Disclaimer: These characters and this world belong to Ms. Rowling.
Harry walked slowly down the cold, dark corridor. He’d told Ron and Hermione that he needed to get his book, Quidditch Through the Ages, back from Snape. Well, technically, it was the library’s book but he wanted to make sure it was returned. At least, that’s what he would tell them if they asked. Besides, if he decided at the last second not to go through with it, asking for it back would be his backup plan.
In an effort to avoid thinking about what he was doing, Harry concentrated on not running into anyone, particularly Malfoy, but given the upset at the end of the term any Slytherin would not be particularly happy to see him right now. Or, putting it another way, they would be very happy to find him alone, near their own common room, without allies.
To make it to the Potions classroom without incident would require luck, but today, Harry was not that lucky. He was about ten meters from the classroom when Blaise Zabini stepped out of a side corridor right in front of him.
“What the…” Blaise said, startled. “What are you doing sneaking around down here, Potter?” he snapped, regaining his composure.
“I need to see Snape about something, not that it’s any of your business.” Harry retorted, not in the mood to put up with any territorial claims. “And I wasn’t sneaking, I just walk quietly.”
Blaise studied him for a minute before responding in a more even tone than before. “I don’t know if seeing Snape is such a good idea, especially for you. You should probably take your chances with Malfoy or Flint first; they’ll probably be more amiable toward you.”
Harry wasn’t sure but he thought Blaise had smiled slightly. As he was in a casual stance, leaning his upper body against the wall, Harry thought that perhaps not all Slytherins wanted to see him back in the hospital wing. Even so, he wasn’t going to let his guard down.
“That’s a tough choice really – ” but before he could respond further Snape slammed open the door to his classroom.
“Zabini!” he yelled, “Have this, I’m sure highly stimulating, conversation else – ” but Snape cut himself off when he saw Harry and his expression, miraculously, became even harder and his black eyes glinted with malice.
“Potter,” he sneered.
“I was just coming to see you, Professor; I wanted to speak with you about something.” Harry managed to say this before Snape could make any disparaging remarks about him. He didn’t want to loose his nerve, or his temper.
“Very well.” Snape, with narrowed eyes, said after a moment then turned on his heel and strode back into his classroom, his black robes billowing in a non-existent wind behind him. Harry took this as a cue to follow him. After giving Blaise a half-friendly wave, he straightened his shoulders and walked purposely to the door.
As the door closed behind Harry, he saw that Snape was already sitting at his desk, making slashing red marks all over some poor student’s final exam. Harry approached the desk slowly, unsure of how to begin or if he should interrupt.
“I suggest, Mr. Potter, that you speak up quickly, or else you are wasting my time.” Snape remarked with his cutting, icy tone without even looking up from the parchment in front of him.
“Well, Professor…” Harry began but paused to take a deep breath, steeling himself for the conversation he was about to have. This was the professor he hated the most and who, quite obviously, hated him. Part of him couldn’t believe he was going through with this.
“I wanted to talk to you about…about something Professor Quirrell said to me when we were fighting over the stone.” Harry continued. He watched Snape’s reaction carefully. Snape, to his credit, stopped marking and slowly put his quill down. He looked up at Harry as he leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms closely across his chest.
“Oh?” Snape said. Harry noticed Snape allowed a mild amount of interest to seep through. Not a lot, just enough to show that what Harry was going to say or why it would cause him to come down here would be more amusing than the half-brained answers of one of his average dunderheads.
“You see,” Harry began, though he was looking at the floor, rolling a tiny pebble back and forth with his shoe, “he told me that…that at the Quidditch match…it was him jinxing my broom and that…he would have thrown me off…” He paused here and looked Snape directly in the eye. “He said he would have killed me then if it hadn’t been for you.”
Whatever Snape was expecting Harry to say, this wasn’t it. It was difficult to tell because Snape could hold a completely apathetic expression very well but it was there, if barely—surprise.
“As a teacher I’m obligated to see that no student should die if I can prevent it.” Snape finally answered in an indifferent tone.
“He also said that…that’s why you refereed the next game…to make sure that didn’t happen again. He said you did it even though it made you very unpopular.” Harry pushed on, trying not to be deterred by Snape’s lack of emotion.
“Well, I couldn’t very well have your meddling friend, Ms. Granger, setting me on fire again, could I?” Snape answered, a little more quickly this time. Harry must have had a surprised expression on his face because Snape’s scowl seemed to lessen some. Not a smile, just…less of a scowl. “Yes, I know about that,” he went on, “if I hadn’t been so preoccupied with you I would have given her detention for a week.” He stopped for a moment, as if deciding whether to say something else. “As it is, I let it slide because her knocking over Quirrell on her way to me might have saved me the trouble of scrapping you off the ground.”
This last comment, which seemed a little less withdrawn and emotionless, encouraged Harry enough for the last part of what he planned to say.
“He also said that you hated my father.” Snape’s face immediately showed signs of anger. Hard lines appeared on his face and his scowl deepened more than Harry had ever seen it. Quickly, Harry continued to speak before he lost his nerve or Snape yelled him out of his office.
“I can only assume that’s why you hate me, too. But I wanted you to know that I don’t know who my father was, or my mother was either. I didn’t even know they were magical until last summer. I don’t know exactly why you don’t like him but, I wanted to thank you for what you did for me this year, despite that.” Harry had said this so fast he thought he was Hermione back on the Hogwarts Express, introducing herself.
Snape stared back at Harry for a long time. His expression had changed from anger to something completely expressionless. He remained silent for several minutes but his eyes never left Harry’s and Harry was unable to take his eyes away from him. Harry was unable to shake that feeling again; the one that made him feel like Snape could read minds. Except now he felt like Snape was sizing him up, trying to see if this was a joke or if he was being honest.
Finally, Snape leaned forward and rested his arms on his desk. He remained that way for several more silent minutes, staring unseeingly down at his desk. By the time he looked up his expression was schooled into careful indifference.
“You’re welcome,” was all he said. He gave Harry a slight nod and Harry wisely took his cue to leave. He turned and walked silently out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Some time later, Harry found himself standing in front of the Fat Lady without really being aware of walking back. His mind had been completely lost in thoughts of this past year, Snape, his father, Quirrell and what was to come.
“Where’s your book?” Hermione asked, as Harry approached them in the common room.
“Oh,” Harry stumbled for a second, “he said he already returned it.”
“Can’t believe you made it back in one piece, mate. I thought for sure Snape would turn you into a toad and pickle you or something after losing the House Cup,” Ron responded, getting Harry to crack a smile as he sat down beside his friends to enjoy the last days of term.
Snape sat dazed and angry for several minutes after Potter had left. He had hated Potter before but now he wanted to hate him even more. It didn’t really make sense but he was furious at the boy for making it difficult to hate him. His father would have never come to him in this fashion. His father would have tried to take all the credit, gloating about his accomplishments and chasing after Lily.
He shook his head. No, she was never his. He never had the courage to show her how much he cared. He only called her ‘Mudblood,’ like a three year old, pulling the hair of a girl he liked. No, she was never his. But seeing her eyes staring back at him from James’ face, nearly every day – whether in class or on the grounds, it grated on his nerves. Constantly reminding him of what he would never have and who had won it.
He had never really been fair to Potter but, up until now he’d never really cared. He had never thought about it. It wasn’t the son he hated, it was the father. And for as much as he wanted Harry to be James, so he could take his long-overdue revenge on him, that wasn’t the case. Harry didn’t even act like James. If he let himself admit it, he had never seen Harry gloat or strut around like he owned the castle.
He had thought that Albus was being too easy on him, letting him get away with too much. But now, if he forced himself to think about it, hadn’t he been too hard on him? Yes, he had and he knew it. Albus had spoken to him at the beginning of the year, filling him in on Harry’s home life after he had shown his hatred of Harry. But he hadn’t wanted to believe Albus’ tale of deprivation and torment. He hadn’t wanted to believe that Harry had grown up abused and neglected. It was easier to believe that he was rich and spoiled; getting any and every thing he wanted because it was the wish of famous Harry Potter.
Really, Potter hadn’t said that much, their conversation hadn’t lasted more than ten minutes. But it was having such an impact that he was having trouble hating him.
And he hated that.
A/N: Thanks to Arnel, my new PS beta, for your help in polishing up this short story. Another thanks to JC, for tackling the first draft. And to Chris, for listening to me talk about it. J