A.N. It's been awhile since I updated. This story may still take awhile to get thru. I'm not ever the kind to withhold a chapter til I get a certain amount of comments, but it does remind me that people are still finding and caring about my story on the web. Sorry it's a short chapter. I write in short bursts. Expect another one soon tho.
After the lunch, Snape finally got around to getting dressed, surprisingly in just slacks and a button up, and told Harry to put on a sweater because the rest of the castle was cool. They needed to go visit the Headmaster. Harry ran to his new room and pulled on the oversized green hoodie that Snape had given him to use earlier; he liked it. It was the warmest, softest hoodie he'd ever used, lined with fleece on the inside, and had a faint smell of snakeweed. Snape eyed him with amusement but said nothing when he caught Harry wrapped up in the oversize hoodie. It made the boy look younger than the eleven he still was. He wasn't as tall as an eleven-year-old should be. He looked eight at the most, but Lily always looked really young as well.
They headed out the front door, and Snape introduced Harry to the portrait that guarded the entrance, which was the portrait of, surprisingly, a kind-looking elderly lady. She was the wife of an old Slytherin head of house, but she seemed to have a happy disposition and smiled sincerely at Harry. Snape told him the password and the pair continued on their way.
Harry almost skipped down the halls. Hogwarts was home, and it was magical, and despite him still having nightmares about Quirrel and Voldemort, it was better to be here than in his cupboard. Dumbledore invited them in warmly and motioned them to sit down. "Harry my boy!" Dumbledore's twinkling blue eyes gave away the smile you couldn't see well under his beard. "How was your trip here?" Snape noticed that Harry's smile back seemed forced, and his reply tense, and his mood no longer that of a happy, skipping little boy, but one with a grudge. This threw Snape off; he thought Dumbledore was Harry's favorite.
Harry couldn't help but remember the last time he had been in this office.
"Professor?" Dumbledore looked up from the paperwork he was doing and motioned Harry in with a twinkly smile. The old wizard invited Harry to sit and asked what he could do for Harry that fine day. Harry was finally healed from all his injuries from finding the sorcerer's stone and there was only a few days left until he was supposed to be packing for Surrey. "I wanted to know if there was any possible way I could stay at Hogwarts for the summer break, kinda like I did for Christmas break." Dumbledore's eyes narrowed at the inquiry and slowly shook his head.
"Don't be silly Harry; your family must miss you after a year of not seeing you. Anyways, most of the staff goes home for the summer and there would be nobody here to take care of you." The conversation was over as Dumbledore stood and all but pushed Harry out of his office.
Snape wasn't the only one who noticed Harry's mood. Dumbledore's smile disappeared as well. He looked sadly at Harry before cutting straight to the chase.
"I'm sorry about this summer, Harry. We would have found some place for you to stay like we are doing now, if we had known." Harry's tense shoulders didn't relax even as Dumbledore continued, "Professor Snape will be your magical and muggle guardian for now. It's not an adoption, just a guardianship, kind of like what your aunt and uncle had. I have the papers here that I need you to sign Severus and I'll take care of filing them with the Ministry and the muggle authorities."
Harry sat stiffly the rest of the brief meeting while Snape signed papers. He felt dumb, and a little angry with himself as they walked back to the apartment down in the dungeons. Nobody had ever really cared before, and he finally had a minute to think about the past 24 hours. Severus Snape was now in charge of him. He hadn't been much of a git to Harry in the last day or two really. People usually didn't like Harry right away, so the old Snape wasn't that different from most people. He remembered asking someone why once.
"Get away from there, boy!" Harry looked up at the man who had shouted at him. The man wasn't very tall, but his eyes were angry. His apron suggested he worked at the shop. Harry hadn't been touching anything, but he could imagine what the man thought he was doing- Stealing. Harry took a step back and apologized immediately. "I'm sorry sir, I just like reading the titles. I wasn't touching them. I swear!" The man looked at Harry wearily. "Alright. Where's your mum?" Harry shrugged his shoulders, not wanting to answer honestly, and he had no idea where Aunt Petunia had gone. "I'm not sure where my aunt went. Can I wait for her here?" The man sighed. "Yeah. Go ahead. Stand up by the counter though so I can see you." Harry followed the man to the counter.
"Why do people think im always stealing?" Harry half-muttered to himself, but the man went ahead and answered.
"Cause you're a dirty, half-starved looking little boy," Harry looked thoughtful for a minute, but the man continued. "but you got these bright little eyes that put people on edge, like your scheming. Honestly, you remind people what's wrong with this world."
Harry never quite understood what the man meant, but thinking back to that day, asking a question got him something good. The bookkeeper ended up letting him read a book until Petunia came back that evening for him. Harry decided to go ahead and just ask Snape what had been on his mind.
They got back to the apartment without a word, and Snape opened the door. Harry curled back up with the spell book he had left on the end table, but didn't open it. Snape left the room, came back with a book of his own, and sat down next to Harry. He didn't open it either. Harry decided to blurt it out why he still had the courage.
"Why are you being nice to me? I thought you hated me. You were so mean to me, especially that first day of school, but then you came and got me from the Dursleys. You fed me, you bought me books, you're going to let me live with you…" Harry started out racing the words, but faded off once he realized he had Snape's full attention turned on him. Snape's eyes were sad, guilt filling them.
"Harry…" he began, "I'm sorry, about last year especially. I owe you more than just an apology, tho. I owe you an explanation, even if it is an inexcusable one." Harry put down his book again, and snuggled further into the green hoodie and nodded for Snape to continue, listening but not making eye contact. "Your mother, Lily, was my best friend from childhood. Your father, James…" Snape's fist bunched up at this name. Even after all this time, the anger hadn't really subsided, but it wasn't okay to take it out on Harry like he had.
A small hand on his fist made him start and look at Harry, who had turned to face him with wide eyes. "Go on..." Harry whispered to him.
"Your father was my childhood rival, and made it his goal to make me absolutely miserable while I was at Hogwarts."
"I look just like he did, don't I?" Harry's voice was quiet. Snape did not have the heart to admit to this small boy that he had treated him horribly just because the boy resembled his late father. Harry did not need the answer said aloud, though, because he knew the answer. Harry just nodded for a second; he thought he understood. "It's like how I don't like Dudley cause he looks like Uncle Vernon." Snape snorted, but not out of complete amusement. A second passed before Harry worked up the nerve to ask, "So what changed…?"
"I realized you looked like Lily…but then I realized something else…You're just Harry. You are both of them, and you are just you, and you deserve a better childhood then either of them, or I, had." Severus was pleased with the way he summed everything up without making Harry feel bad.
Harry did not answer for a second. Then, slowly, he stood up and turned to Snape.
"One more question…" the voice wavered a touch. "Will you keep being nice to me?" Snape just stood up and crossed to Harry in one step, embracing him in a hug, which seemed like the best way to reassure Harry.
"Harry, you have my promise. I will treat you as a best friend, and care for you as a son. I can't promise I'll always be the nicest person, but I will never hate you. I will always protect you. I promise."