Chapter 43 : Reactions
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Harry tried his best, but Severus was adamant—there was no reason Harry should miss class tomorrow unless he was deathly ill or magically drained and needed rest. Getting adopted was not on the list and so Harry found himself awoken at seven in the morning to take a shower and get dressed by a very cheery and annoying raven.
"Gah!" he groaned and turned over, burying his face in the pillow. "Skull, go haunt someone else, I'm still sleepy!"
"Now don't sulk, bran-boy! Time to get up and don't make me call Sev in here," Skull cackled, sitting on the headboard. "Don't you know what he does to students who are late risers? Didn't Malfoy ever tell you?"
"No, but I'm sure you will," Harry grumped, trying to fall back to sleep and failing miserably. He had been dreaming of something pleasant, and now the dream was lost.
"He throws a very large, very cold, very full bucket of water on them and yells in a voice fit to wake the dead to get up right now, or else!" Here the raven imitated his wizard's voice so well Harry could have sworn the Potions Master was right beside him. "Do you want that to happen to you?"
Harry opened one eye crossly. No, he didn't. No way in hell. "Okay, bird. I'm up!" He rolled over and made himself leave the cozy nest of blankets. He really wished he could just sleep in today, but fat chance of that! He thought, only for a moment, of having Mr. Weasley for a father instead of Snape, but just as quickly the thought vanished. He knew Severus Snape cared for him deeply, and only him, while Arthur was more like a friend—or a friend's father, good for laughs and advice, but not important things. Which apparently included school. Then again, who was to say Arthur was any different than Severus when it came to getting kids ready for school in the morning?
It could be worse, Harry thought, yawning as he walked to the bathroom. I could be woken up by Mad Marlene and her bloody ruler, ugh! He did not regret that woman's death in the slightest, and he absently rubbed the non-existent sting from his bottom as he entered the bathroom. Or Aunt Petunia. He didn't miss the Dursleys at all either, though he did wonder who was going to explain to them that he wouldn't be going home there ever again once term ended. Would Dumbledore do it? McGonagall? Or maybe Severus himself?
Imagining their faces made Harry happy and he took a quick shower with hot water and emerged still smiling. Then he recalled he had finals today and the smile erased itself. He dressed in his uniform and robe, leaving the tie for Severus to do because he was too lazy to struggle with it this morning.
When he emerged from the bathroom, steam still clinging to his glasses, Severus met him, dressed in his usual black teaching robes.
"Good. You're awake. Would you like to eat here or in the hall with your friends this morning?"
"Uh . . . in the hall, I guess." Harry mumbled. "Got a lot to talk about."
"I'm sure you do," Severus nodded. He knew of one person who would not be happy with last night's events. "Come here. Let me fix your tie."
After fixing his son's clothing and running a comb through his hair over the boy's protests that he liked his hair that way, Severus sat down to read the paper before going up to the hall for ten minutes. He drank a cup of tea and gave one to Harry as well. He eyed the boy as Harry put in four sugar lumps and stirred. "Are you going to have tea or just eat the sugar bowl?"
"I like sugar in my tea."
"Humph! How you haven't died of diabetes by now is a miracle."
"Dudley used the whole bowl," Harry defended.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Merlin forfend! Go easy on the sweets, Harry, or else you'll end up with digestive issues, at the least."
Harry sipped his tea, then said, "How come Dumbledore eats sweets and never has a problem?"
"Who says he doesn't?" snorted the professor. "You aren't the one brewing Stomach Remedies at twelve midnight for him."
Harry set the cup down. "Really, Dad?"
"Oh, yes. Trust me on that. Now finish your tea and we'll go up to the hall."
Harry found Ron, Neville, and Hermione also yawning broadly when he came up to the Gryffindor table. He waved at Draco across the way, who was studying something and barely acknowledged him, until he said, "Hey, guys, guess what happened last night?"
"Your ghostly mentor taught you some spells they use in America," Ron guessed.
"Nope. Ghost performed a ceremony for me and Professor Snape."
"What sort of ceremony?" asked Hermione.
"The kind where you call on the spirits of the dead to witness something."
"Spirits of the dead?" Neville squeaked.
"He summoned up spirits?" Draco was suddenly at Harry's elbow, listening intently. "That's dark magic."
"Only if you're trying to compel them. Ghost wasn't. He called up the spirits of my parents—"
"He called up Lily and James? And they answered?" Hermione interrupted.
"Yes!" Harry snapped a little. "He is a shaman, after all, and part of that is talking to the spirit world. Anyway he called up my parents to witness something very special . . . my adoption."
Draco's mouth came unhinged. "Adoption? Like in . . . Snape adopted you? Officially?"
Ron was half-grinning like the village idiot, and he clapped his hand on Harry's back. "That's great, mate! Now you don't have to live with those crappy relatives of yours."
"I know," Harry began.
"Oh, Harry! You're so lucky, you have a professor for a father and can get all the latest books and curriculum notes," Hermione rhapsodized, her eyes full of longing.
Harry choked on his ham and eggs. "Hermione, Godsake! Don't remind me." While he loved books and didn't mind studying, he did mind Severus hovering over him like some disapproving bat.
Neville was looking shocked and uncertain, as if he didn't know whether to offer congratulations or commiseration. "Well . . . that's good, Harry. If you want it that way."
"I do. I'd rather scrub Snape's dungeon forty times than go back and weed Aunt Petunia's garden and get locked up again for not finishing my chores."
"They locked you up?" Draco repeated, looking indignant. "For slaving over them like a house elf?"
"For not finishing my list of chores. Which were as long as my arm," Harry corrected.
"That's stupid!" Hermione cried.
"Unfair gits!" Ron added.
"That's cruel and unusual punishment," Neville stated.
"What is?" asked George, "Being made to take end of term exams?"
"No, having Snape for his father!" called Craven, braying loudly at his own wit.
Harry stood up, flushing. He knew he was drawing unwanted attention, but he didn't care. "You shut your gob right now, Craven!" he growled. He'd be damned if this would go the way the guardianship had. "You have no room to talk, so quit flapping your jaw. Whether Professor Snape adopted me or not is my business, so but out!"
"Is it true?" called a girl down the row. The whole table was abuzz now.
Harry's chin jutted out. "And if it is? You all going to turn on me again?"
There were several ashamed whispers and muttering, and a few Gryffindors refused to meet his gaze.
"Only a traitor would allow a Slytherin dark wizard to adopt him!" Craven sneered.
"My father's no traitor!" Harry yelled, fists clenching. He so wanted to punch Craven's teeth out, but Severus' training and Ghost's as well on keeping his temper made him be still. "Or a dark wizard!"
"Got that right, Potter!" Draco agreed. "Craven's a big ass!"
"You watch yourself, Malfoy, before I hang you up by your balls on the Astronomy Tower!" Craven threatened nastily.
"Craven! You've got no call to threaten a firstie that way!" Percy objected.
Before anyone else could intervene, a soft feminine voice said, "My, my. Such manners! Someone needs their dirty mouth washed out with soap. And a scrub brush!"
All eyes glanced up to see Shriek circling overhead, her ivory colored body almost blending in with the ceiling.
Craven flushed and growled, "Blow it out your arse, you mangy thing! As if I'd take advice from the likes of you."
Several students gasped at the way he was speaking to a sacred raven. Shriek flipped her tail at him insolently and squawked, "It's your funeral, punkin',"
Craven yelled as bird dung spattered all over his head. "Eeew! Yuck! You—you shat on me!" He shook his fist at the raven.
"Oops . . . must have mistaken you for a lump on a log," Shriek cooed. "The resemblance is rather strong."
By now the Gryffindors and Slytherins were snickering.
"She's as good as Skull!" exclaimed Fred.
Shriek landed on the table and bowed. "Glad to be of service, sirs. Putting nasty little rats in their place is my specialty."
When Craven would have lunged at the bird, Percy shoved him back in his seat. "Go clean up, you! You're lucky the bird didn't peck your eyes out, Craven. You ought to know better than to insult a raven. Or Professor Snape that way."
With so many disapproving and giggling glances being shot his way, Craven hurriedly left his seat and ran from the room. The laughter followed.
Harry sat down and continued eating. Everyone was quiet. Then he looked at Shriek and said, "Thanks, Shriek."
"Don't mention it, Harry," the raven trilled. "That one's getting too big for his britches there and needs a good hiding."
"He needs what?" asked a girl with blond hair.
Shriek turned to her. "That's American for a kid who needs to be spanked bloody good and hard," she said, affecting an upper crust British accent.
"With my mum's spoon," Percy smirked. "You're all right, bird."
"You're okay too," the raven responded cheekily. Then she flew back over to where Ghost was seated with the rest of the teachers, her duty done for the day.
Behind her, several students cheered and clapped. Hermione said, "I wish she could stay here, she's like a female Skull, only prettier."
Harry chuckled. "She's even more impudent than he is, according to Ghost."
"I find that hard to believe," Draco said. "Skull is impudence personified. I don't know how he's survived this long with the professor."
"He's a raven familiar," Neville said. "They know how to treat their wizards."
"Poor Professor Snape!" Ron said, laughing.
"No, lucky Professor Snape," Harry corrected quietly. "I love my owl, but I wish I could have a raven for a familiar someday."
"Maybe you will. The raven chooses, you know," Draco said.
Harry nodded and finished eating. But why would a raven choose me?
Severus was halfway through his breakfast porridge, fruit, and yogurt when he heard Dumbledore say calmly, "Severus, I need to speak with you in my office after breakfast. It shan't take long, I'll make sure you're on time for your ten o'clock class."
Severus merely nodded after gazing at the old man sharply. He had a good idea what this talk was going to be about and he was not looking forward to it. Don't meddle in my business, old man! He thought waspishly as he ate some more oatmeal. I've finally got everything settled and you think you can manipulate me . . . well, think again!
He finished his breakfast, scowling sourly into his yogurt as he ate the last mouthful.
Ghost, sensing trouble, whispered, "You okay, Sev?"
"My master calls," replied the Potions Master sarcastically.
Ghost nodded. "Those who think they're chief honchos can be a real pain in the ass."
"Exactly," Severus growled, rising. Skull perched upon his shoulder. "I'll see you later, Ghost."
"Will do. Think I'll go for a stroll on the grounds. I need to be outside," the shaman said genially, also rising.
"Is that something peculiar to you nature priests?" asked Pomona curiously.
Ghost shook his head. "All of us shamans are tied in some way to the natural world, Mona. We aren't comfortable cooped up inside for too long. But this is just me getting a mite antsy. I need to stretch my legs, feel the wind in my face. Then I'll be up to giving Harry his lesson tonight."
"How is Harry doing?" Dumbledore queried.
"Very good. Kid has a good grasp of discipline, thanks to Severus there," Ghost replied pointedly.
Severus found himself flushing. "I only tried to teach him some control over his wayward emotions."
"And that's what he needed to bring his power into line," Ghost responded. "Be seein' ya." Then with seven rapid strides he crossed the hall and was out the doors.
Severus followed Dumbledore up the revolving stairs to his office.
As soon as Dumbledore had sat down behind his desk, he picked up the dish of lemon drops. "Have one?" he offered.
"No, thank you," Severus said, not understanding how anyone could eat such a cloying sweet . . . . or why he persisted in offering one to someone he knew disliked them? Perhaps someday he would make the old gaffer keel over by accepting, he thought with a smirk. "What did you wish to talk to me about, Headmaster? I have prep work to go over before class."
"Oh, I think you know," Dumbledore said, his tone slightly frosty.
"My adoption of Harry," Severus answered, his arms folded over his chest.
"Yes, that. Why didn't you tell me about it?" Now Dumbledore sounded suspiciously hurt.
Severus ignored the theatrics. "So you could have told me it was a bad idea? You know I know that you've never really approved of me being his guardian."
"Now, Severus," began the old wizard. "I never disapproved, but I felt it was too much for you."
Severus snorted. "With my duties as your spy? You were worried over my health? Please, Albus, spare me! I was in more danger as your spy and his protector than I am now. What's done is done."
"Yes, but I would have like to be informed."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "If I may be blunt, it was none of your business—only mine and Harry's. He came to me and asked for it, not the other way around. It was all his idea."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I am! Do you think I go around adopting orphan students every day?" snarled Severus.
"Are you able to take care of him?"
"I am as able now as I was when I was named his guardian. It was his choice, Albus. And mine." And it's too late for you to do anything about it!
"Sev will be a good father to the boy," Skull interceded. "Harry's own said so and so did his mother."
Dumbledore looked flummoxed. "I . . . don't understand. How could they say anything? They're dead and buried."
"The spirit world is open to those who know the way," Skull said mysteriously.
"Ghost called them to come," Severus explained.
"And they answered?"
"Most promptly. They gave Harry into my keeping." Severus said firmly, with the implication that it should be enough for anyone.
"Well, if Lily and James thought it for the best . . ."
"They did. Much better than the alternative—going back to those miserable Dursleys."
Dumbledore winced. "That was not one of my better ideas."
"It was a horrible idea," Severus said cuttingly. "Have you been back to see them since?"
"No, I've been busy. But I plan to—"
Severus held up a hand. "Don't bother. I'll take care of it."
"Severus, we don't want any trouble," Dumbledore said, alarmed slightly.
"There won't be," his former spy said smoothly. "Over twelve years as your spy and still you trust me so little?"
"No, I do trust you, but I know your temper, especially when it concerns abusive adults . . ."
"I was younger when I transformed Sarah Mulligan's stepfather into a rosebush," Severus waved a hand in dismissal. "Now I know to be more discreet. Besides, Petunia knows me from long ago, when I was Lily's best friend. She won't give me any trouble, or her fat fool of a husband either." Not unless they want to become garden gnomes, he thought coldly.
"If you're sure, Severus . . ."
"I am. This is a family affair, Albus, and like it or not, I am Harry's father."
"Very well. Just don't leave blood or bodies lying about. Very messy and the Ministry won't like it."
"That'd be too good for them," Severus said sharply. "I'll pay them a visit once Harry is settled in my home for the summer. Is that all?"
"Yes, I just wanted to make sure you were treating him right, Severus."
"He hasn't been made into potion ingredients yet, Headmaster."
"Though not for lack of trying," Skull purred.
Dumbledore sighed. "Can you be a little more tolerant, Severus?"
"I am being very tolerant," said the Potions Master. "Ask Harry if you don't believe me. He will tell you that all your fears are irrelevant. I would never take the boy in just to abuse him, surely you know that?"
"Forgive me, Severus. I should not have implied that."
"Your Golden Boy is safe, Albus," Severus said quietly. "And will be so long as I draw breath. Now, if you are through, I have class to teach."
"Have fun, Severus," Dumbledore waved him away.
Severus sailed out the door, his black cloak billowing. Score one for his side, for once. The old one wasn't happy he'd stolen a march on him, but tough luck, as Ghost would say. He made his way down to the dungeons, Skull warbling on his shoulder.
Harry looked up as he crossed to the greenhouse for Herbology. He saw two shapes flying and circling about. Skull and Shriek, he thought, smiling. They wove in and out, in a gliding dance that made Harry wonder. Could they be . . . like girlfriend and boyfriend? They look so . . . good together. Two halves of the same whole.
Then he shook his head. How ridiculous he was, mooning over the ravens like some matchmaker! He had more important things to worry about. He hitched his bag over his shoulder and continued on to the greenhouse, eager for Professor Sprout's lesson. He would ask Skull later.
Later that evening:
Harry lay on his back on the grass after his lesson with Ghost. The shaman had said he needed a period of meditation and had left him alone. "Sometimes it's important to just connect with yourself and the power," he'd said, before disappearing into the trees. "Relax and listen."
So Harry put his arms behind his head and tried to do that. But his observation that afternoon kept interfering with his concentration, so at last he sat up and opened his eyes. Breathing deeply wouldn't cure his curiosity.
Only to find Shriek observing him. "Hey. Kind of boring watching me lie here, isn't it?"
The raven fluffed her feathers. "I'm merely watching over you. There are plenty of things I can see if I wish."
"Ghost told me I needed to meditate."
"You ought to try and listen to him. He is, after all, the premier sorcerer in America."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"A Windfar shaman is always the best at what he does. Bringing people together, protecting them from the forces of darkness. Ghost and I have done so many times. I don't choose weak wizards for companions."
Harry stared. "You mean . . . he's kind of like Dumbledore?"
"Yes. But younger and not as manipulative. But fully as strong, though you'd never guess it by the way he acts. But he's well respected in America."
"I never would have guessed."
Shriek chuckled. "Power walks softly sometimes, youngling. But it's still there."
Harry thought of the tall unassuming shaman. Was it so unbelievable that he could be as powerful as Shriek claimed? No. Harry had seen Ghost do things he could only dream of. The most powerful sorcerer in America. Harry wondered how many dark wizards he'd taken down. "Shriek, can I ask you something?"
"You may. But I may not answer," she replied maddeningly.
"Are you and Skull . . . like seeing each other?"
She cocked her head. "Is that teenspeak for are we mates?"
"Uh . . . yeah . . . sort of . . . ."
She warbled. "Curioser and curioser!"
Harry went red. "Sorry . . . I shouldn't have . . ."
"I am a raven, young one, and used to impudent questions," she answered. "We mate for life, you know. And I have found mine. I simply have to get him to acknowledge it. Fool bird is much like his master, afraid of losing his heart! Tchaa!"
"You mean, he hasn't said yes?"
"Not yet. But he will. This I know," Shriek said. "Love shall conquer the steadfast loyal heart every time."
"Oh. That's good. He needs you. And Severus needs someone too." Harry mused.
"As does Ghost. That's why I'm on his ass constantly to find a girl."
"All things in balance, Harry. A man wasn't meant to be alone, that's why the Creator made women. To compliment and help the guy. It's part of the natural order of things."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Dumbledore doesn't have anyone and he seems happy."
Shriek snorted. "So it seems, but he had one once. Long ago."
"How do you know?"
"Skull got that tidbit from Mrs. Norris, and passed it on to me. The cat's trying to get her master into a relationship too. Stubborn damn men! They fight when they should surrender."
"What do you mean?"
"If Ghost, or even Severus,, would surrender their heart just once, they would find complete balance and harmony. As a being born of the spirit world, I know this. I simply have to convince my stubborn shaman. And you, young one, would do well to convince Severus to turn his eyes to a woman sometime."
"Me?" Harry squeaked. "He'd murder me!"
"Not once he fell in love," the raven said smugly. "Now there's something for you to meditate on besides the sky."
Harry grinned and lay back down. He closed his eyes and thought about who might be best for Severus. Food for thought, indeed.
A/N: Hope you liked this chapter! Who has some ideas for revenge against the Dursleys?
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