Harry gripped the black varnished handle of his new broom tightly. Though it was unfamiliar, it felt like it was made to fit his hands. With Severus watching from the edge of the pitch, Harry kicked up off the ground, soaring smoothly into the air. It was so effortless that he laughed.
Harry steered the Firebolt towards the sun, shooting up faster than he had ever gone before. Twisting in midair, he came down in a tight spiral before pulling into a smooth arc and hanging about ten feet above Severus's mildly horrified face. Harry laughed once more and tried out a few of the complicated maneuvers that had failed miserably on the Cleansweep. They were like child's play on this broom. It was glorious.
For the next two hours, Harry performed every stunt that he could ever dream of and each one was effortless. When at last he was coaxed down by a tired Severus, Harry felt that if the dementors came calling tomorrow, his patronus would be perfect.
"You ready for this, Harry?" Wood asked the next morning as Harry entered the common room. "We have to win this by a ton if we want the cup."
"I know, Oliver," Harry said, trying to avoid the lecture that was imminent.
"I know your new broom is fast and all but you can't catch the Snitch too early!" he stressed, blocking Harry's way towards the portrait hole. "Wait until we score like, at least 70 points."
"Okay, I got i-"
"I know it's going to be tempting to just catch it but-"
"Oliver!" Harry said loudly. "I get it, alright? It'll be fine, just relax."
"Relax," Wood said dubiously, shaking his head.
Harry, glad to escape, headed straight for the portrait hole.
"Harry, wait!" someone called from behind him. With a groan he turned around.
"Wha-" he began, a little snappily but then stopped when he realized he was facing a pretty fourth year with medium length strawberry blonde hair. "Oh, uh, hi," he stammered awkwardly.
"I just wanted to wish you luck in your game," she said timidly. She gave a small smile. "That's all, see you later, Harry."
"Uh, bye," Harry said, still floundering in his mind to form a coherent thought. He quickly exited through the portrait hole, glad to get away from... whatever it was that had just happened. Harry didn't even know who that was. He shook his head, cleared his thoughts and proceeded down the stairs to join his team.
"There you are, Harry!" Fred called as Harry joined them in the courtyard.
"We were afraid that Wood would make you miss the game with his lectures," George said.
"He tried," Harry admitted.
"Oh, good, the big star's here," Angelina said, not being sarcastic. "Now we can go practice until Wood comes down to talk about...whatever he usually talks about."
"Great!" the twins said in unison.
Excitement coursing through his veins, Harry walked with his team down to the pitch where he revealed his treasured new possession.
"Holy Merlin," Draco breathed.
"It's beautiful," Alicia agreed. The twins stared in awe.
"Yeah, yeah, it's nice and all just sitting there," Katie said. "Why don't we get started and see it in action?"
Everyone eagerly climbed upon their brooms, Harry included. They flew drills, Harry outstripping everyone. After he finished a good five minutes before the rest, he filed the time showing off with the neat tricks that he had discovered the day before.
"Nice sloth-grip roll, Harry!" Angelina called. "Show that one to Wood and maybe he won't force us to practice it any longer."
They flew until the Slytherins showed up. Not wanting to reveal Harry's new broom, they landed and waited for Wood to arrive.
By the time that the crowd and all the players had gathered for the game, Harry was anxious just to play. The shrill whistle that kicked off the game could not come soon enough and when it did, Harry was ready.
As Harry searched for the snitch, he kept an eye on the score. Luckily, the Gryffindor chasers were superb; the fifty point mark came fast and then the search really began. Having stalled long enough, Harry started to really look for the snitch, knowing that if he could spot it, he could easily outstrip the Slytherin seeker. Harry lapped the pitch and heard cheers come up from the stands. He glanced at the score but nothing had changed. At first, Harry simply ignored the chanting from the stands until he realized they were yelling his name.
Harry's chest filled with pride. Though in the past few seconds Slytherin had scored, Harry knew that he could win this. After a few more laps, Harry checked the score once more. If Gryffindor could score twice more before Harry caught the snitch, they would have enough to win the cup. He bided his time until he saw Angelina toss in the last goal needed before Harry could go after the snitch.
Harry's eyes scanned the pitch and he caught sight of the tiny glittering ball near the far side. Swinging his broom around, Harry sped after it. Seeing him, the Slytherin Seeker came after Harry. Harry was confident that his broom would win out and he pushed it faster towards the Snitch.
Unfortunately, he caught it a little too quickly. Before he had time to register what the cheers behind him meant, Harry had grabbed the tiny ball and ended the game. His moment of triumph was brief. It was cut short by the realization that seconds before he caught the snitch, Slytherin had scored. Without time to recover, Harry had ended the game. His spirit sunk. He had won the game but lost Gyrffindor the cup.
Seemingly a paradox, the Slytherin team broke into a roar of happiness while the Gryffindors fell into various states of disappointment. It seemed like the the Slytherins had done the math and realized that the cup was theirs.
"Sorry, Oliver," Harry said as they landed, a somber crowd. "When I caught it, I thought we were still seventy points up."
"It's okay, Harry," he said, though it was obvious he was disappointed. "We won the past two years, three was too much to ask for I suppose."
"Sorry," Harry repeated.
They twins came bounding over, their usual happy selves. "Don't look so sad, Harry! We still won the game, I think that calls for a celebration."
Harry grinned. "Alright," he agreed. "You guys go on, I want to catch up with Ron and Hermione."
Draco came with him as Harry searched the crowd for his friends.
"Pretty poor way to break in my new broom," Harry said with a frown.
"We beat Slytherin, that's nothing to be ashamed of," Draco said. "Look how close we came to getting the cup when you were out two of the three matches."
"I wish I could redo the first one," Harry said. "I shouldn't have fainted at the sight of those dementors, that was weak."
Draco looked away.
"Oh, sorry, Draco," Harry said. "I forgot about that."
"S'okay," he said. "Did you ever ask Snape why?"
"You and I have had more awful experiences than everyone else," Harry said with a shrug. "Come on, let's get back up to the common room. I guess we can just find Ron and Hermione there."
"Okay," Draco agreed. Together they trudged back up to the castle, a lingering disappointment following them through the motions.
Several weeks later, the sting of the loss had begun to die down and other things filled Harry's mind. Unfortunately, that was all it filled. Harry had a horrible amount of free time on his hands since Gryffindor's Quidditch season had ended so early. Trying to avoid the nagging of Hermione to start studying for end of term exams (already), Harry had taken to wandering the castle. Sometimes, he would stop in Lupin's office for a quick chat but he generally didn't stay long. Harry could see that with missing so much school, Lupin was getting behind in his work. After realizing this, he started bothering Severus instead.
"Do you have any potions to brew today?" Harry asked, sitting in Severus's office one afternoon.
"No," Severus replied while grading papers. "Do you have nowhere to be?" he asked, though not harshly.
Harry shrugged. "No. I'm kind of bored actually."
"And you have grown tired of your friends?" Severus asked without looking up.
"No," Harry said once more. "Hermione and Draco spend all their time studying, though. I'm not really sure what Ron does."
"You should follow their example," Severus said, laying down his quill. "Ms. Granger and Mr. Malfoy's that is. Study. As I told you last year, end of term exams come faster than you would hope."
"Honestly, Severus," Harry said. "They're over a month away."
"In any case, what are you doing with yourself?" he asked. "Not looking for Sirius Black, I hope? Or at the very least, not getting into trouble?"
Harry shook his head. "I kind of wish. All I'm doing is this," he gestured to the office. "Wandering around. I've been watching for Sirius Black but-" Harry stopped, mentally kicking himself. To cover his abrupt cut off, he shrugged. It did not fool Severus, however.
"Watching how?" he asked suspiciously, eyebrow raised. "Through the window?" he asked sarcastically.
Severus knitted his fingers together. "Care to enlighten me then?"
"Not really," Harry admitted.
"Harry," Severus warned.
Harry sighed. He supposed that he had no choice but to tell him. Harry's Occlumency could not stand up to Severus's practiced mind tricks. "I'll tell you if you promise not to ask questions."
Severus's eyebrow shot up further. "I do not like the sound of that. However, it seems I have no choice other than to force you to tell me which I wish to avoid, if at all possible. Very well, I promise."
"I may or may not have a map," Harry said. "Of the castle," he added.
"A map?" Severus asked. "How will that help you search for Black?"
"Uh, it shows everyone on it," Harry confessed. "Like where they are and such."
"Does it?" Severus asked with interest. "May I see it?"
"I guess," Harry said. At this point, what did it matter? He pulled it out of his red and gold pack that he carried with him almost everywhere for the sole purpose of containing the map. He rather reluctantly handed it over to Severus.
"Is it my imagination, or does this look vaguely familiar?" he asked, half to himself. "I am assuming there is a phrase necessary to activate it? My previous attempt did not achieve the desired result," Severus said.
Harry pulled out his wand. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
"Appropriate, I assume." The names Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs appeared on the parchment. A look of deep concentration stole over Severus's face as he stared at those names. His brow knitted. "I would so love to ask where you got this but as per our agreement, I will refrain."
"Thanks," Harry said, glad that he had managed to keep Fred and George from greater trouble.
Severus studied the map for a few minutes. "This is surprisingly accurate. Did it ever occur to you that this map works both ways?"
"What?" Harry asked, not grasping Severus's meaning.
"You can use it to find Sirius Black but he, in turn, can use it to find you," Severus explained. "This is a map that leads directly to your doorstep, per say."
"Oh," Harry said. He had not thought of that.
"It is a good thing that you did not lose this," Severus said. "I think that, for many reasons, I should keep it now."
"No!" Harry said, perhaps a bit too loudly.
"No?" Severus asked slowly. "The risk of you losing it and Sirius Black finding it is too great. In addition, I cannot, as both your teacher and guardian, allow you to have this in good conscience. I am assuming this is how you got to Hogsmeade?"
Harry nodded, annoyed. "I didn't show you so that you could take it."
Severus pursed his lips. "Perhaps after you are no longer in mortal danger I will return it. Maybe."
Harry's mood did not really brighten much by that statement. "But what happens if he comes after me? I won't know it because you have the map."
"I trust that you will be able to hold your own for long enough to warn me with that little device you have. In addition, I will be watching," Severus promised.
Harry frowned, wanting to change the subject because he was quickly getting annoyed. He thought he would strike at something that would annoy Snape. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," Severus replied. "What is it?"
"Well I've had a whole bunch of time on my hands-"
"Believe me, I know," Severus interrupted darkly.
"-and I was doing some thinking," Harry continued unperturbed. "Why is it that you really hate my dad and his friends? I mean, I know they were awful to you but...I just thought that snide comments wold be something you could get over. There has to be something more. Am I right?"
Severus frowned. "His pranks were not always harmless," he said. "There was one that would have been horrible to behold had your father not backed out at the last moment."
"Can I ask what it was?" Harry asked, hesitant to delve too deeply into Severus's dark memories.
"They thought to lead me to Lupin while he was a werewolf. He would have killed me. Your father, however, backed out and essentially saved my life. At least he saw it that way," Severus muttered. "I saw it as he almost killed me."
"That's terrible," Harry said with a frown.
"Sirius Black was his partner in crime."
"One more thing for me to add to the reasons why I hate him," Harry muttered. "I... I always thought that my dad was you know, perfect. He made the sacrifice. He was the hero, the victim. But now... he was kind of a jerk."
"...he was kind of a jerk."
When those words came out of Harry's mouth, Severus froze. He had a moment of deja vu where he remembered Lily saying something very similar about James's treatment of Severus. Where he had filled with hope so many years ago, Severus was conflicted now. Of course, he was happy that Harry was finally seeing the light concerning his father but it was never his intention to turn him against him.
"Harry," Severus began, "you have to understand that he was a boy then. A boy who I have a strong prejudice against. He cannot have been that bad if Lily chose him," Severus almost had to choke their words out. "It was never my intention to turn you against him."
"I know," Harry said. He gave a soft smile. "You are, as usual, telling the truth. I can make my own determinations."
Severus looked at his son with admiration. His son now. Finally, he had won out over James Potter. He had been there for Harry when his true father couldn't be. And that was what mattered, in the end.
As Severus was thinking deep thoughts, Harry stood. "I should go now; study, I guess. When you're done with that, say 'mischief managed'."
"What? Oh, right," Severus said, snapping out of his reverie. "I am sorry about the map, Harry."
"I know," Harry responded. "Bye."
Then, Harry was gone.