A gaggle of students were crowded together at the Gryffindor table, shoulders brushing and heads of various hair colors forming a misshapen circle. Other students, and even some of the staff, craned their necks in interest, as though doing so would allow their inquisitive gazes to penetrate through to the heart of the gathering.
Harry, for once not dismayed to find himself at the center of attention, grinned up at his housemates and friends. It ought to have felt a bit silly, making such a big deal over little more than a twitch, but instead, the boy was inordinately pleased. His friends shared his enthusiasm. That tiny bit of motor control felt like a small miracle — and just when Harry was beginning to lose hope of regaining any movement, at all.
Watching from the head table, Severus took a rather contented sip of his tea. The potions master was nearly as happy as his son at this new development. He looked up as his colleague addressed him.
"Harry seems to be in high spirits this morning," Minerva remarked. I take it there has been progress in his recovery?" On Snape's other side, Lupin looked over in interest, having taken his seat as the Transfiguration professor began to speak.
Severus inclined his head. "Indeed, there has," he told them. "Harry has some movement in a couple of his fingers. It's not much, but it is a start."
"That's great," Remus said sincerely. It was about time Harry had some good news for a change.
"That's great, Harry!" Ginny was enthusiastically echoing the professor's words from her position beside the boy.
"Yeah, mate," agreed George.
His twin continued, "You'll have full range of motion before you know it." Several of the others spoke up in agreement as Hermione gave Harry an excited hug and Lee Jordan ruffled his hair. After another moment or two, the group finally dispersed, intent on consuming their breakfasts before classes commenced for the day.
"It's brilliant, Harry," Ron repeated, seated across from his friend. The redhead took a large bite of pancake and continued. "We tolth oo u'd get it back."
"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione admonished. "Honestly. Have you no manners?"
"You should just give up, Hermione," Ginny counseled. "The rest of us have."
The bushy-haired girl gave a vaguely disgusted look. "I can see why," she remarked.
"Girls," said Ron, rolling his eyes and looking at Harry.
"Don't look at me," Harry told him, "I'm on their side for this one."
"So am I," chimed in Neville from his seat nearby.
Ron looked affronted. "Is no one on my side?"
"Obviously, you've never had to watch yourself eat," Hermione remarked.
Harry looked down at his place as his friends continued to bicker companionably around him. A small smile pulled at his lips. Things were starting to look up. Soon, his life could start to feel normal, again.
Draco had taken to filling his pockets with scraps before going to Herbology class. Most times, the stray would meet him on his way and the boy would pause to feed him. Today was no different. The blond crouched beside the large dog, running a palm along his shoulder.
"You're starting to look better," the boy addressed the animal. "Knew you would if we fattened you up a bit." Though he never said anything, Draco was pleased that the dog didn't seem to prefer Crabbe or Goyle over himself even though they saw it far more often than he did.
"Come on, Malfoy," Crabbe was saying. "We're going to be late."
He looked up at the other two. Goyle clearly shared the same concern. Since when were they so studious, anyway? "Go on without me, then," Draco said, as though it were the most obvious thing to do. "Unless you can't remember the way. Then, you'll just have to wait, now, won't you?"
Goyle huffed at him. "We're not that daft." His gravelly tone carried an unusual bite. Draco was a bit impressed, though he did not say as much aloud. The other two continued to the greenhouses and Draco turned his attention back to the canine.
"You need a name." The boy had come to this conclusion some time before, but it was only now that he addressed the issue. Large brown eyes gazed into his, as though awaiting his verdict. "I was thinking of something to do with black, because of your fur, but then I thought that might be too predictable. So, instead, I thought I'd go with something Quidditch related. I'm mad about Quidditch. How about Nimbus? They're the best models of brooms. Well, right now, the Firebolt is the fastest, but it's only a matter of time before Nimbus makes a better one."
Draco trailed off, belatedly realizing that he was prattling a bit. He eyed the dog seriously and frowned. "It's a stupid name, isn't it?" he said unhappily.
The mutt nudged his hand with his nose, giving his tail a slight wag. A small smile pulled at the boy's lips.
"Does that mean you like it, then?" he asked.
Shaking his head, the dog sneezed, as though that was a preposterous question to ask.
Draco's smile blossomed into a full grin. Giving the dog another hearty pat on the shoulder, the teen quickly rose to his feet. "I gotta go — probably already late. Bye, Nimbus!" He gave a small wave and then hurried on to the greenhouse which held the rest of his classmates.
'Nimbus' sat back on his haunches to watch the boy go. Odd how Malfoy's brat seemed almost... likable. The dog told himself it was only because the boy fed him, but part of him was starting to doubt that.
The girl had hung back after the rest of her classmates had left. Unusual, what with her frequent rush to make it to all her classes on time without running into herself. Snape raised a brow at her as she approached his desk.
"Was there something I could do for you, Miss Granger?" he inquired.
Hermione looked up at the man. Rationally, she knew that Snape was changing for the better — slowly, but she had seen it happen. Furthermore, she was fairly certain that her suspicion was correct and she was only trying to helpful. Part of the girl, however, was still worried the man would dismiss her with a snide remark about her being an 'insufferable know-it-all.'
"Miss Granger," the man prompted when she didn't respond.
Hermione squared her shoulders a bit and drew in a fortifying breath. Then, she dove straight to her point. "Professor, I think Gregory Goyle has dyslexia."
The potions master regarded her for a moment, expression showing nothing. "You believe he has what?" he finally asked.
"Dyslexia," Hermione explained, "it's a learning disability that makes it difficult for a person to learn how to read. Their brain doesn't interpret the letters and symbols correctly, so it makes it very hard for them to read or write. Sometimes even speaking can be difficult. I think the reason Goyle seems to struggle in class isn't because he doesn't try or that he's not as smart, but because he has this learning disorder."
"I see. And how is it that you have come to this conclusion?"
"Well, you see, professor, I overheard Goyle and Crabbe talking in the library and Goyle said that reading gives him a headache. When I asked him about it later, he said it was because the letters don't stay where they are supposed to. Naturally, I did some research to make sure I could be right — I had to ask my parents to send me a couple books because I couldn't find anything in the library. He'd have to be tested to know for sure, but I had a friend in primary school that had dyslexia and he had similar symptoms. He was able to learn to read with special tutoring." Explanation concluded, Hermione chewed on her lip, awaiting the professor's response with a bit of trepidation.
Snape regarded the girl. He had heard of such 'learning disorders,' though they were not often recognized in the wizarding world, any inability to learn being typically seen as a sign of stupidity. While it was true that Goyle was certainly not his brightest pupil, there were moments when the boy showed seemingly uncharacteristic acuity.
"I will see that it is looked into," the man finally said. "Thank you for sharing your concerns, Miss Granger."
"Yes, professor," Hermione responded. Giving a small smile — and unable to completely hide the fact that she was pleased about being taken seriously — the girl quickly left the room to hasten to her next class. Once she was gone, Snape prepared for his next lesson, idly pondering the possibility that one Gregory Goyle was not so empty-headed as he'd originally thought.
Making his way towards Snape's office later that day, Harry looked up and paused. He ducked into an adjacent corridor, peeking around the corner as Lucius Malfoy strode briskly to the potions master's office and rapped sharply on the door.
"Merlin — what is he doing here?"
Harry jumped at the voice, whirling about to see the younger Malfoy standing just behind him. He hated when people managed to sneak up him like that. "What about you?" he hissed.
"Relax, Potter," Draco rolled his eyes, gaze watching as his father disappeared into the office. "I'm not even armed. Obviously, I was returning to my dorm." He turned to look at the other boy, almost meeting his eyes before looking away again.
"What is it, Malfoy?" Harry demanded.
"Heard you got some movement back in your hand," the Slytherin answered.
"What's it to you?"
The blond feigned a disinterested shrug. "Just thought it'd be good if you had. I know you don't believe me — I wouldn't believe me, either — but I... I want your hand to get better as much as you do. Then, maybe everyone won't hate me so much."
"I really doubt everyone hates you," Harry scoffed, turning to glance down the corridor to make sure the coast was clear. Sparing a look back at his rival, he hurried on to the quarters he now shared with his father.
Draco quietly watched him go. "Everyone who matters," he mumbled to himself, though the words were less self-pitying than they had been in the past. Once more wondering what had brought his own father to the school, the teen started after his year mate, turning off to go to the Slytherin common room, instead.
Severus had only been mildly surprised when Lucius Malfoy showed up at his office, and only because he had expected him at least a week before. Clearly, the man had been preoccupied with more important matters.
"Lucius," he greeted neutrally, remaining seated behind his desk.
"Severus," Lucius returned, pausing briefly before he continued. "I find myself rather surprised. Harry Potter. Your son. How unexpected."
"I, too, was surprised," replied Snape.
"Is that so?"
"It is," the potions master intoned. For a while, they simply stared at one another, each carefully weighing the other.
Finally, Malfoy spoke up. "I had wondered what it was that would bring you, of all people, to deliver such a strict punishment on Draco. Surely, as his godfather, you would have helped lighten it some. But then to discover that young Harry was your son... Well, then, of course, things made so much more sense."
"Draco got off leniently; you are well aware of this, Lucius."
"Yes, because being under virtual house arrest is so very lenient," the blond sneered.
Severus rose to his feet, sneering back at the man. "He seriously injured and could have killed my son," he growled. "Had it been Harry who attacked Draco, you would not have rested until he was expelled and locked away in Azkaban! Don't pretend to be so daft, Lucius — you know full well that Draco's privilege has spared him from far worse but no less deserved consequences."
"Had the precious Boy-Who-Lived not proven to be your son, you would be singing a very different tune, right now," Lucius taunted.
"Clearly, that ought never have been the case," Severus stated.
Cold gray eyes narrowed on black, the two men having reached a stalemate. Neither would move the other and they each knew this. A muscle in Lucius' jaw ticked; he had lost, not that the man would ever admit as much.
"I will speak to my son before I leave," he declared.
"He should be in his common room," Snape curtly replied.
"No doubt, you are perfectly certain of this," Lucius derided. The dark-haired man made no response. His visitor gave a haughty sniff. "Good day, Severus," he uttered blandly.
"Good day, Lucius," came the just as bland response.
Whirling about, Malfoy stalked from the office. Snape closed the door behind him with a sharp flick of his wrist.
"Good riddance," he declared.
Harry had started on his homework after returning to their quarters, painstakingly writing out the words for his essay to make them as legible as possible. He had to stop frequently to shake out his left hand as it seemed to cramp more often than his dominant hand had. The boy frowned down at his penmanship; it was still hard to read — and he knew what it was meant to say!
Hearing the door from the corridor open, Harry vacated his desk and stepped out of his room. "Hello, sir," he greeted.
Severus looked up at the boy, thoughts momentarily wandering. It was just the previous evening that Harry had been shouting 'dad.' The man had clearly heard it. Now, it seemed that Harry did not realize the word had left his mouth. Severus wish that he did.
"Hello, Harry," the man returned. "I trust you have started your homework for the evening?"
"Yes, sir," Harry confirmed. "I'm just taking a break to rest my hand."
The potions master gave an approving nod. "Very wise." Inquisitive green eyes fixed upon him and Snape raised an inquiring brow.
"I saw Lucius Malfoy here today."
"Ah, yes," the man said. "We had a brief discussion. It is nothing about which you need concern yourself."
Harry peered up at the man. "Malfoy didn't know why he was here," he offered.
"No. I don't suspect he would have," Snape agreed. He was a bit surprised to hear that the two boys had been speaking, though, he didn't imagine it was more than a brief exchange. "Have you done your physical therapy?"
The teen didn't immediately answer.
Severus made his way over to the kitchenette table, pulling out a chair to sit. "Come. I will assist you."
Dragging his feet a bit, Harry groaned, but otherwise did not protest. After all, as much as the exercises hurt, he had only just gotten some movement back. Now was hardly the time to start slacking.