As It Began

When Snape is sent to deliver Harry's Hogwarts letter on his 11th birthday, will he still be able to hate Harry after meeting the Dursleys? Harry is a first year at Hogwarts. HP & SS No slash!

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23. Chapter 23

    Harry sat at his desk and tried to focus on the Transfiguration exam before him. 

    How do object to animal transfigurations differ from animal to object transfigurations?

    Harry blinked and looked at the time. He had five minutes left and absolutely no idea what the answer to this question was. 

    “One starts with an object and the other starts with an animal,” Harry wrote. He was fairly confident that the majority of his answers were right and there were only a few that he had guessed on. This was obviously one of them. Harry scanned over his test and filled in answers for the ones he had skipped. Time ticked down.

    “Put your quills down and roll up the parchment, if you would,” McGonagall’s voice sounded.

    Harry set his quill charmed with an anti-cheating spell flat on his desk and sighed in relief.

    “Two more to go,” Ron said, his stress noticeably diminished.

    “Two more to go!” Hermione said in an anxious voice.

    Harry laughed at the pair of them. “They’re Potions and Charms, how bad could they be?”

    Ron shrugged and stood, leading the way out of the Great Hall where the tests were administered.    

    “Want to take a walk?” Harry suggested. 

    “Fine,” Hermione replied. “A quick one though, maybe the oxygen will help my brain.”

    Ron shot Harry a skeptical look. The exited the castle and made their way down near the lake. On the edge of the shore sat Neville Longbottom, alone.

    “Hey, Neville!” Harry called.

    “Hi, Harry,” he replied, “Ron, Hermione,” he acknowledged. Harry sat down beside Neville and Ron and Hermione continued their walk around the lake.    

    Harry took in his companion’s troubled expression. “Worried about what you got on that Transfiguration test?” 

    “No,” Neville said, glancing down at the water so as not to look at Harry, “Well, yes, but I’m more concerned about the Potions practical.”

    “Why?” Harry asked earnestly. “You made that potion perfectly the other day when Sinistra was substituting.”

    “Exactly,” Neville confirmed, “Snape wasn’t there. He makes me so nervous that I can’t concentrate. I’m going to fail, I know it.”

    “Don’t worry about it, Neville.”

    “What do you mean ‘don’t worry about it’?” Neville said, the closest to angry the Harry had ever seen him. “How can I not? He breathes down my neck every time I pick up an ingredient!”
    “I’ll pull some strings for you,” Harry offered.

    Neville looked skeptical.

    “Trust me,” Harry assured him. “He won’t go anywhere near you.”

    Neville’s brow creased. “How can you stop him?”

    Harry smiled. “Story for another time. Sorry, got to go catch up with my friends. See you! Good luck.”

    “Thanks, Harry.”

 

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

 

    Severus gazed blankly off into space, eyes unaware of his surroundings.

    “Severus?” a voice queried from the doorway. “Are you alright?”

    He gave no indication of having heard them. The blurred figure came closer. 

    “Severus?” it asked more urgently. After another moment of waiting for a response that seemed long in coming, the person laid a hand on his shoulder. Severus jumped and turned slowly to face the person beside him.

    “Are you okay?” Professor McGonagall asked.

    He stared at her for a moment before shooting up to pace the room. “Am I out of my mind?”

    “What?”

    “Look at me, Minerva!” he commanded. She gazed at him through concerned and wary eyes. “I am about to adopt an eleven year old boy. Someone must have slipped me something to have agreed to this.”

    “You have not been potioned, Severus,” Minerva asserted. “You have simply given in to emotions that you have previously suppressed.”

    Severus could read in her eyes that she had a lingering doubt as to whether he was capable of them in the first place.

    “I am insane,” Severus insisted. “No one in their right mind would let someone like me be guardian of the savior of the bloody wizarding world.”

    “That is a concern,” Minerva agreed. “The Ministry is not known for its forgiveness.”

    “I haven’t even told Harry all of it,” he said in a suffering tone.

    “You haven’t? I thought that you decided that he needed to know what he was agreeing to.”

    “I told him the essentials. I fear that anything else might estrange him,” Severus said in a more emotional voice than he would have liked.

    “In time, Severus, you must,” she said firmly.

    Severus replied, “I know it. I just wish that it need not be so.”

    “We all do, Severus. If we could change the past we surely would,” Minerva said.

    Severus nodded, troubled. He could not count the times that he had wished to do that very thing, but now he was thinking better of it. This relationship would never have been had the Potters lived. As much as his heart ached for Lily, he could not deny that he was loathe to sacrifice his newfound future. His redemption.

    “Perhaps it is not the past that needs changing,” Severus stated wisely. “Perhaps we best look to the future.”

    “Well put, Severus,” Minerva said approvingly. “I simply came to tell you that the tests are slightly off schedule. Your potions exam will be delayed by a half hour.”

    “It is no matter.”

    “I thought as much,” Minerva said. “I simply did not want you to take your wrath at showing up early out on the innocent first years.”

    “Innocent?” Severus scoffed. “I think not.”

    “Well, then, good luck,” she told him and stepped towards the door. “Oh, and Severus? You cannot back out now. It won’t do to break Harry’s heart once more. Event hough I remain unconvinced that you are the best fit, he seems certain and that is what matters. Be careful, Severus.”

    “Yes, yes, when am I not?” he impatiently waved her away. Reluctantly, she left. 

    Severus strode over to his desk and sat staring at his fingertips. He remained this way, thinking until another figure came to stand in his open doorway.

    “Severus?”

    Severus had a feeling of deja vu from just moments before, except this voice was younger and more tentative. And male.

    “Come in, Harry.”

    Harry did so and stood before him. He considered the boy over his steepled fingers, still lost in thought.

    “Something you need?” Severus asked. “The potions exam is in less than an hour.”

    “I know,” Harry said. “I’m ready.”

    Severus raised an eyebrow. “Many of my students come in this way. By the end of the exam, most have lost their smug attitude.”

    Harry gave a small smile. Then, he said, “Actually I have come with a request. This is coming from me, though, no one told me to do this.”

    “Well? Let’s have it.”

    Harry took a deep breath. “Can you leave Neville alone during the test? He gets really nervous around you. He is decent at potions when you aren’t there.”

    Snape smirked. “Does he? I didn’t notice.”

    “Yes you did,” Harry challenged. “I think you rather enjoy the effect you have upon him.”

    “Perhaps.” Severus gazed at Harry. “Very well, for the duration of the test I will not bother Mr. Longbottom.”

    “Thank you, Severus,” Harry said. 

    “This is a favor to you, I hope you realize. I am quite certain that he did not ask for this.”

    “He didn’t,” Harry assured him.

    “I need to prepare for the practical exam, if you will excuse me,” Severus said dismissively. “If you still wish to proceed with the adoption, please report here at precisely nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”

    Harry rolled his eyes. “Really, you can stop asking if I still want to proceed. Or are you hoping I will back out?”

    Severus fixed him with a piercing gaze. “Of course not. I will not have it said that I am not giving you ample opportunity to say no.”

    “Don’t worry, Severus. I won’t.”

    Harry headed for the door. “See you in the test,” Harry said over his shoulder.

    “Good luck.”

 

 

---{}-{}-{}---

 

 

    “Begin,” Snape snapped. Each of the desks in the Great Hall had been transfigured into small work stations stocked with the necessary ingredients for a forgetfulness potion. Snape swept up and down the aisles, peering into random students’ cauldrons and using his hovering presence as a form of intimidation. Harry noted that he was stalking right past Neville and did not stop. He smiled lightly to himself as he crushed up some herbs. 

    He had moved on to the next step when it was his turn to be observed. Harry could feel the piercing gaze of the Potions Master on his back but he was unbothered. He simply kept stirring, ignoring the raised eyebrow that might seed worry into the heart of another student. Before long, Snape’s menacing presence had moved on to intimidate some other unfortunate child. 

    “Time,” Snape called an hour later. “Put a sample of your potion into a bottle and it shall be tested and scored.”    

    Chinking of glass rang throughout the hall as the participants moved to comply.

    “You’ll pass automatically,” Draco grumbled to Harry as they spelled the potion into the small vials.

    “I don’t think that’ll be the reason,” Harry replied, picking up on the insinuation. “If anything, he’ll score me harder.”

    Draco didn’t comment, though it did not seem to be out of jealousy or resentment. Harry lined up to drop his potion into the basket in the front.

    “Hey, Harry!” Neville said from behind him. “Whatever you did worked, Snape didn’t bother me at all.”

    Harry smiled. “I told you to trust me.”

    “Thanks,” he said with a huge smile. “I think my potion turned out pretty good.”

    “That’s great, Neville. Really.”

    Harry dropped his sample with the rest and turned to rejoin his friends. He caught Snape’s eye as he stood in the corner. He gave a lopsided grin and received a flat look in return. This inexplicably made him smile wider as he exited the hall. 

    The Charms exam was easy, requiring the use of the Wingardium Leviosa charm amongst other things. Harry grinned as he thought of the chamber of flying keys that this spell had let them pass through. He caught Hermione’s eye and gave her a knowing smile. She responded in kind and executed the spell without hesitation. It was perfect. The written portion of the exam barely made Harry pause; he flew through it as if someone were timing him. He handed it in right after Hermione and moved to take his seat. His toe caught on a small black leather bound book that peeked out from underneath Draco’s bag. Harry stumbled but caught himself. As he did so, his scar burned, then faded quickly. He rubbed it and returned to his seat, not considering it too deeply.

    At last, the test let out and Ron, Hermione and Harry made their way up to the common room.
    “I’m so glad that’s over,” Harry sighed.

    Ron nodded fervently. “Me too, mate.”

    Hermione simply looked worried. “Was the answer to number 53 part A ‘a figure-eight shape’?” 

    “Hermione!” Ron snapped. “We are not dissecting our tests. It’s done. You couldn’t change it even if you wanted to.”

    “Well, no, I suppose not. But really, is that what you put?”

    “Yes,” Harry said, not knowing what the question was. He simply wanted to get the after-test worry over with quickly. Indeed, Hermione looked relieved.

    Ron sighed. “Want to play some chess, Harry?”

    “Sure.”

    After three matches (all of which Ron won, though Harry was getting a little better each time) they headed down to dinner. 

    “I was just getting my pieces to trust me,” Harry complained. “Now they’ll never listen to what I say.”

    “Such is life, Harry,” Ron said airily. “Winners and losers.”

    “Hey, are you saying that I’m-”

    “Yes,” Ron said bluntly.

    Harry punched him lightly on the arm and grinned in a way that implied he understood that Ron was joking.

    “All in all, I’m pretty grateful for your chess skills,” Harry said thinking of the giant chessboard.

    Ron smiled. “Pretty wicked, huh?”

    “Yep,” Harry agreed. 

    The dinner passed without incident, and then Harry and Ron retired to the dorm. Harry had trouble sleeping thinking about the appointment that would take place tomorrow. Tomorrow, everything would change. He would have a father, but also someone that he had to report to. He wasn’t thrilled about that part, but it was overwhelmed by his positive feelings toward the new arrangement. He was currently unaware of whether it was anxiety or excitement keeping him up, but Harry decided that there was no way that tomorrow could go wrong. He dearly hoped that he was right.

 

 

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