Chapter Four: That Problem of His Increases
Harry spent the remainder of the holidays wanking in frustration or taking Hedwig out to fly, and saw nothing more of Blaise. It was a relief, really, but not as much as not seeing Snape was. The first day of the Spring term, however, the Potions master became so angry at him for ruining a potion that he assigned Harry a full week of detention.
"Ah, enter Mr. Potter, our most gentlemanlike hero," the man sneered, on Harry's first evening.
"What's that supposed to mean—Sir?"
Snape shook his head in disgust. "Really, Potter—romantic setting, dining alone, a clear offer—and you put her off because you felt she felt compelled to proposition you? You are singular—a singular idiot."
"You were spying on us?"
"No, I was not."
"One pleasant duty of being Head of Slytherin House is to listen to my charges' concerns. You upset Miss Zabini a great deal by intimating that she was a trollop."
"That's not what I did!"
"It is what she thinks you did. Do you not like women, Potter? Is that why you won't—"
"Right, that's enough," Harry said firmly, his fists clenching. "This is none of your business, and even if it were, Blaise is scared. She was just disinherited! I'm not going to take advantage of her!"
Snape appeared to consider Harry's outburst, pursing his lips and glaring at the boy, and then he did something that completely shocked the young man: he laughed.
"Potter, you are a gentleman, aren't you?"
"Why is that a surprise? Why does everyone think it's weird that I'm not . . . not . . . ."
"Shagging Miss Zabini?"
"Yes," Harry said, flushing. "That."
Snape snorted. "Have you seen Miss Zabini?"
"It's just a question, Potter. Oh, very well. Your restraint is to be commended, but do not allow it to hinder your courtship of Miss Zabini. Gorechrist may have . . . other interests, but there are many who, taking your hesitance as a sign of disinterest, would not scruple to fail to show your level of respect to the girl, and she is a normal, healthy young woman with interests of her own."
"I don't believe this," Harry said, running a hand agitatedly through his hair.
"That you're actually trying to persuade me to shag one of your 'charges'. Is that really something that a professor should be doing?"
"Miss Zabini is not just any of my charges, Potter. As you pointed out, she has been disinherited. That does not mean, however, that her family has no interest in her—or her potential associates."
"You mean they'll try and see to it she marries someone who is a Death Eater?"
"Outstanding. Your grasp of matters far exceeds my expectations."
"You don't expect me to marry her, do you?" Harry asked, alarm ringing in his tone.
"Shall we speak plainly?"
"Can you do that?"
"Don't be sarcastic, Potter. My being a Slytherin does not mean that I auto—"
"Automatically arrange things when you could just ask for them? Sure it does. What is it that you want from me, Sir?"
"I want you to openly court Miss Zabini so that her parents will leave off trying to arrange a marriage with anyone else, Potter. If I had asked you to do this, however—"
"You'll never know, Professor, because you didn't ask. Why did you have to pretend . . . never mind. Look, I do like Blaise. I think she's . . . I do like her, and if you think it might help her if I date her, I will—but I'm not going to take advantage of her, and frankly, I'm beginning to doubt she likes me at all. She's like you—she even talks like you, sometimes! I'll bet all of this is just—"
Harry jumped and snapped his mouth shut.
"I did not lie to you about Miss Zabini's feelings for you," Snape insisted, looking darkly at him.
"And I'm supposed to believe that, why?"
The Potions master sighed, and Harry saw how tired he looked. It bothered him that he cared, but he did. "What's wrong?"
"Apparently, I am not to be trusted."
"And that bothers you? You're the one—"
"Get out of here. Go. I am done playing matchmaker."
"Your feet have ceased to function?"
"No, Sir. I can't leave you alone if I believe you're in trouble. Life debt, remember?"
"Your lack of understanding of life de—"
"Man to man, right? We're supposed to be getting along?"
"I will never forgive myself for making you that infernal promise."
Harry smirked. "Well, you did. You might as well tell me what's wrong. Who else are you going to tell?" he asked, sitting down at the front- and center-most desk.
"That's certainly an inducement to unburden myself."
"I'm waiting. Oh, and I never did say so, but congratulations. When is Madame Rosmerta due?"
Snape's eyes widened in disbelief and then narrowed in anger, and he drew his wand before Harry could even think about defending himself—but the Potions master merely locked the door to the classroom, set a silencing charm, and then snarled, "Imbecile!"
"What'd I do?"
"Do you think I want anyone to know that my wife is with child?"
"Your wife?" Harry asked, completely shocked.
"God, I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't think. I—"
"You never think, Potter," Snape said, shaking his head.
"Congratulations on your wedding?" Harry asked, uncertain as to how his good wishes would be received.
"Thank you," Snape said in a funereal tone, taking his seat behind his desk and glaring at the boy.
"How long ago was it?"
Snape smirked at that. "Rosmerta insisted upon it when she discovered she was pregnant. We were married the week before the Fall term began."
"Wow, she doesn't look that pregnant."
"Are you a wizard or aren't you? Concealing charm, Potter. She's just into her seventh month."
"You're not going to be able to hide the baby, though, are you?"
"No," Snape whispered, hanging his head.
"That's why you're worried."
"It is . . . one of many reasons, but it is the most pressing of my worries."
Harry did not know what to say. He had been, if not enjoying himself, feeling a sense of relief the past few months as no further attempt on his life had been made. It was frustrating not to be able to do anything—despite the prophesy, he had no clear idea how he was supposed to defeat Voldemort—and the waiting to kill the Dark Lord, or be killed by him, was trying. But at least I get a break from worrying. Snape's got too much on his plate to ever stop worrying. God. I wish— "I wish there were something I could do, Sir."
"You shouldn't make wishes, Potter," the Potions master said, suddenly clutching his arm. "I have to go. Tell Albus."
"Tell him!" Snape insisted, leaving the room at a run.
Harry found the Headmaster in his office, told him, and was quite a bit frightened by the wizard's reaction. After a few moments of dodging the magical devices that Dumbledore's fury had caused to fly all over the room, Harry surprised himself by thinking, Stop it! and finding that they all returned meekly to their shelves.
"My, that was an impressive display."
"Are you talking about me, or you, Sir?"
"You, Harry. Come, sit down. Lemon drop?" Dumbledore offered, clearly attempting to regain his composure.
"I'm not sure how I did that. And why are you angry with Professor Snape? Isn't he supposed to go when Voldemort summons him?"
"Not anymore he isn't, and well he knows it, too. And as far as how you did that, I do know."
"Would you mind telling me?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "No, I wouldn't. Your magic is . . . much like mine."
"Um, Sir? That's not particularly clear."
"I suppose it isn't. Harry, have you found yourself doing more magic without your wand, more and more, perhaps inadvertently, when you were feeling strong emotion?"
"Well, not lately, but . . . I have before."
"Such as when you deflected Pettigrew's hex, if I am not mistaken."
"Yeah. I only pulled my wand after."
"So that no one would know."
"Obviously, I do not require my wand, either, to work magic."
"But you carry it—you don't want people to know, either."
"Why wasn't Professor Snape supposed to go?"
"Can you not think of the reason?"
"Pettigrew. He tried to kill Sna—Professor Snape—and he wouldn't have done that without an order."
"Quite right, Harry. I fear that Voldemort suspects Severus, and, given certain other events, I would like to protect him. Of course, he takes his duties very seriously. I should have known this would happen," Dumbledore said wearily.
"What can we do?"
"Nothing, I'm afraid."
"Is my power, the one Voldemort doesn't know, how I'll kill him, Sir?" Harry asked, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.
"I wish I could tell you that, dear boy, but I do not know. Now, if you'll excuse me . . . ."
"Oh. Sure," Harry replied, rising, feeling more relieved than peeved to be dismissed, even though he was tired of not knowing what was going on.
"I believe you might find it . . . worthwhile to visit the Owlery."
Harry flushed and left quickly. Blaise, as he expected, was in the Owlery, sitting in the window and watching the stars.
"Hi," he said.
"You were going to call me Harry, weren't you?"
"We were going to stick to Quidditch, weren't we?" she shot back.
Harry groaned and settled himself across from the girl on the ledge. "Look, I didn't mean to offend you, or to act like an idiot. It's just that you . . . you make me nervous," he admitted, drawing his knees up to his chest.
"I think you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. I can't believe that you want to talk to me."
"And you like my hair," she added, one corner of her mouth curving up.
Harry grinned. "Don't forget your breasts," he teased, hoping that she would understand.
"Then why won't you kiss me?"
"Do you want . . . I mean, really? You want me to kiss you?" Harry asked, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.
Blaise just stared at him, the expression in her eyes making his throat go dry. Licking his lips, Harry turned his knees down and leaned forward. She leaned forward, too.
Oh my God. She does want me to kiss her. BlaiseZabiniwantsmetokiss—
"Oh! Sorry—just thought I'd—never mind. Carry on, really," Gil Gorechrist said, turning and leaving as fast as he had arrived, Zacharias Smith trailing redly in his wake.
Harry moved away from Blaise, thinking that the moment had past.
"Damn it," the witch ground out after briefly staring at him in consternation. "It's all right, really. We don't have to stop."
"Actually, you do," drawled a familiar and unwelcome voice from the doorway. "Zabini, it's almost curfew. Don't make me take more points from Slytherin."
"Shove off, Malfoy."
"Make me, Potter."
"I'll . . . I'll go," Blaise said.
Harry did not like how afraid she sounded. "No, you can stay."
"No, she can go."
"Malfoy, if you don't leave us alone, I'll—what do you mean, 'more points'?"
"You said you took points. From whom? Gorechrist?"
"Harry, leave it," Blaise urged.
"That's none of your concern, Potter."
"I think it is," Harry replied, stepping down off the windowsill and gently shrugging off the hand Blaise had laid on his arm. "I'm tired of your bullying everyone. Gorechrist didn't do anything."
The slightly taller boy smirked and said, "He's a traitor to his house—consorting with a Hufflepuff, and a male one, at that—it's almost as bad as Zabini here messing about with a Gryffindor."
"Give the points back, Malfoy," Harry said, his voice deceptively calm.
"I don't think I will. And now it's past curfew, Zabini. That'll be ten points from Slytheri—mph!"
Draco's wand clattered to the floor as his hands reached for his mouth. He pressed on it, making strangled sounds, but did not seem to be able to speak.
"Harry, what did you do?"
I don't know. I don't care! "Give the points back, Malfoy," Harry demanded, advancing on the other boy.
"Harry, what did you do?"
Malfoy, looking terrified, moved backward toward the door—which slammed shut.
"I said, I don't like the way you bully people, Malfoy, and I want you to give Blaise her points back. Are you going to do that, or would you prefer me to keep your voice?"
"Harry Potter! Give it back to him, right now," Blaise said, sounding furious.
Harry turned to see that she had pulled her wand on him.
"Who's bullying whom, now? He's terrified!"
So he is, Harry thought, not actually caring, but worried about how badly Blaise was taking his display of power. "Fine. For you—but only if Malfoy promises he'll give the points back to Slytherin."
Draco was nodding his head in emphatic assent when Harry glanced back over his shoulder at the boy.
"Then say as much."
"RmphI'll kill you for this, Potter!"
"Points, Malfoy, or it'll be worse for you—and you're to leave Blaise and Gorechrist alone. Is that clear?" Harry said menacingly.
"Twenty points to Slytherin," Draco spat balefully. "Open the damn door and let me out, Potter."
When the door opened, Draco ran out of it, followed quickly by Blaise. Harry tried to stop her, but she jerked her arm out of his grasp and spun on him.
"Don't you dare touch me! I don't know how you did that, but it wasn't right!"
"Why do you care about Malfoy? He threatened you," Harry said, the fog of anger that had clouded his mind beginning to lift. "I got your points back, didn't I?"
"Potter, you're . . . you make me sick!" the girl yelled, and then she was gone.
"But what did I do wrong?"
Not a thing, boy, came an answer from his mind.
You are finally beginning to understand your power, aren't you, Harry Potter?
Yes, Lord Voldemort. I've been watching you, Harry, and I'm pleased. Pettigrew's test of you was sound, it seems. You are coming into your abilities—the magic I gave you.
"You didn't give me anything! You tried to kill me!"
I do not believe killing you is the best course, not now that you have proved strong enough to exercise your power. Tell me, boy, do you truly believe that you can best me?
Then you are a fool, and you will die, but should you elect to see reason, I believe that, together, you and I might work changes upon the world, great changes, and see to it that the weak are preserved from the vagaries of the strong.
"Get. Out. Of. My. Head," Harry forced out between clenched teeth, bringing all his skill at Occlumency to bear upon the Dark Lord's mental intrusion.
He was gasping for breath as though he had run a long, torturous distance when he realized that Voldemort's voice was gone, and Albus Dumbledore was standing next to him.
"Are you all right, Harry?"
"I . . . I . . . he—Voldemort—he was . . . here, here in my mind."
"Yet you forced him out of it. Good. That is very good, Harry."
"It's not. I . . . I did something to Malfoy—before."
"Are you certain it was you?"
"What?" Harry asked, turning to look at the Headmaster.
"Was it you, or Voldemort?"
"I—" Harry began to say and then stopped. It would be easy to blame it on Voldemort, wouldn't it be? But it wasn't him. "It was me, Professor. I did it. I don't know how, but I know it was me."
Dumbledore gave him an assessing look, and then smiled grimly. "I'm very proud of you, dear boy."
"Why? I hurt Malfoy. On purpose."
"Yes, you did. But you admit it, and for that, I am grateful. One hundred points from Gryffindor, Harry. It is unacceptable that you would exercise your powers to exact revenge."
Harry hung his head.
"And fifty points to Gryffindor for your having the courage and strength of character to accept responsibility for your actions."
Raising his head, Harry protested, "But—"
"It is right to reward good behavior, just as it is to punish bad. Now then, perhaps it is time that I began helping you to hone your abilities."
"I think that would be a good idea, Sir."
"And long overdue. We will begin tomorrow evening after dinner. Come to my office, and tell no one."
With that, the Headmaster vanished.
Draco did not look at Harry in Potions the next day. Neither did Blaise, but he did not care because Professor Snape was standing at the head of the class looking as ill-tempered as usual, and Harry felt something closer to joy than relief to find him there. He wanted very badly to speak to the wizard, but knew that it would be stupid to try.
I'll ask the Headmaster tonight.
He never had the opportunity to do so, however, for when he entered the door to Dumbledore's office, he found himself immediately accosted by several pieces of animated furniture, and spent the next several hours wandlessly subduing them.
"Excellent," the Headmaster said, as Harry stilled the man's predatory desk. "I believe that will do for your first lesson."
Harry was too tired to argue, or to ask anything, and returned to the Gryffindor dormitory and his bed, gratefully falling into it. He had not noticed the disapproving glances of several of his house mates as he had entered, and so did not realize how made the other Gryffindors were at him for the mysterious loss of fifty points.
The next morning, however, when not even Ron had much to say to him, he realized he was in disgrace. Great. People hate me again. What else is new? He wanted to tell his friends what had happened in the Owlery, but he could not, so he accepted that he was going to be lonely for awhile.
It was Gorechrist who salvaged Harry's reputation by spreading the story of the Gryffindor's having returned house points to Slytherin after Malfoy had "tried to take them from me for snogging Blaise in the Owlery."
"Like that one's going to be snogging Zabini," Ginny Weasley said, inclining her head toward Gorechrist at the Slytherin table as she sat down next to Harry at dinner.
"You're talking to me now, are you?"
"Are you planning to be an ass?"
"I never plan on it. Look, I am sorry for—"
"Don't worry about it, Harry. Just beat Slytherin tomorrow, all right? We need all the help we can get now that we're behind."
But when it came time to play, Harry felt his stomach drop as Lee Jordan announced that Draco Malfoy would not be playing Seeker.
Coward, Harry thought, not sure if he meant Malfoy or himself, for the thought of playing against Blaise—who looked sexier than any of the Four Great Hells in her Quidditch kit as she scowled at him—was unnerving. Crap. We're going to lose this game.
No one spoke to Harry in the changing rooms after Gryffindor's first loss of the season, except Ron.
"So, do you think it would help if you shagged the bint already?"
Harry did not realize that he had hit Ron until he saw his best friend sprawled on the floor. "Fuck! Ron, I'm sorry," he said, trying to force the sound of mocking laughter out of his mind.
The other players scattered as their captain hurled himself off the floor at Harry, yelling bloody murder and swinging his fists. Finally, after Ron had gotten a few knocks into Harry, the others pulled them off of each other—but it was too late.
"What the hell is going on in here?" demanded Coach Hooch, striding into the room. She took one look at Harry and Ron and roared, "OUT!"
Everyone but the two friends fled.
"I'm disgusted with both of you. Why were you fighting?"
"Shut it, Potter. The blood came from somewhere, from both of you, it looks like. This is completely unacceptable. Now, tell me why."
"'S'my fault," Ron said, sniffing blood. "I . . . insulted Harry's girlfriend."
"Did you? How is that possible when Potter doesn't have a girlfriend?"
"Oh, leave it. I don't want to know. You're both off the team for the next two games. Get cleaned up and get out of here," the witch spat, turning smartly on one heel and exiting the room.
"You shouldn't have said that."
"I know," Ron replied, pulling his blood-stained jumper over his head and tossing it into his locker.
"I'm sorry I hit you. I didn't—"
"Just shut up, Harry, all right? I don't feel like talking to you."
Harry spent the night in the Owlery, skipped breakfast, and was late to Potions.
"Detention, Mr. Potter," Snape said, before returning to his lecture, as the boy entered the room.
"At least he didn't take points," Hermione whispered encouragingly.
That evening, after repairing and scrubbing out some First Year cauldrons, Snape instructed Harry to sit. "He does not suspect me. He felt that I would be an acceptable target for Pettigrew because he is aware of your dislike of me."
"But I saved you."
"Yes, that did not please him. He would like it better if you allowed your emotions to rule you better than they do, but he feels somewhat mollified by the fact that you can exercise your magic without a wand."
It sounded like an accusation.
"You never asked."
"No, I did not. How long?"
"I really don't know, Sir."
"Long enough, apparently, that you feel free to make use of it to impress young women."
"I didn't mean to!"
"Potter, you will have to mean to do everything—to control your thoughts, to guard against the Dark Lord's, to use your magic—or you shall not mean to get yourself or someone else killed. Surely that is clear enough to you?"
"Good. Now get out."
"I'm glad you're back," Harry said, noting how his words made Snape's expression soften into bemusement. Yeah, I don't hate you, you git.
"See that you're on time, Potter."
As he walked down the main Slytherin corridor, he noticed how hot it seemed to be in the dungeons, lately.