Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Harry Potter, or any of the characters from these universes. I am making no money off of this fanfiction.
A/N: I would like to thank everyone for their continued support. The number of reviews, follows, and favorites this story has gained in so few chapters continues to astound me and surpass my greatest hopes for this story. If someone had told me I would have over 2,100 reviews with eleven chapters posted when I started this story, I would have told them they were insane. So thank you to everyone who has read this story, and even more to those who take the time to review.
Chapter 12 – What's a Little Defiance Between Friends?
Snape physically dragging Harry through the corridors of Hogwarts drew quite a bit of attention. The last morning class had let out just moments before and everyone was headed to lunch, so quite a few people were still loitering along the path the Potions Professor took from the dungeons to the base of the Headmaster's Tower.
Snape didn't seem to care though. Neither did Harry. More witnesses meant more people interested in the Potions class Harry had just attended, which in turn meant more people to hear about the man's humiliation and to soon witness his impotence against Harry. Because if Snape really believed that Dumbledore was going to expel the Boy-Who-Lived on the very first week of classes based on mild back-talk and some pranks which could have been committed by anyone, he was truly delusional.
That was what anger did though. It made people stupid. And Harry had worked rather hard over the past couple hours to put Snape into that exact state, though it wouldn't have been nearly as effective if Snape hadn't been predisposed to hate Harry on principle and blame everything on him.
Harry still wasn't sure why Snape reacted to him that way, but he was fully prepared to use it for his own amusement.
Regardless of why, Snape seemed content to stride through the hallways in a fuming silence, and Harry left him to it. The occasional cheerful smile and energetic wave from Harry whenever they passed someone he knew probably didn't help Snape calm down.
Eventually they reached a large stone gargoyle which stood in front of the winding staircase presumably leading up to the Headmaster's Office.
Snape barely even slowed down. As they approached the statue, he growled out, "Ice Mice."
The gargoyle then leapt aside, though Harry wasn't quite sure if the speed it moved out of the way was normal or if it realized that Snape wasn't going to slow down if it didn't move out of the way fast enough. And the hand that wasn't gripping Harry's robes to drag him along was fondling his wand, probably itching for something to dare to get in his way to give him an excuse to unleash some of his aggravation.
Either way, the gargoyle apparently didn't want to find out exactly what Snape intended, and had moved away from its position guarding the stairs well before they arrived, even at their fast pace. A pace which didn't slow down at all as they made their way up the stairs, apparently towards the Headmasters Office.
Once they made their way up the winding staircase, Snape gave a single knock at the door and waited just long enough to hear Professor Dumbledore begin answering, though not long enough to hear what he was saying, before pushing the door open and entering along with a bemused Harry.
"Come in Sev..." Dumbledore trailed off with one long droopy white eyebrow raised. Eventually he continued after having looked over the two of them, who came to a stop in front of his desk. "Please, come in and have a seat. Would either of you like a lemon drop?" He gave a kindly smile as he held out a bowl full of the yellow candies.
Snape gave a rather waspish "No" and dropped into one of the seats, giving a push that was rather harder than strictly necessary to Harry towards another.
Fortunately, Harry was quite significantly stronger than Snape, so he ignored the man's push and gleefully scooped out a small handful of candy from the offered bowl. Popping two into his mouth, he replied with a voice only slightly garbled by two hard candies he was now sucking on, "Thanks Professor Dumbledore."
The slight pressure against his mindwalking shields told him that the candies were apparently dosed with some sort of mind-altering potion. Most likely either a mild calming potion or possibly a minor truth potion. Not that Harry could blame the man. If he had access to that sort of thing in his previous life, he probably would have dosed all of his visitors too. Though he doubted something this weak would do anything against the disciplined mind of a well-trained ninja even without his mindwalking shields, but every little bit helped.
"So, what seems to be the problem?" Professor Dumbledore asked with a cheerful twinkle in his eye and a small amused smile as he settled down into his own rather plush chair.
"This…" Snape growled angrily before trailing off, apparently trying to find a way to describe Harry in a way appropriate for his current mood, and yet polite enough to not get him in trouble with the Headmaster.
Harry gave the seething man a cheerful smile and slurped rather loudly on his candies.
"This boy," Snape eventually continued with a snarl, "pranked me in the middle of the classroom, talked back to me throughout the lesson, and deliberately sabotaged another student's finished potion."
The Headmaster leaned back behind his desk, with eyes widening to show his surprise as he looked over to Harry from Snape. He then opened his mouth to respond. Probably either to ask for some clarification or perhaps to comment on Harry's continued happy grin in the face of Snape's rather severe accusations.
However he didn't get a chance to say anything as the irate Potions Professor continued his rant. "I told you this would happen, Albus. I told you he would come here with a swelled head, thinking he could get away with anything just because he's famous. I told you he would be as bad as his father. No, worse than his father. Not even Potter would have dared pranking a teacher on the very first day of his first year. I told you he should never have been here. I told you, but you didn't listen. Well, now you can correct your mistake and throw him out!"
Professor Dumbledore gave Snape a few moments to make sure he was done before he turned with a far graver expression than he had earlier shown and looked at Harry. At which point the man's eyebrow once again quirked up in surprise and he asked, "You seem quite accepting of this turn of events. Do you understand that you are in quite a bit of trouble, Mr. Potter?"
"Sure, I guess so," Harry responded, still smiling. "These candies are just so good. I don't think anyone could eat them and not smile."
A pleased smile appeared on Professor Dumbledore's face along with the return of the twinkle in his eye as he reached over and plucked one of the lemon drops from the bowl and popped it into his own mouth. "Ah, I quite agree, Harry. Most people refuse one when I offer, which I haven't ever understood. I'm quite glad that you see the joy such a simple little thing can bring. Regardless of whatever else is going on in the world, you can always rely on a lemon drop to remind you of the simpler, happier things. Why, once, when I was younger..."
It seemed that the aged Headmaster wasn't paying attention to Snape as he began to wonder over the marvel that was the Lemon Drop. Harry, however, had been watching the man as his glare became harsher, his white-knuckled grip on his armrests tighter, and his grinding teeth louder the longer Professor Dumbledore continued. In fact, Harry was beginning to have trouble maintaining his bright and innocent smile and not breaking out into laughter.
He didn't know if the Headmaster was just a bit senile, truly did love lemon drops that much, or if the man was actually going along with Harry's attempts to nettle Snape. Regardless, it was among the most amusing things he had seen in what had already been a very entertaining day.
But finally Snape could apparently take no more and burst out, "Enough, Albus! No one cares about your unnatural love of a piece of candy! We are here to discuss Potter's punishment."
Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat and stated in a far more serious tone, "Yes, of course." Turning back to Harry, he continued, "Mr. Potter, Professor Snape has had some very bad things to say about your actions in today's Potions class. Can you explain your behavior to us?"
"Oh, you mean all that stuff with the prank, backtalk, and potions sabotage Professor Snape was talking about?" Harry waited for Professor Dumbledore to nod his head before popping another lemon drop into his mouth and continuing, "Yeah, I didn't do any of that."
Snape immediately straightened in his chair and turned the full strength of his glare onto Harry, not that it had often left him for the duration of this meeting. "Potter! Why you lying little..."
Before Snape could get any further, Professor Dumbledore cut him off with a rather sharp reprimand for the apparently generally easygoing elderly man. "That's enough Severus." The Headmaster then turned to Harry and continued in a gentler tone, "Can you please explain what happened from your perspective, Harry?"
"Sure Professor," Harry answered with a nod. "Professor Snape was acting kind of weird when he first walked into the room at the beginning of the class. He looked around with an odd expression, then walked out of the room while ignoring everyone's questions. But he seemed ok after that. No one seemed to really know what happened though. Then I answered some of his questions, explaining my views when he asked, but I certainly didn't do any backtalk, or not on purpose anyway. And I don't even know what he is talking about with sabotaging another student's potion."
Professor Dumbledore sighed and leaned back in his chair at this before turning to Snape. "Severus, if you could explain your accusations in a bit more detail, please?"
Snape continued glaring at Harry for another long moment before he turned, now facing Professor Dumbledore as he answered in a voice filled with forced calm clearly barely holding his rage at bay, "When I first entered the classroom, it appeared to me that none of the students were in the class. As I entered exactly on time for the class to start, this was highly unusual, so after a few moments, I left the room to make certain the students were not loitering in the hallways. As soon as I stepped outside, I was suddenly able to hear the students in the classroom, and see them as I looked back. It was clearly an attempt by Potter to make me look foolish in front of my students."
Snape then took a deep breath, clenching his hands around the chair's armrests briefly once again as he gave a brief glare in Harry's direction before continuing, "He then proceeded to spend the rest of the class answering my questions with a total lack of respect, openly questioning the validity of Potions as a subject and dismissing my attempts to censure his behavior, or even give him point deductions or detentions. Then finally, when his own potion was knocked off the table, he used a switching charm of some kind to replace his falling potion with Draco Malfoy's, shattering it on the ground."
"Do you have any actual evidence I was responsible for that prank?" Harry asked incredulously. This time he didn't wait for the Headmaster to prompt his response. "It sounds like some sort of powerful targeted notice-me-not spell, but I wouldn't have any idea how to actually cast something like that. I'm just a new first-year, after all."
Snape turned to Harry as he spoke and returned in what was apparently his customary snarl, "You could have hired someone else to set up the spells. How would a dunderhead like you even know what a targeted notice-me-not is otherwise?"
"Once again, do you have any evidence that I was responsible?" Harry asked with just a twitch of a smile. "Even if this was a prank, it could've been anyone. And I know of that spell because I was reading a book about Ancient Runes that mentioned something similar is often included in defensive ward set-ups. It didn't describe how such a thing would actually be performed though. It's just an introductory book, after all."
"I know it was you Potter!" Snape exclaimed, leaning forward in his chair as if he was preparing to stand - probably to attempt to throttle him or something similar, given his expression. "Just like your father, you wanted to humiliate me in front of everyone! Well, it won't work this time."
"Severus, please calm yourself and remain silent until Harry has had a chance to explain himself," Albus interrupted, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance, or perhaps with the onset of a headache.
Harry could see how regular dealing with Snape could cause a headache for anyone. The thought set off a surge of pity for the old man, having to put up with someone like Snape and not prank the daylights out of him. Professionalism could be pretty boring. Not that Harry would know from personal experience. It sure seemed boring though.
But maybe his own pranks towards Snape would help the Headmaster feel better by proxy. Surely anyone who had to spend any amount of time with Snape would wish they could prank the man, even if they felt bound by the responsibilities of their position to not go through with it.
"Umm...Anyway, that's all I know about the prank," Harry continued. "For the backtalk, I was just answering his questions. Actually, on that subject, I really think I should present my idea to you. I think what upset Professor Snape was that I suggested that Potions wasn't really necessary for most students to learn, since most of us don't ever really need to use it again after graduation. So I was thinking that you could create a cooking class for the first two years. It would teach pretty much the same thing – careful ingredient preparation and how to follow a recipe correctly.
"But cooking is something everyone will need someday, unlike making potions," Harry said with a grin as he popped another lemon drop into his mouth, careful to watch as Snape's face turned a darker and darker red, bordering on purple. "And for those who are interested in going into professional potions brewing, they can take Potions as an elective, and the rest of us can replace it with something we will actually need in our lives after graduation!"
Professor Dumbledore appeared thoughtful at that, though he did seem to be periodically glancing at the shade of Snape's face with some concern. Eventually the old man responded with eyes twinkling once again, "That's an interesting idea, Harry my boy. Certainly it is something to be considered, anyway. I suppose I can understand how such a...revolutionary idea might not be taken well by Severus. But for now, what about the last issue Severus raised?"
Harry nodded, giving a slightly confused expression as he answered, "Well I'm not sure about that one. I wasn't really watching closely, but it did seem like the bottle Snape knocked off the table was the one I submitted. I guess I just really hoped that my potion wouldn't break. I thought the potion turned out pretty well, and I didn't want to lose my work like that. So I suppose it's possible that I did some accidental magic to do a...switching charm, I think Professor Snape called it? I didn't mean to mess anyone else's potion up though. I didn't really mean to do anything at all. I mean I didn't have my wand out or anything, so I don't see why anyone would think it was purposeful magic even if I knew how to perform a switching charm. Can we get in trouble for accidental magic even though we didn't mean to do it?"
At this point Harry turned on his most innocent expression – eyes wide with just a hint of worry mixed in. Professor Dumbledore probably wouldn't really buy it, but it would further infuriate Snape. And the Headmaster had seemed content to go along with Harry's nettling of Snape so far today. Especially since Professor Dumbledore might have hidden it quickly, but Harry had seen the flash of true annoyance at Snape when he mentioned Snape being the one to knock his potion off the table in passing. Clearly the man knew Snape had been trying to destroy Harry's potion as well as he did.
But Professor Dumbledore didn't mention it any more than Harry did. There wasn't much point, since all three knew the truth, but no evidence existed to prove Snape's actions had been purposeful any more than any existed to prove Harry's actions had been purposeful.
Instead the Headmaster's brow creased beyond its normal wrinkles as he leaned back in his chair, apparently thinking deeply, before turning to Snape to say, "Perhaps it would be best to review the memories of the events in question to clarify things. Clearly your perspectives on this matter are a bit different, so an unbiased reviewing of these events might help for both of us."
Snape seemed annoyed at this, but grudgingly nodded before Harry asked, "Wait...what do you mean by review the memories? You can use magic to show people your memories?"
"Ah, yes Harry, my boy," Dumbledore answered with a smile and a bright twinkle in his eye as he looked back at Harry. "A most marvelous magical device called a Pensieve allows us to extract our memories and watch them once again ourselves, or share them with others. It's most useful in keeping your thoughts organized and reviewing old memories for details which might have been forgotten by the conscious mind. It is especially helpful at my age. Old men such as myself need as much help as we can get to keep up with all of the memories filling our heads."
Harry gave a thoughtful nod at this. That did seem extremely useful. There wasn't always time for such a careful review, but if this device really did allow the perfect capture of every detail of a memory, there were any number of times in which reviewing memory for the details which were missed while in the moment could be extremely important. Even the Sharingan wasn't a perfect substitute, as it recorded only visuals.
"Could I provide my own memories to perhaps show my side of things a bit better than what Professor Snape remembers?" Harry asked. He would need to be careful of exactly which memories he supplied, but it shouldn't be difficult to give memories which showed the entire period in question without anything incriminating appearing. None of what he had done in that classroom had required handsigns, so there had been no visible sign of him doing anything at all.
But this line of thought was interrupted as Professor Dumbledore answered, "Unfortunately, because you are a Natural Occlumens, you won't be able to directly use a Pensieve, Harry. You see, the defense of a Natural Occlumens is so absolute that nothing can get in or out of such a mind. This means you cannot give memories for a Pensieve, nor can you connect your mind with one to directly view memories, since this involves the Pensieve magically inserting the memory into your mind. Some Pensieves do have a projection function that creates a physical image of the memory which you could watch, but this is substantially less detailed than the immersive experience of entering a Pensieve."
Harry frowned at that. Of course this restriction didn't actually apply to him, since he wasn't truly a Natural Occlumens. But he couldn't exactly explain that he used chakra to create immensely powerful mindwalking walls, which he could drop part or all of at any time if he wished. So for now he would have to go along with the restrictions a Natural Occlumens apparently operated under. It was too convenient an explanation to give up easily.
"Are there any other negatives to being a Natural Occlumens, Professor Dumbledore?" He asked, content to continue to ignore the silently brooding Snape. Though the fact that the man did appear to have calmed himself somewhat was a little disappointing. Still, this was more important for now.
"Oh, I suppose there are a few," the Headmaster answered. "Mostly in not receiving some of the benefits available to a true master of Occlumency. For example, a master of Occlumency can project false thoughts, tricking a Legillimencer into the belief that the Occlumens mental walls had been breached and they were seeing their true thoughts. There are also some spells or potions that can be medically beneficial such as a cheering charm or calming drought which can affect a Natural Occlumens no more than any other magical mental effect. Most agree that the benefits far outweigh the negatives though. First that you have no need to put the time and effort of studying a complex and difficult magical art such as a normal Occlumens would. And more importantly, any normal Occlumens, no matter how skilled, can potentially have their Occlumency barriers eventually breached. A Natural Occlumens has no such fear, regardless of the power or subtlety of the mental spell or potion."
Harry nodded before giving a brief shrug and popping his last lemon drop into his mouth. "Well, nothing I can do about it one way or the other, so there isn't really any point worrying about it, I guess."
Professor Dumbledore gave a gentle smile at this and nodded his agreement as he responded, "That's a very mature way of looking at it, my boy. It's never helpful to waste time fretting about what cannot be changed. Better to focus on the things you can do to improve yourself and help others." He then turned to Snape and requested, "I suppose it is time to view those memories and decide what needs to be done about this little issue though."
Snape nodded and the two men stood to walk over to a locked drawer, from which a large shallow bowl covered in complicated runes was removed. As always, the runes fascinated Harry, and he made sure his Sharingan recorded as much of the surface of the bowl as was exposed to him from his position. Such complicated runes might be far beyond his current understanding of Ancient Runes, but the Sharingan would keep the image recorded until he was ready to review it once again with a greater understanding of the subject.
Once the bowl was placed on the Headmaster's desk, Snape pulled his wand out and placed the tip against his temple, slowly pulling it away with a strange silvery substance which followed after Snape's wand like guided mist. He then deposited the silvery substance into the Pensieve and repeated the process several additional times before both men dunked their heads directly into the shifting thick silver mist which filled the bowl.
The next few minutes were disappointingly boring. Both men remained unmoving, and though there were many unusual and potentially interesting items filling Professor Dumbledore's office, there were far too many magical paintings watching him to allow for any sort of experimentation. So after using his Sharingan to memorize a perfect picture of everything in the room, he was at a bit of a loss of what else he could do. Another prank on Snape might be interesting, but he didn't want to push things too far this early, and he couldn't be too obvious right in front of Professor Dumbledore. Even if the man was somewhat sympathetic, his professionalism would probably prevent him from letting Harry get away with being too blatant.
So instead, after a brief stop at the candy bowl to refill, he dropped into the Headmaster's extremely comfortably chair behind the oversized desk and settled back into the ample cushions for a kip.
Albus almost burst out with a chuckle when he emerged from the Pensieve to find young Harry asleep in his own chair. That level of confidence, or perhaps simply not caring what anyone else thought would make his own plans somewhat more difficult. But he had to shake his head in wonder at an eleven year old who was not only willing to steal the chair of the Headmaster of his school while said Headmaster was less than ten feet away, but who was so unconcerned in such circumstances he could actually fall asleep.
Though Severus seemed unable to find the humor in the situation, to Albus' complete lack of surprise.
"Potter," the man snarled. "Get out of that chair you presumptuous little..."
Albus almost sighed audibly as he once again had to interrupt to prevent Severus from saying something he really shouldn't to a child. Any child really, but most especially not this child.
But instead of sighing, he cut in before Severus could finish whatever he had been intending to say. "Harry, my boy. You slept well, I hope?" he asked with a grandfatherly smile. "That chair really is quite comfortable, though I seldom find myself with the time to do the same."
As Albus had mostly expected, Harry gave a carefree yawn and stretch before smiling brightly at the two, in spite of Severus' glare, and replied, "Oh yeah, this is one of the most comfortable chairs I've ever found. I might have to come borrow it some time."
"Well unfortunately," Albus responded, "these old bones do need a chair like that one. But perhaps you can find another similarly comfortable chair for yourself eventually." A little deprecating humor could help him connect with the boy, and perhaps more importantly, Albus suspected that Harry might truly steal the chair as a prank if he didn't draw out a bit of pity. And he was beginning to think that Harry might be successful in such an attempt. Best not to tempt fate.
Harry just shrugged and stood to move out of the way, motioning for Albus to take his own chair back.
Albus wasted no time in reclaiming his seat, and waited only long enough for the other two to take their original chairs once again before clearing his throat and saying, "comfortable chairs aside, it would be best to address the issue at hand."
Receiving nods all around, he continued, "I've reviewed the pertinent memories, and you are correct that there isn't any evidence of active wrong-doing on your part, Harry. And of course we don't punish accidental magic here. You could've perhaps been a bit more respectful in your responses to the questions you were asked, but Severus clearly overreacted with many of his point deductions and assignments of detentions. I think a loss of five points in total for the class is appropriate for minor lack of respect, with no detentions."
Harry smiled in response to this, though Dumbledore thought he might have also smiled if he had been told the point loss and detentions would stand, given his earlier reactions. Severus on the other hand started sputtering in outrage, but was silenced with a quick look, for now at least.
And once Severus quieted down, Harry responded, "Sure, that sounds fine. Though it doesn't really matter much. I wasn't going to go to the detentions anyway, and I don't really care much about points."
Severus' glare intensified somehow at this, but Albus just raised an eyebrow and said, "Well you do have to go to any detentions assigned. You can't just skip them because you don't like detentions." He then gave a small smile and pushed a touch of magic into his eyes for the usual twinkle as he continued, "I don't think anyone would attend their detentions if that were the case."
"Oh, no Professor Dumbledore," Harry replied. "It doesn't have anything to do with not liking detention. I'm sure detention with Mr. Filtch would have been plenty of fun." The fact that this was said with a straight face was almost as surprising as Harry's other actions today, but Albus was given no time to dwell on it as Harry continued speaking as if his appreciation for detentions with Argus was unimportant, "But if you don't have any evidence that I did anything wrong, it isn't right to give me detentions, so I wasn't going to go."
Albus allowed the small frown of a grandfather disappointed in the actions of a cherished grandchild to emerge at this statement. "Well Harry, I can assure you that this is not the usual way things are done. Professors only give detentions when they feel there is a deliberate breaking of a rule, and unlike the loss of house points, all assignments of detention go to the Head of your House for review before the detention is served. You will have to serve any detentions that are assigned to you though. The consequences for ignoring assigned detentions can be quite severe, even up to expulsion for repeated offenses."
Though Albus didn't mention that while detentions were technically reviewed by the student's Head of House, they were almost never overruled. Doing so was seen as weakening the authority of the other professors in the eyes of the students, and only Pomona, ever defensive of her Hufflepuffs, had done so at all in recent years. Still, the rule's existence did generally keep Severus' bias mostly contained to just taking points.
But whether Harry knew this or not didn't really seem to matter as the boy answered in an unconcerned voice, "Well if your system for detentions works, it isn't really a problem. I will be happy to serve any detention assigned for good cause, but I won't serve a detention just because a professor, as you said, 'overreacted' and jumped the conclusion of my guilt for something anyone could have done. And as for being expelled, well I really don't think the Board of Governors or the general public would be pleased with seeing me expelled because I didn't attend a detention that I didn't deserve in the first place. But I guess if it came to that, I'm sure Beauxbatons or Durmstrang would be happy to have me."
At this Severus could no longer remain silent, in spite of Albus' repeated attempts to warn him not to respond in anger. Though Albus hadn't really expected Harry to push back quite this hard, even given his earlier clear disregard for authority.
"Are you threatening us, Potter," Severus growled as he leaned towards Harry. "You will do as you are told or..."
Not even Albus was quite sure what Severus thought would happen if Harry continued his present defiance. In fact, he doubted Severus knew, as angry as the man was, but Albus couldn't afford to let him make a threat which couldn't be backed up.
"Severus, calm yourself," he stated in a kindly voice, with just a hint of steel beneath the surface. "I think it is clear that young Harry didn't mean that as a threat, but just to inform us that he was aware of the many safeguards in place to keep the system of punishments used at Hogwarts as fair and reasonable as they were originally intended."
And just as Albus had expected, Harry responded with a bright smile as he said, "Oh, of course Professor Dumbledore. I would never threaten a professor, and I know that a school as great as this one would never allow unjust punishments to be put on an undeserving child."
How the boy said all of that with a straight face, Albus would never understand, but he did appreciate Harry's willingness to play along with the polite fiction they were both spewing. Harry even seemed genuinely happy about it, as if he believed that just because he was threatening them with a public scandal was no reason they couldn't be friendly and respectful.
All of this passed through Albus' mind in an instant. He would spend more time contemplating these new developments later, but for now he just gave the boy a twinkling smile and nodded as he said, "Quite right, my boy. I would ask that you come to me in the future if you do plan on skipping out on what you believe to be an unreasonable detention. I don't think it will come up, but it would be best if we cleared things up from the beginning, rather than escalating things based on a misunderstanding."
Harry nodded and popped another lemon drop into his mouth. "Sure, Professor. You can clear up anything in the future just like you did today."
"Alright then, Harry," Albus said as he leaned back in his chair. "Off you go. You had best hurry to the Great Hall or you'll miss lunch entirely."
And with that, the boy gave a quick wave and strolled out of his office, seemingly without a care in the world.
Severus, on the other hand, barely even waited for the door to click shut before he began in what was just barely short of an outraged shout, "Albus, you can't let him just get away with everything like that!"
"Severus, be reasonable," Albus asked in a weary voice, momentarily feeling every one of his one-hundred and nine years. Dealing with one impossible child tearing down so many of his carefully developed plans without even trying was difficult enough. Putting up with Severus when he got into a mood like this and was unwilling to listen to reason pushed an already stressful morning beyond the bounds of anything he particularly wished to deal with. Unfortunately, the world had a way of seldom conforming to his wishes.
"Be reasonable you say," Severus sneered contemptuously. "So it is reasonable to let a child get away with doing whatever he feels like. Pranking his professor, and mocking me to my face, regardless of how he tried to play it off. And then, not even happy with pushing you back to the mildest of rebukes, he threatens us to our faces, and it's reasonable to just do whatever he wants out of fear of an eleven-year old? Will he be running Hogwarts by next week because you don't want to upset your precious Boy-Who-Lived? And all of this is somehow the reasonable thing to do?"
"No Severus," Albus responded with a heavy sigh. "Be reasonable because you are treating Harry as if he is simultaneously the mirror of his father, and yet as if he will respond to our actions as the boy I expected to come to Hogwarts. Uneducated in the ways of the Wizarding World. Uncomfortable in his fame. But that is not what we have gotten."
At this point Albus abruptly stood from his chair and began pacing agitatedly as he continued, "I say be reasonable because the threat you seem to believe I should have ignored is very real. This is no bluff. He is right that if he were thrown out of Hogwarts, which we cannot afford to do because we need to keep him close regardless, by the way. But if he were indeed thrown out of Hogwarts for refusing to attend a detention assigned to him with no evidence supporting his guilt, the public outrage would be immense. I couldn't protect you because I would be too busy desperately holding onto my own position. You cannot ignore the fact that he not only holds real power over us in many ways, and more importantly, he knows it and is perfectly willing to use that power if we push him to it."
"But he is guilty!" Severus cried out in frustration.
"Of course he's guilty, Severus," Albus answered in an annoyed tone as he dropped back into his seat. "We both know that. There was no true surprise when young Draco's potion was the one which ended up on the floor. And no one is that polite in the face of such antagonism unless they are trying to get under someone's skin. Which he succeeded at quite well, I must add. As for the prank, even the other Gryffindors knew he was responsible, though they didn't seem to know how any more than I do."
Severus started to respond, but Albus interrupted him rather sternly, "But it doesn't matter if he is guilty. No evidence of any wrongdoing exists, and without evidence, if I wish to have him see me as someone he can trust, I must side with him. And right now, you know as well as I do that very little matters more than having that boy grow to trust and believe in me. He must accept my guidance to stay within the Light. Especially given his currently lack of respect for authority. That sort of thing could all too easily evolve into something very dangerous as he gets older without proper guidance.
"I wish you would learn to move past your own issues with Harry and separate your view of him from anything his father did to you almost two decades ago." Albus paused at this point and shook his head in annoyance as he continued, "Destroying an eleven year old's potion, Severus? Really? You are not a teenager anymore. Try not to get into petty prank wars with children. It does not reflect well upon you."
Severus didn't even try and deny it now that it was just the two of them, not that Albus expected any differently. Severus did have his good qualities, but he could be an incredibly petty man, and they both knew it and accepted it. Which meant there wasn't really any reason to dwell on it further.
So Albus continued in a more thoughtful tone, "But if you truly cannot move past that, I suppose learning to deal with some minor antagonism now might help him be just a little more ready for the future. But while he might grow to dislike you without any true problems, he must learn to trust me, or all might well be lost. So target him if you feel you must, but know that unless you come to me with absolute proof of wrongdoing, I will continue to side with Harry. Regardless of what we both know of his guilt."
Severus scowled even deeper and whirled around, his robes billowing as he moved towards the exit to the office. But just as he put his hand on the doorknob, he paused and harshly called out without turning around, "Trust is all very well, but you are also teaching him that he can walk over not just the rules, but even his professors and get away with it. Not just get away with it, but be supported in it, as long as he doesn't get caught. Keep teaching him that, and this is just the beginning. He will get worse and worse until you have a monster on your hands who cannot be controlled. You'll wish you had listened to me then. Do you really want to repeat history? To allow Hogwarts to produce another overpowered, entitled monster who thinks anything he is clever enough to get away with is acceptable?"
The door closed with a slam behind Severus and Albus leaned back in his comfortable chair with a sigh as he worked through his many contingencies, trying desperately to think of a way to truly salvage this whole situation before it spiraled even further out of his control.
He would remain there for quite some time.
So yes, this is a very different response from Dumbledore to this sort of thing than in canon or in the vast majority of fanfiction. In canon, he didn't have to really do anything for Harry in order to gain Harry's trust. Harry trusted Dumbledore automatically and totally without any real effort on Dumbledore's part at all beyond 'saving' him from the Dursleys every year. Here obviously the situation is different.
And in most fanfics that bill themselves as having a manipulative!Dumbledore, for some reason, he ends up reacting to this sort of thing by immediately being as obvious as possible of his opposition to Harry. Because being blatantly obviously Harry's enemy is apparently the manipulative thing to do? How does that make sense? 90% of stories that call themselves manipulative!Dumbledore stories should really call themselves stupid!Dumbledore stories.
No, this is a Dumbledore who is manipulative, but who is also very smart. He wants Harry to trust him and allow him to guide him, so of course he will attempt to act in a way that encourages trust. Which means much of what he openly does will actually be in Harry's favor. Acting against Harry at this point gains him nothing but the same pointless antagonism Snape has earned.
Finally, please review! I don't care if it's just a short, "I liked it," a detailed breakdown of what you think I did wrong (and hopefully can improve on), or even just informing me of a grammar or spelling mistake - I would appreciate it. But please no flames. I don't mind criticism as long as it is constructive, but a simple, "This is the worst thing ever written," or "You made Harry too powerful. You suck" will be ignored.