Of Trolls and Wizard Kids.
It was a custom.
An unwritten custom.
A very good custom in a place where all the adults were single and needed a time away from their usual activities. (And also maybe a little adult conversation.)
Time to relax and enjoy, either a cup of tea or coffee with biscuits or maybe butter-beer or even something stronger like firewhisky.
They could play chess, cards, checkers or even charades.
They can exchange comments about their classes, fellow students and maybe about the caretaker.
It was a relaxed and informal place that invited one to mingle.
After all they shared the plight: a castle full of young, reckless wizards in training. A place where anything could happen.
They had to try to stick together even under disagreements.
They played with house rivalry and bantered with it in harmless, playful ways.
Severus used to enjoy these gatherings.
Not that he graced them with his presence every night, but once or twice a week after he had finished grading essays and homework he liked to stroll up the halls and meet in the teacher lounge with his colleagues.
Severus favorite topic for the last few years was to mention to Minerva how well the Quidditch practice of his Slytherins had gone.
He couldn't care less for quidditch, but he loved the way the fanatic woman argued with him. Always to no end. But his team had won the house-cups.
And after all, to change the subject, it was always mentioned, all the points that he had subtracted from their houses. Always unjustly from their point of view. Of course, for them the little beasts were always angels!
And he then would proceed to explain the whys and hows of the decking of points, always enjoying his clever statements and explaining the stuttering mindless answers. It was like having the little dunderheads again in front of him…..
Those were good days.
And now he dreaded walking in there.
Since the beginning of the term the only thing that could be discussed was Harry Potter.
Harry Potter had arrived to Hogwarts to disrupt Snape's peaceful existence.
It was not enough that with his mere presence he brought to Severus mind all that he could have and all that was lost. It was not enough that every time he saw him he felt boiling indignation against the father he resembled and his friends.
It was not enough that he had promised to keep the child safe for Lily's sake.
Now he had to stand that all the staff was fawning over him and applauding his deeds.
Harry Potter had learned how to transfigure pins into toothpicks!
They may need to make him a statue.
He also could spell 'transfiguration' with out spelling mistakes. It was strange they would notice, after all his handwriting was almost indecipherable!
They would also mention that he know how to tie his shoes, all by himself!
He hoped that the "Lets praise Harry Potter" fashion would die soon. Or he would have to go and try to talk with the creatures of the lake, at least he could be sure that they had not meet the famous boy-who-lived!
His only consolation was to berate the child in potions class. The boy was so lost! He did not posses the slightest talent in the subject. Now he had to repeat the events only for himself. The rest of the staff were 'bewitched' by the boy and his deeds! He had bonus occasions in which he could berate the boy in the corridors, these were rare events, but he really reveled in them.
Severus decided to visit the teachers lounge this night, he had heard about a certain event that took place in flying class and needed to see what his colleagues had to say about it. He had assigned Mr. Malfoy 200 lines for his participation in such event. He wanted to know if the Golden Boy had received his share of punishment…
As it was the second week of the term, flying lessons had started. Severus used to enjoy the descriptions that Madam Hooch made of the classes and the respective students and their first experiences with a broom. She and Minerva always talked about how promising they could be for quidditch later…
He entered the lounge just when Madam Hooch started explaining how Longbottom's broom, with a mind of it's own had taken him up and he had not, even to save his own life, held tight to the broomstick. The silly boy was in the infirmary, nursing a broken wrist. Then came the interesting thing!
Madam Hooch had not been present as she was helping Longbottom, but Minerva had seen it all from her window….
This was the moment when they would realize that the child needed continued supervision and discipline…..
"…..and then Harry pulled the broom down at all it's speed, as if he had born knowing how to fly…. Because you must remember this was his first lesson… and he caught the small rememberall and stop before crashing against the castle wall!"
"He surely inherited the ability from his father…"
"Do you remember James when he played…?"
"How could I forget… seeing Harry fly brought it all back to my mind…!"
"He is a natural…!"
"And Wood worked with him this afternoon. He says that we couldn't get a better seeker."
"WHAT!" Interjected Severus, "are you planning to allow a first year in the quidditch team?"
"Well Severus, that rule is because usually first years need to learn how to fly, but Harry ….. he is a natural!"
"Please tell me that you did something other than praise him Minerva. The little dunderhead could have broken his head against the wall or on the ground…"
"Well… yes, but his intentions were good."
"That is a good phrase for a gravestone…"
"You are not fun."
"I do not see the funny part. You are letting that …. kid…. know that rules do not apply to him and that he can do whatever pleases him as long as his intentions are good. And he not only had not the least consequence… you are letting him bend the rest of the rules and allowing him to be on the House team!"
"My dear Severus, you shouldn't drink so much coffee, I am sure that a warm cup of tea would let you see that… well Harry is just a good boy."
Severus felt a small alarm. One of his little serpents had left the common room, it was too late to be un-premeditated… any way he was exasperated with this reunion… he stood up gave them one of his famous freezing glares and left the room.
Ten minutes later he served himself his favorite brand of tea, and smelled the delicate scent. Mr. Malfoy was back in his bed, believing that his Head of House had supernatural powers and convinced that he would never leave the warmth of his bed after curfew again, it meant that he returned to it with an already warmed backside.
He would never understand the childish code-of-honor that forbid that they could speak freely about the deeds and accomplices…. Well, at least Malfoy had learned not to keep secrets form his Head of House and soon the rest of his room mates would know not to leave their beds.
Severus felt injured in his pride and did not come to the night meetings until the next week. How was he supposed to ensure the safety of the green-eyed kid if he was going to be soaring the sky in those dangerous games! He at least should be able to trust the common sense of his colleagues!
He entered and saw that the heads of house were there along with Madam Hooch and the Arithmancy and Runes teachers. Every one was seated comfortably, some in front of the fire playing chess. Flitwick, Minerva and Madam Hooch were looking at a magazine.
With out any effort in his part, Snape guessed it was a Quidditch magazine and he was not surprised to be right about it.
"Tea Severus? You should taste these delicious cinnamon biscuits, they are amazing."
"Thank you, Pomona. And what are you looking at now, new uniforms for the teams?"
"No, I am showing Hooch the broom I choose for Harry. Headmaster Dumbledore approved my request of allowing him to have a broom, he needs something better that the school brooms!"
"Another rule that doesn't apply to our precious Mr. Potter."
"He is going to receive it tomorrow, Severus. Albus said that we should let you know, but I would appreciate it if you keep the secret about his participation in the game."
"I would take your secret to my tomb."
After drinking his tea, Severus walked the castle corridors. How could he protect the child if he was going to be playing that dangerous game? Couldn't any one else see the problem? He had learned that the Flying Lions would start practicing on Saturday and since that day he procured to be near the pitch three times a week…..
Severus assigned the longest essays to his students during that time, it helped to increase the nervousness in his classes and it gave him enough to review during the following nights. Even though he found his feet walking toward the teacher's lounge a week before Halloween. He needed a little of adult company.
There were only the Heads of houses, Madam Hooch and Prof. Vector.
Snape was received as if he had been there the last night. It was a custom. You do not carry grudges against your colleagues.
He accepted coffee and finger sandwiches, he had not really dinned. He should stop giving that long homework….
Soon the conversation veered to his least favorite subject…. Harry Bloody Potter…. O my!
Minerva sat beside him and taking one of his sandwiches said.
"I am glad you are here I wanted to show you something…."
Severus sighted, they should call this meetings 'Potter fans meetings', maybe he should content himself playing solitaire….
Minerva gave him a file.
"And what is this?"
"It's Harry's medical file. I asked Poppy to run a complete check up on him. I always do that with the kids that are on the quidditch team…."
So what? He asked for a medical checkup for every kid in his house.
"And this shows that, that particular 11th year old is fit to play a very dangerous game…..This is not going to convince me of that Minerva…"
"Please read the file Severus."
Snape opened the file and found himself with a neatly written parchment. He was familiar with Madam Pomfrey's test results and understood the medical terms and conclusions…. He felt angry. Angry in general, Potter had a tendency for mischief and all these groveling fools only encouraged him.
The file was long. And….. well this was certainly unexpected… the boy was underweight and also a little anemic….
His left wrist had a mended bone…. Didn't those muggles know how to set bones right?
Why had Poppy run this last test. Skin memory….. that test tell her if there had been damage to the skin….. the damage had been extensive…. What was the real story behind this child?
"Are you sure that this are Mr. Potter's results?"
"Madam Pomfrey is not prone to mistakes. Her first results showed that his ribs had recently mended. And no… he has not had any Quidditch accident.
"We know that the muggles are a little bit outdated in the simple art of mending bones…"
"She said that they were not treated. They were mended with Harry's magic."
"May it be that the boy doesn't feel pain or that he kept quiet in fear of punishment."
"Poppy tested his pain resistance, he is between the normal parameters."
"And what is this she said about the results of his skin?"
"She said that there was evidence of welts recently cured on his back, buttocks and legs. The skin tissue is new. A little more than month ago."
"As if he was beaten just before coming to Hogwarts…" Filius entered the conversation.
"Have you talked with the boy's caretakers?"
"I tried. They never responded to my owls, I went to Albus and he told me that those Muggles do not want to have any contact with us. They accepted to send Harry here and will house him again during the Summer, but they asked not to be bothered with anything pertaining the child."
"So you are not going to let this be, are you?"
"Poppy has given Harry the treatment he needed, she set the bones right and will prepare a supplement for him to take with his food, he is not anemic any more but has to increase his weight…."
"So the boy will be fit for playing. Is that cup so important for you?"
"No it's not. What I am saying is that he is fit and painless now, still a little underweight, but that would be solved soon. Poppy will keep on checking him. You know her, she won't allow him to play if he had any problem."
"Minerva, we have proof of mistreatment."
"Yes we do."
"And you plan to send this boy back to his family at the end of the term? Does Albus know about this?"
"I have not showed him the results but Poppy send him a copy. He knows."
"What did Dumbledore said?"
"The ministry had been asking for Harry. They want him for public appearances and interviews. The Headmaster has been able to contain them saying that his family wants to keep him out of the news. It would not do to accuse them of mistreatment. It will only increase the dislike to Muggles."
"The ministry would turn him into a puppet." Said Hooch.
"What is better? The Muggles are here and now, they are going to hurt him more than You-know-who."
"Harry needs someone to really care for him. Who care enough to give him guidelines and rules, and make him follow them." Said Pomona.
"We are supposed to be doing that." Interjected Flitwick.
"Are we? It seems to me that we are allowing him to run wild…" Severus knew he had potions he would like to feed those muggles….
Sprout said. "He doesn't run wild… he is interacting well with his class mates."
"He is not a bully."
"He may have inherited that from his father. Maybe he'll start once he gains a little more weight and gets himself more friends." Snape knew that he was getting annoying.
"He is a kid that likes to please…"
"How are his school results?" Snape had to get them back on track.
"Not bad. He participates in class and delivers his homework in time." Said his proud Head of House. Minerva would defend any of her little lions!
"Barely in time." Said Flitwick. Well at least someone else had a little of a mind of his own. May be as little as his size. Snape smiled at his wit.
"We know that some muggle schools do not teach them to be organized." Sprout continued, of course you do not needed to be organized if you place seeds in the earth.
"We are just looking for excuses!"
"He needs to reach his potential are we are the only ones enabled to make him." Flitwick continued. He had always big ideas.
"And we do not pamper him Severus, as much as you may think we do…" Minerva couldn't accept that she was mistaken.
"And what does Albus wants us to do?" Surely the old fool had a plan.
"You know how he is, he shows you the problem and trusts that you will know what you need to do and do it right."
"What are we going to do about his family?" Sprout could ask them to visit her 'carnivorous plants'.
"He must not return to them." Flitwick could levitate…. Or enchant their furniture to bite them!
"There are wards around their property. The wards are sustained with his mothers blood, he shares it with his aunt and cousin. In order for him to be safe he needs to dwell where that blood is." It looked like Minerva had come prepared….
"So we have 9 months to find a way to keep him between those wards, but safe from mistreatment… I can do that." Flitwick was good with wards.
"I can help… there are some very interesting runes that help with the protection of children." Professor Vector had been too quiet, Severus had thought that she had fallen asleep.
"Poppy said that Harry would need to talk about his life, abused kids believe that what happened was their fault, they tend to protect the abuser to protect themselves from more abuse. He did not want to talk to Poppy and he flinched if…."
"Should he be confronted with our findings, that may make him talk….." Flitwick was very rational, sometimes.
"Poppy said that… she called some of her friends and they told him that it will do Harry good to talk about it, but first he needs some one to trust with his secrets. He will talk when the confidence had been established…. He needs an adult to go to."
"He has Minerva." Said Pomona. How lucky! Thought Snape.
"I am already his head of house, but…. I have to treat them the same as the rest… I can not single him… And Poppy suggested that it would be better if he get close to a male adult." Well that leaves only Flitwick and …. Oh! No!
"I think, Minerva, that Professor Dumbledore would like to do that, he likes the role of dotting grandfather already."
"You know Severus that he can't do that he is out of the school more than half of the time."
"Well, we may try to get a more qualified minister… that maybe easier than the investigation of the blood wards…."
Well, Severus thought, they were waiting for him to volunteer… could he do it? He had no doubt that he could give the boy rules and discipline, would he be able to get his confidence, would he be able to make him talk about the abuse…..? They did not need to get attached do they…?
"I guess that only leaves me… After all the boy already hates me. And he knows that I would have none of his nonsense…"
"You won't believe what a little care would make of the boy."
"We are talking about a child Pomona, not a plant…."
"They are the same Severus."
"Are you going to allow me to place wards around his bed and his dormitory? He will have a bedtime and that would be the only way to enforce it."
"Isn't that a little harsh Severus?"
"Your Ravenclaws are sensible enough to know that they need to sleep. Hufflepufs are also very obedient. My Slytherins are caught before they leave the common room. And Gryffindors are the ones that are more often caught outside after curfew. And it has come to my attention that this particular Gryffindor was almost caught outside his dorm the same night that he did his reckless stunt with the broom. He was going to be in a Duel."
"Was he?" Minerva did not looked surprised.
"And not alone. Filch was distracted by Peeves and couldn't catch them but more than two kids were gallivanting in the trophy room, he had footprints to show."
"He should sweep that room more often."
"I will start to believe that you talk with the castle, like Albus."
"No I do not Filius, I happened to catch the other party, I told Filch where to look."
"And who was him?"
"Not for this conversation Minerva, but he had his consequences. As Mr. Potter and his cohorts should have had if caught by Filch."
"I am not sure about the wards Severus. I believe in giving my house autonomy about the time they go to bed. Of course I do not condone their walking around the castle at night…."
"It would help me a lot if you let me place the wards…"
"You may…. I guess it wouldn't harm them I will add some wards to the first year dorm, those are the ones that need more watching….."
"You may also want to keep an eye on the Weasley twins…"
"If they were in my house I would stick them to their beds…"
"I will ask the portrait to change the password after curfew."
"At what time do your little snakes have to be in bed?"
"9.30 first and second years, 10.30 the rest."
"Well it's getting late for my bed time, it's settled then. Severus is going to be in charge of Harry."
"We will keep you informed about his behavior and results in class."
"When are you going to inform him?"
"As soon as possible."
"May you wait until after Halloween? it's just one week away and you know that we allow them to go a little crazy."
"All right Saturday after Halloween then. But If this is going to work I need your support Minerva, I will want him ready for bed at 9 and asleep at 9.30 and at 10 on Fridays and Saturdays."
"I will support your decisions Severus."
"Have I any say about his playing?"
"I already promised him. The game would be a good way to help him with his self-confidence and…."
"Mistreated children have problems with their confidence."
"Well, if you want me to waste my time watching that silly game…. But I reserve the right to ground him…."
"You can do it only if we are not going to play against Slytherin."
Snape went back to his rooms.
He had a photograph of Lily Evans over his night table and he had acquired the sick custom to speak to her…. out loud, hoping that with the echo of his voice in the walls he could faintly hear her answer.
"They think I would be able to help your child, my dear. I know I promised to look after him and I will. If he just did not look so much like your bloody husband…."
"I was wrong… I thought he was a pampered prince…. Ironically he is as pampered as this Prince….was, I should have remembered that your sister was... not a very nice person."
"I wish things could have been different. I am not going to invite him to come into my room, but I will place you anyway in a place where he couldn't see you….if he were to enter."
"Wish us luck."
I am reposting this chapter, there mere just some minor changes. I hope you like it.
Thanks a lot to Elena, Ginny and Celeste.