Disclaimer: Just in case you didn't get the memo, I don't own Harry Potter.
Chapter Four: A New Beginning
Over the next few days Harry's health slowly improved; he stopped feeling cold all the time, his muscles stopped aching whenever he moved, and his head felt clearer. Ron and Hermione came to see him every day. They brought sweets, get well cards, and piles of homework. Harry was so bored sitting all day long in the hospital wing that even the homework was welcome. Harry's other friends, including the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team, stopped by, as did Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall. Snape, however, remained notably absent.
For some reason this bothered Harry. It wasn't like he expected Snape to come rushing in every other minute to check up on him, he wouldn't have wanted him to; but the man had looked after him for over a week and now he hadn't come by to see Harry even once. One time, Harry had looked up and could have sworn he had seen Snape's face in the hospital wing window. But it was gone so quickly that Harry thought he must have imagined it. Harry had thought, foolishly, that something had changed between him and his professor, that Snape somehow cared about what happened to him. Obviously he had been wrong.
Severus quickly pulled his head back from the infirmary window. Had Potter seen him? He wasn't sure, but he hoped not. It was dark, and Severus had been quick... Severus ran a hand through his lanky hair. Potter was alright. That was why he had come here, and now that he'd seen that he should leave. Go back to the dungeons. Forget the boy.
Severus didn't move.
Damnit, he was worried about the boy, that was the root of the problem. He was supposed to hate Potter, he was James Potter's son! Every time he looked at the boy, all he saw was James. James Potter with Lily Evans's eyes. Well, that was all he used to see... Now, somehow, it wasn't just James he saw. It was Harry. The boy had nearly died in his arms, for Merlin's sake!
Damnit, he wasn't going to let himself get attached to anyone, let alone Potter's bratty kid. He knew where that kind of thing led. Besides, Potter didn't need him. Potter wouldn't want him. There was nothing more to be said.
"I don't see why you have to come to see me in the middle of the night, Severus"
"I am busy during the day, Poppy. In fact, I am busy right now and would like this to be as quick as possible."
Poppy glared at him.
"Potter is doing much better Severus, since you asked," she said peevishly.
"I did not ask, Poppy, nor did I wish to ask," said Severus stonily,
"Potter has been asking about you, Severus," Poppy said in a softer voice. "You should see him."
"I think not," said Severus, curtly. "Here are your potions, Poppy. Good night."
Three beds away, Harry Potter lay on his side under the covers, hot tears leaking out from under his tightly closed lids.
Harry was released from the hospital wing in time for dinner on Monday evening. The Gryffindor table burst into cheers when Harry entered the Great Hall, and Ron and Hermione quickly made space for him between them. Harry beamed at them. He had forgotten how wonderful it felt to be well. When Hermione started to flutter around him he batted her hand away.
"I'm fine, Hermione," he said. "Really." He held her hand to his forehead. "No fever, see?"
After dinner the three of them went up to Gryffindor Tower. Harry still had some homework to finish before he went back to classes the next day, but luckily Hermione took pity on him and agreed to help him finish it, so it didn't take him too long to get it done.
As Harry was packing up his school bag Oliver Wood, Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, approached him.
"It's good to see you back, Harry," said Wood, clapping Harry on the shoulder. "You'll be at practice tomorrow?"
"Of course," said Harry, grinning.
"Good man," said Wood.
The next day everything was back to normal. Harry was welcomed back by his classmates and teachers and by Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, who gave him a bone-crunching hug as Harry patted him awkwardly on the back.
"Hagrid, Hagrid, I'm fine, really! I've got to get to class!"
That evening at Quidditch practice Harry flew with all the pent up energy of the last three weeks. Flying was one of Harry's favorite parts of the wizarding world, and it felt beyond amazing to be back on a broom, back in the air.
After practice, Harry returned to Gryffindor Tower in high spirits. Everything was back to the way it was supposed to be. Unlike the last three confusing weeks, this made sense.
The following morning, when Harry glanced at his schedule, his stomach sank. Potions. Their first class of the day was Potions. That meant Snape. Harry had always hated Potions, mostly because he had always hated Snape and Snape had always hated him. But now he positively dreaded it. Stupidly, he had let his guard down in front of Snape; stupidly, he had let himself believe that Snape's feelings toward him had changed. And now things were going to go back to the way they were before. No, things were going to be worse. He would have to face Snape, knowing he had let the man hold and soothe him, knowing that it had meant nothing to him. Well, Harry would simply not let it mean anything to him either.
As the class filed in, Severus glanced surreptitiously over at Potter. He looked well; all traces of the boy's illness were gone. Potter glanced up and Severus quickly shifted his gaze. Potter was well and everything had returned to normal. It was better that way; predictably familiar.
Severus strode to the front and the classroom immediately fell silent. Ignoring the green-eyed boy in the back just as intently as Harry was ignoring him, Severus gave the class their instructions and then retired to his desk as the students went up to the front to get their ingredients. Once the beginning of a potion was simmering in every cauldron, Severus rose from his desk and proceeded to prowl around the room, making biting comments about the Gryffindors' potions. He sneered Weasley's potion and vanished the pathetic mess at the bottom of Longbottom's cauldron, but he strode by Potter's potion without even glancing at it, his glower daring anyone to comment on his lack of abuse for the boy. When class ended Potter and his friends were the first ones out of the room
The next few days were much the same. During most of the day Harry's life was back to normal, or as normal as it ever got for him, but every time he entered the Potions dungeon, he felt as though the air were charged with a strange kind of electricity. Sometimes Harry thought he felt Snape's eyes on him, but every time he looked up, his professor was as indifferent as ever. In fact, while Snape used to take every opportunity to insult him and take points from him, now he was simply acting as if Harry didn't exist. This bothered Harry even more than if things truly had gone back to the way they were. If he had been willing to admit it to himself, he would have said that he was hurt by the Potions Master's cold indifference.
Potions was Harry's last class on Friday. He was eagerly looking forward to the weekend, but first he had to sit through two hours of his least favorite class. Sitting down down at his usual table; Harry set up his cauldron and set to work, determined to get through the period as quickly as possible.
As usual when one wishes time to go quickly, the two hours crawled by. But finally the bell rang and Harry swung his bag over his shoulder, freedom in sight. However, as he was leaving the classroom, Malfoy bumped into him, knocking his bag out of his arms and spilling its contents all over the floor.
"Oops. Sorry, Potter," he smirked, sauntering out of the classroom, followed by a sniggering Crabbe and Goyle.
Cursing, Harry bent down and gathered up all of his things, shoving them back into the bag. By the time he stood up, he was appalled to see that he was the only student left in the room.
Severus turned around and came face-to-face with Potter. The green eyes, now free of fever or pain, looked more like Lily's than ever. Or were they free of pain? Something fluttered in the depths of Potter's carefully schooled expression, and something in the depths of Severus's heart twinged in response.
"What do you want, Potter?"
Mortifyingly, Harry felt tears prick his eyes. He blinked them back.
"Nothing, sir," he said stiffly. "I just dropped my bag."
Why did Potter's voice sound so tight? Severus wondered. It almost sounded as if the boy was trying not to cry. But that was absurd, what did he have to cry about?
Harry turned to leave, and then something inside him crumbled. Never before had he been as open and honest with an adult as he had with Snape last week, and now the man was treating that as if it was worthless. No, as if it had never even happened. Even if Snape ended up hating him even more, he couldn't take any more of this uncertain tension.
"I heard you," he said venomously, not turning around. "When you came to the hospital wing. I was awake."
Severus stared at him. He head heard—what?" What had Severus said then that could have upset him so much?
"I trusted you," spat Harry, wheeling around, livid. "I told you things... I cried in front of you. You saved my life!" He let out a strangled sob. "And you didn't even come to see me in the hospital wing. You won't even look at me! If that meant nothing to you. If you're—ashamed or—or disgusted with me, then fine! If you still hate me then come out and say it!"
Severus felt as though someone had punched him. Beneath the rage, the pain in Potter's voice was unmistakable. In trying to protect both of them, Severus had only managed to hurt this little boy, Lily's little boy, even more. Whatever he did always ended up turning out wrong. His life was nothing but a series of mistakes.
"Harry—" said Severus, taking a step toward him. "I don't still hate you—"
And then Harry was crying in earnest, and Severus was holding the child against him, hands rubbing soothing circles on Harry's back. Severus knelt and drew the boy closer to his chest, so that Harry's face was buried in his shoulder.
"Harry," whispered Severus. "I'm not ashamed of you, I'm not disgusted with you. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." Suddenly, making Harry understand this was the most important thing in the world.
"Then why did you abandon me?" Harry's voice muttered against Severus's shoulder.
"Abandon you?" said Severus, shocked. "Never. I was—there. I'm just not—Harry," he said, pulling the boy way from him slightly and conjuring up two chairs and a handkerchief. "Sit down. Wipe your eyes."
Harry did as he was told, eying his professor warily.
"I'm not good at this kind of thing," said Severus. "This kind of—" he ran a hand through his hair. "You look so damn much like your father."
Harry glared at his professor. "I can't help that!" he said. "He was my father! What do you have against him anyway?"
Severus gritted his teeth. A month ago he would have gladly told Potter just what his precious father had been like. But now...
"We—didn't get along," he said. "I was—friends with you mother though," he added softly. "You have her eyes."
Harry looked at him in amazement. "You were friends with my mother? Really?"
"Yes," said Severus.
"Will you tell me about her?" said Harry eagerly.
Severus rubbed his temples with his fingers. Talk about Lily... He hadn't done that in eleven years. He didn't know if he could.
Harry looked up at his professor with concern. "Are you alright, sir?" he asked, hesitantly touching Snape's arm. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No, Harry," said Severus heavily. "No, Harry, you didn't say anything wrong. Sometimes thinking about the past is—difficult."
Harry squeezed the Potions Master's arm gently. "Will you tell me about her? Please?"
No, said Severus's mind. I can't. Not to you. Not to anyone. But the boy was looking at him so beseechingly... Maybe Severus had the power to help this child. As no one had ever helped him.
"What do you want to know?" he said.
Harry scooted his chair closer to Severus and tentatively leaned his head against Severus's shoulder.
"Don't push it, Potter," said Severus, gently pushing Harry's head away.
"Sorry, Professor," said Harry, moving away again.
"Harry," said Severus exasperatedly. "You can sit next to me. Just don't lean on me."
Harry's mouth quirked into a small smile and he moved his chair back so it was almost touching his professor's.
Severus touched the boy's hair lightly. "Now, what do you want to know, Harry?"
"What was she like?" he asked.
Severus swallowed. "She was—beautiful. She liked to laugh, but she could be very stern too. Strong. She was bright, but not cocky, and never above helping someone who didn't understand."
Harry heard the pain in his professor's voice, and although he didn't understand it, he instinctively put his hand on Snape's back.
Severus paused briefly, surprised at the contact, then moved Harry's hand down to rest on his arm before continuing, keeping his own hand over the boy's.
"She never cared what other people thought, and she wasn't afraid to speak her mind."
She meant a lot to you, didn't she, Professor?" said Harry quietly.
Severus willed himself to keep calm. "Yes, Harry, she did."
Severus talked until his voice was hoarse. It hurt, it hurt more than he could have possibly imagined, and yet—it was somehow liberating, to be able to talk about this, to be able to talk about her. Share her with the son who had hardly known her. The twelve year old boy whose warmth felt strangely comforting against Severus's side.
Finally, Severus stopped talking and glanced up at the clock on the wall.
"It's late, Harry," he said, standing up. "You should go find your friends before they come back and break down my door to rescue you."
Harry laughed and the corners of Severus's mouth turned up ever-so-slightly.
"If you tell anyone that I can be—even remotely—sentimental—" Severus shuddered at the word—"Potter, I swear to you—"
"I won't Professor, I promise," said Harry earnestly, a glimmer of humor still in his eye. "Cross my heart and hope to—"
"Never mind that, Potter," said Severus sternly but with a hint of fondness. "We've already come far too close to that. Run along now."
"Yes sir," said Harry, turning to leave. "Er—thank you, sir."
Severus looked at the boy. He hadn't even come close to telling him everything. Harry was far to young and Severus wasn't ready. But maybe, someday, Harry would understand why Severus had done everything he had, why he was the way he was. Lily was dead, he could never change that, however much he wanted to. But Harry... He had been abused by his relatives, and Severus had been horrible to him, and yet here he was, talking to Severus candidly, giving him a second chance. And if the boy could give him a second chance, the least he could do was to give him the same. And maybe, just maybe if there was hope for Harry, there was hope for Severus too.
Severus nodded at Harry, who nodded back.
"You are very welcome, Harry."
AN: I know it was really short, but this was the idea I had and this is where it ended.
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