Ron was waiting up for Harry when he came through the portrait hole and entered the Gryffindor common room. "Hey, Harry. How'd your detention with the Slimy Snake Master go?"
"Okay." Harry said, wanting to snap at the redhead to quit calling Snape names.
"What'd he make you do? Scrub the dungeon floor with a toothbrush and a bucket of Magical Mess Remover? Or pickle some rat brains? Or disembowel some horned toads?"
"Nothing like that," Harry made haste to reassure his friend. Had Snape really done that to other students during detentions? Harry winced, wondering what the other students had done to get the professor riled up like that. "He just . . .made me scrub out fifteen cauldrons."
"Ouch!" Ron winced theatrically. "Your back must be killing you then."
Harry shrugged one slight shoulder. "Not really, it wasn't any worse than what I used to do for my relatives at home."
"What?" Ron gaped at him. "You're putting me on, right? Your relatives were worse than Snape?"
"Sometimes. I used to scrub plenty of dishes for Aunt Petunia, it was part of my chores. And clean the house too. Weed the garden, do the laundry." Harry ticked off the various jobs he'd had to do on his fingers until he ran out of them and Ron looked like he was about to asphyxiate right there.
"Harry . . .mate, that's just . . .wrong. Doing all of that . . .how old were you?"
Harry thought for a moment. "Uh. . .four or five when I first started doing some of it. Why? Didn't your parents makes you do chores?"
"Well, yeah, sure, but . . .mostly I just had to pick up my room, or de-gnome the garden, or set the table or play with my little sister Ginny while Mum cooked dinner. Normal stuff. Not . . .not doing everything the way you did. If you were doing all the work around the house, what were the rest of them doing? Sitting on their fat lazy arses?"
"Dudley was. Uncle Vernon worked and Aunt Petunia cooked sometimes or went out shopping." Harry sighed. He didn't see what the big deal was. Tedious as those chores had been, it was better than being sent to St. Brutus's, where they beat you with a cane, and fed you disgusting cold mush for every meal. At least at Privet Drive, he could hide in his cupboard, and the dark angel would come and spirit him away. That had been one of the good things about living there. "Look, I'm tired, and we'll never get up tomorrow unless we get some sleep."
"Right." Ron turned and padded up the stairs, and Harry followed.
He quickly changed into his pajamas and slipped into the gloriously soft and clean four poster bed with the Gryffindor hangings. Harry had never known such a bed existed until he came here. The only other bed he could compare it to had been the one he used to sleep in when he was in Snape's lab, being treated for some illness. That had been very comfortable too, and one reason why Harry always regretted leaving the magic place.
But even with the hangings drawn and the fact that he was tired after the long day of classes plus the "detention" with Snape, Harry found he could not sleep. He was unused to sharing a room with anyone, much less six new people at once. He heard someone snoring loudly, and tried to muffle it with his pillow. Then he heard someone else talking in their sleep, and another tossing and turning. It was very annoying, and Harry wished he was back in Snape's lab, where the dark angel would keep silent watch over him and soothe him to sleep with a hand on his hair and some quiet humming.
Harry closed his eyes and tried to imagine he was back there, lying all warm and cozy in his bed, with the dark figure hovering nearby, making sure all was well. Snape had always made Harry feel better just by touching him, the man's presence was a balm to his wounded spirit.
Before he knew it, he was fast asleep, and didn't wake up till the next morning, when Ron shook his shoulder.
* * * * * *
The next morning the Gryffindors had Defense Against the Dark Arts with the Slytherins. The new Defense teacher was Professor Quirrell, who Hagrid had remarked upon as being "scared of his own shadow, the students, and his own subject." He was reputed to be a brilliant scholar and wore a purple turban that he had said was a gift from an African prince for defeating a zombie. But he was very disturbing, with his continuous nervous tics and his hand twitching every so often.
He was timid and unassuming, Harry thought he made a much better scholar than a teacher, for from the first lesson, Quirrell made it clear that he was not able to control his students. Several Slytherins were talking instead of paying attention to the stuttering professor's monologue on the dietary habits of redcaps, and a few Gryffindors in the back row were passing notes around and sniggering into their sleeves.
Harry glanced around at the misbehaving students and wondered why Quirrell did not do something about them. Snape would have never permitted such antics and disrespect to go on in his classroom. But Quirrell appeared oblivious to the students misbehavior, sneezing and continuing to lecture in his stuttering monotone.
Harry tried to pay attention, for he wanted to do well in this class, it had seemed so interesting, but he soon found himself yawning. Then he rubbed his eyes and focused back on the teacher, and all of a sudden he felt a sharp pain in his forehead. He winced and rubbed at his scar unobtrusively. Bloody hell, why was it hurting now? Harry squinted at the pale professor, wishing he would just finish and get on with teaching them some spells.
Beside him, Ron was half asleep over his parchment and so were Neville and Dean next to him. Only Hermione was busy scribbling away at her parchment.
Then Harry's green eyes met Quirrell's odd blue-gray ones, and the Gryffindor felt a shiver go through him. He could not explain it, but there was something about the Defense professor that creeped him out. Harry quickly looked away, rubbing his head again, where his scar was throbbing like seven hells.
Weird. My scar's never hurt like this before. Maybe I'd better ask Professor Snape about it later. Brrr! That Quirrell sure makes me feel all shivery and creepy. What's up with this guy? He's been talking half the class about the same subject and we haven't learned anything useful except how to fall asleep with our eyes open. Blast! And I was looking forward to this class too.
He did his best to stifle his disappointment and hoped that his next class, flying with Madam Hooch, would be better. Really, he'd have done better reading the text book than listening to Quirrell drone on and on. He was almost as bad as Binns. And the way he was eyeing Harry, like a lion would a tasty antelope . . .yes there was no doubt about it, Quirrell was definitely creepy.
Harry pretended to scribble down a few sentences on his parchment, careful to try and not smudge his letters. Writing with a quill was harder than it looked, and Harry wasn't doing particularly well with one. Ron had said there were ones which were charmed to write for you and ones that wouldn't need to be refilled, but they were all expensive. Harry planned to buy one if and when he ever returned to Diagon Alley. It would make his school work so much easier.
When he looked up again, he found Quirrell's disturbing eyes were staring off into the distance, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He glanced up at the clock and thanked God Quirrell's lesson was almost over.
At last the hour and a half was up and Harry nudged Ron awake. "Psst, Ron! Wake up, it's time to leave, we're going to flying class next."
"Huh? Oh, right." Ron rubbed his eyes blearily. "That ought to be loads of fun compared to this one."
Harry murmured an agreement, then picked up his bag and headed out the door to the lawn, where Madam Hooch was waiting.
* * * * * *
Afterwards, Harry wondered what had possessed him to disobey a teacher's direct order and skyrocket after Malfoy, of all people, who had probably been on a broom before he could walk. Of course, there was the small fact that he didn't care for Draco's attitude towards Neville and the way the blond boy sneered at anyone weaker than himself. It reminded Harry of Dudley and Piers, who used to take turns tormenting the younger kids in primary school and down the street.
Harry had always hated bullies, mostly because he ended up getting beaten up by them as well, and it irritated him profoundly that Malfoy thought he was above everyone, the stuck-up git. So he allowed his temper to overrule his sense, and pursued the Slytherin on his broom without thinking.
When Malfoy had tossed the Remembrall at him, he had reacted on pure instinct, catching the tiny red globe in one hand the way he would've a cricket ball. He had always had unnaturally good reflexes, something that had served him well when he had needed to run and hide from Dudley and his gang.
He had expected McGonagall to take strips off his hide and give him detention at the very least. She has certainly looked mad as a dragon with a knot in her tail. Yet she had dragged him inside, partly by his ear, and then told him he was to train that weekend with the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Oliver Wood, as their new Seeker.
Harry had felt as if he were in the midst of a very odd but pleasant dream, and had gone on to lunch in a kind of daze, only to have Ron and Hermione congratulate him for being the youngest Seeker to play on a House team in over a hundred years.
"It must run in your blood, Harry," Hermione had said softly.
"Why do you say that?"
Then she had led him to the Trophy Room and showed him the plaque that rested there with the name of his father, James Potter, who had played the exact same position when he had gone to school.
Harry had examined the trophy with interest and wished he knew something more about his parents other than what was written in that book Hermione had gotten out of the library called Famous Wizards and Witches of the 20th Century. He wondered if Professor Snape knew anything about them. He had never spoken anything about them in all the years Harry had known him. Then again, Harry had never really asked, he was too busy getting well or asking questions about this or that potion or spell to inquire about two people he couldn't even remember, even if they were his parents.
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had never spoken about them either, except to tell Harry that they had died in a car crash and his father had been a deadbeat drunk and his mother an idiot for marrying him. It had all been lies, of course, as Harry had learned from Hagrid. Harry was not surprised. The Dursleys had always been good at lying to cover up unpleasantness. It was almost second nature to them. Harry had learned early on that he would never get the answers he so desired from them, and so he had quit asking.
But perhaps now . . .
He had just turned away from the trophy, Ron and Hermione a respectful distance behind him, when the door opened with a bang and the figure of Professor Snape swept into the room. His dark eyes alighted on the trio with a disapproving sneer.
"What's this? Admiring the past glories of former Quidditch players? I believe your father is somewhere up there, Potter. A typical Seeker, arrogant and full of himself, considering himself to be the best player ever to fly a broom. And now it seems as if you bid to follow in his footsteps, Potter. Professor McGonagall tells me that she has made you-a mere first-year, with no knowledge of Quidditch whatsoever-her new Seeker."
"Yes, sir," Harry said, forcing himself to meet the other's eyes, which were dark with scorn and what looked like anger as well. He flinched unconsciously. It's an act, remember? He told you he would do this last night. Even so, the tone stung, flicking the boy's fragile self-esteem like a lash.
"That is a poor decision on her part," Snape continued, his sneer even more pronounced. "She has done you no favors, boy. Now why are you three loitering here? Up to no good, are you?"
"No, sir," Ron put in quickly, backing away from the tall man.
"We were just leaving, Professor." Hermione said respectfully.
"Hurry up then," ordered Snape, waving a hand at them irritably.
The three quickly turned and headed for the doors.
"Potter, one moment."
Harry halted instantly and turned about, trying to make it seem reluctant.
Severus scowled down at the tousle-haired boy. "Did I not tell you to go straight back to your dormitory after your detention with me last night? Yes? Then why were you wandering around the corridors like a misplaced shadow? Got lost on the way back to Gryffindor Tower?"
"Uh . . .a little."
"You have a map of the school, correct? Why didn't you use it?"
"I, uh, don't know, sir." Harry squirmed uneasily under the man's fierce gaze. Snape was terrifying when he was like this, and even knowing it wasn't real didn't stop Harry from trembling.
"You're a scatterbrain, are you? Just like your father. All attitude and no brains. Ten points from Gryffindor for disobeying a direct order."
"Sir! That's not fair!"
"Are you answering me back, Potter?"
"N-no! Just pointing out that it's not fair-"
"Now you're questioning me on discipline, you cheeky brat?" Severus demanded frostily. "You have some nerve, Potter! I think another detention is in order, to teach you your place in this school. My office, Potter, seven o'clock. We'll see if a few hours skinning shrivel figs and slugs won't improve your attitude."
Harry glanced down at his feet, looking angry and chastened at the same time. "Yes, sir."
"Be prompt. Or else I'll take more points that your House can ill afford to lose," threatened the Potions Master silkily, then he swept from the room majestically, his black cloak fluttering behind him like the wings of a dark angel.
Ron glared after him and growled, "What a load of dung. Snape's such a -"
"Ron!" Hermione cried, shocked. "How can you say that about a teacher?"
"Because it's true. Harry didn't deserve that detention, Snape's just looking for an excuse to take points from Gryffindor, as usual. He's a greasy git and I hope he falls face first in his cauldron one night and drowns."
"Ron!" Hermione protested. "That's an awful thing to wish on anyone."
Harry silently agreed with her. Now he had an excuse to be down in the dungeons after dinner again. He wondered if Snape would ever run out of things to punish him for? Probably not, the boy thought gloomily. But at least he wasn't in trouble for real. That was one good thing. Because that detention sounded ruddy awful.
"Come on. We'd, uh, better get going to Herbology." Harry said, and they exited the Trophy Room and went outside to the greenhouse for their next lesson, Ron still muttering about how unfair Snape was.
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Next: A flying lesson with Severus has some unexpected results for both the Potions Master and Harry.
Next: A flying lesson with Severus has some unexpected results for both the Potions Master and Harry.
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