Snape demonstrated one spell for Harry Potter, all the while Harry lifted the weight of a solid iron bar. "This will be the spell you will learn today. Learn it perfectly. Every step you take, every muscle you move - focus on the spell, on the intention, on the word, on the gesture. Learn it until you own it. By the end of the day, I expect you to be able to cast it."
The training continued all day, without stopping to eat. "If you're moving enough, just graze - your body needs fuel always, rest less often." Snape had said, tossing Potter some waybread, light as any made by Tolkien's elves. Potter ate it without seeming to taste it, his adolescent body burning with the athletic energy he'd both poured into it, and siphoned from it.
Focus. Harry Potter hadn't realized how much his studies had lacked it - even when he was learning the Patronus, until he tried this exercise. This Training. He forced himself to pull the spell apart, working his way gesture to gesture, syllable to syllable, etching it as well as he could in his mind.
By the end of the day, Harry Potter was bone-weary, each and every muscle he owned (or so he thought), screaming in pain. "Are you injured?" Snape asked, his soft voice yet crisp in the humid summer air.
Harry Potter stretched, and looked up at Snape, who loomed over him. "I don't think so, sir. Just very, very sore."
Snape nodded, "Good, no whinging. Let's see that spell then."
Harry Potter summoned what energy he had left, and spelled... only to have nothing at all happen.
"You'll have to do better than that, Potter. Get some rest - make a bivy if you like." Snape curled up into a black ball of wool, backed by a tree. Harry Potter had lost all will to move, at last, and he fell asleep dreaming of the spell, each moment sculpted in his mind.
In the middle of the night, Severus Snape unfurled himself, finding a bush to water, and then striding back, pausing only a moment to inspect Potter's spellwork. Not that Potter had managed to learn a new wand overnight, no. This was far more elemental magic than that - a field Severus Snape was adept at reading. Still as a stalking cat, Severus read the wariness, the cocked ear to danger... and the implicit trust. Severus allowed himself to briefly consider pinching Potter's ear awake, and yet Potter did not stir. This was not the sort of magic to depend on alertness - it was magical alertness, personified. Severus Snape knew his own was far more wary, far more sensitive to gentle turns of thought - his drunken father had needed only a single breath to change from doting to drunken devil. Typical of a Gryffindor, Snape thought, Harry Potter's awareness is blunt. Still, Severus Snape wagered, it had a wariness that Granger's friendly face would never have. At least he hoped, in a dark corner of his mind where he let himself hope things that will not be. War was on the horizon, and war etched more than man's souls.
Potter awoke with a groan, his stretching making all of his joints pop. "Still want to be a hero, Potter?" Snape's silken voice rasped out.
"What's the point? I'm not the boy in the prophecy, am i?" Harry looked at Snape with a defiant gleam in his eye. "Sir." he added belatedly.
Snape let it pass, "Ask that young ginger girl - the one completely besotted with you - what's the point, hmmm...?"
Harry paused, considering, "You're right, sir." and with a twist of his lips, "Fame isn't everything."
Snape said dryly, "You've chosen the way of the hero, lad. May you live to regret it."
Not saying a word, Potter looked at Snape's ugly mug, silently, waiting for him to continue.
"Being a hero comes with costs, expectations. Were it my decision, I'd ban you from even considering command."
"What if I don't want to be a hero, sir?" Potter said.
"Doesn't matter. Either you play to the expectations, or you let people down. And cede authority while doing so, I might add."
"Stuck both ways, aren't I, sir?"
"Indeed. The definition of a hero is valiant to the point of sheer stupidity. Few heroes survive, James Potter included." Snape's voice turned to acid by the end, but that just left Harry reflecting on how civil he had been.
Snape's smile was cruel, "So, we shall start your lessons on heroing, now, that you may live to rue your younger stupidity." Snape conjured a heavy sack. "Here, this is your golem - your fake human, that you'll be dragging across the battlefield. Under fire, of course." Snape's smile was cruel.
Harry Potter knew he was in trouble from the first moment he had heard the word hero come out of Snape's mouth, the dread blossoming in his conversation. Oh, but he had never expected this! Not in a million billion years! Half blind from smoke, and with a useless leg and a half-functional arm (dislocated), Harry Potter dragged the bag across the field, knowing that he wasn't fast enough to dodge the hexes Snape was throwing at him.
At the end of the field, his destination reached, Harry Potter looked at Snape and asked one question, "Why?" At Snape's arched eyebrow, Harry added, "sir."
"The goal of this exercise is hardly for me to win simply because I'm better than you. Pain tolerance. You must learn to work through the pain, push it to the back of your mind and make yourself go despite the bones rubbing themselves together, despite the bloom of blood in your gut or thigh."
"Thank you sir." Harry Potter's posture was crisp and correct.
At the end of the day, Harry Potter couldn't correctly produce either of the spells, although Snape said, "You're adjusting to the wand. Another day or two."
Ruddy bastard, Harry Potter thought. Treating me like I should be able to do a spell in a day, and then not really meaning it.
On Friday, Dumbledore showed up, bubbling about teaching Neville some of the wonders of Transfiguration. "I'm afraid you've come on a very dull day, Albus. I told you torture was Tuesdays and Thursdays!" Harry Potter knew he wasn't joking, no matter how sardonic it sounded.
[a/n: yes, for some reason, this did need to get written. Read and review if you like, or if you're cheerfully getting tired of my diversion.]