Disclaimer: Anything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing, make no money from anything, and am writing this purely for personal enjoyment.
Chapter 3: An Evening for Two
Surprisingly, the kitchen was well stocked and provided me with plenty of material for my art. I had just finished laying out the last dish by the time Mr. Potter entered the room. He took one look at the table before turning to me with a set expression. Despite myself, I checked the table again, wondering what I had done wrong.
“Sn…Prof…What am I supposed to call you?”
“Whatever you wish, Mr. Potter.”
My commitment to this arrangement didn’t include providing ammunition to be used against me. We stood in silence for a moment while he thought it over.
That wasn’t an answer I had been expecting. I had been hoping for ‘Snape’ – it was nice and neutral, and he had used it before. I had been waiting for something more along the lines of ‘boy’. But ‘Severus’? That was something altogether more… intimate.
“Severus, I refuse to eat alone at this table while there is some-body else in the apartment. Please set a place for yourself.”
“Mr. Potter, that would hardly be appropriate…”
“This oath thing means that I am in charge here, not so?”
“Then I get to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t. Please set a place for yourself.”
I couldn’t fault his logic, but I did feel he was adapting to the situation rather more rapidly than was fair. I turned to the cabinet and fetched down another set of crockery and cutlery.
We served ourselves – I had no idea yet what Mr. Potter did or didn’t like, and so had provided a diverse array of foodstuffs for him to choose from. He obliged by taking a little of everything, with seemingly no preferences. He couldn’t really have such eclectic tastes, surely? He was probably doing it just to confound me. I limited myself to a selection of the blander foods.
“Has Professor Dumbledore told you what we will be doing with our time?”
“Of course not. Why do I even ask? Dumbledore, tell some-one what’s going on?”
That sounded like a comment I might have made, except without the pessimism. I replied in kind.
“Well, I don’t know, Mr. Potter. Miracles do happen.”
He grinned, the tension leaving his face for a second. Whatever else you could or couldn’t say about the man, he had a large amount of personal magnetism.
“I’ll be spending my days at the Institute of Higher Magic. I’ll take a few courses, but they’ve also set aside a training hall for me to practice battle skills.”
I nodded. It would hardly be a unique arrangement for them, and the institute had as many halls and laboratories as it choose to have. The institute did not insist any path of study. It did not offer degrees or diplomas. It had no permanent body of students or staff. It simply provided the facilities for qualified instructors and interested students to meet. Like many wizards, I had both taken and given my fair share of courses over the years.
“Dumbledore wants you to come with me. It does make sense. And not just because of the oath.”
Ah, so Weasley and Granger had informed him of that part of the oath, as well.
“The institute is warded, but it is still a reasonably public place. I’d like to have you there to watch my back. Besides, there’s nothing for you to do here.”
As little as I wanted to watch him mangle more fields of study, he did have a point. And it wasn’t as if he was required to explain anything to me.
“And after that?”
“Back here. My friends can visit me, but I’m not allowed to go to them, or out anywhere for that matter. ‘Too dangerous’. Do you know where Hogwarts is? Physically, I mean?”
“Actually, I do. Why?” I wouldn’t usually have asked, but this non sequitur took me aback.
“It just occurred to me – I’ll be living in this apartment, which only Dumbledore knows the location of, training at the institute, which only the council knows the location of, and passing through Hogwarts to get there, which half the world seems to know the location of, except me. I’m never going to know where I am.”
“Sounds like a pretty normal state of mind for you.”
The comment hung in the air before I had even realised I had said it. I was doing my best to be respectful, but who could resist an opening like that? I held my breath. But Mr. Potter didn’t seem offended or irritated. Instead, he laughed.
After a few minutes of silence, he spoke again in an entirely serious tone.
“Severus, why are you here?”
“No. Why are you here?”
“To atone for my sins.”
The words slipped out before I could stop myself. This was a part of my life I had only ever spoken about with the headmaster. I looked away, certain he would laugh. Instead, he reached over and captured my cheek with his hand. Touch was not normally a comfort I allowed myself. But it had been a long and stressful day – I must confess that I rather luxuriated in the contact.
“And have you found peace?”
After a long moment, he removed his hand and returned to eating. I spent the rest of the meal staring determinedly at my plate.
“Have you finished rearranging your food, Severus?”
His tone was amused, but undemanding. I could never eat much when I was anxious – it was the process of cooking I enjoyed, not the product. Few people ever noticed, and I hadn’t been expecting Mr. Potter to be one of them. I fought down my embarrassment.
“Then I’ll say good night. We have an early start tomorrow.”
“Good night, Mr. Potter.”
I activated the charm that would cause the dishes to clean themselves and return to their places in the cabinet. An expensive set for someone just out of school, but then again, this was Harry Potter – he almost certainly hadn’t had to pay for them. I made my way to my own room, and prepared for bed.
After about an hour of staring at the ceiling, I got up again. It was clear that I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night. I picked up a book, and quietly made my way to the living room.
I activated the lights, and was startled by a voice.
“Mr. Potter. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were in here.” Usually, one didn’t have to check for people sitting in the dark.
Disappointed, I turned to leave.
“You don’t have to go, Severus. Come sit.” He patted the couch next to him.
“That’s quite all right, Mr. Potter…”
“Severus. Come sit.” This time it was an order. I made my way to the couch and perched precariously on the end of it. Why I had to join him was a mystery to me – there were many other perfectly functional chairs in the room.
After it was clear that he had no intention of talking, I opened my book and attempted to start reading. But Mr. Potter wasn’t involved with anything. He was just sitting there. Looking at me. I kept my eyes fixed on the page, but I could feel him there. I read the same paragraph over and over, but I couldn’t get it to make sense.
“You’re not reading.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Potter, I find it hard to read with you staring at me like that,” I snapped.
“Then why don’t I read to you instead?”
Why didn’t he what? It was official. Harry Potter had finally become insane.
He reached over and took the book out of my unresisting fingers. Before I could protest, he started reading from the beginning of the chapter. Well, at least he did have a very pleasant reading voice. The whole thing was an odd experience. No one had read to me since I was old enough to remember. It was surprisingly soothing.
After some time, the voice stopped, and I blinked open my eyes. I hadn’t fallen asleep, surely? Not with someone else in the room. I couldn’t have. Mr. Potter was looking at me with barely concealed amusement.
“That’s enough, I think.”
He stood up and offered me my book back. I rose with him. To my horror, I was blushing.
“Good night, Severus.”
“Good night, Mr. Potter.”
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