Okay, so short chapter, but still - next chapter already! Actually, in the last 24 hrs, I've posted four (count 'em) chapters, here and in the Outtakes from Letters (on my page) story. In the Outtakes, you now have Hermione and Teddy's view of the Welcome Feast in Second Year and Harry's Birthday Presents. Enjoy!
As always - heed the warnings that are now in Chapter Nine and the story summary and I make no profit. Oh and reviews are always appreciated! :)
"Dad, can't you take the detention?" Harry asked, after Potions class on Friday morning. The look Severus gave him was highly annoyed, but Harry was more concerned about having detention with Lockhart and having to spend two hours alone with him.
"No, as I have just told you, there is a meeting for the Heads of Houses tonight. That means that neither Professor McGonagall or I will be available to take your detention. Since it is meant to be a punishment, it almost makes more sense to let a teacher you don't like supervise you," Severus finished in a scathing tone, packing the students finished potions into his grading box.
"I didn't mean it like that," Harry tried to say, but he knew that Severus wasn't going to hear him. They still hadn't cleared the air since their fight on Wednesday and Harry kicked himself for not doing it sooner. "Really, Dad, I don't. Lockhart's creepy, all the second years think so."
Severus glanced up from what he was doing to raise his eyebrow at Harry. "I have it on good authority that the majority of Gryffindor House believe me to be a, what do they say, yes, 'dungeon bat'?" Here he threw a questioning glance at Harry but continued without waiting for confirmation. "I highly doubt that the general opinion of the Hogwarts student body is the best way for you to be judging your teachers, Harry."
"I'm not judging based on the general, on that!" Harry said, frustrated. "He gives me the creeps, Dad, he's always staring at me and he keeps touching me." Severus eyes darted upwards at this and Harry hoped he'd finally got his Dad to take him seriously.
"Inappropriately?" Severus asked in a quiet voice that Harry knew meant bad things for whoever Severus was angry at. Severus' eyes were now locked on Harry's and behind the rising anger and frustration, Harry could see concern.
"No, nothing like that," Harry jumped to reassure him. "Just always putting his hand on my shoulder and getting in my personal space."
Severus frowned and looked away, though Harry saw just a little bit of his tension trickle away. "Harry, Professor Lockhart has already proven to be a very tactile person; you are not the only person whose personal space he seems to invade. Given your normal aversion to touch, and the circumstances of your introduction to Professor Lockhart, do you not think that you are perhaps over-reacting?" Harry felt his features go slightly slack in shock, and then tight with betrayal.
"No. I don't. But since you obviously think I am, then this conversation is obviously over," Harry said angrily, turning and grabbing his bag. He grabbed it in one swift move and limped as quickly as he could out of the classroom, ignoring the pain in his knee. Since he hadn't had to take any stairs to get from Slytherin to his class, he wasn't wearing his brace, which meant he was already at the classroom door when Severus called his name. He made a point of slamming the Potions room door, just a little, though he didn't go much further. Taking deep breaths to calm himself, and dispel that horrible choking feeling, he heard something smash in the classroom and looked back at the door. His Dad had always believed him. Always. And Harry was sure he wasn't over-reacting, given how Draco and Teddy always seemed to make sure to stand between Lockhart and him. He wasn't the only one who'd noticed it.
"Hey, Harry, what did your Dad need to tell you?" Teddy said, coming over from where Draco, Hermione and Neville were standing. Harry looked up at them blankly and then shook his head.
"My detention tonight's with Lockhart," Harry spat, frustrated and hurt. "Dad and McGonagall have a staff meeting," he offered in explanation as Teddy and Draco groaned.
"Oh Harry, surely it won't be that bad. At least he won't have you pickling rat's brains," Hermione said supportively, referencing the detention Severus had given him last night.
"I'd rather do that for every night for the rest of the year, then spend two hours alone with Lockhart," Harry said, pushing past his friends and heading in the direction of Slytherin common room. Teddy whistled appreciatively but Hermione just scowled at him. He rounded on her, ready to yell at her, but Severus chose that moment to open his classroom door. Harry flushed at being caught so close after storming out and Severus glared at them all.
"If you lot don't have enough homework to do in your free period, I will happily assign you something to do with your time," Severus bit out, ignoring Harry's sound of outrage.
"We do, sir, I mean, have enough to do," Teddy said, smiling frostily and dragging on Harry's arm to make him step back and away. "See you in my meeting tonight, sir," Teddy said, waving with his other hand. Hermione had huffed and put her nose in the air, stalking away in front of the whole group. When they'd turned the corner and were out of sight of the Potions classroom, Teddy turned to Harry. "What in the name of Merlin is wrong with you?" He hissed, looking like he was trying very had not to yell at Harry.
"Nothing, nothing is wrong with me, alright," Harry said, shaking off Teddy's hand. "I'm just tired. I'm gonna go take a nap." He walked away from Teddy, leaving the other boy looking after him with a confused expression on his face. Once he made it to his dorm, he kicked off his shoes and fell face down on the bed, resisting the urge to scream in frustration. He hated feeling like this!
Harry still felt angry when he went to dinner that night. Hermione and Teddy had obviously had a fight because Harry could her sending angry looks at both them from the Gryffindor table. The Weasleys were looking over curiously, but any attempt to draw Hermione into conversation seemed to fail. The attempts ended when she pulled out a book and propped it up in front of her plate. Harry picked listlessly at his food, giving up with a groan. Marcus glared at his plate but Harry just matched his glare.
"Harry, you'll be serving your detention with me, I'm sure Professor Snape told you that, and I'm sure we're going to have a great time. Just come to my office after you've finished your dinner and we'll get started," Lockhart said, making Harry jump as he put his hand on Harry's shoulder and leant down to talk to him. Harry shrugged him off, turning to face him with an upset expression. Harry stilled as he saw anger flash through Lockhart's expression.
"I'm done," Harry said, using his hands to lever his leg up and over the bench. Lockhart stood back to give him room and Harry stood up fully. Once he was fully upright, Lockhart gestured for Harry to walk in front of him. Harry led the way out of the Great Hall, glancing back when he passed Teddy. Teddy was staring at Lockhart with a confused and worried expression that had become his usual expression whenever he was near the new Defense Professor. Harry walked across the Entrance Hall, only pausing as he had to start walking up the stairs. He almost shrugged off the helping hand that Lockhart put around him, making his skin crawl, but he was too proud to try the stairs without it. Once they'd made it all the way up the stairs, Lockhart moved his hand so that it was resting behind Harry's neck, and Harry tried to understand why something that Severus had done numerous times felt so wrong.
"In here, Harry," Lockhart said, opening the door to the classroom. He continued through the classroom, not stopping to point Harry to a seat as Harry expected. "I thought we'd be more comfortable in my office," Lockhart said, opening the door that led from his classroom to his office. Harry paused, looking between the door and the desk he had sat at during class. "Harry?" Lockhart said, in a tone that Harry didn't recognise. Harry shook himself and followed Lockhart through and into his office. Lockhart smiled at him and pointed to the table and seat that was pushed up against his desk. "I thought tonight that you could help me answer some fanmail. I'll hand you the envelopes so that you can address the return envelopes and then put my replies in them."
Harry frowned at the simple task but sat down and pulled the quill and ink pot that Lockhart had provided closer to himself. Lockhart sat down with a flamboyant flourish of his robes and opened the first envelope. Lockhart handed over the empty envelope and Harry started addressing the first of the stack of envelopes that was sitting on his desk as well. Trying not to look at the pictures of Lockhart that were smiling and waving at him, he waited for Lockhart to give him the next envelope and something to put in the current one. Once Lockhart started signing pictures, the night fell into a rhythm that hypnotised Harry in its simplicity.
"Oh, Harry, look at the time! I didn't realise it was quite so late," Lockhart explained, breaking Harry out of his bored concentration. Harry looked up, wincing as he dropped the quill and realised how tightly he'd been holding his quill. He was surprised to see that it was after 9 o'clock and they'd been at it for hours. He flinched as he shifted his leg, sucking in a pained breath. "What's wrong, Harry?"
"My leg," Harry said. He swung it round and started massaging at his leg under the brace, annoyed by the obstruction.
"Here, let me help you with that," Lockhart said. Harry barely had time to look up in confusion before Lockhart had bent down and put his hand at the top of the leg brace, almost halfway up Harry's thigh. He flinched backwards in his chair and Lockhart's hand gripped.
"No, thank you, sir," Harry said, trying to stand up. Lockhart's pressure on his leg didn't let up, meaning he could only get halfway up and had to sit down again because he couldn't balance. Harry was starting to panic slightly, and thought desperately of his wand, sitting in the bag he'd dumped on the other side of the desk. He was never going to forget his wand holster ever again.
"Shh, Harry, it's alright. Just sit down and I'll give you a nice massage to make up for me making you sit there so long," Lockhart said, using a tone that Harry was sure was meant to soothe him. Harry shook his head but Lockhart moved to undo the velcro on the brace.
"Sir, please, I'm fine, just let me go," Harry said, trying to push at Lockhart's hands. Harry heard Lockhart whisper something under his breath and moaned in distress as he realised that he could put any strength in what he was doing. "No, please, what are you doing, stop?"
Harry snorted as he jerked upright, wincing as he realised that he'd fallen asleep while addressing envelopes. "Oh, Harry, I'm sorry. It's far too late. I must have lost track of time, we were having so much fun." Harry looked at his watch, amazed that it was after 10 o'clock.
"It's after curfew," Harry muttered in shock.
"Oh that's quite alright, my boy, I'll write you a pass," Lockhart said while doing just that. "Take this with you and you'll be fine." Harry stood up and took the note, wondering what he wasn't stiff after sitting still for so long. A quick check of his brace said that it was still perfectly in place, so he shrugged and grabbed his bag, hauling it up to his shoulder.
"Don't forget to read chapters 3 & 4 of Break with a Banshee for homework, Harry," Lockhart said as he walked out of the office door. Harry stopped in the classroom to tug at his jeans, which were caught awkwardly under his brace, and then kept walking. Just because he had a pass, didn't mean he wanted to get caught out of bed by Severus right now. He was turning towards the stairs after exiting the classroom, squinting his eyes in the near dark of the corridor, when he heard it.
"Kill, rip, maim," A voice breathed. Harry twisted his head towards the other end of the corridor and back, trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. When the sound repeated itself, he turned away from the stairs, limping after it as it travelled down the corridor.
"Who's there?" Harry called, hoping that it was simply the Weasley twins playing a joke. Instead of a proper answer, he heard the whispered voice again so he dropped his bag and started trotting after it, limping painfully. He tripped going round the corner, falling heavily on his side. He scrambled upright, heart beating fast, to see a wall of black in front of him. He wrinkled his nose in confusion for a moment before he realised that it was robes. Black teaching robes. Severus' robes. He closed his eyes in a grimace and then looked upward.
"What on Earth are you doing running through the halls at almost 10:30 at night, Mr Potter?" Severus asked, reaching down to help lift Harry. Harry flinched, and then stared at Severus' offered hand in surprise. When he glanced up to Severus' face, his eyebrows were raised and his eyes were guarded. Harry took the offered hand, leaning on it as he got up, wincing as he put weight on his leg.
"I heard something," Harry said, looking around. "You didn't see anyone, did you?" He asked.
"Except for my son falling at my feet, half an hour after curfew no less? No, I did not," Severus answered. Harry shivered as the wind whistled through the hallway and turned his head towards the noise. "What did it sound like?"
"Something was saying 'kill, rip, maim' over and over again in, like, a whisper. Except it was really loud. Like nothing I've ever heard before," Harry said, rubbing at his forehead.
Severus regarded him for a moment before saying, "Are you sure it wasn't the wind? At night, in an unfamiliar part of the castle, your brain can play tricks on you." Harry fixed him with a glare and shook his head.
"No, I'm not imagining it," Harry said, resisting the urge to mutter that he wasn't imagining the stuff with Lockhart either.
"Very well. I will inform the Headmaster, though it quite possibly was just Peeves playing a nasty joke. Why are you up here so late, Harry? Your detention should have finished hours ago," Severus asked. Harry looked up at him, wondering what he meant.
"You always keep me until almost curfew. Lockhart said he lost track of time. And I fell asleep, anyway," Harry admitted.
"I keep you until almost curfew because I know that your Head of House will not be looking for you. And my detentions start at 8 o'clock, not 6:30," Severus said, anger coming into his tone. "You were in detention for almost four hours."
Harry frowned, feeling uneasy. "Yeah, I guess that is a long time. I really don't remember much of it, I got so into the rhythm."
Severus looked up at him, searching his eyes. "What were you doing?"
"Addressing envelopes. It was boring, I got bored," Harry said defensively.
"You are supposed to be bored in detentions. You are not supposed to lose track of time. In fact, I find it rather hard to believe that you wouldn't have been watching the clock, at least for the first hour or so," Severus drawled, obviously recalling having to tell Harry to stop looking at his watch the night before.
Harry blushed slightly and shrugged. "I don't know, Dad. I just didn't pay attention." Harry was going to ask how the staff meeting went but he was distracted by a yawn. He put his hand over his mouth and smiled slightly when he realised Severus was smirking.
"You need to go to bed and get some sleep, Harry. Knowing Lockhart, I wouldn't doubt it if he'd just let you sleep through the entire thing," Severus drawled.
"Yeah, but then I wouldn't be so tired," Harry pointed out defensively. Severus raised an eyebrow and while he didn't say it, Harry knew that Severus thought he had a point.
"Where's your school bag? You had it with you when you left for detention," Severus asked, starting the walk back towards the main staircase.
"I dropped it so I could move faster," Harry said. He spotted it as they rounded the corner and groaned when he saw that the rough motion had spilled his books and wand out. Severus frowned at this and gestured with his wand. Harry watched as Harry's wand jumped from the ground and into the palm of Severus hand, not really understanding his suddenly intense desire to learn that spell.
He was distracted from that thought when Severus turned to him, holding Harry's wand casually in front of him. When Harry grabbed it, he used it to pull Harry forward. "If I ever hear that you went after something that you even thought was dangerous without your wand again, Harry James Potter-Snape, I will personally see to it that it is so ingrained in you to have your wand, you won't go to the opposite side of the room without it," Severus spat, looking angrier than he had standing outside Hogwarts three days ago. Harry took a sharp breath in as the hand that Severus had placed on his bicep squeezed slightly and nodded quickly.
"I'm sorry, I forgot the holster Draco bought me. I'm not used to leaving it in my bag anymore, I thought I had it," Harry explained quickly, able to understand the reason for this outburst at least. Severus glared at him for a moment longer before letting him go, turning away with an angry sound. A flick of Severus' wand had Harry's books jumping back into his bag and another rather vicious jab had it floating alongside Severus as he stalked away. Harry stood where he was for a moment, breathing hard to calm his racing heart. He didn't know why he was so jumpy all of a sudden. It wasn't like he thought that Severus would hurt him. He knew that he wouldn't, he was just mad that Harry had almost put himself in danger, again.
Severus had almost reached the stairs when he seemed to realise that Harry wasn't following. "Harry," he started, then Harry heard him sigh.
Harry looked up and studied his Dad's posture. "You scared me," Harry admitted. When Severus looked back, he clarified. "Not just then, but on Wednesday. And even when you're not angry about stuff, you seem angry." Harry ignored the fact that he was whining.
"If you want to sleep in our quarters tonight, I'll explain, as best I can," Severus said, holding out his hand for Harry to come closer. Harry walked up to Severus but stopped right before Severus would have been able to reach. "Are you alright, Harry? You seem, off, tonight. Did Lockhart do something to upset you?" Severus asked, ending more urgently. Harry stepped back as he stepped forward, making Severus frown. "Harry," he said beseechingly, "What's wrong?"
Harry frowned and shook his head. "I don't know. Just jumpy I guess."
Severus, moving slowly, giving Harry time to stop him, wrapped him in a hug. "There's nothing here that can hurt you, Harry. I wouldn't let it happen." Harry breathed in deeply, relishing the comfort that being near his Dad offered. "I've been bad-tempered lately, and I'm sorry." Severus stepped back so that he could see Harry's eyes and continued, "When I used Narcissa's potion to remove the Dark Mark, something, in my magic, changed. It has been, agitating, to say the least, and I'm finding it a little difficult to control my temper. While Narcissa believes that it is just a simple side effect, I have begun to believe differently. I am searching for a cure, but it may be awhile. That does not mean that you cannot tell me when I am being irritable, but I thought it best that you understand." Severus looked away after he had finished talking, looking slightly ashamed.
"You're always irritable," Harry muttered, making Severus look back at him. Harry smiled tentatively at him and was happy to see a smirk in return.
"Cheeky brat," Severus said, making Harry giggle. "You need to get some sleep, Harry. We can talk some more in the morning, if you wish," Severus said, guiding Harry with a hand still on his shoulder. Harry stopped again at the top of the stairs, glaring down at the stairs in an expression that Severus seemed to recognise. He looked at Severus as Severus offered him a helping hand and gave him a pleading look. "Would you like me to help?" Harry nodded, blushing slightly. Severus picked Harry up easily, settling Harry easily on his hip. Harry almost protested at being carried like a child but it felt so nice to feel safe and cared for, compared to the turmoil of the last few days. Instead, he settled his head on Severus' shoulder, yawning once again.
"Dad?" Harry asked, as they reached the bottom of the first staircase.
"Yes, Harry?" Severus asked without pausing in his steps.
"Are we okay?" Harry asked softly.
"Do you think we're okay?" Severus asked as they crossed the quiet Entrance Hall.
"I want us to be okay," Harry answered, unsure of Severus response.
"Then we're okay." Harry noticed Severus looking at him out of the corner of his eye but ignored it, knowing that Severus was worried about something and that he'd bring it up in time.
"Good." Harry paused. "Please don't make me do detention with Lockhart again."
"I can't promise that, Harry. If he assigns it, then it is his to host. But I am free for the rest of the week, so you will be fine for now," Severus said. Harry hummed happily and let his eyelids drift shut, happy for now.