A/N: Soooooooo... I am sorry about the wait... It was a bit of a busy period for me. But here is another chapter. And a little tip of the veil that's thrown over Sam's past. Okay , a very little tip.
Thanks for all the kind reviews you posted, I hope you all will continue to read the story and treat me with such kindness.
"Do you realize what will happen if you refuse, girl? We're counting on you, all of us!" The man looked down on the young girl with a stern and disappointed look on his face.
"But, but sir! I don't want to do this!" The young girl had tears sliding down her cheeks, and her voice was hoarse with the overload of suppressed tears.
"You will abide by my will as Head of House! You will abide by what is best for your House! And you will sign the contract, or it'll be the loss of your magic!" The man's face turned an angry red.
The girl backed away quickly, all the while shaking her head in a desperate denial of the situation and the order her Head of House had given. She did not see the hand coming, and the force behind it made her face turn. Her cheek glowed red and stung painfully.
Not believing he actually hit her, she brought her hand to her cheek. Unbelieving she turned her eyes up to the man's face. She saw no remorse, no regret, only forbidding anger and a dominating will.
"I don't care how it'll come about. You will sign." The man turned towards two figures in the back of the large room. He gave an almost unobservable gesture to the two. But the girl saw nonetheless.
"No, please sir! No, please! Anything but them, anything but THAT!" The girl begged the man.
No reply came, and with a frightened whimper of the girl at his back, he closed the door leaving the girl alone with the two figures. It wasn't long before the girl's screams could be heard through the thick double doors.
Sam shot up straight in her bed. It had been ages since she dreamed of that night. She had almost believed it would not come back to haunt her anymore. She should've known better. It always came back to bite her in the arse. Unconsciously she moved her hands over her arms, as if checking if her skin was still all there. To many times in her younger years it hadn't been, as punishment.
With a curse she lifted herself off of the mattress. She had thought more and more about the past since Harry's letter had arrived. Now, with the letter from Severus and the issues arising within Hogwarts, her past seemed to dog her every step.
She walked into the kitchen, determined to chase the dream away with a strong cup of coffee. On the table she saw Fred's unfinished letter to Harry. She smiled despite her mood and trembling limbs. Those two kept up their sibling relation most vigorously. Every week, if not two per week, they send out letters to each other. In it, apparently, they spoke of what they couldn't tell her.
After making herself her coffee, Sam leant on the counter. Her face pensive, she absent-mindedly took a sip. Those days before she ran away had been engraved in her soul. Nothing would please her more than to confront her old Head of House and to be able to tell him where he could stick his authority. But that was impossible, especially now when she had to consider the effect of her actions on Harry.
Severus knew now what his life had been like. And could make a pretty damn accurate description of it. Yes, if one teacher would comprehend what Harry's life was like it would be him. Still, she wished he hadn't thrown out his secret so rashly. After all, he still remained a teacher and could act in his 'best interests'. That could include placing him in a wizards home, instead of keeping him with her.
If that was Harry's wish, she knew she'd abide by it. But what she really feared, was that they would be able to manipulate and coerce him in a position where he couldn't refuse them. And she wasn't there, standing next to him, to point out the traps the people could set up for him.
She sighed and put her cup back on the counter. This sort of thinking only depressed her more. An accomplishment as her mood already was pretty dark. Her instincts were screaming at her. She decided right there and then that Harry would spend Christmas at home with them. Whether he liked it or not. She wanted him out of that castle, so she could talk to him one-on-one and find out how much trouble the wizards were causing for her young charge.
Severus Snape looked at the boy, no actually young man or was it a boy? Anyway, he was looking at the first year Gryffindor (yes, his mind supplied, that works) who looked at him with a serious and determined expression.
It was clear as day for the spy that Potter hadn't slept that night, or at least not more than two or three hours. Then, his mind processed what Harry had said.
"Dumbledore is using me as bait for Voldemort." The kid had said. His muscles locked down and Severus froze on the spot. The magic of his oath to Lily rose to the surface.
Like hell will that old codger use her child as bait! He seethed in the privacy of his mind.
With a curt gesture, Snape invited Harry inside of his private quarters. He looked at the boy, seemingly impassively, as he looked around his quarters before settling down on the edge of his sofa. The boy had clearly deemed his quarters passable, he thought derisively.
Well, of course, a small voice inside his head piped up, considering what he was used to before Hogwarts.
Snape had to concede to the voice. Harry had not known any luxury before he came to Hogwarts, that much was clear.
"Do you mind to elaborate that statement, mr. Potter?" He asked the boy with a smooth voice, bellying the wariness that hid in his heart.
Harry stood up from the sofa and paced in the space between it and the coffee table. Could he really tell the professor what went on his head? What he had deduced just from the beast in the third corridor? He sighed mentally, he knew he had to confide in somebody. And Sam wasn't much help here. Though he could really do with one of her smothering hugs right now.
"Okay, so before I say anything… Don't be angry." Harry started. Well. He thought to himself sarcastically, that surely helps set the tone of this conversation.
Snape looked at him unreadable. With a quick nod, however, he conveyed his agreement. The professor realized that whatever happened since he last saw the eleven year old had to be huge.
"Okay, so last night… Neville and I brought Hermione back to her common room. That is, Hermione Granger. We talked for a bit more before she went in and Neville and I realized that it was already past curfew." Harry paused for a second. Snape had to suppress a smirk. That was the reason the boy asked for him to refrain from anger.
Since it was for such an innocent reason, and very chivalrous he snorted sarcastically to himself, he decided to let it pass.
When Snape made no comment about him being out past curfew, Harry continued.
"We tried to make it back to Gryffindor tower as quickly as possible. But we crossed paths with Filch's cat. And well, we really didn't fancy point deductions and detention so we made a run for it."
Predictable, Snape commented in his head. Every other student would have the same reaction to see that walking skeleton when they were out after hours.
"We made our way through a hidden passageway and finally came out near the Charms corridor."
Snape had a foreboding feeling creeping up at him. Near the Charms corridor, he cursed to himself. Of all the rotten luck. He knew now what happened last night. Not that he was all too pleased about that. But the two first years had mainly tried to escape a confrontation with the sullen and bitter Squib.
"When we stood still to catch our breaths," Longbottom, Snape supplied to himself. "Filch's voice reached us. We really had no way out and found a locked door, it opened under an 'alohamora'." Harry stuttered for a moment but realized he couldn't find words to adequately describe their confrontation with the three-headed beast.
"From your silence I can only conclude that you have had an encounter with that infernal beast that goes by the name Fluffy." Snape decided to take pity on him. Lord knows that he had a quiet freak out when he first saw the first line of defense for the Philosopher's stone.
Harry nodded silently.
"I understand your shock after meeting such an, well let's call it interesting, creature. But that does not explain how you came to the conclusion that headmaster Dumbledore is making you out as 'bait' for the Dark Lord." In the smooth sentences lay the clear demand; explain!
"Well, after we ran like bats out of hell back to our common room, we really needed a moment our two to get over our shock. And then we started to think; why would a beast like that be inside the castle? And well, the only thing we could come up with, was that it was a guardian for something." Harry started to explain their thinking process.
"I asked Neville what the worst scenario was that he could think of. He immediately replied that Vol- You-Know-Who being alive was pretty much the worst scenario. I thought he was kidding, but then we started to work from that vantage point." Snape groaned mentally at that. He had witnessed how Neville Longbottom started to think logically, spurred on by Harry himself. He had seen how the young and chubby boy learned to think for himself.
"So we came up with this. If He is alive, then what was the dog guarding? Something that was powerful and maybe could bring him back to power. And professor Dumbledore was safeguarding it for the previous owner of said object. Then it would explain why the dog was inside the castle."Harry took a deep breath.
"But that deduction makes more questions rise to the surface. And here was the crux, professor; what does Hogwarts have in common with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named that it hadn't last year? Because it seems foolish to think that all of a sudden this year You-Know-Who will try to make a grab for it, and not the year before." Harry fell silent again.
Severus sat in his chair as if he had been struck by lightning. He had never thought about that. Albus had told him about his fears and suspicions that the Dark Lord may try to steal the Philosopher's Stone from the Flamels. But never did he explain why now all of a sudden. Then the first question once again flashed through his mind. What did Hogwarts indeed have in common with the Dark Lord this year. And to his horror he understood what Harry had been trying to say; they both had Harry in common.
Revulsion rose in him. He knew that Harry was right. Albus had told him that he didn't know in what state the Dark Lord was. Was he corporeal, a spirit, using a golem? He hadn't brought the Stone to Hogwarts just for safekeeping, he wanted to find out about the Dark Lord. It was a trap as well. And though the Stone was the big chunk of cheese dangling in front of him, Harry was the breadcrumbs that made the road to the cheese all the more worthwhile.
While Snape was having his epiphany, outside he was showing nothing more than a slight widening of his eyes. But it was enough for Harry. He realized that Snape had come to the same disgusting conclusion about the Headmaster as he and Neville had last night. He sat back on the sofa, waiting patiently for Snape to overcome his shock over this revelation.
After five minutes, he saw the dark eyes gaining focus once more.
"Professor?" He asked hesitantly. He didn't know what to do about this. How does one stop being bait, while he was locked up inside the trap for all intent and purposes? He desperately wanted out of this, but what way was the exit?
Harry was a street kid, he did not do fights when they weren't needed. He knew what it meant to be hunted. Be it by gangs, or the bobbies. And you only fought against them, when it was too late to run.
"Yes, mr. Potter?" His professor's voice was deeper.
"Do, do you think that I am correct in thinking this sir?" Harry really needed some guidance here, and hey; better guided by one who he could at least partially trust through the mark then some strange adult.
Snape was silent for a couple of heartbeats, then he started talking.
"I think it is a fairly correct assumption to base future actions on, mr. Potter. This, however, does not mean that professor Dumbledore is not concerned about your welfare. Is he making you act as partial bait for the Dark Lord? Mayhap. Does that mean he will let you fall to an ill fate? Not likely."
Harry thought this through. It was a fine line his Potions professor explained, but he understood the difference. Dumbledore may callously dangle him in front of Voldemort, but in his other hand was his wand, ready to curse him silly if he even tried to hurt him.
But that didn't make it right! Harry's inner voice protested vehemently against his rationalizations. He was just a first-year student, you don't dangle first-year students on a hook. Hell, you don't dangle seventh-year students on a hook. Per definition!
"It is still immoral for a headmaster," disdain dripped from Harry's voice. "He is supposed to be safeguarding us, teaching us and watching over us." Harry snorted to himself.
Snape looked at him. "It seems that you are an exception in that rule."
Harry chuckled mirthlessly at that. Yes it seemed he was the exception of a lot of things. He was the last of the Potter line, he was the appointed heir of the Black fortune and was brought up as a street kid. Not many pureblood aristocrats could say the same thing. Though it did give him an edge over the rest of them.
They couldn't say much after this and soon after Harry left the professor's quarters to head for breakfast. Neville and him were sitting in silence. At the end of breakfast Harry could see that Neville wanted to ask what the professor had said to him, but with a look Harry made clear that now was not the time for that conversation.
Together, they made their way to their History lesson. As always, Harry was the only one who diligently took notes. He knew Neville tried, he really did. But he always seemed to be under the thrall of sleep that Binns' voice so easily called forth. Today, at first looked it seemed no different. But Neville was not in his normal daydreaming trance. He was actually thinking over everything that Harry and him had talked about. And he was more than curious what professor Snape had said in response to their theory.
The week passed and Harry was yet again indecisive what to do about Christmas break. Or Yule, whatever. He was scared that if he tried to go home Dumbledore would stop him, or worse investigate his home situation. But he also didn't want to remain here at Hogwarts, under his thumb. Plus he missed Sam and Fred like crazy.
On the last day he made his decision; he would go to London for Christmas. The Headmaster didn't have the authority to stop him, and he didn't know if his relatives would like him to come back for the holidays or not. As long as nobody noticed that he hadn't lived there for the longest time, it would all be okay. Harry also wanted to talk to Sam about Neville, trying to convince her to let him in on their secret.
He could not do that by letter. He knew Sam wanted to see his face, and he needed to see hers, when they talked about that. Plus, he actually wanted to see if she was willing to talk about Snape and her time together. Okay, that sounded really weird in his head.
Nothing else happened until a few days before their break started. Hermione had pressed both Neville and Harry about what happened to get them in such a funk. They both had skirted around the subject. It wasn't that they didn't trust Hermione, but they just knew that she would never believe their discovery about Dumbledore. She just had this infallible belief in authority figures. That and books.
They had tried to instill in her that real life experience was much more valuable to have than book knowledge, but she had looked at the two boys as if they were spouting blasphemy. They had to let it go for the sake of their friendship, but realizing that Hermione had to learn that lesson the hard way; through life experience.
That morning Harry was walking aimlessly around the hallways. He already had packed the night before and he therefore had a few hours to spare while the rest of the Houses were frantically gathering their stuff.
He saw a door in the hallway on the fifth floor, while he could swear that in this corridor there weren't any doors at all. Curiously, he opened the door further than the small slit it showed before. To his disappointment, it was just an old unused classroom. He made to leave when his eye fell on the object in the back of it. There, completely out of place, stood a more-than-men-high mirror. It had a beautiful dark wooden frame, and Harry could see that there were letters carved on the top of it.
He looked at the inscription with a frown forming on his face. He never saw the language in which it was written. It was hard to figure out the letters, they were old-fashioned, and the carving had faded slightly. Finally he could make out the words:
"Erised stra ehru oyt cafr oyt on woshi"
"Well, that makes it all wonderfully clear," Harry spoke sarcastically to the rest of the room. He casted a spare glance to his reflection in the mirror. At first he only saw himself, young scrawny, and with the almost unnoticeable scar just above his collar in his neck. He turned back to head out of the room, when something out of the corner of his eye made his turn back frantically.
And he did see it! There were other people in the mirror! Harry shivered. He had met enough crazy old gipsy ladies on the streets of London to know of their superstition about mirrors. Was this mirror a soul sucker? Did it trap the souls of those who died, disabling them from moving on?
But the people in the mirror didn't look sad, or angry, or desperate. They were smiling at him, looking proud. And when he looked closely, he saw Sam standing directly behind. She had her arms wrapped around his neck from behind, one hand resting on the top of his head scuffling his hair.
On both sides of her, stood a man and a woman. The man had the same dark hair as him and an almost identical face. The woman had fiery red hair, and his green eyes. Next to the woman stood professor Snape, his sleeves rolled up and proudly showing his mark. Harry casted a glance at his own sleeves. His were rolled up as well. Harry looked on as he saw the man grab his arm, hiding the mark. He had a sad but proud expression on his face.
The same was true for the professor. Harry looked and looked. He saw people he had seen dying back in that mirror. And with a jolt he suddenly realized.
"My family…" he whispered horrified. He backed away with a few stumbling steps. The mirage scared the crap out of him. He knew his parents were dead. He knew that the professor could not be the way this mirror showed. The only thing true about that mirror was the way Sam hugged him fiercely. He fled out of the classroom. All he wanted in that moment was Sam's arms around him for real. He wanted to go home.
Sadly this wasn't meant to be. As he was about to flee out of the door, he crashed into an overly bright wall of velvet that stopped him in his tracks. Old hands steadied the boy, and he heard an amused chuckle from above him. Looking up, his horror grew as he saw he crashed head-long into Dumbledore.
"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't notice you entering." He spoke frantically. He wanted out, now! He was surprised that his voice didn't rose or crack in his distress.
"Quite alright, my boy!" The old man cheerfully responded. "You seemed in an awful hurry. Haven't packed everything yet for the Holidays?"
"No, sir. I mean, yes sir. I already packed everything." Harry rambled. Dumbledore kept a hand on his shoulder.
"Then, why…" Dumbledore looked curiously around the classroom before his eyes fell on the mirror. "Ah, I understand. You've discovered the Mirror of Erised."
"That's the creepy mirror's name?" Harry blurted out.
The hand on his shoulder squeezed for a moment. Harry forced himself not to cringe. This was the man who had no qualms to throw him to the lions, or well the snake he supposed.
"Yes, the mirror is called Erised. Normally people do not run away from it. Most people seem mesmerized with what it shows them." Dumbledore sighed wistfully.
"Why would they want to stay and look at such a cruel visage?" Harry wondered out loud. "If that mirror shows such things to everyone, why wouldn't they run like the wind? It hurts to know some things can never be. It is better to keep your feet on the ground, in case the world goes by unnoticed."
Harry was suddenly self-conscious when he heard the headmaster hum approvingly.
"Yes, Harry. This mirror does not show wisdom, not even knowledge. Perhaps, the only thing it offers is clarity of our hearts, and the hearts of others. But unfortunately, sometimes people don't realize that clarity of the hearts does not mean to waste away our minds for the rest of eternity." Dumbledore looked down at him.
"I suggest you return to your dormitory for a last look around. Then, I'm sure, the house-elves have made a delicious breakfast to make you reminisce about while eating at home." With a last shove, Harry was pushed out of the room.
Deep in thought, he walked back to the Tower. He chewed over Dumbledore's words. The headmaster was right, but one cannot help but dream sometimes. Harry sighed wistfully to himself, from what the goblins and everyone he met since entering the wizarding world told him, his parents had been wonderful people. The fact that they could never meet Sam, the woman who saved him in every sense of the word, was one of his most saddening realizations.
It was with these depressing thoughts he boarded the Hogwarts Express back to London. Half the time had passed already when he made his decisions. No, his parents would never be there for him, but as Sam had proven to him a long time ago; blood may be family, but not all family is blood. He would have to make his own family, and with that carve his own destiny.
He would somehow persuade Sam to let Neville in on the rest of his life, he was his brother. He would watch over the book-worm Hermione, who was still so innocent in the cruel ways of the world; she was his sister. And Sam shall always be there to guide him, help him make up his mind; she was after all his mother.