Harry & Hermione
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enahma - Coming off the Ropes
Chapter 1 - Back to life
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Except for the plan and Quietus.
This is the sequel of Happy Days in Hell. If you haven't read it yet, DON'T GO ON!
I've planned its sketch: there will be 18 chapters.
MANY THANKS FOR MY BEAUTIFUL BETA, kateydidnt, who became my English teacher in the last weeks.
Many thanks for my reviewers who helped me live and continue the story.
NO SLASH, as I've already told you.
About the pairings: you will find them.
This story begins one weeks after the funeral.***************************************************************************
Chapter 1 - Back to Life
Harry was just sitting on the sofa with his Potions' book in his lap, his eyes stared out of the open window (the sofa was turned towards it just after Harry had begun his study-sessions in the living room some days ago), he leaned back comfortably and he was just enjoying life. Sometimes he took a piece of fruit from the table standing next to the sofa, and ate it slowly, trying its taste as if he were tasting it for the first time in his life... Well, really, everything seemed brand-new in his life.
His appearance, his name, his past, his relations, perhaps even his future...
His appearance... He was now much taller than ten days ago, on that fateful evening when Severus took him back to the Snape family. He still had jet-black hair, but instead of being unruly and messy it was smooth and short (it was a really old-fashioned hairstyle but it covered his forehead at least), and he had green eyes but the similarities between his old and new selves ended at this point. His bodily features (he was thin, tall and bony, his skin was quite pale) were inherited from his father, and some of his facial features too: the high cheekbones, and the eyebrows. But otherwise he looked like his mother and other relatives he knew only from photos. It was a little bit shocking when it came out that the trademark Snape features: the skin, the height and the cheekbones were inherited not from his grandfather but his grandmother, from the Noblestone family. The oldest noble pureblood wizarding family in England. When Harry had seen a photo of his grandmother he had to notice that he couldn't neglect the similarities between him and her. Well, his grandmother wasn't a beautiful woman, not at all! - the above mentioned features didn't match for a girl or a woman. Neither for a boy or a man, Harry thought, but beauty or fairness were not such important factors for men than for women... Well, the first time he glanced himself in the mirror he almost went black.
"I look like you," he complained to Snape who was just smirking ironically at him.
"I'd say that you look like your grandmother."
It was just terrible. That he looked like an old, evil woman. He wasn't old, evil or a woman. So he hated his appearance with passion.
In reality Harry didn't exactly look like his grandmother or Snape either.
His name, past and relations... His name was now Quietus Snape, like his father's, and according to the tale invented by Dumbledore himself, he was raised by muggles, his muggle mother's parents, but he wasn't allowed to give any more details to anyone about them so as not to endanger them 'in times like these.' Fortunately. Harry felt that keeping the other information about his new life in his mind was a hard enough task to bother with.
And last but not least, there was Severus, his uncle, pretending now to be his father. They were compelled to behave like father and son from the very moment they had left Hogwarts: Sirius Black was staying at Snape Manor waiting for his friend's recovery.
That had been the second shock in THAT morning (Harry just called it the 'mirror-morning'), that Sirius would be in the same house as him and he wasn't allowed to tell him the truth. Well, Dumbledore was surely right when he explained that Sirius must be kept ignorant of this fact, because if the Ministry decided to accept Severus's testimony or any other testimony about his innocence, they would question him with Veritaserum and it could be dangerous for Harry...
Not to mention the shock that Snape and Black made not only a truce, but a peace, which Snape longed to withdraw since he knew that Harry was alive, but now it was fortunately impossible.
So Harry had the opportunity to live with the two of them for which he was very grateful. In reality he didn't know either of them. And since he was a little bit familiar with Snape because of their common captivity, Sirius was almost a stranger to him. They hadn't spent almost any time together since the Shrieking Sack's incident and the letters hadn't offered a real possibility to become close to each other. So when Harry had heard that he would live with Sirius until the 1st of September he had become extremely excited and he had been looking forward the common days in Snape Manor. Sirius, however, wasn't talkative or friendly. He just sat in his usual chair for hours staring into space unfocused, not even little Anne was able to snap him out of his daze.
Harry too tried it many times. Sirius seemingly appreciated their concern; nevertheless he didn't take a part in the everyday life of Snape Manor. He greeted everybody politely, he participated in the common meals, but he barely said a word or did anything else. This hurt Harry seriously enough that he sometimes tried to convince Snape to let Black know the secret. Severus always rejected Harry's idea and he was right, Harry knew it, but it was too hard to see the pain it caused every day...
Anne's stirring bucked him up. The little girl was awakening after her usual afternoon nap. She didn't like to sleep alone in a dark room (after all she had experiences similar Harry's and Snape's during the summer), but Sirius generally ignored her wish for him stay with her while she was sleeping. So when Anne discovered after a while that Harry was studying almost every afternoon on the sofa in the living room she soon joined him. The first time she had appeared with her blanket and had asked Harry to stay with him he had become pretty embarrassed. He was a fifteen-year-old boy after all, and he wasn't used to girls' company and certainly not to a seven-year-old's company. But he had let her stay nevertheless and when Snape had told him Anne's story, he had immediately changed his mind and after that, he had done his best to help the girl as much as he could.
"Good afternoon, Anne," he smiled at her warmly. She yawned and stretched.
"Hi, Quiet," she mumbled in a sleepy voice returning the smile.
Quiet. This was the name Severus called him, and the girl learned it from him quickly. When Harry had first heard this pet name he had protested aloud to Snape.
"Quiet, be quiet. Beh..." he murmured unhappily.
But it had been a mistake he noticed immediately. Snape's face had fallen and he had become seemingly hurt by Harry's words.
"I always called my brother that," he said in a strange, thin voice, and Harry had withdrawn his previous words abruptly. Next time, when Snape called him 'Quietus' he had corrected it to 'Quiet' and since then he had been called by that name.
Harry never wanted to hurt Snape in any way. So he had accepted being called Quiet and after some days he got used to it. They spent a lot of time together and they made serious efforts to get accustomed to their new roles. In return for being called Quiet, Harry called Snape 'father' sometimes even if they were in private.
"Just to get used to it," he explained to the surprised Severus.
And they enjoyed this 'game' thoroughly.
"Have you learnt that potion yet, Quiet?" Anne asked. "Uncle Severus said that you can't go with him until you finished your homework, you know..."
And there were the uncles. Severus and Sirius were 'uncles' for Anne; she always referred to them in a formal way. She wasn't too happy with the two bitter, old men around her. She wanted Lupin back, but until his return she had chosen Harry to love.
"Homework..." muttered Harry silently. "It's summer holiday, Anne. But I finished it long ago nevertheless. I just didn't want to leave you alone."
The girl's face lit up.
"Thanks," she reached out her hand and took an apple from the table. "I hate to be alone."
Harry nodded. Anne had been coping pretty well with her parents' deaths, but he often saw her with a tear-washed face and red eyes. Times like that he let the girl cuddle to him and he even made some efforts to comfort her. It didn't take a long time for her to open up to him and she began to talk to Harry about her life and the summer's events.
So, Harry learned that Anne was muggle, like all her family, she had no siblings, her father's parents were deceased before her birth, her mother's parents were alive but they were ill and they stayed mostly in the hospital. Before the terrible events her family had lived in a suburb of a big city in a large house where she had a dog, which was killed too THAT night. She told Harry that she had a lot of friends in the school she attended, and her life was just... beautiful. Then it ended. And now it was over. One night a group of masked men – now, Anne called them properly Death Eaters - had broken into their house and had brought them to that Manor where she had been found two days later when Lupin had saved her.
Just two days... First it seemed just too short to Harry. Two days... They had spent almost fifteen in a similar place in much worse conditions. But he hadn't lost Severus. Anne, on the other hand, had remained alone.
Alone... This word started a new line of thoughts in Harry. He still couldn't decide whether he was pleased with his present situation or not. He still longed for his friends', and mostly for Ron's company, to share the summer's sad and happy moments with him - but it was simply impossible. Even if they became friends again, which Harry doubted highly about, he couldn't tell him anything, because he could be his friend only as Quietus and not as Harry...
"If you finished the homework, let's go to the garden!" Anne interrupted Harry's dark thoughts. He sighed and took the book off his lap. This was the next phase of the usual daily routine of Anne: the afternoon nap with Harry, then some games in the garden until dinner. There weren't any problems with her, she didn't mind being on her own, the only reason she wanted Harry to be with her was her fear of remaining alone again. First her parents, then Lupin... She was afraid that Harry too would leave her. He pulled his copy of 'Quidditch throughout the Ages' off the shelf and followed the jumping girl to the garden.
He sat on the chair positioned above the greatest oak in the garden (it was almost in the centre of it), opened his book and went on musing on his life's changes: on Severus, on their relationship, on the two weeks in Nightmare Manor. He felt that he needed much more time to get through all of it than he had thought on his first free day. He, of course, suspected that the nights would be hard and the first night alone had confirmed his worst suspicions, but he had hoped that the days would pass easily in their normal way, but he had been wrong. Harry didn't know the reason. Was it the fact that Sirius had been grieving since he had met him first as they had arrived at Snape Manor? That Snape was kind and friendly and he had to live in a totally different environment? No, it wasn't bad that Snape was friendly, just the opposite, it was good, very good and natural, but this fact too made Harry remember their common days in Voldemort's hell. Not to mention the scars, the traces of Avery's razor, which covered his whole body, his extremely thin and bony body... He still couldn't eat normally, he was just nibbling as Severus used to say, and sometimes he had serious stomach-aches... Almost everything reminded him of those days. And the future too was frightening. He struggled to avoid thinking about the future and the past but the present was pretty uneventful. He was studying, playing games with Anne, making potions with Severus, sitting in silence with Sirius, trying to eat properly and longing for a nightmare-free night... Pretty boring as a holiday program. And the memories attacked all the time.
If Snape hadn't been there for him, Harry surely would have gone mad. But he was there, always, at every moment Harry needed him, he was there as if he were able to read minds - or at least Harry's mind. Perhaps he had been. Who knew it?
Harry stretched himself. The warmth of the air warmed him and the light surrounded him, giving him the sensation of being in safe, in home...
Soft footsteps pulled him out of his thoughts. It was Sirius. He sat down on the ground with a sigh. Harry smiled at him slightly.
"Hello, Quietus," Black answered, this time with more life in his usually toneless voice.
Silence. Harry closed the book and looked at Sirius intensely. He was desperately struggling to find a topic to talk, or at least to come in terms with his own godfather.
"How is Lupin?" he asked finally.
"Not too fine as you surely know. Snape... er... I mean your father is doing research to find a potion, which can heal him, but I fear he won't find any."
Harry left the chair and sat in front of him putting a hand on Black's shoulders.
"I'm sure he will. He is working hard on it, and as I know he is one of the most skilled experts of the field," he said as reassuringly as he could. "And you have to be a little bit more optimistic."
"I lost my optimism ten days ago..."
Damned situation! Harry sighed.
"But... but you still have things to live for," his voice was thin and he had to fight against his tears. "There is Lupin, your friend and Anne too... And you are too young to give up."
"I'm not young. Perhaps I'm only 37 but I spent just too much time in Azkaban to feel young. And I have nothing. I've lost my family, then my godson and now my friend is dying..."
"He is NOT dying, Sirius. He is ill, but he won't die, as you know. And you are not alone. We are here to help you, Anne, me and even my father, despite your mutual dislike... And there is Lupin who needs your support and strength more than ever before..."
"But I don't have the strength to help him!" yelled Black bitterly. "I don't have the strength to live any more," he added then more quietly.
"Sirius, you received the chance to begin your life over again. You are free now, you don't have to run, you have the chance to find your place and a reason to live. You have to pull yourself together. You have to spend more time with Anne for example..."
"Why?" Black asked sarcastically. "Do you feel it a burden to care for her?"
Harry got embarrassed and blushed. On the top of his embarrassment he knew precisely what he looked like when he was blushed: he had seen Snape turning red - it was an ugly, brick-coloured blush... He shuddered and crossed his arms angrily.
"No, of course not. I'm just trying to draw your attention to the fact that she has just lost her parents. Her adult parents. And I'm not able to be there for her as a parent. Perhaps as a brother, if she wishes, but she needs somebody to lean on. Not me, a boy, but an adult. There was Lupin for her, but as you have just explained to me, he is ill and he can't care for her. Severus has to do his own work, his research and he has to be prepared for his classes too. And we will go to Hogwarts in one week. You are the only one who can take care of her."
"Hey, you sound like an old, wise, long-bearded man," Sirius smirked. "Do you know that you sound like Snape's... I mean your father's brother? And... why did you call him Severus? It's quite unusual."
Harry sighed and nodded.
"To answer your first question: yes, Severus, my father says usually that I resemble him, it was the reason that he gave me this name," Harry stopped. Here came the lies and he hated to lie. He gulped and went on. "And the second answer: I call him Severus because I'm not yet accustomed to living with him. I lived with my grandparents before and I scarcely met him. And he always resisted being called 'father'. To avoid attention, he said."
"It means that Quietus wasn't your name before?" Black seemed curious, and Harry couldn't help but become nervous. He had to lie again.
"No, I don't use my previous name. He didn't want any traces, which could lead to my grandparents," he sighed and decided to add something true to his tale. "You know, when I resolved to live with him I had to give up my whole life: my name, my friends, my guardians, and began everything over. It's really hard..." he only muttered the last sentence.
Sirius cast a scrutinizing glance at him.
"Yes, it should be," he nodded. "But you did know it before, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did."
"Then why did you make this decision?"
In this moment Harry was extremely grateful that Sirius didn't know their secret, because he could answer the question with maximal sincerity.
"Because I love him," he said simply.
This was the first time he said this sentence aloud and again, and he couldn't stop to think about life's unexpected turns. A month ago Snape and he despised each other, the professor was an embittered loner, Harry had no real family except for his running godfather whom he never really knew. And now, Snape and he played the roles of father and son, but they weren't only pretending to care for each other and Harry had the opportunity to get to know Sirius better; although the circumstances were far from normal.
But when Harry said the last sentence aloud, he suddenly felt a pang of guilt in his chest for his everyday dark thoughts. He had every reason to be happy now. The decision he made was not easy but wasn't a bad thing either.
Sirius smirked again.
"I've never thought I would hear that sentence referring to him..." he said sarcastically but he regretted it instantly. "Sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
But Harry just waved his hand dismissively.
"Don't be," he answered smiling. "He is a very hard man to love, really. But I'm his son. And," he stopped for a moment to consider about what to say, "he has changed this summer."
Sirius blinked in surprise.
"What... You mean...?" he babbled.
Harry now was smiling wide from ear to ear.
"I may be his son, but I'm not blind, Sirius. He was much colder, harder and more rigid. And now he is softened somehow..."
Sirius shut his eyes.
Harry's pupils dilated in fear, but Sirius went on.
"It should be Harry's effect on him..."
Harry blushed and was VERY grateful for Sirius' closed eyes. He cleared his throat.
"It's pretty obvious," he agreed embarrassed. It would have been too suspicious to protest. He hoped Sirius would change topic soon: he didn't want to worship himself but otherwise he would hurt Sirius. He cursed himself mentally: it was his fault that the conversation had turned this direction.
"Harry was an extremely good kid," Sirius opened his eyes and stood up. "Now, I think we have things to do this afternoon. You will go to Diagon Alley with Sn... your father and I will look after Anne," he reached his hand and helped Harry up. But before he released the boy's hand he smiled, "and you know, you are just as good as him. Your father can be proud of you," he said and left the shell-shocked boy alone.
Harry was staring after him frozen for long minutes.
"Did he hurt you?" he heard suddenly Snape's concerned voice from behind. He jumped in surprise.
"No, not at all!" he turned around and smiled. "On the contrary, he said that I'm just as good as me, I mean Harry," he smirked, "and he added that you can be proud of me..."
"Well, I am," Snape smirked in return and crossed his arm over his chest in his usual manner. "Although I have no right to be proud of you..."
"Stop, Severus!" Harry interrupted him. "I don't want to spend the afternoon here listening to your guilt trip and reasoning about your well-deserved self-disgust..."
They burst into laughter and Snape ruffled Harry's hair playfully.
"Let's go," Severus waved towards the living room's open door, where the fireplace was. "As you said you don't want to spend the whole afternoon here..."
But they stopped nervously in front of the fireplace. This trip was the first occasion they would appear in front of the wizarding community together and Snape was totally sure they would be in every news report of the following days. He was just too infamous to be ignored, not to mention the fact that he had a son... Harry reached for his hair from time to time and smoothed it over his forehead where his scar lay hidden by a glamourie of the Headmaster. Harry, however, couldn't help but cover it as if the first passenger they would meet would cast a 'Revelo' spell on him to uncover his identity...
They stared at each other nervously.
"So?" croaked Snape finally. "May we leave?"
"I'm not the only one who is nervous, father," smirked Harry. "But of course, we may leave now."
The Leaky Cauldron was crowded. This was the first thing they noticed as they stepped (or in Harry's case: fell) out of the fireplace. Snape grabbed him by his shoulder saving him from falling on his face. It was a short show, but by the time he regained his balance almost every gaze in the pub was pointed at them in mild interest. Snape's usual glare wasn't able to compel the staring people to avert their glances either. So he tightened his grasp on the frozen Harry's shoulder and dragged him to the Alley's entrance. When they finally entered the Alley, Harry turned to Snape.
"What was that?"
"My fan club," Snape sneered.
"I think it's not worse than mine," Harry snickered and added. "And here I thought that as your son I won't be always in the centre of attention..."
"It seems to be your fate..."
"I see..." he frowned. "I'm not looking forward to school now."
"Neither am I."
Harry snickered again.
"I can imagine the other professors' expressions when they learn that you have a son..."
"Yeah," Severus smiled. "We'll have some rough weeks."
"Well, you don't have to do anything just to be yourself. But I..."
"You have to be yourself too..."
"Yes, but everybody will hate me, because they hate..." he suddenly interrupted himself and averted his face from Snape.
"You can finish the sentence. I'm pretty aware of my reputation..."
"No. I won't finish it. I don't want to hurt you."
"It doesn't hurt me."
"Er... An ice-cream?" Snape suddenly changed the topic.
"No, thanks. And sorry. I shouldn't have said anything," Harry stopped and now looked at Snape straight.
The professor turned to him and looked directly in his eyes.
"It's okay," he sighed. "But don't go on this stuff. It's meaningless..."
"All right. What about the bookshop?"
As they passed the Quidditch shop Harry shot a sad glance at the broomsticks and other Quidditch supplies in the window. Snape stopped.
"We can go in," he offered.
"No. I mustn't play, you know."
"Yeah," he nodded. "It would draw too much attention."
Harry didn't react just headed towards the bookshop.
"I have to find in myself those inherited Ravenclaw genes," Harry muttered bitterly.
"Perhaps you will never find them," Snape winked.
"Thanks," Harry sneered. "Well... To tell you the truth I agree with you. I think I would fit every house except for Ravenclaw, as long as they don't want a negative example amongst themselves..."
"You aren't such a bad student, Quiet."
"Oh, yeah, I'm a genius. Especially in Potions," Harry sneered again.
"Just a little bit tutoring and..."
"Oh, no..." he groaned loudly.
"Well, as the Potions Master's son you can't be a complete bungler in Potions!"
"Calm down, I WILL be. And I warn you now: if you want to survive the future potions' classes NEVER put me together with Neville..."
Their laughter suddenly filled the almost empty street. Snape wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulder. They were still snickering when they entered the bookshop, but Harry's laughter stopped abruptly as they went in.
Snape cast a questioning glance at him and he saw Harry's face twisting in pain. He followed his eyes.
The Weasleys were there.
Snape knew well that Harry wasn't prepared for this meeting with his friend - or as he suspected: ex-friend - and they had purposely chosen this part of the day for shopping to avoid situations like this.
Ron's surprise over their appearance was clear: the hated Potions Master entering the bookshop laughing (only ten days after Harry's funeral) with somebody who looked like his relative. It was a shock to him. Harry could see it: in his eyes... But there was something else in those eyes, and not only in his: in all the Weasleys' eyes. Something akin pure hatred.
No. It was not in all of them: the parents behaved in their usual way, but the twins, Ron and Ginny seemed absolutely reluctant to greet their Potions Master.
"Good evening, professor," Ginny said finally, and the three boys mumbled something under their breaths.
"Good evening," Snape's reaction was as cold and reluctant as theirs, then he glanced at Harry who greeted the family courteously.
"Your son, Mr Snape?" Mr Weasley asked smiling. "I've heard about him..."
Of course. They had to report to the Ministry about Quietus Snape and Mr Weasley worked in the Ministry too. It was not a surprise he had heard about him.
"Yes," Snape answered, his face wore its usual, expressionless mask, even though he felt a strong desire to sneer. But he didn't want to render Harry's situation more difficult: it was difficult enough in itself. "Quietus, this is Mr Weasley."
"Pleased to meet you," Harry said politely and shook the offered hand.
Mr Wealsey waved at his sons.
"Boys, he will be your new mate from this year," he announced smiling.
They didn't seem too pleased with this announcement. Indeed. The twins sneered, 'the newest Slytherin' muttered Fred to George who nodded, Ron frowned and Ginny cast a malicious glare at him.
Harry tried to smile but he was so nervous that he was completely unable to curve his mouth. He trembled in frustration. His presuppositions had turned out to be true. Ron would never be his friend again. He suddenly wanted to turn around and leave them, to go to Dumbledore and ask him to change him back to his old self.
But the Ministry's dungeons were too serious a threat.
Then he felt the grasp tightening on his shoulder and he realized that Snape's arm was still lying on his shoulder. He lifted his eyes to Severus's. Neither of them said a word, but Harry could see his concern and encouragement and he relaxed a little bit. He turned his glance to the boys standing in front of him and stepped forward.
"Hi, I'm Quietus Snape," he felt a lump in his throat and it was extremely hard to speak with it. He reached his hand to Fred. Two reluctant handshakes: Fred's and George's. Ron however crossed his arms in front of his chest and ignored Harry's hand.
"Ron!" cried Mrs Weasley impatiently.
Now, that they were standing face-to-face he could see the same disdain and hatred in his friend's eyes that he felt for Malfoy. Harry lowered his hand.
"I've heard that Harry Potter was your friend. My condolences to you for your loss," he said calmly.
There was silence for an instant then Ron erupted.
"I don't need your pity, Snape!" he yelled and ran out of the shop.
Snape wanted to open his mouth but he felt Harry's eyes on his face.
"Please, no," Harry mouthed and he nodded in understanding. Harry wasn't about to give up this friendship, and he really didn't want to make the present situation worse.
When Harry turned his gaze to the Weasleys again he could see them staring questioningly at him and Snape.
"I'm sorry, dear," Mrs Weasley said. "You know, since Harry..."
"It's okay, madam," he answered politely and lowered his gaze to the ground. "I think it was my fault. Please, give him my apology. I shouldn't have mentioned his friend to him. It has to be too painful for him."
"Yes, it is," Mr Weasley said. "But it was not your fault. He had no reason to treat you the way he did."
"Yeah," Harry whispered. "It doesn't matter, really..."
"Quiet, can we go now?" Snape asked after a short silence. Then he added looking at the other adults. "I think all of us have things to do."
"Bye, mate," Fred stepped to him. "And don't take it too hard. Ron is sometimes a complete git."
Harry lifted his eyes. Did he see sympathy on Fred's face? Yes, it had to be: he was now smiling reassuringly at him. George did the same and even Ginny's expression softened significantly.
After the family left the shop, Snape bent down to Harry.
"Are you all right?" his voice was worried.
Harry couldn't answer. He was still trembling slightly and felt numb. He just shook his head and struggled to pull himself together.
Snape cast a quick glance around then he turned to the boy again.
"Harry, look at me," he whispered.
Harry winced as he heard his name and looked at Snape questioningly.
"I know that this was very hard on you. But I'm convinced that you will be able to regain Mr Weasley's friendship. It won't be easy but you will do it. It won't be fast either, but you have time. You know, you acted wonderfully with them just now, and I'm sure that even if they hate me, you have won their sympathy."
Harry shook his head again to regain his composure.
"Do you think so?" his voice was thin and weak.
"I'm sure. And... how about a new Advanced Potions' book?" he changed the topic abruptly.
Harry cracked a half-smile.
"If you want it for yourself, you can buy it. For me the usual potions book will be fine."
"And what about those Ravenclaw genes?"
"They are in hiding," Harry's smile became genuine. "I'd rather buy some good Quidditch books."
"No, you won't."
"We can make a deal."
"I buy you Quidditch books, but I buy you as many study books as Quidditch books and you have to read all of them.
"You sound like a parent."
"Well, I'm now supposed to be one. And not only a parent but YOUR parent."
"What a joy..."
"All right then."
After half an hour they left the shop with dozens of book. Harry still hadn't received his letter, but Snape, as a teacher was well-informed about the books Harry was going to use, so they bought all of them. The rest of the shopping trip was uneventful. Before they turned home, they ate ice-cream in Florean Fortescue's bar. By that time it was already evening and the stars were appearing in the sky. The illuminated street was so wonderful that Harry just stared at the torches with wide-open eyes, like a little child.
"The first positive impression of night since THEN," he whispered.
The Potions Master shuddered. Night was the worst period of every day for both of them. He didn't dare make Harry drink Dreamless Sleep potion every night, for fear of creating an addiction, so the nights were usually filled with nightmares. He had woken up countless times to Harry's silent crying or to his uneasy stirring as the boy dreamed about the tortures. They slept in the same room with lighted torches, their beds were close to each other, but Snape often felt it necessary to lie next to Harry and to comfort him until he calmed down and was able to fall asleep again.
Many times they couldn't sleep, they would just lay on the bed and talked about everything, cautiously avoiding the 'summer-topic' as they called it. He remembered that he had promised himself to help Harry get through all of it, but sometimes it seemed an impossible task. Harry's condition hadn't improved, although their relationship had deepened significantly. He was happy about it, but he was worried for the boy. By the time the school started they would have to find a solution to this problem. If Harry didn't sleep enough, he would have several problems with his studies.
Not to mention the fact that once he was sorted he wouldn't have anybody to help him with the nightmares.
Severus was worrying about the future. He didn't want school to begin.
Harry's thoughts were swirling around the same topic.
He was dreading the thought of a common, dark bedroom with snoring classmates. It didn't matter, which house he belonged to, he would be alone at night anyway. Alone with his nightmares.
And what about the days? The new classmates, the common hatred, except for the Slytherins, perhaps, his lost friends... And in the evenings the common bathroom. Everybody would see his slashed body, all his scars... He shuddered at the thought.
He didn't want school to begin.
And they only had a few days left.