Chapter One: Cracking the Eggshells
When Severus awoke the next morning, it was to the feel of a soft, warm blanket stretched over his aching limbs and the smell of bacon frying. He was not hung over to the point that he felt nauseated, which was good; pork on top of an unsteady stomach was an experience he cared never to repeat. As he actually did feel hungry, he stretched through the resultant pain of falling into an ill-advised, inebriated slumber on a piece of furniture not designed for that purpose and stood up, catching the blanket as he did so and folding it over his chair.
It then occurred to him that the house elves had never yet popped around to his private rooms to prepare him a fry-up, which meant . . . .
"Potter," Snape said, walking into his kitchen.
Harry jumped about a foot into the air and spun on him, wielding a spatula as if it were a short blade.
"Oh, Professor Snape," she said, immediately lowering the utensil and turning to the stove. "Good morning."
Severus was becoming tired of the lack of eye contact, the lack of . . . spine being displayed by the girl during her waking hours. "Just what is it that you think you are doing?"
"I'm, um, cooking, Sir."
"I can see that, Potter. Why you are cooking?"
Harry flipped bacon out of the pan and onto a cloth-covered plate.
"How do you take your eggs, Sir?"
"Potter, are you ignoring me?"
"Of course, not, but I've got to fry the eggs before the grease starts to spatter. You do eat eggs, don't you?"
The Potions master was flabbergasted. "Yes, I eat eggs. I eat properly cooked eggs, eggs prepared by house elves, eggs prepared by house elves and sent to the Great Hall--but that is beside the point. I ask you again," he said, taking a deep breath because he felt he was beginning to ramble, "why are you cooking my eggs?"
In a frighteningly exact mimic of her professor's voice, Harry said, "'Miss Potter, if you are going to hide yourself away in my quarters, you will find a way to make yourself useful. No special privileges will be extended to you, no matter the cause of your surprising lack of spirit.'"
"Oh, dear gods! Did you truly take that to imply I meant to treat you as my personal servant?" Snape asked, shocked enough to overlook Harry's cheek.
"I wasn't sure what you were implying, but I'm used to cooking. I thought you might be hungry this morning, and I was hungry, so . . . ."
"So you decided to cook."
"Yes," the girl said, flipping two over-hard eggs out of the pan.
"Where did you procure the supplies to cook, Miss Potter?"
Harry flushed uncomfortably. "I asked Dobby for them, Sir."
Even the house elves like you. Of course. "Make the next two over-easy, and do not burn my toast," Severus ordered as he walked out of the kitchen and down the corridor to his room. If the brat is going to go to all this trouble, I suppose I should make myself pres--
"Do you want your tomatoes fried?" called the girl.
"Do not dare abuse those tomatoes in that way!" the professor yelled, storming back to the kitchen. "These tomatoes are Yellow Perfections, Potter, heirloom fruit. They are not intended for frying. If your idea of cooking is anything like your potion-making, you will kill us both. Give me that spatula--"
"Whaddya mean, 'heirlooms'?" Harry asked, looking both confused and annoyed. "They don't look old!"
Great. I'm an idiot. Why'd I have to ask how old they were? thought Harry as she ate her breakfast. The professor had sliced the tomatoes--which Harry had learned were recently grown from seeds that were not widely available anymore--and sprinkled a little extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil on them. They were quite good with the eggs, and Harry found she liked the olive oil. At the Dursley's, she had only ever used corn oil. It wouldn't have tasted nice on tomatoes.
Harry was no longer feeling bold. When she'd woken up this morning and found Snape sleeping restlessly in the sitting room, she had felt as though she ought to do something to make up for what must be a nightmare for her professor--having to babysit his least-favorite person. Ever since waking up and finding herself on Snape's bed to Madame Pomfrey's shriek of dismay, Harry had been very wary around the Potions master, half-afraid he might actually try and kill her after all. But she had to admit to herself that Snape had been completely decent. She had heard him checking up on her while she was in the infirmary being tested by the medi-wizards from St. Mungo's; he had coached her on how to protect herself before that awful press conference; he had allowed her to be alone with Sirius and Remus when they brought her back down to his suite a few days later; and he had let her hide in her room--which was quite the best she had ever slept in--and get used to . . . the Change. Of course, she was not used to it, and she did not intend to become used to it, but, as she was not certain how long it was going to take before Professor Dumbledore and the others figured out a way to switch her back to a him, it was nice to know that the professor was going to give her some privacy.
And he hasn't even made fun of me, not once!
"Potter," Snape said.
Harry looked at the wizard. He did not appear irritated, though his expression was not exactly peaceful, either.
"We should discuss our . . . living arrangements."
"Oh. Yes, Sir?"
"And your attitude. I understand that it must be unnerving to find yourself . . . thus," he said with a flick of his wrist, "but you cannot go about the dungeons as if you were terrified that I might eat your brains for breakfast."
"I'm not! I cooked today, didn't I? I, um, I came out this morning and found you asleep, and I, um, I--"
"You covered me with a blanket. Yes. I thank you, though I do not need a nurse-maid."
Harry's cheeks turned the color of fresh borscht. "You looked cold."
"I see. In any case, I do not wish you to feel as though you must act as my dogsbody. I am not one of your distressing relatives."
Severus saw temper flare in Harry's eyes, and he snorted into his cup of surprisingly good tea. "You can't possibly mean to tell me I've just offended you. I know how they treated you."
"Yeah, I mean, yes, that's true, but I'd rather you didn't insult my family, Sir."
Severus stared at the girl in disbelief. How you feel loyalty for those . . . people is beyond--
"Well, I do feel loyalty toward them, and I don't want--"
"POTTER!" Snape roared. "YOU WILL STAY OUT OF MY THOUGHTS!"
"I didn't do it on purpose, but you were loud!" Oh, gods. Am I loud? Can he hear my thoughts? Oh, Merlin, that would be bad!
Severus snorted in an almost-laugh. "I was thinking too loudly, Potter?" Abruptly, the man peered over his plate at Harry. "Does this happen to you all of the time?"
"What? . . . Eavesdropping?" Harry asked, attempting to remain calm in her fear that the professor might know everything that went on in her head since her body had changed.
For if he could hear--if he knew--then the embarrassment would kill her as Lucius Malfoy had not.
No, no, no, no, no . . . .
"No, that--I did not mean for--Harry," Snape said, taking a deep breath, "do you often find yourself hearing other people's thoughts?"
"Not often--usually just when I'm near someone who's thinking hard."
"And whenever would that be?"
A faint smirk took over the corner of Severus' mouth. Harry gaped.
"Yes, Potter, upon occasion, I have been known to smile."
"Don't you laugh at me!"
"Ah, now there is the Gryffindor cheek to which I am used. . . . So, does this fit of domesticity and temper indicate that you are prepared to leave your bedroom and join your friends upstairs?"
Harry's face twisted in horror, and Severus found that he actually regretted his words.
"Potter, I am not evicting you."
The girl settled back into the cushion of her chair, but retained her air of alarm.
"I realize that you have had a great shock, but that is not an excuse to disregard your studies. If you do not wish to go . . . home, and you are not yet ready to join the other students in your classes, then your classes will have to come to you."
"How do you mean, Sir?"
"Professor McGonagall has spoken to your other teachers, and they have agreed to provide you with independent study projects to keep you current with their syllabi. She hoped that you would be amenable to having Miss Granger or Mr. Weasley bring you--"
"No! Please, Sir--I don't want anyone to see me like this!"
Snape arched an enquiring eyebrow at the girl. "Like what, precisely? You were not turned into an ogre, Potter. You are a young woman. Surely you have nothing against young women?"
Harry hung her head, but did not respond. He won't understand. He couldn't possibly understand! I'm not a girl! I'm not! This is just another thing to add to the list of why I'm a freak--a big, gay, girl-of-prophecy freak--
In a low and almost gentle tone of voice, though Harry knew it could not possibly be intentional, Snape asked, "Did it never occur to you, Miss Potter, that, were you to remain female--and that is a possibility with which you may be required to cope--it would be less awkward for you to enjoy . . . male companionship?"
Harry drew in a sudden breath. "If I'm going to stay out of your head--"
"I shall endeavor to remain out of yours, provided, of course, that you respond to my questions and do not hide important information from me."
"Well, that was a very thorough response."
"Yours, however, was not."
"That's very personal, Professor."
"Yes, it is."
The unlikely interlocutors stared at each other for a moment.
"No, it didn't."
"Are you aware that the headmaster, the St. Mungo medi-wizards, and Madame Pomfrey have no current idea how to reverse your . . . condition? That, in fact, as near as they can determine, any attempt to restore you to your male self would most likely kill you?"
"No one's been that direct with me, Sir," Harry said.
She did not sound surprised.
Of course not. "No one knows for certain, Potter, but it would be wise for you to try and accept that you may have to remain . . . as you are."
"As a girl."
I can't even look at myself naked without feeling like I'm going to get in trouble. How can I possibly stay this way?
"I'm sure you'll become more comfortable with yourself in time."
"You said you weren't going to--"
"I do not have to read your mind to know that you are having adjustment issues, Potter. Who would not, given the circumstances?"
Harry had the grace to look abashed.
"If you and I are going to share living space, I feel we might attempt to . . . not assume the worst about one another in our dealings. Does that seem like something you could manage?"
"I guess so. It's just hard to . . . um--"
"Say what you mean, Potter."
"This is just too weird! You're being nice to me, and you've always been such a git!"
"A 'git', Potter? Your vocabulary is appalling. Your failure to understand my motivations toward you is not surprising, though--"
"I saw how awful Dad was to you! I don't have to be a genius to understand that you hate me because of him."
Snape's eyes narrowed. "I believe that will be the last time you interrupt me."
Harry did not flinch. "I hope that this is the last time you have to tell me why you hate me for something I didn't do."
"I do not hate you."
"Your impression of someone who does hate me is pretty convincing--Sir."
I expect that it is, Severus thought, remembering his thoughts of the previous night. He did not want Harry to be afraid of him, and he also did not think that he could continue to resent the brat while living with her. They both had preconceived notions about each other. Perhaps it was time to let go of them. In order to do that, it will be necessary to be . . . somewhat more civil. "It was pleasant to eat in relative peace this morning, Harry. Thank you for making breakfast."
Harry was completely unprepared for Snape's response. "You're welcome. . . . Are we going to talk about your hating me?"
"Do you wish to?"
"Well, no--but I don't want you to--"
"Did you enjoy the Yellow Perfections?" Severus attempted again.
Harry seemed surprised by the question for a moment, but then a smile of understanding spread over her face.
Realization dawns, however slowly, Severus thought, trying not to smile back at the girl.
"Yes, thank you for showing me how to serve them."
"Cookery and potion-making do have some connection, you know."
"The way Aunt Petunia taught me to cook, I would never have guessed that, sir."
That is more than clear from your class performance, Potter. "Perhaps, as I believe it shall now be one of your chores to cook--as long as you intend to remain sequestered--you will learn some new techniques."
"Perhaps," Harry said, making an effort to match her professor's level of formality. "At least I know what to do with an egg."
"So you say."
This time, Severus did permit himself a slight smile, and Potter's reaction was most gratifying.
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
Back to Top | VVC Index | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page