Woooo! Longer chapter! Lol a lot happens in this chapter, and we finally get around to talking about the Stone! And yes, Harry is an emotional wreck, but Snape is right there to help him through everything. :D
Also, I've been incredibly busy recently, so please forgive me if I don't respond to your review. I want to - I really do - but I just haven't been able to find the time right now. I'm so sorry, but please know that I read and appreciate every single one of them, and they really make my day. :) I love you all!
About a Boy – Chapter 11
Harry nibbled on a ginger biscuit to settle his stomach. He had felt a little queasy and nauseous ever since he had been poisoned, and although Anti-Nausea potions helped tremendously, they didn't quite solve the problem.
"So," Snape mused from behind his desk, "you informed your friends of my guardianship over you, I presume?"
Harry paled slightly. "Yeah, I did. Is that okay? I didn't mean to let anyone know but when I wasn't feeling well, I accidentally gave it away to Hermione. I kind of figured I should let my friends know. That's okay, right?" He searched his father's face, looking for reassurance.
The corners of the Potions Master's lips turned up in a comforting smile. "It is fine, Harry. It was going to slip out at some point or another. Besides, it is important to trust your friends."
Harry's eyes dashed over to the clock in the corner of the room. He inhaled sharply and jumped out of his seat. "Oh, I'm late! I promised Hermione that I would meet them in the library at eight!" He darted behind the desk to give Snape a quick hug before running out the door. Several moments later, he peeked his head around the door again. "Love you, Dad!"
He ran back out the door again, missing the man's smile and soft, "I love you too, Harry."
When Harry arrived in the library, his three friends were already seated in squishy beanbags in the back corner of the room. Hermione, of course, had several piles of books surrounding her, while Ron and Draco leaned back lazily in their chairs.
Before Harry even had taken a seat in his own chair, Hermione was shooting information his direction.
"I'm sorry, Harry, but we'll have to catch you up on a week's worth of research. I told Ron and Draco about what we found when we followed Quirrell to the third floor: the three-headed dog and the trapdoor it was standing on," she blurted.
"Trapdoor?" The word seized Harry's attention.
"Yes, of course. Weren't you looking at what the dog was standing on?"
Ron cut in, "I'm sure he was more concerned with the three heads that were all about to eat him, 'Mione. Honestly."
Hermione waved away the boy's thought. "Regardless, anything that has been brought to Hogwarts and is being protected by a Cerberus is clearly very important. Perhaps it is what the break-in at Gringotts was over several months back, but that's just a guess. Anyway, while you were unconscious in the hospital wing last week, we've been doing some research.
"I'm sure you've heard of Hagrid? He's the gamekeeper here, and he lives down in a little cottage by the Forbidden Forest. He knows Ron's brothers pretty well, and since he keeps track of most magical creatures around Hogwarts, we assumed that he would have some information for us, even if it was just a little."
"And he gave us everything that we need to know!" Draco exclaimed excitedly, nearly lunging out of his beanbag. Hermione shushed him and he calmed down considerably, leaning back into his chair again.
"Yes, yes," Hermione confirmed impatiently. "Hagrid accidentally let it slip to us that Fluffy – that's the Cerberus – is his pet, and that the object that is being protected is solely between Professor Dumbledore and a man named Nicolas Flamel! It took us all week to find him – he wasn't in any of the books that I was looking in – but then Ron found him!"
Ron held up a small card, which Harry immediately recognized as one of the collectable cards that came attached to chocolate frogs. "And to think that Hermione was yelling at me for eating chocolate when we were supposed to be studying!" He flipped the card toward him so that he could read it. "Dumbledore is particularly famous for boring stuff, boring stuff – well, not really: he defeated Grindelwald – and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel."
"And Nicolas Flamel," Hermione added excitedly, "is the creator of the Sorcerer's Stone." She picked up one of the books at her side and flipped it open to a marked page. "The stone turns any metal into solid gold and it can make the owner immortal! This is what Quirrell is after, Harry! This is what's being protected! It's the Sorcerer's Stone!"
Harry looked worried. "Well, clearly the Stone needs better protection. It isn't even the winter holidays yet and Quirrell has already found out how to get past Fluffy. We need to talk to Hagrid, since he obviously knows what's going on."
"It's too late to go see Hagrid tonight, but we can talk to him tomorrow morning after breakfast," Hermione said, and dumping a large pile of books and papers into Harry's lap, she added, "Meanwhile, you have all this homework to make up from last week."
Harry groaned dramatically and cracked open the first book, which was a Potions Encyclopedia. Well, maybe at least some of the homework wouldn't be so bad.
The next morning, Harry and Draco met Ron and Hermione outside of the Great Hall. Harry carried a piece of toast slathered with jam, and he took a large bite of it as they headed out the front doors of the school.
Hermione pointed out Hagrid's small cottage nestled right up against the edge of the Forbidden Forest. A small, inviting tendril of smoke curled lazily out of a blackened stone chimney. The four students headed down the path to the cottage at a quick pace in an attempt to shake off the chill from what was appearing to be an early winter.
As Hermione raised her hand to knock firmly on the door, Harry observed the garden in amazement. Large vegetables grew across the entire expanse of the garden. A huge squash, still attached to the vine, leaned up against a large haystack. For all the years Harry had worked in the garden at the Dursleys, the fruits and vegetables that he had grown had never come remotely close to the size or quality of the ones growing in Hagrid's garden. Then again, Harry mused, magic probably played a role.
Hagrid opened his front door and beamed widely when he saw the four students shivering on his doorstep. He ushered them all inside and offered them seats in front of the warm fire.
"Harry! I haven't seen yeh all year! How are yeh liking the school?" Hagrid exclaimed happily, clapping Harry on the back hard enough to make him choke on the tea that the half-giant had offered.
"It's great, Hagrid. It's really great." Harry took a sip of tea and managed a friendly smile.
"Yer friends here came down ter visit me last week. They told me yeh were up in the hospital wing. Said some poison got yeh?" Hagrid's expression darkened as Harry nodded. "If I ever find out who did it, Harry, I'll kill 'em. I swear to yeh, I'll kill 'em. If yer father don't get ter 'em ferst."
"Er, thanks, Hagrid," Harry stammered, his cheeks turning slightly pink in embarrassment. Most people in the past hadn't cared much for his health, and although Snape clearly did, it wasn't something that Harry was used to. "That wasn't exactly what we were here for, though. We – uh – we know that Professor Dumbledore has hidden the Sorcerer's Stone in the school, and that it's protected by Fluffy, your Cerberus."
Hagrid's eyes widened in shock. "Oh no, yeh weren't supposed ter know 'bout all that. Yeh should forget 'bout that right now, yeh hear? Forget 'bout it!"
Harry shifted uncomfortably at the man's expression. "Yeah, well, we can't really. And what's more, you need to tell Professor Dumbledore that the Stone is in danger."
"What?" Hagrid asked in surprise, his eyes widening more than before.
"Professor Quirrell is after the Stone, and he already knows how to get past Fluffy. We found Fluffy dead asleep while a harp was playing in the corridor, just after Quirrell had left. And as soon as the harp stopped playing, Fluffy woke up. Quirrell clearly knows how to get past Fluffy and the way we see it, it's only a matter of time until he gets through that trapdoor," Hermione explained, speaking before Harry had the chance.
"Fluffy ain't the only protection fer the Stone, yeh know. All the teachers added their own protection – traps, yeh could say – that the bloke would have ter get through. Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Professor Sprout, even Professor Quirrell, I think. Quirrell's a teacher, Hermione. I doubt he'd be after the Stone. He's protecting it; that's all," Hagrid replied, offering a plate of rock cakes to the students. They each took one politely, attempting to gnaw off a small portion without splitting their teeth.
"Thanks, Hagrid," Harry said gratefully as he stood up. "We should probably get back to the castle so we're not late for our classes, though."
"Come down and visit again, yeh hear?" Hagrid demanded, opening the door for them as they wandered out the door, taking the rock cakes with them.
Once Harry, Draco, Ron, and Hermione were on their way back to the castle, they threw the rock cakes off the side of the hill and checked their teeth carefully to make sure they were all intact.
"Well, that wasn't very helpful at all," Ron stated in irritation, one thumb in the back of his mouth to double-check his molars.
"That's not true," Draco protested. "He told us all sorts of useful information about how the Stone is protected. At least now we know that there's more beyond the trapdoor. Quirrell doesn't have the brains or the guts to head down that trapdoor and get past all of the challenges. To be honest, I'm surprised that he could even get past Fluffy."
Harry turned toward them. "Well, Hagrid clearly doesn't believe that Quirrell's after the Stone, but someone needs to know. Maybe I should tell Professor Snape." At the looks he garnered from his three friends, Harry added, "Just so he can keep an eye on Quirrell."
Ron stared at him incredulously. "And when he asks how you figured it out, what are you going to tell him? That you followed the bloke across the castle, entered the one part of the entire castle that we're forbidden from going near, and wheedled information from Hagrid? I don't think Snape'll be too happy, to be honest, Harry."
"Besides," Hermione cut in, "I think he already knows. While you were in the hospital wing, Ron and Draco were out flying and overheard a conversation between Snape and Quirrell in the Forbidden Forest. Snape was saying that Quirrell didn't want him as an enemy and that he needed to figure out where his loyalties were."
"It definitely sounded like they were going to meet again soon," Draco added, "and from the way Uncle Severus was threatening him, it sounds like he suspects Quirrell. And not just about the Stone. It sounded like he thinks Quirrell was the one who poisoned you."
Harry was silent, thinking over all that he had learned in the last twelve hours. If he revealed his suspicions to his father, it would surely result in a punishment. Besides, it sounded like Snape already saw Quirrell as a threat. Maybe it was best to stay out of everything for the time being.
Christmas was rapidly approaching, and the days at Hogwarts were steadily growing colder and colder. By December, a thick blanket of snow covered the grounds, causing the students to bundle themselves up in their warm winter coats and slip on their dragonhide boots to avoid slipping on the ice surrounding the castle.
On one particular night, while his dorm mates were surely sound asleep in their beds dreaming of the end of term and the Christmas holidays, Harry was wide awake, staring at the underside of Draco's bunk. He had drawn the curtains closed earlier that night because he had been awfully tired, a symptom that had plagued him ever since he had been poisoned back at the beginning of November.
However, now his wand was telling him that it was half past two in the morning, and there was nothing that Harry could do to make himself go back to bed. With a whispered 'lumos,' he lit the end of his wand and pulled his bookbag up onto his bed. He had a Transfiguration essay due in a few days, and if he wasn't going to sleep, he might as well get started.
As he dug through his bag, he realized that his book was missing. With a groan of disappointment, he realized that he had, in fact, left it up in the library earlier that day while he had been studying with a small group of Slytherins. Harry debated waiting to retrieve it until the morning, but he was awake already and there was nothing stopping him from finishing his homework except a missing book.
Harry put on his slippers and headed for the door, hesitating briefly as he tried to decide whether or not to wake up Draco and bring the blond boy up to the library with him. After a moment, he decided against it; there was no use waking the boy up for something so trivial. He slid his wand into his pocket and snuck out of the dormitory.
Once in the corridor outside the Slytherin common room, Harry paid more attention to his surroundings. He certainly didn't want to get caught out of bed in the middle of the night by one of his teachers or worse – his father. He crept down the hall and up the stairs, listening intently for footsteps that didn't belong to him.
Harry quietly opened the door to the library and walked inside. Even in the darkness, he identified the fuzzy outline of his Transfiguration book sitting on the floor in the back of the library. After grabbing it, he left and made his way back down the hallway toward the stairs that led down to the dungeons.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming toward him from one of the side corridors. Harry looked around frantically before slipping into what appeared to be an abandoned classroom. He closed the door behind him silently and lit his wand, peering around in the wandlight.
Rather than an assortment of dusty old desks, Harry's curious gaze rested on a tall, golden-framed, rectangular mirror standing in the center of the room. He moved closer and read the inscription carved on the top: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
Harry couldn't make any sense of the inscription on the mirror, so he shifted his gaze downward to peer into it. He jumped backward abruptly, nearly letting loose a startled yelp.
Sure, the mirror showed his reflection, but dozens of people were standing right behind as well. Harry chanced a glance over his shoulder and confirmed that there was, in fact, no one there. He looked back to the mirror and studied the reflection, less fearful when he realized what it showed.
He was standing in the center of the mirror, and directly behind him stood his adopted father, Severus Snape. The man had one arm draped casually over Harry's shoulder, a proud smile on his face as he looked down at the boy. Harry reached his hand up to his shoulder where Snape's hand should have been and found nothing but empty air.
To his right stood a couple who he had only seen a few times in his life: Lily and James Potter. Harry moved instinctively closer to the mirror – noticing Snape moved with him – and studied the faces of his parents. It seemed that, as many people didn't hesitate to say, Harry looked exactly like James. His eyes, of course, had come from Lily. Harry smiled at the sight of James' messy black hair and Lily's emerald green eyes. He sniffled, blinking tears out of his eyes, and reached a hand up to stroke his mother's cheek. He was returned to reality when his fingers came into contact with nothing but cool glass.
Harry moved back and took a seat in the center of the room, where he still had a clear view of the mirror. He examined the dozens of people standing behind him and realized that they must all have been related to him. They must have been his family. Here and there he would catch a glimpse of familiar black hair or green eyes or circular glasses, and he would touch his own features, entranced.
He knew what the mirror was reflected wasn't true. It couldn't be. He knew very well that his parents were long dead, and that he had no living relatives aside from his Aunt Petunia, who he tried very hard not to think about for too long. Harry noticed with a small bit of satisfaction that despite the family filling the mirror, his aunt was not present.
A tear slipped down his cheek as he stared at the smiling faces of those he loved. James and Lily, the parents that he had never gotten the chance to know, looked happy to see him. They looked like they loved him back. And no story he had ever heard, no photograph he had ever seen could compare to the sight of their loving gaze.
He shifted his gaze over to Snape again. Unlike the other people pictured, this was someone who he could see and touch and communicate with in real life. That immediately nullified Harry's theory that the mirror showed deceased family members.
Harry leaned back onto his hands. He didn't know how the mirror worked or what it showed, but he was determined not to think about it too much. He didn't want to lose the chance to see his parents so happy, loving, and alive.
Harry had barely had the strength to tear himself away from the mirror several hours later. When Draco gently shook him awake in the morning, he pushed the boy away roughly, much too tired to even consider getting up and heading down to breakfast.
"Harry, you know that Snape will have your head if you even think about skipping a meal," Draco argued crossly, and only the thought of an irate father dragged Harry out of his warm bed.
Throughout the day, Harry struggled not to fall asleep, his predominant thoughts consisting mainly of finding the mirror again and seeing his family.
Draco poked him hard in the ribs during Potions. "Are you okay? You're never this distracted in class, and if you're not careful, you'll blow something up."
Harry quickly pulled the newts' eyes from the edge of the cauldron and set them down on the table, horrified at his lack of focus and near-mistake. He busied himself slicing the lionfish spine that was required for the next step of the potion as he formulated his response in his head, concluding that the truth was best.
"I didn't sleep much last night. I have something to show you tonight. I found it when I went down to get my Transfiguration book from the library in the middle of night," Harry whispered, adding the lionfish spine and stirring the potion counterclockwise seven times.
"Pay attention, Mr. Potter," Snape hissed from where he was observing Ron and Hermione's simmering potion. "Continue your personal conversations elsewhere."
Harry fought to keep from shivering at the cold tone.
That night, when everyone was in bed, Harry led Draco out of the common room and up to the corridor outside the library. He searched through the surrounding rooms, scared for a moment that he wouldn't be able to find the large, ornate mirror again.
"Are you sure it wasn't just a dream?" Draco whispered from behind him, and Harry shushed him half-heartedly. It couldn't have been a dream; it seemed so real.
Harry peeked through one last door and sighed in relief. The mirror was sitting exactly how he remembered it – tall and elegant in the dusty room. Sure enough, when Harry moved closer, he saw the reflection of his family.
Draco looked puzzled. "I don't understand what you're looking at. It's a mirror, Harry."
"You don't see it?" Harry tore his eyes away from the mirror and looked at Draco, who was gazing intently at the reflective glass. "It's my family."
"I still don't see anything. I'm sorry."
Harry moved out of the way. "Here. Stand here and take a proper look. Maybe you just can't see from your angle."
Draco moved in front of the mirror and his eyes widened in wonder and amazement. "I – wow! I don't see your family, Harry; I see me. I'm successful and influential. My parents are actually proud of me! And I'm – I'm married to –" Draco flushed pink and stopped talking.
Harry, although greatly confused, pressed, "You're married to who, Draco?"
Draco stammered and turned firetruck red. "Nobody," he muttered, then gave in. "Oh alright, it's – it's Hermione. I—I don't know. This can't be the future, can it?"
"Can't be," Harry whispered, his tone glum. "My parents are dead, aren't they?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Draco murmured, and then moved away from the mirror to throw an arm around Harry's shoulders. "But hey, cheer up, mate! You've got Uncle Severus and you've got me! We'll be your family, alright?"
Harry let a small smile curve his lips. "Yeah, you're right. I just – it's different seeing them here." He moved so that the image of his family reappeared in the mirror and reached out a hand as if to touch his parents. "You don't see this in pictures. You don't see love. I just feel like they really love me and know me here, even if I know they aren't really there." His face dropped and he felt his eyes fill with tears again. "I just want them back."
Draco grabbed the boy's hand and tugged him toward the door. He stopped short at the tall, imposing silhouette blocking the doorway.
"P-Professor Snape!" Draco gasped out in shock, and Harry looked up in shock before returning his gaze to his feet.
"Just what do you two think you are doing out of bed at this hour?" Snape hissed menacingly.
"It's my fault, sir," Harry spoke up. "I found the mirror and I wanted to show Draco what I saw. It's not his fault."
"Regardless, you know better than to be out after curfew. Draco, return to bed. I will deal with you tomorrow. Harry, come with me."
Draco ran off down the hallway, while Harry shuffled after his father, his gaze fixed on the stone floor. He nearly ran right into the man when he stopped, and they entered Snape's office quietly.
"Take a seat, Harry." Snape seated himself behind his desk and looked at Harry. He sighed. "Child, why must we always have this conversation? The rules are put in place for a reason, and you need to realize that they are not made to be bent or broken. I expect you to heed them in the future. Am I understood?"
Harry nodded silently, refusing to look the man in the eye.
"However, that is not why I want to talk to you at this ungodly hour. I take it you do not understand what the mirror shows?" When Harry shook his head, Snape explained, "The mirror shows not your reflection, but the deepest desire of your heart. The inscription itself, if read backwards, states, 'I show not your face but your heart's desire.'" He paused. "I want to talk about what you saw in that mirror, Harry. I heard the end of your conversation with Draco, and I take it you saw your family?"
The boy nodded again.
"Harry, please look at me." He waited until Harry had slowly raised his eyes to meet his to continue. "Harry, the events in your life thus far are not fair. It is not fair that you lost your parents before you could even know them. It is not fair that you lost them at all. It most certainly is not fair that your relatives abused you. Harry, I know that you want your family more than –"
Harry cut him off abruptly, speaking for the first time since they had entered Snape's office. "You were there."
"I beg your pardon?"
"In the mirror. You were there too. And if it shows the deepest desire of my heart, then obviously I want you in my life." Harry locked eyes with the man sitting across from him.
"Harry, I do not see the point in this."
"I'm saying that I didn't just see my parents in the mirror. Yes, I want them back more than anything, but that's not the only thing I want. I want you as my guardian. I want you as my dad. And for the record, my parents were kind of off to the side, while you – you were in the center. You were closest to me," Harry confessed. "So—so yeah, I miss my mum and dad, but I've dealt with their loss for ten years. I can deal with it. I just – I just don't want to lose you too." He burst into tears. "I'm sorry."
Snape was tremendously shocked at the sharp turn that the conversation had taken. Regardless, he whispered, "Come here, child," and gathered the crying boy into his arms. "I'm not going anywhere, Harry. I promise. You're not going to lose me. And I'm so, so sorry for everything that you've gone through, and I promise that I'm going to be right here forever. You can't get rid of me." A small chuckle escaped the Potions Master as he gently rocked the child back and forth.
Snape tightened his grip on Harry and picked the boy up, carrying him back into his quarters. He laid Harry down on his bed, lying beside him when he realized that the child wasn't going to release his grip on his robes anytime soon. He pulled the boy into his chest and allowed him to cry into his robes.
After several minutes, Harry hiccupped and choked out, "I just miss them so much."
And Snape knew that the boy was crying for his lost family once again. But he would be that family. He would be the boy's father. So he pulled Harry closer and whispered soothing words in his ear. Because although the boy had lost a family, he had gained a father. And that father wasn't going anywhere.
I have a question for all of you:
I'm working on another Harry/Severus mentoring/adoption story that I hope to upload soon. Would you rather see it uploaded as a long one-shot or as a multi-chap with shorter chapters?
So please let me know what you think of that and what you think of the chapter :)