Author's Note: This last year has not been a very good one for me, health-wise. As such, updating this story took a backseat to a lot of other things, and it didn't help that the muses were more happy to play in other fandoms. But NaNoWriMo is approaching and I am going to focus on this series this year, so I really wanted to finish Of Past Times before November 1st. Therefore, you now have three brand new chapters to enjoy, although they are unbeta'd (please, do point out big mistakes!). I will be writing A Time of Choice, the next story in the series that will show Harry's third year, during November and if all goes well it will be finished at the end of the month and I will be able to regularly update it while I work on the next story. Thank you all for your patience during this last year.
Chapter ten: Everything Must End
Severus carefully added the shredded hellebore to the softly simmering potion, stirring it vigorously. Immediately, it began to bubble viciously, and Severus quickly added the ground moonstone to neutralize the mixture. He stared at the green glop that resulted with distaste and vanished it with a violent swish of his wand. Yet another attempt that ended in disaster. Still, he was determined to find a way to improve the Wolfsbane Potion, perhaps even one day find a cure for lycanthropy.
Severus crossed out his latest possibility for improving the recipe on his list and went to get the ingredients for his next attempt. He only had tonight left to work on the potion, as he didn't want to work on it during the summer. Harry had never been able to stay out of the lab when he was working, even if Harry was just doing his homework. Severus liked that Harry wanted to spend time with him, but at the same time it meant he couldn't work on this. He didn't want to get Harry's hopes up.
He felt bad enough for getting Lupin's hopes up, but that couldn't be helped. He had needed to see the transformation under Wolfsbane in order to see what did and didn't work with the original recipe. Last week had been the first full moon after Severus had decided to work on improving the Wolfsbane Potion and Lupin had been more than willing to help Severus when he'd suggested it. Severus hadn't been too keen on it, but it had to be done, terrifying as it was.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Severus?" Lupin asked, yet again.
Severus just shot Lupin a look. He'd personally brewed the Wolfsbane Potion Lupin had taken and he had every confidence in his brewing skills. Lupin would be harmless. Severus could observe and scan him to collect the data he needed without needing to fear him. Yet the tendrils of remembered fear crept up Severus' spine and only years of practice kept him from turning around and running away.
Lupin undressed, keeping only his boxers on, although Severus suspected that was more to protect his sensibilities than Lupin's. Lupin left his wand on top of the neatly folded pile of clothes and stepped inside the cage. Wolfsbane or not, neither Severus nor Lupin wanted to take any chance of the werewolf hurting any of the children, or Severus for that matter. When Severus had suggested Lupin for the Defense position, the cage had been a demand he'd made. He honestly hadn't thought Albus and Lupin would agree, but they had. Perhaps they'd both been too stunned by Severus' suggestion, he wasn't exactly known for thinking charitable about Lupin.
Severus spelled the cage shut. It was something Poppy would normally do, but with Severus here that wasn't necessary. Granted, Poppy probably wouldn't put the three extra locking spells on the cage, but Severus was taking no chances. He conveniently ignored the fact that even with the extra spells, he felt more afraid than the last time he'd faced the Dark Lord.
The light from the full moon came in through the window as it rose and hit Lupin. Severus could see the bones shifting underneath Lupin's skin. Hair started to sprout on every bit of his skin and his hands were turning into clawed paws. But the most sickening thing were the animalistic snarling noises Lupin made. Severus suppressed the terror he felt and raised his wand to cast several diagnostic charms.
When the transformation was over and Lupin was fully in wolf form, he curled up and seemingly went to sleep. Severus wasn't sure if Lupin was truly asleep or merely pretended to be in order to reassure him. He was not stupid enough to think the wolf couldn't smell his fear. Technically, he was done for now and could leave. The monitoring charms had recorded the transformation and he didn't need to recast them until Lupin transformed back in the morning. Yet he found that underneath the fear, which was lessening now that Lupin made no move towards him, there was also concern. With a sigh, Severus pulled up a chair and settled in to keep watch over his friend. Though if Lupin were stupid enough to make a comment about it, he'd deny it, but he'd come to treasure their friendship.
Yes, that had been a fairly good night. Not only had he acquired the data he needed for his experimentations, he'd also conquered his own fear. Unfortunately the rest of the week had not gone as smoothly. Severus scowled at the memory as he vigorously stirred the Wolfsbane into the potions base. It turned a bright blue and began to bubble furiously. A few sprigs of parsley calmed the potion and Severus set it to simmer. At the same time, the anger that had been simmering for most of the week came to the fore as he recalled Fudge's high-handed demands.
Severus knocked on the door to Albus' office and was called inside. The fact that the Headmaster hadn't called him in before he was able to knock set Severus on edge. This was exacerbated when Cornelius Fudge was the first person he saw once he entered the room.
"Ah, Professor Snape, lovely to see you," the portly man said.
Severus wanted to give him a sneer, but knew it would not be in his best interest to alienate the Minister of Magic if it wasn't necessary.
"Headmaster, Minister," he greeted.
A subtle slight, but a very satisfying one. Especially since Fudge was politically savvy enough to notice such a slight. From the twinkling amusement in Albus' eyes, he too had caught the slight and was enjoying it greatly.
"Might I enquire as to the reason for your visit?" Snape asked.
"Ah, yes, well, I am actually here to talk to Harry," Fudge said.
Severus was immediately on his guard. What could the Minister possibly want from Harry? He could think of a lot of things, none of them good.
"Since the dear boy has now entered the political arena, I thought it wise to have a little talk with him," Fudge said. "But I was informed by the Headmaster that I would need your permission for that, seeing as that you are now Harry's guardian."
Fudge's tone was light, but Severus saw the subtle signs of derision when he talked about Severus being Harry's guardian. Not for the first time, he was very glad the judges in the guardianship cases were old powerful Lords who didn't need to listen to anyone, nor were they poor enough to give in to bribery. He knew the Minister would have overturned his guardianship of Harry the moment he heard of it had he been able to do so.
"Political arena?" Snape said. "What a ridiculous notion, Minister. Harry's twelve, a second year. All he's concerned with is his schoolwork and having fun. Although I'll admit he has a somewhat unhealthy interest in Quidditch."
"Oh, but he is exercising political moves, Professor," Fudge said. "Perhaps you've been too busy to notice? He's endorsing laws, you know."
Ah, so that little incident that Harry and his friends had instigated with the Board of Governors had finally made its way back to Fudge. Severus had wondered if there would be questions after the law had been passed a month ago.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Minister," Severus said. "But I can ensure you, Harry has not been endorsing any laws. When would he have done that, according to you?"
"I'll have you know he convinced several opponents of Lucius Malfoy's Early Intervention Law to vote in favor of it. Surely, you must see this as a political maneuver!"
Severus cast a quick look at Albus, who was mercifully keeping out of this discussion. With the topic being a law Albus had long fought against, Severus was unsure if he could expect help from him.
"What I heard from that incident was that Harry merely asked a question. He's friends with Lucius' son and as such hears things about Lucius' work. He was merely curious and then gave his own opinion. Hardly a political maneuver," Severus said.
He hoped the Minister wouldn't push it, but of course he did. Whenever had Fudge taken the rational route when it came to politics?
"He's the Boy Who Lived, Professor Snape, and if you cannot see what power he has because of that, perhaps you are not a suitable guardian for him," Fudge said imperiously. "Now, I demand you call him up here so I can talk to him."
The implied threat was not lost on Severus. But since Fudge had no influence whatsoever on the guardianship process, no matter what he thought, he was not impressed. Besides, the news from St. Mungo's was that Black's treatment was yielding improvement. As soon as Black was declared healthy, he'd take back guardianship over Harry. Either way, Fudge's hands were tied.
"No," Severus said. "Harry is in class and that is where I should be as well. You will not be talking with him, now or in the future, Minister."
Without waiting to be dismissed, he inclined his head to Albus and left. Behind him, Fudge's angry spluttering could be heard and brought a smile to his face.
Severus scowled as much at the memory of the Minister's demands as at the potion bubbling far too much in his cauldron. The parsley had not calmed it down for very long and putting any more in it would react negatively with the nettles in the base. He vanished the potion and violently scratched out this option on his list.
Just as he was about to start on the next possibility, the alarm he'd set went off. Severus cursed, the afternoon had gone by far too quickly and he'd not gotten nearly as much done as he'd wanted. He hesitated briefly, debating if he should just skip dinner, but he knew it would not do for him, as a Head of House, to miss the Leaving Feast. With a sigh, he cast a preserving spell on the ingredients he had lying around and left for the Great Hall. He'd get back to experimenting after dinner for a few more hours.
Severus was the last teachers to enter the Great Hall, except for Dumbledore, and as he took his seat next to Minerva, she cast him a questioning look. He merely gave her a smile to let her know there was nothing wrong, before turning his gaze towards the children. Most were talking loudly and seemed excited for the holidays to begin.
However, several children were not nearly as happy as the others. Severus sought out those students he knew had a difficult home life and while they were putting on a cheerful front, for the most part, none of them were very happy the school year was over. But the most striking were the three students sitting all the way at the end of the Slytherin table. Theodore was silent and a bit down. Draco was as he had been for the past weeks, silent and withdrawn. Severus knew very well what awaited him at home, now that he had lost the House Cup on top of the Quidditch Cup.
Harry was perhaps the most silent of all. His ostracism from Slytherin House hadn't been bothering him much, Severus knew, for the continued support of his friends had kept him from being isolated. Yet Severus dearly wanted Harry to be accepted back into his House and had even talked about it with Albus. Unfortunately, neither Albus nor he had been able to think of something that would cause his House to accept Harry back.
But Harry's silence was caused by Draco's plight and his own feelings of guilt about it. Severus had seen the hard work he'd done to gather enough points to surpass Hufflepuff, right up until the last moment. Severus had been tempted to award random points to his own House to up his chances of succeeding, but per Harry's request had not done so. Apparently, Harry wanted to keep playing fair, even taking it to the extreme and not doing any extra jobs for Severus. Sometimes, Severus wondered how the child could have been Sorted into Slytherin with such displays of Gryffindor traits. But he'd abided by the child's wishes, which ended in disaster, as far as Harry and Draco were concerned.
After seven years of consecutive winnings, this year Slytherin had lost the House Cup to Hufflepuf with a difference of a mere ten points. The Hall was decorated in yellow and black and behind the Head Table a large banner with Hufflepuff's badger hung. Harry's face was a picture of misery and Severus wanted nothing more than to take all of the child's worries away. That he couldn't irked him to no end.
Just then, Albus entered the Hall and the chattering died away.
"Ah, time flies," Albus said. "Can you believe another year is over already? But, before we can begin to feast, there is a House Cup to award. I've understood the score is as follows: fourth place is for Ravenclaw with 328 points; third place is for Gryffindor with 394 points; second place is for Slytherin with 430 points and in the lead is Hufflepuff with 440 points."
The Hufflepuff table cheered loudly and Pomona had large grin on her face. Severus gritted his teeth and stamped down on the urge to yell. They had no idea what the consequences were of Slytherin not winning the Cup this year and Severus shouldn't begrudge them their happiness. He still did, of course, but he shouldn't.
"Not going to be a sore loser, are you?" Minerva whispered teasingly.
Severus merely ignored her, focusing on Albus who was still standing.
"Yes, yes, very good Hufflepuff," Albus said. "But there's been a slight oversight that needs to be rectified."
The Hall fell silent and the Hufflepuffs were looking at each other with confusion. At the Head Table, Severus, along with every other teacher, was looking at Albus trying to determine what he meant.
"Yes, I'm afraid there is one person who should have gotten some points but hasn't yet," Dumbledore said. "To Mister Harry Potter, for fair play under extremely difficult circumstances, I award twenty points."
The Slytherin table exploded in cheers. Dumbledore merely clapped his hands and all decorations changed to the silver and green of Slytherin, the badger being replaced with a snake. Pomona's smile had fallen off her face and she merely nodded to Severus, who was too dumbfounded to do anything but nod back. Over at the Slytherin table, Harry was being overwhelmed by his house mates, the points to win having earned back their respect. Draco and Theo were grinning like crazy, although Severus detected a large amount of relief in Draco's grin.
Harry had a smile on his face, but turned questioning eyes on Severus, who shook his head in answer to his silent question. No, he'd had nothing to do with Albus awarding those points. Severus knew there would be repercussions to this, of course. The other Houses were not happy at all that Slytherin had once again won the House Cup, and in such a way. Nor was Severus assured about the fact that Albus had no ulterior motives to this. He hated himself a little that he doubted Albus' motives this much, but he knew better than anyone how far Albus would go to protect the Wizarding World as a whole. And like it or not, Harry Potter played a big part in that.
Either way, it didn't matter, because at this time, Draco was infinitely safer from his mother's wrath and Harry was once again accepted by his house mates and happy. The rest, Severus could and would deal with.
The first day of the summer holidays found Severus and Harry busy working in the basement of Spinner's End. Severus liked to get all of the brewing for the Hospital Wing out of the way in the first few days, so he could experiment and brew for pleasure the rest of the summer. There were plenty of potions Harry had the skills to make on Poppy's list, and since Harry had graciously offered to help Severus, both had been busy with brewing since breakfast.
Watching Harry look at him, wiggle a bit in nervousness, then concentrate back on his work, Severus sighed. It was obvious Harry had something on his mind and it pained him that the child still thought he couldn't freely talk to him. Just as Severus was wondering if he should give Harry a little push to get him talking, Harry evidently gathered up his courage and started the conversation himself.
"Severus, do you remember me telling you about S.I.M.?" he asked.
Severus nodded, already feeling a headache coming on. What in Merlin's name had those children done now? He was dreading the answer, since Fudge was already clamoring for access to Harry. Even though the despicable little wizard had backed off for now, Severus knew he'd be back. He did not need Harry and his friends poking the dragon.
"Well, we've been working on something," Harry said. "Wait, I'll just get it."
Harry left, leaving his half prepared ingredients on his workbench. Severus sighed, put out the fire beneath his cauldron, cast some preserving charms and made his way upstairs. He had a feeling this discussion was going to need tea. Preferable with some firewiskey in his. He heard Harry thundering down the stairs.
"I'm in the kitchen," he called out.
Harry came into the kitchen, clutching a book in his hand just as the teakettle started whistling a tune. Severus poured the tea and sat down. Harry slid the book over to him.
"We made that," he said.
Severus looked at the book with interest. A Muggleborn Guide to the Wizarding World by A.N. Onymous, he read. He opened it and looked at the chapter list. It was pretty inclusive, with topics like Howarts and Schooling, Shopping in the Wizarding World, Magical Beasts, Magical Laws Made Easy and Common Wizarding Customs. He picked a page at random and read a bit. Apparently he'd picked the chapter about shopping, as the page contained a small paragraph about Hogsmeade, visiting rights for Hogwarts students and a drawn map with all shops and restaurants marked. The text was engaging, clearly written for children but not condescending.
"Impressive," Severus said. "But A.N. Onymous?"
Harry grinned sheepishly.
"Well, we wanted to be anonymous, but Hermione thought a name sounded better. So when Theo said it like that for jokes, it kind of stuck," Harry said. "We wanted to ask if you could get it on the booklist for first year students who are Muggleborn or Muggle-raised as obligated reading material."
"I could suggest it to the Board of Governors," Severus said. "But I fail to see why I should do so."
"We wrote all the information in there that Hermione and I would have wanted to know when we entered the Wizarding World. Theo and Draco helped with what they thought Muggleborns needed to know," Harry said. "It's just, it's real important, you know, to be able to feel like you fit in. Neither Hermione nor I felt like that, we just felt lost. This would help."
"Yes, but there's the Early Intervention Law now," Severus said. "That would solve those problems, so why the need for a book?"
Severus knew he would suggest the book for the booklist, for it was a good book and an even better idea, but he wanted to know how serious Harry and his friends were about this. How much more they were planning, and most importantly, what their motivations were. Harry heaved a sigh, but it was more a gesture of annoyance than of defeat. Severus was hard pressed to keep the smile of his face.
"The Early Intervention Law won't help all Muggleborns, only those children that exhibit their first accidental magic after it went into effect. Not to mention that it will be some time before the magical sponsors know exactly what balance to strike between letting the parents raise their kids and providing enough information," Harry said. "And even then, the book might still be a good idea, just in case."
The arguments were solid, logical, and if Severus wasn't mistaken, previously prepared. He gave Harry a smile, but wanted to push just a little bit further.
"Even if the Board of Governors agree to put it on the list, we would be hard pressed to get the book out in time for this year's Muggleborns. Not to mention we would need someone to back the publishing of this book financially," Severus said.
It were all valid concerns, but given the fact that this plan was hatched by three of his Slytherins and Miss Granger, he figured the children had thought about this. If they hadn't, he would be sorely disappointed in them.
"There's already a proof of the book at the printer," Harry said. "There's about five Muggleborns a year, but for the first printing we were counting on about 200 books, because some older Muggleborns might want it also. He can do that in about a week."
"Sounds good, but where would the money come from?" Severus asked.
He impressed with the preparation they'd already done, but knew the money would be the biggest obstacle to this plan. For the first time since Harry had shown him the book, the child seemed nervous.
"We thought, once the book was out and if it was a success, we might find financial backers. There's not that many books we need each year, so the costs wouldn't be so high," Harry said. "As for the first batch, I hoped that you'd, maybe, give permission for the money to be taken from my vault."
Severus sat back and thought about it. Harry's arguments were solid and the expense of the book would be recuperated from the sales. It was guaranteed that sales would be made if the book was put on the book list as obligatory reading for Muggleborns. It was an investment and as such Severus didn't see much harm in it.
"I'm assuming you want to keep your involvement quiet?" Severus asked.
"Yes," Harry said. "None of us want it public that we wrote the book."
"Then I'll contact a Wizarding Attorney to make the contract with the printer and make sure that nothing can be traced back to you, since money is usually the easiest to follow if people get nosey," Severus said.
"Yes, thank you!" Harry said and jumped up to hug him.
"Fine brat," Severus said, hugging him back. "Go back to your brewing while I set this in motion. The next Board meeting is Friday and this needs to be watertight by then."
Harry went back to the basement with a big grin. Severus summoned parchment and a self-inking quill and started on a letter to the best British Wizarding Attorney he knew about. He gave a rueful smile as he worked. He knew he should've kept an attorney on retainer!
The rest of the week went well. The Wizarding Attorney Severus had written was quick and efficient and all was set for the Board meeting on Friday. Severus had verified with Harry that Lucius had been appraised by Draco of their plan. While there had been no word from either Draco or Lucius about it, Severus was sure Lucius would be in favor of the book. So that left eleven other Board members to convince. Difficult, but doable. In fact, Severus was looking forward to it.
The brewing that had to be done was out of the way much quicker than ever with Harry's help and on Wednesday he got the news that one of the articles he'd managed to write during the school year had been accepted for publishing in Potions Quarterly. But his good mood was utterly destroyed by the note St. Mungo's sent him on Thursday, telling him Sirius Black was transferred from long-time care into short-term care. They expected to be able to release him in a matter of weeks and were just doing extensive testing now.
Severus crumbled up the note and threw it into the fireplace, where he cast an incendio at it. As he watched the notice burn, he suppressed the misery the note had brought him. He might have to give up his guardianship to Harry in a few short weeks, but until then, Harry was his. He wouldn't tell Harry about this. Instead of having the child look forward to getting Black back as his guardian, Severus was going to spend every minute he could with Harry, enjoying his company while he still could. He could wallow in misery after Black had taken the child he considered his son away from him. For now, he was going to make this a summer to remember.