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Chapter 7 : Comfort Foods
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Harry finally arrived at the door at the same time that Winky, the house elf did with the trays of food.
“Hello Winky! It is so good to see you again!” Harry exclaimed.
“Harry Potter, sir,” replied the elf with a bow. She then proceeded to conjure a table and chairs, set the table and set out the many platters of food. As per usual much more food than either of them could possibly eat had been brought up. There was, of course, Snape’s favorite, Sheppard’s pie along with baked chicken, beef tips, four different kinds of vegetables, mashed, baked and roasted potatoes, and to finish it all off there was truffles, pudding and a whole cake.
Once Winky had laid everything out she turned to Snape and said, “Your dinners, Headmaster. Can Winky bring you anything more, sir?”
“No. This will be all,” he replied dismissively.
“Thank you Winky!” Harry called as she retreated from the room.
Snape fought back the urge to roll his eyes. Did he just thank a house-elf? It was, he reasoned thoughtfully, so typical of how he imagined Lily would have acted.
They sat down at the table and both of them quietly served themselves and began eating. Snape could not help but feel somewhat anxious as he struggled to untangle the thoughts in his mind and determine the best way to initiate this talk that he had been dreading. He glanced up at the portrait of Dumbledore, who gave Snape a knowing smile and motioned with hands to indicate that he should push on.
Stupid old man, Snape thought. He knew that he should have covered up the painting before Harry had arrived. He could hardly wait to move back down to his suite on the third floor in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.
“How are you feeling?” Snape began thinking that it would be best to start with the safe and easy topic and see how things progressed from there.
“Better, sir. Thank you,” Harry muttered as his face turned a brilliant shade of red. “I am so sorry about earlier, sir.”
Snape was now thoroughly confused. “What is Merlin’s name could you possibly have to be sorry for?” Harry shrugged and Snape heaved a huge sigh. “You indicated earlier that this has happened to you before?”
“Yes, sir. Once before. But not as bad as this one. The first was when I was searching the grounds for Professor McGonagall,” he replied.
“Hmm. Is there anything in particular that you feel may be triggering these episodes?” Snape pressed.
Harry looked up at up and Snape was astonished to see that there was a genuine look of fear in his eyes. What could he possibly be afraid of? Out of the corner of his eyes he could see Portrait Dumbledore nodding him on encouragingly.
Resisting the urge to shoot an offensive and rude gesture at the painting he said, in what he hoped was a sympathetic tone, “It’s all right. Believe it or not I only wish to attempt to help you.”
With the hint of a skeptical look Harry explained to him about the mysterious cold spots and the voices, echoes, and screams and even the flashback that has happened to him earlier that night.
Snape listened intently, and did not interrupt or say a word until well after Harry had finished speaking. “I am afraid that I do not have any insight into such a situation.” He could not have helped but notice Harry’s shoulders slump down at this news. “I will, however,” he continues quickly, “inquire around as discreetly as possible to see if there is anyone else that might be able to explain what it is that is happening to you. I would strongly encourage you to do everything you can to avoid these cold spots if you are able.”
“That will hopefully be no problem. I certainly have no desire to seek out these places purposefully,” Harry said.
With nothing more to be said concerning this matter they both fell back into silence and focused their attentions on their dinners. It was nearly a full five minutes of uncomfortable quiet before anything else was said by either of them.
“Did my mother ever forgive you, sir? For the whole ‘mudblood’ thing I mean,” he asked timidly.
Feeling somewhat surprised by the question, Snape hesitated before answering. “Yes…I believe she did, in her own time.”
For a short moment Snape considered telling Harry about meeting with Lily during his near-death experience, but almost instantly thought better of it. It was all too private and too dear to his heart to consider sharing. He also wondered how Harry would have dealt with such information.
“Good,” Harry was saying. “I would hate to think that she died without forgiving you.”
“Why would you be glad for that?” Snape asked curiously.
Harry shrugged. “Several reasons I think. The biggest reason would be that if she was able to forgive you for something as horrible as that it would mean that she that she knew who it was that you really were. That she knew that the boy she had once considered to be her friend was still there somewhere,” he explained quietly.
“Or maybe she was just a much better person than I could ever aspire to be,” Snape countered.
“Does that mean that you have not ever forgiven my father?” Harry said with a small smile.
Snape fought back a grimace. How in the world was he supposed to explain this one? There was no way that he would ever be able to make the boy understand how deep the hatred for his father ran in him.
“How about we just say that I am working on it,” Snape conceded.
“Fair enough, sir. I guess that it more than I could be willing to hope for anyway. You know…I was horrified at the way my father and Sirius had treated you when I found out. It reminded me so much of the way that my cousin used to treat me. I also think that I was a bit relieved as well sir,” confessed Harry.
"Well…yes, sir,” replied Harry. It finally allowed me to understand your immediate and intense hatred of me. I was glad that there had at least been a reason for it all and was even more glad that it had nothing at all to actually do with me. To be honest, sir I had thought at one point that my aunt and uncle had gotten to you.”
Snape laughed loudly in spite of himself. He was sure that he had never heard such reasoning from anyone before. The childlike innocence in the way that Harry interpreted life was so very much like his mother when she had been young.
“What do you mean you thought that your aunt and uncle had gotten to me?” he asked, anxious to clear the memories of his mother out of his mind.
“Whenever I started at a new school or a new grade, my Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon would feel the need to ‘warn’ them about me.” Snape gave him a peculiar look and he rushed on to explain. “When I was growing up there were always weird and unexplainable things that happened around me most especially when I was being beaten up or bullied by Dudley. My aunt and uncle were constantly terrified that I would be discovered as being different or strange and how it would make people think of them. So they would always give the staff a warning that I was an inventive and troublesome child in hopes that if or when something did happen they would simply overlook it and take it for nothing more than me just wanting to start trouble.”
“That was rather nice of them. I almost wish that they would have given me a good warning about you,” Snape taunted.
Harry shot him a glare and then asked, “What was my mother like, sir?”
Snape was taken again at the simple naivety of his questions. He could not help but wish that all of the questions that Harry would need to ask were as simple as these.
“She was the most beautiful person I have ever met, both inside and out. She did not have a single mean or cruel bone in her body. She always had a comforting and caring shoulder for anyone that needed to lean on it.” He began thinking about all the times that Lily had met him by the riverbank after he had had a difficult day at home thanks to the cruelness of his father. There was never a time that she did not fail to comfort him or help him forget, if only for a short moment, the troubles of the day. “She was also incredibly brilliant. I think that she would have even made Ms. Granger seem dim in comparison.
Harry smiled and thought about the things he had said as he helped himself to some pudding. When he next spoke there was a noticeable tremor in his voice.
“I wish I had known her,” he choked out.
The sharp pain of guilt that those words had inflicted inside Snape was nearly too much for him to endure.
“She is enormously proud of you,” Snape said quietly. “Everyone is.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “That is what everyone has been telling me.”
“I take it that you do not agree for some reason?” Snape sneered.
“I dunno. I guess I just wish that would treat me like I was some kind of hero to be worshiped or something. I only did what needed to be done. What Dumbledore told me that I needed to do. There is nothing about me that is special or unique that allowed me to succeed,” Harry said sadly.
Snape bit back his irritation. “Hm…There is so much wrong with those words that I am afraid I do not know where to begin.” He paused for a few moments as he tried to find the right words. “Regardless of the why behind your actions, what matters to the world is the end result. Voldemort is dead. Hundreds, if not thousands of lives, magical and muggle alike, have been saved. That is reason enough for celebration and fascination of the person that made it all possible for them all to live freely again.”
Harry shook his head. “But there are so many people that did die because of me. Because I wasn’t fast enough in defeating him, or because I brought him to Hogwarts and made them all a target!! I never stopped to think of any of them or the dangers that I would bring to them by showing up like I did!! The worst part of it is that so many of them died and I lived! I was supposed to have died with them! How am I supposed to face the families and friends of those that were lost knowing that their loved one died because of me!!”
“You walking into that forest to face him alone, prepared to die should be proof enough to the world that you were willing to sacrifice everything for them. I dare anyone to find fault in selfless bravery such as that,” replied Snape in an even and quiet tone.
“Brave? That wasn’t brave!! I was terrified the entire time!!” Harry exclaimed loudly.
“And show me where it says that being brave means not being scared?! I would have considered you a fool if you hadn’t been scared,” scoffed Snape.
“You were never scared! I saw you! You faced Voldemort hundreds of times and were never scared! I saw your face when you were most certain that you were dying and there was no fear there!! I was more scared for you than you were! I still can’t sleep without seeing you lying there with your life and your blood bleeding out of you all the while you continued to keep cool and rational enough to carry out Dumbledore’s last orders!” Harry was now visibly upset and kept blinking rapidly to keep his eyes from spilling over.
Snape sat in stunned silence. Surely he could not be serious! He glanced up at Dumbledore who nodding again and staring intently at him waiting for him to answer Harry back. He had no idea what he was supposed to say. He mused again about how he was the very last person that should be here having this conversation with the boy.
Snape took a deep breath and said, “There have been more days in my life, that I have lived in constant fear than not. When you saw me on that floor in the shrieking shack it was the first time that I was able to be free from the fear that had become my constant companion for far too long. I was not afraid to die, because it would have been an escape from that fear. I—“
A knock interrupted Snape. “Come in!” he bellowed.
“I am sorry to disturb you Severus, but I wanted to go over – Oh!” Professor McGonagall had just returned from The Burrow and had come to discuss with Snape details on getting the castle up and running again. “I’m so sorry, Harry. I did not realize that you were here.”
“It’s okay ma’am. I believe that we are nearly done here anyway,” Harry said as he stood up quickly. Turning to Snape he said, “Thank you so much, sir. I think I will try to go get some sleep.”
Snape stood as he watched Harry rush past McGonagall, out of the office and down the spiral staircase. He realized once Harry was out of his sight that he was more frustrated than before. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was that he had been expecting from this talk, but he was certain that he should not be this confused by everything. He thought for a moment about consulting with portrait Dumbledore for advice, until his thoughts drifted toward St. Mungos. That would be perfect. He would go and consult with Healer Prewett and see if she could help him make sense of all of this.
“That went well didn’t it?” portrait Dumbledore said cheerfully.
Snape glared at him and said, “Will you please just shut up for once?!”
The soft chuckle from the portrait was barely audible as Snape turned his attentions to his colleague and the business of repairing and rebuilding the castle.
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