Confrontation Part II
Chapter 5 - Emancipated Minor - Confrontation Part II
That had been a mortifying slip for Harry, and he knew he'd need to dial down his temper from now on to avoid drawing any more attention to himself than was already there. Desperate to deflect the focus from what he'd said, he asked in a normal voice. "Are my friends okay?" He was back in control of himself as he wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
"They are fine, Harry," Dumbledore told him. He had his head tilted down and was assessing Harry over his spectacles.
"And where does the Ministry stand on the existence of Voldemort now?" Harry asked resentfully.
"That is pending, as we speak," Dumbledore said with a mild smile. "Cornelius Fudge is trying to tie you into last week's mayhem at the Ministry, and I believe that if he can make his case, he may attempt to prosecute you, Harry."
"That's great," Harry said sarcastically. "They refuse to believe I'm being stalked by an evil wizard, so they conveniently don't have to try to catch him, and then they can hold me accountable for damages done when I have to take matters into my own hands."
"Oh… is that what you did?" Snape asked snidely.
Harry didn't look at his potions professor. His instincts told him to minimize eye contact with Snape at all costs until after he was emancipated. He would not put it past the evil git to try to Legilimize him to find out what had caused the wards to fail at Privet Drive. Instead, he looked up at Dumbledore and asked, "So, am I staying here until school resumes?"
"Yes," Snape answered sternly. "Under my supervision."
Harry's stomach plummeted, and his eyes shot up at his professor in surprise. The dark (and clean) haired wizard's glare told him that yes, once again, he was being forced to stay with someone who despised him. Harry quickly cast his eyes down to the floor and stayed silent. It was the twenty-third of December. The holiday break would last until the fifth of January, when the students would return. That was nearly two weeks, but Harry reckoned he could suffer through it by just staying in his dorm room, out of Snape's way. The only thing he cared about was being on hand to receive the owl from Aunt Petunia with the letter from Montegue Morris confirming his petition had been processed. Then he could rest assured that his emancipation was pending, to become finalized the day he turned fifteen and a half. That letter had to be sent to Griphook at Gringott's next, but Harry figured he could wait until the holidays were over to handle that.
He could do this.
Severus watched the boy process his announcement and was not pleased by the lack of protest from him. He was not indifferent to the way the teen had quickly composed himself after his outburst. The boy was hiding a big secret. Indeed, Severus now knew Harry Potter had many secrets, but this one in particular was currently keeping the impulsive teen's behavior in check. Well practiced at the sport of pushing Harry Potter's buttons over the past four and a half years, he decided to poke at Potter's temper to see if he could goad the boy into another slip. "You will follow every directive I give you, and you will do so in a respectful manner," he said in his most condescendingly commanding tone. "I will not repeat myself. You will not like the consequences if you disobey me."
Potter's jaw visibly clenched, and there was a decisive edge in his response of, "I understand, Professor."
"There is some good news, Harry," Lupin interjected, shooting a reproachful look at Severus before turning to Harry. "I'll be returning to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts next term."
Potter's face lit up and he managed a genuinely happy smile. "That's brilliant! Everyone will be really glad to have you back."
Lupin smiled too. "I know you have been leading a Defense Association, Harry. I'd like to spend some time with you, reviewing what you've taught your fellow students, and where you intend to take them next. I'll design my lessons around this."
Potter stared at Lupin with a very moved expression. "I would think it should be the other way around, Rem- er, Professor Lupin," Potter said, correcting himself with another, smaller smile. "I was going to show the others everything I had learned so that they wouldn't be so disadvantaged. I was just trying to help, what with Umbridge's refusal to let us use our wands. Now that you'll be here, my stuff doesn't matter so much."
Curiosity getting the best of him, Severus asked, "What have you shown them, Potter?"
Potter's eyes darted between Albus and Lupin, as if he was reluctant to admit anything to Severus. "Uh, well, we've covered expelliarmus, protego… um, diffindo, levicorpus, bombarda… and we just did the patronus charm."
"Harry, that's fantastic!" Lupin gushed. "Is anyone able to cast a corporeal patronus?"
Harry grinned now, his pride in his students coming through loud and clear, "Yeah, everyone from fourth year and up. We had the whole classroom filled with patroni, had them racing each other. It was fantastic. I'd like to learn how to send messages with them-"
"That's an Order practice, Potter," Severus said sternly. "You should not have revealed that to your peers."
Potter glared at Severus. "I haven't," he said defensively. "I was going to ask Professor McGonagall if she thought it was a good idea before I said anything to the DA."
"Harry," Albus said, "perhaps while you are sequestered here, you could work on some lesson ideas for the coming term. I am hopeful that I will resume my post as Headmaster by February, and in the meantime, Professor McGonagall will run the school. She is in agreement, along with all who are present, that you should continue to teach the DA. You and Professor Lupin can meet early the first week back. As you will no longer have to keep it a secret, perhaps we can set a regular time for you to meet, and provide a location that suits your needs."
Potter's jaw worked while he swallowed down his emotions. "That would be great, sir," he finally said.
Albus stood then. "Severus and Remus, might I have a private word with Harry?"
"Of course," Lupin said agreeably. He stood and turned to Potter, who was also on his feet. "Harry, I'll see you in a couple of weeks." He gave the teenager a gruff pat on the shoulder, and a small bow to Albus, and took his leave. Severus followed.
Severus walked to the end of the passage outside his quarters, escorting Lupin part of the way from the castle.
"What do you intended for Harry to be doing while he's here, Severus?" Lupin asked.
"I intend that he will not jeopardize my sanity, his security, the Order's secrets, or Albus' return to his post at this school," Severus said severely.
"Do you intend to ask him where that knot on his forehead came from?"
"You saw that as well?" Severus asked. They shared a grim look. "I will ask him about it, but am not at all confident that he will give me a truthful response. I'm surprised you did not inquire."
"I would have done, if I'd had a moment alone with him. Perhaps if you try to remember what we overheard when we were at his aunt's house today, you might consider that he feels reluctant to confide in anyone."
"And why not, Lupin?" Severus demanded in irritation. "That boy has more people dancing around to accommodate his needs than he will ever be able to comprehend. He is ungrateful, reckless, impulsive-"
"He has been bullied and battered, and you heard it for yourself: he is alone," Lupin said.
"He is no different-"
Lupin took a step closer to Severus, tilting his head as if he thought he could reason with his former schoolmate, and effectively cutting off the inappropriately hostile comment that nearly came out. "Harry is ashamed of his father's behavior toward you, Severus. He gave Sirius a strong telling off about what he saw of your memories. He is disgusted by what he saw."
"He's a boy, Severus," Lupin said. "He is just a boy."
Harry waited for Snape to return to his quarters. He sat on the sofa, processing the heartfelt apology Dumbledore had just given him, and feeling horribly conflicted. He wanted to stay angry at Dumbledore for the way the old wizard had been treating him. He knew there was still so much that he was not being told, but now recognized that he, Harry, had been considered a security threat because of his link to Voldemort. Harry's impulsive attempt to save Sirius had put a lot at risk. His chest began to heave as the shame he felt for his stupidity sped to the surface. He clenched his jaw and willed the shaking to stop, which was much harder to do than keeping his eyes dry. He would not cry in front of anyone again. That had been completely stupid of him.
He was still struggling with himself when Snape reentered. The potions master circled around the sofa and came to stand before the fireplace again. He stared at Harry, but Harry refused to look at him. He was trying not to panic.
"We agreed you would tell no one about what you saw in my pensieve," Snape said in a dangerously calm voice.
Harry's eyes shot up and his mouth dropped open. More shame rose upward from within him, closing his throat and making his chest feel tight. He took a deep breath, "I haven't, sir, other than Sirius and Remus." His breathing was growing more and more labored. Snape was not responding to what he'd said, so he took the chance and looked up at his angry professor, saying, "I'm ashamed of myself for what I did. I wasn't looking for personal stuff, and I would have left - I should have left - but then I realized I was seeing my dad, and I just couldn't pull away. And I'm sorry." He held Snape's glare for a few more moments, but couldn't bear it after that, and dropped his eyes back down to his hands. He didn't voice his confusion as to why Snape always said he was like his dad, nor did he say that he knew all about being bullied. Snape knew that much about him, but still treated Harry like he was some kind of menace. Harry did at least find the courage to risk asking, "Sir, when my Aunt Petunia said she knew you, and Remus, what was she talking about?"
"Why are you wearing a school blazer for Smeltings Academy?" Snape asked in irritation instead of answering him.
"My aunt thought it was a good idea," Harry said. He hadn't bothered to look up. "Professor, I haven't slept well for-"
"And how exactly did you confront your godfather and Lupin, Potter? When had you been in their company in recent weeks?" Snape demanded, obviously in afterthought.
Harry sighed. "I snuck into Umbridge's office and used her floo. She'd bragged that she'd been monitoring all of the others and only hers was-"
"So, once again, you completely disregarded someone's privacy, broke into a Hogwarts professional's office, and could have completely compromised the Fidelius Charm on the Order's Headquarters had you been intercepted, all because you were in a snit!" Snape was seething. "Look at me," he ordered Harry. When Harry obeyed, Snape conjured a wooden paddle. "You will not compromise our safety with your nonsense. If you test me, I will use this to blister your backside. Do. You. Understand?"
Harry could feel the blood draining from his face. He had no doubt in his mind that he'd be getting that exact punishment from Snape. Even if he didn't try to sneak out, the man had it out for him as it was. And Harry didn't question Snape's right to use corporal punishment with him, fully recalling Filch's glee when he'd come into Umbridges office to pick up the decree that authorized whipping. He gulped and nodded quickly, but his professor's thunderous expression prompted him to say, "Yes, sir." Murder me now, he begged the unseen forces of nature that had condemned him to this life he was living. Just murder me now, and get it over with.
"Would it be alright if I went to my dorm now?" he asked, finally hazarding a look over at Snape.
"How did you injure your forehead, Potter?" Snape asked with no sign he'd heard Harry's request.
Harry blinked. "I banged it," he said simply.
Snape took a step towards him. "Do. Not. Lie. To. Me."
"I'm not lying!" Harry said defensively.
"You, Mr. Potter, are many things, but klutzy is not one of them." Snape continued to approach Harry, making him quite uncomfortable. "Stand, Potter," his professor commanded when he was in front of Harry.
Harry stood up, still shaking, and not at all happy to be in such close proximity to his vile potions professor. Snape raised his hand towards Harry's head and Harry flinched involuntarily. He couldn't meet his professor's eyes, but if he had, he'd have seen undisguised alarm. Snape, however, said nothing and smoothed Harry's hair away to reveal the discolored knot of brutalized flesh that still resided there.
"This was not here the last time I saw you," was Snape's only comment as he raised his wand and quietly chanted a healing charm.
Harry kept his mouth shut until he was released, and said a quiet, "Thanks," to maintain the mandatory respectful manner he was supposed to engage for the duration of the holidays.
"You're welcome," his professor responded in an equally quiet voice. "Come," he said as he turned and retraced his steps to the fireplace. He turned back to face Harry. "I have warded both this fireplace, and the one in the Gryffindor common room to only allow entry to a small number of individuals in hopes that it will deflect any alerts to the Ministry of the goings-on within the castle. You will reside in your House common area during the day, and come here at six o'clock each evening for dinner, traveling by floo. Understand?"
Harry nodded as he said, "Yes, sir."
"And since you already have your own little elf fan club, I assume you are capable of asking for your breakfast and lunch from them?"
Harry nearly smirked at that, but instead nodded and gave another respectful, "Yes, sir." He was still shaking and was beginning to worry about the dizziness that was creeping up on him from not having eaten since yesterday.
"Very well," Snape said. "Off you go. But Potter, I will know if you violate this arrangement." His tone promised dire consequences, and he lay the paddle on the mantle, as if to illustrate his previous threat.
Harry schooled his features to stay blank, and reached for the floo powder, but he stopped, having to ask, "Wait, sir. What do I call out when I want to floo back here?"
"You toss a pinch of powder into the fireplace," Snape said in a taunting and condescending tone, "and then you say, very firmly, 'Severus Snape's Slytherin Sanctuary!'"
That made Harry sigh in testy exasperation. "Fine, but don't blame me if I end up Merlin-knows-where because I'm rubbish at tongue twisters." He took some floo powder and threw it into the flames, saying, "Gryffindor Common Room!" and stepping in without another look at Snape.