Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 22 :: Lessons

22 • Lessons

“Mr Potter.”

“Yes, sir?” Harry answered politely, noticing that Snape looked as though he was trying to force back a sneer.

“You might wish to remember that your belongings are not to be left in my classroom as though it is your personal storage area. Failure to remember this will result in unpleasantness. Are we clear on this point?” Snape thrust forward several sheets of parchment, snatching his hand back the moment Harry took hold of them.

“Yes, sir.” Harry watched as Snape swept off, then glanced down at the top sheet of parchment. The writing was characteristic of his own, which confused him considerably until he realized it was from an essay he had written the previous year. Then he was even more confused over why the man would even have a copy still until he began to take note of the scarlet lines which bled across it in scathing remarks. One of them seemed to be much more recent.

:Tom?:

:Yes, Harry. What is it?:

:Look through my eyes. Does this make any sense to you?: Harry kept his focus on the new comment and waited.

:Yes, it does. Severus apparently has something he wishes to talk about with me. If there is no reason for me to keep the conversation private, I will share with you once I have had a chance to talk to him.:

:All right. Whatever it is I guess he doesn’t want to wait until Tuesday evening. That, or he does not wish to talk to you through me directly. I suppose I cannot blame him as we aren’t on the best of terms.:

After a slight pause Tom sent, :That is true. I do think he was quite pleased at what he was able to gather from the corpse of the basilisk, though.:

Harry furrowed his brow, then realized he was still standing in the middle of the hallway like an idiot. Shaking his head slightly he continued on toward the library, stuffing the parchments into his bag. :I’m sure you had good reason to bring that up, but I think it may take me a while to figure it out.:

:I like that about you, Harry.:

:What, that I’m brainless?: Harry smiled softly and nodded absently to several students as he passed by them, who gave him wide passage.

:Of course you are. About as brainless as Marilyn vos Savant. I like that you desire to figure it out on your own rather than simply asking what I mean.:

Harry turned and walked through the library doors, then headed for a secluded table on the first floor. :Well, if I intend to understand you better, isn’t it wise to attempt it on my own?:

:Quite right,: said Tom as Harry slipped into a chair and offloaded his bag from his shoulder. :Harry, there’s something that concerns me that I wanted to talk to you about.:

:Okay.:

:I can understand why you might wish to speak more in depth with Remus, but I am somewhat worried about how trustworthy he is.:

Harry immediately frowned, but remained silent, waiting for Tom to explain himself.

:While I am not saying he must have spoken in any detail to Dumbledore about your conversation at Privet Drive, it is possible that he did so. I am concerned that his desire to be honest with the old man might overcome his desire to make you happy should you reveal the truth to him.:

:A conflict of interest? Wouldn’t a Wizard’s Oath take care of that?:

:It would have to be very carefully worded, Harry. Carefully enough that even a Slytherin couldn’t find a way around it.:

:But that’s all right, then, isn’t it? If he was willing to take it, then okay. If not, then I suppose you would need to tinker with his memories. It seems to me that something suitable could be worked out. You didn’t get as far as you did by being an idiot, Tom.:

:Are you sure? I’m falling for you, after all. I’m quite sure St. Mungo’s would love to have me as a long-term case study.:

Harry laughed softly and opened his bag, pulling out a book.

:Ah, I need to go for a while. Severus is available to talk, so I’ll speak with you later.:

:Try not to have too much fun, Tom.:

*

Dobby had already begun to spruce up the new library, though whether it was to his own tastes or to Harry’s Tom was not sure. It went almost without saying that Tom was not very familiar with just what a house-elf was capable of aside from what he had witnessed firsthand. After all, how many people knew that one could jump a passenger through wards?

Tom felt that it was far safer to conduct any meetings there. While Severus could and did ward his office and quarters, it was still possible that Dumbledore had means by which he could circumvent the obvious, and Tom made a mental note to ask Dobby to check things when he had a moment, unobtrusively.

As it was, Tom was comfortably ensconced in a squashy armchair situated in front of a very realistic (though fake) fireplace. Were one able, one could see past the illusion to realize that the flames, scent, and warmth were byproducts of a few carefully placed spells. When Severus was brought in he took the other chair without speaking and accepted a glass of port with a slight nod of his head.

It wasn’t until several minutes later that he spoke. “I thought you should know that I have entertained Mr Malfoy no less than three times this week. Or, are you already aware of this?”

Tom shook his head. “The portrait in your office is there merely to allow you to pass along messages if need be. The same applies to the one in your quarters. What was Malfoy’s purpose?”

Severus gave a disgusted snort. “To whine. It is, after all, one of the things he excels at.”

Tom rubbed his forehead and nodded slightly, knowing there must be a great deal more to it than basic childish idiocy.

“Specifically, he has been torturing me with his incessant complaints about how very unfair it is that with his father in Azkaban he has lost some of his power within Slytherin. With that, he seems to be convinced that were his father free, Potter’s re-sort could have been prevented. He has also seen fit to bring up the fact—in his mind, at least—that as a prefect and the son of Lucius Malfoy he should have been made aware of Potter’s change of house almost as quickly as it happened.”

“I see. What had you in mind to tell him, then, assuming you were to do more than listen?”

“Aside from the part where I bit my tongue to prevent calling him a dolt? Given your earlier words of wisdom I had thought it might be prudent to tell him something vague, yet appealing, such as how it was a wonder that the high and mighty Dumbledore managed to fall obligingly to our lord’s plans to get Potter into Slytherin.”

Tom chuckled appreciatively and tipped his glass slightly at Severus. “Such wicked truth. I don’t suppose you’ve noticed any of your supplies missing, or potions?”

“You are referring to that spectacle in the paper,” Severus stated flatly. “No, I have not. It is possible that Malfoy procured some through one of his contacts.”

“I shall have to ask Harry to question the master portrait, then. Though, given that the serpents have had so little to report up until now, it may be pointless. They did warn us that Malfoy was up to something, but were unable to provide any specifics.”

Severus gave him an intense look, then said, “Doesn’t Potter have that wretched map in his possession?”

“Sorry?”

Severus rolled his eyes. “If he does, he could set watch on Malfoy to find out where he has been going to discuss his plans. Assuming he has not been using means other than speech to do so, the map could give you other places in which to place spies.”

Tom looked at him quizzically, then sent, :Harry?:

:Yes.:

:Severus has mentioned a map of yours?:

There was a slight pause, and a distinct spike of confusion. :I understand what he means. Why?:

:The master portrait could not tell us much. Severus has suggested you use this map to keep on eye on Malfoy’s whereabouts in case we need to place more spies. And what the hell is he talking about anyway?:

:Sorry, Tom. He’s referring to the Marauder’s Map. It shows most of the school, and of course, whoever is currently within. I’ll show it to you the next time you visit. Please tell him thank you for me, for the reminder?:

Tom shook his head slightly. “Harry understands, and asks me to tell you thank you for the reminder.”

Severus snorted softly and muttered, “Brat,” though Tom got the impression that the man’s reaction wasn’t anything like it might have been in the recent past.

“I wonder if it was Crabbe and Goyle playing the starring roles,” he mused out loud, then grinned at the look of horror which flickered over Severus’s face. “A shocking idea, hm? If it was, one must wonder just how much control young Malfoy has over those two.”

“I beg that you desist in such utterings. I am quite sure I shall have nightmares over this. Thank Merlin I have a ready supply of dreamless sleep potion on hand.”

Tom bit his lip against laughter. To change the subject he said, “I believe I might try Harry’s latest idea tomorrow afternoon. I’ve already set aside the morning for more interviews with various Death Eaters. At any rate, I trust your judgment on what to say to Malfoy as the occasion arises. If you wish not to be bothered with reporting any of it, simply say so in whichever room you normally receive him in. The serpent will know to pass those conversations along to the master. Otherwise, the usual will suffice. Though”—Tom furrowed his brow—“we should come up with something a bit easier in terms of you being able to let Harry know you wish to speak with me if it cannot wait.”

“Unfortunately, Protean Charms do not work both ways.”

“I suppose we could simply make another set, though preferably not rings. It isn’t as though you can just waltz up to Harry on a moment’s notice.”

Severus sighed and cast him a weary look. “I suppose it would not kill me to wear some kind of pendant.”

“If you like. It would be interesting if you could get Malfoy to gloat about his little prank, Severus. It might also be interesting if he were to somehow get the impression that Voldemort is considering the idea of recruiting students, though that should perhaps wait until we knew where he has been lurking of late. I would not be surprised if the boy is even now planning another way to strike at Harry.”

“Nor would I. And is Mr Potter spying on this conversation?”

Tom shook his head. “I think I can safely say that the first time was simply the testing of a theory. In any case, I told him I would pass on any relevant information if it was not private in nature. Tell me, if you will, how long were you betting it would take before Harry figured out your ruse?”

“I assumed he would be confused and that I would have to either pull him aside for something a bit more obvious or wait until Tuesday evening,” Severus said flatly.

“Then I expect you will be pleased to know that he realized something was very off almost immediately and asked me to interpret the comment left behind on that parchment. Of course, I would not be at all surprised if he is still wondering where you got your hands on an essay of his from a previous year. Or perhaps I mean to say why you still had it.”

Severus smirked and declined to comment.

“Hopefully,” Tom continued, “we will have a better idea on certain issues within the next few days. I don’t much see the point in extending a holiday invitation for no reason, never mind that I would prefer not to deal with any more of the bastards than I need to.” He paused and shot an inquisitive look at Severus. “I find I am curious as to what you might do once this is over. Surely you would not wish to stay at Hogwarts teaching idiot brats an art that many of them cannot appreciate.”

“That depends,” Severus said with a slight smile. “Assuming I am able to do as I wish without interference from the Ministry, I expect I would gravitate toward advances in Potions, research, development.”

“With a sideline in order to generate the necessary funds?”

“If I had a sideline, where would I find the time to research? I hope you are not implying that I am destitute,” Severus said with a bit of a sneer.

“No, but then, I wouldn’t really know. I valued you for your talent, not for your vault. However, if you find yourself in need of an investor, please let me know. I’m afraid I rather understated my, er, means to Harry when the subject came up.”

When Severus arched a brow Tom continued, “I would explain that in more detail, but I’m afraid it touches on something I think is not my right to . . . discuss. That reminds me, though, that I really ought to do a little research into possible professions Harry might pursue once this is over.”

Severus arched his brow again, then said, “Shall I assume that auror is out?”

Tom waved one of his hands in a dismissive manner. “I very much doubt that would interest him. This is speculation on my part, but I tend to think that his track record with the Ministry would put him off that idea quite handily. There may be a number of very noble people employed there, but Harry has certainly had to deal with some of the more corrupt aspects of it. Then again, he may surprise me. He certainly manages that on a regular basis already.”

Severus took a sip from his glass, swallowed, and said, “I will keep your offer in mind. Unfortunately, I do have a detention scheduled shortly, so I really must be going.”

“Certainly. I will create a second set of signals in the meantime.” He concentrated, then said, “Dobby, would you please return Severus to his office?” Once Severus was safely out of the way Tom contacted Harry again.

:I’m here.:

:Are you free at the moment? I thought perhaps we could talk, or do a little work.:

:In the Chamber library?:

:Yes, unless you would prefer your room.:

:No. It will be a few minutes, though. I’m still in the library, and I’ll probably have to shake Blaise off with an excuse should I run into him.:

*

“It’s funny,” Harry said as he dropped into the chair Severus had been using. “I still can’t just sneak off without coming up with excuses. I honestly didn’t think that anyone in Slytherin would approach me with any kind of neutrality, or even with friendship in mind.” He shrugged and gave a lopsided smile. “What did you want to work on?”

Tom returned the smile and said, “That depends. We could give Occlumency a try, or we could see about teaching you the Protean Charm.”

Harry flashed a brilliant smile, then frowned. “Why am I learning Occlumency again? I mean, you practically live in my head at times so. . . .”

Tom remained silent, hoping that Harry would reason it out for himself, or remember.

“And I’m not really all that worried about Snape, either.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck as he gazed at Tom with curiosity plainly written on his face. “Okay. Then I suppose the headmaster, in case he wants his own proof, rather than trusting my word, or Snape’s? Oh, and because he’s nosy, naturally.”

Tom grinned and inclined his head. “Exactly so. And once I am certain that you can block me out, we’ll move on to the idea of presenting a false face in memory.”

Harry furrowed his brow and stared at the fire for several minutes. “There’s good and bad points to that,” he said finally.

“Which are?” Tom was quite curious as to his reasoning.

“Well, if I were simply going with the usual, it would be blatantly obvious I had actually learned what was being asked of me. That may or may not lead to a request that the lessons continued for exactly what you just mentioned. After all, were I to face Voldemort and get attacked in such a manner, a wall may not be taken as a measure to block out the visions, but as a measure to hide something very important.”

When he paused for long enough Tom said, “And?”

“It might also make Dumbledore wonder if I had begun to hide things from him. On the other hand, were he to test me and I presented a false face, he might wonder if I was completely hopeless. Well, at least until he realized he was not seeing anything of importance. Either way, I have to wonder if he would finally begin to tell me kinds of things I should have known last year.”

“Such as Order information?”

Harry nodded and shifted slightly. “But”—he sighed—“being as disillusioned as I am, I would almost think he wouldn’t under the guise of me being too young and needing to have something of a childhood. I mean, I don’t understand. I really don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever really had a childhood, not in any conventional sense. What are his intentions? Is he planning to wait until I complete my seventh year to actually get serious about having me trained? If he thinks that my death at your hands means you’re immortal, then. . . .”

Harry ruffled his hair in a frustrated manner and scowled. “None of it makes sense. If he had honestly wanted me to have some kind of a childhood he would have done everything he could to keep me out of the situations I found myself in every single year. But he didn’t. Or, were these minor little squabbles”—Tom winced slightly at the sarcasm—“his way of seeing if I could handle increasingly dangerous situations, and seeing if I had managed to gain any friends loyal enough to stand with me?”

Harry looked up, his expression hard. “He knows so much about what goes on in this school. How could he have missed that Quirrell was possessed? That Ginny was possessed? That Barty Crouch Jr was keeping Moody in a damn trunk? How could he, as the head of the Wizengamot, allow that farce of a trial that Sirius was given? Even if he thought Sirius was guilty, is that any excuse to ignore the right to a fair trial? Isn’t it better to convict a man by the damning truth of his own words, not supposition and circumstantial evidence? What point is there in having a truth potion if people don’t even use it?”

Tom opened his mouth to respond, but Harry gave him a sheepish smile and said, “I’m sorry. I got a little carried away.”

“It is your right, Harry. Though, I would remind you of something the sorting hat said. Dumbledore has been grooming you.”

Harry’s expression hardened again and he gave a sharp nod. “Yes, of course. The old man is very sly. I recall that he once told me it would take a true Gryffindor to wield Godric’s sword. Typical, really.”

“Perhaps I should ask Dobby to set up one of the other lesser chambers as a practice room for when you need to work off aggression.”

“I—” Harry narrowed his gaze, then suddenly smiled. “Well, sure, but it would be awfully nice if there were several figures. You know, like Umbridge, Fudge. . . .”

Tom chuckled appreciatively. “Rita Skeeter?”

Harry laughed and nodded his head. “Well, there should be joy in learning, right?” he countered.

Tom snickered and rose. The more time he spent with Harry, the more—Merlin help him—fun his life became. “Stay seated, if you will, and get comfortable. I’m going to start out with low level casts, Harry, and we’ll gradually move up. Combined with what you’ve already learned and practiced, that should accustom you to what happens so that you can learn to recognize and reflexively defend yourself. All right?”

“Sure.”

It was two hours later when they stopped, not because of where they were in their practice—Harry was doing exceptionally well—but because they were both starving. When Dobby arrived to inquire about lunch, Harry said, “Dobby, don’t go just yet, please. Anything is fine for me, by the way. But, I was hoping once you had delivered lunch that you would do me a favor.”

“Of course, master.”

Harry smiled. “I would like you to get the Marauder’s Map from my trunk and bring it here. Is that all right?”

“Dobby is being happy to, master,” said Dobby, then turned to Tom expectantly.

“Anything is also fine for me, Dobby, but I have a request as well, if you would. As I was hoping to teach Harry about the Protean Charm today, I would be grateful if you would stop by my house, the study, and retrieve the collection of silver discs from my desk. And”—he paused with a slight frown—“when you have some free time, would you be adverse to unobtrusively checking over Severus’s office and quarters for anything Dumbledore might have put in place to spy on him?”

“Dobby has already done so, sir. Dobby is knowing that Professor Snape is—” Dobby broke off with a look of confusion and slight frustration. “Dobby is knowing that Professor Snape is to be protected,” he finally said, then looked at them both anxiously.

Harry broke out into a wide smile and extended his hand to rest for a moment on Dobby’s shoulder. “Thank you for being such a good friend, Dobby, and for considering the professor’s safety as well as our own.”

Dobby produced a vaguely toothy smile, clearly happy that he had done nothing wrong, firmly stated, “Master is to be eating,” then popped away.

“He really is amazing, Harry.”

Harry looked over with an unreadable expression. “I still don’t know what I did to deserve him. I wish there was something I could do to make him happy.”

“You could allow him a mate,” Tom suggested.

“Allow? What the—” Harry snapped his mouth closed as Dobby appeared with lunch and immediately began eating, waiting until the elf had reappeared with the requested items and had been properly thanked. “Allow?” he repeated.

“Sorry. I keep forgetting how very little you know about wizarding customs and traditions. The master of a house-elf has, more or less, absolute control over his servant. Dobby is quite unique, but it is obvious that even he would not think to approach you on such a matter, though I suppose it could be simply that that isn’t something that he currently wants and so has never mentioned it.”

After Harry spent a few moments torturing his roast potatoes he looked up angrily. His voice, however, was calm. “So I should probably ask him if there’s anything I could do for him.”

“I think that would be wise. You might also consider making it clear to him that he should come to you with any requests he might have, regardless of what they might be, without fear of punishment. I know, Dobby is already very independent, even in service to you, but years of service with the Malfoy family are sure to have left their mark. I still find it almost incomprehensible that he was able to try to warn you back in your second year.”

Harry gave a slight nod and continued his meal, speaking a few minutes later. “Then I will talk to him when I’m in a better frame of mind. I feel rather guilty at the moment.”

Tom sighed and reached out to touch Harry’s hand. “If the guilt belongs anywhere, Harry, it is with me. I should have made certain that you understood all of the ramifications of what Dobby was asking when he bullied you into accepting his bond.”

Harry cracked a slight smile. “He did, didn’t he.”

“Yes. He trusts you, implicitly. I believe it is very likely that if he understood how very little you know, he also would feel guilty.”

Harry sat up straight and frowned. “Well I won’t have that. I’ll do as you advise and that should clear up the matter. I hope. I’ll be damned before Dobby goes back to punishing himself for idiotic things, just because we’re all too foolish or thoughtless to talk.”

“You’re welcome.”

Harry blinked and gave him an odd look, then said, “Thank you. I didn’t mean to rant again.”

“That’s my hero,” Tom said teasingly, then ducked when Harry flipped a potato at his head. “Keep that up and I’ll have to find an appropriate way to torture you.”

Harry snorted softly. “I’m fairly certain you already know how to do that adequately.”

Just to make certain Harry did not misunderstand his meaning Tom said, “Yes, well, I did manage to get a bit of a rise out of you Tuesday evening, did I not?”

Harry did not look up when he said, “That you did. But, ware, good sir, lest your student learn too well and turn your lessoning against you.”

Tom laughed, then harder as Harry looked up with a grin. “I shall welcome that day.”

When they had finished eating Harry activated the map and spread it out so they could both view it. “I’m quite sure a learned fellow such as yourself can see the beauty of this map,” Harry said with a smirk.

“Indeed. Perhaps Severus should accidentally let a copy of Malfoy’s schedule fall into your innocent hands so that you would have a better idea of when to try and keep an eye on his whereabouts.”

“Yes, it would be tragic, for someone, should that happen, I quite agree.”

“Speaking of being sneaky, I wonder if you might also like to be taught how to perform the Disillusionment Charm.”

“Absolutely. My cloak is all very well, but it can also be somewhat inconvenient at times. I may not be overly tall, but neither am I as short as I was at eleven.”

“Technically, you could change that, but it is a bit painful,” Tom pointed out.

“My height?”

He nodded. “The problems inherent in that may or may not be obvious. If you were to become taller, you would also become thinner and place a strain on your bones. The same is true of becoming shorter, though naturally you would look as though you weighed more or were more solidly built.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll go with the spell.”

“Very well. Let us begin with the Protean Charm, then.”