This is J. K. Rowling's sandbox; I'm just playing in it. I'd like to thank Helen H, who beta'd
this story. I should also point
out that this is the third story in a series, and I recommend reading "A
New Game" and "King and Bishop", in that order, prior to reading
father never made peace with Professor Snape, and your godfather never
could. But you must. You still have much to learn from him,
and too much is at stake for you to allow your focus to be divided any
July. Four years previous, Harry
Potter might have cheerfully traded the contents of his Gringotts vault for the
ability to be in this place at this time, rather than in Little Whinging or
almost anywhere else. And now I am here, he thought as he walked the empty halls,
listening to the faint echoes of his trainers mix with the mutterings of
portraits, and I
would almost rather be anywhere else.
protested somewhat when Headmaster Dumbledore had told him that if he wanted to
gain special admission into the NEWT-level Potions class, he would have to
petition Professor Snape himself.
And when he arrived at the Burrow, he had grumbled about it to Ron and
Ginny, although only half-heartedly; he could see the reason in Dumbledore's
remarks. But instead of
commiserating, Ron had surprised him.
may have a point, Harry." Ron
looked down at the silvery scars on his arms for a moment. "I usually beat you at
usually beat everybody at chess, Ron," Harry had replied, and out of the
corner of his eye he saw Ginny's mouth quirk up on one side. But Ron didn't smile.
usually beat you at chess because I get control of the board. And I get control of the board because
I get control of the center. I've
never trusted Snape, even knowing that Dumbledore does, but in a way, he's in
the center of the board between you and...Voldemort... and I don't know if you
can afford him as an enemy."
frowned. "I didn't choose him
as an enemy. He chose me."
"Yeah. But once he did, you...we...chose him
back. And we keep choosing
him. Maybe it's time to
sound a bit like Hermione,"
Ginny said. This, finally,
had caused Ron to smile.
hell, I do, don't I?" He
looked down at his arms again.
"Guess I'll have to teach her to swear properly, just to keep
So Harry had
decided to approach Snape at Hogwarts, rather than making Snape come to him; he
reasoned that this might make the Potions master more likely to grant his
request. Unfortunately, this meant
dragging an escort (Nymphadora Tonks) out to the Burrow, then on the Knight Bus
to Hogsmeade, and from there through the secret passage from the Honeydukes
cellar into the castle. He had
been so impressed by Tonks' deft handling of the Honeydukes employees that he
almost asked her to mediate his meeting with Snape. But he eventually decided that the conversation should be
entirely private, and so he left her near the statue of the one-eyed witch.
in front of the door to Snape's office.
The last time he had been in this room, it had gone badly. Very badly, in fact; Snape had thrown
him out, almost bodily. He began
to wonder if he really wanted to do this.
Potter, you're a Gryffindor,
he reminded himself, and knocked.
the door open, and walked into Snape's office. From the effect this had on the professor, Harry might have
been Voldemort himself, or worse yet, Sirius Black, returned from the grave. Snape was on his feet, wand extended,
faster than Harry could even see.
you doing here, Potter?"
Harry was so
astonished he completely missed the question. "Wow! That
-- that's the fastest -- can you teach us that?"
For a moment,
Snape's face went completely blank.
Then as he sat down, it returned to its familiar coldness, and Harry
felt a small twinge of disappointment as it did. "Considering the results of my attempt to teach
you Occlumency, I think it unlikely.
Again. What are you doing
For a moment,
Harry didn't answer, wondering why Dumbledore hadn't told Snape that he was
coming. But Snape was still
glaring at him.
Harry had to struggle to remember how he'd planned to approach the
issue. First, the olive branch.
"I came to apologize, sir."
"Er...yes. For intruding where I shouldn't
have. With the, er, Pensieve. I shouldn't have done that, and I'm
sorry." He glanced towards
the spot on the desk where the Pensieve had been that evening, and noted
without surprise that it wasn't there.
now," Snape breathed, and
then he was in Harry's mind, and as Harry thought, I didn't know you could do that
without saying Legilimens,
he saw the words flash across his mind.
Then he remembered what Dumbledore had taught him, and brought forth a
particular memory: his first day
of Potions class, first year.
"Harry Potter. Our new
-- celebrity", he heard Snape say, and knew that Snape heard it too. And then as suddenly as he had entered,
Snape left Harry alone in his head.
know, Potter, if you want that technique to work, you're going to have to learn
to pick relevant thoughts to project," Snape sneered, but he looked vaguely thoughtful. "So. I am supposed to believe that you came all the way to
Hogwarts simply to apologize? My
first years lie better than that."
sir. Erm... I came to ask for an
familiar with your admissions policy for NEWT-level Potions, and..." Harry swallowed. "I'd like to take the class
see." Snape steepled his
fingers together and looked over them at Harry. "Request denied.
You may go."
It was only
one word, but it slipped out before Harry could squelch it. "But..."
what?" Snape was on his feet
nothing. Nothing, sir."
WAS nothing, you would have SAID nothing.
But what, Potter? What is
so terribly important that you think I should tarnish my record as Potions
Master for you, of all people?"
this is going excellently, isn't it Potter? "I don't
don't know. Is this where you tell
me to ask Miss Granger, because she so clearly knows?"
is where I ask you to
tell me, because if anyone knows, it's almost certainly you," Harry
snapped. "I've never liked
you or your teaching methods, Professor, and I know you don't like me much as a
student, or anything else. But I
don't know what I'll need to... fight... Voldemort." Realizing how close he had come to
telling Snape something he shouldn't, Harry tried to make what he had said
sound plausible. "I -- I
can't afford to pretend that he won't continue to come after me, and I can't
afford to simply drop Potions. Not
now. And I'm not sure I can learn
what I need to know without your help.
If I've got to sit through two more years of you to learn it, then so be
it, but I can't let it go."
had calmed down a bit as he finished speaking, the words still echoed around
the office. Harry kept his face carefully
blank as he had learned to do, but inwardly he cringed. That's torn it. I'm going to have to learn Potions
secondhand from Hermione anyway. And as he looked at Snape, he could see
a tightly compressed rage leaping outward from the pupils of his eyes.
sorry to have --"
"SILENCE!" Startled, Harry complied. Snape looked away for a second, and a
square black wooden chair appeared in front of his desk.
down." Again, Harry did as he
was told; wonder at Snape's ability to conjure without using his wand
distracted him from protesting.
at Harry, eyes narrowed. "You
Gryffindors really are thick about some things." He scrunched up his face and imitated Harry's voice. "I've never liked you or your
teaching methods. IDIOT!" He leaned forward. "You're not supposed to LIKE my
teaching methods. You're supposed
to LEARN from them!"
at Snape, all attempts at control abandoned with his hopes of reaching any
understanding with the professor.
"Oh, yes, Professor, I've seen how well people learn when they're
given incomplete information. Tell
me, how many of your students received O's on their Potions OWLs last
year? Because EVERY fifth year in
Dumbledore's Army earned one in Defense Against the Dark Arts."
you had applied yourself in Potions to anywhere near the same degree, you would
have earned an O on that exam as well," replied Snape. "Or in Occlumency, for that
matter." His tone was as mild
as Harry had ever heard it, but the rebuke was still clear, and this infuriated
him even more.
myself? Would it have been so
difficult to have said at any point, 'By the way, Potter, if you're too thick
to simply clear your mind, try using a single thought to clear out everything
else and then fading that thought to black?' Because I might not have got Sirius killed if you had!"
at Harry. "Is that what this
is all about, Potter? Feeling
guilty about losing your puppy?"
was too much for Harry. He got up
to leave. The door to Snape's
office slammed, and Harry was thrown back into the chair.
no. Not until you sit there and
actually learn something today, you self-centered Gryffindor twit."
at Snape, but he didn't say anything.
Snape assumed an expression of mock incredulity.
"Amazing. Our little celebrity has finally
learned how to listen. Let me tell
you something, Potter, about your precious godfather. If he had any sense whatsoever, we would not be here having
this conversation today."
remember reaching for his wand, but he had it pointed at Snape's throat almost
before he understood what the Potions master was saying. "Take that back!"
"No." Snape calmly stared at the point of
Harry's wand, as if to silently ask if Harry actually intended to use it. Slowly, Harry lowered his wand in
response. As angry as he was, he
knew full well that hexing Snape would not aid his case.
Black may have been a talented wizard, but he was reckless and overconfident,
and it cost him his life. There
were witnesses to his duel with Bellatrix, Potter, witnesses on both sides of
this little war, and every one I've listened to said that if Black had been
more careful Bellatrix would not have got the better of him. I'm the only person who can tell you
that, and I don't intend to tell you twice. You didn't get Sirius Black killed. He got himself killed."
Harry put his
wand away. "Is that all,
isn't. You and your little
Gryffindor friends have been running amok at this school for five years,
playing at heroes and villains, and blithely doing whatever you please. It has been an unfortunate trait in
your house for far too long, and if you actually expect to defeat the Dark Lord
it is something you
will have to LEARN TO
CONTROL! Otherwise, your end will
match that of your beloved Sirius Black: premature, and at the hands of your
and looked at Harry curiously.
"You are familiar with chess, Potter?"
startled. What was it with chess all of a
"Good. I'll keep this simple, as I doubt you
have seriously studied the game.
What good would your pieces be to you if they kept leaving the squares
you had assigned them to?"
would depend where they went and what they did."
"Ah. And you think your pieces would be
intelligent enough to discern your objectives from the current state of the
board and act accordingly, even correcting your strategic errors? Tell me, in that case why do your
pieces need you at all?"
his mouth to answer, and then realized that he didn't know what to say. Feeling foolish, he closed his mouth
Snape said softly. "Try to
remember this moment, Potter, as vividly as you do that other."
at Snape carefully. That odd
blankness was there again. What the hell was going on here?
"Are we done, sir?"
"Almost. After you informed me of your erroneous
belief that Black had been captured by Death Eaters, why did you then decide to
play the hero anyway?"
bristled. "What else could I
do? You acted like you had no idea
what I was talking about."
returned. "What were you
expecting with Umbridge and Draco Malfoy within earshot, Potter?"
know. Something. Anything. Use of the word 'marauder' or 'map' or even 'order'. ANYTHING!"
kindness to Neville Longbottom and a veiled insult towards Vincent Crabbe,
blankly for a moment, thinking back on that day yet again. That had been odd behavior for the Potions
master, and it had directly followed Harry's outburst about Padfoot... Harry stared at Professor Snape, who
suddenly seemed very far away.
There was a great roaring in his ears. "Was that what...oh
God..." He gripped the edges
of his chair tightly.
forward and hissed, "No, Potter.
You were supposed to realize that I would understand you regardless of
what I actually said. Even
Gryffindors should understand subtlety by the end of fifth year. Learn to pay attention to what is left
unsaid, Potter. Look for the
gaps. It may actually save someone's life someday."
feel his anger rising again. "Really."
glared back at him. "Yes,
Potter, really. We're
finished. Don't hesitate to
somewhat nettled, Harry stood up to go.
Halfway to the door, a stray thought from nowhere passed across his
mind, and he stopped.
up. "What now, Potter?"
course of action would you recommend for a student who didn't receive an O on
his Potions OWL, but was determined to sit for the Potions NEWT anyway?"
widened slightly, in genuine surprise.
to pay for that later,
Harry thought, and was surprised to find that the prospect didn't bother him in
At his desk,
Snape quickly regained his composure.
"For the written section, you should follow the reading and
assignment schedule used in the NEWT Potions class. You may obtain those from one of your little friends. For the practical section, you will
have to put in a request for lab time.
Since those requests are approved or denied by me..."
maybe I'm going to pay for it now, Harry thought.
going to have to convince me that you are, in fact, determined to sit for the
Potions NEWT at the end of your seventh year."
course. How do you propose I do
lazily at Harry.
disapprove? I thought you were
himself to remain calm. "I
am, sir. I'm just...not sure I
understand what you're proposing."
quite simple. If you expect me to
approve your request for lab time, you will have to add a written statement to
that request that states that you agree not to play for the Gryffindor
Quidditch team this year. Or...
any other team, for that matter.
If you fail to adhere to that statement, I will immediately withdraw my
I said so, Potter. And as a
reminder that mistakes have consequences."
right, sir. Will the first day of
classes be early enough for me to turn in the lab request?"
"Yes. I don't really care to see you before
then. Run along, Potter."
to grit his teeth, Harry said, "Thank you, sir," and left Snape's
office. He was halfway back to
where he'd left Tonks when he figured it out.
for the gaps... He didn't say I couldn't practice with
the Gryffindor team.
momentarily stopped him in his tracks.
The next one almost caused him to stumble. That
wasn't an accident. He left me the
option of practicing with the Gryffindor team deliberately. He wants to see what I'll do.
what are you going to do, Potter? He could almost hear Snape asking the
this for a moment, and remembered his conversation with Dumbledore. "Too much is at stake for you to
allow your focus to be divided any longer." If
I go to all the practices, I'll never keep up with Potions. But if I don't play at all, I'll go mad
by Christmas... Maybe I'll just offer to work with Ginny every now and then, to
help her polish her skills as a Seeker.
That might keep everyone from getting too annoyed that I won't be
playing for Gryffindor this year.
It won't be the same as actually playing, but it might be enough. And it seems like Snape may not be as
bad this year. This could work.
feeling much more cheerful, Harry jogged the rest of the way back to the