Instead of unpacking the new books he'd bought in New Orleans, Harry spent most of that evening busy writing in his journal. There was just so much going on right now, happing in his head and in the real world that he was starting to have problems making sense of it all, not to mention not losing himself in the whirl of change going on around him.
Snape being in the centre of all that.
Snape always seemed to be in the midst of every problem, lately. Mostly it was in a good way, but there were times when Harry couldn't help but think that it had been easier before. Easier when Snape wasn't in charge of him, responsible for him. That's not to say it had been good or even better, just easier.
The problems with his inheritance would be easy to sort out. Snape was too much of a practical man not to have contingency plans for when everything came crashing down – which Harry sort of suspected it would, someday. Maybe. Nothing had ever been easy or good for him, not in the long run. Something always happened to send his world spinning upside down.
He was nervous about going to the Great Hall for dinner, nervous for what classes tomorrow would bring, nervous for what his future as Snape's ward– son? a needy, wishful part of him usually buried deep inside whispered – would mean.
Harry was a bundle of nerves and agitated excitement.
After a while, he started writing several letters. One for Charlie, to thank for the Christmas present, then he wrote to the friends he'd made in America. It hadn't been all that long since he'd last seen Lukas and Steve, but Harry frankly didn't care. When he was writing, nothing else mattered; and that was all that mattered. He was lost to the world, completely and utterly focused on describing a small misfortune the woman next to him on the plane had been involved in, consisting mostly of peanuts, a glass of water and a pair of headphones, when Snape knocked on the open doorframe to his room.
"I thought I asked you to unpack the last of your treasures from New Orleans."
Harry started a little, then rolled his eyes. "Too much stuff going on in my head," he muttered, even as he put away his half written letter in one of the neat little drawers in his desk. His journal went into another similar compartment kept secure by a locking charm. "Sorry, I'll do it later."
"Hmmm. Well, dinner is about to start. The train just pulled up in Hogsmeade."
Harry nervously began bouncing his knee. "I don't want to go," he blurted.
"Understandable," Snape said. He didn't leave his post in the doorway. "You realise you can't hide forever."
Harry nodded, smoothing his hands up and down his thighs. "Yeah. I mean, yeah, I get that, but…Ron, he's let my— who I am get to him before. What if…" Harry swallowed. "I can't forget that the first thing he ever said to me was if he could see my scar. He didn't care 'bout anything else, he just wanted to see if I was really Harry Potter. Every time we fall out, I keep hearing him ask, over and over." He looked at Snape. "You know?"
Snape nodded. "I do. But you can't lock yourself in here. And beating yourself down won't do you any good."
"I know," Harry whispered. "I'm working on it. It's why I write so much," he mumbled. "Helps me sort my head out."
Snape suddenly cleared his throat. Looking a little uncomfortable, he said, "I spoke with my colleagues regarding your desire to change names." The stilted way Snape set up the sentence spoke more of the man's insecurity than the stony expression on his face ever could have hoped to, or the forbidding tone of his voice, for that matter. "They agreed to openly enrol you anew. You will officially be a new student, once again recognised by all facets of this school."
Harry managed a smile even though he felt almost sick with nervousness and giddy anticipation.
It wasn't that he'd lied at Gringotts a couple of hours earlier about the way he felt about his name. It was just, if he went around by the name of Snape on every official document and file, then maybe, if people suddenly remembered Harry Potter, he'd be protected and hidden under a new identity, another name, and that, maybe, people wouldn't make the connection between the two identities.
That, and, well. If he went by Snape, then everyone would know who he belonged to. Where he belonged.
"How's this going to effect, y'know, the Dark Lord and all that?"
Snape merely shrugged. "Quite frankly I have no idea. Perhaps he'll think that I, too, have forgotten about you? Perhaps no one will make the connection. Perhaps my days as a spy are over." Snape looked sort of troubled. "Perhaps he won't notice."
Harry frowned, but before he could ask what Snape meant, the man had turned around. "Come along, Harry," he called over his shoulder. "Time to face the music."
With a sigh, Harry stood up. He was almost out of his room when Snape issued his next order: "And put a robe on, boy. Blend in."
Harry blinked, then looked down at himself. Worn, comfy jeans, scuffed trainers and a David Bowie T-shirt that had probably belonged to Snape at one point. So, yeah, he looked a bit like a misplaced Muggle rather than a wizard. So he fetched a robe, made sure it was clean and didn't smell, then put it on over his clothes. It even had the Gryffindor quest on it, and for the first time in a long while, he hoped it wouldn't make him stand out.
Snape was waiting by the door, looking amused and impatient.
Harry wet his lips. "If they remember, or if I want to, y'know, invite someone home… Can I?"
Snape blinked. "I see," he drawled. "I'll have to think about it. I realise that, normally, that is what you do. But this is where I work, where I live. My flat is the only place where I can escape to sanity. Do you understand?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, s'why I'm asking. And, I mean, I get that none of the other students have rooms of their own where they can hang out with their mates, but I do, so…" he trailed off.
"Yes," Snape agreed, "Therein lies the problem. Make sure you eat tonight, Harry."
Harry shot a startled look Snape's way. "What d'you mean?"
"I mean you're almost climbing the walls."
Harry swallowed. "Noticed that, huh," he mumbled.
"I tend to."
Smiling, Harry nodded. "All right, I'll try my best. I wasn't planning on not eating, you know. It's been a while since I last couldn't, you know, and I ate plenty of stuff over the holiday."
"I know," was all Snape said.
It was all he had time to say, because then they were in the Great Hall, and Harry was accosted by an overly energetic Tom who was talking a mile a minute about how absolutely brilliant his Christmas break had been. It would have been so easy – too easy – to just follow Tom over to the Slytherin's table and eat like he had for so long now, but the whole point with removing the Obscuration Ward and the Perception Filter and then telling people who he was again was so that everyone would start to remember.
He couldn't do that from the Slytherin table.
Harry swallowed, then ran a trembling hand through his hair. "I'm gonna sit with my table tonight, Tom."
Tom immediately scowled. "But they don't like you, Harry!" he protested with a terse whisper.
"I know." Harry cleared his throat. "It's sort of complicated, but I'll explain later, okay? I just…need to sit at my table tonight. I think Professor Snape might be a bit cross with me if I don't, especially after…everything," he said, sounding lame even to his own ears, but he couldn't really explain it to Tom. Well, he could but not right now. He'd need a lot more time for that, preferably with Derek present, so he could act as a buffer of sorts.
"We'll talk at club tomorrow, okay? I promise."
Tom narrowed his eyes. "Okay, but I'll come get you right after your last class."
Harry smiled. "Deal."
For the first time in months, Harry headed for the table with the gold and red decorations underneath the banner of a roaring lion. Most people looked at him with distrust, suspicion or confusion. Some looked vaguely surprised, or as if there was something they ought to remember but couldn't. Harry didn't stop until he reached the end of the table, where Neville sat.
"Hi, um…is this seat taken?"
Neville looked taken aback, then paled, then went red. "Um, no. It's, uh, free."
With a shaky smile, Harry sat down next to Neville. "Hi. I'm Harry."
Neville nodded cautiously. "Yeah, you transferred in last year, right? I tried to talk to you, but you weren't interested, so I sort of guessed you'd, I don't know, try and change houses or something."
"I don't think you can do that," Harry mumbled, wetting his lips. His heart was pounding something awful beneath his breastbone. Everything Neville had just said had pretty much backed up Snape's theories. "But, um, I didn't transfer in." Harry took a deep breath. "I've been here since first year. I'm Harry Potter."
Neville blinked. "Harry…Potter?" he asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, Potter. We've been in the same dorm since first year. Well, except for last term, that is, but, essentially, yeah."
Neville looked faintly stunned, his brow furrowed as he looked intently at Harry. "Harry Potter. I…"
"I've…no idea who you are."
Harry's heart broke a little, and his chin trembled. But he refused to back down, to move away. Not now; especially not now; he couldn't. If he stopped now, he might never gain the courage to try again, and he just couldn't spend another day without knowing if he still had friends, if people would remember or not, if there was a chance to regain even a smidgeon of what he'd once had. "I taught you how to cast a Patronus last year. You don't remember that? Anything? You followed me to the Department of Mysteries, we—"
"Excuse me, but are you Harry Potter?" a familiar voice interrupted.
For a short moment, Harry's heart stopped, then it slowly started beating again.
Hermione was heartbreakingly familiar, her eyes kind and earnest, her hair bushy and wild, her clothes pressed and clean. More than anything, Harry wanted to leap over the table and hug her, but the look of puzzled confusion and blankness in her face, in her eyes, made Harry sit very still.
It made him a little ashamed to admit it, but he sort of felt relieved that Dumbledore chose that moment to stand up and wait for the Hall to fall silent.
Hermione sat down next to Neville, and Ron, who Harry had somehow managed to not notice, sat down next to her. The look on his face was one of puzzled suspicion. The short moment of relief and reluctant gratefulness he'd felt towards Dumbledore promptly vaporised when, two sentences in to his speech, he welcomed the new transfer to Gryffindor house:
Hermione blinked, Ron's face went blank and Neville looked terrified.
It didn't take long for the Gryffindor table to suss out who, exactly, the new kid was. Harry really didn't want to know how fast it'd take for the rest of the school never mind all the kids in Slytherin, but there wasn't much he could do about that from here.
When Snape had said that Harry'd be enrolled anew, he hadn't thought it'd be like this, all bluntness and no finesse what so ever to speak of. Judging by the thunderous look on Snape's face that was, curiously enough, mirrored on both McGonagall's and Pomfrey's faces, it hadn't exactly been planned to go down this way.
By the time the food appeared, Harry's hands were trembling so much he could barely hold his cutlery steady, much less raise a glass of milk to his lips to help ease the nausea he could feel swirling in his stomach. Right about now, he'd fucking pay to have some of Snape's miracle soup, or—
"Mister Harry Snape, sir!" A voice squeaked from behind him. It wasn't Dobby, but another one of Hogwarts' house elves. "From Mistress Pomfrey." It then snapped its fingers before vanishing again.
Where Harry's plate had been, a steaming bowl of tomato soup now stood, with a vial of the potion that seemed to increase his appetite while chasing his nausea away at the same time sat next to it. Feeling too grateful to question if Snape had told Pomfrey to do it or not, Harry eventually managed to open the potion and upended it in his soup.
It took him longer than it should to notice that Neville, Hermione and Ron were all staring at him.
"I, I—" Harry cleared his throat, then stirred the soup until the potion had seamlessly blended into it. "Eating disorder," he mumbled.
"Wouldn't it be more dangerous to depend on a potion to—"
"Yeah, but they only give it to me in extreme cases," Harry admitted, because regardless if she remembered him or not, it had always been so easy to talk to Hermione. "When it's more dangerous if I don't keep anything down. And I'm mostly okay, these days, it's just I was really nervous about today, and then Dumbledore just—" Harry coughed. "I think I was more worked up about, about this than I realised," he mumbled.
When Hermione said, "Look at me, Harry," Harry realised he'd mostly been talking to his soup. It took more effort than he was prepared to admit to sit straight and raise his head. "Mr and Mrs Weasley told us about you, of course, but until now I wasn't sure I believed them. But now, looking at you, talking to you, I can feel…something."
"Like, it's there, but there's a thousand spiders in the way," Ron added, his eyes slightly narrowed as he stared at Harry.
Hermione nodded. "Yes, it's exactly like that."
"Dad." Harry paused, smiled and shook his head. "That is, Professor Snape said that was the whole point of the spell: that it'd make everyone too uncomfortable thinking too closely about it – me – so most just wouldn't even try to."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "Yes, they wouldn't say, but what kind of spell was it? It doesn't seem feasible that here would be something, so, so powerful around that just anyone could do at the spur of the moment. There must be a drawback, something—"
"Yeah, like, removing a person from history completely."
Hermione's face fell. "Oh, I, I didn't mean— I'm so sorry, I—"
Harry shook his head. "No, look. Dad, he explained it all to me, and the way I understood it, the, the Obscuration Ward and Perception Filter, those two, that's not terribly advanced or even difficult pieces of magic in themselves. It's the parameters and anticipating every single possible outcome that's tricky. It's that magic is sort of sentient that's so dangerous." He took a deep breath. "It's that those two spells in combination with each other sort of…reads the mind of the person they're attached to? Like, I was really down last summer, and there were a ton of problems I was working my way through, so the spells worked with that. I've always just wanted to be a normal, ordinary kid like everyone else, so, well, I guess the spells had a field day with me.
Then there's the fact that you shouldn't use magic like that on people in the first place because of all the possible complications, or that you shouldn't leave them on and active for more than, what was it, seventeen days or something because then the magic tends to root and not come off and mutate. I walked around with an earring that had an Obscuration Ward inside a stone with a Perception Filter on it for moths without even knowing I had an earring. Dad was really miffed with Dumbledore," he murmured. "I've never seen him that angry before."
"Oh, believe me, he gets really pissed off every time—oh, right." Ron clenched his jaw, then ran a hand through his shock of hair. "Guess you'd know all about his hatred for Gryffindor, huh?"
Harry lifted a shoulder. "Suppose," he murmured. He stirred his soup, then steeled himself as he lifted a spoonful towards his mouth. If he closed his mouth, he even managed to put the spoon in his mouth and sort of swallow around it. "I used to hate him, like everyone else, I suppose, and then suddenly he's the only one who seems to really notice me any more. I guess I should've noticed something was up when Snape was the only one holding me up, but…" He shrugged. "I wasn't exactly thinking straight."
After dinner, Hermione dragged him off to an abandoned classroom. Not really having much of a choice in the matter, Ron followed, although he didn't really look all that thrilled about it.
"I started looking though my photo albums," Hermione said immediately. "I don't know how I could've missed it for so long. But, Harry: you're in almost all of them."
"The magic wanted me invisible, remember?" Harry wasn't really sure how much he was allowed to say and how much he wasn't supposed to talk about. Him and Snape, they hadn't really talked about it. He wasn't sure if he could tell them about the ritual Voldemort did or not. "Dad says the only ones who'll start to remember me now are the ones who felt strongly about me before. Because it's kinda uncomfortable to remember me, those who don't have enough, uh, motivation, I suppose, just can't be bothered to remember."
"It's just so barbaric, Harry," Hermione said softly, her eyes a little damp.
Harry nodded, lump in his throat. "Yeah, I know. You have to remember, I went from having friends and school mates that actually liked me, to nothing. No one'd talk to me, people looked at me as if I were an alien if I tried talking to them, someone kept going through my stuff, tossing my trunk out of the dorm, cursing and hexing my bed," he trailed off. "The only persons who really talked to me at all were a couple first years in Slytherin. It was just so easy to go where I was at least wanted, y'know?"
"I can understand that," Hermione whispered. "Ron?" she asked, and Harry turned around to see Ron, leaning against the door. He was looking kinda pale, and he was staring down at the floor as if it was the most fascinating object he'd seen all day.
"No one was hexing your stuff, mate," Ron blurted, all gruff. "It was just. I think the elves were a bit confused. There were only supposed to be four of us," he stuttered as he said the number, darting a quick glance at Harry, "But there were five beds, y'know? And someone kept putting their stuff there. I mean, blimey, I know it was you, now, but back then we didn't really get if you really were in our house or not, y'know? You spent so much time with that Slytherin firstie that we weren't sure what to think. Sometimes our magic and the elves clashes."
Hermione was nodding. "Yes, I've read about that. It's the same with the goblins. We don't think the same, or work the same. Our biology is a bit different."
Wetting his lips, Harry sat back on his chair a bit. "But…do you remember me?"
They were both quiet, then, and Harry did his best not to really look at them, but he couldn't help sort of glancing at them either. These two had been the first and best friends he'd ever had. They weren't his only friends, not any more, but they were still important to him.
"Maybe," Hermione said, voice soft and low. "There's something itching in my brain. The more I poke it, the tenser it gets. It's like waiting for something to explode in your head. The mere thought of it is so disconcerting that I can see why you would really need to want to know in the first place."
"Just, wait. Harry, Snape is you dad?" Ron asked, sounding genuinely confused. "I don't get it. Mum said your name was Harry Potter, but Dumbledore called you Harry Snape. Which one are you?"
"Both?" Harry chanced. "Snape adopted me. Today, actually, but we'd been talking about it for some time now. Dad and I, we reckoned it'd be easier for me if I had a new identity. Strong emotions can be good and bad, so, you know."
"Uh-huh." Ron didn't exactly sound as if he understood that sentiment, but he at least came over and sat at the desk in front of where Harry was sitting, next to Hermione. "So, is it just on paper, or, what?"
Harry grinned. "Dad's kinda sneaky. I had no idea, but he takes an insane amount of joy using traditions and stuff against purebloods. We went to Gringotts to see if he could adopt me that way, which he could. Because, as you know, purebloods are all related. I think his exact words were something along the lines of: 'purebloods are a hopelessly twisted and intermarried bunch', and he sounded all snide when he said it, too. He's brilliant."
"He's Snape," Ron whined.
"I know. But he's the best thing that ever happened to me."
"Now, see, mate, that just doesn't make sense!"
Harry rolled his eyes. He picked on the sleeves of his robe. Part of him missed how simple and easy everything had been in New Orleans – the selfish part of him that just wanted quick and easy endings. But these were the two people he'd spent so much time missing that he couldn't just give up now, not when he finally knew why they'd fallen apart in the first place.
"Ron. Everyone forgot me; everyone I'd cared about who'd cared about me just forgot. But Snape didn't. Y'know, we'd been talking a little over the summer, and he'd helped me out when I needed something magical done that Charlie couldn't handle. And I spent a lot of time with Tom, the first year Slytherin, who I'd also met over the summer. It just wasn't that big of a leap to go talk to Snape instead of McGonagall, y'know? Dad'd helped me before, but McGonagall just, well."
There was the whole mess with Pomfrey as well, of course, and how to Harry's knowledge McGonagall hadn't even noticed that Harry moved from the dorm in Gryffindor tower, to the Room of Requirement, to Snape's spare bedroom.
"Nothing about this past year makes sense," Harry finished quietly.
That night, Harry went back home to sleep, just like he had for so long now and probably would continue to do for as long as he could get away with. He'd agreed to maybe sit with Hermione in some of the classes tomorrow and to meet up with her for an hour or so in the library before he had to go and play responsible at club night with the Slytherins.
But to get his friends to remember him… It'd take time. Time and patience. Harry wasn't sure if he had any, but then again, it wasn't like he had much of a choice in the matter.
Snape wasn't home when Harry came back to the flat, so he took advantage of the situation by doing something he hadn't exactly ever done before. He carefully went through Snape's collection of old records before settling on something he hadn't ever heard Snape play. He just hoped it was loud enough to kill the horrible empty void in him. The music wasn't necessarily angry, but it wasn't horrible, either. The picture on the front was black, sort of like a black plastic garbage bag that someone had sprayed water on and then written SLIPPERY WHEN WET on through the droplets of moisture.
The best part of the record was that Snape hadn't ever played it, so Harry cranked the volume up to max. He almost got a heart attack for his troubles when the loudspeakers shouted out: SHOT RHOUGH THE HEART! But Harry supposed he didn't have anyone but himself to blame.
It wasn't until Livin' on a Prayer came on that Harry realised he'd heard this band before – way more than once.
By the time Snape came home, Harry had shed his robe and was sliding around on his socks, singing along to the song on the top of his voice for the sixth time in a row.
"What on earth do you think you're doing, boy?"
"This is great!" Harry exclaimed, cheeks rosy. "I love Bon Jovi! Why didn't you ever play this one before? It's much better than Aladdin Sane or that gay band you always listen to— Woohooo! Livin' on a prayer~!"
"And have you seen what he looks like? The singer? Super-hot, is all I'm saying."
Snape rolled his eyes. In the next instance, he'd lowered the volume of the music with a wave of his wand, then he grabbed Harry by the back of his neck and sat him down on the sofa before taking a seat next to him. "How did it go? With your friends."
Harry panted a bit from all the dancing and sliding and singing he'd been doing, but his good spirits crashed immediately. "They don't remember me. But I think they might, just not yet. Hermione wants me to sit with her in class tomorrow, and then study with her in the library. Ron, well, he'll probably tag along. He seemed more hung up on you than anything else, to be honest. I didn't even think about whether or not to mention Derek, or, you know, anything else. But, well. Baby steps."
"Potter, do you have a moment?"
Harry started; he'd barely closed the door behind him. Szmanda was waiting right outside of Snape's office. "How long've you been sneaking around here?"
Szmanda grinned. "Five minutes? I figured I'd give it another five, then wait 'till lunch."
"Huh." Harry scratched the back of his head through the mess that was his hair. "So…?"
"I thought I'd ask you about yesterday."
"Oh. Ok." Harry ran a hand through his hair. He hadn't slept all that good, and he was still nervous as hell about pretty much everything. "What parts of yesterday?"
"All of them? Snape adopted you?"
That brought a wide grin to Harry's face. "Yeah," he said softly. "Yesterday. So far, it's brilliant."
"Gringotts or Ministry?"
Szmanda chuckled. "That lovely old loophole, I take it?" Harry nodded. "And the part with the Gryffindors?"
Harry turned a thoughtful eye in Szmanda's direction. "Is this the Spanish Inquisition?"
"The nicer, Slytherin variation of it, anyway," Szmanda said with a grin. "Well?"
"How long have I been at this school?" Harry asked instead of outright answering the question.
Szmanda's eyes narrowed. "See, that's the part no one can agree on."
"Who remembers me?"
"They won't say, of course."
Harry nodded. "Slytherin politics?"
"Or something," Szmanda muttered. "I don't pretend to understand it all. But to get back to the matter at hand, Potter. I swear, you've more wiles than a snake. I can't recall you ever being here before. Malfoy, as I understand it, can."
"What do you know about Obscuration Wards and Perception Filters?"
Szmanda's eyes widened. Harry didn't really like that he looked excited more than anything, but then again, he'd sort of picked up on the fact that Szmanda studied magic like that when he was bored. It was frankly mental as far as Harry was concerned, but Harry hadn't exactly ever taken to magic the way Hermione had. Harry accepted that spell A equalled in result B, and that was that. Hermione kinda needed to know every little bit of information behind pretty much every facet of the spell. Szmanda was sort of the same, except he didn't seem to do the research to get better grades. No, Szmanda did it because he was bored.
"Fascinating," he drawled, a glint of excitement in his eyes.
"No, it bloody well isn't," Harry snapped.
"But it is—"
"They were placed on me," Harry interjected before Szmanda could say whatever he was about to, and before Harry could talk himself out of it. "In June. Snape realised about a week before Christmas."
"Oh." The glint was still there in Szmanda's eyes, but it was tempered down by the way his face fell as he factored in the complications of the revealed bit of information.
"Yeah," Harry whispered. "So, no, I don't think it's fascinating."
"Yeah, I can appreciate that," Szmanda agreed. "I'll research it." Harry nodded, but didn't say anything. "Who did it?" he asked, then.
Harry hesitated. "It was…" he trailed off. "I think they wanted to protect me, keep me safe no matter where I was. But it backfired and they never bothered to remove it, or even tell anyone about it."
Harry shook his head. "No, I don't think Snape'd want me to say. He has this way of always knowing every little thing you do that you're not supposed to, right?"
"Right," Szmanda agreed. "If I didn't know better, I'd half have expected the man to have put up surveillance cameras."
Harry just snorted; he wasn't the least bit surprised that Szmanda was knowledgeable about Muggles. Slytherins were twofaced like that; on the one hand, they were perfect purebloods (regardless of the fact if they were a pureblood or not); on the other hand, as soon as they were with someone who wouldn't rat them out or try to take advantage of them (i.e.: Harry), they'd relax and let little details like the one Szmanda just admitted to slip.
"I wouldn't put it past him," he muttered.
Szmanda laughed, then he elbowed Harry in the side. "Eat breakfast with me?"
For half a second, Harry considered saying no and eating with the Gryffindors. It'd be awkward, yeah, and it probably was expected of him to 'conform to the norm' now. At the same time, he'd sort of made a point of being the only Gryffindor in Slytherin, such as it were. And, yeah, he'd mostly sat with the younger kids, but it wasn't like he'd never sat with Zabini, back in the day, or one of the fourth or fifth years.
So in the end, Harry smiled widely at Szmanda. Szmanda grinned back. "All right," he said, and that was that.
Just because everything was out in the open now, both about who Harry was and that people were starting to sort of notice him again, especially in Gryffindor, didn't mean he was just going to ditch all the new friends and acquaintances, however troublesome, he'd made in Slytherin this past term.
Classes were awkward, but not as bad as they could have been (McGonagall looked proud to the point where it made Harry thrum with nervous energy), and he still said hi to the Slytherins he knew, just like before.
Everything was just like before, only so much different. Ron looked askance at him when Malfoy pulled him aside after one class to have a short, matter of fact conversation with him. The conclusion was sort of like: "you haven't thrown the kids to the wolves, so I won't kill you," and Harry was okay with that, because his message to Malfoy sort of went like: "I won't change and I bloody well like the kids; they're my friends, you moron," so all in all, their tentative truce/status quo remained cool, if strenuous at times.
"Why d'you sit with the snakes, Harry?" was the first question out of Ron's mouth when Harry finally made it to the library after classes that afternoon.
Harry frowned a little. "They're my friends."
"But, nothing, Ron," Harry said shortly. "I have friends there, end of story."
"I thought we were supposed to be your friends—"
"Oh, come of it, Ron. Since when can you only have two friends?" Hermione snapped, putting her bag down on the table as soft as possible considering all the books Harry suspected was inside it. "You're friends with half of Gryffindor, aren't you? I have study partners from other houses; it isn't that remarkable, after all."
"In Slytherin?" Ron blurted out, eyebrows raised. "Since when?"
"Well, perhaps not here," Hermione relented. "But in Ravenclaw, certainly. You fancied that Hufflepuff back in October, didn't you?"
"Yeah, sure," Ron grumbled. "But they don't practice the Dark Arts under their beds, do they?
It was sort of disconcerting to realise, but without Harry there – certainly, with the absence of his 'fame' – Ron had mellowed out considerably. In the space of a term, he'd calmed, wasn't as rash or loud. And Hermione had matured. She was beautiful and poised in a way Harry hadn't really noticed before.
"They don't, you know," Harry interjected with a quiet, tired voice. "Practice the Dark Arts. Snape'd have their heads if they did, and he kinda incurs respect, y'know? In the dungeons, no one steps out of line."
It was true, too, but it wasn't always necessarily because of Snape. There was a hierarchy in the dungeons that couldn't be found anywhere else in the school. It didn't matter who you were or what your position was, the bottom line was that you didn't step out of line, didn't step on anyone's toes and kept your machinations for a 'higher' rank to yourself. Come to think of it, the fact that Snape had adopted him had probably earned him a boatload of points, should Harry ever wish to use them.
Mostly, Harry was just content to sit back and let others deal with the constant power plays. He had his club nights, his kids, and all the friends he needed. For the moment, he and Malfoy seemed to be on the same side which appeared to be in Harry's favour, and then there was Szmanda, who kept him informed on what he needed to know – or made sure the Slytherins were informed of what they needed to know. most of the time, it all went way above Harry's head, but whatever it was the Slytherins got up to, it worked.
From across the table, Hermione smiled at him. "Are you going to Hogsmeade next week?" she asked.
Harry shrugged and ran a fidgety hand through his hair; he have to decide about a haircut soon, if he wanted one or not. He'd sort of forgotten about all the Hogsmeade dates, what with all that had been going on lately. "I don't know. I've to discuss it with Dad, I think."
Hermione seemed to think that was perfectly sensible, even if Ron scrunched his nose up and seemed to earn himself a swift kick to the shins. At least judging by his sudden grunt of pain.
"Maybe we could meet up there," Hermione continued to say. "Maybe at the Three Broomsticks. I've been thinking about this – you and us," Here she paused, indicating with a hand motion exactly who she meant. "I think it'll work best if we slowly ease ourselves into it, instead of rushing headlong."
It seemed perfectly logical and, like Hermione had said, sensible. That still didn't meant that Harry wasn't nervous about it, or that he wasn't quietly fretting to himself about what it would mean, in the end.
Most of all, he just wanted.