19 September 1997

"That's quite enough, thank you, Dumbledore," said Severus in a hard voice. The portrait nodded graciously.

"Very well," he said. "I only suggest—"

Severus gave the painting a very hard look, and Dumbledore had the good grace to settle back in his painted chair and pretend to fall asleep. Severus sighed heavily and sank down behind the desk, pressing his hands against his forehead. They were barely three weeks into the year, and he was beyond exhausted.

Potter was missing, with the Granger girl and Weasley. Amycus and Alecto had managed to seize control of all disciplinary practices at the school and were even now torturing the students that were Severus' responsibility to protect. And, of course, the few people who had once trusted him—or at least tried to trust him—thought him a murderer.

Severus sighed and massaged his temples. A sharp knock came on the office door.

"Come in," he snapped, and the door swung wide to reveal Alecto Carrow, lumpy and squat, clutching Blaise Zabini's arm. The boy looked unharmed, but was scowling unpleasantly.

"What is it?" Severus demanded.

Alecto leered unpleasantly. "Caught this one out of bed after hours. Said 'e was comin' to see you, and 'e 'ad permission, headmaster," she added with a derisive laugh. "Shall I take 'im to the dungeons, then?"

Severus had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes. "Leave him here, Alecto. I have an appointment with Mr. Zabini."

Blaise's eyes widened for a moment, but Severus glared at him momentarily. Alecto was gaping unflatteringly at Severus.

"I—but—" she stammered.

"That will be all, Alecto," Severus said coldly. Scowling and grumbling, Alecto shoved Blaise into the office and trudged back to the door, slamming it behind her.

Severus sat back and folded his hands, staring at Blaise. "Well, sit down," he said.

"I'm fine," Blaise answered, not looking at him. He kept his eyes fixed on the dark windows above the headmaster's desk.

"If it weren't for me, you wouldn't be. Sit, Zabini," Severus said sharply. The boy narrowed his eyes and moved to sit in a chair before Severus' desk and continued to scowl. "I believe I informed all of you of the danger of wandering the castle after curfew at the start of term, did I not?"

Blaise nodded jerkily.

Severus resisted the urge to shout. "Then perhaps you can explain to me why you have wasted no time to blatantly disregard my rules?" Blaise said nothing.

"Have I done something that has offended you, Mr. Zabini?" Severus asked, not even trying to mask his exasperation.

"No, sir," the boy answered.

Severus clenched his jaw and took a moment to regain control over his frustration. Ever since his first year, Blaise Zabini had been difficult. He never seemed satisfied with anything, yet he was annoyingly disinterested in trying to effect change. He was one of those few students to whom everything came easily, and therefore he never had much practice in working hard at something.

"May I go now, sir?" he asked, looking very bored.

Severus sighed. "Not just yet, Mr. Zabini. You haven't told me why you were out of bed."

"Like Professor Carrow said," Blaise told him. "I was coming here."

"Ah," Severus answered, fighting to keep the derision from his tone. "And why was that?"

"I fancied a cup of tea," Blaise sneered.

"Watch your tone, Mr. Zabini," Severus said, his voice hardening. Blaise scowled at him.

"Sorry, sir," he said finally.

There were several long moments of silence. Neither of them spoke. Severus could not pretend that Blaise was one of his favorite students—in fact, he barely knew the boy, despite the fact that he was in Slytherin House. Severus had even gone to school with Blaise's mother—

Severus' train of thought quickly changed track. Blaise's mother, Katarina Heller, was the only other half-blood Slytherin he had known in his year—

"Mr. Zabini, how is your mother?"

The question fell oddly, awkwardly, on the entire room. Severus had never asked so personal a question to anyone, least of all a student, and Blaise knew it. He scowled more deeply and did not answer.

"I asked you a question, Mr. Zabini," Severus said sharply.

"She's fine, Professor," said Blaise. "I just wrote to her the other day. I'm sure you know all about that, though."

Severus blinked. "I do not read personal mail—"

"I guess you've got friends for that," Blaise interrupted coldly.

Severus was not sure what to make of Blaise's attitude. Certainly, he'd always been difficult, but never openly defiant. Just…disinterested, bored, unhelpful. Not unlike Severus at that age. When Severus was his Head of House, he had left the boy alone, which was what Severus believed he wanted.

"I have to go, Professor. Good night," Blaise said, getting to his feet and marching for the door.

"Sit down, Zabini," Severus snapped, pointing his wand at the door. It gave a loud click as it locked. Blaise turned, hatred in his eyes. "I am perfectly within my rights as your headmaster to give you a detention for tonight. Now sit down."

Blaise slowly walked back to the desk and sat down, not breaking eye contact with Severus. "Yes, Professor?" he asked in the same sneering tone.

"You're lying to me, Zabini," Severus said flatly. "I will find out why you were out of bed at this hour, one way or another, so you may as well tell me."

Blaise rolled his eyes and grumbled, "I was at the Owlery."

Severus raised his eyebrows disbelievingly. "The Owlery? Why?" Blaise gave him a look of utter disgust, and Severus sighed in exasperation. "I'm growing impatient, Mr. Zabini."

"I was sending a letter," Blaise said with the air of one explaining the painfully obvious.

"At this hour?"

"I thought it might have a chance of getting past those two idiots you've brought here!" Blaise answered, raising his voice.

"Do not shout at me," Severus told him in a low, dangerous voice. "And they are your professors. You will show them respect." The words were bitter in his mouth.

"You knew who I was talking about though, didn't you?" Blaise sneered. "Besides, I'll shout all I like if you're going to just trap me here," he spat.

"Very well, Mr. Zabini, you may leave," Severus told him angrily. His patience was gone. He pointed his wand at the door, which clicked and swung open. Blaise stared at him for a few moments, then slowly got up and walked to the door. He was halfway across the threshold when Severus saw him pause.

His hand still on the doorknob, Blaise turned, not looking back at Severus, but speaking to him.

"I think they've got her," Blaise muttered. Severus almost didn't register what he had said, and by the time he had, Blaise had left, slamming the door behind him.

Severus closed his eyes and exhaled slowly.

My Round 1 entry for the 34 Prompts Challenge. A Blaise and Severus father/son story. As I've said, I'm primarily a canon writer, so I did the best with what I was given. :) Hope you like.