Harry didn't know what exactly he'd expected to find upon entering the headmaster's bedroom again, but he'd rather thought Snape would still be asleep. So it was quite a shock to walk into the room and be greeted by that dark, glowering figure sitting up in a chair and sending him an unmistakable glare.
"Welcome, Harry," Dumbledore said, though Harry didn't take his eyes off Snape. "As you can see, Professor Snape woke while you were taking your Potions exam. How was it?" the headmaster added solicitously.
Harry jerked his attention over to Dumbledore. Was it his imagination or did Snape's hair look even greasier - no, it was just wet. So he must have just got out of the bath, oh shit, he shouldn't be thinking about that now. "F-fine, sir," he stammered in reply, wanting to sink through the floor when his voice cracked. Could he sound any more like a scared kid? "I think ... I think I did well."
"I'm glad the Concentration Charm worked," Dumbledore said with a smile, and Snape made a small sound of surprise that made Harry glance back at him again. Then Dumbledore rose from his own chair. "I've brought the professor up-to-date on all that passed Saturday morning, and since then; now I will leave you two to talk. I believe you have some things to say to each other."
What? Harry was very glad to see that Snape was well - even though that face of stone did not bode well for the upcoming discussion - but for the life of him he could not think what he could say to the man. Still, he appreciated Dumbledore's discretion. "Thanks," he murmured sincerely. It wasn't the headmaster's fault Harry had got himself into such a mess, after all.
Dumbledore laid a warm, encouraging hand on Harry's shoulders, and the door shut behind him. Harry found himself staring at the floor, and forced himself to meet Snape's eyes, which had the strangest look in them.
"Sit down," Snape said abruptly. When Harry did so, the older man asked, in a deadly quiet tone, "What were you thinking?"
Harry didn't answer.
"Well? Answer me!" Those dark eyes were flashing now, and the thin fingers were clamped hard on the arms of the chair. When Harry remained silent, unable to say a single thing, Snape's face twisted. "I said, ANSWER me! Are you deaf as well as out of your mind? Don't you know you could have been killed?"
"I know you would have been killed," Harry finally replied, amazed at how steady his voice was. Not a single crack.
And as he said the words, he felt his nervousness disappear. He'd done the right thing, and everything had turned out fine. Let Snape bluster and fume all he liked. If given the choice all over again - even if doomed to failure - Harry would have done the same thing. He would have had no choice.
He felt like he had no choice in any of this.
"How brave," Snape spat, interrupting his reverie. "How very noble. Famous Harry Potter saves my life. I suppose now you expect me to thank you on bended knee?"
"Stop it," Harry said in a low voice. "Stop talking like that."
Something in his tone must have got through, because Snape actually stopped, and the wrathful expression was replaced by one that was far more uncertain. "Why did you do it?" he asked, obviously trying to sound scornful and falling rather short of the mark.
"I couldn't not do it." Harry shrugged.
"Really. You would have done the same for anybody? Weasley and Granger, of course?"
"Of course," Harry replied, glad to be able to say that wholeheartedly.
"Mm-hm. Professor Flitwick too, naturally. Or Trelawney, or Sprout. You would have hopped on that broom and flown right to the rescue without a second thought, for their sakes."
"Er ... " Truthfully, Harry wasn't so sure about that bit. "I ... I don't know."
"Then why me?" Snape hissed. "Don't pretend you don't know. One ill-advised snog on a balcony does not create some sort of bond, Potter!"
The words stung like a slap, but Harry had been half-expecting them. "You're quite right," he said, as calmly as he could, wondering how long he'd be able to keep up this reasonable, rational exterior. He never could keep his cool for very long when Snape baited him. But why was Snape baiting him now? Was he really so repulsed by the thought of being in Harry's debt, just as he'd been in debt to Harry's father? Or was it ...
Was it because he was scared?
Snape had been momentarily set back by Harry's unexpected compliance. Harry took advantage of the stunned pause to continue, "And if you really think all that was just about a snog on a balcony, then I'm a Chocolate Frog." He glared at Snape. "You know better than that. But if it makes you feel any better, I didn't do it just because you're a good kisser. You've saved my life before." There, now that might be something Snape could accept. He certainly seemed hung up on the whole "payback" thing.
"And gotten precious little thanks for it," Snape sneered, recovering. "I suppose this is your notion of gratitude?"
"If you like," Harry said steadily.
"Well then, I consider myself properly thanked," Snape said, his voice suddenly dripping with bitterness. "Allow me to say that if you ever do anything of that kind again, especially for me, I will kill you myself and hang your corpse from the Slytherin flagpole."
"Oh, nice," Harry shot back. "I'll remember that. And if you ever do anything like THAT again, after I - yes, let's not forget this bit - after I WARNED you not to go - " Whoops, look out, stay cool there -
"Oh, so we come to that now? I wondered when we'd get to it. Come to gloat, Potter? Say 'I-told-you-so,' proclaim yourself as the almighty visionary?" Snape's voice was rapidly rising to a full shout.
Harry could feel something inside him wanting to explode, but struggled to hold it off. He'd nearly lost it once already. "It's no good," he said instead. "Say all the horrid things you like. You can't scare me, and you can't make me hate you again."
Snape deflated like someone had punched him in the stomach, and Harry knew he'd guessed right. There was an agonising moment of silence, before Snape finally whispered, in a hoarse, hunted voice, "I should never have touched you."
Harry took a deep breath and crossed his legs with elaborate nonchalance. "Well, it's not like you're the only person who's ever kissed me. Or done anything else," he added daringly, if a touch untruthfully. Well, Fred had sort of snuck a grope.
Snape's eyes widened at that, and the guilt abruptly fled his face to be replaced with ... something else. "What? You - who?"
"None of your business," Harry replied rather rudely, before honesty finally compelled him to add, "but it wasn't much and ... you were the best at it." He was not going to blush, he was not ...
The expression in Snape's eyes changed yet again, into a strange expression of stunned heat - and disbelief. "I ... you ... are joking."
Harry felt a little insulted. "What? So you think nobody else would ever want to ... touch me?" Which was actually pretty close to the truth, dammit, but he wasn't about to tell Snape that. "It's not like you've been keeping to yourself," he added coldly, remembered anger creeping into his voice and making the hurt in it real. "Don't think I haven't noticed what Draco Malfoy's been up to with you."
"Draco Malfoy!" Snape snapped, his body growing abruptly stiff in the chair. "What do you ... what does he have to do with anything?"
"I overheard him in Potions," Harry replied hotly. "I heard him asking you for special tutoring. If you ever touch him I'll cut his nuts off." Oops, he hadn't meant to say that last part out loud. He could feel his face flush.
Snape gaped at him, and then, for the first time all day, his lips twitched slightly. "Duly noted. Dear me, how possessive, especially considering that we aren't anything like a - "
"Oh, shut up," Harry snarled, feeling the last of his cool evaporate, and with good riddance. Because it was good to be angry. It was a lot better than sitting here and getting aroused, thinking about kissing Snape again. "And another thing. Now your cover's blown, you don't have to treat me like shit anymore and pretend it's all an act. Unless you really do hate me, I expect a little civility from you, thanks very much."
Snape bristled. At least that horrible, pale-faced self-hatred had disappeared. "I don't do civility," he said flatly.
"I used to think you wouldn't know how to do kissing either, so we see what that's worth," Harry taunted. Snape glared at him.
"You have an appalling lack of manners, Potter."
"Thanks. Means a lot, coming from you."
"Why, you wretched little - "
The door swung open again, to admit Albus Dumbledore.
"All done chatting?" the headmaster asked brightly. Snape, whose mouth had snapped itself instantly shut, mutely nodded. So did Harry. "Good," Dumbledore continued. "Harry, forgive me for interrupting, but I think it's time for you to take your leave; what exam do you have tomorrow?"
"Transfigurations, sir," Harry said. "But I think I'll do all right. Professor McGonagall looks like she's going to cry every time she sees me," he admitted rather sheepishly. He heard Snape make a disgusted noise behind him, but didn't turn to look. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled.
"I'm sure you'll do fine, Harry. Give your friends my best, as always."
Still without looking at Snape, Harry replied, "Thank you, Headmaster. Can I come back and see him again tomorrow?"
Eyes twinkling even more, Dumbledore said, "If you like."
Snape spluttered incoherently. "I beg your pardon, but if you both don't mind too bloody much I'm not going to be here tomorrow. You might be able to keep me from giving my exams, Dumbledore, but - "
Dumbledore wagged a stern finger at him. "You will be here tomorrow, Severus, and every day after that until the end of the term - possibly longer, until I am absolutely sure of your security on the grounds."
Snape gaped at Dumbledore with unconcealed horror. "Stay here? You mean - in this ROOM? Until the end of the term?"
"There are some people here who believe you are dead," Dumbledore said gently. "They will, of course, learn differently, but I wish them to remain deceived until I have built up appropriate safeguards for you. If it is privacy you are concerned about, I will sleep in my study. I am afraid that even after it is safe for you to leave these rooms, you will be confined to the Hogwarts grounds for the duration. It simply is not safe for you anywhere else. Voldemort and the Death Eaters will be looking for you."
Harry didn't think this sounded unreasonable. As far as he could tell, Snape never even left Hogwarts anyway. But the Potions Master was looking murderous. "I'm truly sorry, Severus," Dumbledore said, and sounded like he meant it. Snape merely hissed from between his teeth, obviously wanting to explode, obviously restraining himself.
Dumbledore laid his hand on Harry's shoulder and guided him out into the study. Before they emerged into the relatively public area of the office, however, Harry stopped. "Sir," he asked hesitantly, "what do you mean, there are people here who think he's dead?"
The old man sighed heavily. "Harry ... there are some details I am, after careful consideration, keeping from you. Suffice it to say that Professor Snape was betrayed by someone in this very school. Upon hearing of his sudden 'absence,' this person no doubt assumed he had been killed by Voldemort as planned. The truth will come to light soon, of course, but I should like to play for as much time as I can."
Harry swallowed hard, and nodded. Snape had been betrayed? But what did that mean? It would have to be someone who knew two things: that Snape was working with the Death Eaters, and that he was working with them as a spy. Who at Hogwarts could ... Harry's head was already spinning.
"Try not to think about it," Dumbledore said firmly. "Harry, you have done very well, but I must now ask you to step back and leave this to me."
Harry nodded and trotted obediently to his dormitory. But he wasn't exactly planning to follow those orders. If Dumbledore had been wrong once, he could be again, and there was nothing wrong with keeping your eyes and ears open.
Especially for something as important as this.
The next morning, Harry had his Care of Magical Creatures exam, but that turned out to be the least of his worries. At breakfast Hedwig flew through the Great Hall bearing a very familiar-looking red envelope that, as she dropped it in Harry's lap, seemed to be actually vibrating. Harry, Ron and Hermione all stared at it in horror.
"Who's it from?" Ron asked in disbelief.
"S-sirius," Harry whispered, looking at the handwriting and making sure nobody else heard him, though several people were staring at him with a great deal of interest. "He must have heard about ... my Quidditch accident."
"I'm sure Dumbledore told him," Hermione said anxiously, "but really, sending you a Howler, nobody's supposed to know where he is or that he knows you - this is really dangerous, Harry, he must be awfully angry - "
"You better open it before it explodes," Ron said, eyeing the envelope with trepidation. "C'mon, we'll go with you, you can do it in our dormitory or - "
"No! I mean, no, don't want this to look secret or unusual do we?" Harry sweated. "You stay here and act like it's nothing you didn't expect. I'll go alone." Thankfully, they accepted the sense of that, and Harry tore off for a private place as fast as his legs could carry him. He quickly found an empty classroom. Really, what was Sirius thinking? If this was what Harry thought it was, and anybody heard him opening it, so many secrets would be blown it wasn't even funny. Trembling a bit, and praying nobody would come, Harry opened the envelope.
He was immediately greeted by a near-deafening blast of sound. "WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? MCGONAGALL SENT ME AN OWL - TOLD ME EVERYTHING - YOU COULD HAVE DIED OR BEEN CAPTURED OR WORSE - SAVING SEVERUS SNAPE OF ALL PEOPLE ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH, RISKING YOUR LIFE FOR THAT LYING, SLIMY, STUPID, DISGUSTING - "
Harry winced while a rather astounding parade of adjectives marched its way through his ears, including several words which would get him into a great deal of trouble should he ever repeat them at the Dursleys'. Or in front of a teacher.
"NO CONSIDERATION AT ALL," Sirius's voice bellowed, finally getting back on track. "ABSOLUTE LACK OF ANY KIND OF COMMON SENSE - I CAN'T TALK TO YOU RIGHT NOW - HERE, REMUS, YOU GET ON, YOU TELL HIM WHAT'S WHAT - "
Harry blinked, and had to strain to hear Professor Lupin's quiet tones after the noisy barrage of Sirius's fury.
"Now, Harry, I'm sure you meant well ... but Sirius is right, of course, that was a most ill-advised risk for you to take, you frightened us both quite badly, and I must strongly advise you never to - "
"RIGHT, LUPIN, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THIS," Sirius roared, the abrupt return to high volume nearly knocking Harry out of his chair. "HARRY, IF YOU EVER - EVER - EVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS AGAIN I'LL HAVE YOUR GUTS FOR GARTERS, YOUR PARENTS TRUSTED ME TO PROTECT YOU, ROLLING IN THEIR GRAVES, YOU MIGHT THINK OF ALL THEY SACRIFICED FOR YOU - ABSOLUTE IDIOCY - NEXT TIME LET THE BASTARD DIE!"
The noise stopped. Harry, ears still ringing, watched as the envelope burst into flames and withered. He rose shakily to his feet and glanced around; nobody was looking in at the door. Still, someone might have hung about in the hallway. He should have thought of that. Sirius should have thought of that, come to it. Harry quickly went to the door, flung it open and stalked outside, but there was nobody waiting except Professor McGonagall.
"Perhaps I should have waited a few days before telling him," she said, in an apologetic kind of way.
Part 9 | Non Anime Fanfiction