This is the sequel to Common Ground, my Halloween fic. Please read . . .and review that one before you read this one, because nothing will make sense until you do! Begins right where Common Ground ended. Thanks!
Restoring the Library
Potions that day was even more interesting than usual. They were working on a Sleeping Draught, and Harry had always like the combination of crushed lavender and sweetroot , it made him feel peaceful and the bit of sheep's wool added to the mixture, which soaked up any large particles, reminded him of a stuffed lamb he'd had when he was a baby. It had been in his bassinet as a fifteen month old, when he'd been dropped off at the Durselys, and he had kept it until he was five and it had fallen prey to one of Dudley's tantrums and been ripped to shreds. That had been one of the few times Harry had actually done something to Dudley with magic, he had made the fat little troublemaker get a terrible itchy rash all over his bottom. The best part was that he had done it at a distance, and so couldn't be blamed for anything. Petunia had thought Dudley contracted an infection from a public toilet. Of course, it didn't replace the shredded toy, but it had made Harry feel a little better.
He was working today with Hermione, and they were moving along nicely with their recipe. It was just at the stage when it needed to bubble gently and be given three clockwise stirs and four counterclockwise. Harry kept an eye upon the cauldron, and also on one Draco Malfoy, who was known to enjoy sabotaging other people's potions projects. But today, Snape seemed to be keeping an extra sharp eye on this class, and so Malfoy wasn't able to do anything to Harry's solution. Not to mention the fact that Malfoy was on the other side of the room.
"Almost done," he told Hermione excitedly. The potion was emitting a gentle soothing aroma and was the color of twilight, a soft rosy purple.
Thus far, Snape had not come to inspect their cauldron, instead busying himself with scowling at a few other students. Since the troll incident on Halloween, Harry had noticed that Snape was much more lenient on him in class. He sometimes used Harry's potion as a sample to other years, and also gave points, though what points Harry had accrued often ended up being eclipsed by Longbottom's abysmal potions skills and the deduction of points for exploding or totally botched potions. Harry had also noticed that Severus was careful to separate Harry and whoever partnered him, usually it was Ron or Hermione, and occasionally Dean, from Malfoy and the more boisterous Slytherins, which made it ten times as hard for Malfoy to pull pranks on him in class.
Harry was very grateful for that, because nothing irritated him more than a potion ruined on purpose. In that, he was very like Lily, if he only had known. He gave the mixture one final stir then asked Hermione to douse the fire under the cauldron, which she did with a simple "Extingue!"
"Looks perfect to me," she whispered, smiling.
Harry smiled too. "I wouldn't go that far. Perfect's for Masters. But it's good for us."
They strained and decanted the potion into their vials, then labeled them. Just then Severus arrived at their workstation and examined the rest of their potion before bottling a sample. "The color is a bit too bright, but otherwise this is an exceptional draft. Ten points to Gryffindor." He said quietly, with a nod of approval.
Harry smiled then. "Thank you, sir."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "For what? You earned the grade yourself, Potter." He then waved his wand at the cauldron and vanished the excess potion. "Everyone, solutions on my desk in five minutes. Those of you who are late will suffer a five point deduction."
He then swept up to his desk, where he could watch the students as they came and handed in their potions.
Harry walked alongside Ron and asked, "Well? How did you do?"
Ron shrugged. "Not too bad. He didn't tear strips off my arse this time at least." He showed Harry his potion, which was a light lavender color, not the correct shade but at least it was in the vicinity of the right shade.
They reached the desk and Ron placed his potion on it and so did Harry. Hermione was about to put hers down when Malfoy came up and shoved her arm.
She lost her grip on the vial and it smashed onto the floor.
"No! Oh no!" she wailed, horrified.
Malfoy smirked. "Oops! How clumsy, Granger."
Hermione looked as if she were going to burst into tears.
"You did that on purpose, Malfoy!" Ron growled.
"Prove it, Weasel face. I can't help it if she's got butterfingers." Malfoy laughed.
"But you can help tripping over your own robes, Mr. Malfoy," Snape said, his tone icy with displeasure. "Five points from Slytherin for behaving like a gawky giraffe."
Draco's eyes widened. "But . . .sir . . .you can't just take points for that . . .!"
Severus' eyes narrowed. "Mr. Malfoy, are you questioning me on my discipline policy?"
"Sir, why would you want to take points from your own House—"
"Believe me, I wish nothing less, however you make it impossible for me not to deduct points, Malfoy, given your current attitude." Snape glowered, gritting his teeth. Lately, Lucius' son was giving him a real migraine. Draco was starting to remind him unpleasantly of James Potter and the Marauders, with his arrogance and belief that because he was a Slytherin pureblood, Snape would allow him to get away with anything.
Draco opened his mouth again.
"I warn you, complain again, Malfoy and you shall be scrubbing cauldrons for me after midnight in detention."
Draco's teeth clicked together and he turned and walked out the door.
Hermione looked up from where she was crouched on the floor, trying to mop up the spilled potion. "Sir, what about my potion?"
"What about it, Miss Granger?" Snape asked calmly. "I have it upon my desk there."
"You what? Oh!" Hermione sniffled, understanding dawning in her brown eyes. How clever the Potions Master was! She thought. And how perfectly sneaky!
Snape came around the desk and pressed something into her hand. "Granger, get to your next class. I shall mop this up." He waved his wand and muttered a Cleaning Charm as he spoke.
"Yes, Professor Snape," Hermione said, then hurried out the door. In the corridor she paused and opened her hand. Within it was a green and silver handkerchief. She quickly blotted her eyes with it.
Ron emerged from the classroom a moment later. "I'll be damned. Snape actually did something . . . good for a Gryffindor. Did somebody slip him a Memory Altering Draught?"
Harry chuckled. "No. He just doesn't care for people messing with his decent potions students. Even if they aren't in Slytherin. That just really ticks him off."
"Since when?" asked Ron suspiciously. "He always used to favor his own House before."
"Things change, Ron," was all Harry answered. "Come on, we'll be late for Charms."
Later on that day, over lunch, Hermione brought up the fact that the library, which had been utterly trashed by the troll and its battle with Professor Snape and Harry, was still closed until further notice. "It's driving me crazy," she moaned. "Now I have nowhere I can go to study, except my room. And half the time there's always someone there and they aren't studying, they're gossiping about the latest fashion in Witch Weekly or trying out hairstyles and makeup."
"Maybe you should take a break from studying then," Ron offered. "I mean, don't most girls like discussing stuff like that?"
Hermione frowned. "Yes . . .if they have extra money to spend on new robes or makeup, and if they happen to look good no matter what they wear and their hair isn't a frizzy mop. I don't have time to bother with any of that, Ron. All I want is to be at the top of my class."
"You do expect a lot of yourself," the redhead said. "Why don't you study in the common room then?"
"Too noisy," Harry answered, for he had been having the same problem. The library had been his haven, a chance to slip offand read in peace for a few hours. Not that he didn't enjoy his Housemates, but sometimes he felt stifled and just needed a place to be alone. Now, with the library damaged, his sanctuary was gone.
There's always the professor's quarters, he reminded himself. Snape had given him an open invitation to visit his quarters and Harry had been down there quite a few times. He knew that Severus wouldn't mind if he went there to study, so long as he kept quiet. Still, he missed the library. He also felt sort of guilty, since he was the reason the troll had entered it in the first place.
"Uh . . .maybe you could go study by the lake?" Ron offered. Since he wasn't much for reading, the library's loss wasn't such a blow to him.
"And catch pneumonia while I'm at it?" Hermione snorted. "Brilliant, Ron! Now why didn't I think of that?"
"I'm only trying to help."
Hermione huffed. "I wonder why it's taking so long to restore the library? If you can repair things with magic . . .?"
Harry had been wondering that too. And he knew just who to ask about that question.
Severus looked up from the batch of sixth year homework he'd been grading when the knock came at his office door. His eyes lit upon the magical scroll hanging above the doorway, which identified each visitor by reading their magical aura, something unique to every wizard and witch, like fingerprints. The scroll wrote in a graceful script—Harry Potter.
"Enter, Mr. Potter," the Potions Master called.
The door opened and Harry stepped inside. He was slightly out of breath from having hurried down the stairs. "Professor Snape, I . . .er . . .need to ask you a question."
"Indeed? And what would that be?"
Harry was about to inquire about the library, but his curiosity about another matter got the better of him. "Sir, how did you know it was me at the door?"
Severus' eyes gleamed. He knew many students wondered at his uncanny ability to discern visitors, they thought he read minds. "I have my ways, Potter. Was that the only reason you chose to disturb me?"
"Oh no, sir!" Harry said brightly, taking a seat upon the green leather chair in the corner. "I mean . . . sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you . . .but I have to know . . .when will the library be open again? It's taking forever to fix it up and I was just wondering 'cause you know I like studying there and I . . .miss it."
Severus set down his viridian quill and looked at the small boy before him. Harry's green eyes were downcast and he looked like a boy who has suddenly found out that his favorite hideaway in the park was about to be demolished by some mega real estate company. He found he could totally sympathize with how Harry felt. The library held too many memories for him to ever be resigned to its loss.
"It may be another few months before the library is fit to have students enter it again. Madam Pince had hysterics and had to be dosed with a Draught of Peace by me when she first saw the chaos her library had been reduced to. Not that I blame the woman. The loss of the books alone is irreparable. She applied for a Ministry money grant to restore the library, but getting money out of that bureaucracy is like pulling teeth from a crocodile. They are notoriously slow in gathering and distributing funds, even for such a cause and to such a venerable institution. It's terribly frustrating. She is slowly replacing those that could not be repaired, Dumbledore offered to foot the bill, but she insists as the Head Librarian she must personally buy those texts that were destroyed. Unfortunately, her salary is not quite up to it and she refuses anyone's attempt to assist her financially."
"Oh. That's too bad, sir. Because I could help . . .I have Galleons to spare, you know . . ."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "I am sure your parents left you well off, considering your father was the sole heir to the Potter estates and fortune. However, that money was supposed to be used to pay for your education and upkeep."
"Yes, sir. I suppose so. But if I donate some money to the library, that would be paying for my education."
"Humph! You are nearly too smart for your own good, Harry," Severus said. "Even so, I doubt Pince would accept it. She's very proud, you know."
"Would she maybe accept help on restoring the library?" Harry asked then. "I mean, fixing all the things the damn troll broke, like the wall and the desks and the bookshelves?"
"Language, Potter," scolded the professor. "I have no doubt she needs the help, whether she would accept it is another story."
"Could I ask her, sir?"
"Do you want to get your head ripped off, boy? She is crankier than a badger roused from a midwinter's nap."
Harry swallowed hard. That did not sound good. Then again, why would the librarian be anything other than vastly annoyed at the destruction of her beloved library and the precious books in it? Harry figured she had probably spent nights crying into her pillow once the dead troll had been removed. He knew he would have. "I . . .I'd really like to help restore the library, professor. Especially because . . .it's kind of my fault it got wrecked in the first place."
"If I hadn't been hiding in there, the troll wouldn't have come in there."
"Harry, that's ridiculous. There was no predicting what the troll would do once inside the castle. It might have entered the library anyhow, whether or not you were inside." Severus pointed out. He sighed, knowing that the boy's guilt complex would nag him until something was done. "All right, Potter. We shall go to Madam Pince and see if she will allow us to assist her."
"Us?" Harry's eyes widened. "You mean, you're going to help too?"
"Obviously. Since part of the damage done in there was due to my battling the troll. And two wands are better than one."
"When can we go and see her?"
Severus checked his watch. It was almost eight. "Now. I still have a few hours before curfew." He rose from his desk, capped his inkwell and put his quill away. "Come, Potter. She'll probably have finished her glass of sherry by now, she almost always has one before retiring. Her quarters are next to the library, across the hall." He informed his eager student, anticipating Harry's next question.
Harry had to practically run to keep up with the tall wizard's strides, but he didn't complain.
Snape glanced at him and then slowed, allowing him to catch up before saying, "Did they not feed you at home, Potter? You're rather small for your age." Rather like I was, as a matter of fact. But that should not be. Petunia lives in an affluent neighborhood and her husband is well off, at least according to Dumbledore and Minerva. They should have no trouble feeding four.
Harry blushed. He didn't know how to answer that question. If he told the truth, would Snape believe him? Would anyone? "I don't really eat much," he said, trying to sound nonchalant about it.
Severus frowned at him. "Why? Most boys your age devour food in two seconds. Do you have problems with your stomach? Does it hurt after you eat? Do you feel ill?" Perhaps the child had developed an ulcer? It was rare, but such had been known to happen.
"No. I just. . .can't eat a lot at one time." Harry explained.
"Do you have allergies to certain foods? Like dairy? Or meat? Nuts?" Snape probed, sensing the boy was hiding something.
Harry shook his head. "No, sir." He bit his lip.
"Perhaps you ought to see Madame Pomfrey for a physical," Severus mused. "When was the last time you had one?"
"I . . .I don't remember." Harry stammered. Why was Snape so concerned about his eating habits? No one else had ever thought it was a big deal when he ate or even if he ate.
"I'll see when I can make an appointment for you then."
Harry blanched. "Oh, but sir, I'm fine! Really I am. I'm not sick."
Severus frowned at the boy. "Perhaps not, but better safe than sorry. I shall speak to her tomorrow."
"Professor, I really feel fine. I don't need to see the nurse . . ." Harry protested.
"Come now, Harry. Madame Pomfrey's exam will take all of five minutes and won't hurt. I would be remiss in my duties as your unofficial guardian if I didn't make sure you were healthy." He gave the boy's shoulder a squeeze. "If she gives you any vaccinations, I'll hold your hand, all right?" he teased.
Harry blushed. "I'm not a baby! I'm not afraid of shots . . .well . . .not really."
"Poppy knows how to give injections so they barely sting." Snape told him simply.
Their conversation trailed off because they had reached the library. Severus turned and knocked on the door to Pince's quarters.
The door opened, and the tall Head Librarian came out. Her dark hair was piled high in a severe bun, which made her narrow face look even more forbidding. She was in a blue and white striped night robe, a pair of pince nez glasses on a chain about her neck. She was about fifty, with bright blue eyes that squinted disapprovingly at her unexpected guests, making her look rather like a beady-eyed vulture. In her dress and manner she resembled the stereotypical boarding school matron, strict and unsmiling, fond of rules and regarding children as an unwanted disturbance. "Professor Snape? To what do I owe this visit?" she asked, somewhat coldly. "I was just about to retire."
Severus seemed unaffected by her brusque manner. "My apologies, Irma. I will be brief. Mr. Potter here—"
Pince fastened her beady-eyed gaze upon Harry and glared at him. "Potter? Why, you're the brat who lured that bloody troll into my library! And now you have the cheek to come here and . . .and . . .well, what are you here for, boy?"
Harry looked up at the librarian and for a moment felt almost afraid of the witch, who reminded him a bit of Aunt Petunia in a temper. But then he glanced at Severus, who gave him a quick nod, and he knew no harm would ever come to him so long as the Potions Master was there. "Um . . .I'm sorry, Madam Pince, that the troll wrecked the library. I . . .really liked it there. I like to read and I hate that all the books got destroyed. It's awful."
"Yes, it is! Some of those books were centuries old! Some were the original volumes and can never be replaced! All my life I worked to keep the library shipshape and the books in mint condition and now . . .thanks to you, Potter, it's all ruined! Ruined!" her wand waved wildly, and sparks shot from it.
Harry shrank back from her, for her hands had crooked into claws and she was looking at him as if she wanted to turn him inside out.
Severus scowled. "Control yourself, for heaven's sake! Irma, it's unfair of you to blame the boy for a twist of fate. He was not at fault for the troll encountering him in the library. If you wish to blame someone, then blame whoever let the blasted troll into the castle. Or do you blame me as well, because I was there to fight it?"
Pince huffed. "Severus, you might have tried to . . .get it OUT of the library before you killed it. I shall never get the stench out of the carpet. And my poor books . . .all the classics . . .all the rare volumes . . . the poetry . . .the histories . . .all of them were shredded." She put a hand to her heart. "I feel as if I have lost my children . . .You cannot possibly understand . . ."
She seemed on the verge of tears.
Harry felt terrible. "But I do understand, Madam Pince. Books are my best friends too. I've always loved to read and I'm sorry I couldn't get out of the library but the troll had trapped me in the back corner, so . . . .I'd like to help restore the library. I could help you fix the bookshelves or the desks or catalogue the books."
"I also wish to help, Irma. You ought to know by now what a bibliophile I am," Severus interjected. "You had a fine collection of volumes, and if you'd allow me, I would like to help replace a few of them. The Prince family had an extensive collection of magical texts, I could donate some of them to you, if you'd like."
Pince stared at them as if they had lost their marbles. "Do you . . .really mean that?"
Severus nodded. "The library is special to both of us and we miss being able to visit and read in peace and quiet in the evenings. Plus, the school cannot function properly without a library."
The witch seemed shocked. "Yes . . .I know that. I have tried as best I could to replace what I can—"
"Irma, you cannot expect to do this on your own. You are only one witch and the library was the work of several centuries of witches and wizards. Let us assist you, if for nothing else, than to make restitution for what the troll damaged. What do you say?"
"I . . .suppose it would be all right. So long as you promise, Potter, to make sure your hands are clean and that you never touch a book without washing your hands. I simply cannot stand grubby children touching my books!" she declared fussily.
"Okay, ma'am." Harry said, then he flipped his hands up and said, "See? My hands are clean."
The librarian inspected them and gave a grudging nod. "Very well. Tomorrow evening you may return here and we shall see what can be salvaged. But any funny business, Potter, and I shall toss you out on your ear and take fifty points. Am I clear?"
"Yes, ma'am." Harry said respectfully.
"I shall make sure he behaves, Irma," Snape reassured her.
"I will hold you to that, Professor," she sniffed. "Good night. I shall see you tomorrow evening, around six." She nodded to them each in turn, then withdrew into her quarters, shutting the door behind her.
Harry heaved a sigh of relief. "Phew! For a minute there, I thought she was gonna hex me."
"So did I. Which was why I was prepared to disarm her. But I am pleased I didn't have to."
"Me too. Sev?" Harry whispered boldly. He only dared use Snape's nickname occasionally when they were alone. "Do you think I could . . .maybe make an anonymous donation to the library? She'd have to take that, wouldn't she?"
"I would say so. If you are determined to do this—" Harry nodded firmly. "—then I shall take you to Gringotts for a withdrawal this weekend. You may slip it on her desk when she's not looking." He smirked. "For now, I would suggest you return to your common room and get started on your homework."
"Quit your grousing, Potter. It's Monday, I know you have at least three assignments due, now off with you!" He turned the boy about and gave him a gentle swat.
"All right, all right. I'm going." Harry muttered, concealing a smile. Then he stopped and looked back at his professor. "Thanks, sir. I feel a lot better now."
"Stop procrastinating, Mr. Potter."
"I'm not. It's just . . could I study in your quarters, sir? It's nice and quiet in there."
Severus hid a groan. He had been looking forward to a nap and maybe curling up in front of his fire with a potions journal. But Harry had his mother's eyes and he never could resist them. "All right, brat. So long as you promise to do nothing other than study and finish homework. I won't be entertaining hyper brats at eight o'clock at night. And mind you return to your dormitory before curfew."
"Agreed, sir." Harry said. "Thanks! Let me get my books, I'll be right back!" He started to run for the staircase at the end of the hall.
"Potter!" Severus snapped.
Harry skidded to a halt. "Yes, sir?"
"No running in the halls. Did your aunt teach you no manners?"
Harry flushed. "Uh . . .not really. Sorry." He started to walk swiftly towards the stairs. But once he was safely out of Snape's sight, he ran to the Gryffindor portrait hole.
"Noble heart!" he gasped.
"In a hurry, dearie?" asked the Fat Lady.
"Just a bit." Harry said, then he ducked inside.
Most of his Housemates were busy talking about the upcoming Quidditch match or trying to study or playing Wizard Chess. Ron was involved in a cutthroat game against his brother Percy, concentrating hard. Harry was relieved, since he knew Ron would be too busy to ask where he was going at this time of night.
He glanced about for Hermione, finally finding her scrunched in a chair in the far corner of the common room, wearing a set of extra thick earmuffs on her head. He chuckled. "Clever, Hermione! I wish I'd thought of that." His friend had her nose buried in The Standard Book of Spells Level One.
Harry quickly went upstairs and fetched his school bag and then slipped out the portrait hole without anyone noticing. He had learned long ago how to move swiftly and silently and his small size enabled him to slip about the edges of things without too much effort.
Once outside the tower, Harry scurried down to the dungeons, hoping that Severus might have made some tea and maybe had crumpets with strawberry jam as well. Last time he had come to Snape's quarters to study, the professor had some treat on hand.
He was almost to the professor's quarters, his mouth watering slightly at the hope of crumpets or biscuits sprinkled with sugar, when suddenly three figures stepped out of the doorway of the boys lavatory.
"What are you doing down here, Potter?" Malfoy demanded, sneering. "Get lost on your way back to your tower?"
His ever present pals, Crabbe and Goyle, sniggered at this.
"No." Harry said, lifting his chin and looking Malfoy in the eye. He knew better than to show fear in front of bullies, despite his pounding heart. "I've come to see Professor Snape. I need to ask him an important question."
"Ooo, an important question," drawled Malfoy. "Like what? Whether you're going to fail for the year? I can answer that one. You're a retarded Gryffindor—of course you're going to fail!"
"Shut up, Malfoy! You don't know anything."
Malfoy's fists clenched. "Don't know anything, Potter? Right! At least I know enough to not go wandering about uninvited. Go back to your tower, Potty!"
"Not until I see the professor." Harry said, clutching his wand. He knew Malfoy was spoiling for a fight. "Now move out of my way."
Draco laughed mockingly. "Make me, Potter. Or are you too chicken?"
A/N: This story was begun in part to the overwhelming response I recieved for Common Ground and the inspiration from a family member. I hope you will all enjoy this tale and review this chapter. Thank you!
What do you think will happen between Harry and Draco?
And how did you like Madam Pince? She's an under-used character and I hope you liked how I portrayed her. I didn't really like the image of her in canon, it seemed sort of stereotypical and so I decided to make her a bit more of a sympathetic character.