A/N: Welcome to Regards, Harry. This is a sequel to my recently completed story Moment of Impact. Note that the events of this story occur BETWEEN Chapters 43 & 44 of MOI and will all occur during Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts. All events roughly follow cannon except for the mentor/father-figure relationship between Harry and Severus that was established in MOI. While MOI was told in Harry's POV, the POV in this story switches between the Harry and Severus and is told with limited narrative and regular letters between the two. The background (given in MOI), is that Severus must publicly appear to treat Harry the same as ever, but they agree to communicate through letters written to each other on Harry's Defense Against the Dark Arts homework assignments. While this story can be read by itself, there are frequent references to events and situations that occurred in MOI, which took place in the summer between 5th and 6th years.
I do make updates on my profile page about this and other stories so you might check that from time to time...
Sept. 4 – Sept. 11, 1996
Harry Potter sat in a squashy chair in the Gryffindor common room with a pile of books in front of him on a low sofa table. He was three days in to the first term of his sixth year at Hogwarts and already the homework was piling up. They had been warned—each and every teacher had lectured their sixth year classes on the demands of their NEWT-level classes. He'd already completed his Charms and Transfiguration homework and had nearly finished the eighteen inch Defense essay Snape had set for them on shield spells. He glanced over at Hermione, Ron and Neville. Hermione and Neville seemed hard at work on their own assignments and Ron…well, Ron seemed to be sleeping. Obviously Hermione hadn't noticed yet. Harry sighed and wrote two more lines to finish his essay then, looking over at Hermione one more time, licked the end of his quill and began writing at the bottom of his completed essay.
4 September, 1996
This is weird. Definitely weird.
News first, I guess. I'm meeting with Professor McGonagall next Thursday to begin Animagus studies. She's already informed me it will require MORE meditation. Well, I suppose you'd say that time spent meditating is time not spent wandering about the halls under my invisibility cloak, yeah? Didn't I read something in your book about the Beatles and Trans-something meditation?
Did I mention it's really weird writing you a letter on my HOMEWORK?
Whose idea was it, anyway, to put Slytherins and Gryffindors together in class—ESPECIALLY in Defense? I think you're just asking for trouble when you make us duel each other. Is even Dumbledore—PROFESSOR Dumbledore, I mean—that naïve? To tell you the truth, pitting me against Malfoy doesn't exactly make me want to practice my defense skills. (I know you know what I mean.) And I know you have to treat me like dirt but did you have to get that dig in about my relatives? I really don't need anyone thinking that they gave up vacations in the Canary Islands in order to afford my Hogwarts tuition.
Our first Potions class yesterday was great! Hermione really got her nose out of joint when I used your directions to make the Draught of Living Death and mine turned out better than hers. I got a special prize from Slughorn—alright, alright—PROFESSOR Slughorn—for my work. I'm not sure that he should have given it to me so I think I'll not tell you what it was just yet.
I gave my friends their t-shirts after the sorting the other night. Ginny's looks really nice on her but Ron thinks I made a mistake and got her shirt three sizes too small. Ha! No mistake there. He liked his shirt, but kept calling it a sumbareen even though it was spelled right out for him on the shirt. Hermione's mouth would twitch up at the corner whenever he said it.
Did you have a headache today in class?
Hermione is looking at me funny. I don't think she's ever seen me write so much on an essay at one time without looking things up in a book or asking her how to spell something.
Can I count this section as an additional 6 inches toward my essay?
Harry signed his name with a flourish of ink, making Hermione look up suspiciously.
"Do you want me to read that for you, Harry?" she asked.
"Yeah, thanks. That would be great. Just let me clean it up a bit," he said, smiling at her lopsidedly. He'd learned several years ago that that awkward smile worked like a charm on Hermione. He grabbed his wand from the table and tapped the parchment, softly incanting the spell Snape had taught him to hide the personal part of the homework assignment. It didn't do anything to the ink blots and smears, however.
"Let me, Harry," sighed Hermione. He handed the parchment over to her and sank back into his chair. It was a lot more difficult getting used to the constant commotion at school and in the Gryffindor common room than it had been any other year he'd returned to Hogwarts. But then again, this was the first year he felt like he was leaving home to get here.
One day, Severus Snape was going to calculate how much he was paid per actual hour worked at Hogwarts. A full six hours spent in front of students, another two to or three marking most evenings, mealtime duties, Head of House duties, monitoring Quidditch games, meetings with parents, convincing teenage Death Eater wannabes not to do something incredibly stupid. ..
The sixth year essays were uniformly terrible. Even Granger's lacked originality. Malfoy's was a half-hearted attempt at best. Harry's was barely acceptable. Ah, yes. He'd almost forgotten. He smiled when he came to the end of Harry's essay and found another eight inches of blank parchment. He tapped it with his wand and settled back into his rolling desk chair. A smile flitted over his face as he read. The boy was all over the place, jumping from one topic to the next. He finished the letter and picked up his own quill to begin his reply.
4 September, 1996
Professor Slughorn has already made it known—to everyone in the Faculty Lounge and any passing students in the hallways outside and possibly to our hotel concierge in Liverpool—that Harry Potter is the lucky owner of a full dose of Felix Felicis. I trust you understand the restrictions on this potion and will use it wisely. In general I find that we create our own luck in life but am still interested to hear of your escapades with the potion—once they occur.
Yes, the headmaster is that naïve.
It's Transcendental Meditation and do NOT go there again.
No, you cannot count the vertical space your missives occupy toward your essay content, nor the blank space between the end of your homework and the beginning of your letter. Nice try.
As for my behavior—and your own—in Defense classes, I shall endeavor in the future to avoid certain topics, as long as you can look properly affronted by what I do throw your way. May I, for example, deride your taste in the opposite sex? Ah. I thought not. However, I must appear to be seriously cruel in my attacks, and therefore must get personal and verbally attack what you value—and what you value most are friends and family and fairness. I doubt I would make your blood pressure rise much by making fun of your new school clothing or your habit of eating your dinner one food item at a time. Indeed, those revelations would only expose the fact that I pay attention to you outside of class.
Perhaps we could make this more of a game. You could make me work harder for your reaction. I'll give Gryffindor a point (later and, of course, privately) for each time I provoke you and you don't rise to the bait. No—a better option. For each time you manage to do no more than seethe quietly, I will share with you, in my next missive, one memory about your mother. A fair trade, don't you think?
Right now the clock on my mantel is pointing to "Hagrid's." While I know you are enchanted by those adorable balls of feathers (your words, I believe), soon-to-be-post-owls down there, it is starting to get dark and I know from long experience that NEWT level classes have exacting homework requirements. Do not forget about my clock, Harry. Perhaps knowing that it is here in my quarters might inspire you to spend more time in the library. However, I will allow that it is the first week of term and your load now is lighter than it soon will be. Recall, too, that the Headmaster has restricted students' activities after dark. The new rules are there for a reason—do heed them.
Please note that there is a shocking lack of red ink on this section of your assignment. Quite a stark contrast to the essay itself. I don't believe your handwriting ever recovered fully after your accident his summer. Do try to take more care with your penmanship. A finer point on your quill will be helpful. I will keep you after class one day this week to teach you a charm to manage that.
That being said, I am of course happy that you can write at all after that little visit you had to St. Mungo's this summer.
As for your reference to my headache—I always have one when I have Gryffindor and Slytherin together.
Severus finished writing and waved his wand to cast the concealment charm. Could the connection Harry had with him alert him to something as minor as a headache? Or had his mood and manner given his condition away? Hell, he should just admit it. The boy probably didn't need an empathetic connection to him to tell when he wasn't feeling well. Harry watched him like a hawk and probably caught him pinching his nose once or twice or a dozen times. At least Harry's interest in him could be easily passed off as suspicion. For now, anyway. He would have to watch this.
Severus sighed and pulled the next pile of homework assignments over in front of him on the desk. First years'. Oh joy.
He couldn't believe he was doing homework on a Saturday. But Snape had given them a weekend assignment and he was killing time before his meeting with Professor Dumbledore. He'd devoured Snape's letter when he'd finally gotten back to his dorm after classes on Thursday. He'd smiled when he came to the part about the clock—he hadn't forgotten it was there on Snape's mantel but he hadn't really been thinking about it either. And memories of his mum? He supposed Snape should just share them with him regardless, but he was willing to play the game to get to know her better.
He hadn't exactly finished his Defense essay, but he wanted to start on his letter. Boldly, he left the required twelve inches of parchment and moved his quill—nicely pointed now—down to the bottom of the page.
7 September, 1996
Gryffindor is too loud. And too dry. I talked to Professor McGonagall about a waterbed and she gave me her permission to transfigure it myself. Ha! I wrote down the incantation this summer and would like to give it a try. Is there anything special I should know before I do? I don't know…like maybe you have to be underwater when you cast it or be thinking watery thoughts or something. I do realize the point is to transfigure the stuffing to water, but it seems pretty complex. The water would leak right the sides if I don't somehow make them waterproof. I hope figuring this out is worth it.
My meeting with Professor Dumbledore has been moved up—I'm meeting with him this evening. I bet you already knew that, though.
I think you owe me a story or two about my mum. I managed not to punch you outright when you lined us up tallest to shortest and acted like I was in the wrong class because I happened to be at the end of the line. I've got some stiff competition in that class as you KNOW in the height department. Ron, Dean, and Crabbengoyle are all even taller than you! (And no, that wasn't a mistake. You never see those two separately so I've decided they're really just one person.)
This is kind of embarrassing—but I really don't know who else to ask… I'm getting lots of…um…attention…from girls. Not just girls in Gryffindor or girls my own age, either. It's nuts. They won't leave me alone. I left some books in the common room a couple nights ago and they stuck LOVE notes in them. At first I thought it might be my new glasses or my new clothes, but that doesn't make sense. I'm still the same person underneath it all—aren't I?
When I was meditating last night (ha ha—you probably thought I was just skiving off and not bothering, didn't you?) I thought of something. You told me that water is your barrier material and that you used to use a moat as your Occlumency shield. What do you use now? And why did you change?
By the way, it's impossible to write a foot on mental preparation for wordless spells when there's nothing in our book about it and you haven't even mentioned it yet. Hermione is going crazy trying to find something in the library on it. She's across from me now practically twitching. Sometimes I worry she'll have a stroke or something with all the pressure she puts on herself. Can wizards have strokes?
Ron gave me a great idea about chess. You can draw a board on paper and play "by owl." He did it with his cousin Barney last summer. If you're game, we can have a go at it so I won't get rusty over the term. I play with Ron whenever we need a break from books, but I've never beat him either.
Malfoy is a prat. Thought you'd want a reminder in case you'd forgotten.
"I know you're up to something with your Defense homework," said Hermione. Startled, Harry almost dropped the scroll.
"What do you mean?" he asked with feigned innocence.
Hermione rolled her eyes and smiled.
"Never mind," she said. "I'll just go on thinking that you've turned over a new leaf and are just trying to get better marks."
"Yeah, that's it," he replied. "Good marks. NEWTs and all…"
She stared at him a moment over her book and shook her head, smiling as she returned to her work.
He'd always hated Mondays. The students were tired and grumpy and the faculty was even more tired and more grumpy. But reading Harry's letter—specifically, his "problem" with the opposite sex—cheered him up. If Harry knew he was the favorite subject of the female members of the Faculty….
9 September, 1996
Ron Weasley is not taller than me. Crabbe and Goyle may be—if you measure around their waists and not top to bottom.
Now that I've gotten the important part of my letter out of the way….
For a person who supposedly meditates every evening, and who has mastered Occlumency, you certainly should have been able to come up with something better (or at least more creative) regarding mental preparation for wordless spells than (and I quote from your very mediocre essay ) "The witch or wizard should think the words of the spell in their head mentally."
Albus told me your meeting on Saturday went well but did not offer any details. I expect you will fill me in? Do remember what I told you, Harry. If at any time these meetings become too much for you, you are to let me know. I suspect they will start out informative and relatively easy and gradually become more serious and stressful, as the subject matter dictates.
About the proposed transfiguration of your four-poster into a waterbed...the biggest danger, of course, is drowning. Your transfiguration must "hold" for if it does not, you may find yourself sleeping in the bed rather than on it. I'm not eager to see you sleeping with the fishes (Muggle movie reference…ask me later if you're interested) so why don't you Polyjuice into Goyle, sneak into the Slytherin dorms and try it on Malfoy's bed first?
You do know I was joking in that previous statement, do you not? Keep out of the Slytherin dorms and stay away from Polyjuice potion altogether. My advice is to try the transfiguration in the morning and if the bed is still a waterbed in the evening, do the incantation again and have a good night's sleep.
As for my Occlumency shield, I believe I'll let you discover that yourself when I teach you Legilimency over Christmas Break.
Ahh…down to chess and girls. I am game for the chess game you describe. You will be white. I await your first move.
I do hope you know that your little problem with the female population of Hogwarts has been noticed by most of the staff and is a rousing topic of discussion in the faculty lounge. You do realize, do you not, that MOST boys your age would not look on this as so much a problem as an opportunity? You are wondering, I imagine, what has happened to you to expose you to this kind of attention. New glasses? New clothing? Perhaps. But you have also filled out, so to speak. Your proportions have changed. You have grown taller. You are shaving…albeit not as often as Mr. Malfoy. Hmmm…I should have saved that one for Defense class. In short, Harry, you are becoming more a young man and less a boy. If you need further details of that transformation, you may ask Madam Pomfrey for a very informative little pamphlet she keeps on file.
Yes, wizards can have strokes. Fortunately, we have available greater means to prevent them and to help sufferers recover from them than Muggles do.
Finally, I applaud your control during our little line-up in class on Friday. To reward you, here is a small tidbit about your mother. She had an owl named Eleanor Rigby.
He had half a notion to go up to the infirmary and get the entire set of pamphlets from Poppy—from "So You've Noticed Hair in New Places" to "So You Find Yourself Getting Excited at Inappropriate Times"—and present them to Harry during Defense class. Well, it was good to reserve as a threat anyway. And if he DID do it, and Harry kept his cool, he'd have to reward him with two tidbits about Lily. He wondered if he'd ever run out of stories to tell about her.
Harry sat down in the library. He'd told his friends he was going to study by himself for an hour or so. They had a Charms exam on Friday so it provided a convenient excuse. What he really wanted to do was to read Snape's letter on the homework assignment Snape had returned in class today. He'd rolled the scroll open briefly after class and all he'd seen was red ink. He knew Snape would be after him about the quality of his homework soon.
He hadn't been able to seethe quietly today in class when Malfoy had lobbed a jinx at his back after he'd tripped over his untied shoelace and bent down to tie it. Snape had seen the whole thing and instead of docking points from Malfoy, he'd awarded him 10 points for the excellent rat's tail Harry had sprouted through his robes. Harry rubbed his backside where the tail had been (thankfully Hermione had been able to remove it in a trice—though Snape had made him keep it for the rest of the class period). Snape had to have known it would remind him of Wormtail. Nevertheless, he couldn't help a half-grin as he opened the scroll to read Snape's letter. By the time he finished it and picked up his quill to start his reply, he was smiling broadly.
11 September, 1996
We're going to spend Christmas together? Are we staying here or going somewhere else? Shell Cottage (hint, hint)? I wonder what the sea would be like in the middle of winter. I think we'd spend more time by the fire than on the sea porch, but that would be fine. I wouldn't even make you get a Christmas tree. Does it snow in Yorkshire? And are you really going to teach me Legilimency?
How many pots of red ink did you go through on my essay anyway? It looked like you gave one of the Weasleys a haircut and used my essay to catch all the loose hair. Fine—I'll try harder on these essays from now on. I suppose you were being generous with the Acceptable you gave me. Hermione only got an Exceeds Expectations so I figure the marks on this one were rather low. She's finished with her crying jag now and is fact checking all her errors against the textbook and eight other books she checked out of the library and made me and Ron carry back to the dorm.
And Ron IS taller than you. I watched closely today and he's got at least a centimeter on you and that's not counting the extra height your boots give you. Do you have a problem with your students being taller than you? I don't see why—Millicent Bulstrode has been taller than you since 5th year—and she has a fuller beard!
About my mum and her owl…really? Eleanor Rigby—that's the song about the lonely people—right? Is it one of Paul's songs? I remember the tour guide pointing out the headstone in the cemetery with that name. Still, it's a nice name for an owl, even if it once belonged to a sad old woman. Do you know what became of it?
Quidditch try-outs are Saturday. I'm hoping we get enough people to come out for the team. Not that you care or anything, being a bit partial to those Slytherin goons you put up on brooms. You'd probably support me picking the Creevey brothers for Gryffindor beaters. I don't think Dennis could even lift the bat. He'd probably wet his pants if Crabbengoyle came after him on their brooms.
Ron is making me crazy. He stares at Hermione all the time with his mouth open. It doesn't seem to matter whether she's doing homework, chewing on the end of her quill or scratching herself on the head. I wish they'd just figure it out and get together or something. After this summer…well, I caught them holding hands a couple times, but Ginny says Ron acted the right git in Boston and Hermione backed off. Apparently, he had quite an eye for the American girls and Hermione thought they didn't wear enough clothing over there. Ron says it was awfully hot and he can understand why they need to wear such tiny little shorts.
No, I don't need the pamphlet you mention in your letter, thank you very much. After that little stunt you pulled with Pomfrey this summer in the hallway with my "dirty" upper lip, I'm not sure I should trust either of you. I bet she was in Slytherin too.
I have to tell you (again)—this Potions Book is magnificent! I'm a sixth year now too (right….you know that already…) and I've just never thought about making up my own spells. Our summer Charms homework was the first time it occurred to me that it was possible. Remember—we had to come up with a variation on a spell we already knew but we didn't actually have to DO the spell…just write about what it would do and create an incantation. Guess that's why you're the teacher and I'm the student, right? How many new potions did you create? Do you get patents for them like you would in the Muggle world? Do you think you could make one that makes girls think I'm repulsive? Well—most girls anyway. It's really embarrassing to have third years pass you love notes.
Well, I've saved telling you about my lesson with Professor Dumbledore until the end. He had a memory from someone who used to be with the Ministry and we went into the Pensieve together. The memory was about Voldemort's mother and her family and where they grew up. It was pretty horrible but Dumbledore apparently is going to take this really slow. I think he's giving me a little bit to think about at a time. I already knew that Voldemort was a half-blood (like some other people we all know) but on Saturday I got to see who his parents were, where he came from. Makes him more human, and I don't like that. His mum's dad beat and verbally abused her too. That's a little too close to home. I suppose that might have been the point, though. Dumbledore is like that.
I was going to say something about class today but seeing as I rather rose to your bait and have not earned another story about my Mum, I'll only repeat that Draco Malfoy is a prat—and that he's about as hairless as a 1st-year. I bet Malfoys don't grow facial hair—it's too Muggle.
He smiled again as he finished the letter. Reading and writing letters was not as good as spending time with Snape, but he looked forward to them nonetheless. There was a lot more he could have said about his first session with Dumbledore, of course. But he was still trying to digest it all himself. He wished he could sit down with Snape to work it all out with him and resolved to find a way to do so if the next session with the Headmaster left his head in a similar state.
Harry checked the library clock. He'd been here more than an hour and hadn't touched his Charms book yet. He pulled it over and opened it but while paging to the correct chapter, he saw a reference to the shaving charm Snape had taught him at the end of the summer. And that made him think creatively. If there were charms to remove facial hair, certainly there were jinxes to make it grow…perhaps in unwanted places? Grinning, he flipped to the end of the book and began to read.