Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Induction :: 10 :: Stirrings

10 • Stirrings

Sunday, 16 February 1997

He must have done something, for Haze opened his eyes and gazed up at Severus, the gentle smile still lingering at his lips. After a moment he placed a final kiss, then sat up and shuffled back a little on his knees, off Severus’s trousers.

Haze reached down and began to pull Severus’s clothing back up, but was waved away with an idle gesture. The boy cocked his head to the side, then shuffled back even further, bumping into the low table. A faint flush coloured his cheeks, and Haze got to his feet rather awkwardly, stepping to the side so that Severus could stand.

When his clothing was back in place, Severus gave Haze the barest of smiles, just the slightest upturn at one corner of his mouth.

“If I may, sir, I’d like to continue in the lab,” Haze said quietly, and when Severus nodded, he edged sideways until he was clear of the chair and disappeared.

The remainder of the day went smoothly and quietly. Haze seemed to be acting as though nothing untoward had happened, and Severus was happy to not comment. He figured, after only a brief amount of time examining the situation, that if the boy wasn’t willing to talk about it, neither would he.

Saturday, 22 February 1997

He felt strange, strangely enough, but passed it off as simply an odd mood. The fire wasn’t very enticing, no matter how often in the past he’d been able to stare at one for hours and be entranced by the ever-changing shapes. His books and publications didn’t hold much appeal either, for all that they contained a wealth of knowledge about his one true passion in life.

Severus was, to put it mildly, discontented. Monday had gone well enough; his lecture on invisibility potions was well received, even after he’d sternly expounded on the punishments which awaited those who used them for pranking. He’d noticed Haze looking interested but slightly jaded, which was understandable given the cloak Severus knew he possessed. The essay he assigned on the benefits and drawbacks as compared to using a spell or one of the rare invisibility cloaks had perked him up though.

Wednesday evening was spent on testing the boy’s defenses repeatedly until they were both tired, then another round of veritaserum tests to verify that Haze was keeping up with his efforts.

The students had worked well enough on Thursday, and only a few incidents occurred. Haze had shielded his work area as usual and the attempts made to sabotage him had resulted in a little something different this time. Severus would have thought that by now the seventh years would have realized it was pointless to try and ruin the boy’s potion, but they persisted.

The first attempt saw the lobbed ingredient bounce back and smack an innocent Hufflepuff in the back of the head, resulting in the student’s cauldron being knocked over and an expression of abject dismay. Severus watched out of the corner of his eye as Haze looked up briefly, furrowed his brow, and then went back to work.

The second attempt went much the same except that a Slytherin was caught out, having made the mistake of watching what happened, and ended up with a mouthful of rat spleens, which weren’t even used in the day’s potion. Severus ostensibly neglected to see that as well.

As expected, Haze turned in a perfect potion, in a phial charmed to be unbreakable, along with his essay. He had, oddly enough, been very slow to clean up his area and was the last to leave. Before he ducked out the door, Haze had come up to Severus’s desk with a question.

“I should like to go to Hogsmeade this weekend, sir,” he’d said quietly, “and I wanted to know if that was all right with you because it would mean missing my usual time in the lab. My friends have really been bugging me about spending so much time in study.”

So Severus had given his permission to skip a lesson just the once, thinking nothing of it.

Earlier in the day, this day, Severus had gone on a little field trip to a certain graveyard and done a little digging. Obfuscation and repelling charms had shielded him from view, and when he was done and had replaced the dirt and sod he’d temporarily moved aside, Severus banished his spellwork and apparated back to the dark forest and returned to the castle. After delivering the results of his foray to the headmaster, he’d come back to his quarters to sit in his chair and contemplate before the fire.

The same fire which for once he found uninteresting. Perhaps it was the lack of background noise, the lack of the soft clink of glass, or the sound of muffled footsteps. Perhaps it was that lunch had long since passed, and he’d taken it in the Great Hall, an unusual occurrence for him of a weekend. Perhaps it was that time seemed to move strangely, slower than normal.

With a stilted sigh, Severus stood and entered his lab. Working with potions could be addictive, like a calming drug. He checked the current list from the infirmary and set to work.

Sunday, 23 February 1997

Severus gathered up the multitude of potions he’d been brewing since the night before. He absently chided himself for working so late, knowing that Haze was due for his lesson in less than six hours. However, this would bring the infirmary back to full supply, and quite probably last through the end of the term.

Madam Pomfrey was often up at odd hours so he knew there would be no trouble delivering them now. A walk before he took his rest would not hurt him, and likely help, for he still felt strange.

Having packed everything in a charmed container, Severus set off toward the hospital wing. On his way he walked silently, ghosting along the corridors, and on finding the occasional rapscallion he used his extensive vocabulary and command of inflection to reduce them to quivering masses of flesh. The detentions assigned to Filch were simply a bonus.

Striding through the doors to the infirmary Severus breezed on past the rows of beds and toward the back, intent on gaining entrance to the supply room and relieving himself of his burden. It was a flash of reflected light that caught his attention, just as he was about to walk deeper into the wing.

Pausing in mid-stride and glancing over he saw a familiar pair of glasses. Then he saw a familiar form, sleeping in one of the beds with a peculiar expression on his face. Severus frowned and changed direction, walking over to the boy to examine him more closely. Bruises and scratches marred Haze’s otherwise clear skin, but he couldn’t see more as the boy was tucked in well under the covers.

Frowning more deeply, Severus stalked off to his original destination and dropped off the supplies he’d brought, then returned to his quarters, sending one final glance at Haze before he left the wing. He didn’t sleep well.

*

When he awoke later that morning he felt cross and uptight. Anyone looking at him would not have noticed anything untoward; his expression was much as usual, fit to frighten fish out of water. Muttering the whole way through his morning routine, Severus finally resolved to speak with Albus, especially if the boy wasn’t present at breakfast, which he himself planned to be at.

And so it was that he found himself seated at the high table, scowling fiercely at anyone who dared to so much as look in his direction, and very aware of the fact that Haze was indeed missing. When the meal ended, he ghosted up behind Albus and said, “A word.”

Albus nodded, and the two made their way to the second floor, and up into Albus’s office.

Severus didn’t bother to sit, and instead stood in front of the headmaster’s desk, looming over it as though he were the devil himself, come to take a victim. “What happened to Potter?” he asked unceremoniously. “The boy had a lesson this morning, and I know he was in the infirmary last night.”

“Do sit down, dear boy,” responded Albus, waving a hand at one of the comfy chairs. Ignoring the fact that Severus remained standing, he spoke further. “I was aware of his most recent trip to the hospital wing. I should have had a note sent to you, Severus, so that you’d know he’d be unable to come this morning.”

“That is all very well, Albus, but you didn’t answer my question. What happened?”

“An altercation in Hogsmeade, Severus. Nothing serious.”

Severus snorted. “In conjunction with that boy, nothing serious generally means it wasn’t life threatening. The fact that he’s in the infirmary tells me it was anything but minor, especially in light of his record number of visits.”

“Yes, yes. It would seem that way, wouldn’t it. Rest assured, he is fine. Poppy merely kept him over to make sure there were no repercussions from the incident.”

“Which was?”

“A fight broke out in town and Harry happened to get caught in the crossfire.”

Severus arched his brow and waited.

“Unfortunately, Harry was hit from behind and took quite a tumble. He said he must have blacked out, so he isn’t sure how long it was before his friends found him. They informed me that once they realized he’d been gone considerably longer than they’d expected they went looking for him. When they finally located him, Miss Granger levitated him back up to the castle. Neither of them saw anyone else in the area.”

“I see.” When Albus shot him a knowing look Severus sneered and said, “I should not have given the wretched boy permission to go to Hogsmeade. That’s two lessons now he’s missed.”

“Were it not for the words you tend to speak, one might think you’d grown passing fond of the boy.”

“Oh, assuredly,” drawled Severus with dripping sarcasm. “And next I’ll decide that chartreuse and puce make for a lovely combination and purchase myself new dress robes so that I might be the height of fashion.”

Albus chuckled, then said, “Was that all?”

“No. I received word this morning from Omega, who says that the Dark Lord is giving out some rather odd orders of late. I tend to think, after reading through the report, that the brat’s attempts at confusing him may be working.”

“That is very good news indeed, assuming all is as it seems. I assume you’ll pass on a copy of the report later today?”

“Yes, fine. Now I’ll leave you to your rapacious hunger for sherbet lemons, though at least you had the good sense not to offer this time.” Severus nodded curtly and swept out, down the stairs, and toward his quarters, scattering unsuspecting students in every direction as he stalked by.

Haze was indeed to be seen at lunch, which made Severus feel somewhat less discontented. But still, he’d now missed two days of the boy’s company, or more accurately of his attention, and he could not shake off the irritability that resulted.

Monday, 24 February 1997

When Severus arrived in his classroom Haze was sitting in his usual place looking a little worse for wear, but with a calm expression. Severus watched him carefully during the lecture without seeming to, and became satisfied that whatever exactly had befallen the boy, it hadn’t done much harm in the long run.

On his way out after the lesson, Haze paused long enough in gathering up his things that he was the last to go, allowing him to aim a rather apologetic look at Severus on the way out.

Wednesday, 26 February 1997

“What, exactly, happened?” Severus asked from his seat in the squashy chair across from Haze’s.

The boy gave him another apologetic look before answering, and an ironic smile. “More of my exceptionally good luck, I suppose, sir. I wanted a little time to myself because I was feeling a bit smothered, so I took a walk off toward the Shrieking Shack. There were some others there, but they didn’t seem to notice me. They were just talking quietly, so I went up to the fence at the far side. I didn’t think anything of it. The next thing I knew, they were shouting at each other, so I started to walk back to town. I didn’t want to get involved.”

Severus interrupted. “Were they students?”

“I don’t know, sir. Their cloaks weren’t any fancier than mine, and their hoods were up against the cold.” Haze shrugged slightly. “Anyway, I was walking away when the casting started, and I guess for once my speed counted for nothing. I hadn’t even turned around to look when I was hit from behind. I vaguely recall flying through the air and crashing into something, and the next thing I knew, Ron and Hermione were there.”

“So you have no idea who they were,” Severus stated.

Haze shook his head. “The voices were too rough to recognize, even if I could.”

“Very well. I strongly suggest that you not venture out alone past the castle grounds in the future. While I can understand your need for a breather of solitude, I am far from convinced that this was a mere accident barring any solid evidence.”

“Yes, if you think so, sir.”

“If?” Severus asked.

“Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking. Nothing really bad ever seems to happen until the end of the year, you know? It just didn’t occur to me that there could be a problem walking by myself, sir, that’s all.”

Severus bit his tongue to keep from saying the first thing that came to mind. After taking a deep, calming breath, he spoke. “Indeed. It has been said previously that luck has much to do with your continued survival. However, you must look beyond such a capricious mistress as Fortune. You cannot rely on luck forever, Haze.”

He sighed and said, “If nothing else, it deeply underscores that you need real training, and soon. You’ve done the best you could so far, and you’ve managed to get out alive, but it can’t continue. At some point you’re going to have to face him down, and until then, you need to be far more aware of your surroundings. Much as I hate to repeat anything spoken by that trigger-happy old paranoiac, his mantra of ‘constant vigilance’ is nothing to laugh off in this age, especially when it comes to you.”

“Yes, sir,” Haze said in a somewhat subdued voice, his expression ruminative.

“Speaking of which, have you given any thought at all to next year? Yes, you’ll still be here, because the headmaster will find a way to make it happen, but even intensive training for the battle ahead won’t take up all of your time.”

The boy angled his head to the side as he looked at Severus curiously.

“Let me rephrase that. What are your plans for the future, once this is all over. And don’t tell me that you never expected to live that long.”

Haze blinked at him slowly. “I don’t know?”

It was, Severus thought, at times like these that he wanted very badly to shake the boy until his brains rattled. Instead he asked in a patient voice, “What interests you the most? I do not mean what is easiest for you. You are good at defense, but do you really wish to hunt down erring wizards all your life? You are an excellent seeker, but do you believe you could be hired on skill and talent alone, and not your reputation, or that you would not become bored? So, what is it that interests you the most, that you could see yourself doing for years to come?”

Haze continued to stare at him, offensively blank in expression.

Reining in another urge to shake the boy, Severus said, “Think about it and get back to me. Now, Occlumency. . . .”

Saturday, 1 March 1997

Haze arrived promptly that morning and the door was barely closed behind him, invoking the wards, when Severus found himself being pushed back slowly by persistent hands, one of which roamed across his chest while the other teasingly rubbed in circles lower and lower.

He found himself not at all unwilling, and allowed the boy to continue his devastating guidance until Severus bumped against the wall. Haze dropped to his knees, deftly and quickly dealing with the annoying issue of trousers, then reversed their positions.

Cooler air wafted across Severus’s heated flesh, and he braced his hands against the wall, letting his head drop down to see Haze propped against the wall below him. What followed was quite similar to their initial encounter in the shower, except that as with last time, there was that delightful additional friction from lack of any lubricant on the boy’s gently questing fingers.

It wasn’t long before Severus felt himself tensing involuntarily and he knew it was almost over, something that occasioned a moment of sadness. The boy’s sweet lips and tongue were devilishly clever, leading him almost against his will to a culmination quicker than he’d like.

And then, it came.

Several minutes later, when his breathing and the beating of his heart had settled back into a more normal range, Haze carefully restored his clothing and slipped away and back onto his feet.

Severus pushed away from the wall and turned. “What was that for?”

“Because I wanted to, sir,” replied Haze evenly. “And to thank you for letting me miss my lesson so I could go to Hogsmeade.”

Severus didn’t respond at first, then nodded. “You should be almost done with your catching up, Haze.”

“Yes, sir. After today I should be completely caught up.”

“In that case I shall have to consider a pre-NEWT test as there are only twelve weeks remaining until they begin. It would, certainly, highlight any problem areas in your theory.” He gave the boy a considering look, then nodded again. “Proceed, then.”

Saturday, 8 March 1997

When Haze showed up for his Occlumency lesson Severus directed him into the lab, waved him at a chair and dropped a stack of parchment on the worktable. “I shall be in here working on some rather delicate concoctions so try not to disturb me. As a normal written NEWT in Potions is three hours, so will this be, covering even areas I expect to be on them that you may not have read up on yet, but will be included in classes during the time until then. Naturally, the questions change from year to year, so this is merely practice. You may begin.”

Severus was actually doing experimental work rather than brewing anything of a more ordinary nature and his work was accompanied by the quiet, irregular scratching of Haze’s quill. After an early lunch he dismissed the boy and set to checking over the exam, red ink and quill in hand.

Sunday, 9 March 1997

At the end of a grueling Occlumency lesson, and after Haze had shown his unprompted willingness to please Severus prior to lunch, Severus flipped the sheaf of parchment across the table, noticing that the boy caught it neatly in one hand.

“I see no glaringly obvious area of deficiency, Haze. Though you did somewhat worse on the areas the class has not yet covered, even in those your understanding of the principles of potion making and knowledge of ingredients served you well. It is quite clear that you have been taking your studies seriously, and I’ve no doubts that you’ll score well on the NEWT.”

Haze smiled at him, proud but not unduly so, and tucked the parchments into his bag, presumably to study later.