Carcroft chuckled from down the table and Albus looked up at him. "He was on the front steps this morning with a toy wind drake and mer-man. They were having a battle."
"My," Minerva said with a smile, "he's going to spoil him with all the new things he's bought for him lately. Who would have thought?"
"What has he purchased?" Albus asked, curious.
"Clothes, shoes, toys, furniture... I don't know what else. I know he got Harry a haircut. I almost didn't recognize him. He certainly looks a lot different than he did the night he showed up in those threadbare clothes. It's almost like he's an entirely different boy!"
At that moment Harry came into the hall, the blue wind drake in his hand, and the 'prince' sticking out of his back pocket. He smiled at the three staff seated at one of the long student tables and then joined them.
"What have you got there Harry?" Albus asked, and Harry set his wind drake down. He pulled out the prince and the mer-man.
"This is Casadth and Prince Aki."
"Oh," Carcroft said. "The story of the wind drake and the prince."
"Mr. Blackwood let me borrow it from the school." Harry began putting food onto his plate, but before he started eating he put Prince Aki on top of Casadth and set the mer-man before them as if they were about to fight.
"I heard you got a lot of toys," Albus said when Harry had eaten half of his sandwich.
"Severus said I needed a Quaffle because the other children would be playing Quidditch during free-time. And I got a big box of magic bricks. I built an underwater castle in my room for the mer-people. It's blue and everything."
The adults smiled and chuckled and allowed Harry to finish his sandwich.
"You got a haircut as well," Minerva commented when he'd finished and had picked up the wind drake and prince again.
"My dad used to wear his hair like this," Harry said. "The fastest barber in the world cut it for me yesterday." Harry bade them goodbye and then disappeared into the rest of the castle, presumably to continue his epic battle between the novel characters. The three professors looked at each other, and couldn't help but to be impressed by the way Severus seemed to have been taking care of Harry thus far.
* * *
"Why do I have to stay so close to the castle steps?" Harry asked Severus one morning after breakfast.
"So I know where to find you if I need to."
"I assume you have a reason for asking." Severus was learning rather quickly that Harry did not like to ask for what he wanted or needed, and he was having to become intuitive to the different intonations of his voice when he spoke, or to mannerisms like fidgeting or playing with his hands.
"There's no shade 100 yards from the front steps."
"There is shade in the inner courtyard."
"I know. I go there to read sometimes."
"So it is not about the shade."
Harry looked up at him. "It's boring. I'm not allowed to go very many places."
"And you have explored the entirety of the dungeons, the Hufflepuff corridor, and the first and second floors?"
"I found a lot of hidden corridors, just like you said. But some of them go to floors I'm not allowed to be on."
"The Quidditch pitch looks interesting, and I wanted to maybe visit that big man who lives in the hut. Or walk by the lake to see the giant squid. I can't see any of it from so close to the castle." He couldn't even make it to the greenhouses because they were more than 100 yards from the front steps.
Severus went to one of the bookshelves by the fireplace and used his finger to browse through the titles. Finally he pulled down a big tomb and brought it to his desk. Harry went over to investigate what he was looking at as he rifled through the pages. Finally he stopped on a page in the middle. It was a map of the Hogwarts grounds. Severus pulled out a piece of parchment and laid it over the top of the book page and then tapped it with his wand. Ink lines began appearing on the parchment, drawing a copy of the map. Harry loved watching him do magic.
"100 yards," Severus said, pulling out a quill. He drew a semi-circle around the front steps at approximately 100 yards. It fell just short of the greenhouses. "No shade trees, and nothing to explore," he agreed.
"Look how far away everything is," Harry said, pointing at the lake.
"Do you know how to swim?"
Harry shook his head.
"Then for now the lake will remain off limits. I don't see any reason why you can't visit Hagrid however. He circled Hagrid's hut with the quill. "So long as you don't venture into the Forbidden Forest. There are all manner of man-eating creatures that live there that would not hesitate to eat a child."
He gave Harry a stern look to drive the point home, and Harry shook his head. "I won't go in there," he said sincerely.
"You may also visit the greenhouses provided you do not try to get into any of them that have locked doors. If the doors are locked it means Professor Sprout doesn't want anyone in there because there are dangerous plants." He circled the three greenhouses.
"What about that?" Harry asked, pointing to some runes on the map between the castle and Hagrid's hut.
"The boulder henge." Severus circled it and the bridge that led from the castle over the ravine as it would be the path Harry would have to take to get to the boulder henge.
Harry looked over the map some more and wondered if he would be pushing his luck to ask to visit any more places, but before Harry could say anything else Severus circled an area around a small group of trees near the lake but not quite to the water's edge. Then he began drawing dotted lines from the castle to all of these places and between them.
"If you get injured and do not turn up for dinner I need to know where to find you. You must only visit these places and stay on the paths I have drawn for you unless you're with an adult. Now that you will be farther away from the castle, I also require that you tell me before going out onto the grounds."
"Yes sir!" Harry said happily. He reached for the map but Severus had taken out another parchment and was tapping his wand to it to make a copy. He used his wand to stick the copy of Harry's map to the wall above his desk. Finally Harry had the map in hand though, and was ready to race upstairs and outside.
"The other rules still stand," Severus said, stopping him as he reached for the door handle. "I expect you back in the Dungeons after dinner and if your homework is not getting done you will find your other privileges revoked."
Harry turned to him and said seriously, "I won't break the rules." Severus met his eyes and believed he was sincere. He waved Harry away and he disappeared out the door. Sometimes the child gave him the impression that he was older than he really was. It was strange to see him romping around the castle with a toy one moment and so serious the next. It was his eyes, Severus decided. Lily had serious eyes when she wanted to. She had been so serious when she'd told Severus to stay away from her family. When she'd said it at first, he'd believed that it was James' doing, but her eyes had told him just how adamant she was. Harry's eyes were like that. Sometimes full of joy, sometimes curiosity, but they were the most intense when he was serious or sad; when he was telling Severus about not having any toys or about following the rules. A child so young shouldn't know how to be so serious.
* * *
Harry had meant what he said about not breaking any rules. Not breaking rules was important if you wanted to live injury free and out in the open instead of in your cupboard under the stairs. And the rules here weren't nearly as hard to follow as the ones his aunt and uncle had for him. I can follow simple rules, Harry had thought whenever Severus had given him a new rule. Now he even had a map... a treasure map, to help him know exactly where he should and shouldn't be. But knowing that he was supposed to follow the rules, and knowing the rules were simple didn't make it any easier for Harry to follow them. It wasn't that he hadn't tried. He'd spent days following his treasure map around the grounds, careful not to step off the paths Severus had marked for him. It was so easy to forget though when The Prince and the drake were battling mer-people and other beasts. Hagrid had given him a carving of a man-eating monster he couldn't remember the name of, and together the monster and the mer-man made powerful enemies for his heroes. So powerful in fact, that the battle slowly moved off of the path and to a part of the grounds Harry wasn't supposed to be on.
"Ha! Take that!" Harry shouted as the prince held a twig that Harry pretended was a sword and swung it wildly at the beast.
"You'll never see your family again!" cried the beast in a deeper voice not unsimilar to uncle Vernon's when he was angry. "I'll lock you in a room where no one can ever find you!"
Casadth the wind drake suddenly swooped in and knocked the beast over with it's powerful wings, saving Prince Aki from being dragged away and imprisoned.
"Come," Casadth told the prince. "Climb on my back. It's time we take the fight to the sky kingdom."
Harry was so engaged in his game as they fought and flew that he didn't think about where he was going. All he knew was that there was a string of large puddles that made for wonderful lakes for his heroes to fly over on their way to the sky kingdom. Eventually Harry's heroes, on their long journey, even stopped to watch the sun set in a reflection of one of those puddles.
"We'll have to camp here for the night," the prince told Casadth. "I'll freeze if we fly in the dark." And Harry set about to find small sticks to make a pretend fire for his heroes to keep warm by, and when that was done, he built them a stick shelter. He had nearly finished with his camp when someone cleared their throat behind him and Harry froze. He looked around and realized that he was only twenty feet from the lake, exactly where he wasn't supposed to be, and then looked behind him to find Severus with his arms crossed.
"I seem to recall you promising you wouldn't break the rules," Severus said in a stern tone, and Harry swallowed. He didn't know how to explain about getting off the marked paths. There really was no excuse and he knew he deserved whatever punishment he was going to get. Maybe he'd get beaten and thrown into the supply closet for a few days that stood just outside their quarters. He shuddered at the thought of that because the dungeons were so cold at night.
When Harry didn't answer, Severus said, "Not only are you off the path, it is nearly dark. Dinner finished half an hour ago and you are supposed to be in the dungeons. What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I- I- I..." Harry cast his mind around for anything at all he could say to make it better.
Not pleased with his stuttering, Severus motioned for Harry to stand, and he did, picking up his toys. They started back towards the castle in silence. Silence wasn't good. His aunt and uncle were always the most angry when they were silent. Maybe he'd be sent away on the train again, though he didn't know of any other people who would care to take him. There couldn't be another magic school in a castle could there?
When they were back in the Entrance Hall, Severus led him down to the dungeons, and Harry flinched as they neared the supply closet down the hall from their quarters. Severus didn't stop there or order him inside, and Harry's stomach squirmed to find out what his punishment would be.
Finally in the quarters Severus pointed to the couch and Harry sat. "I expect an answer. What were you doing out after dinner, and out of bounds?"
Harry stared at the floor and refused to answer. If he told him the truth it would just be seen as an excuse. "I don't have an excuse."
"I am aware of that. I want to know how you ended up where you were not supposed to be."
Playing with his hands, Harry mumbled something and Severus sat down on the chair across from the couch. "Speak up and look at me."
Harry's eyes flickered up to meet his, and then went back down to his hands before it looked as though he were having to force his eyes back up again. "I wasn't paying attention. Casadth and Aki were battling the monster and we ended up off the path."
"Not just off the path. Twenty or thirty feet is understandable. You were all the way down by the lake."
"They were flying over lakes... I mean puddles on their way to the Sky Kingdom."
Severus sighed. "And why were you out after dinner? Did you even eat dinner?"
Harry shook his head. "They were setting up camp for the night. Building a fire and shelter."
Severus held out his hand and Harry looked up at him, confused. Was he going to slap his hands?
"Give me the toys."
Reluctantly Harry handed over the drake and prince. "The others as well," Severus said, and Harry dug the mer-man and carved monster out of his pocket.
"As these were the cause of your disobedience, you will have to live without them for one week. Hopefully that week will be enough time for you to think about the need to pay attention."
Harry looked back down again. That was practically all of his toys. He still had the building bricks and Quaffle, but what fun was a ball he didn't know how to play with or bricks that he had used to build castles and battlefields for his heroes?
"Go into the kitchen and make yourself a sandwich, and then I expect you to spend the evening in your room doing homework. You are also not to go out on the grounds for the next week."
"Yes sir," Harry said, rising to do as he was told. As he made himself a sandwich in the kitchen and ate it at the counter, he thought about the punishment. He hoped Severus wasn't going to throw his toys away. He'd only had them for a week. Dudley had never had any of his toys taken away before, so Harry wasn't sure how this sort of thing worked. All said though, he was fortunate to escape without being sent to a cupboard or other worse punishments.
In his room after dinner, Harry finished the last of his week's homework, and then looked longingly at the box of interlocking building bricks. He didn't even know what he could build with them if there were no people or creatures to use with them. The set did come with some tiny people, but they looked nothing like the prince or other book characters.
Pulling out his school books, he decided to start on his next week's assignments. It was going to be a long week without his toys.
* * *
Harry looked up to find the Headmaster smiling down at him. Harry was sitting at a table in the Great Hall with his maths book waiting for Mr. Blackwood to come and help him. Today was the first day he was supposed to come and tutor him.
"Where are the drake and The Prince? Is their battle concluded?" Dumbledore asked.
"No," Harry said dully. "I don't have them anymore on account of I got grounded."
"Oh?" The Headmaster sat down across from him. It seemed to Harry like he wanted to hear the story, but Harry didn't know why. No one ever cared before about why he got grounded.
"I went where I wasn't supposed to and Severus had to come find me."
"And where was that?"
"Somewhere not on the treasure map."
At Dumbledore's quizzical look, Harry pulled his map of the grounds out and unfolded it on the table for him to see. "These are all the places I'm allowed to go on the grounds, and I have to stay on the paths so he knows where to look for me."
"I see. And where were you?"
"Here," Harry said, pointing. "By the lake. I got distracted during a big battle and didn't realize where I was going."
"Is there a reason you're not allowed to go to the lake?"
"I can't swim," Harry said. "Severus said it's dangerous. I didn't mean to end up down there."
Dumbledore smiled at him then and Harry wondered why. Being grounded was no reason to smile. "Being young is wonderful, isn't it?" Dumbledore said, as though remembering something. "To be able to get lost in play and imagination, and not realize where one is going or where their imagination will lead them next?"
"Severus didn't think it was so wonderful," Harry grumbled.
"As is so often the case," he said, "we as adults sometimes forget what it is to be a child."
"It's not so great," Harry told him. "You have to follow all the rules and can't do what you want."
Albus smiled at him again though, and Harry felt then that maybe the punishment wasn't so bad. He was only grounded for a few more days anyhow.
Mr. Blackwood walked into the Great Hall behind them then, and Albus bade Harry to have a good day and left him to his tutoring.
Harry's teacher had brought a small blackboard and two pieces of chalk with him, one blue and one white. He spent half an hour teaching Harry the concepts for his next three math assignments, and then they used the next half hour after that practicing problems on the little blackboard. Harry would do a problem with the blue chalk and then Mr. Blackwood would use the white chalk to show him what he'd done wrong, and then they would try again.
"There you go Harry," he told him at the end of the hour. "You're getting it."
Harry grinned, glad that he didn't feel confused anymore. "Do we have to use this stuff when we get to Hogwarts?"
"Transfiguration sometimes has maths involved, and if you ever take Runes you'll have to do a lot of maths. Astronomy also uses maths to figure out star charts and astronomical events, and some amount of maths is involved in measuring out potions and potions ingredients."
"Huh. What about the rest of the stuff? English and science and history?"
"When you get to Hogwarts you'll learn a lot of history about the wizarding world. So it's important to have all your facts straight about Muggle history first because our history intertwines with theirs a lot of the time. When you start school in a few weeks we'll be covering how some of the histories fit together. As for science, a lot of what you're learning now will help you in potions."
"When you do homework for me, you answer questions. When you do homework for professors here, you usually have to write essays to show your understanding of the material. They don't want to see essays with bad punctuation and grammar. When I was at Hogwarts there was a professor who wouldn't even grade your essay if there were too many mistakes. He would just throw it in the rubbish bin and you'd never see it again."
"I want to learn magic though," Harry said. "Do I have to wait until Hogwarts to learn how things work?"
"We have books at the school on magic, and there's an entire library here full of books about how magic works. We also talk about some of the basics of potions and learn about the Ministry of Magic and the laws in our world. I think once school starts your head will be full of new and interesting things."
Harry looked thoughtful and Mr. Blackwood said, "That reminds me. I brought you something." He reached into his bag and pulled out a red book. Harry took it and examined the cover which read, 'The Red Book of Drakes.' "That's in the same series as the book about the wind drake. This one's about a fire drake."
"Oh," Harry said. He loved the book about the wind drake so much that he'd already re-read it once and was halfway through it for a third time. He was reluctant to read any other books.
"Give it a try," Blackwood said. "Casadth and Aki aren't the only ones who have wonderful adventures."
He packed his blackboard and other supplies back into the bag and told Harry he'd be back on Friday to teach him another lesson, and Harry waved goodbye to him. He bit his lip and stared at the red book in front of him indecisively, and then finally opened it up to the first page. If his toys were gone, he might as well read something until he got them back. He stayed in the Great Hall and read through lunch, and was still there reading when dinner was being served and some of the Professors came and sat down around him.
"I see you've found another interesting book to read," McGonagall said.
Harry looked up. He was 100 pages in and still had almost 150 to go.
"It's about one of Casadth's enemies," Harry said. He was glad he had started reading it because Casadth came in and out of the story. "A fire drake named Moto and a girl named Lume. Lume is Prince Aki's step sister, but she's not evil. Her father kicked her out of the Sky Kingdom too because she tried to stick up for Aki. She's helping Moto fight goblins in the fire mines."
"It sounds interesting," she told him with a smile as Harry finally closed the book and began putting food on his plate.
"One of the books I brought for you to read is gold. It's about another drake in the story."
"It is?" He hadn't even looked at the books she had brought for him to read.
"The Gold Book Of Drakes is my favorite."
"How many are there?"
"Let me see... blue, red, gold, black, white, and green. Six books."
"What are the other kinds of drakes?"
"I haven't read them all, but I believe some of the others are about ice drakes, and mountain drakes. You'll have to read them yourself to find out."
"I'm going to," Harry said eagerly, and she smiled at him.
"Your father loved to read too," she said. "Did you know that?"
"He liked to read these books?" Harry asked, surprised.
"I don't know about these books in particular, but it was common to see him reading in the halls between classes, and I can't tell you the number of times I caught him reading under the table in my class instead of paying attention."
"Do you remember anything he liked to read?"
"Oh, it was novels, but also other books. Books about Quidditch or Defense or any variety of other things. One time I had to take away a book on Protein Charms that had come out of the forbidden section of the library."
She told him some other things about James throughout dinner, and Harry was glad to hear about his escapades. "What about Severus?" Harry asked when desert appeared and she looked ready to rise and leave.
Harry nodded eagerly.
"Severus was in Slytherin, as I suspect you know. He was friends with your mother."
"He didn't tell me that," Harry said. Severus didn't talk much at all unless it was about something important like rules or homework.
"I could be mistaken, but I think they lived near each other and knew each other before coming to Hogwarts."
"Was he a Quidditch Captain like my dad?"
"No. He played as a backup player a few times a year for Slytherin but that was it. Perhaps you should ask Severus about his time at school."
Harry took a bite of his pumpkin custard so he'd have an excuse not to say anything. He doubted Severus would tell him anything. He was really busy with his own work and Harry was afraid to interrupt him when he was sitting at his desk for hours on end writing and sorting through stacks of papers.
Harry stayed up until the wee hours of the morning that night finishing his book before he went to sleep, and the next morning, after he'd forced himself to sit at his desk and do several assignments, he eagerly found the gold book McGonagall had lent to him and began reading it. He took it to the inner courtyard and spent the afternoon lying on his back on a stone bench in the shade of one of the trees. If he ever got to pick out toys again, he had new characters he wanted to get. His mind was full of new places to build with the building bricks as well, and he wished he had another set so he could build them all at once.