"We were studying, Ronald," Hermione was saying testily when Harry joined his friends at dinner.
"Like that's any better!" Ron retorted, gesturing with his fork. "Isn't that like aiding the enemy or something?"
"What's going on?" Harry asked. He sat down next to Hermione.
"She's been hanging out with Malfoy and his goons!"
The girl rolled her eyes. "I was helping Crabbe and Goyle study," she reiterated for Harry's benefit. "Malfoy came along later. Besides, Crabbe and Goyle are hardly Malfoy's goons. If you ever tried to have a civil exchange with either of them, you might know better."
"See what I'm talking about, Harry?" said the redhead. "Talk some sense into her!"
Harry fiddled with the strap on his wrist brace. He didn't like getting caught in the middle things like this. It was his experience that no matter what he said, one of his friends ended up being mad at him. Still, they were both looking expectantly at him now, so he had to say something.
"Um… Why were you helping them study?" he asked Hermione. That should be a safe place to start, right?
"Well, initially, I was only helping Goyle because he was a bit behind on some of the reading, but then Crabbe started coming along, too. Malfoy didn't show up until today," the girl answered.
"So, what, are you friends with them, now?" Ron demanded looking rather scandalized.
"Well, no," said Hermione. "I wouldn't say we were friends, exactly. But they're not as bad as you think they are, either."
The redhead sputtered. "Aren't as – they're Slytherins, Hermione!" he exclaimed.
"Oh, grow up, Ron. Not all Slytherins are the same, you know."
By this point, Harry had elected to stay out of his friends' debate. They seemed to be going at it quite well on their own without his input, anyway. Fortunately, Professor Snape chose at this moment to stop by, bringing their bickering to an abrupt end. Harry looked up as the man placed a hand on his shoulder.
"After you have finished eating, I would like to speak with you in my office," the Potions Master said. When Harry made to stand up, he pressed gently against the boy's shoulder. "After you have finished eating, Harry."
Harry ducked his head. "Yes, sir," he said. Once satisfied that he was going to do as told, Snape continued on his way out of the Great Hall.
"Blimey," said Ron when the man was gone. "What was that about?"
"I don't know," Harry replied, playing with a strap on his wrist brace again.
"It must be important, whatever it is," contributed Hermione. "The professor looked rather serious."
"You haven't gotten in trouble again, have you, mate?"
Harry shot Ron an incredulous look. "No," he answered a bit stiffly. "I haven't." He picked up his fork and proceeded to play distractedly with his food between bites. He was anxious to know what it was that Snape wanted to talk about, but if he finished too quickly, the man might chastise him for eating too fast. The earlier discussion was for the moment forgotten, although it was likely to come up again in the near future.
Once it seemed that an appropriate amount of time had passed, Harry abandoned the rest of his meal and after bidding good bye to his friends, he set off to visit the professor in the dungeons.
"I am capable of understanding that, wolf," the boy could hear the Potions Master saying as he approached the slightly open door to the office. "That does not mean that I must like it."
Harry knocked hesitantly at the door, which promptly swung wide to reveal that Professor Lupin was there as well. "Come in, Harry," Snape beckoned from where he stood behind his desk. The Defense instructor shut the door behind him.
"Have a seat," Lupin suggested, standing to one side to allow the boy to pass him in the cramped room.
"Um, what's going on?" Harry asked as he moved closer to the desk without sitting. The thumb of his left hand picked at a buckle on his wrist brace, looking uncertainly between the two men. The Potions Master looked less than thrilled about whatever it was, while it seemed that the Defense professor had been trying to reason with him.
"It's about Black," Snape began, saying the name like it left a bad taste in his mouth.
"Severus," Lupin said quietly, a note of gentle rebuke in his tone. Snape let out an agitated scoff then gestured for the other man to speak, instead.
The brown-haired man turned to face the boy, smiling a bit to show that the situation wasn't quite as dire as it seemed to be. "Harry, when you were born, your parents – James and Lily, that is – appointed a couple of their closest friends as your godparents. Sirius Black is your godfather and he would like to meet with you, in person."
"He's my godfather," Harry repeated. Thinking back, he remembered hearing the man say as much. He shot a glance over at Professor Snape. The man's arms were folded across his chest, his expression a set of unhappy lines. It was obvious the professor did not like Sirius Black, even though he had been exonerated of all charges. The teen looked back at the Defense teacher, whose expression was neutral, although he felt that Professor Lupin probably did like Sirius Black and was pleased that the man was innocent.
Harry's lips pressed together as he tugged uncertainly at the strap on his wrist brace. "Would it…" he began almost timidly, "Would it be okay to meet him?"
The Potions Master uncrossed his arms and let them fall to his sides, making a conscious effort to seem less disapproving. "If that is what you would like, Harry, then yes," he said. "It is true that Black and I never got along, but nevertheless, he is your godfather and it would seem that he is not, in fact, a criminal." Snape gave a faint grimace at this, though to his credit, he had tried not to. "All things considered, it would probably be best for you to form your own opinion of the man."
There. He had said it, and without choking on the words. Lupin was practically beaming at him as though he were a particularly daft pet that had finally learned how to civilly "shake hands." Snape rolled his eyes in lieu of scowling at his coworker. After all, he was not being fair-minded so much as he was moderating the time his son would be spending with one of his most bitter rivals. Knowing Harry, if he forbade him to meet the man, the child would just find a way to do so without his permission.
"Really?" Harry asked him, still uncertain. "It's really all right?" The flicker of hope in those green eyes made Snape even less inclined to keep the boy from meeting his mangy godfather.
"Really, Harry," he assured.
The boy's face broke into a small smile. "I-I'd like that," he said, words a bit rushed – as though he was afraid the man would change his mind. "Thank you, sir."
Snape inclined his head in acknowledgement and with a final parting smile and a wave, his son departed from the room. Merlin, he hated how happy Harry was about meeting Black, of all people. Turning his attention to Lupin, the Potions Master scowled at the man.
"Be certain to inform Black that if he causes my son any distress or tries to instill any reckless, foolish ideas into his head, that Azkaban will seem like a safe haven by the time I'm through with him," he ground out.
Despite this very clear threat against his friend, the wolf smiled back at him. "I'll let him know, Severus," he promised.
The Potions Master let out a quiet scoff and made a dismissive gesture with his hand as he took his seat. "Leave. I've grading to finish."
"Of course," Remus replied. He paused before going out the door. "Tea later this evening?"
Severus looked up at him, eyeing him almost thoughtfully. His kneejerk reaction was to refuse. This camaraderie that had developed between them still felt foreign – especially since they'd just gotten off the topic of Black. In all honesty, however, he usually ended up taking tea in the staff room with Lupin most evenings, anyway, and loathe though he was to admit it, he found that he did, in fact, enjoy this time.
So, the Potions Master inclined his head in acquiescence and the wolf smiled back at him. Then, Snape settled in to work. He really did have a lot of grading he wished to complete before joining his… friend for tea.
Harry paused momentarily on his way towards the dungeons. "Malfoy," he returned, continuing on his way.
The blond fell in step beside him, silently matching his strides. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his robes. This gave the Malfoy scion an air of casualness that he'd formerly reserved for around his housemates.
"Did you need something, Malfoy?" Harry asked the other boy, glancing over at him. It annoyed him a bit that Malfoy was clearly taller than he was.
"Not really. Just returning to my common room," replied Draco. A look of uncertainty crossed his features. "It's, uh, it is okay if I walk with you, right? I could wait and go down later if you don't want to walk with me."
The Gryffindor considered this for a long moment. If he'd been asked such a thing months before, his answer would have been an unhesitating "no." Malfoy could have killed him, after all, and it still wasn't certain how much function he would get back in his hand. Still, the other boy had been different. Not all at once, but little by little, Draco Malfoy seemed to have changed.
"I still haven't forgiven you," Harry pointed out.
Draco ducked his head. "I know," he responded grimly.
"What? You don't think you're entitled to my forgiveness or something?"
"Pott-Snape – how long are you gonna go by Potter, anyway? That doesn't matter," the Slytherin shook the stray thought from his head, gray eyes moving to green. "What matters is that I did something horrible to you. And I can't ever take it back.
"So, no; I don't think I'm entitled to your forgiveness. What I did was… it was unforgivable. And no matter how sorry I am, I can never make it right," Draco concluded.
"But you're trying," Harry admitted quietly, tugging lightly at his tingling fingers with his undamaged hand.
Draco mustered a wan smile. "I'm not very good at it," he confessed. "I was never really taught to apologize for anything."
"Yeah, you are kinda rubbish at it," quipped Harry.
The blond shot a surprised at his companion, who gave him a small smirk. A slow smile tugged at his mouth. "Thanks for that," he drawled sarcastically. "How kind of you to point out my faults."
"Any time," the Gryffindor responded glibly, stopping in front of the entrance to the Snape quarters.
"Later, Pott-Snape…" Draco gave a frustrated look at the continued name confusion.
"How about 'Harry'?" the dark-haired boy suggested.
"Harry…" echoed Draco, "Does… does that mean you'll forgive me?" He felt a thrill of hope at the thought.
"Well," Harry responded thoughtfully, "keep being this Draco and maybe I will."
Draco found he couldn't stop the grin that spread across his face – nor did he find that he really wanted to. "I'll take it," he said. He waved a hand. "See you around, Harry."
"Later, Draco," Harry returned. He stepped inside the quarters he shared with the professor, pondering his own response, once more. It was true that he had not forgiven the Draco who had shot a curse at him in the corridor and caused the injury to his hand, but the Slytherin had changed. What he'd said mere minutes before was proof of this. Harry couldn't help but think that that Draco was someone he could be on good terms with… maybe even friends.
His fingers were twitching. They had been doing that all day, in fact. And what a long day it had been! He had woken early because he'd been unable to remain asleep, only for the rest of the day to pass with agonizing leisure. Classes had been more difficult than ever to focus upon and meal times had seemed to be at least twice as long as necessary.
Harry had finally concluded that he would go mad before that evening arrived – but he hadn't. Now, the time he had been awaiting the entire day had come and suddenly he was anxious for an entirely different reason altogether. The boy played with the straps on his wrist brace as he gazed uncertainly at the door to the vacant classroom where he was about to formally meet his godfather.
The boy was nervous. He didn't know what he ought to expect from the coming encounter. Harry had asked both Professor Snape and Lupin about the man, of course. The Potions Master had said relatively little on the matter, referring him to the Defense instructor. Lupin's knowledge of the man was mostly from twelve years before. People changed in that amount of time. They changed in less.
"Ready, Harry?" Professor Lupin asked him after he had a moment to brace himself.
The teen looked up at the man. The Defense professor was accompanying him during this first meeting because Snape believed it would be best if he weren't present for it. Harry almost wished that the man had thought differently. He liked Professor Lupin, but he just wasn't his…
"Yes, professor," Harry answered, giving a nod of his head.
Giving an encouraging smile, Lupin opened the door and held it open. Almost timidly, Harry made his way inside. A man had been staring out the window at the other end of room, turning when he heard the door open. He was still a bit gaunt, but his hair and beard had been neatly trimmed and his tattered clothing replaced with new garments. A broad grin overtook the man's features, causing his gray eyes to shine as he looked at the boy.
"Harry!" he greeted.
Harry offered a shy smile. "Hello, godfather," he said.