Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: If Snape hadn't transferred his grudges onto a student, and Harry hadn't hated his professor as a result, they wouldn't have been friends or allies, but perhaps there would have been a grudging respect between them. alternate universe, covers all seven years at Hogwarts
That first year, they speak no more than the average Hogwarts professor and student. Professor Snape teaches Harry how to brew fame, bottle glory, and even stopper death, and Harry appreciatively learns fascinating things he never knew were possible.
He is a celebrity in every classroom, but Potions. He spends an entire year trying to prove to himself, to Professor Snape, and to this world who thinks he is somehow bigger than the cause his parents gave their life for. He wants to prove that he is not a dunderhead; he is intelligent and worthy of the celebrity-status he's been given.
Snape doesn't say anything when Harry receives one of the highest Potions grades of the first years on the end of the year exams, but he does nod at him the next time he passes him outside of the Great Hall.
Even though Hermione (who's never quite liked the professor after he embarrassed her that first lesson) whispers in Harry's ear, "Even Professor Snape respects what you did with the stone," Harry knows his strict professor well enough to know that he was probably a bit disgusted by the way Harry rushed into danger, nearly died, and was rewarded for it. Professor Snape has done his duty as a professor by trying to protect him this year, but that doesn't mean he is impressed by foolishness. He is impressed by a perfectly brewed sleeping drought. Though Harry is unlikely to eliminate the former from his life, he is good at creating the latter.
Professor Snape doesn't treat students like they are friends or intelligent, because to him they are neither. Harry respects that, and he respects that Professor Snape dislikes most of his students equally - except those that are particularly skilled or dedicated; those he tolerates, appreciating the respect they have for his subject.
When Harry leaves Hogwarts that year, it occurs to him with a start that Professor Snape no longer dislikes him.
When Hermione suggests stealing the ingredients to make Polyjuice Potion from Professor Snape, Harry looks at her like she is mad. It's not that he doesn't want to go through with the plan, because even though it's crazy and risky and a tad bit stupid, he is twelve-years-old and can't help but want to save the day.
When Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he doesn't want to steal from Professor Snape, that he respects him far too much for that, Ron sputters and rants about how nasty and mean Snape is. Harry opens his mouth to explain, but finds he can't, so he simply offers to buy the ingredients via owl order.
Harry feels like a fool later on, lying in his bed, when he realizes how much they risked -- their lives if the potion had been botched, their school careers if they had caught, and even their freedom, because he was fairly certain what they had done was a tad illegal -- all for a wild and crazy plan that didn't work in the end. The only good thing is that they hadn't injured someone in some stupid distraction while they snuck into the professor's private stores.
Harry has felt ashamed since the beginning of the year when Professor Snape caught Ron and he sneaking into the castle and looked at them like foolish children who had risked their lives and an entire world without thinking. Harry feels like, even though Professor Snape doesn't know about it, the dent in Harry's own bank vault now is a bit like penance.
When Harry finds out that Professor Lupin is resigning because Professor Snape let his secret slip, the very first thought that pops into his head is (he hates to admit it) good. The next second, he is horrified with himself, because he likes Professor Lupin, really he does. He's a good teacher and a connection to Harry's parents, and he's a good man. Harry knows all this.
He also knows that - for a few minutes - he, Ron, and Hermione were almost attacked by a werewolf.
Maybe it was petty and needlessly cruel of Professor Snape to let the secret slip like some hush-hush gossip about who was snogging in the Astronomy Tower… but, Snape is a professor, and he has students who had nearly died, all because a fellow teacher had been too irresponsible to take his potion - a potion Professor Snape had made for him.
Harry can understand why Professor Snape was enraged enough to let it slip. Hell, Harry's not sure if he would've been comfortable in a classroom with Professor Lupin next year after having nearly been mauled by the man.
Before the train ride back, Harry thinks about how much he'll miss Lupin - and it's true, really, he'll miss him. He thinks about how Professor Snape headed into a decrepit, old, haunted shack to save his students from an infamous murderer. (Though they know better now, Professor Snape didn't know at the time, so Harry figures that it still counts.) Though Harry had been so hyped on adrenaline and hate, he had stunned the man, he wouldn't forget that, really, the professor had been doing a good thing then.
Harry never talks to Professor Snape, never acknowledges that he understands the risk the man had taken that night, but that summer, he works extra hard on his Potions homework, writing extra neatly and researching like mad. He likes to think the professor will appreciate it.
Late at night in the infirmary with his eyes closed, Harry can see the Dark Mark etched on his eyelids. It's burned into his brain, just like it's burned into Professor Snape's arm.
It's not that Harry's never understood the professor was a complicated man before. Ever since first year when he had saved him from his cursed broomstick, Harry had appreciated that the man cared for his students. When Hermione had suggested that Professor Snape had been the one who cursed him, Harry had laughed - laughed - because it was a ridiculous assumption. In second year, Harry had been buried in shame when he had seen the anger on the professor's face when they had arrived by flying car; later, when he thought about it, he realized that maybe Professor Snape had been concerned for them too, not just the secrecy statutes. And last year, well, last year, Harry realized that the professor was petty and held childhood grudges, and he had almost cost Harry his godfather, and maybe, just maybe, the professor was a better man than most.
Harry realizes now that Professor Snape is more than just a good man, he's a man who has faulted far more grievously than holding childish grudges. He could've easily been in that graveyard that night. (Harry panics for a moment and thinks 'what if he was?' but then he takes a deep breath. He wasn't, and it doesn't matter.) Professor Snape chose a side; this time, he chose the right one.
Harry doesn't think there is anything much more courageous than recognizing your mistake like that and not just saying sorry, but doing something to really fix it.
When Harry realizes Sirius is being held in the Department of Mysteries, he agrees with Hermione that the vision may not be real. He's been studying Occlumency all year, after all; he knows thoughts aren't always your own. So he runs to Professor Snape's office to ask him to contact Sirius, but the professor isn't there, so Harry goes to his classroom, but the man isn't there either. He's probably just stalking through the castle or going to the loo, but it doesn't matter, Harry's panicked now (what if the vision's true?) and he needs to movemovemove right this very moment.
So he tries to contact Sirius, and when that fails, when he's finally in a room with Professor Snape, he looks into the eyes of one of the only professors he's ever respected - outside of the normal scholarly way - and screams his thoughts and babbles some code he's not sure the man will understand.
But when the professor doesn't respond (right that very second), Harry is running so high on crazy panic, that before he knows it, he's riding on the back of a thestral. He thinks with relief, as he and his friends head to the Department of Mysteries, that at least Professor Snape will have backup after them soon. Maybe, just maybe it'll all be okay.
And later, when it's not all okay, not even a little bit, he can't help but laugh sardonically. Professor Snape is still one of the most passionate professors Harry has, but even he's not good enough to teach someone to block out visions sent by the most powerful dark lord in the wizarding world. Professor Snape had to have known that from the beginning.
He had tried though.
As Dumbledore falls, Harry's thoughts explode in this whirlwind haze of grief and anger, and yet… Professor Snape isn't a killer; he's a spy. And Dumbledore wasn't one to plead for his life.
And in that instant, that split instant before the green had enveloped Dumbledore, Harry had seen in Snape's eyes the realization that he couldn't always stopper death.
Harry chases after Snape (he's finally lost the title of professor, at least in this moment). He screams and shouts spells, but aims them just a half inch or so off from where they should be. Harry puts on a show, as he, Snape, and the Death Eaters yell back and forth at each other, but he's not really sure who it's for.
All he knows is that he's the third in his class, in Potions and in everything else, simply because he'd wanted so badly to impress his brilliant professor. He knows that if he wants to, right now, he really can brew fame (not that he needs it), bottle glory, and stopper (some) deaths. He knows this man stopped him from dying his first year and thought he was stopping him from dying during his third. He knows that Snape chose the right side, in the end. He knows that even just seconds ago, this man stopped the (other? No, not other) Death Eaters from killing him. He knows that -
"Fight back, you cowardly-"
- whatever happened tonight, whatever will happen, Professor Snape, is, like Harry, still Dumbledore's man.
In that final moment in the Shrieking Shack, while Professor Snape looks into Harry's eyes, Harry looks back into his. Professor Snape is dying - there is no question in Harry's mind. He's taught his students to brew their fame, bottle their glory, and stopper death, but even he can't stop this.
Harry doesn't know him well enough to say something comforting in those last seconds. He has no idea who this man hopes will be waiting for him on the other side - if he even believes there is another one. All he knows is that Professor Snape is Dumbledore's man, and he has taught Harry something more than academics; he has taught him about real atonement and true, living sacrifice.
The man has given Harry a nod of respect once or twice in the past seven years. In his last seconds of life, Harry finally nods back and whispers a thankful acknowledgement of what Severus Snape has done for the cause.
When Harry realizes later what he has to do, he pictures his friends, his parents, Sirius, and the Potions Master, whom in the end, he respects and begins to understand.
Some will say that respect made very little difference in the long run. Others will say it made all the difference in the world.
Author's Note: A few hours ago, I was thinking to myself that I wish there was fanfiction in which Harry and Snape were not father and son, allies, friends, or lovers, but something more distant and teacher/student like. After that thought popped in my head, I realized I had never seen a fanfiction like that, so I decided to write one. This is what I came up with in the last few hours. I hope you liked it. I'd really love to hear what you think, so please review.