Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe was created by Jk Rowling. I do not hold the rights to any of her works. I am not making money for this story. I ask for nothing in return except maybe for your feedback.
Author's Note: I've seen a couple people comment in the reviews that Hemophilia is passed on the X chromosome, so Harry could not have inherited the illness from his biological father. They are correct and I want to thank them for their valuable input, however I was aware of this before I wrote the story. I have a variety of reasons for choosing hemophilia and fudging the details, but in the end, it was mostly for convenience. I felt that the nature of hemophilia would provide dramatic plot points and fit in with one of the overall themes of the story. I am not a doctor and I hope that no one reads this story as medical fact. If my altering the facts of this serious illness offends anyone, I apologize. For the purposes of this story, a boy can inherit hemophilia from either parent.
How he wished he could just forget Potter. The boy didn't need his regard or his scorn, only his protection, the Potions Master thought. The problem was, he couldn't just forget the boy. It wasn't the fact that he saw the boy too regularly in classes, nor even that he was regularly trying to save the fool boy's life. It was that the boy was so much a part of the last two years of Severus's life, and well before, for that matter. Severus could not look at him without seeing his own mistakes; his sins, his losses, his shame, his rage and impotence.
Occlumency allowed him to clear his mind of those feelings; to push them back and analyze them. He was able to see them for what they were, and put them in context. In the end though, he wouldn't stop despising James Potter; he couldn't stop loving Lily; and didn't see how to separate the boy and his duty from the two ghosts of his past. It didn't matter that he understood these emotions and their roots. Nor did it matter that he could push them to the background, because that wasn't the same as getting rid of them.
So much was different now. He could view his past behavior and see it for what it was, and that in itself was painful. He had made a caricature of himself. He had turned his competitiveness to pettiness; his love to jealousy; his wit to a bullying taunt. The magic he had once immersed himself in had become a chore. In the clarity of Occlumency, being able to push away the shame and disgust did not change what he knew about himself, and the temptation to return, to go back to his petty victories and miserable wallowing was strong. He imagined Lily, eleven years old again, sharing a nervous look with him before their sorting; he imagined her seeing him as he had been these past many years. He imagined himself.
Seeing the Potter boy in class and walking the hall with his friends was a constant reminder of all of it. For Potter represented his greatest shames in so many ways. The clarity remained now, wether he occluded or not. The epiphany would not go away, but with Potter in the room, he felt it best to keep himself in check.
There he was, sitting in the back of the class, as per usual. Severus had given the boy a wide berth since the term had started, and he found he was much more tolerable that way. Potter kept his head down, completed his potions and homework, and as long as Draco and his hangers on did not start trouble, the class usually went smoothly. Oddly enough, grades had started going up, and Longbottom had somehow managed to not melt a single cauldron. He would think on the matter later, without Potter in sight.
Draco was another matter. Severus was well aware of the rumors he had started concerning Potter, and while he couldn't be bothered to care about Potter's social standing, he did care about Slytherin's. The absurd rumors would eventually be disproven; Draco, and thereby Slytherin, would look the fool in the process. The boy simply could not see that. Perhaps he truly believed Potter was a werewolf. It didn't really matter. His house shouldn't look like fools or rumor mongers. That would not lead them anywhere.
That was another thing. It had been a while since he had seen Slytherin House, and his headship, as anything more then the perpetuity of an ancient rivalry. A fight in which he had lost and had been trying to win for a very long while. Soldiers in the crusade to deflate the egos of Gryffindor House and those who had wronged him. When he thought about Slytherin house now, and the state of the students he had loosed on the world he was rather glad that the painting of Salazar Slytherin, and indeed all of the founders, had faded. That he could not hear the voice of scorn from the legend he had revered as a youth was a blessing. The question now lay in fixing what had been broken since the war had ended. Severus did not know how to go about it.
He did know that there needed to be change. He did not love teaching. He did not care for being responsible for his house. Yet he was, and lacking pride for what he did, for his responsibilities was a low he did not wish on himself.
"Time is up," he said. "Bottle your potions and bring them to the front of the class." Then on a whim, he said, "If you failed to produce the potion correctly, give me eighteen inches on the correct brewing method and where you went wrong for partial credit."
There was a pause in the classroom as the students took that in.
"Well don't lollygag," he snarled for good measure. "Get a move on."
The students all rushed to clean up the classroom and get out. Though oddly enough, it was Potter who was the last one out; looking like he wanted to say something before he walked out the door.
"Now, who can tell the class where kappas are most commonly found?" Professor Lupin asked.
Harry's hand was up before Professor Lupin could finish asking the question.
"Someone other than Mr. Potter," Professor Lupin said, with a wry grin.
Hermione got that all the time from other professors. She'd answer too many questions during the class and the professor would insist that someone else answer the question. This was the first time that Harry had ever gotten the treatment and he grinned in spite of himself. Answering questions right wasn't going to show the professor that he could hold his own, but it was a start to at least making sure the man knew he was competent. He wasn't about to be passed over in a practical exercise again, or let the professor think he was weak; and if that meant reading ahead for each class, then so be it.
Next to him Hermione gave him a small smile, after she finished answering the question. He hadn't told her why he was trying so hard in defense; he wasn't even sure if she had noticed the Professor skipping him with the boggart. She was just happy that he was taking the class seriously.
It wasn't that he didn't usually participate in class, but he never liked to draw too much notice from the professors. Old habits died hard, and though he wasn't as bad as he had been in his first year, he still felt uncomfortable showing off or getting too good grades. Not that it was as easy to get good grades as it had been back in primary school. He wasn't about to try to rival Hermione in all of their classes, he knew that even at his best he was outclassed. In defense though, he was willing to give her a run for her money, or at least try to.
The spell that was most commonly used against a kappa was a little unpleasant, so the professor wasn't about to let the class torture one of the creatures for practice. Instead they practiced on a charmed block of wood that would let them know if they had cast the charm right.
"Mr. Potter," Professor Lupin said as he invited Harry to try the charm first at the front of the class. "I like to reward participation with more participation."
Harry was more than happy to go and perform the charm first. Happy to show the professor that he was capable. Though, really, it didn't exactly mean anything if he wasn't at least facing the creature. This was the third class, and they hadn't actually faced another creature since the boggart. Harry completed the spell, the professor complimented his annunciation, and he sat back down as the rest of the class filed down to perform the spell.
Mr. Lupin was a great teacher. He was shaping up to be Harry's favorite. Indeed it seemed a number of students shared the sentiment. Snape was the only person who seemed to dislike the man.
An hour later, classes were over and the trio headed back to the common room before dinner. Or so Harry thought; he and Ron were soon being dragged into an unused classroom by Hermione.
"Hey," Ron said.
"No more excuses, we need to talk about this," Hermione said.
Harry didn't need to ask about what.
"What do you want to know?" he asked Hermione.
"Well for starts you're going to need to show me these spells instructions so I can learn them. I mean what if there's an emergency, and you can't do it yourself."
"I can't show you the spell instructions," Harry said. "The paper's charmed so only I can read it. I can teach you though, if it really matters."
"Of course it matters," Hermione said.
"I'm surprised you haven't already read a book about it," Ron commented.
"Advanced medical books are in the restricted section," Hermione said. "All I could find were books that described symptoms, pathology, and transmission."
Harry thought she stressed transmission a bit, but he was probably imagining it. He quickly went over the two spells with Hermione, and let her cast the diagnostic charm on him.
Was it just his imagination though, or did the blue glow of the charm have a slightly greenish tint to it.
Hermione insisted Ron learn the spells too, and soon Harry was thinking about heading to dinner a bit early as an excuse to finish everything up. Hermione, of course, wasn't done with her questions, though she didn't really look like she knew how to go on.
"Harry," she started. "It's just that I got the impression that you wouldn't have told us about this if it hadn't been for that dementor, and I'm wondering, if something else were wrong, if you would tell us. We're your friends, and friends want to help each other."
"What else could he be hiding?" Ron asked. "Wait you don't actually think he is a werewolf do you?"
"I didn't say that he was hiding anything, and of course I don't think he's a werewolf, don't be stupid," Hermione said. "I just want to make sure." She paused. "Like if you had trouble at home."
"This is my home," Harry said.
"Exactly," Hermione said, as though Harry had said something much more profound or meaningful than he intended. Clearly, even though she wasn't saying right out that she thought he was hiding something, she thought he was hiding something.
"What are you even on about?" Ron asked confused.
"Nothing's going on with the Dursley's, they're their usual awful selves," Harry said guardedly.
"Well that's sort of the point isn't it," Hermione said. "It isn't right, and if they're..." She paused, very uncomfortable. "Why didn't you tell anyone you were hit by a car?" she asked.
Harry was very confused about the change in topic.
"I...it wasn't a big deal," he said. He had been fine, and he didn't understand why Hermione was going on about it.
"Getting hit by a car is a big deal," Hermione said almost indignantly. "Now either you got hit by a car and fractured a bunch of bones and didn't say anything for some unfathomable reason, or you got hurt some other way that you didn't want to talk about. But Harry, if you were getting hurt at ho... in Surrey you need to tell someone."
Harry didn't know what to say for a moment, realizing where Hermione had taken the conversation. It also boggled how Hermione was always right, even when she was wrong.
"Harry can't be getting beat up at home," Ron said. He turned to Harry. "Didn't you say your cousin's been terrified of you since the tail."
"I didn't say he was getting beat up by his cousin," Hermione said.
"I really did get hit by a car," Harry said mulishly, he didn't know how to get Hermione off of the subject. What if he couldn't? What if she decided to tell a teacher.
"So why didn't you tell anyone?" Hermione asked.
"Because," Harry said a little heatedly. "Because with everything else that happened that afternoon, that was the furthest thing from my mind. A werewolf tried to maul me, I saw a woman get killed... no exploded, and I'd just flown around London for hours trying to find the Leakey Cauldron, and I was tired, and I wanted to be by myself. And I was only sore, when I could have been exploded, or kidnapped, or bitten, and I wasn't going to whine about it when it was only just sore and nothing was really broken. And that Auror who patched me up kept giving me weird looks and I just wanted him to go away."
The fact that getting hit by his uncle's car had tied into him getting kicked out of the house and left to fend for himself had also put it in the form of things he didn't talk about, and the fact that it had been his uncle's car pretty much put it behind the Dursley's own statute of secrecy that he had been following since long before he had heard of the wizarding one.
"I don't think you should go back next summer," Hermione said.
"I told you it's fine," Harry said.
"It's not fine Harry," Hermione said and Harry was horrified to see that she had tears in her eyes. "Bars on your windows is not fine. Just eating leftovers is not fine. A coat hanger for Christmas is not fine. Living with people who've hated you since you were a baby because you have something special that they don't is not fine."
"It's not that bad," Harry said. "It could have been a lot worse." Harry knew that there were worse things than the Dursleys and kids out there who had a lot less than he did.
"Just because things could be worse, doesn't mean it's alright though," Ron said awkwardly.
Harry looked over to Ron in shock. Not Ron too! He had expected him to take his side on this.
"Look, you never wanted to talk about this before," Harry said. "Now all of a sudden you act like I'm living with Death Eaters."
"Well I should have," Hermione said regretfully. "I'm sorry I didn't. It shouldn't have taken you coming to school with broken bones for us to have this conversation. It's been obvious since we became friends that you shouldn't be living there, and... I feel like I've let you down never saying anything before."
"'Mione's right," Ron said. "We should have raised hell when we had to rip those bars off your windows. But it's not like we can do anything about it, unless we kidnap Harry again next summer."
Harry was having a hard time understanding where they were coming from. He had never really complained about the Dursleys, and it had been a long while since he had even mentioned them. He'd certainly never indicated that he needed to be rescued.
"We just need to tell an adult," Hermione said.
Harry thought his heart had stopped in his chest when Hermione said that, and he felt like he had completely lost control of the situation.
"What are they going to do?" Ron asked.
"Well there's an office of child welfare, or something like it, isn't there?" Hermione said.
"What's that?" Ron asked.
"Well like, who placed all of the war orphans with families after the war? I mean I know of at least a dozen here in the school."
"There's not some agency that takes care of it," Ron said. "They all either went to their closest blood relative or godparent, but most people had that ironed out ahead of time during the war, any dispute'd be handled by the courts. I think there's also a little orphanage in London, for kids without families or godparents, but that's about it."
"Well what happens if someone needs help at home?" Hermione asked.
Ron shrugged. "Aurors I guess, but only if a crime's been committed, and it would have to be pretty bad for it to be that."
"What do you mean it would have to be pretty bad, hurting kids is a crime," Hermione said.
"Well it probably should be, I mean mum and dad never held with hitting us for stuff, but you don't think Filch is joking about the whips and chains in his office do you? The only reason they don't give out lashings for rule breaking anymore is because Dumbledore got the school board to ban it. I don't know, I think most kids here probably don't have to worry about it, 'cause their parents aren't gits, but it still isn't illegal."
"Well that's horrible," Hermione said. "Somebody should do something." She looked over at Harry, who was still at a loss for how to turn his friends from the topic at hand. "We, need to do something."
"Right, well we could talk to McGonagall, see if you have any other options," Ron said.
"Just stop," Harry said desperately, more to the situation than to his friends. "Just stop ok. I'm not going back, so you don't have to worry. I'm not going back to the Dursleys next summer so just stop talking about this, and don't even think about talking to Professor McGonagall. Please, you can't. Can't we please just forget about this."
"What do you mean you're not going back?" Hermione asked. "What if they catch all of those escaped convicts. I don't think they're just going to let you spend an entire summer at the Leaky Cauldron."
"It doesn't matter, I'm not going back. I'm never going back, no matter what. I can't," Harry said. "I'll work out where I'll stay, but I'm not going back, and the Dursleys aren't about to call up the ministry and tell them I never came back."
"But what if someone does say you have to go back?" Hermione asked.
"Well it doesn't matter, because they kicked me out," Harry yelled, and instantly regretted it.
"What?" Ron asked.
There was a moment when no one said anything.
"I got back to the house after getting chased by Greyback and getting hit by a car," he said with a bit of emphasis. "When I told them a dark wizard was after me they kicked me out."
"Oh Harry," Hermione said with a pitying look.
"Don't give me that, you should be happy," Harry said defensively. "This is what you wanted isn't it?"
"Just because I wanted you out of the house, doesn't mean I wanted you to go through that," Hermione said.
"It's not a big deal," Harry said.
"Oh of course not, that's why you lied about it and didn't tell anyone," Hermione said peevishly.
There was another moment of silence.
"You can stay at the Burrow again, next summer. I can work it out with mum," Ron said.
"Mine too," Hermione said. "You shouldn't have to stay at an inn for an entire summer."
"I'm not staying at either of your homes," Harry said. "I shouldn't even stay in Diagon Alley while Greyback is after me."
"So what are you going to do then?" Ron asked.
"I don't know," Harry said. "I'll figure it out."
"Are you sure you don't have any other options?" Hermione asked, with the same emphasis as before. Harry's cheeks flamed. He was fairly sure she suspected, at least in part.
"None that I want to explore," Harry ground out. Ron looked weary of asking what they were talking about.
"Then you should talk to Professor Dumbledore," Hermione said. "He would make sure you went somewhere safe over the summer."
"I can't just tell him the Dursleys abandoned me," Harry said in disbelief.
"Sure you can," Ron said. "Just go in and say 'Professor, the Dursleys were bigger jerks than usual and they kicked me out of the house. Good riddance, I say, but I'll need someplace to stay where werewolves can't get me.' Who knows, he might let you stay here."
That was certainly a better conversation to have with the Headmaster than the one Hermione had wanted him to have a moment ago.
"I'll think about it," Harry said.
Hermione opened her mouth to say something, but Harry cut her off.
"Dinner's starting soon. We should go," he said, and with that he turned and walked out the door.
Ron and Hermione followed after him, and though neither of them spoke, Harry could tell that they both wanted to.
"So Professor Lupin was friends with my dad," Harry said, in part to completely change the conversation. "They shared a dorm here, Sirius Black too, and another bloke. They were all close friends, from the sound of it."
"How'd you find that out," Ron asked. "He didn't tell you, did he? You should never trust the Defense Professor, I think."
"Ronald," Hermione scolded. "You shouldn't say that. Professor Lupin seems like a very good professor. Just because there have been troubles before..."
"Troubles before?" Ron crowed. "Do you mean when one of them tried to kill Harry a few times, or when the professor you'd been mooning over tried to erase our minds and drive us crazy?"
Harry wrinkled his nose at the thought of their second year defense teacher.
"Well you drive everyone crazy, so you can hardly blame him for that one," Hermione said loftily. "Anyway, how did you find out, Harry?"
"The letter my parents wrote me, it had a lot more than what we talked about. There were a bunch of stories from the both of them."
"That's great," Hermione said. "It must be nice to learn more about your parents."
"Yeah," Ron said. "That must be cool. Uncle Billius used to tell great stories about dad and him when they were our age."
"So is that why you're trying so hard in defense?" Hermione asked.
Harry wasn't sure what to say to that. He didn't want to bring up getting skipped with the boggart.
"Oh, just, I figured I should take defense seriously, what with dark wizards after me," Harry said. "Even if all we're studying is nuisance creatures right now."
"Well you should do some extra curricular reading then," Hermione suggested.
"Are you going to say anything to him?" Ron asked.
Harry shrugged. "I dunno. We'll see. The weird thing is, they wrote about Snape too. They were all in the same year."
"I had suspected as much," Hermione said, "considering how much he speaks about your father."
"Hasn't been doing much of that lately, has he?" Ron asked. "Think Dumbledore had a talk with him about it? He's been weird in class."
"I don't know," Harry said. "The weird thing is, he was friends with my mum for a bit." Well, more than a bit.
"What?" Ron said. "But she was a Gryffindor, and he's a slimy Slytherin."
"Oh Ron," Hermione said. "That doesn't mean… well, that doesn't have to mean that they can't be friends."
"They met before Hogwarts actually," Harry said. "He told my mom she was a witch."
"Well that would be adorable if you threw about anyone else into the Snape role," Ron said.
"So what happened?" Hermione asked.
"Ideological differences," Harry said after thinking about it for a bit.
"So he was toady with the You-Know-Who crowd," Ron put in. "Do you think he was a Death Eater," he added in a conspiratorial whisper.
"Oh Ron," Hermione said. "Professor Dumbledore wouldn't have hired him if he had been a Death Eater."
Ron gave her a look.
"He wouldn't hire him to anything other than the defense position if he was a Death Eater," Hermione conceded. "Oh, that reminds me, we should probably learn more about the Death Eaters that escaped too, we only really know about two of them."
"Greyback wasn't a Death Eater," Harry said, remembering his conversation with Tom during the summer. "He was an enforcer though."
Ron got a pensive look on his face.
"Lestrange was like, one of You-Know-Who's most fanatical followers, one of the most dangerous too, I think. Rookwood was an inside man at the ministry, supposedly he was an unspeakable."
"What's an unspeakable?" Harry asked.
"No one knows what they really do, but they study all the secret advanced magic stuff for the ministry," Ron said.
"What about Dolohov?" Hermione asked.
"He killed my mum's brothers," Ron said after a pause. "They were twins. Mum named Fred and George after them." He shrugged. "He was a fighter I guess. Bill wouldn't say much about him." He added as an aside. "He had a friend from Gringotts come take a look at the wards around the Burrow, you know, after the breakout. You'd probably be safe over the summer. Especially if we just don't tell anyone."
"We'll see," Harry said noncommittally.
They walked on in silence after that until they got to the great hall, it looked like the food had just gotten on the tables. There weren't many other students in the hall. Snape was though, and Harry found himself glancing at the man.
He thought about the way his mother had written about him in the second letter; not as though he was a former lover, or the father of her child, but rather like he was a friend from her childhood whom she had drifted apart from. Someone she had had adventures with when she had been a girl. Harry still found himself looking for his mum's friend in the unpleasant man, and while it was true that Snape wasn't as horrible as he had been in the past for whatever reason, Harry still couldn't see how the man could have been his mum's boyfriend.
The trio sat down at the far end of Gryffindor table and started serving themselves.
"So," Hermione started. "Have either of you put any thought into your third year projects?"
All of their teachers had been going on a bit about upper year projects.
"Who says we're doing third year projects?" Ron asked. Harry could see that he was getting ready for an argument with Hermione.
"Just because you don't have to do one, doesn't mean you shouldn't do one," said Hermione. "You'll broaden your horizons and maybe get some extra credit if you do a good job."
"Let me guess, you're doing projects for all of your classes. Even though there's no way you're getting to all of them, seeing as they overlap," Ron said accusingly.
Hermione didn't even address her impossible schedule, all she said was, "Not all of my classes, Ron. Just for Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Transfiguration, and Charms."
"Oh, I see, so just four of the hardest subjects at Hogwarts," Ron said. "Well not all of us are super students who can just tack on a boat load of extra work."
"Well then you should be able to take on at least one project. You're not a bad student, you know. You could stand to do some more studying, but there's no reason you can't handle a project. It could be for something you like. Oh, you could do a charms project."
"Who said I like charms," Ron asked.
"It's your best subject, after astronomy, but that doesn't matter, because you're great at chess. You could charm your own chess board. Oh, you could do it like the one that guarded the philosophers stone. One you could play against. That would be a great project."
"Sure it would be; if I had any idea how to do that," Ron said, as though Hermione was missing the obvious.
"Well that's why you do the project. To learn. I bet you could get it to play a better game than Professor Flitwick," Hermione said.
"Flitwick?" Ron asked. "I thought McGonagall did the chess set."
"Me too, until I thought about it more," Hermione said. "In the key room, I thought the keys were all charmed to fly, meaning they were Professor Flitwick's bit. When I saw the giant chess set, I figured it was Professor McGonagall since those pieces had to have been transfigured. But if you take into account the incredible amount of charm work that went into it, you might start to suppose that the keys weren't charmed, but partially transfigured. Anyway, the point is, you beat the chess set, and you could probably make a more challenging one yourself if you put some effort into figuring it out."
"You're acting like I'm some sort of chess genius," Ron said.
"You sort of are," Harry said.
"What about you Harry," Ron said, putting the attention on his friend. "What's your project going to be."
"I think Quidditch practice is enough of a project for me," Harry said. "But I think charming your own chess set sounds great Ron." He did, but mostly he wanted Hermione's attention back on Ron.
"There's no way I can do that as a third year," Ron said. "Probably not even as a seventh year."
"Well that's why you start now, and by the time you're a seventh year you'll be doing all sorts of things," Hermione said. "You know, even if it is a couple years before the project really gets rolling, you could learn so much. Besides a good project looks good on your resume when you're looking for a job. You don't want to be just another Hogwarts graduate with good grades; there are plenty of those. You want to stand out."
"Hermione," Harry said. "If our next five years here are anything like the last two, I don't think Ron is going to ever be just another Hogwarts student."
Ron blushed, and Harry smiled, remembering their first year when Ron had sacrificed himself to the black queen.
"Yes, well that's certainly true," Hermione conceded. "But it could be fun too. You could at least talk to Professor Flitwick and see how you'd go about it."
"I dunno," Ron said. "What about Harry. I bet he could do a defense project."
Harry's eyes grew wide as the attention was once more on him.
"Quidditch..." he started.
"Would make an excellent project for you," Hermione said, as though Harry had been making a suggestion instead of an excuse. "Unless you have your heart set on defense."
"Huh?" Harry asked.
"Well you could do any number of charms projects to do with charmed equipment. Or you could do a project based on game statistics; maths are still very important."
"So what? Charm my own snitch?" Harry asked.
"Sure, or whatever you want," Hermione said.
"Hey, why does Harry get to do something simple, and I have to charm a chess set to play a better game than Flitwick?" Ron piped in.
"You don't have to," Hermione said. "You can make up any sort of project. That was just something I thought you might do well in and enjoy. Though Harry's right, Quidditch will be taking up a lot of his time this year."
She wasn't kidding. Wood had posted the training schedule and it looked like it had been drawn up by a madman; but then again, it had been drawn up by Oliver Wood. Their first practice was actually after dinner in an hour.
"Alright," Harry said, after they had eaten. "I've got to go grab my quidditch gear. I want to fly a bit before practice." He was usually the first one there, changed and already flying before the older students got there.
"We'll be in the library when you're done," Hermione said.
Harry started walking towards Gryffindor Tower. There hadn't been any students in the halls while they had walked to dinner, it had been too early really, but now there was a steady stream of students on the way to the Great Hall that he was passing. He got a lot of dirty and fearful looks. Not from everyone, but enough to sting. He kept his head down.
He wanted to yell at them, 'I'm just a normal wizard,' but he knew that it wouldn't do any good. People would believe what they wanted to believe.
Harry had wanted to be normal since he was very young. Not normal like the Dursleys, certainly. Their quest for normalcy made them some of the most abnormal people Harry had ever known. It wasn't even about fitting in. He just didn't want to have a target on his back. Of course not being normal had condemned him at the Dursleys, but it had also saved him. Yet even as a wizard, he couldn't be ordinary. He had to be the Boy-Who-Lived.
It occurred to Harry though, that he was confusing abnormal with famous. In the end, he just didn't want to stick out like a sore thumb. He hated being the center of attention. Quidditch was an odd exception, but at least there he felt like he had earned it. Being a star seeker didn't garner the same bizarre attention that being the Boy-Who-Lived did, and it was something that connected him to his father, something he might have been proud of. Though he realized, he didn't want to be normal. Stay under the radar, yes, but maybe not normal. His parents had died for him. He didn't think he could stand feeling one day that they had died for nothing. Not for the first time, he wondered what they would think if they could see him then.
He didn't see it when he first got into the dorm. After stuffing his quidditch gear into his bag, Harry grabbed his broom and closed the lid of his trunk. That's when he saw it, hanging over his bead, a banner. 'Werewolf get out,' it read. Most of Gryffindor seemed to support him; he hadn't realized anyone in the tower gave a lot of credence to Malfoy's bilge. He tore the banner down and shoved it in his trunk. He would deal with it later. He felt very small at the moment.
He looked towards the door and shook his head. He walked to the window and hopped out, mounting his broom smoothly and swiftly midair, he quickly leveled off his descent and flew to the pitch and avoided his school mates.
"Are you sure you should be trying that?" Fred hollered up at Harry. He and George had just arrived at the pitch wearing their Quidditch gear and had just seen one of Harry's newer stunts.
"Don't you have a death omen or something?" George asked.
Harry had had the pitch to himself for about a half an hour when the twins arrived. He leveled off and flew towards the twins.
"Percy told us she always predicts someone's death," he told them. "I think I'm good." Probably.
"Ah well, there's always next year," George said.
"So what have you two been up to?" Harry asked. "Everyone's walking on egg shells waiting to see what you're getting ready for." Actually they were walking on egg shells because half the school, and even a few Gryffindors apparently, thought Harry was a werewolf. Since they had gotten back to Hogwarts, though, the twins had been working on some weird project in the common room, though they wouldn't say a word about it to anyone. Not even their best friend, Lee Jordan seemed to know.
"Oh," Fred said. "Not even you get to know that yet."
"How bout a hint" Harry said.
"It's going to make us rich," George said.
"And you gave us the idea," Fred said.
"Sort of," George said.
"You'll see," said Fred.
"Maybe," added George.
"Well just as long as it isn't going to bring on any death omens," Harry said. "Good luck, when are we going to see a prototype?"
"That depends," George said.
"We have a bit to work out right now, and owl post takes a bit too long," Fred said.
"Yeah, and it'll probably kill you if we really tried it out now," said George.
Well that wasn't ominous.
"Oy," came Oliver Wood's voice. He had just flown onto the pitch. "What's going to be killing my prize seeker?"
"Take your pick," Fred said.
"Probably going to be a bludger in a bit," George said.
"Well, maybe," Oliver said. "We'll be practicing with three, so you two will have to stay on top of things."
Harry grinned. It was good to be playing quidditch again, even if he could see the dementors that were patrolling the castle gates not too far off into the distance from up in the air. He told himself that they were the reason he felt like so much crap just over the opinion of some idiot in the tower.
Soon everyone had arrived, and after warm-ups, all seven of them were zooming around the pitch. Three bludgers, it turned out, were not enough to sate Oliver's drive, and soon Harry and the rest of them were dodging four of the heavy iron strapped balls. It was during a corkscrew maneuver that Harry performed that he saw someone in the shadows of the forest under the still waning moon, someone who looked like they were watching the Quidditch pitch. When he had righted himself and turned back around to see, no one was there. Moments later, Professor Trelawny's prediction almost came true when one of the bludgers came close to taking his head off.
"Watch yourself, Potter," was Oliver's only show of concern. Harry turned his attention back to the game.
"Mr. Malfoy," Severus called at the end of class. "A word if you will." He was nervous, he realized. This conversation would be difficult and it could be the beginning of something big. It could also go very wrong. Pushing away the nerves was the easy part.
"Professor?" the blond scion asked when the rest of the students had filed out.
"Tell me, Mr. Malfoy," Severus said. "Is the name of Malfoy important?"
The boy looked affronted. "Of course it's important. House Malfoy is the most important in the wizarding world after Slytherin. The name Malfoy means..."
"Nothing to you it seems," said Severus, cutting off the boy's scripted lines. "The name Malfoy is supposed to have credibility, the name Slytherin is supposed to be synonymous with cunning. Yet you run around this school as if those words mean nothing."
"I..." the boy indignantly started to protest, but was cut off once more.
"Potter is not a werewolf!" Severus snarled. "The full moon approaches soon enough and anyone who believes that he is one will feel a fool and you will be the king of the fools. Malfoy, head fool, and spreader of lies. You've been clever, I will give you that, but cleverness without foresight is more dangerous than outright idiocy. Malfoys do not rule, but they do guide those that do. Your family has been shaping wizarding Britain for generations. The children you attend school with, Merlin preserve us, are our future Ministers. You sit in the great hall with the future Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Some of those twits will be Aurors, and some will be journalists. What have they seen of you these past years. A boy caught out of bed to tattle on another. A boy who shouts out politically incorrect slurs in a crowded hallway over the scene of an attack, a boy who spreads silly rumors."
"He could be," the boy defended.
"He is not," Severus said. "I know that he is not, because I make it my business to know such things. But let us pretend that there is some uncertainty. Do Slytherins gamble like that or do Gryffindors? Who acts the fool?"
"Gryffindors," Draco said with an averted gaze.
"You must distance yourself from this Mr. Malfoy," he said, now more gently. It was important that Draco felt that Severus was someone who could guide him. "When the school discovers that Potter is indeed not a werewolf, it should not be on the heels of your own accusations."
"So I should be more sneaky about it, so it doesn't trace back to me?" the boy asked.
"Forget Potter, Mr. Malfoy," Severus said. "Your name means a great deal, but he is a celebrity. When others see you fight they do not see Draco Malfoy fighting his nemesis, they see Potter fighting his. You are being defined by Potter's context. He is a shining light and you are nothing but shadow. Separate yourself from him. You are a Malfoy. Be a Malfoy. You are not defined by your family name, you are defining it, and not well."
"So what do I do?" Draco asked, at a loss.
"Focus on your studies. Maintain your power base but keep your head down for at least a month. Wait till this werewolf foolishness blows over, and be ready. It is about time that the Malfoy scion had some notion of what he wants to define his life."
"I already know that: I want to bring back the old ways. I want to be the one who makes the wizarding world what it should be. Without mudbloods; and half-bloods who know their place."
Severus had to fight his own recoil at that word. Of course he couldn't act as though he had actually been offended by it.
"Mr. Malfoy. You would do well to forget that word," Severus said silkily. "There are more children here born of muggles than there are who truly have pure blood. Far more children with a muggle grandparent or two. Your use of that word puts you at odds with the majority of the wizarding world."
"Not to people who matter," the boy said.
"Mr. Malfoy, a girl who came from nothing is besting you in every class. You who have been given every advantage. Tell me Mr. Malfoy. Tell me what matters."
"The teachers have their favorites," the boy whined.
"You have been my favorite, as I have shown time and again, but she still outperforms you every time. Why is that Draco," he asked.
"You're starting to sound like a muggle lover," the boy accused.
"Believe me, I bear no fondness for muggles," he said. "But I do respect accomplishment and ability."
"So you would just let Dumbledore's side win?" the boy asked him angrily. "Just lay down and let the lesser forms take over our world and corrupt it?"
"I would have you guide our world in its noble traditions," Severus told him. "I would expect you to keep your heritage. You would alienate more than half our world from those ways rather than guide our people to them. There will always be purebloods Draco, just as there will be always be half bloods and muggleborns. As a pureblood it is your duty to stand up as an ideal of what every wizard and witch should be. You are the elite, but that does not mean that they have no place in our world. You can either hide in the corner embracing the old ways, which never actually existed, with a small group of purebloods while the wizarding world crumbles around you, or you can shape the wizarding world by including everyone."
"My father..." Draco started, but once more Severus cut him off.
"Your father made his own decisions, different from his father's. His father too chose his own path. The duty of the family heir is to ensure the continuation and well being of the line. Thus, he must be prepared to change with the times where he must, and guide them where he can. Your father does not expect you to be a copy of himself, with no self determination or will."
"You would be singing a different tune if the Dark Lord were around," Draco said. "Father says he'll come back. What will we do then? What about you? That mark won't come off."
"I will do what I have to do Draco, as you will do your duty as scion of a noble family and a leader of our world."
There was a long pregnant pause, and Severus was sorely tempted to look into those eyes and see what went on beyond them.
"How do I make myself better than Potter and Granger?" The boy's voice was hesitant, as if asking the question implied something he didn't want to think about.
Severus resisted the urge to sigh, but he could work with the insecurities.
"You could certainly stand to study more, but do not concern yourself with outperforming Granger. You are a leader, not a scholar. Potter and Granger are their own entities and trying to be better than them is like a cauldron trying to be better than a stirring rod. They are both necessary, but they serve different roles. You will be a leader. You will be the best leader. Potter will be a fighter and Granger a scholar, trying to outperform them is trying to be them, and you are something else entirely. We will be working on developing you as a leader, and let them worry about their own lives."
Draco nodded. Severus calmed slightly. It was progress.
One of Albus's joys and trials was having Severus in his office for tea.
"So Severus, what news do you bring me?" Albus asked his potions master.
"I don't have anything newsworthy to report," Severus said. "I've started preparing the Wolfsbane for the werewolf."
"Yes, Remus will be happy to hear that. He did so very much appreciate the batch you made him last month," he replied, making sure to emphasize Remus's name.
"I appreciated not hearing the tortured screams of our students as they were torn apart by a werewolf," Severus said.
"But come now," Albus said. "Surely something has happened. I am not the only one to note that you have been acting differently since term started."
"Acting differently, am I?" Severus asked mildly.
"Indeed," Albus said. "Some have come close to accusing you of being pleasant."
"Well I will have to do something about that then, won't I?" Severus said with a slight grimace.
"There is nothing wrong with people liking a change in you," Albus said.
"I suppose that all depends on what the change is," Severus said.
"And in your case?" Albus asked, though he of course knew the answer. He had planned for this variant, had made sure Severus would be placed to trigger it, but he could only lay the pieces. How they fell after was up to chance. He was of course happy that the cards had fallen as they had. He had waited too long for this opportunity. Had waited when he had known he could elicit the same response if he had been willing to cause a deviation... But he did not like to dwell on such things. His guilt served no purpose in this case.
"I have started occluding," Severus said.
"Have you indeed?" Albus asked. "And what has an ordered mind brought you, my boy."
"Disappointment," said Severus.
"Disappointment can be used for a lot of good," Albus said.
"I suppose you can use any emotion to fill that line," Severus supplied. "With your optimism."
"And yet, in your case," Albus said, "you have submitted for approval to start a research project, grades in your classes have been rising, and you have been more engaged in faculty meetings. It does seem that this disappointment is doing you well, so long as this disappointment eventually turns into satisfaction and contentment."
"Some mistakes are too great to undo," Severus said. "Just because I can see the weight of my failure doesn't mean I can make it right. My house is a shambles, Headmaster. What can I do about that?"
"Doing nothing," Albus said, "would certainly be the wrong way to go about things. Perhaps we can work something out, you and I."
They talked for a time after that. Albus was pleased. There were plenty of variants where Severus did not start occluding until the start of the second war, the harsh realities of which left little room for positive personal change in one already so mired in such emotional baggage. He had seen some of those variants to the end of the war, and some not, but the change now had more possibilities for success. They also helped him sleep better at night.
It was a few weeks into term, and Harry realized with quite a bit of surprise that Potions was no longer his least favorite class. That was Divination now. The morbid old professor who taught the class continued to predict his death and misfortune, and only seemed to give good grades for predictions of the same from him. Knowing that it was all dramatics did little to put him in a better mood. Hermione's running commentary on the subjects imperfections were entertaining at times, because she had the audacity to say them in class when the professor could not hear. Harry had started to wish that he had taken another elective. He'd always been somewhat good with maths. He should have taken Arithmancy or something.
Potions, on the other hand, was another matter. Snape, though still menacing, was being mostly tolerable. Malfoy had even stopped calling him a werewolf in class, though the rumors certainly hadn't died down.
He realized that he should stop his musings and focus more on the potion he was preparing when he cut his finger with the knife he had been cutting roots up with. He stuck his finger in his mouth quickly and scowled at his knife and the spots of blood on the work table. He got his wand out with his good hand and cleared the roots and the blood away. He didn't know what effect his blood would have on the potion but thought it a horrible idea to find out.
He got up to get a plaster from the supply closet and got back to work, starting over with a new root. The whole while Snape hadn't said a word. The whole class was rather silent till the end. While they were cleaning up, Snape made an announcement.
"I am starting a potions research project and am currently looking for student volunteers who wish to earn extra credit," he said. "I will primarily be looking for assistance from NEWT level students, however there are some more mundane tasks that will be more appropriate for lower level students. Dismissed."
"Ugh," Ron said as they walked out of the classroom. "That's like volunteering for a detention with Snape. Who'd want to do that?"
Harry gave a pointed look at Hermione.
"As if," Hermione said, aghast.
He felt bad for interrupting her work. Since term had gotten well into swing, it seemed that Hermione did nothing but work and study. Which wasn't too unusual, but Harry wasn't used to the somewhat frantic edge she had taken to in all of her work. Still though, the question had been gnawing at him since the first week of term.
"So, what do you know?" he asked her. Ron was playing a game of chess with his sister, so Harry had Hermione to himself in the relative privacy of their corner of the library.
"Quite a lot actually," Hermione said. "Perhaps you could narrow down the topic for me."
"About the thing we talked about at the start of term," he said.
"Oh that," Hermione said. "Well if I had to guess, I would say that Professor Snape is your father."
"What?" he asked. "How could you have possibly come to that conclusion?"
"Well, you made it clear that there was some terrible secret tied in to the hemophilia. Through my research, the biggest thing that popped up was the hereditary nature of the illness. So if there is some big secret, it would seem to be that one or both of your parents wasn't actually your biological parent. You mentioned that in the same letter they told you about the hemophilia that they mentioned both Professor Lupin and Professor Snape, so they're all I really had to go on. Now you seem to like Professor Lupin and you do despise Professor Snape, and when I asked you if you had any other options for your summer situation, you gave a most emphatic no. So, given all of the evidence, which you gave me by trying to keep it a secret by the way, I must say that my best guess is that Professor Snape is your biological father."
Harry noticed that she wasn't asking him if she was right.
"So how do I make sure no one else comes to that conclusion?" Harry asked.
"Well to start with," Hermione said. "You could just say, 'I have hemophilia, I got it from my dad.' You don't actually have to treat it like a big secret."
"But what if someone knows that my dad didn't have it?" Harry asked.
"It's an easily manageable illness. While you definitely should tell the school nurse that you have it," here Hermione gave him a pointed look. "It is certainly possible that a family, particularly a pureblood family, would want to keep it a secret. You can easily say that he had it and kept it a secret."
"It's as easy as that?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Hermione said.
They sat in pensive silence for a moment, and Harry thought Hermione had gone back to her homework when she spoke up again.
"So what are you going to do?" she asked.
"Who said I'm going to do anything?" Harry asked.
"Well you keep on looking at him now and then like you want to say something. Are you going to talk to him about it?" she asked.
"What? No, of course not. I mean how would that go? 'So, you know how you're always talking about my dad?'" he said with a sneer that wasn't directed at Hermione. "Not that he's not my dad really, James I mean. My dad's James, 'cause that's not what Snape is. You know?"
"Did he know?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, yeah," Harry said. "That's why I look like him. He did this spell that, like, put a bit of himself into me. So he's like, really my dad in more ways than that he raised me for a year. But he knew before they got married."
"Wait, how long…" Hermione started.
"Oh, it's complicated…." Harry said before realizing that the truth was probably way better than whatever Hermione might imagine would cause Severus Snape to be his father. So once more looking around for anyone who might overhear, he told her.
"So they weren't just friends in Hogwarts. They dated for a while in their fifth year until they had a big fight and broke up. Then my mom found out she was pregnant. She found a potion that would let her keep the pregnancy on hold until later. Then she got together with my dad, and told him before they got married. Then they had me during the war 'cause she was worried she might get hurt and never have me."
That last part made him blush. It felt very odd to know how much they had wanted to have him. Though in an odd way, he found he was glad to have told Hermione the story. At least in part.
"And she never told Professor Snape?" Hermione said.
"It's complicated," Harry found himself saying again, though this time he didn't think he could elaborate. He didn't think he could tell her about the Death Eater business without talking about his mothers hopes and suspicions about Snape's true loyalties, and she had wanted those to be a secret.
Hermione waited for him to elaborate, and seeing that he wasn't, asked, "so what do you want to say to him?"
"Who says I want to say anything?" Harry asked.
She gave him a look that clearly said 'I'm not stupid.'
"It's just…" Harry started. "I want to know why. What did she see in him? Why did he break her heart? And what if they had stayed together? Would they have been happy? Would they still be alive maybe? Would I have been happy growing up with him as a… a father? And just thinking that seems disloyal to my real dad, but I want to know and I can't get it out of my head. Even though I don't need a father. I'm doing just fine without one."
"Harry just because you are somewhat self sufficient and have gotten by without a father doesn't mean you couldn't benefit from one," Hermione said.
Harry chewed on that for a bit. "Yeah, but Snape?"
"I don't know," Hermione said. "But you don't have to see him as your dad if you don't want to or don't feel comfortable, you can still get to know him, and maybe find some answers."
Harry didn't want to think about it anymore. "Got to go," he said suddenly. "Quidditch practice," he said. It was still early.
"I'll go with you," Hermione said.
Since he had found that banner over his bed, worse things had been done to show Harry that he wasn't welcome at Hogwarts. In his home. Being tripped up in the halls and having his book bag split open from a spell was the least of it. Ron and Hermione had taken to making sure he didn't walk the halls alone. Even the quidditch team had taken to casually running into him and walking with him wherever he was going. Harry though, occasionally liked some alone time. Besides that, Hermione had far too much work to spend time child minding him.
"You don't have to," Harry said.
"I won't talk about Snape anymore," Hermione placated.
"You also won't get any more work done," Harry pointed out.
Hermione frowned. "Ron," she called. "Say bye to Harry, he's going to quidditch practice."
"Oh, I'll go with you," Ron said.
Harry heard Ginny make a small disappointed sigh as she looked at their unfinished game. Ron looked at it as well, and, taking out his wand with a look of concentration, he pointed it at the board and said, "Wingardium Leviosa." The pieces all gave a cry of alarm and indignation as the board rose up to float next to Ron. "Come on," he said to his sister.
The three of them left the library with the chess board floating between the two siblings.
"Did you have a fight with Hermione," Ron asked. "Only it's a bit early to be leaving for quidditch." He told one of the pieces to make a move.
"Not really," Harry said. "I just needed to get out of the library."
"I know that feeling," Ron said. "In that case, can we stop off at the owlery, I told 'Mione I'd post a letter to her parents."
Harry thought Ron had had the same idea of saving Hermione time with her very large work load.
"Sure," he said. "Do you want to send it with Hedwig? She'd love to do a delivery."
"That'd be great," Ron said. "It must be nice to have an owl that's reliable."
"Is Errol not doing well?" Harry asked. He remembered the old owl struggling to deliver his birthday gift that summer.
"It's not just that," Ron said. "He disappeared a couple of times over the summer. Mum thought the twins were owl ordering something they didn't want her to know about, but even they seemed worried about him. Of course, now they've been sending off owls like mad since they got here this year. Then Scabbers even disappeared for a bit. I thought he'd finally bit the dust somewhere we wouldn't find him for a bit."
Harry had noticed earlier that Scabbers, Ron's pet rat, had been looking a bit ragged of late. Ron had taken to leaving him asleep on his bed rather than carrying him around in his pocket as he had done previously.
"So why is Hermione writing her parents about your chess game?" Ginny asked after making a move of her own.
"What?" Ron asked.
Earlier, Hermione had gotten Ron to tell her all of the moves from the game they had played against the giant chess set their first year while he had been playing with his sister. Harry was surprised that Ron had remembered them all. Hermione had written it all down without explaining why she had wanted it in the first place.
"I think she put that parchment she'd written it all down on in the envelope," Ginny said.
"She's probably still trying to get me to do that chess project," Ron said. "Though I have no idea what her angle is here."
Harry was suddenly distracted when one of his books was ripped out of his hand.
"Hey," he said, turning around to find his book in the hand of an older Slytherin boy.
"Let's play a game, Potter," the boy said. His friend next to him was snickering.
"Give it here," Harry said angrily. He heard the chess board clatter to the ground as Ron lost concentration.
"Oh, I'll give it back," the boy said. "But let's play our game first. It's called fetch. You know how to play fetch don't you. Of course you do, you mongrel, it's practically an instinct for you isn't it?" He threw the book down the hall. "Go on, fetch it. Bring it here."
Harry glared angrily at him, he wasn't about to go get it with these two staring at him. The other boy was having a hard time controlling his laughter.
"Fetch it, I said," The boy sneered. "Go on, get it boy. Fetch boy, be a good boy, a good doggy."
"Don't call me that," Harry said, furious now. His wand was out now, but neither Slytherin looked concerned about a couple of third years' spell casting.
"Oh I suppose I shouldn't, should I. No one would mistake you for man's best friend, man's worst enemy more like it. Monsters among us."
"You'd know all about man's worst enemy, wouldn't you?" Ron asked. "Seeing as your mum served him, Eckelson."
"Don't you talk about my mum, you blood traitor. It's trash like your disgraceful family that's letting filth infiltrate our society. It's bleeding hearts like you that stopped us from doing the sensible thing and putting rabid beasts like this one down." He had his wand out now. The older boy, Eckelson, had a hand in Harry's hair yanking his head back with his wand at his neck, but if he intended to use it, or if he could disarm him fast enough Harry wouldn't find out, because both of the older boys were suddenly flipped over backwards several times, landing hard against the wall behind them.
Harry was worried for a moment that he had done accidental magic, but a glance to his side showed a very angry Ginny Weasley brandishing a wand at where the two boys had stood. Her anger suddenly turned to worry and the wand was suddenly put away, and with her head downcast her whole body screamed shame.
"Come on then," Ron said, a guiding hand on his sisters back and a few messy flicks of his wand gathering up the chess pieces. They headed down the hall and Ron stooped down to hand Harry his book.
"Um," Harry said. "Are they going to be alright?" he asked.
"They'll be fine," Ron said. "They're wizards… unfortunately." He turned to his sister. "That was great Gin, where'd you learn that?"
But Ginny didn't say anything. She tore herself away from her brother and ran down a side corridor.
Practice would have been fun, he thought, in spite of the dementors off in the distance. There were times when he could almost feel the pull of the flying spectres, the pitch wasn't too far from the wall they patrolled, but being up in the air flying seemed to mitigate the effects. It would have been fun if he hadn't been spooked beforehand, when he had taken off the plaster that he had put on in potions earlier that day. His finger was still seeping blood though it hadn't been a deep cut at all.
Nervously, he pulled out his wand and cast the diagnostic charm on himself. His wand glowed red, and he almost dropped it. He quickly cast the appropriate spell upon himself and recast the diagnostic charm. Blue; but it should have been blue the first time. It shouldn't have worn off. Had he cast it wrong again? Both times he had tested himself after he had cast the charm, and both times the diagnostic had confirmed that the spell was working just fine. Why was it wearing off so quickly? What was he doing wrong?
He got another plaster from the Quidditch supplies, vowed to check himself more often, and went out to fly, while trying not to think about it.
Besides that, he might have expected to think about the older Slytherin for the rest of the evening, but it was Snape he thought about throughout quidditch practice, which didn't go well; Wood wasn't happy. Harry didn't think of the older Slytherin until he saw him on the way back to the castle.
He was scowling at Harry, perched in a corner of the entry hall, and not looking at all happy to see that Harry was walking back with the twins. Harry realized that the other boy had been waiting for him to come back, hoping he would be alone. A while ago he probably would have been. He was usually the last one out of the changing room by five or ten minutes, usually taking his time to maintain his gear after practice. Now, however, one of the older players made sure to walk him back. He'd been convinced that everyone was over reacting, but now his mind wandered to what might have happened if he had been walking alone just then.
Harry couldn't wait until the next full moon. It was coming soon and Harry planned to make sure there were plenty of witnesses present to see him not transform into a werewolf. He said as much to the Weasley twins as they made their way up to the tower.
"We'll have to throw a party then," said George.
"Yeah, rub their noses in it," said Fred.
"I don't think anyone who thinks I'm a werewolf will actually be at the party though," Harry said.
"Well that'll be their comeuppance," George said.
"No party for them," said Fred.
"Might be safer for them if they're not eating sweets at a party you're throwing," Harry said with a grin.
"Maybe we'll put in a little something so everyone'll grow fur and fangs," Fred said with a wicked look.
"Sure, if you want a mass panic," Harry scoffed.
"Oh Harry, we must indoctrinate you in the ways of chaos," George said.
"You have an invisibility cloak for crying out loud," Fred cried in a whisper.
"The mischief you get up to, you could be the best of us if you'd only apply yourself," George said.
"Now you sound like mum," Fred said.
"Flibbertigibbet," Harry said the mouthful to the portrait that guarded Gryffindor tower.
"Wait here," Fred said.
"We've got a sneak preview to show you," George said.
"If it involves me sprouting fur and fangs, I think I'll pass if that's alright," Harry said.
The twins just grinned at him and ran upstairs.
Harry waved to Hermione who was studying intensely in the corner. She didn't notice him. Quidditch had run late, as it usually did, and the common room was mostly empty.
The twins were soon back, and one of them was holding a ball with a thick leather glove on his hand. The other was carrying a mat, which he laid out in the corner, and what looked like a thick sheet of parchment. They beckoned Harry towards them.
"Observe," said Fred as he held the parchment a few feet in the air. He tapped it with his wand and let go. It hung there suspended in the air. George was holding the ball and he tossed it with his gloved hand at the parchment. Where the ball met parchment tiny confetti went out the other end along with the ball leaving a hole roughly the size of the ball in the parchment. The ball continued on, as if it had hit nothing at all and landed on the mat.
"I don't get it," Harry said.
"Look," said Fred. "Look at the hole."
Harry took a closer look. Around the edges, small bits of confettied parchment still clung, and Harry saw the small pieces reintegrate themselves into the parchment slowly. Harry wasn't sure at this point if the twins creation was the ball or the paper.
"So it's paper that'll fix itself if it gets torn?" he asked. "Hermione might like that I suppose."
"Harry, Harry, Harry," Fred said shaking his head. "You're not seeing the bigger picture."
"Might need to iron out a few things before anyone sees the big picture," George said.
"We need to iron out more than a few things," said Fred.
"So what is the big picture?" Harry asked.
"You'll see," said George.
"Just remember," said Fred. "When we're rich and famous, you can say you were there when it all started."
"When what started?" Harry asked.
"Night Harry," Fred said, as George used his gloved hand to pick up the ball. Fred gathered the rest of their props and followed, leaving a confused Harry and a small littering of confetti behind. He ran upstairs and grabbed his book bag. Ron was getting ready for bed and they exchanged a few words about Quidditch before Harry went down stairs and sat by Hermione. He still had homework to finish and a bit to read for defense. Luckily, he had never needed that much sleep to be alert the next day.
Harry and Hermione worked for a while in silence. Hermione offered to read his essay when he was done, but Harry declined. He was fairly sure he had done decently and Hermione looked like she was about to fall asleep. When Hermione started packing up her homework, the rest of the common room was empty, and Harry figured he had read far enough ahead for defense.
"So I'm thinking about volunteering to be one of Snape's lab assistants," Harry said without preamble.
"No," Hermione said. "You don't want to do that."
"Well I don't want to," Harry said. "But I think I should."
"He'll just say no," she said. "You need to do a potions project. One that will require his supervision."
"Can't he just say no to that?" Harry asked.
"Not if your grades are decent, which they are, and you submit a well thought out project plan," Hermione said. "He would need a good reason to say no then, which he won't have."
"That won't exactly give me alone time with him, I'd be sharing lab time with everybody else," Harry said.
"Maybe an atmosphere where you aren't alone together is the best way to start," Hermione said. "Of course if you are looking to form some sort of bond, you might just tell him everything."
"No," Harry said. "I'm not telling him. Not unless... I'm just not going to tell him yet, or ever probably."
"So what's the point then?" Hermione asked.
Harry thought about it for a bit.
"I don't know," he said finally. "I just want to see where it goes."
Hermione sighed. "Well try to figure it out. In the meantime we'll put together a project for you. Are you going to tell Ron?"
Harry shrugged. "I probably should."
"Well it's late," Hermione said. "We can work on this tomorrow."
Harry bade Hermione goodnight and went up to his dorm. Quickly changing for bed, Harry pulled back the curtains and stopped when he saw a potted plant on his pillow with dark purple flowers. It was Wolfsbane.
Author's Note: Well I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am very excited for the next chapter. In fact, I almost tacked on a few thousand more words to this chapter to get it all in here.
I hope you all have been reading excellent FF since my last update, and that you will find more between now and my next update.