And The Beginning Of A New One
"It was a foolish and dangerous thing you did, Mr Potter," Severus stated calmly when he finally caught up with the boy, somewhat surprised to find him sitting calmly in the Potions classroom.
"Foolish? Perhaps. Dangerous? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. For too long have the leaders of this world guarded their secrets jealously, attacking anyone who came too close. I happen to believe that it is beyond time some of those secrets were brought to light," Harry replied calmly, glancing up at the Potions master before going back to doodling on the desktop, using his index finger as a quill.
Severus regarded the teen thoughtfully, wondering what to do or say next. Figuring he might as well be comfortable while he tried to make sense of this new Harry Potter he barked, "Come with me."
Arching an eyebrow, Harry considered whether to obey or not, but in the end he figured he had nothing better to do so with a shrug he complied, following the older man silently, wondering where they were going.
The where turned out to be Snape's private quarters, and Harry glanced around curiously while taking a seat at a nice looking table in a corner of the living room.
Not surprisingly, the room was done in various shades of black, green, and silver, yet it was... soothing. The room made you feel welcome, unlike the Slytherin common room that had felt cold and hostile to Harry the one time he had visited there.
"Tell me, Mr Potter, what did Dumbledore tell you?" Severus asked once a tea tray had been brought by an elf and tea had been poured. Holding his warm cup, the black eyed man waited patiently for the boy to start talking.
Harry was holding his own cup, breathing in the aroma appreciatively, suddenly realising just how long it been since his last meal. Then the Potions master's question registered and he couldn't help but snort. "Albus Dumbledore actually telling me something? Don't make me laugh, Professor. I woke up alone in the hospital wing, with no clue as how I got there, and when I tried to leave, I ran into the Headmaster and his favourite... pets. We had words, but I can't say that anything of importance was exchanged. Do you know what happened to land me in the infirmary, sir?" Harry asked, eyeing the professor curiously, not really expecting an answer. When had the adults in his life ever bothered to tell him the truth? Or bothered to tell him anything for that matter?
Taking a deep breath, Severus bit back the urge to curse meddling old fools while wondering just where Dumbledore was. He could only hope that Potter hadn't killed him in an outburst, but he did not yet feel secure enough to confront the boy on that matter. Instead, he informed the teen just exactly what had taken place at Grimmauld Place, and the resulting consequences.
Harry listened silently, never taking his eyes off the Potions master's face, trying to understand just what had happened to him, the reason why, and how, exactly, he felt about it.
Once Severus had finished speaking, silence ruled the living room as Harry digested everything he'd been told. Eventually, he carefully put his cup down and picked up a scone, placing it in the palm of his hand. Bringing his hand up to eyelevel, Harry sat there and simply stared at it.
Arching an eyebrow, Severus wondered if the news had been too much for the boy and he had finally snapped under the strain. But then the scones twitched, and between one blink of the eye and the next, a kitten was sitting in Potter's hand.
"Interesting," Harry mused, petting the kitten thoughtfully. "And potentially dangerous."
Severus secretly agreed but all he said was, "How so?" taking a fortifying sip of his tea.
"Because I have no idea how to transfigure scones into kittens," Harry replied calmly, still petting his new pet. "I already knew my magic is now responding to my emotions, considering the state of the main ward of the hospital wing, but if it will end up responding to my every thought... I can picture several instances when that could turn deadly for my antagonists."
"What do you plan to do now?" Severus asked, amazed how... mature this Potter appeared. Perhaps there was hope for them yet.
"I honestly don't know," Harry admitted, taking a fortifying sip of tea. The sip reminded him of the fact that he was starving, so putting the kitten down, somehow creating a bowl of cream for it, Harry set about to devour the offerings Snape had summoned from the kitchen.
Watching with hidden amusement as Potter began to demolish the tea tray, Severus' mind was busy coming up with a solution to the boy's problem. Illogically, Severus felt somewhat responsible for what had happened to him.
Severus hadn't told Albus of the ritual, he hadn't cast the spell, he hadn't done anything but stand back and observe. He had protested the use of the ritual. He had protested the number of times the spell had been cast. But he hadn't really done anything to stop Dumbledore. Yes, it was futile trying to stop Albus Dumbledore once he got an idea in his head, and yet he couldn't help but feel like he had let the boy down.
"It wasn't your fault, Professor," soft, entirely unexpected words, were spoken and Severus was unable to hide his reaction to them. "How do you know what I was thinking?" Severus snapped, eyeing the boy suspiciously.
"I didn't. But I felt... I felt feelings of remorse and something I can't quite place," Harry replied thoughtfully before looking shocked at his own words. "Bloody hell, what did I just do?" he asked, starting to panic. What kind of freak was he now?
"Calm down, Potter, before you destroy my living room," Severus barked, pleased to see that his words shocked the brat out of his building panic.
Harry blinked, then glanced around, noticing that a breeze seemed to be stirring through the room. "Oh, umm, my apologies, Professor."
"It would seem that in an effort to help guard you, your magic is giving you the ability to sense other's emotions. I would imagine it will end up being somewhat frustrating, but since it will help keep you from being manipulated and used by others, I would say the overall benefit should override the level of annoyance you will experience when dealing with the dunderheads of the magical world," Severus stated succinctly, startling a laugh out of the boy.
Feeling calm enough to finish his tea, Harry did just that. Leaning back in his seat, kitten clutched gently against his chest, Harry pondered what he had learned and what that knowledge meant for his plans.
"What do you intend to do?"
"I'm not sure. I had a vague notion of leaving Hogwarts and go to Grimmauld Place, kicking the Order out of there and continue my studies on my own. But now... I'm not so sure that is a good idea anymore."
"I would concur. Isolating yourself will not help you learn how to deal with your new... awareness. I agree that some measure of seclusion would benefit you, but not a total separation. You would also need a mentor to help monitor your progress and to help keep you calm when you get frustrated, and you will be frustrated, especially at the idiotic leaders we've somehow been saddled with."
Harry couldn't help snort in amusement, but secretly he agreed. Besides, even though he had discovered the previous year that he was capable of studying on his own, he still had gotten stuck plenty of times, forcing him to forego several useful spells simply because he couldn't figure out how to make them work properly. Then he frowned. "But who could help me?"
"What about Lupin? Merlin knows he dotes on you and would fulfil your every whim," Severus said derisively, arching an eyebrow in surprise at the disdainful snort coming from Potter.
"What did he do?" Severus asked curiously.
"It's more like what he didn't do," Harry muttered darkly, burying his nose in soft fur.
"Mr Potter, where, exactly, is the Headmaster and his, what was it you called them? Ah, yes, his pets?" Severus asked, feeling a quiver of dread run up and down his spine.
"Don't worry, sir, I didn't kill them," Harry replied with an amused snort. "I simply gave them the opportunity to walk a few miles in my shoes."
"That Dumbledore, Lupin, McGonagall, and Mrs and Mr Weasley are currently experiencing my life with the Dursleys," Harry replied succinctly, keeping his focus completely on his kitten.
Only to look up in shock as laughter seemed to fill the room. Yet the Potions master wasn't uttering a sound. "Sir?" Harry asked worriedly, wondering if he was finally losing his mind.
Severus tried, he truly did, but having witnessed the boy's powers in the Great Hall, the image of Albus Dumbledore being forced to face his mistakes was simply too much. Add in the look on Potter's face and the Potions master was utterly incapable of keeping his mirth quiet and he began to whoop with laughter.
Realising what had happened, Harry sat back in his seat, a bemused look on his face. This was getting surreal, but he couldn't deny that Snape had a nice laugh. The man should do it more often.
Severus was just starting to calm down when the floo flared and a distraught Poppy Pomfrey appeared, all but crying in distress. "Severus! Do you know where Albus is? My infirmary is a wreck!" she wailed. The dismayed and guilty look on Potter's face set off another bout of hilarity, causing the school nurse to come through the fireplace and start casting diagnosis charms, convinced that someone had cursed the normally snarky and taciturn man.
"I'm fine, Poppy, truly, there is no need for you to feel concern," Severus stated with forced calm for the sixth time in five minutes. Merlin, but the woman could be stubborn.
Poppy merely harrumphed, but once she was fully convinced that nothing was wrong with Snape, she turned her attention to Harry, much to the boy's consternation.
"Well, it would seem there is nothing wrong with you, Mr Potter, for a change. But what in Merlin's name happened to my hospital wing?!" Poppy demanded, planting her fists on her hips. "I wish to know today, gentlemen, I am not above using my most unpleasant spells and potions the next time you end up in my domain."
Harry shuddered, having no problems visualising the things the school nurse would do to him the next time she felt he needed a check-up. Sighing softly, Harry brought up the memory for the other two to see, starting the moment he woke up ending it when he walked out of the room he'd stuck Dumbledore and the others in.
"That man!" Poppy hissed, looking like she wanted to yank Dumbledore's beard out, one strand at the time. "I told him not to antagonise Mr Potter. I told him not to do anything until I had had a chance to check him over. And what does he do? He antagonised that poor boy until he loses all control. Don't worry, Mr Potter, I do not blame you for what happened, the blame belongs squarely on Albus' shoulders, and that I will inform him of the moment he returns to us.
"And I will make sure your punishment is followed to the letter, Mr Potter. Albus will be putting my infirmary to rights again, and to my exact standards," Poppy assured them, marching out of Severus' quarters, looking very much like a general preparing for war.
"Wow," Harry muttered, torn between feeling admiration and utter dread.
"Wow indeed," Severus replied, feeling pretty much the same. He was well aware of how... protective Poppy could be of her charges, but never before had he seen her this riled up. Then again, never before had her domain been trashed to that degree before either.
"So... what happens now?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling rather lost and alone.
"Now we consider your future, Mr Potter," Severus replied calmly. Taking a good look at the boy, Severus thought for a moment before summoning a house-elf again, this time ordering it to bring a couple of bottles of butterbeer.
Picking up one of the bottles and taking a deep drink, Severus marshalled his thoughts. "I presume you do not wish to remain here at Hogwarts?" he asked, going through his list of associates and acquaintances, wondering who he could entrust the boy to.
"I wouldn't mind staying at Hogwarts, Professor, it is Dumbledore and his highhanded manners I object to. I don't want him to have a say about my life anymore," Harry quietly confessed, taking a deep drink of his bottle in an attempt to hide his suddenly hot face.
"I see," Severus mused, not knowing why he felt relieved, but this would make things immensely much easier. And, perversely, more difficult. "Then I would propose an apprenticeship."
"An apprenticeship?" Harry repeated baffled. Where had that notion come from? And what did that even mean?
"Yes, the easiest way to ensure that Albus no longer has any influence over you is to place you in an apprenticeship with a known Master. You would still have to take your N.E.W.T.s of course, but that does not prevent you from starting a more rigorous study of your chosen field right away. Is there a field of magic you would be interested in becoming a master at?" Severus asked, having a feeling he already knew the answer.
"I... umm... well, there is Defence Against the Dark Arts I guess," Harry replied slowly, completely thrown by this unexpected curveball.
"Ah, but is that a subject you enjoy, or is it a subject where you are expected to do well?" Severus asked with a knowing smirk.
"Umm... Well, I guess... I don't actually know," Harry was forced to admit, taking another deep swallow of his butterbeer; Merlin but this was embarrassing.
"Considering your aptitude for the subject, it would not be difficult for you to achieve mastery in Defence," Severus allowed thoughtfully, ignoring the shocked look he received for complimenting the brat. "That said, there is nothing that prevents you from achieving a second mastery should you find a subject you actually enjoy. It is not unusual for gifted wizard to attain several masteries, especially in subjects closely connected to the one closest to their heart."
Harry eyed the Potions master shrewdly. Do you have more than one mastery, Professor?"
"Indeed I do. I have obtained master status in Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts, and I have reached journeyman status in Herbology, Astronomy, and Ancient Runes," Severus proclaimed proudly.
"Wow, colour me impressed," Harry whispered in awe, then blushed hotly when he realised that he had actually spoken out loud.
Severus merely snorted in amusement but did not otherwise comment.
"So this means that I can become someone's apprentice and study Defence, but I could also study other things I'm interested in?" Harry asked, wanting to make absolutely certain that he had all the facts straight.
"Good. But who would I apprentice to? And just what is an apprentice? What is it they do?" Harry asked with a frown, suddenly realising that he had no clue what an apprentice actually did, other than study.
Harry gaped at Snape, waiting for the man to laugh, or taunt him, or cry out 'I'm just kidding you fool'. But nothing happened. Snape just sat there, watching him with amusement, calmly drinking his butterbeer.
Snapping his jaw close, Harry sat back in his chair, alternating between taking steadying drinks of his own beer and nuzzling his kitten as his mind whirled chaotically.
"You wish to become my master," Harry eventually asked flatly.
"I do," Severus replied calmly.
"And you will actually teach me?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"But... you hate me," Harry finally cried exasperated, adding a dark frown for good measure.
Severus sighed and picked at the label on his bottle. "There is no secret that I hate James Potter, and, as you know, I have good reason for doing so. From the things Albus let slip about your childhood, I believed that you were just like him, just as spoiled, just as arrogant, just as... callous."
"What caused you to change your mind?" Harry asked shrewdly, realising that Snape had changed his attitude, and for someone as... stubborn as Snape to change his mind, something drastic must have happened.
Severus scowled darkly at his bottle. "At Headquarters... while you were having that first outburst that all but demolished the second floor, I grabbed hold of you in an attempt to...
"Actually, I'm not sure what I was trying to do. Stop you from swallowing your tongue perhaps? Anyway, that does not matter, what is pertinent to your question, however, is that I was... somehow finding myself inside your mind for a brief moment."
Harry blanched, having an idea what was coming next.
"I didn't see much, but the few, chaotic glimpses I got from your childhood were enough to prove beyond a doubt that I had been completely mistaken in my assumptions. For that, I apologise," Severus said, somehow managing to get those words out.
So Snape knew.
And he was man enough to both admit and acknowledge that he was wrong.
Harry wasn't sure how to feel. He positively hated that Snape knew about his childhood. But that was mostly because he didn't want the professor to use that knowledge as ammunition against him.
From the way that Snape was behaving, Harry had a feeling that he wouldn't do that. But could Harry be certain?
"So... if I become your apprentice, will you teach me?" Harry asked, the question hanging in the air between them.
"Yes, Mr Potter, I will teach you to the best of my ability," Severus promised solemnly. "I have enough skills in all subjects but Divination to help you achieve top scores in your N.E.W.T.s. I assure you, should you become my apprentice, I will do my utmost to guide you, treating you as if you were one of my Slytherins."
Harry hummed and drank some more butterbeer. Snape sounded sincere. And the promise of treating him like one of his snakes... If Snape kept that promise... "And you won't throw James Potter in my face every time I do something you don't approve of?" Harry asked suspiciously, just to make sure.
"You will never hear me praise James Potter, Mr Potter, but I will not, as you so aptly put it, throw him in your face," Severus said, fighting a losing battle to keep his lips from twitching in amusement.
"Good, that's... good," Harry muttered, not sure what to say or do; this entire situation felt utterly surreal. "And you will be able to keep Dumbledore and the other idiots away from me?"
"Yes. There are plenty of empty room down here in the dungeon. It should not be difficulty at all to create a set of rooms for you to stay in. You might not be able to access the grounds much, but a nice conservatory or a greenhouse should help with that. If you truly wish to experience the outdoors, then charms can be applied to a room, much like the ceiling in the Great Hall, but instead of merely showing the outside sky, it can mirror the actual weather, with wind, and rain, and snow." Severus explained calmly, snorting in amusement as the brat's jaw headed south yet again.
"You, you can actually do that?" Harry asked incredulous once he'd managed to get his jaw to work again.
"Yes, I can do that. But I won't. If you wish for such a room, you will have to do the research, and the charm work, yourself."
Green eyes lit up in excitement at the challenge, and Severus had no doubt that Hogwarts would be the proud owner of an indoor Quidditch pitch before the school year was over.
"Alright, let's do this!" Harry stated, finally coming to a decision. "As long as you promise to treat me decently, then I will happily become your apprentice. Hang on, you never said what an apprentice does. Aside from studying, I mean."
Severus snorted a laugh into his bottle. "You should have thought to ask that before agreeing to become my apprentice, Mr Potter," he said ominously. Rising his gaze, Severus realised his mistake too late and burst into laughter at the horrified look on the brat's face.
"Do not worry, Mr Potter, I have already given you my word to treat you like you were one of my snakes," he tried to reassure once he had his mirth under control.
"Ha, ha, very funny, sir," Harry retorted sullenly. Then he sighed ruefully. "Very well, what have I unwittingly signed myself up for this time?"
"It was not uncommon in the old days for an apprentice to become his or her master's housekeeper, making sure their master had a clean house, clean clothes, and good food to eat on top of their demanding studies. If the master was unscrupulous enough, he might have forced his apprentice to become his bed warmer, but I can assure you that that will not be part of your duties," Severus explained blithely.
Harry was back to staring at Snape slack jawed. Just how many times could this man shock him in one conversation anyway? A bed warmer? As in having to have... yeah, with Snape?! The thought wasn't as appalling as it should have been, and the realisation was freaking Harry out. But the thought wasn't that appealing either, which reassured him. Somewhat.
"So, what will my duties be?" Harry managed to croak, not sure he wanted to know, but knew that he needed to if he was to make this... thing work.
"Nothing too strenuous, I assure you. I will require your help grading the younger years. This will give me more time aiding your studies, but it will also help you revise what you should have learned but probably didn't considering the appalling quality of your previous Defence teachers."
Harry nodded his head in agreement. That actually sounded like a good idea.
"There will be no need for you to clean, cook, or wash for me since the house-elves would be most upset if you were to take their jobs from them," Severus went on, ignoring with ease the snort of laughter coming from the brat. "Besides, I believe you will busy mastering your new powers for quite some time."
That reminder killed Harry's hilarity with the swiftness of a bucket of cold water. "I guess you're right, sir," Harry muttered, sending angry thoughts towards the Headmaster. Taking a deep breath, Harry determinedly sat up straight in his chair, pushing his anger aside.
"Very well, what do we need to do, sir? And what do I call you? I mean, do I call you master, or...?" Harry trailed off, unable to hide the wince the thought of calling anyone master produced.
Severus was cringing as well, images of the Dark Lord dancing before his eyes. "It is true that the traditional address is master, but I believe that we can do without that particular honorific, don't you agree, Mr Potter?"
"I do, Professor," Harry replied with some fervour. "Hang on, what about Vol- erm, you know who?" Harry asked, a worried frown appearing on his brow.
"He will be something of a problem, that's true, but he is nothing I can't deal with," Severus said with resolution.
"I beg your pardon?" Severus asked, incredulous.
"No, you are not going back to that... maniac. Your spying days are over," Harry stated with finality.
"Oh, they are, are they?" Severus purred dangerously, but Harry refused to back down.
"Yes they are. You are needed here, Professor, at Hogwarts, helping your snakes find their footing again now that their world has been turned upside down. They need your brilliant mind to help them get away from their parents and the pressure they are putting on them.
"You can't help them if you are killed or tortured to insanity," Harry added sombrely when it appeared that his words had no effect.
"You do not believe that I can take care of myself?" Severus asked thunderously, scowling darkly at the brat. How dare he?
"Oh, I'm sure that you are very capable of looking after yourself, sir, but this is not normal circumstances. Riddle will be furious when he finds out what I did today. And he will find out, sir, of that I am positive. And when he does, he will punish you. Punish you for not stopping me. Punish you for not informing him right away of what happened. Punish you for not finding a way to discredit me and calling me a liar and whatnot. Do you still believe that you will come back sane and hale the next time he summons you?" Harry asked, doing his best not to shout at Snape, or grab hold and simply shake the stubborn, cantankerous man.
Sitting back in his chair, Severus regarded the brat thoughtfully. "Just what did you do, Mr Potter?" he eventually asked, black eyes locking with glowing green ones.
"What did I...? You know what I did, sir, you were there-"
"I'm not talking about the events in the Great Hall," Severus snapped somewhat testily. "I am talking about what you did to give you the courage to finally rebel against Ms Weasley and her treatment of you."
"Oh," Harry muttered, hiding his face in the kitten's fur.
"Yes, oh," Severus retorted sardonically.
Harry thought carefully about what to say. He had a feeling that Snape would not approve of what he'd done. Then again, this new Snape actually might.
Daring a peek, Harry considered what he was seeing. This was Snape. A relaxed Snape, that had yet to lambast him or in any other way tried to make him feel like all kinds of fool.
Snape was different.
Maybe the visit in his mind had changed him more than Harry thought? More than he realised? The old Snape would never have brought him to his private rooms. The old Snape would never have fed him or given him butterbeer. The old Snape would never have listened to him or treated him decently. The old Snape would never in a million years have offered to become his master. At least he wouldn't have intended to actually teach him anything. The old Snape was a mean old bastard, while this new Snape actually seemed to be a decent guy.
Still, this was Snape. Could he actually trust him? Did he dare to? Did he dare not to?
"I found a potion, sir," Harry eventually replied, measuring his words carefully.
"A potion," Severus deadpanned, trying to figure out which potion could have had this drastic effect on the brat. At least he could rule out all the Dark ones, which left... hardly any options at all.
"Yes, believe me or not, I found an old potion recipe that actually worked. And that is all I'm saying until I have your solemn word that you will not go back to... that guy," Harry said simply, albeit somewhat smugly, figuring he now had a sure-fire way to keep Snape from answering Voldemort's next summon.
Severus snorted a laugh. For a first attempt at manipulating him, and by a Gryffindor no less... it was actually quite good. "We shall see," was all he said, chuckling softly at the pout that immediately appeared on the brat's face.
A/N: Please don't kill the author. Yes, this story is finished, but there will be a sequel.
Once I've finished my Veela story, so it will probably be a while. Current working title is Continued Courage. I will inform you when I'm ready to start posting it.