AN: To all my wonderful, wonderful reviewers - thank you so much! You make me so very happy :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and I do not get paid for writing this story. Please don't sue me.
Warning: Someone Sleepy, smoking, language
AN: I know. I'm sorry. My updating have sucked as of late. I feel obligated to warn you that it will most likely continue to suck for a little longer - until I pass my graduation exams in May. Then, I should be able to get back on my two-week updating schedule. So, for the sake of having your author properly educated, bear with me, people, will ya? :)
The sun had risen but thirty minutes ago, its rays still shy and tentative, giving the sky an indecisive shade of grey. This was what he called an ungodly hour. Busy Thursday number two - his mind had treacherously started to actually use the term at some point in the past week - found Severus turning on the spot with a crimson red paper cup capped with a crimson red plastic lid in his hand, and disappearing just outside the Hogwarts wards, leaving only thick white morning fog and an echo of a loud crack behind.
A fraction of a second after he materialised in the familiar, shabbily furnished, elongated room currently illuminated only by a tiny ball of light hovering in mid-air near the opposite wall, a strange occurrence that not many could say they had witnessed, took place. Severus Snape yawned.
"Got the coffee?" asked a soft voice.
Severus had to squint his eyes to make out the boy. He was sitting on the bed to Severus' right, propped up against the far wall, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles sporting a pair of filthy white trainers - the clean bed sheets underneath bringing out the dirt. His hair was even messier than Severus recalled – if such a thing was humanly possible – he had his nose buried in a book, his right hand held out expectantly.
Managing not to roll his eyes only due to the fact that it took him enough effort to merely keep them open, he walked up to the boy and placed the cup into the outstretched hand, careful not to spill its hot content in the process. Harry first lowered what Severus now recognised as The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts into his lap to examine the cup appreciatively, then took an experimental sip and finally turned his attention to Severus who was still naively waiting for a 'good morning'.
"Can I keep you?" the boy asked mischievously.
"I am not your secretary," Severus informed sharply - or so he liked to believe - sitting down - as gracefully as his drowsiness allowed him - on the hard wooden chair. Was he supposed to be thinking about something? Hopefully not.
"Perhaps you should consider a change of profession then. Tell me. Which activity do you regard as more tormenting, trying to keep me quiet and attentive for hours or bringing me coffee?" inquired the boy innocently and as he was taking a breath to continue in his babbling, Severus decided he didn't like chipper people.
"Please, do not elaborate - it's way too early in the morning for your pearls of wisdom," he slurred, much to his dismay - and Harry's amusement. He watched the brat fight a losing battle with his mirth until he came to the inevitable conclusion - that he currently lacked the energy to throw a proper fit. Then, he noticed the dark circles under Harry's eyes and before his brain could process the information, it found its way out of his mouth: "You look awful."
"And that's why we are meeting neither Tom nor the press today," Harry replied sipping at his coffee contentedly, not batting an eyelid at the insulting comment.
"That I'm not entirely awake yet - which is only natural at this hour - doesn't mean I'm stupid," Severus snarled indignantly feeling some of the sleepy haze in his head dissipate, at last.
They had determined the 'Busy Thursday System' - as Harry had stubbornly insisted on calling it - a week ago, he remembered all too well. Every important event and meeting the boy would have to go through before he went to Hogwarts had already been planed out - so he obviously hadn't decided upon their programme for today according to his present appearance. What made Severus wake up completely though, was the notion that Harry would mind the Dark Lord seeing him while he didn't look his best - which was still much better than most of the population could ever hope for but that was not the point. The point was-
"Are you sharp?" Harry asked and the smirk tugging at his lips was all Severus needed to see to realize that he had once again been caught off guard by the boy's subtle ways of putting thoughts into one's head. "Good. Because I need some explanations," Harry announced, his tone leaving no room for argument - and seeing that he had lost all traces of his ever-present playfulness, Severus couldn't but hope there would be no reason for him to argue.
He had learnt many things about Harry Potter last Thursday. Certainly not all there was to know about him - Severus doubted there was or ever would be a man able to gain so much of the boy's trust for him to give out all his secrets. There were too many that could become too dangerous in the wrong hands. Harry had told Severus enough for him to understand that - supposing what the boy had told him hadn't been merely an attempt to make Severus fear him. He didn't think that was the case, though he couldn't be absolutely sure. Because - as much as the comparison pained him - he had as big a chance to see through Harry's lie as he had to uncover one of the Dark Lord's.
In the aftermath of the boy's triumph over the wizard - a part of him still wasn't quite ready to give up the theory that he had somehow been drugged - he couldn't imagine anything going wrong. Yet there were so many things that could turn out to be disastrous - starting with Harry himself. When one thought about it... Was there a thing about the boy that couldn't blow up in everyone's face? He was an immensely powerful, brilliant master manipulator, an extremely convincing actor and liar seemingly without a weakness to be used as leverage against him, an adored hero of the Light with the political forces of the Dark at his call... For all Severus knew, he could be dealing with a future tyrant.
Still, in every respect, Harry seemed strong enough. Strong enough to resist the lure of abusing the power he possessed or could easily claim. Strong enough to stay true to himself. Or maybe strong wasn't the right word - Severus varied between sensible and calculating. Because wise was a disturbing expression to use when describing a thirteen-year-old boy. However, as much as he would have liked to think about him as Lily's sweet child, Severus had long since lost any pretext for that illusion. When he had agreed to help Harry last Thursday, he had pledged himself to a young man he had come to have faith in, not to Lily's son in need of his protection.
Among other things he had learnt that Harry was perfectly aware that success didn't fall into one's lap, that one had to work to achieve their goals - and Severus had chosen not to point out that if there had ever been a wizard to whom that rule didn't apply, it was Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry had probably already come to realize that anyway. It had also become quite clear that despite his inclination towards making light of even the gravest of issues, there were matters that the boy took very seriously - such as liberty, tolerance, impartiality, justice, and literature - although he had his own, peculiar views on them. Now, considering what the boy had been reading, Severus suspected he knew what kind of explanations Harry sought after - and braced himself for the coming tirade.
"Have you read this?" the boy inquired simply, laying his hand on the book, his intense green gaze studying Severus' face speculatively. So, maybe tirade wouldn't be happening. If Harry was angry or upset, Severus would have to congratulate him on managing to hide the emotions so well. But he didn't seem to be pretending anything. He appeared quite genuinely disappointed.
When Severus nodded, Harry went on, his tone calm and emotionless, his stare fairly unnerving:
"I take it, this book is intended for the general public?" he again waited for Severus' nod. "Being well aware that history is written by the victors I can tell that certain information in the publication are twisted, exaggerated, blown out of proportion or intentionally made to appear unimportant for the sake of flattering the Light. But they couldn't just pull the entire ideology out of a hat - as likely as that sounds in this particular..." he trailed off, noting Severus' confused expression. "Never mind. You get my point," he concluded flatly, turning his attention to his coffee and Severus had to supress a sigh of relief as that piercing gaze finally left his face - though the fact that Harry hadn't embraced the opportunity to poke fun at him because he'd failed to understand yet another muggle saying, was just as unsettling.
"What do you want me to say?" he asked plainly, hoping to somehow miraculously avoid explaining the issue - no outsider to the wizarding world could possibly understand. He would prefer to leave the arduous job to the Dark Lord - the wizard had supposedly been the one to come up with the whole thing in the first place, after all. Besides, Harry had insisted that Severus let go of what had happened twelve years ago - as unfeasible as it had appeared at first. He didn't have to justify his choices to the boy.
"The question isn't what I want you to say. It is what you have to say about the matter," Harry said coldly, a dangerous spark in his eyes.
Having put the empty cup on the small rickety table he stood up, letting The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts land on the linoleum with a thump that seemed to resonate in the tense silence. For a moment, the boy stared out of the tiny window over Severus' head at the slowly brightening sky outside, then closed his eyes and let his Office appear around them. As Harry took his seat in the crimson armchair, Severus felt a tingly wave of magic wash over his senses and knew the conversation was about to get sensitive. So tirade might be happening after all.
"Or should I assume that Mr Born-to-Agitate there," Harry waved his hand to the book lying on the white oak floor, "got it right?" he challenged, his voice still cold and his expression perfectly dispassionate though Severus suspected there was hot anger boiling underneath the mask of composure. Harry had probably spent a couple of days learning to cope with the newly gained knowledge - and Severus was glad he hadn't been present for the initial reaction. Yet somehow, he had now managed to kick into the hornet's nest. Oh, this was bound to be one of the few chances Severus would ever get to see the boy out of control. He was most curious - disregarding the worrisome actuality that should Harry really lose control...well, Dumbledore would have a hard time finding a decent Potions Master at such short notice.
To his great surprise, Harry, who had been sizing him up for the last few seconds, chuckled.
"You think I'm about to kick up a fuss?" he queried with a strange smile, his previously icy demeanour gone without a trace. Severus nearly shivered as he realized of whom these sudden mood swings reminded him.
"I won't claim I haven't," he admitted somewhat cautiously. Yet the boy didn't seem to be paying attention to him anymore - rummaging in a drawer of the black writing desk and smirking triumphantly when he found the searched for pack of cigarettes.
"I probably would if I had a proper reason to be angry at you," Harry said offhandedly sticking a cigarette between his lips and lighting it with a flick of his fingers. Flinging his legs across one armrest and using his free hand as a pillow on the other, he continued, directing his words at the ceiling rather than Severus: "But to be honest with you, as good as a nice rant would undoubtedly feel, I've known you for a week, Severus. It's none of my business what excuse for a shampoo you use, how many friends you have...or what prejudiced asshole you choose to bow to," he stated matter-of-factly tilting his head back and closing his eyes as he blew out a bluish puff.
Severus watched the boy smoke self-indulgently, momentarily stunned by how much that little speech had stung. Last Thursday Harry had made him promise that he would try to stop blaming himself for what had happened to the boy's parents. Severus had tried - and thought the best way to go about it would be to erase the debt he had felt obligated to settle up with Harry. Now, he was reminded that the belief that he didn't owe the boy anything didn't make him immune to his judgement. Apparently, he had forgotten with whom he had been dealing. As much as he would like to deny it, what Harry Potter - Lily's son, the charming, witty young man smart enough to outplay the Dark Lord - thought about him, mattered to Severus. He had never expected to be hurt by something as petty as a show of disinterest. Yet, here he was.
In comparison to the effort the boy had put into making Severus' world a better place a week ago, the blatant display of unconcern felt like a cold shower. On Busy Thursday number one, he had been assigned the task of visiting Lucius and Avery, and even writing letters to Rabastan and Mulciber - for somewhat feeble reasons that Harry had quite obviously made up on the spot for the sole purpose of forcing Severus to contact his former friends. The transparent ploy had made the word endearing emerge from the depths of Severus' unused vocabulary once again. However, what he hadn't found endearing at all had been the brat's insinuation that he should perhaps consider washing his hair from time to time. Right now, even that stupid comment seemed more agreeable than the cold shoulder he was being given.
Pinching the bridge of his nose Severus addressed the boy - trying hard to ignore the disturbing things the lad was currently doing with his mouth presumably in attempt to produce smoke rings.
"It is a very complex issue," Severus began, then paused to consider the best way to approach the topic.
"Oh, is it? Why didn't I think of that?" inquired Harry mock quizzically before returning to his oral gymnastics. It took all Severus' self-control not to give in to the sudden overwhelming urge to throttle the insolent whelp.
Having heaved a deep sigh he went on:
"Without a first-hand experience I doubt you could fully understand just how desperately the present political system needs reformation, how difficult it is to gain and maintain reliable allies-"
"So basically, you've refrained from giving me an explanation because you've doubted I could understand the matter on my own? Hmm. Clever. Very clever. Please, tell me you are still too drowsy to think straight because I don't like the alternative," Harry said drily squirming in his seat to face Severus while keeping his position horizontal. Having accomplished his goal he conjured a crimson red ashtray on the floor in front of the armchair and reached down to stub out the now almost non-existent cigarette. He then drew his knees to his chest and fixed his huge, expectant eyes on Severus resembling the child that he should be more then ever.
"The alternative?" Severus repeated questioningly, choosing to overlook the sarcasm.
Harry blinked once, twice, then sighed, and spoke:
"Supposing you are not being purposefully difficult, there is only one logical reasons why you would be so stubbornly reluctant to pursue the topic. You obviously find the subject uncomfortable to talk about. Having eliminated all the improbable factors that could spark such feelings, we are left with guilt, shame, maybe fear of my reaction. Meaning there is no explanation with the potential to appease my conscience - or yours - that you can give me. You say it is impossible for me to understand the necessity of such extreme measures given that I haven't experienced the situation. Well, duh. I don't think you understand it either," he said sounding slightly bored but Severus was sure that for a moment, there was something in those too familiar, green orbs - a strange mixture of tiredness, disillusion and determination. He could agree with the Dark Lord on one thing - he would love to see what was going on in that brilliant mind.
Apparently, there was no escaping Harry's flawless reasoning. He should be probably grateful for that. Severus had to admit to himself that it had been most stupid of him to try to avoid discussing the issue since, considering Harry's stance, such approach could only result in the boy scorning him. Harry could go without knowing what Severus' view of the Dark Lord's cause was. It was Severus who needed the boy to know.
"You are right. I don't understand it and as I told you a week ago, I find some of the ideals of the Dark rather extreme. I don't see the thought of wiping out all Muggle-borns as ground-breaking, morally acceptable or feasible. There is, however, the danger of our society being discovered and magical children in muggle families do serve to increase the risk significantly," he paused trying to determine the boy's reaction from his face and posture - and if not for his eyes blinking open the moment he stopped talking, startlingly alert, Severus would have thought that Harry had fallen asleep.
Seeing his hesitation Harry gave an encouraging nod and Severus continued: "The government is corrupt and doesn't reflect the needs of the people at all. Most of the laws were written or modified by that same corrupt and inconsiderate government. Reformation is necessary but I don't think a caste system based on the amount of magical blood in one's veins is a way to go. Nor do I think that torture and killing are the best means to reach reform. The oppression of Dark creatures and wizards with a Dark inclination is outrageous and I consider every step taken against that nonsensical stereotype to be righteous," Severus fell silent again, contemplating what else he had to say to the matter.
"I see," Harry's thoughtful voice interrupted his musings. "In a nutshell, you support the Dark because you want a change and there is no other political party or movement with enough power and influence to pose a real threat to the Light - to make a difference. And there are even certain aspects of the Dark that make you feel ashamed of supporting it. Hasn't it occurred to you that once the Dark wins and enforces its ideals on the wizarding world, you will be just as dissatisfied with them as you are now? No. No need to answer that," Harry stopped Severus as he was preparing to defend his intelligence. "Tom can be...irresistibly charming - is that the way you put it?" Harry chuckled, for some inexplicable reason finding the notion amusing.
Severus didn't know what to say to that. He didn't take any pleasure in being read like an open book. Perhaps it would be for the best if he started getting used to it.
"Thank you for telling me. I know I can count on your opinion to be unbiased," the boy said appreciatively, sitting up and stretching himself unashamedly. "It wasn't that hard, was it?" he muttered, bending down to pick up the ashtray and putting it on the black writing desk.
He stood and headed for the seventh row of shelves speaking to Severus over his shoulder sounding mildly amused:
"Seriously. Emotional blackmail? I never thought you would make me stoop so low, Severus."
AN: Did you enjoy the chapter? Just whom is Harry meeting on Busy Thursday number two? What will he do about the Dark Lord's cause? Leave me a review, pretty please :)
AN: Replies to reviews and PMs are on their way ;)
AN: In the last chapter, I wrote 'the wizarding world' with capital letters in Lucius' POV. Three times! How could I?! My greatest apologies to anyone who actually noticed it didn't belong there and has been racking their brain over the bizarre phenomenon - though I have no illusions about readers inspecting my writing so closely… Still, just in case there is anyone that attentive – I love you? – rest assured that the pattern hasn't changed ;)
AN: And here comes the holiday we have our lovely religious ancestors to thank for. Are you, the-rest-of-the-worldians, free from work and school on Monday too - or do we have the luxury only in Bohemia? I considered changing my pen name to BabblingBunny for the occasion but in the end I came to the conclusion that I should stay faithful to my first chosen rodent so as not to cause unnecessary confusion. You all like chocolate bunnies better than the babbling ones anyway, I'm sure. In any case, have a happy Easter :)