Harry sat on the edge of his bed, his feet resting on his closed trunk and his elbows on his knees. Staring off into space, Harry barely heard Ron come in.
"You okay?" Ron asked, taking a seat on the adjacent bed.
"What?" Harry asked, head snapping up.
"Are you okay?""Yeah, fine," Harry muttered.
Ron wasn't buying it. "You don't seem fine."
"You've hardly talked to anyone the past few days," Ron pointed out. "You don't even seem excited that it's Christmas break. Is something up with you and Snape?"
Harry looked over distractedly. "What would make you think that?"
Ron shrugged. "Just Potions. It's like you're always avoiding eye contact with him."
Harry frowned. Ron was more observant than he gave him credit for. "It's almost like a Christmas tradition that something goes wrong between me and Severus. We'll get through it; we always have."
"Doesn't seem like a good tradition."
"It's not by choice."
Ron scowled. "Well, if you want to talk..."
Harry nodded curtly. "Thanks. You all packed?"
"Yeah, trunk's downstairs. Hermione's coming with me. You and Snape and Draco and his mom are all invited over to the Burrow for Christmas dinner. You know that, right?" Ron asked, hands in his pockets.
Harry nodded. "We'll be there." Ron raised a brow, but didn't say anything. Harry stood and levitated his trunk down to the common room. Everyone was bundling up in scarves and gloves against the cold outside, ready to leave. The amount of red and gold wool in the room would probably have made a Slytherin vomit.
"See you, Harry!" Neville called with a wave. "Have a good Christmas!"
"You too, Neville!" Harry replied, managing to sound cheery.
"See you on Christmas, Harry!" the twins called on their way out, Ron, Hermione and Ginny trailing behind. Harry simply waved. The minute they were out of the portrait hole, his smile dropped away. Draco came up behind him and punched him lightly in the arm.
"Cheer up. You look brooding," Draco said bluntly.
"I am brooding."
"Well, knock it off. It's Christmas." Draco leaned against the arm of the chair casually. After a pause, he asked, "Worried about You-Know-Who?"
"I guess you could say that," Harry muttered.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but let it go for a bit. He'll still be there to worry about later. Enjoy your holiday - your time away from Umbridge. Forget about him for a bit."
Harry sighed. "I wish I could. I really do."
Draco clapped him on the shoulder. "Work on it. Maybe you'll get there. I need to go. You'll be at the Burrow on Christmas?"
With a nod, Harry said, "If all goes as planned."
"Good. See you there."
When at last the common room was empty, Harry knew he could delay no longer. A pit of dread twisted in his stomach, and he tried in vain to ignore it. He hadn't seen Severus outside of class since that terrible feeling had seized him a few days ago, and Harry knew he owed him an explanation. However, he also knew that he couldn't give him one.
No matter how much he tried to ignore it, tried to convince himself out of it, Harry knew the truth. He remembered Severus's words, explaining the connection between Harry and Voldemort, and suddenly it all made sense. Voldemort had realized the connection and used it. It was Voldemort's anger he felt against Snape - that same sense of betrayal. Harry shivered to think of it.
What would Severus do if he found out? If he found out that Harry was a monster? It was too dangerous not to do anything. What would happen if Harry was taken by an episode and lost control and hurt Severus? He wouldn't be able to live with himself. And yet, Harry couldn't bear to tell Severus and see the look in his eyes...
Swallowing back his bile, Harry gritted his teeth and told himself to deal with it. He was stronger than Voldemort. It was his mind, his playing ground. He could stay in control. He wouldn't hurt the person he loved most. He was determined of that, at least.
With a renewed resolve, Harry headed down to the dungeons, his trunk in tow. He knocked on Severus's door and waited until it opened.
"Hi," he said.
"Hello, Harry. Are you ready to go?" Severus asked, eying the trunk.
Harry nodded, shifting his gaze. He didn't want to make eye contact any more than necessary, despite the fact that he was currently using occlumency. This was no time for chances.
"Come in, then."
Harry could feel Severus studying him intently as he passed into the office. If he found anything strange, he didn't push the matter, at least not at the moment.
"Just let me gather a few things and we can be off," Severus said, slipping a few file folders into a bag. "How have you been since the other night? Has your scar bothered you?"
"No, it's been fine," Harry replied. "And your mark?"
It might have been Harry's imagination, but he thought he saw Severus's face darken. Looking at him now, his guardian seemed thinner, paler, and a pang of guilt hit Harry. He felt bad for being so concerned with the DA, with his own Voldemort issues that he hadn't noticed the toll it was taking on his guardian. "Fine as well," Severus said smoothly. Harry wasn't sure he believed it. Severus changed the subject, "It could be my imagination, but you have seemed a little distant since you came running in here a few days ago. Something I should know about?"
Harry looked down, searching for a reasonable explanation. He latched on to the one thing he could think of. "I let Blaise into the DA."
"Blaise Zabini?" Severus asked, arching a brow. "Harry, he has had it out for you from day one."
"I know, but...I don't know. The first thing he does out of line and I'll throw him out anyway," Harry promised. "No one else knows yet."
"Do you fear their reaction?"
Harry shrugged. "Kinda. They seem okay with Daphne being there, but they don't talk to her or include her, and she's okay with that. I'm not sure Blaise will be. I guess that whole thing's just been bothering me; that's all," he lied.
Severus snapped his case shut. "Well, do your best to forget about that for the time being. Your godfather is certainly eager to see you."
Harry's head snapped up. "You've been in touch with him?" he asked in surprise.
Severus gave a half shrug. "Occasionally. He gets lonely; the Order members are all too busy to hang around headquarters. You know it's bad when I am who he chooses to call."
Suddenly feeling guilty for not calling Sirius as often as he should have, Harry hung his head. Severus picked up his case and trunk and unlocked the door to his quarters.
"Ready?" he asked.
Harry followed his guardian into the inner rooms and straight to the fireplace. He went first, taking some Floo powder and throwing it at his feet as he called out his address. In a flash of green light, Harry was deposited on the hearth of Spinner's End and promptly enveloped in a bear hug.
"Hi, Sirius," he said, grin in his choked voice. "You're strangling me."
"Oops, sorry, Harry," Sirius replied, pulling away. He placed both hands on Harry's shoulders and looked him up and down. "You're looking good. A little skinny."
"Ok, mom," Harry said, rolling his eyes. He couldn't hold back a smile. "I've missed you."
"And yet I would go weeks without a call."
Harry looked sheepish. "Sorry."
Sirius shrugged. "Ah, it's alright. I get it, you're a popular, busy guy. How's the secret rebellion force going?" he asked, helping lug Harry's trunk out of the fireplace.
"Great, actually," Harry replied. "I think Umbridge might be getting suspicious, but she can't get enough on us to pin it down."
"Yeah, well, if you ever need some sneaky getaway stuff," Sirius told him as the Floo flared, "just ask. Mrs. Weasley said the twins' intelligence is wasted? I'm not sure about wasted, but she's right. Those two are geniuses."
Severus looked at him warily as he stepped from the Floo. "Oh Merlin, don't tell me you have burnt down your house playing with their experiments."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "I'm not stupid, Severus."
"So you expect me to believe that you left their inventions untouched and just handled the business end?" Severus asked, raising a brow.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Sirius replied, "Well, I mean I'm not stupid enough to try them out in my own house. With all of those Order people around? Molly would whip me with a wet noodle."
"She still doesn't know?"
"Nope," Sirius replied. "I don't know what she thinks I do all day. Order work, probably."
Severus shook his head in exasperation. "You would be more useful that way. I still can't help but wonder where the twins are getting all this money to fund their little business."
"Oh, they're still working off of the money Harry ga-" Sirius cut himself off as he glimpsed Harry, wide eyed and shaking his head violently. But it was too late. Severus's eyes narrowed.
"What was that?" he asked.
"Nothing," Harry said quickly. "Hey, where's Midgy? Why don't we get some food?"
Severus ignored him. "Perhaps I misheard, but I thought Sirius just said that the twins are still operating on the money you gave them?"
"You misheard," Harry assured him.
"No, I don't think I did."
"You don't think?" Harry replied vaguely. Sirius looked down sheepishly.
"No. You gave the twins money?" Severus asked sharply.
Harry scratched his neck. "Um...maybe?"
"What in Merlin's name made you think that was a good idea?" he demanded. "The twins are two of the least responsible people I know, but you are creeping up on the list. Where did you get the money?"
"My Tri-Wizard winnings," Harry explained quietly.
Severus stared at him for a moment. "Dare I ask how much of it you gave them?"
"Harry," he prompted.
"All of it," Harry admitted.
"All of it?" Severus repeated in disbelief. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.
Harry shot Sirius a glare that said this-is-all-your-fault. Sirius mouthed, "I'm sorry."
"Yeah. But they did make me partner in their business, so I'll get a cut of the profits," Harry said brightly.
"There won't be any profits!" Severus shot back. "You cannot honestly expect this joke shop idea to succeed, can you? I never said anything because I figured this was as good a way as any for Sirius to amuse himself and keep busy, but you actually thought this was going somewhere?"
"Hey!" Sirius said indignantly.
"With a thousand galleons, I sure hope it's going somewhere!" Harry shot back. "Seriously, they're already selling stuff at school and making a good bit," Severus's face darkened, "the business is going to be great."
"You should have asked me," Severus said.
"It was an extremely rash and foolish investment."
"You are now definitely on the list of irresponsible people."
"Sor- oh, okay," Harry said, trudging to the kitchen. He sighed. Christmas sure was off to a merry start.