A/N: Welcome to Tuesdays with Severus. This story exists as Part of the "Moment of Impact" universe and is part 5, immediately following "A Summer of Flotsam and Jetsam." You can of course link to the other stories through my author link. This series generally follows canon with these exceptions: 1) Harry and Severus establish a mentor relationship after fifth year that grows into an unofficial father/son relationship and 2) Severus survives Nagini's attack. While the last two stories have been very introspective and relationship-driven, "Tuesdays with Severus" is a venture away from developing characters around and behind canon events, as there is no specific canon for 8th year. Thanks to all of the readers who are bravely going forward with yet another story in this series. There will be a Draco element here, which is not introduced in this chapter, but keep in mind that I try to follow canon, including the epilogue. And now - onward!
The first letter came on Saturday after the first week of classes.
Harry and Ron met Ginny in the Great Hall for breakfast. This was Harry's first breakfast in the Great Hall since classes started—the other mornings, he'd eaten in the dining room in the new eighth year quarters with the other repeaters. Repeaters. They had taken to calling themselves that, even though half of them hadn't even been here last year at all.
Or had spent the better part of the year camping out in the Room of Requirement.
Since today was Saturday. Hermione, who was cramming all of her classes into the mornings and helping her parents reestablish their dental practice in the afternoons, wasn't at Hogwarts. She'd be coming this evening, though, for the marathon revising session she'd organized. But now, with Quidditch try-outs only a week away, the Gryffindors were holding a practice session for anyone interested in playing.
Ginny was captain this year. She's accepted the position without apology to either Harry or Ron and had told them both in no uncertain terms that they would be trying out, though she went out of her way to inform them that there were no guarantees.
"You might not have it in you anymore," she stated emphatically, hands on her hips in Molly Weasley lecture mode. "You're not as young as you used to be."
"We're in way better shape than we were in sixth year," countered Ron, rolling his eyes. "Comes from having tamed a dragon."
Ginny rolled her eyes, smiling as she did so, and Harry, standing behind her with his arms around her stomach, bent to kiss her on the nape of the neck. "Of course not, Gin," he'd reassured, winking at Ron. She's elbowed him in the side, and they'd ended up on the floor, play wrestling, while Ron had sighed and opened his Arithmancy textbook. Unbelievably, with Hermione gone and Harry and Ginny paired up, he spent an inordinate amount of time with his head in a book these days. The schedule Severus has helped set for him this past summer was not a forgiving one.
This Saturday morning, Harry was sitting in the sparsely filled Hall next to Ginny, across from Ron, when the morning post owls arrived. They all looked up as the owls began to circle the hall. Three of them landed on the table beside Harry, each of them hooting softly and holding out their delivery legs, each one cutting in front of the others, trying to be first to be relieved of their missives.
"Only three today? You're slowing down, Harry." He grabbed the last piece of bacon off the tray just before the barn owl in the middle tried to snag it.
"What does he mean?" asked Ginny. She had unfastened one of the letters and was holding the last rather jumpy owl still while Harry untied the band around the rolled parchment it carried.
"Secret admirers, random witches and wizards thanking him, offers of employment, requests for autographs, chocolate cauldrons, you name it," said Ron helpfully. He picked up the first letter Harry had removed and held it out toward Ginny. "Crayon," he said, almost fondly. "We love the ones from the kids."
Ginny took the letter and stared down at it, then looked over at Harry. He grinned sheepishly and glanced up at the head table. Severus was sitting there, apparently deep in conversation with Minerva, and seemingly not paying a bit of attention to the students who had actually made it to breakfast on Saturday morning. The days had flown by so quickly and he'd only seen Severus briefly and in passing. He knew he shouldn't complain—most of his friends only saw their parents during holidays—but it didn't seem right anymore to be eating breakfast at a different table.
"Apparently, they've been coming since just after the Final Battle," Harry explained to Ginny. "Severus had most of my mail redirected all summer—the only owls that got through to Shell Cottage were ones from people we both knew."
"It must feel odd living here now after being at Shell Cottage all summer," said Ginny.
"Well, you've been at the Burrow all summer," countered Harry, not admitting just how odd and disconcerting it did feel.
"But I'm at the Burrow every summer," said Ginny. "I'm used to coming back here and missing home."
"I don't guess I'll miss it as much with Severus here too," said Harry, trying to sound casual and offhanded. "We're going to have dinner together in his quarters on Tuesday nights, and he was waiting out in the corridor after Charms yesterday. Professor Flitwick asked me to stay and then went over my daily marks for the entire week with him."
Ron looked aghast. "Your daily marks? My mum and dad don't see anything but my half term marks."
Harry shrugged. "It's alright—no one ever really cared about my marks before I guess."
Ron lowered his voice even though there was no one around to overhear them. "So Flitwick told him about…?" He glanced at Ginny, then back at Harry.
"Of course I told her," said Harry. "And yeah, he did. I don't think Severus was really that interested in my daily marks, you know."
"Was Severus angry?"
Harry glanced up at the head table again. Severus was still talking with Minerva and didn't look his way. "Not exactly mad. Maybe worried? Maybe disappointed I'd not come directly to him."
"Why didn't you, Harry?" asked Ginny. She sounded curious more than disapproving.
"I was planning on telling him on Tuesday when we have dinner together. It wasn't really such a big deal…"
Ron's snort of disbelief told Harry exactly what he thought of that statement.
"Ron—we all three got pretty good at healing spells last year…."
"Not that good, Harry. Healing spells are supposed to be localized and specific. You were supposed to be healing my parchment cut, not Professor Flitwick's lumbago!"
"I'm just not used to my wand is all," answered Harry, his voice determinedly casual. "And Severus told me not to get all worried about it—he said we could wait and talk about it on Tuesday."
"Good luck waiting 'til then with Hermione coming tonight," muttered Ron.
Ginny squeezed Harry's hand and held up the letter with "Harry Potter" written on the front in purple crayon. "May I?"
"Go ahead," said Harry. Ron picked up one of the two remaining letters and sniffed it then made a face.
"Marriage proposal," he said.
Ginny rolled her eyes and opened the letter she was holding, extracting a folded piece of parchment. She unfolded it carefully and laid it on the table, smoothing it out as she did so.
"Bobotuber pus?" asked Ron, feigning concern.
Ginny ignored him. The picture was, predictably, of Harry, and was accompanied by a carefully printed thank-you note. Harry's head was disproportionately large for his body, undoubtedly to accommodate the over-sized lightning-bolt scar that zigzagged across his forehead. His hair was a tangle of messy black lines and his eyes wide green circles behind carefully-drawn round glasses. He was wearing a Gryffindor scarf in vivid red and banana yellow around his neck and holding a wand in one hand and a sword in the other, a sword that more closely resembled a scimitar. A second zigzag, this one of red spell-light, shot out of the wand to the edge of the parchment. What looked like a bird with inordinately large wings zoomed around the sky above Harry's head in a show of magical animation.
"Dear Mr. Harry Potter," read Ginny. She glanced over at Harry and found his eyes on the letter and drawing as well. "Dear Mr. Harry Potter—Thank you for killing You Know Who. If you are ever in Edinborough, I should appreciate a ride on your dragon, or on your broom if your dragon is indisposed. Love, Benjamin Jennings, Age 6."
Harry smiled. "Sorry, Benjamin," he said with a half smile. "My dragon is indisposed."
Ron snorted. "Indisposed? Think he had any help with that one?"
"It would be nice to give him the broom ride, though," said Ginny. She tilted her head, looking thoughtfully at the drawing and the flying creature that they now new was meant to be a dragon.
Harry sighed. "I've had dozens of these. I can't give broom rides to every magical kid in Britain." He didn't admit that despite the impossibility of it, he wouldn't mind giving it a try.
Ginny shrugged and took a piece of toast off the stack. "You all ready? she asked. The letter with its mention of broom rides had undoubtedly put Quidditch back in mind.
"What's that last one?" asked Ron through a mouthful of toast as he stood up, indicating the third letter which Harry hadn't yet read.
"Don't know. I was about to open it to see," answered Harry. He folded it and stuck it in his jeans pocket then carefully folded the picture from six-year old Benjamin. "You can keep that one, though," he said with a grin as the floral aroma from the scented letter seemed to grow even stronger. "Stick it in your pocket and give Hermione something to think about tonight."
He dodged a well-aimed piece of toast, and they left the Great Hall a few minutes later, brooms in hand, and made their way outdoors to the pitch. From the head table, Severus Snape sipped his tea and watched them leave.
"The owls are coming directly to him now," said Minerva as she, too, watched Harry and his friends leave the Hall.
"There hasn't been a threat or a howler for a month," responded Severus. He looked rather disparagingly at the teacup in his hand and Minerva touched it with her wand, muttering a warming charm.
"Surely there will be more…" she said.
"Most certainly. But the wards should prevent anything too dangerous slipping in, and I have instructed Harry to come directly to me if he receives a threat of any kind."
Minerva turned her head to look at Severus. "He will receive letters that are not threats but that are not kind."
"And he needs to learn to deal with those as well," stated Severus. "It should not be difficult for him to believe that the world is not uniformly kind, not adulatory of all heroes."
Minerva scoffed. "No, not too difficult at all," she replied. She sipped her tea, looking out over the Hall which was now nearly deserted. "How many do you think he's received so far?" she asked after a moment.
"In all? Several thousand, I'd guess. Of those perhaps half were missives I would not have wanted Harry to see." He held up his hand as Minerva started to exclaim. "Do not misunderstand me. Most of that number were adulatory. Some contained gifts, offers of marriage or apprenticeships or employment. Others told heart-breaking stories of loss and suffering accompanied by photos of loved ones lost." He paused and too another long, thoughtful sip of tea. "I think there were at least a dozen photos of babies all born during the last few months and named Harry—among those at least two girls." He raised an eyebrow as if wondering, for a moment, if he would still be headmaster when little Harry Annette Madison started at Hogwarts.
"Severus—you've hardly had the time—or the energy—to go through ten letters much less several thousand," said Minerva. She looked at him over the top of her glasses. "You are beginning to look rather worn. I'd suggest you get some rest this weekend before Poppy catches sight of you and pulls you in for a check-up."
"Fair warning," said Severus with a nod. He looked out over the empty hall. "Though I don't believe Poppy will be able to keep me in her sights for long. She is staying busy with the start-of-year physicals."
"I did advise my Gryffindors that they would be meeting the counselors at their health check-up," said Minerva.
Severus folded his napkin and placed it on the table beside his empty breakfast plate. He stood up.
"You didn't tell me who's been going through Harry's mail," Minerva reminded as she, too, stood up and prepared to leave.
"A full complement of Weasleys," answered Severus with a wry smile. "'I gave them an entire room in the north tower. Bill checked the post for curses, Molly opened and sorted it and Percy catalogued it. I asked for representative samples to read and Percy provided me a full statistical break-down."
"I believe the boy has come around," said Minerva, almost fondly.
They walked together toward the Entry Hall and Severus stopped near the doorway. "How has Harry been performing in your class this week, Minerva?"
Minerva considered a moment. "Better than he ever has, actually. But that isn't unusual given the past year and the considerable amount of practical magic they had to use living on their own as they did."
"So you see the same improvement in Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger, then?"
Minerva frowned. They had started walking again and were beginning to climb the great stairway.
"Actually, no. There is definite improvement in Mr. Weasley, but not to the extent I see in Harry. As for Miss Granger, she has always been nearly flawless in my class."
"Well, do let me know if anything unusual happens, won't you?"
"Of course, Severus."
They reached the top of the stairs and Minerva paused to pose a thoughtful question.
"Do you plan to let Harry read the letters, Severus?"
Severus glanced at her, an indecipherable look on his face. "Some of them," he replied. "In time."
Quidditch was a blast. Harry hadn't realized how much fun he hadn't been having until he was on his broom again. But not just on his broom. On his broom, with the other Gryffindors, on the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. It was one thing to play at the Weasleys in the cleared field they used as a pitch. They had plenty of fun there, with pick-up teams and a rag-tag assemblage of brooms, a misshapen Quaffle and bludgers that had seemed to know Fred and George almost personally.
But today was about drills and formations and maneuvers and flying free with the sun on your back and the wind in your face. Harry and Ginny, in a show of good sense and forward thinking, worked with several of the younger students, trying to identify a good back-up Seeker who could be trained up to take over next year when they were gone. Ron, playing Keeper, showed such a vast improvement from his sixth-year performance that the fourth and fifth years created a new verse of "Weasley is Our King" and serenaded him as they walked back to the castle.
They played until nearly lunch time, ate together again in the Great Hall, then Harry cleaned up and hauled out his Transfiguration and Potions books and settled in at his desk in his room for a couple hours of homework before Hermione arrived. While everything seemed so odd this year, like being in a classroom and having a schedule and having his own room at Hogwarts, nothing made him feel more out or sorts than not having Hermione around in the afternoons and evenings.
His fingers skimmed his Charms textbook but he left it in his bag. He didn't really want to think about Charms yet, or how that healing spell had felt when it left his wand. He was somehow glad that he wasn't any better at Potions than he'd ever been. He enjoyed it more than he ever had with Severus as his Professor, of course, and even without the Half-blood Prince's textbook, his work—this first week anyway—had been E-level. He hoped Severus would think that good enough. He was better at Transfiguration than he'd been before he mastered the Animagus form, but not so much so that anyone thought it odd. Minerva, he thought, paid more attention to his effort and its outcome than she once had but at least hadn't called Severus to class yet. Today, when tasked with transfiguring one piece of clothing into another, which wasn't as easy as changing slippers into trainers, he'd changed a pair of trousers into a frock coat fairly easily, but that was nothing compared to the worn winter cloak Hermione had transfigured into old-fashioned pantaloons with silk ribbons and lace around the ankles.
He noticed the letter in his pocket before he ever really began reading, and pulled it out along with the folded picture from little Benjamin. He smoothed out the drawing and pinned it to the wall next to his schedule, smiling at it rather indulgently, then looked down at the letter he'd received this morning and hadn't yet opened.
His name was written across the front in black ink in neat handwriting he didn't recognize. He couldn't even guess if the writer was a woman or a man, though he thought that they were older than he, probably at least Severus' age. The letter was in an envelope, which weren't always used in the wizarding world, he'd learned, but it was a thick, formal envelope of cream-colored parchment, almost hand-cut in appearance. It was sealed with a glob of green wax with a plain, circular seal in it.
Harry pushed aside his Potions text and opened the letter, spreading out the single piece of folded parchment on his desk. The parchment matched the envelope in color and texture and was covered on one side with the same handwriting as on the front of the envelope. The script was small and tidy.
Dear Mr. Potter:
Though I am late in offering my heartfelt gratitude to you, it is no less genuine for being so late in coming. Wizarding Britain will not soon tire of praising your courage, determination and selflessness. I am one of thousands of persons—magical and Muggle alike—who is personally indebted to you for my life and the lives of my family.
You have given so much of yourself to stay with this fight, and in doing so lost many of those that loved and nurtured you. It is only natural that a boy would want a father-figure in his life, someone to guide him, consul him and teach him. Even when the boy is grown and a young man stands in his place, nearly ready to leave his childhood behind and step out into a world of challenges and uncertainty, the heart of that young man yearns for the love and support of a family, and at its center, a father.
Much has been published and conjectured of late regarding the man who had been filling the role of father in your life. Your stalwart support of him following the Battle of Hogwarts has helped allay many of the fears the wizarding public who wonder where the true loyalties are of a man who spent so many years in the presence of the Dark Lord. Of those that wonder what draws a man such as Headmaster Snape to mentor the Boy Who Lived, a Gryffindor like his father before him, a boy who was confronted with choice time after time after time and who always—always—chose wisely.
Your words bring redemption, Mr. Potter, and I want very much to trust you on this matter. The war is over, the side of the light has prevailed, and all need no longer walk in darkness, even those who walked in darkness for so long that they are blinded in the bright light of peace, and freedom, and justice.
Mr. Potter, you may think me out of place for calling this to your mind, but you must wonder why someone like Severus Snape would agree to take on the responsibility of an orphaned teenager. Why an unmarried, childless man with a past as lonely and as bitter as your own would change the course of his life at such a pivotal point in the history of the wizarding world. Headmaster Snape must be grateful that he was able to ride with you out of the abyss.
In closing, may I once again express my gratitude for your service to the people of Great Britain and of the world, Mr. Potter. May your future be a happy one, and may you continue to be a shining example of doing what is right, not what is easy.
With most sincere condolences on the loss of your loved ones, and heartfelt thanks for your courageous acts,
Harry stared at the letter a long while. He read it again and then again a third time. His hand trembled as he bit his bottom lip then quickly grabbed the parchment and crumpled it up. He tossed it in anger toward the rubbish bin but it hit the rim and ricocheted off, landing on the floor near the foot of his bed.
Hilda Smith? Who the hell was this Hilda Smith? And what business did she have questioning Severus' motives in taking him in? And how did she know what he had lost? Who he had lost?
He stood up and nearly lunged for the discarded letter. He smoothed it out on the desk and skimmed over it yet again.
"a shining example of doing what is right, not what is easy"
That sounded a lot like Dumbledore.
He knew he had missed a lot of mail over the summer. Severus had told him that the owl post had poured in, sometimes a hundred letters in a single day. He knew that someone had filtered the mail, and sorted it, and that, like the mail he'd been getting since the morning after the Sorting Feast last week, it was full of thank-you notes, crayon drawings, job offers and marriage proposals.
And some hate mail. Of course—there had to be hate mail.
But what was this?
Not hate mail. The writer sounded more disapproving than hateful. But not disapproving of Harry. No, this witch was disapproving of Severus.
Not that she said as much, but she may as well have said it. Calling to question his motives for taking Harry in. For radically changing his life just at the right time.
Damn it! It was none of their business!
There was no way he was going to study now. He'd just have to make up with double time tonight when Hermione was here.
Severus wasn't in his office, and he wasn't in his quarters.
When he finally tracked down Minerva in her office, she reminded him that it was the first Saturday of the month and that first Saturdays of the month were Board of Governors meetings—in London.
"What's wrong, Harry?" she asked upon seeing the distress in his face. "Can I help you with something?"
But he was already second-guessing himself, wondering if coming to Severus was the right move after all. He assured Minerva he'd be fine until Severus returned and hurried down the hall toward the Gryffindor common room.
And realized he didn't know the password.
He thought he might be able to talk the Fat Lady into letting him in, but she put her hands on her hips and told him there were no exceptions. None. She was haughty and high-handed. He thought vaguely that she might be drinking. Frustrated, he took out his wand.
Ginny opened the portrait hole a few minutes later.
"Your Patronus, Harry?" she said in a sort of voice that reminded him exactly of Molly. "Don't you think that was a bit much? It terrified a group of first years and two of them are crying!"
"I didn't know the password," said Harry, stepping into the common room through the hole and collapsing on a squashy loveseat beside Ginny.
"I realize that," said Ginny. "Your Patronus explained it. I don't think the firsties expected it to talk, either. And it's Dumbledore," said Ginny, with a small grin and an expressive roll of her eyes.
"My Patronus is Dumbledore?" Harry grinned tiredly. "Password. Right. I think I can remember that one."
"Even Neville could remember that one," she said. "Now what's going on? You look upset."
He held out the letter to her. "The other letter that came this morning. This is it."
Ginny took it, raising her eyebrows a bit at its tattered state.
She read it quickly, glanced at Harry, then read it again. He sat beside her, knees drawn up to his chin, staring ahead at the fireplace.
"Hilda Smith," she said quietly, frowning. "Do you know her?"
He shook his head. "Never heard of her."
"We have Smiths here at Hogwarts—Zacharias Smith and his younger sisters. Hazel is in my year."
"Smith is a pretty common name," said Harry. "For all I know, it's not her real name anyway. And that isn't exactly a Hufflepuff sort of letter, is it?"
Ginny looked back down at the letter, then over to Harry again. She sighed and settled back against Harry. "This one isn't really that bad, Harry. Just throw it away and forget it."
"Isn't that bad compared to what?" he asked. "I think it's pretty bad. She's trying to discredit Severus—making it look like he took up with me just to save himself."
"She doesn't say that…."
"No, she doesn't," he admitted. "But she all but says it. Makes it sounds like he doesn't have the credentials to be a father either." He swallowed, trying not to shout, trying to hold back the angry tears. "It's none of her business!"
"No, it's not. But a lot of people get their noses in where they don't belong. And Harry, this is Severus we're talking about. Severus! You stood up for him in front of the entire wizarding world. You didn't let anything or anyone stand in your way! You wouldn't leave the infirmary when he was hurt—you practically threatened Kingsley! You wouldn't even let Mum and Dad near him."
Harry sighed and took the letter from her again, shoving it back in his jeans pocket. He turned sideways until he was leaning against the arm of the loveseat and Ginny snuggled back against him.
"You smell good," he said softly after a quiet minute.
"Soap and shampoo will do that," she answered just as softly. She tilted her head up and kissed him, and he kissed her back, then sighed into her hair.
"I miss Severus."
He loved her more for not laughing, or pointing out that there aren't many girls in the world who would want to hear something like that in the middle of a snogging session. She was soft and warm in his arms and he couldn't help but relax a bit, the memory of the letter still forefront in his mind, but fading as Ginny seemed to melt into him.
"And I miss the cottage," he said, running his hand over Ginny's back and looking around the common room with its squishy armchairs and scattered text books and children and kneazles and gobstones and brooms. "There are too many people here, and too much noise."
"I miss the sound of the ocean and the creaking of the hammock," she whispered.
He smiled then, and thought he could almost taste the salty air, but it was only a stupid tear, and he licked it away and buried his head in Ginny's hair.