"Harry, I'm telling you she is the one. And I don't want to hear any more comments or mumblings about her either. It's about time I started thinking of myself for once and not just you." James said.
Harry sat at the kitchen table and nodded numbly while his father cut his steak with more force than needed. The boy stared at his own plate, laden with small pieces of cut meat, slivered carrots, and a half eaten roll. Suddenly he felt as if he never wanted to eat again. His eyebrows furrowed in frustration, leaving creases throughout the forehead where his scar rested. He wished desperately for the ability to speak his mind.
"Do you understand me, Harry?" James asked, after his son had remained silent for too long.
"Yes, sir." He answered, though his mind screamed at him to say differently. How could he ever like this woman? His father had barely been seeing this woman (that he knew of) for over 2 months and already she had pinched his cheeks, spanked him (as if she had the authority!) and sent him to time out more times than he could remember! He hadn't been "bad" before the woman had come, so how could his father not notice that she was just making him look awful? James chalked Harry's behavior up to jealously.
How could I ever be jealous of a woman with such a fake smile and evil glare? Harry thought bitterly. He would rather die than be jealous of her!
"Damnit, Harry, if you're just going to sulk about it, clean up your food and go to bed!" James half-shouted, exasperated at his son's antics.
Mutely, Harry did as he was told, carefully putting away his dishes, avoiding eye-contact with his father to better sedate him, and finally making his way up the stairs to his room where he stood and stared at himself in front of the mirror for what seemed like forever.
Trying desperately to cover up his entire scar with his hair, he brushed it flatter and flatter with his hands, tears stinging his eyes as he realized that his hair was too short. Everything about him was not enough - his height, his Gryffindor bravery. He had no bravery. He couldn't even stand up to his dad or that Frances woman. He could never stand up for himself when his cousin Dudley was wailing on him, and he certainly could do nothing to stand up to the Dark Lord who had killed his mother.
The scar seemed to laugh at him. It was because of this scar that his mother was dead. It was this scar that made him disgusting to his father. It was this scar that made other adults demand, "Look up Harry. Show some respect." How could he explain that his dad hated seeing it, that his scar and his mother's green eyes caused him so much anguish that he was not even allowed to look at his dad when he spoke? He couldn't.
So Harry dragged himself into bed, miserable and wondering what it would be like when he finally got to Hogwarts, away from his mean relatives who babysat him, away from his dad's disappointed looks, and most of all away from Frances.
With a start, Harry realized that his world could, indeed, get much worse. It had been hard to imagine previously with such despair clouding his mind, but now he saw it with and awful clarity. Harry was genuinely surprised when he felt even more unhappy than he had before.
Ms. Frances Potter was standing in front of him, his mother's ring on her veiny hand. He fought hard to control himself.
"I knew you would protest, so I didn't bother telling you beforehand. I didn't want you ruining my day." James told Harry sternly. "Now, come kiss your new mother."
"My, he's grown so tall!" A grey hair lady exclaimed. Harry instantly liked her.
"Hopefully he'll grow a bit taller, Minerva, then he'd truly be my son." James said with a smile. Harry could not tell if his father were being serious. Sometimes he did that- played along with things in public and then scolded Harry for it later in private. He sure hoped this wasn't one of those times. It wasn't as if he could help his height.
In fact he couldn't help anything! His dad had married Frances without even telling him and now they were at Hogwarts where Harry had to live now!
Live in a school? Surely I'm dying! Harry had thought when he heard the news. It was not death but something very, very similar.
After more greetings of other staff members, James led Harry to the place that would now be called "home." It wasn't that he hated it. It's just that he hated it. His room was obnoxiously decorated in Gryffindor colors. There was a giant mirror on one of his walls that Harry planned to cover up as soon as possible. It's not as if he liked staring at the reason he was hated! And his room was despairingly distanced from his dad's (and Frances') room. He had a feeling that it wouldn't take them long to forget about him. At least if their room was close to his they'd pass it occasionally and think about him.
James went to a staff meeting, so Harry was ordered to help Frances (she's your mother now Harry! Stop being such a brat!) with supper. There, she was leisurely peeling potatoes the muggle way.
"I know things have been hard on you Harry, but you've just got to push through these things now, son. When Minerva McGonagall is gone, your father will be Head of Gryffindor. It seems silly for him to have such a weak-willed son, don't you think?" The lady asked.
Harry tried his best not to look at her long brown curls or her excessive amount of makeup. He especially averted his eyes from her breasts, which always seemed to poke out like little marbles, but only when she was around the house in private. It embarrassed him. He could barely look at the woman without blushing madly, let alone survive when she gave him those big hugs where his face was smashed between the two mounds!
"Yes, ma'am." Harry responded automatically in agreement, as he stirred the soup.
"Aww I wish you'd call me, mum, Harry. It'd make me feel so much better about myself and being a part of this new family." She said giving him a pointed look.
"Sorry, mum." Harry responded, trying his best not to sound overly angry.
She smiled-one of those creepy smiles where he cheeks were all tight and her eyes were dark. They seemed to be reserved especially for him.
"Good boy. Now, I'm sure that this move has been hard, but think of all the fun you'll have! There are all these kids to play with. You can probably even sit in on some classrooms and things. I'll be assisting Madam Pomfrey this year, so you won't be able to see me during the day, but I'm sure you'll survive won't you? But your father will be teaching DADA, as you know. He's just so skilled. I think the headmaster practically begged him to come teach! And well, there's Quidditch. You could probably ask one of the other boys to help you with flying, I bet. Oh and let's not forget that your Uncle is teaching Potions again this year. You could visit him, although I don't know why. He's still so mysterious. I never understood why Mother and Father wanted two children." She finished with a look of disdain.
"Isn't your brother older than you?" Harry asked, curiously. His next thought, "therefore, if your parents only had 1 child, you would not have been born" did not actually make it out of his mouth.
"Such a mouth for a nine-year-old! Go into the corner. I'm tired of your cheek. Be thankful that this is a new wall you are staring at!" She said tersely, and began stirring the soup at a rapid pace.
"What do you want?" Severus asked, clearly and coldly from the other side of the room. The black robed man had four potion bottles help in his hand. There was a quill scratching rapidly on a half-rolled sheet of parchment beside him and more bottles were trailing along side it on narrow tables. He scowled deeply at the little menace for interrupting his work.
Harry tried desperately to get his lungs working again. The weird fall he'd taken from his bedroom had landed him right by the Potion Master's large mahogany desk. He looked backward for some sort of chute, but only saw a solid brick, dungeon wall that perfectly matched the other ones in the room.
"I-I-I-I…" He didn't know what to say. He didn't know if he should stand. He didn't know if the professor wanted him to look him in the eyes when he spoke. He'd only met then man once!
"Stand up, Potter, and present yourself. One does not fly into someone's classroom in his pajamas at break-neck speed without explanation." He said, darkly.
The boy scrambled to stand and make himself somewhat presentable, though neither was an easy feat.
"I'm so sorry professor! I was only trying to see if I could take that mirror from my wall, honest! The next thing I know I landed on your floor! I'm awfully sorry, sir. I'll be going now, I guess."
Harry began crab-stepping to the door when the professor told him to stop.
"You do not even know your way around the dungeons, Potter. You have only been here a week and I have yet to see you anywhere outside of the Great Hall." He said, frowning.
"Oh, umm yeah. I guess I would get lost. Hogwarts is really big! I remember dreaming about it and trying to picture myself in classes and stuff. I thought it'd be so fun." The boy said, only mildly aware that he was talking more than he ever did with anyone else.
Severus noticed too. The boy ate with the other professors at the Head Table, he had heard the boy say precious little but for "Yes, Sir," "No, Fran-mum." The other teachers had also attested to the boy's seemingly tacit nature. Why was the boy striking conversation with him of all people? Granted he was now the boy's uncle, but they had only met during a quick introduction on the Potter's first day at Hogwarts.
Severus been doing a lot of thinking lately. His sister, recently married to his deceased best friend's husband, was very aggravating. As much as he hated James for his barbaric ways as a teen, he figured that Lily's son probably deserved better than Frances for a new mum. He remembered very clearly how horrible she was as a child to her dolls that disobeyed.
"You say that you thought it would be fun? You do not think so now?" The professor questioned beckoning the boy to him.
The boy stopped in front of him, shrugging. "I dunno. It's okay. I kinda wish there were some kids my age, though. I also wish I was really going here so I could learn more things." Harry admitted.
"Your parents have not secured a tutor for you?" The man asked with a raised eyebrow.
The boy shook his head and explained it like his dad and Francis had. They were simply too busy right now. In the meantime, Harry had been given some textbooks to read by himself. They were kind of hard to understand and a lot of times he had to read them over and over again to even maybe understand. He didn't work very well on his own usually, and sometimes he got distracted because he was all alone and (he blushed madly as he admitted this) that his quarters' sometimes sounded creepy when he in there all alone.
Severus studied the child intently. He did not seem dumb. He talked as well as could be expected from a nine-year-old and perhaps even better. He seemed eager to learn, although always anxious about something, as he was constantly clutching his pants stiffly. James and Frances, then, as parents, should have already had him in tutoring. They should probably allow him to talk at home as well, lest the boy be unable to speak his mind in the future or even have an opinion for himself. He knew very well, as head of Slytherin, which students had been brought up to be seen and not heard. They were often quiet, cowed and generally unmotivated. It's not as if he wanted the boy to be like the Weasley twins, Merlin forbid, but he did not want nephew who seemed terrified to answer simple questions.
Which again breached the question, why was the boy so comfortable with him? He had certainly not been inviting.
"How come I ended up in your classroom, professor?" The boy asked, pushing grubby glasses back into place on his nose.
"The question is 'why' not 'how come' Mr. Potter, and of that I am uncertain. There is a mirror in your room you were trying to take down? Why would not ask for assistance? Did you feel a tugging sensation at your navel?" Severus asked, as he turned away and began restocking the potions into their respective cabinets.
The quill that had stopped was now scratching away again.
"I didn't want to bother anyone, sir. And it just felt like a slide, actually. You know the muggle things on playgrounds-"
"I am well aware of what a slide is. I grew up in a muggle town with your new stepmother by Lily, in fact." Flaming Merlin! That was not supposed to be said!
Not only was the boy talking freely but Severus was, as well? What was it about this boy? Since when did Severus discuss Lily with anyone? Repressing an aggravated sigh, Severus continued to stock the potions.
"Lily my mum? You knew my mum? What was she like? Did you ever go to school with her?" Harry asked, suddenly very excited. "Please tell me something about my mum!"
"Hush!" The professor scolded. "There is no need to get worked up about it. I will tell you at another time, but you should be getting to bed. It seems as though you were prepared to." He said, gesturing to the boy's blue striped sleepwear. It was a good way to avert the question. He did not particularly wish to speak of Lily, but since the boy seemed practically starved for information of her, he might be able to help him a bit. But that was a matter for later, because it was 9:40 and the boy was probably supposed to be in bed forty minutes ago. He did not want a conversation with his sister or James Potter anytime soon, so he thought it best to get the boy back before any problems were to arise.
The boy blushed again, remembering that he was in his pajamas and house shoes still and suddenly looked very nervous again.
"Well, I suppose I will have to lead you back to your quarters myself." Severus said, ignoring the voice in his head that told him a house elf could always do it for him.
"Hey Uncle Severus, could you help me with this?" Harry asked, doodling lightly in his textbook.
The man looked over his stack of essays to Harry. A lot had changed since their first meeting. Now the boy regularly came down (via mysterious "chute" from his bedroom which Severus though Dumbledore probably had something to do with) to receive help on his lessons because his imbecile parents had hired a tutor that not only left Harry to his own devices for hours but admitted to the boy that she was only doing it for money, she did not like him, and was not particularly educated in any of the subjects he was learning.
The only reason Severus did not stop the matter was because he did not want to become any more involved in the affairs of Frances and James than he already was and because, though he would never confess it, he would not have as much time to spend with the boy.
"Quit doodling in your book, Harry. Learn to respect your belongings." He said as he came over. He glanced at the problem that Harry was struggling with, realizing that it was another fractions problem.
"I believe I went over this example in the notes I gave you. Where are those?"
Harry pulled out some parchment from under his book and looked through slowly. He was not a very quick reader yet, Severus soon found. Actually, it was because of his slight dyslexia that his parents had "not noticed before." He suppressed a growl. James Potter was not only an irresponsible teenager, he was an irresponsible adult who went gallivanting off on weekends and Hogsmead trips to drink with his buddy Sirius, leaving Harry alone in his quarters longer than Severus cared for.
"Oh! It's just like this one right here, right? Only that 5 is a 2 down here and-"
"Harry what happened to your arm?" Severus suddenly questioned at the now visible red lash that started at his wrist and disappeared farther up.
The boy nervously pulled the cuff of his sleeve down and averted his eyes quickly.
"Oh, that? I dunno. Can't remember" He mumbled, suddenly extremely intent upon solving the fraction.
"I believe you do know, Harry, and you will show me. Now." He ordered, his gaze darkening.
Harry carefully rolled up his sleeve to reveal an arm laced with multiple red lines, crisscrossing this way and that. He looked away from his uncle's face and his arm, because both were making him nervous.
Severus picked up his arm and examined it closely, though he was careful not to touch the red lines.
"What happened?" He asked again, this time a bit calmer.
Harry squirmed but reluctantly answered. "Miss Parlor was mad 'cause I read too slow to her. She wanted to go home so she could do stuff, but she had to hear me read first. I'm not very fast at reading but I'm even worse at reading out loud and she was not very happy. She used the stinging hex I think. I think I heard my dad talk about that one before."
The professor sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, barely containing his anger. This was one of those times when he wished he would really tell Frances, James, and that fat lard of a tutor what he really thought of them.
"When did this happen? Have you put anything on it?" He asked. He knew better than to ask if his parents had seen, because they barely knew the child existed, let alone if his tutor was hexing him for something he could not help.
"Yesterday, sir, and I couldn't find anything in the house." He mumbled, chewing on his lip.
"I am a potions teacher. Did you think of coming to me?" Severus asked as he led the shuffling boy to the other side of the room to a large sink. He rolled up Harry sleeve more and placed his arm under a stream of water.
The boy hissed.
"I don't know. I guess, but you seemed busy yesterday and I didn't want to bother you…"
"I am never too busy to help you with something like this, Harry." He said, frowning slightly as he cast a drying spell and accioed a bottle of general healing potion.
Harry drank it obediently and watched in fascination as the red marks went away and he could see his pale skin once more.
"Thanks, Uncle Sev." Harry said and hugged him for the first time. He threw his weight into the slender man's chest and sighed heavily when the strong arms of his pseudo guardian wrapped around his own back.
He didn't expect the tears to come. But they seemed to just leak out, as if the hug was squeezing out all the hurt and sadness that came from his dad and Francis. He wished his uncle Severus could be his dad and then he could have hugs all the time and not sit in his room for hours, alone and scared. Maybe if he lived with Severus it would be like it was on the weekends, when Severus would sometimes read to him or tell him a story about his mum. Maybe he would tuck him in all the time and check on him periodically before he retired to his own rooms every day. (Harry always pretended to be asleep, but it felt nice to have someone who cared.)
Harry thought for a moment about his life now. He supposed he could still be living alone with his dad in London, but then he would never have met Severus.
"I'm kinda glad my dad married Frances because now you're my uncle." He admitted softly and relished the fact that Severus was running his fingers through his hair.