What was that? The dark shadow flitted on the edge of his vision, dancing just out of reach.
It was not the first time he'd seen it.
Harry rubbed his hand over his face and looked more closely, all he could see now was his reflection, skinny and pale, and staring back at him.
He looked away, he hated his reflection, hated how it never changed.
'Harry? What's taking you so long?' Ron stuck his head around the corner and poked harry in the ribs.
'Nothing.' He said slowly, his eyes had wandered back to the mirror. 'Nothings wrong.'
'I didn't ask what was wrong mate.' Ron said softly. 'I asked what was taking you so long.'
'Oh ok, uh, nothing. I'm coming' Harry turned away from the mirror and followed Ron out of the dormitory.
They met Hermione at the bottom of the stairs and followed her silently into the great hall. It was strange to be back at Hogwarts after all that had happened in the past year. Most students from their class had returned to repeat their seventh year as no one had learned much under the Carrow's tutelage, and of course the muggle borns hadn't learned anything at all except how to run for their lives. Despite everything that had happened the world kept on spinning and even Hogwarts itself was almost back to normal, her walls repaired and the wards and enchantments protecting the castle and its students were stronger than ever.
The memory of that night however would never leave the hearts and minds of those who were present for it. Harry only had to close his eyes to be right back there to see the fire and blood and death. Sometimes the blood was still there when he opened his eyes again; the walls were awash with it, the ground soaked.
Harry thought that once the three of them started lessons again that life would return to normal and the year would consist of mundane things such as studying and petty house rivalry as it once had before. But he was wrong. For starters there wasn't really that much house rivalry anymore- at least between the seventh years anyway. There was only one Slytherin left, the only one that hadn't graduated or been killed the year before. Draco Malfoy wasn't much of a Slytherin anymore anyway, he kept to himself sitting quietly at the Slytherin table at meal times and sitting in silence by the lake after classes. In class he would mostly sit next to Harry, Ron and Hermione. He would never speak to them, as if he knew they weren't friends and never would be but couldn't bring himself to be their enemy either. It was an odd feeling. They had saved his life and there was nothing any of them could do to bring back the simplicity of hating each other for the hell of it.
They just didn't have it in themselves to fight anymore.
They weren't the only ones.
Harry could feel eyes on him again. He ignored it, content to sit quietly and eat his breakfast while listening to the inane chatter around him. His curiosity got the better of him though and he glanced up and into a pair of dark eyes.
Severus Snape. It was always his eyes that Harry could feel upon him, and he always felt compelled to look back into them. It was as if Snape's last command to him in the shrieking shack still had power over him, demanding that he look at him over and over again. It was surprising, but Harry didn't mind one bit.
He had no idea how Snape had survived. When he went back to retrieve his body after the final battle Harry had found nothing except traces of blood and venom. To begin with he was terrified that his body had been taken by the remaining death eaters, but then he had discovered that he was under arrest having turned himself in to Kinsgley. It was not long before he was released. Harry had testified at his trial and presented his memories as evidence, before returning them to him.
They had yet to speak a word to each other.
The problem was that he just didn't know how to act around Snape anymore and it seemed as though Snape felt the same way. All the hate and disgust and loathing he had once felt disappeared as soon as he looked into his eyes that night, when he had thought Snape was dying. When he saw his memories, that hate was replaced with gratitude, and sorrow. What he felt for the man now was nothing less that a kind of hero worship and deep respect that he had only ever felt for Dumbledore himself. But Snape was no Dumbledore, and it made things more than a little awkward.
Snape went back to teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts and being head of Slytherin (or what was left of Slytherin) leaving Professor McGonagall the head mistress position. Unlike the last time he taught Harry he didn't seem to feel the need to critique his every move (probably because there was nothing to critique) instead he just watched him silently and occasionally would give a nod of his head, although this nod was never directed to Harry, it was more like a reflex, or an after thought.
Harry suspected that Snape didn't quite know how to treat him either. It's hard to continue to hate someone you've entrusted your most sacred thoughts and memories to. They would probably just continue like this for the rest of the year, not speaking but not hating anymore, not ignoring, not complaining. Just watching.
Like right now.
Harry held Snape's gaze until the older man turned away to murmur something softly to Professor McGonagall.
Harry turned his head away from the staff table and was just about to join his friends' conversation when he saw it again. That shadow, what was it? It darted up and got lost in the ceiling of the great hall, a cloud filled dark sky this morning threatening to rain down on them all. Whatever the shadow was it frightened him.
Severus was watching Potter again. For some reason he couldn't bring himself to hate the boy with the same fervour he used to. He put it down to the war being over and the boy miraculously managing to come out alive from it all. But that still didn't explain why he felt compelled to look at him constantly. He certainly wasn't much to look at, skinny and scrawny still, messy annoying hair just like his fathers, and deathly pale. That was new, he didn't used to be so pale.
Potter looked back at him, a quizzical look on his face as if he was trying to figure something out. It was strange to see that green gaze without a hint of contempt. It really was like looking into lily's eyes, on James Potters' face. That thought was enough to make Severus tear his eyes away.
'The hero of the wizarding world, is looking unwell Minerva.' He muttered.
'Well he's been through a fair ordeal Severus, as you well know. What did you expect? That he'd just bounce back to normal' Professor McGonagall replied.
'I expected that people would still care for his welfare once he was done saving their hides.' He said mildly.
She narrowed her eyes at him, 'And you? Do you care for him? You've made a point in the past about how little you cared for him. Even your memories showed that. What's changed?'
'Nothing has changed. Do not mention my memories again. They mean nothing now. But you are correct of course, I do not care for him.'
McGonagall raised her eye brows at him but said nothing more.
Severus had already forgotten her and was once again looking at Potter. He was staring at the ceiling, a furtive and twitchy look on his face. Severus had seen that look before on someone else, and while he couldn't put his finger on what it meant, he was certain it was only going to get worse.
It was fair to say that Defence against the Dark Arts was still more than a bit of a joke. Particularly for Harry, Ron and Hermione as they had had more practice in the past year than anyone. Even Neville was finding himself bored more often than not.
Snape however refused to acknowledge his class's boredom, and kept them strictly to the curriculum regardless of the fact that most of them had been competent in most aspects of defence since their fifth year. They were working on duelling, and were allowed to cast verbally or non verbally. Harry still had problems casting non verbal spells, but found that he was much better at it when he wasn't thinking about it, and wasn't forced to. He was partnered with Draco, so they were actually taking the task seriously (unlike Ron and Hermione who spent more time trying to tickle each other).
Draco seemed to be trying to prove something; he was concentrating fiercely and had pulled up his sleeves, his dark mark still visible on his pale skin. So far Harry had been blocking most curses he sent with relative ease, but he knew he was being lazy as far as sending them himself. He just didn't want to fight anymore, whether it was for educational purposes or not. Finally he had had enough.
'Expelliarmus' he cried and caught Draco's wand as it flew from his fingers. He handed it back to him and waited for him to catch his breath.
'Mr Potter' Snape said from behind them. 'You are no longer allowed to use that spell in my classroom.'
Harry shook his head in confusion. 'Why sir?' he asked. 'Why can't I use it when I know it works? It's always worked for me.' He spoke without arrogance, simply curiosity. After all this was the first thing Snape had said directly to him since the end of the war.
'Because you know it works Mr Potter. If you wish to learn something new in this class instead of spending hour after hour on the worst revision of your life, you need to force yourself out of your comfort zone and try something different. There are harmless ways to disarm someone without using that spell. I suggest you look into it.' Snape said quietly.
Harry wasn't sure what to say. 'Thank you sir' was about all he could manage.
Snape nodded at him once then walked away, clapping his hands to get the students attention. 'You are too complacent.' He said. 'Yes you all may be able to cast most defensive spells with ease, you all may find this work tedious and at times a joke' his eyes slid to Ron and Hermione, 'but ask yourselves this- are you using the right curse? The correct and safest hex for the situation? Are you blocking a curse because it's the easy option? Are you disarming an opponent because you know it's effective?' His eyes were on Harry now. 'Are you performing to the best of your ability? Or can you do better?'
The class looked at him in silence.
'From now on I am raising the standard of this class. Due to the war you could all pass your NEWT in this subject if you took the exam tomorrow. I expect you to do better. It may be easy to pass your NEWT exam but it will NOT be easy to pass my class. You are dismissed.' He waved his hand at them and turned away, watching the golden trio out of the corner of his eye. Ron was muttering furiously in Potters' ear (he could easily guess what was being said) but Potter looked thoughtful, as if he was actually seriously considering what Snape had just said.
'That bloody git.' Ron muttered. 'You'd think nearly dying would have sobered him up somewhat but he hasn't changed a bit.'
'I think he has a point actually.' Harry said. 'What's the point of coming to class if we aren't going to learn anything?'
'Well he could at least teach us something new then.' Ron huffed.
'He isn't allowed to Ron.' Hermione said. 'He has to follow the curriculum, he has to teach us what we need to know for our NEWTs'.
'You heard him! He said we'd all pass it if we took it tomorrow!'
Hermione sighed. 'Yes I heard him, but what if one of us hadn't learned something? We learned and perfected what we needed to survive- there is bound to be gaps in our knowledge. He can't just assume we've learned everything, he has to actually teach us.'
'Yeah maybe but he doesn't have to be such a git about it.' Ron grumbled.
'Actually I thought he was remarkably restrained in comparison to what he used to be.' Hermione said. "What do you think Harry? Harry?'
Harry wasn't really listening.
Their conversation had carried them into the hall. His eyes were on his own hand, the one with the blood quill scar. The words were twisting on his hand, his skin curling up and stretching. It didn't say 'I must not tell lies' anymore it now said 'watch out for me'.
'Harry?' Hermione waved her hand in front of his face.
He blinked and looked back at his hand. It was perfectly normal, the skin scared and white and still reading 'I must not tell lies'. He shook his head.
'Sorry Hermione, what did you say?' He looked up at her.
'Never mind, it really wasn't that important.' She said.
Harry stared over her shoulder, not paying attention to a word she said. The shadow was back, it was over Ron's head, darting down and then up again over his face.
'What is that?' he said, pointing at Ron.
'That is a complete idiot Harry, I'm glad you noticed.' Hermione snorted.
It had gone. But the feeling of unease did not leave him. He knew now no one could see it but him.