The third-year Gryffindor/Slytherin class worked in relative silence, speaking only as necessary to complete their paired assignment. As they went about their task, Professor Snape began marking the essays they had turned in at the start of class. The papers were the same as they always were, feeling somehow redundant despite the new topic.
He reached for the next rolled-up parchment, and stared blankly at its contents. Years before had he given up on his students meeting his high expectations, but never, in all his time teaching had he received such a poorly done essay from a third-year. Even most first-years did better! It was simply unacceptable.
Snape did not need to look at the student's name to recognize the untidy scrawl. His head snapped up, his gaze fixing upon a raven-haired Gryffindor who was still doing a rather excellent job of ignoring his Potions professor. The boy hadn't so much as cast him a glance all week. Well, that was most certainly about to change.
Rising from his seat, the Potions Master stalked over to the boy, planting both palms on the table at which he worked with the Granger girl. Snape knew Harry was fully aware of his presence, as the youth had stiffened before his friend even had the chance to nudge him with her elbow. He waited, and after a moment, a pair of green eyes slowly raised to meet his own.
"Seven o'clock, Mr. Potter," Snape told the boy tersely. He was aware that half the class was currently staring in the their direction, but he really couldn't have cared less.
Harry lifted his chin. "Are you giving me detention?" he demanded. "Sir."
The Teen-Who-Was-Behaving-Childishly clearly hadn't expected such a response, his expression registering shock before quickly growing defiant again. "What for?"
"Think about the abysmal effort you put into your homework and ask again."
"But I turned in my assignment!" Harry exclaimed loudly.
Severus lowered his own voice. "And I am telling you that it is unacceptable," he intoned. "Seven o'clock. Continue to argue, and you can forget about the Quidditch match this weekend."
Harry's eyes widened at that before he directed his gaze down at the table, clenching his jaw angrily. "Yes, sir," he bit out, scarcely respectful. Snape let it slide for the moment, returning to his desk and setting the poorly done assignment off to the side.
The Granger girl leaned over to whisper something to Harry, to which the boy responded with a baleful glare and an angry hiss that was probably a curse, if Longbottom's anxious expression was anything to go by. Harry duplicated the glare and shot it at Snape before completing the rest of the day's assignment without another word to his partner.
Snape couldn't help but smirk quietly to himself. The boy was no longer ignoring him.
At seven o'clock sharp, Harry arrived at the Potions classroom for detention. He stood in front of the professor's desk for a minute or two before Snape finished what he was doing and looked up at him.
"Where is your school bag?" the man asked.
"In my dorm room, sir," replied Harry.
Snape bit back a scathing remark. "Very well, you may use the texts on the shelf," he said, opening a drawer and pulling out a piece of parchment, an ink-pot, and a new quill. "Rewrite your assignment. If you do a satisfactory job, I will give you half-credit." He handed Harry the writing utensils.
"Sir, why can't you just grade me on what I handed in?" Harry wanted to know.
Snape let out a testy sigh. "Because it had an unfortunate encounter with the floo in my quarters," he answered. "Now, pick out the texts you need, sit down, and get to work."
For a moment, it seemed the boy was finally going to obey, but then, he opened his mouth again. "Why?"
"Because I will not accept such slipshod work from you!" the professor snapped, rising to his feet and slamming a hand against the desktop. "Now, you can either rewrite your essay and get partial credit, or you can scrub cauldrons and receive a zero, either way, you will be spending the evening with me. If I hear one more word of protest, it will be the latter. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, sir." Harry retreated with the school supplies, taking a couple books from one of the shelves before sitting at a table. Snape watched him until he was certain the boy was doing as he was told. He idly wondered if all parents found their children so difficult, or if his was a unique case owing to the fact that he'd worked over two years to make his own child hate him.
Harry shuffled through the pages of one of the books, intrigued with what he found. This book was even more fascinating than the ones he often consulted in the library. Not that the extra research seemed to do his essays any good – a writer, he was not – but it certainly helped his understanding of the material.
The boy's gaze shifted over to the bookshelf, where several other potions books he knew he'd never seen in the library rested. It was true that he didn't put much effort into his work for Potions class, particularly since he despised the professor, but that didn't mean he didn't find the subject interesting. On the contrary, his Potions text was one of the books he always made sure to sneak up to his room each summer, if for nothing more than to ward off boredom.
Of course, he'd never admit this to anyone, let alone his friends or the Greasy Git of the Dungeons.
Snape didn't miss the longing look Harry sent the bookcase. Strange – he hadn't thought the boy had any interest in Potions, but that expression was unmistakable. Guiltily, he realized that he was likely part to blame for the boy's less-than-stellar performance in the class. He refrained from offering to let the boy borrow one or two of the books, knowing he'd refuse. Furthermore, he found he rather preferred Harry quiet and wistful as opposed to defiant and scowling.
The Potions Master silently watched a moment longer until the boy turned his attention back to his essay. In the time it took his son to complete his assignment, he made more progress on his grading than he'd managed in over a week. Severus had always believed himself a man who valued solitude above all else, yet, he found there was something almost soothing about having the boy in the room.
A pang spread through his chest. He had missed so much, and all for the sake of his own arrogance and stupidity! The only thing Severus Snape missed of his youth were the opportunities he'd so recklessly thrown away. If he could do it all again...
Severus was abruptly brought back to the present. Schooling his features, he looked up into a pair of green eyes. Lily's eyes. The eyes of their son.
"I'm finished," Harry repeated, though, his teacher clearly hadn't heard him the first time. He extended the parchment towards the man, who accepted it and began to read. After an awkward moment, Harry asked, "May I leave? Sir?"
Snape continued perusing the essay. "After I am certain your work is up to standard," he replied. "If it is not, you will spend the remaining time until your Astronomy lesson scrubbing cauldrons."
With a growing sense of dread, Harry fervently decided, and not for the first time, that he despised writing of all kinds. I knew he'd just use that as another excuse to torment me, he thought spitefully. Stupid git. He's probably -
"Either you are simply a horrible writer," Snape's voice cut across his thoughts, "or you have difficulty pulling anything coherent from that Quidditch-addled brain of yours." The man rolled up the essay and set it on the desk. "Partial credit. Turn in another essay like the original and you will be scrubbing not only this entire classroom, but my private lab, as well. Understood?"
Harry couldn't help it. He gaped. Snape was really going to give him half-credit for his rewritten paper? Was he allowed to go, now? And why had the man not referred to him by name even once since his arrival? Had he even sneered at him? Where was he, and just who was he actually talking to?
Snape tapped the desk to bring the boy out of whatever thoughts he had fallen into. Harry's eyes darted to his hand, then back to his eyes. He raised a brow expectantly.
"Yes, sir," Harry finally answered.
"Very well," Severus said, writing on a scrap of parchment and handing it to the teen. "If you should run into the caretaker and his mangy cat, this should keep you out of trouble. Knowing Filch, I would recommend you avoid him altogether. Though, you've had some practice with that, haven't you?"
Harry accepted the note excusing him for being out after curfew, even as he opened his mouth to respond to what the man said. Deciding that the better part of not incriminating oneself was saying nothing, however, he remained silent.
Realizing that he had probably shocked the child into inaction, Snape leaned forward. "Return to your dorm," he iterated.
"Yes, sir." Harry gave himself a mental shake and turned to leave. Had he glanced back over his shoulder, he would've seen a decidedly amused expression on his Potions professor's usually dour face.
"It's strange, I tell you," the boy told the other two. Gray eyes rested upon a black clad figure at the Head Table before following the man's gaze to a messy black head at the Gryffindor table.
"Why is it strange, though?" asked the taller of his two housemates.
"And what, exactly?" queried the other. "We're not mind readers, y'know."
"I told you!" Draco snapped. "The way Snape has been behaving towards Potter!"
Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe shared a look. Malfoy had certainly not told them any such thing, expecting, as always, for them to be able to follow his often random changes in topic. Sometimes, being (well, 'friends' was a bit of a stretch, so, perhaps...) associates with the arrogant boy was tiring. Failing to note this exchange, the blond continued.
"He's been, I don't know, civil towards him," Malfoy assessed. "And what about class on Wednesday? Not even I would have gotten away with talking to the professor like that, but what did Potter get? A warning – not even extra detention!"
Goyle rolled his eyes and Crabbe barely suppressed a snort. Both were fully aware of the fact that their companion didn't get away with half as much as he claimed, and especially not with their strict Head of House. The man might appear to favor Slytherins in the open, but the whole House knew that they would pay for any grievance later.
"It's weird," the blond declared. "It's almost as if he's actually trying to get on Potter's good side or something."
"Maybe he is," Crabbe suggested.
"Oh?" Draco turned to peer haughtily at the shorter boy. "And why on earth would Professor Snape do a thing like that, hm?"
"Maybe Dumbledore told him to," Goyle offered. "Why does it matter, anyway?" No sooner had the words left his mouth, than the brown-haired boy wished to take them back. While it was true that both his and Vince's fathers had been in with the Dark Lord along with Malfoy's dad, their families – or at least their mothers and they themselves – were not nearly as caught up in the whole blood purity regime. That didn't mean they didn't play along with half of the rest of their House, however.
"'Why does it matter'?" Draco echoed, apparently horrified by the remark. "It's Potter! The bloody Boy-Who-Lived. The one responsible for the Dark Lord's fall! How can you possibly ask 'why does it matter'?" He ranted on for several minutes, but Greg and Vincent, well-used to such tirades, effectively tuned him out until he finished. "Both of you are hopelessly dense. I'm not going to waste my time discussing this with you, anymore." And with that, Malfoy rose to his feet and left, muttering under his breath.
Greg glanced at his watch. "I do believe he broke his record, this time," he remarked.
"Starting at 'It's weird', 'Why on earth', or 'Why does it matter'?" asked Vince, consulting his own timepiece.
"'Why on earth'," answered Greg.
"I don't think it really counted as a rant until 'Why does it matter'."
"Neh." Vince shook his head.
Greg sighed. "Guess that leaves 'Lucky Prat' as his longest Potter-rant, after all."
"There was 'the Snitch Should Have Been Mine'."
"True. But is it really fair to count when he's in obvious emotional distress?"
"Good point," Vincent acquiesced, eying the lone cupcake sitting on a plate.
"I'll split it with you," Greg offered.
"I'd better not," he admitted sadly.
Greg sighed once more, leaving the dessert untouched. "Well, should we get some studying done in the library before Malfoy comes looking for us again?"
"Let's," Vince agreed.