Snake Scales and Serpent Tails
For the rest of the week, Harry found himself having what he would call ‘little therapy sessions’ with Voldemort. The man would come by shortly after Harry had been given his potions in the morning, and the two would talk about either his dreams or a little of what happened while Harry had been growing up. Harry wasn’t sure if their little talks were helping at all, but he always felt as if a weight had been taken from his chest whenever he finished up.
For each talk, Voldemort would scoot up onto the bed and would pull Harry up into his lap. If Harry found it difficult to say anything, Voldemort would start them off by telling him a little about his life at the orphanage. It was cathartic for the both of them.
After each talk though, Voldemort would tell Harry that talking to him would only help so far, that he eventually would need to talk to a mind healer. Much to Harry’s displeasure, healer Anacletus often agreed with Voldemort and would tell Harry that speaking to a mind healer was just as important as being physically healed.
Harry hated the very idea of talking to someone that he barely knew and just spilling out his worst memories and fears. He hates that after telling both Voldemort and Anacletus that he didn’t want to, that Voldemort got Narcissa of all people involved.
Having never had a mother figure growing up, Harry had no defenses against the slightly disappointed but understanding sad look that Narcissa gave him when it was her turn to come and talk to him.
“I understand why you don’t want to talk to someone Hassis, I really do.” Narcissa’s words were gentle as she spoke. She’d taken Harry’s hand in one of her own and was holding it soothingly as the two of them spent their time together. “But you of all people should know that sometimes we must do what is best even if we don’t want to.”
Harry huffed in annoyance, but he couldn’t even try to be mad at Narcissa. “I don’t see why I have to talk to a whole other person though!” He denied, wanting to take his hand back so he could cross his arms over his chest in defiance, but didn’t. “I have you, Voldemort, and even Nagini to talk to.”
Narcissa sighed ever so softly and she shook her head. “And being able to talk to us about your past like this shows a great deal of trust and courage.” She kept her voice gentle and warm. “But eventually you will need someone to talk to that will know how to help you recover and heal from your past.”
Despite her words, Harry still couldn’t understand what the difference was between talking to them and talking to a mind healer. That’s all it was to him, talking. He didn’t want to have to open up to some stranger about his past and about his nightmares. It was bad enough trying to talk to people that he relatively trusted with the truth, but Harry had no idea what a stranger would do or how they would react.
Probably sensing that she wasn’t quite getting through to him, Narcissa sighed sadly and patted Harry’s hand gently. “Just think about it dear. We can’t force you to talk to someone if you don’t want to.”
And wasn’t that the truth? Voldemort, when not within hearing distance of Harry, had been ranting about possibly getting a mind healer anyway and just throwing the healer at Harry. Narcissa knew such a method wouldn’t work, and she was pretty sure that her Lord knew it wouldn’t work either. It was just so frustrating to see Harry struggling with his thoughts and feelings when they all knew he could benefit from someone that could really help him.
“Now then,” Narcissa swung the hovering bed desk over Harry’s lap and set down a blank sheet of parchment and a quill. “Let’s get back to your calligraphy practice shall we?”
Harry groaned deeply and flopped back against his pillows. Apparently his handwriting was so bad that all of his ‘tutors’ had gotten together to complain to Narcissa. The woman had changed her lesson plans around so that she would be working with Harry on his quill work first.
Honestly though, Harry didn’t think his handwriting was that bad. He could write just fine when he was using a normal muggle pencil or pen. Quills were just harder to use. If he held one too tightly, the feather would break. He had to keep it sharp enough to write, but if he sharpened the point too much then it would just crack and shatter. Not to mention he had to know how to dip the stupid feather into the ink at just the right depth so that he wouldn’t get too much ink on the quill tip and smear it everywhere.
A pen was just so much easier to use.
Thankfully Narcissa had given him a ‘training quill’, something that most pureblood children were given when they first started learning to read and write. It had unbreakable charms so he didn’t have to worry about holding it too tightly and he didn’t even have to worry about sharpening the tip.
“Now remember, a gentle tap against the inside of the inkwell will shake off any excess ink. Not too rough now, or you won’t be left with enough ink to write.”
And that’s how Harry spent the next hour of his time, re-learning how to write block letters with the quill. Narcissa had happily informed him that once he was used to writing block letters cleanly, they would move onto cursive.
Harry felt like he was back in primary again, but this time he didn’t have Dudley kicking the back of his seat or a teacher glaring at him because he was a ‘troublemaker’. He also didn’t have to worry about going home to an irate aunt and uncle who would punish him for every tiny infraction.
Eventually Harry moved on from writing out the alphabet to slowly copying pages out of a book about etiquette, much to his consternation. By the time their hour was up, Harry was more than ready to throw the very dry and very old sounding book as far from him as he could. His hand was cramping and he had a thumping headache from trying to read. Thankfully, Narcissa took pity on him and gave Harry a half dose of pain reliever.
“You’ve done very well today Harry, I’d say by the time you’re up and moving your handwriting will be improved immensely.”
A little shiver of pride went through Harry as he was given the compliment. It was just handwriting, and yet the knowledge that Narcissa thought he was doing better had Harry beaming.
“Severus should be here soon to work with you on your potions theory.”
And just like that, Harry’s good mood evaporated. It was Saturday, which meant his first lesson with Snape and Harry was really not looking forward to it. After having 5 years with the man constantly berating him, putting him down, and bullying him, Harry was more than wary over this entire situation. If Snape was that bad in a classroom, what was he going to be like in private?
Sure Harry now knew that the man had been acting, that he hadn’t actually hated Harry, but there was only so much acting a person could do. It hadn’t been just Harry that Snape had been mean too after all.
“Don’t look so worried dear, Severus will be on his best behavior.” Narcissa said with a giggle as the boy turned begging eyes towards her.
“Now then. How about you take a break and relax until Severus arrives? He’ll work with you until lunch time and then you’ll be free from your lessons for the day.” Narcissa waited until she got what she could only describe as a grumpy glare from Harry. She gathered up everything from Harry’s work desk and put his quill and parchment away on his nightstand where he could easily reach it if he wanted to write at all.
Narcissa left shortly after tidying up Harry’s room, which really didn’t need that much attention since Harry was practically stuck to his bed, leaving Harry alone to ‘relax’.
He flopped back against his pillows and stared up at the ceiling. A week hadn’t even passed yet and Harry was already feeling cabin fever. He wanted to get up, leave his room, and go do something! He’d always been active while growing up and while at Hogwarts. Heck he’d remained active even after his inheritance while living in the forest. This was the longest he’d ever spent being bed bound, even after all the times he’d gotten hurt at Hogwarts.
And he was definitely slowly losing his mind.
The lessons with his tutors helped to break up the long boring hours that he was stuck doing nothing, and he had plenty of books to pass the time, but he was itching to get up and run around.
So Harry did the one physical activity he was allowed to do even with a healing tail. He carefully slid out of his bed and then slowly slithered his way across his room to the bathroom. The ache from his healing tail was a soft thumping, but with the pain reliever potions in his system Harry was able to mostly ignore the feeling.
And to think, he wasn’t even halfway through healing his tail yet.
It took nearly 20 minutes for Harry to make it to the bathroom, use the facilities, and freshen up. He hated how slow he was moving, having to take extra care with how much he moved his tail, but it was either move slowly or be forced to have someone help him move around. If neither Anacletus or Voldemort were available, a house elf would have shown up to help him.
Harry froze in the doorway of his bathroom when he spotted his next tutor standing in front of his closed bedroom door.
“Uh...hi…” Harry muttered, a little out of his depth at the moment. He was so used to Snape sneering and glaring at him, his shoulders tense and his hands clenched, that the relaxed posture and calm demeanor that Snape now portrayed threw Harry for a loop.
And to Harry’s utter surprise, Snape did something that he had never before seen or thought the man capable of.
It wasn’t a cold, hateful smirk either. No, it was relaxed and warm.
The two of them stood where they were, just staring at each, until finally Snape sighed and motioned for Harry to come forward.
“Would you rather take your lesson in your bed or on your couch?”
He was the first person to offer Harry an alternative to using his bed and Harry felt himself relaxing minutely. It was a relief to have the option offered up to him, and Harry immediately went over to his couch.
The tension returned though once both of them were seated, neither one knowing how to start off the lesson.
“I think perhaps we should talk before going into your lesson.”
At that moment, Snape sounded tired. At least, that’s the only way Harry could explain it. His physical appearance was still the same, he didn’t look tired, but the way he spoke was if he knew what was coming and had prepared himself for the worse. His shoulders were still stiff, his black robes immaculate, and his hair was as straight and as greasy looking as ever, but his words were just so heavy.
“I must apologize to you Harry, for how I treated you over the years, for not protecting you as well as I should have, and for not recognizing the signs of your home life like I should have.”
Harry felt gobsmacked as his potions professor spoke. The man had apologized before, had explained himself the last time they had seen each other, but this apology felt different than the last. Perhaps it was because it was just the two of them and they didn’t have an irate Dark Lord hovering around ready to curse Snape into oblivion.
“I was playing a role, but it’s no excuse for how I treated you.” Severus continued on. “I should have found another way to protect my cover and to protect you.”
There was a tightness in Harry’s throat and he had to swallow hard a couple times.
Severus took a moment to take a deep breath. Apologizing was not something he was used to doing, even when he really was in the wrong, but in this case he knew he had to get it out into the open before he and Harry could even try to have a chance to work together.
“I-It’s not your fault.” Harry found himself saying once Snape stopped talking. “You were doing what you had to do.” If there was one thing Harry understood, it was doing what was needed to survive. Snape had been a spy, which meant his life was in an even more precarious position than Harry’s was. One wrong move and his role would have been discovered and his life would have been forfeit. That’s not what had happened, thankfully, but to have lived over a dozen years with such a big secret must have weighed heavily on the man.
And yet the man had still found ways to keep Harry safe while he had been attending Hogwarts. Harry could have died during his first quidditch match, it was Snape that had stepped forward to get rid of the snake in his second year not knowing that Harry was a parselmouth. During his third year Snape had stepped between Harry’s group and Lupin while the man had turned into a werewolf for the night.
There were so many times, now that Harry was thinking about it, that Snape could have just stepped back and done nothing. Instead he had helped Harry, in a rather roundabout and insulting manner.
The two sat in silence for a while after that, neither knowing what to say next. Severus had given his apologies. If he could have, he would have done things differently, but he knew he had been limited in his options over the years so he wouldn’t allow himself to feel anymore guilty than he already did.
“You knew my mother.”
Four little words jolted Severus so much that he physically jumped back in his seat. He blinked once or twice before nodding his head slowly. “I did.” His eyes narrowed a little as he stared at Harry questioningly. “We grew up together.”
Harry nodded at the answer, already knowing that Snape had known his mother. He had just wanted that confirmation before he asked the real question that was on his mind; the question that had been on his mind for some time now. He took a deep steadying breath and squared his shoulders, working up as much Gryffindor courage as he could.
Severus felt a moment of trepidation as the boy across from him sat up straight and stared long and hard at him. The boy was working up to ask him something important, he just knew it, he was just a little worried that the boy might be asking something impossible of Severus.
After another steadying breath, Harry finally got the question that had been bothering him out. “Would she have approved of me?”
This was definitely the day Severus had been dreading. Yes he had been close friends with Lily at one time in his life, but they had drifted apart in their later teens. She had disapproved of his choices in friends and desire to learn darker magic. How could he know what her thoughts were as she grew into adulthood and joined the light side?
And yet, Severus knew one thing for certain as he thought back to his best friend and looked into her son’s eyes. Eyes almost exact copies of his mother’s.
“Yes.” He knew without a doubt that Lily would have supported her son in all things. She might have been upset with his choice to be on speaking terms with the Dark Lord, but he knew she would have gotten over her reservations if she could see just how much the man cared for her son. She wouldn’t have cared that Harry had become a dark creature, she might have even been proud of how he handled himself during and after his inheritance. Lily would have gone on a rampage over how Dumbledore and Harry’s relatives had treated him.
So yes, Severus was very sure that the woman he had seen as his best friend in the whole world would have been very proud of her son.
That single word confirmation had Harry’s heart warming in his chest and he couldn’t help the relieved but happy smile. Despite the dream he’d had of his parents on the night of his inheritance, he had felt unsure and afraid that perhaps his mother and father would have been angry with him for his choices.
“Do you think she would...that she would accept me being with Voldemort?” Harry asked as he chewed on his bottom lip.
Now that was a harder question for Severus to answer. If Lily and James had been alive, and the Dark Lord hadn’t gone after baby Harry, he knew that the likelihood of Harry even getting the chance to be in a relationship with Voldemort would be impossible. He knew that Lily and James would have taken Harry out of the country the second his inheritance had come to pass and would have found the closest naga tribe to help Harry. Or at least, that’s what Severus would have done if Harry had been his child.
But with the way things were, it was hard to say how Lily would have felt. Severus imagined she would have been hesitant about the Dark Lord being anywhere near her son, but after having seen how close the two were Severus had to think that Lily would have at least been supportive.
“I think,” Severus cleared his throat and then sighed softly. “I think she loved you so much that she would have moved mountains to make sure you were safe and happy.” Even if that meant creating a spell to actually do so. “If being with the Dark Lord makes you happy, I think she would have supported you.”
Severus smirked dangerously then. “Of course she would have threatened to tear his balls off first if he ever hurt you.” Those words were said much softer than his previous ones, him being a little paranoid that perhaps a certain Dark Lord would hear him.
The relief that Harry felt in that moment was unexplainable. His parents were gone, but that didn’t make the guilt of feeling attracted to Voldemort go away. In his heart he wanted to know that his parents would have supported him and not felt disgusted by his choices. If Snape, who probably knew his mother best, thought that she would have been on his side then Harry would believe that.
“What about…” Harry licked his lips and looked down at his hands. Would Snape know anything about how his father would have felt?
It didn’t take a genius for Severus to figure out what it was that Harry wanted to know. His next sigh was longer and deeper and he leaned back against the cushions of his seat to think.
“As for your father...I believe he would have thrown a tantrum.” At least that’s what the teenage James Potter would have done. “He might have tried to talk you out of it and would have told you that you had plenty of options in the world.” Severus shook his head with a frown. “I didn’t know your father as well as I did Lily, but I think in the end he would have supported you.” If only because Lily would have threatened to castrate him for making Harry upset.
“It would honestly be better if you were to talk to Lupin about your father.” Unlike Black, Lupin had been the more rational of their group. The werewolf be able to tell Harry how the grown up version of James would have acted, better than Severus ever could.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get to see Remus again…” That fact was probably what hit Harry the hardest about his decision to give Voldemort a chance. There was no way Remus would ever understand Harry’s decision. The man was a dark creature, and yet he had fought against that darkness all his life and had been on the light side during both wars.
Remus was the last link Harry had to both his father and to Sirius, and knowing that the two of them would probably never see each other? It hurt. Remus was like an uncle to him once the two had been able to be in each other's lives again.
Severus pursed his lips as he himself thought about Remus Lupin. It was true that the man was firmly on the light side, but he was also one of the people that would be immensely protective of Harry. If word got to him about what Dumbledore had done to Harry, had subjected the boy to all his life, Severus was sure the werewolf would dump the light side and the Order faster than anything.
If Harry had Lupin at his side, the boy would have more protections and would probably feel a lot more stable in his life. He needed as many caring faces around him to help him heal from the years of abuse and terror.
But how could he get word to Lupin about the truth of everything that had been going on without alerting Dumbledore? Lupin was currently with the other werewolves, trying to convince them to drop their alliance with Voldemort, but Severus knew that the old man kept close tabs on Lupin anyway.
Perhaps, and Severus hated that the idea had merit, they should ask Lord Voldemort for assistance? If anyone could get Lupin to Malfoy manor without anyone assuming it was because Harry was there, it was the Dark Lord. He’d easily be able to talk to Greyback and get the monster of an Alpha werewolf to bring the weaker man to the manor.
It was a thought for later. For now, Severus had to focus on Harry and his education.
“If there is nothing else you wish to ask, we should get started on your potions lesson.” Severus pulled shrunken books from an inner pocket of his robe and resized them. He also pulled out a cutting board, several tools for ingredient preparation, and a few jars of potions ingredients. He very pointedly ignored the groan from his student across from him as he set everything up.
Seeing that the coffee table between them was as low as the couch seat, Severus waved his wand and murmured a soft ‘engorgio’ and had the table growing taller until it was at the height of Harry’s lower torso.
Harry eyed everything warily. He knew he wasn’t up to doing anything excessively physical, which was why they weren’t going to be actually brewing until he was fully healed, but he had no idea what it was that Snape was wanting him to do.
“I’ve been reviewing your scores and assignments for the last 5 years.” Severus stated as he proceeded to place the exact same tools and ingredients infront of himself. “Your basic theory is acceptable, but you have a misunderstanding of why certain ingredients are used instead of others, as well as why certain steps must be taken during the brewing stage. Although your ingredient preparation is passable, you seem to have a problem with the different ways to prepare different ingredients.”
From what Severus had observed over the years, he knew Harry could be a very competent potioneer, he just didn’t have the refined skills. It also didn’t help that he had classmates that were trying to sabotage his work regularly. There was also the possibility that Harry hadn’t been able to see the board thanks to his abysmal eyesight.
Now that they were in a private tutoring setting, and Harry no longer had to worry about being able to see or read the instructions, Severus was positive that the boy would excel.
“With that in mind, I thought the best course of action would be to do a review of your last 5 years in potions.” Snape then opened the first book that he had set down in front of Harry. “I...found your belongings in a cave...whoever had found them ruined the majority of your belongings.” He cleared his throat and then tapped at the book he had set down. “I purchased a new set of potions books to replace the ones you lost.”
Hearing that his things had been destroyed had Harry scowling darkly. The things he loved and treasured the most he had been able to keep with him and bring with him when he and his snake family had fled the forest. Knowing that the rest of his meager amount of belongings had been trashed though was a low blow. He hadn’t had much in his life, so every little thing had meant a great deal to him. He had bought those books himself, treasured every Weasley sweater that Mrs. Weasley had made him, and had loved the little gifts and knick knacks that his friends had given him over the years.
“Was anything salvageable?” Harry asked as he took the offered book and glanced at the cover. It was a beginners guide on potion ingredient care and preparation, written specifically for muggle raised witches and wizards. He flipped through a few pages in curiosity. It’d been a few years, but Harry was sure he’d never bought this book for school.
“Not as far as I could tell.” Having been in a situation similar to Harry’s, Severus understood the want and need to keep his things close and protected. He knew that even a little note from a friend would have a great deal of meaning to someone who had very little in life. Severus himself still had a little box full of the notes he and Lily had passed back and forth over the years, little trinkets the two had bought or found while exploring, as well as a little origami lily that Severus had carefully learned how to make.
“Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to search for anything not ruined.” He did wish he could have though, especially after seeing the sad wince from Harry. “If you would like I could go back after our lesson ends and see if I can find anything.”
Harry shook his head, but he did give Snape a grateful smile. “It’s been a couple weeks since I left. With the weather being how it is and with the wildlife probably getting into the cave, I don’t think there will be anything left.” He’d saved his most prized possessions and that was all that mattered to Harry.
“You forget,” Severus was smirking ever so slightly again. “We have magic. I’m sure a quick repairing spell can reverse the damage to most of your possessions.”
Even though the offer was kind, Harry still shook his head. The things that had been left behind were in his past now. Most of those things had been given to him by the Weasley’s anyway, so they would be a constant reminder to him of their betrayal.
“As you will.” The potions master knew when to stop pushing. So instead he turned his attention back to the books and the lesson he was going to be teaching Harry. “I thought today we would go over the different cutting and chopping methods.”
And with that, Snape and Harry began their 2 hour potions theory lesson. Despite what Harry had been worried about, Snape never once snapped or snarled at him. There were times that Harry could tell that Snape wanted to grab the knife from him to show him how to properly dice something, especially with how the man’s hand twitched, but he would take a deep breath and patiently explain how to properly hold the knife again.
Snape didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t yell, and at the end of the lesson he actually complemented Harry on how attentive he was during the lesson. He was even able to jar up the majority of the cut up ingredients to be used in future potions, much to Harry’s happiness.
“I’ll return tomorrow for your Defense lesson.” Snape told him once the lesson was over and he had cleaned up the tools and jars. He left half the tools, the half that Harry had used, in a storage box on the coffee table and told him that they were for Harry to keep.
“Thank you Professor Snape.” Harry was smiling for the first time ever after a potions lesson. He was still a little wary that the two of them would be able to get along for extended periods of time, but at least he knew that they wouldn’t be trying to strangle each other like during those horrid occlumency lessons last year. There was hope for them.
Severus smirked again, a small twitch of his lips, as he stood and pocketed his things. “I expect you to read the first five chapters of these three books before next Saturday.” He touched his fingertips against the books in question. “And Mr. Potter?” He waited until Harry had stopped scowling at the books to look at him. “It was my pleasure.”