Harry wasn't quite sure what to expect at this meeting. Talk. Thing. Professor Snape said it wasn't a meeting, it was a talk. About the future. Which sounded ominous and sent him into a bit of an anxiety attack but only a small one. He didn't really mind talks with Professor Snape, something his classmates didn't seem to share. They thought the professor was scary and mean, but Harry just thought they didn't like getting caught breaking rules and being lazy and mean. His classmates liked Professor Flitwick but Harry didn't. Harry was always made to feel like he had done something wrong and he always had the hardest time with wandwork even though he and Professor Snape were working on it three evenings a week. Harry didn't even understand why floating feathers were so important but accepted the explanation Professor Snape gave, that it wasn't really about feathers but about the spell itself. Feathers made it less likely for students to hurt themselves by lifting heavy objects they couldn't control easily, if at all.

Ever since the suspension of the boys who attacked him, Harry felt even safer at school and he didn't really want to go home. Well, back to the Dursely's. It wasn't really home the way Ron and Hermione described home. To Harry, life on Privet Drive felt more like Azkaban, the wizard prison he heard people talking about. The Dursley's sure acted like happiness vampires, and Harry never was happy there with them. When they weren't home it was easier to be happy, but when they were home, it was awful. Maybe that was what Professor Snape wanted to talk about. They hadn't talked about his life at home since their conversation when Harry accidentally let it slip that Aunt Petunia hit him with a frying pan, so maybe it was time again.

Harry hoped not because he hated talking about his home life because it was upsetting and didn't make him feel in control.

Harry stripped down to his shorts, his robes and uniform suddenly unbearable against his skin, and clambered atop the jungle gym in his Relaxing Room. He decided to hang upside down from his knees and run his fingers through the thick carpet.

"Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN!"

Harry laughed, homework and friends and anxiety completely forgotten. The carpet tickled his hands in the best way, sending jolts like electricity, but that didn't hurt like the time he was tricked into sticking a fork into an electrical outlet.

"Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN!"

Harry wasn't sure why more people didn't have trouble with clothes. Hermione said she knew someone who didn't like labels touching their skin, but they still wore clothes. Ron tried wearing his socks inside out like Harry once but said it didn't matter to him nearly as much as it mattered to Harry, something that Harry didn't quite believe. It didn't seem at all possible that others could ignore the scratchy inside of cotton socks or the thick seam along the toe. And ties didn't seem to bother anyone else the same way either. Others had a bit of trouble tying their school ties at first, but they else caught on quickly enough, and they also didn't get the feeling of choking that a buttoned collar caused him. So much trouble for such small things.

"Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN!"

But maybe he and Professor Snape wouldn't have to talk about homework or clothes at all. Maybe they would just have dinner and Harry would get to talk about chemistry and an idea he had about how to use some of the plants he was growing in Herbology. Maybe he and Professor Snape would get to talk about How to Make Friends. Harry was sure he had friends, but then again he had also been sure those boys were his friends, too. Professor Snape said he wasn't the best person to talk about making friends but that perhaps they could learn together. Harry liked the sound of that.

"Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN!"

Herbology was not his most favorite subject, but he liked it a lot more than Charms. He was partners with a boy named Neville who didn't mind that Harry didn't really talk. Neville also didn't talk much during class, which suited Harry just fine. Talking was hard. Professor Snape suggested once that perhaps sign language would help him communicate more easily.

Harry grinned as the door opened and Professor Snape walked in. Harry laughed because Professor Snape was upside down and walking on the ceiling.

"Upside down. Big boots. Upside down."

He flapped his hands.

"Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN!"

"Am I upside down or are you upside down, Harry?"

Harry paused, uncertain.

"Both. Harry is upside down and Professor Snape is upside down. We are both upside down. Like bats. Look, batman!"

Harry flung his arms out like wings.

"Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAAAN!"

Harry watched as Professor Snape made himself comfortable on his chair. If he was told to come focus immediately, then Harry knew there was Serious Business going on, but if he was allowed to just play around for a bit, then the evening was going to be less about homework and more about just talking through the day or week.

"Harry, you have 15 more minutes and then you need to put some clothes on."

Harry narrowed his eyes.

"But I don't like those clothes anymore."

They were itchy. And too tight in all the wrong places. And they were just wrong.

"So put on different clothes, Harry. It does not matter what you are wearing just so long as you are wearing something other than your pants and socks."

Harry considered this.

"No socks."

"Fine, no socks, but yes to proper clothes," said Professor Snape.

"No socks, no shoes, no service."

Harry laughed.

"No socks, no shoes, no service," he repeated. "No socks, no shoes, no service."

Harry clapped his hands a few times. That felt fun to say. He said it a few more times to himself, ignoring Professor Snape for the time being. He didn't have to get down yet, so he didn't. He continued to enjoy being upside down with his hands in the carpet, gently swinging from his knees.

"Alright, Harry, time to get dressed. No socks. No shoes."

"No service," finished Harry.

He unhooked his knees and tumbled to the ground. The carpet felt amazing on his skin and he lay there making air angels until some soft material landed on his face, startling him.


"Yes, Harry, those are your sweats."

"Clothes make my skin feel on fire," said Harry, still not wanting to get dressed.

"These will not, so please put them on."


"No, Harry," said Professor Snape, "you need to put them on. At least put the bottoms on."

"No socks."

"No socks."

"No shoes."

"No shoes," repeated Professor Snape.

"No shirt."

"No shirt."

"Because shirts hurt right now, Professor."

"As do socks."

"Yes, and socks, how did you know?"

Harry was certain Professor Snape knew everything about everything.

"Because you took them off with the rest of your clothes."


"Please get dressed, Harry," said Professor Snape as he picked up the sweat pants from the floor and handed them to Harry.

Harry pulled them on, swaying first on one foot then the other, then finally grabbing onto Professor Snape for balance.

"Easy does it," said the professor. "If you want to see Madam Pompfery we can arrange to do so without needing actual medical care."

Harry laughed.

This was definitely not a homework meeting, or, at least not just a homework meeting. It was nice just to spend quiet time with the professor without the pressure to master basic tasks. He was getting better, though, at getting his magic to work when he wanted it to work. He was already really good at doing magic when he didn't intend to, but the whole purpose of magic school was to learn to do magic controllably, wasn't it, so by that measure he wasn't all that fond of school for school's sake. What he was fond of were these evening sessions with his professor where he wasn't expected to pretend to be normal or even pretend that things weren't bothering him. When he got to spend time here, it meant he was free to be himself and not worry about doing things wrong. He did plenty things in ways that were different than he saw everyone else doing them, but he and Professor Snape were getting better and just working with those differences rather than try to change most of them. Like with his Charms work.

Professor Flitwick was very particular about how he was to hold his wand and say the words, but it wasn't working for Harry and both were frustrated. But what he and Professor Snape discovered was that he didn't really need to speak to get his magic to work, he just had to think it, willfully think the spell and his magic would work through his wand. The Charms professor was adamant that Harry be able to show his work, though, which didn't exactly make much sense to Harry since the end result was that his feather floated in the air when he told it to, it was just that Professor Flitwick couldn't hear the words in Harry's head. Professor Snape said that just meant the Charms professor was a dunderhead and it just mattered that the spell worked.

"Professor," said Harry, "Hermione says that Professor Flitwick says that if students can't do the spells exactly as he says to do them that he will fail them on the exams."

Professor Snape sighed. That was never a good thing; it meant he was tired. Harry knew that much from spending so much time with him. Sighing meant that Professor Snape was tired, but not just physically exhausted. The tiredness could be from different things, like emotions like frustration or determination or exasperation or acceptance. It had to do with the tone of the sigh, the context of the sigh. Harry sighed. He would never understand tones of voice let alone tones of sighs.

"What is the matter, Harry?"

Harry scrunched his face in concentration. He wanted to get this exactly right.

"'What's the matter, Harry?'' he echoed.

"What's the matter, Harry?" said Professor Snape.

"You sighed."

"I did indeed."

"That means that you're tired."

"It could mean that, yes."


Harry cocked his head as he thought.

"But you're not tired."

"I am weary of petty mulishness."

"Pretty Moo-moo-mule-ish-ness?"

"Close. Mule-ish-ness. Mulishness. And it is petty, not 'pretty.' There is nothing 'pretty' about mulishness."

"Like a mule? Some mules are pretty, Professor Snape. They're also patient and work hard."

Harry wasn't quite sure how mules got brought into the conversation. He figured wizards didn't need to use draft animals since they had magic to do almost anything.

"Are there magic farms? Is that where all the food come from? From magic farms? Is that where the mules are? Why are you tired of mules, Professor?"

Professor Snape laughed. Harry liked it when Professor Snape laughed because he was never made to feel stupid or left out of the joke. Whenever Harry said or did something that made Professor Snape laugh, he explained the joke to Harry. Often times the joke still wasn't all that funny to him, but he appreciated that others found him funny even if he didn't.

"Not literally mules, Harry," he said. "And we wizards and witches get our food from Muggle supermarkets and farms, same as Muggles do."

"Really? Like Tesco?"

Harry laughed, the image of his teachers shopping in the local Tesco amused him.

"Yes, like Tesco. Some families have gardens, but for the most part we shop with Muggles."


"There happens to be a Tesco right down the road a bit from my home. Perhaps I will take you shopping there so you can see for yourself."

Harry laughed again. Professor Snape was in a good mood if he was making all these jokes.

"But then why are you tired of mules, Professor?"

"Not mules literally. Figuratively. 'Mulishness' is an adjective that, in this case, is describing stubbornness. When someone is mulish, they are being stubborn."

Harry thought about that for a bit.

"So they don't look like a mule?"


"Not even wizards who are mulish?"

"Nor witches."

"But in Trans-trans-transfig-or-rations class you can turn into animals. Professor McGonagall turns into a tabby cat so are there some wizards who can turn into mules or is it just cats? Can you turn into a cat? Or do just witches turn into cats?"

Harry threw himself onto his beanbag and sprawled out across its soft surface. He looked at Professor Snape sitting across from him in his rocking chair and waited expectantly for the answers to his questions.

"Some, but not all or even most, witches and wizards are Animagi, which is to say that they are able to transform themselves into an animal at will. It is a learned skill, one that takes quite a lot of work, and you will begin to learn about this in your third year with Professor McGonagall. As far as I am aware, none of my acquaintances transform into mules, and only one turns into a cat.


"I cannot turn into any animal as I am not an Animagus. It is a valuable skill, but one that I have not studied."

"You mean a awesome skill, Professor!" said Harry.

"Yes, it as an awesome skill."

"But so ok if no one you knows is a mule, then how come you gave a tired sigh about 'pretty mule-ashes."

"'Petty mulishness,' yes," said Professor Snape. "And that was in response to your frustrations with Professor Flitwick."

"Professor Flitwick is a mule?"

Professor Snape raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips.

"No, Professor Flitwick is not a mule, Harry."


"Professor Flitwick is acting mulish."

"But not pretty mulish."

"Petty. Not pretty. Petty means trivial or not important."

"Professor Flitwick is not important?"

That astounded Harry.

"Harry, he is not important enough for you to feel badly about yourself."

Oh right, because of how poorly he was doing in his Charms class. Harry bet there were a lot of teacher conferences about him that Professor Snape had to attend and argue in. So if Professor Snape were tired enough to sigh, then it was because of Harry causing so many troubles and problems just like the Dursley's always said. Harry didn't like seeing Professor Snape upset because of him. He pulled himself out of his beanbag and stood in front of the rocking chair looking at the wall behind the Professor's head.

Professor Snape stopped rocking.

Harry stuck out his hand for a high five.

"Up high."

He smiled when Professor Snape gave him a high-five.

"To the side," said Harry as he moved his hand.

After Professor Snape gave him another high-five, he lowered his hand.

"Down low."

He pulled his hand quickly away as Professor Snape reached down to clap his palm. He laughed.

"Too slow," he said. "Too slow. Down low, too slow. Down low, too slow."

Harry laughed at his joke and rocked backwards and forwards, hands dancing.

"Down low, too slow," he repeated.

"You got me that time, Harry. Good job."

"Good job, Harry," echoed Harry. "Good job."

"Good job indeed," said Severus.

"Sorry that you're sad because of my bad job at Charms, Professor," said Harry.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Sorry that you're sad because of my bad job at Charms, Professor," repeated Harry.


"It's like Aunt Petunia always said, that I'm too much trouble. Too much trouble. Always causing trouble. That boy will be the death of me. Never applies himself. Lazy bad boy."


"Sorry I cause you trouble, Professor. Please don't be sad."

"Harry, I am sad, but not because of you. Never because of you. I am sad because of how others treat you. Which brings me to what I need to talk to you about this evening. You mentioned a few things your Aunt Petunia always said about you just a few moments ago."

Harry nodded, then froze. He wasn't supposed to say anything.

"Harry, it's ok, you're not in trouble."

Harry relaxed. If Professor Snape said he wasn't in trouble, then he wasn't in trouble no matter who said otherwise, not even Aunt Petunia.

"Remember how I visited your relatives' home?"

Harry nodded, hands clenching and unclenching, rocking slightly. Even if he wasn't in trouble he was still anxious.

"Harry, you cannot go back there."

"Not until summer, Professor. No students at school during the summer. No summer school."

"That is correct, there is no summer school and no students board here during the summer."

"So I have to go back in the summer."

"No, Harry, you do not."

Harry paused, confused.

"Harry, I've spoken to the headmaster—"


"Professor Dumbledore, Harry."

Harry nodded.

"I've spoken to Professor Dumbledore about your home life. And Harry, I need you pay full attention to what I am about to say."

Harry saluted and then stood at attention.

"Yes sir."

Professor Snape smiled. Well, a smile was definitely preferable to a frown or a sigh, so Harry smiled, too.

"At ease, Mr. Potter."

Harry fell back into his gentle rocking.

"Harry, after speaking with the headmaster, it's been decided that you will be staying with me, indefinitely."

"Indefinitely, not defined, no limits, always. Indefinitely means forever, Professor Snape."

"Indefinitely does mean forever, Harry."

"So I don't have to go back to Privet Lane? Ever?"

"Never ever."

"And I get to stay with you forever?"

"If you are amenable, yes."


"Amenable. It means agreeable."

"Ok yes. I am amenable."

Professor Snape let out a long sigh.

"You are still sad, Professor Snape?

"No, not sad, Harry. Relieved. That was a sigh of relief."

"Ok, can we have dinner now because I am hungry."

"Do you have any questions right now, Harry?"

"Yeah, can we have dinner? Can we have pancakes for dinner? Can we have strawberry milk pancakes with bacon for dinner?"

Harry smiled at the Professor's laugh.

"I think that can be arranged this evening, Mr. Potter."