Chapter 11: Severus' offer
Hermione and Ron were at loss. Harry had been silent all day and they had no idea how to snap him out of his mutism. They knew, of course, that he was sick of staying in the hospital wing and that he was probably still thinking about the Dursley's. But why he shut them out, they didn't know.
"Hey Harry, wanna play Wizard's chess?" Ron asked spiritedly. But Harry shook his head, not looking away from the point he had been fixing for the last ten minutes.
"Do you want to play exploding snap, then?" Ron tried again, but the answer was the same.
"Harry" Hermione said softly. "Is something troubling you? You know you can tell us anything, right?"
Harry turned his head and met her eyes. Then he looked down again. "I know 'Mione, I'm sorry I don't want to worry you, it's nothing really."
"Harry, it's not nothing if it makes you act like that."
Harry stood up suddenly. "I need some air." Hermione made to stand up and follow him but Harry stopped her. "No, please Hermione I want to be alone for a while."
Hermione reluctantly sat back and Harry staggered to his wheelchair. He collapsed in it and wheeled himself out. He made his way to the lake and settled against a large oak tree. He sighed and closed his eyes. He didn't know why, but ever since he had been told he wouldn't go back to the Dursley's he had felt alone. Not that he was going to miss them, mind you, but he felt like as though he didn't belong anywhere anymore.
As much as he hated his relatives, they had been his only family. Well, legally speaking at least. But now, Harry didn't have anyone. Sure, Ron and Hermione were like siblings to him and he would do anything for them, just like he knew they would do anything for him. There was also Remus, his father's best friend and the last marauder. Dumbledore, McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey had done a lot to help him as well. And then there was Snape. The man he had argued with and hated with all his heart for years, before coming to care for him greatly. But it wasn't the same. They were just good nice people, looking after him and everything, but they weren't family. Well yes in his heart they were, but Harry wanted it to be permanent. He wanted a place he could call home and someone he could call family in the true sense of the word. He wanted to belong somewhere, belong somewhere with someone.
He knew he was being unfair, shutting them all out. It was not their fault that he felt so sad and lonely. Actually, he owed them a lot. He owed them for getting him out of his supposed family's care, for making him feel at home at Hogwarts, for seeing him as Harry and not as the boy who lived, for making him feel normal.
Harry sat there lost in his thoughts for a long time. More than once, he felt the prickling of tears behind his eyelids but refused to let them fall. He could count on his fingers the times he had cried in his life and this would not be one of them. Or so he thought.
He picked up a stone that lay in the grass and threw it in the lake. Then he threw another one, and another. Soon, his sadness turned into anger and he stood up abruptly to kick the trunk of the tree. He kicked and punched the large oak tree until his knuckles were bloody and his feet hurt. Soon all energy drained from his body and he slumped against the trunk again, panting heavily, head lowered and hands balled into fists.
When he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, Harry shrugged it off brusquely. He raised his head to meet the concerned eyes of one Severus Snape. The man was kneeling beside him, worry etched on his face. Something snapped inside of Harry. He leaned forward, buried his face in the man's chest and sobbed.
Snape had been walking around to clear his thoughts. He had been thinking about Harry's withdrawn behaviour. As much as he hated to admit it to his insufferable colleagues, the boy's well-being did matter to him and he could tell he was suffering. 'Why aren't you taking him in?' Minerva had said, and at the time it had seemed unimaginable for him to invite anyone to live in his quarters, much less a student. But that was the thing. Harry wasn't just any student. He was Lily's abused son who he - Severus - had belittled and badmouthed for years and he really wanted to make up for it.
Severus was about to head back to the castle when he heard angry grunts. He looked around and saw Harry standing beside his wheelchair, beating a poor oak tree. Severus knew the boy wasn't the angry type so he had to be quite distraught to take his anger out in such a way. With long strides, he made his way to the boy who had just collapsed against the tree, and kneeled beside him. When Harry didn't acknowledge his presence, the Potions Master placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. The boy first shrugged him off but then he looked up and - to Severus's surprise - buried his head in his teacher's chest.
Though he was a bit taken aback by the boy's reaction, Snape wrapped his arm around the shaking frame almost immediately and pressed him protectively against his warm chest.
"Shh Harry, it's going to be alright." Snape whispered soothingly in his ear while rocking him back and forth.
After long minutes, the sobs subsided into hiccoughs and then finally stopped. Neither of the two wizards made a move to end the embrace.
"Are you okay, now?" Severus asked in a whisper.
Harry nodded and if possible snuggled closer, eyes closed, and he breathed in the calming sent of potions fumes. Severus tightened his grip and rested his chin on top of the boy's head. He usually avoided physical contact but he had to be honest with himself, this felt good. Amazing even. And he suddenly knew what to do.
"Do you want to move back into Gryffindor Tower or do you merely want to leave the Hospital Wing?"
"I want to get out of the Infirmary. Madam Pomfrey's really nice and the room's great but I'm sick of being there all the time." Harry said, sadness audible in his voice.
"Would...any other place do?"
"Well unless it's the Dursley's, the shrieking shack or Hagrid's hut, then yes."
"Even the dungeons?" Snape asked.
Harry drew back but just enough to meet the man's eyes.
"Uhh I guess?" He said questioningly.
"Does staying in my quarters sound better than the Hospital Wing?" Snape asked, trying to sound casual when his heart was actually racing. What if the boy rejected him?
"Sir?" Harry asked again.
"Do you want to stay in my quarters until you are well enough to go back to your dorm?"
Harry first looked dumbfounded, then hopeful, and suddenly sad again. "Madam Pomfrey says I have to stay there."
"No, Harry. She wants you to stay where you are safe. She wants someone reliable to be nearby at all times in case you were to need help."
"So...I would stay with you?"
"For how long?"
"I cannot say for sure... a week, perhaps?"
Harry looked a bit sad at this but he did his best to hide it. A week was quite short but it was still a week. It's better than nothing. He thought
"And you wouldn't mind me being there?"
"I would not have offered if that was the case."
"I'd be there all the time." Harry pointed out
"I can be pretty annoying sometimes."
"And I'm messy as hell. My things are usually all over the place."
"And I can be noisy too-"
"Harry!" Snape said a bit louder, stopping the boy's rambling. "I don't care how noisy or messy you are. Just answer the question."
Harry studied the man's face, as though searching for the sign of a lie. When he didn't find any, he nodded slowly.
"Yeah...I'd like that, sir."
"Good." Snape said simply and pushed Harry's head back against his chest, holding him close. After a minute he said teasingly "If you are noisy, I can still cast a Silencing charm on you."
"We should go back to the castle before Poppy forms a search party."
Harry nodded and made to stand but Severus pushed him back down.
"Oh no you don't young man. It's back in the chair with you. You are lucky Poppy was not here to see you standing or she would probably make you stay in your infirmary bed for the rest of the day."
Harry shuddered at the thought making Snape smirk.
"You won't tell her, right?" Harry asked in horror.
"No I will not." Severus said and Harry sighed in relief.
"Thank you, sir. I'd hate to be stuck in bed. again."
"Who said you wouldn't be 'stuck in bed'?" Snape smirked.
"Errrr, sir?" Harry asked in confusion.
"That's right Mr Potter. I am not telling Poppy anything because I know you want to get out of that blasted room, but I will not have you 'overexerting yourself'-" he said this part in a surprisingly accurate impression of the Mediwitch. "-on my watch."
Harry groaned. "Great so now I'm going to be stuck in a dungeons bed."
Snape chuckled and put a hand on the Gryffindor's shoulder. "You won't be stuck there, Harry. I merely want to make sure you have your rest."
Harry nodded and gave the man a small smile.
"Shall we go now?" The Professor asked.
To Harry's mortification, Severus bent down and picked him up bride style. He carried him to the chair and settled him in it.
"There. Let's get back now." And he started to push the chair toward the castle.
"I can wheel myself there, sir." Harry said, slightly embarrassed at being assisted in every single movement.
"Don't be daft, boy" he noticed Harry's flinch at the word and made a mental note to ask about it later. "You just drained yourself beating this poor tree. Just look at your hands, they are all bloody and grazed. I will inspect you for other injuries and heal you once we are in my quarters."
"I'm fine. I don't need to be healed." Harry scowled.
"You need to learn other words than 'fine', Harry."
"Why? I am fine."
"No, you are not. Now stop arguing and be quiet."
When they arrived at the infirmary, Ron and Hermione were nowhere to be seen. Snape waved his wand and had Harry's things packed in less than a minute. He levitated the heavy trunk to the main infirmary and told Harry to wait for him there. He knocked on the matron's office door and entered.
"Ah Severus, do come in. Have a seat."
"No need, Poppy. I am merely here to inform you that Mr Potter will be moving into my quarters and will therefore not be requiring your hospitals any longer."
The matron smiled at him brightly. "I see you changed your mind."
"Very well then. I trust you will make sure he doesn't tire himself. He has to stay hydrated, put on some weight, and rest enough."
"What of his wheelchair?"
"That remains the same. He can't stand nor walk just yet."
"How much longer?"
"It will depend on how fast he heals but I would say two weeks before he stands and makes a few steps. As for walking I would say three weeks, but it will be draining at first so he won't be rid of it entirely for at least another five or six weeks."
"He will not be happy about this." Snape said to himself.
"My job is not to make my patients happy. It is to make sure they are healthy." The matron said firmly, although Severus knew the woman was deeply concerned by her patients well-being and state of mind. "Now, I would prefer for him not to leave the castle without you or another responsible teacher so no gallivanting on the grounds by himself, which means no Care of Magical Creatures classes."
"Absolutely no flying on a broom of course. He can supervise the trainings from the ground but I would like for a teacher to be present at least for the next few lessons."
"Meals?" Snape asked again.
"He can eat lunch and dinner in the Hall, but I would prefer for him to have breakfast in your quarters with you."
"Oh and he is to come here everyday at 4pm for a check-up."
"If that is all I will be leaving with him now." He turned to leave but just as his hand touched the doorknob the matron spoke again.
"Take good care of him, Severus."
Snape was annoyed at first and had a scathing remark on the tip of his tongue but he swallowed it down and settled for a neutral, "I will."
He lead Harry to the portrait guarding his personal quarters and shared the password with him.
"Something amusing you, Harry?"
"For someone as private as you, I'd thought your password would be some mouthful sentence in Latin or something. But no, it's a potion ingredient!" Harry exclaimed.
"I am a potions master." Snape pointed out.
"That's the point. It's so obvious."
"It's not obvious."
"Of course it is."
"There are thousands of potion ingredients in the world." Snape said, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
"And yet you chose this one."
"Have you got something against fluxweeds, Harry?"
"I don't. It's just that you could've chosen some rare weird herb that no one knows about, but no. You chose the most common plant every single student in the castle has just had to come across in your very own classroom."
"I fail to see how this makes it an obvious choice of password."
"I'm just saying that any student who founds this portrait would try random potion-related words and it's not very Slytherin of you to choose the precise one they all know about."
"Are you saying that you would have guessed it?"
"Ah but did you not just say that you would have expected my password to be some 'mouthful sentence in Latin'?"
Harry winced and then laughed. "Touché"
Snape smirked. "Now, if you are done criticising my choices in terms of passwords, I suggest we go inside."
"Yes sir" Harry grinned.
Severus pushed the door open and beckoned Harry to go in, which he did. Seeing the brown-furnished cozy living room, Harry's jaw dropped to the floor.
"What did you expect?" Snape smirked. "Jars and bubbling cauldrons everywhere?"
"Exactly!" Harry exclaimed.
Severus chuckled causing Harry's grin to widen.
"So this is the living room."
"Oh really?" Harry asked teasingly. "I wouldn't have guessed."
Snape ruffled his hair and lead him to the right.
"Here is the kitchen. And before I forget, you are to eat breakfast here but you may eat the other meals in the great hall."
"Alright." Harry said. He didn't really mind having to stay in the quarters for breakfast. He really wanted to spend some time with the man and this seemed like the perfect excuse.
"Now this is my office" Snape opened the door and went inside, Harry in tow. "And the door in the back leads to my personal lab." He turned to face Harry and looked at him straight in the eye. "You are not to enter this room without a very good motive and I do not want you in the lab without my explicit consent. There are dangerous things in that room, potions far more volatile than the ones in my classroom and I won't have you blowing up the dungeons. Is that clear?"
Harry nodded. He had no intention of entering the lab, first because clumsy as he was, he was sure to spill or knock something off. Second, he didn't want to break the fragile bond that had started to form between him and the man who he knew was not very patient, reclusive and had an explosive temper. Harry really didn't want to give him any excuse to throw him out and so he made the silent vow to be the most well-behaved and mannered he had ever been. Errr...well inside these quarters at least.
They exited the room and turned left. They crossed the kitchen and the living room again to find a narrow corridor. Snape pointed to the first door on the left and looked at Harry sternly. "This is my room and I ask you to go in there under no circumstances. If I am inside and you need something, please knock on the door but do not enter unless I invite you to."
"Good. Your room now." He pushed the door facing the first one, revealing a small but cozy bedroom. The walls were dark blue and the furniture was black. There were shelves on the walls, as well as a small Gryffindor banner. Against the wall was a comfortable double bed. The sight of the bedsheets made Harry smile. They were white expect for the three quidditch goal posts in the center. On each of the four pillows represented a quidditch ball: two bludgers, a quaffle and of course a golden snitch.
Harry took a few steps forward and continued to inspect his new room. There was a large desk and a small black armchair, both on a smooth rug. Then he noticed the small door on his right. He opened it, revealing a tiny but functional bathroom, composed of a large shower (well compared to the size of the bathroom anyway), a sink, a cupboard and a toilet. Harry noticed everything was just big enough for him to move around in his chair. He closed the bathroom's door and turned to see that Severus had levitated his trunk next to the wardrobe. Snape flicked his wand and the trunk opened.
"No!" Harry exclaimed. Severus looked at him quizzically making him blush. "It's just... it's fine I can take care of it. Thank you, sir."
"Nonsense, Harry. It will only take a second. He flicked his wand again and things started to float out of the trunk. At first, they only saw school robes, shirts, a scarf, and the rest of the gryffindor uniform. But then piles of rags came out and went to rest on the bottom shelf of the wardrobe. Harry averted his eyes. He didn't want to see the man's face.
"Harry" Snape said softly. "Look at me."
Harry didn't raise his head but looked up through his bangs.
"Are those the only muggle clothes you have?"
Harry looked away again and nodded. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Don't look ashamed, Harry. I can order a few muggle clothes by owl and you can choose some more when you go to Hogsmeade, ok?"
"Ok" Harry all but whispered.
"Now in the bed with you."
Harry sighed. "You said I wouldn't be stuck in there."
"I did and you are not. I merely ask for you to lie down and rest until it is dinner time. Then you can join me in the living room as there are some things I think we need to talk about."
Harry looked at him questioningly. "Sir?"
"Later, Harry. For now you have to rest."
"I'm not tired!"
"Yes, you are. You are just being stubborn."
"Am not!" Harry exclaimed but wheeled himself to the bed anyway. He removed his shoes and pulled the sheets aside. He made to stand up but Snape sneaked an arm under his knees and another one under his arms and lifted Harry to lay him down on the mattress gently.
And already, Harry felt his eyes closing. It was not long before he was asleep, oblivious to the hand brushing his hair from his eyes.
Harry woke up to a soft knocking on his door.
"Come in" he called sleepily.
Snape entered. "If you want to eat dinner in the Great Hall, you should get up and hurry. If you would rather stay here for tonight, it is fine as well."
Harry thought about it for a second. "I'd rather stay with y- um I mean here, sir."
Amusement was shining in Snape's eyes for a second, but then it was gone and Harry almost thought he had imagined it.
"Dinner will be ready in ten minutes, then."
And ten minutes later, Harry was sat at the kitchen table with Severus. Such intimacy made Harry squirm in his seat.
"Don't look so nervous, Harry."
"I'm not nervous, sir."
Snape smirked. "Right"
"Yes I do believe I just acknowledged this." Snape's smirk intensified.
"No you didn't! You said 'right' with that tone"
"Which tone is that?" Snape tried to keep the amusement from his voice.
"The one you use when you don't believe a word the other is saying but you just want to placate them!"
"Oh that tone." Snape feigned realisation. "Yes I do believe that is be the one I just used."
"Hey! Stop making fun of me!" Harry exclaimed but the huge grin illuminating his face betrayed him.
"I did no such thing." Said Snape innocently.
"Yes you did!" Harry exclaimed again, making Snape lose his inner battle and laugh.
"See? You're laughing at me!" Harry burst into laughter as well.
Once they had calmed down, Snape filled their plates and they started eating.
"I didn't know you could cook." Harry said. "But I guess it makes sense. Cooking is not so different from brewing, is it?"
"Did you teach yourself?"
"How to cook?"
"No, how to scowl like you do. Yes how to cook!" Harry rolled his eyes.
Snape chuckled slightly but then his demeanour changed.
"My mother taught me."
Harry noticed his teacher's change of mood. For a minute or two, the man seemed lost in his thoughts.
"What, Potter?" Snape snapped, and Harry flinched.
Snape sighed. "Harry, forgive me. I did not mean to snap at you, my anger was directed at someone else."
Harry nodded. "It's ok, sir."
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Um so... what did you want to talk about, sir?"
"After dinner, Harry."
Noticing the serious expression of the Potions Master, Harry asked . "Did something happen?"
"No, Harry, nothing happened."
"Oh. What is so important then?"
They finished their plates and then Snape brought an apple pie.
"I love pies!" Harry said excitedly. "There aren't a lot of them in the Wizarding world though. Well at least not apple ones."
"I must say I quite enjoy apple pies as well." Said Snape amused by the boy's enthusiasm.
"I only ever had one, but it was amazing."
"You have only eaten one apple pie in your life?" Snape asked in surprise.
Harry averted his eyes. "Um...well my relatives liked to eat healthy food."
"Mmmh" Snape was dubious.
"You're doing it again!"
"Acting like you acknowledge what I say when you don't actually believe a word of what I'm saying!"
"I find hard to believe your aunt has only made one apple pie since you were born."
"Well actually she didn't make any. I did." Harry snapped but then his eyes widened. "I... I mean I helped her and um well yeah we did it together"
Snape sighed. "I did not want to discuss these things just now, Harry. Finish your meal and then we will talk about this."
"I won't talk about my relatives with you."
Harry could've sworn he saw hurt flashing in the obsidian eyes.
"With Minerva, then?"
"It's Remus! And I won't tell him anything!"
"No one. There's nothing to say."
"No! I don't want to talk about it. Just leave me alone." And with that he quickly wheeled out of the room.
"That went well" Snape muttered.