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Chapter Thirty-Four: Thoughts and Temper

Harry felt his face go pale with shock and worry at Severus' solemn words, made all the more worse at the sincerity of the confusion and uncertainty in his aura. He didn't know what he could possibly do or say to make it better, and the colors pulled at him, distressing him even as McGonnagal kept her own voice quiet yet unyielding.

"What Albus did was meant only to counter the worst of Riddle's efforts. He took no steps to program you or to make you believe anything that you would not on your own."

"So you say," Severus replied without looking up from the hands he had folded on his lap. "Perhaps I'll believe you- but right now I just want to think this over. Please leave, Minerva."

"Not until you have heard our story and take our views into consideration, Severus." Insistent through she was, McGonnagal looked less concerned for the story than she was for Severus himself. Harry was warmed somewhat at that evidence, but couldn't help but shiver with unease.

Apparently Severus was able to discern McGonnagal's motivations as well when he glanced at her very briefly. With a sigh, he quietly murmured, "I'll listen- and I'll likely believe as well. I always have, knowing what side of the war is doing the most wrong. Just ... let me be for the moment."

The words took Harry aback. The most wrong? Granted that nobody is perfect, but ... just how much wrong did Severus believe the side of the Light was doing? And why?

Taking stock of Severus' reactions, McGonnagal relented after some moments. "Very well. We'll talk again tomorrow after lunch. I believe Poppy mentioned that you're being released to your rooms this evening, and Mr. Potter can use the interim to get settled into his rooms as well."

Severus nodded rather distractedly, studying his hands once more. Harry felt a sudden stronger empathy for the man that didn't originate from their shared powers, and he nodded to Professor McGonnagal with what he hoped looked to be reassurance. McGonnagal nodded in return and murmured, "Good day, gentlemen," before passing through the door and quietly closing it behind her.

The silence that followed wasn't exactly a peaceful one, but neither was it discomforting. The boy remained in his bed, resting as he should, while Severus ... well, he used what time was given to him to sort out his own thoughts.

Self-hatred and guilt was a potent distracter from the occasional bout of paranoia, but when the paranoia is further proven to have good reason ... Severus shook his head to himself and restlessly straightened his posture even further than it was- if that was at all possible. It wouldn't do to start the vicious cycle without having the facts on hand, and that was scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. With cold objectivity, Severus set those thoughts aside in favor of the project he had already set for himself. Analysis.

Severus knew of the sincere regret that Albus and Minerva felt at what was done to him as a teenager; he was remembering that with increasing clarity now that Minerva's words brought that dream-vision back to light. He knew that what they did was most likely one of only a few things they could not forgive themselves for whilst he himself had a much longer list of unforgivable offenses. He knew that despite the offense against him, that their actions were in fact to protect him and, more importantly, to protect the wizarding world in general. He knew that once he put the facts they gave him together with the analysis from the rune scanner in his rooms he would agree with them.

So why then did he feel so hurt?

If anyone were to do something to him, he trusted Albus and Minerva to look out for the best interests of all, keeping everyone as safe as they could and planning for the future. They would make certain, through him, that Voldemort and the Death Eaters couldn't get out of hand...

"But what about you, Severus?"

Blinking in startlement, Severus looked over at Harry who was gazing at him with concern and sadness. Mortified, Severus realized he must have been muttering some of his thoughts aloud. Swiftly, he hid his embarrassment behind a scowl, lapsing into formality in his irritation. "What do you mean, Potter?"

"They're looking out for everyone, you said. Making sure that everyone is safe. Making certain that Voldemort doesn't get out of hand. What about you?" Harry asked, his youthful voice solemn.

"That was the purpose of what they did, Potter," Severus growled. "To make sure I didn't get out of hand, either."

"That's not what I meant," Harry exclaimed with frustration. "I meant what about your safety? Your feelings? What about looking out for you?" The boy sat up a little, his features marked by his earnest belief in his words, growing hesitant before continuing on. "I know what that's like, Severus. Everyone expects me to be the savior of the wizarding world and ... well ... they keep forgetting that I'm not even an adult yet."

Severus felt no compunction to shelter the boy from his bitterness as he replied, "I am one, Potter, or have you forgotten in the face of recent events? Your greasy git of a Potions Master. The bastard."

"You weren't always that way, and this started for you when you were still in school as well."

A dark smirk crossed Severus' features, "So you don't deny that I'm a bastard?"

Harry actually growled, "That's not the point. You may have been a git- you may even decide to continue to be a git come the next school year," the boy briefly shuddered. "But it doesn't mean that you shouldn't have been looked after back then, or that you shouldn't be cared for now."

Severus felt the stirrings of his temper building swiftly past irritation as it traveled the well-worn paths of rage. Sometimes in past he'd wondered at the quickness of his temper when he had customarily succeeded at displaying a veneer of coldness as his preference, but he'd dismissed the thoughts soon after when the show of temper brought his points across well enough. Looking at the boy, he decided that in Potter's case both fire and ice worked to Severus' advantage, especially when the younger wizard was able to discern his aura. For instance, at the moment Potter was growing increasingly pale and still. Deciding to show a twisted sense of mercy, Severus finally spoke, keeping his voice under careful control and enunciating each syllable with deadly accuracy. "Are you appointing yourself my caretaker- whether I ask for it or not? Do you imagine that I desire one? Perhaps I'm just misunderstood, a heart of gold buried under years of torment? Frankly, I couldn't care less, and I would advise that you don't bring up the subject again."

Thankfully the boy lapsed into a hurt silence, contemplating his bed covers before he eventually settled down for a nap until lunch came. The meal passed in an equal amount of quiet apart from Poppy's fussing and expert treatment. Finally towards evening she bustled about, collecting their things in preparation for their upcoming release from the Hospital Wing.

Discerning that Potter didn't want to chance his temper again, Severus was the one to break the silence. "Very well, boy. It's time to show you to your rooms."

Quietly Potter slipped out of his bed, padding slowly over to claim his share of what they had managed to accumulate for clothes under Poppy's care, shouldering the bag. Just as quietly, he looked up at Severus, "I'm not a boy."


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