show yourself!" Hermione demanded angrily, brandishing her wand with a dangerous flare.
"It's just me, deary. I didn't mean to startle you." Professor Sandra Higgnite said. The woman came into view through the door that led to her office, she walked down the short staircase and stopped "I'm trying some new spells for class..." She looked away. "My wand is not cooperating very well." The teacher admitted. "It rarely does."
Hermione lowered her wand and relaxed back into her seat. "Why don't you get a new one then?" She inquired.
Sandra huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. "The problem's not with my wand - okay, some of it is, but most of it's me."
"You?" Ron asked in disbelief, his mouth falling open. "But - but you're a teacher!"
Sandra laughed. "Yes, I am aware of that fact, Mr. Weasley."
"I don't understand." Hermione said. "How can you be a teacher at Hogwarts if your ability to use magic is retarded."
"Oh, it's just a bit of a hiccough, that's all." The Professor said with a brave smile, it did not quite reach her eyes. "Now, lets begin class, shall we." She asked the two students brightly.
Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. Ron looked around the empty room as if expecting to see the other students appear out of thin air. When nothing happened he leaned forward and said in a low voice.
"Umm, Professor, no one else is here yet. They shouldn't be for at least another ten minutes."
Sandra waved this away. "I know exactly when my own class is suppose to start, my boy." She laughed. "Let us begin."
When Harry walked into the potions classroom a few minutes later it was to find his two best friends dueling against each other using simple hexes.
Latin murmers sent sparks and jinxes spiralling above the desks. Harry found himself being pushed forcefully into he room - this sent a few painful chills down his back - when the other students made their way inside to see the practice duel. He shook off an unwanted memory of Lucius that surfaced at the treatment.
From what the teenager could see, Hermione had predictably gained the upper hand at some point and Ron had been forced on the offensive. The red head frantically called out counterspells and shielding spells at an impressive rate. Harry knew that Ron got a lot of practice defending himself from his funloving twin brothers, George and Fred, but it was still shocking to see his friend casting so quickly and accurately.
"Have a seat everyone. Good job you two." Sandra said with a wave of her wand. She was smiling brightly as the students jostled for a seat. "Very good."
Harry took a seat next to his two friends and smiled. "You two looked great." He complimented them excitedly.
"Excuse me, Mister Potter." Sandra appeared in front of his desk, looming over him and looking over her thin glasses. "If it is not too much of an inconvenience for your blooming social life." Her expression hardened. "No speaking after class has begun unless it is to ask a question. Did you have a question, Mister Potter?"
Harry shook his head - speechless. The temperature lowered when Professor Higgnite raked him from head to foot with her penetrating gaze. Those seated on either side of Harry shifted uncomfortably at the tense silence and Harry himself kept his brilliant green eyes averted. The very last thing he wanted to do was cause more problems for himself.
The animosity being directed his way made him remember the Dursleys and every other spiteful human being he had come in contact with over his short lifetime. It seemed like he never got a break. For once, he just wanted to be treated normal. Not like a savior, and not like a spoiled child, instead he wanted to be thought of as a normal teenage boy.
"I was just telling them how good they were." Harry said softly, with a quick glance at his friends.
Sandra's frown remained firmly in place. "Spell critiquing can take place after potions, Mister Potter. " She looked over the class and stepped away from Harry's desk so that her next remark encompassed the whole room. "We are going to study the affects potions can have on spell casting."
She spent the rest of the class time ignoring Harry's existence, he considered this little better than the harsh attitude the teacher had atopted earlier on his behalf. Harry felt his emotions start to get the better of him as anger and hurt warred inside his heart. He felt tears near the surface and tried to blink them away. First the teacher showed nothing but contempt for him and now she treated him like he was invisible. He hated the feeling of insignificants and rage this made him feel. A spark of magic brought to his attention that fact that any second he would lose it. He needed Snape.
He leaned over his desk and covertly wiped at his eyes, he could feel the skin on his neck and face heat up and knew he was blushing. Any second now he would lose control and then Professor Higgnite would have a real reason to come down on him in front of all the other students.
He had felt so happy that morning, so in control and calm. Now, a few hours later, he could feel a dozen different emotions trying to take control. He had to get out of there. He slid his books quietly into his bag.
"I've got to go see Severus." He wisphered to Hermione. "See you later."
He hurried out of the class before Sandra could stop him. Once out in the hallway the boy broke into a sprint. Each step jarred his back and knees, which were still in the process of healing, but he did not feel the pain. His magic was becoming more and more unstable as he hurried down towards the dungeons. He let his tears flow freely now - the halls were empty and he knew all of the teachers were otherwise occupied.
It did not take him long to reach the Severus' quarters. He paused outside the entrance and tried to make himself look less harried. He wiped the tears from his eyes, but they were immediately replaced by new ones. He ran tremblind hands down his robe and then realizing he was stalling, Harry pushed his way inside the room.
Severus looked up from the potion he was stirring when the door alarm chimed. While he had been employed as a double spy it had been prudent to install as many alarm spells as he could with the help of the Headmaster. The teacher had not taken the time to discontinue all of them. The door alarm was spelled for his ears only and he knew that it had to be either Harry or another teacher because of the pitch used. Checking the potion to make sure it would be alright, he stepped out of the room.
The man frowned at the sight of Harry standing motionless in the center of the living room area. The boy was pale, tears running down his cheeks, and Severus could see shivers running through the boy's body.
"Harry!" Snape rushed to the young wizard's side and looked him over for any injury. "Are you hurt, son?"
There was no response and Severus' concern deepend. He could see the desperate look in Harry's eyes and knew that another panick attack had been triggered by something. He placed his hands on the boy's shoulders and gently led him over to the couch. He seated himself facing the boy and let his hands fall.
"Harry, speak to me." He pleaded, his dark eyes searching the brilliant green ones opposite him. "I cannot help you if you do not tell me what is wrong." He prompted softly.
Harry let the voice calm his unstable magical core. Then taking a deep breath he tried to explain through his sobs. "It's that monster...she-she...I just wanted...It's not like I asked for it! For any of it!" The boy yelled angrily.
Severus felt even more confused. "I don't understand, Harry."
"Professor Higgnite." Harry clarified, his voice breaking. "She is complete monster!"
The father wanted to object, but he knew that in order to understand what Harry was going through he needed to be patient and listen.
"She is always getting on me about things. The very first day, she told me that I should not be expecting different treatment than the others. Then she turns around and doesn't give me a chance to catch up on my work. She said that I would have to make up my missed lessons in my free time. What free time?" Harry paused for breath. "I tried, I really did, but every class she gives me more homework to add to it and that made me miss our meeting which was almost a complete disaster because of her. Then today she acts like I don't even exist. What is her problem? She always talks to me with this horrible, cold voice. She would probably yell at me for breathing if she got the chance. I've tried to be patient about it and I've tried to be reasonable. Why me?" He asked suddenly. A final tear tracked down his face. "And she calls me Mister Potter."
Severus felt his mouth open and close a few times. He could find nothing to say in response to these accusations.
"Do you think I should talk to Albus? Has she threatened you?" The man asked finally in concern.
"No." Harry answered quickly. "Nothing like that. It is just that she treats me...well." He flicked his gaze up to look at his new father and then looked away. "Like you used to."
Professor Sandra Higgnite sat at her desk starring down at a stack of potion exams. Her last class of the day had ended several minutes ago and she wanted to give herself a moment before starting the correcting process. She rubbed her forehead. It had been a tough day, she thought exhaling loudly. Two potions had exploded - no one got hurt, thankfully - and one student had walked out in the middle of class.
Harry Potter. Sandra frowned deeply as she thought about the young man that had been the bane of her adult life. She was sure that the boy saw himself as some kind of hero. What with slaying dragons - she had read about the Tri Wizard Tournament in the Daily Prophet - and defeating Voldemort, there did not seem to be anything that the Boy-Who-Lived could not do. Jealousy at his naturally excelled magical talent also motivated the teacher's anger.
As a potions master, Sandra needed little magic to complete most recepies, because of this she had grown to be one of the best in her field. The woman had thrown herself into the subject with a passion, knowing that it might be her only chance to make it in the world of wizardry. A pureblood in every respect, Sandra had been horrified to find herself losing her magic as the years progressed. It was a rare magical sickness. Few wizards and witches even knew about it, but somehow she had contracted it during her early teen years.
Sandra pulled her wand out of her pocket and fingered it with growing sadness. Her parents had been devastated to find that their only child would be little more than a squib by the age of thirty. They had tried everything and spared no expense in a search for the cure. The Magic Sickness was the name an old wizard medic had given it. Sandra snorted and replaced her wand in a robe pocket.
"What a stupid name." She muttered at the desk. "Stupid name for a stupid disease."
She heard footsteps in the hallway outside and looked up just in time to see Severus Snape stalk inside the classroom. His black cloak and robes billowed in the wake of his stormy arrival. He walked up the aisle between the desks and came to a stop in front of her own desk. Black hair framed a pale, frowning face.
"Ms. Higgnite, I wonder if I might have a word." He said formally, his voice clacial.
Sandra shivered involuntarily and nodded, swallowing hard. The first time that she had met Professor Snape had been during her job interview. Since then, during their meetings, he had seemed a fine man, if a bit forbidding.
"How can I help you, Severus?" She asked cheerfully, trying to brighten the mood. "Do you want something to drink? I can have the elves get you a tea."
There was a long silence during which Snape stared at her unblinking. She looked away nerveously.
"Wh-What did you need?" She stuttered. The stare was beginning to unerve her.
"Why are you bullying my son?" He asked matter-of-factly.
"Bully?" Her eyes widened in confusion. "YOUR son? I didn't know you had a son. Is he one of the Slytherin I was teaching today?"
There had been several new arrivals in the Slytherin house that week. They had transfered over from another magical school and Sandra felt sure that she knew which one was Snape's son. A handsome darkhaired, lightskinned youth with a critical brow had been sitting in the front of class that evening. He had worn a Slytherin crest.
Snape smiled menacingly, he wanted to make absolutely sure that what he said next had the desired affect. He hoped that it would be enough to find out what had caused the woman to hurt his son in such a damaging way. Harry was down in their quarters in a potion induced sleep so that he could recover from the bout of nerves that he had been forced into earlier. Severus bit back an angry curse, he had warned Higgnite and all of the other teachers that Harry was to be handled with care. The man clenched his jaw to reign in his anger before replying.
"Harry Potter is my adopted son as of this morning and I would like to know why you saw fit to discard not only my own warnings, but Albus' as well in regards to his fragile state."
Sandra felt like a bucket of cold water had been dumped over her head. Never in a million years would she have expected that response. Harry Potter was the son of Severus Snape.
"Excuse me?" She choked out.
Severus growled. "Your insensitive remarks sent Harry into a panick attack earlier. You had better have a good explanation." He spit out the words."Or else."
Sandra gulped, not wanting to know what the "else" would entail. "I was just trying to maintain my sense of equality between students. Your...son." She stumbled over the word. "Should know that I will not let him get away with anything because he is a celebrity. He is still subjected to the same rules as everyone else."
"Celebrity." Severus murmered, an amused grin twisting his lips. He looked over at the teacher and smirked. "You should know that he does not consider himself any more a celebrity than you or I would consider Nevil Longbottom."
Sandra blinked, unsure of how to take that remark.
Severus summoned a chair to him and sat down. "You should also know that I will not allow anyone to hurt my son. He has been through so much already. He just woke up from a six month coma, for Merlin's sake!"
"Yes, I read about that in the Prophet. It said that he had recovered without so much as a bruise to remember the kidnapping by."
Severus laughed harshly. "That rag of a paper. You really should choose a more reliable source of information. While it is great for gossip and rumor, the Prophet has never been very big on truthful details."
Sandra shrugged uncomfortably. "To each their own, I suppose." She said quietly.
Severus gazed at her levelly. "Did you realize how much your conduct has hurt my son?" He asked getting them back to the topic of his visit.
"No...but I must admit that there was more to it than my desire to see all of my students treated equally."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Sandra shifted in her seat, rubbing her right arm vigurously as if to ward of a cold chill. She wanted to be honest with the man, but it could cost her the job she had coveted so completely. Her actions had been so juvenile and immature and as an adult and a teacher she knew that she had to face the consequences of her actions. She took a deep breath before admitting truthfully.
"I am jealous of your...son."
Severus felt himself at a loss for words for the second time that day. "Jealous?" He finally ground out in shock.
"Yes. He is just a boy and he has defeated the Dark Lord. He is an incredible young wizard with enough natural talent to trump most any wizard of this age." She hesitated before adding. "My own magic is barely measurable and in a few years it will not even be that. I have the Magic Sickness."
Severus' reaction was slow in coming. He had heard of the wizarding sickness, but it took his mind a few moments to come up with the desired information about it. When he finally realized what it meant, he felt himself pale.
"I am so sorry, Sandra." The man said softly. "I did not know."
Sandra smiled. "Of course you didn't, I never told you." The Potions instructor ran a hand through her brunette hair and sighed heavily. "I thought that if anyone found out I would be passed over for the position."
Severus was unsure of what to do with this new information about Sandra Higgnite. Her utter honesty left him a little off guard. He felt that she was not a threat to his son anymore. After all, her admission could lose her the postion as Potion Professor if he saw fit to report her. The dark haired man knew that he would not do that even as he considered the option. She had been up front and professional about it and he would do the same.
"I appreciate your forthrightness." He said. "Are you capable of changing your attitude towards Harry?"
She nodded. "It was never him I was upset with, it was his magical skills. I think that I can distinguish between the two in the future and I am really sorry for the way that I have treated him so far." She had the decency to blush and lower her gaze. "It won't happen again."
Severus thought about his son down in their quarters and the amount of emotional angst that he had suffered through that afternoon because of this woman's misplaced anger. "See that it does not." He warned darkly, his onxy eyes eyes drilling into her soul.
His mission accomplished, Snape stood and whirled about, his black robes billowing out to his sides.
"Ms. Higgnite." He muttered darkly over his shoulder.
Harry groaned and rolled over onto his side. He found himself, once again, waking up in the room that Severus had given to him. His room. A moment later his body began to protest to the abrupt movement and he groaned again in pain. His back ached fiercly and he had a vague impression that something bad had happened to him that morning. It took a few more minutes for his foggy mind to recall the scene from that morning.
He closed his eyes and slumped back on the bed. If Snape had not thought of him as a pathetic loser before, his conduct that morning would have surely proved to the man beyond a shadow of a doubt that Harry Potter was a sissy. He had cried, actually cried over a teacher's harsh tone. Remembering his complaints from ealier, Harry covered his eyes with his hands and groaned again. Great, just great, he thought miserably.
Deciding to face his fate, Harry got up off the bed and made his way into the living room area of the quarters he shared with his father. All hopes of moving up to the tower seemed dashed to a million pieces at the knowledge that a simple rude comment could send him back into a panic fit. With a heavy sigh he went to find Snape.
His father was not in the potions lab or his room. With a worried frown, Harry sat down on the couch. A plate of cookies, spelled to remain warm, sat on a low table nearby and he took one to munch while he waited.
Not long after that Snape came back. When he walked in through the door, Harry saw that the man had a thoughtful look on his face. He was so caught up in an inner debate that he did not at first notice Harry.
There was a silence during which Snape looked Harry over carefully to make sure that he was alright. The boy looked a hundred times better. His face was a healthy shade and he appeared to be calm.
"Your sleep was undisturbed, I take it?" Snape said, taking a seat beside his son.
Harry scooted over so that he could lean against his father's side. The older man laid his arm over the boy's shoulders and pulled him close. Harry relaxed.
"Yep. It was a good sleep - for once." He joked with a small smile.
Severus took a cookie for himself and took a bite before saying. "I went to speak to your teacher."
Harry winced. "Professor Higgnite?"
The boy felt sure that she would truly hate him now if she had not before. The woman had been a good teacher and he did not want to get her fired, but at the time he had needed to tell someone about the monster...woman...teacher. Harry shook his head. She had probably denied everything.
'"She admitted to being in the wrong and has given me her word that nothing of the sort will happen again."
Harry's mouth fell open. "She actually admitted to it?" He asked in disbelief.
The man nodded. "Yes, she did. After everything that has happened to you, I do not expect you to trust the woman, but I do trust her if that is any consolation."
Harry sat back. "It might be." He said softly.
"Now, what would you like to do about the tower situation? I am willing to let you move up there with the condition of Dreamless Sleep if you think that you can handle it."
Harry hated to say it, but he knew that it was true. "No, Dad. I don't think that I can do it just yet. Everthing...reminds me."
Snape patted his son's shoulder lightly. "I understand. You can take as much time as you need to, Harry."
Harry grinned. "Thanks, Dad." He wisphered.
It felt so good to be this protected, this cared for. With a contented sigh, Harry let his eyes close and his body fall into a deep sleep. He knew that nothing could hurt him in this place, he had a father to watch over him.
Severus looked down at his son's sleeping face and smiled softly. He truly did love this boy. He shook his head, it was a wonder to him, but he was not going to question it. A new beginning had been handed to him by Fate and he would not pass it by. Pulling the boy closer, Snape kissed his forehead softly.
"Goodnight, son." He said.
With a sigh of contentment he lay his head back against the couch and let his own eyes fall closed. Seconds later he had joined his son in sleep. Both at ease and comfortable in the prescense of the other. They were a family.