Settling In - Part IV
Chapter 9 - Emancipated Minor - Settling In - Part IV
Potter pulled away and swiped at his eyes, giving Severus a challenging look. Severus was at a loss for a response, so he kept his expression neutral and compensated by turning the boy toward the fireplace with a hand on his shoulder. "Come, I could feel your ribs through that jumper. You need dinner."
"I don't have much of an appetite," Harry muttered, feeling completely off kilter by this up and down tension, and pseudo familiarity, between him and his professor.
"I'll give you a calming draught," Severus told him. He stepped into the fireplace with Potter, then slid his arm around the boy's shoulders, and dropped the floo powder, saying, "My place!"
Harry was sputtering with indignation when they stepped out into Snape's quarters. "How come I have to say that stupid phrase to floo here?" he demanded. Snape didn't answer him, but continued to guide him physically into the kitchen, where a dinner of porkchops, braised potatoes and haricots verts was waiting. Harry sighed in defensive frustration, but took his seat and downed the vial of potion he was given. It did help his appetite, so he made a point of filling his plate and planning to take his time with his food tonight. There wasn't much point in doing otherwise. "Are you going to tell Dumbledore about the petition?" he asked Snape, who was still loading his own plate.
Severus raised his eyes to meet the boy's. "I don't know," he admitted quietly.
Well, that actually shocks me…. Harry thought. "Why wouldn't you tell him?"
"Because I haven't yet processed what you've told me, Potter," Severus said. "It's this inner dynamic some of us engage in, you see. It's known as thinking before acting."
Harry glared at him for a full thirty seconds, as the flush of mortification at being reminded of his failures rose up to taint his face and neck a bright pink, and he dropped his eyes to his plate. But indignance kicked back in after a few moments, along with rage, and he found his voice again, "You mean trusting people to help you, even though they have been-" he gritted his teeth. "Even though they've been hurting you all term, not to mention insulting you since they met you? That's what you mean, right?" Harry bit out.
"Are you referring to our Occlumency lessons?" Severus asked. Potter didn't respond, but his expression was all the answer Severus needed. "I was under the impression that you understood the vital need for you to learn that skill," he said carefully, but he knew that he had been callously demanding and entirely unsympathetic to the difficulties Potter had with his teaching methods.
"I did," Harry said resentfully. "What I did not understand was why you were allowed to brutalize me to the point of feeling like-" he nearly said it. Mind rape.
"To the point of feeling like what?" Severus demanded, not liking what he was hearing, and instinctively knowing he would like the answer even less.
"I just got really put off by all of the headaches," Harry said bitterly, "and how, between you and Umbridge, I was always suffering nagging pain that interfered with my studying, and my sleeping, and-"
"You never told me you were getting headaches," Severus said grimly.
"I told you you were hurting me!" Harry yelled. "It hurt when you invaded my mind, and it kept hurting for hours afterward!" He shoved his chair back and stood up.
Severus stood too. "I did not realize, Potter," he said plainly. "I have only experienced Legilimancy with the Dark Lord, and it has been painful yes, but it stops when he leaves my mind." He stepped into the path that Harry would have to take to leave the room. "I did not know you continued to suffer, and I apologize. I should have asked you if the pain had subsided before you left. I erroneously assumed your experience would be similar to mine."
Harry glowered at him, not knowing what to do with the unexpected apology, wanting only to go back to his dorm.
"Was this my contribution to what has motivated you to seek emancipation?" Severus asked tightly.
Harry sighed and sat heavily back on his chair. "I have to protect myself, Professor. I'm just trying to survive," he said bitterly. He picked up his fork and began to slowly eat his dinner. Sawdust. It may as well be sawdust.
Severus was appalled at what he'd been told by Potter. Admittedly, he had known he was hurting the boy when he Legilimized him, and had done so without apology multiple times during each lesson. That was bad enough, but he'd been stunned to hear that the boy had suffered horrible headaches as a result. Potter was telling him this evening, although in not so many words, that Severus had violated him. And there was just no way around that. There was no excusing it, or softening it. He'd done that. To Lily's son, no less.
How have I become this person?
It was nearly one o'clock a.m. when his own inability to sleep drove Severus to check on Potter. He entered the boy's dorm room and found him seated in the windowed alcove near his bed, leaning against the glass, staring out the window into the black night. Severus tapped softly on the door as he passed over the threshold. "Having trouble sleeping, Potter?" he asked quietly.
"No," Harry said dully. "I don't want to go to sleep, because when I wake up, it will be Christmas, and I don't want to face it."
"Then, may I recommend you not consider it to be Christmas?" Severus suggested. He came further into the room and sat on Potter's desk chair. "Let it just be typical day."
Harry snorted. "Lately those are just as awful," he said derisively.
Severus stretched his legs out and relaxed back into the chair as he considered what else to offer.
"Will you pretend it's just another day as well?" Harry asked.
Now it was Severus' turn to snort. "I always do." After a short silence, he asked, "Potter, how did you get all of the texts you have collected in the common room?"
"I asked Dobby to get them for me," Harry said.
"Ah, and he is the elf you freed from the Malfoys?"
"Yes, and old man Malfoy nearly cast the killing curse at me when it happened," Harry said.
"I am aware of this," Severus told him. "Lucius was in quite a snit after that confrontation. Apparently, by the time he had stomped his way down the grounds to the gates, he had come to his senses and was mortified at his behavior. He was actually rather impressed with your cleverness. When I told him you were friends with his elf, he was pleased."
"I'm finding that really hard to believe," Harry said adamantly.
"I'm telling you with full confidence that you could trust him with your life," Severus said. "He can be an utter bastard, and that arrogance is genuine, but he is not your enemy."
"I'm finding that really hard to believe," Harry repeated. He turned to look at Snape. "Were the two of you up here last night?"
"We were. Lucius was quite amused at the pillow detritus you left all around," Severus said with a smirk. "What had you been attempting?"
"Banishing and conjuring spells," Harry hedged. He was not about to trust Snape with the experimental harnessing of his wild magic that he was working on.
"That's a bit advanced," Severus said thoughtfully. "Did you have any success?"
"Yeah, but it was inconsistent, so I don't know what I was doing wrong," Harry admitted. That much was not a lie.
Severus leaned forward now, elbows on knees, fingers steepled and pressed to his mouth while he chose his words carefully. "Harry, I would like to call a truce of sorts with you, so that you can feel more confident that I am not interested in upsetting you further," he said. The boy turned to look at him with wary eyes. "I understand that you do not trust me, and I understand why. But we have mutual goals in regards to the Dark Lord, and we should try to work together. After what you told me earlier tonight, I can understand why you want emancipation, and it is clear that your wretched aunt has washed her hands of you. But I have very real concerns that your safety will be greatly compromised with only you making decisions on your behalf. I will not ask you to change your plans, as of yet, but I will ask you to let me help you prepare for what you are taking on."
"You're not going to sabotage it?" Harry asked skeptically.
"I will not operate behind your back," Severus said. "You must try to understand that I have twenty more years of life experience than you. I have seen the consequences of acting on blind faith."
"I don't want to do that, Professor," Harry said wearily. "I've never wanted to. But all of this stuff is just constantly coming at me, and I know when I'm being lied to, so that I'll shut up and go away. I'm not as impulsive as you think I am. Sometimes I just don't see another option."
"You are acting in desperation, then," Severus supplied.
After a long silence, Severus said, "Tomorrow is likely to be quiet around the castle. I do not expect Albus until Thursday. I believe Lupin is on a mission that will detain him for several more days. You will have a long day of silence that should be filled with practical tasks. Perhaps you will be willing to practice your conjuring and banishing with me? I saw for myself how intent you are on learning these."
Harry took a long look at his professor, replaying their interactions since that night last week, when he'd delivered Harry to Privet Drive. Snape had healed his cuts and scrapes. He'd healed the knot on his forehead. He'd been concerned, or at least suspicious, about its origin. The awful wizard had already proved to Harry that he didn't want him walking around with injuries. So, the apology from earlier about the headaches was no doubt genuine. He had a feeling this offer of help was, too. He wondered what a session of learning spells would be like with Snape. He'd never had a lesson from Snape that hadn't ended in him feeling insulted and annoyed. "What if I don't do well, and can't learn the spells?" he asked.
"I am offering to show you what I know. This will be entirely on your terms," Severus told him. "You will tell me what you want to learn, and I will endeavor to assist your mastery of the magic."
The following afternoon found Severus and Harry in the Room of Requirement, in the classroom environment Harry used for the DA. Severus had explained that there were two types of conjuring and banishing, and each was differentiated by the actual existence of the item desired, versus creating it as it is conjured.
"Thus, if you are trying to conjure a pillow, and have nothing already existing to summon through your conjuring spell, you are actually using a form of transfiguration to create a pillow for yourself. However, if your pillow is currently on your bed, and you wish to make it appear here, you must adjust your magic to focus on the location of the existing item, and summon it through what is ultimately a portal."
"Like you did with the paddle?" Harry asked in feigned innocent wonder, and was very proud of himself, until he was nearly bowled over at the sight of a ghost of a genuinely amused smile that battled to reveal itself on Snape's face. Trying desperately to counter the flustered confusion at seeing this side of his evil professor, Harry said quickly, "Er, how about banishing spells?"
Harry looked up from the table when the common room floo roared with green flame and Headmaster Dumbledore stepped through.
"Hello Harry," Dumbledore greeted, coming into the room and joining Harry at the table. "Can you take a break for a visit?"
"Of course, sir," Harry said warily.
Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling as he scanned his glance over Harry's textbook and essay, clearly able to see that it was his holiday potions homework.
"I showed a little bit too much cheek to Snape yesterday, so I have to finish one assignment each day until I'm through," Harry explained without any indication of how he felt about that arrangement. He and Snape had actually gone nearly the full session without harsh words until Snape started asking too many questions about what Harry sought to achieve by mastering those particular spells. Harry had been too illusive and Snape had gleaned onto the fact that there was much that Harry was not saying. The truth was, Harry didn't have an answer other than he wanted to understand what was actually happening magically when he cast them. He figured that would somehow aid him when he practiced harnessing his wild magic when he was alone in the common room. Snape had grown frustrated and reclaimed his power by insisting that Harry had to do his assignments immediately.
"Well, Harry, the fact that you were able to tell me that without losing your temper, or complaining, suggests that things are calmer than I'd feared they'd be between you two," Dumbledore said with a small smile. When Harry shrugged without a reply, he added, "I've just been with him and he seems rather subdued."
"Um, we've done some talking," Harry offered. "He's let me speak my mind."
Dumbledore nodded. "I think you are safe to assume that you have been heard, Harry." He tilted his head downward and looked at Harry over his spectacles. "You've told me in the past that you had no wish to return to your aunt's home, Harry, and I was not as sympathetic as I should have been. And I apologize for that. I have tasked Severus with looking into the shift in your home dynamic that caused the wards to fail."
Harry felt like he was being set up to spill his secret out, so he reminded himself to stay calm. Snape had still not told Dumbledore about the petition, obviously, but that didn't mean he would not. Hoping to minimize the mystery of this whole mess, he explained, "Professor, Aunt Petunia is treating me no different than she ever has. She doesn't want me there. None of them do. I figured out a long time ago that they're terrified of magic. The incident with the Dementors was pretty scary for them. My uncle was glad that I was in trouble with the Ministry. He wanted me to be taken away and put in Azkaban. Maybe my showing up unexpectedly put them over their limit, and that's why the wards failed."
Dumbledore nodded, considering. "That may indeed be the cause, Harry."
"But it's no matter now, is it? They're in hiding," Harry pointed out. He waited for the Headmaster to acknowledge his point with a nod before asking, "Professor, are you going to get reinstated as Headmaster?"
"I believe so, Harry. I believe so."