As the snow melted and the weather grew more tolerable, Harry was missing one thing dearly. Quidditch. Despite pleading with Severus, he still did not have his Firebolt back. Without it, Harry was just about useless as a Seeker. Luckily for him, Draco had a Nimbus 2001 which beat Harry's school supplied Cleansweep any day. For the Hufflepuff match in late January, Draco stood in as Seeker, Harry watching from the sidelines. It was tough to do. Though he and Draco were good friends, Harry could not help but criticize his technique. A technique which, in the end, cost them the game. Fortunately, the rest of the team had been preparing for such an ending. Not that they doubted Draco's abilities, but he was, as they put it, "no Harry Potter". With two losses under their belts, the cup was slowly slipping away. It would take next to a miracle to recover; something that Harry could not do without the Firebolt.
Now well into March, Harry was certain that they should be finishing up with it soon. He had faith that all of his professors were intelligent enough to run a few tests and had no idea why it was taking so long. In fact, Harry expected it to be faster simply because his ceaseless nagging was getting on Severus's nerves.
"Harry!" Severus said in exasperation as Harry asked about it once more. Harry closed his mouth. "Thank you," he said in relief. "I told you multiple times, we are doing all we can. When is the next game again?"
"The day after Hogsmeade," Harry said. "One week from now."
"And it is Gryffindor versus Slytherin, correct?" Severus asked.
"Yes," Harry replied. He narrowed his eyes. "You aren't stalling so that we lose, are you?"
"No," Severus replied. "If I were doing so, I would have caved to your incessant nagging long ago."
"Oh," Harry replied. He was aware of the insult but chose to ignore it. "Speaking of Hogsmeade, do you still want to go?"
"If you do," Severus replied. "I would not be adverse to staying back but I will certainly go if you wish."
"I'd like to," Harry said. "I'll make sure my friends are okay with you tagging along."
Severus raised a brow. "I was under the impression that I was the 'fun parent'."
Harry stared at him for a moment before bursting into laughter. "Your sense of humor is really coming along. It's not so dark anymore."
"I am slipping," Severus said with a frown.
Harry shook his head in mystification. He would never fully understand his guardian but he was getting a better grasp. The thought of the Firebolt again surfaced in his mind. He simply could not let it go.
"I'll need time to practice on the broom, you know," Harry said, hoping he wasn't pushing Severus too far.
Severus sighed. "How about we make a deal?"
"Alright," Harry agreed hesitantly.
"If you do not have your broom by the day we go to Hogsmeade, I will rent one for you there," Severus said.
"You can do that?" Harry asked.
"I believe Spintwitches has those services, yes."
"Deal," Harry said, mood brightening considerably.
"There is one condition, however," Severus said, forcing Harry to still his happiness and listen.
"What?" he asked.
"You must not ask me about the Firebolt until Saturday," Severus said.
Saturday was the day of Hogsmeade. Harry supposed that he could handle being silent on the matter for a week. He agreed.
As it turned out, avoiding the topic was harder than it seemed. There were several times when Harry caught himself almost asking about it. It came as a great relief when Friday rolled around even though there was no sign that the Firebolt had been returned. On the other hand, it had been very easy to avoid the topic of Severus coming with them to Hogsmeade. Though his friends were supportive of Harry and his guardian, he wasn't exactly someone who is easy for most people to spend time with.
"Hey, guys," Harry said to his friends on Friday evening as they lounged in the common room. "Is it alright if Severus kind of, well, hangs out with us at Hogsmeade?" Harry had difficulty phrasing that.
Hermione was the first to respond. She shrugged. "It beats you sneaking out, so I am going to say yes, that's fine."
"Draco?" Harry asked.
"Snape's okay," he said dismissively. "I'm alright with it."
Ron made a face. "Um," he began. Harry could see him struggling. It was obvious that he did not want Snape to come at all but did want Harry to come.
"You don't want him to come, do you?" Harry asked, voicing his guess at his friend's state of mind.
Ron shook his head, looking a little ashamed.
"That's okay," Harry said. "Maybe we could compromise? I'll spend half the day with you guys, then Severus and I can leave if you'll feel more comfortable."
Really, Harry just wanted to go to Hogsmeade. Whether he spent his time there with Severus or his friends was negligible.
"That sounds good," Hermione spoke up while Ron nodded. "I'm glad you finally get to go."
"Legally, you mean," Harry said with a grin.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Of course."
Harry said his goodnights and headed off to bed early, hoping that he could sleep off his anticipation and excitement. Though he fell asleep quickly, Harry's sleep was fitful. He woke up often, strange dreams weaving through reality. Resting only on the surface of slumber, Harry woke instantly when a scream pierced the night. Chills racked his spine when Harry realized that it was not a figment of his imagination.
The scream was real.
"And I woke up and there was Sirius Black!" Ron said, chest heaving as he related the story to an alarmed and disgruntled McGonagall. "He had a knife!"
"Are you certain that this was no dream, Mr. Weasley?" she asked.
"His curtains were shredded," Seamus spoke up. "I think he was really here."
Murmurs spread throughout the gathered crowd in the common room. Though it may have been the ominous firelight, McGonagall's face looked pale. She waved a spell at the walls and the torches sprung to life.
"Percy, gather the students and keep them in the common room until a thorough search can be done of the dorms. Once everyone is accounted for, seal them off, if you would," she ordered. Then, McGonagall muttered to herself, "But how did he get in?"
"Have you asked Sir Cadogan?" a sixth year piped up.
"Good idea, Ms. Freewither," McGonagall said in approval. She stepped to the portrait hole and faced the chivalrous knight.
"Sir Cadogan, did you let a man in here just a little while ago?" she asked.
"Indeed I did, fair lady!" he replied.
"You -you did?" she asked, temporarily stunned. "Why in Merlin's name would you do that?'
"Why, he had the password. In fact, he had a whole list of them. Finally, he got to the one at which I allowed him to pass," Sir Cadogan said proudly. "I followed my instructions to the letter."
"Yes, it seems you did," she muttered. McGonagall turned back to the students. "Which abysmally foolish person thought that it would be a good idea to leave a list of passwords to the common room lying around?" she asked, voice both stern and shaky.
Neville's hand went slowly into the air, nervous and embarrassed. Professor McGonagall shook her head. "In what universe does that sound like a good idea?" she asked rhetorically. "If you'll excuse me, I must get Professor Dumbledore. Percy, you are in charge."
The tall redhead puffed out his chest. "Yes ma'm." She exited the room, robes swishing behind her. "What are you all staring at?" Percy demanded of a group of first years. They looked away hurriedly.
As Ron was pestered for another recount of the story, Harry took a seat by the fire. He stared into the dancing flames and thought about how very close he had come to his parent's killer, as he essentially considered Black. How very close he had come to being killed.
"Are you sure that you still want to go?" Severus asked Harry as they met up for the Hogsmeade trip. They were still surrounded by much talk of the previous night's threat as they stood in the courtyard where McGonagall held a list of those with permission slips.
"Yes, I'm sure," Harry said. "I've been looking forward to this. I'm not about to let Sirius Black ruin it for me."
"Admirable, but impractical," Severus said. "Would you stay if I told you that your broom is ready to go and waiting in my chambers?"
Harry stopped dead in his tracks. "Are you being serious?"
"Yes. We could not detect any traces of hexes or curses. I suppose you simply have a very well-off friend somewhere," Severus mused. "Which is not inconceivable given that you are the Boy Who Lived."
Harry was so excited that he didn't roll his eyes at the sarcastic use of the nickname. "That's great!" he said excitedly. "But I still want to go to Hogsmeade. Maybe we'll just come back a little early."
Severus nodded. "Alright."
Mood further brightened, Harry went to tell his friends the good news. He waited with them in line to be checked on the list that McGonagall held.
"Weasley," she said quietly, searching for his name. With a short movement, she checked off his name. McGonagall looked up. "Granger."
She did the same for Hermione. Then, she looked up to find Harry.
"You don't have a permission slip, Potter," she said factually. "I am certain of it."
"Severus is right over there," Harry said, pointing to the edge of the courtyard. As she looked, he gave a curt nod.
"Very well, go on," McGonagall said. She shook her head. "I never will get used to you calling him 'Severus'."
Harry grinned and went to join his friends and guardian.
"Wipe that ridiculous smile off your face, today is not about having fun," Severus said sternly.
This only made Harry grin wider as Ron's face acquired a worried look, thinking that he was serious. As everyone moved to begin the journey to Hogsmeade, Harry punched Ron on the arm.
"Lighten up, mate," Harry said.
Ron's face lit up in surprise. "Lighten up?" he asked in hushed tones. "You should tell Snape that, not me!""He's only joking," Harry said.
"The Snape I know doesn't joke," Ron pointed out, glancing back at Draco and Hermione chatting behind them. Snape was at the back of the small group.
Harry smiled. "Exactly. You don't really know him, do you?"
Ron shook his head in disbelief. "Sometimes, I don't get you."
"Sometimes, I don't either," Harry said.
"You're going to get me killed though," Ron said.
"I'm what?" Harry asked, thinking he misheard.
Ron looked at him. "Isn't it obvious? Sirius Black was after you but he picked the wrong bed!"
"Oh, right," Harry said. "I had thought of that. If his only weapon is a knife, I'll be able to take care of him easily when I find him."
"When you find him?" Ron asked. "You aren't looking for him, are you?"
"No," Harry assured him.
"Good," Ron said. "'Cause then I'd think you were mental."
Harry's lip twitched. "Maybe I am."
Ron blinked. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Harry changed the subject, not answering Ron. In truth, he was waiting for the day that Sirius Black would show up on the Marauder's Map. Next time, he wouldn't be asleep.
After wandering about Zonko's and Honeyduke's with his friends all morning, they decided to part ways around lunchtime. Harry was not planing on spending much longer in Hogsmeade for his new broom beckoned and he wanted to be back with enough daylight to try it out.
"How about a butterbeer?" Harry asked after wandering into a few shops with Severus. He had only bought a few candies and joke things as well as a new quill and ink refill.
Severus nodded his assent. They took a seat in the Three Broomsticks and ordered themselves two butterbeers. As Harry sipped his drink, he looked around the pub at the many different kinds of people that frequented this establishment. He noticed that Severus was doing the same, except that his gaze was repeatedly drawn to the corner. Harry nonchalantly shifted in his seat to see who he was looking at. At the table in the back sat a woman with long brown hair, mid thirties, bent over a newspaper.
"You should go talk to her," Harry said.
"What?" Severus asked immediately.
Harry smiled. "You like her, don't you? You're staring."
Severus frowned. "She intrigued me. And yes, I suppose she is more or less attractive."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Just admit it. How's someone intriguing anyway?" He did not expect Severus to have a real answer, but he did.
"Her robes are purple and dressy yet she carries a bag that looks like it is covered in a carpet that has been dragged through several puddles. Her scarf is hand knit but her hands are adorned with expensive rings. She is reading the Daily Prophet but there is a rune deciphering sheet from the Quibbler sticking out of her pocket," Severus said. "I would not want to get involved with someone in such a blatant identity crisis."
Harry's eyebrows lifted. "Wow," he said. "Remind me never to set you up with anyone."
Severus gave him a concerned look. "You would try?"
Harry gave a short laugh. "I'd have to find someone to agree. That would be half the challenge," he joked.
Severus gave him a non-genuine glare.
"Maybe I was wrong about your alternate career path," Harry said, giving Severus a considering look. "You should've been a detective, not a lawyer."
"What is a detective?" Severus asked.
"They solve crimes," Harry explained.
"That would be a very easy task with Legilimency at hand," Severus pointed out.
Harry nodded and finished his drink.
"Are you ready?" Severus asked. "You seem anxious to get back."
"Yeah, I'm ready," Harry said. He grinned. "There's a broom waiting for me."