Utilizing Resources - Part I
Chapter 13 - EM-E - Utilizing Resources - Part I
The following morning was a Saturday. Severus ordered breakfast when he heard Harry moving about in his room before heading into the bathroom. The older wizard had not slept much the previous night, unable to shut out the scene on Shell Beach where Albus had decided they could safely destroy the ring. There had indeed been an apparition, and it had been of Severus himself, scowling hatefully at all of them, exhibiting the very worst of Severus' own nature. But the most difficult part had been the declarations by the mirage Severus that he had no business being anywhere near Harry, that he had inflicted as much, if not more misery upon the boy than anyone else, and that Lily couldn't possibly have trusted him with her child after all of this. It was exactly what Severus had been battling internally since it had fully registered that Harry had been abused and neglected by numerous parties, including Severus.
Severus had some very real fear that he would revert back to his cruel self if at any time he felt disadvantaged while trying to care for Harry. The boy himself had admitted that he was fearful of this as well, although he hadn't argued about moving down here to Severus' quarters. Whatever Severus had done in the past twenty-four hours had gone a long way in earning enough of the boy's trust to at least have taken that step. But now what? Severus did not know how to parent. His instincts told him that now that he had a clear perspective on what Harry was dealing with, both magically and emotionally, he should at least set some structure to their activities over the coming week.
"Morning," Harry said as he came in and sat down across from Severus.
"Good morning," Severus returned, eyeing Harry's freshly showered appearance over the rim of his coffee cup as he sipped. "How did you sleep?"
"Good," Harry said with a hesitant smile. He looked Severus over. "I was thinking I should see if you need help with your potion brewing? You did last time. It's already down to the last week of the holidays."
Severus smirked. Clearly he had manufactured opportunities to get Harry in the potions lab. He did indeed have some restocking of standard remedies to do, but nothing overwhelming. "I do have a bit of brewing to get done. You have your assignments as well, and I am of a mind to set a daily schedule to work with you on this peripheral magic of yours. I think you should explore your abilities in a controlled setting. Agreed?"
Remus found Severus and Harry in the Room of Requirement at half two that afternoon, apparently after they'd been working together for nearly an hour. "Hello, you two," he said warmly, albeit carefully, being that it was the first encounter with Severus after the ring destruction. "I just heard from Albus, and he would like to come by early next week to deal with the locket horcrux." The unenthusiastic silence that greeted this comment made him grimace. He looked at Harry, "What have you two been working on?"
"Apparently I've got issues with control," Harry said with exaggerated bitterness. He was frustrated and worn out from attempting to cast a non verbal contego. "I can do three spells non verbally, but none of them are defensive."
"That was not the point of the exercise," Severus corrected Harry.
Remus gave them each a confused look.
Severus eyed his ward's glowering countenance with a touch of amusement. The boy certainly had high expectations of himself, which was something Severus understood far too well. "Harry has asked me to instruct him on the means which I have utilized to manufacture my own spells. I have tended to develop spells when I need to solve a frustrating problem. Such as an extraction charm for delicate elements of plants I need for potions," he said, deliberately refraining from referring to his rather lethal defensive spells. "Harry has been demonstrating his spontaneous reaction to various types of aggression, and we have ascertained that his response to an unexpected threat is to utilize a spell he's recently witnessed, which is quite resourceful," Severus said, adding the last part to make sure Harry didn't hear his words as criticism. The boy was still tense, however. "We are attempting to build on that by practicing non verbal casting of his existing arsenal of practical spells on a more instinctive level."
"But I keep doing things like hair pulling and the mouthless hex I picked up from Draco," Harry added, "instead of shielding or disarming in response."
"I'm not seeing the issue," Remus said with an impressed smile. "Especially in hearing that you can already cast non verbally, Harry. It's merely a step by step process to get from your magical reactions now, to a point where you respond with a new spell." He looked back and forth between the two dark haired wizards while he considered his own instincts in this context. "I can tell you both that I personally was able to learn to create my own spells through magical play." He smirked at Severus, tilting his head and smiling when Severus narrowed his eyes into a resentful glare at the unspoken assumption that the potions master never played with magic, "Surely you've had some time to play, Harry?"
In all honesty, Harry had no idea what Remus was talking about. "Er, I don't think I have…"
Remus frowned again, but took advantage of the way Severus was yielding the floor to him, at least for the moment, to continue with his line of thinking. "What sort of spell would you like to create, Harry?"
Harry blinked, weighing the risk of upsetting Remus with his question, but he remembered Ron asking Severus about this spell, and had never followed up on it in the previous timeline. "Sirius had a pretty nifty disarming spell that he used on Mr. Malfoy…" he paused nervously, seeing the minor flicker of grief flash over Remus' face. "Do you know the one I mean?"
Remus smiled sadly for a moment, but enthusiasm overpowered that sadness at the opportunity to fully illustrate his point to Harry. "That is a perfect example to use, actually." He had both wizard's attention when he summarized that the Marauders had played games, challenging each other to utilize silly sounds or gestures and turn them into spells. "James had this very annoying bird-call sort of whistle that he used to tweet at us from long distances to get our attention or summon us over. And I added to the annoyance by waving my hand over my head in a silly manner to reply to James. It drove Sirius spare, so he retaliated by integrating it into that disarming spell, as a way to taunt your dad and I, and steal a wand away while he was at it."
Harry was finally catching on, and a smile tugged at his mouth. He flashed a look at Severus and saw that his guardian was struggling between old and unresolved contempt, and intense interest in what his former schoolmate was revealing. "That sounds like a whole new sort of fun," Harry said. Hmmmm. Ideas were spinning creative threads through his mind as his amusement grew.
"What news did Albus have about meeting with the Wizengamot?" Severus asked after Remus had demonstrated Sirius' disarming spell for Harry a half dozen times. Albus had told them the previous evening that he would seek an immediate audience with the magical high court to address the events that had taken place around the retrieval of the ring.
Remus replied while Harry silently practiced the wand movements. "He attempted to declare a magical state of emergency, but the complete council would not concede to his request. So, he next met with Madam Bones one-on-one, and she has assured him that she will act quickly to have Thickeness and the others detained more securely in Azkaban, where Kingsley and his lot have been keeping them under guard. Apparently, Minister Fudge is so besotted with his plotting to get his hands on Harry, he's been completely oblivious to the goings on with his Deputy Minister. No one was aware that Dolores Umbridge was out and about, as she was supposed to be under house arrest while she recuperated from her undisclosed traumatic injuries while exiting Hogwarts. Fudge would like to pin that on Harry as well, if he can."
Harry and Severus scowled simultaneously. Groaning in frustration, Harry spun on his heel and flicked his wand in a neat double 'x' while waving his left hand over his head. "Armis dicessum!" he yelled angrily, thrusting his wand forward as he cast Sirius' spell at the practice dummy, only to break into a satisfied grin when the dummy's wand came soaring over head for him to snatch with his ready hand.
"Well done!" Remus laughed.
"It will be way better when I can do it non verbally and only use that whistling sound," Harry said with full determination. But then he sighed, back on topic. "So, with Fudge on the warpath like this, I could need to go deeper into hiding at any time."
"Not necessarily," Severus said firmly. "You are legally my ward in both worlds. He cannot remove you from my custody without full backing of the Wizengamot, and only then if he has enough evidence to show you have committed a significant crime. Albus intends to force them all to acknowledge Voldemort's return, and with that, the incredible threat that has faced you, Harry. You have been the only one to take real action against him. Lucius can show his memories, if needed, which would aid Albus when he goes on to reveal the recent destruction of the Dark Lord's corporeal form. That is likely what convinced Madam Bones to act. I imagine there will be dissent, and serious upheaval in our Ministry over this. Madam Bones will have to organize to get Fudge removed from his post, and then there will need to be interim leadership, etcetera. So we will continue to move forward with our efforts to both thwart Fudge's attempted vendetta against you, and to completely destroy what remains of the Dark Lord's power."
"Oh," Harry said, openly unsettled by all of this. "But we ultimately have to wait to be certain that Fudge will not get the chance to rewrite the law to say that he can take me away from you, right?"
Severus frowned. "Hmmmm."
As if by power of suggestion, their coins all warmed and vibrated with a message from Lucius:
Fudge is at the gates…insists that Harry must be here with Severus…knows about the guardianship…
"Come," Severus said grimly. "We will face this now, and if I sense danger, I will remove you from it."
"OK," Harry agreed reluctantly.
"I'll escort you," Remus said, flanking Harry's other side.
By the time they had reached the Great Hall, Lucius and Fudge were coming through the entrance, so all gathered to face each other in front of the hourglasses holding the house gems.
"Mr. Potter," Fudge said. "I have been looking for you, young man."
"Why, sir?" Harry asked in his best impersonation of guilelessness. Severus' hand was on his neck and he received a gentle squeeze of warning to behave himself.
"We have much to discuss, Harry," Fudge declared. He removed his hat and tilted his head, his tone stern when he continued, "I have been growing more and more concerned at the outrageous behavior you have been exhibiting since last summer. The summoning of Dementors, for example."
Harry sputtered, ready to launch into a loud rebuttal, but Severus' hand squeezed again, this time quite firmly. Harry pressed his lips together and looked up at his guardian for guidance.
"I beg your pardon, Minister," Severus said in his most condescending and dangerous tone, "but I find it laughable that you would accuse a fifth year student of a capability that only you and the Dark Lord are purported to have had." He paused, as now Fudge was the one sputtering at the linking of his name to Voldemort. "And as the High Court found Harry innocent of all charges-"
"That was not a unanimous sentiment!" Fudge declared angrily. "This boy got off way too easily because Dumbledore interfered. He has a history of underage use of magic around muggles-"
"Which, if you had done your due diligence to investigate, you would have found on both counts was used in reaction to an attack-"
Fudge's complexion turned beet red with temper. "Inflating his aunt to the point of her going airborne is not a defensive reaction to attack! He-"
"You are aware that I have taken guardianship of Harry," Severus spoke loudly and firmly, audibly overpowering the shorter and rounder wizard. "And in the course of your investigation into this, could only have found that his home circumstances with his mother's sister were incongruous with the life he has been forced to lead as a prime target of Voldemort," here he paused to narrow his eyes in disdain at the pathetic way the Minister of Magic winced at hearing that name, "and without any sort of protection from his own society's governing body!" Severus stepped closer to Fudge and stared him down in full Snape mode. "You have been completely aware of the danger Harry has been in, and have done nothing but declare ignorance of Voldemort's return, in spite of witness statements to the contrary, and used this to fuel your efforts to unseat Albus Dumbledore, who is the only leader among us with the fortitude to take any sort of initiative towards the destruction of the Dark Lord's reign of terror!" He sneered in disgust. "You are wasting not only precious Ministry resources by manufacturing this nonsense against Mr. Potter, but you are also costing us all precious time and safety by not focusing your attention on the threats to societal security from those who still want to see Voldemort rise to power."
"Mrs. Dursley considers him a criminal! She has cast him out of her home for her family's safety!" Fudge raged, clearly on a one-track mission. "You are out of line, Professor Snape." He turned his glare to Harry, but Severus stepped in front of his ward.
"I declare otherwise," Severus said in disgust. He dropped his head down as if to lower himself to Fudge's level, curling his lip as he concluded, "In fact, you owe this boy a life debt for the efforts he has already made that have begun to dismantle that reign of terror. The very reign that you are far too cowardly to face!" He turned his back, directing Harry away from the pathetic politician. "This conversation is over."
"You do not have the authority to contravene my demands, Professor Snape," Fudge called after him.
Severus spun back to face Fudge, directing Harry to stand behind him with a firm wave of his hand. "Contravene? Your demands are not the law, Minister, and as you have made no coherent demands in this confrontation, I refuse to waste another minute on your blather. Furthermore, as I am interim Headmaster of this school until Headmistress McGonagall recovers from an attack, which occurred on these grounds, by members of your staff, while students were present, I have every right to be affronted by your appearance, on a Saturday, and during the Christmas holiday, while you operate outside of the law to harass this boy."
"This is not over, Snape," Fudge said menacingly, his fury so strong his mouth was trembling.
"Oh, I quite agree, Minister," Severus said with confidence. "There is so much to be addressed. But not outside of the proper channels, and not on your whim. I do not answer to you, sir."
Harry peeked around Severus at that and caught the smug smirk on Lucius' face that the blond wizard belatedly erased when Fudge spun toward him for affirmation of his full support as a member of the Board of Governance for the school. Remus, on the other hand, remained stonily silent, his eyes locked on Fudge with an unreadable intent. Harry was reminded of the way the wan Marauder had looked at Wormtail when they'd cornered him in the fifth floor corridor on the other timeline. Theoretically, Fudge was in cahoots with Peter Pettigrew, by having refused to investigate Harry's claims that he still lived and had killed Cedric Diggory at the graveyard.
"You answer to the Ministry of Magic, Professor," Fudge said to Severus, putting his hat back on and pulling gloves from his pockets to don as he spoke. "And the Ministry has begun a thorough investigation of Harry Potter's antics over the last several months, beginning with his suspicious appearance with the dead Diggory boy at the end of the Tournament."
"What?" Harry rasped, darting out from behind Severus and ignoring his guardian's attempts to pull him back. "I'll show you my memories! All of them! Only you'll have to see what I saw at that graveyard! Not sure you can handle it. It's a full face to face with Voldemort!"
Fudge narrowed his eyes and twitched his nose in a rather rodent-like manner, but said nothing more. He cast a glance at Lucius that clearly indicated he expected the blond wizard to escort him back down to the school gates. Lucius flashed them all a raised-eyebrow look that said Merlin help us as he ushered the Minister out the door.
"I do not like the sound of his threats," Remus said grimly. He turned to look at Harry and Severus. "I'm going to check in with the other Order members and see if anyone has more information for us."
Severus nodded and waited until Lupin was out of earshot before turning a stern glare on Harry. "I believe you told me that you would respect my direction if I told you not to do something," he said in a tone that indicated Harry had crossed a line.
Harry stepped back a step, his indignant anger already starting to desert him and panic was on the rise to replace it. "I had to challenge him that way!" he said desperately. "He's making up lies and tossing them around, and-"
"And how exactly did you help the situation with your goading?" Severus demanded. He had not been unimpressed by Harry's taunts at Fudge, but they had not been helpful. When the boy remained silent with a pinched expression, Severus jerked his head in the direction of his quarters and the two of them strode along in silence. When they reached the door, Severus opened it and shooed Harry in. "Go stand in the corner. Fifteen minutes. In silence."
Harry nearly laughed at that, but as quickly as the humor surfaced, mortification replaced it and he turned a deep shade of embarrassment red as he looked around for the corner Severus had in mind and trudged over to stand like an idiot who couldn't control his cheeky mouth. It was the longest fifteen minutes Harry could remember suffering through, and when it was over he wanted to crawl into a hole.
"You may resume your day," Severus said when Harry stepped away from the corner. He could visibly see that Harry had retreated behind a wall of confused turmoil again. "Harry, your feelings are completely and inarguably justified. But we have to be more calculating with the manner in which we deal with the likes of Cornelius Fudge. He is the worst sort of idiot: one with power. Understand?"
"Yeah," Harry said quietly. "I'm sorry I went back on my word like that. I know I messed up pretty badly."
"On the scale of mess ups, it was hardly enough to merit much more remorse than you've already indulged, Harry, so let it go now. Like I said, your feelings were justified. Your reaction was not particularly wise. But even as I say this, I am well aware of the example I was setting that probably encouraged your outburst. I would like you to trust me to handle this type of situation. Your innocence will be far easier to maintain if there is no past history of clashes between you and Ministry officials on record. We need to be careful."
Harry nodded, feeling heavy enough to crave sleep.
Severus smirked at him, waving his wand and summoning Harry's pillow. It zipped past Harry's head, blowing his hair comically as it sailed by and landed on the sofa. "Come have a nap. I'll wake you for dinner."
The rest of the weekend and Monday progressed without further interference from Minister Fudge. But Tuesday morning, a pensive Severus stared at his reflection in the mirror as he used his wand to magically shave the last area of his jaw, watching the heavy morning stubble shear itself from his skin and fall into the sink in front of him. He'd shown Harry this exercise the previous morning, on impulse, after realizing how unlikely it was that anyone else would have done so at this point. Harry had yet to sprout any facial hair, but he'd been ready to learn the charm. It had been an easy lesson, as had every one of the past three daily sessions of magical instruction with Harry, both in the potions lab, and then in the Room of Requirement. Severus had witnessed firsthand how quick and clever Harry Potter could be as they'd explored Harry's ability to infuse his own magic into another wizard's spells, along with brainstorming unique spell ideas. Harry's enthusiasm and desire to learn had been encouraging for Severus, and they'd covered a lot of ground together as instructor and pupil. Now that Severus was free of his Dark Lord's dominance in his life, he was far less tense in general. Adding to this a clear understanding of what drove Harry Potter's impulses and angst had induced a calming effect on Severus. He had thus far been able to be patient and thorough with his instruction. This had made a very palpable difference for each of them, in that Harry seemed far more at ease with him, and Severus was growing more confident that he could effectively change his behavior as a professor in general in the future, while still retaining his authority.
But this harmonic interplay had been most unfortunately disrupted when Albus had shown up Monday night and suggested they destroy the locket horcrux. Harry had been required to participate so that he could speak in parseltongue to the enchanted piece of jewelry to start the process. Lupin had joined them, and the four of them had gathered in the Chamber of Secrets, each braced for the disturbing messages and violation of their most deep seated fears. But no one, especially not Severus or Harry, had been prepared for the apparition to direct its vehemence solely upon Harry. The visual manifestation of Harry's worst worries took the form of Professor Snape, being his most hateful and hurtful, and the way Harry had paled and grown very quiet spoke volumes about the power behind the potion master's past cruelties.
"Do stop holding out hope that I'll decide to adopt you again, wont you? Do you really think you could ever matter to me to such an extent, you imbecilic, infuriating little menace? What could I possibly come to value about you? You are selfish, stupid and rude. You care only about yourself and are constantly seeking attention. Even your own blood relations cannot stand the sight of you. What makes you think-"
Severus had cut off the diatribe by stabbing a basilisk fang into the locket, but the damage had been done, and the sandy black smoke had found Harry and had seemingly mauled him quite spectacularly. Harry had not bothered to shield himself, and had consequently been sick to his stomach. He'd also been unresponsive to the physical comfort that Severus had attempted. Severus hadn't had much more to offer, after having been struck silent at the view of himself spewing such vitriol, seeing first hand how utterly vile he had been, and just how much power his harsh words had carried over the years. The fact that Lupin had witnessed the entire scenario as it had played out had intensified the shame all the more. The Marauder had also attempted to offer Harry support. Harry had not resisted the comforting hand on his shoulder as he'd stumbled along while they'd returned to the dungeons, but he had not appeared to have felt any better, either. They'd all returned to Severus' quarters, where Harry had said a quiet good night and had retreated to his room. He'd been asleep all three times that Severus had checked on him, so they hadn't yet spoken about what had taken place.
Sighing, Severus cast a silent evansesco on the sink to rid it of his shaving detritus, and stared at himself once again. Yes, he'd gained some new and important insight into himself as an educator, both in the positive successes he'd shared with Harry, and in the bald-faced representation of his worst, most cruel side. Finding out that he'd been about to adopt Harry in Harry's previous experience of these times had been a shock, but not a surprise. He was already coming to deeply care for his young ward, and could easily see that would intensify with each passing day. But becoming a parent was a whole different story. And even contemplating this possibility made his knees buckle.
"He's already changed you, Severus," Lupin had said quietly before taking his leave the previous night. That had actually surprised Severus, in that he'd expected to be slammed into the wall again, at the very least, by James Potter's only surviving friend. But the werewolf had declined the offer of a fire whiskey and had left quickly after his parting comment.
Albus had also left shortly thereafter, saying as he'd stepped into the floo, "You are welcome to seek me out if you want to talk, Severus."
"I believe I may have set off a chain reaction when I purchased the replacement locket from Borgen and Burkes," Lucius told Severus as he sipped a cup of tea at the kitchen table some twenty minutes later. "It seems clear to me that Pius went for the ring shortly thereafter, which means that Bella will be clinging to her cup by now."
"This is not good news," Severus said tersely. He stood distractedly, worried that Harry was not up yet. "Will you excuse me for a few minutes? I need to check on Harry."
Lucius nodded, frowning after his friend as the dark haired wizard left the kitchen. Severus had relayed that the locket horcrux was now also destroyed, so they were three down, four to go. He'd not revealed what had transpired, but it was clear that both Severus and Harry had been impacted.
Harry was awake and lying on his back, staring numbly up at the ceiling over his bed.
"Are you wary of starting a new day?" Severus asked quietly after having opened the door and tapped lightly upon it before entering. He came over to Harry and looked down on him.
"I guess you're braver than I am," Harry said dully.
Severus sat beside his ward on the bed. "That was the second time I have been made to witness my worst self, Harry," he said softly, guiltily. "I have no desire to be that wretched person any longer."
"I know," Harry said. He looked over at his guardian. "But when you're like that, and you say those kinds of things to me, it's like you're just repeating what my own mind is always telling me." He dragged his eyes back over to look upward again. "I don't want to do this anymore."
It took enormous effort for Severus to push down the rush of horrified remorse that threatened to overpower him. He reached out and put a hand over Harry's chest. "Then don't do it anymore," he said in a strained voice. "Don't say those things to yourself. They're not true. They were never true. And my being a horrible arse to you doesn't make them true, either." When Harry turned heartbroken eyes his way, Severus responded in the only way he could. He pulled the covers back, grabbed Harry's upper arms and pulled him up and into a tight embrace, stopping short of pulling the scrawny teen onto his lap, although that probably would have been beneficial because the way Harry cried into Severus' neck made the older wizard fear he could never comfort his ward as thoroughly as was needed.