Dumbledore had called a meeting of all the order members from the first war and was waiting for them to all finish trickling into the meeting room at headquarters. The headmaster had claimed the seat at the head of the table and sitting directly beside him was a young boy. When everyone had quietened and found a spot at the table the meeting began, but everyone's gaze continuously drifted back to the child sitting at the front. After discussing a few other important orders of business, they finally touched on the main reason the meeting had been called.
"Harry here seems to have a very great and unique gift." He began, his eyes twinkled around the table at all of them gathered there, "It is my belief that he is gifted with the ability of knowing people's intensions and whether or not they are trustworthy, things of that nature."
Everyone was staring with quite alarmed expressions at Harry after this declaration because no such ability had ever been heard of before. "You mean he can read people's minds!" Someone finally exclaimed, almost fearful.
"Oh no," The Headmaster smiled merrily, the twinkle on full force, "I don't believe that it has that much power, nor is that its intended use." The sighs of relief could be heard around the room. "It's more like a soul reading and I think it's more of a skill used for self-preservation than anything else. It acts like a sixth sense if you will, but gets stronger with proximity and eye contact like legilimency. I am aware that this is a lot to ask, but I would like your voluntary agreement to let Harry use this power on each of you." At this there was shocked silence, then a burst of sound like a gun going off as everyone vehemently rejected the idea all at once. To let such a thing happen was a major violation of their privacy and implied that that headmaster did not trust them.
Then out of the din came a voice filled with determination. "I will do it Albus." And all at once the room fell silent, a wave of heads whipping around to the source of the voice, one Professor McGonagall. "As everyone should be aware, this could be a huge advantage should you-know-who rise again. And you can never be too careful; it would not do to become complacent." She lectured in a stern voice.
"Thank-you, Minerva. That's very true, and it seems that once again I am in your debt." Dumbledore said, while turning to smile gratefully at the professor, who in turn nodded in acknowledgment in the headmaster's direction. After her, one by one everyone agreed, some more grudgingly than others. When the last one had been coaxed into agreement Dumbledore finally turned to look down at Harry beside him, calling his name. Harry looked up into the wise wizard's face and nodded, he knew what to do. Harry first turned to the most willing but still nervous McGonagall. He stared straight into her eyes, looking deeper and deeper, diving straight into her very being. After a few minutes Harry nodded at her, not betraying any emotion and then moved onto the person sitting next to her. Doing so with each person in turn, everyone found that when locked in Harry's penetrating gaze that they couldn't look away. It induced an eerily similar feeling to the one experienced when being surveyed by Dumbledore himself, one of being x-rayed.
"So, young Harry," Dumbledore started, gathering the attention back to him, "What if I were to tell you that one of these people here could become you guardian if you wish?"
Harry gasped out loud, the surprise on his face the first emotion he had showed after being brought into the room, quickly followed by excitement. "Could I really sir?" He exclaimed, speaking up for the first time.
"Yes, I believe so Harry. Everyone present has agreed that, if chosen, they would gladly take you in as their own. Isn't that right?" He posed the question to the room at large and after waiting for their general noises of acceptance, smiles, and nods, exclaimed, "Excellent, excellent! Harry?" The force of everyone's gaze then turned to rest on the boy as they waited for his verdict. Brows furrowed, lips pursed, and eyes on the table top, Harry had no idea who to pick. Even though he had unique insight into everyone there, they were still strangers after all.
Abruptly remembering the presence he had felt earlier upon entering the room he cried out, "Wait! I've forgotten someone!" At this everyone grew confused because they were sure that he hadn't missed anyone. Harry was already on the move though, before more contemplation could be done by the people gathered there. He swiftly jumped down from his chair and walked over to an apparently unoccupied shadowy corner of the room. Craning his neck upwards, Harry spoke, unafraid, "May I see who you are as well sir?" A couple moments passed, and just when the majority of people in the room started to think Harry had lost it, there was a stirring in the corner. The person who stepped out into the light was none other than Severus Snape. Before anyone could get out more than a few shocked gasps, Harry once again spoke, his unwavering attention on the man. "Please sir, may I?"
What Severus wanted to ask above all else was why this child had noticed him standing there was there when he had been doing it for years and no one else had yet noticed. But what came out of his mouth was a gruff; "I suppose it could not hurt." With Harry's big innocent eyes staring up at him he found it impossible to deny the simple request. 'Oh god,' he thought to himself, 'I'm becoming soft.' Horrified at himself, he glared down at the boy who seemed not at all intimidated by his obsidian gaze that could make first year Hufflepuffs wet themselves. They were both so busy gazing at each other that they failed to notice the incredulous stares of the rest of the room's occupants, whom they were thoroughly ignoring. With a slight tug on his robes from the boy, his glare intensified, but he complied with what he believed to be the boy's silent wish. His movements fluid and graceful, the Potions Master lowered himself to the floor so that he was kneeling on the ground at eye level with the boy. Harry gave the man a dazzling smile to express his happiness at his compliance, to which Severus' lips twitched slightly upwards involuntarily. He thought this child was remarkably strange; he didn't even really have to do anything to make him happy.
Both of their smiles faded away though as Harry grew serious once again. Severus inclined his head slightly in response to the question he saw in the boy's eyes; he was consenting and ready. The silence was absolute as Harry peered into the man's eyes as the crowd of onlookers desperately wanted to know what it was that Harry was seeing. He spent significantly longer on this professor than anyone else previously, his brows furrowed in concentration. And then, without warning, his eyes became glassy and tears began rolling down the boy's face, but he didn't break his unwavering gaze and kept silent, raising his right hand to gently rest over Severus' heart. Harry then started to whisper to him and everyone leaned forward in their chairs, (not wanting to miss what was said) but his voice carried fairly well in the deathly silent room. "Why are you hurt?" Startled by the voice that held so much concern for him, as well as the boy's silent tears, Severus' eyes widened and his denial came out surprised. "I'm not hurt."
Still whispering and not breaking eye contact, Harry went on as if he hadn't heard the man (even though Severus' voice was considerably louder than his own). It was almost as if he was in a trance, talking to himself. "Your heart." he explained and at this he give a little sob, "Your heart is hurt...but why hasn't it healed? ...you put up a barrier!" Harry managed to gasp out through his uncontrollable tears, "So that no one can hurt it again." At this Harry moved both his hands so that they cupped Severus' face gently, like he was fragile and could break at any moment. This time when he spoke it was so soft that no one else could hear besides Severus, like the brush of a butterfly wing. "How do I heal you?" His gaze then intensified, even if it previously seemed impossible. But Severus fought and succeeded where everyone else had failed by ripping his gaze away from the child's. He then had to take a steadying breath before pulling his face away from Harry's hands and abruptly standing, refusing to glance at the boy who had yet to take his eyes off of him.
It was Dumbledore who finally broke the tense silence that had descended over the room. "Well, that was definitely intriguing." He managed to gain a particularly menacing glare for his troubles, but it didn't deter the twinkle that seemed to have a permanent fixture in the headmaster's eyes. "I guess that concludes our meeting then, unless anyone has anything else to add?" Piercing blue scanned the room, but no answer was forthcoming. "Excellent! So Harry," This succeeded in getting the boy's attention away from Severus whom he had continued staring down, and onto the headmaster. "I'd like you to know that you are under no pressure and may take as much time as you need to choose your future guardian, so if you'd like..."
That was when Harry interrupted him, his quiet voice effectively cutting off what he was going to say. His voice was laced with confusion and innocence. "But I've already chosen sir."
"Have you now?" The twinkle then turned mischievous which Severus didn't like the look of one bit, so he continued glaring at the source to show his obvious displeasure. The rest of the people in the room were shooting Harry curious looks because they didn't know who he had chosen so quickly. Severus was so busy glaring at Dumbledore that he missed the gesture Harry used along with his declaration, but everyone else did not. "I choose him." He spoke with such certainty and was getting such incredulous looks that Severus broke his one way staring contest and finally glanced down at Harry. This was only to find him staring back at him with determination burning in his eyes. Severus' confusion was only momentary before the realization hit him like a well placed curse.
"Me?" His incredulity was clear in his voice. Harry just gave a little nod of confirmation before fear sparked in his eyes and he dropped his head to study his feet, obviously afraid of the potential rejection. Severus turned to Dumbledore with what could only be described as a plea for help, but all he received was an encouraging smile and a nod in the boy's direction. Severus sighed 'damn meddling old man' and once again lowered himself onto his knees; raising Harry's chin with one finger to get a proper look at him. Then he asked what he deemed to be the most important question at the moment, "Why me?"
With an air of innocence that didn't reflect the question that threatened insolence in each syllable Harry asked back, "Why not you?"
Severus exhaled loudly; frustrated. "Because I'm not a nice person." He explained, trying to remember that he was speaking to someone far younger than himself, even if his eyes looked as if they had seen as much life and death as his own. "I've done things that are bad, things I'm not proud of. I've hurt people." Seeing that this wasn't producing the desired reaction from the boy (in fact it wasn't getting any reaction at all) just made him more frustrated, finally standing up he burst out, "I've killed people!" If Severus didn't know better he'd say that Harry had no idea what he was saying from the reactions it gained, but his sombre eyes said differently. After a few moments he finally admitted defeat. "I don't understand."
"You're a good person." Harry stated with a shrug of his shoulders that showed he didn't think it a big deal. At Severus' perplexed expression though, he expanded. "Everyone does things they aren't proud of, but you try to do what you believe to be right and have good intentions. You may not always be nice, but you have people's best interests at heart and are fiercely loyal to those important to you. You are also an extremely passionate person with the capacity for a great amount of love, though it has to be tapped into because of the wall around your heart." Then Harry paused while his intensity grew and spoke with conviction, "The people you have killed, it wasn't your fault. You took no pleasure in the task and the remorse you felt was genuine. It was on someone else's orders and you did it to uphold a greater purpose. Besides, killing is sometimes necessary in war. You need to let them go because dragging their ghosts around with you isn't helping your heart, or your sanity for that matter. Let them go Sev." The last part was whispered with emerald still boring into obsidian. Severus adopted a look of outright astonishment that was almost comical before he quickly pulled himself together; his mask snapping back into place.
"Letting go isn't that easy." His voice was hard, but he couldn't bring himself to scowl at the boy who just nodded at him like he understood, and maybe he did. But then his face grew dangerous as he questioned, "Sev?"
Harry just smiled up at him impishly, his face the epitome of innocence. "It suits you." He said in explanation and his face didn't show an ounce of remorse. Severus just sighed in a long-suffering way, even though he had just met the boy he was already growing on him.
"I suppose it will suffice." He said in a way that suggested he was making a great sacrifice, but his eyes were full of amusement and his lips were twitching upwards.
Harry just smiled brightly, let out a joyous laugh, and (before Severus knew what was happening) ran towards him and wrapped his arms around his middle in a surprisingly strong embrace. Severus was once again in shock and he had a shrewd suspicion that the boy would surprise him a lot, and he didn't like surprises. Harry's voice then came floating up, slightly muffled from where his face was pressed into his robes. "Thank you Sev."
"I never said I'd become your guardian, brat." Severus said disgruntled. His hands told a different story though, coming up unbridled to cradle Harry's head against him.
"But you will." Harry replied with certainty after pulling back to look into his telling eyes. Severus found what Harry could do unsettling, but thought he might get used to it with enough time. The only one who could read him so well was Dumbledore, and that had more to do with the fact that they had known each other for many years.
"Yes, I will." Severus conceded and couldn't help but smile at Harry's exuberance while everyone else looked on in shock and the headmaster twinkled away. Since the meeting was over and he could talk to Albus later about arrangements for Harry, Severus turned to leave the room with Harry following close behind him, but a stray thought made the older man stop in his tracks. "How did you know my name Harry?"
Harry just smiled mysteriously and continued walking without answering. Hmph. Looks like there's going to be a lot more to the brat than he originally thought.
'I really do hate surprises.'