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Breaking Forward (The Edited Version)

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"Aloe*," said someone sounding a great deal like her friend Harry Potter.

"Sell out."

The second voice though, she wasn't entirely sure she could place.

"Okay, fine. Atropine; are you happy now?"

"Belladonna," Was the only response.

"Okay, okay. Fine. Calatropin!"

"Dieffenbachia."

"Ooo, have you been practicing?"

"Euphorbia lacteal."

"Maybe I should ask you the same thing," The mostly unknown voice replied.

Tired of guessing, Hermione decided to enter the train carriage and determine the speakers' identities for herself.

What met her eyes was a sight that she was not at all expecting to see.

"Foxglove," Blaise Zabini said with a smirk towards Harry.

"Wimp," Harry threw back, flipping him off as he spoke.

Zabini's presence was completely unexpected. The fact that they were conversing in a friendly banter towards one another was likewise mind blowing, but the true kick in the stomach was the sight of her best friend and how different he seemed after the summer following their 4th year.

"Harry?" She squeaked in surprise.

And therein was the next surprise; he barely spared her a glance before replying back to the Slytherin 5th year sitting across from him.

"Gelsemium sempervirens," He said with a cocky smile.

"A bit far reaching, don't you think?" Blaise asked with a scowl.

Harry just waved his hands at Blaise to get on with it.

"Hemlock," Blaise said with a sniff of distaste.

"Ignatius Beans."

"Jabberknoll parts."

"Wrong category!" Harry said with a growl.

Harry looked quite frightful, actually. It was the growl that made her shiver and take a step back involuntarily.

"Just checking," Blaise said, laughing. "Jalap instead, okay?"

Harry's hair was long and unkempt, and there were dark circles under his eyes.

"Kava kava," Was the only reply.

His nose was bent a bit oddly, leading her to wonder how many times it had been broken in the past three months.

"Lovage."

"Melia azedarach."

"Must you always be so difficult?" Blaise asked with a scowl and a barely noticeable roll of his eyes.

And when Harry finally turned and acknowledged her presence, she nearly gasped aloud at the dark red, jagged edged scar running down the left side of his face.

"What happened to you Harry?" She exclaimed.

"Why are you still here?" He replied coldly.

"What are you talking about Harry?"

"Don't you have somewhere more important to be?"

"Like a prefect's meeting perhaps," Blaise offered coolly, looking at her with appraising eyes.

"I – I just wanted to let you know where I'd be," She stammered under the assault of both glaring sets of eyes.

"And abruptly you care," Harry said with a snort.

"Of course I care! Harry, what's wrong? You can tell me!"

"Dumb bint!" Blaise said, standing up with his wand pointed at her.

"Harry! Are you going to let him get away with this?" She exclaimed, looking past the wand in her face.

"Yes," He said, raising an eyebrow.

"Get out, or get hexed. Make your decision," the Slytherin glowered menacingly at her.

"I don't know what's wrong, but I have to go now." She said lamely, backing out of their space quickly.

As she made her way to her meeting, she thought through her actions for the past three months, trying to determine where she had gone wrong.

HSHS

"Stupid bitch," Blaise muttered, after warding their door against other unwanted creatures.

"Gryffindors," Harry spat.

"You going to ask to get resorted?"

"Haven't decided; maybe, but probably not right now."

They both fell silent, thinking about the changes that had occurred for both of them over the past summer.

It had been in the second to last month of school before the summer break that they had begun a tentative—and extremely secret—friendship. Blaise had been walking back to his dorm after an exhaustive library study session when he had heard a sound coming from one of the unused classrooms there in the dungeons.

Naturally inquisitive, yet cautious like most Slytherins, he had decided to investigate only after putting a silencing spell on himself.

What he had found had been one very upset, distraught and overwhelmed Gryffindor by the name of Harry Potter. Blaise had found himself staring in surprise at the other boy for longer than he had intended, who was demolishing what was left of the furniture through sheer physical force.

Harry's hands were bleeding by the time Blaise had walked in, and they had later discovered that he had four broken bones as well.

"What do you want?" Harry had growled out at Blaise, kicking a half mangled chair at him as he spoke.

Blaise had been forced to jump out of the way, but he hadn't retaliated. Instead he had taken a much closer look at the fabled "Gryffindor Golden Boy." The other boy had been very pale and trembling, and there were tear tracks on his cheeks that he wasn't bothering to wipe away, even with knowing that Blaise was in the room.

"Geez, what happened to you Potter?"

"Everything," Harry had replied; throwing a half-hearted punch into the desk that was sitting between them.

"Want me to get someone?" He had whispered; his surprise slowly morphing into worry.

"There's no one to get," Harry had told him with a sharp-eyed look.

And so it had gone. In the end, Blaise had stayed up most of the night with the other boy; a time during which they had talked—just talked. A lot of surprising things had come out for both boys, and in the coming days, their relationship had become one of shared secret pain; the kind of pain that "normal" folks just didn't understand, because they simply lacked the contextual knowledge to understand.

Blaise had suggested going to his head of house for help, but as Harry had pointed out—with no little exaggeration—that Professor Snape would never listen to anything about Harry Potter until he could somehow change the relationship between them. Thus, Blaise had decided to teach Harry everything he knew about potions, in hopes that his new friend could find peace from the dark demons of his past and present that were threatening to do him in.

Blaise's own history was not a pleasant one either, but as much as Blaise despised the people who had hurt him so much, he only felt more so about the people that Harry had been forced to put up with all of his life.

"People think your life is so perfect," He had pointed out one day during the last weeks of school. It was a time in which most of the so-called "champions" were focused on the third task, but for one small Gryffindor boy, he knew that the third task was only a small raindrop in the storm that was about to fall once the school year ended.

"They don't look past their own noses," Harry had replied glumly, while staring silently at the old scars littering the expanse of his hands and arms. As he had explained to Blaise, most of them were defensive scars. "They don't bother to ask, to see what's really going on."

"They don't want to see," Blaise had offered.

"After all," Harry had continued in a much more snide tone, "feckin' Dumbledore has taken care of everything; so the boy wonder couldn't possibly be safer." The other boy had made an angry face. "I've seen what the Dark Lord does to prisoners, thanks to these damned visions. If I were his prisoner, I would get better treatment than I do at my so-called fecking home," He had said, spitting out the word home with almost as much distaste as Professor Snape did when saying the word, "Potter."

HSHSHS

Blaise focused his mind back on the present and looked at Harry thoughtfully. The other boy certainly did look worse for wear. He was glad that it had only been the Granger girl who had bothered them, and not that walking asshole Weasley boy. He might have been forced to actually commit some acts of violence before they had even gotten to Hogwarts.

He'd had to admit to himself that it wasn't an entirely unpleasant thought.

"You're grinning," Harry pointed out.

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Just a little frightening," Harry said with a shrug.

"Can you imagine what it would be like if Professor Snape smiled?"

"His face would probably break," Harry pointed out.

"It'd signify the apocalypse," Blaise said with a snort.

"As one, small children would cry all around the world," Harry said, his expression lightening up a bit at their ridiculous banter.

"That and the Hufflepuffs."

"Probably the Gryffindors would try and laugh, thinking he was agreeing with them," Harry said, smiling a bitter smile at the image.

"How's your article going?" Blaise asked suddenly in an effort to break up the other boy's train of thought.

"Hmm? Oh, it's all right, I suppose. Thanks for those journals you sent with Hedwig, by the way. They revealed some interesting . . . ideas," The smaller boy said with a distant look in his eyes.

Inwardly, Blaise smiled. Harry wasn't writing an article at all, but he was doing research—of a kind. They had decided through multiple correspondences that summer that since the chance at being spied on or overheard was so high, they needed to develop their own lexicon for discussing their more sensitive topics. Harry's "article" as Blaise had referred to it was actually a reference to Harry's study of their potions master, and what sorts of things it would take to fix the relationship between him and Harry.

Why?

The reasoning was fairly simply really. Professor Snape was the only one who had never screwed Harry over. He had not lied to him either. Certainly it was true that the man's bedside manner left something to be desired, but in the grand scheme of things, their professor's behavior was much preferable in comparison with say, Harry's uncle, or the latest trophy husband of his mother's.

HSHSHSHS

It had all started with a stray thought about finding some kind of adult that they could both potentially trust with details about their respective home lives. Harry knew that Blaise had only mentioned his head of house because he personally trusted the man; not because he thought the man would actually do anything to help a Gryffindor, especially Harry, if it at all possible. However, the thought had caught root in the desperate soil of Harry's brain during the course of those past horrid months, before ultimately culminating in the beginnings of an actual plot to actually try and enlist the man's help.

Furthermore, the thought had evolved into a quasi-fantasy where he actually was able to live with the man instead of the Dursleys. The thought, while initially somewhat repugnant during the school year, had gain acceptability over the summer as Harry was—forcibly —reminded why he hated the Dursleys so very much.

And he did; he hated them so, so , very much.

Thus the ultimate question arose in his mind: What would his life be like if he lived with Professor Snape instead of his uncle?

Well, for starters, the professor would never starve him. He would never beat him into unconsciousness, or demand lewd acts of payment in return for the basic necessities of life—like the right to use the toilet. Unconsciously, Harry ran his fingers over the small scars that ran up and down his arms. One particular set was new as of the past summer, and the memories associated with them were almost enough to make his mind shut down in horror.

He wondered if it should bother him more that his mind was retreating from the present more and more, thanks to the recent events of his life. It sickened him to realize that those events, those actions, were nothing more than torture at the hands of his demented muggle relatives. He, a fifteen year old boy, had been tortured by his only living relatives.

And for what?

It was a hatred borne somewhat out of fear; the fear of the unknown, but mostly he was tortured because he was not like them, and because of his parents, he would never be like them.

Not that he wanted to be, anyways, he thought with no small amount of angry resentment.

"Revenge?" Blaise asked him, his voice cutting through his brooding far easier than should have been possible.

"Not before the main course," He answered mildly, playing along with the banter, if not really truly feeling it.

Blaise snorted his response at him, before asking him a question.

"What's first on the menu?"

"Respect."

"What about your friends?"

"They didn't care how I was this summer, even though I've repeatedly tried to emphasize how bad it gets for me. As far as I'm concerned, you are my only friend."

"You're braver than I," Blaise admitted quietly. "Must be that damned Gryffindor mentality coming through."

Harry felt a pained expression constrict his face at the other boy's words.

"I'm not any braver," He argued dully. "Just more desperate."

HSHSHSHSHSHS

Harry climbed down from the train that evening with a glower to equal Professor Snape's. He wasn't going to pretend to like people anymore just to be nice. He wasn't going to play their bullshit games, and he certainly wasn't going to take any flak from anyone about anything that year; well, save for Professor Snape perhaps.

The massive group of people parted before him and as always, whispers followed him as he made his way to the carriages.

"Well well, if it isn't little Potty Potter," Drawled a voice to his left. He had spotted Malfoy shortly after exiting and he already had his response ready for the dolt's insults.

"Draco!" He cried out, a large and unstable looking grin on his face.

The motion of bodies around him stopped in their tracks and quickly backed away from them both.

He walked forwards quickly and grabbed the blond haired boy in a near bone crunching hug, maneuvering his "gift" into the other boy's pocket with surprising ease.

"What the hell!" Draco bit out before pushing him away forcefully.

"I missed you!" Harry said with that same idiotic and worrisome grin still plastered on his face.

"If you ever do that again Potter, I swear you'll be eating with your feet for the rest of your life!" The boy yelled at him, his normally pale cheeks turning pink as the surrounding crowd began giggling nervously.

"Don't tease me with the thought Draco!" Harry warned, before throwing up an invisible shield and walking hastily away. Surprisingly, or not considering his victim was a Slytherin, no attack came, but Harry knew better than to let his guard down.

HSHSHSHSHSHSHS

After finally arriving at his table in the Great Hall, he sat down at the farthest end from his so-called friends, with his back to the wall. He eyed the other three tables in front of him thoughtfully, while keeping his peripheral vision tuned to the Gryffindor table itself.

The table filled in around him, although few seemed to be willing to actually sit next to him. He realized that Hermione must have said something to Ron, because the boy barely spared him a glance as he headed to sit down at the far end of the long oak table.

He found that he didn't really care all that much. The fewer interactions he had that year equaled less opportunity for being hurt. He looked thoughtfully at the still empty plates sitting around him. It seemed unlikely that he would be able to each much that first evening back—especially with so many people around him.

His interactions that summer had been limited to very few face to face meetings with actual flesh and blood people. If not for his correspondences with Blaise over the past few months, he likely would have gone mad. He wondered if he should bother telling the other boy what an impact his words had had on him over the last few months.

Knowing Blaise, it was likely that he already knew; Blaise was a Slytherin, and therefore picked up on the smaller details of life— unlike some, he thought with a growl. He knew that he wasn't just stereotyping him because of his house affiliation. Blaise really was aware of the world around him, unlike many of those in the other houses.

Then again, he thought with a small grimace, he's had to learn to keep his eyes and ears open lest unpleasantness occur in that so-called home of his.

Yes, he and Blaise were far more alike than anyone would have ever dared presume. Harry still found it difficult to understand how Blaise had come to trust Professor Snape so very implicitly, but had not yet found an opportunity to ask without coming across as unfeeling.

They both had little reason to trust the adult males that presided over their lives; for Harry, that trust had been forever shattered the summer before he had left for Hogwarts. His uncle had wanted to make an impression on him that he would never forget—and true to the bastard's intentions, he had not. To make matters worse, it had been a pattern of behavior that had only been reinforced every following summer after that.

But hands down, the worst so far was this past one, Harry thought, his stomach gurgling in a queasy manner. I should just get out of here.

And he would have too, if not for the "gift" that he had deposited in Malfoy's pocket, compliments of his increasingly advanced knowledge of potions and their ingredients following that intense summer long study session he had had via mail with Blaise.

It was a magical ingredient that reacted best to direct heat—like body heat for example. Harry knew that a little heat and a little moisture would go a long way towards the ultimate goal of reminding himself why he still lived. After all, if one couldn't laugh at the misfortunes of others—particularly those that one had had a direct hand in—then what was the point of anything at all, really?

Fecking Voldemort and Dumbledore can have their tea parties for all I give a shit, he thought, unaware that his face had turned particularly murderous in the past few moments. Luckily for him, few had noticed, given that the Sorting was still going on. In any case, it would not have mattered much to him either way whether or not he was frightening the other students.

If the question had been posed, he would have merely snorted and said that the other students deserved to be woken up from their happy and innocent moods. Why should they be happy when he could not be?

However, for all that he might grump or grouch about being happy, he really did long to know what it was like to comfortably be part of something without always being on the lookout for danger or pain. He wanted to know what it felt like to be able to trust in the motives of those sitting around him; as well as those who were supposed to be the guardians protecting him.

Unfortunately, he felt that his was a time long past such inane dreams. If he was to survive the next year, there could only be one person that he could ultimately trust beyond a wish or a hope. Hope was for the weak; determination was for the survivors.

And, as he was wont toward thinking as of lately, all others could kiss his pale skinny little arse.

HSHSHSHSHSHSHSHS

It happened just as the meal was ending and they were preparing to head to their dorms for the evening—an act that Harry was not looking forwards to.

He heard a sound from the Slytherin table, and then he saw a blond head jerk sideways as though trying to remove himself from an unpleasant situation. Dumbledore, in his infinite wisdom, did not say anything, but instead went ahead and dismissed the room to their beds for the evening. Harry got up slowly, not really watching, but just listening vaguely to the sounds emanating from the other side of the room.

He knew that the seed would have sprouted by now, turning Draco Malfoy's fine robes into its own breeding ground for the typically quick growing vines it sported. Malfoy had probably tried to stand up or move, only to discover that he was literally rooted to his spot on the wooden bench he had perched so elegantly on at the start of the Sorting.

Harry kept his face neutral as he left the Great Hall, but he did not fail to miss the outraged look on Malfoy's face—nor the slightly bemused look on Blaise's at watching his plight occur and erm, branch out, as it were.

The quiet and unvoiced amusement coming from his inner self would hopefully be enough to see him through the rest of that evening without killing anyone.

And then once he was past that point, he would set about making it to—and through—the next day.

HSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHS

"Hey Harry!" A voice called out to him as he made his way up the staircase leading towards the Gryffindor tower.

He turned slightly, his hand already on his wand, and found himself face to face with Ginny Weasley.

"What happened to your glasses?" She asked, throwing him off with her disregard for everything else that had changed for him over the summer.

"Ah, a friend helped me by brewing a Clarifying Sight potion for me over the summer."

"Wow, that's gotta be a great friend! Do I know them? Are they single?"

He blinked at the flurry of questions, and tried not to trip as they finally made their way off the stairs.

"He's in my year," He finally answered. "But I don't know if you know him or not, as he isn't in our House."

They walked a bit farther down the hall before Ginny said anything more to him. This time, as she spoke, Harry could sense a definite shift in directions from just the look on her face as she started into it.

"I want to apologize for my brother, Harry," Was the unexpected comment.

He raised an eyebrow at her invitation to say more.

"And for myself as well; he wouldn't let me write you this summer, even though I really was very worried about you."

Something wavered in Harry's clenched heart at her words.

"You were?" He heard himself say without any forethought about how pitiful he must have seemed.

"Well yeah; anyone with half a brain would be after hearing what those bastards have been like to you in the past."

Suddenly Harry found that he had missed Ginny's honest bluntness almost as much as the girl herself. It had hurt him deeply when Ron and Hermione had rebuffed his attempts at maintaining contact that summer, but it had hurt almost as much to think that Ginny had agreed with them.

"Thanks," Was his quiet reply.

When she looked at him oddly, he felt inclined to help her understand why exactly.

"For listening to me, among other things," He said by way of explanation.

"Well, you are very nearly a Weasley," She said, her face crumpling a bit as she thought about what she had said.

"Provided that you'd still want to be after the way we were these past few months."

"If the offer's still open, I'd like that very much,"He said, feeling his throat constrict with his admission.

"You have to remember that Ron isn't the most important one in the family. He's not even the loudest," She said with a quiet giggle.

Harry smirked a bit at that.

"Mom and Dad have been worried too, but Dumbledore kept saying you were fine, you were fine, and not to interfere."

Dumbledore—that bastard, he thought with a wild roar in his head as he processed what she had said.

"Harry, you okay?"

"No," He whispered, his eyes distantly focused on a point just past her left shoulder. They had stopped in the hallway just a little ways from the Fat Lady's portrait.

"Can I do anything?"

He blinked and shook his head, trying to clear his mind from the terrible images that had begun rushing past his mind's eye ever since she had mentioned the name of their headmaster.

"I'm sorry then, Harry," She said, misunderstanding his head shake to say that she couldn't help him.

Well she can't, so maybe her interpretation is okay.

"Thanks for asking though," He tried to smile at her, but he could tell from the continued look of worry in her expression that he must have done a piss poor job at it.

Little surprise there, he thought with an angry clench of his fists that were luckily hidden behind his back.

"Do you know the password?" He asked her then, breaking up their dour mood with something of a more immediate concern.

"Mystical Mushrooms," She said in response to him, but while looking at the Fat Lady in her portrait frame as well.

"Maybe Neville will be able to remember that one then," Harry said with an approving nod.

"That's why I suggested it," She said with an impish grin as they climbed in through the portrait opening.

"Smart girl," He muttered at her just under his breath as they stepped in a room already nearly full.

"I can understand why you might not want to hang around," She said to him as she left to go to her own dorm room.

He nodded to her as she passed and headed to his bed as well. Perhaps if he went to bed early that night, he might actually get some sleep before having to fight anyone.

He ignored the other fifth years that were all sitting around the fire next to the other upper levels of the Gryffindor House. He ignored their looks of disdain towards him and kept walking until he had reached his—their—room.

He sighed as he closed the door behind him and walked into the silence before him.

It was going to be a long night, but really, was that all that unusual?

"It isn't," He muttered despondently to himself as he went to go check his bed for curses.

 

Chapter Text

When Ron was a little child, he knew that his birth had been both a surprise and a disappointment.  A surprise because he hadn’t been expected, and a disappointment because he wasn’t a girl.

The only one who took even the slightest interest in him was his Uncle Rodney, and the man didn’t show up in his life until he was five.  Uncle Rodney was the younger brother to Arthur Weasley, and for the most part, no one really knew about him. He had failed out of Hogwarts his 5th year for lack of magic--or so Rodney had told Ron.  He had no interests in continuing the feud between them and the Malfoys either. He didn’t like politics, the ministry or large families.

That’s all it took to endear him to Ron.  

What Ron and the rest of the family didn’t know was that Rodney had spent the previous five years in a muggle prison.  And the only one who would eventually find out the charges was Ron.

When he was young, Ron would escape to Uncle Rodney’s with no one the wiser.  In any other family, a seven year old disappearing for long stretches of time would have been a great cause of alarm.

But in Ron’s family, no one was particularly worried about the unwanted sixth son.  Or so he thought.

What he didn’t know what that Rodney frequently cast a notice-me-not charm on him, at least once every visit.  Still, even with that, his family should have noticed something amiss, but perhaps there was some truth in his situation.

Being with Rodney was great fun.  He got first choice, and he got entirely new presents that had never once belonged to anyone else in his entire family.  He was referred to as “Ron,” and not a stupid nickname that he hated.

Even at seven, he understood hate.  

It was hate when his family and extended family cooed over Charlie and Bill’s many achievements.  It was hate when his little sister got entirely new presents, just because she was a feckin’ girl with no one to hand stuff down to her.

It was hate when Rodney first hurt him and his family didn’t notice.  It was hate when he realised he’d rather be hurt than go back to just being part of the crowd of Weasleys at his house.  

Chapter Text

Darkness closed in on every side.  He was shackled to his bed, bound in a kneeling position with no light, no food, and no water.  The only sensation he knew was pain. And pain. And pain.

He could feel his emotional landscape dwindling as his existence got more and more bleak.  Colors were things of the past. Magic was a thing of the past. Normal passage of time was gone.  

There was only his uncle and the pain that came from his uncle.  

. . .

And then he would be relatively free.  Outside trying to do chores as time wiggled past him in chunks of varying sizes.  He forgot where he was, he zoned out, he did things without remembering and he remembered without being able to do things.

Every breath was pain.  Every dream was a nightmare.  Every moment was agony.

Except when he was sent on a chore that caused him to leave the confines of the street.  Then Hedwig would find him, and he found that the pain of her talons didn’t really hurt, because she wasn’t trying to hurt him.  She carried mail from someone who didn’t want to hurt him.  Someone who knew what it was like to be hurt by someone who should have been a trusted adult.  

And the bleakness of his emotional landscape would shift, and the tears would come and he remembered how to crack his mouth in a smile.

Blaise wrote him to ask how he was, and to say that his mother’s current boyfriend wasn’t interested in him, and that he was safe.  

Safety called to him.  He longed for it so much that he could taste it.  

‘Why not write your head-of-house?’ Blase wrote.

Because I am a freak.  Why should she listen to me?

He thought back to first year, when he and Hermione and a much reluctant Ron had gone to McGonagall only to be rebutted.  They were children and thus didn’t understand.

Children.

He had never been a child.  

Never.

He had always been hated.  Beaten for his existence, beaten for his lack of death, beaten for his differences, his magic, his heritage, his parentage.

He envied Ron for his family, his ability to fit in without trying.  He envied Ron, even though the other boy said that his parents never paid him much attention, even though his mate wished he were someone else.  

He wished he could be forgotten.  He wished that the swirling sands of his consciousness would scour him down to the basic elements, ripping and burning off the weak emotional parts, and leaving nothing but a hardened shell that was still functional enough to exist and attain revenge.

Only then would he be able to die.  Only then, after vengeance was acquired, could he stand to kill himself and make the agony stop.

. . .

Blaise was persistent with him.

If not McGonagall, what about another head-of-house?  What about his own?

‘Snape hates me,’ He had written back in one letter.

‘Only because your father and his mates were a bunch of bullies.  My mother was at school toward the end of their years there, and she has a lot of sources that confirm it.  They treated Snape like he was scum. They had protection from the prefects and McGonagall and Dumbledore. They treated him like he was shite they scraped off the bottom of their expensive boots, and never let up on him and others like him.  They preyed on the weak, but hey, you don’t know anything about that, so don’t bother having any contact with him,’ Was Blaise’s emotionally charged response.

‘Then he probably thinks I’m a bully too.  Since Dumbledore and McGonagall like to think they’re doing me favours by letting me get away with stupidity.’

And he had been stupid.  

Cedric.

He smacked the side of his head and then did it again and again and again, and he was on his knees, bleeding from the nose and finally the thought dislodged from his mind.  

Blood was pretty, but then again, so was fire.

His mindscape was burnt, red and copper staining the edges of what should have been a pristine landscape.  

Every movement hurt.  Every breath hurt. Every moment was agony.  

But he could still have vengeance.  He could still find allies to wreak havoc on his life.  He just had to make it another day, and he’d be that much closer to going back to Hogwarts.

Hogwarts.

Hogwarts.

Hogwarts.

Cedric, his mind cried out.  

Chapter Text

The first Slytherin-Gryffindor fifth year Potions class initially started much the same as always, minus one significant difference.

Professor Snape burst through the door as he always did, only to be met by the sight of Harry Potter standing ramrod straight, his hands behind his back, and his surprisingly long hair slicked back neatly into a ponytail.

Severus was also surprised to see that the boy was no longer wearing his glasses, making his green eyes seem just that much more piercing.

"Potter, what the hell are you doing?" He demanded as he made his way up to the front of the room.

"I'm standing in respect to you sir," The boy answered—completely seriously, Severus was surprised to note.

If this was the boy's idea of a prank, then why weren't his nasty little friends doing it too? His eyes flicked over to the Weasley boy, and was pleased to see the boy's face curled up in a look of disgust.

"Very well, Potter," He said in a semi-exasperated voice. "Take a seat before you fall over."

"Yes sir," Came the crisp reply, as the boy quickly followed his instruction.

Severus found himself raising an eyebrow at the boy in curious annoyance. Just what was Potter's new ploy for that year anyways? If he thought he could turn over a new leaf in Potions, he'd have to do more than just change his behavior.

With that thought in mind, he decided to test the boy's knowledge a bit.

"Potter!" He barked.

"Sir?"

"Name four poisonous plants all starting with the letter C," He said nastily, as the Gryffindor side of the room started grumbling and complaining about the unfairness of the request.

He wasn't at all prepared for the death glare that Potter then shot at his fellow Gryffindors, causing the room to become deathly silent as both Gryffindors and Slytherins waited with bated breath for his reply.

"Candelabras cactus, Carolina Jessamine, Chinaberry tree, and Castor Bean, sir," The boy rattled off quickly.

Snape found his eyes narrowing in surprise and suspicion at the boy's perfect answer, and decided that he wasn't quite finished with the boy yet.

"Correct, Potter," He ground out, mentally rolling his eyes over the exclamations of surprise throughout the room.

"Now can you tell me the Latin names for those plants you so inelegantly tossed out?"

A loud cry went up from the Gryffindor side of the room, but neither of them acknowledged the added noise. In fact, the boy neither reacted to them nor to his baiting, surprising him further. The boy barely blinked before giving him the requested information.

"Euphorbia lacteal, Gelsemium sempervirens, Melia azedarach, and Ricinus communis, sir," The boy answered crisply and perfectly.

Professor Snape felt a smirk coming upon his face and quickly stifled it.

As he turned back to his board, he settled for throwing in a shock of his own.

"Five points to Gryffindor, Mr Potter."

HS

"Potter, stay after class. I wish to have a word with you," Severus said later that class period, after watching several failed attempts at creating what should have been a fairly simple antidote.

Potter however, had brewed a perfect specimen, further tweaking Severus's brain in the process. He had tried to lightly legilimize the boy, but had been thwarted there as well. It was an understatement of vast proportions to say that he was properly perplexed at the changes in the boy.

Normally the child's face was easily readable, but now, perhaps because of the differences in the boy's face, he found himself unable to decipher his student's emotions nearly as readily as before. He also found himself wondering about the cause of the angry red scar down the side of the boy's face that had appeared since the end of the last term.

After the other students had left the room, he motioned Potter over to his desk, where he was half-leaning, half-sitting back upon it. The pose had a tendency to frighten his students, as it meant that he was looming over them, and usually it was true for Potter as well, but as that day had shown him, it was not to be so.

"What is your explanation for your miraculous turnabout in class today?" He asked, his voice dripping with ill-disguised sarcastic disgust for the number of surprises he had been dealt that morning.

"I'm trying to distance myself from my father's legacy by taking a more hard nosed approach with my studies, sir," The boy said, standing upright before him, his face much more straight edged than Snape had ever seen on the lad.

"Indeed." Snape said, raising an eyebrow in curiosity. "Whom, may I ask, is your new model for success," He bit out sarcastically.

"My mother, sir," The boy replied promptly; not a trace of a smile on that far too serious face of his.

Snape found himself studying the boy more closely, finally realizing that a great many of the details that had reminded him of Potter Sr. were no longer as prominently featured.

"I hope this determination turns into something more than a passing interest of yours," He said, a threat clearly laced in his words.

"I intend for it to do so, sir. I have no desire to be associated with the memories of a lackadaisical and cruel buffoon for the rest of my days, sir."

Who had been feeding Potter these words? They sounded almost—intelligent.

"And well you might," He said with a small nod. "Do you need a note to your next class?"

"No sir, thank you sir," The boy said, hurriedly gathering up his belongings and exiting the classroom.

Snape stayed lost in thought for some time after the boy had left, his eyes narrowed in deep thought.

HSHS

Instead of heading to lunch, Harry deviated his course by heading straight for the headmaster's office. Truth be told, he wasn't looking forwards to seeing the old man, but he'd be damned if he was going to suffer through another year of divination with that old fraud—especially since there were so many other pressing things on his plate now.

When he got to the gargoyle, he looked straight at its face, and demanded entry.

If he were inclined to smile, he would have when the gargoyle reluctantly creaked open, revealing the moving stairs leading upwards to Dumbledore's most sacred domain.

"Ah Harry, I was wondering when you were going to drop by," Dumbledore said before he even made it through the door. He scowled at the man for his accuracy, but otherwise merely nodded his reply to the man's jovial greeting.

"Lemon drop?"

"No, thank you."

Damned fool, he thought bitterly, as he sat lightly at the edge of the only straight backed chair in the room.

"What can I do for you, my boy?"

"Allow me to officially drop Divinition as a class," He said, speaking with terse, clipped tones to this man who had so very failed him.

The phrasing of his question was deliberate; indicating that he was going to stop going either way, but he would at least prefer to be official if he could at all help it.

"Why this sudden need to drop a class?" The man's eyes twinkled brightly at him, turning his stomach ever so slightly.

He knew that Dumbledore's reply was more about information hunting than any real concern for him.

"I need the time to focus on more important things," He said.

There, let the old man chew on THAT.

He watched Dumbledore as he slowly took off his glasses and cleaned them, before looking back at Harry.

"I know that Divinition is not your most favorite subject, but if you will remember, the initial decision to take this class was entirely your own."

Ah, avoidance.

"A younger and much more trusting me made that decision, sir," He said, gritting his teeth against the suddenly overwhelming desire to hex the man to bits where he sat.

"I know that you took Cedric's death very hard—as we all did," The headmaster said gravely, his eyes finally dimming and matching the waning evening sky that was present through the window on the far wall.

"True, that's some of what has forced me to grow up, but I think the largest part was your fault sir." He said, wishing he could punch the man in his thin, already broken nose.

"My fault?" Dumbledore asked with some surprise.

"If you had listened to me any in the past, you'd know what it was that I was talking about." He said bitterly.

"Harry, I—," The old man started to say, before Harry cut him off by abruptly getting to his feet.

"Let me just put it this way, sir," he said, with no little sarcasm on the word.

"After all the time I have spent with the Dursleys, I can certainly understand how the Dark Lord feels in regards to Muggles. When I reach my majority, you can bet that I'm going to pay them a visit," He said menacingly.

He became aware that his hands had curled into fists and he made a conscious effort to relax them.

"And furthermore, if he were not so hell bent on killing me, I think it would almost be worth seeing the look on your face for me to join him," He spat out, pointing his finger at the paling wizard before him.

"Don't worry about Divinition; I'm sure I'll be able to see another way around it. Good day sir," He said, turning on his heel and striding out of the damnable office before he really lost his control.

. . .

He lost his breakfast--little though it was--in the loo after his emotionally charged meeting with Dumbledore.  

It was the other man’s fault that he lived with the Dursleys.  Therefore, it was Dumbledore’s fault that his life was hell.

Voices--cries, really--assaulted his mind, and he lost several minutes as he stared at the wall behind the toilet.  

When he came back, he cursed to find that time had skipped again.  

Not enough time anyway, and now there’s even less.

HSHSHS

Not too much time after that confrontation, Severus Snape found himself being summoned to Albus's office for a "chat." Albus had been far too serious when he had fire called him, and truth be told, he found the man to be much more worrisome when he was calm.

"Sir?" He said, after knocking on the door for entry. That he had been forced to knock on the door was merely another sign that something was wrong.

He entered his mentor's office with a sick feeling of unease firmly lodged in his gut, but he hid his feelings behind a stiff sneer.

After taking a seat and waving a hand at the ubiquitous lemon drops Albus always seemed to have in supply, he decided to stop the charade and just tell Albus to have out with it before the unspoken concern drove them both insane. Luckily for his reputation, Albus beat him to the punch.

"Have you seen young Harry today?" Albus asked, folding his hands together and leaning forwards towards him.

"I had class with Mr Potter just this morning," He admitted, purposely being obtuse about what the man was inquiring on.

Albus sighed and Severus watched the man as he seemed to literally age before his eyes. The wizard before him was weary and tired, not at all like his normal extravagant self.

"How did he seem to you?" Albus asked him softly.

Severus thought over that morning carefully before finally coming up with an answer that would not tell the other man too much of how he really felt.

"Surprisingly determined."

"Indeed," Albus said, peering expectantly at him.

"What is it you want me to say?" He asked grumpily, crossing his arms decisively in front of him.

"You awarded him points, did you not?"

"I'm still allowed to do that, am I not?"

"You're evading, Severus."

"You, on the other hand Albus, are fishing for something." Severus accused, narrowing his eyes at the man across the desk from him.

"I am worried about him," The man admitted as he stood up and turned to the window, his hands crossed elegantly behind his back.

"Could you not say these things to him yourself?" Severus asked tiredly. He hated always having to play the part of the rational one. "Sometimes I wonder if I am not just a sounding board for you Albus," He muttered, none too quietly.

"Do you really feel that way?" Albus said, turning sharply to look at him sadly.

It was those looks that he despised the most; the looks that filled him with guilt when he thought about how much this man really had done for him.

"Not usually, no," He admitted reluctantly.

"I hope you would feel comfortable enough with me to let me know if someone was bothering you though, Severus."

He opened his mouth to reply that if he did that, they'd be there for the rest of the night—or even the week itself—before he realized the utter futility of it and closed it once more. He gave a sigh of his own and sat back in the chair, waiting for an explanation of Albus's mood that would hopefully make some kind of sense.

"I fear we may be losing him," The older man said finally after another lengthy pause.

"How so?" Severus asked, wishing Albus would get to his point, and preferably before midnight.

"He was in here earlier today, during lunch, hoping to drop Divinition from his schedule."

Severus grunted thoughtfully, remembering his own conversation with the boy.

"I asked him why, and that led us to discussing Cedric's death."

Severus looked up sharply at hearing the old man's words. He suspected rather strongly that the conversation had not gone nearly as smoothly as just that.

"And?" He asked, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice.

"He may have mentioned something about wanting revenge on his muggle relatives," Albus said vaguely.

Severus waited for the follow-up that he was sure to come. He was not to be disappointed.

"He said that it was thanks in part to both them, and me, that he can understand why Tom developed his particular opinion of muggles," Albus said with a deep sigh, finally taking his seat once again.

Severus' eyebrows lifted in surprise.

"I can see why that would disturb you," He murmured.

"Severus, I need you to keep an eye on him this term," The headmaster's voice was beseeching.

"I always have. You know that."

"More so this time around, if at all possible, Severus. I don't think I can stand the thought of—," Albus trailed off, looking ashamed.

Another mistake like me? Or Tom?

"I'll see what I can do," Severus said roughly.

"That's all I can ask, my dear boy.  That's all I can ask," Albus said quietly as Severus took his leave of him, and headed back to the dungeons where he belonged.

HSHSHSHS

Harry pushed past his dorm mates and headed for bed, aware of the whispers and looks that followed him, but too tired to really give a damn. After being surrounded by other people all day, his skin itched and crawled from being in contact with so many of them.  Despite their touches being accidental, his system still responded to them as a threat, and as a result, his body was wound tighter than a Ravenclaw the week of exams.  He could almost feel his magic leaking out as each touch had triggered him, and he had spent much of the afternoon trying to keep his anxiety and revulsion from exploding his surroundings. h

Mentally, is conversation with the old man had weighed on his mind all that afternoon and evening, and he was tired of trying to plan for all of the situations that might arise because of it. Most of all, he hoped that the conversation didn't get back to Professor Snape and cause him to think any less of Harry as a result.

He had done something that morning in the man's class, and he was proud of it. He had shown the man that he wasn't just another dimwit, and that he had the potential not to just be a clone of his father—inadvertently or not.

But the idea that he might have fecked it all up because of a meddlesome old man and his stupid ideas made him even more nauseated than he already was, which was saying something.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" A voice demanded as he stepped through the doorway of the fifth years' bedroom.

Oh. It was Ron.  Great, just what he needed.

"I'm really tired Ron. Can't you yell at me tomorrow?" He said quietly, trying to push past the taller boy and get to his bed.

What he hadn't expected was for Ron to grab the front of his robes and bodily throw him backwards. He managed to stay on his feet, but only just.

"I'd expect that sort of action from some people, but not you Ron," He snarled.

"You're completely unbelievable, you know that Harry? I can't believe that you, of all people, are trying to suck up to Snape.  He's a Slytherin.  He's only in it for what he can get out of you." Ron bit out with more than a touch of cruelty.

"Maybe they're not all like that, Ron," He said in a low voice, already fingering his wand.  "Maybe it's everybody else that I have to be worried about."

 "What does the poor perfect Saviour have to be worried about, huh?" Ron spat.  "Bet you'd suck his cock if he demanded it.  I bet you'd enjoy it," He snarled.

He didn't even think about the words of the spell as his magic reacted for him, blindly reaching out for the arsehole in front of him and freezing him in his spot. He watched as Ron wavered for a moment before crashing backwards with a bang.

Quickly he shrunk down his trunk—he hadn't bothered to unpack, thanks to a feeling that he had already outstayed his welcome—and put it in an inside pocket. Then he went over to where Ron still lay and looked down at him angrily.

"I don't know why I put up with you for four years, but you can officially consider our friendship over. And if you value your balls, I wouldn't continue spouting off lies that you have no understanding of."

And then to emphasize his point, he lifted up his leg and stomped down hard on the other boy's crotch, eliciting a painful sounding howl from the clenched jaw of one red haired, floor level boy.

Harry turned on his heel and left with the intent never to return if at all possible.

He didn't even look back.

HSHSHSHSHS

The next morning at breakfast, Hermione sat and anxiously picked at her food. She was watching for Harry and Ron, since no one had heard from either of them since the previous evening.

Over that summer, Ron had finally asked her to be his girlfriend; a state of being that she thought she'd love, but so far, things weren't turning out quite as she had predicted. In his own way, Ron was sweet to her, but he had a vicious streak that she apparently had never bothered to really notice before.

She had never known just how far his jealousy for Harry extended until she had been forced to listen to his complaints all summer long. Mostly the rants—for that's what they were—were focused on how Harry took too many things for granted, and how he didn't appreciate his fame enough. Ron had told her time and time again that if he were famous, he would do something great with his fame, but she knew from listening to Harry that there were plenty of downsides to being famous as well.

She wondered if Ron had ever stopped to really think about them. She knew that he didn't fully realize that Harry was jealous of him as well, for exactly the opposite reasons. The whole mess was idiotic, but the one and only time that she'd tried to point it out to him, he'd blown up at her, scaring her a little in process.

She had felt bad enough about it, that she had let him coerce her into finally having sex with him; something she felt incredibly idiotic about later on, but that's just the kind of effect he had on her. As with all things that he was deeply interested in, his attention and focus were extremely intense during the actual act itself; making her feel as though she were the only creature in the universe worthy of his attention and administrations of love.

She liked that part of it. The orgasms she had just by her own hand were paltry in comparison; nearly causing her to give up masturbating altogether.

It was Ron's angry outbursts that she honestly found herself fearful of; outbursts which, if she were honest with herself, she would have to admit were occurring at a higher and higher rate the longer she stayed with him.

She felt bad that she hadn't kept in better contact with Harry that summer. He had had a rough time of it that previous year, and Cedric's death certainly had not helped matters along any. She knew that his relatives were unpleasant, but she couldn't make herself believe that they were actually violent towards him. Surely Dumbledore would have removed him from such a situation, wouldn't he have?

Yet a small inner voice told her that if she wanted proof of that violence, she merely needed to look to that angry red scar running nearly the entire length of the left side of his face. Something had changed for her friend that past summer, but she wasn't sure if she could handle thinking about what might have happened to make him change this much.

Having decided that neither Ron nor Harry were going to show up that morning, she slowly gathered up her things and made her way to her first class of the day.

Oh Harry, she thought wistfully to the boy who had been one of her first friends in the wizarding world. What has happened to you?

HSHSHSHSHSHS

Harry spent the night in an abandoned classroom, and actually had a restful night for the first time in a long while. He grabbed breakfast straight from the kitchens on his way to Charms, and by the grace of Merlin, managed to avoid seeing anyone he knew on that entire trek.

He knew that his luck was going to run out at some point, but he was surprised that he made it all the way through charms and then Transfiguration before it did. He was unsurprised to see that Ron did not make either class, but he was bothered by the fact that Hermione kept trying to speak to him; even after he had put her off several times.

"Mr Potter." Professor McGonagall said at the end of their class. "You will stay after class."

It wasn't a detention, but the tone of her voice coupled with the look on her face meant that whatever it was about wasn't going to be a good experience for him. The rest of the class knew it too, but wisely no one spoke to him—not even Hermione, or Granger, as he needed to start thinking of her again as.

He still scowled at them all after her announcement to him, even though he was fully aware that his was a mild and ultimately useless rebellion.

The class vacated the classroom at an unusually fast pace, while he merely reclined farther in his seat, making a point that he wasn't bothered by her words in the least.

Besides, what's the worst she can do? Smack me around?

He smirked at the thought, but dropped the expression when he saw her glaring at him. 

"Mr Potter, I don't know what happened between you and Mr Weasley last night, but I don't want to hear of anything like it again, understand me?" She said, speaking in very short and clipped tones.

As long as I don't ever have to see that slime ball again, there won't be a problem.

"Yes ma'am," He said, trying to make his face seem earnest.

"And you will return to the Gryffindor dorms tonight. Do I make myself clear?"

Ah, he had a problem with that. Time to show her that he wasn't the same old loser without a backbone that he had been in previous years.

"Yes ma'am, you make yourself very clear. Unfortunately I can't comply," He said, leaning back and waiting for the likely explosion.

He wasn't disappointed.

"Excuse me? Mr Potter? And why are you suddenly too good for dorm life?"

Why does everyone think I live the life of a fucking prince?

"No, I'm just trying to keep from going to Azkaban until I've turned at least sixteen," He said, narrowing his eyes at her before grabbing his stuff and trying to make his way to the door.

"Where do you think you're going?" She exclaimed, her magic shutting the door forcefully in his face. "I don't believe that I had told you this conversation was finished," she said, her Scottish brogue becoming thicker with each word.

He flinched and turned back around.  Having a locked door between him and freedom was making his heart race loudly in his ears, and he grimaced as he felt the telltale signs of a panic attack beginning to build.

"Fine! What?" He said throwing his stuff onto a nearby desk and taking a seat beside it, shoving his trembling fingers under the desk.

"I don't know what your problem is this year, but I suggest you lose it now."

"Or what? You'll take points?" He threw out in a mocking tone, reveling in the many new facial expressions he was causing her to make in reaction to him.

His heart was in his throat, and he couldn't swallow worth a damn.  

"I believe the headmaster might be interested in speaking with you about this detrimental attitude of yours," She said, her eyes lighting up in what he only perceived as anger.

Her face told another story.  If he had been able to look up, he would have noticed the almost desperate level of worry her face seemed pinched into.

"I really don't think he wants to talk to me anymore, professor. He's rather disappointed in me as well." He said with a sneer.

"And yet you seem not to care one whit. I wonder why not, Mr Potter?" She said, fixing an expectant and stony stare on him.

He could play that game. He stared steadily back at her, narrowing his eyes in anticipation of what punishment she would dish out for his latest transgression.

"I am putting you on probation from Quidditch," She said after a moment more.

"That should segue perfectly into my plans for quitting the team," He spat, smiling a cheerless snarl at her.

He heard her suddenly gasp inwards at his words, but he wasn't really watching her anymore. If he could survive his uncle—no, he was pointedly not thinking that thought!

"I am disappointed in you Mr Potter. I would think that you had more respect for your house than this."

Yay, guilt, he thought with no little embitterment on his part.

"If they would give me respect, I am certain that I could find a way to show them the same," He said, running a hand through his hair with more than a little agitation.

"I wonder what your father would say if he were here now," She said, speaking much more softly than before.

I am desperately worried about your son, Lily.  The thought said, running through her head on a constant loop.

"I don't really give a damn what the cocksucker might have said, provided that he had lived," Harry said; knowing full and well that he had just crossed the line into the unforgivable.

He watched his professor march towards him angrily, her face becoming redder with each step, and he fought against the urge to run.

He wasn't going to be afraid of her or anyone else ever again, for that matter. He simple wasn't.

So it was no small surprise that he found himself in the headmaster's office for the second day in a row; only this time, he got the added bonus of having to listen to her rant about him for more than half an hour.

Oh joy, he thought sourly, actually openly rolling his eyes at her histrionics. They weren't doing anything for him, they hadn't helped him any; so why should he play their stupid games? What did he get out of it really?

It was all bullshit. Everything was bullshit. He tuned them out and pulled out his potions text to continue studying while they decided how best to punish him.

Really, he thought with a bitter snarl inwards, I think I've been punished enough. No one else has to put up with a summer of being repeatedly raped by one's guardian. Oh yeah, my life is real effing perfect. To hell with them. To hell with all of them.

 

Chapter Text

"Tell me, Harry," Dumbledore said, "Why are you quitting your Quidditch team?"

"Because it's a waste of my time, sir," He said through gritted teeth.

Couldn't they just leave him be? How much suffering did they want from him? Hadn't he done enough to pay for his part in Cedric's death?

Apparently he hadn't, because it was then that Professor Snape walked through the door.

"Headmaster? You wanted to see me?"

Harry quickly made it to his feet, his back abruptly straight; his face completely devoid of any obvious emotions.

He quietly found secret pleasure in seeing his head of house staring at him with open mouthed amazement, but he kept it to himself.

"Ah yes, Severus. Thank you for joining us," Dumbledore said, waving him to a seat in-between Harry and Professor McGonagall.

Harry remained standing until Professor Snape found his seat, and then he took his seat once more. He ignored the look of amusement on Dumbledore's face, the look of bewilderment on McGonagall's face, and the stiff look of indifference on Professor Snape's face.

Dumbledore laid out most of the issue for Professor Snape, with McGonagall cutting in every so often to add her two cents, while Professor Snape merely sat and listened, a sneer permanently affixed upon his pale face.

"And then he said—," McGonagall cut herself off, flustered as how to describe what Harry had said. She finally settled for stealing one of Dumbledore's quills and writing the offensive word down, before thrusting the scrap piece of paper at Professor Snape.

Harry watched the exchange carefully in quiet amusement, and thought he saw a brief look of something similar cross his surly looking professor's face.

"Why, Minerva," Professor Snape spoke with mock surprise, "I had no idea you even had heard of the word 'cocksucker.'"

Harry couldn't help it, he snorted at Professor Snape's words and his head of house's resulting angry expression.

"Do you have something to add to this monumental waste of my time as well, Mr Potter?" Professor Snape said icily, turning to look at him with an extremely unpleasant expression on his face.

"No sir," Harry answered swiftly, his eyes wide.

"I sincerely apologize, sir. It won't happen again sir."

He felt, more than heard, his professor let out a low grunt as he turned back around, causing him to miss the look that passed between his head of house and the headmaster.

Harry thought it a definite possibility that he might get expelled at some point that year, but he was ready for that if necessary. If that happened, he would just kill his uncle with muggle means instead of magic. It wasn't particularly an uplifting thought, but at least he was prepared for it.

"Why exactly have I been called in to help deal with one of your house problems, Minerva?" He dimly heard Professor Snape asking McGonagall, breaking him out of his darker thoughts.

"Oddly enough, I would not have believed it, given your histories, but for whatever reason, Mr. Potter seems to be only responding to you, Severus," Professor McGonagall said, clearly mystified.

"Only because he knows what will happen if he tries anything of the likes with me," Professor Snape said, with a dark growl.

Harry didn't visibly react, but he still got a chill down his spine with his professor's words. He honestly hadn't thought that Snape would be called in on for an inter-house situation with him, but he supposed that it was what he got for underestimating the tenacity of Professor Dumbledore's will.

"What do you suggest as a course of action for him, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, bringing Professor Snape's attention back to front.

"Punishment, of course," Professor Snape said matter-of-factly.

"Any specific suggestions?"

Professor Snape was quiet for a moment while contemplating the situation. Then he turned to glance at Harry briefly before turning his attention back to the headmaster's concerned visage.

"I'm sure I can think of something," He said with a grim expression.

"And his sleeping situation?" McGonagall asked tersely.

"Put him back in his dorm. If he won't stay, stick him to the bed. Honestly, Minerva," He snarled with an exasperated look at her.

HS

If it had been for any other student, Severus might have been inclined to be more amused than anything with the situation he had been dragged into. As it was, he was simply furious at both Minerva's ineptitude and also the headmaster's insipid attempts at disciplining the apathetic excuse for a boy. So when he left the office with one bedraggled looking waif in tow, he was not in any kind of mood for being interrupted or bothered.

Before him, students scattered and other professors simply avoided looking at him or his victim—er, student. He didn't care that it was lunchtime or that Potter likely had another class to attend, or that he was being asked to waste some of the precious few hours he had open amongst his overstuffed schedule.

All he cared about was the fact that those goody goody Gryffindors couldn't stomach dishing out harsh enough discipline, and instead had handed it off to him—the more or less ex-death eater Slytherin head of house.

Yes, because Slytherins are used to dealing with inexplicable evilness. He would have rolled his eyes at the utter absurdity of it all, but he hadn't wanted to spare the energy for such idiocy.

If they couldn't handle what needed to be done to put the boy in line, then he'd do it, and he'd do it in such a way that Potter would likely never forget.

They turned down the hallway leading to one of the private laboratories he had on hand for his 6th and 7th year students to work on for experiments. The air turned foul as soon as they were only a few steps down, but Severus didn't hear any kind of sound from Potter; something he hadn't thought possible before then.

Just wait, his mind thought with an almost gleeful maliciousness.

The particular laboratory that they were headed to was one that had suffered an explosion of incredibly smelly proportions. Furthermore, the purplish-brown gunk that his students had inadvertently created smelled inexplicably horrible; causing more than one student serving detention down there to accidentally lose the contents of their stomach—in turn, helping to further add to the smell.

As if that weren't bad enough in and of itself alone, the gunk was stuck hard to nearly every surface in there—ceilings, walls, you name it. Thus far they had only managed to remove the goo using physical means: scrapers and ice picks sharpened with magic that, in any other circumstances, would slice through nearly anything.

The goop seemed to have no end of nasty surprises associated with it. In addition to all of the other difficulties that it had created for Severus, it also was a serious danger, in that it was toxic to human skin; literally burning any flesh that it came in contact with. Unfortunately, the creators of the failed potion had learned that when the explosion had initially taken place. Luckily none of his Slytherins had been involved, but as it was, two Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff had sustained injuries of excessively painful proportions—if the screams Severus had heard all the way from the other side of the dungeons had been any indication.

The extent and seriousness of those three students' injuries had forced Poppy to have them transferred to St. Mungos; where they had undergone several painful treatments in order to replace the skin—and some bone in one girl's case—that had literally melted away.

Severus, after several weeks of being awakened by nightmares in which those screams had played the grisly background soundtrack for, was now working for a way to remedy the situation; hopefully by discovering some kind of neutralizing agent with which to either vanquish the muck more safely, or at the very least, more easily.

It was that room to which Severus was taking the boy. Ever since the accident (which had occurred in the last month of the previous school year), he had been using the room for dealing with serious discipline problems. After all, having his students clean cauldrons simply didn't compare with the ghastliness of working on the goop.

HSHS

The room that his professor stopped in front of was unfortunately the one where the disgusting smell was emanating from. The smell was more than offensive; it was completely rank and horrible, reminding Harry a great deal of the way his bed had smelled at the end of the previous summer.

No, I will not think about that!

He swallowed his bile and stilled his insides, turning his face to the stone that he had presented his uncle with all summer long.

Nothing can touch me; I'm not real—I don't exist!

He was simply an observer to the horrors that went on unchecked around him. His experiences were merely punishment for accidentally having been the one to live when the hero had died. Fate had fucked up, and now he had to pay the price.

"Notice that there is no door for this room. It was taken off when I realized just how high the toxicity of the fumes could get with no ventilation," Professor Snape told him in a dangerously low voice.

"This is a failed experiment that some of my upper years managed to create by accident. It goes beyond any explosion of mere Longbottom proportions. The product created is extremely toxic to human skin; meaning that you should not, under any circumstances, touch the stuff with your bare hands. Do you understand me, Potter ?" The man asked him sharply; piercing through his thoughts with his voice, as well as the intensity of his eyes.

"Yes sir," He said seriously, looking intently back into his professor's face.

The man made him put on a pair of dragon hide gloves before handing him some kind of scraper and what looked like an ice pick.

"These have been sharpened using magic; so do not touch these unless you are wearing the gloves."

Last of all, the man flicked his wand and muttered something too low for Harry to pick out, but the effect was obvious, as Harry soon had a pair of tight fitting goggles and a face mask of some configuration now covering his nose and mouth.

"Do you see the space that is free of the potion here on the floor, Potter?"

He looked down where his professor was pointing and saw a space of approximately two feet by two and a half—roughly—scratched out on the floor directly next to the doorway.

"Yes sir," He said, his voice muffled by the mask.

"It took three students a total of two weeks, working in every spare moment of their schedules, to clear that much. Do you understand me Potter?" The man stated; a smirk appearing on his face as Harry realized the sheer enormity of the task before him.

"You have been excused from attending all of your classes, except mine, for the next two weeks. You will still be expected to keep up with your homework though," The man smirked snarkily at him.

"Let's see if you can't do any better, shall we?" Snape said, turning around and sauntering away.

"Oh, and if you decide not to work, I will know and you will regret it," He called out to him before he left the hallway completely.

Harry looked back to the dark violet creation that coated nearly every surface in the room and narrowed his eyes in stubbornness.

I'll show him what I can do, and he'll see.

He wondered if he could possibly figure out a way to help rid the room of the mess with some kind of potion. He and Blaise had been writing notes back and forth all summer to help beef up their knowledge of potions in hopes of doing better that year in Snape's class, which was rumored to be impossibly difficult.

He took a step forwards into the space cleared out by the previous victims of the impossible detention, and knelt down, determined to show his professor just how tough he really was.

HSHSHS

After not seeing Harry at either breakfast or lunch, Hermione had sucked up her courage and asked Professor McGonagall about him.

The look that came over her head of house's face was a cross between completely exasperated and furious, telling Hermione that her hunch was right in some way. Harry was in some kind of trouble.

Well, after what he was like in Transfiguration this morning, who can blame Professor McGonagall for getting angry?

"Mr Potter," Professor McGonagall said with a sharp emphasis on his name, "is currently indisposed, and will continue to be so for another few weeks."

"Is he okay?" Hermione asked anxiously.

Professor McGonagall shot her an undecipherable look before answering.

"More or less, I should think. He is in a lot of trouble and is currently serving out a series of detentions with Professor Snape," She said.

"May I ask as to what he did to get into trouble?" She pressed, knowing that she was likely annoying her professor, but not wanting to let it drop at just that.

"No, you may not," McGonagall retorted sharply, looking over her glasses at her.

And that was that. Hermione left her feeling a bit dejected, but still dedicated to finding out what was wrong with her friend.

That night she entered the common room to find Ron seated in one of the armchairs nearest the fire. The mornings and evenings had already turned crisp and cool, even though it was only the first week of school, promising what was likely to be a bitterly cold winter.

"Ron! I've been looking everywhere for you!" She exclaimed, running to his side.

"Well here I am," her boyfriend said with a crooked, yet tired smile.

"Where have you been all day?" She said, trying to pry him for details.

"Potter put me in the infirmary," He said; speaking blandly as though he were merely commenting on the weather.

In comparison, Hermione's reactionary shout was far over the top.

"He WHAT?" She screeched, causing the few people in the common room to all turn and stare at her in bewilderment.

"Don't worry. Madam Pomfrey has assured me that I will still be able to produce heirs," he said, still calmly smiling that odd half smile. "Weasleys are of course known for their hardy sperm."

"Oh my god!" She exclaimed, finally understanding what had happened.

"How do you feel?"

"Not much at the moment; she's got me somewhat numbed from about the waist down."

"What happened? Did it happen last night? Is that why neither of you were at breakfast?" She babbled anxiously at him, while absentmindedly stroking her hand over his chest.

"Potter wasn't at breakfast?" He asked, a frown coming over his face.

"No, he wasn't. He wasn't at lunch or dinner either," She said worriedly, speaking at a much lowered volume.

"Yeah, it happened last night. The fucker attacked me after I wouldn't let him just keep ignoring me. He came up behind me; can you believe that 'Mione?"

Actually she couldn't believe it, but she knew better than to say so.

"And then the git cast petrificus totalus on me, before proceeding to stomp on my boys," He growled angrily to her.

On his boys ? She thought somewhat hysterically in her mind, but kept that outburst to herself as well.

"Oh my poor Ron!" She gushed instead, pulling his face towards her and kissing him gently.

HSHSHSHS

The room was spinning in front of his eyes by the time a house elf finally brought him dinner. Harry was only able to eat a few bites before pushing the rest away, afraid he would puke the little he had managed to keep down. He put the bread in a pocket of his robes for later and drank all of his pumpkin juice; purposely not thinking about anything, just existing in a mindless state. Then he went back to the insanely difficult project that he had been given by Professor Snape, and tried to get back into the groove he had been in before stopping.

The crud—as he had finally decided on calling it in his mind—was simply awful in every way imaginable. It wasn't just dried on, it was stuck on. It didn't classify as being dried on because the stuff wasn't dry. It moved and gurgled, and every so often, it let out a belch of putrid smelling air. The first time that had happened, he had scrambled backwards in fear; irrationally—or perhaps simply cautiously—afraid that it was coming to life out of anger towards him and his meddling.

Nothing like that had happened, and he had ended up feeling somewhat foolish for his reaction, but he really couldn't help the fact that the crud's movement and actions were slightly more sentient than he would have preferred.

The work itself was one step below mindless, but not quite stimulating enough to be interesting. He had tried to keep his mind on at first, but the smell kept invading his senses, reminding him of that crusty old mattress that was probably still sitting in his room at the Dursleys, just waiting for his return so it could add to its own collection of gross injustices.

And since he was not thinking about that, and he couldn't seem to get his brain to think on any other subjects—certainly not with any kind of reliability—his only recourse was to simply drift away into the place he had gone, so to speak, during the time that he was pointedly not thinking of.

It was a horrible paradox to even consider, so he didn't, but he was afraid that his mind would try to analyze it later when it was functioning more or less correctly once more.

During the summer he had classified it as a state of mental bleakness; a wasteland of nothingness that had filled his mouth and ears with its inextricable pounding, buzzing despair over what was not and what could never be. He was barely even an observer, but felt himself more to be like a vessel of sensations—mostly pain, followed closely by shame for what was happening to him.

He was rather thankful that Snape hadn't allowed him a chance to eat lunch. He would have thrown it up within the first ten minutes, he felt certain.

Now he was bent over on the floor once more, prying, pulling and chiseling the crud out of the cracks of the cold stone; actions which reminded him of weeding in an odd sort of way. The crud, like the hard floor that was slowly reducing his knees to pulp, was frigid to the touch, even through the dragon hide gloves that Snape had given him to work in. It was a bit counterintuitive really, that the stuff was so flexible and yet so very, very cold too. Harry had never seen anything like it before, and he hoped to Merlin that he never did again either.

And if that weren’t already bad enough, he also had to be careful about the way he moved and positioned himself, since some of the contusions from the last weeks of summer had yet to fade from his back and thighs and chest. Every time he moved, whether it be inching forwards because of his minute progress, or sitting up to relieve a sudden muscle cramp, had to be done slowly and delicately, lest he further aggravate an already existing injury.

An hour after his so-called "dinner," he abruptly pulled off his gloves and mask, and hurriedly pushed himself into the hallway; all so that he could he could spit out the blood that had come suddenly come up from his stomach.

My so-called stomach, he thought tiredly as he vanished the mess with his wand.

At least it isn't mixed with anything white, he thought with a shudder.

Then he went back to where he had been and started it all up again.

HSHSHSHSHS

Snape didn't forget about the Potter boy, but he didn't feel the need to visit him either. The presence of his wards there in the room and the hallway meant that he didn't need to check up on him physically unless something went wrong. Besides, the smell of that room was truly rank, reminding him strongly of the way a room smelled following a Death Eaters' torture session of some innocent soul.

It was an odor that was tinged with the reminders of a victim's impinging death: the stench of the bowels as they released; the smell of old blood mixing with new; all combining with the dank chill of the room—cold sweat, rotting offal, moldy hunkered forms in the corner slowly decomposing—these were the images that the offensive odor of the goop in that room had managed to bring up for him.

In a way, the gunk was almost worse than the presence of a Dementor; at least when the Dementor went away, it was gone. But the goop was different, even after separating one's self from its all encompassing presence, the smell was still there, eliciting those same foul memories that he would have just as easily preferred never to have had experienced in the first place, let alone remember so many years after .

But what could he do? It was his way of atonement for inadvertently causing the death of his sweet Lily. It was a punishment that had to be borne by him and him alone.

He hadn't told Albus about the extent of the horrors that arose for him from that smell, but he knew that the old man understood some of how the room affected him regardless. Albus was simply annoying like that; one needed not to tell the man what was going on inside his or her own heart, but rather how his or her actions were going to be affected as a result of one's internal state of being.

With a sigh that he would only permit himself to give voice to in the privacy of his own quarters, Severus stood up and made his way out the door to collect the dratted Potter brat. He had only turned the corner of the hallway when he saw the latter half of Potter's flinch and then become still once more.

When he was within ten paces of the Gryffindor, the boy turned and looked at him calmly from where he was crouched on the floor.

"Good evening, professor," The lad nodded to him calmly.

The teenager's face was drawn and bloodless, but the boy's eyes were as clear as ever as they peered icily up at him.

He did not return the lad's pleasantries—but then again, why should he?

"It's time to adjourn for the evening. Leave your tools here. I shall escort you back to your dorm," He tersely informed the boy.

"Yes sir. Thank you for doing this, sir." Potter said, standing up after removing the protections from his hands and face, and putting them down next to where he had laid the tools, just outside the doorway proper.

"This?" He couldn't help but ask.

"Keeping me safe," Was the mystifying answer.

Severus didn't have a proper reply for that, so he merely said nothing. Thus they spent the entire walk to the Gryffindor tower in silence, with only one exception. Shortly before arriving at the Fat Lady's portrait, Potter turned to him and spoke.

"Sir, what time should I report to the room in the morning?" The teen asked in a serious tone.

"Nine o'clock."

His words were met with a mild look of confusion, but they were not questioned. Against his better judgment he decided to explain anyways.

"The hour was pushed back so that you would have a chance to work on your homework."

"Thank you sir," Potter said with a nod of his head.

It had not been his idea, but he nodded back regardless. If the boy wanted to thank him, he would let him. He would not dissuade gratitude, especially not from this boy.

Just before the boy had shut the portrait, he called out to him with an admonishment that he would see him at breakfast or else. The Gryffindor fifth year had nodded before wishing him a pleasant evening.

He could not help but snort at the ludicrousness of the idea. He waited until the portrait door was closed and then took his leave of the tower. He debated with himself about whether he should wait for the boy just to sneak out again, but he decided in the end to leave that particular battle to Minerva.

Chapter Text

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Draco asked Blaise, as he flopped next to him on the couch in the Slytherin common room. 

"Ah Draco; always so eloquent and subtle in all of your interactions," Blaise replied sarcastically.

The blond haired teen made an unpleasant face at him.

"I can afford to have an off day once in a while," Draco groused.

"Then by your reasoning," Pansy said, wandering over into the conversation and depositing herself on the couch opposite them, "You've been having an off day every day so far this year."

"Who asked you?" Draco whined at her.

"Me actually," Millicent stated covetously as she too wandered over and sat next to Pansy, flinging an arm around the other girl as she did so.

"Can we stop talking about me, and turn the focus back on the mess that Blaise is slowly turning into before our eyes?" Draco said, making them look back to the boy who was now cradling his head in his hands in mortified embarrassment.

"Thanks a lot, Draco," he muttered.

"No problem," Draco said with a sharp grin, slapping the other boy on the back as he did so.

"For real," Pansy said, sounding honestly worried.

Blaise looked up at her, the confusion clearly visible on his face.

"Why are you staring at me like that, Blaise?" Pansy asked, scooting closer to her girlfriend.

"You sounded really human just then," He said, breaking into a grin as the two girls began scowling fiercely at him. From beside him, he heard Draco snort his opinion of the situation, and he leaned back satisfied.

Later, after the girls had departed off to do things he didn't really want to know much about, Draco turned to him, a concerned expression on his face.

"Okay, spill," He demanded seriously.

"Say again?" Blaise asked casually.

"What's wrong?" Draco asked, pushing past Blaise's denial easily.

"Nothing," Blaise said with a shrug, looking away from the piercing quality of the silver eyes that were now staring at the side of his face.

"Bullshit."

"Trust me; you don't want to know," Blaise said, still speaking calmly.

"You're my friend."

"I thought that you didn't have friends," Blaise said, turning back to look at Draco.

"I'm a dumbarse."

"Can I have that in writing?" Blaise retorted, raising an eyebrow.

"Git," Was the response.

"What made you change your mind?" Blaise asked.

"My father did, actually."

Blaise looked at Draco in surprise. Publicly, the Malfoys got along perfectly, as any high upstanding pureblood family ought to, but in private it was a different affair. Draco despised his father with a loathing almost as vehement as Blaise's own, although he was fairly positive that the reasons were not the same.

"How did he do that?" Blaise asked curiously.

"He said that he approved of my behavior."

Blaise looked at his friend in disbelief before snorting in amusement; the sound soon leading to full out giggles that he had trouble reigning in.

"Only you, Draco," He said breathlessly, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief carefully.

"Such is the life of a Malfoy," Draco answered smoothly, sending them both into long peals of laughter that time.

Finally they both calmed down, after getting the attention of nearly the entire common room during their impromptu laughing session.

"So as my friend, I can tell you what is bothering me without fear of reprisal, repercussions or being committed to the crazy ward over at St. Mungo's?" Blaise asked carefully.

Draco nodded seriously at him, his gray eyes never leaving Blaise's worried face.

"Let's go to your room. I don't want anyone accidentally overhearing anything," He said with a sneer around him.

Draco, being a prefect that year, was blessed with his own room, which also came with a bathroom. Blaise was more than a little envious; especially since he had gotten stuck with Theodore Nott as a roommate that year. Crabbe and Goyle's parents had taken them out of Hogwarts, and they were now supposedly attending Durmstrang. However, Blaise's contacts at that school had yet to actually see the two boys; meaning that while their locations were anyone's guess, it was still most likely that they had just joined the ranks of the Death Eaters.

The thought of which still made him sick to his stomach.

Ted was okay as a roommate, but the two of them weren't particularly close. They were, thankfully, both fairly studious individuals—something that made sense to Blaise, especially as they were still both there at Hogwarts.

Draco waved a hand towards one of his two armchairs, and Blaise sat down while Draco did the same in the one opposite him.

"I became really close to someone over the summer, and now I'm worried about him."

"Him?" Draco repeated. "Friend or more?"

"Friend."

"Does he know this?" Draco asked in concern.

"Very much so," Blaise reassured him.

"Just checking," Draco said, raising his hands in defense of himself.

"Yeah." Blaise said quietly.

"So you're concerned about a friend from this summer," Draco prompted. "Why?"

"He's—," Blaise trailed off, looking at his hands. How could he break Harry's confidence like this?

"Do you want to swear me to a Wizard's Oath?" Draco interjected suddenly.

"Would you?" Blaise asked uncertainly.

"I swear on my magic that I will not speak of anything Blaise Zabini might tell me about his friend," The other boy said formally as a golden sheen lit the space between the two of them, before quickly disappearing; leaving Blaise with a much more secure feeling in his heart.

"He's got it really rough in his home," Blaise said, finally continuing his earlier thought. "He takes a lot of crap from his relatives, but it's more than just emotional and physical abuse. His guardian rapes him three or four times a week." Blaise told the grim faced teen across from him.

"Motherfucking bastard," Draco spat, while Blaise nodded his agreement.

"Not only that, but the fuckers starve him and beat him and generally work him to death; all while telling him he's worthless and how much better off they'd be if he were dead."

Blaise looked back up from the floor to see Draco staring at him with shock clearly etched across his face.

"Why doesn't he complain to someone?" The blond boy whispered.

"He's tried. People don't listen. They only see what they want to see. You know that," Blaise said with a bitter laugh.

"But," Draco said, running his hands through his hair, "Fuck! That's just some sick twisted shit," He exclaimed emotionally.

"And you're the only one who he's been able to really tell about what's going on, right?" Draco added after another painful expanse of silence.

"Yeah," Blaise said, grunting another bark of laughter at the ironies of his life that continued to make themselves known.

Blaise knew from his own experience that asking for help was just about the most terrifying thing you could do, especially when it came to being safe from sexual abuse in your own home. His mother took on lovers about as often as he changed shoe sizes; and for a teenage boy, that was pretty frequent.

Some of his "dads" had been bearable in nature, but others had stolen into his room late at night, intent on stealing his innocence away from him piece by piece until he felt like he was just a hollow shell instead of a real, breathing person.

And out of all people, Professor Snape had been the one to help him. He had noticed how Blaise couldn't seem to relax around other male teachers—including Snape himself. He also had noticed how Blaise had kept sleeping in the common room and how bad his night terrors were.

Professor Snape had noticed and he had helped.

In turn, Blaise felt like he ought to be able to help someone as well; which he had been doing fine with until the beginning of the school year. Somehow, seeing the results of the devastation from that summer in his friend's changed face and demeanor had made it all come crashing back down on him, and he knew that he couldn't possibly hope to hold it all in on his own for another year.

It only made it worse knowing that he would get no help from Dumbledore, since it was the old man's fault that Harry was in that place to begin with. And as much as he liked and trusted his head of house, he knew that Snape would never listen to him regarding the seriousness of Harry's predicament. His issues with Potter Senior simply ran too deep. Blaise knew that it would take some kind of life changing event to occur between the two of them before they ever got over their issues with one another—particularly in regards to Snape. Harry was willing to try, but Severus was another story altogether.

All of this frustrated him so much that he was the bearer of so much painful knowledge, and yet he still couldn't do anything about it!

"Would Severus be able to help the situation any?"

"Probably, if he wanted to," Blaise hitched a breath in.

"Why wouldn't he want to?" Draco's voice was hard, his eyes calculating.

Blaise knew that Draco saw Severus very much as a mentor and also as a father figure. To Draco, Severus could do anything, and if he couldn't—or wouldn't, as Blaise suspected would be the case here—then there had to be a very good reason for it.

"Well, for starters my friend isn't a Slytherin," Blaise stated tentatively.

"I didn't think he could be. Severus would have found out about a situation like that eons ago," Draco reasoned out, his eyes shining with admiration.

"But Severus would still help a student in trouble, regardless of house affiliation, provided that it wasn't Pot—," Draco trailed off as Blaise looked at him directly, before turning away with a hysterical laugh, his throat catching as he started to cry.

"Fuck." Draco said, realization dawning. He stood up and turned away, his hands crossed behind his head.

"FUCK!" He yelled at the wall, before dropping into silence only tempered with the sounds of Blaise's ragged breathing and occasional sniffles.

Draco turned back to his friend a few minutes later and pulled him out of his chair into a hug. Blaise really lost control then, and bawled like a baby instead of the big fifteen year-old he was. Draco had taken on the problem. Draco could work miracles. Draco could fix things.

Blaise wasn't alone anymore.

"Well, Severus is always telling us that our point of view isn't the only right way of looking at the world," Draco whispered into Blaise's ear after he had calmed down enough to listen.

"I guess we'll just have to make Severus see that now, huh Blaise," Draco said, escorting the worn out boy to his room and even tucking him in.

"You are a good friend, Draco," Blaise said, as Draco spelled off the lights and set the wards against anyone entering the room besides Ted.

Draco tipped an imaginary hat to him and grinned, but didn't say anything as he finally left Blaise to his own tired thoughts.

HS

Harry stood just inside the door to the Gryffindor tower with a thoughtful look upon his tired face. He knew that if he wanted to get a restful night, then he couldn't sleep in the tower. However, on the other hand, he knew that if he didn't want to get into any more trouble, or reduce Professor Snape's opinion of him any farther, then he'd have to stay in the tower.

Maybe I could do homework first and then sleep?

It wasn't the most pleasant of concepts. One of the things he needed to do soon was to perfect his use of wards to use to protect himself while he was unconscious. He'd have to see if he couldn't grab a chance to speak with Blaise the next day—or as ludicrous as it sounded, maybe just write him a letter via owl. It seemed insane that even though they were technically at the same place, he still couldn't speak to him face to face.

And then a thought dawned on him, nearly causing him to laugh out loud with the relief of it. Thankfully, it was after midnight and the common room was already empty for once.

Probably because it's so early in the school year; people haven't gotten so behind on their homework yet as to need to stay up all hours of the day just to get it completed.

He quickly cast a scouring charm over himself first; lest he attract attention by the rank odor still emanating from his body and clothing. Speaking of clothing—he looked around once again to reassure himself that he was actually alone, before taking out his trunk and unshrinking it. He grabbed a set of clean clothes and quickly changed right there, before stuffing his dirty ones back in and pulling out his invisibility cloak.

He then shrunk his trunk once more, slipped it in his inner pocket, and put the cloak over his head. He took a moment to revel in the feeling that he was safe when he was invisible, before quickly looking for a spot out of the way that he could call his home for the night.

Ah, there, he thought with a grim smile of satisfaction as he spotted a far, out of the way corner away from both the girl's and the boy's staircases. He made his way over there—having to climb over an armchair in the process, before finally hunkering down on his side, his arms covering his mid-section protectively, with his back to the wall. He cast a few warming charms and the strongest silencing charms he knew, before setting an alarm to wake himself at five o'clock that morning.

It was just barely more than four hours of sleep, but he'd take what he could get if he knew that he could be safe while getting it.

Besides, a short restful sleep is better than a long worried one, he reasoned out to himself as he closed his eyes.

It wasn't long before he was completely unconscious.

HSHS

Severus wasn't expecting to be woken early the next morning by two of his Slytherin fifth years.

He especially wasn't expecting one of those fifth years to be his own beloved godson, but when he opened the door, that's who it was, along with an unusually dour looking Blaise Zabini.

"Come in, boys," He said, looking curiously at them.

They were two of his better potions' students; particularly now, with so many of his upper years openly defecting to the Dark Lord's side by transferring to Durmstrang—something that he found himself blaming Albus for more and more as time went on.

After offering them tea—as was his custom for his colleagues and students of his own house—which they both accepted, they took seats and Severus asked them what was wrong.

For it was clear that something was wrong; something he could see in part from their expressions, and partially because neither boy—so far as he knew—had ever voluntarily been up before 6 in the morning.

He saw Draco glance at Blaise with a questioning expression, and he noted Blaise's subtle nod in the affirmative.

How odd it was for his godson to be looking to another student for permission, he mused to himself.

"We have a problem," Draco said, speaking slowly, moving his eyes back and forth between Blaise and himself.

"I would hardly think otherwise, given your faces."

His godson smirked a bit at that, but Blaise continued to glower darkly as though he hadn't even heard his head of house speak. It set Severus's gut on edge; something he tried to hide with another sip of tea.

Although he would never admit to having such, Blaise was one of his favorite students—apart from Draco, whom he had known for a far greater amount of time.

Blaise, for all of his deep and concerning home troubles, was typically a bright and energetic young man; seemingly intent on changing the world's opinion of Slytherins as dark and brooding future Death Eaters.

This complete turnabout in behavior reminded Severus greatly of an earlier time in Blaise's school career, when his demons had nearly become unmanageable. It had been that struggle which had brought them together initially.

If this situation was serious enough to warrant that kind of expression on his student's face, then he was prepared to be very worried indeed.

"Blaise made friends with someone outside of the Slytherin house at the end of last year." Draco continued, still speaking very deliberately. "And managed to keep up a correspondence with this friend all summer," Draco paused, looking at Blaise once again. And again, Severus saw Blaise give that small nod.

Severus couldn't help but be intrigued.

"Well," Draco paused, looking down at his tea, before setting it down on the small table in between them. "Blaise has learned some stuff about his friend's home life that has caused him to worry about his friend's safety there and now here as well."

"Is that true, Blaise?" Severus asked, putting his now empty tea mug down as well, and turning to the morose looking teen.

"It's a bloody understatement," Blaise muttered, before looking up at Severus apologetically.

"I'm sorry sir. Yes, it's true."

"No need for proper etiquette in here, remember?"

"Yes si—Severus," Blaise said, with a small grim smile.

"Have you thought about going to this person's head of house?" Severus asked calmly.

"Thought about it, but I—well, neither of us thinks it will do any good," Blaise said, speaking again with no interruptions from Draco.

"Why not?"

Again, the two boys in front of him exchanged glances. He was beginning to wish that they'd just come out and say it, but he knew that they couldn't if they wanted to be careful about the student's identity.

"Because it's been going on for quite a while, and she—er—he or she has yet to do anything about it. Sorry, Blaise," Draco said, with a chagrined look.

Blaise merely rolled his eyes and waved him off, before turning back to Severus.

She? The mystery student's head of house is female? Blaise made friends with a Hufflepuff or a Gryffindor?

Severus knew that his snakes made friends outside their own house from time to time, but rarely with either of the two houses mentioned, especially the latter.

"Would you classify the student's situation as an abusive one, Blaise?" Severus asked, his face becoming very serious.

Blaise laughed a hysterical sound, causing both Severus and Draco to peer at him in concern.

"He's trying to help, Blaise," Draco said soothingly, scooting close enough to Blaise to squeeze his shoulder gently.

Severus was very worried now; not only for the mystery student, but also for his own student. He knew that only very serious situations caused Blaise to react in such a way; usually indicating that Blaise felt the situation to be hopeless or too far out of control to be fixed.

"Draco is correct," He found himself murmuring softly to the increasingly distraught boy in front of him. "I need to know how serious this situation is before becoming involved in another house's affairs."

Blaise put his head in his hands and rolled it from side to side.

"Would you help even if it turned out that you disliked this student?" He burst out suddenly, staring Severus in the eye with a piercingly hard glare.

"Abuse is abuse, Blaise. I should think you would know my feelings on that," He said, ignoring the sudden confusion that appeared on his godson's face.

Blaise looked away, staring at a spot on the far wall that presumably only he could see.

"It's abuse all right," He whispered, still staring intensely at that far spot. "Every kind possible, plus some," He continued quietly enough that Severus had strain to hear him, even though he was sitting within arm's reach of the boy.

"Every kind, Blaise?" Severus asked sharply, feeling sick to his stomach.

Blaise turned back to look straight into Severus's face.

"Every kind, Severus; including the worst kind," The boy spat out bitterly.

Severus sat back in his chair, steepling his fingers as he did so, and thought about what he had been told.

A student—in either Hufflepuff or Gryffindor—has been experiencing untold amounts of abuse for the past four years and no one has done anything about it. Plus, Blaise indicated sexual abuse of a serious level as well; so why has no one noticed?

It frustrated him to no end that either Minerva or Pomona had missed such an obvious case.

But you're also to blame. Blaise says that it is a student I dislike; could it be that I dislike this student enough to overlook the signs?

It made his stomach twist to consider that he might have put his personal feelings above the physical welfare of one of his students.

He was not a well-liked man, but was not bothered by that. However, he did pride himself on providing his students with the basic tools to succeed—if only they bothered to try—and one of those tools was allowing them all to grow up in safe environments.

"Damn," He muttered under his breath.

One of their most seriously abused students had gone on to become the Dark Lord; a monster hell bent on taking apart their world piece by piece. One Dark Lord was enough for Severus Snape; he wasn't sure if he could handle two such entities.

Across from him, while he had been thinking, he realized that his two fifth years had been discussing something intensely, given the flushed expressions on both their faces.

"Tell him who it is," Draco whispered to Blaise forcefully.

"None of this is going to matter when he finds out who it is. Come on, Draco; you know how much he hates him," Blaise whispered pleadingly back.

Severus pondered that latest slip of information carefully. He couldn't think of a single boy—or girl for that matter—in Hufflepuff whom he despised enough to actually call it 'hate'. There were, however, more than a couple candidates for that description who resided in Gryffindor.

"Blaise, I had thought that you trusted me more than this," He chided softly, breaking into their conversation.

Blaise looked chagrined at his words, but underlying that shame, Severus could see a wild desperation attempting to gnaw its way through Blaise's careful control of himself.

"Severus," Blaise said, his voice creaking ever so slightly, "I don't think that I can trust you with this. I'm the only one he trusts and has been able to tell. If you use the information only to make it worse for him, then I think—no, I know that it will push him over the edge. And then not only will you have failed him, but I'll have failed him too."

Blaise stood up, his hands clenched in fists.

"When you say that it 'will push him over the edge,' what do you mean precisely?" Severus asked, as he fought against his inclination to go and embrace the now trembling boy.

"He's not afraid of the consequences of his actions as it is already, Severus. His regular life is too horrible. If he loses what's left of his morality, he's going to start killing people," The boy forecasted; his eyes dark amongst the bitter emotions flickering across his face.

It was a serious judgment on his student's part; worse yet, he knew that Blaise was not one to idly make threats unless he had actually been given a reason—or more—to believe that such things were true.

"Severus," Draco interjected then, as he stood beside his friend. "He doesn't have anything left to lose," The boy said, speaking very pointedly to him.

Severus made his decision and stood up, crossing the few steps over to where the two boys were still standing.

"Boys, sit down next to me, please."

It was a voice that allowed for no argument. The boys sat—one on each side of him.

"Provided that you are absolutely certain about the validity of these claims, then it behooves me and this mystery boy that I should listen to your concerns about him. I am the last of the Snape line, and I am glad of it. If the Dark Lord had not murdered my father, I likely would have taken the task on upon my own shoulders."

The boys didn't answer, but he could feel them each nodding next to him. Yes, they knew how one could come to feel such feelings about kin.

"What I'm about to say I had not planned on saying for some time—if ever—but I think that under the circumstances, it is appropriate. I think of you two as my family," He paused to allow the shock to sink in, and then continued. "If this is something that bothers you so very much, then I will take it upon myself not to approach the situation in my typical manner towards this boy."

That was more emotional sentimentalism than he had expended in the past five years. He hoped that his boys appreciated it.

Apparently they did, as suddenly both boys had their arms around him—Blaise hugging him around the middle and Draco hanging onto his shoulders from the other side. All he could do was pat their shoulders awkwardly from the position he was in and wait for their individual storms to pass; so he could get on with his routine of saving the world from whatever tortured soul was disturbing the peace that week.

He scowled at himself for that ridiculous thought, but removed it from his face before the two fifth years sat up.

"My friend is a Gryffindor," Blaise started out softly, hugging himself tightly as he said the dreaded words.

Severus squeezed his shoulders in affirmation that he was prepared to handle the boy's next statement.

"Severus—it's Harry, Harry Potter."

Blaise looked at him with wide frightened eyes as the words sunk in.

Chapter Text

 

Harry bloody Potter?

Severus blinked and then gathered the boy next to him into a tight one-armed hug.

Blaise trembled violently next to his side for a full two minutes until he realized that Severus wasn't letting go.

"You aren't angry?" Came the whispered question directly into his ear.

"At you?"

A nod.

"Never," Severus said with emphasis.

"Will you help him?"

Severus, for all of his anger at Potter Senior, had finally started to see that the dead man's son was not nearly the same kind of person. And this immense revolutionary shock that his boys had literally just dumped in his lap merely helped confirm that growing belief.

"Yes," He said in a deep voice a few moments later.

Draco smiled at him and at Blaise as well, but Blaise merely buried his head further into Severus's torso in an effort to soak up as much reassurance as he could get from the older man.

Severus smirked at him, suddenly amused with the image of a Blaise as a cat or perhaps as a niffler.

"Come boys," He said a bit later on. "You need to go off and get ready, so that in turn, can get ready for what is likely to be a long and trying day."

"Bye Severus," They both said within moments of each other after he had walked them to the door. Blaise had not let go of him until the door had opened, leaving him and Draco smirking at one another in a shared moment of amusement.

And then he was alone, staring at the door while his mind dared to contemplate the monstrous changes he was going to have to make in just his thought processes alone.

Not to mention trying to figure out how to fix the whole damn thing.

Plus, he would also have to deal with Dumbledore at some point—how could a man that wise be so hideously obtuse?

For he didn't doubt the truth of what they had told him; there were very few in the world that he trusted more than the two boys that had just left. They were young, but they were not innocent to the horrors that the world possessed. They were a touch inexperienced, and more than a little wanting of acceptance and love from someone older than them, but they were not prone to making mistakes in terms of what they believed about the people around them.

If they believed that Harry bloody Potter was a victim of serious and ongoing abuse, then he was. It was as simple as that.

Now all he had to do was allow himself to see it as well.

Again his mind wandered back to an earlier thought: Could it be that his dislike—or hatred as they had referred to it—had obscured the truth of the boy's suffering from him this entire time? And if that were true, then was it possible—or likely even—that the same was true for other students of his?

These thoughts weighed heavily on his mind as he finished his morning preparations—all the while seeking to develop some kind of action plan for how exactly he was to proceed with his relationship to the Potter boy now.

HS

Upon waking from his position in the corner of the common room, Harry had not stuck around, but instead quickly made his way out the door. He knew that the Quidditch team had a tendency to schedule insanely early practices, and he had no desire whatsoever to see anyone—in particular Ron.

The bastard, he added in his mind with no small amount of bitterness.

Since Professor Snape had insisted that he go to breakfast, he decided that he would just study there as well. True, it was only—he checked the time—twelve after five in the morning, but perhaps he wouldn't be the only one there at that time that morning; and if he was, well, then he could just say he was trying to get a jump start on the day.

Stop thinking; start moving; he admonished himself.

For a moment he feared that McGonagall might have done something idiotic like lock the portrait door against him, but it swung freely open like always, causing him to breathe a sigh of relief in return.

One obstacle down, he thought nervously.

He made it to the Great Hall in record time. He wasn't sure if he ought to be comforted by that or nervous that it had been that easy. Truthfully, he felt more of the latter, but the logical side of his brain wouldn't allow himself to give into that fear.

He sat down at the Gryffindor table at the farthest end from the head table. It was a section of the table that the first years usually sat at, and his choice for seating options was not accidental. He had had very little contact with the first years, and felt that it would be safer for all concerned if he sat with students whom he didn't have any prior history with.

Beyond just my legend, he thought with more than a little animosity.

Above him, the stars shone brightly alongside the moon. It was almost enough to see by, but not quite. Before he had had a chance to do anything about the light situation, a lit candle materialized magically beside him. He jerked with its sudden appearance, but only slightly. He was trying to get that reaction under control, but the first month or so of the new school year was always hard.

And this year is the hardest so far.

The thought was a dark droplet in the bitter waters of the well of his heart. He thought back to that time on the train only a few days before, when he had been with Blaise. It had seemed that it had been the first time in a long time that he had actually smiled—actually laughed.

Would that ever happen again?

He took out his homework, and set to work, alone in the Great Hall with only a solitary candle for company.

I will always be alone.

It wasn't self-pity. It was truth. Did any of it matter anymore? Potions' homework did, in addition to his potions' class. And because his professor expected it of him, he tried to work on the rest of his homework as well.

HSHS

-Not explicit non-con scene-

Ronald Weasley had reached a new point in his development that previous summer. He thought of it as his "Fuck With Everyone" stage. He smiled at the thought as he lay in his bed, cradling Hermione's naked body close to his own. She was asleep.

Of course she is.

He had drugged her evening snack, and snuck her up to his bed for the night.

She wouldn't spend the night with him, but she at least would let him fuck her.

And now she did both.

He smiled.

He was very satisfied with their relationship. He was very satisfied indeed. He had taken her from behind that evening while she had lain unconscious beneath him.

She had bled, and he loved her for it. He would heal her before the next morning—or perhaps he wouldn't.

Wouldn't that be fun?

No, he had to heal her. He could get away with that kind of behavior later, when she no longer questioned her total obedience to his will, but for now, he had to preserve the illusion.

The drug wouldn't wear off for another hour.

He looked at her mouth thoughtfully before making his decision.

It was a wonderful decision.

He drew her body closer to his own and caressed her limp arms.

She was like a goddess in this state. She was his goddess. The only thing he had missed while she had been in this state had been her screams.

They were the stuff of his dreams.

-Non-con warning ends here-

HSHSHS

"Is it okay if I sit here?" A small voice at his right elbow asked tremulously.

He looked up, surprised that the entire hall was now lit. He had really gotten into his essay and hadn't even noticed the appearance of the breakfast dishes which now surrounded him.

He looked down and saw a tiny first year Gryffindor student standing there with a backpack nearly the same size.

Barely aware of it, his face cracked a grin and he gestured at the seat beside him.

"Sure."

"Thanks," The boy said, carefully putting his bag under the bench and climbing up.

Were we that small? Surely not; he scoffed at himself.

Only a few minutes more had passed before the question was asked again—this time from across the table by a little girl, although not quite as small as the first boy had been.

He nodded, giving the same answer.

After the third time it had been asked—diagonally from a boy the same size as the girl—he decided to give up on his homework and actually try to eat something.

Soon after he made that decision, he abruptly became surrounded by at least five or six of them.

"You're all first years?" He asked curiously.

They nodded in the affirmative, looking at him with wide eyes.

"What're your names?" He asked, and got several looks of surprise in return.

"Why do you want to know?" One boy asked bravely.

"'Cause you're Gryffindors and I don't know you yet," He said, leaning forwards a bit.

"Really, Richie!" The girl across from him chided. "Do you have to be so paranoid all of the time? This is Harry Potter!" She said, emphasizing his last name in a way that almost made him want to get up and never come back.

But he restrained himself. They didn't know any better. Maybe he could teach them.

And then if that doesn't work, I'll go with my first impulse, he thought soothingly to himself.

"Hey, Richie?" He said, turning to the suspicious boy. "I apologize for using your first name, but if I knew your last, I'd use it. 'Kay?" He received a stiff nod in return.

"It's Mondon," The boy said tersely.

"Okay. Mondon. And you are?" He said, turning to the girl who had spoken out against Mondon.

"Cynthia Nott," She said with a sniff at the boy beside her.

"Nott—is your brother—?" He asked hesitantly.

"Yes. He's a Slytherin fifth year. Dad was in Slytherin, but Mum was in Ravenclaw," She said very smoothly, keeping her face free of any leading emotions.

"Cool," He said, getting those same looks of surprise once more. "I was almost put in Slytherin myself," He admitted, readying himself for the shock.

He was not disappointed.

He answered their questions easily.  No, he was not a dark wizard. No, Slytherin was not the house of evil, and no that didn't mean that 'all Slytherins were nice,' and so on. It was almost amusing.

"And listen guys—and girls," He said, with a nod to Cynthia and another little girl named Melissa McDunham.

"I might be Harry Potter, but I'm not the Harry Potter," He said, glancing at Mondon as he spoke. "I'm not someone who leads an awesome life, and I don't come by my successes in life easily. In fact, if you want to know the truth, here it is. Dumbledore sent me to my only living relatives after my parents were killed by Voldemort," He paused for the gasps before continuing.

"I know that the last bit is pretty common knowledge, but what most people don't seem to understand is that my muggle relatives despise magic, and my mother's sister despised my mum. So you know what that means?" He looked around at the quiet first years flanking him; a few were nodding, but the rest seemed to be more or less confused. It intrigued him that both Mondon and Cynthia had both nodded in understanding.

"It means that they hate me and wish that I had never been born. Furthermore," He said, pushing past the resultant gasps, "Not only have my relatives sought to beat and work the magic out of me, but they also make sure to remind me as often as possible about how worthless and lousy I am. I didn't even know I was a wizard until I got my letter from Hogwarts."

He got nods from different faces that time; leading him to assume them to be muggleborns. It was a known fact that the Nott family was a pure blood family, and although he hadn't heard of the surname 'Mondon,' the boy's robes were of good quality, possibly even hand-tailored; indicating that the family he hailed from was well off, at the very least.

"So, if you're going to judge someone, do it on their own personal history and not on rumors about them, or worse yet, their family's reputation," He said, eyeballing each of them with that last statement.

"Got me?" He asked.

Silent nods were his only response. After that pronouncement and subsequent warning, the remainder of breakfast was rather subdued.

HSHSHSHS

Severus Snape casually—for him—looked at the Gryffindor table that morning, only to have to look again to confirm that what he had seen was real.

A perplexed feeling came across him as he realized that Pott—erm, no he had to start thinking of him as Harry now, damn it—was sitting with, and talking to the Gryffindor first years.

Could Po—Harry be scheming something that needed their involvement?

It seemed rather unlikely; yet he had already completely fouled up his perception of the boy's character—what was to say he could actually correctly judge anything else about him?

"Are you not at all worried that one of your fifth years has decided to change social groups?" He asked, turning to Minerva.

She looked up startled, before turning back to him with an icy expression on her face.

"I'll remind you that he is still my student, Severus."

He sneered at her. Had she already forgotten yesterday?

"Given that I am now in charge of his discipline, I thought that it would be important for me to be aware of his behaviors, as well as any changes in those routines," He replied in a cold voice.

"If you must know then, Severus," Minerva said with a very distinct sniff of disdain towards him; "Mr. Potter sent Mr. Ronald Weasley to the infirmary not two days ago after they got into a bit of a scuffle."

"And you're just now telling me this?"

"Oh Severus; they're just boys. They do this sort of thing all of the time. It will blow over soon enough," She answered with a stiff glare.

"And if it does not?"

"Hopefully he will learn to mind his temper after spending two weeks with you and your detention."

Why is she not answering my question?

"What is Mr. Weasley's position on why the fight occurred?"

"Says that Mr. Potter attacked him from behind."

"Did you believe him?"

She fixed him with another hard look with that question.

"As a matter of fact, no, I did not entirely."

"And your reasoning was—?"

"The students who heard the fight said that they were yelling at one another initially."

"So it was only after the argument that they heard actual fighting?"

"It seems that way to me, yes."

"What has Mr. Weasley's behavior been like this year, beyond that?" He asked curiously.

"As far as I can tell, he never leaves his girlfriend's side. That would be Miss Granger, if you haven't kept up."

"I have little reason to try and keep up with the social circles of our students."

"Except for Mr. Potter," She said with a pointed look at him.

"Because I am now involved with his case, and I would like to know if he is about to go over the edge before it happens." He answered her flatly.

"Honestly, Potter is one of the more stable students this school has, Severus."

"Do you really believe that?"

"I have seen no reason not to. Now if you will excuse me, I must go and finish preparing my classroom for my morning class. As you well know, the 3rd year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws do tend to a get a bit anxious when their routines are disrupted."

He nodded at her, but remained silent as she left the table.

Looking back to the table, he noted with some distaste? Worry? That the Gryffindor first year students were still staring at P-Harry with something akin to awe written on their faces.

On the other hand, the boy himself looked positively hostile. He wondered what he was telling them, and whether or not it would cause any problems for anyone—namely himself—that day.

It was entirely too likely a scenario, causing him to sigh internally as he got up and went out the door to the start of his own day.

HSHSHSHSHS

Harry wasn't sure what started the fight; all he knew is that it was between the Gryffindor and the Slytherin first years.

If he found it odd that he should be standing in the midst of a crowd of almost midgets waving sticks of wood at one another, then he didn't let on to anyone.

He wasn't too surprised to find out that one of the boys involved was Richard "Richie" Mondon. The boy's attitude was unpleasant, and was tempered by a mood about two shades darker than the night of a new moon.

Standing opposite of Mondon and a half dozen Gryffindors, was nearly an exact replica of first year Slytherin students—both groups scowling fiercely at one another as though they had hopes to set each other on fire with just the intensity of their glares.

"Okay, what happened?" He demanded in an even, but icy sounding voice.

Chaos reasserted itself around him and he quickly silenced the unruly group around him with a few well-placed glares at the louder individuals amongst the two groups.

He turned to the group of Slytherins, holding up a hand to his own house as he did so.

"What happened?" He asked tersely; well aware that they were drawing a crowd of other students around them. He knew that it was only a matter of time before a teacher got involved—or Merlin forbid, Dumbledore. 

The answer he got from the young Slytherins was succinct and to the point. Two of their own had been pushed roughly from behind, apparently as a purposeful action. They had turned around and seen a Gryffindor boy right behind them with his wand out and a smug expression upon his face. When he asked, both of the Slytherins in question pointed their fingers at Mondon.

"Did anyone see Mondon actually do it?" He asked, getting sneers from the Slytherins and embarrassed glances from the Gryffindors.

Fine, he thought with an angry mental huff. If they want to be embarrassed, then they can do it on their own.

"Mondon, let me see your wand," He said in a low voice, getting an angry squawk from the small boy opposite him. He did not miss the looks of surprise that passed briefly over the faces of the Slytherin first years either.

"Do it," He said in a voice that allowed for no arguments, staring the small boy down with a frightful expression on his voice.

The other boy swallowed and then handed it over to Harry.

It wasn't too difficult to remember the situation with Winky in the woods following the Quidditch World Cup. He easily cast Prior Incantatem on Mondon's wand, and then watched as a miniature scene played out before them, detailing the previous events of that hallway's confrontation.

Harry swallowed inaudibly as he and the others watched Mondon's curse strike the two Slytherins from behind, nearly cracking their skulls on the stone floor as they were thrown forwards.

The wand finished its recitation, and he and those around him looked back up to Mondon's now extremely pale face.  The boy was staring angrily back at him.  The Gryffindor first years were quickly parting around him.

"No, you don't!" He yelled at them.

"If you're going to lie for him, then you better damn well take responsibility for him too!" He growled as he began pacing back and forth in front of them.

"You don't bail on a house member ever. We take responsibility for this as a whole, and as a whole we will deal with this situation," He said through gritted teeth, finally stopping his movements, and staring down at the younger years with an unchanging look of determination.

He looked up towards the crowd then, his eyes searching for the familiar face that he thought he had seen only moments before that.

"Blaise Zabini! May I obtain your assistance please?" He called out in a ringing voice towards the fifth year Slytherin boy.

Around him the crowd broke into surprised whispers, while the two groups of first years continued to watch the proceedings in tense and unbroken silence.

"What can I do for you, Harry?" Blaise said, stepping through to the middle of the throng with ease.

"How much did you see?" Harry asked his friend, dropping his voice into a much quieter level.

"Everything but the initial event," Was the equally soft reply back.

"Can you take your house's first years to the infirmary to be checked out Poppy?" He asked quietly, his eyes focused firmly on Mondon and the surrounding Gryffindors, who now had their wands trained firmly on their idiot year mate.  He was glad to see that the other first year Gryffs were taking responsibility of him.

They might not be able to do anything with those wands, but by Merlin, they are at least trying to make sure nothing else happens—especially not in front of so many witnesses!

"Sure, Harry. What about you?" Blaise asked, catching Harry's attention with his inquisitive and searching brown eyes.

"We're going to have a chat with the deputy headmistress," He answered with a grim look in his face.

"You're doing a good thing here, Harry," Blaise said with an earnest expression on his face. "No one ever sticks up for the Slytherins—especially the younger years—and now look at you, the big Gryffindor going out to find justice for us. Snape will appreciate this."

Harry cracked half of a smile at him, which quickly disappeared as he prepared himself for what was about to occur.

HSHSHSHSHSHS

Severus did not normally get fire-called to the headmaster's office in the middle of his sixth year NEWTs level class, because typically his employer understood the dangers of leaving such students alone in the middle of brewing. However, if the case was serious enough, then it had to be done.

And if the interruption was a result of one of his snakes being hurt, then it damn well had better be done.

After finishing the conversation and hearing those dreaded words alongside the word 'attacked,' Severus wasted no time in coming to a quick decision regarding his morning class.

He ordered them to cast stasis spells on their cauldrons—all except Ms. Velman's, which he went ahead and banished immediately—and then added that they were to clean up their stations as well.

Then he left; his long legs taking him quickly to Albus's office, where he found not only the headmaster, but also Minerva, a small Gryffindor boy, and Blaise Zabini standing with each of his hands protectively atop one of the shoulders of two of his first years. They both looked shaken and a bit frightened, but no worse for wear.

"Poppy said that they could leave the infirmary, provided that they take the rest of the day off," Blaise informed him.

For his own peace of mind he looked over them himself as well, before deciding to side with Poppy's opinion that they were safe to go to back to Slytherin. Thus followed a quiet exchange of words with Albus; after which he directed Blaise to take the two boys down to the dungeons, and put them to bed with a couple of half doses of dreamless sleep. He also made sure to assure them both that they were not in any trouble whatsoever, going so far as to gently pat them on their backs as they walked to and out the door.

He exchanged a concerned look with Blaise, and received a nod in reply; assuring him that Blaise would take good care of them for the remainder of the day, and excusing him from his classes in turn.

He found that without the worry of his smallest students' health to distract him, his fiery anger began to fight to be released; preferably on the imbecile dressed in Gryffindor colours standing in the middle of the room.

"I will assume that the one at fault is the barely cognizant slug standing before me, correct?" He asked coldly of Albus as he idly took a seat.

"Mr. Mondon's guilt has been confirmed, yes," Albus answered him.

"Were there witnesses?"

"Not exactly," Albus said peculiarly.

Severus raised an exasperated eyebrow at the infuriating man in a silent plea for him to explain before he lost his careful control of himself.

The story which followed was almost unreal enough to make him question his own sanity, had he not seen firsthand the changes that past summer had wrought in the Potter boy. Unbidden, Blaise and Draco's words of warning rose to the forefront of his mind. 

"And Mr. Zabini confirms this account too?" He asked, still feeling somewhat unsettled with the changing realities of his world.

"He did indeed," Albus responded solemnly.

Severus was aware that Albus's focus was no longer on him, but instead had been redirected towards the small unhappy figure that was now perched on the chair next to Minerva.

"Before we decide on Mr. Mondon's fate, I would like to ask him a question," Minerva interjected in the space that followed Albus's last statement.

Albus waved her on with an unreadable expression.

"Mr. Mondon," She began sternly, only to stop as the boy continued to stare resolutely at the floor.

"You will look at me when I am speaking to you young man. Do you understand me?" She asked in a cold voice.

The boy shrugged but picked his head up and focused a dead-eyed glare more or less in the vicinity of her face.

"Answer her," Severus told him with a commanding tone, his eyes glinting dangerously.

If he had frightened the boy, it wasn't obvious to anyone but the boy himself. Nonetheless, his request worked, for shortly after that, the boy muttered a "Yes, sir," which was quickly followed up with a "Yes, ma'am."

"I want to know why you did what you did," Minerva said quietly, looking at him solemnly.

"Does my answer affect my status as a student?" The boy asked, turning to Albus with a very Slytherin look about his eyes.

Albus exchanged a glance with Severus—one to which he found himself reluctantly nodding at.

"Possibly it might, Mr. Mondon, possibly it might," Albus answered the boy with a speculative look over the top of his glasses at him.

Mondon sighed a bit, and then turned back to look at Minerva as he had been instructed to do so previously.

"I was supposed to be in Slytherin," He answered in a dull monotone.

"How so?" Severus found himself asking.

"Everyone in my family that has ever gone here has always been in Slytherin," The boy said, turning to look at the older man with that same unchanging expression.

"Except you," Severus replied, intrigued despite his locked deadpan expression.

"Except me," The boy said, turning his head to look away, as though ashamed.

"And why do you suppose that you were not placed there?" Severus asked evenly.

"Because earlier that evening I saw something that changed my mind," The boy said with a small smirk-which he wiped off his face before turning back to look at Severus.

"Explain."

The boy turned back to McGonagall even though Severus had been the one to make the demand.

"Because I saw who pranked Draco Malfoy."

Severus saw Albus raise an interested eyebrow, but otherwise remained silent.

"Would you care to elucidate that statement, Mr. Mondon?" Minerva asked.

"I won't tell you the name, but I will tell you this, they weren't in Slytherin," The boy said, crossing his arms and leaning back a bit.

He turned back to look at Severus as he did so, looking at him with the barest hint of a pleased expression on his face.

"And, so?" Minerva asked, even as Severus's mind began to form the beginnings of an understanding towards the boy's way of thinking.

"The person that I saw maneuvered himself into Malfoy's vicinity, and slipped the object into his pocket in front of a crowd of witnesses," He said, with particular emphasis on the last part of his sentence.

"It was a perfectly cunning move, but yet it was perpetrated by someone in a house that is not at all known for cunning or slyness!" The boy exclaimed, nearly jumping up from the chair in his fervor.

"And this led you to believe what, exactly," Severus prompted.

"How Slytherin is it to officially be announced before the school as one?" The boy asked him with cold calculating eyes.

"You mean to say—," Minerva asked, cutting off as she understood what the boy was saying.

"A very Slytherin plot," Severus admitted.

"The ultimate Slytherin plot," Mondon corrected him, a fierce determination now blazing in the boy's eyes.

"Intriguing," The headmaster put in then; staring at the boy with a thoughtful look on his face.

"You managed to argue the hat out of putting you where you belonged, somehow justifying both your plan and the hat's own decision as you did so," Albus said, laying it out in full before them all.

A short nod from the boy was what he got for trouble.

"And yet you still haven't answered the original question; a very evasive action on your part," Albus added.

"Perhaps I just hadn't gotten there yet," The lad murmured coolly.

"Then by all means, continue," Severus answered snidely, crossing his legs with a well directed glare.

"The two that were in here before—," Mondon started before being interrupted by Severus.

"The two that you unjustly attacked from behind," Severus said darkly.

"—Are cousins of mine," Mondon finished calmly. "Worthless specimens who wouldn't know how to properly scheme even if someone wrote out a guide for them," He continued angrily, while bravely continuing to ignore Severus's increased glower at the debasing comments he had made towards two of his Snakes.

"And your point?" Minerva asked then, not looking particularly pleased either.

"And my point is this: If you're going to plan or discuss attacking someone later in class, then you ought not to do so loud enough for your voice to be picked up by those passing by!" The boy argued hotly.

Planning for an attack?

"For whom was this conversation directed towards?" Severus asked.

"And how do we know that you're speaking the truth?" Minerva added.

The boy sent him an exasperated look, but didn't dare try the same look on her.

Severus wasn't sure whether the small quasi-Gryffindor was hoping to amuse or insult him with that knowing glance; either way, he ignored it without even an acknowledgement that it had occurred.

"I'm sure Professors Snape and Dumbledore will have no problem ascertaining the honesty of my words. As for the attack itself, they were discussing me and Cynthia Nott."

"So you attacked first," Dumbledore mused aloud, a smile twitching on his lips.

Severus watched Albus stand and wander to the window to look out. He knew that Albus was probably just using that as an excuse to think through an idea without the rest of the room watching.

"Yes. Sir," the boy answered in an annoyed voice.

"Perhaps the Sorting Hat pulled one on you as well," the headmaster muttered, speaking in a voice that was barely audible even for Severus, as he came back over to where they were sitting.

"Plots within plots," Minerva groused, rubbing a hand over her face tiredly. "It's too early in the day for this."

"Yes, the next time you decide to attack one of your classmates, please do it after at least nine o'clock in the morning," Albus told him with a smile directed towards the Gryffindor head of house.

"The next time, sir?" The boy asked, picking up on the phrasing quickly.

"Or better yet, inform someone else and leave the attacking out of your schedule entirely," Severus said with a sneer.

"Yes, sir," The boy answered with a confused look towards each of them.  "So are we done here then?" He asked carefully.

Severus was privately amused when Albus laughed at the child's question.

"Done? No, I should say not. There is still the question of solving the question of your punishments," Albus said.

In the end, it was a much more subdued Gryffindor first year that left the headmaster's office. Minerva followed him less than a minute later, saying something to the effect of her making sure the young man actually got where he was supposed to be.

Severus smirked at Albus when they were finally alone.

"I have little doubt that you discuss each of the Sorting Hat's decisions with it after each and every ceremony," He told the equally amused older man.

"The boy is misinformed on his family history," Albus replied.

"Hmm?"

"They wouldn't have mentioned this to him of course, but I have it on good authority that his great aunt 'Pennie' was a Hufflepuff."

At Severus's raised eyebrow, Albus continued.

"Really, my dear boy, if you think about it, Slytherins and Hufflepuffs aren't so very different."

That time he couldn't help it. He scoffed aloud at the man.

"Loyalty to one's family can take on many identities, Severus," Albus said in a far more serious tone.

"I suppose," He grunted.

"So, old man, did you go to school with his great aunt?" Severus asked with a raised eyebrow.

"What do you think?"

"I would think you would know better than to ask that question by now."

"Well, then you have your answer as well," Albus said a faint smile.

Severus snorted as he got up and left the old man to his own business.

After all, he still had yet to see if his classroom was still standing. The unexpected situation had completely taken over his morning, causing him to miss his second class altogether. He found himself both oddly relieved and strangely annoyed about the cancellation of that class; especially since it would have been his fifth year Gryffindor – Slytherin one, and he had planned on speaking to Harry afterwards.

Now he would be forced to go and search the boy out on purpose.

It annoyed him, to say the least.