Happy Daft Day, lotrwariorgdss! Recipient:lotrwariorgodss Title: An Open Book Author:snakeling Rating: G Warnings: AU as of OotP Summary: Harry cooperates better when he's given a little information. Author's Note: I ran out of time and so couldn't include as many of your prompts as I meant to, but I hope you like this anyway, lotrwariorgodss! Thanks to leni_jess and djin7 for their help and encouragement :) Credit for the title goes to leni_jess.
An Open Book
"There are many things in the Department of Mysteries, Potter, few of which you would understand and none of which concern you. Do I make myself plain?"
"No! It's important to Vol-- to You-Know-Who." Harry dropped the name with distaste. "Therefore it concerns me. What is there? Sir?"
Snape glared at him and Harry glared right back, determined to get some answers. After a long moment, Snape relented, saying, "There is something there that the Dark Lord wants. As he cannot go himself, he's trying to lure you there to get it for him."
That sounded like the most convoluted and inefficient plan ever. Though the fact that Snape had actually answered felt like a small victory.
"I don't understand. Why not send a Death Eater if he can't go himself? I'm sure he's got at least one that works at the Ministry and wouldn't raise suspicions by being where he shouldn't."
It might have been Harry's imagination, but he was sure that Snape's expression became fractionally approving.
"Only you and he can touch it."
That made a little more sense, now. "And what is the 'it'?"
"You'll find out when the time's right." Snape's tone brooked no arguments, and Harry sighed. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to push his luck.
"Thank you, sir."
Snape stared suspiciously at him, then raised his wand again. "Close your eyes and empty your mind of all your emotions, good and bad.
It was easier now, with his anger at Snape mostly dissipated. But he still had no idea what to do, and Snape's subsequent attempt was as successful as the others.
Harry forced himself to breathe slowly and evenly, then asked, in as neutral a voice as he could, "How should I go at clearing my mind? I don't understand what I'm supposed to do."
Again, Snape peered at him suspiciously. Harry felt a little annoyed by this -- as if he was always up to some mischief or other! Harry could and actually did listen to his teachers, when he thought they had something of value to teach. Granted, Snape might not have encountered the attitude before. Though that was Snape's fault; Harry'd been all set to learn Potions before his disastrous first lesson.
"Close your eyes and imagine a small pinpoint of light. It's shining so brightly that it's drowning everything around it in whiteness. Now concentrate on that light, with everything you have."
Now that sounded more doable. Harry obeyed, his breathing regulating automatically as he focused on the light. Distantly, as if he was deep in water, he heard a voice. What seemed a second later, his universe of white light broke, sound and images rushing in.
He found himself sprawled on his back and slightly nauseous. A hand appeared in his vision field, and he reached to grab it. It was only once he'd been pulled to his feet that Harry realised that the hand was Snape's.
"Your block only lasted for a few seconds. Try again."
Harry sighed. Would it have killed him to say something even half-approving? After all, he had managed to block Snape.
Harry closed his eyes and pictured the white light again.
Three hours later, all Harry had to show for his efforts was the worst headache ever and a block that only worked if he stopped doing anything beyond breathing. Snape still looked dubious about his ability to actually learn Occlumency, but at least he'd stopped insulting him -- and Harry had stopped trying to get a rise out of him, which probably helped, too.
The turning point came two weeks later. Despite trying his best to block Snape, Harry still failed to prevent him from riffling through his memories. And of course, Snape being Snape, he automatically went for Harry's worst memories, every little humiliation and pain of his childhood.
His frustration grew, and with it his anger at Snape. It was as Harry was reliving a particularly awful episode involving Dudley, his little gang and particularly sharp compasses that it happened.
All the jars and vials and pots in Snape's office shattered as one.
The look on Snape's face would have been comical if Harry hadn't been certain he was one spell away from certain death. It helped to calm him down, though.
Harry took several deep breaths. "I'm sorry. I don't know how..."
"I do." Snape's tone was sombre, and Harry swallowed nervously. "You've got all the control of a four-ear-old. For God's sake, that kind of display is supposed to stop with puberty! You've got too much power, Potter, and not enough control."
Harry hung his head, trying his best to look inconspicuous, which worked even less well than in class.
"Oh, stop looking like someone died," Snape added irritably. "Anything irreplaceable is safely locked away. Those things I mostly kept here to frighten the students."
That startled Harry into a laugh. "Still... I lost you, er, your intimidation tool."
Snape made an impatient, dismissive gesture. "At this point, I can rely on my reputation to keep the little miscreants on their toes. And I think you just learnt Vanishing spells in Transfiguration, didn't you? You'll be able to get some practice."
It could have been worse. As punishments went, this one was quite mild. "Yes, sir," he said meekly.
"Now, to address the issue of your self-control. Or lack thereof.
"These memories of yours upset you because you allow them to. This is your biggest mistake. Believe me, Potter, you weren't the only child who had abusive relatives, and some had it even worse. Stop giving your emotions power."
"Nobody said it wouldn't be. Now, clean this mess, and we'll resume once you've finished."
It went noticeably better over the next few weeks. Harry's Occlumency steadily improved, until he was able to block Snape's attacks for greater lengths of time, though still at the expense of his ability to do anything else. There seemed to be a cease-fire in the hostilities between him and Snape, though only during "Remedial Potions". But of course, Potions classes were shared with the Slytherins, and Death Eater Snape could not appear to be anything but hostile to the Boy-Who-Lived.
Today they were trying a new technique, so that Harry would be able to do Occlumency unconsciously, even when working, talking, flying, or even sleeping. Especially sleeping, because the dreams weren't going away.
"Have you been clearing your mind every night before going to sleep?" Snape's tone was doubting, as if he expected Harry to have been slacking off. Harry didn't take offence at it; Snape always sounded like that. And, truth be told, Harry hadn't been doing it every night.
"It's not that easy. I can't go to sleep if I concentrate on the light; I have to relax. And then it doesn't work and I dream of the corridor."
"Which we have already determined is a trap sent by the Dark Lord."
Harry rolled his eyes, having heard that lecture about a hundred times.
"Show some respect! If you can't be bothered to put a little work into it, I can think of better things to do with my evenings."
"Sorry, sir." It was even mostly sincere; Snape looked tired, these days, and it had taken Snape a whole two days longer than usual to correct their last essays, something that was unheard of.
"Hmph. Have you tried any relaxation techniques?"
"Er, no. Should I have?"
"I don't expect you to do any work beyond that which is explicitly assigned by your professors, Mr Potter. Not even that, actually."
Harry probably would have been more offended if it hadn't been mostly true. "We can't all be Hermione, you know."
"No, and thank God for that. Twenty Grangers in every class would probably drive the whole staff to suicide."
That was said with such heart-felt conviction that Harry burst out laughing. Snape gave him a look of complete disdain that only made him laugh harder. Snape stood up and went through a door Harry had never seen before.
He came back a couple of minutes later, holding a book he handed to Harry. It was ancient, but obviously well cared for, the leather barely scuffed, and the title half-erased from the spine: A Primer on Guarding One's Mind.
"Spill anything on it, and I'll have your body as potions ingredients." Snape glared at him, making his point. "Right down to your toenails."
Harry gulped. "Yes, sir."
"Oh, and of course we can't have the Boy-Who-Lived openly reading books about Occlumency." He rapped his wand on the book, hard, narrowly missing Harry's fingers.
Silver sparks spread over the surface of the book for half a second. When they dissipated, the booked looked new, the title quite visible on the garish black and yellow cover: Potions for Dummies.
Snape's lips twitched, and Harry was certain that he was repressing laughter. He didn't even mind that it was at his expense, because it was closer to teasing than to mockery, and it brought unexpected sympathy between them.
He asked, curious, "Is it any good? Potions for Dummies, I mean?"
"Potter, you are so hopeless at Potions brewing that even My Very First Potions Book would be of benefice to you." Harry pouted, for show. "But yes, I daresay this one is good."
Harry looked down at the cover, and spotted the author's name. "Oh."
Snape rolled his eyes. "Oh indeed. I've wasted enough of my time with you this evening. Off with you, and don't come back before reading the whole book."
"Aye aye, sir." Harry mock-saluted, then scampered off before Snape could do anything in retaliation.
Harry made a point of reading the book as quickly as possible and presented himself in Snape's office less than a week later. Snape looked down at him, his long beak accentuating the disapproving expression on his face.
"Are you trying to tell me you've finished the book already?"
"Not trying, sir. Telling you."
"And you expect me to believe that you actually understood and applied what you read."
"Well, I can't do anything about your belief system, sir, but I did understand the book, and did my best to practise the methods it describes."
"Hmph. Did you find out which meditation technique suited you best, or are you equally hopeless at each one?"
"Oi! Imagining I was up in the air worked very well for me, I'll have you know. Sir," he added as an afterthought. Harry probably would do well to remember that however indulgent he might be when they were alone, Snape was definitely not one of his mates. Especially as Snape was now narrowing his eyes, probably regretting the liberties he'd allowed Harry. "Sorry," Harry said in his most contrite voice.
Unexpectedly, Snape let it go; he didn't acknowledge the apology, but neither did he lash out with the diatribe Harry was sure he had ready.
"I probably should not be surprised by the meditation form you chose. Should you ever attempt the Animagus transfiguration, I fully expect you to become some sort of bird."
That arrested Harry's attention; being able to fly whenever he wanted, with no need for external props, that would be a dream come true. "Do you really think so, sir?"
"Don't you think you'd be better off asking Professor McGonagall? I'm sure I don't need to remind you that she's an Animagus herself, as well as your Transfiguration teacher."
"Wouldn't she insist that I register, though? Being an unregistered Animagus could be helpful."
"She's also a member of the Order. I'm sure that if you prepare your arguments carefully, she'll let you get away with not registering."
"I will." And Harry intended to. It would probably involve a boatload of work, but he couldn't find it in himself to care. Flying!
"Potter." Snape looked at him earnestly. "If you do want to become an Animagus, promise me you will do it under Professor McGonagall's supervision and not on your own. I don't care that your father and his friends did it; Animagus transfiguration is notoriously difficult and I have no desire to see you go down in history as the wizard who was half-man, half-peacock."
There was genuine concern in his voice and Harry looked up in surprise. "I won't," he blurted out, even though he'd thought he might go to Sirius if McGonagall turned out to be difficult to persuade. "Thank you," he added.
"For caring. There aren't many who do, you know."
Snape looked disbelieving. "Surely there are many people who care for the Boy-Who-Lived."
Harry shrugged. "I'm sure there are. But there aren't many people who care for me, Harry. So thanks." Harry was quite sure he was right about Snape caring, for real. He was equally sure that Snape was about to brush him off.
Or ignore him, as he did when he changed the subject abruptly. "Did you find the new form of meditation to be any help with the dreams?"
"Well, I've only done it twice so far, so I haven't seen much difference yet. And I'm doing it based on what I understood from the text, so I'm not quite sure I'm doing it right. Could we please practise today? You check on my technique, or something?"
"We better, or you'll never go anywhere. Very well, so explain to me exactly how you do it..."
It was the best session yet. They worked companionably together, Harry doing his best to apply what Snape was painstakingly explaining to him, with no resentment or hostility on either side.
It set the tone for the rest of the year, their cooperation when they were alone contrasting to Snape's public attitude to Harry. Potions class was the same as ever and Snape was actually rising to new levels of creativity there, to the point where Harry would actively look forward to watching Snape spit new nasty insults, most of them addressing his level of incompetency and his need for Remedial Potions. Most of the school knew about the lessons by now and Harry abused the fact mercilessly, going to Snape at least twice a week, often more than that.
The dreams of the corridor of the Department of Mysteries had all but stopped. Harry had also discovered that the meditation techniques helped considerably in tolerating the self-styled High Inquisitor. Besides, watching her lose her control when he didn't react to her provocations brought considerable amusement to Harry -- as well as Snape, when he managed to break through Harry's growing Occlumency shields and witnessed his memories.
It also helped his concentration, and his marks had improved steadily, even in Potions, where Snape kept double records: the official one, oscillating between T and BA (Barely Acceptable, which Harry was sure Snape had invented just for him); and the real one, where As and Es abounded.
As both his Occlumency and his relationship with Snape improved, rendering the long Remedial Potions sessions mostly pointless, Harry was often drafted to prepare ingredients for the potions Snape needed to brew. Potions would probably never be his best subject, but the constant practice and the stream of explanations Snape tended to keep up when working had at least improved Harry's understanding, and raised some interest. Even more interesting were the little tidbits about his mother that Snape tended to let out at such times.
No one had ever told him much about his mother, and Harry collected the scraps of information he got from Snape as others collected stamps. Every new fact delighted him, and he had managed to put together a more or less coherent picture of her: she'd been a very good Potions student, apparently often partnered with Snape. They must even have been friends, because once Snape had mentioned meeting her over the holidays. Harry didn't quite dare asking Snape about his mother yet, but he was working up the nerve to do it.
When the OWLs rolled around in June, Harry felt as ready as he'd ever be. He'd revised all the material, and used meditation to calm his growing nerves. Hermione and Ron were both panicking, though for different reasons, and Harry tried to escape their agitation in Snape's lab.
He was scooping beetle's eyes in tiny jars -- thirteen in each, and mind you don't miscount! -- when he asked, as casually as he could, "So, when did you meet my mother? On the train?"
Their backs were to each other as they worked, but Harry half-turned, curious about Snape's reaction. He was disappointed, as there was no move to betray that Snape felt any emotion. Though of course the man was a master at Occlumency, and it was unlikely that he would show anything.
"No, we met earlier. We were neighbours."
"Really?" Of all the things Harry had expected Snape to answer, that hadn't been on his list. "Where did you live? In Surrey, like Aunt Petunia?"
"Ah, so Tuney finally managed to get rid of her accent, did she? I assure you, we were all from up north."
Harry didn't know what made him round his eyes more: the nickname, which revealed a familiarity Harry would never have guessed at, or the thick Yorkshire accent the whole sentence had been delivered with.
Snape snorted. "Close. Huddersfield."
"Oh." Harry vowed to look up Huddersfield in the Library later. Though the name rang a bell, Harry's grip on British geography was too shaky for anything else. "What was she like, as a kid?"
"Wonderful." Harry blinked at the wistful tone. "She was my best friend from the moment we met. She was kind, and intelligent, and absolutely fascinated by magic. I had a blast teaching her all I knew, and then learning new things with her. One of my biggest regrets was that we weren't Sorted in the same house."
Harry definitely hadn't expected so much information from his usually close-mouthed teacher. It looked like Snape was regretting being so open, too, because he suddenly barked, "Well, have you finished with those beetle's eyes?"
Looked like confidence time was over. Oh, well. Harry'd get other opportunities. "I have about two jars worth left."
It had been a relief to have nothing more stressful than exams, at the end of the year. Of course he still had to spend a few weeks at the Dursleys, but even then he'd been able to ignore them and dream of the four weeks he'd spend with his friends and his godfather, and hopefully a little of Snape, too.
It was a bit strange how in less than eight months he'd gone from hating Snape to actually seeking his presence. Though the reverse was true too. Snape not only tolerated him now, but he also was helpful and friendly.
Harry had specifically invited him to his birthday party, and he hoped that the man would come, no matter what his friends or Sirius would say. He didn't hold much hope, though.
Which was why it was quite a welcome surprise when Snape walked in the room when the party was already in full swing. Especially as he was holding a square package under his arm.
Sirius was already looking outraged and Harry hurried towards Snape before either of them could do something stupid like hex each other.
"Good evening, sir. Thank you for coming, I really appreciate it." He held his hand out, and Snape shook it gravely.
"I don't have much time, unfortunately, but I wanted to put in an appearance and give you your gift."
"You shouldn't have. Really." Harry could feel his face and ears burning up. He hadn't meant the invitation as a plea for gifts, and was just happy to have Snape here.
"Yeah, what are you doing here, Snivellus?"
Harry whirled. "Sirius! I invited Professor Snape here." Harry kept his tone firm.
Sirius looked at him as if he'd lost his mind, and Harry hoped he wouldn't make a scene. Snape put his hand on Harry's shoulder, and Sirius's expression changed to murderous. At this moment, Remus appeared at his elbow.
"Sirius? I need to ask you a question. Urgently."
Gently but firmly, he stirred Sirius away, ignoring the way the man looked over his shoulder to throw threatening gazes at Snape. Harry felt admiration, and more than a little gratitude, at Remus's skilful handling of Sirius. He turned back to Snape.
"You can't stay, sir?"
"No. I have things to do that cannot be put off, I'm sorry."
"That's all right. I appreciate your coming here anyway."
Snape nodded. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it again while looking around in exasperation. Everyone was looking at them, more or less covertly.
"Step outside, will you?"
Harry followed Snape into the corridor. There, Snape handed him the package. Before Harry could open it, Snape said, "There are a few things I need to tell you." He took a deep breath, as if fortifying himself. "Whatever my opinion of you may have been in the past, it was wrong. I was wrong. I can see now that you are your mother's son, even more than your father's. You're headstrong, rebellious, and too much inclined to trust your intuition, but I think I knew her well enough to say that she would have been proud of you." Harry's eyes welled with tears at that, and he nearly missed what Snape said next, almost inaudibly. "I know I am."
"Thanks, sir. That means a lot to me. Your approval, I mean." And it did. As much, and even more so at times, as Sirius's or the Headmaster's approval, which often seemed conditional on what Harry was, rather than who. Snape may have been a very good friend of his mother, but he never looked at Harry like a reflection of her.
"Open it, now."
Harry nodded jerkily, tearing the wrapping paper open with shaky hands. Inside was a leather-bound book. There was nothing on the cover or the spine, and when Harry opened it, he saw why. It was one of a kind, made for him, with still and moving pictures of his mother, sometimes accompanied by a black-haired kid Harry guessed was Snape. There were letters and postcards and cinema ticket stubs and a stitching sampler and a couple of amateurish watercolours showing a bleak city that Harry guessed was Huddersfield.
Harry felt something big settle in his throat, choking him. He didn't consider how proper it was, or how Snape would receive it. He couldn't help himself.
Throwing his arms around Snape, he hugged him, hard, holding the man as fiercely as the book, and buried a sob against the man's shoulder.
Snape gripped one of Harry's shoulders, hard and quick, as if he was afraid to reveal anything by the gesture. But it was more than Harry had expected of Snape, and he cherished the thought behind it.
They both stepped away, Snape looking as embarrassed as Harry felt, though there was no way he was going to apologise.