A/N: The final part. That's another challenge down. I hope to respond to some more challenges on P&S soon. Happy reading m'loves.
Snape strode down to the Great Hall for breakfast. He was a little late due to his stop at the hospital wing and many of the staff had already eaten and left, but as he walked in he saw Umbridge sat smugly at the table, sipping her tea, conversing with no one, just sweeping her superior gaze over the students as they ate, like a King or Queen would survey their court. She was sitting in Dumbledore's usual seat. That irked Snape more than anything else. He swept along the staff table and sat in the seat next to Umbridge. For once he would be able to use his severe reputation to his advantage.
"Good morning, Delores," Snape drawled.
"Snape," she replied curtly.
Snape served himself some pumpkin juice and said nothing more. On closer inspection, it seemed Umbridge wasn't just observing her kingdom, she was looking for someone, and Snape knew exactly who it was.
"I bumped into Mr Potter last night," he said.
Umbridge's high pitched squeak told him he was right. She set her cup and saucer down and turned slightly in her chair to face Snape whose expression showed nothing but an air of indifference. Umbridge sat waiting for him to make his point.
"Whatever you are doing in these...detentions...is obviously working. I have never seen Potter so obedient," he said lingering on the last word.
Umbridge shifted in her seat. "Yes, well. The boy needs discipline. Firm discipline. Something I'm sure he's never seen in his life here at Hogwarts." Her voice then took on a lighter tone, but Snape was sure he heard a hint of fear. "Did Mr Potter speak of anything else?"
Snape paused deliberately, taking a long sip of his pumpkin juice.
"No." Umbridge visibly relaxed. "But I am curious about your methods. I'm sure whatever it is, he deserves it," Snape said. Lowering his voice, his tone turned bitter and he added, just for emphasis, "Every day he pushes me further towards casting an unforgiveable. That insolent boy gets away with far too much. Before your arrival, the Headmaster let him run riot in this place." He drew his face easily into a scowl. "Just like his father." The scowl could barely be considered false – the very thought of James Potter making it very easy to dredge up the ongoing bitterness and resentment he felt.
A small smile crept onto Umbridge's face. "Finally, a wizard in this castle with some sense," she said, picking up her tea and sipping it once more. "I was beginning to think it impossible to find a professor in this school that wasn't foolish enough to be taken in by the lies of some teenager."
Snape inwardly cringed. You do not know how wrong you are, woman. "I assure you, Delores, he has no sway with me. I have been telling Dumbledore for years that Potter needs more discipline than weak words and a lemon drop. I am pleased to see that somebody is willing to kick the boy off his pedestal."
"His lies are creating rather a fuss at the Ministry," she said irritably. "It will take weeks to dispel the rumours he is spreading. The quicker the boy learns to behave, the better." Umbridge's eyes swept over the house tables. A crease settled above her nose when her gaze fell upon the Gryffindor table.
Snape cleared his throat. "If you require another on your side, I am willing to help in your little crusade." He served himself some more pumpkin juice. "In fact, it would make me more than happy to...seek a little retribution...perhaps use a more fitting punishment now that Dumbledore and his obscene rules have been... ousted," he added lightly, though every bad word he said about Dumbledore made him detest Umbridge even more.
Umbridge paused with her teacup raised to her mouth. Lowering it slowly back down to the saucer, she sat with pursed lips, obviously thinking. Snape schooled his features back into his usual look of indifference. Umbridge leant forward and placed her tea gently on the table before sitting back in her chair and resting her hands in her lap.
"If you are certain that I have you on board," she clipped, "as my headmaster duties are proving quite the task, the Defence Against the Dark Arts post may suddenly become...available...should you be interested."
Snape's eyebrows rose in surprise. He had wanted that position for so long. He went to speak but found he couldn't, stunned as he was. He could have the job he'd always wanted but Dumbledore had always refused him. It was being offered to him on a plate...for a price, yes, but how big was that price? Merlin, Severus, stop gawping and remember what you are doing, his conscience couldn't believe he was actually thinking about it. It's obviously a bribe to keep me quiet, he thought. But what a bribe! Snapping his mouth shut, he composed himself and said deeply, "I am most certainly on board."
"In that case, Snape, would you like to escort me to my office?" she asked, getting up from her seat.
"Indeed I would."
Snape downed the rest of his pumpkin juice and exited the hall with Umbridge, fighting hard to keep his lips from quirking upwards. Both professors were oblivious to the two sets of eyes watching from the Gryffindor table as they left.
Ron and Hermione followed Snape and Umbridge with their eyes as both left the hall together.
"They're getting cosy," Ron said looking like he'd just eaten something rotten.
"Something's going on," Hermione replied absently.
"Disgusting if you ask me." Ron stuffed a large chunk of sausage in his mouth and continued. "A bat and a toad. At least keep it within the species." That earned him a clout around the head with a copy of The Daily Prophet from Hermione. He wasn't sure if it was because of his comment or his manners.
Hermione sat in front of her half-eaten breakfast, her hands in her lap restlessly rolling the newspaper. "I'm worried about Harry," she said finally.
"Look, we'll check the hospital wing before class. He was sick last night so he probably did the sensible thing and went to Pomfrey. If he's not there, we'll check with McGonagall, OK?" Ron said through a mouthful of food.
"You're probably right." Hermione sighed. "Do chew your food, Ronald," she chastised before going back to her breakfast a little less concerned than she was.
Stepping into Umbridge's office, Snape forced himself not to roll his eyes at the cat plates adorning the walls.
Umbridge shut her office door and rounded her desk. From her breast pocket she retrieved a key and bent down slightly, poking it into the lock on her desk drawer. As the key settled in the lock, it glowed blue. Drawing her wand she then muttered, "Alohomora," under her breath and the key turned slowly. Snape could hear the tiny clicks as each component of the lock came undone. What with the extra safe protection on the drawer, Snape knew exactly what she was hiding in it.
Grasping the handle, she paused. "Just what are your limits, Snape?" she asked. Snape was caught off-guard and at his moment of hesitation, Umbridge jerked herself upright, releasing the drawer handle. "If we are to keep Potter in line, how far are you willing to go?" she asked sweetly, but the look in her eyes told Snape she was deadly serious. He thought for a second.
"I am open to suggestions, however, as long as Potter remains alive and breathing, the methods are of no concern to me," he said, face resolute.
Umbridge's hand hung sceptically over the drawer. "And what are your views on...Dark Magic?"
"I did not become a master of the Dark Arts without reason," Snape said cryptically. "I am more aware of the effects than most. I am also very aware of the antidotes and cures if, Merlin forbid, something goes...awry." For a moment, they locked eyes. Snape didn't take a breath as Umbridge's fingers curled around the drawer handle again and this time she slowly slid it open.
Snape took an eager step forward. He kept his eyes on her hand as she withdrew something from the drawer. There it was. Pinched between her fingers was a blood quill, black as the magic inside it.
"I know what you are thinking," she said quietly, "not your usual method of punishment, but he is learning, you said so yourself." Placing the quill on her desk, she pushed it towards Snape. "In this case, I believe the end justifies the means, don't you?" She cocked her head to the side, smiling.
Snape picked up the quill in his hand, bringing it up to his eye. He scrutinised it, studying the shape, taking in the colour of the feather, the sharpness of the tip. Yes, it was by no mistake a blood quill.
"Ingenious," Snape said distractedly.
"I will be able to obtain an extra quill when I next visit the Ministry, though I would ask for your discretion." Snape nodded and continued taking in every detail of the quill. "It will likely be tomorrow. Potter has another detention with me tonight." Umbridge smirked to herself. "They are very...handy...for lessons such as the ones we will need to teach Mr Potter."
"Indeed," Snape said deeply. He carefully handed the quill back to Umbridge who smiled smugly at it before shutting it away again.
"Before you go," she said, rounding her desk, "As of tomorrow, welcome to your new post as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Snape."
It felt so strange to be hearing those words – stranger still that Snape knew he probably wouldn't get to teach a single class.
"Harry!" Ron and Hermione said in unison. They both strode over to his bedside.
"Hey guys," Harry said groggily. He sat up and felt around for his glasses. "How did you know I was here?" he asked, making sure to keep his infected hand out of sight.
"After all these years we've come to expect it," Hermione said, flashing him a smile.
"How are you feeling?" Ron asked, but before Harry could reply, Madam Pomfrey click-clacked into the room.
"Mr Potter, you should be resting," she clipped. Harry groaned loudly. "Don't give me that look, young man, Professor Snape's orders – said you were wandering the halls sick with flu, silly boy." She rounded the bed and felt his forehead. "Hmph, you're still a bit warm, but you look better. How do you feel?"
"Just a bit tired."
"You will do. Professor Snape said he gave you a fever reducer earlier?"
"Yes, ma'am," Harry said.
"Then I cannot prescribe another one for an hour or two, which gives you ample time to rest, Mr Potter." She gave him a reproachful look and then extended it to Hermione and Ron. Hermione took the hint, but Ron was oblivious as usual.
"Come on, Ron," she said, tugging on his sleeve, "we should leave Harry to get better." Ron looked about to protest, but the glare from Pomfrey and Hermione's authoritarian tone made him rethink.
"Sorry, mate. Get better, yeah?" Ron said awkwardly as Hermione pushed him out of the hospital wing.
"Get well, Harry!" she called back, giving Harry a little wave.
Pomfrey continued bustling around the hospital wing. Harry removed his glasses again and rearranged his pillows. Madam Pomfrey absentmindedly marched up to his bed and cleared the empty vials on the table, scrutinising the boy in front of her.
"One of these days you'll learn to do the sensible thing and come to me of your own accord when you're sick rather than constantly need to be coaxed into it," she said lightly. Walking away, she added, "Though at least when that day comes, I'll know it's serious." Harry saw her mouth quirk upwards into smile as she disappeared into her office.
As he lay down in the hospital bed, his thoughts were plagued not only by Umbridge, but by Snape as well. He'd covered for Harry...the flu story...just what was Snape up to?
After setting his afternoon third year class to work, Snape did his usual rounds of the room, berating the Gryffindors and praising the Slytherins. Half an hour into the class, most of the students were at the stage in brewing where all they could do was stir and watch their cauldrons. Usually Snape didn't allow idle chat in his class, especially not when potentially dangerous potions were being made, but his mind was elsewhere as the students quietly talked and laughed amongst themselves. Snape allowed himself this little breather; after class there was so much to do.
Sitting at his desk while his students worked away, he thought about Potter, deciding it best to allow the boy the rest of the day to recuperate. He still needed a few more doses of the antibiotics to keep the infection at bay, but Snape didn't see the need for the boy to remain cooped up in the hospital wing for the rest of the day; he had a perfectly good bed in Gryffindor Tower where he wasn't getting under anybody's feet.
As the students began bottling their potions, Snape was drawn from his reverie.
"Label your bottled potions and put them on my desk, then you may leave," he bellowed over the inane chatter of students.
As soon as the last student was out, he locked the potions away and trekked to the hospital wing. When he arrived, Madam Pomfrey was dealing with a sick student who on first glance looked very ill, until Snape spied the open packet of 'Puking Pastels'. Blasted Weasley twins again.
Leaving Pomfrey to her duties, Snape headed straight for Harry's bed and was surprised to find the boy fast asleep. His first instinct was to clear his throat loudly and snap Potter's name to give him a bit of a fright, but after everything that had happened, he decided to leave the boy to sleep. The last thing Snape needed was for him to collapse on the way back up to Gryffindor Tower and end up back in the hospital wing, using up more of his potions.
Striding into Pomfrey's office, he wrote a quick message on a piece of parchment and, after retrieving two vials from his pocket, quietly swept around Harry's bed and placed them and the note at his bedside. Leaving the hospital wing, he nodded to Madam Pomfrey and marched back down to the dungeons. When he reached his quarters he wanted nothing more than to sit in his chair with a cup of hot tea and a book, but no, first he had some errands to run and some people to see. He stepped into his fireplace ready to floo to his first destination.
Harry had been sleeping soundly for three hours. It had taken him forever to drop off, but not even the intermittent clicking of Madam Pomfrey's heels or sound of a first year retching could keep him awake once he'd succumbed to slumber. The infection had really taken it out of him. When he awoke, he took a deep breath and felt pretty good – still groggy and exhausted, but better than he had been feeling at any rate. Apparently he really did need to sleep.
Feeling around the bedside table for his glasses, Harry's heart jumped as he knocked over some potion vials. He almost leapt out of bed as he scrambled to keep them from falling off the table. Thank goodness the stoppers were in. Finding his glasses, he put them on and immediately noticed the note underneath the vials.
Whilst you were sleeping some of us had things to do, so here are your potions. Remember, half the antibiotic now, half in an hour, and then take the fever reducer. Once you have consumed the potions, you may return to Gryffindor Tower to recuperate for the rest of the day.
Come to my quarters at 6pm for your final dose of antibiotics.
Harry yawned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Snape had given him the rest of the day off. He hadn't even assigned him any catch up work. More to the point, he'd let him sleep. Any other day Harry would wager that Snape would take great pleasure in scaring him awake.
Harry uncorked the antibiotic, downing half in one gulp. He lay back down in his bed trying to think of a way to pass the time. His mind wandered to Umbridge and a scowl planted itself firmly across his face. Part of him had foolishly hoped she'd be banished from the school by the time he woke up in the afternoon. He'd even dreamt that she was dragged away by Aragog on a visit to Hagrid's hut. There were no cheers though, nor any laughter, so he assumed his dream hadn't come true. At least he'd managed to wangle a night off from her incessant torture.
It was almost four in the afternoon before Harry got to leave the hospital wing. Pomfrey stopped him as he was readying himself to go, but he showed her the note and the empty vials and she quickly admonished him for not going to see her sooner and then shooed him out with a warning that she would assign him his own healer if she saw him again that week.
Strolling through the castle to his dormitory, Harry felt strangely free. It wasn't often that he had a completely free afternoon. Hermione and Ron were probably still stuck in classes. He picked at the bandage on his hand and lifted it, frowning at the red scars that blemished the skin. As if he didn't have enough scars already!
Harry muttered the password for the portrait and looked around the common room. A couple of people were milling about, but no one he really wanted to talk to. Instead, he turned and headed for his room, intent on starting his Astronomy homework. He sat cross legged on the bed and opened his book. He managed to read two paragraphs before slumping back on his pillows and falling into a deep sleep.
The clock had struck six o'clock precisely four minutes ago. Snape sat in his quarters, resting his chin between his thumb and forefinger. Harry had not yet been down to collect his antibiotics, but short of storming up to Gryffindor Tower, there wasn't a great deal he could do about it. Truth be told, for what seemed like the first time ever, Snape didn't mind too much; this was the most rest he'd had all day.
Another three minutes later and there was a quiet knock on his door. Snape got up to open it.
"Sorry, Sir, I fell asleep and didn't realise the time."
"Surprisingly, Potter, I hadn't banked on you being on time."
Snape stepped aside, allowing Harry in and Harry stood awkwardly in the middle of the room. "Sit," Snape ordered and Harry quickly sunk down into the nearest chair.
Snape strode over to his bureau and removed a vial, quickly checked the label, and then walked back to Harry, handing it over.
"I trust you know what to do with it now?" Snape asked.
Harry nodded, uncorking the bottle and downing half. Snape moved back to his armchair and rested his wrists on the wooden arms. The fingers on his right hand drummed the oak. If Harry wasn't mistaken, Snape looked agitated.
"Is that all, Sir?" he asked, hoping that it was. He wasn't in the mood to be on the receiving end of Snape's temper tonight.
"Yes, Potter." Snape paused and Harry took that as his cue to leave. Before he got to the door, however, Snape stopped him. "Potter, as soon as you have taken your last dose, report to Umbridge for your next detention." His voice was strained.
For some reason Snape found it very difficult to maintain eye contact – it was like watching Lily's wonderful eyes crumble before him.
Harry's breath caught in his throat. Snape still wanted him to go to detention with Umbridge? His mouth drooped, his expression doing nothing to hide the devastation he felt.
"I have to go back?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Always trying to get out of detentions. A Potter through and through aren't you?" Snape quipped.
"You saw what she...how can you make me..." Harry shook his head, feeling furious that he'd even thought it possible to trust the man.
"Things do not always work out the way we want them to, Potter," Snape said, his face turning serious. There was something in that look that Harry couldn't decipher; however he wasn't given any time to think on it. "Professor Umbridge will be expecting you at 7pm. Do not be late. I do not expect her to be as forgiving as I have been tonight."
"But I thought –"
"You thought what, Potter?"
"I..." Harry looked at his professor, but the man's face now held nothing but the usual snide loathing he was accustomed to. Why had he been so stupid? This was Snape. It was all a game. Just like always. Harry dropped his gaze to his shoes. "Nothing."
"Then why are you still here?" Snape asked sharply before rising from his seat and marching to the door, throwing it open.
Harry didn't know what to say. That was the last thing he was expecting to happen that night. He couldn't keep the frown from his face; it was as though a lead weight was pulling on the corners of his lips. Snape wasn't even looking at him. As Harry stepped over the threshold, Snape slammed the door behind him, clipping the back of his heels.
Harry's stomach clenched at the thought of seeing Umbridge again. Snape was right; sometimes things didn't work out the way he wanted them to. After years of let downs he thought he should be used to it by now.
Harry had spent the last hour wringing his hands and pacing in his room. Ron had asked him what was wrong, but Harry fobbed him off saying he was still feeling a bit under the weather and just wanted to be left alone for a bit.
Now, standing outside Umbridge's office at 6.58pm, he downed the final dose of antibiotic, stowed the vial in his trouser pocket, and gave the door a firm knock.
"Come!" Harry heard from inside.
As he walked in, he saw his usual desk set up. The sound of the cats crying on the wall did nothing to quell the feeling in his gut.
"Ah, Mr Potter, you are early. You must be eager." Umbridge smirked, standing from her desk. As she stalked towards him, he shuddered at the quill in her hand. "Sit down, Mr Potter." Harry sat behind the desk and Umbridge stood there, looking down at him. "It might interest you to know that Professor Snape will be your new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor whilst I spend my time cleaning up the mess Albus Dumbledore has made of this school."
Harry's head shot up. She bought him off! She bought the bastard off with the DADA post! Harry wasn't sure whether he should be angry or upset. He knew Professor Snape didn't like him, but he didn't think he was shallow and cruel enough to be swayed by something so materialistic.
Umbridge started pacing. "This does not mean, however, that our detentions are finished. Your...rehabilitation...will continue until I see a measurable change in you, Mr Potter. When I am not available, Professor Snape has agreed to ensure you are kept in line."
Harry went rigid. So now Snape wanted to torture him to? He told one person, one person, and they betrayed him. He felt physically sick.
"I think by now you should know what to do." She placed the quill in front of Harry, smirking. Harry picked it up shakily. "Oh and Potter, I want to see two hundred today."
Harry gulped audibly. Everything had gone downhill so suddenly. Shaking his head, he tried to keep his mind on the task at hand. If he thought about his day any longer he was sure he'd scream or cry or do something foolish and embarrassing in front of the toad.
He took a deep breath and touched quill to parchment.
At that moment, the door broke free from its hinges, a loud crash ringing through Harry's ears. As the dust cleared, Dumbledore stepped across the threshold, accompanied by a small army of Aurors.
"Hello, Delores," Dumbledore said. Umbridge whipped out her wand, but Dumbledore was too quick and disarmed her. "Put it down, Harry," he said, eyeing the quill in Harry's hand. Harry dropped it immediately and scrambled out of his chair to join the crowd of Aurors at the door.
"You have been abusing your power, Delores."
"I- I don't know what on Earth you're talking about," Umbridge sputtered.
"I believe you misjudged the loyalty of one of our faculty," Dumbledore said before turning to Harry, giving him a wink, and standing aside. To Harry's astonishment, there stood Snape, sending a death glare towards Umbridge.
"You!" she cried. "You tricked me! You tricked a Ministry Official! You will pay for this, you mark my words, Snape!"
"In this case, Ms Umbridge," Snape drawled, "I believe the end justifies the means...don't you?"
"Thank you, Severus," Dumbledore said.
A smirk adorned Snape's face, infuriating Umbridge further, and then he swiftly turned on his heels and swept from the room. Harry gaped. Snape hadn't betrayed him at all.
Two Aurors moved forward, seizing Umbridge's arms. "Get off me, you fools!" she screeched. "Cornelius will –"
"– hear about this?" Dumbledore finished for her with a smile. "Yes, I quite imagine he will. A blood quill, Delores? On a student? The Minister will indeed be interested."
Another Auror levitated the quill from Harry's desk, dropping it into a secure container.
"Mr Potter needed to be punished, Dumbledore! Don't you see?" Umbridge said, her eye ablaze as she tried to explain.
"No, Delores. All I see is a trained witch using a dark artefact on a young boy. Severus has relayed what you told him and has relinquished his memory of this afternoon's conversation, so you are cornered, figuratively speaking." Dumbledore stepped towards her menacingly and lowered his voice. "Voldemort you are not, but the evil in your veins is just as pure." He then whipped his head round to face Harry who was stood there in shock. Striding over to him, robes billowing behind, Dumbledore put a hand on Harry's shoulder and steered him through the crowd of Aurors.
"Come, Harry," he said as they left Umbridge's office, "let us leave the Aurors to their work."
That night, Harry spent the evening describing his detentions with Umbridge and trying to explain why he kept it quiet. Dumbledore listened intently like he always did, offering a comforting hand when Harry looked about to burst with emotion and soothing words when Harry had run out of steam.
Dumbledore explained what would happen to Umbridge, and Harry felt little sympathy for her. Harming a student would come under child abuse, which was usually punishable by a term in Azkaban, but on top of that she had stolen a dark artefact from the Ministry. She would not be bothering Hogwarts again for a very long time.
It was late by the time Harry left Dumbledore's office. With a handful of lemon drops, he trudged back to Gryffindor Tower thinking over the events of the day. His opinion of Snape had morphed several times in the last twenty four hours and Harry felt somewhat ashamed of the way he acted in front of the man in his quarters now that he knew it was all just an elaborate plan to catch Umbridge out. Dumbledore always told him to trust Snape, but Snape had never given him any real reason to. Not until now. Now the man had gone out of his way to get rid of Umbridge for good.
Reaching the tower, Harry climbed the stairs to his room. The sound of snores filled the air. Harry assumed Ron had been waiting up for him by the way he was slumped awkwardly on one side with a quidditch magazine underneath him. Quietly, he climbed into bed, not even bothering to change. Sleep didn't come easily, but when the feeling hit him, he succumbed quickly. Merlin, he was exhausted.
Ron woke Harry up the next morning by giving him a rough shake.
"Wha?" Harry grumbled, face pressed into his pillow.
Harry groaned, but was persuaded to slide out of bed by the loud growl in his stomach.
Down in the Great Hall, Harry and Ron joined Hermione at the table and talk soon turned to Harry's detention the night before.
"She's vile!" Hermione exclaimed after Harry told them in a roundabout way that his detention had gone on longer than expected. Taking a bite of his toast, Harry shrugged his shoulders.
"Don't worry, 'Mione," he said, "I have a feeling she won't be around anymore."
Both Ron and Hermione stopped eating and turned to Harry as if to say explain now.
"Dumbledore found her blood quill. The Aurors took her away last night," Harry said, keeping his explanation to the bare minimum.
"Harry!" Hermione said, smiling, "that's great news!"
Ron laughed to himself. "The greasy git will be upset now his troll's gone, ha!"
"Ronald!" Hermione admonished. She noticed Harry's raised eyebrow. "Oh, we just saw Professor Snape and Umbridge whispering to each other at breakfast yesterday. Ronald here decided it was some kind of sordid affair."
Harry merely smiled, realising that it was all probably part of Snape's plan to catch Umbridge out. "Don't be stupid, Ron," Harry sniggered. "Even Snape has better taste than that." They all laughed and Ron started tucking back into his breakfast again. Harry picked up his toast, but he was distracted. Peering surreptitiously up at the staff table, he noticed Snape wasn't there. Until he'd fallen asleep last night he was running over the day in his mind. The one thing that popped into his thoughts frequently was the strong urge he felt to thank Snape for everything. He certainly didn't want to go through another bout of sickness again after Umbridge had had her way, and Snape was the one to stop it from happening. Snape was the one to save him once again. The man was making a habit of it.
Taking a last bite of his toast and a swig of his drink, Harry climbed over the bench and grabbed his things.
"Where you going now?" Ron asked swallowing a mouthful of bacon.
"I just have to go and do something." Harry swung his bag over his shoulder. "Meet you in Herbology." Without giving them chance to question him, Harry sped out of the hall and headed for the dungeons.
Snape was sat in his armchair sipping a potion-laced coffee. The escapades of the last couple of days had left him utterly exhausted, but that was nothing a bit of caffeine and a weak dose of Pepper-Up potion wouldn't cure.
A glass sat on the coffee table, the dregs of brandy visible, after the late night visit he received from Dumbledore – not that he minded; the man was generally good company and Snape had gained something from the visit too. He hoped Dumbledore would leave him to reveal it, however. Rarely did he get to have a bit of fun.
A tap on his door drew Snape out of his reverie. He put down his cup and went to answer it expecting one of his Slytherins to be standing outside, so he was surprised when the door swung open to reveal Harry Potter, The Boy He'd-Seen-Too-Much-Of-Recently, looking up at him as dishevelled as ever.
"Hello, Sir, can I have a word?" Harry asked uneasily.
"May I have a word," Snape corrected rolling his eyes. "Come in if you must."
Snape shut the door behind Harry and then swept passed him, settling himself back into his seat. Harry stood awkwardly, thinking over what he wanted to say.
"Potter," Snape pushed when the silence dragged on too long.
"I...er..." Harry combed a hand through his hair, messing it up further.
"Spit it out," Snape said, exasperated.
Harry swallowed thickly trying to find his voice. "I –" He cleared his throat and tried again. "I just wanted to thank you...for...y'know...everything really."
Snape searched Harry's face and saw nothing but sincerity. "Your gratitude is neither required nor wanted," he replied derisively.
"I know but...well." Harry shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "I also wanted to apologise."
Snape actually looked taken aback. "For what exactly?"
"The way I acted last night." Harry looked to his shoes and smoothed down his robes. "I should have trusted you. Dumbledore always said –"
"Professor Dumbledore, Potter."
"Professor Dumbledore," Harry repeated forcefully, "always said I should trust you. I think...I think I'm beginning to understand now."
"How touching," Snape said in a bored tone. He sat there, unblinking, making Harry feel very uncomfortable.
I guess this was a bad idea, Harry decided. He thought that perhaps he should've just continued appreciating the man's help from afar.
"That's all I wanted to say, Professor. So thanks and yeah...I'll be..." Harry pointed a thumb over his shoulder to the door and turned to leave.
"Eloquent as ever." Harry stopped and turned around, opening his mouth as if to say something, but Snape cut him off. "Your bumbling aside..." Snape sighed and inclined his head, "you are welcome, Potter."
Harry felt the tension drain out of him immediately and he couldn't help the small grin that spread across his face. Nodding to Snape, he said a quick "Goodbye, Sir!" and made to leave. Just as Harry was closing the door, Snape's voice rang out.
"Oh and Potter!" Harry poked his head back around the door. "Do not be late to your afternoon class. Now that Umbridge has...moved on, I think you'll find your new professor to be quite...severe."
Harry's jaw dropped. "Permanently?" was all he could muster up.
Snape nodded. "If you want to thank me, you will keep it to yourself. I think I have earned the right to see firsthand the look of horror on Mr Weasley's face."
Snape just made a joke...Umbridge must've killed me in detention...
"Run along, Mr Potter, your presence is fast spoiling my day."
Harry's head disappeared from the doorway and the door clicked closed. Snape leaned back in his chair, fingers drumming against the wood. His first lesson was not for another 30 minutes, so he let himself relax. As his mind wandered, he felt the anger build at the thought of Umbridge; he felt satisfaction swell inside him at the thought of the Aurors whisking the old witch away; he felt mixed emotions at the thought of Harry Potter, the boy it seemed he lived to constantly save from harm; and he felt nothing but contentment at the thought of Dumbledore offering him the job he'd always wanted since the beginning his career at Hogwarts.
Sipping his now cold coffee, the clock in his quarters chimed and Snape stood up straightening his robes, ready for the day ahead. As he marched through the dungeons, the severity of his gait did not match his mood in the slightest. He was the new DADA professor. That would rattle some cages. He smirked to himself. The class would be his; he wouldn't be just a replacement as he was for Lupin those years ago. As he walked, his purposeful march slowed to an amble. For the first time in a very long while, something good had come Severus Snape's way. The dungeon corridors seemed somewhat brighter and as his relative good mood tugged on his thoughts, he gladly succumbed, his distracted mind pondering clouds and silver linings.
A/N: Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed the story.