Harry Potter and the, ah man, ANOTHER trans Harry fic? Really?

Claustro-what-now?

CHAPTER NINETEEN;

Claustro-what Now?

~"Fortuna major."

The Corpulent lady's portrait swung wide to admit the lone Gryffindor, once he had uttered the password. Hogwart's favorite subject of gossip dashed in, hoping to quickly spot Ron and Hermione. He desperately needed to talk, with all of these conflicting emotions welling up within his small chest, the pressure was enough to make him wonder if it was going to burst! Thankfully they were easy enough to spot, sitting at a small cluster of large, plush easy chairs, scarlet trimmed in gold naturally, to the side of the fire. Unfortunately, they were still talking with Lavender and Parvati. The young mage racked his brain for a polite way to get his best friends alone for a private chat as he walked up to the group. The lone male was the first to spot Harry, unsurprisingly as he didn't really seem to be paying much attention to the three witches anyway.

Perking up that his 'guy' friend was finally back, Ron prompted, "Hey mate, what'd Lupin want?"

"That's Professor Lupin, Ronald," began Hermione, but upon noticing the noirette's demeanor, she demanded, "Harry? What's wrong!?"

Stammering, he asked, "How– er, that is… uh, there's… nothing wrong, per se…"

"Then how come you look like someone just nicked your favorite kneazle, Harry?" Parvati retorted, but not unkindly.

He dithered for a moment, clearly uncomfortable.

"Well… umm Lupin kinda mentioned… something, uh, surprising… yeah…"

Lavender began to ask just what it was their newest professor had admitted, but seeing how fidgety Harry was acting, plus the furtive glances he kept shooting towards Hermione, Parvati thought it might be best to intervene. Once Lav got started on a juicy piece of gossip, she could be relentless in its pursuit. Normally she loved that about her best friend, but for the sake of her burgeoning friendship with the diminutive noirette, Parvati figured she definitely ought to distract the gossip queen.

"Come on Lav, let's head up to our room, yeah? We haven't had a chance to go through my new issue of Teen Witch Weekly, remember?"

The strawberry blond reluctantly stood, and allowed herself to be led away. Parvati gave Harry a wink as she further distracted Lavender, by nattering on about some new topical potions that were supposed to appear in the latest issue.

When they were out of earshot, Hermione mentioned, "Seems like Parvati is trying to be a better friend to you this year? It's not like those two to pass up on good gossip."

Despite his nerves, a small smile tugged up the corners of his lips when he admitted, "Yeah… I think she still feels bad about the whole 'Heir of Slytherin' fiasco. She shouldn't though. Yes, her and Lavender mostly kept their distance after that whole mess started, but at least neither of them actually helped spread any of the rumors. Plus, Parvati actually did apologize after… when… while you were…"

Hermione reached forward to give Harry's hand a gentle squeeze as she murmured, "When Slytherin's monster got me, and Penelope…"

Ron awkwardly cleared his throat, uncomfortable at the display of emotions, "So yeah, Harry, uh, what'd Lupin say already?"

Looking around, Harry asked, "Follow me?"

Nodding their assent, Harry led the way back up to his dorm, and over to the foot of his four poster bed. Fiddling with his new trunk, he selected the library compartment, then opened it, and climbed in, before hurrying over to turn on a couple of the runic lamps. Since Ron was the last one in, Harry asked him to close the lid.

Ron stumbled a bit on the ladder steps, banging his knee while reaching up to try to close the lid.

Once he'd reached the floor, he exclaimed, "Bloody hell that hurt! You couldn't have sprung for padded ladder rungs?"

Ignoring Ron's complaints as normal, they arranged themselves within the modest compartment. Since the three would have made for a tighter squeeze on the loveseat then Ron was really comfortable with, he went ahead and settled himself on the ground, propped up against the fireplace mantle, facing the other two. He seldom used them, but his mother had drilled 'some' manners into his dense skull. Hermione tossed the red head a pillow, and once they were all comfortable, the two looked expectantly at Harry, but now that the moment was here, he was having trouble organizing his thoughts into words. Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione subtly shook her head, and for once Ron followed her lead. Stalling for time, she cast one of her adorable little bluebell fires into the fireplace. Harry literally facepalmed.

"Goddess but I'm an idiot. Here I was trying to figure out how to collect firewood. Magic fire, sheesh," the young teen just shook his head.

After a few moments of staring into the flames, Hermione gently prompted him, "Lupin, Harry?"

"Right… Sorry. Lupin. He, uh… he told me that he knew, or rather… he was friends… with my parents. He was in their year here… he, he shared a dorm with my dad, and was the Gryffindor prefect with my mom too. H-he's… I'm suppose to meet with him next Saturday to learn about them…"

Ron blurted out, "That's… that's great mate! Congrats man."

The noirette shook his head, overly long hair flopping Barack and forth.

"I should be really excited, and, I mean, part of me is. This is something I've wanted for forever, but… I mean… agh I'm also confused!"

Hermione, observant as ever, immediately guessed the problem, the reason Harry was so knotted up, and she was able to put his feelings to words,

"I think you're just confused, and maybe a little hurt. If he really were that close to your family, why haven't you ever met him, right?"

Harry jerked, looking over at his bushy haired friend, he whispered, "Yeah… that's, that's it exactly…"

After a moment's silence, he continued angrily, "If he, no, if ANYONE had bothered to ever visit, to pay attention, maybe they could have gotten me away from those… those abusive monsters."

Hermione flinched, her features taking on a distant look, but didn't say anything.

Ron spoke up from his place by the fire, "You know I'm always gonna be on your side about those… people," the way he said people, Ron clearly wanted to call them something far less civil, "but uh, maybe give Lupin a chance to explain? I mean, my parents didn't know where you were, and they are on pretty good terms with the old guy. I mean, Dumbledore keeps making you go back because it's supposedly the safest place for you, right? And, I mean, if I was trying to keep someone safe, I wouldn't go around telling everyone where I'd stuck'em."

Harry considered it for a minute, eventually he nodded.

"Okay, that… I guess that does sound like something old Dumbles would do…" Side eyeing Ron, Harry teased, "you know, that was pretty smart… especially from you."

"Oye!"

Ron chucked his pillow at Harry, both of them grinning.

The sudden movement finally snapped Hermione out of her head space. Looking over to her best friend, and the closest thing to a sibling she had ever had, Hermione's voice broke when she spoke.

"I think that's the first time you've ever actually admitted it, Harry."

The two locked eyes for a moment, then the youngest of the trio flopped back into the loveseat. Pulling his legs up under himself, he blew out an exaggerated sigh, before arguing,

"Hermione, that's not… I didn't.." Harry groaned, "okay, so y-yes… maybe they, look what they did, how they treated –treat me– I know it's wrong, alright. If either of you were ever treated like that… I'd be really upset. I might even call it abuse too… I guess…"

Looking back at Ron and Hermione, his voice took on the hard edge that he so rarely used. One that clearly communicated strength and determination, hinting at the powerhouse the youngest of the trio was likely to grow into. That recognition was why, whenever things got dicey, the two looked to Harry to lead them.

He growled, "That doesn't make me weak! I'm not. So… yeah…"

Hermione reached over and took Harry's hand, while Ron assured him that they had never thought him weak.

"Hey mate, I've pretty much always known your relatives were dicks. Didn't change anything then, doesn't now either."

"He's right Harry, you should know by now that, we love you, no matter what those, those bloody bigoted relatives of yours tried to fill your head with."

Harry couldn't help it, the way Hermione had grimaced while trying to get out the swear word on Harry's behalf made him burst out laughing. Ron quickly joined, until even Hermione was laughing too.

Once the laughter had died down, they sat in companionable silence for a minute or two, but Ron never had handled silence very well.

"So what are we gonna do about Malfoy, Harry?"

Harry groaned, again. Even though Hermione didn't say anything, he could tell the effort of not asking for all of the details about what had happened during potions class was costing her. Even though the emerald eyed noirette would rather bury his head in the sand just then, he detailed the conversation for her.

Hermione hummed to herself, organizing her thoughts before finally just saying it.

"I'm sorry Harry, but you have definitely put yourself in a bit of a pickle this time. If you had simply played it off as a normal chore, it wouldn't have been a big deal, but everyone saw your reaction. You literally ran from the room. Malfoy can be an obtuse git at times, unfortunately he can also be very observant, and he isn't stupid, no matter that he acts the part occasionally."

The trio sat around for another thirty minutes or so, brainstorming what to do, but other than mentally preparing himself for the Hogwarts rumor mill to start up yet again, the only defence they could really come up with was deny deny deny.

~ Ron and Hermione climbed out of Harry's trunk a few minutes before five, wanting to change for dinner. Most of the students simply chucked the outer robes and continued wearing the white collared shirt, tie, and bottoms; black trousers for boys and skirts for girls. Harry thought the tie was a little overkill, as all you could really see was the top three inches or so, thanks to the v-neck design of the robes, everything else below that hidden by the voluminous material. It wasn't really that the robe itself was uncomfortable, but they were a little unwieldy. Harry had needed to copy Parvati's technique of tying back the baggy sleeves any time he wanted to work with his hands, otherwise he risked the sleeves dragging through everything, making a complete mess. Something she'd picked up on one of her trips to Japan apparently.

Slowly forcing himself up off the couch, Harry drug his weary bones over to the wardrobe compartment, sliding open the door, he noticed it was still pretty dark in the next room.

Harry mustered up enough energy to think, "Woah, cool. Even though the lid is open in the library, the lids closed in here. I wonder…"

If not for the light coming in through the doorway, it'd actually be pitch black in the wardrobe. Flicking on a couple lights, he tossed his robe across the chase lounge. The most recognizable child in the wizarding world moved over in front of the mirrors and sighed, staring at his reflection. He really was excited to hear more about his parents, especially from one of their best friends, but the fact that Lupin had waited twelve years to meet him, just seemed wrong somehow. Add to that his dread about what Draco might say, and the detention he had with Snape tonight, and was it really any wonder Harry couldn't find the false optimism he usually forced whenever he looked into a mirror? The longer he stood there looking, the worse he felt, though he couldn't say why exactly. Sure, there were some things he liked. His mother's eyes, even he could admit that they were a beautiful emerald green. His petite frame. It was weird to admit it, but he kinda liked being so small, at least he did as long as no one was trying to beat him up, like his cousin… and maybe Malfoy's goons. Unsurprisingly, his wild, crazy hair was getting too long again. It wasn't that long ago that his aunt had cut it. The bangs were starting to droop down over his eyes, and the weight of the raven locks seemed almost enough to force the normally untameable hair to lay down, albeit in waves. He stood there for a few moments more, unconsciously hugging himself, with his left arm gripped just above the right elbow, right hand hanging limply by his side, picturing what it might look like were his hair allowed to grow long. Neither the Hogwarts dress code, nor his relatives would let him though. Professor McGonagall would probably send him up to Madam Pomfrey for a cut next week. She was a stickler for the rules, even when they weren't really fair.

The injustice threatening to reignite that old spark of defiance, and Harry desperately reached for it, turning that motivation into the energy needed to keep going.

"Screw it," Harry announced to no one in particular, before moving over to his clothing hangers, "if everyone's just gonna turn on me again, then I'm going to wear what I want for once."

The last Potter quickly found a long sleeved tee that he'd been longing to wear ever since he had purchased it. It was pink on the left side and black on the right, divided by a small, repeating lightning bolt shaped pattern where the two colors met. A black logo running down the pink sleeve said, 'InuYasha', and the back had the image of what might have been a long haired girl with cat ears, holding a big sword silhouetted against the black and pink background. It was pretty difficult to make out exactly, but the sales clerk, Winry, had explained that the shirt was for a cute anime, but hadn't gone into many details.

Harry paired the shirt with a pair of stretchy black jeans he'd liked. They were slim fit, but just loose enough no one was likely to accuse him of wearing girls jeans. The shirt on the other hand, definitely looked like it was a girl's cut, but Harry had liked it so much, and it had fit so well, Winry had insisted he get it.

Hermione's POV

~ On the way down to, and once he'd sat down for dinner, Harry was alternatively complimented, or given shocked looks. Hermione couldn't help but notice that most of the compliments were coming from the girls Harry already had a cordial relationship with, while pretty much everyone else seemed bewildered, bemused, or bitter. Hermione had to force down a grimace as they walked through the great hall towards the Gryffindor table, people were beginning to notice Harry's… bright outfit. She was positive word would reach Malfoy any minute.

Through all the looks and whispers, Harry kept his head up, projecting an air of quiet confidence, but by the time they made it to the table she was starting to see the cracks forming. Ron headed for the closest open section big enough for the three of them, but Hermione snagged his sleeve, insisting that she wanted to sit with Parvati and Lavender. She was very much hoping her hunch was right, and that her two dormmates would gush praises towards Harry's very pink, very muggle outfit, and sure enough.

"Harry! I love your outfit," Parvati practically squealed, jumping up to give him a quick hug, during which she flashed Hermione a knowing smile and a quick wink. It seemed Parvati had spotted Harry's growing discomfort, and somehow guessed that Hermione purposefully maneuvered the three into sitting next to an ally. Obviously she wasn't as big an airhead as she liked to pretend.

As Parvati, Lavender, and Harry animatedly discussed his new wardrobe, and fashion in general, Hermione used the time to covertly scope out the conversations around her. Ron had seemed a bit perturbed as they walked down, but upon reaching the table, in true Ron fashion, he'd foregone all thought other than filling a plate and digging in.

Oh to be so simple minded that a meal could wipe away all your worries, Hermione thought, not entirely unjustifiably.

Glancing around the table, most of the other Gryffindors had returned to their own conversations, though a few of the sixth/seventh year kids looked to be laughing at Harry's expense, though she wasn't able to read them well enough to tell if it was malicious or not. The only Gryffindors that looked like trouble though, were two boys a year ahead of them, named McLaggen something or other, and his friend Hodgens. McLaggen was looking at Harry with pure disgust writ large.

With an audible sigh, Hermione softly lamented, "And here I was hoping all the homophobes would be in Slytherin."

Even though she had mumbled near silently, it seemed the twins had noticed her displeasure, and quickly spotted the look McLaggen was giving Harry, and judging from the way their normally easy going smiles took on a malicious, gleeful intensity, she suspected the bigoted boy was soon to be in a world of hurt. She was definitely grateful the terror twins seemed to be on Harry's side, even if the methodology they used to show their support was a bit suspect. Like last year when they'd followed along with Harry up and down the school corridors loudly proclaiming things like "the heir approaches, remove yourself from his path you paltry peasants," and just generally making a joke of the entire situation. Though she wasn't sure if her best friend had put it together, every time the school jokesters had accompanied the trio, not even the seventh year students had dared raise their wand at Harry, compared to all the other times when even some of the first years had felt secure enough to try and jinx him from behind.

Her musing on whether that had actually been their intuitions from the start, was interrupted when she noticed the blond, pretentious ponce of a Slytherin, and his usual bookends, strutting his way over. She surreptitiously nudged Ron before whispering a warning to Harry, who gave a subtle nod of acknowledgment. Hermione busied herself making a plate, Ron continued to eat, but was less than subtle as he marked the Slytherins approach. Harry continued talking with the two girls, but reached over to snag a treacle tart from a platter near the center of the table, smoothly using the motion to completely turn his back on the approaching boys. Hermione had to hide a smile as Malfoy was forced to wait until Harry acknowledged his presence, or practically shout to be sure he wouldn't be ignored. As tact had thus far seldom been demonstrated by the heir of House Malfoy, he of course choose loudly,

"Well well well, would you look at that, Goyle. Looks like Potter finally decided to fly his fruity little flag."

Harry just sighed in an obvious, why me, way.

Turning, he addressed Draco, "Malfoy, you do know I don't particularly care for your presence, nor your opinion right? But, in the interest of moving whatever this is along, what are you on about?"

The blond scoffed, "Same to you, Harry," Draco took care to pronounce the name with just a touch of a sneer, "but you see, after that spectacle of an entrance, me and the girls over there were just debating… how shall we say, where your interest lie, so I thought to myself, why not go ask?"

Harry glared before asking, "And exactly why should I answer? You've never been shy to jump to conclusions about me before."

"Too bleeding true, that," Ron interjected, earning a glare from Malfoy, and another from Hermione, only in her case it was purely for his language.

Draco smirked as he replied, "Well, if you'd prefer, I could simply go back and tell everyone you admitted to being gay."

Harry sputtered, "Gay!? What– that's what this is about?"

Two pale silver orbs rolled back in exasperation, "Yes genius, what did you think I was asking?"

"I don't know! Figured you were just disparaging my clothes or something. Wouldn't be the first time."

"Well considering that the rags you wore before were even worse than our dear dada professor, these are genuinely an improvement, but seriously Potter, why would you choose to wear clothing that was so girly, and muggle? Do you have no pride as a wizard? Are you gay?"

It was Harry's turn to scoff, though Hermione was the one to answer.

"And why exactly should Harry be proud to be a wizard, but not also be proud to come from the muggle world. Seems to me the lot of you 'purebloods' could do with a modern muggle crash course in forest year. Maybe then you'd realize just how far behind the magical world is lagging technologically."

Malfoy's face went cold again as he angrily retorted, "Spoken like a true mudblood colonizer, with zero concern for our culture and traditions!"

Ron started to yell, but before he'd uttered more than a couple words, Malfoy tore into him too.

"Oh shut it Weasel. Everyone knows your family isn't any better. Your lot actively helped that old fool up there to systematically eliminate as many of the old ways as he could manage."

Harry turned to fully face Malfoy, and while his wand wasn't in hand, his fist was clenched tightly.

"First of all, no I'm not ashamed to have been raised in the muggle world, even if my relatives are completely awful, neither am I ashamed to be magical. If you purest sects really are that concerned about having your culture, and whatever the, Old Ways, are, which I've never heard of by the way, respected, then why doesn't Hogwarts have a class all about them for the muggle raised firsties?"

"Umm, Harry. We did have a class in first year to introduce us to the wizarding world, with Professor McGonagall. Honestly though, we only met a couple times a week, and only for three weeks, and I'm sorry to say that it was next to useless."

"What!?" Harry exclaimed. "Why didn't anyone tell me about it? Dumbledore knew I was completely ignorant of the magical world before receiving my Hogwarts letter."

Hermione could only shrug, while Malfoy just looked surprised.

"Well… anyway, Draco," Harry matched Malfoy's touch of disdain when he said the boy's first name, "I happen to like pink, so what. That doesn't automatically make me gay. And not that I'm admitting anything, but even if I were, you definitely wouldn't give you a chance. Now, leave me the hell alone."

Surprisingly, Draco left without saying anything further. Harry brushed off several of the students nearby when they tried to console the small third year, assuring them that he was fine. Hermione, and possibly the other two Gryffindor girls, noted that even though he was acting as if he were, he ate little, and mechanically at that.

~As dinner wrapped up, Harry lamented that he just couldn't catch a break. His friends wished him luck as they separated at the main stairway. The supposed basilisk slayer was really not looking forward to tonight's detention. It wasn't even fair, really. It wasn't his fault Draco had nearly given him a panic attack. He slowly trudged down, down, down the stairs, until he came out at the second floor of the dungeons. He couldn't really imagine living in the Slytherin dorms, as their common room was down one more floor. It did come out beneath the great lake though, and being able to gaze out at the fish above your head might be worth the creepy feeling of being underground.

By the time Harry made it to the Potions Master's office, he was having to consciously tamp down his anxiety, just like he'd needed to do whenever Uncle Vernon was angry, or might get angry, or even just bored, lest he take out his frustrations by yelling at his nephew.

Taking a couple slow, deep breaths, Harry reached up and knocked.

"Enter," called the soft, silky, and yet implacable voice of the one man who despised him nearly as, if not more than his relatives. And for largely the same reasons, who his parents were.

"You were nearly late, Potter."

"Yes sir," Harry nodded, not wanting to annoy the sallow skinned man unnecessarily.

"Mmm, fine. This way."

With nothing else said between them, Snape gathered up a large stack of parchment and led the way to the Potions classroom. Once inside he simply gestured to an incredibly large stack of cauldrons, and said,

"You will be scrubbing these out, no magic. Gloves and scrubbing utensils are on the counter next to the sink. Begin."

Without another word, both individuals set to work on their individual tasks. Time passed with only the scratch of quill, and the scrape of wire bristles on pewter to mark the passage of time, with the occasional splash of the faucet rinsing out said cauldrons.

After half an hour or so, Harry asked, "Professor?"

Without even looking up from grading assignments, Snape sneered, "No Potter, you can't be excused yet."

"Oh umm, no," Harry replied quietly, "That's not what I was, umm… I haven't been able to break up whatever this is. Umm, did, uh– should I just set it aside and continue, or…"

"Bring it here," Snape said imperiously. Obviously doubting Harry had really put in any real effort.

Once he'd looked into the cauldron, a single, honest chuckle escaped his lips. He waved his wand over the cauldron, not that Harry had actually seen the man draw it, and silently vanished the contents.

In a neutral tone, Snape offered, "Set any others with too much concretion to the side... You may take a quick restroom break before continuing, if you wish."

"Oh! Umm, thank you, sir," responded an obviously surprised thirteen year old.

After Harry had stepped out of the room, Snape stood and approached the now clean stack of cauldrons, surprised by both the number and thoroughness denoting Harry's work.

"He may be an arrogant, disrespectful brat like his father, but at least the boy has never been lazy, unlike the red headed buffoon he always partners with... Perhaps he might even prove to be less than an utter failure if I were to separate the two during class…" Severus muttered as he settled himself back down to continue grading the abysmal excuses for academic essays resting upon his desk.

Before he'd even resumed reading, the door swung back open and the noirette returned.

"That wasn't long enough to walk to the restroom and back," Snape commented, eyebrow raised in question.

"No, sir. I just wanted to stretch my legs for a moment."

Harry hoped that was okay. Other than slightly freaking out at the near silence of being underground with no real distractions for so long, the detention had thus far been completely civil. He even suspected that Snape had rewarded his hard work, by granting him a short bathroom break. When all Snape did was to offer a very small nod, Harry returned to the task at hand.

Snape's POV

~ Severus Snape typically despised grading essays, not that most of the drivel written by the majority of the student body was worthy of the name. If not for occasionally coming across a student with the potential to be a credit to the craft, he would have abandoned this silly little institution long ago, to hell with the moderate protection it offered. Yet even after an entire decade, the danger for himself was still very real. Yes, Dumbledore had, and continued to protect him from the ministry, but that protection had enraged more than a few of his former cohorts within the Dark Lord's organization. They had not all been willing to accept the assurances that he had been a double agent, but then again, neither had everyone on the side of the light. Without both Dumbledore, and Lucius Malfoy, his survival would be a constant battleground.

Glancing up to check the clock, the dungeon master was surprised to realize it had been well over an hour and a half. The pink clad boy, and wasn't that an oddity, had been quietly working near non-stop the entire time, not that this really came as a surprise, unlike the pink. Despite his numerous faults, he rarely complained once his punishment had been decided, instead working diligently until his release.

Watching the boy in question, Snape was again surprised to note that nearly the entire stack of cauldrons appeared to have been scrubbed out, with just a handful gathered around the sink, presumably soaking. Why, oh why was he soaking cauldron when Severus had clearly told the boy to set aside any that were too difficult to scrub out by hand. Daft boy, you never could be sure how a ruined potion would react when rehydrated. While it was fairly safe to rinse one out while cleaning it, soaking the cauldron for any period of time was a vastly different prospect. Severus was about to unleash a verbal tirade against his own personal tiny terror, when he actually processed what he was seeing.

Lilly's child was on hand and knee, bent over a cauldron, wire brush working furiously, gloves forgotten, covered in sweat despite the cool air, near panting, and yet strangely enough silently. The sight was so incongruous that the long time professor took a full five seconds to realize something was very wrong.

Standing abruptly, Snape called, "Potter! That's enough."

The only reaction from the child was to further hunch down, almost as if to protect his head, but that didn't make any sense. That was the type of unconscious behavior abuse victims adopted, not spoilt little princes like Potter. Whoever Albus would have put the boy with, supposed savior of the wizarding world, would have pampered their little celebrity to no end.

The lank, raven haired professor rushed over to the boy's side, but hesitated to touch him. Though the headmaster had explained how Lilly's sacrifice protected the boy from evil's touch, it was nothing so logical that stayed the man's hand. He hesitated because he didn't want to further frighten the child, Lilly's child; and how strange that he could only bring himself to think of the welp that way when he was in danger.

Kneeling down beside the small form, Severus slowly reached out to take the brush from Potter's hand, near whispering, "Harry... All done now, Harry. You can let go now."

The small form before him startled at his touch, but slowly looked up to meet Snape's eye, and Snape didn't need legilimency to see the barely controlled panic there. Still gently holding the boy's hand, he brought it up to inspect the skinned, bleeding knuckles. They were covered in the remains of various failed potions, of course. Without looking he silently, wandlessly, summoned two potions from a cabinet behind his desk. He placed the blue potion into the thirteen year old's other hand, and gently commanded that he drink it. Once Harry had done so, Severus slowly poured a sickly green colored potion over the child's raw knuckles. He waited a few moments for the calming draught to take effect, surprised that Harry hadn't grimaced at the flavor, nor at the sting he knew from experience would have been felt while the neutralizing agent was poured over the sores, but then again if any of the agents in the mess he'd just had his hands in had been caustic, the neutralizer may have been a relief.

"Would you care to explain why you didn't feel it necessary to disclose that you were on the verge of a panic attack, let alone whatever was triggering it, so that we could have avoided this awkwardness?"

As he shook his head, a few tears slipped down the silent child's cheeks, something the prideful boy likely never would have allowed, if not for the near narcotic stupor triggered in the first few minutes of the calming draft's influence.

"Regardless of your desire, you will explain… Harry."

With not a small effort, Severus managed to say his given name without scorn. Regardless of his personal feelings about children in general, and especially this child, he would adequately perform his duties when one was in danger.

Harry's head slumped in apparent defeat, and he mumbled, "Tis too quiet. Too underground. Don't like underground, not after… after the chamber... Quirrell's stupid-ness too."

Well that certainly hadn't been what Snape had expected. It was entirely too understandable. The child had likely developed a mild phobia of dungeons in general. Severus unwillingly found himself, moderately impressed the boy had, on the same day, made it through an entire potions class, and then almost two hours of detention, a detention with very little else to distract him from his fear at that, before breaking.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for the supposed, Dark Lord of the Dungeons though, was when the small hand still clasped within his own tightened around his first two fingers, seeking comfort. Something precious few of even his own snakes ever did. Granted, Potter was still under the effects of the calming drought.

"Come along Potter, Madam Pomfrey should see to you."

"Don't wanna…"

Snape growled under his breath, the child was petulant even when sedated.

"Pray tell, why not?"

"She asks… bad questions."

"Be that as it may, that is where you are headed, now come along."

Author's Notes

So I did a thing. I went back and started to reread my earlier chapters... I'm disappointed. I imagine it's partially that I'm progressing in my ability, but looking back I'm surprised that I thought it was pretty good. Don't get me wrong, the story and character progression is still where I wanted it to be, but wow am I picking up on so many mistake that I'm not sure how I missed. Perhaps I wasn't giving it enough time between writing and editing.

So the plan, as chapter 20 is already about halfway written, I'm planning to post it in a week or so, then I'm going back and editing my previous chapters.

As always, thank you for all the love.