Author Notes: Merry Christmas to everyone, who celebrates the feast and wonderful holidays to everyone else!^^
This OS isn`t part of any of my series and it also isn`t Snarry, but a Pre-Guardian fiction.
Appreciation: Special thanks to YenGirl! She beta-read this OS, although she was busy herself with her own stories. This OS wouldn`t be the same without her. Thank you, dear!*big hug*
The patter of eager feet.
The tearing of paper.
The squeals of delight.
It was Christmas wasn't any other explanation as to why eleven year old boys were up by seven o'clock on a holiday.
Harry lay still in his bed with the curtains drawn shut, listening to the exited voices of his dorm mates. He heard that Neville had gotten a Remembrall while Seamus and Dean were debating if the ice on the lake was thick enough to allow them to test out the new skates they had just received.
He opened his eyes and stared at the red curtains surrounding him. Harry should be used to it by now. Every child was presented with gifts at Christmas. Even that girl from his old primary school, the one whose father didn't have a job, received something new during this time.
Yes, everyone got something at Christmas. At least, everyone who had someone to love them.
Harry gave a quiet sigh. At the Dursleys, he counted himself lucky if he received some hand-me-downs of Dudley's and wasn't locked up in his cupboard until the festivities were over.
But this year… no, he doubted that his aunt and uncle had bothered sending him any gift at all.
"Hey, mate, don't you want to open your presents?"
Before Harry could formulate an answer, the curtains around his bed were yanked back and Ron was grinning down at him. From the looks of it, the redhead had consumed at least half a pack of chocolate frogs since his lips and chin were smeared with chocolate.
"Morning, Ron," Harry murmured and picked up his glasses from the night table.
"Happy Christmas, Harry! You'd better get up now or I won't be able to save your box of Every Flavor Beans from Seamus and Dean."
One moment later, a box of the multi coloured beans landed in Harry's lap. He stared down at it in surprise. There was a card attached to it, which read For Harry Potter on the inside.
"A gift? But…"
"Oh, come on! I couldn't very well bring all your gifts up here. I just thought that something sweet might get you out of bed, mate!"
Harry shook his head in bewilderment, but he followed the excited redhead downstairs nonetheless. Someone had obviously made a mistake. Maybe there was another Harry in Gryffindor and Ron had thought the gifts were for him. Harry doubted that anyone would think of him at Christmas.
When he entered the common room, his eyes focused on the big Christmas tree placed next to the fireplace. It wasn't there yesterday… and neither were the presents that lay underneath its adorned branches.
Ron was busy unwrapping some gifts and didn't notice the astonishment on his friend's face, when green eyes noted the name written on all the cards of a pile of gifts:
It was a dream. It had to be a dream, Harry decided, when he knelt down to unwrap his presents.
A handmade pullover.
And a silvery cloak that made its wearer invisible.
Harry was still staring in disbelief at the ripped paper that lay at his feet, while Ron happily tried on his cloak.
"This is really cool, mate!"
Harry only nodded. Yes, it was cool to be able to turn oneself invisible, but it was even cooler to get some real Christmas presents for the first time in his life. Most children had that experience when they were much younger. Most of them probably didn't even remember anymore what they got for their first Christmas.
But Harry knew for sure that he would never forget his first, real Christmas. He took his presents upstairs and hid his Invisibility Cloak in his trunk.
"Harry, hurry up! It snowed last night, we can go outside to play!"
Harry's smile grew wider. He could go outside and play with his friends and didn't have to worry about getting the potatoes ready for lunch!
"I'm coming," Harry called and rushed downstairs, clad in his brand new pullover and his winter cloak.
A snowball fight was very tiring!
Harry yawned. The other boys were still outside, but he had had enough of the cold.
All right, it was much more fun playing in the snow instead of having to shovel it off the pavement in front of Number Four, Privet Drive, but right now Harry wanted to warm himself before going for dinner.
Christmas dinner – he couldn't wait for it!
Entering the Gryffindor common room, Harry took off his coat and boots while imagining all kinds of delicious dishes that would be served in the Great Hall tonight. Not even Dudley would get as much to eat tonight even though Harry was sure Aunt Petunia would do her best.
Feeling very contented with himself and the world, Harry sat down in one of the comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace. He should probably take a hot shower before dinner, but it wouldn't harm him to sit by the fire for a little while longer and…
Green eyes fell on a box of chocolates lying on the carpet next to his chair. Curious, he picked it up and read the words 'Filled chocolates - Sweet liqueur encased in a dark, bittersweetcasing' written on the cover.
Sudden recognition assailed him and his mouth opened in surprise. He knew this brand of chocolates! Uncle Vernon always presented Aunt Petunia with them at Christmas...
Harry remembered this because Dudley had tried to steal one of them last year and Aunt Petunia had caught him at it. That wasn't something out of the norm since Dudley often helped himself to whatever confectionaries his mother got. That was probably one reason why Petunia was so skinny, but last year had been different. She didn't allow Dudley to try even one of the chocolates, because they were filled with alcohol and she didn't want 'her precious Diddykins to become a useless drunk'.
At that point, she glanced meaningfully at Harry's scar, but Harry didn't care about that. The only important thing that mattered right then was that Dudley hadn't gotten what he wanted for once in his life.
Since then, Harry had dreamt about trying something with alcohol in it before his cousin could get the chance to do so. As if moving on their own accord, his fingers worked open the box and exposed the delicious smelling chocolates. His mouth watered. They looked so yummy and he could imagine how they would taste like in his mouth, how they would melt on his tongue.
He glanced around the common room. He was alone now, but he remembered who the chocolates belonged to. The fourth year girl had announced that she wasn't going to eat them because she was still mad at her boyfriend who had obviously sent them to her.
So no one would notice if Harry ate one or two pieces, right?
His fingers closed around a piece shaped like a pear. He remembered that Petunia always ate a few of them after Christmas dinner. She was never drunk, so it should be safe to try at least one.
After all, he might not even like them. But at least he would get to try them before Dudley did…
Taking a deep breath, Harry popped the piece of chocolate in his mouth. As expected, it melted on his tongue. The dark coating was bitter– almost too bitter, but the liquid inside was so wonderfully sweet!
Harry sighed contently. This was even better than Fizzing Whizzbees!
A warm sensation flowed through him and he closed his eyes, a little smile played around the corner of his lips once he had swallowed the confectionary. Dudley would never know what he missed last Christmas…
Still smiling to himself with his eyes closed, Harry reached for the next piece of chocolate. One more wouldn't matter. Uncle Vernon had always said that one could drink as much as one wanted as long as enough food went with the drinks.
Since dinner would be ready in a few minutes' time and Harry was determined to eat as much as possible, he probably would not even notice any effect of the alcohol. Congratulating himself for his logical reasoning, Harry enjoyed his second piece of liqueurfilled chocolate.
"I don't know how that could have happened, Professor Dumbledore."
Percy nervously adjusted his glasses and glared at his youngest brother, as if this was all his fault.
"Of course, I know I should have made sure that nothing like this was left in the common room, but I didn't think that a Gryffindor…"
"Calm down, Mr. Weasley."
The prefect fell silent at once, but he kept wringing his hands. Really, Ron should have gotten him instead of alarming the Headmaster just because his best friend was a little drunk.
Well, all right, Harry Potter was more than a little drunk from the looks of it, but it wasn't anything that hadn't happened before. A few hours of sleep, a nice sermon about the dangers of alcohol and everything would be fine!
No one would have even found out, not even Professor McGonagall who was visiting her family over the holidays. But noooo, Ron had to run straight to the Grand Hall and tell the twins what had happened and in such a loud whisper that the Headmaster heard every word.
Of course the blame would fall on Percy's shoulders, since he was the prefect and the sole person in charge of the Gryffindor common room for Christmas!
The young man scowled to himself. He was already mourning the loss of a great career at the Ministry - if anyone else ever found out about this episode - when Dumbledore spoke again.
"It seems that young Harry has a liking for liqueur filled chocolates."
The blue eyes twinkled behind the half-moon glasses as they gazed down at the empty box that lay next to a snoring Harry Potter.
"I can't say that I don't understand what he did, but I doubt he'll want to try them again anytime soon."
Percy blinked, thinking that he had heard incorrectly. Did Dumbledore just imply that Harry had a reason for –
"No, you can't punish him, Professor!"
Percy turned to glare at his youngest brother. Ron should be glad if Harry was the only one punished and not the rest of them via house points.
"Relax, I'm not going to punish a young man for his curiosity, Mr. Weasley."
Percy was sure he looked very much like Ron at that moment with both of them sporting looks of utter disbelief. No punishment? But – but even Professor McGonagall would have given Potter detention, at the very least!
Of course it was good since it meant that no one would hear of this episode, but it also showed an indulgence in the Headmaster that Percy didn't like at all.
"Don't look like that, Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore addressed the prefect directly. "Young Harry will be punished enough with the aftereffects of his little adventure, but I guess…"
He glanced down at the sleeping boy again and a sly smile touched his lips.
"Oh yes, that might even work," he murmured to himself before raising his voice a little. "It would be most appreciated if Professor Snape could come up here to meet us."
A small pop then echoed through the room as if something had just Disapparated.
"Headmaster," Severus greeted as he entered the Gryffindor common room.
He ignored the gaping students staring at him as if he were the devil himself. Maybe he was, from their point of view at least, since he dared to profane their sanctuary of stupidity.
He hoped his presence would give all of them nightmares. He would be able to handle them much better in class if they were afraid of his very appearance. On the other hand, he was just as likely to be haunted by all the red and gold furnishings surrounding him now.
"Is there a reason why you summoned me, Headmaster?"
"Indeed, there is, Severus!"
The damned twinkle in those bright blue eyes sent a shiver down Severus' spine. Nothing good ever came from that twinkle or that benign smile, at least not when it was directed at him. Being a spy and a master at Occlumency, it wasn't at all hard for him to mask his true feelings, but he still felt like hexing Albus for interrupting his quiet and peaceful evening.
"As you can see," Albus gestured to the couch and dark eyes took in the sleeping form of Harry Potter. "Young Harry has obviously eaten a little too many liqueur filled chocolates. It's probably best if…"
"No!" Severus interrupted the Headmaster. He didn't care for the outraged looks of the Weasleys for his inappropriate behavior as he glared at Albus.
"But, Severus -"
"No," the Potion Master growled again. After one glance at the shocked redheads, he cast a Muffliato around Albus and himself.
"I am not going to do this!" he insisted, knowing damned well what Albus wanted.
The old man had hinted throughout the school holidays that since Lily's son was coming to Hogwarts, Severus should take the chance that was offered to him.
Oh, Severus had done just that very thing… although he doubted Albus had wanted him to take points from Potter's son and give him detention as often as possible. No, the old man wanted Severus to care for James Potter's brat.
Severus glared at the sleeping boy. He looked just like his father and he certainly would become as insufferable as James Potter in his school days.
A hand on his shoulder made him look up.
"Severus, you only see James in Harry, but he is also Lily's son. If you only get to know him…"
"I don't want to get to know him!"
When Albus sighed, Severus almost believed that he won the argument, but he should have known better.
"You're the only teacher who is here for the Christmas holidays. If you are not willing and since Madame Pomfrey is down with the flu, then," the old man glanced at the nervous looking Weasleys, "they will have to take care of Harry."
"Have you gone mad?!" The words were out before Severus could stop them. "They aren't much older than Potter and they would have likely done the same if they had the chance to do so. You want to entrust the precious Boy-Who-Lived to some students who don't even know the difference between a Sleeping Potion and a Hangover Potion?!"
"No, I don't, Severus, but if matters force me and since you obviously don't want to fulfill your promise to protect Lily's son, then…"
Severus glared at the very innocent looking Headmaster. He knew when he had lost an argument and only muttered something about crazy old men before cancelling the Muffliato.
"I'll take care of Mr. Potter then!"
The words were uttered in a low growl, but they were loud enough to be heard by the two Weasley siblings who stared at him in utter shock. The youngest of them, Ro… something, even had the guts to address the Headmaster directly. Obviously, he was fearing for the life of his friend in the hands of the cruel dungeon bat.
"Professor Dumbledore, he," the redhead pointed his finger at Severus who made a mental note to deduct quite a few house points from him during his next class, "he hates Harry and…"
"Mr. Weasley, I appreciate your concern, but Professor Snape is more than capable of looking after a sick student. I trust him completely."
The youngest Weasley only gasped at the Headmaster and then stared disbelievingly at the Potions Master.
Severus almost grinned, but his gaze fell on the sleeping form of Potter and he growled instead. He plucked the boy off of the couch and hurried out of the common room. He hoped that he wouldn't run into anyone on his way to the dungeons, or he would issue detentions for trivial issues such as loud breathing in order to get his reputation back.
It was so wonderfully warm!
Harry sighed contentedly and snuggled closer to the source of the warmth. Of course, he hadn't felt cold since he came to Hogwarts. There were always covers and pillows in the beds, but still, this feeling was much more comfortable than a woolen duvet cover.
Besides, he couldn't be in bed. Harry knew that much although he couldn't quite grasp why he knew that. Maybe he had fallen asleep on the couch, but why should he do that when he had a comfortable bed in the dorm?
Harry shook his head. At least he tried to, but the slow movement alone was enough to make his head spin.
"Ooh," he groaned.
Was he sick?
Was it so warm because he was running a fever?
Well, that would explain why his mind felt so heavy and clouded. Back at the Dursleys, Harry had been very ill once and felt very much like he felt now.
Harry tried to focus on his thoughts, although that made his head start throbbing. Did that mean he had only imagined Hogwarts?
After all, he had once dreamt of a flying motorbike. Maybe he had a brain fever and was slowly dying, because his aunt and uncle hadn't bothered to get a doctor to check on him.
A shiver ran down Harry's spine.
Ron… Hermione… Quidditch… Hogwarts castle, magic… all of it couldn't be just a dream. No, it couldn't!
Harry tried to open his eyes to find out if he was in his cupboard under the stairs or still in Hogwarts, but found his lids much too heavy. Well, it probably didn't matter since he wouldn't be able to see anything without his glasses. He groaned again a moment later when his headache became even worse. This wasn't fun at all. His thoughts were flying around in his head until it was ready to explode.
Harry flinched. His uncle always called him 'boy' instead of his given name and it usually meant that he was in some sort of trouble.
"I'll… better… getting up… not so well…not working… can't… please…"
Harry knew his stuttering would get him in even more trouble, but he really couldn't imagine how he would be able to work today. Uncle Vernon would be even madder if he broke something while cooking or doing the washing up.
"Shush." The voice sounded again, closer now. It didn't sound angry. In fact, it sounded friendlier than Uncle Vernon's voice had ever sounded when he spoke to Harry.
"You have to sleep. Drink this!"
Harry felt long fingers cradle the back of his head, lifting it while a glass was pressed against his lips. He opened his mouth and cool liquid filled his mouth. It tasted bitter, but he gulped it down, because his mind told him he would be in deep shit if he spat it out.
The man – his voice was too low to be a woman's – was covering him with a soft blanket and Harry finally managed to pry open his eyes. As expected, everything looked blurry, but he was certain he wasn't in his cupboard.
A slight smile touched his lips and grew when his gaze fell on the fuzzy image of a black haired man who was sitting by his side.
"Dad?" Harry murmured, his heavy eyelids closing again. "Thanks for… getting… me… away from… the… Dursleys."
There was a startled gasp and then someone stroke his hair, but before he could make sense of it, he was already fast asleep.
Harry had called him 'dad'!
Severus shook his head in disbelief while staring down at the young boy sleeping on his couch. Thank Merlin no one would ever know that Harry Potter was spending the night in his rooms… besides Albus and the Weasley children, but there wasn't really anything the damned old man didn't know and Severus would make sure that the idiotic Lions didn't say anything about it.
Severus sighed. The two redheads must be worrying themselves sick, imagining all kind of horrible things he was doing to their precious hero. They probably feared they would be using pieces of the Boy-Who-Lived in their next Potions lesson.
Severus sneered and leaned back in his chair.
To tell the truth, he had many ideas on how he could make the life of James Potter's son a living hell… but they didn't involve chopping up an innocent boy who happened to be in his care.
His dark gaze fell on Potter again. He was right in thinking the boy was as stubborn as his father. There was no other explanation on why he didn't throw up on the way to the dungeons.
Well, in the long run, it would have been better for him if he did, but the potion Severus gave him should also minimize some of the aftereffects the boy was sure to suffer.
The Potions Master pinched the bridge of his nose. He hadn't intended to give Potter any potion at all. Stupid boys should learn their lesson the hard way especially if they were the offspring of Severus' school nemesis, but…
Dark eyes closed as if in pain. The boy was having nightmares and obviously believed that he was with his relatives again.
The thought of Petunia Dursley made Severus growl. She had always been envious of Lily and Severus couldn't imagine that she was treating her nephew well… at least not like her son. He had thought of protesting when he learned that Albus had sent Harry to live with his aunt and uncle, but he put it aside.
It was too late now. They were treating Ha – Potter even worse than he thought them capable of.
Severus opened his eyes and glared at the sleeping boy on his couch. This was his fault! If the stupid boy hadn't eaten those damned chocolates, then he wouldn't be snoring on his couch and Severus wouldn't be spending his evening worrying about him.
Worrying about him… where did that come from?!
Severus shook his head. He was obviously exhausted if he was thinking of nonsensical things. It was impossible that he would ever worry about the offspring of James Potter… but it wasn't impossible that he would worry about the son of Lily Evans.
Severus clenched his fists. He bit his tongue and concentrated on the pain in order to ignore the familiar ache that squeezed his chest with every beat of his traitorous heart.
Lily's son should be… his son!
Severus took a shaky breath. He willed himself to look away from Harry… Potter, but found himself studying his features instead. The boy didn't look so much like his father in his sleep, especially without those horrible glasses.
No, he took after Lily more. The nose was hers, for example.
A fond smile curved Severus' lips. Lily's nose was so cute, especially when she wrinkled it and tried her best to look angry. When she was really pissed, her eyes would blaze with fire, but when she laughed then…
Severus swallowed hard. Lily would never laugh with him again or argue with him over something or another, because she was dead. Because of him.
A sob escaped past his lips before Severus could hold it back.
Lily, his best friend!
His first and only love was… dead!
The stabbing pain in his chest was as bad as ten years ago when Albus told him what had happened to James and Lily Potter. At that time, Severus barely heard Albus telling him that their son had survived the attack of the Dark Lord… and yet the breathing proof was sleeping on his couch.
Of their own accord, Severus' eyes wandered to the boy's forehead and remained on the famous scar.
The only reminder of the curse of Voldemort.
The only reminder of the sacrifice Lily had made.
His beautiful and gentle Lily had sacrificed her own life to save her son and what had Severus done…?
He shook his head in self-disgust. Yes, James Potter was the one who had sired Harry, but Lily was his mother… and that meant something.
Severus leaned forward and placed a gentle hand on Harry's cheek. He gave a small smile when the boy murmured something in his sleep, but didn't wake up.
Harry would experience his first hangover tomorrow morning and somehow… Severus was glad that it was he who would be by his side and not the late James Potter.
He felt sick.
Groaning, Harry opened his eyes and wished at the same time that he hadn't done so. The light, although very dim, hurt his eyes and worsened his headache. Nevertheless, he forced himself to keep his eyes open, since he didn't dare fall asleep again. He had had weird dreams ever since he could remember, but he couldn't remember ever having suffered from such nightmares.
Harry couldn't recall the details now, only the feeling of absolute panic followed by a deep resignation. No, he most certainly didn't want to experience those dreams again… although the reality wasn't all that appealing right now.
A pink tongue darted out to lick over dry lips. His whole mouth and throat felt like someone had ground them with emery paper. He turned his head to his side to look for a glass of water, only to find that this simple action made his head spin. Nausea rose in him.
Harry took a shaky breath as beads of cold sweat formed on his forehead, making him shiver, despite the warm covers. The memories of last evening came back to him while he tried to calm his stomach down. He had eaten the whole box of filled chocolate and he felt quite good because they were spreading warmth through his body. It was only when he remembered that he had to go to meet Hermione and Ron in the Great Hall for dinner and got up that he felt the effects of the alcohol. Everything had looked blurred even with his glasses so he decided to have a little nap on the couch.
Moving only his eyes now, Harry looked around the room – not an easy task without his glasses and he wasn't sure where they were– and got the vague impression that he wasn't in the Gryffindor common room anymore. All right, he was also lying on a couch and there were some chairs surrounding him like in the common room, but somehow… the colors seemed odd.
Harry swallowed against the bile rising in his throat. Wherever he was, he had to find something to drink… and a toilet, since he wasn't so sure that he would be able to control his stomach much longer. Slowly and carefully, he started to sit up, inch by inch, pausing every time he felt like retching.
"Finally awake, I see!"
The voice made Harry jump. One moment, he was leaning against the back of the couch and the next one he was standing on his feet. Or at least, he was trying to stand on his feet while the world rotated around him and his insides felt like he was in a rollercoaster.
A rush of bitterness filled his mouth and Harry choked. Warm liquid spilled past his lips and ran down his chin. His knees buckled under his weight and he would have fallen over if strong arms hadn't held him up.
Harry didn't know who was beside him, only that the person led him to another room and then he was kneeling on a cold floor with his head over the toilet bowl and throwing his guts out. He vomited and vomited until he felt like there was nothing left in him and even then he didn't get up. His legs felt shaky and weak while his insides felt raw and his throat burned like it was on fire.
Someone flushed the toilet and a moment later the same person cleaned his face with a wet towel. The coolness against his dry skin was refreshing. Harry gave a grateful sigh before lifting his head to thank his donor verbally.
His glasses were still absent, but even without them Harry recognized the striking, long nose only inches away from his face. If there still had been anything left in his stomach, he would have thrown up again.
This couldn't be true! He must still be having some sort of nightmare, because there wasn't any other explanation why Snape – of all people – should be here otherwise.
"Are you feeling better now, Potter?"
Harry couldn't even shrug. He might be a Gryffindor, but that didn't prevent his hands from trembling and his whole body from shaking.
"You'll catch a cold if you don't get up off the floor."
The Potions Master's hand closed around his arm and helped him up, leading him out of the bathroom and back to the room that resembled the Gryffindor common room.
Probably Snape's living room, Harry thought. More importantly, what was Snape going to do with him now?
Harry obeyed and stared down at his socked feet. His shoes appeared to be missing. Where was he and why was he here at all?
Two essential questions which he couldn't answer. He only knew that he was alone with his most hated teacher who already tried once to kill him during a Quidditch match. Add the absence of his glasses and his wand he felt as helpless as a toddler.
When something touched his face, Harry flinched. Then he realized that Snape had just placed his glasses on his nose. He adjusted them and the room finally sprang into focus. Glancing around, he saw his wand lying on the coffee table in front of him.
Finally, he looked at the Potions Master who was settling down in the chair opposite him and studying him like some exotic insect.
"Sir? Where am I?" Harry hated how his voice shook. Shit, his throat hurt with every spoken word. He cleared it.
When a glass of water appeared in front of him, he stared at Snape in surprise.
"Drink! Your body needs the water," Snape ordered. "Not only because you've thrown up, but also because of your consummation of alcohol which extracts water from your cells."
Harry nodded and reached for the glass. He would have done anything to get rid of the burning sensation in his throat and the disgusting taste in his mouth. The glass had already touched his lips, when he froze.
Snape had given the water to him!
Snape was a Potions Master who had already tried to kill him once!
"To answer your question, you're in my quarters. The Headmaster didn't think it wise to leave you with your peers in your… condition."
Harry's hands started trembling again. He had to hold onto the glass with both so that he wouldn't spill anything.
He was in Snape's quarters!
Dumbledore had given him to Snape!
But wait –Dumbledore knew that he was drunk – did that mean Snape could do whatever he wanted with him?
No! The Headmaster wouldn't allow something like that… or would he?
Maybe Dumbledore had already expelled him for being drunk and didn't care what happened to him anymore. It wasn't so unusual that a student got expelled because of consuming alcohol, at least not in the Muggle world.
Would they send him back to the Dursleys… or would Snape kill him before that happened?
Harry's throat felt suddenly very tight, his heartbeat pounding in his chest. He didn't want to go back there, not after finally making friends for the first time in his life and finding out the truth about himself and his parents. His eyes started to burn and he had to swallow past the lump in his throat.
Dying sounded like the better alternative; at least, there was a chance that he would be reunited with his parents again. With that thought in mind, Harry brought the glass to his lips again and took a sip. The water was cool and refreshing. He drained the whole glass before he realized that nothing unusual happened. He still felt terrible, but his throat wasn't so sore anymore and his burning thirst had vanished a little. It must be only water then, but why…
Harry looked up and met the piercing gaze of his Potions Master. The man looked as stern as ever, but Harry thought he saw something gentle flicker in the dark eyes.
Was that an aftereffect of the alcohol… or something else?
"Sir, I don't understand why I'm here or… what's going to happen now?" He asked, trying to phrase his question in such a way that it wouldn't send his professor into a rage, unaware that his green eyes looked confused and helpless as they gazed at Snape.
Severus drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair while staring at Harry. He didn't expect it would be easy to take care of an eleven year old boy suffering from a hangover. He was a realist after all.
Nevertheless, he hadn't expected that it would be that bad. After drinking the potion last night, Harry had slept until noon. It probably wasn't a good idea to startle a student who was literally sick to the stomach, but that wasn't the worst part.
Severus had Vanished the mess with a simple spell and taken care of his little guest. Everything had seemed quite all right until the moment Harry recognized him. The moment those glasses were back on Harry's nose, the boy seemed ready to faint when he looked eyes with his Potions Master.
Severus sighed inwardly.
It was his own fault that Harry reacted like that. He had done everything possible to make Harry's life as miserable as possible from the moment he entered Hogwarts for the first time. If someone told him that he would regret his behavior one day, Severus would have laughed at them. Regretting mistreating the son of his old school nemesis?!
Or so Severus had thought, but not anymore…not since he noted how much Harry resembled his late mother without his glasses and… not since he sat at his side to watch him sleeping, stroking his hair and whispering reassuring words when Harry became restless.
Severus swallowed. It should have been this way. It should have been him sitting by his son when he had a nightmare so he could calm him down. It should have been him punishing the boy when he did something very stupid.
Instead, it was James Potter who was Harry's father.
Severus regarded the boy sitting opposite him. No one would ever deny that he was James Potter's son, but Severus couldn't believe he had only seen the proud bastard in Harry and not his gentle Lily as well.
Maybe… maybe if he started doing the right things now, he would still get the chance to get to know Lily's son better. Keeping his gaze on those large green eyes – so much like hers – Severus waved his wand. A tray appeared on the coffee table, holding a plate with toast and butter, a bowl of cut fruit and a cup of hot tea.
"Eat up and drink!" Severus told Harry before rising from his chair. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
With those words, he went into the next room and closed the door behind him.
Hell had frozen over!
Harry nodded to himself. That was the only logical explanation as to why Snape wasn't behaving like a complete bastard.
Looking at the tray in front of him, Harry thought that the man was even rather decent to him. He ate a piece of toast with butter and salt, wondering if Dumbledore had ordered Snape to look after him since Professor McGonagall was away for the holidays. That meant that not only was Harry not expelled, Snape also wouldn't be able to harm him without the Headmaster finding out!
Harry smiled to himself. This meant that he was safe… at least, as safe as he could be around Snape. He took a sip of the tea and grimaced.
Black tea with lemon - disgusting!
Maybe Snape was still a bastard, after all…
There it was!
Severus carefully took down the photo album from the top shelf of his bookcase and opened it. Only his most valuable books were stored on his bookcase inside his bedroom.
A dried blossom was on the first page. It was one of the white flowers that grew at the playground where Severus met Lily for the first time, one of the flowers she often played with.
Severus swallowed hard, his fingers ghosting over the delicate petals. Those flowers were almost as beautiful as Lily had been…and as fragile as her son was.
Severus turned to the next page. He and Lily were in the garden of her parents' home, whispering together and speculating what they would learn in Hogwarts when Lily's father had surprised them by taking their picture. Severus and Lily had been annoyed then but now, Severus was glad the picture existed. It would always remind him of his time with the love of his life even though they were only children.
Severus smiled fondly at the picture. It had been the best summer of his life, the two of them playing together without worrying about what others would think. Not even Petunia had been able to ruin those precious moments for him.
He started to turn to the next page and paused. If he kept dwelling on his memories, he wouldn't be able to show these pictures to Harry before midnight. Severus didn't look through the album very often, but when he did, it took hours since he would pause at every picture until the last page.
With a rueful sigh, he closed the photo album and went back out to the living room. He just prayed that he would do the right thing.
"It's good to see you were able to finish your breakfast… or rather lunch, since it's already past noon."
Harry looked up as Snape emerged, carrying a book bound in old leather. He couldn't help wondering if he would have to copy down every word in that book as his punishment. An apology for his behavior was probably in order, but he didn't know what to say without making Snape even angrier.
Instead, he remained silent and stared down at his feet again until he heard a cough next to him. Almost jumping out of his skin, Harry turned his head to find Snape sitting next to him at the couch and… smiling at him!
Snape smiled sometimes, when he deducted points from Gryffindor for example. But that always was a mean smirk whereas the one he was directing at him now was…gentle.
Harry shook his head. Maybe Snape was drunk as well and confusing him with Malfoy or…
"I guess your Aunt Petunia never showed you pictures of your parents, Harry?"
Harry's eyes widened. He didn't know which was more startling, that Snape just called him by his given name or that he obviously knew his aunt.
"I… no, Sir."
Snape nodded."I thought so."
With a swift movement of his wand, the remains of Harry's late breakfast disappeared and Snape put the photo album on the coffee table.
Harry looked at it and then back at his teacher. Was Snape really going to show him pictures of his late parents or was it just some sort of trick to fool him?
It was Snape who opened the album for him, somewhere in the middle.
Curiously, Harry leaned forward and stared at the picture of a smiling young girl with long red hair that matched her Gryffindor scarf. She had one arm wrapped around the shoulders of a rather skinny boy who wore a Slytherin scarf.
Harry glanced up at Snape who looked back at him, but didn't say anything. Harry gazed back at the picture, the boy and girl who seemed familiar to him. He took a closer look. He was sure he had never seen the girl before, but he got the impression that he knew her. And then it hit him.
Her eyes! They were the same green as his were.
Harry took a shaky breath. That girl was his mother at the age of fourteen or fifteen and the boy…
At first Harry thought it might be his father. Then he remembered that James Potter had been in Gryffindor and wouldn't have worn a Slytherin scarf. So if it wasn't his father, then…
Again, Harry glanced at Snape with an unspoken question in his eyes. The man nodded at him.
"Your mother was my best friend, Harry."
Stunned, Harry stared at the picture again. No doubt Snape and his mother seemed very happy then but…
"Sir, I don't understand. If you and my mother, I mean…"
Harry stopped abruptly. He wanted to ask Snape why he had treated him, Lily's son, so badly when he had been best friends with her, but he thought it a stupid question. After all, Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister and she too, treated him like a waste of air. Why should his Potions Master treat him any better?
"At first glance, you look like your father."
Harry blinked and looked up, but Snape had leaned over the album. Harry had heard that comment many times ever since he came to the Wizarding World, but no one had ever sounded so bitter saying those words.
Snape turned the pages of the album, until he reached one of the last pages. There was a picture of Lily Evans in a wedding dress.
Harry frowned. His mother looked beautiful, but… the picture was torn in two. The other half was missing and once again, Harry's mind came up with a conclusion. Since this was Snape's album, he must have torn the picture because James Potter was probably standing next to his mother and…
Green eyes looked up and locked with dark ones. A silent understanding passed between them.
"I have given Lily too little credit. Her genes are as stubborn as she was and I guess… that you have more of her than I thought at first, Harry…if I may call you by your first name?"
The young boy nodded. He didn't understand everything that had been said – far from it – but at least he thought he understood why Snape had treated him so badly.
Aunt Petunia often gushed about the romance novels she liked to read. It was often the case when a woman had to decide between the two men she loved, the man who was rejected was left angered or saddened.
Harry suspected that something similar had happened between Snape, his father and his mother. He didn't dare to ask, but there was something else he wanted to know.
"Would you…tell me something about my mother?"
Harry held his breath while he waited for a reply. He had never dared asking such a question of his relatives ever since Aunt Petunia had hit him with a pan, but perhaps Snape wouldn't do such a thing.
And maybe it was because it was Christmas because Snape didn't hit him at all. Instead, he leaned against the back rest of the couch and started talking about Lily Evans.
"You should go now."
Severus bit back a laugh when he saw Harry pout. Who would have thought that a student would want to spend time in the Potions Master's presence of his own free will, and Harry Potter at that?
Still, Severus had to admit that he didn't want Harry to go either. He had enjoyed the past few hours with the boy whom he realized wasn't proud and arrogant like James Potter had been.
No, Harry was rather quiet for a boy his age. Although Severus liked the respectful tone with which Harry addressed him, he suspected this was more due to Petunia's upbringing of the boy than mere shyness.
Severus was determined to address that problem at a later date, but not today. Today was still a holiday and he didn't want to ruin it for Harry by reminding the boy of his relatives and their less than charitable attitude towards him.
"I didn't say that you aren't allowed to visit me again."
Only years of training as a spy prevented Severus from chuckling when the boy's face lit up at his words. Nevertheless, he had to clarify something else first before he let the boy go.
"Just remember, Harry, I can't treat you any differently in classes than I did before."
When Harry's face fell, the Potions Master sighed inwardly. Why weren't eleven year old boys intelligent enough to see his words in connection of the greater picture?
Severus shook his head and did something that he would probably regret later. Pushing all his pride to the deepest corner of his mind, he got off the couch and knelt down in front of Harry. He placed his hands on the thin shoulders and looked into those eyes that were so familiar to him.
"Harry, I'm sorry that I treated you so badly in my class."
Severus almost choked on his apology, but he forced himself to carry on when he saw a hopeful gleam in Harry's eyes. "You've certainly noticed how puffed up Malfoy is and how he always struts around the school."
"Yes, he's a real git."
Again, Severus had to hold back a laugh. Ah, he could very quickly get used to Harry's presence in his life.
"He behaves like that because his father, Lucius Malfoy, has much power in the Ministry of Magic. Lucius wouldn't like it one bit if he got to know that I'm suddenly treating you better than before."
"Because Draco doesn't like me and his father could get you into trouble if you don't treat me badly?"
Severus nodded. All right, it was only half true, but he wasn't ready to tell Harry the whole story about Voldemort, the Death Eaters and his own part in the last war.
"Yes, but Harry," Severus locked gazes with the boy again. "Whatever I say to you in class, you mustn't believe it… unless it's related to the brewing of potions."
Harry nodded and then he took a deep breath and threw his arms around thePotions Master's neck.
Severus froze, astonished. He hadn't been hugged like that, since… since Lily and he broke up their friendship. No one wanted to hug the greasy Potions Master of Hogwarts and Severus would certainly hex everyone stupid enough to try, but…
Without thinking twice, his arms closed around the small boy and held him close.
No, Harry wasn't James and he wasn't Lily, but he was a part of Severus' one true love and since he didn't have a father…
Severus tightened his hold on Harry. Petunia wasn't the right person to take care of Lily's son. He would talk to Albus about this later, but for now… he was content just holding Harry in his arms.
When they finally parted, Severus was presented with the most beautiful gift he had ever gotten for Christmas… Harry's smile!