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"Well, Mr. Potter, it looks like you definitely need a new pair of glasses, these are not strong enough to correct your vision. You are possibly the most nearsighted patient I have ever had walk through this school. And that includes your father." Madam Pomfrey clucked gently at him, reminding Harry of a hen with one chick. "I'll have to order a pair for you from Wizarding Occulars, but until then I can adjust these so you can see enough to read the blackboard and so forth. Professor Snape has said, in his note, that "your myopic squinting and staring is disturbing him profoundly during his lessons", and he has offered to loan you the money to purchase a new pair of spectacles. I would strongly suggest you take him up on his offer."

Harry pretended to consider the offer carefully for about five minutes, biting his lip, a pensive expression on his face. "Uh . . all right. But could you, uh, please tell him that I'll pay him back? Soon as I go to Gringotts again next year. I . . .I don't want to owe him forever, and he might start charging interest the longer I don't repay him."

"I shall, Harry." Madam Pomfrey promised and then she chuckled. "Interest? Yes, well Severus might, if he thought you were taking advantage of him. Let me see those specs of yours, Mr. Potter."

Harry slipped off his glasses and gave them to the medi-witch, who drew her wand and muttered something he couldn't understand, it was more Latin, and his glasses glowed a shimmering blue before fading back to their normal matte black.

"There! Try them on and see how they work. Mind, the charm's only temporary, it'll wear off in two weeks, but by then your new glasses should have arrived from Wizarding Occulars. How on earth did you go for so long without getting a new pair? Those are about seven years out of date."

Harry shrugged, not wanting to discuss the Dursleys with her. "I dunno." Then he put the charmed glasses on and his green eyes went wide. "Wow! I . . .I can see everything!" He turned slowly, staring in wonder.

For the first time ever, the world was not a bunch of colored blurs and hazy outlines. Everything was clear and sharp and he could finally see. He could read the sign across the room opposite him, which read, Sleep is the physician of pain. And another hanging beside the door to Pomfrey's office, I swear, by Apollo the Physician, Aesclepius, and his daughters Hygeia, Panceia, and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant: First to do no harm . . .

Harry tore his gaze away, a smile of sheer pleasure spreading across his face. Oh, how wonderful it was to be able to see without getting right on top of something, and read without needing to hold a book or paper plastered to his nose. Colors were brighter, outlines sharper, and he felt as if he had been given the most magnificent gift of all.

"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," he managed after a moment more, recalling his manners, which were the one good thing Petunia had taught him.

"You're welcome, Harry," she smiled back at him, it was impossible not to, the boy seemed so starved for kindness. Even Severus, grouchy stern man that he was, had noticed and decided to help the boy. Then again, Poppy knew the Potions Master had done other such deeds in the past, with other students, though he would never admit it. Merlin forbid anyone should ever guess the Potions Master had heart beneath that snarky exterior . . .The medi-witch concealed a smile, for she knew Snape would never demand Potter repay him, even if the boy could afford to. And if the boy did . . .Severus would simply give the money back, unobtrusively, of course.

"You know, now we have magical surgery to correct your eyes, and it may be that you might not need to wear glasses if you're a candidate for it." Pomfrey recalled then.

"Really? Do you think I am?"

"Well, I'm no specialist, that would require a visit to St. Mungos and a consult with one of the Occular Healers there. But if you were, it would be an easy procedure, you would be able to see without glasses in a day or two. A friend of mine had it done, and she sees better than I do now. Although, it is rather expensive . . ."

"Oh. Well, thanks anyhow, ma'am," Harry said.

"Go on with you, Mr. Potter. Breakfast should be served soon in the hall, you don't want to miss it," Poppy said then, shooing him out of the infirmary.

 

Harry went, marveling at how easy it was to find his way about now that he could see more than four feet in front of him. He wished he could get the surgery Madam Pomfrey had described, but he knew his aunt and uncle would never pay for it. Vernon had once said, soon after Petunia had gotten Harry his glasses, that if Harry had been a dog, he'd have taken him out back and shot him for being a useless crippled animal. Then he had cursed Petunia's sister and brother-in-law for having the bad taste to die and leave him saddled with their freaky brat.

And I could never ask the professor to pay for surgery, that would be too much, besides I have to have an adult guardian or parent sign the consent forms, since I'm underage, otherwise I'd be able to pay for it myself. Oh well, these are fantastic for now, and I've worn specs all my life, so I can deal with it. He pushed the idea of correcting his eyes surgically to the back of his mind, where all the other hopes and dreams he had were, things that he knew would never become reality, but that he held onto nevertheless, because it didn't hurt to dream.

He hurried down the corridor, glancing at the map that Percy had provided all the first years, and found the way to the Great Hall without mishap. Ron and Hermione were already at the Gryffindor table, eating.

Harry slid in beside them. "Morning, Ron, Hermione." He greeted, filling his empty plate with a bacon strip, some scrambled eggs, and a pancake.

"Where were you this morning, Harry?" asked Ron curiously. "Don't tell me Snape summoned you back to the dungeons for more detention."

"No. I was at the Hospital Wing, getting my eyes checked. I need new glasses and Madam Pomfrey ordered me some." Harry answered, putting syrup and butter on his pancake. He began to eat slowly, savoring each bite. The food here was wonderful, but he had to be careful, and eat small portions, or else he would get sick and throw up.

That had happened once before, when he was with Severus, he had eaten too fast and too much of a sandwich and soup the guardian angel had set out for him, and ended up throwing up all over the stone floor. He had been about six. After Snape had cleaned him up and given him a potion to settle his stomach, he had fed Harry a cup of chicken broth and a small piece of toast. Harry had then told Severus how he had not had anything to eat in several days and the Potions Master had explained to him (after using several swear words, all of which Harry was not allowed to repeat ever) that he must eat small portions very slowly, until his stomach could tolerate food again. "Two to three bites at a time, slowly, chew and swallow." Severus had recited whenever Harry ate with him, until the knowledge was embedded in the young wizard's brain, never to be forgotten.

Harry concentrated on his breakfast, eating as much as he could, which was about half the plate, then he said, "Hey, Ron. You ever had your dad flip out on you for doing something, uh, stupid and crazy?"

"Like what?" asked the redhead, devouring a cinnamon bun.

"Uh, like nearly crashing your broom or something."

"Yeah, one time I was playing Quidditch with my brothers, and I was going for the Quaffle and I nearly went through the kitchen window after it. Dad looked like he was about to have a heart attack. First I thought it was ‘cause the ball broke the window, and I didn't catch it in time, but then he started yelling about me almost breaking my neck and cutting myself to ribbons on the glass and how Mum would never forgive me if I killed myself. I was about eight, and I thought for sure he was gonna wallop my bum, the way he was screaming, but he didn't. He just screamed at me and then he hugged me and called me a stupid idiot."

"He was right, you know," put in Hermione. "You could have been hurt badly, and for what? Catching a silly red ball."

Ron rolled his eyes. "Girls! You don't understand anything. Quidditch is not silly, Hermione. It's like, the greatest sport ever."

"Not good enough to risk your life over." Hermione disagreed, eating an orange neatly. "No sport is."

"Forget it. A bookworm like you will never understand that the danger's part of the fun," Ron sighed. "Right, Harry?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed, pleased that his earlier assumption about Snape's reaction last night was correct. The dark angel was acting more like a father to Harry than anyone ever had. He wasn't sure how he should feel about that. He liked the idea of someone else caring about him, but at the same time it was strange and bewildering.

Another thought occurred to him. "Have either of you noticed the way Quirrell's been acting? He's . . .weird. Gives me the creeps."

"Yeah, I think the light's on but nobody's home," Ron agreed. "I mean, I could deal with the stutter, but he didn't even bother to teach us anything yesterday."

"Maybe he was just warming up," Hermione said.

"For what? He's supposed to be a professor, so why can't he teach?" Harry asked. "All he did was blather on about redcaps and what they ate-people-and he didn't even teach us any spells. What's the use of having Defense class if we never learn how to defend ourselves?"

"You know what my brothers told me?" Ron asked, lowering his voice to whisper. "They said the Defense Against the Dark Arts position is cursed. Ever since You-Know-Who held it, they say he put a curse on it, so that no teacher has ever taught it for more than a year, and whoever teaches it has something bad happen to them that makes them leave. That's why Dumbledore has to hire a new teacher each term. And why nobody really wants the job, except Professor Snape. He's probably mean enough to outlast the curse, but I don't think I'd want him teaching me either."

"He'd be better than Quirrell," put in Harry.

"Harry, a rabbit would be better than Q-Quirrell," Ron sniggered.

"Ron, you shouldn't make fun of him like that," scolded Hermione. "It's not his fault he has a . . .disability."

"Stuff it, Hermione! You sound like my mum. You're not supposed to defend your teachers, don't you know anything?"

"Humph!" Hermione sniffed. "My parents taught me to respect all my teachers, even if they were . . .odd or . . .or strict. They said you never know why a person behaves the way he does unless you take a walk in their shoes. Maybe Quirrell's got a nervous disorder or something."

"Or he's just a lousy teacher." Harry said.

"Or he's a victim of the curse," Ron said dramatically.

"Oh, please!" Hermione snorted. "Surely you don't actually believe there's a curse on the DADA position? Sounds like your brothers were putting you on."

"Nu-uh. Neville said his gran told him the same thing. So there, Miss Know-It-All."

"Well, you can believe what you like, Ron, but I don't think there really is a curse. It's just a silly superstition."

"What? How can you say that? You're a witch and you don't believe in curses?" Ron gaped.

"There are curses and then there are curses, Ronald," Hermione said loftily. "Maybe Professor Quirrell has a fear of public speaking, I knew a man like that once, he got sick every time he had to speak in front of people . . ."

Ron snickered. "Right! He's cursed, Hermione! Watch and see. He'll be lucky if he lasts the year. But if they do replace him, I hope whoever it is knows how to teach something besides Boredom."

"You're impossible, Ronald!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, bookworm."

She glared at the redhead. "Will you stop calling me that? I have a name, you know."

"Okay, Miss Encyclopedia."

Hermione sputtered, unable to come up with a good enough insult, since she didn't have much practice in that department. Harry hid a smirk in his napkin, then finished off his pumpkin juice and the rest of his breakfast. He wasn't sure who was right, Ron or Hermione. Maybe they both were. He just hoped that his scar didn't ache every time Quirrell was near, because it made it bloody hard to concentrate. He wished his classes were over with, so Snape would send him a note and he could go flying again. Being on a broom was like the best thing ever.

"Come on, slowpokes. You'll be late for Charms unless you hurry," Hermione reminded them, then she grabbed her bag and stalked off.

"You'll be late unless you hurry up," Ron mimicked, making a face at Hermione's back. "Merlin! I swear, she could be somebody's mother, the way she harps at us. What'd her parents do, switch her brain with an adult's?"

"Maybe she's under a curse. The curse of growing up too fast," Harry suggested.

"Got that right, mate." Ron laughed, then he made haste to follow the little witch.

* * * * * *

After dinner that night, Harry paced about the common room, waiting impatiently for Snape's note. Six o'clock came and went. No Hedwig. Then six thirty. Harry was nearly chewing off his nails in a frenzy of impatience, and he had to force himself to sit down and act like nothing was wrong. He pulled out his Transfiguration homework and stared at it, uncomprehending. Why hadn't Severus summoned him yet? It was after seven now, and curfew was at nine-thirty.

Just then, Hedwig flew into the portrait hole, a small note clasped in her talons.

Harry stroked her as she landed on his shoulder and held out the small square of parchment. "Thanks, girl." He fed her a small owl treat, she gulped it and chirruped at him.

Then he unfolded the parchment.

Tonight is not good weather for flying. Too much to do. Tomorrow night is better. Burn this after you read it.
SS

 

He bit his lip hard, disappointment lodging in his stomach like a lump of overcooked oatmeal. He had so been looking forward to some air time. Last night, despite the stern scolding, had been the most exciting rush he'd ever experienced in his life. He wished he had his own broom, then he could fly whenever he wanted.

Dutifully, he stood up and fed the note to the fire as per Snape's instructions. Then he heaved a sigh that seemed to come from his toes and decided to finish up the potions homework Snape had assigned. He was used to dealing with disappointment, he reflected while reading over the essay topic he'd been assigned. His whole life had been one disappointment after another, save for the rare bright spots when he'd spent time in the magic place. I was probably the only kid in the history of the world who looked forward to getting sick, because anywhere was better than my stinking cupboard, and at least he was there to care for me.

It had made a great difference, he thought, going to an empty table and spreading out his parchment and ink and quill. There weren't many students in the common room at this hour, most of them preferred to socialize and do homework later, if at all. Harry smoothed out his parchment and dipped his quill, trying to write his name at the top of the page. Almost immediately, a blot pooled on the parchment. Ah, bloody hell! I hate this! Why can't we just use damn ballpoints? We're living in the twentieth century, not the fifteenth.

He crumpled up the parchment and withdrew a fresh sheet. It was going to be a long evening. He definitely was buying one of those magicked quills next time he went to Diagon Alley.

* * * * * * *

 

 

It was Saturday before he could meet Severus to go flying again, however, due to the professor's busy schedule. However, Severus did show him a few very neat moves, such as the Dragonfly Spiral, where you did a 180 degree shift in midair and spun down in a spiral pattern that enabled you to duck a Bludger being aimed at you. For that lesson, Severus had brought along a bat and a single Bludger, charmed to be at half strength, for the Potions Master was taking no chances on seriously injuring his student.

That lesson they focused on how to avoid the Bludgers and still locate the Snitch while doing so. Harry's repaired glasses made it much easier to see where everything was, even in the moonlight. Even so, it was hard to dodge Bludgers and spot the Snitch at the same time, more than once Harry found himself getting tapped hard by the black ball, though Snape kept it off him most of the time. Harry was surprised the professor played as well as he did, considering he had never been on a team, and remarked upon it.

Severus had snorted and said it didn't take much brains or coordination to whack a ball with a big stick. "Remember, Harry, in the real match next Saturday, your Bludgers will be at full strength, so if they hit you, they'll do more than just bruise you a bit. Avoid them if at all possible and catch the Snitch as soon as you can. And lastly, watch out for the opposite team, they'll be coming for you, you're the most vulnerable player, so keep your head and fly smart and quick. You've got some of the best reflexes on a broom I've ever seen, use them."

Thus encouraged, Harry flew better and better each session, until Severus was reasonably sure the boy would survive his first match with all of his limbs intact, and if he were extremely lucky, catch the Snitch as well. The professor had already heard mutterings from his House team as the match drew closer about how they were going to make Pretty-boy Potter eat dirt and ram a broomstick up his arse, the teacher's pet. They had reacted exactly the way Snape had feared they would, and Harry's only hope was to be able to outfly them.

The boy had enough natural talent to become one of the best Seekers in Hogwarts history, if he could get enough experience to hone that spectacular gift. Severus had learned that in one session, but that raw talent needed to be nurtured, and time was running out. Harry also needed a good broom, better than the old Clean Sweeps that the school provided. On a decent broom, he could outfly Thorne, Flint, and Nott and so avoided getting pounded. That would be the last thing Severus would provide him with before the match, anonymously, of course. He would have the broomstick shop ship it directly to Harry, so no one would see him carrying it.

After a rather exhausting session, the two landed and Snape placed the Bludger back in its special carrying case. "We'll practice some more tomorrow night. Provided you re-do your potions assignment to my satisfaction. Your handwriting is atrocious, young man."

Harry sighed. "I know. I just can't seem to get the hang of writing with a quill, sir. It's a big pain in the arse. Why can't we just use regular ballpoints, like Muggles?"

Severus's mouth twitched. He had been waiting for that question. "Because a quill is traditionally more elegant, and the precision and discipline it takes to learn to use one is good practice for learning spells. Magic is not just about waving a wand about, it requires will and stubbornness and determination. Writing with a quill takes patience and focus, two things essential to a spellcasting wizard. That's why we insist upon them. And also because it's traditional, and separates us from the Muggles."

Harry conceded that it made a kind of sense.

"I will assign you some additional practice pages along with your regular homework that you can turn in to improve your handwriting," the Potions Master told him. "The more you practice, the better you will write."

Harry groaned. That was all he needed, more bloody homework. "But, sir . . .isn't there another way? I already have so much work to do . . ."

"Don't whine, Mr. Potter." Severus ordered briskly. "You'll manage, you simply have to learn to prioritize your time."

"It's not fair," Harry muttered rebelliously. "Nobody else has double homework except me."

"I beg to differ. Some of my seventh year Advanced Potions students have triple the work you do, young man. Now stop complaining and just do your assignments."

"I'm buying one of those charmed quills first chance I get," the boy grumbled under his breath, figuring Severus couldn't hear him.

He should have known better. Severus had ears sharper than a desert fox. "Excuse me? Charmed writing implements are illegal here, Mr. Potter, so get that fool notion out of your head immediately," the professor declared frostily. "I catch you with one and I promise I'll have you writing I will improve my handwriting for me until your fingers fall off. Am I understood?" He tipped the rebellious boy's chin up until Harry was staring directly into his obsidian eyes, which were blazing with barely banked fury. "There is no need to cheat when honest hard work will get you the results you need. Is that clear?"

Harry flinched, for the dark angel's eyes pierced him like a sword. "Yes, sir," he whispered, trying to jerk his chin out of Snape's grasp.

But the older man held him firmly, and he could not look away. "Remember this, because this is the only warning you will ever get. I don't tolerate cheating, Harry James Potter, not ever. I want you to practice writing the alphabet, twenty times per letter, and turn that in next class period."

"Fine, sir."

"Mind your tone, boy," he warned. "Else I'll take twenty points for that sulky attitude, and give you detention on top of it."

Harry wisely decided not to say anything else, and they continued walking back to the castle in stony silence. It was the first disagreement they had ever really had, and Harry found he did not like the sour feeling it left in his stomach at all. That night, he departed without the customary hug, stomping out the door in a temper.

Severus gazed at the partially opened door, tempted to stalk after him and give him a good smack and shake some sense into him, the impertinent brat. But he controlled himself. Let the boy sulk and grumble, get it out of his system, for he would soon see that such tactics did not work on Severus Snape. The Potions Master rubbed a hand across his eyes wearily. Was this what it was like to have a child? Did other parents long to rip out their hair over their child's attitude? Or was it just him?

 

* * * * * *

 

As a result of Snape's additional assignment, Harry was in a foul mood the next morning. He scowled over breakfast, prompting Hermione to ask if he'd slept well. "Because you look like you didn't, your hair's sticking up all over like a hedgehog's, you know, and you've got circles under your eyes, like you've been awake half the night wrestling with nightmares or something."

"I don't want to discuss it, Hermione!" Harry snapped.

"Well, you're in a snippy mood this morning! Nightmares are nothing to be ashamed of, Harry, everyone gets them. Why, one time I-"

"Don't tell me, you had one over getting a bad grade on an exam, right? Or maybe coming in second in the national spelling bee?" teased Ron. "Oh, the horror!" he pressed his hands to his cheeks, pretending to look utterly devastated.

Hermione frowned severely at him. "Really, Ronald! I'm not that obsessed with grades."

"Says who?" hooted the other boy. "How many times have you read all the textbooks? At least five times, right? And you do homework the same day we get it assigned, for Merlin's sake. If that's not being obsessed with school, I don't know what is."

"Just because I'm a conscientious student who wants to get good marks and earn House points, doesn't mean I don't know how to have fun."

"No? Tell me, Granger, what's your idea of fun? Reading the encyclopedia? Checking out half the library?"

"You know, Weasley, it wouldn't kill you to crack a book once in awhile, instead of just staring off into space and hoping the answers will magically insert themselves into your fat head!" Hermione cried. "We lost ten points in Professor Snape's class because you didn't know what belladonna was good for-"

"So? Snape's a greasy git, he was just looking for an excuse to take points from Gryffindor, the rotten old bat, he hates Harry for no reason-"

"Shut up!" Harry snarled. "Just . . .shut the hell up!"

Suddenly he couldn't bear to be near the two squabbling Gryffindors any more. He had to get away, before he lost it completely, and told Ron to quit badmouthing Severus before he punched him out, and Hermione to stop being such an insufferable know-it-all. He jumped to his feet, nearly upsetting his plate of cold cereal, he was no longer hungry, and stalked from the hall, struggling to control his temper. Angry as he was with Snape, he still couldn't stand it when Ron or another Gryffindor started sneering and passing remarks about him in Harry's hearing. It made him want to scream, Don't you get it? He's only being strict to save your hide, and he doesn't hate me, he was the one who saved my life, more times than I can count, and now he has to pretend he hates me, and it sucks!

He headed up the staircase, going to Transfiguration, not caring if he was early, when he banged right into Draco Malfoy.

"Hey! Watch it, Potter!" snapped the blond-haired boy. Then he sneered, "Oh, I forgot. Maybe you need new glasses, huh, Potter? That way you'd be able to see people coming and not bash into them like a blind idiot."

Harry, who had just gotten his brand new spectacles from Madam Pomfrey that morning, was in no mood for Malfoy's comments. "Shove off, Malfoy."

"Aww, Pretty-boy Potter's in a bad mood," taunted the other, grinning maliciously. "What's wrong, Potter? You and Weasel have an argument over who was going to copy Granger's homework first?"

"Get out of my way, Malfoy." Harry made as if to push past the other boy and go up the stairs.

"Not so fast, Potter," ordered Malfoy in a lofty tone that set Harry's teeth on edge. "I haven't dismissed you yet."

"Dismissed me? I'm not your bloody servant, Malfoy."

"No? Your mother was a Muggleborn, wasn't she? That makes you inferior to me, Potter."

"Says who?"

"Anyone who's everyone. A pureblood is better than a half-Muggleborn any day of the week."

"Like hell." Harry felt his fist clench.

"Temper, temper." Malfoy sneered. "Wouldn't want to lose more House points, now would we? Considering Gryffindor's in last place, as usual."

"Bugger off, Malfoy, you arrogant snotrag!" Harry shouted, losing control completely.

He would have punched the supercilious boy in the nose had not a silky voice, low and sharp with disapproval, said, "What is going on here? Instigating a fight, are we, Potter? That'll be twenty points for causing a ruckus in the hallway, plus another ten for name calling."

Harry gasped and looked up.

There at the top of the stairs stood a very irate Potions Master.

"That's totally unfair, sir! Malfoy started it, ask him what he said to me!" Harry protested. No way! This can't be happening to me.

"Whatever Mr, Malfoy said to you is no excuse to use such foul language, Potter. If your mother were alive-" Snape began, angry at the boy for making him scold him twice in a twenty-four hour period.

"Well, she isn't, and what do you care anyhow? Ron was right, you do favor your own, you miserable bloody damn bat-" Harry cried, his temper completely running away with him.

"Detention, Potter, for addressing a teacher with such disrespect," Severus cut in, before Harry could say anything worse. "My office, six o'clock. And if you're a minute late, I shall come and drag you there by your ear, Potter, so do not test me." Severus fixed him with his most fierce and intimidating glower.

Harry dropped his eyes, appalled at what he had said to his protector. He hadn't meant to blow up like that, but somehow his temper had taken control of his mouth and now . . .now he was in real trouble. There was no doubt about it, this time there would be no fake detention. No, this one would be for real.

"Mr. Malfoy. I would suggest you get down to the Great Hall, with the rest of your classmates," Severus snapped, and Malfoy blanched and scurried away, leaving Harry alone with a furious Potions Master.

"How dare you speak to me like that, you impudent brat?" Severus hissed, walking down the stairs and gripping Harry's shoulder hard. "You forget what you owe me, little boy. Who do you think you are?"

"I-I'm sorry . . .I . . ." Harry stammered miserably.

"Sorry, are you? Not half as sorry as you will be, Potter," Snape snarled. "Get out of my sight, before I forget you're my student and do something you will regret. Go!"

Harry bolted up the stairs, shame and dread now curling up inside of him and making his stomach churn. What had he done? And what would Snape do to him for speaking like that? Whatever it was, Harry had the feeling it was going to be most unpleasant.


 




So . . .any ideas on what Severus should . . or will do to Harry?

The quotes in the infirmary are from an ancient Roman medicus saying "Sleep is the physician of pain" And the Hippocratic Oath--the classical version.

Harry's sight with and without glasses mirrors my own, I'm blind as a bat without my glasses and have worn them ever since I was two as I am horribly nearsighted.

Next: Harry's first real detention with Snape.


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