Harry strode confidently into Severus's office.
"Hey Sev-" he began then stopped dead. "Oh, sorry."
The Hufflepuff serving detention in the corner glanced up awkwardly from his lines, then scowled and dropped his gaze.
"Step out in the hall," Severus said sternly, keeping up appearances. "I will join you in a moment."
"Alright," Harry said easily.
He had only a few minutes to wait in the hall until Severus came out.
"What's he in detention for?" Harry asked.
"Sneaking into the Ravenclaw common room," Severus replied.
"Gee, you only get lines for that?" Harry asked, pleasantly surprised.
Severus looked at him. "Today he has lines, tomorrow he will be scrubbing the hospital wing's bedpans with a toothbrush."
"Oh." Harry wrinkled his nose. "Guess that's not so great."
"Do you need something?" Severus asked. "Have you recovered from your accident? I apologize for not being there, it was the full moon and I had to administer more potion to our dearly beloved beast." The last was said with a generous dose of sarcasm.
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm fine. But my broom isn't," he frowned. "I'll miss it."
"I am sorry, Harry," Severus said. "Next time I am in Diagon Alley, perhaps I can look for a replacement, though it will not be until spring sometime, I regret to say."
"That's okay," Harry said, brightening considerably. "Spring is better than nothing. Thank you."
Severus inclined his head. "Is that all you wanted to discuss?" he asked. Gesturing towards the closed door behind them, he added, "I must inform this delinquent of the new task that will color tomorrow evening."
Harry grinned. "I just wanted to start working on the charm to ward off dementors. I don't want another incident like the other day."
"Sensible," Severus agreed. "Yes, I daresay we put this off too long. However, I feel like this will take a lot of work, could we perhaps do it next Saturday? I do not wish to distract from your weekly studies."
Harry nodded. It was a little farther away than he had been hoping for, but it would do. "Alright, see you then. Well, I suppose I'll see you tomorrow in Potions."
Severus nodded. "That you shall."
Harry walked away, shaking his head at his guardian's odd way of speech.
"Expecto Patronum," Harry said, testing the feel of the words on his lips. "Okay. So what, we just think of something happy and say that?"
"It seems like it," Severus said, dark brow furrowed as he studied a dusty book open in front of him.
"That sounds easy enough," Harry said. "How come you could never get this before?"Severus pursed his lips, still reading. He answered absentmindedly, "It was hard to summon up a happy thought."
Harry frowned. "Alright, I think I'm ready."
"Go ahead," Severus said. "It shouldn't hurt anything in here."
"Expecto Patronum," Harry said, pointing his wand at the window. Nothing happened.
"Perhaps your memory was not strong enough."
Harry had been thinking about his parents in the mirror. Maybe that memory wasn't happy, exactly, when so many other feelings surrounded that mirror. He did not want to admit, however, that thinking of his parents wasn't a happy thought."Maybe it's because there isn't a dementor," Harry suggested.
"Possibly," Severus admitted. "That could be what you need to learn. We cannot exactly bring a dementor into the castle though."
Harry thought for a moment. The inherent fear associated with the dementors summoned up the memory of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class with the boggarts."We could get a boggart," Harry suggested.
"What would that do?" Severus said, distracted with his own thoughts.
"Dementors are my greatest fear," Harry admitted.
Severus studied Harry. "Very wise, Harry. What you fear is the embodiment of fear."
"Do you know where there is a boggart lurking?" Severus asked.
"Professor Lupin's office," Harry replied.
"Then let us go on a field trip, shall we?" Severus said, a slight mocking edge to his voice.
Harry followed Severus all the way to Lupin's office next to the Defense classroom. Severus knocked, three sharp raps.
"Come in," a familiar voice called.
Severus opened the door and the two of them stepped inside.
"Ah, Severus," Lupin said. "Oh, and Harry. What can I do for you?"
"We have come to borrow your boggart," Severus stated flatly. "If you are agreeable," he added, probably for Harry's benefit so that he would not be construed as rude.
"Certainly," Lupin said, gesturing to the small cabinet that Harry recognized from class. "May I ask why? This does not have something to do with me stopping you from battling it?" he asked Harry, concerned.
"No," Harry replied. "We're learning the Patronus charm."
Lupin's brow furrowed. "And your boggart is... a dementor?"
"I think so," Harry replied.
Lupin considered this. "I apologize, then. I assumed that it would be Voldemort so-"
"Do not say his name," Severus growled.
Lupin raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I apologize. I was not aware that you were afraid of the name of your dear master."
Severus's glare intensified from mere controlled dislike to loathing. "How dare you bring that up after all I am doing for you."
Remus was quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry. That was out of line. I apologize, Severus, Harry." He ran his hand through his hair. "Go on and take the boggart. Best of luck to you."
Severus, still angry, levitated the cabinet and guided it out of the door. Harry moved to follow.
"Oh, Harry?" Lupin said, as he was about to step out the door. Harry turned and in the blink of an eye, caught a small flat object thrown at him out of reflex. He looked at it.
"Chocolate," he said. "Thanks."
Lupin merely nodded as Harry went to catch up with Severus. Harry was not feeling quite as warm toward the werewolf after the exchange with Severus. Perhaps he should have sided with Severus earlier. After all, he barely knew Lupin... Harry shook his head and jogged to catch up. These were thoughts for another time.
They reached Severus's office and he sat the cabinet down in the corner with a thud. Harry scrutinized his face. He was still mad.
"That was wrong of him you know," Harry said, trying to be helpful. "I thought he knew that you don't serve Him."
"He does, I am sure. Nevertheless, he shall never let me forget the mistake that-" Severus cut himself off. "That I made," he finished awkwardly.
Harry could tell that he had been about to say something else and covered it up. He didn't push it, but he noticed Severus's features soften after Harry sided with him.
"Come on," Harry said, "let's give it a go."
"Are you sure you're ready?" Severus asked. "Be sure to think of the happiest memory you can summon."
Harry nodded. "Go ahead." Severus unlatched the cabinet and the doors flew open, forming into the all too familiar shape of the personification of fear. Harry took a steadying breath, reminded himself that Severus wouldn't let him get hurt, then shouted, "Expecto Patronum!" He was thinking again of his parents in the mirror. This was his last thought before he passed out.
"Harry," Severus said, shaking him gently. "Wake up."
Severus had forced the boggart back into the cabinet and was trying to revive Harry. He slowly came around. He blinked rapidly, then groped in his pocket.
"What are you looking for?" Severus asked.
"Chocolate," Harry croaked. His hand grasped the package and pulled it out, sitting up. Harry unwrapped it and bit off a chunk. Slowly, the color came back to his cheeks and his breathing eased.
"Better?" Severus asked.
"Much," Harry said. "Let's try again."
"Not so fast," Severus warned. "Sit down for a few minutes."
"Alright," Harry agreed, looking a little woozy after standing. He sat in Severus's cushioned chair. "Maybe you should try."
"Dementors aren't my worst fear," Severus stated.
"Then aim it at me," Harry said.
"But if I cannot do it, you will pass out again. I do not want that," Severus argued.
Harry smiled. "Then it will give you extra motivation. Go on. Open it."
"You are certain?"
"Yes," Harry said firmly.
Severus nodded and took a moment to gather his happy thought. His first instinct shouted Lily but all of his memories of her were laced with bitter sadness. They simply would not do. At last, he found one. The day when Harry agreed to be his son. If that wasn't the happiest moment of his life, Severus was at a loss as to what was.
He unlatched the cabinet and stood out of the way.
"Expecto patronum!" He said forcefully. To his great surprise, a thin tendril of wispy blue material came flowing from his wand. The dementor moved to avoid it but it was not particularly bothered. It continued on it's course for Harry.
"Expecto patronum!" Harry shouted from his chair. A blue arc formed like a shield, protecting him from the dementor. He grinned but it began to falter.
Severus stepped in front of him. After a moment of hesitation, the dark black shape shifted into something that was not dissimilar to the dementor. It was a man in pitch black robes, cape billowing behind him. His face was pale, veins bulging and his eyes were red and bloodshot. A sinister, creepy smile marred his face as he stepped towards Severus.
"Riddikulus!" he shouted viciously. The man disintegrated into ash and was then forced back into the cabinet.
Severus took a moment to compose himself, then turned to find Harry gaping at him.
"Who was that?" he asked in shock and horror.
Severus took a breath. "The Dark Lord. Or as you may know him better, Tom Riddle."
Harry looked disgusted. "He didn't look much like what came out of the diary."
"The farther he progressed into the dark arts, the more his body became... less than human," Severus said. "Unfortunately, looks do not determine power, as we learned with dear Professor Lockhart."
"And he's your worst fear?" Harry asked redundantly.
Severus frowned. "If he were to come back, he would have the power to destroy everything and everyone that I care for. He is the culmination of my fears."
"You aren't afraid of him punishing you for, you know, betraying him?" Harry asked, still wide-eyed at the happenings of the past few minutes.
"I am not afraid," Severus said firmly. "That was a nice patronus you produced."
Harry grinned. "It was, wasn't it? I was thinking of when we got you back from being petrified."
Severus lifted an interested brow. "Not of your parents?"
"In a way, it was of my parent," Harry said with a sly smile. "When I thought of James and Lily, I was too sad to cast it. That's why I passed out."
Severus nodded. "That is why I, too, discarded the idea of using a similar memory."
"Similar meaning without James, I assume?" Harry asked, teasingly.
"Yes," Severus replied with a scowl.
Harry leaned back in the cushy chair. He offered a piece of chocolate to Severus, who declined it. "Severus, will you tell me something nice about my father?"
Severus's scowl deepened. "If you want something nice, maybe you should go ask Lupin."
"But I'm not, I'm asking you."
"Why?" Severus asked derisively.
"It'll be good for you I think," Harry said wisely.
Severus favored him with a dark look. "I tend to disagree. Nevertheless, do not let it be said that I do not humor you from time to time. Your father... is arrogant a good thing in your book?"
Harry shook his head.
"Well," Severus huffed. "He was rather bright in Transfiguration. Top of the class, I believe," Severus said, bitterness as an undertone.
"Good job," Harry said. "We'll work on that 'being nice' thing."
"Will we?" Severus asked doubtfully.
Harry smiled and nodded. "Yep. Now let's do the patronus again."