Through a Glass, Darkly

BY : Lexin
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male > Harry/Snape
Dragon prints: 22485
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Title: Through a Glass, Darkly
Author: Lexin
Archive: Here only for now, SSF and www.redrosepress.co.uk when complete.
Spoilers: None
Summary: Long ago, and in a world ruled by a Dark Lord, Harry Potter went to Hogwarts. *CHAN*slash. SS/HP. Please read the warnings.
Rating: **NC17** I can't emphasise that enough. This story is not for the faint hearted.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything and no money is being made. Anyone who sues me is going to just end up poorer, because when I say I don't own anything, I mean it.
Notes: Alternate universe. Liberties Have Been Taken with the gender of many characters in sto story.
Warnings: Many of them, for just about everything including chan, slash and death. For those who do not know, chan means underage. If you can't bear the idea, do not read on for both our sakes.
Feedback: leave review or privately to pmrommel@hotmail.com
Happy to take comments, advice for the future and brickbats.
My heartfelt thanks to Gloria Lancaster, Predatrix, and my commentators on livejournal, without all of whom my work would be crap.

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Author notes:

From here on is not required reading, you can skip this bit. But if you are (a) under 25 or (b) from outside the UK, I do suggest that you read on.

I don't normally bother with author notes but as not everyone practically blinded themselves in their youth reading boys' public school stories, I feel that perhaps an introduction may be in order.

(1) A public school in the UK is not the same thing as a public school in the US. For more information, go to www.redrosepress.co.uk and click on "Information for non-British writers writing in British universes". Check the section on schooling.

(2) The Hogwarts in this story is a terrible place where Bad Things Happen but some real life public and private schools were worse. Much worse. I refer you to the section of Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby" when he's teaching at Dotheboys Hall ("Terms: Twenty guineas per annum. No extras, no vacations and dinparnparalleled"), or Tom Brown's Schooldays, or just about any boys' public school story published before 1900. Remember, Dotheboys Hall was itself somewhat toned down for public consumption - the real schools it was based on were so horrible they defied description.

(3) At the time this story is set, female teachers did not work in boys' public schools; therefore Liberties Have Been Taken with the gender of characters in this story.


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Through a Glass, Darkly

Part 1: With Clouds Descending

Potter lay on his face as Weasley Tertius thrust into him, wishing Weasley were someone else. Or he was, he wouldn't have minded which. He didn't mind the other things Weasley asked him to do - maintain his broom, make tea, clean his boots - but this...fucking...business just bored him. His position as head boy's fag gave him a few advantages - mostly somewhere to go when Lockwood was on the warpath - but there were disadvantages. Potter rather envied his friend Weasley Sextus his position as fag for Lockwood. Lockwood was the biggest bully in the school, but Weasley Sextus had a much more interesting sex life.

At last Weasley Tertius stiffened and Potter felt the fluid soothe him. He kissed Potter's shoulder, patted him rather as if he were a dog, and pulled out. "Done your prep?" Weasley asked. Typical of him.

"Yes, Percy." Well, he had done most of it, the hard parts, Potions and Greek. He only had to finish Herbology.

"Good lad." Weasley sat up. "Just think, Potter. You won't be a fag much longer."

"I won't?" Despite his boredom this wasn't welcome news and Potter knew his horror must show.

"Of course not; this year I leave, and next year's fifths will choose from the first years. Even if there aren't enough to go round they won't make a fourth year fag. They can't. Wonder which poor unfortunate bastard'll get Quintus and Quartus."

By this, Weasley Tertius meant his twin brothers, Fred and George. Potter felt a bit sorry for the lad, whoever he was. Quintus and Quartus made both his and Sextus' lives hell on a regular basis, until it was worth - more than worth - Weasley's attentions to get away from them.

"Mind you..." Weasley started to pull his trousers on. "You are good and I suppose one of the masters might want you. I hear Snape's boy's leaving."

Potter sat up. He felt his hands grow col"Sn"Snape? But wouldn't he want a Slytherin?"

"No. He never has one of his own house - or so I've always been told. And he doesn't like first years, he likes them broken in a bit. You'd suit him nicely."

**

He really hadn't meant any harm to his cousin, it had been a genuine accident, but Potter knew why his Uncle Vernon had sent him to this school. It didn't take a genius, after all. Potter would be at Hogwarts, this mausoleum of the unwanted, until he was eighteen. There were no holidays. Weasley Sextus went home at Christmas and in the summer, and the masters had time off now and again, though what any of them did with it was a mystery. But not him.

**

"Potter!" Lockwood pounced on him as soon as he arrived in the Gryffindor common room. "Well, if it isn't creepy little Potter, the Head Boy's precious pet."

"I'll tell Weasley." Potter struggled to free himself from Lockwood's grip.

"I'm sure you will, but after the event isn't much use. Kneel down." Lockwood shook him. "Kneel! Good boy. Don't move."

Potter gritted his teeth and tried not to wonder what Lockwood had planned for him. He looked around, trying not to be too obvious about it. He could see Quintus and Quartus, they were laughing at something Jordan had said. That was a small relief; he hoped they wouldn't get bored and join in. Longbottom looked as if he was trying to be inconspicuous, the black eye he sported could be down to Lockwood, but was more likely to be the result of the twins' attentions. His eye caught that of Weasley Sextus; Sextus was white, his freckles stood out like full stops. That didn't bode well, and he shivered.

**

"Potter? Harry?" There was a voice and Potter wished it would go away. He wanted to go back to wherever it was he'd been resting. "Harry?" It came again, and Potter opened his eyes, unwillingly. Weasely Sextus was standing over him. "Are you all right?"

He meant to say 'Yes, Ron,' but all that came out was a groan.

"I told my brother," said Weasley.


Potter tried to sit up, but his right
arm wouldn't hold him and he collapsed back down. "Oh! Ouch!" His voice sounded funny, too.

"Madam Pomfrey says your arm's broken," said Weasley. "She's given you something for it. She says you'll be better by tomorrow." Potter nodded to show he'd understood. "I'm reasorrsorry," said Weasley.

"You couldn't have done anything." Again, Potter's voice came out scratchy. He remembered Lockwood had put something round his neck. "Did he hang me?" he asked.

"Yes. But Wood came along, and stopped him. Hit him really hard." Weasley rather worshipped the Quidditch captain, and it showed. "He said nobody was going to strangle his Seeker. Lockwood said he didn't care what Wood thought, and they had a fight." It must have been a good one if the expression on Weasley's face was anything to go by.

**

"I say," said Weasley Tertius. "I'm sorry I didn't get there quicker. Wood beat me to it, he heard the noise."

"I wish I wasn't so small," said Potter. He was in Weasley Tertius' study, making his tea; only the Head Boy and the Prefects had studies. "Then maybe Lockwood wouldn't choose me."

"If it wasn't that, it would be something. Lockwood's just like that."

"Here's your toast." Potter handed it to him.

"It would help if you didn't burn it," said Weasley, but he didn't sound angry. "Is there jam?"

"Um...yes, a bit. And here's your tea."

"Pour yourself some. And don't take all the jam, you little beasts are all the same." Weasley put his tea on the desk. "Did you miss many lessons?"

"Potions, but Snape was away, Greek and Herbology."

"Make sure you catch up. I talked to Lockwood, but I don't know how much good it'll do. Well, talked is probably the wrong way of putting it as for part of our interview he was facing away from me, at my request."

"Good." Potter brightened a little. The idea that Lockwood had been beaten by a Prefect, like a first or second year, cheered him immensely. On the other hand, "Weasley...?"

"Hmmm?" Weasley had opened his Latin text and was frowning at it.

"About Professor Snape..."

**

Potter came into the Great Hall for breakfast the next day; the first thing he saw was Professor Snape. He stood behind his place until the order was given to sit, but even when they were told they could start to eat he wasn't sure he wanted to. Truth was, Snape terrified him and always had; Potter supposed it was connected with the jolt of pain he'd felt in his scar the very first time he'd ever set eyes on the man.

And yet... Some of the masters - and Filch the caretaker - routinely used cane or strap to enforce discipline. Snape never needed to. As far as Potter could knew he'd never laid a finger on any of the boys, certainly not on him, but he had a way of making any miscreant feel that they would prefer to be in one of his horrible glass jars.

**

The summer passed as slowly as they always did, and nothing happened. Potter wondered if he would be better off with his Uncle and Aunt, but then he remembered his Uncle's cruel belt, his Aunt's disapproval, the silence round the dinner table, the cupboard he'd lived in until he turned eleven.

He knew that however bored he might be, however much he resented spending warm summer mornings learning Latin verb tenses or the many uses of fire lizard brains, it could be worse. There were days - many of them - when he dreamed of discovering he was the son of some foreign prince, and was taken away from this place to live with people who loved and wanted him. But he knew this delightful vision was merely that. A vision. He was Harry Potter who knew nothing about his parents other than that their last name was Potter and whose only living relations wouldn't have him in their home and thought him capable of murder.

He went back to his list of lizard brain uses and substituted his American millionaire fantasy for his foreign prince fantasy. The plot was basically the same, he just changed
the names.


The lesson ended at last, and the class was dismissed. Potter headed towards his dormitory to put away his books, but was stopped suddenly in his tracks. It was Snape. Potter jerked himself out of his dream world and waited.

Snape stared at him for a moment as if assessing him, and then said, "My rooms. Six."

Potter said, "Yes, sir." There was no point pretending he didn't understand.

**

He stopped outside Snape's rooms. They were on a dungeon corridor, dank and dark with just a couple of torches burning. Nobody in the common room had asked where he was going. With Weasley Sextus home for the summer, nobody cared.

Potter remembered that when he'd been sent to school his Uncle had just been about to have electric light installed. He supposed it must have been done by now and he wondered what it was like. Hogwarts didn't even have gas; had been boiling hot outside but the dungeon was freezing. He knocked. Before he could do so a second time the door opened and Snape stood back to let him enter.

He'd never been in Snape's rooms; he'd never been in the private rooms of any of the masters. He looked around, curiously. The study was big, bigger than he had expected. Beyond, through a set of open double doors, he could see a workroom. It was rather like Snape's classroom, which was the other side of the corridor, but somewhat smaller. The study had stone walls lined with shelves, and these were piled with books and scrolls. No potions ingredients, he supposed they must be in the workroom.

Snape was looking at him, brow quirked curiously, but he didn't say anything. He closed the door behind Potter and locked it, casually setting a charm to make sure it stayed locked.

"You know why you're here?" Snape asked.

"You've...chosen...me. Percy... Weasley Tertius... warned me you might."

"He recommended you."

Oh. That was what they had agreed, but it was surprising to be told.

"My rules are quite simple," said Snape. "These are my rooms, and you can come and go as you please. I think you will find that none of the other boys with bother you while you're under my protection but one never knows. In return you will please me to the best of your ability. Understand?"

Potter nodded. Pretty much what he'd had with Percy.

"Be clear on this: I will not be made sport of. If you drag me into any silly jokes or presume too much, I will beat you. Is that acceptable?"

Potter nodded again.

"Is it?"

"What if I say it's not?" Potter asked.

"Then you leave and I choose someone else."

"Oh." Potter had expected to be told that he didn't have a choice. Lockwood had left, but he thought of Barnes and Chalfont, of Malfoy, of Weasley Sextus' two brothers, of Crabbe and Goyle. "Then I accept," he said.

"Yes, the school is rather like that."

Potter must have looked surprised, he'd never thought that any of the masters had noticed the things which went on.

"Don't imagine we are all fools," said Snape. "This way."

Potter followed him through another door, which Snape also shut behind them. This room proved to be dominated by a large four-poster bed with plain dark blue curtains. Potter got a confused impression of comfort and light, and an open fire despite the summer.

Potter felt Snape take him by the arm and turn him round. He looked up into black eyes, and then felt Snape's hands on his shoulders. They slid down to his arms and then to his waist. For a moment he wondered what Snape intended but realised just before their lips touched.

Weasley had never kissed him, but he remembered Weasley Sextus saying that Lockwood was much addicted to it. Potter opened his mouth, remembering what Weasley had said - if Weasley was anything other than completely compliant Lockwood would beat him.

It was...an amazing feeling, and Potter closed his eyes to enjoy it more. He moaned, softly, and raised his arms to put them round Snape's neck. Snape pulled away.
"You are affectionate..." he said.


"Is that bad?" asked Potter, unable to tell from Snape's tone.

"No. Merely unexpected."

Snape manoeuvred him to the bed without breaking contact. Potter pulled away, "Shall I take my clothes off?" he asked. Weasley had always required that he strip himself.

"No," said Snape. "I do that...when I'm ready."

"Oh." They went back to kissing. This was not the tolerant but bored compliance he'd offered Weasley. It was clear to Potter, even through his lust fogged haze, that he was no longer a passive vessel, he was part of this, this was part of him. He felt Snape's hands on his body, wanted them to touch his skin.

"Please..." he murmured.

Snape raised one eyebrow. "Impatient," he said.

"Sorry."

"No need."

He felt Snape's hands at the fastenings of his robes, and breathed in, softly. Snape's hands warmed his flesh, he felt them touch his chest, and rub over his nipples. It made him groan out loud. Snape reached for his glasses and removed them.

"Can I...?"

Snape gave a wordless 'Hm?' of enquiry.

"I want to touch you."

"If you like."

Potter hadn't expected that, Weasley hadn't liked any kind of reciprocation. He watched as Snape stripped wondering what his body would be like. Strong, well kept, smooth but very pale. Snape looked as if he'd never spent a day in sunlight, which was probably not far from the truth. Snape indicated Potter should get into bed; the bed was soft, a wild contrast to the hard cot Potter was used to. Potter held out a hand, and Snape lay on him, warm and heavy. It felt good, incredibly so, both the bed beneath him and the man above. He wasn't used to good feelings and he wriggled closer to get more of it. Snape kissed him again and he moaned, softly.

Potter didn't know what Snape used to open him up. Weasley had always used spit and it wasn't that. Whatever Snape had on his fingers it was very slippery, not greasy but wet and it worked extremely well, which spit hadn't. He yelped in surprise when Snape touched something within him which sent a burst of feeling through his body.

"You like that?" Snape asked.

"Yes... Oh, please. Yes." It happened again, and again, and Potter cried out, a long wordless wail he heard himself give with astonishment. He hadn't thought himself capable of a noise like that. "Oh, please," he said, again.

Snape manoeuvred him so that he was lying on his back with his legs on Snape's shoulders, his body supported on a feather pillow. He looked up at the oddly foreshortened angle of Snape's face, like the statuary with cluttered the corridors of the castle and tried not to smile.

"Don't touch yourself, don't cover your face," Snape said.

Potter nodded and lay on his hands to prevent temptation. He was expecting penetration to be painful, it always had been before. It wasn't. Snape's prick touched that extraordinary place inside him and he felt his mouth fall open. It happened again and he curled his hands into fists under him, feeling the nails dig in. The slight pain kept him centred until Snape took hold of his prick and started to pump it in time with his thrusts. Potter had occasionally done that to himself but no-one had done it to him before and it was quite different.

That was his one coherent thought before pleasure hit him.

**

He opened his eyes to find Snape lying beside him; his expression appeared faintly amused and Potter felt himself blush to the roots of his hair. Potter said, "Did I... was I all right?"

"You did very well."

"Oh, good."

"I wish you were that talented with Potions - but I suppose we can't have everything."

Potter sighed. He had wondered if part of their bargain would be trying harder at his most hated subject. What he said was, "Can I stay?"

"Of course. I said you can come and go as you please."

"Can I ask you something?"

"If you wish. What do you want to know?"

"Do... do all the masters have boys
like me?"


"Most of them. Why?" Snape sounded a little surprised.

"Just wondered. The Headmaster, too?"

"Yes," said Snape. "His is Diggory."

Potter thought for a moment. Yes, he remembered. Hufflepuff prefect, doe eyed with perfect skin.

"Professor McGonagall?"

Snape's brow creased slightly. "Yes, his is Shaunessy," he said. Potter recalled a very elegant blue-eyed Ravenclaw with golden hair. Snape went on, "McGonagall's always had very good taste."

"Professor Black?" Secretly, Potter rather fancied Professor Black.

"Actually, no. He's entirely taken up with Mr Lupin, so obviously Lupin doesn't have one either." Snape paused, then said, "Black and Lupin are rather strange, and I advise you to steer clear of them."

"Oh." Potter lay back and closed his eyes. He moved closer in the bed to the warmth of Snape's body. He didn't open his eyes so he couldn't be entirely sure if he was right, but the movement next to him felt like surprise.

**

The day term started again, he found Weasley Sextus waiting for him in the Gryffindor common room. "Where have you been?" Weasley asked. "I got back ages ago."

Potter looked around. "Come up to the dormitory."

"We're not supposed to be up there during the day."

"First day - nobody's looking."

"Very well." Weasley followed him up the stairs. "What is it?" he said, as soon as they were alone.

"You know some of the masters have... boys."

"Yes, maidens they call them. Perce told me."

Potter took a deep breath. "I'm Snape's."

Weasley looked round-eyed. "Malfoy's going to hate that. He was sure Snape was going to choose him."

"What made him think that? Housemasters never choose boys in their own house."

"You know what Malfoy's like, thinks the rules don't apply to him. Stuck up little snot." Weasley grinned. "It's a good move, Potter, the masters can give you a leg up. You should have made it the Headmaster, though. I've got news, too."

"What?"

"I've got a girlfriend."

"Ron!" Potter paused. "Honestly?"

"Yes, honestly. Her name's Hermione Granger and she goes to Hogwarts girls - you know, our sister school that the Headmaster talks about sometimes. She's very clever."

"Is she pretty?" Potter knew no girls, only to be expected shut up in a boys' school all year round, and he was curious.

"Very. I got a picture, look."

Potter took the photo. The girl had a lot of fluffy hair and rather large teeth, but she did look pretty.

"I've even kissed her," said Weasley, proudly. "She said I was a really good kisser." He stopped. "Mind you, I should be after all the practise I had with Lockwood. Does Snape kiss you?"

"Yes."

"Ugh! That must be..."

"I... It's rather nice. I don't mind."

"Potter, I've always thought you were strange, but now I know you are." Weasley sounded quite proud of the fact. "Come on, we best get out of here before someone finds us."

**

The first evening of term started with a feast; it was one of the few meals where they were allowed to talk, and the noise was ear-splitting. Potter had moved up the Gryffindor table to the fourth years position, and had taken the opportunity to sit where he could see Snape. Snape's attention was entirely taken up with Professor Black sitting on his right hand side and it was some time before he noticed. As soon as he'd been seen Potter gave him a half smile and then looked away. Weasley made a moue and Potter grinned but shook his head. The rest of the fourth year boys - the ones who noticed - looked perplexed. Potter looked at Snape again; the man looked grim and he looked down at his plate. The food was better than normal, but suddenly he wasn't hungry.

**

Potter entered Snape's rooms, not allowing himself to slow down. Snape was sitting behind his desk, writing. "It's you," he said, almost as if he expeexpected it to be someone else.

"Er... Yes," said Potter. He closed the

door behind him, locked it, and set the spell. "I thought I'd get it over with."

Snape put the pen down. "It should really be Weasley, he was the one trying to be funny. I trust you will make it clear to him what his little display cost you."

That didn't sound good and Potter stayed silent.

"Go into the bedroom and undress. Then come back here."

Potter obeyed. When he got back to the study he found that the desk had been cleared of all objects and papers.

"Now bend over the desk. Yes, but put your head on your hands and open your legs a little wider. Remember that, Potter. In future I will expect you to automatically take the correct position."

It was cold and Potter shivered a little while he waited for the first blow. When it came it was a shock, harsh and heavy, more so than the occasional beating he'd been given by the prefects and that once by Professor Sinistra for dropping his astrolabe. He was given eight, exactly the same as the first. Potter hadn't seen what he was using, but it felt like the strap Uncle Vernon had always used.

He stood up when Snape indicated he could. To his surprise, the expression in the man's eyes wasn't triumph, or sorrow, or even lust. It was respect. Potter looked down, he could feel tears threatening; he was afraid Snape would think it was at the beating.

Snape said, "Go to bed, Potter."

"May I stay here?"

Snape looked surprised. "If you wish," he said.

Potter had been asleep, but he woke up as he felt Snape get into bed. He sighed and moved closer, and Snape pulled him into his arms.

Snape said, "You're a brave boy."

"Been beaten before," protested Potter. "You're different though. You like me. Nobody else likes me enough to give me rules."

Just before he slipped into sleep Potter distinctly heard Snape say, "You are the oddest boy," in a soft, wondering voice.

**

Potter just made it to breakfast on time, and then he had to collect his books. Transfiguration was over before they could talk.

Weasley said, "You were with him, weren't you?"

"Yes," said Potter. "Ron, please, you mustn't draw our... what I am to him to anyone's attention, not in public. Ever. He doesn't like it."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll show you. Come on." They ducked into a lavatory, and Potter locked the door behind them. "Ready?" He picked up his robe and turned round. "Look."

"Harry!" Weasley rarely used his given name, and that he did so now was enough to indicate his horror. "He did that to you?"

"Is it bad?"

"Quite bad, yes. You could go and see Pomfrey." Weasley reached out and touched it.

"No!"

"Did that hurt? Sorry."

"It's not that. I don't want to show this to Madam Pomfrey - what'll she think?"

"That one of the masters has beaten his boy again. My eldest brother was Sprout's, Bill told me he used to take what Sprout did to him to Pomfrey all the time."

"Well, I don't want her to see this." Potter sighed, "I don't want her to think Snape's cruel."

"But he is."

"No. I disobeyed, and he beat me. It's what we agreed. Besides, I've had worse from my Uncle."

Weasley looked even more horrified.

"Ron! I can stop this any time I want to. But if I go to him it's on his terms."

"What about yours?"

"What about them?"

**

Potter had always known Malfoy loathed him, but didn't understand why. After all, what did he have that Malfoy, with his wealthy family, could envy? Or, at least, there had been nothing until now. Now there was... what he was... to Professor Snape.

Luckily Gryffindors had only two subjects with the Slytherins. Less fortunately these were Care of Magical Creatures with the gamekeeper and Potions under the eye of Professor Snape himself. Care of Magical Creatures was a misfortune because though Hagrid tried hard he simply wasn't a very talented teacher, and the nature of the class meant that there was ample opportunity for Malfoy to

hiss obscenities. Potter was sure Hagrid heard a few, but other than a creased brow he said nothing.

Care of Magical Creatures was their last class of the day on Tuesday, and when he'd dismissed the rest Hagrid invited Potter and Weasley to his cabin for a cup of tea. Thankful to see the back of the Slytherins, they went.

Hagrid handed them their tea, and passed round little chocolate cakes in paper which made a change from the rock cakes he'd plied them with last year. Potter bit into one. They were not much nicer, he decided, chewing determinedly, but they were sweet and he ate sweet things so rarely perhaps he wasn't much of a judge. Still, it was extra food and that was good.

"What's got into you and Malfoy?" Hagrid asked.

"What do you mean?"

"If he'd said them things last year you'd have knocked his block off. So what's got into him that he's saying 'em now and why are you letting him?"

Potter sighed. Was he going to have to tell everyone? He exchanged glances with Weasley. He said, "Promise you won't interfere?"

"You know me."

Potter did, which was why he'd asked. "I'm... Malfoy's jealous."

"What's he got to be jealous of you about?" Hagrid looked pointedly at Potter's rather ragged old robe.

"Professor Snape."

For a moment Hagrid looked blank. Then he said, "Oh." And then, "I get it." He took a swallow of tea. "Look," then he sighed, which from him was a gust of wind indeed. "I'll make no secret of it. I don't like what goes on in this here school and if I hadn't made a promise to someone who's dead, I wouldn't stay. I'd rather Snape had Malfoy instead of you - you're a good lad."

"Snape's... not bad. Really. I don't mind."

"You shouldn't have to."

"I don't have to." Potter spoke more sharply than he intended. "If I went to him tomorrow and said I wanted to stop he'd let me. But if I did I don't think he'd choose Malfoy. He'd pick Weasley here before he chose Malfoy."

Weasley sprayed tea over the table. "You won't, will you?" he said when he'd stopped choking. "Finish with him, I mean."

"When hell freezes over, Ron. You can rest easy."

"You mean that, don't you?" Weasley said, when they were on their way back up to the school.

"I'm afraid I do."

**

Potions was pure torture. Potter chose a place as far from the Slytherins as he could get short of being in another room and tried to concentrate on his own work. Weasley changed places to stand beside him. Potter saw Snape note the new seating arrangements, but he made no comment.

In class Snape seemed to favour the Slytherins as he always had; however he made no mention whatsoever of the condition of Potter and Weasley's over-thickened Bouncing Broth. Instead he pounced on Longbottom's, which was far too runny. Longbottom's eyes slid towards Potter as if begging him for help, and Potter gave him a smile, the best he could do in the circumstances.

As they crossed the courtyard Longbottom caught up with them. "How do you stand him?" he asked.

"Does the whole school have to know?" said Potter, quiet but very fierce.

"I share your dormitory - when you sleep there, which isn't often." Longbottom lowered his voice, "Keep him happier, maybe he'd lay off a bit."

"I doubt it," said Potter.

"Well try."

"Go fuck your mother," said Weasley.

"Can't," said Longbottom. "She's in an asylum."

Potter and Weasley exchanged glances as they watched Longbottom go. "Did you know about that?" asked Weasley.

"First I've heard of it," said Potter. He scratched his chin. "Explains a lot, though."

**

Mr Lupin always looked so tired, thought Potter, watching him over a tank containing a grindylow. He taught Dark Arts, mostly concentrating on dark creatures. Potter got good marks, always, but he didn't like the classes. For some reason they frightened him.

Mr Lupin leaned against the teachers' lectern and went on, "And that brings us to werewolves. If you

recall - and I'm sure most of you don't - I asked you to prepare this lesson last week."

One of the boys put in, "How are you going to catch one of them, sir?" There was a general laugh.

"I don't need to, Thomas," said Lupin. "I am one."

Potter laughed, he couldn't help it, and Lupin's eyes went cold. Potter swallowed. Lupin said, "See me after class." He then went on, "Turn to page 374 in your texts. Now, who can tell me how the werewolf can be recognised when in wolf form?" He waited. "Come on! I can't transform at will, unfortunately. So you're going to have to tell me from the text. Unless of course one of you did your prep."

Potter raised his hand.

"Yes, Potter?"

"Sir, the snout of the werewolf..." He had prepared the lesson. If nothing else, Snape made sure his whore didn't let him down in class.

Lupin looked pleased in a Lupinish way, which mean simply that he looked momentarily less tired. "Good, Potter," he said. He was one of the few masters who ever handed out praise of any kind.

In fact, Potter tht, ht, now that Lupin's attention had moved on, the masters were a miserable lot; the Headmaster dressed in grey, with skin and hair to match - he didn't envy Diggory his place in the man's bed. McGonagall looked like a disappointed Scottish poet, all bones and nose. Professor Black had a vampiric look with eyes the colour of a stormy day. Hooch looked like a moulting vulture, Sprout was moulding and Snape looked like the personification of misery most of the time. In his case, looks didn't lie and Potter was surprised that even Malfoy envied him - unless he was after Potter's new clothes, which didn't seem likely.

Longbottom wanted to ask Mr Lupin a question, so Potter hung back. Lupin was always exquisitely dressed, but today's robe, bronze and black with a dull sheen, was quite the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen the man wear. His own new robes looked the same dull b as as all the others, it was only in touching or wearing them that the differences became apparent, the feel of the cloth, the way it swung around him.

With Longbottom gone, Lupin turned to him. "Potter," he said, and sighed. He picked up a quill and wrote something on a sheet of parchment, then sealed it. "Give this to Professor Snape."

Potter took it. "I'm sorry," he said. "I wasn't laughing at you."

Lupin looked curious. "Do go on; what did you find so amusing?"

"They all looked so surprised. As if you'd hit them over the head with something."

Lupin smiled, "They did, didn't they?" Then he sobered. "Try to control your inappropriate sense of humour, Potter."

"Sir."

**

Snape looked up as he came in, but went back to writing as soon as he closed the door. "You're earlier than usual," Snape said.

"Finished my essay. I went to the common room but Quartus and Quintus were there setting light to the curtains. So we had a fight and they threw me out. I've got a note for you from Lupin."

"Oh, I see," said Snape. He took the note and read it. "Were you insolent?"

"I'm afraid I was, rather. I've apologised."

"So I should hope. He is after all a master here." Snape picked up a quill and wrote swiftly. As he did so he said, "Take this back to him. I've asked him to find some suitable punishment for you. I shall be interested to hear what he comes up with."

"You hate him," said Potter. "Don't you?"

"He's an inadequate, both as a teacher and as a person. But no, I don't hate him." Snape handed Potter the note, and took up his quill again.

"What are you doing?" Potter didn't want to talk about his own troubles.

"Writing reports."

"For our families?"

"The Ministry."

Potter was surprised. "Why?"

"The Ministry keeps tabs on everyone, Potter."

"You too?"

"Everyone. Except for the Dark Lord himself, I would imagine he's immune. But yes, me too."

"Who writes the report on you?" Potter strolled over and leaned

against the desk.
"The Headmaster... Malfoy's father. Lupin."

"Is that why you suck up to Malfoy and hate Lupin?"

"I should never have encouraged you to ask questions," said Snape.

The truth was that fights always left Potter feeling restless and uncomfortable. He asked, "Did you know Lupin's a werewolfh, yh, you did. Is that why you told me to stay away from him?"

"I... No that isn't the reason."

"Because he's a Ministry spy, then?" Potter strolled over to the bookshelves and looked at the titles.

"Partly, but not exactly. Why are we talking about him?"

Potter wasn't listening. "I'm curious," he said. "Do you know of a potion which will make scars go away?"

"Depends on the scar."

Potter turned around. "This one on my head. I'm sick of it. Quintus calls me scarhead, like I wanted it. And... Sometimes it hurts for no reason. I want it to stop."

"Let me see."

Potter went to him, felt the soft fingers trace the curiously shaped mark which came from just under his hairline to just over one eye, forking over his forehead like lightning.

"How long have you had it?"

"I've always had it. My Aunt Petunia told me I had it when they found me. I mean... found me sounds like they came across me abandoned at a railway station or something like that."

"So what did happen?"

"Some man left me at a workhouse with a letter saying who my relatives were. Nothing else.
So Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had to pay to get me back and things went downhill from there. I was only a baby, so I don't remember anything about it." He waited for a little longer and then asked, "What about the scar?"

"I'm not sure."

"But what do you think? Can you remove it?"

"I don't think so. I'm sorry."

Potter leaned against Snape, resting his forehead on one shoulder. "Thought not. Never mind." He sighed. "Will you... Will you fuck me?" He had never asked before.

"If you like." Snape sounded surprisingly unsurprised.

"I just want to not think for a while. Being fucked is good for that. Better than Quidditch, even."

"I was never that good at Quidditch anyway," sSnapSnape.

Potter kissed him. "But you fuck like a demon," he said.

**

Quartus and Quintus were waiting for him next time he went to the common room, "Sorry we hit you," said Quintus.

"Oh?" Potter was immediately suspicious, it wasn't like them to apologise. Whatever they had done they were usually supremely indifferent.

"Yes," said Quartus. "Very."

"What do you want?" Potter asked, wary.

"Why should we want anything? We're just sorry we beat up an old friend-"

"We have never been friends," said Potter. "Ron is my friend. What do you want?"

"There was something-"

"How did I guess? Well? What do you want me to steal from Snape's stores?"

"Bright boy!" said Quintus.

"Not really. So far I've had five Slytherins, two Hufflepuffs and a Ravenclaw ask me the same. Mostly for hemp - they smoke it - but one of the Slytherins wanted powdered dragon shit. Merlin knows what sort of hangover that would have given him. So? What are you two after?"

Quintus produced a slip of parchment. "This," he said.

Potter took it and read down the list. "Not bloody likely," he said. "This stuff's dangerous, I should think. Manticore teeth, yeti fur...ugh!...scrotum of pantire demon." He rolled up the scrap of parchment. "I think not."

"You did it for the others."

"Did I say that?" Potter looked them up and down. "I'd have to be insane to steal from Snape. You want this, you get it."

"We'll tell... about you and him."

"Please do. If you can find someone who doesn't already know." Potter turned on his heel and went up the stairs to the dormitory.

Weasley Sextus looked surprised to see him. "You all right?"

"Yes, why wouldn't I be?" Potter grinned, "Your brothers tried to

blackmail me."

"Shits," said Weasley. "Both of them. How's Snape?"

Potter answered the unasked question first. "Gone off somewhere for the night. Otherwise he's tall, dark and brooding, same as always." Potter looked down and noticed he'd still got the scrap of parchment. He sat on the bed and dropped it into a drawer, he'd give it back to them later. Slowly, he unfastened his robe. He could sleep in Snape's bed, but somehow didn't like to when Snape wasn't there, and anyway he'd wanted to talk to Weasley.

"What is your... underwear... made of?" Weasley asked, then looked embarrassed to have been caught watching.

Potter looked down at his under robe. "Silk," he said.

"Black silk? And your drawers as well?"

"Snape's got a fancy for it." He saw Wea's 's smirk. "Ron! I can't tell you what goes on in his mind, I just have to wear it."

"Looks good. Wonder if I can get Hermione some when I marry her." Weasley lay back.

"I didn't know you were that serious."

"I think so. Besides I don't know any other girls. Does Snape buy all your clothes?"

"Yes."

"Explains a lot."

Potter smiled, briefly. "Explains why I don't go around in rags any more, you mean."

"D'you think he'd buy me some?"

"Offer to suck his cock for him and find out."

"You don't! Do you? With him?" Weasley sounded horrified.

"Of course I do. Didn't Lockwmakemake you?"

"No!"

"No? Percy didn't much care for it, either. But Snape... he's different. I don't mind."

"But he's so... Greasy."

"Is he?" Potter didn't think of Snape in those terms. He got into bed and stared up into the darkness. "Where are the other three?" Belatedly Potter had realised he and Weasley were alone in the dormitory.

"Detention. Longbottom knocked over one of the suits of armour and a poleaxe hit Professor Vector. So he's taken them up to the top of the astronomy tower. Finnegan's with them because he laughed and because Vector's trying to get his hand up Finnegan's robe, which is also why it's detention and not a beating, and Thomas because he was just... well... there."

"Oh, right."

Silence for a short while, then Potter said, "Ron... did you know they used to teach Divination here?"

"No, what would be the point of that? Anyway, how did you find out?"

"Snape's got a copy - an original copy not the version that's in the library - of 'Hogwarts, A History' in his study. It was in there. And there used to be girls, it wasn't always two separate schools."

"Weird. Anything else?"

"It wasn't always under direct Ministry control. The Headmaster used to be able to decide what to teach."

"Boring"

"I suppose so." Potter closed his eyes. It was odd, though.

**

Professor Black fixed the class with his peculiar pale stare. "Curses," he said, "are the province of executioners, inquisitors and the Dark Lord himself. However, it is important that you know them, or know of them, know how they work and can use them should the Dark Lord require you to participate in his Great Work. I therefore have to teach them to you."

Potter swallowed, suddenly afraid, though he didn't know what of.

Professor Black produced a box and from inside it he pulled a white mouse. This he placed on the table, were it stood for a moment seemingly too surprised to move. He pointed his wand at it and said, "Crucio!" His voice was harsh, strange. The mouse, which had started to move, stopped, its spine bent backwards in a bow, and it uttered a thin scream. Potter swallowed, he felt sick. After a few moments Black lowered his wand. The mouse collapsed, its tiny chest heaving rapidly. "That is the Cruciatus curse. Any volunteers?" said Black.

One or two of the boys smiled, but Potter realised that he wasn't joking. "No?" he said. "Longbottom."LongLongbottom looked up. He'd gone white. "Crucio!" said Black. He only held Longbottom there for a few seconds, but it was long enough for
him to faint. "Enverate!"d Bld Black, his tone almost bored. "Now you try - on the mice, not each other."

Potter was sure he was going to be sick. They'd cut up live slugs for Potions, but it was hard to feel sorry for a slug. This was different. His hand shook slightly as he raised his wand. "Crucio!" The mouse he'd chosen looked at him, and continued to clean its whiskers, quite unconcerned. "Crucio!" he said, louder. The mouse scampered to the edge of the desk, down the leg and away.

"It's not how loud you say it." Black was watching him.

Potter thought perhaps he should be annoyed that the mouse had got away, but all he could feel was relief. "Sir?" he asked. "Can I...?"

"Have a new mouse?" said Black. "No you may not, mice cost money. Longbottom! Stop making such a fuss, it was only pain."

Black returned to the teachers' lectern and produced another mouse from the box. He held it up by the tail. "Perhaps the easiest of this group of curses is Avada Kedavra, the killing curse." Black put the mouse on the table and raised his wand. Potter saw him take a deep breath, and wondered why.

Black let go of the mouse and said, "Avada Kedavra!" There was a roar, a flash of green light, and the mouse lay on its side, dead. "Simple, eh? And nobody has ever survived it."

Potter swallowed hard on the bile which rose in his throat. Please, he thought; though what he was asking for he couldn't have said. The mouse he was given struggled against his hand as he carried it to his desk. He raised his wand and pointe at at the mouse, "Avada Kedavra." To Potter's immense gratitude, nothing happened. A quick look round confirmed that the others were having as little success as he was. Seeing Black's eyes on him, he concentrated a little harder, and there was a moment, like a click in his mind. "Avada Kedavra," he said. It was a strange feeling, the end of his wand lit with a green glow where he'd expected a flash, and he could hear nothing. The mouse shivered once, and collapsed. Potter's hand shook as he touched the mouse with his finger. He looked up into Black's cold, pale eyes.

Once again, Potter swallowed bile, he couldn't tell if Black's stare was approving or not, though he said, "Well done, Potter." Weasley's escaping mouse ran over Potter's foot, which distracted his attention.

"Bugger!" said Weasley.

"See me later," said Black. "I won't have language like that in my classroom,"

"Sorry, sir." Weasley went a trifle pale.

Potter had been the only one to successfully kill his mouse, and Black disposed of the body by matter of factly dropping it out of the window onto the flower bed below. He returned to the teachers' lectern. "And finally," he said into the expectant silence. "The Imperius curse; probably the most difficult." He pointed his wand at Finnegan. "Imperio."

Finnegan's expression went quite slack, and his eyes glazed over. He jumped on the desk and made a noise like a chicken. Everyone laughed. Black pointed his wand at Longbottom, who turned cartwheels round the room - something he could not possibly have done in his normal condition.

Potter saw the wand turn to him and his hands went cold. His mind was suddenly filled with a quiet peace; all he had to do was obey the voice in his head and all would be well. He stood slowly. 'Kneel' the voice said. Another thought intruded, 'But why?' Neither of them sounded like him, and he was confused. 'It would be better' said the first voice. 'Why would it?' said the second. Now he concentrated, the second voice sounded rather like Snape. He sat back down, head between his knees. He was cold and suddenly very tired.

Black's voice broke in, his real one, not the one in Potter's head. "You can resist it." He sounded surprised, insofar as Potter could tell.

Potter looked around the room, which was in complete chaos. Black nodded to him, and Potter said, "Finate Incantatem." At once, the noise stopped.

"Good," said Black. "Now you have
to try to cast it."

The class left Potter shaking with nerves. He went to the masters' desk afterwards and Professor Black stared at hi"Wh"What do you want?"

"I've a note for Mr Lupin from Professor Snape."

"Oh." Black held his hand out.

"It is for Mr Lupin."

"Don't waste my time, Potter." Potter handed it over, and Professor Black casually broke the seal. Potter stared in astonishment. Black said, "Anything else?"

"No, sir." Potter went.

**

The Gryffindor common room was busy; Potter noticed Barnes and Chalfont had got the little first year, Creevey, standing close to the fire. He could remember two fifth years - Lockwood and Latimer, doing that to him in his first year, the aim was to see how long they would make him stand there before his robe caught fire. Creevey looked terrified, as well he might. The burns could be cured in seconds, but that didn't stop them hurting like hell first. He strolled over, looking on.

"What do you want?" Barnes asked.

"A word with Creevey," said Potter. "Is that a problem?"

"What'll you do if I tell you to fuck off and die?"

Potter produced his wand and twirled it thoughtfully. He pointed it at Barnes and said, "Imperius!" Barnes face went slack, and his eyes glazed over. "Go jump in the lake." Barnes stood up and walked to the portrait hole. Potter took a deep breath, calming himself. He felt suddenly as if he was ten feet tall. He wanted to do this, wanted to see how far Barnes would go, and at the same time he was ashamed, more so than he had ever been in his life. The whole common room was silent, watching them. "Stop!" said Potter. "Finate Incantatem."

Barnes stared at him. "What... You..."

"Didn't like it, did you?" said Potter. "Leave Creevey alone or I will make you jump in the lake - and I hope the squid eats you." He took Creevey by the arm, noting with some alarm, that the boy had a worshipping expression on his face. He heard Barnes mutter something about Potter not being there all the time.

"That was amazing!" said Creevey. "Could you make him do anything?"

"Yes."

"Drown himself? Cut his own throat?"

"Yes."

"Can you teach me?"

"No." That at least he was sure of. He wasn't even quite sure how he'd made the curse work when all the other times he'd tried had been such abysmal failures. "You'll have to wait until you get to it in class. I... I shouldn't have done it. If anyone hears about it there will be trouble." He paused and sat down beside Creevey. "Who do you fag for?"

"Chalfont." Creevey's eyes darted across the common room where Barnes and Chalfont were deep in conversation.

"What ican can get it changed?"

"To you?" Creevey looked hopeful.

"I'm a fourth year. We don't have fags. I was thinking perhaps of Weasley Quintus."

"Nearly as bad."

"But not quite. And anyway, there's a favour he wants me to do for him."

Creevey thought about it. "It would be a bit better."

"Good," said Potter. And then less enthusiastically, "Good."

**

It took him a little time to find the twins, they were holed up in a strange room in one of the towers. To Potter's surprise Weasley Sextus was with them - but he realised that what with prep, Quidditch and Snape he wasn't around a lot of the time. The three of them looked equally surprised to see him.

He pulled himself properly into the room and looked round. "What is this place?" It was larger than he had expected and full of soft chairs.

"Don't know," said Quintus. "We found it a couple of years ago and tidied it up a bit."

Only a bit, thought Potter. It was still dusty and full of hangings and cobwebs. "Nice place," he said. "Useful."

"So, why are you here?" said Quintus.

"You know that thing you asked me to do?" His eyes flicked to Sextus.

"Yes."

"If I help you, will you take Creevey on as a fag?"

"Why would you want us to?
Horrible snivelling brat hasn't stopped crying since he got here."

"Chalfont's going to kill him unless someone does something soon."

"I heard he and Barnes had been toasting him. Did you really put the Imperius curse on Barnes?"

"Yes. But don't tell anyone."

"Too late. Half the school knows," said Quintus. "Well, not the masters of course."

Potter dropped into one of the chairs. "Let's hope Malfoy never finds out. He'd be off to the masters with that little titbit right away."

Quintus looked at Potter, curiously. "So, when do you think you can get us the stuff, then?"

"It won't be as easy as that. I said I'd help, but if I take it Snape'll know it was me. I'm the only one who goes in the workroom where he keeps that kind of thing."

"Only one who'd want to," muttered Sextus.

"Exactly," said Potter. "And I want it done so that he doesn't even suspect me."

"Scared of him?" said Quintus.

"Wouldn't you be?"

"Very well, it has to be done so that no blame attaches to you. That's not going to be easy."

Potter stared at him. "I never said it would be."

Weasley Sextus shifted in his seat, then he said, "Wednesday afternoon."

Potter looked at him. "What?"

"Wednesday last thing we have double potions. Last three weeks you've stayed behind so Snape can shag you."

Potter felt himself flush. "Yes. But I don't see what good that does us. The first thing that happens is that he locks the door."

"Is it always him, or do you lock it sometimes? You're pretty good with locking spells, nobody's been able to open your trunk for about two years."

"Sometimes I do, yes. But I still don't see where that gets us.""An"And he always takes you to his rooms?"

"Yes. Well, mostly."

"Good." Weasley Sextus looat tat the three of them. "Look you dunderheads," he went on. "When Snape takes Potter into his room all he's got to do is appear to lock the door without actually doing so."

"Yes..." began Quintus.

"Does he always go to the bedroom."

"We don't always get that far."

"Well, make sure you do on Wednesday. Oh, and it might be best if you can get him so worked up that the question of locking the door doesn't arise. Less blame for you. Has that happened?"

"Yes, a couple of times." Potter felt sure his face must be scarlet by now.

"You'd never guess it to look at him, would you?" said Weasley Sextus. "So, when you and he are safely in the bedroom these two sneak in and take what they need. Is the stuff labelled?"

"I've never looked." Potions really were not Potter'sng. ng.

"Check and let us know."

"Er..." Quintus started, thought about it and decided to go on. "How will we know how long we've got?"

"You'll know when he's done," said Potter.

"How?"

"Take it from me, you'll know."

**

Lupin called Potter back just as he was about to leave Dark Arts on Monday, and he wondered for a moment why. Then he remembered Snape's note. "Sir?" he said.

"Meet me in the Trophy Room after dinner."

Potter was startled, he'd expected a beating, but what he said was, "Yes, sir."

**

Lupin was waiting for him; Potter had seen him leave the staff table a few minutes before and knew he hadn't much time. He hadn't missed, either, the look of deep dislike Snape had sent Lupin's way as he left, or Black's considering stare.

Lupin lit the lamps in the trophy room with a wave of his hand, and Potter looked around. He'd never been in thiace ace before, and it was immense, with tall glass cabinets every few feet.

"What have I got to do?" Potter asked.

"Clean the trophies, or as many as you can between now and lights out. If I think you're slacking, though, you'll come back until you finish them all. Here's polish and rags," Lupin produced a wickaskeasket from under the table. "No magic."

"Oh. Right." The work didn't bother Potter, but the waste of his time
grated. Luckily he knew what to do, his Uncle Vernon had had him clean the trophies in his gun room several times before he came to Hogwarts.

"Are you waiting for an invitation?" said Lupin. "Get on with it."

"Right." Potter went to the nearest cabinet and pulled out cups and shields at random. "I didn't know there were so many," he said. "I've only ever seen two awarded, the House cup and the Quidditch cup."

"It is a bit of a surprise, isn't it?" said Lupin. He sat down at the table and produced a very large, dusty book and opened it.

Potter took the hint and worked in silence.

After about an hour he heard Lupin say, "Potter?" He looked up to find a tray of tea and biscuits. Lupin smiled, gently. "Would you like some tea?"

"Thanks. How did you do that?"

"It's a useful little spell - I can teach it to you, if you like."

"Thank you."

Lupin demonstrated. Pottrasprasped it quickly enough and soon they were surrounded by tea trays - which Lupin dismissed with a wave of his hand, leaving just the original tray. He poured out.

"Sir?"

"Yes?" Lupin handed Potter his tea.

"Why don't you use a wand? Everyone else does." A look of grief crossed Lupin's face and Potter said, "I'm sorry. That was rude of me. Again."

"Not really," said Lupin. "You can't know. I had my wand taken away; werewolves were reclassified by the Ministry as beasts just after I left Hogwarts." His face twisted. "Beasts aren't permitted wands."

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"Most people were pleased."

"But you can still do magic?"

Lupin smiled, "Not as much as I could with a wand, some spells require it, but yes. More than most wizards could because I'm used to working without."

"I see. What's it like being a werewolf?"

"Horrible," said Lupin, lightly. "I advise against it."

Potter smiled back, "I expect it hurts."

"Very much so. More than you can imagine, probably."

Potter thought of Colin Creevey and that brought back memories of the fire. He shuddered. Lupin went back to reading his large book.

"Oh," said Potter suddenly. "Here's someone with my name."

"What?"

"James Potter."

"Is your name James Potter?" Lupin looked at him, curious.

"Harold James, actually, but I don't tell people about the Harold part, I tell them it's Harry."

"Why?"

"Because it's a stupid name."

"Obviously your parents didn't think so. More tea?"

"Yes, please." Potter paused, then said, "Who cares what they thought? I mean, they both died and left me."

"I don't think they had a choice about that."

"What do you know?" Potter thought he saw a glimpse of something in Lupin's eyes, and suddenly the old pain was back as if it had never gone away.

Lupin asked, "May I see the trophy?" Potter threw it across the table, scratching the top. Lupin picked it up without speaking. He looked at Potter, then at the trophy, then at Potter again. "I don't know why I didn't see it before," said Lupin. "How very dense of me."

"What?"

"This James Potter... He's...he was...your father. I think."

"You knew him?"

"Yes. I was at school with him. Here, at Hogwarts. I didn't know him well, I was mostly kept apart from the other boys, but I saw him fly in matches. He was good - I've heard you are, too."

"You should come to a match, then you'd be able to tell me."

"I can't. Werewolves aren't allowed." Lupin sighed, "Better get on."

Potter grinned at him, hoping to lighten the mood, "Do you get extra money for this?"

"No," Lupin shook his head, and Potter saw the silver in his hair catch the light. "I don't get paid, so there's no question of overtime."

"Who owns you?" Potter asked, after a moment's silence.

Lupin frowned.

"It was in the book," said Potter. "Ordinance for the Control of Werewolves - all werewolves are someone's property."

"You did do your prep properly, didn't you?"

"Snape was busy that night."

"It's Professor Black. And I have the papers to prove it." Lupin reached into a pocket in his robe and produced a card.

'Remus Lupin,' Potter read. 'Property of Professor Sirius Black, Hogwarts Boys' School.' He handed it back. "That's...creepy," he said. "I thought it might be him when he opened Snape's note. Is he horrible?"

"Not compared to some of the alternatives."

"So, he is horrible."

"No, he isn't. I wouldn't want you to think that. He's really very kind to me. There are a lot of things I hate about my life, but he is as powerless to stop them as I am."

"Like what?"

"I imagined Professor Snape told you."

"He's just said you're weird and I'm to stay away from you."

Lupin looked at him, considering. Then he said, "He's right on both counts, but then I would have said the same about him. All right, I'll tell you. I am an executioner for the Dark Lord."

Potter's jaw dropped.

"I thought that might surprise you," said Lupin.

"But you're so nice!"

Lupin blushed and looked d

"You're the decentest master in this school. You... How?"

"The Dark Lord sends for me," Lupin's voice was just above a whisper. "Every full moon. He lets one of his prisoners loose in a forest near London; it's very well warded, there's no chance of anyone getting free. He tells the prisoner that if they can evade me, he'll let them go." Potter saw Lupin swallow, he was pale as death. "No-one ever has. Not... Not yet, anyway."

"Did you kill my parents?"

Lupin looked up. "No!" he said. Then added, "Something to be grateful for."

"So who did?"

"The Dark Lord did it himself." The lines in Lupin's face looked harsh, deep. "It's something you should be proud of, that your parents were considered that much of a threat." He stopped. "Lights out in ten minutes, we'd better clear up and go. Filch will be wanting his polish back."

**



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