Potions and Snitches
Snape and Harry Gen Fanfiction Archive

Chapter 12 The Talk
A voice was calling him from very far away, but Harry was so warm and comfortable that he couldn’t make himself listen. He sighed contentedly, as he dreamed that he was a kitten, he stretched luxuriously in his human’s lap and purred loudly in appreciation of the gentle stroking behind an ear.

“You like that, hmm?” the voice murmured in amusement. “Maybe I should splash you with cold water instead, like my father did to me when I refused to wake up in the morning. What do you think, Harry?”

The horrid idea chased his pleasant dream away faster than a pack of dogs could, and his eyes popped open wide. Father was sitting on the edge of the bed, his hand on the side of his head, tickling his ear with the tips of his fingers.

“Did he really do that? Grandpa Al?” Harry demanded, batting father’s fingers away in embarrassment. Now that he was awake, his cat dream seemed very silly.

“No, not Albus,” father snorted, folding his arms and giving him a look of pure exasperation. “Albus, as my employer, rarely has the opportunity to wake me, my father, on the other hand, did that many times when I was a schoolboy. Perhaps, you need the same?”

“No, no, I’m awake,” the boy protested, picturing his strict father being jolted awake by cold water dumped on his head. It was incredibly hard not to giggle at the mental image.

“You are, indeed,” the man acknowledged, standing and picking up the pot of bruise balm from the bedside table. “Sit up, let me take a look at that shoulder.”

Oh-uh, Harry had completely forgotten about his accident, even though his hand had been glued to his stomach all through the night. He heaved himself to a sitting position, and watched anxiously as father undressed him and freed his hand. It was difficult to believe that a broken bone could be healed so quickly, but when father told him to move his hand every which way, it didn’t hurt at all.

“Alright,” the man muttered, putting a generous glob of bruise balm on the child’s colourful shoulder, and rubbing vigorously. “You appear to have recovered well enough.”

“Thank you, father,” the boy whispered, averting his eyes in shame. He really didn’t mean to be such a bother, requiring expensive medicine even. It really was a miracle that he hadn’t been punished, yet.

“Get ready for breakfast, now,” father commanded sternly, as if he heard Harry’s thought and quite agreed that he got away too lightly.

The boy dressed and washed slowly, instinctively delaying the inevitable conversation that father had threatened yesterday. He wondered if this would be the same sort of conversation that uncle Vernon liked to have with him, with uncle yelling that he was a waste of space, and him apologising and begging not to be sent to the orphanage. He hated these conversations, they always reminded him that he was only allowed to stay on uncle’s dubious sufferance, and if aunt Petunia got tired of defending him, he would be happily kicked to the curb. His aunt was far away, in another country now, and there was no longer any person who would defend him in the world. He didn’t want to be kicked out, but he was deeply afraid of what his father would do to him, as there was always a price to avoiding the orphanage. The boy cringed, almost wishing that they could get it over with straight away, as his stomach was so filled with acid that the thought of eating was unbearable.

Harry peered through the kitchen doorway, barely daring to breathe, but whatever he’d been expecting didn’t happen. Father was calmly transferring sausages from a steaming pot onto a platter.

“Come in, and sit,” he said impatiently, when he glanced at the door, and caught the child loitering in the corridor.

The boy took his customary seat, and stared moodily at his empty plate, it was incredible how fast regular meals had become so ordinary they were annoying. Father came over with the platters, and proceeded to pile his plate high with toast and sausages. He sighed. Was he mad that he missed going hungry?

“Stop sulking and eat before it gets cold,” father chided sharply when the boy didn’t devour the meal like a starved dog.

“Wasn’t sulking,” Harry mumbled, but he picked up his fork and began eating.

The food wasn’t bad exactly, father was a good cook, but getting so much of it, three times a day, was making him feel like a fat goose. He managed to get through half of his portion, before droopping like a spent balloon.

“I can’t anymore,” he whined, dropping his fork and folding his arms across his chest in a brief show of defiance.

“Are you sick?!” the man demanded, lowering the newspaper he’d been reading and casting a beady eye at the boy’s plate.

“No, just not hungry,” he grumbled, slumping his shoulders and glaring at the food.

“Must we rehash the discussion about eating, Harry?” father asked very sternly, and gave the boy such a disapproving glare that he shivered.

“No, sir,” he sighed, he didn’t need another lecture about healthy eating habits and starving children in developing countries who would gladly eat his breakfast. Harry wanted to say that he’d gladly share with a few of them, but he doubted being cheeky would get him anything other than a punishment.

It took an eternity to get through the rest of his breakfast, but somehow he managed it without incurring the man’s wrath. His sense of relief was short-lived, however, as father folded and put away the newspaper as soon as the boy pushed away his empty plate.

“Alright,” he said sharply, waving his wand to clear the table. “We’re going to have a talk in the living room, come.”

Harry instantly regretted eating so much, his stomach churned with nerves as he followed the man into the living room, and perched tensely on the couch. He watched warily as father sat on the armchair in front of the couch, he rested his elbows on his knees and pinned the child in place with a stare so merciless that he suddenly couldn’t breathe.

“Do you know why you are in trouble, Harry?” the man asked more patiently than the boy expected, but it didn’t help calm the rising panic he was feeling.

“B-b-because I was bad, father,” the boy answered automatically, beginning to tremble all over as he remembered that he was all alone with an adult who had a reason to be furious with him, and would surely beat him now, or send him to the orphanage which would be even worse. “‘m sorry, I won’t do it again!”

“Bad is a very broad term,” the man commented dryly. “Why exactly are you sorry?”

“I-,” Harry trailed off, unsure how to even attempt to explain himself, he knew he was a bad kid, uncle Vernon told him often enough. He tried so hard to behave properly, but it never seemed to work and he was always getting punished anyway. He didn’t know what to say without making the situation even more dire for himself. He ducked his head, maybe if he apologised really well, it would help, he took a shaky breath. “I am really sorry that I fell, father! Please, I’m sorry…!”

The strict man’s forehead wrinkled in a frown as he listened to the child’s frantic apologies, and the expression on his face was so tight that Harry choked off suddenly, sensing that he said something wrong.

“Harry, stop,” he snapped, his eyes flashing in annoyance. “You’re working yourself into a hysteria,” he blew out a gust of air. “Falling, while unfortunate, isn’t something you can control. Tell me what you did, that I specifically forbade you to do, child. Something I said would be punished very sternly. Come on, you’re a smart boy, I’m sure you can tell me what you did wrong when you fell.”

“I hurt myself,” Harry whispered hoarsely, cringing into the back of the couch as the words spilled out of his mouth, he didn’t want to be whipped. He began to cry, his heart racing so much that his lungs burnt for oxygen, but he couldn’t make himself stop.

The man made an impatient noise in his throat, and rose from his armchair, coming over to the couch. The boy shook in terror as father sat beside him, he put an arm behind the child’s back and squeezed him against his side.

“Remember what I told you yesterday,” father said very softly, when the boy’s sobs turned into sniffles. “I’m not going to punish you this time, we are just talking.”

“But I was bad!” Harry cried, burying his face in the man’s black shirt. “You always punish me when I’m bad!”

“I do,” father admitted calmly. “But I’m beginning to think you don’t always understand what behaviour I’m penalising. Would you like a hint about what you did wrong yesterday?”

Harry’s head bobbed in a hesitant nod, he wasn’t convinced that he wouldn’t be punished, father had said no exceptions after all, but it was definitely better to know so he could try not to do it again.

“Falling and injuring yourself can happen even when you aren’t doing anything wrong, it’s important then to tell an adult what happened straight away. Neither myself nor Mrs. Wilkinson was told about the accident, and that is why I am upset with you, Harry. I forbade you to hide injuries from me, did you forget about that?”

The boy stole a peek at the man’s face, but averted his eyes quickly, unable to bear the scrutiny. This was even worse than he expected, uncle Vernon never wanted explanations, only apologies. And what was he supposed to say anyway, that he hadn’t told to avoid a punishment? It had been a wasted effort in any case, as he decided to tell in the end.

“I told you,” he mumbled defensively, which was exactly the wrong thing to say, as the man seemed to grow tense beside him. He looked up and recoiled from the fury on his face.

“You told me?!” father hissed, a hand latched on to the back of Harry’s neck, and pulled him forward and to the side so that he was bent over the man’s knees before he had time to blink. A hand fell across his rear sharply, making the boy grunt in pain, but before he had time to panic, he was upright again, and facing the seething man. “Do not be cheeky with me, boy! You aren’t an idiot to misunderstand ‘immediately’ for ‘three hours later’, even little Eliot told you to tell his grandmother straight away, so don’t give me this bullshit!” he took a calming breath “I was very clear on what the consequence of hiding injuries would be, and yet, the first opportunity you have, you choose to disobey me. Is it some strange testing of the boundaries I set, child? I know that you fully expected to be whipped, why would you risk it?”

“I just didn’t want to be punished,” the boy whispered fearfully, not daring to avert his eyes, but the man’s piercing gaze was very difficult to bear.

“You thought I would punish you for getting injured, Harry?” the man asked incredulously. “Why would you think such a thing?”

Harry hung his head, unable to keep eye contact any longer, he obviously shouldn’t have told the truth if it was upsetting his father. The man heaved a sigh, and abruptly picked him up by his armpits. He whimpered quietly, sure that at last he would get his due, but the man only sat him on his lap, like the other day. The boy gasped in surprise as father tucked his head under his chin, and held him like that for a long moment.

“When we escaped that wretched healer, and you fell, did I punish you?” the man asked softly, his deep voice thrummed against Harry’s ear. He shook his head in the negative, but that was partly father’s fault. “Why did you think this time would be different?”

“You said, no exceptions,” the boy whispered desperately, remembering how frightened he’d been when he hurt himself. “That I get the belt, if I’m in danger.”

“Ah, I said that, and I stand by it,” father confirmed calmly. “I will whip you every time you wilfully put yourself in a dangerous situation, but perhaps we should talk about what sorts of situations qualify. Can you think of a dangerous situation, Harry?”

“Picking weeds and refusing medicine,” the boy answered timidly, listing times the dreaded belt was applied.

“Very good,” father approved, his hand tracing circles in his back. “I would add that if you ask permission, and the weeds are not dangerous, then picking them is fine. What else?”

Harry had to think about that for a moment.

“Running on the stairs, and… and onto the street,” he added carefully.

“Yes, I would also add climbing on the roof, and going somewhere with strangers, as well as hiding your injuries,” the man said seriously. “It’s impossible to list every foolish thing that children are wont to do, and I’m sure you’ll make mistakes that will get your backside sternly whipped at least a few more times before you’re grown up, but I will never punish you for getting hurt. Do you understand, Harry?”

The boy’s head bobbed absently, as he recalled the conversation he had overheard yesterday. Father wouldn’t let aunt Petunia take him to America, it probably meant he had to stay here with the man until he got tired of him, and would never see his family again. His eyes filled with tears at that terrible realisation.

“And what will you do next time you or someone else gets hurt in some fashion?”

“Tell you,” the boy mumbled, swallowing his misery for the moment to survive this conversation without further punishment.

“Or another adult, a teacher perhaps,” the man added sternly. “Or Mrs. Wilkinson, if you are at Eliot’s, and straight away. Yes?”

“Yes, father,” he whispered.

“Good boy,” the man murmured, Harry gasped when his frightening father did something inexplicable and kissed his forehead. “Go wash your face, we’re going shopping today.”
Chapter End Notes:
This is only half of what I planned, but it’s gotten so long and I didn’t even get to the important part yet...

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