While years as a mediwitch had rendered Poppy Pomfrey capable of surviving on fewer hours of sleep than the typical witch or wizard, she was not one to stay up all night unless she had a particularly ill patient. Young Harry Potter, while currently mending from a broken arm and damaged ribs, did not currently fall into this category. This being the case, checking on him during her hourly rousing throughout her regular sleeping hours between eleven and four would more than suffice.
It was half-past one, however, and not only was she still awake, but she had yet to even peek in on the boy. Never had she been so negligent in her attentions to anyone under her care. Poppy was fairly certain, of course, that Harry was perfectly fine – he wasn't really ill, after all, and had no history of unfavorable reactions to medicinal potions. Still, she did feel a bit guilty, just not so much so that she abandoned what she was doing.
On the table before her sat four phials. Poppy was in the process of testing three of them against the fourth, having combined a drop of each with a potion made for this purpose, and with a final flick of her wand, she intently awaited the results. Slowly, the contents of the first dish faded until they were entirely clear. The second dish remained unchanged. Pressing her lips into a thin line, the mediwitch stared at the last dish expectantly. Just as she was beginning to wonder if she'd made a mistake, the vibrant color drained from the fluid therein leaving it transparent and colorless.
"Well," Poppy murmured on the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, "there's that question answered."
Harry sat across from Remus in his office, finishing the last bit of his tea. The teen enjoyed the older man's company, especially since he had been friends with his father and could tell him about some of their exploits when they were in school themselves. They had fallen into a companionable silence, and Harry was about to say that he'd ought to go when he noticed that his professor was studying him intently.
"What..?" Harry asked slowly, unnerved by how much Remus' expression reminded him of the one he'd been getting off and on from Snape.
Lupin blinked and shook his head, as though he hadn't realized he was staring at the boy. "Nothing," he answered with a self-conscious smile. "I guess I'm a little tired."
"I'll let you go get some rest, then," Harry said, rising to his feet to leave. "I've got homework I need to do before tomorrow."
"Yes," Remus got up and walked with him to the door, "I guess you wouldn't have had a chance to get to it yesterday." He was, of course, talking of Harry's stay in the medical wing.
"Yeah," the boy agreed. Not that he would have worked on it, anyway, but he wasn't about to tell his teacher that. "Well, I'd better head back, now. Thanks for the tea, professor."
"Anytime, Harry," Lupin responded warmly. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Bye." With a final wave, Harry departed down the corridor. As he turned a corner, Remus frowned to himself. The boy's scent was bothering him again, now more than ever. It reminded him of something, or someone, but he couldn't seem to put a finger on who. He got the vague impression that it might have been years since he'd encountered it, but that didn't seem quite right, either.
Sighing, Lupin closed and locked his office before making his way across the classroom into the corridor beyond. The more he thought about it, the more frustrated he became. Why, in Merlin's name, could he not figure it out?
After deciding a walk in the fresh air might do him some good, the werewolf made his way down to the ground floor. Soon, he was crossing the Entrance Hall to the great oak doors leading outside. Still lost in his thoughts, it took him a moment before he recognized the scent of someone passing behind him to the stairs. It was the very scent that he'd been trying so furiously to remember!
Turning sharply, Remus wasn't entirely prepared for who he saw.
Severus quickly made his way towards the infirmary with a crate full of medicinal potions for Pomfrey's stores. If he wasn't in the best humor it wasn't his fault in the least. It certainly wasn't his idea to spend all day speaking to overindulgent parents concerning a few of his fifth years' abominable behavior. Honestly, of all students, his Slytherins ought to know better than to act in such a way.
He hadn't had a chance to work on any of the potions he'd wanted to get to that day, let alone the Abbas Potion. There were some ingredients that he'd need to prepare beforehand, not to mention something from the Potter brat. He supposed with a little creativity he could get some hair off the boy. Though Severus would rather have as accurate a result as possible, he supposed it would have to do.
If only he could find a moment to prepare the damn thing.
Finally arriving at his destination, Severus cut straight to the back room behind Pomfrey's office where most of the medical supplies were kept. It wasn't a very big room – it contained a rectangular table down the left hand side, a large cabinet (which he was fairly certain was spelled to be larger on the inside), and a stretch of counter with a sink and cupboards along the right side. He placed the crate on the table and left the room, knowing that the mediwitch had seen him as he passed.
"Poppy." The man easily schooled his mild surprise at finding her standing just outside the door to her office, almost as though she'd been waiting for him to re-emerge. "I brought the new potions I made for your stores. I apologize for not bringing them first thing. I was," he sneered faintly, "occupied."
"Not at all, Severus. Thank you," Poppy responded with a quick smile before her expression grew solemn again, almost... calculating. Snape felt a muscle in his shoulder twitch ever-so-slightly. Experience had long ago taught him that few things bode greater ill – or embarrassment, at the least – than a shrewd Madame Pomfrey.
"Well," he said, moving past her towards the door, "if there is nothing else, I must be going. I've still a lot to accomplish before tomorrow." He was halfway across the room when she spoke up.
"You've been a bit off."
Severus stopped and turned back towards her, raising an inquiring brow.
"At first, I thought perhaps you had a particularly troublesome class of first years, but since there have been no apparent increase in potions-related accidents, I feel that would be rather unlikely," she reasoned aloud. "I was rather hard-pressed to come up with what could possibly be driving you to such distraction, in fact. Then, yesterday, you practically handed me the answer."
"I'm quite certain I haven't the slightest idea what you are talking about," Snape intoned blandly.
Poppy closed the distance between them, planting her hands upon her hips as she frowned sternly up at him. "I'm talking about the fact that you are Harry's father, not James."
Severus would forever deny the flood of emotions that washed over him in that instant: horror, bewilderment, anxiety, panic, fear, shock, remorse, and the faintest twinge which might have been yearning or perhaps merely indigestion. He stared calmly back at her, his own expression betraying none of this.
"What on earth would bring you to such a preposterous conclusion?" he asked, his tone mocking.
It wasn't often that the kindly mediwitch scowled, but Severus secretly maintained that it could make even Albus Dumbledore feel like an errant schoolboy. "I still keep samples from the students I've treated," she revealed, "all the students I've treated. Time-spelled, of course."
The man might have kicked himself had he thought it might actually make him feel better. How could he have made such an obvious slip-of-tongue? He found he was rather disgusted with himself at the moment.
Poppy gave a sharp nod. The Parentis Solution was a rather simple potion to brew. It required the use of blood and a bit of medical magic Snape did not know. Whereas the Abbas Potion could only be used to identify one parent – namely, the father – the Parentis Solution could identify both.
"Clearly, you haven't known for long, or you would have looked into it before now," the mediwitch stated.
"Technically, I still know no such thing," Snape growled stubbornly.
Pomfrey's face flushed as her temper got the better of her. "You- You..." she stammered for a moment, "impossible child! I'm telling you, now: Harry Potter is your son!"
"You'll forgive me if I don't just take your word on the matter."
"Obstinate fool! Go ahead and make your own potion, then! I can guarantee the result won't be any different. You've always been too bull-headed for your own bloody good." She threw her hands up in a gesture that was one part dismissal and three parts aggravation.
Rather riled himself, Severus spun about and once more made for the door, black robes billowing behind him. He had just reached it when the woman spoke up once more.
"When you've finally convinced yourself, Severus, you'll have one very important question to ask yourself." Her voice was tight, anger causing it to tremor a bit.
"And what would that be?" he demanded snidely.
"How will you make it up to him?" she demanded. "How will you make up for being so dreadful to the boy for being 'just like his father', when that father is you?"
Snape's hand clenched convulsively on the edge of the door before he shoved it the rest of the way open. He didn't make any response as he left. The truth of the matter was that he simply didn't know.
Harry sighed in defeat as his tortoise breathed steam at him. Beside it, Ron's still had a spout for a tail and a willow-patterned shell. So much for transfiguring a teapot into a tortoise, Harry thought. As far as he could see, Hermione's was the only was that had been accomplished perfectly. Sometimes, having such a smart friend was discouraging.
The chime signaling the end of class rang out and they turned in their assignments before leaving the classroom. With the possible exception of Wednesdays, when they also had Astronomy at midnight, Mondays seemed like the longest day of the week. All of Harry's most difficult classes were on Mondays this year, and all in double sessions. At least he was good at Defense, which was in the afternoon. Fridays didn't seem nearly as long – perhaps, because it was just before the weekend instead of after it.
"Can't wait 'til I can drop Potions," Ron grumbled as they trekked down to the dungeons.
"Ron, don't say that!" Hermione chastised, just catching up with them. (Hadn't she left the classroom with them?) "Potions is a very important class!"
Personally, Harry rather agreed with Ron, though he wouldn't be so daft as to say so in front of Hermione. He supposed it might not be so bad if the professor didn't hate him. That was neither here nor there, however, as Snape did hate him and Potions was miserable enough to earn its place as his least favorite class.
At least Snape was behaving normally again. Though, upon closer inspection, it might have seemed a bit mental, Harry was quite relieved his teacher had taken to glaring at him again at breakfast.
Moments later, the Gryffindor/Slytherin third year class had been set to work making a Shrinking Solution. They had had to write a rather onerous essay on Shrinking Potions for their summer essay, so it was no surprise when four of the five ingredients were rather slimy.
Adding a rat spleen to his cauldron, Harry wondered if perhaps using rodents for potions ingredients was one of the castle's means of pest control. With a shrug to himself, he decided he didn't really care, and looked up at the instructions once more. The only thing left was to mix in a dash of leech juice. Funny... Snape hadn't snapped at him, yet.
Harry's hand jerked violently as the professor suddenly said his name, causing him to pour too much leech juice into his potion. The boy watched in dismay as his assignment became a violent shade of purple instead of the acid green it was suppose to be.
"You'd do well to mind what you are doing rather than daydreaming in class, Potter," Snape informed him.
Would'a been fine if you hadn't startled me, Harry thought spitefully, but responded with a barely polite, "Yes, sir."
The man sneered down at him. "Pathetic," he muttered, then continued to prowl about the classroom, demeaning Gryffindors and showering Slytherins with undeserved praise.
Harry scowled to himself as he worked to compensate for the extra leech juice, ignoring the sympathetic looks both Ron and Hermione sent his way. At least his potion wasn't as bad as Neville's – his was orange, and probably poisonous. Hermione surreptitiously tried to help the nerve-wracked boy correct it as Snape had declared it would be tested on his toad, Trevor.
Fortunately for both Neville and Trevor, the potion worked as it was suppose to and, apart from the five points Snape took for Hermione assisting Neville with his potion, everyone left the classroom in one piece. Then again, there were some people who just couldn't leave well enough alone.
"Hey, Longbottom," Malfoy taunted as the shy Gryffindor walked past him. "How's it feel to have to have a girl help you? Though, I guess you can count as one yourself, now, can't you?" Crabbe and Goyle laughed at this.
Neville blushed but said nothing as he held Trevor a little closer to his chest.
"Shut up, Malfoy," Ron told him.
"I'd like to see you make me, Weasel."
"Neville, don't listen to him," Hermione said, then added, "Forget it, Ron. He's not worth it."
"Better listen to your girlfriend," drawled the blond. "She is pretty smart... for a mudblood."
Someone had clearly disconnected Harry's arm from his brain, because his wand was drawn and pointed at Malfoy before he could even think about it. "Take it back, Malfoy!" he snarled.
Before Malfoy could respond, someone else interjected. "Potter!" Harry almost dropped his wand in surprise as he turned his head to see Professor Snape storming malevolently towards him. Slowly, he lowered his arm to his side. Never before had he desired a hole to crawl into quite so much.
"Twenty points from Gryffindor!" the professor spat. Then a truly horrifying thing happened: Snape smiled. Silkily, he pronounced, "And I do believe, Mr. Potter, that you have earned yourself a week of detention – with me. Seven, sharp, Potter. Don't be late." And in a whirl of black robes he was gone, leaving Harry with only one thing to say.