"Harry," Severus said when Harry reported to his office the next day. "Look at me."
Harry raised his head, still feeling stubborn and a little angry.
"I realize that what I did by assigning that essay was not appropriate," Severus said. He waited.
"Was that supposed to be an apology?" Harry asked sardonically.
"More or less."
"You'll have to do a little better than that, Severus," Harry said brusquely.
Severus sighed. "I swear that I will attempt to be nicer to Lupin."
"Not exactly an apology," Harry started, "but I'll take it. Thank you."
Severus nodded and Harry could tell that the promise of kindness was forced. Nevertheless, it was a promise. Harry frowned.
"Severus, why does it bother you so much that Lupin and I are friends?" Harry asked.
"You know how I feel about Lupin."
Harry waved his hand dismissively. "I know that you two hate each other but I think there is something else? Am I right?"
There was a long pause. "Perhaps."
"Well what is it?" Harry prompted.
"I don't want to talk about it," Severus snapped. Harry flinched at his harsh tone. "I am sorry, Harry. It is because, though I am loathe to admit this, I am jealous."
"Jealous?" Harry asked, eyebrows shooting up. "You?"
Through gritted teeth, Severus answered, "Yes."
Harry scrutinized his guardian. This was truly bothering him. Harry was mystified, who would have thought that Severus Snape could be jealous? Over him?
"There is absolutely no reason to be, you should know that," Harry insisted.
"What if you grow to prefer Lupin's company to mine?" Severus asked, not meeting Harry's eyes. "Everything that we have can legally be undone. You could be the son of a werewolf if you so choose," he said bitterly.
"I am your son," Harry said firmly. "That's not going to change."
"Nothing is for sure," Severus said.
"Severus, why are you even worried about this?" Harry asked. "It's a wild and very highly unlikely idea."
Severus stared at his hands clasped on the desk. "Lily left me for James. Who is to say that you will not leave me for James's friend? It runs in the family."
Harry stared, dumbfounded. "Severus Snape. I am not about to leave you for anyone. I'm happy right where I am; in this family. Will you wake up and realize that I don't want to leave? That I'm not waiting for a better offer to come about?"
Harry's candid words seemed to snap Snape back to reality.
"I apologize," he said softly. "I should have had more faith in you."
Harry was still shaken from Severus's very odd emotional state. "It's understandable that you are paranoid. Nothing has ever worked as you wanted it to, has it?" he asked.
"Not much, I will admit," Severus replied.
"So we're good?" Harry asked.
Severus raised a brow at the use of slang. "Yes, we are 'good'."
Harry smiled. "Good." He waited a beat. "Oh, uh, can you sign my Hogsmeade permission form now? The trip is in two weeks."
Harry crossed his fingers that the recent reconciliation would leave Snape a little more lenient.
"Harry," Severus started in a tone that Harry took as an instant "no". "You have to understand how much danger you are in. At Hogwarts, we can protect you but in Hogsmeade..."
"Please, Severus?" Harry pleaded. "I can protect myself, you know that. I'll stay in public with friends and I won't go anywhere that seems sinister."
Harry could tell that Severus was considering it.
"No, Harry, I am sorry," Severus said.
Harry's heart dropped. "Alright," he said a little forced. It was obvious that he did not mean it.
"Harry, this is for your protection," Severus said. "I cannot bear to see you get hurt. Please understand."
"I do," Harry said, still disappointed but less angry.
"You have work to do, correct?" Severus asked.
"Yes," Harry replied. "See you."
"Goodbye," Severus said as Harry was walking out the door. He was already formulating a plan of how he could sneak into Hogsmeade without Snape knowing.
"Just point at the boggart and say 'riddikulus' while imagining it transforming into something comical," Lupin instructed. "I'll go first."
Lupin stepped forward and unlocked a cabinet in the front of the room. Out of it came a creature that immediately turned into a pitted white orb. Harry knew immediately what it was.
"Riddikulus!" Lupin yelled and it turned into a snowball that hit off the window and splattered. "Line up!"
Everyone scrambled to get in a line. Parvati was first, she stepped up and the boggart turned into a grim. Harry's stomached dropped, it was very similar to the one he had been seeing. It snarled. "Riddikulus!" All of its fur turned bright pink.
"Perfect!" Lupin said. "Next."
Seamus stepped up and battled his boggart, a mummy. Neville was next in line and he was rigid and pale. Lupin noticed and called him out of line. Harry watched Lupin bend down and speak quietly to Neville while Seamus unwrapped the mummy's bandages. With an encouraging smile, Lupin gently guided Neville back to his place in line.
The boggart turned to Neville and morphed into his worst fear: Severus Snape. Harry would have laughed if he were not so surprised. Neville drew in a shaky breath as the surprisingly convincing Snape advanced towards him.
"Ri-riddikulus!" he shouted.
Suddenly, Snape's sinister black robes changed into a woman's outfit, complete with a vulture topped hat. Everyone burst out laughing while sneaking curious and surreptitious glances at Harry. Harry wasn't bothered, he was overcome with the hilarity of the situation. This would be one to tell Severus. Harry was nearing the front of the line, there were only a few in front of him. Draco was next, and his boggart was peculiar. It was simply himself. Draco performed his spell quickly and it became a ferret. Harry stepped up right as Lupin came forward.
"Alright, I'd say that's enough for today," he said, forcing the boggart back into the cabinet.
Harry's heart sank, disappointed. He wondered why Lupin had not allowed him to have a chance. He followed his friends out of the room when the class was dismissed, everyone chatting happily about the exciting class. Harry was unusually quiet until the subject of Draco's boggart came up.
"What was your boggart, Draco?" Hermione asked. "It looked like just you."
He looked away, uncomfortable. "It was. It was me, only me. Alone."
"Oh," Hermione said sadly. "Don't worry about that. You'll never be alone. You have us."
Draco smiled. "Thanks, Hermione."
"I wonder what mine would have been," Harry grumbled.
"Uh, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?" Ron suggested, looking at Harry as if he were slow. "What else would it be?"
Harry cocked his head. "He wasn't even the first thing that came to mind."
"Wow, somebody is a little overconfident," Draco said, teasing lightly.
Harry shrugged. "What would yours be Hermione?" he asked to change the subject.
"I don't know," she replied.
"Probably a failed test," Ron muttered, earning him a glare from Hermione.
"It would not," she said indignantly. "Yours would be Crookshanks."
"No it wouldn't!" Ron responded. "Though if it worked on rats, Scabbers's might be Crookshanks. He terrorizes him!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Oh, lay off it, Ron. Cats chase rats, that's the way it goes. You just have to keep an eye on him."
Ron's face heated up. Harry nonchalantly separated himself from the two and went to stand by Draco.
"Crookshanks has it out for Scabbers!" he said angrily. "This is beyond any cat and mouse thing; I found him in our dorm the other day! No place except for my pocket is safe for Scabbers anymore."
"Then keep him there!" Hermione said smartly.
"I will!" Ron said, as they arrived at the common room. "You can go tell your stupid cat that Scabbers is safe in my pocket, he'll never get him!"Hermione huffed, stepping through the portrait hole after giving the password. "Fine. Crookshanks!" she called. The orange cat came sauntering out from behind a couch, not as much because his name was called but more-so out of curiosity. "Ron here would like me to tell you that Scabbers will be safe in his pocket and that you might as well stop chasing him," she said dramatically, making it seem very foolish to tell a cat anything. "Happy?" she asked Ron.
"I'll be happy if he listens," Ron said stubbornly.
"Come on, Draco," Harry said quietly. "Want to play some chess?"
"Please," Draco said, relief apparent. Since the argument was not likely to be helped by outsider advice, it was probably best to simply remove themselves from the situation and hope that it would come to a natural conclusion.
Blaise Zabini walked down the dungeon corridors, hands in his pocket and scowl on his face, daring someone to speak to him. His footfalls were heavy and frustrated; this year was not going as it was supposed to. He had even been injured and yet he still managed to fade into the background, noticed only by those that he had absolutely no desire to associate with.
"Hey, Blaise, up for a game of chess?" Pansy Parkinson called as Blaise stepped into the Slytherin common room, proving his point.
"Pansy, don't you think I have better things to do than play chess?" he asked with an air of scorn and disgust.
She frowned and retreated. "Sorry."
Blaise walked through the common room as if he owned it, though that was the attitude of many Slytherins, not just him. He took up his customary seat near the fireplace. The one that he reserved for brooding. After staring into the flames for long enough to calm his nerves, which were humming with anxiety. His mother simply didn't understand that he could not just let the incident in Care of Magical Creatures go. It would be humiliating to forget about it. Something had to be done. Something that would make him the hero of Slytherins who hated the unkempt and inferior teacher.
Blaise pulled the parchment that his owl had delivered that morning out of his pocket. He read over it once more.
I really hope you are doing well, darling, I felt horrible when I heard that you had been injured. You didn't miss any Quidditch did you? I wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to see my little Chaser play; do tell me when the next game is. As for... retribution, did you call it? Well, honey, I'm not really sure what you would have me do. You're all healed up fine, right? I hear Madam Pomfrey fixes stuff pretty quick. I think you best let it go, don't cause a fuss. If I could help in any way, I would, but I don't see what I can do.
Anyways, write and tell me all about your first few months at school! Are the other Slytherins treating you well? You're still the most popular, aren't you? Of course you are, you're my son!
Blaise crumpled it up and threw it in the fire, annoyed at the sickly sweet tone that he could hear inside his head whenever he read his mother's words. He knew that she could help him make someone pay. Her (current) husband was a lawyer, why didn't she offer him to help? Blaise answered himself: she wasn't smart enough to think about doing that. He scowled and rose, ready to write a firm and detailed letter on how exactly she could assist him in seeing that old oaf of a teacher fired.
AN: I worked hard to post this today in honor of Severus Snape's birthday, January 9th! Happy Birthday to our favorite unlikely hero!