A/N – Late, yes. I have to sleep to dream and I have had precious little time as of yet to do either. So here we are.
Chapter 23 – Slight Upset
Severus touched his arm on the way out the door and he turned. "Harry," his father said, his dark eyes searching his face carefully. "I will talk to at the end of classes today." It wasn't a request.
Harry nodded quickly and then then with a glance to Remus, he turned on his heel and limped out the door.
Severus watched him go before turning back to Lupin with a sneer. "You should tell him. He thinks you purposely chose not to take him in. You should tell him the truth."
"I—I don't know how," Lupin admitted haltingly, his amber eyes still haunted after learning some of the truths behind Harry's childhood.
"Then figure it out," Severus snapped, turning his back on the man and striding off toward the dungeons.
"It's not that easy," Lupin answered to the empty room.
. . .
During Charms, Harry couldn't keep his focus. Everything he touched with his wand either went sideways or exploded. Finally, about midway through the disastrous lesson, he shoved his wand up his sleeve and let his head fall to the desk with a clunk.
Beside him, Teddy and a few other Slytherins eyed Harry in concern. Not speaking, they scooted in closer to him, blocking the many prying eyes that surrounded them.
At the end of the lesson, after most of the class had filed out, Flitwick began walking in Harry's direction.
"Excuse me, Professor," Millicent Bulstrode stated, stepping directly in the tiny man's way. "Harry's ours."
Somewhat amused, Flitwick responded. "I mean no harm, Miss Bulstrode. But he is my student as well. What concerns him, concerns me."
Stepping from behind Millicent's much larger form, Harry manage to give the diminutive man a small smile.
"I'm sorry for my lack of focus in class today, sir," he offered in a scratchy voice.
Concerned eyes looked up at him. "These things happen, child. Would you like to have a cup of tea in my office?"
Ducking his head and shifting the majority of his weight over to his left foot, Harry murmured, "No, sir." He looked back up and straightened his shoulders. "I appreciate the concern, but I think I'd better just go talk with Professor Snape. He knows why—I mean, you know. He knows why my head's all messed up today, sir."
"If you are certain," Flitwick answered, keeping his face pointed upward toward his student.
"Yes sir," Harry responded before turning toward his friends. "Thanks for waiting," he said to them.
Filius turned to walk back to his desk, keeping an ear on the three students behind him as they started ambling toward the door. He would check with Severus to make sure Harry had been telling the truth, and perhaps he would find out something more.
Lost in his thoughts, he barely registered the sound of someone knocking on the door to the classroom a few minutes later. Rousing himself, he climbed down from the stack of books on his chair and went to open it. Standing on the other side was none other than Remus Lupin.
"I say!" He squeaked. "This is a surprise. Do come in, Mr Lupin."
If Remus and Harry met earlier today, it would go a long way toward explaining Harry's discombobulated state, Filius thought to himself as he ushered his former student into the classroom.
"It's just Remus, if you don't mind, Professor."
"Then call me Filius!" He answered cheerily.
They went to the corner of his classroom and Filius opened the door that was magically connected to his office. In order to be closer to his students, the office itself was actually located near the Ravenclaw tower. It helped to have a quiet place in his classroom that he could retreat to when needed. From inside his office then, there was another door that led off to his personal chambers, much like the one found in Severus' office.
Filius had found it useful to be so closely connected to the everyday lives of his students.
Once inside his office, he shut the door and directed Remus to sit whilst he started the tea kettle.
"I like magic as next as the next person, but there are some things that call for the manual way, and making tea is one of those," Filius shared with a wink. "Oh and if you're looking for Harry, I'd say that you just missed him."
"Actually, Pro—Filius," Remus smiled at his own slip, "I saw Harry in the hallway out his way out. And he's the reason I've come to talk to you today."
"Oh?" Filius asked, his quick mind suddenly whirring at the implications.
"What can you tell me about him?"
Filius frowned in thought as he passed Remus a cup of tea and poured his own. "What do you want to know?"
Remus audibly sighed and Filius watched him carefully.
"What's he like, how does he do in class, is he anything like his parents . . . things of that nature," Remus answered in a rush.
Filius put his half-drunk cup of tea down beside him and steepled his fingers under his chin.
"Mr Potter is one of the brightest first year students I've ever had the pleasure of teaching," Filius answered, trying to ignore the urge to laugh at Remus' gobsmacked expression.
"Are you certain? Prof—Minerva went on and on about him being little more than a half-wit."
At this, Filius' previous amused feeling evaporated and he scowled deeply, dropping his hands into his lap. "I would normally not presume to speak ill of a colleague, but I am beginning to feel that Minerva might be better off retiring now before she makes a complete fool of herself."
Remus' eyebrows rose dramatically at his words and he sighed. "I would appreciate it greatly if you did not repeat those words to her," Filius added, raising a severe eyebrow when the other man did not immediately respond.
He would never tell anyone, but he had secrecy spells woven into the wards of his office and his personal area specifically for conversations such as these. All he needed was a verbal consent and they would take hold. Otherwise . . . well, there were a few lower level memory spells that weren't nearly as traceable as Obliviate.
After all, Filius mused, Severus doesn't have a monopoly on secretiveness.
"I promise that I will keep your words private," Remus answered slowly after a few tense heartbeats.
"Thank you," Filius answered softly. "As to why I think so, let me explain a bit. Minerva has managed to get her head stuck in the past. She had James Potter and she expected Harry to be like James. When he turned out to be wildly different," He paused and tried to determine the best way to make his next comment, "She wasn't ready for it and she's having trouble adjusting to the actual reality of the situation."
Remus nodded his head thoughtfully at his words before asking his next question. "Would Harry have done well in Ravenclaw?"
Filius smiled and relaxed ever so slightly. "Perhaps. Like you, Harry has an interest in learning, but unlike a typical Ravenclaw, he is not so open about his reasons for doing so."
. . .
After briefly seeing Lupin in the hallway, Harry, Teddy and Millicent walked a fair ways in silence before anything else was said.
Stopping suddenly, Harry turned toward his fellow Slytherins and motioned them into a hidden corridor behind a tapestry of two men playing chess.
"Who was that man, Harry?" Teddy asked tentatively.
"An old friend of my family," Harry answered dismissively before turning to eye Millicent.
"What?" She growled, crossing her arms in front of her chest defensively.
"Not that I didn't appreciate the concern," Harry said with a bitter smile, "but why did you help me back in the classroom? We've barely spoken all term. This is all rather sudden."
"We take care of our own," Millicent answered with a frown.
"So why today?" Harry asked, raising an eyebrow as he fingered the knife in his pocket.
She shrugged and looked away for a moment. Then, "You seemed a little messed up today," she admitted.
Harry felt himself freeze at her words. She thought he seemed a little messed up? Him?
"Just a little?" Harry asked with a hysterical giggle.
In his peripheral, he saw Teddy's eyes widen at the very uncharacteristic sound. For some reason, that made him laugh harder.
First Remus, now Millicent. It was all so unlikely that he had to lean against the wall to catch his breath as the giggles continued to burst from his throat unabated.
"Maybe we should find Professor Snape," Millicent suggested softly to Teddy.
"And leave him alone like this?" Teddy snapped back, grabbing Harry's arm and pulling him back into the corridor.
The idea that his two housemates thought him incompetent—even briefly—only added fuel to the fire. He was giggling so hard by the time they finally made it to the dungeons that he couldn't see. In his mind he could see himself talking to Remus, confronting him about why he hadn't taken Harry in as a baby. Next to that, he saw Millicent commenting on his "messed up" state. The two seemed irrevocably entwined and he wondered what would happen if they came across Remus while he was like that. Would he curse the man?
It seemed far too likely.
The familiar smells of his father's quarters reached his nose, and he managed to open his eyes enough to find his own way to the sofa in the sitting room.
"'Messed up' she says," He bit out between giggles, not even realising that his left eye was streaming tears by this point. "'Messed up', he says," He added, his giggles suddenly dying down as his eye lit with rage.
"He doesn't know what messed up is!" He suddenly screamed at the other Snakes. "You see him, you see him and you tell him!" He howled and several empty vials exploded around them, making Millicent and Teddy flinch violently.
"He didn't even try!" Harry added in a scream, reaching up and pulling his glove from his right hand. His missing ring and pinkie fingers glared back at him in his mind as he threw himself to the sofa. He yanked up his trouser leg and undid his leg with a growl, tossing it to the floor.
"He didn't bother to even give a fuck!" Harry screamed, not caring that Millicent and Teddy were both staring at him with wide eyes.
"He could have stopped it all, could have given me a bloody home but damn it!" The fire in the grate roared up nearly to the ceiling and smoke swirled violently around the room. He hopped to his foot and howled at the ceiling.
He was back in the car, back in the fire, back in the middle of the pain when suddenly a strong warm hand clamped down around his shoulder and he whirled around to find a black presence standing behind him.
"Dad!" He choked out, his left eye once more dripping with tears.
"Harry," Snape rumbled toward him. "You need to breathe."
. . .
Teddy and Millicent hurried through the halls back from Professor Snape's classroom. He had sent them to get a particular calming draught from his stores, and even though they knew he was just trying to get them out of the way, they still hurried.
Less than fifteen minutes had passed after Snape had walked into find his quarters nearly on fire and filled with broken glass and frightened students. Teddy and Millicent returned from their errand and walked slowly into his quarters, both uncertain about what they might see upon their return.
The broken glass had been vanished, as had the smoke and they found a trembling Harry pressed up against Severus' side in the middle of the sitting room.
Silently, Teddy handed Severus the calming draught and then watched as his head of house slowly administered it to Harry. Moments later, Harry sagged and Severus easily manoeuvred him onto the sofa. Gently, Severus summoned a soft blanket from the other room and covered Harry's small form up, lifting the glasses from his face and pocketing them before straightening up and turning around.
"Either of you care to explain?"
It was Millicent who answered, flying through the explanation of what had happened that day in Charms and afterwards.
"Harry did have a good point though," Teddy said when her words finally slowed to a halt. "Why did you help him?"
"Because Harry doesn't laugh at me like everyone else."
"I don't laugh at you," Teddy answered defensively.
"Yeah, and if you had been the one upset, I would have helped too. You and Harry and sometimes Blaise are the only ones in our year who doesn't look at me like I'm trash."
Silence met her words.
"Why didn't you speak with me about this before now?" Severus asked gently.
Millicent shrugged and looked away, her eyes suspiciously wet.
"Used to it, I guess," was her answer after several quiet moments.
"That is no reason to be silent, little Snake," Severus answered, absently sitting and rubbing a hand over his face. "There will be a house meeting soon anyway, to discuss some pertinent business," He said, looking at Teddy. Teddy gave a nod of understanding. "We will find time to discuss this matter with the house."
"Please don't tell them I said anything," Millicent whispered worriedly.
"You will be there and I will say nothing of you, I swear it." Severus assured her. "Don't be so worried. Your head of house knows what he is doing," He added with a wan smile.
. . .
Sometime later, Severus looked up at the sound of the door opening and closing. Disjointed footsteps made their way toward him and he sighed. Moody. He rolled his eyes and cracked his neck to the side. He glanced back down at the Potions journal in his lap and then back at Harry. The boy was still asleep and Severus had spent much of the last hour next to him, stroking a tattered sock and thinking dark thoughts about the lack of honourable Gryffindors in the world.
"Remind me to buy Harry some new socks," Severus said to Moody in greeting, his eyes still fixed on the journal.
"That bad, eh?"
"Actually, his entire wardrobe could use an overhaul. Why don't you do something grandfatherly and take him out shopping for new clothes?" Snape looked up finally and fixed a beady eyed stare at Moody.
"Me?" Moody asked, looking dubious as he glanced down at his own worn and out-of-date robes.
"Hm, you may have a point. Perhaps you should just fund the endeavour and I'll take him shopping."
"That I can do," Moody answered brightly, his real eye glancing over at Harry with obvious concern. "Is the lad all right?"
"He had a rather severe upset this afternoon. His friends had the presence of mind to bring him back here. It took me nearly fifteen minutes to calm him down enough to drink a calming draught. From there, he fell asleep."
"Moody's are big on huggin', you know," was Moody's wry comment.
"Then take comfort in the knowledge that the family tradition was upheld," Severus answered softly, looking back down at his boy.