Hello all— I'm back! Finals have finally ended (HURRAY!), I'm home for the summer, and I'm super happy and not so stressed out anymore! Plus, summer means I have plenty of spare time to write, so I don't have any excuse for irregular updates.
As always, thanks so much for your praise and comments! I was so psyched to pass 100 reviews! I truly appreciate each one of them—they provide such motivation, and my heart jumps in excitement each time I receive an email notifying me I've received another. So, sincere thanks to all those who've reviewed my story— please keep them coming!
Here's the next chapter—expect another update sometime this coming weekend. Enjoy!
When Harry next woke, the room was shrouded in darkness. Disoriented, he stared at the unfamiliar ceiling. His mind felt strangely fuzzy, and he was slow to come to awareness. Gradually, consciousness returned to him, and he recognized the room he was in as the hospital wing.
Still lying in bed, Harry glanced around the room in confusion—what was he doing here? It was nighttime, and the room was empty aside from Harry. Closing his eyes, he fought to gather his memories. He'd been in a lesson with Snape—he remembered that much. However, the memories after that were hazy. He remembered trying to fight the boggart, but uncertainty followed after that.
Abruptly, a wave of dizziness hit Harry. Head reeling, he clenched the bedsheets between his fists, waiting until the spell passed. Breathing a sigh of relief when the dizziness and subsequent nausea finally subsided, Harry frowned, confused as to why he felt so awful.
"Ah, Harry. I hoped to find you awake."
Jolting upright in bed with a strangled gasp, Harry glanced wildly about the hospital wing for the source of the disembodied voice. In the next moment, a tall figure emerged from the shadows in the corner of the room. Heart still pounding, Harry struggled to recognize the darkened figure until a beam of moonlight illuminated a familiar face—Professor Dumbledore.
Stopping as he reached Harry's bed, the Headmaster began to speak, his voice soft. "I do apologize, Harry. I quite forgot that you were unaware of my presence. I assure you, it was not my intention to startle you."
Harry dropped back down against his pillow as the adrenaline rush wore off, fatigue overwhelming him once more. "S'ok, Professor," he replied, voice scratchy from disuse.
With a small nod, Dumbledore swept aside his silver dressing gown aside and sat at the foot of Harry's bed. "I won't keep you long, my boy," he smiled gently. "You'll need your sleep, I imagine. I was just wandering about the halls, and decided to peek in on you. My finding you awake was quite the happy coincidence."
Somehow, Harry doubted this encounter was by chance— nothing with Dumbledore ever was— but he kept his mouth shut all the same. "What am I doing here, Professor?" Harry questioned, managing to suppress a yawn.
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "Why, you collapsed during your lesson with Professor Snape yesterday. Madam Pomfrey informed me that you were suffering from a severe case of magical exhaustion. As it turns out, your magical core had begun to deplete itself. You gave us all quite a fright, I'm afraid. But not to worry—with a few days of rest, I've been assured you'll make a full recovery."
Harry blinked slowly. "Magical exhaustion?" he finally repeated, brow furrowing in confusion. "But why?"
Dumbledore smiled patiently. "Because of your lessons, Harry. Casting a Patronus is advanced, complex magic, and performing the charm can be quite draining. I'm afraid that the proper precautions to prevent fatigue weren't taken during your lessons with Professor Snape. That, combined with the sheer frequency and duration of your lessons led to your subsequent magical exhaustion."
Silence followed this statement as Harry's tired mind struggled to process what the Headmaster had said. Slowly, memories of the past week came back to him. He remembered his last lesson with Snape—how completely drained he had felt after a week of lessons, homework, and quidditch practice. He remembered the boggart approaching him during his lesson, and not having the energy to cast a Patronus. He remembered a green light—
Harry's stomach clenched as a sudden wave of nausea washed over him. He remembered what he'd seen when the boggart had touched him— his mother, begging Voldemort to kill her instead of her infant son, and Voldemort, fulfilling her final request.
Suddenly, everything became horribly clear to Harry. This woman— the woman whose screams haunted his recent nightmares—this woman was his mother. And when he got close to dementors, he could hear her dying.
"…end them, of course."
Harry jolted back into awareness, suddenly tuning in to what Dumbledore was saying. "Huh?" he questioned dumbly, staring at the Headmaster with wide eyes.
Dumbledore simply smiled. "I was saying, my boy, that we can cancel your lessons with Professor Snape straight away. I can hardly imagine you're eager to continue after what's transpired."
Harry felt strangely numb. "No," he replied after a moment, shaking his head slowly. "No, I need these lessons. I—I want to continue. I can, right?" he questioned, frantically meeting the Headmaster's gaze.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled furiously. "If you so desire. However, I must insist that the frequency and intensity of these lessons be scaled back— we can't risk further damage to your magical core. I'll speak with Professor Snape, and I'll be sure to keep a close, personal eye on your progress. I'm sure you've no objections to that?"
A wave of relief washed over Harry. "Yeah, that's fine," he responded, blinking heavily.
"Very well. And now, I'll leave you to sleep. You need your rest, and I find myself suddenly weary."
With that, the Headmaster rose from his place on Harry's bed. "Goodnight, my boy," he murmured, turning to depart.
"G'night," Harry responded as Dumbledore exited the room, disappearing from sight into the shadowy corridor.
Exhaling shakily, Harry closed his eyes, completely and utterly drained. However, despite his overwhelming fatigue, it still took some time for Harry to drift into an uneasy sleep. That night, his dreams were haunted by flashes of light and shrill screams.
"You sure you're feeling alright, Harry? You were sleeping for ages."
"Yeah, I feel great," Harry assured Ron with a stifled yawn. Swinging his legs down off the hospital wing bed, he stretched his arms above his head, sighing in relief as his joints popped into place. Hermione stood nearby, her face pinched with concern.
"I don't know, Harry," she murmured thoughtfully. "You've been here for nearly three days. Are you sure you feel up to leaving? You don't think you should rest another night?"
Harry shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine now," he said confidently. "I feel better than I have in ages. Besides, Madam Pomfrey cleared me to leave, and I'll sleep better in my own bed anyway."
Hermione huffed, shaking her head. "I can't believe this, Harry. Damaging your core like that—have you any idea how dangerous that was? And Professor Snape... he's partially to blame, of course. I can't believe that he didn't recognize the warning signs!"
Harry shrugged slightly, grabbing the stack of clothes that Ron held out to him. "It's not that big a deal, Hermione," he continued speaking as he closed the curtain around the bed, pulling off the standard-issued pajamas and changing into his own clothes. "I wasn't really hurt, and Pomfrey already lectured me enough as is. Plus, Dumbledore came and talked to me about all this. He said that my lessons won't be so draining from now on, so there's no chance this will happen again." Emerging from behind the curtain, Harry could see from Hermione's expression that his reassurances had done nothing to appease her concern.
"You're continuing the lessons? After everything that's happened?" Hermione questioned briskly. Behind her, Ron also looked startled at Harry's statement.
Hesitating only slightly, Harry nodded once in assertion. "I really want to learn to cast a Patronus, you guys," he replied softly. "I was making progress—I really was. I need to do this, I just—" Harry's voice cut off, and he swallowed thickly. "I just do," he finished, gazing fixedly at the ground, reluctant to elaborate—to even think about his mother's death— the scene replayed itself in his mind too frequently as it was.
Hermione's face softened. "I understand, Harry. I really do. Just promise me you'll be more careful, alright? Don't push yourself so hard again."
"Yeah," Ron chimed it. "What Hermione said." A moment of silence followed this statement, before Ron grinned broadly. "Well, should we head out or what? We'll miss dinner, and I'm starving. Plus, you've got to be sick of the hospital wing by now."
Harry smiled. "Definitely," he agreed, following his friends out the door without hesitation.
Harry cupped his hand against his cheek and let out a quiet sigh. Next to him, Ron slowly stirred their cauldron of Calming Draught. Stirred one hundred times exactly, counterclockwise, at a cautious pace, Snape had written on the blackboard. Face furrowed in concentration, Ron continued to stir carefully, tongue poking out his mouth as he kept count under his breath.
It was Harry's first class back since he'd been released from the hospital wing. Hermione had graciously lent him all her notes from the classes he'd missed, but Harry was still worried he'd end up falling behind with all the work he had to catch up on.
Eyes wandering about the classroom, Harry let his gaze fall on Snape, who was hunched over a pile of papers at his desk. That was another thing that worried Harry—Snape. Normally brimming with snide remarks, Snape had been abnormally silent today. He hadn't come near Harry and Ron's cauldron to critique their potion, made any demeaning comments, or even glanced at Harry during the entire class. All in all, it was rather alarming, Harry mused. Plus, Snape hadn't breathed a word about continuing his lessons, or if they'd even do so. When Dumbledore had visited Harry in the hospital wing, he had assured Harry that the lessons would continue. However, Harry was certain that if Snape had his way, he'd take this as a welcome opportunity to stop the lessons for good.
"One hundred. Done," Ron breathed a sigh of relief, backing away from the now boiling cauldron and wiping his forehead. "Now what?"
"Er," Harry replied, blinking down at his notes. "Add the beetle eyes." And with that, Harry's thoughts about Snape were forgotten as he once more engrossed himself in the lesson.
An hour later, Ron and Harry were left with a cauldron of a light blue, slightly transparent potion. "Looks good to me," Ron breathed a sigh of relief, glancing back and forth between the book's description and their own potion. "Maybe we'll actually get decent marks on this one."
Harry nodded in agreement. "That'd be nice," he agreed easily. Ladling the potion into a vial, Harry carefully corked and labeled his sample. He certainly hoped to receive at least an Acceptable on this brewing—he definitely needed the marks. Snape had handed back their last essays at the beginning of class—the one Harry had hastily written in one sleep-deprived night. He'd managed to scrape out a Poor instead of a Dreadful, but it was still a failing grade. He couldn't afford any more failing marks if he wanted to stand a chance of passing Potions this year. Standing up, Harry grabbed his and Ron's vials to bring up to Snape.
Reaching the Professor's desk, Harry swallowed against a lump in his throat as he set the vials down in the designated pile. He eyed the Professor cautiously for any sign of reaction; however, Snape continued writing furiously, head down, and didn't seem to even notice Harry standing in front of him. Turning to return to his seat, Harry startled when a voice sounded behind him.
"Stay after class, Mr. Potter," Snape breathed quietly. "There are matters we must discuss."
Harry suppressed a shiver. "Yes sir," he replied, before hurriedly making his way back to his seat.
Sliding into his chair, Harry whispered under his breath to Ron. "Snape wants to see me after class. You and Hermione go on to lunch without me."
Ron's eyes grew wide, but he nodded in assertion. "Ok, mate. I'll save you a plate."
"Thanks," Harry replied. "Hopefully I won't be too long."
Several minutes later, Snape dismissed the class. Shooting Harry a pitying look, Ron grabbed Hermione by the arm and tugged her towards the door against her protestations, muttering under his breath as he explained what was going on.
Within moments, the classroom had emptied completely. "Come forward, Mr. Potter," Snape spoke, still not looking up from his desk.
Heart pounding wildly, Harry slung his book bag over his shoulder and shuffled toward the front of the room.
Snape wrote for a few moments more before setting down his quill and looking up at Harry, his face stoic.
"I trust you've fully recovered after your stay in the hospital wing, Mr. Potter?"
Harry stared. "Um, yeah," he responded after a moment. "I'm fine now, sir."
Snape gave him an appraising look which had Harry bristling in discomfort. After a moment, the Professor simply nodded. "Good. If you're feeling up to it then, we'll resume lessons this coming Monday. I believe reducing the lessons to twice per week should be sufficient."
"Yes sir," Harry replied mildly, trying not to let the relief he felt at the Professor's words show on his face. Snape wasn't canceling the lessons after all, as Harry had feared may be the case.
Snape hesitated for a moment before continuing to speak, his face expressionless and voice calculated with his next words.
"Perhaps, Mr. Potter, I was a touch too ambitious in regards to my expectations for your performance during our lessons. This may have contributed to your overexertion, and consequentially, your being injured. In light of what has transpired, it seems only fitting to offer my apologies."
Harry's eyes widened abruptly at the Professor's last statement, and it was only with great self-restraint that he was able to stop his mouth from falling open. Honestly, he didn't know what sort of response he'd expected from Snape, but an apology certainly hadn't been it. Uncertain of how to respond, he simply stared in stunned silence.
"Oh, don't look so shocked, Potter," Snape growled, his face twisting into a familiar, yet strangely comforting sneer. "It's entirely uncalled for."
Harry flushed, abruptly glancing away. A terse silence followed, and Harry felt as though he should add something to the conversation.
"I'm sorry too, Professor," he blurted out suddenly, before he lost his nerve. "You know, for being such a bother and all," he quickly added upon seeing the startled look on Snape's face. "I know you don't have to teach me this, and I really do appreciate it, I swear."
Snape's face smoothed over into an inexpressive mask, but when he spoke, Harry couldn't quite identify his tone. "Dismissed, Mr. Potter," he said smoothly, giving Harry a single nod of affirmation before withdrawing his gaze and busying himself with paperwork once more.
Beyond relieved at the dismissal, Harry spun around and practically jogged from the room, face burning with humiliation. However, once he was halfway to the Great Hall and his embarrassment had somewhat dissipated, Harry's thoughts became fixated on Snape's strange apology. As uncomfortable as their conversation had been, Harry found himself thinking that it'd been the most civil encounter he and Snape had ever had.
As soon as he could no longer hear Potter's hurried footsteps echoing through the dungeon, Snape set his quill down and dropped the pretense of writing, exhaling heavily.
It had been difficult enough for him to apologize to the boy; he was certainly not one to easily admit his wrongdoings. That he'd managed to form as civil an apology as he had was a small wonder. Of course, then Potter had to go and turn the simple affair into something more through the act of apologizing himself.
Typical Potter, Snape mused. Making the situation all about himself. However, this accusation was half-hearted at best, and it settled like lead in Snape's stomach.
Suppressing a groan, Snape closed his eyes, rubbing his temples in an attempt to ward off the headache he felt fast approaching. He could still hear the boy's words echoing in his mind. What was this nonsense about Potter appreciating him? And for Merlin's sake, the child had actually apologized for being a bother. Snape snorted in incredulous disbelief.
And yet, even with his attempts to downplay the significance of what had just transpired, a single, recurring thought kept itself firmly rooted in Snape's mind. The speculation that James Potter would have never dared apologize to a Professor, especially for something as trivial as being bothersome. Potter and his minions were always above acts such as apology or self-reproach.
Snape swallowed against the sudden, sour taste in his mouth. No, to apologize as the boy had was much more resemblant of his mother. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, this was something Lily would have done, and though he was loathe to admit it, the thought of this absolutely terrified Severus Snape.
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