Clashes of Power - Part II
Chapter 34 - Emancipated Minor - Clashes of Power - Part II
Severus sat on the hospital bed, letting Madam Pomfrey heal the gash that Rookwood had inflicted on him. It was actually deeper than he'd assumed, and the medi-witch was carefully noting the extent of the injury for the record, as he fully intended to press charges against his former student.
"Zabini was not too badly injured, I take it?" he asked Poppy.
"They'd scalded him and hit him with a couple of stinging hexes, but according to Mr. Zabini, that was all a diversion to bring you to the scene," the medi-witch informed him. "He was more worried about you, and said he'd been afraid something like this was going to happen." She fussed a bit more with her healing record and then finally used her wand to seal up his wound, handing him blood replenishing and muscle knitting potions for him to imbibe immediately, along with a pain reliever. "I know you've got a lot on your plate, Severus," she said, managing to make the compassionate words sound like a scolding, "but you need to take it easy for a couple of days."
"I will keep that in mind, Madam," he drawled.
Poppy levitated his discarded, blood-soaked shirt with a look of scorn. "Considering what the lot of you just encountered, I'm surprised not to see scorch marks and tears all over this thing."
"What can I say? I'm an excellent duelist."
"Who managed to forget how to shield himself from a student, hmmm?" Poppy teased ruthlessly. She raised an impressed eyebrow when Severus wandlessly summoned another shirt from his quarters.
"My ward has managed to master wandless summoning," he said, enjoying the way that sounded, as if his bond with Harry was now legitimized through his legal guardianship. "I could not let him upstage me, could I?"
"Are you talking about Harry?" she asked.
"I am," Severus said. He realized that he now had full rights to discuss Harry's medical history with the medi-witch. He watched her struggle with her guilt and remorse.
"I had no idea, Severus," she said. Her chin quivered and she brought her hand up to lay over her mouth. "I can tell you that he had signs of having broken a couple of bones in his childhood, but many children have. Nothing ever really stood out to me as neglect, other than a nagging concern at how skinny he was at the start of each fall term. And, that he is small for his age."
Severus nodded. "I had no idea, either, until very recently," he admitted. "And I still do not know the extent to which he suffered physically at his relatives' hands. I can hardly suggest as much anyway, when he's suffered extensively while under our care here in this school."
Poppy opened a jar of salve and spread a thin coating of it over Severus' wound. She had a kind touch, but the salve caused a strong burning sensation. He held his comments to himself and refrained from grimacing, all at once thinking of the numerous occasions when he'd watched Harry Potter sustain injuries that would have made grown wizards cry out, but Harry had done no more than hiss or gasp at the pain, even as a first year.
When he'd suffered through the application, Poppy told him he could leave, but to be sure to get extra rest. "And, no more wand battle for a couple of days!"
Lucius stepped around to the edge of the privacy screen, giving his friend's pale, lean chest a disapproving look. "You need some sunshine, Severus," he said in his trademark superior tone.
Severus snorted in amusement, pushing himself off of the table and shrugging his shirt on, quickly buttoning and tucking it in. "I'll take that on advisement, Luci, but in the meantime, I've got a House of Slytherins to reunite and a newly assigned guardianship to attend to."
Harry only half listened to the commentary going on at his table as his eyes scanned the room to see where the others all were, and who were giving their statements to the aurors. Tonks caught his eye and winked, lifting up one finger as if to say she'd be ready for him soon. Harry nodded, but he wasn't all that eager to talk to anyone before Severus returned. Finally, his new guardian appeared with Lucius. The two older wizards stopped outside the entrance to the Great Hall to speak with Dumbledore, seemingly engaged in intense discussion. Harry made his way slowly over, not wanting to interrupt or overhear anything, but unable to stop from seeing for himself that Severus was no longer bleeding all over the school.
"You're alright, then?" Harry asked, keeping his voice low like the others were doing, now that he'd gotten close enough to hear that they were discussing how to manage the rest of the school day.
"I am," Severus said quietly, stepping just out of the line of sight of those seated in the Great Hall. When Harry was within reach, he pulled the boy against his uninjured side.
Harry leaned into him. "Will I hurt you if I hug you?" he asked
"You will hurt me if you do not," Severus said, and was promptly rewarded with a warm embrace.
"And you, young man?" Lucius asked. "How did you manage to come away unscathed, hmmm?"
Harry pulled away from Severus, giving the blond wizard an innocent look. "Oh, er me? I just used magic, didn't I? It worked okay, actually." The look on Lucius' face was priceless, and it even induced a snort and silent chuckle from Severus. Harry ducked behind his guardian when Lucius took a threatening step towards him. "I'm kidding!" He laughed, still keeping his voice down, and reappearing to find Lucius to be amused at his audacity. "Actually, I should think it's pretty obvious why I'm not hurt, when I've got the dream team looking after me. Between McGonagall just plain holding them all off, and then you lot with your dramatic entrance-" Harry stopped himself as he suddenly remembered. He looked up at Severus. "You were flying! How did you do it?" he asked eagerly.
"I just used magic, Potter," Severus drawled, knowing what Harry's next question was going to be. "And before you ask, the answer is yes, but you will need to grow a little bit more. Perhaps by the summer, you'll be ready to learn." He narrowed his eyes at Harry's happy grin, allowing the boy to assume he was changing his mind. "You'll have another condition to meet as well."
"Alright. What?" Harry asked, not at all dissuaded.
"Outstandings on all of your core O.W.L. subjects. And by that, I do not include Divination," he said the last with his trademark disdain. "Agreed?"
Harry blinked, seeing this for what it was: a person with authority over him holding him accountable for his own efforts to better himself in school. "Agreed," he said solemnly.
Severus kept his hand on Harry's neck as they entered the Great Hall and made their way over to the table of students. Several of the Gryffindors were finally giving their statements, leaving Ron, Neville and Hermione with the Slytherins.
"Miss Tonks is indicating she's ready for you," Severus said to Harry. He steered the boy towards the long table on the far end of the room, saying, "Come find me when you're finished, even if I'm interviewing." He watched Harry head over to Tonks before turning toward the table of students again. He indulged the questions on his condition and carefully praised their willingness to cooperate with McGonagall in spite of the confusion. He looked at Pansy Parkinson and Gregory Goyle, the last two children of Death Eaters in his House who had not yet made their allegiances clear. They each exuded the air of being cowed by what had taken place. Severus hoped that they had seen enough to know that they needed to stand on their own from now on. He would take the time to speak with each of them later, but in the meantime, gave them nods of regard when they finally met his eyes. And he could see relief, and that was good.
That left one more concern to handle. "Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy, a moment, if I may?"
Draco and Hermione were giving each other wary looks as Professor Snape walked away from them, heading over to interview with Auror Shacklebolt.
"We'll really have to put the past aside for this," Hermione said quietly to Draco, her mouth quivering from a multitude of suppressed emotions. "Learning to brew this potion alone is such a fantastic opportunity, but the fact that it's for Remus Lupin makes it even more monumental. We cannot fail, Draco."
"I know that, Granger," Draco said, irritated at her assumption that he would not take such a request for help from Severus completely seriously. It was a statement of sacred trust from his godfather, as far as Draco was concerned. "We won't fail."
"Is everything alright, here?" Lucius asked from behind Draco.
Draco spun to look anxiously at his father, never really knowing what to expect from him lately, only that he had not been cruel in ages. "Severus asked us to help him with the first stage of brewing the Wolfsbane Potion," he told his father, who looked extremely pleased. "We were just discussing how to get started."
Lucius looked at his son, wondering what was behind Draco's anxiety and imagining it had a lot to do with having witnessed a wand battle between his father and former alleged allies. "It is important, but you are up to the challenge, son. I've not doubts," he smiled mildly at Draco before turning the regard to Miss Granger. "As are you, Miss Granger. And your quick thinking to summon us was very well played on your part. Well done."
"Thank you, sir," Hermione said graciously, but she was quite on edge. Being on her own, in such close proximity to two wizards who had purported to hate muggleborns, to have claimed to support violence against them no less until just recently, made her uncomfortable. She looked at Draco. "What time shall we meet to get started?"
"I'd prefer to have a couple of hours to study the potion and sort the ingredients, so perhaps right after lunch?" Draco suggested.
"Yes, I agree." Hermione said. Her voice was shaking again. "I'll meet you just there," she said, pointing at the entryway, and then nodding to the Malfoys and taking her leave.
"Will you be able to get along with each other, do you think?" Lucius asked Draco in a low voice. When his son flashed him a frown of displeasure, he realized what needed to be said. "Draco, I am very proud of your accomplishments, and this especially speaks volumes of how much Severus trusts your abilities." There was pain in Draco's eyes and a tight clench in his jaw as he nodded, but he looked away and stayed silent.
Newly reinstated Headmaster Dumbledore nodded his appreciation of the loud applause he received when he went to the podium. "Thank you, each of you," he said. "I have missed you all, and missed Hogwarts dearly." He smoothed his hand over his long beard, looking around the Great Hall at the assembled student body. "You have likely all heard the sad news that we have had another event occur in the school today, one that led to violence, and injury. This was why you were told to return to your common rooms after your first class, and why classes will be cancelled for the rest of today and all of tomorrow, as well."
There was a collective gasp among the students, but as a mass, they all seemed to sense that a cheer would be inappropriate. "I will ask that you stick close to your house common areas as much as possible, but you are not restricted to them by any means. I would hope that many of you will take this time to think about what kind of world you want to find when you leave Hogwarts, and what you are doing today to work toward that end. We are each given circumstances to overcome in our lives, and some of us tend to forget to be grateful for the gifts that we find along the way. Like kindness, and fellowship, and loyalty to those who have earned our trust and support. I would also like you to think about asking for help, if you need it. And if you are afraid, to talk about this with someone you trust. And most importantly, to never forget that Hogwarts is our home, and that we must all work together to keep it safe."
He leveled his glance around the room, holding eye contact with the seventh year students in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, before looking at the remaining sixth and seventh years students at the noticeably thinned out Slytherin table, and finally at Gryffindor's oldest members. "I am inclined to believe that the students who have been removed have taken with them the worst of the hatred and malice that has been plaguing our school. Remember, each of you: while you are at Hogwarts, you are free to form your own perceptions and opinions about what really matters to wizarding kind. This is your journey into adulthood, your time to blossom. And your time to form friendships that will carry you forward into your lives from here." He smiled now, raising his hands as he said, "And now, lunch, I think."
Severus had kept Harry with him during his interview, and also when the rest of the students had begun to assemble for lunch. They'd listened to Albus address the school, and Harry had surveilled his friends and Lupin, to see for himself that they were all intact. Severus had told Harry he wanted to have a quiet lunch with him downstairs and Harry had been quick to agree. In spite of the flip humor that seemed to be surfacing at random moments in his young charge, he sensed that Harry was struggling with his emotions and needed to have some time to just be still. Remembering the times when he had found the boy just sitting in contemplation over the holiday, his instincts were telling him to grant Harry that opportunity as soon as possible.
"Albus is spending time with the Slytherins this afternoon, so that I can relax and let my side continue to knit itself together," he told Harry as they walked, "and I have asked Miss Granger and young Mr. Malfoy to handle the initial stages of the Wolfsbane Potion." He glanced down in alarm when Harry's eyes had shot up to look at him. "I realize I'd asked you to help me, and I still intend to brew the next stage," he said carefully. "Are you disappointed?"
"No!" Harry said quickly. "I want to help, but I'll be nervous about it. It makes much more sense to have them do it. Hermione must be over the moon. You have no idea what a gift you've given her."
Severus smirked, "I do know how to read Miss Granger, Harry."
"I think it's really, really great that you did that," Harry said. "I hope she and Draco get along alright." He thought briefly and added, "They will. This is way too important for rivalries."
When they were in Severus' quarters, they ate their lunches off of plates on their laps, serving themselves from a tiered tray of sandwiches that Severus charmed to hover between the couch and leather armchair. Harry insisted that Severus recap his entire encounter with his students, including how he'd left them stuck to their chairs and sans mouths, to go join the brawl in the Entrance Hall.
"The fifth years were saying that those four and the ones that got expelled on Saturday were the worst of the lot, but I'm still a bit worried about Pansy and Goyle," Harry said. "I don't think they'd do anything that extreme, but Goyle is a follower looking for a new bully to back up. Pansy has a mean streak. She may know stuff and not bother to warn people."
Severus was impressed with Harry's insight. "I agree," he said. "But did you not notice how subdued they were this morning?"
"I did," Harry said. "And we invited them to join the DA if they want to, so I guess time will tell where they stand."
"You invited them to join?" He shouldn't be shocked. When Harry nodded, giving him a slightly confused look, Severus said, "You are definitely your mother's son in that regard."
Harry clenched his jaw. "I just hate seeing people be afraid," he said softly. His eyes filled, but he blinked until the moisture receded. "I wonder if this is ever going to end for me, or if it's all I'm ever going to know about life?"
Now Severus' eyes filled. He couldn't prevent it, the emotion rose and flooded his eyes. "It will end, Harry," he said, voice steady in spite of the weight of the one constant hardship that they could never get too far away from. "You just keep being you, and I will get you through the rest."
"I believe you, Severus."
Harry was looking at him with affection and admiration, and it was all Severus could do not to burst into sobs of conflicting emotion: guilt and despair, yes, but also gratitude and happiness to have such a special young man open up his world to a sense of family and purpose.
Harry napped on the sofa, and Severus contemplated the flames in his fireplace for the better part of the afternoon. When Harry woke, he decided to go join his friends in their common room and stay with them for dinner. He needed to plan tomorrow's DA meeting, and wanted to congregate with Ron and Hermione on that. Timing for this would depend on when Hermione finished the first stage of brewing with Draco, which should be done by dinner time.
They decided that Harry would play it by ear as to where he slept that night.
Severus ventured over to the Slytherin common room to begin the process of rebonding with a number of students who had pulled away from him when he'd shown this new side of himself that was friendlier to everyone, not just them.
Somehow, Harry had become the center of attention in Gryffindor, so that as soon as he walked into the common room, he was greeted with a hero's welcome. It reminded him of the way his house went crazy over his wins in the Tournament last year. People had pooled together their stocks of candy and sweets, someone had butterbeer to pass around, and the noise volume was at a maximum. Harry's head was spinning in a matter of seconds. A part of him was happy to join in and laugh and forget about his worries, but the other part of him was considering returning to his guardian's quiet quarters. He looked around for Ron, but his best friend had been assigned early patrol with Daphne Greengrass to compensate for Hermione and Draco's absenses.
"I don't know how you do it, Harry," a sixth year named Cormack McClaggen said to Harry from behind him. "You can take on a giant snake, survive an ambush of bullies, and wallop a bunch of dark wizards without blinking. All this, and yet…" He left the last part hanging as he took a swig of his bottle.
Harry knew what McClaggen was saying to him.
"All that, and yet, there's never an end to bloody arse-holes like you, is there, McClaggen?" Dean said with a disgusted scowl.
"Exactly," Harry said, clinking his butterbeer bottle with Dean's. He'd brushed off the taunt, but the button had been pushed.
"Is Snape really okay?" Dean asked.
"Yeah," Harry said. "He's my legal guardian now, until the end of the month."
"Everyone is talking about how he came flying into the middle of the fight, like a superhero," Dean said with a grin. "Even Ron couldn't stop going on about it."
"And Professor Lupin," Harry said, grinning too. "That's the second time I've seen him in action, and he's kept the upper hand both times."
"Malfoy took a bad curse," Dean said. "But I'll admit he's a terror with a wand."
Ron came in and looked around at the party, first finding the food, then finding Harry, and now Dean, Seamus, Neville and Ginny. "If this keeps up, let's go to the Room of Requirement later," Ron said. "We can't plan for the DA meeting in this chaos."
They did indeed go to the Room of Requirement, but Harry's famedom from the day's events was continuing to follow him, in the form of tagalongs, all of whom swore not to distract them from their planning, but just wanted to be where Harry was. It was too distracting even still, especially with third and fourth years in the mix. The planning fell by the wayside when Dean asked the room for an acoustic guitar and sat off to the side, testing the tuning and beginning to softly play a smooth, repetitive series of chords.
"I know that song," Hermione said, smiling at Dean while he segued into strumming in a steady rhythm.
"Sing it!" Several people called out, including Harry, who immediately recognized Revolution 1. There was a collective reaction in the group, as even the most wizard-centric households seemed to have been exposed to some degree to The Beatles.
Dean strummed along, keeping four-four time as first Hermione sang alone, then Harry joined, and then a few others realized they also knew the words.
"You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world…. You tell me that it's evolution, well you know, we all want to change the world…. But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out?"
They managed to get through the entire song, laughing when they finished, but very pleased with themselves nonetheless.
"Do you know any others, Dean?" Ginny asked.
Dean grinned and began to tweak his fingers over the strings of his guitar, starting the opening strains of another Beatles classic.
Severus stopped in his tracks when he heard the singing. These last few weeks, more than any other time in the last fourteen years, he'd been forced to confront his most treasured memories of his time with Lily. The two of them had loved the music of their generation, enough so that Severus had learned to play guitar, and Lily had learned the words to every song they'd called a favorite. Lily had gotten him to play and sing with her, and for those precious summer afternoons until he was fifteen, Severus had been given a small sense of what fulfillment felt like. Harry was bringing that back into his life without ever really having known his mother. He owed it to Lily's son to bring her to life for him, as much as possible.
Thomas had just started Here Comes The Sun, which Severus knew he could still play from memory. Do it. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, and moved into view, stepping over to a pick up the guitar that had appeared on a pedestal at his desire.
"Professor Snape!" Colin Creevey blurted out, completely disrupting Dean's guitar intro.
Everyone stopped and stared slackjawed at Severus, who gave Colin a withering look, shaking his head, and ignoring the other student's eyes. "I know that one too, Mr. Thomas," he said, sitting in an empty chair and propping the guitar on his knee. He was intensely aware of the way the sound seemed to have been vacuumed from the room as he began to pluck the strings of his guitar, repeating the opening refrain that Thomas had just played. He looked over at Dean with a raised eyebrow, "It's been nearly twenty years, for me, Mr. Thomas, you should join in before I lose my nerve."
Thomas did just that, matching Severus's time, and in a couple of moments, began to sing with Granger, "Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right….Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter… Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here…" Harry joined in for the next refrain, and within moments everyone was singing. Even Severus sang, albeit at a very low volume. He had to concentrate on his playing.
"If you share any of your photos with the Daily Prophet, Mr. Creevey," Severus said in his standard professorial tone, "I will invent a new potion that requires your innards as it's key ingredient."
"Yes, sir," Colin said nervously. "I mean, I won't, sir!"
"If you tell me you were in a band, I'm going to start a fan club," Harry said in a tone that suggested that Severus had taxed him far too much for one day. "I probably will anyway."
The corners of Severus' mouth struggled to form a smile, but on principle he stifled the urge, instead putting a hand on Harry's shoulder to guide him away from the others. "Will you sleep in your room again, or return to your dorm?" he asked the boy quietly.
"I'll come with you," Harry said quickly. "You're finished with the rest of the Slytherins?"
"And that went alright?"
"It did." Now Severus allowed the smile to form. Harry was looking up at him with an expression that he found particularly heartwarming. It was something akin to hero worship, with a touch of angst, and just slight bit of uncertainty. The realization that he wanted to parent this boy resurfaced, along with the pleasant thought that for a handful of days, he actually was legally in the position to do so.
"I'll just say goodnight," Harry said, rushing back to the group to quietly say he was going to turn in. To Colin he whispered, "I'll pay you top galleon for every photo you snapped just now."