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Chapter 8 : Fly Like A Bird, Swim Like A Fish
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Fly Like a Bird, Swim Like a Fish
Several days later:
"I want you to lie back and get comfortable, Harry. You should feel relaxed when you meditate. The first step to meditation is breathing. I want you to focus on inhaling and exhaling. Inhale through your nose with your mouth closed, then exhale through your mouth slowly. Good. Don't do anything but breathe for a few minutes." Lily instructed.
They were in her room in Heatherton Cottage, and she was trying to teach her son some basic meditation, since the discipline necessary to control your emotions would help, or so she hoped, him control his wild magic.
That was harder than it sounded, just breathing, even though he did it involuntarily every day. He tried to do as his mother suggested, focusing on drawing air into his lungs and then releasing it. After about a dozen breaths, Harry felt relaxed enough to almost fall asleep. He turned to look at his mother, who wore a peaceful expression on her face, and said, "Now what?"
"Now I want you to close your eyes and imagine yourself in a safe place. It can be anywhere of anything, a room, a house, a bed. When you've found your safe place I want you to put yourself there and allow it to surround you . . .like a warm soft blanket. All right, try and do what I said." Lily encouraged, giving him a smile.
Harry closed his eyes. A safe place? What could that be? I haven't known too many of those, Mum. Not really. Certainly nowhere on Privet Drive could be called safe, except maybe the cupboard on occasion, and that was not something he wished to remember. He bit his lip, then decided that here at Heatherton Cottage, with Severus, Theo, Lucy, and his mother, was about the best place he'd ever been. Here was the one place he wasn't shouted at or insulted, or treated like a freak. Nobody beat him up or wished he was dead and gone.
He imagined his room here, his very own room, with the large window so he could see the sun and sky as often as he wished. His cozy four poster, where he could snuggle up with a good book. The walls were painted a soothing deep blue, like the sky after a storm or the ocean upon a clear day. He loved the feel of the thick plush carpet under his toes, his feet were never cold when he got out of bed in the morning. There was even a lock on the door, if he wished, he could lock everyone out. He never had, but just knowing he could was a wonderful thing. A safe place, where no one comes unless I invite them, he thought, fixing the image firmly in his mind.
"Harry?" Lily's voice was low and hypnotic, it curled about him like a warm fuzzy blanket. "Do you have a safe place to go to in your mind yet?"
"Yes, Mum." Harry said, and smiled.
"Good. Focus on it, so you know every nuance and detail. Then allow it to surround you. Let the peace you feel there fill you. Can you feel it?"
Harry was silent for a moment. Then he murmured, "Yes."
"Good. I want you to stay there for about seven minutes and then walk away and come back here."
"All right, Mum." Harry allowed the peace that infused his room to fill him as he curled up on his bed. He imagined Lily there beside him, hugging him the way she had when she had first awoken in the hospital. He was surrounded by warmth and love and he allowed it to flow through him, healing wounds in his soul and spirit he didn't even know were there.
"Harry, time to come back."
Harry sighed, then reluctantly stepped free of Lily's arms and released the image in his mind.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself staring at the wall, blinking sleepily, yet he felt utterly awake and calm. He gazed at his mother curiously.
"How do you feel now, Harry?"
"Great. I feel relaxed and . . .and calm. And a bit tired, but not really. Does that make sense?"
"Yes. What you just did is called finding your center. It's the first step in meditation, son. Now, whenever we start meditation sessions, I'm going to tell you to find your center and then breathe. You should come out of the sessions relaxed and calm. Meditation is a good way to relieve stress and anxiety or negative emotions, if done properly. You can also block pain with it, if you know how, though that's a more advanced technique which you won't learn until later on." Lily said, smiling slightly. "I think we should have sessions every night or every other night. Does that sound acceptable to you?"
"Yes. I think this will really help me control my magic and my temper better."
"It will, believe me. That is why I practice it."
Harry gave her a surprised look. "You have a temper? I've never noticed."
Lily chuckled. "That's because you haven't been around me long enough. Everyone makes jokes about redheads and their tempers, but with me it's no laughing matter. When I was little, I used to make things happen accidentally with my magic when I got angry. Once I turned your Aunt Petunia's nose green because she ripped apart my favorite paper doll. Green, Harry, like a wicked witch!"
Harry sniggered. "Sounds like she deserved it."
"She might have, but then I couldn't turn it back. It had to wear off on its own and that took two days. Another time I was mad at my mum for making me do my homework after dinner when I wanted to watch a TV show and I made the cherry pie she was baking explode. And I blew off the oven door too!"
Harry started to laugh. "Mum, that's . . .crazy! Did you get in trouble?"
Lily nodded. "I did. Mum made me clean the entire kitchen, it was a mess, and grounded me for the weekend. Luckily, Dad could fix the door or we might have had to get a new oven and back then it was expensive to replace an entire appliance. My magic was very . . .volatile, and I had trouble controlling it until I learned how to meditate. Much of our magic responds, you see, to your emotions, and strong emotions especially. That's why Severus and I stress meditation as a way to get your abilities under control. A disciplined mind makes for disciplined emotions which in turn means that you control your magic rather than it controlling you."
Harry sighed. "Mum, do you think I'll ever get control over my stormcaller power?"
Lily reached out and stroked the hair back from his forehead, revealing the jagged lightning bolt scar. "I do, Harry. If you try your hardest and keep learning how to be calm and relaxed when you summon your power, you should be able to learn to harness it. I know it's hard, son. Your power is like trying to contain a massive gale, but it can be done. You have a strong will, Harry, otherwise you would have never lasted so long with your aunt and uncle. Believe in yourself, child, and you can do anything."
She made her voice utterly convincing. Harry had to believe he could succeed, if there was any doubt, his power would slip away from him and cause havoc. Both she and Severus had decided that one of the major stumbling blocks with other stormcallers had been the fact that they had been told their power was uncontrollable and that they would eventually go mad. It was why neither of them had told Harry about the fate of the other stormcallers, for fear that he would stop trying to harness his gift and simply let it consume him in despair. Perhaps with the power of his conviction, Harry could do what no other stormcaller ever had—learn to bend his awesome power to his will.
It was a slim hope, fragile as a new leaf in a spring rainstorm, but it was all Lily had to cling to.
She reached out and hugged her son, who resembled his father so much physically and yet was more reserved than she could ever remember James being. Once again she felt pangs of regret stab her, that she had missed all those early years, and that Petunia had squandered them instead of cherishing them. Oh, how she wished she could go back in time and take Harry away from those petty fearful fools and raise him herself! Still, she had to count her blessings. Harry was with her now, and she still had a chance to raise him and love him, a chance to undo the harm her sibling had done. She placed a gentle kiss upon his scar and murmured, "I love you."
"I love you too," he whispered back, his heart thrilling to hear those words from someone who actually meant them. He remained within his mother's arms for a few moments, she smelled like lavender and honey, peaceful healing scents that made him feel warm and loved. This, he thought, was how it should be. He felt himself drift and doze a little.
Lily was content to simply hold him, her bright beautiful boy, and hope that they would have a future that was not defined by sorrow and destruction, as so many other stormcallers had before them. Somehow, some way, they would make it so. She refused to weep over any more graves, or to lose yet another member of her family. Two days before, she had taken Harry to visit his father's and grandparents' graves, one in Godric's Hollow, the others in St. Peter's cemetery. They had placed flowers and candles upon them, and that simple act had given Lily some much needed closure. Lily had wept and Harry had held her, and somehow she found a measure of peace. As of yet, she could not bring herself to visit the Dursleys' plot, for she had not yet managed to forgive Petunia her horrid treatment of Harry.
Harry shifted and yawned. "M' falling asleep," he muttered. "Sorry, Mum."
"That's all right, Harry. Meditation takes a lot out of you the first time. Go to sleep, sweetheart." She released him, Transfiguring his clothes into his favorite pajamas.
Harry gave her a kiss good night, then left to seek his own bed, falling fast asleep even though it was only nine o'clock.
The next day Severus was off from work at St. Mungos, and he had been pestered since breakfast by both Theo and Harry to take them flying. Lily tried to persuade them to wait another day, figuring Severus was tired and needed to rest, but the Mind Healer told her he had promised and a short flight or two wouldn't kill him. He went and removed his child-sized Comet 360 from the broom closet and also his professional Blackbolt 2000, a speedy model made from black ebony with thick golden twigs. It was not a first-class racing broom, like the Nimbus, but it was very close.
"What an awesome broom!" Harry said when he saw the black one. "Could I . . . try it out sometime?"
Severus smirked indulgently. "Not right away, Mr. Potter. First you need to learn to fly before you can handle a broom of this caliber. Later, after you've been flying for a few months, then we'll see. Come." He led the way from the house and into the backyard.
He then proceeded to explain to both boys about the Statute of Secrecy and stressed that Harry must never fly without telling one of the adults he was doing so. "You'll need Notice Me Not charms placed upon your broom and yourself, because even though we're rather isolated out here, there is still a chance some Muggle airplane pilot might spot you. So, the first rule of flying—always make sure you're concealed and an adult knows what you're doing."
"I'll remember." Harry promised.
Severus cast the charms over both brooms and themselves. The first thing he taught Harry was how to mount a broom and then hover and glide back down. "What's the most important skill you need to learn on a broom?" he asked the boy.
"Uh . . . how to stay in the air?"
"Wrong. Theo, do you know?"
The other nodded. "How to land."
"Right. Master landing first, that way you'll always be able to get back down." Severus nodded approvingly. "So, that's what we shall practice for ten minutes. Theodore, stay here. I'll take you up in a bit." Severus mounted his broom and rose several feet in the air.
Harry copied him and they spent ten minutes making certain Harry knew how to land safely. Once Severus was sure he had mastered it, and the boy seemed to be a quick study, he allowed Harry to start flying circles above the tree tops.
Severus watched him closely, noting that the boy seemed to be a natural flyer, unafraid of heights or the shifting air currents. He guided the broom with slight hand movements, relaxed and yet grinning with the joy of flight. Severus could recall his own first flight, and how much he had enjoyed the sheer rush of energy and the feeling of freedom it gave him.
"Good. Continue, Harry. I'm going to pick up Theodore."
Harry called out an affirmative while Severus glided down and Theo mounted before him. "Theo, would you like me to Stick you to the broom?"
Theo hesitated. "Not really. I'm not a baby, Severus."
"All right. This once, I'll humor you, since I won't be doing any aerials."
"But can we race?" asked the other boy eagerly.
"We'll see." Severus replied, sending the broom into the air again.
Soon they were soaring high above the house, doing circles and spirals.
Harry couldn't get enough of flying. He loved the feel of the wind in his hair and the sheer adrenaline rush when he dived and swooped. When he was little, he used to imagine he was a bird, especially when he was stuck in the cupboard. He had always longed to fly, and now, here he was, actually doing it.
At first he followed Severus and Theo, waving to his friend as he paced them. "Hi, Theo!"
"Hello, Harry!" Theo yelled, waving back. "Isn't this the best thing?"
"It's incredible!" his friend laughed, spinning the broom in a tight circle then snapping out of it to send the broom streaking across the sky.
Tendrils of wind and cloud seemed to drift about Harry, tugging gently upon his hair and his body. Harry instinctively reached out with his storm sense, gently probing the wind and clouds. There was nothing that would turn into a storm front, the weather was mild and Harry found himself idly toying with the wind currents, making the breeze stronger and then letting it fade.
"Severus, can we go faster?" he called to his instructor.
"Yes," the other agreed, and shot past him.
"Catch us if you can, Harry!" sang Theo in a singsong voice.
Harry leaned forward, gripping the broom tightly, and urged his Comet faster. He found he could use the wind current to achieve greater speed, and tapped into the jetstream, feeling the cold tingle of the wind surge through him.
But the broom was old, and didn't have the same kind of magical propulsion the Blackbolt did, so even though Harry caught up with Theo, Severus outflew him in the end.
Theo pumped his fist into the air and cheered. "That was so cool, Severus!"
"Let's do it again," Harry urged. "A real race this time." His eyes were shining.
Severus hesitated. "Harry, your broom isn't designed for high speed races the way the Blackbolt is."
"I don't care," Harry said recklessly. "I want to race."
"Very well. But don't blame me if you lose." He indicated a scrubby yew tree about twenty yards away on the moor. "There and back, twice."
"You're on!" Harry cried.
"Ready . . . set . . .GO!" yelled Theo, as they took off.
Severus didn't fly quite as fast as he could have, but even so he caught Harry on the second pass and dusted him. He thought about letting the boy win, but then decided it was better for him to learn that he had limits and couldn't expect to win all the time.
Harry bit his lip and began plotting how he might beat his friend. He wanted to win against the faster broom, just once. Even with the small wind he'd summoned, the Comet's top speed wasn't enough to beat the Blackbolt. But what if he could somehow make the wind slow down the other broom, or stop it entirely? He flew in a circle lazily, concentrating on the feel of the wind as it surrounded him.
He could feel the light breeze increase as he manipulated it. He thought about making the air heavy, slow, solid. Without conscious thought, he rearranged the wind molecules and suddenly he had a piece of solid air, like a bubble, surround him. He reached out to touch it, and found it bent, but was still pretty firm.
Then he heard Theo calling from below, "Hey, Harry! Dinna be a spoilsport! Come down and try again."
Harry scowled, his pride pricked. He had a fierce competitive streak, which he'd never realized until now. It irritated him that Theo had won twice, even if he was flying with the more experienced Severus. He really wanted to show up Theo, prove that he was the better flyer.
"All right, I'm coming, and this time I'm going to dust you!"
"Oh, sure tha are!" his friend snickered. "Let's see it!"
"Theodore!" Severus reproved. "You shouldn't mock your friend that way."
"Aww, Severus! It's all in fun!" the boy grinned. "Harry knows I'm only foolin'."
Harry glided down, doing his best to hide his irritation. He called the jetstream again and faced forward.
Severus eyed the youngster, wondering if he'd seen a silver flash in the green eyes, or was it just a trick of the light? Was Harry losing control over his stormcaller abilities again? He almost called off the race, but then saw how eager and happy Theo was, usually the boy could never participate in any sporting events, so this was a rare treat for him. He glanced over at Harry again, but the boy's eyes looked normal now.
"Hold tight, Theo," he admonished the boy, before the Blackbolt surged forward.
Again, he did not kick the broom up to its fastest, but one of the advantages a Blackbolt had was its lightning quick start. It shot a good four feet further than the Comet 360 at the start.
A frustrated Harry shoved the Comet hard with the jetstream, bringing it within a few feet of the skyrocketing Blackbolt, but even then he saw it wouldn't be enough. Eyes narrowed, he began to make the air in front of the black broom thick and heavy, slowing it down.
But even then Severus' flying skills outclassed him, as the Mind Healer took the broom up a notch, above the heavy air.
No! I won't let them win, Harry thought stubbornly, and he quickly used the wind like a rope, wrapping it about the broom's tail and yanking back hard.
The Blackbolt came to an abrupt halt and Harry shot past them, whooping with glee.
Only to hear a woman's voice scream, "Severus!"
Harry slingshot around the house, and glanced back expecting to see Severus and Theo stopped dead in midair.
He did not expect to see his friend almost tumble off the broom, saved in the nick of time by Severus' quick reflexes, who grabbed Theo hard by the shoulders and pulled him up to safety.
Harry froze. Had he caused that to happen? Had he nearly caused Theo to fall to his death? Over a stupid race? Guilt and remorse slammed into him like an avalanche.
He saw Severus hug Theo hard, his face pale, and then circle down for a landing, where Lily stood in the yard, staring up at them, her face white as a ghost's.
Severus landed, helped a shivering Theo off his broom, and then dismounted himself. He was still trying to figure out what had caused the Blackbolt to just stop like that when Lily rushed up and hugged him and Theo.
"Sev, oh my God! I was watching . . . and I saw . . . you almost fell . . . Sweet Merlin! Theo, are you all right? Are you hurt?"
Theo shook his head. "I'm not . . . Severus saved me . . .I'm all right . . ." He was still shivering.
Severus shook his head. "I can't fathom why . . . all of a sudden the broom just stopped dead . . . that's why we almost fell off . . .I don't understand what happened . . ."
"It was me," came a very soft guilty voice from behind them. "I . . . I did it."
Lily disengaged herself from Severus and Theo and stared at Harry, who had just gotten off his broom and was standing there, his head hanging, the very image of a guilty little boy caught misbehaving.
"Harry? What do you mean, it was you?" she asked, her voice hard. "What did you do?"
"I . . . I was playing with the . . . air currents. I . . .wanted to win the race . . . so I . . . made the wind . . . make me faster and . . . and I made it pull them back so . . .I could get ahead of them . . ." Harry stuttered, tears slowly welling in his eyes. "I . . . didn't mean for them to fall, Mum!"
Severus scowled sternly. "You mean to tell me that you used your powers to cheat so you could win a race, young man? Putting not only me, but Theo at risk?"
"I . . . I'm sorry, s-sir!" Harry sniveled. "I didn't know you'd fall . . . I just . . ."
"You just wanted to win at all costs," Severus snapped. "Just like your father when he played Quidditch!"
Theo just stared at him, and said, "Harry, it was just for fun. Did you really care that much if you won?"
"Didn't you?" Harry asked, guilt and shame curdling in his stomach like a bad apple.
"Only a little. Not enough to . . . to . . ." Theo turned away suddenly.
"I didn't mean it!"
"Nevertheless, you did something you knew was wrong," Lily cut in, disapproval sharp in her tone. "I cannot tell you how ashamed I am of you right now, Harry James Potter. Come with me. We need to have a long talk about your behavior, young man." She reached out and took Harry firmly by the arm. "Severus, Theo, I'm so very sorry for this. It never should have happened. Thank goodness you are all going to be all right."
Then she marched into the house, half-dragging a repentant Harry after her.
Theo looked after them, his expression a mixture of worry and sorrow. "Severus . . . I know he did something wrong, but . . . he wasn't trying to hurt us. What's she going to do to him?"
"I would imagine she'll punish him much the same as I or your mother would you if you had done something like that," answered the Mind Healer. "Either way, that is her prerogative as his mother. How are you feeling now? Do you need a Calming Draught?"
Theo shook his head. "No, I'm fine. But I'm sort of . . . hungry."
"Why don't we see what your mother has for a snack?" suggested Severus, putting an arm about his ward. He knew they had been extremely lucky, and hoped that Lily would impress upon her son the value of thinking before he acted and good sportsmanship. Even though he was angry at Harry, a part of him was impressed with how the boy had manipulated the wind for his own ends, and he wondered what else the child was capable of. Such power, so young. He would have to be ready for anything with this one.
Harry could not bear to look his mother in the eye. He stood in front of her with his head down, gazing at his sneakers. He knew she was furious with him and he deserved whatever punishment she was going to give him.
For several moments, Lily said nothing, struggling to get control over her fiery temper. Finally she drew in a deep breath and said, "Why did you feel the need to use magic to cheat and win a friendly competition, Harry?"
"I dunno," he mumbled.
"Look at me when you're speaking, I can't hear what you said."
Slowly he lifted his gaze upward. His eyes were rimmed with red. "I don't know. I just . . . got mad that Theo and Severus kept winning . . .so I . . . wanted to win . . . I figured out how to make the wind solid for a bit . . .so I did . . ."
"What did you think would happen when you just caused their broom to stop?"
Harry shrugged. "That they'd stop . . .Mum, I didn't know Theo was going to fall!"
"Harry, for every action there is a reaction, that holds true for magic as well as science. An object set in motion tends to stay in motion. Haven't you ever been in a car when it suddenly stops short?"
"What happens to you?"
"You . . . uh . . . get thrown forward a little. Unless you're wearing a seatbelt."
"Exactly. That's what happened to Theo. If Severus hadn't been fast enough . . . there would have been a tragedy today, son."
"I know. I'm really sorry!"
"I'm glad you are, but that's not enough. You need to start thinking about how your power could hurt others. It's not something to be played with. You could kill someone by accident, son. When I came outside and saw you flying . . . I thought, well you've inherited your dad's skill on a broom, but better . . . and I was so proud . . .and then I saw Severus and Theo nearly fall . . .I nearly died, Harry! I almost lost my best friend today . . . along with my friend's son. And to have my own son responsible for it . . . Harry, you and your father have the same competitive streak and it frightens me."
"Then what . . .Healer Sev said was true?"
"About your father needing to win? Yes, it was. When he played Quidditch he was obsessed. He played Chaser on the school team and he was determined to score as much as possible, especially when we played Slytherin. He never did anything truly . . . illegal, but he played rough, and knocked more than a few Slytherin Chasers off their brooms . . .I hated going to watch those games, because your dad became someone I didn't really like. He always said that there was no sense in playing Quidditch unless you played to win. Harry, I don't want you to have that attitude. Win or lose, it's how you play the game that matters. You should race to have fun, not to just win."
"But Mum, it's more fun if you win."
"Harry, sometimes you can't win and you need to accept that. You knew Severus had a better broom, right?"
He nodded. "But I thought I could have done it."
"Yes. But when you realized you couldn't, what should you have done?"
"Just flown as hard as I could."
"Right. Only you didn't. You let your competitiveness and jealousy get the better of you and did something very wrong."
"Are you gonna punish me?"
"Do you deserve to be punished?"
"Yes . . . but . . ." he trailed off, looking pitiful.
"Quit looking at me like that," she ordered. "It won't work. Using your powers in such a fashion was both reckless and dangerous. That's something I won't condone. So . . . I'm going to spank you and after you can go and apologize to Severus and Theo. I sincerely hope we never have to have a conversation like this again."
Harry gulped and sniffled. But he didn't protest when Lily drew him over her lap. He had almost killed Theo and Severus.
Lily gave him ten sharp smacks, he was crying by the time it was over, mostly from guilt. When it was over, she hugged him and murmured, "Harry James, do yourself a favor and remember this."
"I will, Mum!" He took the handkerchief she handed him and wiped his eyes, rubbing his bottom and wincing. "Oww!"
Lily looked at him. "I didn't like that anymore than you, but better a sore behind than a dead friend, eh?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I'll never do something so stupid again."
"Good. I'm glad to hear it. Now, you owe Severus and Theo an apology. Stay here and I'll go find them for you." She rose and left her bedroom, shaking out her hand as she did so.
Harry remained where he was, he still felt awful, and he hoped that Theo and Severus would forgive him.
Three minutes later, the door opened and Theo entered. His friend took one look at him and said, "Merlin, but she turned you over her knee, eh?"
Harry raised his head and forced himself to meet his friend's gaze. "How did you know?"
Theo snorted. "Been there an' done that, that's how. You aren't sitting down either, genius."
"Theo . . . I really am sorry for what happened. I was stupid. I never wanted to . . . hurt you." He blinked hard. "I'm . . . an awful friend."
"Aye, you're terrible," the other agreed. He reached out and cuffed Harry on the back of the head. "But I forgive you, noddlehead."
"Mum allus says, a real friend lets you make mistakes, tells you how stupid you are, and forgives you, because next time it'll be you that's being an arse." Theo said. "So . . . there you have it. But if you ever do something like that again, Potter . . . I'll kick your arse all the way back to Surrey."
"Okay. Theo . . . is Severus really mad at me? I'll bet he wants to kick my arse." Harry winced and rubbed his backside. "Do you think he'll . . . kick me out for almost getting you killed?"
Theo gaped at him. "Tha art really an idiot, Potter, if tha thinks he'd put thee out for a mistake! What does tha take him for? He might be strict an' all, but he bain't cruel!"
"I . . . well . . . I figured he might 'cause I haven't done anything but screw up with my magic . . ." Harry admitted softly.
"That'd never happen. Ever. Ask him if tha don't believe me." His friend told him. "Thou art a student, 'tis expected for thee to muck up, eh? Otherwise, what would the teacher be there for?"
Harry was startled to hear Theo say such a thing, especially after what he had almost done. But then he thought about it, and realized that the other boy was right. "You know, Theo, you're pretty wise for a kid."
"Ha! You can be wise too, Harry. Just learn how t'listen, eh?"
"I listen! Well . . . sometimes . . ."
Theo rolled his eyes. "Sure you do." He clapped Harry on the shoulder. "We had fun though, up till you pulled that stupid trick, aye?"
Harry nodded. "We did. Do you think we could do it again sometime?"
"I do . . . long as you promise not to do anything like what you did."
"I won't. Not ever."
"Good. See you later then." Theo gave him a quiet smile as he went out the door.
No sooner had Theo departed, there came a knock on the door.
"Come in," Harry called, knowing who it had to be.
Severus opened the door and came in. Traces of anger still rode his features and Harry felt himself cringe. He had always feared his uncle's temper more than his aunt's, and the fact that he deserved Severus' anger didn't help matters any. He quickly dropped his gaze to the floor.
Severus quietly shut the door and stood peering down at the youngster, his arms crossed. "You have something to say to me?"
"Yes, sir," responded the young wizard, still not looking up.
"Look at me, Harry."
Harry dragged his gaze up from the floor. "I'm really sorry, Healer Snape." His lower lip trembled. "I was stupid . . . and immature . . . please don't throw us out, sir!" He hadn't meant to blurt that out, but his anxiety and remorse took control of his tongue. He dropped his eyes again, trying to hide the sudden tears in them. He didn't want to cry like this—not in front of Snape—but he couldn't seem to help himself.
"Harry," a long-finger hand cupped his chin, forcing his head up. Green eyes met black, and Harry saw something unexpected in them . . .forgiveness and understanding. "Where ever did you get the idea that I would tell you and your mother to leave?"
"I . . . I thought you might be . . . sick of me by now . . .'cause I just keep doing stupid things with my . . . magic . . . and I almost killed Theo . . .so . . . you want to get rid of me. Uncle Vernon would've . . ." Harry swiped at his eyes uselessly.
Severus knelt and placed his other hand upon the distraught child's shoulder. "Listen to me carefully, Harry James Potter. I am not your uncle. I will never treat a child, no matter what he has done, the way Vernon treated you. I knew when I offered my home to you and your mother that it would not be easy having a neophyte stormcaller here. Your magic is wild, unfocused, and not easily controlled. I expected it to be difficult. You desperately need instruction, and I am the only one willing, besides Lily, to help you. That being so, I would never throw you out because of a stupid mistake. I am not a fool, do not make me into one. Understand?"
"Y-yes. I won't ever do it again."
"I figured as much." He gave Harry's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Your mother was right when she told me you only looked like your father." Severus grimaced. "He would have tried his damndest to knock me off my broom had I been racing against him, just as he did to any Slytherin." He handed Harry another handkerchief. "Blow your nose."
Harry obeyed, then asked tentatively, "Did you know my dad well then? Mum said he was too competitive."
"Humph! That was just one of his problems," Snape grumbled. "Your father and I attended school together and we did not get along at all. We were in rival Houses and he enjoyed pranks and broke just about every rule in the school."
"He was a troublemaker then?"
"That's putting it mildly. He was my nemesis, and took any opportunity to make me look like a fool. He was a bully and I was his favorite target."
"Because I was a Slytherin, and a bookworm, a half-blood raised Muggle, I had no money and no social status. In short, I was everything he wasn't, and I refused to worship his pureblooded self and I also dared to be friends with a Gryffindor girl—your mother. I didn't find him amusing and wasn't intimidated by him either. He ran with three other boys, also purebloods, who called themselves Marauders, and they were the bane of my existence back then. We fought off and on for years, until I finished school and left them behind to study medicine."
Harry scowled. "He sounds like an arse. Like my cousin Dudley."
"Back then, he was. Your mother claims that he grew up finally after leaving school and became more responsible after going through the Auror Academy and learning some much-needed discipline. He was also quite brave—reckless at times, but a brave man. I never liked him, but even I cannot deny that. He was also loyal to his friends and he loved you and your mother."
"But he was nasty to you. I . . . wouldn't ever be like that to someone, sir. Like Theo, I mean. 'Cause I know how it feels to have somebody pound on you just 'cause he can."
"That's good to know, Harry. Because if there's one thing I cannot stand, it's a bully. You should always try and learn from your mistakes and others' as well. I trust you have learned from this one today?"
"Yessir! Do you . . . forgive me?"
Severus opened his mouth to speak, then abruptly decided that actions would speak louder than words and drew the boy into a hug. Harry clung to him, much like Theo had on several occasions. Severus patted Harry's back, feeling a sudden flare of compassion for the lonely boy. Lily had been right, but then she usually was. Harry was a good boy, he just needed to learn self-control. That was one lesson Severus knew he could teach, and would see that Harry learned thoroughly.
After a moment, Severus released him, mindful of Harry's dignity, and told him to go and wash his face. "Then you can sit down and have lunch with us. Lucy's made her famous chicken pot pie, and it's fit for a king's table."
"Sounds delicious," Harry stepped back, relieved that Severus had accepted his apology. He would never admit it, but Snape's hug had made him feel ten times better. Was this what it was like to have a dad? He headed into the bathroom to scrub his face, his bottom tingling, and added ruefully, "But I'd rather stand up and eat this time, Healer Sev."
"Ah. I see." Severus said, then turned away to hide his smirk.
A few days later, Severus took the two boys flying again, and this time Harry didn't try any kind of manipulation with the wind, he simply enjoyed flying with Theo and Severus. Severus praised him for his natural aptitude on a broom, and said his stormcaller ability might have something to do with his fearless form in the air. He taught Harry a few of the more daring Quidditch moves, saying he had learned them from one of his best friends at school, Regulus Black. Regulus sadly had been blinded during the war, he had been dueling some Death Eaters who wished to get their hands on a cursed object he had stolen from them. Regulus had destroyed the cursed necklace, but had ended up blind as a result, though those he faced had died. He lived with his girlfriend Aleta in Grimmauld Place, having inherited it upon the death of his parents.
Lily came out to watch her son flying and after a few minutes, Severus and Theo landed and offered Lily the Blackbolt. She accepted and surprised her son by flying beside him.
"Mum? Where's Severus and Theo?"
"Down below. I felt it was time to show you that your old mum can fly just as good as any wizard." Lily said, grinning. Then she performed a complex spiral spin that left Harry gaping.
"Mum, where'd you learn to fly like that?" he gasped.
"From my old flying coach, Madam Hooch. She taught me everything she knew, once she realized I was a natural in a broom. Old Hawkeye, we called her, and she could outfly any of us, including your father."
"What do you call that move?"
"Can you teach me?"
"Of course. Watch me closely."
Lily showed him the move again, and Harry did his best to copy her. The Comet was not quite as maneuverable as the Blackbolt, but it did manage a credible spiral once Harry figured out how to get the momentum going.
Lily and Harry played a kind of tag around the trees until they grew tired and then they landed, laughing at the astonished faces of Theo and Severus.
That afternoon it grew fairly hot, enough so Theo said to Harry that it was a good afternoon to go swimming. He hurried to get changed and Harry reluctantly put on his trunks as well. He still didn't know how to swim, but was afraid to admit it to his friend.
Theo was jabbering away happily about how much fun it was to use the tire swing and then he called over to Severus, who was reading over some very boring reports. "We're going swimming, Severus! Want to come?"
Severus considered. "All right. I'll be down in a minute." He went to get changed.
Theo was wearing pale blue trunks with sharks printed on them, and Harry had on a pair with deep blue waves. His friend led the way down to the pond, which looked cool and inviting, especially in the muggy afternoon heat.
Theo sat down on the grass and removed his shoes and brace, he wouldn't need the support in the water. He promptly stuck his misshapen foot into the water. "Ahh . . . that feels so good! My foot gets awful hot wrapped in that brace."
Harry bit his lip, wondering if he ought to confess about his inability to swim. "Theo, does your foot . . . uh . . . bother you when you swim?"
"Nah. 'Tis only walking that's hard. In the water, I can swim like a fish."
"Who taught you?"
"Severus did, when I was a wee thing, maybe three. Mum wasn't too keen on it, but Severus said everyone should learn to swim, 'specially when there was a large body of water nearby." Theo dunked his other foot and splashed happily. "How old were you?"
"Err . . . umm . . . I don't really know how." Harry admitted, flushing.
"Don't really know how to do what?" asked Severus, appearing suddenly beside them. He was lean and well-muscled, like a rangy panther. His dark suit with green piping only lent more mystique to him. His hair was tied and clubbed in the back.
"Swim," mumbled Harry.
"You canna swim?" Theo repeated, astonished.
Severus frowned at his ward. "Not everyone can, Theodore."
"Aunt Petunia got Dudley swimming lessons, but said she wasn't paying for a freak like me to learn. So I just watched." Harry said miserably.
"Bloody hag!" Severus muttered angrily under his breath. "Harry, I can teach you, if you wish."
"Will it take long?"
"Not at all, perhaps a few hours and then all you need to do is practice." Severus said. "Come, let's get into the water. The lake isn't that deep, except in the middle, where it's about nine feet deep. But for now we'll stick closer to the shore." He waded calmly into the lake until he reached a point where it was about six feet deep.
Theo climbed onto the swing and dived off with a whoop, vanishing beneath the surface with a tremendous splash.
Harry, who was wading cautiously out towards Severus, gasped. "Oh no! Bugger, I forgot to take off my glasses!"
"Mind your mouth, boy," warned Severus, swimming over and tapping them with a hand. "There! I've waterproofed them so you can see." He Summoned a black leather strip and tied them to Harry's head. "Now you have prescription goggles."
Theo popped up next to Harry, grinning like a selkie. "Didja see me dive, Harry?"
"Yeah! You're insane, Theo! Weren't you afraid you might hit a rock or something?"
"No. There are no big rocks at the bottom of this lake. It's all mud and water plants." Theo laughed. He swam rapidly across the lake, moving through the water like a seal.
Severus gently took Harry by the wrist. "Now, the first thing I'm going to teach you is how to float. Walk over here, where the bottom falls away. Don't panic," he said as Harry started splashing his arms trying to stay afloat. "Relax, you won't drown. My arm is holding you up."
Harry quit splashing as soon as he felt Snape's arm about him.
"All right. Now, lean back until your head touches the water. Don't worry, my hands are right beneath you, you won't go under," instructed the other man, supporting the boy with both arms. "Very good! Put your feet up and relax . . .pretend you're sleeping in your bed."
"My bed's not wet," Harry muttered. But then he started to allow himself to relax, and the water felt deliciously cool on his skin. He floated leisurely, watching Severus, who swam alongside. "I'm doing it!"
"Floating's easy!" Theo exclaimed, popping up next to his head. "Putting your face in the water . . . that's hard."
Then , as if to prove his words false, Theo ducked beneath the surface again.
"Show off," Severus muttered. "Are you ready for the next step?"
"Yes. I . . . think so." Harry said, figuring if Theo could do it, so could he.
"All right. I'm going to turn you over, keep your head up. I'll have one arm under your chest and my other one on your bottom. I'm going to push down slightly on your bottom to keep you balanced, otherwise you'll flip over. Once you're over, I want you to try kicking hard with your feet."
"Won't I kick you, though?"
"No, because I'll be on the side of you. On three. One . . . two . . . three!"
Harry suddenly found himself facing the water, and he quickly jerked up his head, but not before he swallowed some water and began coughing.
"Harry, for Merlin's sake!" Severus chuckled. He swatted the youngster on the back, waiting until he stopped coughing before continuing.
"Sorry." Harry said.
"Now then, kick!"
Harry began, tentatively at first.
Until he heard Theo yell, "Shark!" behind him.
Then he started kicking like mad, without even realizing it.
"Theodore Nott!" Severus yelled. "Harry, relax. There are no sharks in here, it's freshwater. Theo was playing a little joke."
Harry abruptly stopped trying to get away. He shot a dirty look at his friend, who was giggling. "You prat!"
"Got ya, Harry!" Theo smirked, then yelped as Severus reached out an arm and pushed him under the water.
"That'll teach him, the little wiseass!" Severus growled. "Good job, Harry. Now let's try moving your arms as well as your legs. Cup your hands and pull your arms back, right and then left . . ."
At first Harry felt totally awkward and was glad that Severus' hands were supporting him. But then he began to develop a feel for the water and a rhythm and soon he was swimming without Severus' assistance. Though the Mind Healer stayed right beside him, and when Harry started to grow tired, guided him to a shallow place where he could stand.
"Did I do all right?" Harry asked, tossing his hair from his eyes.
"You did very well for your first time. If you keep practicing, you'll be swimming like a selkie in no time, just like Mr. Nott over there."
"Cannonball!" screamed Theo, as he launched himself off the tire swing and cannoned into the lake with a tremendous splash.
"Wow! That looks fun," Harry said.
"That is not a real dive." Severus shook his head. "Let me show you how it's done."
He swam quickly over to the side where the swing was anchored and pulled himself up out of the water.
Harry watched as Snape calmly stepped on top of the tire and began to swing back and forth, faster and faster, causing the swing to go high in the air. Then, when the swing had reached its highest point, Severus dove off, entering the water cleanly, without so much as a ripple.
He surfaced a few feet away from Harry. "That, Mr. Potter, is a dive."
"That, sir, was amazing!"
They spent the rest of the afternoon in the water, and at the end of the time, Severus said Harry was going to be a decent swimmer. Harry even grew to like being in the water.
The next day they went back to the pond and Harry grew more confident, swimming further away from Severus. By the third afternoon, Harry felt comfortable enough to pass Severus' swimming test—and swam across the lake and back himself.
Theo applauded, then offered to show Harry how to jump off the swing.
At first Harry was a bit nervous, but once he had jumped off and landed in the middle of the lake, he found it was great fun.
The boys took turns, diving and flipping over, creating waves in the placid lake. They challenged Severus to impromptu races and they even tried to dunk him by grabbing his legs underwater. They pulled him under, but weren't fast enough to avoid his retaliatory dunk in return, and ended up sputtering water.
"That'll teach you brats!" he mock-growled.
Then Theo, impudent as a river sprite, started a splash war, with the boys versus Severus. It ended up being a draw.
They were having such a marvelous time that none of them noticed the witches had joined them until Harry saw Lily and Lucy jump into the lake as he swung from the tire.
"Hey, Mum! Watch what I can do!" he yelled, and dove backwards off the swing, landing in the water with a splash.
"That's very clever, Harry," Lily applauded, standing up suddenly. "Ugh! Severus . . . is this mud down here?" She cried, not expecting the bottom to feel so . . . squishy.
"T'won't hurt you, Lil!" Lucy called, grinning. "Keep swimming to the center."
Severus turned, startled.
His jaw dropped as he beheld Lily, standing with water cascading off her pale skin like a siren of the deep, her fiery hair twining about her shoulders, wearing a beautiful turquoise and emerald green swimsuit with swirling patterns that revealed all of her curves. He felt his mouth go dry and another part of him stir with desire as he admired her lovely figure.
"Lily, dear God!" he whispered, and thanked heaven he was submerged in the lake, otherwise he would have died of embarrassment. But he could hardly blame himself, he had been dreaming of her nightly, and now it was almost as if his dreams had come to life. She was all he'd ever wanted . . . like a moth to a flame he was drawn irresistibly towards her, and he found himself unable to look away.
Lily frowned down at her toes, not liking the muddy bottom. Abruptly, she dove across the shallow water and into the middle of the lake, surfacing a scant two feet from where Severus was treading water and trying not to blush like a lovesick schoolboy.
"Hey, Sev!" Suddenly she surged up, her glorious hair swirling about her in the water like a mermaid's magical tresses in a fairy tale. "This feels wonderful! I should have done this days ago."
He gulped hard, suddenly robbed of speech. She was so close, all he had to do was reach out and touch her . . . but he knew if he did he would end up kissing her breathless and he was unsure if she wanted him that way . . . and then too there were children present, not to mention his housekeeper . . . he quickly ducked under the water and swam quickly about the pond until he could control himself.
Lucy was floating on the left side of the lake, until her imp of a son grabbed her foot and tickled her, making her scream and flip over. "Theo, tha little wretch . . .!" she cried, swimming hard after him.
Severus smirked, until Harry jumped on his back and tried to drown him.
But Lily came to his rescue, grabbing her son and tossing him into the shallows, he landed right in the sticky mud and came up sputtering. "No fair, Mum!"
Lily smirked, then tickled Severus under the arms. "Come and get me, Sev! Or have you forgotten how to swim?"
Severus gasped, doubled over with laughter. "Lily, you minx!" The touch of her was like sweet fire. Gritting his teeth, he chased her around the pond, swimming hard.
Lily was fast, but Severus was sneaky. She glanced back over her shoulder and didn't see the tall wizard behind her and thought she had lost him. She turned back . . . and found herself caught in a pair of strong arms.
"Ahh! Sev, don't you dare! Let me go!" she pretended to struggle, but she was laughing so hard she couldn't put up much of a fight. "No, don't!" she shrieked as he carried her out to the swing, set her in it, and pushed it.
"Severus, what are you doing?" she sputtered as she swayed back and forth.
"Teaching you a lesson," he told her, and there was a gleam of mischief in his dark eyes. A moment later he joined her on the swing, lifted her in his arms . . .and jumped off into the water, headfirst.
She screamed the whole way down until the water closed over their heads.
An instant later they bobbed to the surface, and Severus was wearing a very smug grin.
Lily scowled at him. "Severus Snape . . . you . . . you . . .that was dreadful!" She shook her finger at him.
"Served you right," he said, unrepentant. Then he tickled her foot until she splashed him and swam away.
They spent the rest of the afternoon frolicking in the water, and Lily snuck surreptitious glances at Severus when his back was turned, admiring his broad shoulders and firm backside, never realizing that she was being admired in turn by a pair of obsidian eyes as well.
Hope you all liked this one!
Care to tell me which part you enjoyed most?
Thanks everyone for reading and reviewing. It keeps me writing.
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