The doorbell rang. For a moment, neither Harry nor Aunt Petunia moved from where they sat rigidly at the kitchen table. Uncle Vernon was not there, for Aunt Petunia had cleverly suggested that he and Dudley go see an action movie at the cinema. Harry had been surprised to find that Aunt Petunia had done this, for he had stayed in his room for the rest of the day in a constant state of fear, wondering when Uncle Vernon was going to come upstairs and give him a licking for what he had done to himself. The last thing Uncle Vernon would want would be to have to keep Harry in his house any longer than he had to. Harry did not need to remind himself that the arrival of Albus Dumbledore could have been made a lot more stressful had Uncle Vernon been there, and for this reason he was more grateful than he wanted to admit that Aunt Petunia had gotten him out of the house.
At last, Aunt Petunia got up from her chair and moved out of the kitchen to get the door.
Harry felt small in his seat at the table, seated on a phone book so he could see over it. Two voices were filtering into the kitchen, and in a few moments Harry could hear the door being shut, and the clack of boots on the wood floor as they approached.
"Thank you, Petunia," Dumbledore said as he came through the kitchen door with her. "Ah, and here is Harry."
"Hello, Professor," Harry said rather meekly.
"My word," was his Professor's reply as he looked upon the small boy.
Harry was shocked at Dumbledore's surprise. He had been under the impression that nothing surprised Albus Dumbledore.
"There is a spell to change me back, isn't there?" Harry asked frantically, eyes wide. "Isn't there?"
Dumbledore sat down at the table across from Harry and surveyed him over his half-moon glasses.
"This will require a great deal of thought," said Dumbledore slowly.
"But ... there is a way for me to change back," Harry said once more, his voice taking on a bit of a hysterical note,
"That will depend, Harry."
It took every ounce of Harry's strength to keep from bursting into sobs. He had to bite his lip. Nearby, Aunt Petunia was biting her nails. Although, this was probably more to do with the worry that she would have to have him in the house for another twelve years or so. Harry almost looked up at her, but couldn't raise his eyes from the wood of the table.
"For now, you shall come to Hogwarts with me."
"Yes, sir," said Harry weakly, and Aunt Petunia relaxed in her seat.
After Harry had packed, they departed for Hogwarts, Harry's things already sent to the castle by magic. Aunt Petunia didn't even have the heart to sigh with relief when he went out the door, as she usually did every summer before she closed the door with a snap behind him. This time, the door did not close forcefully, and she watched for a moment or so as they strode away from the house. Dumbledore walked down the sidewalk calmly and inconspicuously as he could, with his baby blue suit, his long beard, and flashy boots. Harry, naturally, was under his invisibility cloak for safety's sake. They had had to fold it in half and then drape it over Harry so it wouldn't drag too badly. In this manner they walked a fair distance, and then Dumbledore slid into an alleyway. Harry followed obediently, trying to keep up with the long strides of his headmaster.
"I am going to take you by side-along apparition," said Dumbledore very quietly. "It is the quickest and safest way for us to leave. Do you understand?"
"Ordinarily I would have you grab my arm, but I am too tall for you to reach one. I will have to pick you up for this."
"I know, but I do not want to risk losing my grip on you during apparition. It would be too dangerous."
Harry felt the unquenchable urge to grumble under his breath, which he did so freely without entirely registering the fact that he was doing so.
"I'm picking you up now."
Dumbledore reached down, and felt for the invisibility cloak. Harry reached out his arms, quite disgruntled. Dumbledore was able to pick Harry up with the invisibility cloak. He settled Harry in his arms, and told Harry to hang onto him tightly. It felt strange to Harry. He also noted that Dumbledore felt as though he was a lot stronger than he looked.
Harry closed his eyes tightly as he felt Dumbledore spin on the spot, and then he was pulled into a confusing mess of blackness. Sound rushed in his ears, and he squeezed tightly to Dumbledore, trying not to make a sound. He thought he might have let a little sob out along the way, but the rushing noise was too great for him to hear anything. Then, at the moment when he felt surely he had no air left in his lungs, the warm, moist air hit his face and he was gasping, still safe in Dumbledore's arms. Harry felt panicky inside and wanted desperately to give in to tears. It had been utterly terrifying to him, and he couldn't figure out for the life of him why it had been so frightening. Ordinarily, he thought something like that wouldn't have bothered him too much. Then again, perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was physically a child. But he didn't think it affected his thinking too much, or did it? All of these things happened in seconds, and the next thing Harry knew was that Dumbledore had gently lifted up the cloak so he could see Harry's face.
"Are you alright?" asked Dumbledore. "Do you feel sick at all?"
Breathing heavy, Harry said he was alright, and no, he did not feel sick. He rubbed his eyes. He hadn't realized a few tears had escaped. He looked away in embarrassment.
"Oh, you needn't worry about that. Probably a side effect of your physical state. It is not a sign of weakness Harry."
Harry still didn't look at Dumbledore.
"Do you want to walk the rest of the way?" inquired the headmaster.
"Yes," said Harry defiantly. He scowled. He didn't like being asked stupid questions like he really was a child.
Upon his request, Dumbledore set him down. Harry's head was spinning a little bit, and upon further consideration, he did feel a bit queasy. He swallowed thickly. It was a good thing he had a lot of practise keeping his meals down, what with his occasional bout of anxiety.
"Are you sure you are feeling alright? Apparition can be very hard on the system."
"I'm FINE," Harry snapped, unconsciously stomping his foot on the ground.
"If you insist," said Dumbledore. Harry felt a cold sort of fire erupt inside him when he heard the note of amusement in Dumbledore's voice.
"I think we shall see if Hagrid can keep you company for the day," Dumbledore said, thinking aloud. "I want you to be with someone in case there are any new developments."
"Where are you going?" Harry asked, all traces of anger gone and replaced with curiosity. Not that he minded Dumbledore leaving him alone, but he did wonder what the Headmaster was doing.
"I was talking with you Aunt while you were packing your things, and she helped me to see a rather important clue," said Dumbledore.
"What was that?"
"Oh, all in good time, my boy. I think I may have started to understand your situation, for this reminds me of something I read about years and years ago. I need to do some research before I can determine what we can do to help you, Harry."
Dumbledore carried the invisibility cloak for Harry, as it was awfully big for his arms, and together they walked leisurely through the gates and across the grounds; Harry suspected Dumbledore was slowing up for him. Eventually however, they reached Hagrid's hut. Dumbledore didn't want to shock Hagrid, for he was sure he would recognize Harry, and so therefore had Harry sit on the step while he explained inside. Harry stared at a lady-beetle crawling across the steps up to Hagrid's door while he waited. It fascinated him more than bugs ordinarily did, but he supposed this had something to do with the fact that he was bored out of his mind, and he was no longer concentrating solely on his sore stomach, for he was feeling much better now.
The door opened, and Dumbledore beckoned Harry in. Harry, suddenly shy, looked at his feet and shuffled into the room.
"Hi, Hagrid," he muttered.
"It's good ter see ya Harry," said Hagrid pleasantly, although Harry could easily tell he was very curious and surprised to see Harry in such a state.
"Harry, you will indeed stay with Hagrid for the day," Dumbledore said. "You will probably stay the night too."
"Can't I go back to Gryffindor Tower?" Harry asked. "No offence, Hagrid, but it would be nice to sleep in my own bed."
"No offence taken," Hagrid replied cheerfully.
"No, I think it is better if you are with someone else in case this progresses at all," Dumbledore said, frowning a little. "And I am a little bit worried that Peeves might bother you. I am afraid that during the summer he is used to having run of the empty school, and he's a bit difficult to fend off without magic. But, while you are here, I will see if I can procure some smaller clothing for you, and send it down with an owl."
"Okay," said Harry gloomily. He muttered the last thing under his breath. "I hate Peeves."
Dumbledore chuckled slightly before saying goodbye. Harry watched him go rather gloomily.
"I hope he knows what he's doing," Harry said darkly.
"Oh, he'll figure somethin' out for ya," Hagrid assured him. "He always does, don't he?"
While Harry was still having trouble adjusting to the shock of his transformation, the rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully. Harry helped Hagrid garden a bit, although he wasn't as good with a hoe as he remembered being. After that it started to get darker out and they went inside to eat some stew that Hagrid had made. It tasted good, but Harry didn't eat much. He was too worried. After that, Hagrid sat by the fire darning his socks and Harry lay on his belly on the floor rolling some marbles around that Hagrid had found him.
"Do you think Dumbledore's found out what happened to me yet?"
"I don't know," said Hagrid gently.
"What if he doesn't figure it out?"
"Oh, he will. You'll see. He always does. Jus' trust in him, Harry. Trust's an important thing."
Harry pondered this as watched the glass marble sparkle in the firelight. They were beautiful. After a while he found his eyes drooping slowly. And he closed them. The warmth of the fire was making him slowly fall into half dreams. In the state between wakefulness and sleeping, he felt someone pick him up. He vaguely decided that it must have been Hagrid. He thought that perhaps he had dropped off for a few minutes, for the next time he opened his eyes he was laying up against the crook of Hagrid's enormous arm. He barely took up any room on Hagrid's lap. The gentle movement of Hagrid darning his socks and his steady breathing sent Harry back to sleep immediately. In fact, he didn't even mind that he was sleeping in someone's lap. The last thing he thought was that when morning came, at least he could pretend to Hagrid that he didn't remember any of this happening.
"Severus, just let me measure you," said Poppy Pomfrey, at last betraying her impatience with him, which had not been present for the duration of the argument, which had been going on for at least fifteen minutes.
"No, absolutely not," Severus said with a scowl, his arms crossed as he sat up in his hospital bed, staring defiantly out the window.
"I cannot get a leg brace made for you until I measure you," she said, her hands on her hips, a magical measuring tape hovering in the air beside her, quivering with anticipation.
"I do not need one," he replied peevishly, glaring at her with the kind of look that invited a challenge.
"Then demonstrate to me that you don't!" Poppy blurted out at last, throwing up her hands to show that she was at her wit's end.
A sudden surge of anger filled Severus, and the glass on his bedside table began to rattle. He did not notice this until Poppy put a hand on the glass to keep it from toppling. Severus felt his stomach flip, and the glass ceased to move. Had he done that? Poppy was looking at him intently, and he suddenly felt ashamed.
"I - I did not mean to ..." he said weakly, wanting nothing more than to sink down into his bed and pull the covers over his head from embarrassment. How had that happened? He had not done accidental magic since he was in his teenage years.
"I know you didn't," said Poppy, her voice suddenly quiet, looking saddened. "I may have been a bit harsh, and I am sorry. But all things aside, you are a very powerful wizard Severus, and seeing as for the next little while you will not be casting any spells you must be careful not to get worked up. An excess of magic can sometimes be dangerous, so you will do well to remember yourself when you are upset."
"I was not -"
"Yes, Severus, you were upset," Poppy said plainly, but without heat, "and that is perfectly alright. You have every right to be upset for some time, but you cannot let it get the better of you."
"What am I, eleven?" he hissed, furious at the way Poppy was speaking to him like he was an ignorant first year. "The last thing I need is another lecture. It will not occur again, but it would not have even happened in the first place had you not insisted on pestering me to no end!"
"I am doing this for your own good, Severus Tobias Snape!" Poppy cried, her voice suddenly becoming shrill. "Do you want to walk, or not? I only want what is best for you, so it is about time that you cooperate with me!"
Severus looked at her as she huffed and puffed, her cheeks flushed and her hands clenched into fists. He had to admit he was shocked, for he had never seen her come undone like this, but he was startled to see that her eyes were wet. Her words started to sink in. Swallowing, he slowly nodded.
"Fine," he said, barely able to make his voice audible. "You can measure my leg."
For a second he met her gaze, and he tried to say sorry, but the words stuck in his throat. He was never good at apologies, or admitting he was wrong. Poppy's gaze softened, and she gently brushed the covers aside and rolled up his trouser leg that so his right leg was exposed, and then waved her wand to send the measuring tape to work.
It only took about a minute or two, and the measurements wrote themselves onto a little piece of parchment. Poppy said something about sending them off somewhere, and that the brace would be ready in a few days. Severus barely heard her, and as soon as she left he let his head fall back onto the pillow, closing his eyes and trying to think of anything that would distract from the hollowness inside him.
Harry ended up staying with Hagrid for four days before Dumbledore found the lead he had been looking for. This did not bother Harry all that much, as Hagrid was generally good company, so over all his stay was pleasant. What Harry liked most about this arrangement was that when speaking, Hagrid treated him like he was older. Of course, a few times Hagrid tried to talk to him about Sirius, but Harry ignored these attempts to get him to talk every time, because he didn't like being upset. But this in no way spoiled Harry's stay. In fact, he was rather hoping he would get to stay with Hagrid for the rest of the summer. The days were predictable and calm, for the most part. They ate breakfast early, and then hauled water for some of the animals. Hagrid and Harry would weed after that. Sometimes Hagrid called Fang over so Harry could play fetch with him. Then they would eat lunch, and Harry would brush Fang while Hagrid did a little bit of cleaning in his hut. Then for the afternoon they would do an assortment of odd jobs.
Most of all, Harry found he liked evenings. After supper, like the first night, he would play with marbles, or scratch Fang's belly, or something of that nature. And then, after such a long day of walking the grounds and pulling weeds, he found he would start to fall asleep. Secretly, deep in his heart, Harry liked it most when Hagrid would pick him up and put him on his lap while he darned socks or knitted. Harry had never experienced sleeping on someone's lap, and he found that he slept better than he ever had when he did. Perhaps that was why he was so full of restless energy each day, and was able to follow Hagrid around without difficulty. Of course, it also helped that the day was so full of chores, and therefore Harry did not do a lot of thinking, for it was thinking that caused the most trouble for him. If he had no time to contemplate Sirius, it was easier to forget his pain.
Despite the days being busy, and generally pleasant, much of the time he still felt how he had before. That was, apathetic, gloomy and sad. He didn't let himself think about why that was, and in fact, he had little time to. He already knew that his general numbness was because of what happened at the Ministry of Magic. So he reasoned with himself, deciding that he had no reason to keep thinking about it because it made him feel so blue, and therefore continued to push Sirius to the back of his mind like he had been doing. He didn't see why he should have to talk about it. With the amount of things he and Hagrid did in a day, Harry found it was easy not to.
These days, however, Harry knew had to end. Indeed, on the fifth morning, Dumbledore came for him while they were eating breakfast. Harry had been dunking strips of toast into his egg yolk when Dumbledore swept through the door, the warm summer wind pushing him into the hut. Harry caught a glimpse of the Forbidden Forest waving in the gusts of wind.
"To what do we owe ya the pleasure, Dumbledore?" Hagrid asked cheerfully. "Care for a spot o' breakfast?"
"No thanks, Hagrid," said Dumbledore kindly, "I ate at the castle already. As for why I am here, I have finally figured out - or so I believe - what it is that has caused Harry's sudden change. If you don't mind, I would like to speak with him privately on the matter."
"Not at all, not at all," said Hagrid, getting up and putting his empty plate in the sink. "I'll just go out into the garden and get a jump on waterin'."
Harry swallowed his last bite of egg and stared at Dumbledore over his glasses, which Dumbledore had shrunk shortly after his arrival to Hagrid's.
"Harry," Dumbledore began when Hagrid left, "have you grieved for Sirius?"
"Sir?" asked Harry, surprised by the question, as well as its suddenness.
"What I mean to say, Harry is, have you cried for him?"
Harry blushed. "I don't see how this has anything to do with -"
"It has everything to do with how you ended up like this," said Dumbledore, sounding almost urgent. "Have you cried for Sirius? Tell the truth, please."
Harry bit his lip for a moment, but then muttered, "Not really."
"This is the truth?"
Dumbledore looked deep into his eyes for a moment, and seemed to determine that Harry was indeed not lying.
"Your Aunt said that you were not eating and that you refused to talk about anything to her. I understand that you would not want to discuss such matters with Petunia, but I must know - have you been repressing your emotions? Have you refused to let yourself grieve for Sirius?"
"No," said Harry too quickly.
"Do not lie to me," said Dumbledore calmly over his half-moon spectacles as he surveyed Harry. "I will ask again. Harry, have you been refusing to deal with your emotions?"
"Well ... I ..." began Harry, but words failed him. Dumbledore seemed to understand him despite this.
"I thought so," said Dumbledore heavily, looking disappointed. Harry felt a sudden surge of guilt rush through him, and then anger.
"But what has that go to do with anything?" Harry said, louder than he had intended. The fork in his hand suddenly twisted itself into a spiral. He dropped it as though burned, his eyes wide. He had not meant to do that. "Sorry sir," he whispered.
"I expect accidental magic will happen quite often for the next little while, Harry," said Dumbledore, smiling calmly at him. "You have the magical power of a teenaged wizard, trapped in a four year old body. It is to be expected."
"Yes, sir," he muttered.
"Now, you repressing your emotions is the reason why you ended up like this in the first place. There is a kind of magic that comes from deep within wizards or witches. This magic is invoked when the person in question is in grave danger."
"But, I'm not in danger," said Harry.
"Bear with me, Harry," continued Dumbledore. "Now, you have been travelling down a dangerous road, repressing all of those very powerful emotions. When the mind is put under significant strain like what you have been putting yours under, it essentially begins to self-destruct as the person spirals closer and closer to the breaking point. This happens with muggles, but with a wizard, it is especially dangerous, because an unstable mind can cause a huge release of aggressive magic, and it can literally destroy a person, not in the figurative way that a muggle would self-destruct mentally. It has become clear to me that because your mental state has been declining due to the large amount of repressed emotions, your magical core has recognized that you are in danger, and therefore, it has acted. Your subconscious knows that you cannot continue like this, so it invoked the powers of an ancient kind of magic, and you have reverted to a state that makes it far more difficult to bottle up emotions. Eventually, you will come to the point where you must deal with your grief, and come to terms with what has happened. When you have expressed all that you need to, I believe you will return to your previous state."
"And, this has happened to others?" Harry asked, having difficulty absorbing what was just said.
"Yes, but in different forms. Each case is different. There have been cases where people have become temporarily deaf or blind, lost the ability to speak, had a hold put on their magical powers, turned into animals ... it happens in many ways. But it all is done to save the person from themselves, just as your magic is trying to save you."
"So, I just have to cry, and then I'll be normal?" asked Harry.
"That is an oversimplification," said Dumbledore. "You must grieve, and properly express your emotions - and if that means crying, then yes - as well as, I think, understand what it was that was stopping you from grieving, and move past that. I cannot say when you will change back, or even all you will need to do to move past this. Only you can know that."
Harry nodded, but he didn't like what he was hearing.
"Do you have any questions?"
"I - I'll still keep my older mind, right? That won't change, will it?"
"I do not know, Harry. A good question, I am sure. I believe that it is possible that you will regress mentally in some ways, due to the magic. It may act in other ways to prod you in the right direction, but how much, I do not know. Do you have any further questions?"
"No, sir," he muttered, not liking what he was hearing.
"Well, if that is that, then I might as well discuss with you where you will be living. You will be taken to a secure location, owned by the Order, called Bell Point. Bell Point is a little piece of land by the sea with a cottage built on it, and you will be living there until this conflict has resolved. It is the safest place for you to go. Mrs. Weasley will be there when she can to make sure that you are settled in and doing alright," said Dumbledore kindly to Harry.
Harry frowned a little bit, swinging his legs. He looked out the window at Hagrid's lumbering form pouring buckets of water over the plants in the garden.
"Molly will be living there with you for first week or so, but after that she will be unable to be there all the time. There will be someone else staying at the cottage as well, because he too is in danger and in a compromised position. He will likely need some of her time as well, but when Molly is not around the two of you will likely have to work together to do some things."
"What's his name?" asked Harry, wondering who on earth the person was. "Do I know him?"
"You will meet him soon enough," said Dumbledore, and Harry was sure he was evading the question when he went back to what he had been saying earlier. "Now, because Mrs. Weasley will not be there all the time, and may possibly be helping the other occupant of Bell Point, you will not always have her help. Do you feel that you can manage looking after yourself a little bit from time to time?"
"Yes, sir," said Harry, wondering who on earth would be staying with him. "I can still do lots of things for myself. Except ... well ..."
Harry went red.
"What is it? There is no need to be ashamed."
"Buttons," Harry said, a little upset. "I can't always get all my buttons done up."
"In that case, on days that Molly is busy or not there, I would suggest you forgo wearing anything with buttons, alright?" said Dumbledore rather absent mindedly as he pulled from his pocket a small notebook and scribbled something down. Harry thought he sounded rather condescending.
"I know that."
"All the same, I will send a note to Molly to find clothing for you that does not have any buttons, as Professor Snape is not in much of a state to be helping you with your buttons either."
"Professor Snape?" Harry said, bewildered and quite suddenly feeling sick at Dumbledore's slip. Professor Dumbledore looked like he deeply regretted the last sentence. "Why would he want to help me with that? Hang on, he's not ... no ... he's not who I'm staying with, is he?"
"Yes, he is," said Dumbledore gravely, frowning. "I suppose you had to find out eventually. You see, his position as a spy was given away, and he is still recovering from the events that transpired. This leads me to say that while you are at Bell Point, you must not tell your friends of your location, or mention that Professor Snape is staying with you. Is that clear?"
"I won't stay with Snape," Harry said angrily.
The look of sympathy and understanding on Dumbledore's face was very genuine, but Harry was still furious with him.
"Professor Snape, Harry," corrected Dumbledore. "I know this is not the best situation we could hope for. I wish there was another place safe enough for you to stay, but there is only one location owned by the Order that is appropriate for this kind of healing. None of the safe houses are secure enough for you, or Professor Snape. The only other place that is heavily warded enough would be Grimmauld Place, but not only is it barely fit for living, it would not do for you to spend the summer there, given the situation. Is this not better than staying in a place so full of memories of Sirius?"
Harry looked up from his feet, and met Dumbledore's eyes meekly. His lip trembled slightly, but he pushed his emotions down again.
"But sir," he protested weakly, "Professor Snape's just going to be mean to me, and he'll bring up things from this summer in class to make fun of me!"
"Harry, I do not think he will be returning to teach in the fall," said Dumbledore gravely.
"He ... he won't?" Harry muttered, confused.
"I do not think so, no." Dumbledore paused, and continued to speak when Harry seemed to have digested this piece of information. "I am sorry that this is the way it is, Harry. I do not think that Professor Snape will be overly pleased about the arrangements either," Dumbledore continued, "but we must make the best of the situation. I have no doubt that if you take the time to understand why you are feeling the way you are, and deal with your emotions properly, you will be back to normal in no time at all. It is up to you how long you wish to remain this way."
"I will bring you to Bell Point tomorrow morning. If there is anything you wish to bring with you, notify Hagrid and he will send me a note so I can go retrieve whatever it is."
Harry nodded, and with a rather sad smile Dumbledore got up and left. The sound of the door shutting echoed rather lonesomely. Harry pulled his knees up to his chin and wrapped his arms around them, then closed his eyes. That dark cloud was pressing in on his chest again, making it hard to draw a breath. He knew it was all in his head, but Harry found himself wishing he was physically sick instead, because at the moment he felt that anything was better than to be sick at heart.