Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world belong to J.K. Rowling. This story belongs to me.
A/N- Welcome to the newest chapter in this story – and another one that wasn't really in my plans! I have been writing the conclusion to the trial, I promise, but then this little scenario popped in my head and I just couldn't ignore it. It does add something to the story that I was planning to cover anyway though, so I don't regret it all that much. Enjoy!
~Strength in Weakness~
For Harry, the next few days seemed to fly by.
The trial was still going on in the background of course – it would be a few days more yet before a verdict was finally reached - but now that the stress of giving evidence was over, Harry was free to spend time at Grimmauld Place without the whole thing hanging over him. He wasn't expected back at school anytime soon thankfully; Dumbledore had informed his classmates that he was absent due to family issues – a severe understatement but ultimately for the best - and Harry was determined to enjoy the break.
According to Ron and Hermione, both of whom had been constantly writing letters – most of the school thought one of his relatives had died. Harry had not thought it necessary to disabuse anyone of that notion. After all, it was better they think that than the truth.
Instead, Harry made the most of the brief respite, laughing and joking and talking with Sirius and Remus and any of the other Order members who just happened to pop by. It was the way things always should have been, Harry thought, had Pettigrew not ruined everything.
A teenage boy just having fun with his Godfather.
He knew deep down that it wouldn't last, but for once he decided not to look at it all too closely. Instead, he allowed Sirius to sweep him up in his childish games, he let Remus distract him with impromptu lessons on various spells he could teach to the DA.
He let himself forget.
More importantly, he allowed his mind to fall away from the types of thoughts that might serve to knock him down again. He didn't think about the trial. He didn't think about the Dursleys. He didn't even think about Cedric, or the prophecy.
And for a brief moment, he felt like a normal boy.
The trial would be coming to an end soon, he knew that, but now that he'd had a somewhat frank conversation with Snape about what the future might hold, he didn't even need to worry about what was going to happen to him afterwards, over the summer and beyond. Along with everything else the man had done for him, Snape had given him that too – a place to stay, if he needed it. He didn't know if he would, but just having that safety net meant the world to Harry…
"Harry?" Sirius prompted with a smile. "Your move."
"Oh," Harry replied, smiling back. They were sat at the kitchen table, playing a quick game of chess before they went to bed. Harry glanced down at the chess set and quickly prompted his queen to move. Harry smiled a little awkwardly at Sirius. "Sorry, I was lost in my thoughts for a second there."
Sirius gave him a knowing look, but refrained from saying anything.
"You know," Sirius began casually, after making his own move. "You're a lot better at chess than I remember."
Harry grinned. "Well, I've been practicing actually. I can't wait until I finally beat your sorry arse."
Sirius let out a loud guffaw. "You wish."
Harry just raised an eyebrow, "What? You don't think I can do it?" Harry made his next move with forced casualness. "You shouldn't underestimate me, you know. I have been learning from the best after all…"
Harry hid his grin behind his hand as he saw Sirius' brow furrow. Now that he knew the man better, he also knew the best ways to wind him up.
"Who Ron?" Sirius asked, distractedly moving his last standing pawn.
Harry just shook his head and made another move, still hiding his grin. Sometimes his Godfather was too easy to distract…
"Oh, no, not Ron," Harry said casually. "Someone better actually…"
"Better than Ron?"
"Much better," Harry replied mock-seriously.
Sirius frowned, and Harry could almost hear the cogs turning in his head, working through the list of everyone that Harry had been spending time with recently. Sirius' eyes widened. "Wait a minute. You can't possibly mean – "
Harry moved his queen with a flourish that wasn't entirely necessary but with a grin that absolutely was. "Checkmate."
Sirius didn't even look down at the board.
"Snape?" Sirius asked incredulously. "Snape's been teaching you chess?"
"He actually a good teacher when he puts his mind to it," Harry said, gesturing down to the board to make his point. Harry didn't see the need to mention that during their chess sessions, Snape had spent more time counselling him than teaching him.
Sirius waved his hand dismissively and grunted something that Harry couldn't quite make out.
"He's really not that bad," Harry said, sobering slightly. "Not anymore. And he really is good at chess."
He knew some of the history between the two men and he knew nothing he said would make things better between them, but they were both important to him now and Harry thought it was worth a try.
"Clearly," Sirius grunted, but it was obvious to Harry that he wasn't really all that bothered by the fact that his godson had beaten him, more that it was Snape who had taught him how to.
"He is helping me, Sirius," Harry said seriously. "And not just in chess. So are you. These last couple of days…they've been really good."
"The best," Sirius corrected with a smile. The smile turned into a grimace. "I just…Snape…
Harry knew it would take more than one night to convince Sirius to let go of his grudge against Snape – and he doubted Snape would ever let go of his grudge against the Marauders, not completely – but it was important enough to Harry that he thought it was worth the risk.
"When I was living with the Dursleys," Harry began quietly as he began to pack up the chess pieces. "They used to make me feel so small. Like I was…insignificant. That was worse than being hit, really. They would ignore me for days, until eventually I wanted to be hit, just so I could be sure I wasn't invisible."
"Harry…" Sirius' voice broke.
Harry shot him a watery smile. "But I've never felt like that with you, not once. It's weird, but with you, sometimes I feel like the most important person in the world."
Harry ducked his head in embarrassment but his godfather didn't let him linger on it for very long.
"You are, Harry," Sirius said, eyes shining. "To me, you are, and always will be."
Harry swallowed hard and tried to collect himself to get back to his original point.
"To Snape too, I think," Harry said. Harry held up his hand when he saw Sirius about to protest. "Don't get me wrong, I know he doesn't like me, and I don't think I like him either, not really, but he makes me feel…important too, somehow. Like I'm worth all the effort he puts in trying to keep me alive."
Sirius was silent for a minute then, and Harry wondered if he was even considering what Harry was asking of him.
"I won't promise to like him," Sirius said slowly. "I can't."
Harry's heart sank a little bit, but he refused to let it deter him. If he could get Ron to acknowledge that Snape was good for him, surely he could win round Sirius…
"I'm not asking you to like him," Harry said quickly, recognising his godfather's wavering opinion. "I don't like him. All I'm asking is that you show him some respect – "
"He was a Death Eater, Harry!"
"And you were a bully," Harry shot back, although he immediately regretted his words when he saw Sirius flinch. Harry made a concerted effort to soften his tone. "You've both done things in your past that you regret. But they're in the past, Sirius. You're different people now. He's different. Can't you just let it go? For me?"
"Listen to your godson, Black," came a silky voice from the doorway.
Harry snapped his head around. It was Snape, standing in the doorway of the kitchen looking as menacing as ever, though Harry had no idea why he would be at Grimmauld Place so late. Had something happened…?
"Speak of the devil…" Sirius muttered darkly.
Harry turned back to his godfather, already feeling as if he was being pulled in two different directions. "Sirius…"
"Potter," Snape greeted, nodding slightly towards his student. He ignored Sirius completely.
"What are you doing here?" Harry asked. Snape looked a little awkward, as if he wasn't quite sure why he was there either. "Has something happened?"
"I had a thought, and didn't think you would mind the intrusion," Snape ground out. Snape glared at Sirius, who glared right back. "Clearly I was mistaken."
Harry glanced between the two men, well aware of the tension building in the room.
"No, don't go," Harry pleaded, standing up from the kitchen table just as Snape turned away. Harry turned to his Godfather. "Right, Sirius. He doesn't have to go?"
Sirius didn't answer. It was as if he hadn't heard Harry's question at all.
"Why are you here, Snape?" Sirius asked, almost spitting out the words. Harry felt his heart sink.
Snape hesitated – something which Harry had never actually seen the man do before – which set him on edge. Then the man moved into the room, towards Harry.
Snape tightened his lips and before Harry could ask again, pulled some photos out of his robes and jerkily passed them to Harry. Then he moved back to the doorway as if seeking an escape.
Harry glanced down and the breath caught in his throat.
"Your mother," Snape finished quietly.
"Why?" Harry asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the photograph. He ran a shaky hand over his mother's face, tracing the shape. She was young in the photograph, but Harry didn't care.
"I don't expect you have many photographs of her," Snape said, and Harry got the distinct impression that the man was a little nervous. "I had these in my possession. We…knew each other before Hogwarts."
"I didn't know what she looked like until I saw her in the Mirror of Erised," Harry commented softly, although it felt as if his voice was far away. His eyes were fixed on the face of his mother, so he missed the look of anger cross both men's faces, almost as if they were mirroring each other subconsciously. "I have some photos of her and my dad together, but not many. You knew her?"
Snape knew his mum. When they were children. He knew her well enough to have kept photos of her all these years…
"Yes," Snape nodded. He looked firm, and Harry knew he was in no mood to answer any questions. "Those are yours to keep."
Harry finally snapped his head up. His hand reflexively tightened on the photographs – he really didn't want to let them go – but he didn't understand.
"Are you sure?" Harry asked.
Snape shot him a look that told Harry he was being ridiculous. Harry coloured slightly but couldn't find it in him to be annoyed. Not when the man had just done something…kind.
"I have copies," Snape replied, easily brushing away Harry's concern. He clearly didn't want to talk about it, especially with Sirius in the room, and Harry wasn't about to push.
"Thank you, sir," Harry replied sincerely. "It means a lot."
Harry desperately wanted to know more; about how he knew her, and how well, but before he could speak Snape nodded at him and turned on his heel to leave. Sirius, who had finally pulled himself out of his stupor, sprang into action.
"Wait a minute, Snivellus," Sirius said, standing up. He was talking in that deliberate lazy way he had used in the memory when Harry had seen them bullying Snape, but there was a tension there, an anger, that was hard to miss. Harry didn't like it. Snape, apparently, liked it even less.
"I did not come here to have a conversation with you, Black," Snape said, turning again. "I'm leaving."
This time, Sirius jumped out of his seat and leapt across the room, taking both Harry and Snape by surprise. In seconds, he had his wand aimed at Snape's throat.
"Why did you come here, then, Snivellus?" Sirius spat.
"You will regret turning your wand on me, Black." Snape ground out. There was murder in his eyes. The glint turned to a smirk as he met Sirius' eyes steadily. "Although if you did manage to go through with it and kill me, perhaps it will at least give you some semblance of comfort to know that you've got rid of at least one Death Eater before you die…"
Sirius pressed his wand in harder. He snarled at Snape. "Just give me a reason…"
"Sirius, let him go," Harry said, grabbing Sirius' wand arm. Sirius held firm.
"You're up to something, you slimy git, and I want to know what it is!" Sirius continued. "I won't let you hurt Harry."
Snape was eerily calm. "Perhaps you should look at Potter's face before deciding which of the two of us poses the greatest threat."
Harry sniffed as the attention of both men darted to him. He let his hand fall from Sirius' arm and he stumbled back as the enormity of the situation hit him. He still had the photos grasped in his hand. Tears filled his eyes, although he wiped at them furiously.
He didn't know why he was getting upset. Maybe it was the trial. Maybe it was the revelation that Snape knew his mum. Either way, he hated himself for letting them do this do him. For all he had said to Sirius about feeling important both of them, he should have known it would come to this.
He would have to choose between Snape and Sirius and he didn't want to.
Harry felt the burn of injustice run through him, following closely but the unmistakable heat of indignation. This feud had been going on for far too long, and Harry was not going to let it go on a second longer!
"Leave him alone, Sirus," Harry said, the words almost spilling out of him. "Let him go."
"Harry…" Sirius faltered, his wand still fixed on Snape's throat.
"I thought I was important, Sirius," Harry said. He hated how young he sounded, but it couldn't be helped.
Sirius looked distraught. "You are!"
"Then why aren't you listening to me," Harry asked. "Let him go. Just…let him go!"
Sirius' hand dropped.
"Excellent, Black," Snape sneered, managing to appear entirely unruffled by the encounter. His nonchalance infuriated Harry almost as much as Sirius' rash actions. "You've managed to upset the one person who thought you walked on water– "
"You don't get it!" Harry yelled suddenly. He noted with no small amount of vindictiveness that both men flinched slightly. "Neither of you has the slightest clue, do you?"
"Potter – "
"You've had your chance, Snape," Harry interrupted. "Shut up."
"Harry – "
"YOU'RE GOING TO GET EACH OTHER KILLED!" Harry yelled, his voice breaking in his anguish. He felt the windows rattle but he pad it no mind.
Sirius moved towards him slowly, but Harry stepped back. He raised his own wand even though he knew Sirius wasn't a threat to him; he was just so confused. It had all gone downhill so quickly.
One look at Sirius' face showed that the action wasn't lost on him.
"I care about both of you, okay?" Harry said, hating himself for the tears that were burning at the corners of his eyes. "I need you both. And this stupid feud is ruining everything!"
"I know they bullied you, Sir," Harry said. "I know that, and I'm sorry for it. I'm not condoning it. I know what it's like, and I know why it hurts, but that doesn't mean you have to let it beat you! They were teenagers. Kids!"
"He hasn't changed, Potter!"
"Of course he has!" Harry yelled. "He spent twelve years in Azkaban, Snape! He was a different person from the moment he stepped foot there!"
"Potter," Snape began, looking at him with something very close to pity. "It can't be helped, this…thing between Black and I. Sometimes the past runs too deep."
"Of course it can be helped!" Harry replied. "You could let it go! You could stop letting it rule your life!"
"We're never going to get along, Harry," Sirius said.
"I'm not asking you to," Harry replied. "I just want you to stop goading each other and occasionally try to work together so that you both survive this stupid war, but apparently that's too much to ask! Neither of you are teenagers anymore! GROW UP!"
Harry clenched his left fist, although he kept the hand holding the photographs relaxed, and without wasting another moment, shoved his way past Snape and stormed into the hallway. He'd had enough. If they were going to fight, he wanted no part of it.
Harry rubbed hard at his eyes as the tears began to prick at his eyes again. He was quite determined to ignore those too.
"Well, I daresay that was rather well said," came an unexpected voice from behind them both.
Snape, who was still stunned by Potter's outburst, span round, only to find the Headmaster sat at the table, serenely stirring a cup of tea.
"I did not see what caused the argument, but I am quite glad I arrived in time to see its conclusion," The Headmaster said, and Snape noticed a slight bite in his words. Snape didn't have the faintest idea how Dumbledore had managed to enter the room without anyone noticing, but it wasn't his most pressing concern at the moment.
"Move out of my way, Snape," Black ordered, and Snape noted idly that he was still stood in front of the door. He made no attempt to move. "I have to talk to Harry."
"No, Black," Snape said firmly, glancing back to Dumbledore.
"I'm afraid Severus is quite correct, Sirius," Dumbledore said sadly. "Going to Harry now will only exacerbate the situation, I fear. Although if I'm not mistaken, Remus is in the house, is he not? I'm sure he heard the commotion and is on his way to Harry as we speak."
Black shook his head. "No, it has to be me. I have to make him understand."
"Understand what, Sirius?" Dumbledore challenged. "Why you have allowed a schoolboy feud to take precedence over the feelings of your own Godson?"
"That's not – "
"That's precisely what you have been doing," Dumbledore argued. "Both of you."
"Potter is merely being dramatic," Snape commentated finally.
"No, Severus," Dumbledore replied. "Harry has rather hit the nail on the head this time, as they say."
Dumbledore fixed them with that steely blue stare of his, making Snape feel like a teenager again.
"I have been saying for months that this feud between the two of you needs to stop. Perhaps now that you can see the true consequences of continuing this hatred, you will realise the truth of it yourself."
"I will not be friends with Black," Snape spat.
"Nor I with you!" Sirius shot back.
"I don't believe anyone has asked that of either of you!" Dumbledore shot back. "In fact, I recall Harry explicitly stating the opposite. All the boy requires of you is that you act like adults. A small request, in the grand scheme of things."
"If Black would just – "
"The time for blame has long since passed, Severus," Dumbledore said sternly. "In any event, neither of you can be said to be entirely blameless. But Harry – good, strong, kind, Harry – does not care. He needs both of you, and I promise you, if you ask that boy to choose, neither of you will be happy with the answer."
Snape didn't understand. It wasn't a question of choice – Potter would choose his Godfather over anyone, especially his dour Potions Master, Snape knew that.
Except, a niggling voice told him, Potter certainly hadn't seemed pleased with Black when the man had been holding a wand to his throat…
"Fix this," Dumbledore said to them. He gave them a pointed look that said far more than his words. Oddly, Snape felt rather chastened by it. "For Harry."
Black looked fairly sick, but seemed to make up his mind almost immediately. He turned to Snape.
"I don't like you," Sirius told him.
"The feeling is entirely mutual, I assure you," he replied.
"But I'll do anything for Harry," Black continued. And then he held out his hand.
Snape stared at it, not really sure what he was supposed to do when confronted with the hand that only moments before had been holding a wand to his throat.
"Severus…" prompted Dumbledore. "For Harry."
Snape sighed internally and once again cursed the boy who had wormed his way past all the emotional barriers he had put in place. Potter would be the death of him one day, and that day couldn't come soon enough.
With only a minimal look of distaste on his face. Snape looked back to Black's hand. Then he met the man's eyes and for the first time, he did not see anger. Instead he saw resolve, and more importantly, a shared goal.
Snape reluctantly nodded and finally shook Black's hand, this with more sincerity than he had felt after the Dark Lord had first returned.
He nodded again, and Black nodded back. "For Harry."
A/N – So, was it okay? There were a lot of issues brought up here that will be making a comeback at some point, but I wanted to get Snape and Sirius to the point where they could at least acknowledge that they are on the same side. Hopefully I achieved that in a somewhat believable way? Neither of them are bad people (in this story at least) but they are never going to be friends, so it was quite tricky to get them this far. Please, if you can spare a minute, give me your thoughts. Until next time, thanks for reading!