The Blood Connection (Part 1/3)
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The pain didn’t bear thinking about. Now, if only he could find something distract his mind………
Severus opened his eyes. And immediately shut them again. That had hurt. A white-hot lance of light had speared through his head and now his head was throbbing at triple time.
Okay. First thing’s first. Where was he? And, more importantly, was he safe? Severus was much more cautious about opening his eyes this time. It still hurt, but his eyes slowly adjusted to the light of the room, which turned out to have been rather dim in the first place. His surroundings slowly materialised out of the haze as his pupils contracted.
He was in the hospital wing, safe back in the school. The only thing that bothered him about this was that he had no recollection of returning under his own volition. Answers. He needed answers. And he wasn’t going to get any lying here. The throbbing in his head had subsided and he decided that he wasn’t wounded as bad as he had first thought.
Then he made the foolish mistake of moving. Or, at least, attempting to move. He gasped sharply, then bit down ruthlessly on his reactions. It didn’t matter how badly he was wounded, he would *not* allow his mask to slip; that was what had landed him in the position in the first place.
He quickly decided that moving could wait a little longer. It seemed that he was, in fact, wounded as badly as he had first thought. Or perhaps worse.
Never one to wait idly for things to happen, he decided to do the only thing available to him at the moment: he assessed what he could of his wounds. Moving as little as possible – it hurt too damn much, not that he’d let anyone know – he manoeuvred into a semi-reclining position on his pillows. His head spun at this simple movement. When his vision cleared, he looked down at his body.
Well. His hands weren’t broken. That was a plus.
A plus that hardly registered against the staggering number of negatives. There was not a patch of skin visible that retained its natural colour. Every inch of his skin was covered in burns, bruises, welts, slashes and abrasions in every colour of the rainbow and a few shades of black and brown besides. That wasn’t the worst of it. A slash across his abdomen oozed the black blood indicative of a bleeding liver. Both shins were broken, bent at odd angles. Several toes were missing from his left foot. His right shoulder was dislocated and he didn’t think there was a rib in his chest that wasn’t at least cracked.
Severus didn’t understand. He had presumably been in the hospital wing for a considerable amount of time. So why was he still in such an appalling condition? Surely, it couldn’t be put down to the gross incompetence of the nursing staff. As much as it galled him to admit it, Severus knew Poppy Pomfery was a first-rate medi-witch.
So why not administer to his wounds?
Severus tried to yell for the matron. All that escaped his mouth was a dry hack and spots of blood. His left hand shook as he wiped his mouth. So. It seemed he was as badly wounded on the inside as he was on the outside. He stared blankly at his trembling hand for a long moment, then balled it into a fist, digging his nails into his palm.
If he had hoped the sharp pain would help him to focus, he was sadly disappointed: the tiny pricks were lost in the sheer haze of pain he was enduring. He swallowed hard several times, hoping to reclaim some semblance of a voice. He needed somebody to shoot questions at. He needed somebody to rant at. It was Severus’s tried and true method of diverting his attention from the agony. But he needed a *voice* to simply *summon* someone, before he could even consider breaking into one of his famed tirades.
He hazarded another try. This time, the most he could produce was tiny rasp. His neck corded as he clenched his teeth. It was almost enough to make him cry in sheer frustration. Almost. Severus Snape did not cry. Nor did he give up.
He was about to try to speak for the third time when he was saved the effort.
From beyond the curtains obscuring his bed came the voices of Albus Dumbledore and Poppy Pomfrey. And they just so happened to be discussing him. Severus decided it would be prudent to conserve his energy until it was absolutely necessary. If they were going to answer his questions for him anyway, he saw no reason inform them of his lucidity.
‘He hasn’t been healed yet?’ Dumbledore’s voice ever so slightly accusing and Severus silently agreed with the sentiment.
‘I’ve told you before, Albus. We cannot risk it.’
Severus stirred. Why the hell not? Dumbledore cleared his throat beyond the curtain.
‘Explain it to me again.’
There was a pause, and Severus could almost see Poppy gathering all her patience to deal with exasperating old wizard. Generally, he would agree with her. But not when he wanted to hear the reasoning behind the singular lack of medical attention paid him.
‘He has simply lost too much blood. Whoever did…….’ there was another pause, and Severus would have sworn he could hear Poppy swallowing against bile, ‘….…that…….to him knew what they were doing. They deliberately bleed him.
‘As it stands, he has barely enough blood in him to keep him alive. Surely you recall that the healing spells depend on assistance from the patient’s own body? If we cast the spells on him in his state, they would consume him.’
A pregnant silence and Severus felt his heart sinking. He knew what came next.
‘Well, what can we do for him?’
‘What Severus really needs is a blood transfusion.’
‘You need my permission? Poppy, the boy is obviously in great need. Go ahead and give him the transfusion.’
Again, a silence and Severus was shaking his head, knowing that beyond the curtain, the medi-witch was likely mirroring his actions.
‘No? Why not?’
‘It’s not as easy as that, Albus. The blood types, not to mention the *magic* types have to match.’
‘I’m afraid I don’t understand.’
Severus snorted. That was obviously an understatement. However, he’d let Pomfrey explain it.
‘You know there are different magic types, some of which are not compatible with others?’ presumably, Dumbledore nodded, because Poppy continued, ‘Much like that, there are several different blood types. For a transfusion to take place, we have to match *both* the *blood* type and the *magic* type, otherwise the body rejects it, and goes into shock.’
A grave sound from Dumbledore, but Severus knew there was worse to come.
‘Severus, unfortunately, has the rarest of all combinations. O-type blood combined with sigma-type magic. I’m sorry, Dumbledore, my records show no one else with that blood type.’
Severus closed his eyes in resignation. He knew that had been coming, but to hear it said out loud…….
‘But….… surely…….’ Dumbledore seemed at a loss for words.
‘I’m sorry, Albus. Perhaps a blood relation would have had the right blood-magic type, but you and I both know that Severus is the sole surviving member of his family.’
Well, that wasn’t *strictly* true. Severus was just glad Dumbledore didn’t know that. He was quite positive that the Headmaster would have no qualms about dragging the boy into this. Severus had decided years ago to take that particular secret to the grave. And if it caused him to reach that grave a little sooner then expected, then so be it. He only regretted that he would not get the opportunity to see the boy at least one last time.
Dumbledore stirred on the other side of the curtain. His voice sounded decidedly smug when he spoke.
‘A blood relative, hmmm? Well, I don’t know about that, but I think, perhaps, I *do* know of one person that might conceivably have the correct blood-magic type to assist Severus.’
The old codger *knew*. He had no idea *how* the blasted Headmaster knew, but he did. No. He couldn’t let him contact the boy. It was time to break his silence. He summoned all his strength and was inordinately pleased that his voice didn’t fail him.
‘Albus.’ It hardly sounded like his voice, but at least it was audible.
The curtains parted and Poppy hurried to his side, checking him over. Dumbledore followed her, and Severus ignored the medi-witch in favour of pinning a glare on the man.
‘Ah! It’s good to see you finally awake Severus. I must say you gave us quite a scare when you………’
Severus rode roughshod over Dumbledore’s words.
‘I forbid you to bring the boy into this, Albus.’
Well. At least that shut the meddling old man up.
‘I don’t know how you know about him, but I will *not* allow you to contact him.’
Unfortunately, he seemed to be rallying. Severus hurried on, hoping to convince the stubborn wizard before it was too late.
‘You have no right to tell him anything, Albus. I don’t want him here and I do *not* want his blood!’
Poppy was staring back and forth between the two men, trying to figure out what her patient was getting so worked up about.
‘Severus! Calm down! You’ll aggravate your injuries.’ Once reassured Severus had a better hold on his emotions, she turned to Dumbledore, ‘Albus, what is he going on about? You know of someone with the same blood-magic type as Severus?’
Severus answered ‘No!’ at the same time Dumbledore was saying ‘Yes.’ Poppy was more confused then ever.
‘One says yes, the other says no. Which is it? I need to know if there is a possible blood donor!’
‘There’s no one! I don’t know any one with the same blood-magic type as m…..’ Suddenly, Severus lost his voice again, but this time it was due to Dumbledore’s wand. He was addressing Madam Pomfrey.
‘I’m not entirely certain, but I suspect there may be one person that would have the same blood-magic type as Severus.’ He turned back to the fuming Potions Master, ‘Now, dear boy, I’ll lift the charm if you agree to be reasonable.’
Severus glared, but eventually nodded. Dumbledore lifted the spell, and he immediately started talking.
‘I don’t want him told, Albus! Don’t you think I would have done so before now if I wanted him to know? You can’t go against my wishes in this! If I haven’t told him in all the years that he’s been at Hogwarts, what makes you think I’m going to change my mind now? No. I refuse to let you go to him.’
Severus glared at the Headmaster. Dumbledore’s face was impassive. Damn. Damn damn damn. Stubborn old cote. He wasn’t going to give in was he? The glare turned suspicious.
‘The moment you leave this room, you’re going to go and collect him, aren’t you,’ he accused.
Dumbledore had the gall to smile.
‘I’m never going to convince you otherwise am I?’
The infuriating smile widened.
‘Fine.’ Severus realised he sounded petulant, but he didn’t care at the moment, ‘But if you tell him *anything* I will quit on the spot, and deny it all to the press.’
The eyes were twinkling now.
‘Of course not, Severus. It’s not my place to tell the boy.’
With that, Dumbledore swept out of the ward, leaving Severus glaring at his retreating back. The Headmaster was off to collect Harry Potter.
Aunt Petunia screamed.
Dudley squeaked and moved at unheard-of speed for him, vacating the kitchen with all possible haste.
Uncle Vernon went the most intriguing colour of purple.
Aunt Madge promptly fainted, crashing to the floor as she fell from her chair.
Her dog, Ripper, yelped madly and scurried out of the room, his tail between his legs.
Harry, meanwhile, had both fists stuffed in his mouth, trying not to laugh madly at the antics of the muggles he lived with. Who would have thought anybody could react so badly to seeing a wizard apparate into the middle of their kitchen? Speaking of which…….
Harry took several deep breaths before stepping forward and addressing the most recently arrived occupant of the kitchen.
Harry decided his Headmaster looked distinctly odd in the middle of a muggle kitchen. Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that he had miscalculated slightly and was currently sitting in the middle of the kitchen table wearing an up-ended plate of biscuits on his head and holding steaming cup of tea in one hand. Harry forcefully repressed the urge to laugh as Dumbledore looked up.
‘Ah, Harry!’ he absent-mindedly took a sip of the tea in his hand before setting it down and clambering of the table, scattering biscuits as he went, ‘Just the young man I was looking for.’
‘But……. I’m sorry, sir, but……..’
‘Why am I here?’ Harry nodded dumbly, ‘I shall get to that in a moment. Won’t you introduce me to your relatives?’
Harry glanced wryly around him. Aunt Petunia had joined Madge in a dead faint and Uncle Vernon was crouched over them both, alternating between glaring blue murder at the Professor and contemplating bolting for the door.
‘I, um, think they’re rather……. busy at the moment. Why don’t we go into the lounge and get out of their way.’ Harry indicated the door and Professor Dumbledore followed him into the sitting room. Dudley and Ripper, who had both taken refuge behind the couch, squawked and headed off up the stairs at high speed. Dumbledore stared after them.
‘Strange family you have Harry.’
Harry snorted and gestured his professor to a seat and taking one himself.
‘If you don’t mind me asking Professor, why are you here?’
Professor Dumbledore’s expression turned suddenly grave and Harry felt a chill of foreboding.
‘I came to ask you to return to Hogwarts, Harry. A situation has arisen that it seems only you may have the ability to remedy.’
‘It’s not……. anything to do with Voldemort is it?’
Dumbledore looked startled for a moment, as though the idea had not even occurred to him. Harry relaxed again, but then wondered what could possibly be going on that *he* could help with.
‘No, it’s nothing like that. However, it *is* a case of life or death. Hagrid found Professor Snape at the edge of the grounds in the early hours of this morning. He was in bad shape. It would seem he had a worse than usual encounter with the Death Eaters.’
‘Is he okay?’
‘No, Harry, I’m afraid he is not. Madam Pomfery cannot heal him as he had lost too much blood. Before any spells can be cast on him, he requires a blood transfusion.
‘That is where you come in.’
‘I believe you and Professor Snape share the same blood-magic type.’
Harry was confused now, ‘Blood……. magic?’
Dumbledore nodded again, ‘Mmmm. It would seem that there are different types of magic, much like there are different types of blood. A blood transfusion on a wizard requires that both the blood type and the magic type match.’
Harry wasn’t feeling particularly eloquent and stuttered a simple, ‘Oh.’
‘You happened to be the closest wizard with a blood-magic type the exact match of Professor Snape’s. What I need to know now, Harry,’ Dumbledore was leaning forward slightly, staring fixedly into Harry’s eyes, ‘is would you be willing to return to Hogwarts with me and give Severus a much needed blood transfusion?’
Harry didn’t even pause to consider; he nodded his assent. Snape may not be Harry’s favourite person in the world, but he could hardly let him die when it was in his power to save him.
‘Wonderful!’ Dumbledore beamed and clapped his hands together, standing up. ‘I’ll just go and inform your uncle while you collect all your things.’
Harry stared blankly at him.
‘Your trunk, broom and owl. I’m sure you’ll be needing them all over the summer.’
‘Hmmm? Oh! Yes, you’ll be remaining at the school over the summer. What if Professor Snape was to have a relapse?’
Harry wasted no time in collecting Hedwig, his trunk and Firebolt. He almost didn’t trust his good fortune. He was spending summer at Hogwarts! And the only cost to him was a little blood.
Chapter Two: Ever meet the vampire leech?
Harry eyed the great white leech with trepidation.
Only two hours previously he had been serving tea to the Dursleys and wishing he could be anywhere but at Number 4, Privet Drive. And now, here he was, wish granted, in the hospital wing of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, contemplating the albino abomination that was about to – excuse the term – leach the very blood from his veins.
‘You mean that……… thing sucks the blood from my arm?’ Harry’s lip curled in distaste, ‘Couldn’t you just use a needle?’
He glanced up at the matron, carefully avoiding any glimpse of the brutalised figure in the bed next to his. Professor Snape was out cold and not likely to wake for several days, which, Madam Pomfery assured Harry, was a good thing. And Harry was quite willing to believe it, considering he had *never* in his life imagined a person could be so horribly wounded and still be alive to tell the tale.
Harry was just thankful that his blood-magic type did, indeed, match that of his professor.
Upon his arrival at the school, Professor Dumbledore had hurried Harry directly to the hospital wing and, with an excess of enthusiasm, propelled Harry into Madam Pomfery’s arms. She had looked rather shocked when the tests had shown Harry to be a carrier of the blood-magic type, O-sigma. Harry had noticed her casting a startled glance at the Headmaster who was looking, Harry determined, decidedly smug.
Once Poppy had ushered Harry to a bed and settled him to her satisfaction, she had ripped back the curtains about Professor Snape’s bed and Harry had paled. He had retched and turned his head away, suddenly glad he was the one giving the blood, not receiving it.
He just wished the method of transfusion wasn’t so distasteful.
Madam Pomfery bustled over to Harry’s bed, carrying the object of his distaste with her. She sat the pale slug on Harry’s night table.
‘Yes Harry,’ she explained, taking hold of his left arm, ‘The vampire leech is a very useful animal in wizarding medicine.’
Harry shuddered. See? Even the name was invocative of distaste. Madam Pomfery smiled at his reaction and patted his hand before pushing his sleeve up to his shoulder and proceeding to bind his arm just above his elbow.
‘It’s really quite simple, Mr Potter. I simply place the leech here’ – she tapped the inside of his elbow – ‘it draws out a pint of your blood and detaches. Then I take the leech, and place it on Severus’s arm and your blood is expelled into his body.’
Harry turned slightly green at the thought and closed his eyes. They snapped open again when he felt something cold and slimy on the inside of his left arm. Madam Pomfery had summarily dumped the leech there. It was about two inches long, one inch round and the colour of waterlogged flesh. Harry was beginning to feel nauseous.
But just when he thought it couldn’t possible get any worse, the thing bit him. It sank a dozen tiny teeth into the flesh in the crock of his elbow and *sucked*. Harry was aware of the most unpleasant sensation of his blood being inhaled into the slug. He watched in morbid fascination as the leech swelled and slowly changed from white, through pink, to a faint red.
By the time it finally detached itself from Harry’s arm, the vampire leech had swelled to the size of his two fists and was the vivid colour of the blood it had consumed. Harry’s arm was cold and the tips of his fingers were tingling. When Madam Pomfery lifted the bloated slug away, he had perfectly round bruise marring the skin of his inner arm.
Suddenly, he was feeling light-headed and bleary. When Madam Pomfery pressed a slab of chocolate into his hand and urged him to eat it, he complied meekly. Moments later, Harry was feeling significantly better and pushed himself up on his pillows, positioning himself to watch Madam Pomfery administer to his Potions Professor.
Snape’s right arm was lying palm-up at his side and Madam Pomfery had bound it much the same as she had bound Harry’s. As she stepped away to retrieve the vampire leech Harry noticed something he had never seen before.
On the inside of Snape’s right wrist there was a mark. It looked for all the world like a birthmark, but it was too regular. Harry leant closer, trying to see what the mark depicted. It appeared to be an elongated starburst, cut through by a quill. Harry’s brow furrowed. It didn’t *look* like a tattoo, but it was simply too neat to be a naturally occurring birthmark. Harry asked Madam Pomfery about it.
‘This?’ she seemed distracted as she ran her thumb idly over the mark, ‘This is a wizard-mark.’
‘A wizard-mark?’ Harry queried.
‘Mmm,’ Madam Pomfery was checking the progress of the leech as it discharged Harry’s blood into Snape’s veins, ‘its like the muggles’ birthmark, only a wizard-mark runs in the family.’
Harry wasn’t satisfied with that answer but he could see that Madam Pomfery was busy. The leech had subsided to its original size and colour now, and Madam Pomfery set it aside, taking up her wand instead. Harry watched with fascination as she began to cast the appropriate healing spells.
Most urgently, she addressed the still seeping gash on his abdomen. Under Harry’s avid gaze, the bleeding ceased and the wound began to knit. The flesh was flush with itself once again before the matron turned her attention elsewhere. Next, she cast spells to set the broken shinbones. Harry gagged slightly when twin cracks heralded the shifting of the bones and he was glad that the Professor was unconscious. Finally, the medi-witch reset the dislocated shoulder, casting spells to knit the torn muscles about it.
That done, she set down her wand and stepped away from the bed. Harry stared blankly from her, to the still badly wounded Snape and back again. Madam Pomfery noticed his expression.
‘Oh, I know what you’re going to say: Why didn’t I finish healing him?’ Harry nodded mutely. Madam Pomfery sighed and nudged at his hip until he scooted over, giving the witch room to sit on the edge of his bed.
‘He still doesn’t have enough blood for me to do more than the most urgent healing.’
‘But you just gave him an entire pint of mine!’ Harry protested.
‘And he probably lost six times that! He’ll need more of your blood before he’s done. I took as much from you as you could afford to give in one sitting.’
Harry swallowed, hard. He didn’t begrudge Snape the blood, but…….
‘You mean I have to go through that slug thing again?’
Madam Pomfery laughed at the expression of horror on Harry’s face.
‘Yes, Mr Potter, you’ll have to go through that ‘slug thing’ again.’ She stood up and pulled the blankets up under Harry’s chin, ‘Now, I want you get some rest. I’ll need to take some more blood in an hour or so.’
Suddenly Harry’s eyelids felt impossibly heavy and he realised the medi-witch must have laced the chocolate with a sedative. His eyes slid shut against his will as Madam Pomfery pulled the curtains shut behind her.
Harry was standing at the bottom of Professor Snape’s bed, watching him sleep.
It had been three days since Professor Dumbledore had apparated to Surrey and brought Harry back with him. Three days in which Harry had given up his blood a total of five times. There seemed to be a permanent bruise on his forearm now; the vampire leech was never unattached long enough for it to heal.
Harry had been allowed to leave the hospital wing that first evening and discovered his things had been moved into one of the guestrooms on the castle’s ground floor. He had unpacked his trunk that night and promptly taken to the Quidditch pitch with his Firebolt. But he had quickly discovered that flying wasn’t nearly as much fun when you didn’t have someone to share it with. Eventually, he had come to a halt in mid air above the golden rings and lain down on his broomstick, allowing himself to drift as he had watched the day fade into twilight.
His thoughts had drifted too, finally coming to rest on his Potions Master. No matter how hard he had tried, he hadn’t be able to stop his imagination showing him precisely what had to have been done to Professor Snape to leave the man in such a state. The sun’s last rays hitting his glasses had awoken him from his daze and he had turned the broom back towards the school.
He had encountered no one on the way back to his appointed room, but had found a tray of food sitting on the desk. He had devoured it, not having realised how hungry he was, and then he had fallen into bed and slept the sleep of the just.
Harry had quickly discovered it wasn’t nearly so wonderful to be back at Hogwarts for the summer as he had thought it would be. In fact, it was rather…….. dull with all the students and most of the faculty away on vacation. Much to his chagrin, Harry had found himself actually looking forward to his appointments with the vampire leech, simply for something to fill in his time.
And in between his regularly scheduled visits to the hospital wing, Harry had found himself gravitating back towards the ward and it occupant.
Three days and five blood transfusions – and the corresponding healing spells – had done much to improve Snape's appearance. The blood had been cleaned off him and most of the bruises and abrasions had faded to pale shades of yellow, green and pink. Both legs were in casts and his ribs were tightly bound, as was his shoulder. His skin had a healthier flush to it now, but he still hadn’t woken up.
Madam Pomfery had told Harry that the Professor’s body had shut down and he had gone into a deep, healing slumber. She said he wasn’t likely to wake for at least another day or more yet. That didn’t stop Harry standing at the foot of his bed and staring as though he could wake the man by will alone.
He wasn’t entirely sure where his……. obsession was probably the best word for it……. where his obsession with watching the Potions Master had come from. Perhaps it was a desire for him to wake up so Harry could see that he truly was okay. Or perhaps Harry wanted him to wake up so he could tell him that the debt had been paid, that he no longer owed his Professor for saving his life in first year.
Or perhaps it was simply the desire to have someone – anyone – to talk to. Harry sighed. It didn’t really matter why he was here. All that truly mattered was that he couldn’t tear himself away.
It was then that Harry noticed the addition to the nightstand. He stepped closer. Someone, sometime between Harry’s last visit and now, had left a photograph propped against the water glass. Harry stepped closer again. His curiosity was piqued. He wanted to know whom the picture was of, and who it was that had left it there.
Standing half a metre from it, Harry could clearly see one of the subjects of the photo. It was a younger Severus Snape. His hair was tied back in a ponytail and he wasn’t glaring. In fact, he seemed almost to be smiling. He held in his arms a bundle that Harry belatedly realised was a child. A black-haired baby to be precise. There was something about the child’s eyes that Harry thought odd. He turned his attention to the last person in the photo. A dark-haired someone stood half behind Snape. The face was obscured by a fall of unruly hair as the figure bent forward over the child.
It was clear that the photo was a wizarding one, but none of the subjects seemed to be moving very much. They seemed too engrossed in one another to be interested in anyone else.
Harry stepped closer a third time and went to pick the photo up for closer examination. A pale, long-fingered hand flipped the photo facedown and pressed it to the nightstand’s surface. Harry’s eyes darted up and met the black glare of his Potions Professor.
Harry stood frozen, locked in Snape’s gaze, one hand still extended toward the photo. Never removing his eyes from Harry’s face, Snape drew the photo off the nightstand and to his chest. Finally he looked away and Harry took the opportunity to blink. Snape glanced briefly at the photo, then pressed it tighter to his chest and stared at the ceiling. His eyes did not return to Harry as he spoke in a flat tone.
‘This is a personal item, Mr Potter. What did you think you were doing?’
‘I –’ Harry stammered, ‘– I didn’t think…….’
‘It is quite apparent that you did not think.’
Harry snorted under his breath. What was quite apparent was that the brush with death hadn’t changed Snape’s attitude one whit……
‘In future I trust you will refrain from nosing about what is none of your business?’
Then again…….. Harry noticed Snape was slanting a peculiar look at him out of the corner of his eye. When Snape realised Harry had noticed, his gaze snapped immediately back to the ceiling.
‘I am currently an invalid, Potter, and your presence wears on me.’
Harry stood there, both arms hanging loosely at his sides. He didn’t know what he was waiting for; the Professor had clearly dismissed him. But it seemed there was something hanging unsaid in the air. Harry didn’t know what it was, or even who was meant to say it, but it was there and he wanted to hear it.
Clearly, Snape had no such desire to hear what was going unsaid. His deep black eyes latched onto Harry’s and the voice was harsh now.
‘Do you deliberately disconnect your brain come holiday time, Harry? I told you to leave.’
Harry responded automatically to the command in that voice and, turning, started for the door. He had recovered enough concious control of his body by the time he reached it to turn his head for a last glance as he passed over the threshold. That last glance showed Snape staring almost wistfully down at the photograph in his hand. Harry could not begin to fathom the emotion in the man’s eyes.
It was only when Harry had reached the foot of the stairs that he realised the Professor had called him by his given name.
Chapter Three: Blood and Its Properties
There were several heavy books scattered over the surface of the reading table, bearing such titles as The Magical Anatomy, The Heredities Of Wizards, and Harry’s personal favourite, Blood and Its Properties.
This was the book that currently lay open in front of him. He had immediately skipped to the specific properties of the blood-magic type O-sigma, having only a passing interest in the topic. It was simply a way to see time pass. Having been deprived of his new favourite hobby – Snape-watching – Harry had retreated to the library in search of something to help while away the hours.
He had idly wandered up and down the aisles for a while, hoping something would jump out and grab his attention. Something had. Quite literally. Frustrated with the lack of any books to interest him, Harry had thumped his head against the shelves. This had had the unfortunate effect of dislodging a book. The tome had dropped from the shelves and landed, corner first, on Harry’s big toe.
After having hoped in circles, clutching his toe and cursing all books everywhere several times, Harry had paused to glare at the offending object. It was then that he had noticed the title of the book: Blood and Its Properties. Given the whole reason Harry was at Hogwarts at this time of year in the first place, he was intrigued. He had finally found a topic to hold his attention for a short time. He had scanned the shelves for several more books on related topics then retreated to one of the reading tables with his finds.
Finally finding the page he was after, Harry spread the book flat and leant over it.
Blood-magic type O-sigma: (it read)
Type O-sigma is the most interesting of all the blood-magic types as it has the most unusual properties. All other types do not affect the casting of magic in any way. O-sigma, on the other hand, is curiously resistant to the use of any charms, potions or spells that alter the carrier’s appearance. Generally, the duration of the illusion is simply shortened, but it has been proven that the effect of the O-sigma blood-magic on these charms and potions is indirectly proportional. That is to say: the stronger the witch or wizard, the shorter the duration of the illusion magic.
Type O-sigma is also unusual in that it can be used to replace any other blood-magic type, but it, itself, can only be replaced by more of the same type. A carrier of O-sigma type blood-magic can augment any other witch or wizard’s spellcasting, but they themselves can only receive aid from another O-sigma carrier.
It is as yet unclear why this………
‘Harry! There you are!’ Harry glanced up from the page to see Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, floating toward him out of the bookshelves.
‘Hey Sir Nicholas. How are you?’ Harry folded his hands atop the book and lent his attention to the friendly spectre.
‘Oh, you know who it is,’ Harry didn’t, never having been a ghost before, but he nodded his head anyway, ‘Still trying to join the Headless Hunt. Not likely to ever happen with Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore in charge, what with his………’
Harry was quick to interrupt the ghost. As much as he was glad of the distraction, he didn’t feel in the mood to listen to Nearly Headless Nick complain about the properly decapitated leader of the Headless Hunt.
‘Where you looking for me Nick? It just sounded as though you were.’
‘Hmmm?’ the ghost looked slightly put out that Harry didn’t seem to want to listen to him rant, but then he recalled the reason he had sought out the boy in the first place: ‘Oh, yes! Madam Pomfery asked if I would mind locating you for her. It seems she requires you and your blood in the hospital wing once more.’
Harry sighed, but pushed himself up from the table. He had hoped that now that the Professor was finally awake, he and that vile leech could go their separate ways. Apparently, that wasn’t to be.
‘Thanks for telling me, Nick.’ He left the books sitting on the table, telling himself he would be back for them when he had finished in the hospital wing.
Professor Snape was awake this time, which made the whole process even more uncomfortable than usual for Harry. He carefully avoided looking at his professor as he lay down on what he had began to think of as ‘his’ bed. Knowing the routine by heart now, Harry extended his left arm and didn’t even flinch when Madam Pomfery deposited the vampire leech at his elbow. Although, he couldn’t help the tensing of his body as the creature began to draw the blood from his veins.
And all the time, Harry was expecting some scathing remark from the professor. But none came. Harry finally chanced a glance at the man out of the corner of his eye. Snape was watching him, his face impassive. Harry shivered. The Potions Master was acting entirely out of character and it was slightly disturbing.
Harry had entered the ward expecting to be the immediate butt of Snape’s sarcastic comments and bitter diatribe. Surely, having been confined to his sick bed for an entire day now since waking, Snape would be irritable as a dragon with her prize egg missing. And who better to take out his frustration on then Harry Potter, his most despised student?
Harry decided not to test his luck just yet by asking how the man was feeling. That might just be the opening he was waiting for. Harry hadn’t spent the last four years being singled out by the professor without learning to never leave himself open for insults. Although, he supposed he might be being a little harsh, believing that Snape would insult him for asking after his health. He’d probably just snap at him and tell him to mind his own business again.
Harry sighed. Both Madam Pomfery and Professor Snape slanted glances at him; Madam Pomfery’s inquiring, Professor Snape’s…….. Harry settled for blank, at length. There was something simmering below the surface of the professor’s expression, but Harry had no idea what it was, or even what it resembled.
Harry shook his head in response to the matron’s glance and smiled when she removed the swollen vampire leech from his arm.
‘There now Harry,’ Madam Pomfery patted his arm and handed him the ubiquitous slab of chocolate, ‘that should be the last time you have to deal with the ‘slug thing’.’
She smiled down at him and he grinned back. He propped himself up on his elbow as the medi-witch moved across to the professor’s bed and began preparing his arm for the transfusion. Harry wanted to see how Snape took the vampire leech.
Snape seemed to have recovered a portion of his usual demeanour as his lips curled in distaste when Madam Pomfery set the blood red, bloated leech to his arm. But he still hadn’t spoken and Harry wondered why. It was simply so unlike the professor Harry knew to sit back and allow anyone to tend to him without making some scathing comment about their incompetence, regardless of whether or not they truly were incompetent.
The leech began to expel Harry’s blood into Snape’s arm and Harry watched in amusement as the man’s face changed to something like disgusted astonishment at the sensation. Harry snickered and received a black stare. He was beginning to wonder if something hadn’t happened to the professor’s voice, he was being so uncharacteristically silent.
Harry decided he should be doing anything else than questioning his good fortune, so he fixed his eyes on the leech, watching it deflate. He gaze slid further down Snape’s arm from the slug and landed on the curious wizard-mark. He still hadn’t found out any more about them. Harry fully intended to do so when he returned to the library.
Snape must have noticed the direction of Harry’s new interest, because pale fingers suddenly wrapped tightly over the wizard-mark and Harry could feel the dark eyes burning into his shoulder, the nearest part of his body to the occupant of the next bed. Harry felt his own gaze drifting inexorably upwards to meet the dark eyes.
Even knowing he’d regret doing so, Harry was helpless to halt the slide of his eyes. And then he was there, staring transfixed into those obsidian orbs. There were things Harry could see in the depths of those eyes that he could not divine: a clutter of conflicting thoughts and emotions. They swirled, eddied then spread wide to gather Harry and drag him deeper. He was helpless to break free of the pull.
Then, between one moment and the next, two distinct emotions separated themselves from the chaos and Harry was finally able to discern something. The first was one he had expected to find there all along: anger. But this was anger turned inwards, directed back at the source. Snape, Harry realised, was angry with himself. But for what? For being caught in the Death Eaters’ trap? That wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. What Harry knew of the man indicated that he prided himself on always being in control and knowing precisely what was going on. Of course, he hadn’t gotten the second part down to the fine art that Professor Dumbledore had it at, but he was good enough to catch Harry on more than one occasion. So it was conceivable that he would be mad at himself for failing to see the trap ahead of time.
But surely even that wouldn’t rate the kind of virulent anger Harry felt seething there. The emotion seemed somehow more immediate and personal than something so abstract as an event in the past that could not be changed. It felt almost as though Snape was battling himself over something and the anger was the most outward manifestation of this hidden battle.
The other emotion was far more confusing and less distinct. An emotion Harry thought never to see harboured in Snape’s heart. It was a……… tenderness. A tenderness that was directed outwards, this time away from the source. Harry had the sensation that Snape was battling against this feeling of his, trying to expel it from himself, as though trying to rid himself of a perceived weakness. This shocked Harry. He had known it was naïve to believe so, but he had always felt that Snape *had* no weaknesses. He always seemed so self-contained, so sure of his place in the world, that it had never occurred to Harry that there might be a chink in that armour.
Suddenly, Madam Pomfery swept between them, and Harry felt something being drawn back quickly. He blinked and he was free of the black gaze of his Potions Professor. He felt suddenly bereft of all the multitude of emotions he had been immersed in, but at the same time, immeasurably relieved to be free of the morass.
When Madam Pomfery stepped away from Snape once more, taking the deflated vampire leech with her, the professor’s mask was firmly back in place. If Harry hadn’t been stunned by the intensity of the emotions he had seen, he would have doubted they had ever been there. The look Snape now sent him was purely cold. There was nothing there, no hint of anger, or contempt, or even some faint stirring of gratitude. Just……. nothing. The flawless mask, perfected decades ago. It gave nothing away, and it quite effectively intimidated the observer.
And Harry, being all of sixteen years old – or not quite – was no match for it. In his confusion at the sudden change, he did the easiest thing: he fled. While Madam Pomfery was still fusing over Professor Snape, he slipped from his bed and was out the door in no time flat.
Chapter Four: Within this hallowed hall
Harry was wandering down the hall, lost in confusion after hastily quitting the hospital wing moments earlier when he ran into something and promptly landed on his behind. He sat there in the middle of the hall, making no move to get up, and muttered a soft ‘ow’. He was quite happy where he was, damning himself for not looking where he was going, but mostly damning himself for running out of the hospital wing in the first place.
‘Ow, ow, ow,’ he complained for want of anything better to say. He was still sitting on the floor and hadn’t looked up. He wasn’t really thinking beyond himself; so he jumped when the something he had run into spoke.
‘Harry?’ Harry yelped and looked up, ‘Are you okay?’
Remus Lupin was staring down at him, an expression of concern on his weary face. Harry scrambled back to his feet.
‘Professor! What are you doing here?’ Harry realised how that had sound and, blushing, hastened to correct himself, ‘I mean………’
Remus laughed. ‘It’s okay, Harry. I know what you meant. And please, don’t call me professor. I’m not you professor at the moment. I am simply a friend of your dad’s.’
Harry grinned at his favourite DADA professor, happy to see him again after more than a year. But then he frowned, still wondering why Professor Lupin was there in the first place.
‘But…….. why *are* you here, if you don’t mind me asking?’
Remus smiled and gestured Harry to a bench against the wall.
‘Two reasons, actually. I’m here *now*’ Remus lightly stressed the word, ‘to visit an old friend I heard was sick.’
‘You mean Professor Snape,’ Harry stated. The werewolf nodded. Harry was about to comment on the fact that he hadn’t realized they were friends – on the contrary, he would have sworn they were enemies – but at Lupin’s next words, he forgot all about it.
‘I’ll be *staying* here, however, to resume the Defense Against the Dark Arts position next year at Dumbledore’s request.’
Harry felt a smile start to stretch over his face, and made no attempt to stop it.
‘Seriously? That’s *fantastic*!’
Remus smiled too, ‘I’m glad you approve Mr. Potter.’
They sat for a while and discussed everything from Remus’s reappointment to the supposed whereabouts of Harry’s godfather. Remus had recently left him to return to Hogwarts as Sirius embarked on some mission for Dumbledore. He was unreachable for the duration and nobody knew how long he would be at it. Harry was beginning to doubt he would be seeing his godfather any time soon.
Nor was Harry so naïve as to suppose Remus Lupin was back at Hogwarts simply because he was the best DADA teacher they had ever had. There was something deeper there, something Harry didn’t understand. He recalled Professor Dumbledore at the end of the previous school year, referring to Remus as part of ‘the old crowd’, whatever that meant. He assumed it was all something to do with the fight against Voldemort.
But Harry preferred not to dwell on the thought of the Dark Lord, and was glad when Remus stood, bringing the conversation to a close. Harry accompanied him down the hall toward the hospital wing, intending to continue onto to his room.
Remus paused at the door to the hospital wing.
‘I’ll see you at dinner tonight Harry,’ Harry nodded and Remus smiled and slipped into the hospital wing.
Harry stood a moment by the open door, staring blankly in, thinking. He really was glad Remus was back at Hogwarts. It made him feel closer to his dad, as though, through James’s friends, Harry could get to know him better. He wondered if Remus would mind telling Harry more about Prongs in his spare time……..
Harry realized Remus was talking to Snape and was curious, suddenly, about the friendship Remus had mentioned.
‘Lupin.’ Snape’s voice was as curt as ever, but Remus’s reply was genial and unconcerned.
‘Severus. You are looking better than I expected.’
Snape grunted and Harry peered cautiously around the edge of the door. Remus was sitting in the visitor’s chair at Snape’s bedside, a smile lingering about his lips. Snape, on the other hand, had a habitual scowl blackening his face and was glaring past Remus, barely acknowledging him at all.
Remus turned his head and followed the direction of Snape’s glare toward the door. He spied Harry peeking in and cast him a wink before turning back to Snape.
‘The least you could do is acknowledge my presence, Severus. After all, I *did* come here to visit you.’
Still glaring toward the door, Snape replied shortly, ‘As I did not ask you to come, I see no reason for me to have to entertain you. And I have acknowledged you, haven’t I?’
Remus snorted this time. Harry was seriously starting to doubt there was anything other than animosity between these two men.
‘Well at least you haven’t thrown me out yet.’
Snape ignored him.
‘And you are entertaining me.’
This garnered a reaction from the Potions Professor, however small. Harry saw his eyes flicker briefly to Remus’s face then back toward whatever had captured his attention.
‘Oh? I hadn’t realized I was. You must excuse my lapse.’ Snape’s voice was caustic and Harry winced in sympathy for Remus. Remus, however, seemed unaffected, smiling instead.
‘Yes, well. It’s rather entertaining to watch you scowl at the boy.’
Harry jumped. He hadn’t realized it was *him* that Snape was glaring at. Quickly he drew back and hurried on his way down the hall. Just as he was about to turn the corner, he heard Snape’s reply float after him.
‘I do not appreciate being spied on by annoying children.’
Remus laughed, and Harry never realized Snape had taken just a little too long to answer the werewolf.
As Harry made his way back towards his room, he went over the conversation in his mind, trying to see any sign of a friendship between the two professors. Unless there was something he had missed, Harry couldn’t see anything that implied Snape might feel kindly towards Remus. Nothing at all. The only thing that had caught Harry’s attention was that Snape seemed to be over whatever it was that had held him silent during that final blood-magic transfusion.
And, quite frankly, Harry couldn’t help feeling a little relieved that Snape seemed to back to his usual snarky self. It was singularly disconcerting to be confronted with a Snape that had nothing to say. Harry had no idea how to deal with such a creature. He had never thought to be *relieved* Snape was insulting people, but at least he could deal with that.
Harry wandered back to his room and collapsed on his bed, staring at the canopy. He didn’t make it back to the library that day.
A day later, Harry found himself lingering in the hall beyond the hospital wing again. He had no idea why he was there; just that, once again, he was drawn to the ward and its occupant. Of course, now that said occupant was awake, he couldn’t actually go in to there. Snape would chew him up and spit him out.
So Harry was confined to pacing up and down the hall, every now and then, pausing to peek around the edge of the door. He had tried everything to keep his mind off this weird compulsion. He had tried doing his homework, but gave up after realizing he had read the same paragraph seven times and still had no concept of what it said. He had tried flying, but once around the Quidditch pitch and he found himself landing and heading back up to the castle. He had consider visiting Hagrid, but then remembered that the half-giant had been sent off on some mission or another. Remus and Dumbledore were holed up together in the Headmaster’s office and the library simply couldn’t hold Harry today.
So Harry was reduced to pacing and peering, and wondering what had gotten into him. Perhaps, he thought, it was that unspoken comment that had lingered in the air the first day Snape had woken up. The one Harry still didn’t understand, but wanted desperately to hear. Whatever it was, Harry was powerless to fight the compulsion.
Harry jumped when the dark voice interrupted his musings:
‘Oh, for –! Mr. Potter!’
Harry cautiously presented himself in the doorway.
Snape was sitting up in his bed, a Potions book open on his bedside table. He had obviously intimidated someone – probably a house-elf – into retrieving his robes from his rooms, although they didn’t have quite the same effect when the wearer was confined to a sickbed. Presently, he was scowling at Harry where the teenager stood on the threshold.
‘Well, don’t just stand there! Come in!’
Harry meekly complied. He hesitated briefly, but when Professor Snape made no further comment, he sat on the edge of the bed next to Snape’s – the one he had considered his own. Harry eyed his hands, folded in his lap, whilst, on the crown of his head, he could feel Snape’s eyes lingering.
‘Is there any particular reason you were loitering in the hall, Potter? Snape snapped.
Harry mutely shook his head, not game to answer and possibly incur more wrath brought down upon his head.
‘Then *why* were you doing so?’ Snape’s arms were folded in his sleeves now and he was peering down his nose at Harry. Harry chanced looking up, but carefully avoided meeting his eyes.
‘I just……… I guess……..’ Harry was trying to decide what to say.
‘Just spit it out, Potter!’ exclaimed the Potions Master.
‘I just wanted to see how you were feeling.’ Harry lifted his chin defiantly and met Snape’s eyes. He was confused by what he saw there. However briefly, Harry could read emotions in those dark eyes again. Snape was surprised that Harry had asked and…….. touched? That threw Harry. Snape was *touched* that Harry was asking after his health? But what would he care? The professor *hated* Harry. Didn’t he?
The mask was back.
‘I see.’ Snape’s face was impassive, ‘How did you suppose I would feel so soon after being beaten to a pulp by a dozen Death Eaters?’
The answer was so typically Snape that Harry seriously doubted what he had seen. He flushed and stood to leave.
‘I was just hoping you’d be feeling a little better. I’m sorry I bothered you.’
Harry was half way to the door when Snape spoke behind him.
‘Harry. Wait.’ Harry froze. There it was again. Snape had called him by his first name again. Slowly, he turned around.
His Potions Professor was looking suddenly incredibly weary. Lines of pain usually hidden by the cold mask were standing out plainly about the man’s mouth and eyes. Snape lifted his left arm and rubbed at his eyes, and when the robes slipped to his elbow, Harry noticed the Dark Mark was blacker than ever and surrounded by tender red skin.
Harry felt a sudden flash of compassion for this man. No matter what he was truly like under the mask he wore so well, Harry knew that, at the very least, he was a brave man. To willing go to Voldemort’s side, knowing that at any moment you could be uncovered as mole in their midst had to take incredible courage.
Snape dropped his arm and his robes slid back down to cover the mark. His eyes were burning at Harry, but they were unreadable again. Silently, he gestured Harry back to the bed and Harry obediently sat. Silence. Then, finally, Professor Snape spoke.
‘I believe I must thank you.’ his face was absolutely blank, giving Harry no clue to his thoughts.
Harry started to protest that he needed no thanks but Snape silenced him with a single glare.
‘Let me finish,’ Snape continued to glare until Harry subsided, ‘I realize you may have……… saved my life. And, how ever little I wanted my life saved, you deserve my thanks.’ Snape’s mouth twisted and the words seemed bitter to his tongue.
Harry tried a hesitant smile but received no response to it.
‘Umm, well, you’re welcome.’
Snape nodded curtly, his lips melded into a thin line. Harry sat for a moment, silently kicking his legs. When the professor said nothing more, Harry tried another comment:
‘I mean, I would have done it for anyone. Because I can, you know. I was reading about O-sigma blood-magic types and it said that we can give blood-magic at anyone, but that we can only receive blood-magic from other people with the same type. So I was one of a very few people that could give blood-magic to you and…….. um……..’
Harry realized he was babbling and that Snape had leveled a most unappreciative stare at him. Well, it was a slight improvement, Harry supposed. Usually he would just snap at him and take away house points. Of course, it was the holidays and he couldn’t take away house points, but he could still snap.
Harry realized then that he was still babbling, only silently to himself this time. Harry tried the hesitant smile again. This time Snape sighed and turned away.
‘You may go Mr. Potter.’
Harry nodded, even though the professor wasn’t looking and turned to leave. The door opened at that point to admit Remus Lupin. The DADA professor smiled at Harry as the boy headed out into the corridor once again. Harry smiled back. Then he paused on the threshold and turned back to Professor Snape once more.
‘I hope you are feeling better soon, sir.’
Snape sighed again and started to reply, still staring straight ahead.
‘Thank you, Mr. Pot –’ he had turned his head at that point and noticed Remus Lupin standing by the door grinning at him, ‘–ter,’ he finished rather lamely.
Harry nodded again, darted a quick look at Remus and shut the door behind him. But even with the wood of the door between them, Harry could hear the conversation form within the ward.
‘Say it, and I swear your next batch of Wolfsbane will be spiked with poison,’ threatened Snape in a not-quite convincing tone of voice.
Remus’s voice positively exuded innocence as he answered, ‘Say what? I was just going to comment on how well you seem to be getting on with young Mr. *Potter*.’
Harry heard Snape growl, followed quickly by Remus’s laugh. Harry was staring to wish they’d wait a little longer after he’d left to continue their conversations. Although, he hadn’t missed the emphasis Remus had put on his surname. And that just served to confuse Harry all the more.
Chapter Five: It runs in the family
Having nothing better to do, Harry was sitting in the lowest box of the spectator stands arrayed about the Quidditch pitch. He was determined to avoid another entirely too confusing encounter with his Potions Professor and had decided the best way to do that was to avoid the castle all together.
So now he sat, alone in the stands, playing with a Golden Snitch. In much the same way a muggle child would throw a ball into the air and catch it, Harry was releasing the Snitch then quickly snatching it back before to could zoom off over the Forbidden Forest. Of course, if it weren’t for his Seeker’s reflexes, he would have lost the winged ball long ago.
He had just released the Snitch for the umpteenth time when a voice spoke behind him. He started, then had to jump to catch the Snitch as it was about to dart out over the pitch. His heart thudding in surprise and the fluttering ball clutched tightly to his chest, Harry turned to confront the speaker.
Remus Lupin was sitting several rows behind him and it seemed he had been there a while. Harry had never even heard him enter the box.
‘Pardon?’ Harry shook his hair out of his eyes.
‘I said, you have you father’s hands.’ Remus vacated his seat and made his way down to the bottom row next to Harry.
Harry meanwhile, stretched the hand not tightly grasping the Snitch out in front of him and gazed at it as though it hadn’t been attached to the end of his arm for the last fifteen years. He was always extremely interested in any mention of his parents, and if Remus said he had his father’s hands, he was going examine them closely.
Remus sat silently beside Harry as the boy tipped his hand from side to side, examining it minutely. With his superhuman hearing, Remus was able to catch the almost inaudible murmur:
‘I always pictured Dad as having blunter hands than mine.’ Harry shook himself and looked up at Remus. He smiled, a bright winning smile that never failed to remind Remus of his old friend.
‘Everybody always says I look like my dad.’
Remus cleared his throat, a rather non-committal sound. Harry didn’t notice. His eyes had gone distant.
‘But they never talk about my mother. Except to say I have her eyes.’ Harry turned those eyes out over the Quidditch pitch, ‘Tell me about my mother?’
Remus eyed Harry silently. It didn’t seem fair that one so young had gone through so much and never had his parents to help him through it. The werewolf knew that Harry would have to go through even more before it was done. And there was nothing Remus could do to help him. Nothing except talk when that was what Harry wanted and listen when Harry needed it. Right now Harry wanted him to talk.
‘So, you want me to tell you about your mother.’ Harry nodded silently and Remus copied the movement.
‘Well, let’s see. Lily and I never really hung out much when we were at school. I got to know her better once we’d all left. She was a wonderful person; good and beautiful and kind. Family was extremely important to her. You meant the world to her.
‘You were named for her father – your grandfather – you know.’
Harry turned back to Remus and the man noticed that his eyes were shining oddly. Remus made no comment on it.
‘I was?’ Harry gave a tremulous smile.
Remus met it with a more confident one of his own.
‘You were. Lily’s father’s name was Harold. Or was that his middle name? Either way, you parents decided to name you after him.’
Harry and Remus sat quietly for a moment. The younger wizard was the first to break the silence.
‘Everybody says I have my mother’s eyes.’ He was still staring out over the pitch as he said this. Remus gazed in the same direction as he answered.
‘Lily once told me she inherited those eyes from your great-grandmother. Supposedly she was Irish. That’s where Lily got her red hair as well.’
Harry was silent for another moment, assimilating this new fact about his family.
‘Oh,’ he murmured presently, ‘I didn’t know that.’
Remus clasped his hands together on his knees and watched as the sun began its descent beyond the Forbidden Forest.
‘No. I don’t suppose you would have.’
Harry released the Snitch from his tight hold and watched it dart for a moment before snaking out a hand and reclaiming it. Remus watched Harry with one eye, and the sunset with the other. The two sat companionably until the sun had almost slipped completely beyond sight.
Harry was staring blankly at his potions text, trying to make head or tail of the infernal thing. It didn’t make sense. Okay. So read the question again:
“Explain, with examples, the effects of powdered shell of Peruvian urchlid when combined with boomslang skin and how the results can be replicated using the contents of your prescribed ingredients list.”
Well, he knew boomslang skin. Hermione had stolen some from Professor Snape’s own personal store in second year when she, Harry and Ron had been making the Polyjuice Potion in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. But Harry had never even heard of ‘powered shell of Peruvian urchlid’. How was he supposed to know what happened when you combined it with boomslang skin? Not mention replicating the effects with his own meagre store of potions ingredients.
Harry flipped through his textbook again, looking for any mention of Peruvian urchlids. And just like every other time, he came up with nothing. How did Professor Snape expect the muggle-born students to be able to complete this assignment if their text didn’t refer once to one of the key components? Then again, Harry knew he was probably being just a little unfair. It wasn’t like every other student from a muggle family was beaten if they even mentioned that magic existed, let alone that they attended a school of magic. Harry sighed enviously. All other the students’ parents probably let them go to Diagon Alley to research the question.
Not to mention the students from wizarding families; they probably had libraries full of books on things like this. It was simply Harry that had such trouble with assignments such as this.
Of a sudden, Harry was overcome with an insane urge bash his head on the table. Of course, it wasn’t like *Harry* currently had access to the *entire* library of Hogwarts, not to mention the Potions Master himself, if Harry could get up the nerve to ask him for assistance.
Harry couldn’t believe he was stupid enough to forget that he was at Hogwarts for the rest of the summer and could wander in and out of the library at will. Gathering up his scrolls, quills and ink, and textbook, Harry deserted his room for the library, berating himself for his stupidity the entire way.
Madam Pince was away vacationing in the Bahamas for the summer and Harry had the entire huge room to himself, with the many empty reading tables to choose from. He chose the one that was still stacked with the books from his foray into the library two days earlier.
He dumped his equipment on the table, pushing the carelessly piled books to the side. He promised himself he would return them later when he put back the books on potions. Harry set off down the aisle in search of books on Peruvian urchlids.
Fifteen minutes later, he staggered out of the shelves weighed down by such titles as ‘Magic of the South: A guide to magic in South America’, ‘The Potions of the Incas’ and ‘The comprehensive guide of little-known potions ingredients’. Along with what he already had on boomslang skin, Harry was confident he would be able to complete the assignment now.
Two and a half hours later, Harry was beginning to have doubts. He dropped his forehead onto his crossed arms and sighed. And it had started out so *well*. He had discovered a – relative – wealth of information on Peruvian urchlids and their uses and effects in the books he had pulled off the shelves. He had even been able to relate it to his information on boomslang skin and figure out how the one would effect the other.
He just hadn’t managed to figure out how to replicate the effects with the far more common contents of his own store of ingredients. The most he had gotten was that shrivelfigs played some part in the reaction. He just wasn’t sure what.
After thumping his head against his text for a good ten minutes, Harry decided there was nothing else for it. He was going to have to ask Professor Snape for assistance. Even if it was just permission to use the potions classroom to experiment.
Harry gathered up his equipment and started for the door. He was halfway out it when he realised that he had forgotten to return any of the books. He grimaced, but decided to come back later. If he stopped now, it would probably take him several days to get up the courage to ask the professor for help again. Clutching his scrolls and text to his chest, Harry hurried down the familiar path to the hospital wing.
Professor Snape was scowling at that morning’s copy of the ‘Daily Prophet’ when Harry walked in. Loath to interrupt him, Harry stood at the foot of the bed and shifted from foot to foot, waiting for the professor to notice him. Two minutes later, Snape finally acknowledged his presence.
‘What is it *this* time Mr. Potter?’ came the acerbic voice from behind the paper that never lowered.
Harry didn’t like talking to a newspaper, but it didn’t look like Snape was going to give him much choice.
‘It’s about the holiday assignment you set for Potions, sir.’
The paper lowered and the Potions Master peered over the top of it at his student. Harry stared back and shifted the pile of stationery in his arms. Snape folded the paper and lay it in his lap, his hands clasped on top of it.
‘You aren’t having trouble with it are you Potter?’
From any other teacher, that would have been a query of concern, but from Snape it was an insult to his intellect. Or it would have been this time last year. Now it seemed just a statement of fact.
Harry hurriedly shook his head.
‘No!’ Snape silently regarded him for a long moment and Harry caved in, ‘Well, yes. But only the last part! I found some books in the library to help me with the first half.’
Harry shifted his weight again and waited for some reaction from his professor.
‘I fail to believe you have come here expecting me to give you the answers, Mr. Potter. What is it you want?’
Harry suspected there was a backhanded compliment in there somewhere, but didn’t have the opportunity to look for it. Snape was staring levelly at him, waiting for his answer.
‘I was wondering if I could use the potions classroom to experiment with my own ingredients?’ Harry eyed the professor hopefully.
‘I see.’ Snape held out a hand. Harry stared blankly at it. The fingers twitched in a summoning gesture.
‘Well, don’t just stand there. Show me your paper.’
Harry hurriedly dumped his burden on the foot of the bed and extracted his assignment scroll from the pile. He handed it to Snape.
Snape unrolled the parchment and began to peruse Harry’s assignment. Harry fought the urge to worry at a hangnail as he watched his Potion Professor move down the page. Finally he reached the end of the scroll and neatly rolled it up again.
‘You might wish to revise your third and fourth paragraphs. The premise is incorrect.’ Harry blinked owlishly at the man as Snape handed back the scroll. Harry automatically took it, still trying to process the fact that not only had Snape not insulted his work, he had given him advise on how to improve it.
Snape obviously noticed his preoccupation, because he was smirking as he continued.
‘If my classroom isn’t in the same condition I left it you will be serving detention scrubbing cauldrons for the entire year, Mr. Potter.’
In his daze, it took Harry a moment to realise Professor Snape had just given him tacit permission to use the classroom for his experiments. His mouth stretched in a smile.
‘Thankyou, Professor.’ Harry gathered up his belongings once more and headed for the door. As he was turning away, Snape spoke again.
Harry paused and looked back.
‘There is boomslang skin and powdered Peruvian urchlid shell in my personal store. You may use a small amount to observe the reaction first hand. Just touch the panel on the cupboard’s face; it should open for you.’
Harry’s smile widened.
‘Yes sir. Thankyou sir.’ Harry turned to leave again. This time he reached the door before Snape spoke again. Harry glanced over shoulder, but Snape wasn’t looking at him; he had the paper out again and was ostensibly reading it as he spoke.
‘Oh. And, Harry? If I find anything else missing, your house will pay dearly for it at the beginning of the school year.’
Harry found it difficult to give that threat all the weight it deserved. It was hard to do when his Potions Professor had just used his first name for the third time in almost as many days.
Chapter Six: The Golden Trio rides again
This particular Saturday morning found Harry sitting on the steps leading up to Hogwarts’ grand entrance. His hands were empty and his eyes were focused on the distant gate. He had been back at the castle for eight days now. It had been five days since Professor Snape had woken up, four days since Remus Lupin had arrived and it was exactly one week until Harry’s fifteenth birthday.
And Harry was waiting. Waiting for the gate to swing open and admit one of Hogwarts’ multitude of horseless carriages.
Just that morning at breakfast, Dumbledore had informed Harry that he had taken the liberty of inviting Ron and Hermione to stay at the school for the two weeks on either side of Harry’s birthday. Harry had been ecstatic and ever since, he had been sitting on the hard stone of the steps, even though his friends weren’t due to arrive until lunchtime.
Various people had whiled away a short time with Harry as he waited. Hagrid’s great boarhound, Fang had shoved his blunt head under Harry’s hand demanding caress at one point, but even he had eventually wandered off, leaving Harry alone and still waiting.
At long last, just as the grandfather clock in the entrance hall struck the hour as a quarter to twelve, the gates creaked open in the distant and a horseless carriage started on its way up the drive. Even from that distance, Harry could spy the red head sticking out the window, waving madly, until suddenly it was wrenched back.
Harry laughed. He was willing to bet Hermione had just pulled Ron back down and was now berating him for hanging so dangerously out the window. Harry got to his feet and dusted off his pants. He descended the flight of stairs, waiting at their bottom for the carriage to come to a stop.
The door burst open and Ron leapt from the interior before the coach even had a chance to halt.
‘Oi, Harry mate!’ he enthusiastically thumped Harry on the back, ‘How weird is it to be back at Hogwarts in the summer?’
Harry grinned at his best friend, ‘It’ll be better now that you and ‘Mione are here.’
He turned back to the carriage to greet Hermione and was just in time to receive the heavy bag she cast at him. He staggered under the weight.
‘Hermione! What in Merlin’s name is in this thing?’
Hermione was lugging another bag out of the carriage only slightly smaller than the one in Harry’s arms.
‘Hullo Harry. It’s good to see you.’
‘It’s good to see you too,’ Harry grimaced, ‘About the bag?’
‘It’s my school books,’ behind Harry, Ron made a choking sound. Hermione glared at him, ‘I figured if I was going to be at Hogwarts, I should take advantage of the library.’
Harry and Ron gaped at her and said in identical voices, ‘Hermione!’
Ron continued, ‘’Mione, it’s the holidays! You’re not meant to be worrying about school work!’
Hermione rolled her eyes and dumped her bag in Ron’s arms, ‘Just because *I* want good marks in the O.W.Ls next year. Besides,’ she said as she started up the steps, ‘I’m almost finished. There’re only a couple of things I want to check on.’
Harry and Ron rolled their eyes at each other and followed their friend up the steps and into the school.
That evening, Ron and Harry were sitting in the middle of Harry’s bed playing a game of wizarding chess. Hermione had disappeared halfway through the afternoon, and since both boys suspected she was in the library, neither was game to try and find her. They knew she would emerge some time later, her thirst for learning temporarily quenched. When she did, she would seek them out and they could get on with the business of catching up.
Until then, the two Gryffindor boys were spending their time playing chess. That is to say, Harry was spending his time being thoroughly trounced by Ron.
At that moment, one of Ron’s pawns – a pawn, for Merlin’s sake! – was – quite politely for a wizarding chess set – carrying Harry’s white king to the edge of the board and tipping it off before quite smugly dusting its hands.
Harry threw up *his* hands in defeat. That had been his worst loss yet. Ron was gathering up his pieces and Harry could tell he was about to propose another game. Harry was madly scrambling for some excuse not to play when the door swung open and Hermione came in.
Harry bounced off the bed and over to her side.
‘Hermione! Where have you been?’
Both Ron and Hermione sent him odd looks for his enthusiasm, but Harry ignored them.
‘I was in the library. *Someone*,’ Hermione glared at Harry, ‘left a heap of books on one of the tables and I had to find where they went.’
Harry grinned at her, unabashed. Although, when he slid a quick glance at Hermione’s bag as it sat by his door, it seemed to be bulging just a little more. He would lay good odds that Hermione had borrowed several of those books for some ‘light reading’.
‘Anyway, enough about me,’ Hermione plonked herself down on the bed next to Ron, ‘We want to here why you’re at Hogwarts for the summer. Dumbledore didn’t say anything in the letter.’
Ron placed the chessboard and pieces on the night table and sat up, adding his agreement to Hermione’s.
‘Yeah, what’s going on?’
Harry had known this was coming. In fact, he was surprised they had held off so long. He had been expecting the question to be the first thing out of their mouths when they had arrived earlier in the day. Nevertheless, Harry sighed long-sufferingly. His theatrics gained him no sympathy from his friends, who both continued to regard him with identical stoic expressions.
‘Fine,’ Harry threw up his hands in exasperation, ‘Shove over and I’ll tell you.’
Hermione and Ron made room for Harry and he settled himself on the bed before looking back at his friends.
‘There’s not really much to tell. Dumbledore turned up at Privet Drive last Friday, just as the Dursleys were sitting down for tea,’ Harry started to smile at the memory, ‘You should have seen it! One moment, Aunt Petunia was reaching for a biscuit, the next Professor Dumbledore was sitting in the middle of the kitchen table, wearing the plate of biscuits and clutching a cup of tea in one hand.’
Ron guffawed and even Hermione had to work not to laugh at the image Harry painted of their Headmaster.
‘Anyway, Dumbledore told me he had come to bring me back to Hogwarts if I was willing. He said it was a life or death situation.’
Hermione gasped and Ron paled.
‘Not –,’ Ron gestured at Harry’s forehead. Harry’s hand automatically went to the scar.
‘No. It was nothing to do with Voldemort,’ Ron grimaced when Harry said the name, ‘At least, not directly.’
‘Professor Snape was severely beaten by some Death Eaters. I don’t know what actually happened,’ Harry shrugged, ‘He had lost a lot of blood and he needed a blood transfusion before Madam Pomfery could begin to cast the healing spells.’
Ron interrupted him, ‘Couldn’t they have gotten someone else to give Snape blood? Why’d it have to be you.’
Harry shook his head, ‘I was the closet person with the right blood-magic type. Madam Pomfery had to use a vampire leech to make the transfusion.’
Harry pulled up his sleeve and showed his friends the mark that still lingered on his arm from the leech. Hermione grasped his arm and pulled it closer.
‘How does it work?’ she wanted to know. Harry filled her in on the procedure while Ron grimaced in disgust in the background, echoing Harry’s own sentiments on the whole thing.
When Harry had finished explaining it to Hermione, the three of them sat in silence for a moment. Hermione’s face was thoughtful and Ron’s was working in disgust. Suddenly he burst out with the comment:
‘Ugh! That’s revolting!’
Harry laughed at his expression, ‘You should try being the one that’s getting the blood sucked out of him by some great ugly leech!’
‘Harry!’ Hermione abruptly interrupted, ‘You said before that you were the closet person with the right blood-magic type, right?’
Harry nodded, and he and Ron regarded Hermione warily, wondering where she was going with this.
‘Well, I was just wondering……… What type *are* you?’
Harry visibly relaxed.
‘And you were the closet person with the right type?’ Ron verified.
Harry nodded, his eyes still on Hermione. Her expression had turned thoughtful, like she was trying to remember something. Over the years, Harry had learnt to mistrust that expression. It usually meant Hermione was about to drag he and Ron off to the library in search of a book.
‘O-sigma,’ Hermione muttered to herself. Suddenly, she leapt off the bed, causing Ron and Harry to start. She scrambled over to her bag sitting by the door and delved into its depths. Harry saw he had been right earlier – there were several library books in Hermione’s bag. Right now, she was leafing through a familiar-looking one.
When she returned to the bed with it, Harry realised it was ‘Blood and Its Properties’, the same book Harry had been reading on the subject of blood-magic types.
‘Ha!’ she exclaimed and triumphantly dumped the book on the bed, ‘I was right!’
‘About what?’ Ron wanted to know as he and Harry leant over the book. Harry realised it was open to the exact page he had been reading.
‘Professor Snape was really lucky that you happened to have the same blood-magic type as him, Harry.’ She was pointing at a passage Harry had never gotten the chance to read:
”It is as yet unclear why this blood-magic type is the only one to actively affect magic. Little is actually known beyond the fact that it is the rarest of blood-magic types, often occurring only within a family. One in five thousand magical children born has this blood-magic type……..”
‘It says that often, only a member of one’s family will be able to give the transfusion because that type is so rare. And isn’t all of Snape’s family dead? So he was really lucky that Harry happened to have the same type.’
Harry closed the book and pushed it away from him. Ron sat back. He snorted under his breath.
‘Yeah, well, it wasn’t so lucky for the rest of us,’ he muttered, ‘If he hadn’t made it, then we wouldn’t have to have that slimy Slytherin-loving evil git for Potions next year.’
‘Ron!’ Hermione gasped horrified. She looked as though she was going to berate him further, but Harry got in first.
‘Ron. Lay off him, won’t you? He was wounded spying for Dumbledore. And besides, I don’t think he’s really as bad as all that.’
Ron and Hermione gaped at him, trying to come to terms with the fact that Harry had just defended the least liked teacher in the school. He shifted uncomfortably under their stares.
‘What?’ he exclaimed, then muttered under his breath, ‘He let me use his potions classroom, not mention his own ingredients.’
‘Have you heard from Snuffles recently?’ Ron asked Harry.
The three friends were prowling the halls in search of Remus Lupin. Hermione and Ron hadn’t seen him yet and were eager to do so. Only, he hadn’t been in the Great Hall for breakfast that morning. So now the search was on to find the elusive werewolf.
Harry shook his head, ‘Remus was the last one to see him. Apparently, Professor Dumbledore has sent him off on some sort of mission. He can’t be contacted until it’s over. Nobody’s heard from him in over two weeks now.’ A note of worry for his godfather entered his voice.
Hermione must have noticed it, because she rested a comforting hand on his arm.
‘I’m sure he’s fine, Harry. It’s been longer than two weeks between letters from him before.’
‘Yeah, but……..’ Harry tried to shrug of the feeling.
‘He wasn’t on a top secret mission for Dumbledore then, ‘Mione! Who knows what could have happened to him?’
Hermione swatted Ron across the back of the head and hissed at him, ‘Ron!’
Ron immediately realised what he’d said wrong and hurried to cover himself, ‘But I’m sure everything’s okay! The post probably just got delayed.’
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at his friends’ attempts to cheer him up. He was still worried about his godfather…….. But Hermione was right; he was probably just fine. There was no point in worrying. It wasn’t like he could do anything anyway.
Harry realised then that the three of them had just turned down the hospital wing corridor.
‘What *is* it about this place?’ he muttered under his breath.
‘Huh?’ Ron had overheard him.
Harry shook his head, ‘Nothing. But while we’re here, we might us well check the infirmary. Remus might be visiting Professor Snape.’
‘What would he want to go and do a thing like that for?’ Ron wanted to know.
‘I don’t know. Remus said they were friends, but if they are, they’re the weirdest friends I ever saw. Snape just snipes at him all the time.’
Harry headed down the corridor toward the hospital wing door, Ron and Hermione trailing behind.
He was three metres from it when he heard the voices. He gestured for his friends to be quiet. They crept up beside him and together, the three strained to hear what was being said.
Remus was in there with Professor Snape. He was sounding uncommonly serious.
‘Severus, you have to tell him sooner or later. Sooner, rather than later, preferably.’
When he answered, Snape’s voice was caustic and just the tiniest bit petulant.
‘I don’t see why.’
‘You know as well as I do, you stubborn old git,’ Remus growled.
Beside him, Hermione gasped and Ron grinned. Harry gestured them both to silence. He wanted to hear Snape’s response.
‘Apparently I don’t.’
Snape obviously wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation, but Remus wasn’t giving up. Through gritted teeth he said:
‘Fine! If you want me to spell it out for you, I will.’
‘Please do,’ came the disinterested reply and Harry could just imagine the Potions Professor examining his fingernails.
‘The boy has a right to know who his………’
Harry, Ron and Hermione never got to hear what the unidentified boy had a right to know.
Peeves the poltergeist had floated through the wall behind them and spotted the three gathered about the door, eavesdropping on the conversation of their professors. It was too good an opportunity for the meddling creature to pass up.
He crept up behind the oblivious trio and knocked over a suit of armour, cackling madly and shouting: ‘Ickle kiddies! Ickle kiddies spying on their professors!’
Ron, Harry and Hermione jumped at the crash. They didn’t even pause to see what had caused the racket; they bolted down the hall and around the corner. The hem of Hermione’s skirt had just whipped out of sight around the corner when they heard the infirmary door crash open and Remus shout ‘Peeves!’
The three Gryffindors didn’t stop running until they found themselves on the shore of the lake. They collapsed in a heap in the shade of a tree and gasped desperately for their breath.
Hermione began to giggle. When Harry and Ron looked at her, she just shook her head at them and began to laugh harder. It was contagious. Soon Harry and Ron were laughing too. The three of them ended up on their backs, clutching their sides.
Eventually, their laughter faded back to giggles, then to intermittent chuckles. Finally, they managed to sit up again and gain their breath back.
‘What do you think they were talking about?’ asked Hermione, wiping tears of laughter from her cheeks.
Ron shrugged and, plucking up a nearby stone, skipped it across the surface of the lake.
Harry lay back on the ground, his hands laced behind his head.
‘I don’t know. I don’t even know *who* they were talking about.’
Hermione lay down next to him, her hands laced across her chest.
‘We never got to speak to Remus.’
They lapsed into silence. Hermione and Harry were cloud gazing and the occasional splash marked the passage of another stone across the water as Ron skipped it. A while later, Ron tired of that pass time and came to join the other two on the ground. He positioned himself so he was lying in the opposite direction, his head between Harry’s and Hermione’s.
Harry raised a hand and pointed at a cloud that was floating by over head, ‘That one looks like Norbert.’
Hermione turned her head slightly, ‘I was thinking it looked like Buckbeak.’
Ron snorted, ‘You’re both wrong,’ he put on a falsetto voice, mimicking Professor Trelawney, ‘It’s the Grim!’
Harry laughed and Hermione huffed an impatient sigh at the mention of the Divination Professor. The three spent the rest of the afternoon trying to out-do each other with out-landish figures in the clouds.
Chapter Seven: Books will tell you everything, if you let them.
Ron was looking towards Hagrid’s hut as he and Harry headed down the sloping lawns.
‘I wonder where Hagrid is at the moment?’
Harry flipped his towel over his shoulder and followed the direction of Ron’s glance, ‘Who knows? On the Continent trying to contact the giants on Dumbledore’s behalf, probably. I haven’t actually asked anyone.’
A great, booming bark of welcome rang out across the lawns as Fang spotted them and came bounding towards them.
‘Well, whose looking after Fang then?’ Ron wanted to know.
Harry shrugged. He didn’t know. He turned his attention back to the cool waters of the lake. He and Ron were going for a swim. In the five days Ron had been at Hogwarts, it had become a morning ritual for the two boys. They had tried to convince Hermione to join them but she adamantly refused. Harry couldn’t figure it out. Ron whispered in his ear that it might be ‘that time of month’. After that Harry, decided he wouldn’t bother Hermione to come swimming any more. He maintained he simply wasn’t old enough to deal with female problems yet, if he ever would be.
So Ron and Harry had left Hermione sitting in the library and headed down to the lake for their swim.
‘Fang! Gerrof!’ the boarhound had reached the boys and had jumped up on Ron, trying to lick his face in greeting. Ron pushed the dog down and told him to heel. The dog complied meekly, abjectly glad to have company. He trailed after the Gryffindors as they approached the lakeshore.
‘Do you suppose Madame Maxime went with him?’ Ron continued on with the previous conversation as he stripped off his shirt.
‘If she is, I hope Hagrid didn’t take that hairy brown suit with him,’ Harry dropped his towel and started to pull off his own shirt, his back to Ron.
Behind him, Ron guffawed, ‘The one with that awful orange tie? Yeah, that’d really spoil his chances wi– Hey, Harry!’ Ron interrupted himself.
Harry glanced over his bare shoulder at his friend. Ron was pointing at his back, ‘I didn’t know you had a wizard-mark, Harry!’
‘Huh?’ Harry had no idea what Ron was talking about. He didn’t have a wizard-mark, did he?
‘On your shoulder!’ Ron was still pointing at it; ‘You must have got it from your dad.’
Harry twisted his shoulder, trying to get a look at the mark on his shoulder. Eventually, through some rather unusual contortions, Harry was able to view the back of his shoulder and the wizard-mark that graced the skin there.
It reminded him of the one on the inside of Professor Snape’s wrist, but only in that it seemed to feature a quill. Harry’s wizard-mark appeared to be the quill lying across an upturned dagger. Harry was confused. Why had he never noticed this mark before?
He kept staring at it until his body began to protest the awkward position he was holding it in. He released his shoulder and swung his arm about his head to relieve the tension. He looked curiously at Ron.
‘Do you have one?’ he wanted to know.
Ron unaccountably blushed.
‘Yeah,’ he muttered.
Ron’s cheeks flamed hotter and he muttered something under his breath.
Ron refused to meet his friend’s eyes as he answered.
‘Its on my butt………’
Harry laughed. Ron spluttered and aimed a mock punch at him. Harry dodged it and ran for the lake, yelling over his shoulder, ‘You should show ‘Mione. She’d find wizard-marks fascinating!’
He was up to his waist in the water when Ron tackled him, sending them both under. They came up sputtering and laughing. Fang waded in after them and Ron and Harry found themselves trying to avoid being scratched by the boarhound’s flailing paws.
Their hair was still wet from their swim when Harry and Ron sought out Hermione in her room. Predicably, she was reading. Several books at once, if they were to judge by all the open volumes laying on her bed.
Avoiding the books like the plague, Ron plonked himself down in an armchair on the other side of the room. Harry was braver and settled himself on the bed next to Hermione, pulling one of the books closer to him.
‘Whatcha reading ‘Mione?’
Hermione looked over at the book Harry flipping through.
‘Oh that one’s fascinating!’ she gushed, ‘Its one of the ones you left out Harry. It’s called ‘The Heredities of Wizards’. It’s all about magical traits that pass down from parent to child in wizarding families.’
Harry nodded vaguely, flicking through the pages. He wasn’t really listening to Hermione as she began to tell him all about the things she had learned from the various books spread about her.
A subheading caught Harry’s eye and he paged back to it: “Wizard-marks”
“Wizard-marks (the text read) bear no relation to the birth defects muggles refer to as ‘birthmarks’. A wizard-mark is actually a hereditary marking that travels down the most pure of wizarding bloodlines that develops as the child matures. In ancient times, a child was often disowned from the family if no wizard-mark was found by the time he came of age. In present times, however, the mark is little more than a curiosity without much credence placed in it. It is still an accurate indicator of ancestry, however.
A child’s wizard-mark is never the exact replica of his parents. It combines elements of both parents’ wizard-marks to form a new whole that is unique to the child………”
There was more in the same vein. Then, at the bottom of the page, was a list of elements common to the most famous bloodlines. Harry skimmed the list until his gaze snagged on one of the entries. He stilled.
Beside the name Snape, there was an exact replica of the quill that graced both Harry’s shoulder and his Potions Master’s wrist. Harry’s eyes frantically searched the list for the name Potter. Beside it was a blank space. The green eyes were drawn against their will back to the quill beside Snape’s name.
Harry was vaguely aware of Ron speaking to him, but he didn’t respond. Harry’s mind was racing as his eyes remained glued to the illustration. It was pulling together seemingly random snippets and playing the memories back in front of his disbelieving eyes.
~ Remus’s voice commenting ‘You have your father’s hand.’ ~
~ A pale, long-fingered hand, much like Harry’s own pressing flat a photo. ~
~ The photo itself. The baby in Snape’s arms staring up at Harry with his own green eyes. ~
~ Remus’s voice again, speaking to Snape: ‘You have to tell him sooner or later…….. the boy has a right to know……..’ ~
~ Hermione’s voice this time: ‘I was right! …….. Only a member of one’s family can give the transfusion……..’ ~
~ The wizard-mark quill on the inside of Snape’s wrist, on Harry’s own shoulder. ~
Harry’s mind delved deeper into his memory, and brought to the surface the night of his sorting:
~ The voice of the Sorting Hat, murmuring in his ear: ‘You could be great you know, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness. ~
‘Oh gods,’ Harry whispered to himself.
It dawned on Harry in that moment: James Potter wasn’t his father. Severus Snape was.
The book tumbled from his lap as Harry leapt to his feet. Moments later, he was pounding down the hall, with no recollection of having left Hermione’s room. It didn’t matter any way. All that mattered to Harry at the moment was getting to the infirmary and confronting Snape with – he was sure of it – the truth.
Behind him, he could hear Ron and Hermione yelling his name, wanting to know what was wrong. He ignored them. They didn’t matter at the moment. A moment later, two more sets of footfalls were racing towards the infirmary in Harry’s wake.
Later, Harry had to admit it was pure luck he didn’t run into anything on his mad dash. He couldn’t see where he was going. He was enraged to the point of blindness. Snape had known all along that he was Harry’s father. But he had treated him like he was less than nothing. Worse, he had let his *own* *son* be raised by those sorry excuses for muggles.
And Remus had known as well and never told Harry. And Dumbledore. Everybody, it seemed, except Harry. In some part of his mind, Harry wondered if this was the reason Sirius hated Snape so much.
Harry realised he had reached the infirmary. He slammed the door open and stormed over to the bed below the window. He gripped the end of it until his knuckles were white, taking several deep breaths and forcing himself to calm down. As suddenly as it had come, the rage left him and Harry was aware of an amazing clarity of mind floating above confusion and deep hurt.
Remus sat at Snape’s bedside and both men were staring at him, surprised at his abrupt entrance. Harry took another deep breath. Remus’s eyes flickered to the door, and Harry was aware of Ron and Hermione entering the room behind him. He couldn’t care. He really was beyond caring who witnessed what happened next. All he wanted was an answer from Snape.
Relatively calm now, Harry ground out his question – more of a statement – from between gritted teeth:
‘James Potter wasn’t my father, was he? You are.’