Chapter Thirty-Seven: Probes and Photographs
Keeping a wary eye on Harry, Severus moved around him to return to the parchment's table. A distinct mixture of distrust and protectiveness was present in his aura, accompanied by a trace of fear and his ever-present self-loathing. Harry blinked as the last emotion sunk in, having just realized it for what it was despite how much it had constantly permeated the aura; almost like the background color for a painting on canvas. The base layer upon which all else rested. Disturbed at this new awareness, Harry remained where he was.
Severus finally turned his attention away in order to mutter a few spells at the parchment and the room in general. As Harry watched, the energy flowed from and around Severus, moving fluidly from his wand to their targets as though they were a darker and gaseous form of quicksilver.
Distracting himself with a passing curiosity of what his own spells looked like to Severus, Harry shoved his hands in his pockets and asked, "Are we going to do the second scan now?"
It took a moment before Severus could tear his eyes from the parchment he had retrieved from the table. "Yes. Quite." Scowling at Harry, he added, "I forbid you to try anything on the Dark Mark. If you are harmed, I will make certain you are healed so that I might make you deeply regret the action myself. Go stand there," he muttered, indicating the same spot Harry had stood during the first scan and placing the parchment roll on his chair off to the side.
The scan, once Severus activated the room again, felt as it did the first time. A wash of power like a strong, cool wind swept through them, guided by Severus' quiet murmurs. Where last time he had been watching Severus' magic affecting the room, this time Harry tried appreciating the refreshing sense the unmoving wind gave him, closing his eyes and just feeling the power around him. It surged and retreated like ocean waves ... beamed over him like the sun warming his skin ... gently caressed him like a spring breeze. It involved his senses so much he could barely get out the wondering thought that such a sense of nature could be locked up within the cold stone of Severus' dungeons.
At long last the feelings slowly faded, but Harry was reluctant to open his eyes. Off to one side he could just barely hear the swish of Severus' robes as he moved toward the runes in front of them. More muttered words were heard and the humming of the room grew softer until it became only background noise; something one might not notice unless one knew it was there. Harry sighed, slowly blinking his eyes open. Severus stood before him, smirk firmly in place, "I was not aware that your species of student had evolved the ability to sleep whilst standing. How fortunate; that should save on space and furniture in the student dorms."
"Very funny." But Harry had trouble hiding his amusement completely. "So. What do we do next?"
"'We' change the configuration of the runes so that it will be able to store several scans at once and process them in sequence. Then we will begin our next set of readings." When Harry made a groaning noise, Severus raised an eyebrow. "You didn't seem to mind doing this while the scans were running."
Harry harrumphed, "I don't mind the scans at all. It's the waiting for the readings. And how long is it going to take you to do these changes to the runes?"
Having been vindicated as the one doing the work, Severus generously didn't sneer at Harry's behavior. "Approximately an hour. Quite possibly less depending upon how well the new equations take. Why don't you wait outside the room. Next year's potions text can be found on the second bookshelf to the left on the third level from the bottom. You can start revising and your chatter will not cause distractions and delays."
Feeling like he'd been kicked out of the rune room, Harry decided to get even by thoroughly perusing the photographs on Severus' shelves. As soon as the door closed behind him, Harry went over to the area he'd only gotten a brief look at the first time he'd been in Severus' personal rooms. The small potions bottles were curious but not surprising considering who he was dealing with. Many of them were empty, but there were a few that were not ... and he noticed that one of the smallest ones held a liquid that Harry thought just might be Veritaserum. Shivering, he recalled when Severus (who had then been The Greasy Git, Snape) had threatened to use some Veritaserum on Harry. Apparently the threat hadn't been idle; not that he'd thought it was, but seeing the liquid in the flesh brought the concept home rather forcefully.
Harry quickly decided to turn his attention upon the sparse photographs to be had. They were all kept in simple frames also made of wood except for one which was an elegantly shaped silver. Two boys stood on the Quiddich pitch, their smiles ones of accomplishment and dark humor as they held their diplomas before them for the camera. The boys were studies in opposites, one being pale-haired, slender and proud while the other's hair was long, dark, and frequently blew in the wind to partially cover his face, his body wiry rather than aesthetically slim. It certainly wasn't difficult at all to recognize them as being Lucius Malfoy and Severus when they graduated Hogwarts. The silver frame marked this picture as likely having been a gift from Malfoy as all of the other frames matched each other perfectly.
The next picture also took place on the quidditch pitch, this time containing a small group of students in their sixth year perhaps. The Slytherin quidditch team from the looks of it. Lucius stood with the confidence of the team captain, smiling and surveying his team with pride. Severus smirked rather than smiled, and only briefly after lightly tossing the quaffle at the head of one of the chasers whom Harry couldn't recognize.
Another picture that drew Harry's attention was one of an older man with the look of intelligence in his black eyes. His hair was short and somewhat severely styled, drawing attention to his intent gaze as he poured liquid from a long beaker into a test tube. Despite working on what looked to be a potion, the man was dressed quite formally in a robe with a white shirt buttoned at collar and cuffs underneath. Harry wondered if this person is from where Severus got his tastes in clothing and became curious as to who this unfamiliar man was.
The last picture was also of the unfamiliar man, this time in more of a home-like setting although not a lot could be seen of it in the background. Apparently the man was in a thoughtful mood when the picture was taken as he looked quite distracted, although the faintest of traces of what could become a smile could be seen as well. Again he was dressed buttoned up to the collar, and in this picture which was more of a close up than the other, Harry could also make out concentration lines on the man's forehead in a similar pattern to Severus'. Harry's next speculation was a wondering one as to if this man might just be ... Severus' father.
There weren't any other pictures- not even of any women who could potentially be Severus' mother. Disappointed, Harry wandered over to the bookshelf Severus had directed him to in order to take down the potions text for next year. At least he'd have it on hand to pretend to read while he was thinking over what he'd seen.
By the time the door to the other room eventually opened, Harry had sat on the chair he had chosen and stared through the book for a while, gotten up and paced around the chair, leaned on it with the book in hand (just in case), wandered back to the shelves with the book in hand (again just in case), and was currently staring at the picture of the man working on his potion.
Absorbed in his thoughts, Harry didn't hear the near-silent approach of the older wizard behind him and nearly jumped out of his skin when Severus suddenly spoke. "Yes, he is in fact working on potions. However, it would be rather difficult to learn anything by watching without interaction."
Harry looked up and behind him at Severus who was gazing at the photograph of the man without expression, his aura difficult to read but not the most pleasant, either ... a muddled rain-like mixture of sorrow, guilt and anger. Returning his attention to the man in the photograph, Harry saw that he was returning Severus' gaze with that very faint almost-smile which almost looked like fondness. "Is that your ..." The word 'dad' didn't seem to fit in with this man, " ... Father?"
"Yes," Severus quietly replied.
Just as quietly, Harry asked, "Is he ... still around?"
"Yes." Severus' aura grew harder to read, if anything.
"Where is he, then?" Harry curiously studied Severus.
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