Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Induction :: 04 :: Testing the Waters

04 • Testing the Waters

Sunday, 10 November 1996

Potter had barely slid into his armchair when Severus whipped around and shouted, “Legilimens!” His attack was absorbed in seconds, never giving him a chance to see a glimpse into the boy’s mind.

Severus stalked around the classroom after that, randomly attacking and testing the strength of the defenses Potter had erected. As the hour went on, Severus began noticing that it was taking a second or so more each time before the energy of his thrusts was assimilated.

He sat down in his armchair and considered. “Potter, how much time are you spending each night to work on your defenses?”

“Around ten minutes, sir.”

“Make it twenty. And that goes for any other time you remember to work on them.”

“All right, sir.”

“We’re going to try something a little different this evening. Did you notice that you were getting slower in absorbing the attacks?”

The boy nodded.

“Hopefully practicing longer will take care of that, but just in case I have something else that might work. I want you to start taking the time to imagine that if your defenses are weakening, you need to employ a second-stage function.”

“Sir?”

“Refresh my memory. How would you describe your current defenses? How do you visualize them when you think about it?”

Potter fidgeted slightly. “I see them as a really dense, pliable metal foam.” He looked up, clearly uncomfortable. “I picture it as a sphere encasing my thoughts.”

Severus nodded. “And how is this sphere actually protecting you?”

“Since it’s a thick foam, it can absorb the attacks, and try to use that to strengthen them. But I guess since it’s metal, the attacks could slide off, too.”

“Except that sliding off means you can’t use the attacks to your advantage, is that the idea?”

“Yes, professor.”

“Consider the following. Your defenses are starting to weaken, and absorbing the attacks is no longer effective, so when it gets to that point, I want you to try using the metal to reflect the attack back. That metal is nice and shiny, so the attack bounces right back off. With me so far?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you can’t use that energy to strengthen your defenses any longer, you can try reflecting it back at the caster so you attempt to incapacitate them momentarily and give you a chance to either get away, or decide on what spells might be effective in that situation.”

The boy didn’t respond, so Severus left him alone in his thoughts for a few minutes, finally speaking up to say, “Potter, do you think you’ll be able to visualize all that and use it with enough practice?”

The boy’s head snapped up. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now that you’ve had a chance to rest, let’s try again.” Severus lifted his wand and said, “Legilimens.” The attack was absorbed again within seconds. Obviously those several minutes had been enough to refresh things.

However, he started to realize that he’d told the boy something that contradicted his directives; he wondered how that would play out. He had no idea if it would integrate in properly, or if it would create a conflict issue, but decided to wait until the next lesson to find out. Instead, he was going to test something else.

“Haze, how are your classes going?” he asked smoothly.

“Fine, sir. It seems like lately I’ve been doing a lot better. Like I’m able to concentrate more and learn things faster.”

Severus thought that was quite interesting. The boy hadn’t even blinked over the change in name. He wondered just how obedient the boy would remain while awake and more or less one hundred percent aware—well, aside from the obvious—and how suggestible he’d continue to be.

“You look a little warm, Haze. I’m glad to hear you’re doing well in your classes,” he commented evenly, then changed the subject. “Have you had any visions lately? Bad or disturbing dreams? Nightmares?”

“No, sir. Nothing like that. I’ve been sleeping pretty well actually.”

“Is there anything you feel the need to talk to me about before we begin practicing again?”

Haze appeared to ponder that, then shook his head. “No, sir. Nothing that I can think of.”

“You haven’t been experiencing any residual pain, or felt like your mind was being left wide open to attacks because of our lessons?”

“No, sir.”

“Excellent.” Severus took a second to check the time and realized he’d have to let the boy go soon. “Haze, have your muggle relatives ever abused you in any way?”

Haze answered without hesitation. “Yes, sir, they have.”

“Haze, go under.” Once the boy had sagged, Severus put him through several rounds of deepening, then woke him. For the next ten minutes he kept repeating the process and reinforcing the triggers. Before he let Haze wake for the last time, he re-stressed how well the boy was doing in his classes, his memory retention and reading comprehension, and finally added that Haze found his magic even easier to work with and how it just flowed effortlessly, like breathing.

“Haze, wake up. You’ve done well this evening. See that you continue to do so.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

“You may go. I’m sure there are some innocent pleasures you can into that won’t cause trouble.”

If things kept on this way, he’d probably only need to put the boy under for new suggestions and reinforcement. Well, that and for his own perverse pleasures.

Wednesday, 13 November 1996

It took over an hour of constant attacks, but one was finally reflected straight back in Severus’s face. Several memories raced by before he gathered his wits and pushed the intrusion away. By that time, Potter was breathing heavily from the strain, and Severus needed a rest himself.

“Let’s discuss what just happened, shall we?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You were able to successfully reflect back an attack, which is good. Now, assume that it wasn’t me who was attacking you. It was, oh, Lucius Malfoy. What might you have done differently given that? Take your time and think about it before you answer.”

After several minutes, and a number of expressions flitting across his face, Potter said, “Well, I guess that all depends. I’m not even sure I was aware when it reflected back on you, professor. Assuming I was in a position to run, that’s one option. Assuming I’m aware when it does reflect, then I could try to stun the attacker, bind him, or something that would hold him for long enough that I could make a break for it.”

Severus frowned. Potter, Haze, obviously needed some work on his visualizations. Or did he? “Let me make sure I understand what you said. You aren’t sure you were aware when it reflected. Are you telling me you saw nothing of the memories that flashed by in my head?”

“Yes, sir. I mean, correct, I saw nothing of them.”

“Indeed.” Severus arched his brow. He really hadn’t considered this all the way through. Making a mental note to berate himself later for a lack of thoroughness, he decided to see if it was possible to get the boy to take note of the distinction between the two functions of the sphere defense.

“Haze, go under.” After bring him deeper several times, he relaxed back in his chair and studied the boy for a minute as he thought about ways to accomplish his goal.

“Haze, open your eyes. Tell me how it feels when your defenses absorb an attack.”

“Um. . . .”

“Take a minute to think about it. See if you can figure out how it feels.”

“I don’t know,” he finally said.

Severus closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers, and sighed. After a moment he looked at Haze and said, “Haze, do you know what I’m referring to when I say subconscious mind?”

Haze raised his brows for a second, then nodded.

“Then you know what I’m referring to when I say conscious mind as well, right?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent. Haze, when you’re in this very relaxed state, as you are now, you should know that it means your subconscious mind is in control. All right?”

Haze nodded again.

“And when you’re completely awake, such as when you’re in your normal lessons or on the quidditch field, it means your conscious mind is the one you’re using.” Seeing the boy nod, Severus continued. “Good. You should also know that your subconscious mind still has control while you’re awake, and that’s important. With me so far?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now that we’re clear on the proper terms, Haze, repeat after me. Each time my defenses absorb or reflect an attack, my subconscious will pay close attention to how it feels when that happens, and remember.”

After Haze obeyed, Severus questioned his understanding. “Can you explain why I want you to do that, Haze?”

“You want me to be able to tell the difference so that I can use it to my advantage later on,” Haze replied.

“That’s correct. Haze, directives.”

Severus took note that the directive about practicing each night had changed on its own. However, hearing the list made him realize he should probably consider making his comments about not revealing the prophecy into a directive, since those could be a lot more easily reinforced. Casual comments were one thing, and they stuck, but he didn’t think testing the durability was a wise idea in the long run.

“Do you remember when we talked about the prophecy and you told me what it said?”

“I do.”

“Haze, repeat after me. If anyone asks me to repeat the words of the prophecy I will not be able to remember them no matter how hard I try, unless the person asking is Professor Snape or Albus Dumbledore, and they can prove who they are.”

“Good, that’s right. Haze, you look warm.”

“I do?” asked the boy as he touched his cheek with the back of one hand, then his forehead.

“Yes. Haze, you look warm. Maybe you should do something about that,” Severus suggested.

Haze stood up and shucked his robes, laying them across the arm of his chair before sitting again.

“You feel better now, don’t you,” Severus purred.

“Yes, thanks.”

“You did really well tonight, Haze. You worked very hard. Haze, reward yourself.”

This time Haze didn’t need any prompting to begin stroking the fabric that encased him. His right hand immediately moved down as his head lolled to the side.

“That’s right. Give in to the feelings, Haze. Make it feel even better, yes. Soon you’ll be able to go even further into the sensations. Such a good boy.” And Severus kept on speaking in soothing, coaxing tones until Haze looked and sounded like he was becoming frustrated.

“Haze, the sensations are starting to fade away, and you’ll be opening your eyes soon. They’re fading and you’re enjoying the last lingering feelings. Your hand is moving back to the arm of the chair, that’s right. Haze, wake up.”

As the boy stood and started to gather his things, Severus interjected with a question. “Haze, how are you doing on the assignment I gave you?”

“Fine, sir. I’ll have it ready by next week.”

Severus dispelled the wards then said, “That’s good to hear. You may go.”

Two minutes later Severus was in his bedroom taking care of his own frustration.

Saturday, 16 November 1996

Mornings were hell, he decided, but at least it was the weekend. Albus wouldn’t care if he was nowhere to be found during the morning meal, and that was all to the better. After several minutes of intense thought he came to the conclusion that Haze hadn’t seen his memories, because Haze wasn’t consciously (or subconsciously) trying to. He was literally reflecting back the magical energy Severus had thrust at him, essentially giving it back, and keeping no hold on the results.

In effect, Severus had attacked himself, just like bouncing a spell off a mirror.

He spared himself a silent, internal laugh over the idea of that happening to the Dark Lord, then moved on to consideration of his prophecy directive. He couldn’t very well bring in a third party to test its effectiveness, and he definitely couldn’t involve Albus. That would be suicide.

He was also curious to find out if it would hold up under the influence of veritaserum. The mind and body were capable of a great many things, some of which even bordered on the miraculous. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to test it, now would it? But again, he would have the same problem as before.

He supposed he could haul some unsuspecting student into the room and try it, but then he’d have to obliviate the child, and that was definitely not something he had any interest in doing. Polyjuice was an option, but he’d be stuck with a new form for an hour, which could cause complications. Unless. . . .

No, that wouldn’t work. Dragging the boy into an empty classroom unexpectedly and questioning him was all very well, but it wouldn’t prove much of anything except that the boy was stubborn. He also didn’t feel like having to obliviate Potter in the aftermath, since he’d be unable to bring him under.

Severus rolled off the bed and onto his feet, taking the time to run through his morning routine before searching through the many shelves of books in his quarters. Having selected a stack of likely tomes, he sat down near the fire, placing the books on the side table, and called for a house-elf to order breakfast.

Several hours, several dirty dishes, a pile of books, and a headache later, Severus settled on using a glamour to test out his theories. That, and a temporary directive he could give Haze so that it seemed as though Severus was also present as his normal self, assuming it worked. He didn’t think Haze would be too thrilled at being subjected to veritaserum by a complete stranger, and alone with him to boot.

He just needed some practice before he attempted anything.

At the monthly staff meeting later on, after lunch, he was amused to note that most of Potter’s professors were clumped around one end of the table, talking about how remarkably well Harry had been doing in his lessons of late. Albus was smiling and twinkling away like it was all his doing. Severus resisted the urge to roll his eyes and hoped the meeting wouldn’t last too much longer.

*

It had taken another hour of intense and fast-paced attacks, but the boy reflected one back at Severus, who then called for a short break. There was obviously some obscure decision-making process going on in the boy’s subconscious which triggered the reflection reaction that Severus didn’t understand. Potter, Haze, whatever . . . Haze was the only one who’d be able to explain.

“Haze, do you have any idea why your defenses aren’t reflecting back the attack as soon as they begin to weaken?” Severus held up a hand to silence the boy so he could finish. “From what I’m able to discern, you’re waiting for some reason before you switch to reflection. I’m curious as to whether or not you know why.”

“Well, sir, you said I should try to do that when I couldn’t use the attacks for strength any longer.”

“Yes, but I don’t understand what’s going on in that head of yours. Explain in more detail.”

“Oh,” Haze said, with an expression that could have passed for mild incredulity. “You said I should try when the attacks didn’t help me, and they do, up to a certain point. I can still feel it helping. But then it just doesn’t work anymore, so I think about reflecting instead. Except I don’t really think I’m thinking about it, if that makes any sense, sir. It just happens.”

Severus rubbed his temple. Yes, of course. Why didn’t he think of that? “So you’re saying that the absorption is still helping, just not enough to keep your defenses at full strength. And it isn’t until you can’t make use of the energy used in the attacks at all that your reaction changes. Does that sound right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“All right. We’re going to try again, but this time I want you to try to reflect as soon as your defenses begin to weaken. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Severus stood up and started prowling the room, launching attacks at random, and with very little time between. This time the reflection came quicker, probably owing to the lack of a chance to properly recuperate. Severus didn’t stop to rest, but continued to launch attacks at Haze for another ten minutes or so.

Sitting down, Severus tapped his wand on the arm of his chair as he looked at Haze intently. “Better. To reaffirm something, I need to ask if you’re seeing any of my memories when you manage to reflect my attacks?”

“No, sir.”

“Interesting,” he said softly.

“Professor?”

Severus blinked and looked up, realizing he’d become lost in his thoughts. “Are you aware now of when you’re reflecting the attack rather than absorbing it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very good. We’re going to move things up a step, then, though we won’t try it until your next lesson. You’re going to try to learn something new to do with those defenses.” Seeing that Haze perked up he went on to say, “You know what a battery is, correct?”

Haze nodded.

“Then I want you to imagine that your defenses have one. You’re going to make sure that battery is always charged up.” Severus saw Haze nodding his head, with a focused expression on his face. “The reason for the battery is to provide extra power for the reflection. Think of it as . . . draining the battery to augment the attack energy, then reflecting it. Questions?”

The boy furrowed his brow. “Is this so I could incapacitate the attacker for a longer period of time, sir?”

“Yes, very good. Excellent deduction, Haze. And if you can do that, you have more time to make a decision on what to do then. Escape, stun, whatever is needed.”

Haze gave Severus a smile. “I noticed that it took you a few seconds to handle the reflected attack, sir, so that’s why I wondered. I mean, I know you’re a master Occlumens, so. . . .”

Severus nodded. “This little truce of ours is proving to be beneficial, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes, sir. It is.”

“Is there anything you feel you need to talk to me about, Haze?”

“Um, not at present, sir, no.”

“It’s a little early, but that’s all right, you may go. I’m sure you’ll find a way to reward yourself, Haze.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Sunday, 17 November 1996

Albus was, by nature, a very curious sort of fellow. Had he been a cat, he would have no doubt long since used up all his nine lives, and not be in any position to explore his current curiosity. However, since he was indeed not a cat, he saw fit to have a short note delivered to Harry Potter during breakfast, inviting him for a chat directly he’d finished eating.

So it was that Harry arrived promptly after breakfast and took a seat in one of the several plush chairs available in front of Albus’s desk. After greeting the headmaster and accepting a sherbet lemon, Harry settled back.

“You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes, Harry. I’ve been hearing some good things about you lately. Though that is not to say I normally hear bad things, please don’t misunderstand.” Noticing the confused and curious look on the boy’s face he went on to say, “Yes, good things. Your professors have been noticing a marked improvement in your school work, Harry. I think it’s rather marvelous myself.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“And is everything else going well? No problems to report?” he asked, fishing, as always.

“Everything is fine, sir. I can’t think of anything wrong. . . .” Harry trailed off.

“But something is obviously on your mind. Is it anything you can tell me about?” Albus asked gently.

“Well. . . .” Harry took a deep breath and exhaled. “Yes, sir, there is. I was wondering . . . well, would it be all right with you if I asked Professor Snape to maybe tutor me in potions?” he asked, then fidgeted.

“Harry, you don’t even take potions.”

“I know, sir.”

“So why do you ask?”

“It’s just that I’m still disappointed that I wasn’t eligible. I was hoping that maybe he’d agree to tutor me, you know, because the Occlumency lessons are going so well. Maybe he wouldn’t mind, and maybe I could learn well enough now that he might let me into his NEWT classes, sir.”

Albus stroked his beard in contemplation. “Won’t that take up too much of your remaining free time, Harry? You do have homework for your other classes you need to get done, and Occlumency takes up three evenings a week.”

“I don’t think so, sir. I do most of my assignments in my open periods, and they haven’t been taking me as much time as they used to. I’ve even got homework for my Occlumency lessons that I’ll be turning in on Wednesday, and I still have free time. May I please?”

Albus looked at his favorite student, taking in those wide green eyes that looked so sincerely hopeful, and caved. “Yes, Harry, you may ask him if he’ll tutor you in potions if that’s what you really want. But you must realize that he might say no. I know that the two of you are getting along, but he may not have the time to spare.”

Harry beamed. “Thank you, professor.”

“Now, Harry, I must caution you. Don’t get too excited just yet. You still have to ask Professor Snape.”

Harry nodded and said, “Yes, sir.”

“All right. Now remember, you can come see me whenever you feel the need. You run along and have fun, Harry.”

*

Severus, in the middle of marking some third year papers, was startled to hear knocking at his office door. “Enter,” he called out, and watched as the door opened and Harry Potter fairly bounced inside, though it was clear he was trying to behave normally. Severus arched a brow and set down his quill.

“Mr Potter, to what do I owe this visit?”

“I had a question, sir.”

“Indeed. Close the door, then,” he responded dryly, then cast a few privacy spells. “I’m surprised you knew to find me here. I’m not normally in my office this early during the weekends.”

“Oh, I used my map, sir. I didn’t want to check all over the castle the usual way.”

“Map?” Severus asked sharply. “What map?”

“Here, sir, I’ll show you.” Haze reached into his robes and pulled out a vaguely familiar bit of parchment, then stepped forward and spread it open on Severus’s desk. “See?”

Merlin’s beard. Severus watched with carefully concealed astonishment as Haze pointed at a spot on the map, which showed to be Albus Dumbledore pacing around in his office, represented by tiny moving shoe prints and a small label with his name. Haze then stabbed his finger at a different spot, and Severus switched focus to see another set of prints, this time for Blaise Zabini, who was heading up toward the owlery.

“The map. It’s quite useful, sir. So I knew exactly where you were.”

“Is this the same . . . thing . . . that I caught you with in your third year that insulted me?”

“Yes, sir. But I didn’t have anything to do with that. I just inherited it.”

Severus widened his eyes and blinked, then rubbed his forehead. “Inherited like your invisibility cloak?”

“Not exactly, sir. You see—”

“No, never mind. We’ll discuss the map another time, I think.” After Haze had folded it carefully and tucked it away, Severus prompted, “Your question?”

“Er, right. I was wondering if you might, um, consider the idea of tutoring me in potions, professor?”

Severus held back a pleased smirk. The boy really was delightful at times. “Why, pray tell, would you want that when you don’t even take potions?”

“Because I want to learn, and maybe if I did really well, you might consider letting me into your NEWT potions class, sir?”

“I see. I can’t make that decision until you’ve gained permission from the headmaster for tutoring and the possibility of adding an extra class this far into the year.”

“I already asked him, sir. He said it was all right if that’s what I really wanted. I thought it would be better to see him first before I came and asked you.”

“You realize that this would take up a lot of your time, correct?”

“Yes, sir, but that’s fine. I have way too much free time as it is.”

“Is that so. Well then, since I would normally adjourn to my private lab at around this time, you shall come along with me and we’ll see what you can do. That is, if you don’t have anything better to do today?”

“No, sir. My friends are in Hogsmeade. I didn’t feel like going.”

“Then let us be off.”