This story picks up right where Building Doors left off. It covers the rest of Harry's third year, the summer, and fourth year, including the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It won't make sense if you dont' read Building Doors first. Note: the canon timeline for Sirius diverges from the norm in this story, but we haven't seen the last of padfoot.
1. Christmas With A Family by JAWorley
2. A Lit Fuse by JAWorley
3. Prongs With Bells On by JAWorley
4. Dear Future Me by JAWorley
5. Back To The Alleys by JAWorley
6. A Trip Home by JAWorley
7. The Prince Estate by JAWorley
* * *
Harry was on his third cup of hot coco when Severus rose and came to the kitchen to make coffee. He could have no way of knowing it wasn't Harry's first, but the bags under Harry's eyes made him give the boy a close looking over.
"Did you sleep at all?" he asked warily.
"Some," Harry said.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Severus held in a sigh as he turned to start making breakfast. He often asked Harry if he wanted to talk about the things that were bothering him, though Harry rarely took up the offer. Severus wanted to know when his adopted son was having difficulties, but he wasn't going to force him to talk. He would rather the thirteen year old tell him because he wanted to. Severus couldn't say he didn't understand why Harry didn't talk much about his difficulties though, as Severus rarely told anyone about his own life.
In a few minutes Severus had eggs and bacon ready and had set a plate in front of Harry at the dining table in his dungeon quarters. Harry seemed to look better as he ate and was fully ready to face the day after a cup of tea Severus had brewed for him.
"If you would like some dreamless sleep, you only need ask," Severus reminded him as Harry rose to take his dishes to the sink.
"I know. I don't always know when I'm going to have a nightmare though."
After they had done the dishes, Severus asked if Harry had plans for the day. The term had ended two days ago and Christmas was in a week. Harry had moved back into the Dungeon quarters for the holidays.
"I was going to ask if I could work for a few days on the Alleys. I haven't heard from Basil or Bennet but I know they were hoping I'd work over the break."
"Will you be absconding across the countryside if allowed to go to Diagon by yourself?"
"No sir," Harry said sheepishly. It had only been a few weeks since he'd snuck out of the castle by Floo in the dead of night and convinced Bellamy's family to take him to his cabin, where the Headmaster had then had to come and find him.
"I will take you to Flourish And Blotts this morning and pick you up in the evening."
"I can go by myself if you're too busy."
"I am not. Get ready to go."
Harry went to his room and pulled on a warm, dark earthy blue hoodie and put his shoes on and came back out. Then he and Severus walked up to the staff lounge behind the staff table in the Great Hall to use the Floo, and floo'd directly to the upstairs office of Flourish and Blotts. They'd given Harry permission to use their Floo when coming and going for work, and he hoped they wouldn't mind that he and Snape had come unannounced.
Bennet was at the desk doing paperwork when Harry came out of the Floo, followed by Severus a moment later.
"Harry, we wondered if we'd be seeing you," he greeted warmly. Harry had always gotten along with Basil, one of the two brothers that ran Flourish And Blott's, but it had taken Bennet a long time to warm up to him. Harry was glad Bennet didn't act so coldly towards him anymore though.
"Do you need me to work for a few days for the Christmas rush?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Yes, it's not too busy right now because it's early, but in an hour Basil will have his hands full at the till. Go downstairs and he'll put you to work restocking the Quidditch section."
"Ok," Harry said. He made for the steep spiral stairs that led to the first floor and the shop, but was stopped by his father.
"What time will you be done today?"
Harry turned to look at him, and then to Bennet.
"Five should be good," Bennet said. "We'll feed him lunch."
Severus nodded and turned back to Harry. "I will collect you at five."
Harry smiled at him and gave him a nod and then hurried down the stairs and out of sight, though they could hear Basil greeting him happily and asking if he was there to work. Before Severus turned to go back through the Floo, he said, "Unless he is running errands for you, I would prefer he not go out on the Alley's."
"Is this about him taking off the other day?" When Harry had disappeared from school, Severus had accosted every person Harry had frequent contact with on the Alleys for information about where he might have gone. That was clearly still fresh in Bennet's memory.
"Are you aware of the recent change in his guardianship?" Severus hadn't seen the information that he'd adopted Harry and that Albus had adopted him in the paper's yet. In this way Albus had become Harry's adopted grandfather and Severus his father. But because three prominent families had merged, he was certain the word had gotten around.
"You adopted him," Bennet acknowledged.
"As his new guardian I would rather he not be wandering the alleys by himself unless you have a specific task for him to do. I have told him this as well."
"We probably won't send him out today," Bennet said. "He's been living on his own for a long time though, and it's not my place to hold him here if he wants to leave."
Severus wanted to growl something unfriendly at the thirty something man, but knew he was right. "I will be back to collect him at five." He threw a handful of floo powder into the fireplace and stepped into it, disappearing in a green flash. Bennet shook his head and wondered how Harry and Snape were managing when Harry was so independent, and Snape clearly didn't want him to be.
* * *
Harry spent the day stocking shelves, washing windows, and helping Bennet fill out order forms. Bennet wanted Harry's opinion on books kids at Hogwarts might like to read, and Harry was able to pick out over a dozen that they ended up ordering. They ordered carry out for lunch, which Basil went to get and bring back to the shop, and then Snape returned at five on the nose as promised to retrieve Harry.
"See you tomorrow Harry?" Basil asked cheerily.
"Yup," Harry said. "I wanted to look at the other list of books Bennet had that we didn't get to go over."
Harry turned to Snape to go back through the Floo, but it seemed he had other ideas. "We are going out to Muggle London."
"Oh," Harry said. Maybe Snape wanted to go to that tea shop McGonagall liked. Harry waved to Basil and Bennet and left through the door out onto Knockturn with Snape.
"What are we doing in London?"
"We have some shopping to do."
"Oh. I don't have any Muggle money on me. Can we stop at Gringotts first?"
"That will not be necessary," he said.
They went in the door to Double Lane Clothing, and then out the other door onto the Muggle street. It was getting dark and cold, but there were still a lot of people out doing their shopping.
Severus hailed a black cab and had it take them to Carnaby, a shopping district the Muggle's seemed to like as it was busy when they arrived.
"You're in need of more warm clothing," Severus told Harry after he'd paid for the cab and it had driven off.
"Oh, I think I have enough," Harry said, looking down at his favorite hoodie. He wore it all the time now that the weather had grown cold and there was a foot of snow at Hogwarts and the weather was chilly and rainy in London.
"Regardless, we will be getting some more items. Since you are staying in the room in our quarters more often now, you should also have some things to make the room your own."
"Sir, you don't have to spend any money on me. I can pay you back."
"It's not needed."
Severus steered Harry into a young men's clothing shop and told Harry to get comfortable pants, pajamas, and hoodies. When Harry asked him how many, Severus told him to start picking things out and he would tell him when to stop.
Feeling a little awkward, Harry went to one of many racks of hoodies and began looking through them. He found a deep red one that reminded him of Gryffindor and pulled it off the hanger. There was also a sage green one he liked that he picked out. He thought two was more than enough given he also had one he was wearing right now, but the Potions Master only gave him a look that said, ‘continue'.
"Sir, two is enough isn't it?"
"How many items of clothing did you ruin over the term in Potions class and Defense?"
"Probably." He'd spilled a potion on one of his new shirts and burned a hole through one set of robes. In Defense he'd ripped a pair of jeans when he'd fallen during a duel with Neville, and somehow he'd caught the sleeve of a sweater on something sharp in the common room and ripped it.
"Then it seems you are in need of new clothing."
"But-" Harry turned back to the racks of sweatshirts. "I don't see any more I like," he tried, hoping the man wouldn't think he was being picky. If there were no more he liked, then Snape couldn't possibly force him to get more, could he?
"That is fine. We are going to more stores."
Harry held in a sigh and wondered if he could get away with only picking a few pairs of pants before they left. The problem was, this store had a lot of comfortable pairs of joggers that Harry really wanted. He had jeans and slacks and khaki pants he wore in the day time, but only had one pair of comfortable pants to wear when he was in the dorms or not planning on going out for the day.
"Are there none you like?" Severus asked when Harry hadn't picked any out a minute later and was just staring at the shelves of pants.
"I, erm, like them all."
"Pick five pairs."
Harry flashed him a grin despite that he felt uncomfortable being told to get new clothes when he'd just gotten new clothes at the start of the school year a few months prior, and set to work finding five pairs he liked. There was a soft black fleece pair he planned on sleeping in, and two dark gray pairs of the softest sweatpants he'd ever seen. He also ended up with a light gray pair and a soft maroon pair that nearly matched the hoodie he'd picked out.
Severus paid a hundred and fifty pounds for the purchase and then they went into another clothing store nearby. This one seemed to only sell outerwear and Severus had Harry pick out a pair of gloves and two winter caps to keep his head and ears warm. The Headmaster had just given Harry a soft pair of warm black gloves days ago along with a very expensive looking coat that made Harry feel like he belonged in the business world, but the things he was getting here were perfect for everyday use.
They stopped at a fast food restaurant at six and had dinner, and then his father took him to a store that sold home goods like bedding and rugs. In short order Severus had Harry pick out a dark gray rug that would fit in his dungeon bedroom and a new blanket and pillow. The blanket was dark red squares with light gray squares, and was heavy and soft.
Instead of taking a cab back to Diagon Alley, they found an alley that was empty and apparated back to the school gates. Nightmare fresh on his mind from the night before of his Patronus failing to protect him, Harry moved to be close to Severus as they passed through the gates and past the Dementors.
Severus looked down at the boy with surprise when he found him pressed up against his side, but didn't say anything about it. When they were well up the drive and the Dementors were out of sight, Harry moved to give him some space and said, "Sorry sir, I didn't mean to bump into you."
"I did not notice," Severus lied. The boy had a full Patronus now, but was still scared of the Dementors. It was no wonder with the horrors they made the boy re-live whenever they came near. Severus was more than happy to provide his adopted son with the feeling of protection if that's what he needed.
* * *
Over the next few days Harry fell into a comfortable routine of going to work at Flourish And Blotts in the morning and coming back to the castle in the evening. Severus took him to work through the Floo and retrieved him each time. Harry wondered if he was only doing it to ensure Harry wasn't running away again, but found he didn't mind too much. After Dumbledore had found him and brought him back, his new father and grandfather had had a long talk with him about accountability. They were all accountable to each other for their actions, which Harry found to be completely new to him. He understood what it meant to be responsible for your actions, but being accountable to others was new. They had said they would be accountable to him as well, but Harry wasn't sure how well that sentiment would hold up if they ever did something he didn't approve of. The Dursleys had been accountable to no one. Even Dudey was never held responsible for his actions, which were usually blamed on Harry. There had been no one to stop them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs, withholding food from him, or punishing him however they saw fit.
Harry didn't think Snape would hit him, but he wondered if he ever did if Dumbledore would do or say something about it. Harry's main worry wasn't being punished, but rather being sent back to the Dursleys if he stepped too far out of line. If Dumbledore decided to send him back, would Snape allow it? He wanted to know, but didn't want to find out at the same time.
Each evening after they returned from Diagon Alley, they either went to Dumbledore's quarters for dinner, or he came down to the Dungeon to have dinner with them. Once they'd eaten together in the Great Hall at the end of Ravenclaw table, where the staff had been eating since most of the students had gone home. There were only about 10 students left in the castle for Christmas this year, including Harry, so everyone had moved to Ravenclaw table for meals. Generally the teachers sat at the end of the table nearest the staff table, and students sat further down towards the middle of the table, but Harry had been invited to sit by Dumbledore and Snape. While he'd felt awkward spending so much time at meals with the two of them at first, it had now become his favorite part of the day: coming home to his family.
* * *
Two days before Christmas, Dumbledore found Harry before he disappeared to the alley's for the day. Harry was having breakfast in the Great Hall by himself this morning, and was reading a new book he'd earned by working at Flourish And Blotts.
"Good morning dear boy," Albus greeted him. "What are you reading?" Harry closed the book and handed it to him. "Business Ventures Through The Ages," he read the title aloud.
"I got it for working this week. Bennet ordered it for me. I got to pick a book out too."
"A good one I hope?"
"The Compendium Of Quidditch. It's huge. It's a big encyclopedia of Quidditch history and great matches and tournaments that have happened in the past. It also has the history of a lot of moves we use today and has a section on broom making."
"Very interesting. Perhaps you could show it to me when you're not busy. Do you have plans today?"
Harry shook his head. "Basil and Bennet are traveling for Christmas and closed up the shop last night. They won't be back until New Years. They're going across the pond to talk to a book dealer there. I told them to look for good books I can sell here."
"Already planning for the next bazaar?"
"I was thinking maybe I could sell some things myself if that's allowed."
"As it so happens, it is allowed. Small student enterprises have often given birth to successful businesses after students leave school and teach students valuable lessons. I believe currently there are a few older Slytherins who sell hair and skin products, and a Ravenclaw or two who do extra tutoring on weekends for a small fee."
"Do I have to get a business license?" Harry asked. He didn't want to be fined by the Ministry Office Of Business Affairs yet again. He'd been fined thousands of Galleons in the last month before his barrister Harrison Silver had been able to get a moratorium on the fines while they waited for a court date to sort out the unlawful fines.
"You need only have approval from a Head of House or the Headmaster, which you will have so long as I can look over the products you plan to sell or the services you plan to offer."
"I'm going to have to make a list," Harry said. He'd heard of the Ravenclaws who tutored, but hadn't realized there were students selling products. Maybe it was just because the Slytherins didn't like Gryffindors and didn't want to sell to them.
After the headmaster had had his breakfast and Harry had gone back to reading his book, he looked up to Harry and said, "If you're willing to go with me, I'd like to make a trip to do some shopping."
Harry lowered his book and said, "Is it for clothing sir?"
"Are you in need of any clothing in particular?"
"No," Harry said emphatically. "Professor Snape... I mean, my dad took me and I have too many clothes to fit in my wardrobe now. I'm going to have to leave some in my room in the dungeons when school starts again."
Albus chuckled. "I was thinking perhaps of some last minute Christmas shopping and a trip to the tea shop on Knocturn."
Harry was all for a trip to the tea shop. It was his favorite place on Knocturn aside from Peverell's orphanage.
"I'd like that sir," he said.
"You seem to be well dressed for the weather," Albus observed. Harry had on a comfortable pair of his soft black joggers and his maroon hoodie. "Unless there's something you wish to retrieve before we leave, we can go now."
"I'm ready," Harry said. "When we get to the Alleys could I make a trip to Gringotts though?"
They used the Floo in the staff room to get to the Leaky Cauldron and Harry noted the password was different than it had been the day before. It seemed Snape had been true to his word and was having the password to the staff room Floo changed often so Harry couldn't sneak off again.
After Harry had pulled out some money and exchanged some for Muggle notes, they wandered down Diagon, which was full of Christmas shoppers.
"Is there anything you're running short on?" Albus asked. "School supplies for instance?"
"I need to get down Knockturn to Magic Mart," Harry said. "I wanted to buy some things for my friends and some more notebooks for myself. Professor Sn- dad won't let me out on my own anymore so when I go to Flourish And Blotts I have to stay there for the day."
"I see," Albus said. "Perhaps in time you can regain some of the trust that was given before. Severus can be hard to win over, as you know, but once he gives you his trust again you'll have it without question."
"I won't run off again."
Albus only nodded and gave him a small smile. He didn't look certain of Harry's words, but seemed not to want to say anything about it. Harry really wanted their trust back. He liked being able to go up and down the alley's on his own during breaks from school. As he got older he hoped to be allowed to go out into Muggle London on his own as well.
They went into Madam Malkins and Dumbledore picked up a soft red scarf with gold flecks he had ordered by owl.
"That will look nice on you sir," Harry said as he paid for the scarf.
"Do you think so?" Albus asked, holding it up to himself. "I've never considered wearing lady's items before."
Harry froze and looked up at him. Albus was smiling down at him.
"I didn't realize sir. I didn't mean anything by it."
Albus waved his apology away and showed him a clasp at the end of the scarf. "This is what makes it a women's scarf. Men's scarves in the wizarding world have a button and a hole to put the button through to keep it tightly around the neck. Women's scarves have a decorative metal clasp."
Harry looked closely and saw it was a cat clasp.
"For Professor McGonagall," Harry realized. The scarf was red with gold flecks, and together with the silver cat clasp it made it perfect for the head of Gryffindor house.
Albus smiled at him. "Once we stop at the apothecary I'll be able to pick up Severus' gift."
As they left Madam Malkin's and headed down the alley towards the apothecary, Harry thought about the scarf and about the gifts he would buy his friends. He hadn't considered buying gifts for his new adoptive father and grandfather. He'd never bought or made gifts for adults before. Before Hogwarts and meeting Ron, Hermione and Ginny, Harry had never given a gift to anyone before.
"Sir?" Harry asked before they made it to the apothecary.
"I've never bought gifts for adults before. I don't know what to get Professor Snape."
"As it so happens, I ordered in several rare potions ingredients I know he's had his eye on for a long time. Would you like to give them to him?"
"Oh, no sir, I mean, those are your gifts, I couldn't."
"You can give him some of them, and I can give him the rest then. Is that fair?"
"Thank you," Harry said gratefully. He had lived with Snape over part of the summer and stayed in his quarters several times during the term and now again for the holidays, but he was often still a mystery to Harry. Sometimes Harry looked at him and thought to himself how much of a stranger the man was even though he'd adopted him, because he knew very little about him. Dumbledore felt like a mystery to Harry too, because Harry still wasn't used to the adults in his life wanting to hear what he thought about things or wanting to spend time with him, but he had learned quite a bit about Dumbledore in the time they'd spent together over the summer and term. Where Dumbledore liked to tell Harry stories about adventures he'd had in the past and about his favorite sweets, colors he liked, and about his favorite pair of socks, Snape was usually silent.
Harry paid ten Galleons at the apothecary for Brazer Spice, a potion ingredient he'd never heard of, and Dumbledore paid forty Galleons for two other ingredients they were going to give to Snape for Christmas, and then they went to Knocturn to go to Magic Mart.
While Magic Mart didn't sell many fine stationery items in their stationary section, they had a lot of fun items Harry knew his friends would like, as well as shelves of Muggle school supplies like notebooks full of lined paper.
Harry picked up a large notebook with 200 lined pages and a picture of a unicorn on the front for Hermione along with a bottle of reddish purple ink, Hermione's favorite color, and a pack of a thousand sticky notes in rainbow colors. He had seen her using them before and she often lamented that she never had enough to last her through the term with the huge amounts of notes she took.
For Ron Harry bought a bottle of dark orange ink the color of the Cannon's uniforms, and two black lined notebooks. He also picked up a package with several large Chudley Cannon's stickers and was planning on putting them on the front of the notebooks before he gave them to his friend for Christmas.
On an endcap in one of the stationary aisles Harry found Muggle notebooks with lined paper that had the four house crests on them and bought one for Ginny with the Gryffindor lion and a bottle of color shifting ink that changed from red to gold as you wrote.
Harry picked up a few things for his other friends like a sack of various flavors of blood pops Munro was now carrying and being fined by the Ministry for. He was planning on sending the blood pops to Bellamy with a book he'd purchased from Flourish And Blotts earlier in the week. He also bought a fine fountain pen and bottle of expensive ink for Justin. Most of the things Justin had were used or cheap since he lived in the orphanage, and Harry had a feeling he would appreciate a really nice pen and ink.
Albus browsed through the rest of the store while Harry was in the stationary aisle, but came back and found him staring at a stack of muggle lined notebooks.
"Have they done something to you?" Albus asked at the intense look Harry was giving them.
Harry looked up at him and grinned sheepishly. "I know something I'm going to sell at school is all," Harry said, turning away from the notebooks but giving them one last look as they left the aisle. Harry was certain he could get those notebooks cheaper out in the Muggle world. He could buy stacks of them for hardly anything at all and then customize them himself. The only issue was that Harry wasn't that interested in making products to sell. Maybe Justin would be interested. Harry wanted to sell things and be involved in the behind the scenes aspects of the business, but not in the creation of the products.
Harry paid 19 Sickles for his items and then they went to Exotic Tea across the small plaza from Magic Mart and had cups of steaming hot tea. When they were nearly done, Harry said, "Sir? Could I stay behind for a minute to talk to the owner? Alone? I promise it will only be a minute."
Albus let his eyes roam to the woman behind the counter and then around the little cafe to see who else was there. When he was satisfied he nodded and told Harry he would wait outside, but asked him to be quick since it was cold out and starting to snow. Harry wondered what he had been looking for and hurried to the tea counter.
"I want to buy one dry serving of every kind of lemon tea you have," he said. "And do you have anything ridiculously sweet?"
The woman smiled and said, "I have a tea that tastes like a jelly donut. It's brand new."
She packaged sixteen tea bags, each a different flavor of tea, and Harry paid for his purchase and hurried outside.
"That was quick," Albus said, smiling down at him. Harry had only taken a few minutes and now had his purchase for the Headmaster tucked away in brown paper tied with twine. "Are you ready to return to the castle?"
Harry nodded and Albus held out his arm. Harry only looked at it and bit his lip though. "Is there a problem?" Albus asked gently. Harry had never had an issue taking his arm to apparate before.
"No sir," Harry said, though his voice was tight.
Albus considered him quietly and said, "Harry, I would like to know what you're thinking, whatever it is."
"I don't want to be a bother sir." Harry looked up at him and reached for his arm, but when he saw Albus was willing to wait him out patiently, Harry fidgeted and looked down into the snow at their footprints. "Could we maybe take the Floo from the Leaky Cauldron instead?"
"I don't see a problem with that, or that it would be a bother. Is there a reason you would prefer to take the Floo back?"
Harry mumbled something and when Albus didn't respond, Harry said louder, "The Dementors."
"Let us head to the Leaky Cauldron then."
They didn't talk on their way back down Knocturn and Diagon, though when they got back to the castle Albus asked if Harry would like to come up to his quarters to have tea and to wrap Severus' present. Harry agreed and told the Headmaster he'd be up in a minute after he retrieved his new Quidditch Compendium to show him from their dungeon quarters. Going back to the dungeons first would also give him time to put the bag with the Headmaster's gift of tea away until he could wrap it and his friends' gifts later.
Ten minutes later and Harry had carried his heavy book up to the Headmaster's office, given the gargoyle a random password since Harry was keyed in and any password would grant him entrance, and found the Headmaster in his living room, a fresh pot of tea on the coffee table.
"Will Severus be joining us?" Albus asked.
"He wasn't in the quarters. I think he said this morning that he was spending the day in his office grading end of term tests."
"Ah yes. End of term grades are due tomorrow morning. I find it best that the staff get their work done before Christmas eve so they can spend the rest of the holiday relaxing. Have you finished your homework for the term?"
"Mostly," Harry said. "I just have a few more questions to answer for Care of Magical Creatures."
"Perhaps you should do so this evening before bed then so you can enjoy the holiday too."
"I will sir."
Harry poured himself a cup of tea. It was some sort of fruity variety he hadn't had before. It made his taste buds dance for a moment before ending in a bitter taste and it took him several sips to determine that he did like it, though not as much as the licorice and peppermint tea he preferred.
Albus rose and went down the stairs to the lower part of his quarters which Harry assumed was a bedroom, and came back a few minutes later with two rolls of wrapping paper and spello-tape. He let Harry choose which paper to wrap his present to Snape in first, and then used the other paper to wrap his own gift to the Potions Master. When he was done he wrapped the scarf he'd purchased for Minerva.
"Now, about your new book," Albus said, and Harry came to sit next to him on the couch and opened it to the page he'd been reading the night before about how brooms and the charms that made them fly worked.
"Very interesting. Truly a resource for everything related to Quidditch," Albus commented after a few minutes of looking through the book and letting Harry tell him about some of the things he'd learned from reading it so far.
"If you don't have plans with Severus this evening, you're welcome to stay for dinner Harry. I'm going to brew another pot of tea and catch up on some of my own end of term work."
"Maybe I'll run back downstairs and get my homework then," Harry said.
"Where is it?"
"On my desk in the dungeons."
Albus held up a hand to stall him from rising to leave and called for a house elf. He asked it politely to retrieve Harry's Care of Magical Creatures homework and textbook from his desk in the bedroom in Snape's quarters, and the elf disappeared with a pop. It was back in less than a minute with Harry's homework and book.
"Thank you," Harry said to the elf, and the tiny house elf bowed and was gone with another pop.
Harry spent twenty minutes finishing the last of his holiday homework, and Albus retrieved several scrolls of parchment and a quill from his office and came back into the living room to settle in on the couch with his own work. When Harry was done with his homework he opened up his Quidditch Compendium and sat on the floor in front of the fire to read. This was how Severus found them at six when he came to Albus' office to hand in Potions grades for the end of the term: Harry on the floor unaware of what was going on around him because he was fully involved with his book, and Albus checking off several boxes on a piece of parchment and signing the bottom as he sat on the couch in the warm and cozy living area.
Severus didn't wait to be invited in and sat down in the comfortable chair by the fire, stack of parchment in hand with the grades for every student taking Potions.
"Hello Severus," Albus said warmly without looking up from his own work. He checked another box, wrote something down, and then set his parchment down to look up. Harry turned from where he was lying on his stomach on the floor to look at his Potions Master as well.
"Good evening. I have the end of term grades."
Albus held out his hand for the parchments, which Severus gave him, and set them down on his own stack of completed work on the coffee table.
"Tea?" Albus asked.
Severus held up a hand to decline the offer.
"Unless you have plans for dinner, I was planning on calling for dinner service in a few minutes," Albus said. Severus looked tired and nodded in agreement that he would stay for dinner.
Albus went back to the rest of his list and Severus looked down to Harry on the floor. "I trust you found something to keep yourself occupied today?"
"Yes sir," Harry said. "We went to the Alleys."
"I thought there was no work to be done today."
"We went shopping. I bought my friends some gifts." Harry said happily, though he paused then, bit his lip as he looked at the floor, and then looked back up at Severus. "I mean sir," he said, voice changed in an unsettling way, "I didn't ask him to waste time taking me. He was going already and I tagged along."
Severus noted that Albus had paused in his work and looked up at Harry. The child radiated nervous energy that hadn't been there moments before.
"Harry," Severus said quietly, "you are allowed to go out shopping and to enjoy yourself."
"I just meant, I didn't ask him to take me. I know he's busy."
Severus sighed and looked to Albus for help.
"I enjoy spending time with you Harry," Albus told him. "I had errands and wished to take you with me."
"Ok," Harry said quietly and looked back down to his book. He still looked nervous and though Albus and Severus shared a look, neither commented again about it. Albus put his work down and called an elf to bring up dinner for them, and a few moments later, diner appeared in the small dining area off the living room.
Albus and Severus struck up a conversation about end of term grades as they ate, which eventually turned to talk of Harry's end of term grades. He wasn't failing anything, and he had brought his Transfiguration grade up by a few points as Severus had advised Harry to try to do, but many of his other grades were still merely A for acceptable. An O, an E, and a handful of A's. Harry thought his grades were pretty good, but knew Snape and Dumbledore wanted him to do better. Just a few more points in Transfiguration and he could bring that A up to an E as well. He only hoped that would be enough to satisfy them.
"I believe in being rewarded for hard work," Severus said as Harry finished his dinner. "For the O in Defense and E in Charms I will take you to Honeydukes tomorrow before they close for Christmas Eve and let you pick out two items. If you can keep your good grades in Defense and Charms, and bring the A in Transfiguration up to an O by the end of the school year, I will plan a trip to a Quidditch match for the team of your choosing."
"If I get an O by the end of the year in Transfiguration?"
"Will you be mad if I can't?"
"No," Severus said, going back to finish the last few bites of his roast.
"Perhaps if you are struggling to bring your grade in Transfiguration up, you can come to one of us for help," Albus said. "I would be happy to look over your essays or help you practice. I taught transfiguration before I was the Headmaster. Severus and I would also be willing to help you with your other schoolwork."
"Won't other kids think I'm cheating? Getting extra help from you just because you're my guardians? Their parents aren't around during the term to help them."
"Any student may ask any teacher for help at any time," Severus said. "Many students receive extra help and tutoring throughout the year. And for those struggling with a certain subject, their parents help them during holidays and breaks from school, or hire tutors to give them extra lessons over the summer."
"I didn't realize," Harry said. Hermione always got good grades and never seemed to need help, and he couldn't imagine Ron's parents paying for a tutor for him, though maybe his parents helped him over the summer themselves. He had never thought to ask his friend something like that before.
"I think I can get that grade up," Harry said. "I'm just a few points from an E. If I get an O on my next paper I'll be up to an E."
The conversation turned back to other things again and after a few minutes Harry asked if he could be excused. He wanted to get back to the dungeons to wrap some of his gifts for his friends. Albus sent Harry away with what was left of the two rolls of wrapping paper and spello-tape and Severus told him he'd be along in a few minutes.
When Harry was gone and the mess from dinner sent back to the kitchens with a wave of Albus' wand, Albus looked at Severus across the dining table and said, "Today Harry asked not to be brought back to the castle via apparation. When I asked him why, he indicated the Dementors. I thought now that he has mastered the Patronus it would help ease his worries about them."
Severus sighed. "A few days ago when I took him shopping for winter clothes, we apparated back. When we passed through the gates he pressed himself up against me until we were well up the drive and halfway to the castle."
"I wish we could give him the sense of security and safety he deserves."
"A petition against the Minister to get the Dementors removed would go a long way towards that," Severus reminded him again.
Albus nodded. "The time must be right to do so."
Severus rose to leave and was about to bid Albus goodnight when Albus stopped him with a question. "What was that about earlier in the living room with Harry? Why did he appear to be nervous when he mentioned going to the Alley's with me?"
Severus shook his head. "I do not know and intend to find out as soon as I get back to the Dungeons."
"He seems happy, but it takes so little for him to grow nervous or timid," Albus lamented.
"It's only been a few months since the trial. He's still adjusting. It will take some time."
* * *
"Harry," Severus greeted when he got back to their quarters. Harry was in his room wrapping presents, sitting on his new soft rug that covered most of his stone bedroom floor.
"Sir. I know I'm not supposed to be out past curfew, but could I please go to the owlery to find Hedwig when I'm done wrapping these to send them off since Christmas Eve is tomorrow? I'm going to have to use some school owls too."
"You may, provided you come back when you are done and do not wander about the castle."
Harry grinned. "No trouble to get into now that you're changing the Floo password daily."
Severus sat in Harry's desk chair and gave him a consternated look. Instead of diving into questions about Harry's earlier behavior, he surveyed some of the items Harry had purchased for his friends. "What have you decided to give your friends this year for Christmas?"
Harry explained his gifts, including the ones that were already wrapped. He also told Severus about telling the Headmaster that a woman's scarf bought for Professor McGonagall looked nice on him. Severus smiled and gave a little laugh, which Harry found odd because the Potion's Master laughed so infrequently.
As Harry finished wrapping his last gift, Severus said, "I would like to know about the things you said in the Headmaster's quarters earlier.
"Sir? About my grades?"
"About spending time with him on the alleys."
"Oh." Harry seemed less anxious about it now, possibly because he was still focused on taping the last piece of wrapping paper to the last gift. "I just meant, I wasn't out wasting his time sir. I know he's busy and has things to do and that I'm not supposed to be taking up all his time."
"We will talk more about that in a moment. Why did you appear so unsettled when telling me this when I arrived in his quarters?"
"I didn't want to be in trouble."
"What would make you think you were in trouble when he had invited you to spend the day out with him?"
Harry fidgeted with his fingers again, trying to delay having to answer. Was it a trick question? Harry knew his adoptive father didn't want him wasting the Headmaster's time. Uncle Vernon had loved asking Harry trick questions and then punishing him no matter what answer he gave.
"Harry, look at me."
Harry looked up and realized he was breathing heavily.
"It was not my intention to cause you anxiety by speaking to you about this."
"It's not you." It was, partially, but thinking about the Dursleys sometimes took him right back there, like he was reliving the moment despite that there were no Dementors nearby. After a few moments he was able to calm down a little and said, "I thought you said you didn't want me wasting his time."
Severus searched back through his memory for a conversation like that and couldn't remember one. "When did I say this?" he asked.
Harry shrugged. He was certain he'd told him that, and besides, Snape had been so annoyed during the summer any time Harry had spent time with the Headmaster, like he was just a chore the Headmaster was being forced to take care of when he had better things to do.
"I don't remember when exactly," Harry admitted. "But you didn't like it when I was going to do things with him."
Severus didn't have to search through his memory to know what the boy was referring to this time. He had been irritated with Harry after the trial and with Albus for catering to him. That was before he'd begun to see the truth to what Harry had told the court during the trial about how he'd been treated by his relatives. It was before he'd really started to look at Harry and the impact the trial had had on him. It was before he'd wanted to take care of Harry and protect him.
"What the Headmaster said is true, he enjoys spending time with you, as do I. Despite the poor way I acted towards you before the term started, I will never be upset about you spending time with him, or with me. You belong to us now, and we to you. Spending time together is something families are supposed to do and not something you will be in trouble for."
"It's hard not to feel like I'm in trouble all the time with you." He'd grown used to being around Snape, and seeking comfort from him even, but with the animosity they'd shared and the way Snape had treated him in his first and second year and even up to the start of the most recent term made it hard to relax. Sometimes Harry forgot and felt completely at ease, like he could manage slipping into the relationship of being the man's adopted son. And then other times like earlier that evening, he was reminded of the way Snape used to treat him. He was reminded of how the Dursleys had treated him. If he had seemed to be enjoying himself at all, he was in trouble. And he was always, always treated like a burden his relatives didn't have time for.
Severus cursed himself in his mind. He had treated the boy poorly since he'd known him. It must be so hard for the child to believe things were different than they had always been. Severus had been trying hard to not fly off the handle and to give the child the benefit of the doubt. For the last few months he'd felt like he was wearing kid gloves when dealing with Harry, because he was trying to foster a sense of security for him and get him out of survival mode. Apparently he'd been failing, and he didn't know where to go from here.
"I am sorry for the way I treated you before and am committed to not making the same mistake again. I realize that will take time for you to get used to. If I'm treating you in a way you feel is unfair, I want you to tell me. As I told you before, we are accountable to each other."
"Ok," Harry said quietly.
Severus helped Harry pack his gifts into an empty box so he could carry them up to the Owlery, and decided to go with him so other teachers wouldn't harass him about being out after curfew now that it was eight o'clock.
Harry used a large owl that was bigger than Hedwig to send off the two packages for Bellamy and Justin since they were both headed to practically the same location, used Hedwig to send his gifts to Ron and Ginny, and then found a smaller school owl to send the last gift off to Hermione. When he was done he leaned on the railing in the Owlery and stared out at the moonlit grounds in the chill night air for a few moments.
After that he and Severus headed back down through the castle. On their way Severus asked, "What are some of the interactions between us that cause you anxiety?"
"Erm, I dunno," Harry said.
"You mentioned frequently feeling like you are in trouble. If you can explain those instances that have made you feel that way since the term has started, I can understand better how to... modify my behavior. You should not have to feel anxiety over interactions with me."
Harry frowned, hands in the pockets of his warm hoodie to warm them up from having been out in the cold air of the Owlery. "When I was late coming back from work at Flourish And Blotts that night right before school started again," Harry said. "I was sure you were going to yell at me til' my ears bled."
"As I recall, you were not in trouble for that incident."
"I know, but I was surprised that I wasn't. When you weren't waiting up for me in the quarters to yell at me, I was sure you were going to the next morning." They were silent as they walked past the short corridor leading to Gryffindor and then continued down a short flight of stairs to the next landing and rounded a corner near the Charm's room. "And then when I'm not expecting to be in trouble," Harry said, "when I think things are ok, then I get in trouble after all. It makes me think I have to be in trouble over everything all the time."
"When did you believe you would not be in trouble and then were?"
"After the Quidditch Expo."
"Again, I apologize for my earlier behavior."
Harry looked up at him as they walked through the dimly lit corridors.
"I know I do stupid stuff sometimes, and sometimes I should be in trouble, like for running away. I don't like it when you yell at me though. I don't like shouting." He shuddered and forced himself not to think back to his uncle's red face as he yelled at Harry until he was hoarse.
"I will endeavor not to raise my voice when you are in trouble."
Harry had expected to be in much bigger trouble than he had been for running away. He had served a detention and had to do Saturday school for missing classes, but other than that Snape had made him sit down and have a couple of conversations and Dumbledore had made him write a letter to himself about what he wanted his near future to look like. He'd disappointed them, and had lost some of the freedom he'd had to go to the Alleys by himself during the holidays, but that was almost nothing. He'd expected to be in detention for weeks, to be yelled at and put down. That wasn't what had happened though. Maybe Snape was right. Maybe he really was sorry and had been trying to change how he reacted to Harry when Harry upset him. Harry couldn't actually remember a time since the term had started that he'd been shouted at by Snape or given unfair detentions or falsely accused of doing something he hadn't.
When they got back to the dungeon quarters a few minutes later, Severus asked if Harry would like some tea before bed. Harry declined and went to his room to think more on what had been said. It only led him to fall asleep thinking about his relatives though, and he woke an hour later breathing heavily and sweating from a nightmare about them. The hallway light came on outside his bedroom door and a moment later his door opened to reveal Snape.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Harry said, though his voice shook.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Harry was quiet as he shivered in the darkness, cold now that the blankets had been thrown off of him.
"Could we have that tea now?" Harry asked, expecting the answer to be no. Severus pushed the door open the rest of the way and beckoned Harry to come to the kitchen. He made Harry a cup of peppermint tea and sat across the table from him. Harry sat warming his hands on the tea cup and staring into it rather than drinking it.
After several minutes of staring into his tea Harry said, "You remember in my second year, when I came back after summer break, and in class you told me to sit still or you'd stick me to my stool?"
Severus thought back and found the memory, though it was faint. He had interactions like that with students every day, and couldn't remember them all. "Yes."
"I couldn't sit still because the stool was hard and I was covered in bruises on my back and legs. It hurt to sit. I was dreaming about that... the week before I came back for my second year... right before Ron and his brothers rescued me from my relatives."
Severus didn't know what to say to him. He knew the boy had received a beating in the summer after his third year, because the photos his barrister had taken had been shown during the trial. He didn't know what to say to Harry about the abuse though. What would Severus have wanted someone to say to him when he'd come back to school covered in bruises as a student? He didn't know.
Instead of saying anything, he moved to another chair at the table, this one closer to Harry and said, "You are no longer there and they cannot hurt you. You are here with me, and I will not let that happen to you ever again."
"I know," Harry said quietly. "I just wanted to sit out here with you for a while so I could remember."
Severus' chest hurt for Harry and what he'd been through, but at the same time felt warmed by his adoptive son's confession. He felt safe with Severus. The feeling of safety was something Severus had been working so hard towards giving him.
"Would you like me to warm your tea, or would you like to return to bed?"
Harry rubbed his eye and shivered again in the cold air since he'd taken his hoodie off before bed. "I think I'll go back to bed. I kind of want to be awake on Christmas eve."
"I will see you in the morning then."
Harry bade him goodnight and then disappeared down the short hall and into his room.
Severus sat at the table for a few more moments by himself. This was something he'd done for the boy. Something he'd been able to give him that the child had sorely been lacking. Severus had never felt quite like this before... he'd never felt so good about something he'd done. Then again, Severus wasn't used to doing things like this for people. He wanted to give Harry everything he'd been missing before the trial, and was determined he would.
* * *
Harry wasn't well rested the next morning, but had gotten enough sleep to make it through the day. He'd never spent Christmas with a family of his own before, and wanted to savor every moment of today and tomorrow, even if they had no plans other than exchanging gifts on Christmas morning.
When Harry dressed and put on a warm pair of socks to head into the living room, he was surprised to find a small tree near the fire. It wasn't decorated with ornaments, but it had white lights on it and made the dungeon living room feel bright and cheerful. There was also a green garland across the fireplace mantle. Snape was in the kitchen making coffee.
"Good morning sir," Harry said.
"Good morning. We are having breakfast in the Great Hall this morning. Albus wants to spend the day together but needs to have at least one meal in the Great Hall today." It had been explained to Harry before that the Headmaster needed to be seen eating with students and staff as frequently as possible. All of the teachers were supposed to take the majority of their meals in the Great Hall, though they were given leeway to have a certain number of meals in private each week.
"Are we doing anything today?" Harry asked.
"I suggest you take a book or two with us to the Great Hall. After breakfast we will be going to the Headmaster's quarters to spend the day. I will be taking a book myself."
Harry nodded and went back to his room to get his new Quidditch book. He wished he had a novel to read, but he hadn't been to the library yet over the break to get one. Since he had spent Christmas by himself last year at the castle he had checked out several novels to keep his mind occupied and found that he enjoyed reading novels when he had the time.
Before they left for the Great Hall, Harry said, "Sir, is it ok if I skip breakfast?"
"Is there a reason why?"
"I'd like to get a novel from the library."
"Come to breakfast and then you may go to the library. You are not required to spend the entire day with us and are allowed to check out books."
Harry found that there wasn't a spot saved for him next to the Headmaster this morning, but he didn't mind. Dumbledore seemed to be involved in a serious discussion with Hagrid and McGonagall about the Dementors, and as soon as Snape sat down next to them he joined in. Instead Harry moved down the table a ways to sit with a group of older Ravenclaws who had stayed at the castle over the break to study for OWLs and NEWTs. He was soon involved in a conversation about the magic behind broom flight and about the new test brooms he'd donated to the school at the start of the school year.
Harry finished breakfast and then headed to the library, most of the staff including Snape and Dumbledore still deep in discussion at the end of the table.
In the library Harry found two novels that looked interesting and checked them both out. One was about a mage that had never had formal education who fought dark magical creatures and saved unsuspecting Muggles from close calls with death. The other was about a girl his age who had been kicked out of a magical school in America because she'd battled a demon and ended up burning down part of the school in the process. A thought struck Harry as he browsed the rows and rows of novels, that none of them were about Fae.
"Madam Pince?" Harry asked, the books he wanted to read in hand.
"Yes Mr. Potter?"
"Are there any novels about Fae like these ones?" He held his choices out to show her.
"I'm afraid not, at least not here."
"Are there novels about Fae at all?"
She pursed her lips. "None that you'll like I'm afraid. They're all about witches and wizards saving villages from hordes of vampires, or rogue werewolves."
"Do you think there are books out there somewhere where Fae are the heroes?"
"There are," she said. "Most of them are from other countries.
"Why don't we have any?" He already knew the answer though.
She looked thoughtful. "Every year we purchase a few new books. I suppose I've never had a request for those so I've never looked into getting any of them. I'll see if I can find some though."
Harry smiled at her as she took the two books he'd picked out and marked their titles next to his name on her list of books that were checked out.
A few minutes later, Harry made it to the Headmaster's office. He gave the gargoyle guarding the entrance a thoughtful look and said, "Christmas pixies." It hopped aside and he stepped onto the moving staircase with a smile. He had fun giving it random words since anything he said would grant him entrance.
As he neared the top of the staircase, he heard voices in the Headmaster's office, indicating he had finished with breakfast. Usually he opened the door and walked in, but he didn't want to interrupt a meeting if there were other teachers in there so he knocked.
"Come in Harry," came the Headmaster's voice.
Lupin, McGonagall and Madam Hooch were standing in front of the Headmaster's desk.
"Sorry sir, I didn't mean to interrupt."
"No need to apologize. Severus is making tea in the kitchen," he said, indicating the door to his quarters, and Harry smiled at him and moved across the office and then into the Headmaster's living quarters, shutting the door gently behind him.
It seemed Severus had finished making tea and was sitting in the comfortable chair by the fire in the living room reading a Potion's Journal. The Headmaster had a tree about as tall as Harry by the fire, flocked in white with colorful lights and many colors of ornaments.
"Did you find anything good?" Severus asked as Harry sat down on the couch and set his books on the coffee table.
"Yes sir, a couple good novels. I want to find some with Fae as the heroes though. Madam Pince said all the novels with Fae were about wizards killing them and chasing them off."
"I would imagine there is a shortage of that kind of heroic story."
Harry settled in to read. The Headmaster didn't come in for almost an hour, but when he finally did he retrieved a book it looked like he was in the middle of and sat on the couch next to Harry, who was two chapters in.
Harry enjoyed sitting quietly with his guardians and reading. It was like the many times he'd gone to Snape's quarters after rough Patronus lessons with Lupin and just sat by the fire across from the usually silent man. He'd been allowed time to just think and still be with someone else when he didn't want to be alone. This was similar.
Harry wasn't all alone for Christmas this year. It felt completely different than sitting by himself in the empty common room of Gryffindor reading while he knew his friends were off spending time with their families. He remembered his aunt, uncle and cousin spending time together watching the telly. Uncle Vernon sat in his chair, making comments about the news or whatever show they were watching, and Dudley sat on the couch next to Aunt Petunia, laughing at whatever was on. Aunt Petunia never said much or laughed at the telly, but Harry supposed she was happy enough spending time with her family. Harry had always watched from his cupboard in the entryway, though he saw more of his family's backs than the telly.
"Is it a good adventure?" Albus asked about his book after an hour, and Harry looked up and nodded.
"Would you like to play a game?"
"A game sir?"
"A board game. Although if you are right in the middle of an intense adventure, I won't mind if you say no."
"I'll play," Harry said. "I don't have any games to bring up here though."
"Oh, I think you might," he said, looking up at Severus and giving him a small wink. Albus rose and went to the small personal office off of the living room, and came back to the couch a moment later with a gift wrapped in red paper with golden snitches. He handed it to Harry who took it uncertainly.
"For me sir? But it's not Christmas yet."
"In my family, it was always tradition for each child to open one gift on Christmas Eve."
"Really?" Harry asked. He'd never been able to participate in Christmas traditions before. He turned to the gift and pulled the paper off, revealing a handsome wooden box with an H carved into the front. The lid had an opening running down the center, and hinges on two opposing sides of the square box, so that when Harry opened the lid it hinged out at both sides, splitting in the middle and revealing the interior. The inside was split into four wooden compartments. One held gobstones, one held checkers, one held a set of frosted glass chess pieces, white and light blue, and the last held a deck of Fire And Ice Bane cards. Harry had seen the kids in the common room playing Fire And Ice Bane, but he'd never been asked to join in, and Harry instead spent his time playing chess with Ron or gobstones with the other boys in the dorm.
"What game is this sir?" Harry asked, wondering what kind of game used all of these pieces.
"Lift the top section of the box out," Albus said, and Harry lifted up on the box. The part of the box holding the playing pieces lifted away and revealed a chess and checkers board, which Harry lifted out of the box as well and unfolded to reveal a full playing board.
"Wow," Harry said, impressed.
"Look on the outside of the box at the very bottom," Albus said, pointing, and Harry tilted the box to look and found a notch in the side big enough to fit his finger. He put his finger in the notch and pulled, and a carved gobstone board pulled out from inside of the box.
"It's great!" Harry said.
The entire box was a one foot by one foot square. It was the perfect size to hold all of these games, but small enough for Harry to carry to the common room under his arm to play with friends.
"Which game would you like to play first?" Albus asked.
"Could you show me how to play Fire And Ice Bane?"
Albus nodded and Harry pulled out the cards. He was surprised when Severus pulled his chair forward towards the coffee table to play as well.
"The goal is simple," said Albus. "It's like a magic duel. Each card holds a fictional fire or ice based spell. The card will tell you what the name of the spell is, what you have to do in order to cast the spell by playing the card, and how much damage it will do. Some of the cards affect everyone, including the caster, and others can be cast at a specific person. We each start with 20 points. When you deal damage with a spell to one your opponents, they lose however many points the card says. Some of the spells are protection spells that can stop your opponent's spell from taking your points.
Harry looked through some of the cards. Fire cards had a red border, and ice cards had an icy blue border. They were as the headmaster described, and each had a colorful drawing of what the spell looked like or what it's effects were.
"Up to four can play," Severus said. "If more are going to play a second deck must be added of other types of magic, such as Earth And Water, Or Wind And Sky.
Severus showed Harry a spell to shuffle the deck, then Harry dealt ten cards to each of them and they began to play. Harry picked the game up quickly, and almost won, though in the end it came down to an intense battle between Snape and Dumbledore. Snape won with a satisfied smirk and took the deck to shuffle again. The game was fast paced and they played two more rounds before the Headmaster had the elves deliver lunch.
After lunch Snape went back to reading while Harry and Dumbledore played checkers. Harry was interested to find out that wizarding checkers was different than Muggle checkers and had different rules. In wizard checkers the black and red pieces changed colors, some colors allowing special movement of the pieces, and sometimes the pieces stuck themselves to the board. Some of the squares on the board were traps that held certain pieces in place if your opponent jumped or moved in a certain way, preventing you from moving certain pieces until two turns had passed.
Around four Professor McGonagall came up to talk to the Headmaster about something in his office, so Severus played chess with Harry, followed by another round of Fire And Ice.
The Headmaster hadn't come back by the time dinner rolled around, so Severus ordered dinner and put a warming charm on Dumbledore's plate.
"Are you sure he's coming back sir?" Harry asked. "He might have gone to dinner in the Great Hall."
"Most likely there was an issue with a student that needed to be dealt with. He will return when he can."
"Do you think everything's all right?"
"Yes," Snape said. He had no Slytherins staying in the castle for Christmas that year, so he didn't have to worry about being available and around the Dungeons as often as he normally would. "If a student is seriously injured or ill, has done something that would warrant more than a regular detention, or needed to go home before the break ended, it would require his attention. He is normally very-" he paused, re-thought what he was going to say and said instead, "there are some things he is required as Headmaster to oversee. It could also be that Minerva needed him to sign paperwork or that there was an issue with the castle that he needed to make a decision about."
"He's busy," Harry said.
Severus looked up from his food and gave Harry a serious look. "Not so busy that he can't spend time with his grandchild."
Harry looked down at his plate and couldn't keep a little smile from coming over his face. He didn't think it would ever get old, hearing someone say that he had a father or grandfather. He had still been trying to work up the nerve to call Dumbledore grandpa to his face. He was working on calling Snape dad too, but wasn't sure how much Snape would like that. For now he had settled on trying to remember to say Snape was his dad instead of his professor when talking to people that knew he'd been adopted.
Just as Snape had said, a few minutes later Dumbledore returned and sat down at the table. He didn't even mention whatever he had been called away to deal with, so Harry reasoned it couldn't have been too important. He supposed that even on holidays the Headmaster would have to be on call to deal with important issues so long as there were students staying in the castle.
"Sir?" Harry asked. But both men looked up to see if he was talking to them.
"Erm, grandpa I mean," Harry said, face heating up. Dumbledore stared at Harry for a moment and then smiled.
"Did you have to go help a student?"
"As a matter of fact I did. A student returned early."
Harry frowned. "Are they ok? Are they sad to have to come back early?"
Albus gave a serious look up to Severus and then said to Harry," there was an issue at home. The student is resting comfortably in the Hospital Wing."
"But they'll be ok?"
"Yes. I suspect he's eating dinner and preparing to settle in for the night."
After they ate, Harry went back to the couch to read. He strained his ears to listen through the open door to the office where the two men had gone to talk privately.
"Is it one of mine?"
"What are the nature of his injuries?"
Harry didn't hear the answer, but he did hear Severus say, "I will go and speak to him."
"He specifically asked for you not to be interrupted," Albus said. "He was not interested in speaking to me or Poppy either."
They spoke for a few more minutes in low tones Harry couldn't make out, and then came back into the room.
"I finished this book," Harry said. "I know I have another to read, but I'd really like to go get the second book in this series to start tonight. Can I go to the Library for a little while and come back, or will it be too late?"
"Of course," Dumbledore said.
"Thanks. I'll be back."
Harry took his half finished book and left, hoping neither man would notice he'd also taken his deck of Fire And Ice cards.
A few minutes later Harry eased the Hospital Wing door open and peeked his head into the softly lit ward. The lights weren't out yet, but then again it was only six thirty in the evening. Madam Pomfrey seemed to be out or perhaps in her quarters which were connected to her office on the far end of the ward. When he was sure there were no adults inside, he slipped through the door and eased it closed so it didn't make any noise. Draco was at the other end by the windows, back to Harry and staring out at the softly falling snow in the darkness.
Harry walked down to the end of the ward and said, "Hey."
Draco's back stiffened, and he sighed heavily. "What do you want Potter?"
"Kinda boring being stuck at the castle for Christmas. No one else in Gryffindor. I was coming up to pester Madam Pomfrey but she's not here."
Draco still didn't turn to look at him. "Go away."
"I can if you want," Harry said, "but I've got a deck of Fire And Ice cards if you wanna play. Unless you're too sick."
"You think I want to play with you?" Draco said. His voice didn't have the edge to it that it usually did when talking to Harry though.
"Well I don't particularly wanna play with you either," Harry said. "Might as well though. I just learned and need to practice."
Draco scoffed and turned to him, revealing his pale face, now marred by a bruise up near his temple.
Harry walked to him and sat down on the foot of his bed, making Draco scoot back.
"Watch it!" Draco snapped. "You almost sat on me!"
"Don't hog the whole bed then," Harry said, opening the deck of cards and starting to shuffle them.
Draco sneered but didn't say anything as Harry started to deal them each ten cards.
"You're ridiculous Potter," he snapped, picking up the cards. "You're going to make me play a hand just to get you to leave. If I win you're out of here."
"Sure," Harry said, "should be easy to beat me since I just learned."
But Draco didn't win. He lost by a few points and Harry shuffled and dealt again.
"I won," Harry told him. "Oh well, guess that means you're stuck with me. You have to win two hands now before I'll leave."
"I could refuse to play."
"You could. You could probably go get Madam Pomfrey and tell her I'm being a pest."
"After this hand," Harry said. Draco dealt this time and won, but lost the next hand. Harry didn't comment on the fact that the blond could have won, but had played spells in the worst order.
"You gonna be around tomorrow too?" Harry asked.
"I'm going to Goyle's house in the morning."
"He have Fire And Ice cards?" Harry asked.
Harry won again and Draco lost again. They'd played ten quick rounds in only 30 minutes, and Madam Pomfrey was still nowhere to be seen.
After the eleventh round while Draco was dealing, he said, "They say you got adopted by the Headmaster... and Snape."
"Yeah," Harry said.
"Pretty pathetic Potter," Draco said, scoffing. Harry looked up at the bruise on his temple again, and thought about the fact that the blond boy was here on Christmas Eve and not at home, and was going to his friend's house in the morning instead of back to his parents.
"Yeah, well I kept coming back to school with bruises like yours. It was too many times to ignore."
"I fell," Draco said. "I was ice skating."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I was clumsy like that too." Harry was rewarded with a dirty look but didn't comment on it. Usually when Harry was stuck in the Hospital Wing, Ron or his other friends came to keep him company, to study or play games with him. All of the Slytherins were gone though, and Harry thought it would be a crummy Christmas Eve to have to spend the evening in the Hospital Wing alone. Let Draco give him dirty looks. He didn't care.
Draco beat Harry three times in quick succession, every movement looking angry, like he wanted to throw something. Finally Harry looked at the clock on the wall and said, "I think you finally got even with our score," Harry said. He packed the deck into the card box and stood up off the foot of the bed where he'd been sitting. He turned to leave but then turned back to Draco. "Goyle's house might be kind of boring," Harry said. "And you need some major practice in Fire And Ice." He tossed the deck of cards to Draco and said, "You should take this. We can have a re-match when you've had more practice with Goyle."
"What is this Potter, charity?" Draco said, the edge coming back into his voice when it hadn't been there all evening.
"Charity?" Harry asked, looking at the cards. "That's a Christmas present." And Harry wasn't lying, because it had been a present to him, and he supposed Draco needed a present more than Harry did this year.
"I don't want a present from you."
Harry shrugged. "Throw them in the bin then." He flashed a quick smile at Draco, put his hands in his pockets, grabbed his book, and left the ward, Draco staring dumbly after him.
Back in the Headmaster's quarters a few minutes later, Harry found Dumbledore reading on the couch in front of the fire where he'd left him. Snape was nowhere to be seen. Harry sat down on the couch with his book.
"How was Mr. Malfoy?" Dumbledore asked, not looking up from his book, and Harry paused.
He looked at Harry and said, "Madam Pomfrey stuck her head through the Floo an hour ago to tell me he had a visitor."
"Am I in trouble sir?"
"For visiting a sick friend on Christmas Eve?"
"Erm- he's not exactly a friend."
"You are not in trouble. Did he say anything to you?"
"Leave me alone Potter. You're ridiculous Potter. That's about it."
"You're something else Harry," Albus said, and Harry wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not, though the old man was smiling.
"Where's Professor Snape?"
"He had business to attend to outside of the castle. He will return soon."
"It would be best if you did not ask."
Later that evening, after Harry had been plied with chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, he fell asleep on the couch by the fire, book open on his chest. Albus draped a blanket over him and went to his room to sleep in the lower quarters. Harry had never fallen asleep there or stayed the night before.
Severus returned at almost one in the morning and didn't want to wake Harry, though Harry would wonder the next morning at the bruises and cuts on Snape's knuckles.
* * *
Harry was surprised to find himself on Dumbledore's couch the next morning. Snape was behind him in Dumbledore's little kitchen making tea as Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes. One of them must have covered him in a blanket. He'd been reading and must have fallen asleep.
"Sir, did you sleep here too?" Harry asked.
"I did not. I returned and found you asleep and went back to our quarters."
"I'm sorry sir."
"Do not be. I was gone for some time."
Harry spied the knuckles on Snape's right hand as he brought a pot of tea to the coffee table and three cups, but didn't comment. Snape went back to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee as well, and just as he was bringing that to the coffee table, Dumbledore came up from the lower quarters wearing a dark blue robe and festive looking socks with red and green stripes.
"Merry Christmas Harry, Severus," he said cheerily.
"Merry Christmas sir," Harry said. Severus greeted him in the same manner but looked tired.
"Coffee, what a wonderful way to start the day," Albus said, pouring himself a cup. He called for breakfast and the elves sent up cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins. Harry spied presents under the tree, and noted that the one he had wrapped for the Headmaster down in their quarters was also there, but ignored them as he took a blueberry muffin and drank some Earl Grey.
Harry pulled the blanket back around himself as he sat on the couch and finished his muffin.
Albus waved up the fire in the grate and said, "Harry, why don't you sit down by the fire and the tree and find a present."
Harry took the soft brown blanket down to the floor with him, still wrapped around his shoulders and sat by the tree. The first present he pulled out was the headmaster's gift for Snape. He handed the present to Snape, who was sitting in the comfortable chair by the coffee table drinking coffee.
"Here you go sir."
Severus set his cup of coffee down and took the gift, wrapped in silver paper. Inside were two satchels of potions ingredients.
"These must have been very hard to come by," he said, bringing one satchel to his nose and smelling it, before opening it and peering inside.
"Oh, not too difficult," Albus said. "They came from that young harvester Germany."
"Get another Harry," Albus said, and Harry pulled a red one out. It had his name on it, and the tag said it was from Snape.
Harry pulled the red paper off and found a pair of soft gray slippers. He put them on immediately over his socks and smiled up at the man. "Thank you sir. They're nice and warm."
Harry pulled out his gift for Dumbledore, and he smiled and thanked Harry when he saw the many teas inside. "Just what I wanted, something sweet to drink on Christmas day."
Harry reached into the little pile of gifts and found the one he'd wrapped for Snape and handed it to him. Harry knew based on what Snape had already opened from Dumbledore that the man would know Harry had help picking out the gift. He might even know that Dumbledore had just let Harry buy it and put his name on it. He hoped the man wasn't upset that Harry didn't pick something out by himself.
Snape unwrapped the tiny box of powder Harry had given him and did the same as he had done with the other potions ingredients from Dumbledore. He smelled them and seemed satisfied. "I have been wanting this for a long time, thank you Harry," he said, closing the lid to the little wooden box and bowing his head slightly to Harry.
Snape had given Dumbledore a pair of expensive dragonhide gloves that would keep his hands warm in the coldest temperatures, and then the gifts for the adults were exhausted and the only ones left were for Harry. Harry got some items he really liked from his friends, including a notebook from Hermione that had pages filled with grid paper instead of lined paper so he could easily make columns and charts and keep business notes. There were three presents left, two from the Headmaster and one from Snape. Harry opened a blue gift from Dumbledore and found new blue leather flying goggles with the Falmouth Falcon's symbol and a new Falcon's t-shirt. Harry wasted no time in putting the goggles on and then pushing them up his forehead. "I love them," Harry said.
The gift from Snape was also full of Falmouth Falcons items. There was a Falcon's pin, which Harry was looking forward to pinning on his backpack, a poster of the Falcon's star Chaser Harry admired so much, and a pair of Dark blue joggers with the word ‘FALCONS' in bold silver letters down the left leg near the ankle. Harry noted that the new gray slippers Snape had gotten him would go well with the other Falcon's items as their colors were silver and dark blue.
Before Harry opened the last gift he took the pants and shirt and jumped up from the floor. He went into the bathroom and came out a minute later wearing his new clothes, including his goggles still up on his forehead. Albus was smiling and Snape didn't look displeased.
"Don't forget the last one," Snape said, and Harry picked it up off the floor and sat on the couch next to Dumbledore again to open it. He pulled off the paper to reveal a scroll tied with a silver ribbon. When he unrolled it he found a drawing of three family trees, all of them connected at the bottom. The family tree on the left said Potter, and detailed Harry's lineage all the way back to his great, great, great grandparents, who were apparently named Peverell. In the center was the Prince family tree going back many generations, and finally on the right was the Dumbledore family tree. At the bottom of each there were lines drawn connecting them. It showed the headmaster over Snape's name with a line drawn straight down to Snape. Then there was a line drawn down from Snape to Harry.
Harry had never had something like this before, though to him it was like his photo album of his parents, because that too had taken his breath away when he'd first been gifted with it. He had spent months going over the photos and trying to memorize every detail of his parent's faces. He wanted to do the same with this, to know the name of every person in the Potter line, and to stare for hours at the bottom of the family tree, where there was clear proof he had been adopted... where there was proof he was wanted.
"Do you like it?" Albus asked.
Harry looked up and wished his eyes weren't so watery this morning. "I love it. I get to keep it?"
"It's yours. Severus and I have copies of our own now too."
Harry turned back to the family tree... to his family tree, and tried to drink in every detail. His father and grandfather watched him for several more moments before they began to chat as they poured themselves more coffee. Albus tousled Harry's hair, and Harry didn't stiffen at the contact. This was what Christmas with a family of his own was like, and Harry wanted to remember it forever.
Remus found that he was enjoying the small successes his students had on a daily basis. He loved seeing the light turn on in their minds when they finally understood a concept they'd been struggling with. In Harry's case, Remus had been gratified to see him succeed with the Patronus, which was vital to his survival while the Dementors were waiting just at the edges of school grounds. Harry had struggled so hard with the Patronus and the visions the boggart Dementor gave him when he failed to cast one. He had also been so determined that he reminded Remus of Harry's mother Lily, who never quit once she set her mind to something.
While he had been pleasantly surprised to find how much he enjoyed teaching, and that he had friends there amongst the staff, he had been perplexed at first to find that James and Lily's son was in the care of Severus. Severus and Lily had been good friends at one time, but Severus had hated James with a passion. From what he had heard before coming to the castle, Severus had hated Harry with just as much force as he had his father.
At first Remus had watched Harry, trying to gauge what kind of young man he had grown into. He'd found Harry to be kind and thoughtful, but also timid in some aspects, while wholly courageous in others. He could tell that Harry was struggling though, not only with the dementors but with other aspects of his life.
As the term had gone on, Remus had seen a change in Harry though. He was growing less timid, and gaining more confidence in his ability to protect himself against the Dementors. After Harry had run away in the dead of night a few weeks before the Christmas break, Remus had been surprised again when Severus and Albus had adopted him. Then Harry had begun to settle. His nerves seemed to be less frayed, the boy seemed to be less anxious, and Remus now often saw him with a smile when they passed in the halls. He didn't know how Severus and Harry had found a way to set aside their intense dislike of each other to form a family, but Remus was glad they had, because it seemed to be working out for Harry in the best way possible... Remus paused mid stride, thoughts coming to a grinding halt as he found himself staring down the stairs to the Entryway where an auror and two Ministry Aides were dusting the snow off of their traveling cloaks. What was the Ministry doing here?
Remus let panic grip him for several seconds, and then he abruptly turned on his heel and strode in the other direction, back towards the Transfiguration and Defense corridor, mind whirring into motion again. He hoped they hadn't looked up the stairs and seen him. As with all werewolves and vampires in the UK, the aurors knew each of them by sight. They had some sort of book aurors memorized with the faces of Fae who were registered.
Heart pounding painfully in his chest, Remus broke into a jog and passed his office and classroom in favor of heading straight to Minerva's quarters. He knocked hard on her door several times, and when she didn't answer he was about to turn to see if he could head the long way around to Filius' quarters instead when the door opened. He hurried past her uninvited and said, "Shut the door, quickly please. Lock it."
Minerva took in the distressed look on his face for a moment and then shut the door with a snap and locked it. Only when she'd done so did Remus let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
"I'm sorry to barge in like this," Remus said, "But an auror and two Ministry aides just came in the front doors."
"Did they talk to you?"
"I walked away as quickly as I could." While he technically was not banned from school grounds, and while the Ministry was not supposed to have any influence at Hogwarts, as it was run by a board of governors, Remus didn't want to be caught in a school full of children. The aurors would bind him and put him to the ground without question. When it came to Fae being where they shouldn't be, the Ministry was brutal and had no qualms about arresting Fae without allowing them an explanation. He'd spent several days in jail over the summer because they'd found him working in a Muggle vet's office out in the country. Remus had no idea what they had told his former employer, but when he'd gotten out of jail and gone back to work, he'd been fired and told not to return again.
"I'll floo Albus," Minerva said, and Remus gave a nod and sat in a chair at Minerva's desk. This had always been a worry when he had attended school as a student too. The Headmaster had admitted him under another name, though all of his teachers knew him by his own name and wrote his grades under his own name. It was only after he had graduated that Albus had fixed the false name they'd used in the school register to reflect that Remus had been a student and graduated.
Minerva threw a handful of green powder into the grate and said, "Albus." A few moments later Albus stepped out into her quarters. His eyes found Remus and the worried look on his face immediately.
"They are currently making their way up to my office. Minerva, keep him here. I do not know yet what they want. It could be about the Dementors, or Black, or any number of things." He didn't wait for them to ask questions, and stepped back into the Floo, disappearing in a flash of green.
"I'll make some tea while we wait," Minerva said, and Remus gave a thankful nod. He'd just settled in there at the castle. He didn't want to leave again so quickly. He couldn't imagine his students coming back after the holiday and wondering where he'd gone without so much as a goodbye.
* * *
Harry and Severus had barely started making breakfast the day after Christmas when the fireplace in their dungeon living room came to life and Albus was calling out of it for them. "Severus."
Severus went to the fireplace and said, "Yes?"
"Bring Harry to my office immediately."
"Can he have his breakfast first?"
"No. Come directly through the Floo."
Harry gave a curious look to his father, who motioned him forward. He grabbed his dark blue hoodie off the back of the couch as he made for the fireplace, and was still pulling it on as he came out the other side into the Headmaster's office, Snape right behind him. The Headmaster's office had barely materialized in front of him when someone grabbed his arms and pushed him to the wall. Harry stiffened, not knowing who had him, and flinched as his face was pushed roughly up against the stone wall of the Headmaster's office. Was it uncle Vernon? He wouldn't come to the castle would he? Would he?!
Harry was just starting to hyperventilate as the grip on his arms tightened and his shoulders began to ache as whoever had him leaned into him to force him against the wall and ensure he stayed there. Then Snape's voice sounded, and Harry was certain the man was going to hex whoever was hurting him.
"You have two seconds to let go of my son, or I will relieve you of your hands."
"We have a right to detain potentially dangerous suspects for questioning," a man said, though Harry couldn't see him. All he could see was the wall.
"Then place a binding curse on him," Albus said. "You will not manhandle him, especially without proof that he is whatever you believe he is."
"He's a potential unregistered Fae in a school Headmaster," said the same voice as before. "You will not interfere."
Harry was frowning. This wasn't his uncle that had him. It was some sort of Ministry employee. They thought he was Fae? They thought he was a criminal?
Harry didn't appreciate being pressed into the wall so forcefully, but he was able to force his breathing to slow knowing it wasn't his relatives that had him. It's not him, it's not him, he told himself, closing his eyes. He tried to lift his head to flip it so he could see Snape, who he thought was behind him, but the person behind him pressed his face forward into the wall and Harry's cheek scraped on the stones. "Face forward!" the man said gruffly.
Harry heard Snape curse behind him under his breath, and then a moment later felt all of his limbs stiffen as though they were being held straight by a spell. It felt as though he was tied with rope even though he was certain there were no ropes around him.
"There, I have bound him myself," Snape said. "Now let my son off the wall."
There was silence for a few moments, and then the person behind him released the pressure against his back and head. Harry took a breath and lifted his head to look to his right, where he found his father trying to give him a reassuring look, while at the same time looking ready to murder someone.
"Now what is this about?" Snape spat.
One of the men Harry couldn't see pulled out a paper and snapped it open, thrusting it into Snape's hands. "These people, the Fae, are my people. I choose them. When you step on them, you're stepping on me too. If you're my people, these are your people," the Ministry man recited Harry's statement to the press from two weeks ago at the start of Christmas break. "His people?" the man asked. "He's practically admitted to being Fae." The man came to Harry now, who was still facing the wall and unable to move anything other than his head and neck and said in an accusing tone, "What are you then? Werewolf? Reports say you've been spotted out in the daylight a number of times since the statement, so you can't be a vampire, despite your association with them."
Harry surprised them then by laughing. He caught the look on his father's face, which told him there was nothing amusing about the situation and continued laughing.
"Face forward!" the man who had him pinned earlier said, and reached forward to push Harry's face to the wall. His forehead smacked the stones, but not hard enough to leave a bruise, and Harry groaned. "Answer the question."
"I guess you'll have to take me to jail and throw away the key," Harry said, still laughing despite that his forehead now hurt and his face was flat against the wall again. "Press will have a field day with that one."
"So you admit to being an unregistered werewolf?" the man asking him questions demanded urgently. He seemed upset, his voice growing higher as he asked each question, though Harry wasn't certain why.
"Me?" Harry asked with mirth. "I wish. There's no community more accepting and friendly than the Fae. Throw me in jail, they'll raise money for a barrister to get me out. Run me out of school, they'll take me in. Run me out of the country, they'll send me care packages wherever I end up."
"Let him up Darrow," the Ministry man said, rubbing his forehead.
"May we remove the binding spell?" Albus asked calmly, though Harry could tell from his tone that he was angry. It was startling to hear from a man he was so used to sounding gentle and often amused.
"Not until we perform tests," the Ministry man said warily. The man holding Harry let go of him and the Ministry man came into his view near the wall. "You can't go around making statements like that to the public Mr. Potter." He sounded relieved and like he was trying to give Harry friendly advice. "You've been under investigation for weeks."
"Did it cost the Ministry a lot of money?" Harry asked, feeling defiant. He was glad this was happening to him today and not any of his friends on Payne Alley.
"As a matter of fact it did."
"Good," Harry said, putting his forehead back against the wall so he could steady himself and not fall over sideways since he couldn't move any of his limbs.
"Darrow, get him into a chair. Professor Snape, pass the binding ward to Darrow so he can adjust it to let Mr. Potter sit."
"If I find the ward is cast uncomfortably tight," Snape said in a deadly tone to Darrow, "I will make good on my threat to relieve you of your hands before you leave."
Harry felt the binding on him loosen for a moment, just enough to move his legs a few inches at a time, and was instructed to sit in one of the chairs in front of the Headmaster's desk. After inching his way to the chair the binding relaxed around his waist momentarily so he could slouch down into it. Then it tightened again and Harry was once again held in place.
"Release his hands," the Ministry man said. Harry could now see that the Headmaster was standing behind his desk looking like he was trying hard not to let his magic escape and run rampant around the office. Snape stood with his arms crossed, glaring at Darrow, the big man who had been keeping Harry against the wall. The Ministry Man looked tired and relieved. There were two younger Ministry employees who had clipboards and quills. One of them had a black briefcase of some sort. Harry noted that Darrow's robes were different and he had an Auror's badge on his chest.
The binding on Harry's hands released, though his arms were still stuck to his sides.
"Examine his fingernails and palms," the Ministry man said.
"My nails grow real long at the full moon," Harry said, looking at Darrow with a grin.
"Harry, that's enough," Albus said, and though he didn't seem angry at him, the chastisement was enough to make Harry quiet down for a few moments.
One of the aides opened the black briefcase and brought out a scraping tool of some sort and a magnifying glass. At first Harry wondered if they were going to pull his fingernails off, and tensed up, but the Aide picked Harry's hand up gently and used the scraper to scrape the underside of one of Harry's fingernails. Harry watched, fascinated as he took the tiny scraping and dropped it into a blue potion in a tiny phial. Nothing happened and the Ministry man let out a satisfied and relieved sigh.
"That's not conclusive," Darrow said in his deep voice.
Harry's stomach gave a loud grumble then. Before Harry could say something snarky, Snape said, "He was unable to have his breakfast before being slammed against the wall and held at this ridiculous witch trial."
The Ministry man flinched at that, and Harry thought that was a funny term to use given they were all magical. They'd read about the witch trials across the world in history class, and Harry wasn't sure how Snape's words made sense in this situation.
The aide who had scraped his nail came back and turned one of Harry's palms over, and then the other, using the magnifying glass to look at both.
"Lifeline is normal," he said, "no change."
The other aide made a note on his clipboard and Darrow motioned to the red potion in the briefcase. The first aide came back and said, "I'm sorry, I have to prick you to get a drop of blood." He did seem sorry, and glanced up at Harry's scar before pulling out a tiny sharp object from the briefcase and pricking one of Harry's fingers. He squeezed the finger until a drop of blood came out and then put the phial with translucent red potion against his finger to get the drop of blood into it. When the drop of blood slid into the potion, nothing happened again.
"Teeth," Darrow instructed, though he sounded less irritated now and calmer than before. The aide told Harry to bare his teeth and after a look from Albus which clearly said, ‘Do not snap your teeth at him', Harry obeyed.
"Normal canines. No sharpening," the aide said after a moment.
Harry felt the binding release on him immediately and turned to grin up at Darrow, who no longer had reason to hold him captive.
Darrow looked back, all trace of malice on his face gone. "Doing my job kid."
"Acting like an animal," Harry corrected. "A wide eyed monster that kids fear will come out from under their beds at night to stake them through the heart or cut off their heads. That's how Fae see you you know."
Darrow looked perturbed by Harry's description of him and said, "This is necessary."
"Is it?" Snape snapped, and Harry wasn't certain if he was referring to what had happened there in the office with Harry, or about Fae in general.
The Ministry man turned to Albus and said, "I understand this might be something the Press would like to... ah, get carried away with. But it was called for, you see? Orders from the Head of the Aurory."
Harry kept his eyes locked on Darrow as the aides packed up their briefcase and the Ministry man made feeble apologies to Albus, Severus and Harry. "Must be seen to be doing something, you know how it is," he said feebly.
They made for the door and Harry, still watching Darrow said, "See you next week right?"
The men turned and Harry said, "You'll be back to check me again? Slam me against the wall a few more times?"
"I don't think that will be necessary," the Ministry man stammered.
"I'll just have to work hard to make it necessary then," Harry said.
The Ministry man looked to Albus for help, to see what Harry might mean, but Harry filled in the details for him.
"I love the Fae," he said. "First chance I get, I'm gonna have those fangs and claws for you to examine."
"Harry," Albus warned from behind him, sounding tired though it was early in the morning still. Harry ignored him, eyes locked with Darrow's.
"Maybe you can come back every day. You should investigate me year round. Maybe I can re-coup my money that way. You know how it is, the Ministry fines me thousands of Galleons, they might as well spend it investigating me. See you again tomorrow? I could schedule you in for Thursday after classes if you want."
A hand touched his arm from behind and Harry startled. He could smell potions though and knew it was Snape, so he relaxed a little. Darrow scoffed and motioned for the Ministry man to leave the office with the aides, who had already gone down the spiraling stairs.
"You wouldn't really become one of them, would you?" The man asked Harry as Darrow disappeared through the door.
"You'll just have to keep coming back to find out."
"I- don't think that'll be necessary," he repeated from earlier. "Our apologies again Mr. Potter." Then he was gone down the spiral stairs and Harry was alone with his guardians again.
Harry was startled a moment later when he was pulled forcefully into a hug. He stiffened, but the familiar smell of herbs on Snape's shirt calmed him because he knew who had him. He wasn't squeezing him painfully, just firmly, like he didn't want to let go for fear the Auror and Ministry aides would come back and take him.
"Foolish boy," Snape breathed.
Harry relaxed into him despite that he was still wound up about the way he'd been treated just because they thought he might be Fae. When his father let go of him, he put a hand on top of Harry's head and moved it gently back so he could examine his forehead and the scrape on his cheek.
"Was your head slammed into the wall hard enough to become concussed?"
Harry shook his head. "Just a scrape."
"I will give you some balm."
Harry turned and found Albus looking at him, fingers steepled.
"Harry," he said, making sure he had his attention. Harry had the good sense to look sheepish then. He'd ignored the warnings he'd been given to settle and not to provoke them, even when he hadn't been told outright not to.
"Am I in trouble sir?"
"No. However," he stared at Harry and Harry felt like the man was looking straight into him. "There are those here at Hogwarts who would not find daily or weekly visits by aurors amusing. While your goals are admirable, there are those that would be in real danger if spotted by aurors, who have the faces of all Fae and their children memorized."
Harry's eyes grew wide with the implications. "I didn't mean-" Harry started. "I'll run down and catch them and tell them I was joking," Harry said. It had only been weeks ago that Professor Lupin had told him he was a werewolf. Harry hadn't even thought about him.
"You will do no such thing," Severus said, and motioned for Harry to have a seat in the chair he'd just left minutes ago. "Your threats to continually bring them out and waste money may have the opposite effect and keep them away. Your show of defiance and willingness to be treated as you just were for the sake of wasting time will make them think twice about checking you for signs of turning again. I would not be surprised if they kept a close eye on you for some time however."
"I just figured," Harry said, "if they were wasting time on me, they wouldn't be out doing this to other people." The thought of them doing this to Bellamy and his parents, or to Zach, who was running the Fae candy shop Harry had helped start up on Knocturn Alley put a lump in his throat.
"You are attempting to help others, but you must also take into account how your actions could possibly affect those very people you seek to protect," Albus said.
Harry nodded. He had been told something similar by Bellamy's father the night they'd helped him run away.
"I'll think more carefully about what I say and do from now on," Harry said.
The Headmaster sighed and then his look softened. "For a Gryffindor, I think you would have done remarkably well in Slytherin. Gryffindor bravery and Slytherin defiance."
"Well-" Harry said lightly, "the hat did try to put me there." He turned and smiled widely at Snape to see his reaction.
"It did not," he said calmly, though he looked wary.
Before Harry could argue with him, the Sorting Hat, which sat lifeless on a shelf behind the Headmaster's desk for most of the year, opened the rip near it's brim which served as a mouth and said directly to Harry, "I stand by what I said Harry Potter. You should have let me put you in Slytherin."
Harry raised his brows at his adoptive father as if to say ‘see?'
"I never would have thought it possible," Snape said.
Harry's stomach grumbled loudly again and Albus said, "I must call on Minerva. I hope you have a good breakfast, Harry, Severus."
Severus stood and moved for the door, motioning for Harry to follow. Harry left wondering about what the Headmaster had told him earlier. He'd implied that there were others at Hogwarts who were Fae... others who could be put in danger by Harry's actions if he weren't careful. He thought about the faces he saw in the corridors and in classes every day during the term, and wondered which of the kids were Fae, and wondered if he knew them. He thought about Lupin and hoped the Aurors hadn't seen him while they were there for Harry.
"Harry, if you expect to keep that O in Transfiguration you're going to have to find another time to daydream," Hermione said, bringing Harry's eyes around from the gray dreary skies and rain drops dripping down the windowpane.
"I just need a couple more O's and I can relax a little," Harry said. It had taken him until February to bring his E up to an O. If he could get a couple more O's he could take some time off of studying Transfiguration, because his grade would be secure for a while if he got E's. He wanted to go to a Quidditch match this summer almost more than he wanted to get back out on the alleys. His entire Quidditch season had been wasted since they couldn't get out to practice or play when hungry Dementors were on the prowl.
"Or you could start spending time raising your other grades up as well," Hermione said as they sat and studied at the tiny table by the window.
Harry sighed and looked down at Ron who was in the common room below them playing wizard's chess. Harry had an O in Defense and a high E in charms. Another O essay or test in Charms and he'd have that grade up to an O as well. The rest of his classes were still down at A for acceptable however.
"I don't want good grades," Harry said, "I want to go outside. I want to fly, and I want Easter to come around quicker so I can have a couple days off."
"Are you going somewhere for Easter Hols?" Hermione asked, taking a break from her own homework for a few moments.
"Just here," Harry said. "It'd be nice to spend some time with my dad again." Snape had been as busy as Harry it seemed. They still found some time to have meals together, and Harry had been taking his homework up to the Headmaster's office to study, but he missed spending time with them like he had at Christmas.
"Well, it's only a week away," Hermione said. "Then you'll have a Friday off and classes won't start again until the next Tuesday morning. I'm going home again that weekend."
Harry knew Hermione had loved going home for a long weekend before the Christmas holidays. Because of the Dementors and the stress they had been putting on students, the staff had made many exceptions and let two dozen students go home one weekend. That hadn't happened again since before Christmas though.
"Are many people going home then?" Harry asked.
"I don't know, a few I think. We'll be going through the Floo to London again like last time."
Harry let his eyes drift back out the windowpane, still splashed with water. If he could just get through another week then he could have a break and go back to his room in the dungeons. He turned back to his essay and the page of notes he had, and began to write again. Just two more O's in Transfiguration, and he could have a break.
* * *
"Are you going to stay next year too sir?" Harry asked Remus. It was just a few days until Easter holidays, and his father and grandfather were both busy. Snape had to grade midterms and had been cranky for the last few days because an entire group of fifth year Hufflepuff's weren't doing well in Potions and their OWLs were coming up, and the Headmaster was still trying to get the Ministry to take the Dementors away, which meant even he had grown too busy lately to have tea or visit much. Instead Harry had tried to stay out of their way and had come several times in the last week to seek Lupin out to have tea and ask about his parents.
"I hope to," Remus said. After the incident with the Aurors, Remus had sat Harry down and had a serious talk with him about the things Harry had said to them, about wanting to be Fae and becoming one at the first opportunity. "You don't know what it is you're saying. You'll be an outcast. How they treated you that day, that's how they'll treat you every day."
They ate biscuits and had another cup of tea while they chatted about Harry's grades in his other classes. After a long moment of silence, Harry frowned into his teacup and said, "How come you never talk much about Sirius?"
Remus paused and then set his empty teacup down. "It's hard for me to talk about him."
"Because of what they say he did?"
"Yes. Peter was our friend... a very timid boy when we were children. He was no match for Sirius. All they found of Peter after the blast was a finger." Remus was quiet and Harry stayed silent, letting the man think. "I know you don't think he did it," Remus said. "I want to believe that, that Sirius is the same man I knew... the same friend I grew up with. I have no evidence that says he didn't do it though. In the meantime Peter is dead... James and Lily...." he lifted his eyes up to survey Harry's face, not wanting to say something insensitive. Harry had occasionally found Lupin looking at him when they spent time together and didn't mind him doing so now. He had told Harry that he reminded him of James, from the cut of his hair to the shape of his chin.
"You don't know what it was like in the summer," Harry said. "I'm not sure I would have made it without Sirius."
"You said something like that before."
Harry had told him that he thought Sirius was innocent and that he'd helped him, but had never gone into much detail.
"I had to run away from home," Harry said. "I got thrashed and chased out of the house. Sirius appeared and got me to call the Knight Bus when he tripped me. I thought he was just a mangy dog. Then he found me on Diagon and stayed with me. You know about the trial?"
"I've heard some things about it, but I was never clear on why you and the Headmaster had gone to court."
Harry explained to him about having to fight for his right to live somewhere safe where he would get fed regularly and not be shut away out of sight and out of mind.
"I didn't realize," Remus said sadly. "I would have found a way to get you away from them if I had known."
Harry smiled at him. He believed it knowing how the Fae helped each other. They might not have wanted to help Harry as a child, but the Fae community would have helped Remus to help him.
"I was stressed out over the trial," Harry said, "and I was having nightmares. I wanted to run away again. Sirius was there for me through it all. I'd wake up shaking and sweating, thinking I was still at my relatives house, and Sirius would put his wet nose in my hand and just let me pet him until I calmed down. People say he didn't kill me just because he needed a place to hide out. I don't think he would have been so nice to me if that was the case."
Remus looked unsettled by what Harry had told him about Sirius, and about how he'd been treated at home, though Harry had glossed over all the details of his home life and just given Remus an indication of what things had been like.
When Harry left to go back to his common room, Remus sat and stared at the empty chair he'd just been occupying. He'd wanted to believe so badly that Sirius hadn't sold James and Lily out... that he hadn't gone crazy and killed Peter. He had searched for evidence for years that his friend was innocent and could never find any. There had been all kinds of evidence that his old friend was guilty however. His association with Sirius had made the Ministry follow Remus more closely than they did other Fae. For a long time Remus had been angry at Sirius for that, for thinking only of himself and his dedication to the Dark Lord... a dedication he'd hidden from all of them. Remus had thought that in order to serve Voldemort, Sirius could have no more compassion or empathy, because no one could serve Voldemort... betray their friends if they still had compassion. What Harry had told him contradicted that however. The animagus Harry described sounded like his boyhood friend, who looked out for James, Remus and Peter like their lives were more important than his own.
Harry was so certain that Sirius hadn't broken, despite never having known him as a man, only as a dog. He was so certain Sirius was innocent... would not have betrayed his friends. That certainty was making Remus question the incident again. Was Sirius really guilty? Had he turned on them? Could he have given up his soul to do that?
Remus wanted to believe in Sirius. The only problem was, if he did believe, then where was Peter? If Sirius hadn't murdered him, then where was his small timid friend now, and who had betrayed James, Lily and Harry?
* * *
Severus had put together a surprise for Harry. He'd gotten a recent copy of Quidditch Monthly and left it open to the last two pages on the dining room table two days before the Easter holidays. When Harry had come Wednesday evening for dinner, he'd seen the magazine and struck up a conversation with Severus as he cooked about all of the upcoming matches listed in the magazine that he wished he could see. Half a dozen were taking place on Easter weekend.
"Ooh, the Harpies and the Cannons," Harry enthused. "Bet Ron would love to see that. He loves the Cannons but I think he has a crush on the Harpie's Keeper." Harry had run his finger down the list of upcoming matches, stopped on another one and said, "Arrows and Kestrels. That would be fun to see. It's a rematch because the Kestrels won last month but the Arrows claimed interference from a biased referee. Dean always roots for the Kestrels."
"Which would you prefer to see?" Severus had asked, and Harry had scanned the list again until he found the Falcon's next match, which was the Monday afternoon after Easter.
"Falcons versus Puddlemere United. Couldn't miss that if I had a chance to see them. Puddlemere is wicked fast and it's on the big Puddlemere pitch. I heard there's gardens around the Puddlemere pitch and that they have ties to the royal family."
"One of their Chasers is seventeenth in line for the Muggle throne," Severus said. He was the only member of the royal family in the last ten generations to have magic, and he had been a pistol when he'd been at Hogwarts, holding court with whoever he could and reminding Professors that if he got poor grades they would be hearing about it directly from the queen, who they knew he had only met once or twice.
Harry had worked hard to get an O in Transfiguration and Severus wanted to reward him. He knew Harry was also getting antsy to get out of the castle, and so had bought two tickets to the Falcons game against Puddlemere. He didn't tell Harry about it until Monday morning however, the day of the game.
Harry had spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the dungeons reading and playing chess with Severus, though he had disappeared at meal times to see Ron. It had been an uneventful and quiet holiday. When Monday morning rolled around, Severus woke Harry at nine after letting him sleep in, and told him to get up and to dress warmly.
"Are we going out sir?" Harry asked, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "Are we going to the alleys?"
"We have a Quidditch game to attend this afternoon."
"We do?" Harry got out of bed and started putting his shoes on despite that he hadn't changed out of his pajamas yet.
"Falcons versus Puddlemere," Severus said, unable to keep a small smile from forming at Harry's excited look. "Dress warmly... perhaps in all of your Falcon's gear," he suggested. He left Harry to get dressed, and ten minutes later Harry came out with his Falcon's joggers, Falcon's t-shirt, and Falcon's hoodie over his arm. The dark blue leather Falcon's flying goggles were on his face, pushed up above his eyes on his forehead.
"Ready to go!" Harry said.
"Eat first. Bring your money pouch. Do you still have coins?"
"I've got my money here," Harry said, indicating the pocket in his hoodie. "Seven sickles and a couple knuts."
"We will leave at ten thirty. The match starts at twelve. We'll be eating lunch there. After the match we will go to a Muggle book store I had in mind to visit nearby." He pulled his own money pouch out of his pocket. "For raising two of your grades to an O and maintaining the O you already had," Severus said as he pulled out a twenty pound Muggle note and handed it to Harry. "You can spend that on books."
Harry thanked him and tucked the money away. At ten thirty they went across the grounds to the gates, where several Dementors hovered close and watched them pass, and then apparated to the Pitch in Puddlemere. It was already busy with people buying snacks, posters, and clothing branded with the two Quidditch team's logos. Harry bought a bag of popcorn and a little bag of assorted candy, and they began their trek up the many flights of stairs into their spot in the stands.
A few seats down from them Harry recognized a boy from Hufflepuff a year behind him who played for the Hufflepuff team as a Chaser and moved down to talk to him until the match started.
"I'm glad we don't have to Floo back until tonight!" the boy enthused with Harry. "I've been wanting to see Puddlemere play all year but they never have games when I'm out of school on holiday!"
"Is Puddlemere your team then?" Harry asked the second year.
"Yeah, they're the best."
"Mine's the Falcon's," Harry told him, and they discussed their favorite players, their signature moves, and Harry told him about the Falcon's game he'd been to over the summer on the coast.
When the game started, Harry moved back to his spot next to Severus and was surprised that his adopted father seemed interested in discussing the game as it went on. During the game they'd been to together in the summer with the kids from the orphanage, the man had been mostly silent.
"Kieran's too slow to keep up with Beck."
"Beck has that new broom," Harry said.
Harry's cheeks turned red and he said, "The Potter 2001."
Snape snorted and said, "I thought you were going to put an end to that foolishness."
"Well," said Harry, "I gave them my recommendations is all, but told them the choice in the end was up to them."
"And when children start coming to school with the newest ‘Potter' to ride during matches, how many of them will you be signing?"
"None," Harry said.
Snape looked over at him and said, "A signed Potter broom could potentially be sold for hundreds of Galleons more than it was purchased for. I would not be surprised if parents bought them for their children, told them not to ride them, and told them to try to get a signature on the broom from you."
"I wouldn't sign them sir, I swear."
"Calm yourself. You are not in trouble. Perhaps you should sign them. Many people need the money."
Harry was surprised by him. He'd always accused Harry of acting big headed and having a fan club at school. Once in first year he had even accused Harry of handing out autographs to get Ron and Hermione to ‘follow after' him ‘like lost puppies,' despite that he'd never signed an autograph in his life.
Deciding to mess with him, Harry said, "I don't think I should sign very many. If I sign them all they'll be worth nothing. If I only sign a few they'll be rare and more sought after by collectors."
When Severus turned to look at him, Harry was grinning. "You know," Harry said, "that is if I was gonna sign any for my fan club at all."
"Brat," Severus said, though there was affection behind the word and Harry didn't mind the playful jab as he once would have.
The game lasted until three. The Falcon's lost by ten points, though Harry didn't mind because he had thoroughly enjoyed the game and the time away from the castle. They ate a late lunch at a fish and chips restaurant, and then Severus took Harry to a large Muggle bookstore. Harry was in awe of its size. Flourish and Blotts was small but packed with books. This bookstore was enormous, and had dozens of sections of books.
"What books did you want to come here for?" Harry asked as Severus gazed at the many signs indicating which section they might want to visit hanging from the ceiling.
As he led off to a section labeled ‘Fantasy', he said, "I thought you might like to find books where Fae are the heroes."
"Do you think they'll have some like that?"
"The details will all surely be wrong, but I am certain there will be dozens of them. Muggles have a fascination with magic and magical creatures despite knowing very little about them."
Snape had been right. In the fantasy section there was a shelf dedicated to vampires, another dedicated to vampire romance, four dedicated to witches and wizards, one dedicated to werewolves and werewolf romance, and several other shelves with their own topics.
Harry didn't bother to look at the romance novels, and instead began reading book summaries in the werewolf section. In twenty minutes he had found several books he wanted there before he moved on to the vampire section and then a section labeled ‘Epic Fantasy.'
"I want them all," Harry said, trying to narrow down his choices. He could only get three with the twenty pounds he had.
"How many coins do you have left in your pouch?"
Harry pulled out his pouch and showed him, and Severus took the money and handed Harry twelve more pounds. In the end Harry ended up with two books about werewolves, one about vampires, and one called ‘The Lord Of The Rings.'
As they browsed the rest of the bookstore for books Severus might be interested in, Harry told him about the books he'd chosen. "This one is about a teen boy who gets bit by a werewolf, and he and his Muggle friend end up fighting all kinds of other creatures, including a giant lizard. And the girl the boy is dating belongs to a family of werewolf hunters."
"That cannot end up well," Severus commented.
Harry looked at the next book and said, "This one's about a werewolf that got thrown out of his pack, and he ends up befriending a wizard who got kicked out of wizard school." Harry's eyes scanned down the summary on the back of the book again and said, "It was a wizard school for boys only. That would be boring."
"The vampire book is about a guy that's 800 years old. His vampire master is evil and this guy doesn't want to be evil and kill people. He works as a muggle cop and saves Muggles every night."
Harry started to tell Severus about The Lord Of The Rings, but apparently he had already read it. "That story has some truth to it," Severus said. "In the ancient past there was an evil ring, and there was a pact between hobbits, gnomes and elves to destroy it."
"But, how could Muggles know to write about it?"
"A Muggle didn't write it," Severus said, "A mage with an interest in ancient history and a talent for embellishment wrote it intending it to stay within the wizarding community. After he died his neighbors took the book and published it in the Muggle world."
"Do they have this at Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
"Somewhere I'm sure."
Before they went back to Hogwarts they stopped and had dinner, and then found an alley to shrink their two bags of books down so they could easily apparate back. Severus took his arm and they apparated outside of the Hogwarts gates.
"If these books are good, maybe we could go back again in the summer," Harry said hopefully. All of his books were part of various series and he had a feeling he'd want to get the next installments.
"That is odd," Severus said.
"The books sir?" Harry asked, but Severus was pointing ahead of them through the trees bordering the drive and the Hogwarts gates.
"There are students and staff up ahead. The students who went home for the holiday."
"Maybe they took the train back," Harry said.
"Perhaps. They were not supposed to-" he paused because someone on the path ahead of them screamed. There were several shouts, another scream, and they heard Professor Sprout shout, "Expecto Patronum!"
Severus grabbed Harry's wrist and began to pull him ahead towards the commotion, needing to help but being unwilling to leave Harry by himself with so many Dementors prowling the area.
"Stay close," he warned as they ran. It was hard to see in the waning light, but there was no mistaking the swarm of Dementors swooping over and around the group of students. Several students were on the ground unmoving along with Professor Sprout. Two older boys were protecting a younger girl as a Dementor swooped down at them. One of the boys put a shield up around them, but the Dementor flew right through it and hit the boy, sending him flying into the mud.
Severus and Harry both had their wands out. As they got closer, Severus began to encant a Patronus, but before he could finish saying, "Expecto-" a Dementor hit him and he was knocked to the muddy path. He waved his wand again, shouting the first half of the incantation, but two Dementors came down on him and attacked. One seemed to be holding him down while the other moved to Snape's mouth, ready to begin feeding.
Adrenaline was coursing heavily through Harry's veins seeing his guardian down and two dozen Dementors flying wildly around them. His heart was pounding so hard it hurt his chest and his hands trembled. Then everything fell away from Harry as he began to feel darkness creep in. The sounds of the terrified students and of Snape continuing to try to cast a Patronus quieted. The feel of the soupy mud beneath his sneakers disappeared. He could see a vision of Uncle Vernon swimming in front of him, not fully formed yet. But Harry could also see a Christmas tree in the Headmaster's quarters, and he latched onto that image. As he pulled that image towards himself, it began to materialize and the image of his uncle started to fade out. He could see himself sitting next to the Headmaster playing games by the fire as Snape read a book and drank coffee in the comfortable chair next to the couch. His eyes latched onto the Christmas tree again and the memory changed to Harry sitting and staring at the family tree... his family tree. He couldn't hear himself speak, he couldn't feel the mud beneath him, but Harry shouted at the top of his lungs, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"
Suddenly the world came back to life with a snap: the Dementors, the students lying in the mud, the sun sinking below the horizon, and the sounds of terror were all there. Harry's stag burst out of his wand, as bright as it had ever been, and didn't wait to be told what to do. It lowered its antlers and charged the two Dementors attacking his father, launching one into the air. Then it turned and began swiping it's head from side to side as it ran through Dementors two and three at a time, making them scatter. It stomped it's hooves all over one Dementor, who screeched, startling the two boys and the girl that were still huddled together, and then jammed it's antlers into the Dementor so forcefully that a gaping hole appeared in the evil creature, growing wider and wider until the hole consumed it and it disappeared altogether.
"Kill them all!" Harry shouted, angry that the Dementors had done this, and his glowing blue stag got a feral look in its eyes, picking out it's next target. When the flying black creatures saw that one of the Dementors had been killed, the rest fled, Prongs chasing after them until they couldn't see the stag or the evil creatures anymore.
Severus crawled out of the mud, slipped, and was finally able to get up, hurring to Harry. He put a hand on Harry's shoulder, looked into his eyes to be certain he was ok, and when Harry gave him a nod, he turned to help the students and Professor Sprout without a word.
Professor Sprout was trying to get up out of the mud herself, and Harry ran to help her before going to help up the two boys who had been protecting the girl. Severus conjured stretchers for the four students who were passed out. One of them was Hermione.
"Is she all right?" Harry asked, coming to look at her pale face.
Everyone was shaken, including Snape and Professor Sprout.
"Harry," she said, "can you bring your Patronus back to escort us to the castle?"
Harry didn't know if he could or not. He'd sent it on a mission and he didn't know if it would complete that mission or disappear, or if it would come back to him or if he'd have to cast it again.
"He'll come if we need him," Harry said with confidence, though he really wasn't sure. He wanted his Patronus to destroy as many Dementors as possible. Maybe he could even get them all. At that moment they heard another Dementor screech in the distance, and Harry gave a satisfied look into the last of the light as night fell on them.
"Bigby," Snape said, "Levitate one of the stretchers." Harry looked around to see who Snape was talking to and realized for the first time that the boy who had thrown up a shield was a seventh year Slytherin Prefect.
Snape levitated two stretchers and Professor Sprout took the one with Hermione. "Quickly," Severus said. "We need to get back into the castle."
They hurried up the muddy drive silently, Harry at the rear of the group to make sure everyone made it. Everyone kept an eye out in the darkness, and Harry and the other students who were still conscious kept their wands lit to give the group light. They were nearly back to the castle when Bigby leaned in a little towards Harry and said, "That was something Potter."
"Pretty scary huh?" Harry said, thinking he was talking about the incident in general.
"I meant what you did. I didn't know you could do that. It must have been thirty Dementors, and you sent them all away... killed one. I didn't know they could be killed."
"Me either," Harry said. "Not until it happened."
"I didn't think we were going to make it," the other boy with them said. He looked like he might be in Ravenclaw, but it was hard for Harry to tell in the darkness, especially since he didn't know every student at the castle.
"To cast a Patronus," Harry said, "you have to know."
"What do you mean?" the boy asked.
"You have to know you'll make it for the Patronus to work."
They hurried up the stone steps to the Great Oak Front doors, and as soon as they were all inside Severus closed them and warded them shut. Harry didn't need to go to the Hospital Wing, and for once felt like he didn't even need a cup of hot chocolate, but he went with the others anyway because Hermione was being taken there and because he wanted to stay with his father.
Madam Pomfrey was startled by the number of people needing to be seen to and as soon as the four unconscious students were settled onto beds, Severus went into Pomfrey's office to firecall the Headmaster.
"Harry, get the chocolate bars and hand them out," Pomfrey instructed, seeing that he was the only one who didn't seem to be affected. "They're in that cupboard against the wall, yes that one there."
Harry grabbed a stack of chocolate bars and went around to each bed, starting with Professor Sprout and ending with Bigby. The Headmaster and Professor McGonagall came in a few moments later and took in the scene before them. Madam Pomfrey still hadn't been able to wake Hermione or a first year boy yet, though the other two students who had passed out had been woken successfully and were sitting in bed shaking.
"What has happened?" Albus asked Severus urgently as Minerva went to help Poppy attempt to wake Hermione again.
"Harry and I were coming back from the Quidditch match. As soon as we apparated in I knew something was wrong because there were students up ahead of us on the path. Then the Dementors began to attack them. More than twenty of them."
"Twenty five," Professor Sprout chimed in as she was sitting in the bed nearest the door and where the Headmaster and Snape were talking. "Maybe even twenty seven. They attacked me first and sent me to the ground, and then the rest swarmed in. I cast a Patronus but it fizzled out before it could do any good."
"Harry and I ran in to help," Severus said. "I was also taken to the ground immediately. Each time I attempted to cast a Patronus I was thrown or attacked before I could finish the incantation."
Albus shook his head, looking at the wary students and staff, many of them still shaking. "How did you-"
"It was Harry," Severus said, cutting him off. "I was on the ground, and he cast a Patronus and sent it to get the Dementors off of me. It chased all of them away."
"All of them?" Albus asked. "Twenty seven Dementors?"
"It was the strongest Patronus I've ever seen," Professor Sprout said. "Just incredible. It killed one of them and took off after the rest. We heard another scream, so it may have killed another."
"It is possible for a Patronus to kill a Dementor," the Headmaster said, "but rare. There are only 92 Dementors in existence today out of the original 100. Before today only 8 had been killed by Patronus' over the centuries. The Ministry had sent 27 of them to guard the school. And Harry sent them all away?"
Severus nodded. "It was like they were waiting there to attack us. For all 27 to have been there, and to attack the staff first..."
"Miss Granger attempted to cast a Patronus first," Professor Sprout said. "She was the first they incapacitated.
"The castle may be in danger then," Albus said warily. "Minerva," he called and she came over to him. They talked in hurried, hushed tones for a few moments, and then McGonagall hurried out of the Hospital Wing. "Severus, stay here and help Poppy," Albus said, and then he followed after McGonagall.
Harry sat on the edge of Hermione's bed as she started to come to, and Madam Pomfrey moved to the last student who was still unconscious.
"Harry?" Hermione asked. Harry helped her sit up and unwrapped a chocolate bar, pushing it into her hands. She took a bite and Harry hugged her as she ate another. "We all made it back?"
"They're gone," Harry said. "Hopefully they'll all be dead by the end of the night."
He gave her a serious look, and then let a smile creep over his face. "My Patronus is out there poking holes in them right now. I didn't know Dementors could scream." The boy on the bed behind Harry woke a minute later and Madam Pomfrey moved to start checking on Severus, Sprout and the other five students.
"Come here," Harry told the first year boy who had just woken up. He motioned with his hand and the first year boy crawled across the bed tentatively towards Harry and Hermione. When he was close enough Harry pulled him across the floor to Hermione's bed and said, "It's better to sit with us. It helps." The boy gave Hermione an uncertain look and she wrapped her arms around him. Harry thought he might be a Hufflepuff but wasn't sure. He looked across the aisle to the others and found that the two older boys who had been protecting the girl were already sitting on either side of her, pressed up against her as if still willing to protect her even now that they were safe. The last two students were Slytherins, one a second year and one a fourth year. Harry got up and went across the aisle to sit on the bed next to the fourth year. "Come on," Harry said to the second year, who wasted no time in coming to that bed to sit down. "Trust me, it helps." Harry held out his arm and the second year leaned into him. The fourth year looked wary, but also tired and leaned into the second year boy.
"One word of this to anyone Potter," the fourth year boy said, "and I'll make your life miserable."
"Shh," Bigby said from the bed behind them. "That's no way to talk to the guy who saved our lives."
"What are you talking about?"
"Harry. His Patronus chased all of the Dementors away and killed one of them, maybe more. We wouldn't have made it out alive if it weren't for him."
"The Professors-" the boy started, but Bigby cut him off.
"Were down," he said. "You didn't see it because you were passed out. Doesn't matter... the rest of us did."
The second year Slytherin boy pressed harder into Harry's side then, and Harry squeezed him, hoping at some point the adrenaline would fully leave his system so he could go to sleep that night.
After Pomfrey was satisfied that everyone was all right, she started releasing students one or two at a time. Harry walked Hermione back to the common room and was surprised to find people looking scared inside.
"What's going on?" Harry asked Seamus.
"McGonagall came in and told us all to stay inside and stay away from the windows. She told Fred and George to get ready to cast a Patronus if they needed to. First years are scared half to death." He pointed to the spot by the fire where all of the first years were huddled.
"It's ok," Hermione said. "Harry took care of the Dementors."
Harry didn't want to stick around to hear the story retold, and was thankful that only a few minutes into Hermione re-telling it that the portrait opened and Snape appeared, beckoning for Harry to come out into the corridor. Before he left he whispered to Ron, "There's chocolate in my nightstand drawer. Make Hermione eat another piece." Ron nodded and Harry left with his father.
"You're sleeping in the Dungeons tonight," he said.
"The tower's kind of scared," Harry said, thinking if the Dementors attacked the castle he should be there to protect his friends.
"You will undoubtedly be called to answer questions early in the morning. The Headmaster has called the Ministry."
"Erm-" Harry hedged, looking around the dimly lit corridor to be sure they were alone, "what about- you know." He tried to convey his meaning but when Snape didn't seem to understand Harry said, "What about people who might not want them around the castle?"
"He will be staying in his quarters until everything is settled."
"Good," Harry sighed in relief.
When they were back in Snape's quarters he stopped Harry from heading to his room. He put a hand on Harry's shoulder to hold him at arm's length so he could look at him. "You are certain you are all right? Do you want hot chocolate?"
"Now that the adrenaline's all out of my system I'm exhausted, but I'm ok."
"They did not attack you? Is that why you were the only one of us able to cast?"
"They did attack me," Harry said. "I started to see the vision of my uncle, but it was hazy. On top of that I was seeing Christmas with you and, erm, grandpa." He fidgeted. "It was like I told that seventh year. I believed I would be ok, so my Patronus came out. I didn't tell it to help you, but it knew that's what I wanted so it went after the ones attacking you first."
"And you wanted it to kill them."
"Only after I knew it could." Harry grinned. "I really hope it's still out there chasing them off. Do you think it could be?"
"Before tonight the strongest Patronus I had ever seen was Albus', and I had never seen it in action fighting Dementors. After tonight, I think you may have him beat. I would not doubt it is still out roaming the grounds and protecting students. So long as it stays within a mile of you, and as long as you have strength of mind and magic left to keep it corporeal, it should still be there."
Harry gave him a wild smile. "I need some coffee or something. I'm staying up all night. I don't want to fall asleep and have it disappear. If the Ministry won't take them away, my Patronus will chase them away."
Severus gave Harry a wary look, as though he had underestimated him before and was only now seeing him for the first time.
"I am going to bed, you should do the same." Harry closed the gap between them and hugged his father, who wrapped his arms tightly around Harry in return.
"Glad they didn't get you too bad," Harry said. "You have my books shrunk in your pocket you know. If you died it would be kind of awkward if the other teachers found me digging through your pockets for them."
"Brat," Severus said fondly, pulling out the bags of books and resizing them. He couldn't help himself from reaching out for Harry's hair and running his hand through it as Harry took his books to sit on the couch. He watched for a moment as Harry pulled them out of the bag and started reading. His son was full of surprises. With the strength he had shown today, both in magical prowess and strength of character as well as confidence in himself, he could do anything he set his mind to. Sometimes he only needed to get out of his own way first.
* * *
Snape had been right. It was six in the morning when Harry and Severus had been called up to the Headmaster's office. As they made it to the stone gargoyle, Professor Sprout came out with the first year Hufflepuff boy Harry and Hermione had comforted the night before.
"Severus, Harry," she greeted them with a smile.
"Pomona," Severus returned.
As they disappeared around a corner, Harry faced the stone gargoyle and said, "Queen of England."
"Queen of England?" Severus asked. "You can give it any password you like and you use Queen of England?"
"Sure," Harry said. "I give it a new one every time. I could say ‘Hagrid's underwear' and it would open so why not."
Severus shook his head as they stepped onto the moving staircase and rose to the Headmaster's office. The door was open when they made it to the top, and the office was fuller than was usual. There was Dumbledore, a man and woman in Auror robes, Hermione and the Minister of Magic.
"That will be all for now Miss Granger," Albus said as Harry and Severus stepped into the office. "Classes are cancelled for the day. You may return to your common room. Breakfast is being served in the common rooms this morning."
"Yes sir." She smiled at Harry on her way past and when she was gone Albus motioned for Harry and Severus to have a seat. The Aurors were giving Harry a strange look.
"Am I being detained again sir?" Harry asked Albus rather than the Aurors. "I haven't had a chance to brush my teeth yet this morning if they're up for inspection again."
"That will be enough Mr. Potter," the Minister said, sounding irritated, though Harry hadn't done anything wrong.
"Just thought you came to personally see me get slammed up against the wall again," Harry said to the Minister's back .
The Minister turned and gave Harry a wary look before he turned away from him again, hands gripped tightly behind his back as he stared out the window.
"Mr. Potter, we have some questions about the incident with the Dementors last night," one of the Aurors said. "We need to take an official statement of your account. This will go into the investigation files with the others."
"I'm under investigation again?" Harry asked, wary. He wasn't sure he was up for yet another issue between him and the Ministry. If he had a choice he would be completely off the Ministry's radar.
"No, it's an investigation into the conduct of the Dementors while they have been stationed on school grounds."
Harry nodded slowly.
"Please tell us your version of events last night."
Harry recounted coming back from the Quidditch match with Professor Snape and knowing something was odd the moment they apparated in since there were students and staff on the grounds on the path ahead of them. He described Snape getting lifted into the air by the Dementors and everything he had seen, and finally conjuring Prongs to chase them away.
"And you conjured him to kill the Dementors?" the other Auror asked, looking wary and still giving Harry an odd look, as if he had no idea who Harry was or what he was about.
"No," I just cast my Patronus to get the Dementors away.
"Yet he has killed seven of the 27," the female Auror said in a stern voice as though she didn't believe him. "That's not something a Patronus typically does on it's own."
"Well, it killed the first one on it's own," Harry said. "I didn't know that could happen. Once it happened I told him to get them all though," Harry admitted.
The male Auror flipped through a notebook he'd been taking statements down on searching for something and finally found what he'd been looking for. "Then Harry said, ‘Kill them all' and his Patronus took off after the lot of them." The auror looked up from the statement he'd been reading and stared at Harry. "Did you or did you not tell your Patronus to ‘kill them all?'"
"I said that."
"Why do you feel it necessary to destroy Ministry property?" the man asked hotly. Harry noted that the Minister of Magic was still standing with his hands clasped behind his back staring out the Headmaster's office window.
"I didn't know they were Ministry property," Harry said. "All I knew was that they've been trying to kill me and my friends all year and they were doing it again. They had Professor Sprout down, they were attacking my dad and not letting him cast a Patronus, four kids were passed out and the last three were being attacked."
"After your stag chased the Dementors away, you could have kept him with you to protect you. According to Professor Sprout, you refused to recall it."
"I didn't refuse," Harry said. "I didn't know how to call him back. She asked to have the Patronus with us to keep us safe. I said I'd conjure him again if the Dementors came back."
"Mr. Potter," the Minister said, back still to Harry, "please recall him now."
Harry looked to Dumbledore, sitting in his chair across the desk for help. "Verbally call him back to you with the intention that he should come back," Albus told him.
"Prongs, come back," Harry said. Nothing happened.
"Depending on how far away he is, it may take a while."
"But-" Harry said, "he can't be too far right? They have to stay within a mile?"
"We've been trying to recall the Dementors all night, but they keep scattering because your Patronus has been chasing them across the grounds and countryside all night killing them one by one. The Patronus was spotted chasing a group past Hogsmeade, which is more than a mile away."
Harry didn't grin though he wanted to. Instead he tried to keep his face impassive. "Are you sure it was mine?"
"People reported a glowing blue stag with Christmas lights tangled in its antlers."
Harry noted that all the adults in the room were staring at him now, including his father and grandfather.
"How'd you manage to cast a Patronus like that kid? They don't normally have human made items with them, and they definitely can't travel long distances like that or stay corporeal for that long."
Harry mumbled something and Albus asked if he could please speak up.
"I might have had a cup of coffee before bed. I read all night and haven't been to sleep yet."
Severus made a dissatisfied noise in the chair next to him but Harry didn't have a chance to look up at him, because in the next moment Prongs had come trotting through the wall of the Headmaster's office to stand before Harry, waiting for instructions. Just as the Aurors had said, he had a short string of white ethereal Christmas lights tangled across both sets of antlers. They weren't real, and glowed like Prongs did.
"Good boy," Harry said, reaching out to touch him. Prong's ghostly nose nudged Harry's hand, though Harry didn't feel it. The stag pawed at the floor with his hooves once, the lights swinging on his antlers, and then he disappeared, his soft glow going with him.
"Do you have anything to add to your statement?" the female Auror asked Harry.
"No. Are you taking the Dementors away from the school?"
"As soon as we can catch them they'll be removed," she said.
They asked Severus questions for several minutes as they took his statement, which matched Harry's and the other statements they'd taken that morning, and then the Minister asked the aurors for a few minutes alone with Harry, Dumbledore and Snape. After they packed up their notes and left, the Minister turned to face the window again.
"Despite what you may think of the Ministry Harry," he said quietly, sounding tired, "our goal was to protect you and the other students from Sirius Black."
"Maybe," Harry said. "Do you know how many times I almost died this year because of the Dementors though?" The Minister flinched. "Ten," Harry said.
"Twelve," Snape corrected. "And adding the other seventeen incidents involving other students and staff, that makes for 29 near-tragedies."
The Minister finally turned around to face them and said, "I understand you may want to take the story of what happened last night to the Prophet. Two staff and eight students nearly dying to a Dementor attack would be in the papers for weeks."
Harry took in the defeated posture of the Minister as he sat down in a chair at the end of Dumbledore's desk by the window, and Podmore's words floated through his mind from the previous summer. Podmore had told Harry that being the Boy-Who-Lived, he was going to be dragged into political matters, and that things involving him would always be politically charged. Harry had been encouraged to do things like invite the Minister to lunch during his trial to gain his support. Podmore had told Harry that doing things like this showed that he was mature enough to, "understand the game and enter it." Throughout the course of the summer Podmore had also instructed Harry numerous times to speak like an adult and had once told him, "I suggest you learn to control yourself and not have any outbursts in front of ministry officials, inside or outside of court." He'd taught Harry how to talk to the Minister and other officials in a way that always reminded Harry of the Malfoys. Harry hadn't been taking that advice when meeting with the Aurors. Now that the Minister was before him, it might be the right time to step back into that role Podmore and Silver had wanted him to play.
Sitting up straight in his chair Harry said calmly, "I have no interest in taking this to the papers right now."
The Minister looked up and met his eyes. "You take everything to the papers."
"I never needed to do that until I was attacked by the Ministry and fined when I hadn't done anything wrong."
"By the Office Of Business Affairs," the Minister said, "I had nothing to do with that. They're not under my control."
Harry doubted that very much, but didn't say so.
"You came out in the papers with some pretty harsh words about me," Harry said, trying to keep calm. "Even then I didn't retaliate. I would have gladly continued to keep to myself if MOBA hadn't started fining me. I respect you and I respect the Ministry. I know how important it is to our community and I don't want to have any part in fighting against you or the Ministry for any reason."
Snape and Dumbledore were staring at him, but Harry didn't look away from the Minister. He half expected his guardians to jump into the conversation and wasn't sure why they hadn't yet.
"You don't?" The Minister asked. His defeated posture had slowly begun to change, and now he was sitting upright and leaning slightly forward towards Harry. "Perhaps you would be open to making a deal then Mr. Potter?" He seemed far too eager, like he was waiting to jump on Harry for something and surprise him.
"What kind of deal?" Harry asked.
"Drop the suit against MOBA. MOBA will drop the fines against you in return."
Harry sat completely still. During a visit to Silver during the school year, he'd told Harry the Ministry might try to approach him with a deal like this. They wanted the trial to go away because Harry and the others who had joined in on the suit with him had a good chance of winning since by law the Ministry was in the wrong to issue fines for employing Fae or catering to them. Silver had also told him to take such a deal so long as the terms were right and to get it in writing.
"I'm not the only one bringing the lawsuit," Harry said. "And what about the fines I already paid? What about the fines everyone has been paying for months. If the lawsuit goes away you'll continue fining us."
"Not me Harry," the Minister assured him again, "MOBA. All fines paid already will be returned. All current fines will be dropped if you drop the suit."
"And you won't fine us again for these things," Harry added.
"MOBA won't fine you again for the current businesses that were involved in the suit for the current violations being discussed."
"And the same for the other businesses that have been fined for this stuff since the end of last summer."
"The same for them. We can get the others to drop the suit. If you drop it, they'll follow you."
Harry sat back in his chair and was quiet for long moments. This was too easy. It didn't feel right.
"I have the money to pay my fines and everyone else's," Harry said. "And I can win this lawsuit. Why should I drop it?"
"Aside from the fact that you would rather not be in conflict with the Ministry?" the Minister asked.
"Aside from that," Harry agreed.
The Minister leaned forward in his seat towards Harry again and had a steely look in his eye, like he had finally caught Harry in some wrong-doing. It was a look he'd seen Snape wear too many times before the man had adopted him.
"Drop the lawsuit, and I'll allow Remus Lupin to continue working at Hogwarts instead of having the Aurors take him with us when we leave."
Harry could feel the blood draining from his face because he felt lightheaded. "Professor Lupin?" Harry asked, trying to control his breathing. "I like him, but why would me dropping the lawsuit let him stay at the school?" Harry had to work diligently to keep his eyes on the Minister and not let them dart around frantically to the Headmaster and his father.
"I don't believe for a second you don't know he's a werewolf," the Minister said, sitting back and looking satisfied.
"So I drop the suit, MOBA drops the fines, and Professor Lupin stays? For how long?"
"Until there's an incident or the Headmaster decides it's time for him to go."
Harry looked down at the armrest of his chair, fingers rubbing against the worn wood, all of his confidence gone.
"I need it in writing," he said. "Then I'll drop the suit."
"And-" the Headmaster said, drawing Harry and Fudge's eyes to him, "it will be in writing that the fine Harry paid for not having a business license for the janitorial business still stands. That one will not be dropped."
"As it should be," Fudge said, standing up and rubbing his hands together. He suddenly looked excited like he had over the summer when going out to lunch with Harry, Dumbledore and Harry's barristers.
"Gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, I need to oversee the removal of the Dementors. Harry, I'll have those papers to you by this evening. Good day gentlemen." He left the office, almost gleeful.
"You just gave up your leverage to change things for the Fae community," Severus said. He didn't seem like he cared one way or the other, but still sounded displeased.
It took a few minutes for Harry to gather himself up again. The fact that the Minster had known about Remus being there and was using it against him had startled him. Despite what Podmore had tried to teach Harry, and what Silver had tried to re-inforce, Harry had never actually felt ready to enter the ‘game' as they'd called it. This underscored for him that he disliked politics and didn't want to be involved in them if he could avoid it at all.
"Silver said they would come to me with this deal, and to take it," Harry said.
"What reason could you possibly have for dropping the lawsuit when your goal has always been to allow Fae to find employment and have places to shop in our community?"
"Case law," Albus said, and though Snape looked up to hear what he had to say, Harry continued to stare at the worn arm of his chair, rubbing his finger over the wood. He wanted to be done with this business with the Minister... to go to sleep for the day and wake up and not think about it. To not feel that anxiety that hadn't left his chest yet since the Minister had shown his trump card.
"If a future case is ever brought against the MOBA office regarding fines for allowing Fae to be employed, purchasing items from Fae, or carrying goods that only Fae would want," Albus explained, "it can be argued that since the Ministry dropped all fines relating to those things against Harry and other business owners, and returned fines already paid to them, that it was an admission of wrongdoing and unlawful fines. They have now set a precedent that any future business owners can take advantage of. If Harry must bring another case against them, this will work to his advantage. That is, so long as they don't also drop the fine against Harry for not having a business license, as they could use that to say this was an agreement solely between they and Harry, or a favor to him, as that fine had nothing to do with Fae."
Severus sighed heavily and rubbed his temple. "I hate politics."
Harry agreed with him, but was clenching his eyes shut. He wanted to block everything out. He'd gone from a feeling of triumph with Prongs to having a confident conversation with the Minister to feeling like the floor had been ripped out from under him, leaving a gaping hole beneath his feet so quickly. It left a panicky feeling in his chest he couldn't shake.
"Harry?" Albus asked, but Harry didn't respond.
Severus reached a hand across and rested it on Harry's forearm, causing Harry to flinch violently. Harry missed the glance between the two men because his eyes were still closed. A moment later Severus said calmly, "You need to breathe. Take slow, deep breaths and listen to the calmness in my voice."
Harry was trying, but the panicky feeling was refusing to go away.
"Listen to my voice," his father said again in that calming tone, "listen to the rhythm and cadence, and focus on my words alone. Focus on the feeling of the air coming into your lungs, and let the air out slowly. Focus on the darkness behind your eyelids and the calmness coming over you."
Harry didn't know if he felt calm or not. He didn't feel as panicky as he had before though, and opened his eyes, feeling lightheaded. He'd never had a panic attack like that in front of his guardians before, and wished he hadn't now. He didn't want them to think he was so weak that he couldn't handle a little stress from something like the Minister toying with him. He wanted them to know he was just as strong as they were... as strong as Prongs had been chasing Dementors down all night and killing them.
"I think I'm just- really tired," Harry said. "I'm dizzy because I haven't had any sleep yet."
"Which is what happens when you ignore me and stay up all night to keep your Patronus corporeal," Severus said, his voice chastising.
"Take him to my quarters and let him sleep on the couch," Albus said. Harry didn't wait to be told to get up and stood on his own. He stood there for a moment, willing the dizziness to go away so he could walk, and then went into the man's living room in his upper quarters.
"I will make you something to eat before you go to sleep," Severus said, startling Harry as he sat down on the couch. Harry hadn't realized his father had followed him in.
Harry leaned back on the couch, still dizzy and tried not to think back on all that had just been said in the Headmaster's office. He didn't want all of that anxiety to come rushing back in on him again.
"Every moment your Patronus is corporeal," Severus said, setting a plate of toast with butter and jam in front of Harry a few minutes later, "it draws from your core of magic and your willpower to keep it going. By staying up all night you allowed it to continue on, but drained a significant amount of power from yourself. The fact that it was doing so miles away, while astounding, tells me that it was taking more power than it normally would."
"Is that why I'm so dizzy?" Harry asked, eating his toast with his eyes closed.
"You are dizzy because you didn't sleep. Finish your toast."
Harry finished the last few bites and then let himself fall over onto the Headmaster's couch. If he could just get a few hours of sleep he'd be fine to go about his day. Maybe he could make it back to the common room in time to play chess with Ron this afternoon.
"Prongs was pretty good though, right?" Harry asked his father, eyes closed. Snape laid a blanket over Harry a moment later.
"He rose to the occasion."
"Prongs showed up with bells on," Harry murmured, before tucking his face under the blanket and letting himself drift off. Remus had told him about his dad being a stag Animagus, and how they had called him Prongs. Harry's Patronus was more than just James protecting him however, it was Severus and Albus too. It was the memory of Christmas with them that had conjured Prongs with Christmas lights from the Headmaster's tree. Prongs With Bells On was the perfect name for his Patronus.
‘Dear future me, This is past you from before December.' Harry snorted as he stared down at the letter the Headmaster had told him to write to himself. School was ending tomorrow and as promised the Headmaster had given the letter back to Harry. He could tell his guardians hadn't read it, because the wax seal had been unbroken until Harry had opened it. It felt just as weird to be reading a letter he'd written to himself months before as it had then writing a letter to himself.
‘I've been told I have to do better in at least one subject. I guess it will be Transfiguration. I hope you won't be mad at me by the end of the school year. I'll have to work hard to make sure you aren't.' Harry was glad that he'd kept this promise to himself to raise his grades. He'd not only raised his Transfiguration grade, but his Charms grade as well. It was long hours of work, and it meant many missed games of chess with Ron, but it had also meant getting to go to a Quidditch match with his father, and being rewarded with books where Fae were the heroes. Harry had read all of those books they'd gotten at the Muggle bookstore, and had even re-read one of them. Ron often grouched that Harry was becoming a bookworm like Hermione, but when Harry described some of the adventure novels he was reading, Ron had read one and declared it wasn't such a bad way to spend time, so long as Harry didn't forget to make time for chess and exploding snap with him.
‘They said they were taking me to the Ministry next weekend to be adopted. That'll make it official I guess. I'll be part of a real family. I hope by the end of the school year I still have a real family. I hope it means when I mess something up, they're still right here with me. I hope by the end of the school year you're looking forward to the summer and not dreading being sent back to the Dursleys or somewhere else.' Harry still hoped for some of these things. He was looking forward to starting summer with his new guardians, and through many of his mistakes they had stood by him. He only hoped that would continue.
‘I hope it means the Headmaster will take you out on weekends to get tea in that tea shop on Knockturn or will still want you around to have meals with him. Maybe Snape will take you on Holiday again with the orphanage.' Harry wanted both of these things and made a mental note to ask his guardians if they could make plans for the summer. Harry had been so busy in the last month and a half of school that he hadn't given too much thought to summer other than that he was looking forward to it for the first time in his remembrance.
‘By the end of the school year I want to have a patronus down. I'm still working on a good enough memory. I have some new ones I'll have to try. Hopefully by the end of the school year I won't be fighting the Ministry anymore.' Harry felt particularly proud of himself for having gotten the Patronus down. After the incident over Easter hols he had every confidence that should he need Prongs With Bells On, he'd show up and keep Harry safe.
He wasn't entirely certain if he was still fighting with the Ministry or not. The Minister had kept his word and sent a document to Harry to sign stating he would drop the suit if MOBA dropped their fines. Once Harry had signed that and sent a copy off to Silver, Silver had contacted the other businesses that had stood with Harry and they had signed the document as well. Harry hoped this meant an end to fighting with the Ministry, but his father and grandfather didn't believe this to be the case. For now Harry was trying not to think about it and hoping that he could get through the summer without any court cases, fines from MOBA, or other run-ins with the Minister of Magic or other Ministry officials (especially if it meant them coming to check him for signs of being Fae).
‘When I ran away, I didn't find Sirius. He didn't come for me. But the Headmaster and Snape did. No one does that. I don't know if by the end of the school year you'll hear from Sirius or see him again, and by the time all the time has passed between this letter and you getting it, I don't know if you'll still want to see him again.' Harry did still want to see Sirius again. He wanted to make sure Sirius was safe and thank him for all he'd done for him over the summer. Harry still missed him, particularly after a bad nightmare, though the thought that Sirius never came for him after he left Diagon Alley didn't sting as much as it had before. Now when he had bad nightmares he had a father who stuck his head in his bedroom door to check on him, or to make him tea in the middle of the night and let him just sit and think for a while. And Harry had a grandfather that had come for him, and who wasn't upset with him for running away. His father was still a little wary of Harry running away, but Harry had been working hard to earn back his trust and hoped he had it again so he could have a little freedom over the summer.
‘Oh yeah, and I hope by the end of the school year you earned back all of the 125 points you lost running away. I promised Professor McGonagall I would. It would have been easy with Quidditch because I could have earned points catching the Snitch, but now I'm going to have to work hard in classes to get them back. Hermione could do it. She'd probably get them earned by Christmas. I guess it means I can do it too, even if it takes me til' the end of the year.' Quidditch had been banned all year because of the Dementors, but since they had been removed from school grounds Dumbledore had cancelled classes for the last two days of school and organized a Quidditch tournament between the four houses. They'd had very little practice, but everyone had been excited to get out and play in the warm sunlight after being locked away in the castle all year. It had been an all day event both days, and lunch had been served in a big tent just outside the Quidditch pitch both days. The Headmaster had only given the teams five days' notice that they would be playing at the end of the last week of school, and they'd spent what little free time they had practicing. It had been just enough time for Harry to contact Basil and Bennet and get them to come out to the tournament Friday and Saturday to sell books (all of them focused on Quidditch and flying), and to get Gerrin Honeyduke out to sell popcorn and other goodies. Over the course of the weekend tournament, each team played three games so they could play all of the other houses. As would happen with normal tournaments the points earned went to each house, and Harry was able to earn back all the points he'd lost by running away before Christmas.
Friday had started with Gryffindor versus Slytherin. Gryffindor had won by only twenty points. Then Ravenclaw had played Hufflepuff, they'd broken for lunch, and Ravenclaw played Slytherin. Slytherin had won that match by a huge margin. After the three teams had played, the pitch was opened to anyone who wanted to fly, and several of the players from different teams ended up giving impromptu lessons to kids who wanted to learn but weren't on a team.
Saturday started with Hufflepuff versus Slytherin. Then Gryffindor played two games in a row, one against Ravenclaw, and the last against Hufflepuff. Some of the younger students were running in to the Great Hall after every match to count points in the hour glasses and coming back to the Pitch to report on who was ahead.
There was a final match that evening between the two teams who had earned the most points over the two days, which turned out to be Gryffindor and Slytherin. Slytherin won by ten points, but Harry wasn't disappointed. He'd had so much fun over the two day tournament and was just glad to be outside with his friends. Draco didn't even gloat that he'd taken the Snitch before Harry. He hadn't said anything nice either, but Harry counted that as a win for the time being.
Feeling tired from his matches earlier that day, Harry lay in bed staring at the letter and remembering everything he'd been through since he'd written it... remembering all the hopes and worries that he'd poured into it. His eyes moved down to the last part. ‘Aside from my friends, and Mrs. Ginger, I never really got hugged before. But now Snape hugged me once and the Headmaster too. I hope by the end of the school year you get hugged more. I hope you feel wanted.' Harry smiled and thought on his father hugging him protectively after the Aurors had slammed him against the wall in the Headmaster's office. He'd hugged him again after the incident with the Dementors over Easter. The Headmaster had hugged him at Christmas and a few more times since then. Harry didn't have to hope anymore because he felt decidedly loved and wanted.
"But I can't find Scabbers!" Ron said, sounding a little frantic as he lifted up couch cushions in the common room and then looked under the worn red sofa.
"Why didn't you put him in a cage last night while you packed so he couldn't scarper off?"
"I couldn't find him last night," Ron said through gritted teeth, irritated with her for getting on his case when what he needed was help to find his missing pet. "And I didn't see him yesterday either, or the day before."
"You haven't seen him since Thursday?" Hermione asked, making her way through the crowd of Gryffindors who were trying to get their luggage to the pile so she could help Ron look under furniture as well.
"Why aren't you taking better care of him?" Hermione asked.
At the red look on Ron's face, Harry stepped in before he shouted and the two of them got into a fight. Neither of his friends would be happy spending the day riding the train together if they'd started the day off with a big blowout.
"Scabbers takes off for days at a time," Harry said. "He always comes back. We think he goes down to the kitchens and pigs out because he always comes back fatter than when he left. Once he dragged a whole apple up through the castle and into Ron's bed. He's been gone for up to a week before. When Ron sticks him in a cage and doesn't let him out, he squeals and keeps everyone awake until he gets his freedom."
Hermione pursed her lips and seemed to take this as an appropriate answer as she continued her search. Harry helped too by checking all the dorms, but they didn't find him by eight when they were supposed to start making their way down to the station in Hogsmeade. Harry wasn't riding the train with them, but he walked with them anyway. Ron fretted the whole way down.
"I'm sure Harry will keep looking for him," Hermione tried to reassure Ron. "Won't you Harry?"
"I'll check the dorm and common room again today and every day that I can. I bet you he's asleep in a food coma in your luggage somewhere. Check it on the train," Harry advised.
"He's a useless thing," Ron lamented. "I bet an owl or cat ate him." Here Ron gave a wary look to Crookshanks, but Hermoine only held him closer to her chest and didn't acknowledge that it could be a possibility.
Twenty minutes later, Harry waved as the train pulled out of the station, with Ron hanging out the window. "If you don't find him," Ron shouted as the train pulled away, "maybe mum will let me get an owl!"
Harry laughed and waved and then made his way back up to the castle, breathing in a sigh of relief that the school year was finally over. No more homework, no more essays and tests, no more worrying about keeping his grades up, or about Dementors. He was finally free to do as he pleased, and right now what he wanted was to go to Diagon Alley and talk to Justin about his business idea. Justin was on the train though, and Harry wasn't certain his father would let him go out to the alleys on his own. It couldn't hurt to feel him out for an answer though.
Snape wasn't in his dungeon quarters or in the Great Hall, so Harry made his way up to the Headmaster's office. "Lemon tart," Harry said to the Gargoyle, and it moved aside to give him entrance to the moving staircase. Dumbledore's office door was open when he got to the top, and he found his grandfather and head of house inside having tea at the Headmaster's desk.
"Come in Harry," Dumbledore said warmly, and motioned across his desk to the empty seat next to McGonagall.
"I didn't mean to interrupt sir."
"You're not interrupting," Albus said. "If it was a truly private matter my door would have been closed and locked."
McGonagall smiled at Harry as he sat down. "It seems you've had quite an interesting year," she said to him.
"Yes maam," Harry said, ears turning red a little.
"Albus was just telling me about your long list of passwords to get into his office."
"My passwords maam?" Harry asked.
"Yes, we've had quite a laugh over them all."
Harry's cheeks began to turn red to match his ears, but it only caused McGonagall to chuckle. Albus pulled a parchment out and unrolled it on the desk so Harry could see. There was every password Harry had given to the Gargoyle since he'd been keyed in.
"You were keeping track of them sir?" Harry asked.
"As a matter of record, anything said to the gargoyle gets written down by a spell and sent to a record parchment for me to see, where I can clear it or send it to another parchment for long term storage. Occasionally students don't have a password but need to see me. When they ask the Gargoyle for help it records the message so I can see it and grant them entrance."
"But you kept all of mine?" Harry asked, seeing that the parchment was empty aside from a list of passwords under the name ‘Harry Potter'.
"I found them amusing," Albus said.
Minerva reached forward for the parchment and let her eyes scan down it again. "Lots of sweets I see. That appears to have lasted for about a month. Then you switched to famous figures... Quidditch players, famous wizards, oh, we even have the Queen of England. And then rounding out that list nicely is Hagrid's underwear."
Harry put his face in his hand as McGonagall and Dumbledore laughed. "It was something I said to Professor Snape," Harry said, "when he was asking why I was giving it weird passwords. I said I could tell it Hagrid's underwear if I wanted and it would open, so the next time I needed in I said that." He laughed a little with them despite his embarrassment.
McGonagall handed the list back to Albus who rolled it up and put it back in his top desk drawer.
"Aren't you going to erase it now?" Harry asked.
"I think Severus would like to see it first."
"Or you could just publish it to the Prophet," Harry mumbled, but he wasn't all that upset and found it as funny as they did. Some of the things he'd said to the gargoyle had been rather embarrassing though. He wouldn't have said them if he'd known all the passwords were being recorded. After Hagrid's underwear he'd given it passwords like Dobby's ears, Snape's socks, and Flitwick's toe jam. He was only thankful now that he had forgotten to use ‘Filch's bogeys', which had been his plan at one point.
Harry helped himself to some tea while McGonagall and Dumbledore chatted about the end of the term and paperwork that still needed to be filled out, including end of term grades and exam results that most of the Professors still needed to finish and hand in.
"I expect Severus will be quite busy over the next few days," Albus said, and Harry brought his attention back to the conversation.
"You're welcome to come up here for the next few days or to wander the grounds as long as you stay in bounds," Albus said.
"He wasn't in his office earlier," Harry said. "I was going to ask him about going to Diagon. I had something I wanted to talk to Justin about and I wanted to work at the bookstore again." Harry had a lot of things he wanted to do this summer. He wasn't sure if he was allowed to ask Dumbledore or not though or if that would make his father angry.
Albus gave Harry an appraising look and said, "The password to the staff room Floo is Fudge Nougat. If you wish to go to Diagon and Knocturn for the next few days, you may, as long as you let me or Severus know where you're going and when you plan to return."
"I can go today?" Harry asked, not sure if he'd understood.
Albus nodded. If the Headmaster had been closer and not sitting across the desk, Harry would have jumped up and hugged him, despite that McGonagall was still there drinking her tea.
"Do you have big business plans for the Alley's again this year?" McGonagall asked as Harry stood to leave.
"Nope," Harry said happily. "Just looking forward to being out of the castle for a while!"
"Well then, you had better get going," she told him with a smile.
Harry thanked the Headmaster, said he was going straight down to the Floo, and that he would be back before dinner at five thirty. Then he raced down through the castle, hoping not to meet his father on the way there so he couldn't tell him no, and opened the door to the staff lounge behind the Great Hall. Snape was sitting in one of the comfortable brown leather chairs chatting with Flitwick and Remus and having tea.
"Erm- sorry," Harry said awkwardly at the door. "I didn't mean to barge in." His ears started to heat up again.
"Heading to the alleys?" Flitwick asked.
"Erm, yes sir." Harry found his father's eyes to see what he thought of this plan, but Snape only waved him away.
"I assume Albus has given you the password again?"
"Yes," Harry said.
"Be gone. If you come back with more than a pound of candy we will have to re-think your privileges to go to the Alleys alone."
Harry flashed him a grin, took a handful of Floo Powder from the mantel and was gone in a green flash. His father and grandfather must have talked it over and decided he could have some of his freedom back. Now all Harry had to do was make sure he didn't do anything to lose it again.
Harry wasn't planning on working today, but he had used the Floo in Flourish and Blotts and didn't want to seem like he was taking advantage of their fireplace. Both brothers were downstairs doing a deep cleaning of the store since it was early yet and not many shoppers came in on the day school ended.
"That you Harry?" Bennet called up to the second floor landing, and Harry stuck his head over the rail to wave.
He went down the spiraling stairs and greeted the brothers. "Do you have work for me this summer?" Harry asked.
"We definitely do," Basil said. "There's a new list of books for you to go over and give us your thoughts on."
"Great," Harry said. "And I have an idea for some books we might order in as well. They're Muggle."
"Muggle books? Like what?" Bennet asked.
Harry explained about the lack of novels where Fae were the heroes and about buying some from a Muggle bookstore.
"Don't know how well those will go over," Bennet told him. "We try to get books in that will sell out fast."
"I understand, but it's something different," Harry said. "Sometimes people don't even realize they want something until they see it. Like Hermione with that unicorn book," Harry said to Basil.
"That's true," he said. "Which book store did you go to?"
Harry described the store his father had taken him to over Easter.
"I was wondering if we could set hours for work," Harry said. "I wasn't planning on working today, but I'd like to work a few days a week this summer, or maybe every day but only in the mornings."
"How about Monday through Thursday from eight to eleven. You could help us get the store in order each morning, help with orders, and catch the start of the late morning rush at the till."
"That sounds good," Harry said.
"So you'll start tomorrow?" Basil asked for confirmation.
"Bright and early," Harry said.
He waved goodbye to them and headed to Gringotts to get some money. He pulled out a few dozen Sickles and a handful of Knuts and went down Knocturn to the tea shop for a cup of dirty chai with caramel.
"So it's you again," the witch who owned the shop said with a smile when she took Harry's order. "Where's your grandfather?"
"School," Harry said. "He loved those tea's I got him for Christmas."
"Good. I'm glad you've chosen my shop as your favorite and not that new one over on Diagon."
"What new one?" Harry asked.
"Next to Twilfit And Tattings. They're trying to put me out of business."
"How?" Harry asked.
"They're selling ‘the classics' as they call it. Went and bought all dark leather furniture and shiny wooden tables to serve ‘upperclass' clientele," she said with distaste. "I heard the Minister has been in every day for the last month."
"I'll have to check it out," Harry said, though he thought if the Minister was in there regularly he wanted nothing to do with it. He looked up and found her staring at him and laughed nervously. "I meant just ‘look'," he reassured her. "I love the tea here and how cozy it is. I keep thinking if I was going to run a business it would be just like this one."
"You run lots of businesses," she commented, leaning on the counter to talk to him.
"That's true," Harry said, "but I mean really run. A business I would be at every day that I would build myself from the ground up."
"Well I'm glad you think so highly of my shop."
"I'll have to tell Professor McGonagall to come in," Harry said, thinking about how much she loved tea.
"Any business you can send my way would be appreciated."
Harry looked around the small shop. It had a few people at different tables as it always did. "Seems like you're doing ok though?" he asked. "Are a lot of people coming down Knocturn?"
"More than last summer," she said. "The perception of the Alley has really changed. I always have at least one person in, but usually three or four. It's a popular spot for couples, especially in the morning. Tom has been sending a lot of business my way from people staying at the Leaky Cauldron. He and I have a deal. He recommends my place to everyone for the perfect morning cuppa and I recommend the Leaky Cauldron for people wanting a hot meal."
"Has that been working out well?" Harry asked. He'd never thought of businesses doing deals with each other.
"Very," she said.
"Maybe you could work out a deal with Barrow or the Flourish's. Something like, people who take a receipt from here that's from that day get 5% off their purchase at the book store."
"That's a good idea," she said. "It could drive business to both of us. I heard from a Muggleborn last week that some Muggle establishments have a stamp system. I've been thinking of trying that."
"Every time someone buys a tea at my shop they would get a stamp on a card. Then when they get to ten or twelve stamps they would get a free tea."
"Good for repeat customers then," Harry said.
"Yes, and I'm betting that other shop won't do anything like it. They're dedicated to such a specific clientele and to ‘the old ways.'"
Harry sat down at a table with his tea and drank it, though he realized that it was lonely drinking tea alone without a friend or the Headmaster to talk to. He wished he'd thought to bring a book. When he finished his tea he left and went across the little plaza to Barrow's Books. He'd never actually bought anything from Barrow before, but he liked the strange old man who worked there and had paid out of pocket to help him repair his shop the previous summer.
Harry was happy to find several people inside browsing the used books.
"Looking for something specific?" Barrow called out to him from the till.
"Just looking," Harry said with a wave. This bookstore was like the Hogwarts library. It had a random assortment of everything, including the occasional odd Muggle book. They were all used but in good condition, and the prices were half what Flourish and Blotts charged for books new.
After twenty minutes of browsing Barrow came up to him. "Nothing catching your eye?"
Harry looked at him and wondered if he should even ask for adventure stories with Fae. His guardians seemed open minded about Fae, and so had some of the business owners he'd partnered with in the past. Barrow was one of the ones who had stood by Harry through all the fines.
"Books where Fae are the heroes?" Harry asked. "The Muggles have lots of them, but I'm not going into Muggle London today."
The old man grinned at him and gave a little wave to indicate Harry should follow him. He led Harry to a corner of the store and a small rack of books. Harry reached for one called, ‘Werewolf Tales," and read the back.
"This isn't Muggle," Harry said.
"Nope. Written by a werewolf in Norway."
"I was beginning to think there weren't any from our world."
"There's plenty, but not many make their way to the isles."
Harry flipped through the book, and then tucked it under his arm. He also picked out a novel that claimed to be a true story about Elves and a hidden elven realm somewhere in Europe, and a novel about three Fae who escaped London one rainy night while being hunted by Aurors (also supposedly a true story).
"I'll take these," Harry said. He paid seven Sickles for the lot and took his finds back to the tea shop where he ordered licorice tea and a pastry and sat down at a table by the widow to read. He was three chapters in to ‘Werewolf Tales' when he realized it might be rude to sit and read all day without ordering another drink, so he got another Chai tea and decided to have a bagel for lunch while he dove into chapters four and five. It was two in the afternoon before Harry took his books and went to Tilly's to chat with her and buy some sweets.
"Don't tell Professor Snape that I bought three pounds of candy," Harry said. "He won't believe me that I'm taking most of it to Peverell's."
Tilly laughed. "You keep coming in and spending Sickles like that and I'll be so rich I won't want to tell him about it."
Harry laughed and thanked her and took the candy across the street. Mrs. Ginger was gone, but Miss Ava was there, so Harry talked with her for a minute, asked if he could come see Justin the next day, and left two and a half pounds of candy with her with instructions to give some to the kids coming home on the train that evening as well.
By the time Harry got to the Leaky Cauldron that afternoon at three, he had a single Knut left in his pocket, which he put into the pot above the fireplace before flooing back to Hogwarts.
Harry went up to Gryffindor to look for Scabbers one more time and to get his trunk to take back down to Snape's quarters for the summer. He didn't find Scabbers, and he didn't find Snape when he went to the Dungeon's either. Perhaps he was still having tea somewhere with the other staff.
Harry settled in on the couch in the quiet living room to read his book. It was fascinating to read something written by a werewolf with real details of werewolf transformations, packs, and interacting with Muggles in a different magical community. From what Harry was reading, wizards in Norway weren't all that fond of Fae but didn't hate them or go after them like the Ministry of Magic. The werewolf in Harry's novel was snarky like Snape, but likable all the same. The man always had sharp words for people, but it was in a friendly way, and wizards ended up seeking him out to help with issues they were having. Eivind was just getting ready to travel into the mountains to hunt down a rare ingredient that would save a little girl's life when Snape came into their quarters.
"I trust you stayed out of trouble today?"
"I came back on my own," Harry said with a grin.
"You're certain you haven't brewed polyjuice with your friends in a bathroom and given it to someone to take your place while you abscond?"
Harry lowered his book. "How did you know?"
"About the polyjuice? Ghosts talk. The best way to find out where missing potions ingredients went is to convince the Bloody Baron that another ghost said he was responsible for the stolen ingredients. It took a few months but eventually the Baron dragged Moaning Myrtle to my office to tell me that three brats had brewed a perfect Polyjuice potion without supervision."
"But, I didn't get in trouble for that?"
"By the time I was informed, you were finished, though what you did with it they didn't know."
Harry put his book back up in front of his face.
"Nothing to say to that?" Snape's finger appeared over his book and pushed it down to reveal another grin from his son.
"Snuck into Slytherin?"
"Are you asking or telling?"
"I mean-" Harry said with a shrug, "I was technically supposed to be in Slytherin, so it wasn't really breaking any rules going into their common room, right? So no need to take points or yell at me now?"
"For an infraction that old?" Snape scoffed. "If I did that Minerva would accuse me of holding a grudge." Harry wasn't sure if the man was joking until he saw his lips turn up into a smile. Snape didn't smile often, and Harry wanted to see him smiling more often. When his father was smiling, Harry didn't feel anxious about being in trouble.
Snape disappeared into the kitchen and Harry continued reading until he was called for dinner twenty minutes later. He brought his book with him into the kitchen.
As they sat to eat, Snape said, "What did you do today?"
"Drank a lot of tea and read at the tea shop. My candy is on the coffee table for inspection. Less than a pound."
"And how much did you eat before you brought it back the castle?" Severus asked with a snort.
"None. I was full of tea. I've made a deal to work at Flourish's for a couple hours each morning Monday through Thursday. I'd be done by 11 each morning."
"That is acceptable. You may want to consider not filling up your days with work during your summer holiday."
"I'm going to be too busy reading for that," Harry said. "Barrow has all kinds of good books."
He slid ‘Werewolf Tales' across the table to his father so he could look at it. "It's not even Muggle, though I do wanna go back to that Muggle shop and get the rest of the books in the series I was reading from Easter."
"As soon as I am done grading we can go to the bookstore. I should be done by Thursday afternoon."
"That will be fun," Harry said. "After I'm done working each day, is it ok if I stick around the Alleys for a bit?"
"As long as you return by dinner, and we did not have prior plans."
When they finished eating Harry went back into the living room with his father and sat down with his book. He didn't start reading again though. Before Severus could open up the newest Potions Journal he'd received by owl that day, Harry said, "Sir?"
"Hm?" He was already browsing the table of contents to see if there was a Potions paper he'd prefer to read first.
"Are we- doing anything this summer?"
"Yes. We are not limited to the castle, although at the end of the summer I will have to be here to prepare for two weeks prior to the term starting." He looked up from the journal. "Was there something in particular you wanted to do aside from emptying your vault at the Muggle bookstore?"
Harry looked down, not sure if he would be turned down right away or laughed at or what. "I have a house," Harry said. "I was wondering if we could maybe go there for a couple of days before summer's over?"
"The one you bought in secret and ran away to?" Harry looked back down at that. Snape cleared his throat a moment later and said, "You are not in trouble. It was said in jest."
"That's the one," Harry said.
"I will consider it."
Harry looked up at him. That wasn't so bad, though he had a feeling his father would eventually say no even though he hadn't said it yet.
"Was there anything else?"
"Could we go on holiday with Peverell's again?"
"You wish to go on holiday with the orphanage?"
"It was a lot of fun," Harry said.
"We could go on holiday ourselves."
"I wouldn't mind that either," Harry said. "I just thought- nevermind."
"I was merely curious as to why you wanted to go with them. I will ask Mrs. Ginger if they are planning a holiday this summer and if they need another chaperone."
Harry picked up his book again but only stared at the page for a few moments. He liked the kids at Peverells, and he liked Mrs. Ginger and Miss Ava. The kids at the orphanage were the only ones who understood what it was like to not have parents. Some of them even understood what it was like to go through the system like Harry had with wizarding services and to go through court cases. It was nice to be around others who understood once in a while. Harry also still occasionally thought about what he'd been told, that he had almost grown up in that orphanage. It would have been far better than living with the Dursleys. When Harry spent time at Peverell's or went on holiday with them, it was like making up for lost time. It was like getting the childhood he'd wished he'd had.
His eyes wandered back up to Snape again, who was engaged in reading his potions journal. Snape had lived at Peverell's for a time too. He also understood what it was like to not have parents. Harry hadn't really thought about that before. Now the man was his father. Once again as Harry stared at him, he thought about how much of a stranger his father still was to him. He wondered if he'd ever stop thinking that.
* * *
"So what's this idea?" Justin asked as they stood outside of Tilly's shop. Harry had just finished at Flourish And Blott's for the morning and Justin had a few minutes before he was supposed to start work for Tilly.
"I have an idea for a product we could make and sell at school. I asked, and selling at school is allowed as long as a teacher approves the product."
"What is it?"
"You know the Muggle lined notebooks they sell at Magic Mart? Some of them have the house crests on them and others are blank."
"I'm sure I can get a bunch of those plain ones cheaper out in the Muggle world, and we could customize them ourselves. We could figure out how to get pictures on them, and then make a bunch this summer, and sell them at school."
Justin thought it over. "How much do you think it would cost us to start that up?"
Harry shrugged. "I dunno. I gotta get someone to take me to look for a supply of them in the Muggle world."
"What kind of things would we put on them?"
"Anything that we think would sell," Harry said. "Unicorns, the house crests, Quidditch logos-"
"Un uh," Justin shook his head. "Tilly was telling me about laws for logos and stuff. We can't put logos of other businesses on our stuff and sell it without permission. Each Quidditch team is it's own business, and they own their logos and sayings."
"I didn't know that," Harry said.
"I can't remember what she called it, but the Business Affairs Office has a law. She was teaching me about it last summer when I suggested making Quidditch themed candy."
"Ok," Harry said, "so we can make some generic Quidditch stuff with Quidditch gear." He had put some thought into it, but hadn't fully formed a plan yet because he'd wanted to run it by Justin first. Now that he was thinking about it though, he remembered the Muggle notebook Hermione had given him with grid lines so he could make charts for work. "Maybe we could figure out how to add some paper to certain ones that have grid lines, or other specialty paper."
"We could add a calendar in the front of each one so kids can keep track of assignments," Justin suggested.
"That'd be good too."
"How much would we sell them for?"
"I dunno," Harry said. "If we could spend a sickle on each, or even less, we could sell them for two sickles and make a profit that way. Maybe we could learn the charm to make never ending paper and sell some with that for even more."
"So we make these things, and sell them once we get back to school, and split the profit?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, but beyond figuring out how to do it at first, I was hoping you could take over making them. I want to start the business, and help run it, but I don't want to make them."
"Why do you get half the profit then?" Justin asked.
"I'll buy all the materials when we need them," Harry said.
"I've got some money now," Justin said. "I could do this on my own and keep all the profit."
"You could-" Harry hedged. He'd really wanted something to do once he got back to school. He'd even considered starting a club or something with the other students who had products and services to sell during the term.
"But, that wouldn't be much fun," Justin said. "I'm in."
Harry flashed him a grin. "Don't tell others what we're making. I don't want anyone to steal our idea."
"I won't, except Mrs. Ginger and Miss Ava. When are we gonna start?"
"I'll get out to Muggle stores as soon as I can. Magic Mart is selling their plain notebooks at a sickle each and I'd rather not buy them for that much."
"You could ask McGlaggen where he gets his."
"I could. Don't you think he'd be upset about us taking his business away?"
"Doesn't hurt to ask."
Justin bade Harry goodbye and went into Tilly's to start his shift. He was working every afternoon for her and was going to be handing out more coupons and fliers daily.
Harry let his eyes wander next door to Magic Mart as a woman came out with her young children, and then went inside to see if he could find Munro, who had an office on the second floor.
Munro was happy to see him and invited him into his office to talk. Harry noted that it had piles of paperwork just like Podmore's down the alley.
"How have things been for Magic Mart?" Harry asked.
"People seem to be glad it's come back," he said happily. "A lot of families have switched back to buying their groceries from us instead of from Gray's Goods."
"I wanted to ask you a couple of questions, but I'm not sure how happy you'll be with them."
"What is it?"
"You sell some Muggle notebooks and pens and stuff. Do those sell pretty well?"
"They do ok, especially when it's time for people to buy school supplies again. Mostly we sell out of the Muggle writing utensils."
"What about the lined paper notebooks?"
"We've sold quite a few of those as well, but a lot of people are still buying their parchment from Gray's Goods."
"We're allowed to sell things at school as long as we get approval from a professor. My friend and I wanted to start a little business at school. We don't expect to make a bunch of money, it's just something to do. I wanted to sell custom Muggle lined notebooks. I didn't want you to be upset that we were taking business away from you though."
Munro waved him away. "You're a businessman Harry, and a little competition never hurt anybody. I'd never be upset with you for starting up a business. The majority of what I make at Magic Mart comes from groceries, home goods and that sort of thing. Besides, if you're only selling at school, people will still be buying what I have during the back to school rush."
"That's true," Harry said. "Would you be ok telling me where you're getting your plain Muggle notebooks from?"
"There's a Muggle wholesaler that sells them for 30 pence. So when I charge a Sickle for them that's a tidy little profit for me."
"Would you be ok if I contacted them to make an order?"
"Let me write it down for you. You'll have to use a Muggle phone to contact them. Silver could help you out with that. His father's a Barrister too and has his office out in Muggle London."
"I appreciate it."
"If they turn out to be popular, come and show me. I may buy some from you to sell in Magic Mart during the holidays."
Harry nodded and told him he would.
* * *
Harry had gone to see Silver before he'd left the Alleys to go home that evening, and Silver had agreed to take him to use a Muggle phone the next day. When Harry explained his plan to his father that evening at dinner, Snape gave Harry permission to go out to London with him.
The next day, Silver's father was not in his office as he was in court, but his secretary was there, and allowed Silver and Harry to use the Muggle phone. The man on the other end of the line questioned how young Harry sounded, but Harry lied and told him he was twenty three and needed to buy a lot of notebooks for his students at school. The man bought that Harry was a young teacher and they soon had a deal for a crate of notebooks. As a wholesaler, they didn't want to deal with small orders and would only sell to Harry if he agreed to buy 500. If anything, Harry thought he could sell the extras to Munro for what he paid for them. He handed the phone to Silver to take care of the transfer of money, and delivery, and when they were done Silver took him back to Diagon Alley.
"500 is quite a few notebooks," Silver commented as they climbed the stairs back up to his office.
"We were only going to make 50 or 60 to start. I might ask Munro to buy the rest."
"I will pick them up from my father's office Thursday and bring them here. I would appreciate it if you retrieved them from my office the same day."
"I will." Harry was excited to be starting something new, and couldn't wait to tell Justin they'd have the notebooks later that week.
* * *
The crate with the notebooks was huge, and once Harry saw it, he worried Snape would be mad when he came to help Harry move it from Silver's office. Harry wanted to open it to inspect the notebooks, but he didn't want to be rude and pry off the wooden lid there in front of the desk of Silver's secretary.
When he appeared a few minutes to four, Snape did eye the crate warily, but he didn't make comment and instead touched both hands to it and apparated away, coming back a minute later to retrieve Harry and take him back to the school grounds.
"I will let you attempt to levitate this to the castle," Severus told him when they appeared in front of the Hogwarts gates and the massive crate.
Harry stared at the crate and contemplated how best to move it for a moment. He decided to cast a lightening charm on it first, and then a levitation charm. It turned out that levitating a bulky object wasn't as easy as a lot of the smaller objects they'd practiced on in school. The weight of it wasn't a problem after the lightening charm, but Harry had trouble keeping the object straight and upright as they walked up the drive towards the castle. The crate kept spinning and tilting and every time it did it pulled to the left or right and pulled Harry off course, like walking a stubborn dog on a leash.
Halfway up the drive Severus said, "What other spell could you cast to stabilize it?"
"I'm not sure."
"Iter or Levithrow."
"I don't know either of those."
"They are both taught in fifth year. It is advanced magic. Set the box on the ground."
Harry did as he was told and Snape set about explaining to Harry how to cast Iter, which was the easier of the two.
"Are you familiar with Accio?"
"The summoning charm? I don't know how to do that one yet. Fred and George were learning it last year."
"Iter is the opposite of Accio. It pushes instead of pulls. While you levitate the crate, you can cast Iter to either side to push it where you want it to go. It requires you modulate the power you send into the casting however. Too much power will send the crate hurtling towards the castle."
Snape picked up a rock, told Harry how to cast the spell and had him practice on that for a minute. He was right. When Harry first cast it, the rock went hurtling towards the West Wood and out of sight. It took Harry several minutes before he was able to push the rock left and right just a few inches at a time.
"Like the levitation charm, you will not have to continually cast it. Once the crate is levitating, keep hold of that charm, and then cast Iter once. From there you will control it with willpower and the force of your magic to one side or the other."
"I'm probably gonna smash the crate."
"See that you do not."
Harry nodded, readied himself, and then cast the lightening charm at the crate again, then he levitated it, and cast Iter. The crate veered off to their left, then Harry pushed it back to the right, though he had overcompensated, and as the crate continued to the right, Harry forced it to circle back, turning in a circle with it until it came back in front of them again.
"Small adjustments," Snape told him. "When you have big items, small adjustments make a big difference."
Holding the levitation charm and Iter charm at the same time was a lot of work, and Harry struggled with how much power he was pouring into one versus the other all the way up to the castle. He supposed there was a reason they didn't teach this sort of thing until fifth year. Fifth year was when they stopped teaching basic magic and started getting into advanced magic. When they made the front steps of the castle, Harry was pleased he'd done it though.
"Very good," Snape said, and had Harry set the crate down. He took control of it and then took it down the narrow passages of the Dungeons and to their quarters and left it by the front door.
Harry pried the lid off and found his notebooks. They were in various colors including black, gray, red, dark green, dark yellow, orange, bright and light pink, several shades of blue, and white.
"I suggest giving the ones you don't use to Peverell's. They could use them during the school year."
"That's a good idea," Harry said. "Do you have any ideas about what kind of charms we could use to put pictures on them?"
"I am not familiar with many. That falls into the realm of transfiguration. You should ask Albus."
"What about making them have neverending paper?"
"That is advanced magic I have never needed to know. You would have to do some research to find out, or contact a book binder who makes that sort of book. It is not something they will likely share with you though."
"The book binders that make neverending journals, shared journals, and other magical papers and document parchments consider those charms to be trade secrets, and only teach them to apprentices or family members who will carry on their business. It keeps the cost of the items high since there are so few who know how to cast the charms necessary to make those things work."
"That would be fun to learn," Harry said.
"Perhaps when you are old enough to take on an apprenticeship."
"Too bad I can't learn without a full apprenticeship," Harry said. Signing on as an apprentice would mean he'd have new guardians that had full control over his life. That was one thing he knew for sure he didn't want. Even when he was 17, he wasn't sure he'd ever want to take an apprenticeship. He knew Snape had been an apprentice at some point in order to become a Potions Master, but he couldn't imagine what that had been like for him.
* * *
Harry had been having a good day. The Headmaster had brought him to the Alley that morning early so they could get tea and breakfast at the tea shop before he started work. They had chatted and the woman who ran the tea shop had come to sit with them while they ate muffins and scones, interested in talking to the Headmaster about setting up a deal to send specialty teas to Hogwarts during the school year.
After that Harry had gone to Flourish And Blotts where Ron stopped in with his mother and Ginny to pick up a book she had ordered, and Harry took his break with his two friends. Ron had even invited him to come stay at the Burrow for a couple of days, and Harry had mentioned possibly having Ron over to stay the night at some point during the summer.
It was nearing the end of Harry's shift when his day started to take a nose dive in an unexpected way. There was a lull in customers and Harry was putting a few books back into a shelf from where someone had looked at them and put them away incorrectly when a man came into the store. Bennet was upstairs doing paperwork and Basil was at the Knockturn entrance washing windows, so Harry turned to the man, as he had done before with hundreds of other customers and asked, "Can I help you sir? Is there a certain book you're looking for I can help you find?"
The man eyed him, eyes going up to Harry's scar, and said, "You're Harry Potter."
"That's me," Harry said.
"I suppose since you work here you've got a lot of books stocked on fae."
Harry's ears perked up. It wasn't often he met people who were interested in reading about fae, and Harry had recently convinced Basil and Bennet to order in some books with real facts about them.
"Sure we do," Harry said. "There's a section over here." He pointed. "What kind of book are you looking for? We just got a few new ones in. No novels, just informational books."
"How about one on vampires and the underground slave trade they have where they steal Muggles in the night and keep them alive just to produce blood?"
Harry paused, hand halfway through pulling a book off the shelf, and turned to him, frowning. "No sir, I don't think we have anything like that." He'd never even heard of a black market like that trading in Muggles for blood.
"What about a book explaining how dangerous werewolves are on the full moon? I want one with statistics on how many people they kill each year. Show me that book."
"I don't think we have one," Harry said, starting to get angry with the man, but at the same time getting an uneasy feeling. The man's voice was growing angrier and louder with each thing he said and he was balling and unballing his fists.
"No? Didn't think so. You spout off about them like they're people, like you know what you're talking about, and people listen because you're you. You're just a dumb kid." The man came forward suddenly and grabbed the front of Harry's shirt, startling him. Their faces were close now and the man said loudly, "You're getting people killed! Do you know that? People believe you when you say they're not dangerous! People think it's ok to go out on full moons! It's dangerous, do you hear?"
"So because they're dangerous on full moon nights, we should treat them badly the rest of the days of the month?" Harry asked, voice hard. The man, still gripping his shirt tightly gave Harry a shake and pulled him in close again.
"You're sticking up for the wrong people! You should be sticking up for the innocent people getting ripped apart by them. They're wild animals!"
"I'm not sure they're the ones who are animals," Harry said, tone lowered but with a hard edge. Perhaps his own anger had silenced all the warning bells that would normally have been going off in his head at this point, or maybe Harry had been away from Privet Drive for too long and had forgotten what could happen when a bigger adult was this angry. The warning bells started blaring the moment the man pulled his arm back and brought his fist smashing into Harry's face, still holding onto his shirt. Harry didn't even have time to flinch, because he hadn't been expecting to be hit by another wizard. Wizards usually solved things with a duel, if anything. Harry reached up to fight back but the man had already punched him again in the face and Harry's vision went blurry. His ears rang and panic gripped him hard as the fist came to meet him a third time.
It was happening so fast he couldn't think about what to do to stop it. He heard Basil shouting and Harry was jarred suddenly as something collided with him and the man. His shirt ripped a moment later as someone tried to pry him free of the man's grasp and Harry fell. Once he was on the floor, dazed and vision still blurry, he looked up and found Bennet holding the man from behind, the two of them struggling with each other, and Basil rushing to help his brother. Basil must have been the one who had made the man let go of him and drop him to the floor.
Harry watched for what felt like long minutes as the three men struggled, knocking books off of shelves and in one case knocking an entire shelf over, books thudding heavily to the floor, but finally Bennet got to his wand and cast a binding charm at the man and he fell over sideways on top of piles of books. He was cursing at the brothers and at Harry, and breathing heavily from the struggle, Bennet cast a gagging charm at him to shut him up. Both brothers looked tired, and were panting heavily from the fight.
"Where's Harry?" Bennet asked, still breathing heavily.
Harry struggled to push himself up on his elbows, winced because his face and ribs hurt and there were several books poking his back uncomfortably from underneath him, and said, "I'm here."
Basil rushed to Harry's side and helped him sit up. "Hell, his dad's gonna kill us," Basil said, getting a good look at Harry's bruises and bloody nose and mouth.
"Forget it, firecall the aurors. He's fighting the binding spell and I don't want to hold him in it all day."
Basil bolted up the spiraling stairs to the office to use the Floo, and Harry surveyed the wrecked bookshelves. He felt sorry then that such a mess had been made of the brothers shop.
"Gonna take- forever- to clean up," Harry said, struggling to breathe a little.
"Don't worry about it." Bennet tightened the binding charm on the man again, who was glaring daggers at him, and then glanced over to get a better look at Harry. "More worried about you. Basil's right, you look like hell."
"This?" Harry said, trying to smile, though it hurt and he tasted blood, "It's nothing."
"Basil?" Bennet called, "Are they coming through?"
"They'll be here in a minute. I'll be right back!"
They heard the floo come to life and assumed Basil had gone through it.
"Probably gone to get your dad," Bennet said. "You need to go to Mungos."
The floo came to life a moment later and they heard several voices coming out of it, though Harry didn't recognize any of them. "Down there," one said, and several Aurors came down the stairs.
"What happened here?" a man asked, and Harry let Bennet explain, feeling fuzzy on the whole situation himself. He knew there had been a fight, and he'd gotten the worst of it, but he couldn't piece together exactly what had happened for some reason.
"The kid was shelving books getting ready to go off shift when this guy came in. We thought he was just a customer. Then I heard Basil shout and looked over the rail and saw the guy punching the kid. Basil got to them first and got hit in the face, and I ran down stairs and grabbed him from behind. He still had a hold of Harry's shirt. Basil had to rip his shirt to get the guy to let go, then Basil helped me get the guy to the ground and I was able to bind him. He's been fighting the binding charms."
A female auror took control of the binding charms and canceled the gag charm to start asking the man questions, but he had nothing but a string of epithets for Harry, so she gagged him again.
"Where's Basil?" the auror asking questions said, and Bennet started to answer him, but Harry was startled as the third auror pulled Harry free of the pile of books he was sitting in, and sat him on a stool he must have conjured. Harry looked around, dazed and found Darrow, the auror who had bound him and slammed him against the wall in the Headmaster's office after Christmas.
"Here," Darrow said, "spit the blood out into this." He sounded as though he thought the state of Harry was a real shame. Harry wasn't sure why he was being so friendly though after their previous encounter. He held out a piece of cloth and Harry spit out the mouthful of blood he had. Darrow said a spell and the blood and spit vanished from the cloth and then he handed it back to Harry and told him to press it to his nose to stop the bleeding there. "Took a pretty good beating. You'll need to go to St. Mungos."
"Not the worst I've had," Harry said, not feeling up to verbally sparring with him at the moment.
"I didn't do anything like this to you," Darrow said, misunderstanding, standing back a little to look at him again.
"I didn't say you did."
Darrow kept his mouth shut and as Harry started to list sideways he reached out to steady him so he didn't fall off the stool and back to the floor.
The female auror stood the bound and gagged man up and apparated away with him, and Harry listened for a few more minutes as the other auror questioned Bennet about the incident. Apparently someone had locked the front and back doors and put the closed sign up, because there were several people out front, confused as to why the door was closed and peering inside to gawk at the books all over the floor. Darrow stepped in front of Harry to block him from view and Harry wasn't sure why.
"See, I'm not so bad kid," Darrow said.
Harry looked up at him through the one eye that wasn't blurry and said, "If I was a werewolf that got beat up, you probably wouldn't be here right now."
He didn't seem to have anything to say to that so he stayed silent, and a moment later they heard several more people coming through the Floo upstairs.
"There's Basil," Bennet said, and the auror turned to talk to him as he came down the stairs, Snape right behind him. Snape came to Harry's side and knelt in front of him, taking his chin gently in one hand to turn his face to one side, and then the other. Darrow continued blocking them from view of the front window and stepped back to give them some space.
"Look at me," Snape said, and Harry did, though he couldn't see him very well. "You are concussed," he said after a moment of examining each eye.
"He should go to St. Mungos," Darrow said, but Snape ignored him for a moment as he looked over Harry's other visible injuries.
"I will take him back to the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts."
"He needs to be questioned," the auror talking to Basil said.
"It can wait until he has been seen to."
The man waved Snape away and said, "Darrow will follow you."
"We waited until you were here to question him," Darrow said.
Snape gave the auror a dark look, but then seemed to nod to him in thanks. Harry wasn't sure why.
"Can you stand?" he asked Harry, and Harry nodded, but once he was up found that his left ankle hurt and that he had to be helped up the spiraling stairs. Snape took one of his arms around his neck and they made their way awkwardly back upstairs to the office to floo to Hogwarts.
Darrow followed them through the floo, and on the other side he took Harry's other arm around his neck to help Snape get him up through the castle to the Hospital Wing. As soon as Harry was on a bed and Madam Pomfrey was seeing to him, Severus sent a Patronus off to Albus, unsure of where he was within the castle, and then sat down at Harry's bedside.
"Sprained ankle, broken rib, bruises, and a lot of swelling," Promfrey said. "His nose isn't broken and no teeth are missing or jarred loose."
"What about his eye?" Severus asked.
"What about my eye?" Harry asked.
"It's very swollen. Here, drink this." She handed Harry a pain potion he was well familiar with and he drank it down, used to the bitter taste now that he'd had it so many times before.
She had fed him five more potions by the time Albus hurried in a few minutes later, looking concerned.
"What has happened?"
"Harry was attacked at the bookstore. Basil Flourish came through and found me in the Dungeons twenty minutes ago and took me back to the shop to get Harry."
Albus sat down next to Severus and reached for Harry's hand, though Harry thought it was odd. He'd never held someone's hand before aside from grabbing Ron and Hermione's after one of the Dementor attacks.
Pomfrey explained his injuries again and then handed Severus a jar of bruise balm to start applying to Harry's face and ankle as she healed his broken rib and then turned her attention back to his eye again, which was swollen shut. Darrow stood at the foot of Harry's bed through it all, waiting until they were done to question Harry, or perhaps waiting for the other auror to come through to Hogwarts to question him himself.
Harry felt awkward having so much attention on him. He was used to Pomfrey treating his wounds, but having both guardians there and having Snape rubbing bruise balm gently on his face was strange. He would have just been happy with having the anti-swelling potions and having his broken bones healed.
"There's the problem," Pomfrey said a few minutes later. "A deeper scan revealed the bone around his eye is fractured. That blow was the source of his concussion." She did a bone knitting spell and then a secondary bone healing spell to heal the fracture above Harry's eye and then gave him another stronger anti-inflammatory potion. Snape moved on to putting bruise balm on Harry's chest where he'd broken a rib, and then closed up the tin of balm, now mostly gone and rose to put it away in the cupboard where Pomfrey kept it.
"There's not much I can do for the concussion aside from the potions I've already given him," she said. "He'll have a headache for a few days, perhaps a week. I can give him a daily pain relief potion and continue to give him an anti-swelling potion for everything else. He's free to leave when he's ready, and you should bring him back if anything gets worse."
"Thank you," the Headmaster said gravely. Once she went back to her office to start writing up the report about the injuries she'd treated, Darrow pulled out a pad of paper and a pen and said, "I need to ask him questions about the incident. The suspect was already taken into custody and to the Aurory for questioning."
"Proceed," Snape said, not looking up at him and instead sitting down next to Harry's bed to listen.
"Mr. Potter, try to remember everything you can about what happened, and start from the beginning."
"It's a little fuzzy. It happened really fast."
"Just tell me what you remember."
"I was getting ready to go off shift. I was thinking about getting lunch at the cart down by Gringotts when he came in."
"What did he say to you?"
"I asked if he needed help finding a book, and he started asking about books for fae... he wanted a book about some sort of vampire black market. I thought he was serious, and I told him we didn't have anything like that."
"He got angry and said he wanted to see a book about how werewolves rip people apart on full moon nights, with numbers of how many people they kill a year. Then he started yelling at me about how I was a dumb kid and spreading lies and was gonna get people killed. He grabbed my shirt," here Harry grabbed the ripped part of the front of his shirt, "and I think I said something to him, but I can't remember what, and then he started hitting me. I don't know how many times. I tried to fight back but he hit me so hard everything just sorta... I don't know... it was like it all fuzzed out. Like I couldn't think straight and I couldn't figure out what to do."
"When did Basil Flourish and Bennet Flourish join in the fight?"
"I don't really remember Basil and Bennet fighting him, but something tackled us both and then ripped my shirt and I fell to the floor on top of some books. That's when I remember seeing them trying to pull him away from me. It took both of them to hold him back. They were knocking bookshelves over and books were going everywhere. I couldn't see exactly what was happening because my vision was all blurry." Harry blinked his good eye several times as though still trying to get his vision to clear.
"Is there anything else you'd like to add to your statement?" Darrow asked, still writing notes on his notepad.
Harry thought back over the incident for a few moments and then slowly shook his head, wincing as he did so because he realized his neck was hurt as well. "No."
Darrow turned to Snape. "Tell me what Basil Flourish said to you when he came to retrieve you."
"He found me in my office just after eleven. He was out of breath and seemed upset. He said there had been an incident at the bookstore, that Harry had been hurt, and that he needed me to come get him." Severus remembered the urgency in the younger Flourish brother's voice as he tried to relay the information to him. Severus hadn't been sure how bad Harry had been hurt, but the urgency in Basil's voice had propelled Severus forward out of his chair and after the man in a hurry to get back up to the Floo in the staff lounge. "Then the two of us used the floo to get back to the book shop."
"Is there anything you'd like to add to your statement?"
"Who was the man that attacked him?" Albus asked, and again it unsettled Harry to hear his grandfather sound so serious when he normally didn't. He sounded angry, and Harry was glad it wasn't directed at him.
"I don't know yet. When we ungagged him he was spewing curse words at Mr. Potter so we gagged him again and they took him to the Aurory. He'll be charged with assault. Harry's statement lines up with the ones Basil and Bennet Flourish gave so the suspect can't say Mr. Potter provoked him or started the fight."
"What is to prevent him from attempting to harm Harry again?" Snape asked.
"The Aurory will charge him with assault, which carries a fine and time in lockup at the Ministry, and potentially the loss of his job if he works at the Ministry. He'll go to trial, probably by Monday morning, and a Justice will decide if he's going to Azkaban or being released. The Aurory will file a five year restrictive order on Mr. Potter's behalf that says he won't be able to approach Mr. Potter again or be in the same vicinity as him. You'll be contacted by owl after the Justice passes sentence, or by an auror directly if we have follow up questions."
"Thank you," Albus said.
Darrow turned to leave, but turned back to Harry again and looked uncomfortable for a moment. "Two months ago I removed myself from the fae assignment roster." When Harry didn't respond, because he didn't know what to say, Darrow left the ward, presumably to use the floo and head back to the Aurory.
"Why'd he do that?" Harry asked. The man had treated him so differently in this encounter than he had the last one.
"You told him in December he was a monster," Severus said.
Harry almost felt bad for that now that Darrow had seen to him and waited patiently to ask him questions until he'd been filled with pain potions and had his broken bones mended. "Your words have impact, as you have been told before. Because of your status as the Boy-Who-Lived, people want you to like and respect them, because they admire and respect you."
"He said in the bookstore, he wasn't so bad."
"Harry," Albus said, putting a hand on his leg above his sprained ankle, and Harry looked over at him. "Are you all right?"
Harry held up his hands to show him he was mostly in one piece. "Fine. It's gonna take me forever to clean up all those books at the shop that got knocked down."
Albus and Severus gave each other a look that Harry didn't miss, and Albus said, "I think it would be best for now if you did not return to work on the Alleys."
"But- I'm fine. I didn't get hurt that bad."
Albus conjured a mirror and handed it to Harry, who didn't look into it because he didn't want to see. He knew just by the way his eye and head felt that it was bad.
"I shouldn't have to hide at the castle all summer just because one guy was a jerk. I need to get back and help them clean up the store."
When his father and grandfather didn't say he could return, his good eye teared up and he clenched his mouth shut to keep his chin from wavering. He loved the alleys, and he'd been looking forward to summer for so long so he could get back to them. He'd only had two weeks! It wasn't enough time!
"I will return and help them clean up the books," Severus said. "You are going to rest."
"Tell them-" he was struggling with keeping his voice steady. "Tell them I'm sorry about the shop and-" he clamped his mouth shut. If he talked anymore he was going to cry and he didn't want to cry. He wasn't even upset over the guy throttling him. He couldn't handle losing his summer again though.
"I will tell them," Severus said. He rose and left the ward, and Harry hoped he was going to the alleys to set the bookshop straight.
"Come Harry," Albus said. He stood up and helped Harry out of the bed and then took him up to his quarters, where he deposited Harry on the couch and then had an elf bring Harry one of his new novels from Snape's dungeon quarters. Albus draped a soft brown blanket over Harry and had the elves bring tea, cookies, and lunch, and saw that Harry ate, though he only had a few bites because his jaw hurt from where he'd been hit.
Harry didn't read because his good eye was still blurry and instead put his arm over his eyes to block out the light and fell asleep. Albus sat in the comfortable living room chair and watched over him as he slept, waiting for Severus to return.
When he'd gained custody of Harry at one year old, he had never even considered taking Harry and raising him as his own, because he had never trusted his own judgment after what had happened with his sister. After his parents had died, Albus as the eldest brother had been entrusted with the care of Ariana as the head of the family. He paused, looking down at the worn arm of the comfortable living room chair, fingers feeling the worn surface of the fabric. He always tried not to think of that dark time in his life after Ariana had died, and it was hard to do so now. Instead he forced himself to think of anything else, and what came to mind was a conversation he'd once had with Harry above the Leaky Cauldron before the trial the previous summer.
"Why can't I live at Hogwarts if I need to be kept safe from Death Eaters? Or with you?"
"I never imagined you would want to live with an old man Harry. Years are not guaranteed and old age slips away even faster than youth."
It had been a lie. He'd never considered letting Harry stay with him, because he couldn't. He couldn't let another child in his care die. Not after Ariana. So he'd placed a ward on Harry's relatives' homes and left him there instead, trusting all would be well. Trusting that Petunia would have enough love for her sister to raise Lily's son as her own.
"You don't know what it's like to not have anyone at all," Harry had said quietly.
"I'm afraid Harry, that I cannot protect you from hurtful words. I cannot protect you from everything. I must however do what I can to protect you from death and torture."
He had to protect him from what had happened before. History couldn't repeat itself. Harry was not Ariana, but he did have people who wished to kill him. Tom Riddle was out there biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
Albus had thought the most important thing was to keep Harry alive at all costs, and that meant keeping him with his aunt. He was so certain it was the right thing to do, even after Harry had come to him to tell him he didn't want to live there anymore.
But Albus had seen the toll the trial had taken on Harry. He'd seen the impact of the abuse he didn't protect him from at the hands of his relatives. He should have tried to protect Harry from the hurtful words. He should have tried to protect him from everything. Albus knew that guilt like this didn't go away. It had never gone away after he'd failed to protect Ariana, and that had been nearly seventy years ago.
Albus let his eyes come up to watch Harry as he slept, bruised from the incident earlier that morning. The child seemed to be doing better than when he'd come home to the castle the previous summer. He'd struggled to find his place in this new family they had tried to forge, but he'd finally seemed to settle, to believe that things had changed for him. But now Albus' fear had come true. He was in Albus' care, and Albus had failed to protect him from those that wanted to hurt him.
Albus looked away from the sleeping child again. He didn't know how to make this right. He still wasn't certain he could protect Harry from those who wanted to do him harm. He had to try though. Harry was his now: his grandson. For all he'd tried to keep the boy at arms length over the years, he couldn't do that now. He loved him too much.
He made himself look at Harry again. The boy's chest rose and fell as he slept the afternoon away peacefully. He didn't want to repeat his mistakes. He'd let his own trauma over what had happened with Ariana affect him, and not only him but Harry, and Severus as well.
When he'd brought Severus to Hogwarts for his seventh year, he had spent some time with him, but he could have adopted him then. He cared about Severus like he did Harry, but he hadn't stepped up to really invest himself in either of them. He could have stopped Severus from joining Voldemort if he had instead of waiting for him to leave the ranks and come to Hogwarts to teach.
Severus had told Harry hours ago that his words had impact. That applied to Albus as well. His decisions were far reaching. His decision not to invest himself in Severus' life... not to adopt him after he'd brought him to the castle from the orphanage meant that Severus had joined the death eaters. If he could have stopped Severus from joining Voldemort, perhaps it would have meant James and Lily Potter would still be alive today. Perhaps they could have been here caring for Harry and protecting him as they always should have been. Perhaps not. Albus wasn't so foolish to believe he could stop all evils from affecting those he loved and cared about. Even so, it appeared he'd let himself repeat his mistakes again and again.
His eyes fell back on Harry and he promised Harry silently that he would not let himself repeat the same mistake yet again. Harry and Severus were his now, and he had to protect them both. They belonged to each other. There was nothing more important than family.
* * *
"How is he?" Severus came in at five to find Albus sitting down to dinner at the table and Harry still asleep on the couch. He walked over to check on Harry and then went to have a seat across from Albus.
"He's been sleeping all afternoon. I tried to get him to eat some lunch, but he only took a few bites because his jaw was hurting. Since his vision is still blurry he decided to take a nap. I woke him a few minutes ago to see if he wanted dinner, but he said his jaw and neck were aching and that he'd rather sleep."
"I will return to the Hospital Wing then to get him some more painkiller and anti-inflammatory potions."
"There is no need, Poppy came by half an hour ago and delivered them. I was going to let Harry sleep a little while longer before I woke him to take them and try to eat again."
"The front of the shop looked like a tornado had gone through," Severus said, putting roast beef on his plate. "I helped Bennet repair several bookcases and re-organize the books. Basil left to go to St. Mungos to get his eye seen to."
"He was hurt as well?"
"All of them were. Bennet had several sprained muscles in his arms and shoulders, and Basil had been punched in the face and his cheek was swollen. After he returned from St. Mungos the work went faster. All is now repaired."
"And you told them Harry would not be returning to work for the summer?"
"Yes. They were sorry to hear that and concerned about how he was doing. They are pressing charges against the suspect as well. You'll never guess who it was." Albus waited patiently for an answer with the same grave look he'd been wearing all afternoon. "Hugh Lupin."
Albus set his fork down. "Remus' father?"
"The same. An auror came back halfway through repairing the shop to get an estimate of damages. They'd been interviewing him all afternoon. The Aurory was of the opinion that he was no longer right in the mind."
"I'm not certain he ever was," Albus said. "Are you aware of how he treated Remus after he was bitten as a child?"
"I have never spoken to the wol- to the man about it," Severus corrected. He'd been so used to calling him ‘wolf' that it was a hard habit to break. Given how Harry felt about fae, he'd been trying to change the way he spoke about Lupin. Severus had nothing against fae, just against the one who had tried to eat him in his fifth year.
"After he was bitten his father insisted Remus go to stay with family. He didn't want to chance him biting his younger brother. From the moment Remus moved out at six, Hugh considered his eldest son dead to him. He rarely saw Remus after that, and after Finn came to Hogwarts he was forbidden by his father from associating with Remus at all, even at school. As far as I am aware, to this day Hugh Lupin has no association with Remus."
Severus shook his head. He couldn't imagine disowning a child because they had been afflicted with lycanthropy. He couldn't imagine disowning Harry for any reason.
"Perhaps the elves can deliver some soup or something soft so he doesn't have to chew since his jaw is aching," Severus suggested. Albus nodded and called an elf, and when they had delivered hot soup, Severus went to the couch and touched Harry's shoulder.
"You need to take some potions and eat something."
"You're back?" Harry asked, groggy. "Were you able to get the shop put back together? Are Basil and Bennet angry with me?"
"The shop is repaired. They are not angry and have no reason to be. They were worried about you."
Harry struggled to sit up so Severus helped him up and to the table where Albus was waiting for Harry to join them to finish dinner. Harry sat gingerly next to Albus and took the three potions his father set on the table next to him.
"Is your jaw still hurting?" Severus asked.
"The elves brought up soup so you don't have to chew anything."
"Thanks." He bent forward to lean over his soup bowl so he could sip his soup, but winced again and reached up to the back of his neck.
"The potions should kick in soon," Severus said.
"Will they make my vision clear up?"
"That may take some time. As you begin to recover from the concussion, your vision should return to normal. If it does not clear in a few days, let us know."
Harry did his best to eat his soup, turned down the ice cream the Headmaster offered to order from the kitchens, and instead asked for some ice for his neck and head, as the pain potion hadn't knocked down the pain from his headache after twenty minutes.
"He just needs some rest," Severus said.
Harry groaned and both men looked over at him. "Sorry," he said. "Just not looking forward to walking all the way to the dungeons. I'm ready though." He straightened up in his seat and tried his best to look as though nothing was bothering him at all.
"You can stay here tonight Harry," Albus said. Harry let himself relax and slouched back down in the chair. "Good, cuz I'm dizzy and I don't think I would have made it all the way there without losing my dinner."
"Go lay on the couch," Severus told him, and Harry moved gingerly to do as he was told, dragging the soft brown blanket back over himself just enough to cover his bare arms.
"I will return to the dungeons and bring up a change of clothes for him," Severus said, "as well as a stronger potion."
"Thank you Severus."
Albus moved back to the comfortable chair after Severus left and said, "Since you were unable to read your book, would you like me to read it to you?"
Harry moved his arm away from his eyes and looked blearily at the Headmaster. "I'm almost 14, aren't I a little old for bedtime stories?"
Albus picked up Harry's novel, the second in the series about the snarky werewolf from Norway and said, "Too old to listen to the adventures of Eivind?"
"I've just never been read to before."
"Then we shall have to rectify that my boy." He opened up to Harry's book mark and let his eyes scan down the page for a few moments. "My, Evinid is like Severus isn't he?"
Harry gave a little smile and let his arm fall back over his eyes to block the light out. "He can be pretty snarky and sarcastic."
"Eivinid or Severus?"
"Sure," Harry said, and Albus smiled and began to read.
Half an hour later Severus returned with the pillow from Harry's bed, his favorite soft pair of Falmouth Falcons sweat pants, and a fresh shirt that wasn't ripped, along with a new pair of socks. It took Harry several minutes to get the new shirt on because he was trying to avoid moving his neck too much, but he eventually emerged from the bathroom and laid back down on the couch. Severus sat on Albus' second couch and listened as Albus read, not finding the novel interesting, but not wanting to leave Harry alone until he fell asleep. Even though he was in the safe confines of the castle, Severus wanted to keep an eye on him for as long as possible.
* * *
Harry ended up staying on Albus' couch for two days. By the third day his vision had cleared up completely, and the swelling in his neck had subsided enough that he felt like he could move around some. He still had a headache, and his left eye was still swollen, though it was no longer swollen closed, so Harry felt well enough to move back to his room in the dungeons. Once he was back in the dungeons however he felt lonely, missing the Headmaster's voice as he'd grown used to him reading aloud over the two days, and he ended up abandoning his room to lie on his father's couch in front of the fireplace.
"Your bed cannot be so uncomfortable that you prefer the couch," Severus said when he came back into their quarters an hour later and found Harry on the couch reading.
"The room was too quiet."
Severus settled into his favorite chair with the Daily Prophet, but before he could start to read, Harry asked, "Am I banned from the Alley's for the whole summer?"
"You are not banned from anywhere. It is unsafe for you to go out alone given the way certain groups of people feel about your recent political statements."
"It's going to be boring being at the castle all summer with nothing to do."
"You may still return to the alleys to visit or shop as long as myself or Albus is with you."
Harry tilted his head to look back at his father. "I'd be a bother asking to go all the time. I liked having the freedom to go out on my own."
"Perhaps in time people will calm down a bit and you will be able to return on your own."
"I could just hang around Payne all day," Harry said. "I'd be plenty safe there."
"If you believe that, you are delusional."
"They wrote about the attack in the Lighthouse you know."
"As they did in the Prophet," Severus said.
"Yeah, I read that. But did you read the Lighthouse article?"
"No. I do not receive the publication."
Harry got up and went to his room to retrieve the newsletter he'd been sent the day before, and opened it to the article about him before handing it to his father.
"You somehow believe that by me reading this, I will believe you are safe going down Payne Alley?"
"I don't expect you to believe anything," he said.
Severus grumbled and then let his eyes move down to the article.
'Potter Attacked For Protective Stance On Fae
Friday afternoon, while working at Flourish And Blotts on Diagon Alley, Mr. Harry James Potter (Fae) was attacked while shelving books. The assailant (father to a well known and well-liked Were), accused Potter of being reckless by taking a protective stance on the Fae community. The assailant grabbed Potter by the front of his shirt and punched him several times hard enough to fracture bone and give him a concussion. Basil Flourish and Bennet Flourish, of Flourish and Blotts, came to Potter's rescue and subdued the assailant, but not before several book displays were destroyed in the process. Both brothers sustained minor injuries. Aurors were called and the assailant was taken to the Aurory to be charged with assault. His hearing is to be held on Monday. Potter's condition is known to be stable at this time. Incidences of attacks on Fae are on the rise. Stay indoors, protect yourselves and your neighbors.'
"They have labeled you as Fae."
"They'll leave me alone if I go down Payne."
"You are most likely still under surveillance by the Ministry. You wish to be seen traveling up and down Payne?"
"No, just saying, I'd be ok if I did."
"When you are fully healed, the Headmaster or I will ensure you are able to get back to the Alleys should you still wish to go."
"Good, because I miss reading at the tea shop."
Ron and Hermione had read about the attack on Harry in the Prophet, and it wasn't long before Harry started receiving letters from his friends, asking if he was ok. Professor Lupin also came down to the dungeons to check in on Harry several times, though he didn't seem to be aware that it was his father that had attacked him. Harry didn't mention it to him, because he didn't want his favorite professor to feel bad about it.
Harry's headache was just starting to go away five days after the attack when Albus came down to the Dungeons to have dinner and check on Harry. As they sat down to eat, Albus said, "You asked Severus if you could spend time at your home on the river Almond this summer. We feel now would be a wonderful time to do so."
Harry looked up at his father and grandfather. "I get to go to the house? For how long?"
"We were thinking two weeks," Severus said.
"In two days. That will give us time to get some furniture and pack up to get over there."
"It is kind of empty over there," Harry lamented. There was a small kitchen table with two chairs, and a couch, and that was all. The three bedrooms sat empty.
"There are several places I know of to buy furniture across the isles," Albus said. "I thought perhaps we could make a day of it tomorrow. We'll need bedding and a few other things as well."
"And I get to come?" Harry asked, just to be sure.
"I want to stock up the house with tea from the shop on Knocturn," Harry said.
"Write a list," Severus said. "I will obtain food stuffs while you are shopping with Albus."
After dinner Harry and Albus made a list of teas they wanted, as well as other foods, and Harry made his father promise to get it all on Knocturn if he could, including a list of candy from Tilly's shop, which Albus seconded the request for.
The next morning Harry took two pain relief potions to knock down the last of his headache, and looked himself over in the bathroom mirror. There was barely a bruise left on his left eye, which had been swollen closed only a week ago. Aside from that and the fact that he needed a haircut, he didn't look too shabby, and was looking forward to a day out with his grandfather.
After breakfast, the three of them walked to the Hogwarts gates together, and Severus apparated to Knocturn Alley, while Albus apparated Harry to a park in Edinburgh. From there they walked to a large furniture store, and Harry asked how they were going to get such a large delivery of furniture to his house.
"They'll deliver it to the edge of the property in a truck, just beyond the anti-Muggle wards, and we can take it in from there." He pulled out a sheet of paper and showed Harry the directions to where the furniture was to be dropped off.
They picked out three identical beds with comfortable mattresses, three night stands, three matching chairs for the kitchen table, and two comfortable soft chairs for the living room. Albus paid for the purchase and delivery fee in Muggle notes, handed over the delivery instructions, and they left to go to another store.
"We still need bedding, curtains, towels, rugs, trash bins, plates," Harry read off the list.
"There is a home goods store down the road. Minerva said she prefers it because they have a wide variety of tartan blankets."
Inside the second store, Albus picked up a stack of cheerful blue towels and put them into the trolley Harry pushed. Harry picked out a dark blue blanket for his bed, and a soft fuzzy light gray blanket to wrap himself up in. He loved the soft brown blanket the Headmaster often let him use when sleeping on his couch and wanted one of his own. Harry was planning on decking out his room in Falmouth Falcons colors and was pleased to find just about everything he needed in shades of dark blue and light gray. They got a dark green blanket for his father's bed, and Harry was interested to see the Headmaster picked out a serviceable looking brown blanket, rather than something that had more color. They went down the aisles checking things off the list until the cart was full and they had everything they'd need for a two week stay.
After they paid for their purchases (just over 800 pounds), they found a narrow alley and the Headmaster shrunk everything down and then apparated Harry to his house on the river Almond. Harry thought the address and password and the home appeared, looking just as he remembered it. The house was surrounded by lovely tall green trees, and sat a little ways back from the River Almond, which was narrow and wooded on both sides. There was a large wooden porch out front that Harry planned on lounging on while he read, or perhaps eating meals on, and had a good view of the little river. He opened the door and they went in so Albus could unshrink the bags and rugs.
"We forgot wardrobes," Harry said.
"We did, didn't we? Trunks should do fine to store clothing and books in for a few weeks."
Harry nodded as his eyes soaked in his home once again. The living room had wood beams on the ceiling, and windows looking out towards the river. The kitchen was small and didn't have a dining area, despite that a small wooden table had been pushed against a wall in the space. Down a short hall with a big window at the end were three small bedrooms and a bathroom. It was perfect.
"Let's unroll the rugs," Harry said. "That way when the furniture comes tomorrow we won't have to shift it around to fit the rugs under."
Albus conjured a knife so Harry could cut the plastic keeping the rugs together, and then Harry pulled a soft dark gray rug to the center of the living room and let it unroll in front of the gray couch. He took the light gray rug he had picked out for his room down the hall and picked the second room on the left to be his own, letting the rug unroll in the middle of the floor. When he came back out, Albus had already put a gray rug down against the wood floor in the room next to Harry's for Severus, and taken his own rug, which had a lot of pattern to it and dull tones of red and earthy blues to the room across the hall, which he had claimed as his own.
Harry pulled out the box of dishes and set it on the kitchen counter, along with the box of new silverware and a box with four mugs in it, and then took the two white trash bins they'd bought to the kitchen and bathroom. Albus had already taken the towels to the bathroom and left them on the side of the tub.
While Albus moved around to the various windows to hang up curtains with a spell, Harry sorted out three piles of bedding onto the couch so everything would be ready for when furniture arrived the next day. He was surprised when the front door opened and his father came in a moment later carrying a large box of canned goods. He took a brief glance around the living room and kitchen as he set the box down, and said, "Come and help me with the rest. It's at the property boundary."
Harry followed after him and after two trips they had brought in all of the food, including a sizeable bag of candy and a huge package wrapped in brown paper and twine from the tea shop.
"We forgot to buy wardrobes," Harry said as Albus came out of the bathroom, finally finished with the curtains.
"It's starting to look like a home," Albus said.
"What time will the furniture arrive tomorrow?" Severus asked.
"We should return to the castle and pack. We can return tomorrow at ten thirty."
Harry moved to his father so he could be apparated back to the school gates, but he wished he didn't have to leave. Unlike the last time he'd been here, the house felt full of life, as opposed to lonely and empty. Harry couldn't wait to return in the morning.
* * *
In the morning, they brought in their trunks and then Severus went to the boundary at the edge of a gravel driveway where the furniture was to be delivered to wait. The delivery men thought it odd to deliver a lorry full of furniture to a dead end driveway in the woods with no house in sight, but Severus tipped them well and they didn't ask him any questions. When they were gone, Albus and Harry came out to help move things in. Harry couldn't use his wand since he wasn't 17 yet, so he carried in dining table chairs while Severus and Albus levitated beds and other large pieces inside. Once it was all in, Harry set to work putting his bedding on, and piling the many large soft pillows they'd gotten at the home goods store onto his bed. It was a million times better than anything he'd ever had before, and he wondered what aunt Petunia would think of his house if she ever saw it. She would probably hate it, but his father and grandfather seemed to approve, and Harry decided that was all he really cared about.
"This room is missing something," Severus said, coming into Harry's room a few minutes after he'd finished. Harry's face fell a little, wondering what he'd forgotten. Then Severus pulled something out from behind his back and handed it to Harry. It was white and rolled up in a tube. Harry unrolled it and found two new Falcon's posters, one with the Chaser he admired so much, and another with the Falcon's logo.
"It's gonna go perfect with everything I picked out!" Harry said. Severus helped him stick the posters to the wall with a spell, and said, "We will need to get a shelf so you can store some books."
"I barely brought any with me," Harry said. "I read all the ones I have."
"I believe Albus brought something to remedy that," Severus said, and Harry turned to find Albus in the doorway with several books. It was a new series Harry hadn't seen yet.
"Something to start our stay off right," Albus said. "I sent away for them weeks ago. They come from America."
"Thank you," Harry said, and took the books to his soft bed to look at the summaries on the back.
"These don't look Muggle," he commented.
"They are not. They are written by werewolves, elves and vampires."
"Ace." The first book was about a werewolf without a pack, the second about an elf who had been cast out of his tribe, and the third about a vampire with a long history of making poor decisions. It was a series, and each of the three characters featured in all three books. Harry couldn't wait to read them, and to spend time there in his new home with his family.
* * *
Albus had brought along a new deck of Fire and Ice Bane cards to replace the deck Harry had given to Draco at Christmas, and Harry had packed the box full of games the Headmaster had given him, so they had plenty to do. Severus had brought several potions journals and books to read, and so had the Headmaster, so the three of them spent time quietly reading, playing board games, or talking about a variety of topics. Albus had also come prepared with several ideas for spells to teach Harry for adding images to the notebooks he planned to make with Justin, but told Harry they would have to register his house with the Ministry as the home of adult wizards if Harry planned on using magic that summer.
"I thought I couldn't use magic at all outside of school."
"Technically you cannot," Severus said. "However, once a home is registered to adult witches and wizards, the entire property becomes untraceable. There would be no way for the Ministry to know if it was a minor or adult casting spells."
"But, Ron's still not allowed to cast spells at the Burrow."
"Parents generally keep the knowledge from their children. Some do not. The Malfoy's for instance, have always allowed Draco to cast while at home, and encourage him to do so as they hire private tutors for him each summer to teach him new magic."
"And once we register this house, I'll be able to as well?"
"Ace. I'd really like to have Justin over to work on the notebooks once we can get the spells figured out."
"That would be acceptable."
"I'll register the home tomorrow if you like," Albus said. "It won't take much time."
While Albus was away at the Ministry the next day, Harry finished up the second book in the novel series his grandfather had given him, and started the third. He was only gone for a couple of hours, and when he returned he came back with muffins from the tea shop on Knockturn, and set to teaching Harry several of the transfiguration spells he had in mind. He taught Harry how to turn various objects into any shade or color he could imagine, and how to add any image he could find to the notebook covers. All Harry had to do was have a copy of the image with him, and touch the image to the notebook cover, and then use a transferring spell. It was easy once Harry had the hang of it, though it had taken Harry an hour to learn.
"Can I write to Justin and ask if he can come stay the night?" Harry asked Severus that evening at dinner.
"He can stay next Thursday if he is allowed. I will retrieve him and take him back the next day."
"I'll write to him so he can have time to convince Mrs. Ginger," Harry said, and jumped up to write a letter so he could send it off with Hedwig.
It turned out there was a reason Snape had told Harry to wait to have him over until the following Thursday. They'd spent an enjoyable week and a half together in the cabin and roaming the little piece of property, but Albus had duties he had to attend to at the castle, and had to leave after ten days.
"I would stay the entire two weeks with you if I could Harry," Albus lamented, "alas, there are some big things coming in the next school year that I must attend to to set up."
"Couldn't you work each day and come back home at night?"
"If I were staying in the country, I would," he said, putting a hand on Harry's messy hair. "I must make a trip to France, and then to Bulgaria. I will be away for almost a week, and then I will have several meetings at the Ministry."
"What kind of big things?" Harry asked.
Albus gave a knowing smile and said, "I would not wish to ruin the surprise. Instead I'll let you hear it when your friends do, so you can be excited with them."
Harry leaned into his grandfather and wrapped his arms around him. He'd grown so used to spending time with him all day, he didn't want to see him go. "I will be back in time for your birthday," Albus said. "If not here, then we will celebrate at Hogwarts. I wouldn't dream of missing the 14th birthday of my favorite grandson."
"How many grandsons do you have?" Harry asked in jest.
Severus snorted from the couch and Albus tousled Harry's hair. "Just the one I see before me."
Harry flashed him a grin and watched as he disapparated with his trunk, sad when he was gone.
"One would think you like spending time with him more than me," Severus said from the couch behind him when he didn't move for several moments after the Headmaster had left.
Harry turned and said, "No sir. I just got used to him being here all the time."
"Why don't you get your book and come read," Severus said, indicating the empty space next to him on the couch.
Harry did as he was told, and startled a moment later when Severus placed his arm around him.
"I did not intend to alarm you," Severus said, lifting his arm up to give Harry space, but he stilled when Harry leaned into him, and then set his arm back down on Harry's shoulder. Harry told himself he was too old to hug his guardians, or to cuddle with them, because that was girl stuff, but he couldn't bring himself to move to the other end of the couch. He was enjoying the warmth and the feeling that he was loved too much to think on it any longer. He read for half an hour, and then fell into a doze against his father's side. A year ago he never would have imagined this outcome for himself, as he had laid in his bed above the Leaky Cauldron fretting about being sent back to Privet Drive.
"You have finished all of yours already?"
"Yes, but that's not the reason. I want to go find some books before Justin comes tomorrow so we can have some images to copy over to our notebooks."
"I see." He looked at his watch. "Madam Pince is not always at the library during the summer. She frequently leaves the castle to visit relatives. However, I can check them out for you under my name. Get your shoes on."
Harry did as he was told and Severus apparated them to the school boundary. They didn't meet anyone on their way up to the library, and Harry wondered if anyone was at the castle aside from them.
"What kind of images do you need?" Severus asked.
"I'm not sure yet. Hippogriffs and unicorns probably. Dragons... you know, that sort of thing. We want things that look cool, and we'll be selling to girls and boys. I have plenty of Quidditch pictures of generic gear and game balls in my Quidditch Compendium." It was one of the few books he'd brought from the castle to look over while at his cabin.
"I will find books with magical creatures," Severus said, and moved off to the right half of the library. Harry looked around and wondered what other kinds of pictures they might need, and began browsing the shelves. He ended up grabbing Hogwarts A History, one of Hermione's favorite books, because it had drawings of the castle along with old castle maps, and a variety of pictures of the house crests, both in color and black and white. He also found a cool looking old Herbology book that had black and white sketches of crazy looking plants, thinking Neville would love to have notebooks covered in that, and a charms book that had several charts detailing interesting charms students might find useful. A few minutes later he found his father at the front desk writing down the list of books he had found to check out. Harry added his few books to the list and they headed back down through the castle.
"Find anything good?" Harry asked, and Severus held out his hand for Harry's books so they could trade. Harry looked through the three books Severus had picked out. One had old drawings and sketches of unicorns and other animals. Another was a book about every kind of dragon known to wizardkind, even extinct ones, and also had detailed drawings of dragon eggs and how they varied from one another. The final book Harry found odd however. "1001 Kitchen Recipes For The Clever House Witch?"
"Open it to any recipe."
Harry flipped to the center of the book and Severus pointed to the name of the recipe at the top of the page. "Each recipe is framed in by a different banner, ribbon, or decorative flourish. You can copy the flourishes and add your own text."
Harry turned to another page and found a different frame around the recipe title, and then found yet another with decorative swirls on the next page. "This is perfect."
"I would suggest using the spell Albus showed you to copy everything from these books that you think you may need in the future into one of the empty notebooks. Then when you go to make more, you will have all that you need without having to track these books down again."
"That's smart," Harry said.
"I have my moments," Severus said dryly, but when Harry looked up at him, he found him smiling.
Harry spent the afternoon doing as Severus had said. He flipped through the six books they had checked out one page at a time and copied drawings and flourishes and other things he thought he might want into two of the empty Muggle lined notebooks. By the time he'd gotten through his Quidditch compendium as well, he'd filled both of them up. When Severus brought in an old Potions book opened to a page with drawings of potions bottles, Harry had to start a third notebook.
"I noticed you had a Charms and Herbology book. Some students, believe it or not, enjoy Potions more than other classes."
"Huh, I wonder who would like Potions the best?"
"Cheeky brat," Severus said affectionately.
The next morning Severus left for a few minutes to get Justin. Justin had a few books of his own it turned out, and had also come with a box of supplies he'd purchased.
"Look," Justin said when Harry greeted him on the porch. Justin pulled out a pack of Quidditch stickers from the box. "We can't use the logos, but we can sell these sticker packs and kids can customize the notebooks they get from us themselves. Miss Ava had the idea and took me out to a shop in Bristol one evening to get a bunch of them. I have stickers for almost every team!"
"That's a great idea!"
Harry led Justin inside, gave him a quick tour of the small cabin, and then took him into his room, where they sat on the floor and Harry showed him the notebooks full of images he'd made and taught Justin the spell to transfer images, and the spell to turn the notebooks different colors.
"Have you figured out yet how to add graph paper and charts into the notebooks?"
"Actually," Harry said, "We can copy a page of the graph paper from my notebook and use that on some of the lined paper."
"Over the top of the light blue lines?" Justin asked.
Harry hopped up and disappeared, and came back a minute later with one of Snape's Potion journals. "This one has a blank page in the back. Maybe we can transfer a blank image to get a blank page?"
Harry tried, but it didn't work, and he ended up taking the paper and a notebook to the living room to see if his father could figure out how to get it to work. As it turned out there was a different spell Snape knew that wasn't complicated, and as soon as Harry had it down, he set to work wiping some of the notebooks clean of their lines so he could add the image of graph paper instead.
"That's actually kind of cool," Justin said. "We can basically make anything we want."
"Yeah. And if a kid wants one of the notebooks we make but in a different color, we can just change the color for them."
Harry and Justin discussed several ideas, and then they each took a stack of about twenty lined Muggle notebooks and began changing them into the colors they wanted, and then started transferring images. Justin was working on a series of Quidditch themed notebooks with generic images of Quidditch gear on the front and back covers. He was going to package these together with sticker packs for the various teams and sell them for two Sickles, and had even brought with him clear plastic sleeves to put the notebooks and stickers into so they'd stay together.
Harry spent an hour making a variety of dragon themed notebooks. Each notebook he made featured a different dragon on the cover. Inside each cover was a snippet of information about that dragon, and a detailed drawing of its egg, and a few facts. Harry found that he could use the color changing spell to make the copied drawing into a shiny metallic color, as though it had been drawn with gold ink. After experimenting and ruining one notebook altogether, he also came up with shimmering black, sparkling red, and metallic blue. He did his best to color coordinate the colors he was picking for the notebook covers and shades he was turning copied images, and thought he would have to keep several of these notebooks for himself to use for notes because he liked them so much.
Severus checked on them at lunch time and told them he would return with takeout, warning them both to stay on the property. When he came back twenty minutes later with lunch, they were still sitting on Harry's bedroom floor in the midst of piles of notebooks, stickers, and plastic packaging.
After lunch, Harry decided he was tired of making Dragon themed notebooks and switched to making some based on subjects. He did five Charms notebooks, with the cool charts of various Charms on the inside of each notebook cover, five Potions themed notebooks, each done in the shimmering ink, so it looked as though the steam coming out of the potions bottles from the transferred drawings was moving when the light caught it just right, and five of the Herbology notebooks, each featuring the gnarliest plants Harry had been able to find in the Herbology book from the library.
"I hope we sell a ton of these," Justin said, working on a series of notebooks featuring unicorns, pygmy puffs, and cats, all in shimmering and metallic shades of pink, light blue, and purple that he thought would go over well with girls.
"You have to do some in maroon too."
"Girls don't like that."
"Yes they do," Harry said. "It's Hermione's favorite color, and Ginny has a scarf and hat in that color she loves."
"That's because they're Gryffindors."
"I saw a Hufflepuff girl with maroon shoes, and two in Ravenclaw with Maroon backpacks and coats."
Justin thought for a moment and said, "That's right. Pricilla and Meg. I forgot they liked that."
"You're gonna have to take a poll at Peverell's," Harry said. "Take some of these back with you and ask which the boys and girls prefer, and ask for their ideas so we can make more. That way we don't make a hundred of something that doesn't sell."
"That's a good idea."
"You should ask them all what they want anyway. Tell each kid they get to pick one theme and we'll make them for them for free. I was gonna give leftover notebooks to Peverell's anyway, might as well make sure every kid gets something they like."
"I don't know that I have time to make a bunch of free stuff," Justin said.
"I can make them. I'm stuck here anyway. It'd only take me a couple hours, I just need the list."
"I'll get it then."
Despite that Harry had told Justin initially that he didn't want to be involved in the creation of any products they sold, he'd had fun learning how to make the products with his friend, and it had been a good way to spend the day. After dinner, the boys had 100 notebooks to sell, and decided that was enough for the time being, and that if they were popular at school they could make more after the term started. They spent half an hour writing down their costs, and what they planned to sell the notebooks for, and figured out that they could make a two Galleon and 21 Sickle profit if they sold all 100 notebooks. That meant each of them would get one Galleon, 10 Sickles and two Knuts, which Harry thought wasn't bad for one days worth of work making them.
"Who's going to store them until school?" Justin asked.
"I don't care," Harry said.
"I'll take them with me then. You keep all the extra supplies and bring those to school with you for the term."
They spent the rest of the evening talking and joking and finishing off the last of the crisps and candy Snape had bought almost two weeks before, and after dark Harry and Justin went outside and explored the small wooded area behind the house some and tried to see what they could find lurking at the river's edge in the darkness. Aside from some frogs and glow bugs, they hadn't found much, but it was good to be outside with a friend, and Harry hoped he could convince his father to let Ron come and stay before they had to return to the castle in a couple of days.
* * *
"Sir, could I have Ron over too before we have to go back to Hogwarts?"
Severus looked at the calendar up on the wall above the kitchen rubbish bin. "We were going to return the day after tomorrow, and I had plans."
"Oh, ok." Harry tried not to appear disappointed. He could still ask to have Ron over at the castle. He could probably convince his father to let them stay up in Gryffindor tower for the night. "What plans?"
"I had planned on taking you to Gringotts to exchange some of your money into Muggle notes and then back to the Muggle bookstore. You had requested another trip to get more books in the series you were reading after the Easter holiday."
Harry let himself imagine converting a hundred Galleons worth of coins into Muggle currency so he could buy the entire section out at the Muggle bookstore, but wasn't sure if his father would approve. He'd have to see what he could get away with once they got to Gringotts.
"I also have need to check on the Prince estate."
"The Prince family estate of which I am the rightful heir." He sounded bitter for a moment, and Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to ask. Silver had once explained to him that on paper his father was actually Severus Prince, not Severus Snape, but that was all Harry knew about the matter.
"The Prince family is an old pure blood line that was once very wealthy. There is still quite a bit of wealth locked up in the Prince estate. I have access to the accounts at Gringotts, but not the estate itself. As the last living member of the Prince family, the estate belongs to me, however it was warded by my grandfather before he died, and I have not been able to gain access. Every few years I go to the boundary to check on the property. It is time to do so again."
"Oh. Why can't you get in? You just don't know the password?"
"It is difficult to explain." That seemed to be all his father wanted to say about it, so Harry let it drop.
The next morning Snape told Harry to get ready, and Harry got into some comfortable summer clothes. Snape apparated them to Edinburgh in the same narrow alley Albus had taken Harry to a few weeks prior, and then took Harry to get a haircut and a new pair of shoes, since his old ones were getting worn through and Harry's feet had grown since the start of summer. From there they went back to the alley, and Severus explained that this was one of many hidden alleys across major cities in the isles that were hidden from Muggle view and were therefore perfect for apparation. He held out his arm and Harry took it, and they disappeared, reappearing at a tall black iron gate with the word PRINCE in tall metal letters.
"It doesn't look abandoned," Harry said. There was a large sprawling green lawn between the gate and the large manor, and there looked to be a pond or little lake on the property as well.
"There used to be two dozen house elves who took care of the property while my grandparents and cousins were still alive. I believe my grandfather had cast stasis charms on the grass to stop it from growing past a certain point, as well as charms on the exterior of the house to keep it in good repair." The house was huge and looked to have at least a dozen bedrooms.
"Did you live here sir?" Harry asked.
"I have only been here a few times. My grandparents disowned my mother for marrying a Muggle. I was allowed to visit rarely, but was later disowned altogether."
"Why?" Harry didn't mean to pry, but he wanted to know more about his adoptive father. He could never get past the stern exterior to find out what he was really all about, though he had recently seen how protective his father was over him, and that he was willing to comfort Harry as well.
"When my father died, they refused to take me in as my last living relatives. I went to the orphanage. I was- angry, to be living there. It was bad enough getting made fun of at school for being poor and having secondhand robes, but to be living in the orphanage made the taunts and bullying worse." Harry noted that he refrained from telling him yet again that it had been James and Sirius who had bullied him. "I began to fall in with a crowd of students in Slytherin that were a year or two ahead of me that my grandparents did not approve of. We became estranged and I found out after I graduated that they had disowned me completely, denying me access to the wards and property. Despite being the last living heir by blood, the wards have refused me access ever since."
"Who was it they didn't want you hanging out with?"
Severus was quiet as they stared through the black gate at the house. "Those who became Voldemort's first death eaters: Lucius Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle Senior, McNair, Knott, and a few others."
"Oh." He'd known Severus had been a death eater, but he'd always been told he was on Dumbledore's side and had been a spy. Now he wasn't so certain that had always been the case.
Harry reached towards the gate and touched the black metal, but pulled his hand back suddenly when the gate clicked loudly and swung open towards the manor.
Severus grabbed Harry's wrist to make him step back and they stared at the gate. His father seemed wary.
"Did you do any magic just now?" Severus asked
"No- I just touched the gate."
Severus stepped forward and experimentally put his hand up to the edge of the property, pushed his hand through, and then took a step over the threshold and beyond the gate. He turned to Harry and beckoned him forward and Harry joined him. When nothing happened, though Harry wasn't sure what they were expecting to happen, Severus said, "It appears you have been recognized as the heir to the estate."
"As my son, you are heir to the Dumbledore, Prince, and Potter properties, finances, and holdings."
"But- I don't want it sir, it's yours."
"It is ours," he said, turning back to frown at the gate. "I am not certain however why the wards suddenly allowed us access when they wouldn't before." He turned to stare at the manor, and said, "Let us see if we have access to the house. I wonder if the wards on the perimeter have just failed due to age. They must be re-cast periodically to remain effective."
They walked down the pristine path across the large lawns and up the front steps of the manor. He had Harry try the doorknob, which was locked. As soon as Harry touched the knob, the door opened of its own accord, just as the gate had minutes before, and swung open.
They went inside the grand entryway, which had floors made of huge slabs of light gray stone, and a chandelier hanging high above their heads. Severus inspected the door and mantle, and said, "The address is 12 Achindown, Scotland. Touch the mantle above the door and set a password."
"What password do you want sir?" Harry asked, feeling awkward. It wasn't his house or family estate. Harry's home was on the River Almond, and while he didn't mind helping Snape get into his estate, he felt strange about it.
"You are the recognized heir, you must choose. I have a feeling it will not accept anything I suggest."
Snape conjured a step stool so Harry could climb up to reach the mantle above the huge door, and he thought the address as he touched the mantle and said out loud so Snape could hear, "Potions Master." His arm tingled and he climbed down off the step stool. "It's set sir."
His father nodded, though he was quiet as he turned in a slow circle, trying to get his bearings, or perhaps just remembering a past time when he'd been there.
"I haven't been here since I was twelve," he said. "My cousins and two aunts and an uncle used to live here with my grandparents."
"Why didn't they let you live here too?"
"They were elitist. They were a pureblooded line until I was born. I was the first in two hundred and fifty years to have a Muggle parent. I was seen as less."
"Less than what?"
"Them." His voice was cold so Harry stopped asking questions. He followed his father into a grand living room, then an enormous den and library. As he trailed after him into kitchens and a dining room, and then upstairs into various bedrooms, Harry realized that his father knew exactly what it was like to grow up as Harry did. The Dursleys had always treated Harry as less than a person. He wasn't worth their time to feed, clothe, or talk to, unless it was to bark orders at him, punish him, or assign chores. It was one of the reasons Harry cared so much about the Fae. The Fae were seen as less than wizards. Harry had never supposed that his Potions Professor understood what that was like all along.
"What happened to them all?" Harry asked as they inspected twelve bedrooms and then went into the attic to see what was up there, only to find two more bedrooms and a lavish bathroom.
"My grandparents died of old age. The wizarding flu, which affects pureblooded witches and wizards more than it does half-bloods or Muggleborns swept through the family about ten years before my grandfather died and killed four cousins and both my aunts. My last remaining cousin was killed by Voldemort, and my uncle died shortly thereafter."
"That's sad," Harry said. But he looked up at his father, who had remained silent, and was glad then that he hadn't grown up there in the manor, or else he might have died too. Or maybe he wouldn't have, since he was only a half-blood.
* * *
They returned to the manor the next day so Snape could begin cataloging what was inside. He was particularly interested in the library, which he had long thought might hold rare and expensive Potions texts. It took them all day, and by the time it had grown dark, they still weren't done in the library, so he took Harry back to their cabin on the river. They were supposed to be packing up to return to the castle, but Severus announced that they were going to stay for another week or more, which Harry was happy to hear. He had approved Harry's request to have Ron over for a night, and Harry had sent off a letter to him so they could set a date and time.
Severus and Harry returned to Prince Manor for the next few days, eventually moving on from the library to Severus' grandfather's office, where Severus told Harry it was going to take him days to go over the many legal documents he'd found there.
"Have you received a response from Mr. Weasley yet?"
"Yes sir, his mum said he could come anytime if we could go get him."
"We will need to take a trip into Magic Mart for more groceries first. Owl him that we can pick him up tomorrow afternoon. He may stay for two nights if he wishes. While I am at the manor going through paperwork, the two of you can spend time together at the cabin provided you do not leave the property."
"I'll send a letter right now." After Harry had sent his letter off with Hedwig, he went back out to talk to his father while he made dinner with the last of their groceries.
"I know you're going to be busy at the manor, but I was wondering when we could take a trip to the bookstore?"
"We can do so tomorrow if you wish."
"Can we do it after we get Ron? He might like to come too."
"Yes. We will go to Gringotts to exchange money in the morning, and then get groceries. After that we can retrieve your friend and go to the Muggle bookstore. I will be returning to the manor tomorrow afternoon after the bookstore, and the next day as well."
The next morning they set out early to exchange money, and his father didn't comment when Harry exchanged enough of his money to get two hundred and fifty pounds. Severus let Harry help pick out groceries at Magic Mart, particularly the snacks, though he refused to let Harry go across the alley to the tea shop by himself, the incident at Flourish And Blotts still fresh on his mind despite that it had been almost a month ago now.
"Eight bags of crisps?" Severus asked when he returned to Harry in the snack aisle of Magic Mart and saw the trolley.
"We like snacks," Harry said, and apparently it was explanation enough. Harry added two boxes of muffins, boxes of cereal, cartons of pumpkin juice, milk, and several candy bars to the cart, while Severus added practical things like eggs, canned goods, and vegetables. Satisfied that they had two weeks of groceries, and enough snacks to feed two teenage boys for two days, Severus paid for their purchase.
When they were back in the alley, Severus said, "You have a choice. You can spend five minutes at the tea shop, or five minutes at Tantalizing Sweets. Choose one."
Harry hesitated for a few moments. He loved everything the tea shop sold, but with Ron coming over, he knew his friend would prefer sweets instead of tea and baked goods from the tea shop. He headed into Tilly's instead, which was busy with children waiting for their orders to be packaged by Justin, who was hurrying to get through the line. Five minutes later Harry emerged from Tilly's shop with a pound of assorted flavors of various gummy candies. Snape apparated them back to the cabin, where they hurried to put the cold groceries away in the fridge, which ran on magic instead of electricity, so they could apparate to the Burrow by twelve.
At twelve on the nose, they appeared in the front garden of the Burrow, almost on top of Fred and George, who were de-gnoming the garden.
"Wotcher Harry, nearly landed on my head," Fred said with a laugh. "Thought a dragon was flying overhead and was using me for target practice!"
"Ron's inside," George said, "you can go in, mum's expecting you."
Harry thanked them and he and Snape went to the screen door and opened it and entered the Weasley's kitchen. Ron was at the table with his bag and a sleeping bag and pillow, and Mrs. Weasley was hurrying to put a lid on a huge box of freshly baked cookies.
"Harry dear," she said, and rushed to him to give him a hug. "We heard what happened on the alley. I'm so glad you're ok!" She turned his face left and right as if expecting to see a bruise, but his bruises had been gone for weeks.
"I'm ok, thanks," he said.
"Arthur said they sentenced that dreadful man to be assessed at St. Mungos, and if they found him sane he had to spend four months in Azkaban."
"Was he sane?" Harry asked.
"Yes. He was taken to Azkaban right away."
"Course," Ron said. "People would have a fit if someone attacked the Boy-Who-Lived and they didn't get sent to Azkaban. It'd be like attacking the Minister or the queen."
Harry rubbed the back of his neck, face turning red. "I dunno about that," he said.
Severus held out a hand for Ron's things, and then shrunk them down and gave them back to Ron to put in his pocket.
"If you are amenable," Severus said to Ron's mother, "we will be going directly to a Muggle bookstore for at least an hour, and then back to the cabin. I will have close eyes on both of them."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," she said. "Ron would do well to spend some of his summer reading." She went to a cookie jar on the counter, said the counter to a ward that was on it, and opened the lid, pulling out ten pounds. She gave it to Ron and told him to behave himself.
Ron looked embarrassed as she gave him a kiss, and then they went back to the garden to leave, box of cookies in hand. When they re-appeared behind the bookstore, Ron said quietly, "We don't keep all our money in a cookie tin. We have an account at Gringotts. It's just the random Muggle bills for when mum has to go to a Muggle store."
Harry shrugged. He didn't think it had been odd at all. Justin had been keeping his money in a jar at Peverell's, and the one summer Harry had had Dudley's second bedroom, he had kept his important things under a loose floorboard under his bed.
"You do remember me keeping my money and snacks under a loose floorboard at the Dursleys don't you?"
"I forgot about that," Ron said.
Severus left Ron and Harry to go to whatever section of the bookstore they wanted while he went into the back to look for his own books, though he reminded them both to stay out of trouble and be ready to go within an hour.
"So this is where you've been getting all those adventure novels?" Ron asked when Harry took him to his favorite section. Harry had already pulled seven off the shelf and was stacking them on the floor so he could take them to the counter to pay for them.
"Yeah. I have three series I've been waiting to finish since just after Easter. I'm getting the rest of them now so I don't have to wait to come back here again."
Ron browsed, not sure what he should buy with the money his mother had given him. "I dunno what mum expects me to buy with this," he said after twenty minutes. He wasn't familiar enough with Muggles to take an interest in the majority of their books.
"I'm sure there's books on chess strategies or something," Harry said.
"I have a few of those already," Ron told him.
"There's magazines," Harry pointed out.
"Yeah, but they're about Muggle sports and things like that."
"Wouldn't kill you to learn about a Muggle sport," Harry said.
"She's just torturing me. She's going to expect me to come back with a book, and to read it this summer."
Harry laughed. "Pick a novel then. There's so many fantasy novels to choose from. You don't have to know anything about Muggles to enjoy one of those since it's all made up anyway."
"Which one should I get?" Ron asked.
"I've been thinking about this one," Harry said, pulling a book called Cradle: Unsouled off the shelf from the science fiction section. "Sacred artists follow a thousand paths to power, using their souls to control the forces of the world," Harry read on the back of the book. "Lindon is Unsouled, forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan." He let his eyes scan down the rest of the summary. "Looks like he's going to be learning magic even though he's not allowed to, and he's going to have to face down an evil force to save his people." Harry added it to his stack and then pulled the next nine books in the series off the shelf as well.
"Hey," Ron said, "I didn't say I was getting that one."
"I'm getting it."
"You don't even know if you'll like it or not."
"I will. I might as well get them all. Never know when I'll have time to come back here again."
Eying Harry's massive pile of books on the floor, (he had more than twenty now), Ron grabbed a copy of Cradle: Unsouled and tucked it under his arm.
"Thought you didn't want it," Harry said.
"It's ten pounds and if I like it I can borrow the rest from you. Better this than anything else I've seen. You're turning into Hermione you know," Ron said, pointing at Harry's stacks of books.
"Hermione reads text books and memorizes them. I read books that are fun that I'm not going to be tested on later."
"We're not gonna read when we get back to your house are we?"
Harry laughed at him. Ron helped Harry take his stacks of books to the counter to check out, and Harry paid most of the money he'd brought with him. Ron paid for his book as well, and they went to wait by the entrance with their bags of books for Severus, who found them a few minutes later, a single book of his own in hand.
When they returned to the cabin, Severus reminded them to stay on the property, and said he'd be back by seven and left them there.
"Wait," Ron said, just after he'd apparated away, "what about my stuff? It's still shrunk down." Harry held out his hand for it and pulled out his wand. "What are you doing? You know you can't do that outside of school."
"Oh, because I'm the Boy-Who-Lived they made an exception," Harry said, aiming his wand at a bag of crisps still sitting on the counter and levitating it over to Ron. Ron watched as the bag fell into his hands and then turned to Harry, not sure if he was joking or about to be in very big trouble for doing underage magic.
"C'mon," Harry said with a laugh at the look Ron was giving him. "The house is registered as the residence of an adult wizard. They can't track if the magic is done by an adult or not. My dad said families like the Malfoys let their kids do magic all summer long."
"You mean mum and dad have been lying to us this whole time?"
Harry nodded. "You know, if you keep it to yourself, or just tell Ginny, the two of you can get back at the twins for all the stuff they've done to you. Send a gust of wind at them when their back is turned, or levitate a cup of water over their head, or lock them into their rooms. Could take them a while to figure it out."
Ron grinned, thinking over the possibilities. Ron unshrunk his things and Harry showed him where to put them in his room. Harry stacked all of his new books up in a corner of his room and then returned to the kitchen to start putting the rest of the groceries away that they'd left on the counter that morning in their hurry to get to the Burrow to pick up Ron. He left out several bags of crisps in various flavors, a box of muffins, the huge bag of candy, and the two candy bars.
"Is all that for us?" Ron asked.
"Yeah," Harry said, "and the cookies your mum sent too I guess."
"She never lets us stay anywhere unless we take a box of cookies, or a cake, or things like that. She said it helps repay the cost of feeding ravenous teenage boys."
They ate some of the snacks for lunch, and then Harry took Ron to the river, where they spent an hour throwing rocks into the water and talking about the upcoming Quidditch World Cup that was taking place at the end of the summer.
"Fred and George said they overhead dad talking about trying to get tickets. I don't know how he'd get his hands on them. Even the seats closest to the ground cost a hundred Galleons each, and he'd have to get enough for seven of us. Mum and dad are definitely up to something, because dad went to a friend's house to borrow a tent, and Ginny said she saw mum sending off a letter to Hermione telling her to come stay with us at the end of the summer for a few days."
"Sounds like you must be going then," Harry said. "Wish I could go."
"You've got tons of money though. You've got Galleons coming out your ears!"
"Yeah," Harry hedged. "And apparently there's a bunch of people that want to beat me up because I want people to be nicer to Fae. My dad wouldn't even let me go across the street from Magic Mart by myself to go to the tea shop this morning. I haven't been anywhere alone on the alleys at all since the incident at Flourish And Blotts. I hardly think he'll take me to an event with thousands of wizards." He couldn't deny he hadn't been enjoying his time at the cabin with his father and grandfather, but he did miss being able to go to work and roaming the alleys as he pleased.
"Ron," Harry said, staring into the water. "Maybe it's not the Quidditch World Cup."
"It must be though."
"Yeah, but the Headmaster said there was something big happening at school this year. He had to go to Bulgaria and France and said he was also going to be having a lot of meetings at the Ministry. He wouldn't tell me what it was, only that I would be excited, and I would find out when you did."
"Bulgaria and France," Ron said, working it over in his mind as he set a stick in the water and watched the river carry it away. "Wait, there's magic schools in Bulgaria and France. Mum's always talking about her cousin that got to go to school at Beauxbatons. What's the one in Bulgaria called though?" He thought hard for a few moments. "Heartstring or something. No... Dragonstring. That's not it," he said, frustrated for a moment. "Burmstrang. Durmstrang!"
"I'm not sure what the other magical schools have to do with us though," Harry said, throwing another rock into the river.
"You know what else is in Bulgaria?" Ron said, "The Quidditch team playing in the World Cup this summer. We just don't know if they're playing Puddlemere or the Irish National team until they face off next week."
They discussed the possibility that Dumbledore was somehow in on this conspiracy Ron thought his parents were involved in regarding tickets to the World Cup, but soon grew tired of the conversation, and Harry took Ron to the woods in the back of the house.
"I own some of the property on the other side of the river too," Harry said, "but not much. I haven't been over there yet."
"How do you know where the boundary is?"
Harry lifted his wand and stabbed in the direction of the boundary. A hundred feet away a blue ripple of magic went out, radiating out along the boundary making it visible until the wave of magic had passed.
"That's cool," Ron said. "River's not too wide," he said, "we could cross it."
Harry looked at his watch. It was only five thirty and his father had not returned yet. "Might as well. It's not deep here." The water levels were low and there were quite a few rocks showing above the water. "You've got a change of clothes right?"
"Yup." After they made their way back to the river in front of the house, Ron started rolling up his pant legs. Harry had shorts on so he didn't worry about it, and sat down to pull off his new sneakers and socks, leaving them next to Ron's on the rocky shore. Before they stepped into the cold water, Harry jabbed his wand in the direction of the property boundary again so he could see where it was to be sure they wouldn't walk out of it while crossing the river.
"Ah that's cold," Ron hissed as he stepped into the water, ankle deep at first. They found a path across where the water was almost as deep as Harry's waist, and then it grew shallow again as they came out the other side. Harry checked the property boundary again and they moved up the rocky bank and into the trees. From this side of the river Harry had a great view of three large hills that were close by, covered in heather. He wouldn't mind having his house on this side if he'd been given the choice to build it from scratch. He had never thought about having kids before, but now as he stood on the opposite bank of the river, he could imagine faceless children with messy black hair crossing the river to get to another house on this side. It was too bad Snape had a huge manor to call home now, because they could have built a second house on this side and lived close by to each other.
"I'll have to hire someone to build a bridge," Harry said.
"That would ruin all the fun of getting across," Ron told him. They explored up into the trees for a few minutes before they found the edge of Harry's property and followed it for several minutes. Finally they went back down to the river. Harry took three big river stones and stacked them on top of each other at the boundary, then walked back down the bank and did the same thing at the other boundary.
"Good thinking," Ron said. "We won't have to keep checking the wards this way to see where we are." As it got dark, Ron and Harry broke several long sticks off of a dead tree lying on the ground in the woods and took them to the corners of the property, digging holes to put the sticks upright to mark the edges.
"We can bring some bright cloth back tomorrow and tie it to the sticks to make it easier to see," Ron said.
Suddenly the property boundary flared blue in front of their faces, startling Ron. "You do that?"
"No, must be my dad. It would flare red if it was someone who didn't have the password, or purple if someone was on the outside asking to be let in."
"Why don't they teach us about wards in school?" Ron asked as they started to make their way back to the river bank. "That'd be a cool job to have, warding people's property. I'd get to see places all over the country."
"Bet you could find a book about it in the library."
Harry expected Ron to retort that he wasn't Hermione, but instead he said, "Yeah, I might do that."
At the river's edge they spied Severus across the river sitting on the wooden porch of Harry's cabin. Harry gave a solitary wave, and Severus returned it. They got back into the cold water, trying to cross via the same shallow path they'd taken before as the sky continued to darken. Shivering on the other side once they got out, they collected their shoes and went to the porch.
"When I saw your shoes, I assumed you had gone to explore, and had not fallen in and drowned."
"We just went to have a look at the rest of the property. There's a small bit on the other side." Harry pointed across the river at the cairns he'd stacked, but it was getting too dark to see them.
"Have you eaten dinner?" Severus asked.
"I brought take away. It's on the table."
As they went inside, Harry asked, "Did you poke at the boundary wards to let me know you wanted us to come back?"
"It seemed an efficient way to call out to you."
Harry got two towels so he and Ron could dry off, and they changed into sweatpants before coming back out to eat dinner. Harry was pleased to find his father had taken the dining table and three chairs out to the large wooden porch so they could eat outside. Severus cast several different charms to keep bugs away from the porch before he found one that worked, and they ate as Harry described the small adventure they'd had that day.
"We should have the kids from Peverell's here to camp," Harry said. "It'd save them a bunch of money for a holiday. The river's shallow enough here to get into and not too swift."
"You would host them?" Severus asked. "That would be 19 additional people."
"Sure, why not. It's so nice here," he said.
"It would be 19 additional people who know the location of your home."
Harry thought about that. "They don't all have to know the password to get in. If we brought them, only you and I would have to know the password. They wouldn't have to know the address or anything, right?"
"That would be acceptable. It is something I will have to think over," Severus said. "There are many things to consider. It may be wiser to offer it as a holiday for the older children only. As I understand it, Miss Ava was considering taking the younger children to the London Zoo and the theater, as opposed to a full weekend holiday away from the orphanage. Not all of the older children are as excited about that possibility."
After dinner, Harry retrieved the bag of candy and he and Ron sat out on the porch in the darkness eating candy and reading. Severus had conjured flames in several glass jars with lids to give them light to read by.
"If I read a chapter now, mum won't pester me so much when I get home," Ron reasoned as he read, but by the time he'd finished the first chapter, he was too into the story to want to stop. Harry had started the same book Ron had picked up a copy of, and agreed with him that it was interesting and was glad he'd picked up all the books in the series the bookstore had.
At eleven Severus made them come inside because he was turning in for the night, and Ron and Harry went to Harry's room to play board games while they talked about the story. Harry had raced through the first three chapters, and Ron wasn't far behind. As he drifted off to sleep near one in the morning, Harry hoped Snape would agree to have the orphanage kids for a campout, or at least to let him have Justin over again. Harry loved spending time outside in the woods or at the river. It was the one thing he'd wished for most often when staying on Diagon Alley, that the alley just couldn't offer him.
* * *
Severus went back to the Manor the next day. He had left a note on the table for Harry since he and Ron had slept in, advising them to eat something other than junk food for breakfast and lunch, and that he would be back by dinner time.
Harry and Ron ate all four blueberry muffins in the box on the table and drank half a gallon of pumpkin juice from the fridge before they went outside to continue marking the boundaries of Harry's property with rock cairns and dead branches.
Instead of using rags to tie to the sticks to make them more visible, Harry showed Ron the spell to change them colors, and they marked the tops of the sticks in bright green. This would make them visible, but wouldn't make them stand out too much with the green trees and foliage. They were done by lunch with the boundary behind the cabin, and had returned to the river to cross to the other side. Harry and Ron both preferred the view from this bank, and had decided to spend the rest of their day there, finding smooth rocks to skip across the water and exploring the woods as they joked and talked about the upcoming school year. Harry told Ron about his plan to potentially start up a business club, and Ron didn't seem interested at first until Harry told him he owned a broom company and was going to ask the Headmaster if he could organize some sort of trip to see how brooms were made. He'd wanted to take a tour of the broom factory himself the previous year, but had so much he had been dealing with, between the Ministry, fines, and getting adopted, that he'd forgotten about it.
It was nearing five, and though they were both hungry because they'd skipped lunch, they didn't want to cross back over to the other side of the river until they had to. "Harry," Ron said, staring into the water as it flowed around several rocks, bubbles forming mesmerizing patterns in the water. "As soon as I'm allowed, I'm getting a job. I'm going to buy a house right there." He pointed towards the hills covered in heather, just on the other side of Harry's property line. "We'll be neighbors."
"Deal. I could just buy you a house you know."
"Psh," Ron said. "Mum'd never let me move out until I was 18 or 19 anyway. I'd have a few years to start earning money."
"Problem is there's always good stuff to spend it on," Harry said, thinking of all the money he'd spent at the bookstore the day before.
"You sound like mum and dad. Always talking about how much they spend every month."
"I had to keep track of that kind of thing last year, because I didn't have much money until after the hearing." He'd been enjoying not keeping track of his spending this summer, just knowing he had enough for whatever he needed, especially now that his father and grandfather were buying his clothes and food, and paying for things like hair cuts. Harry had paid to furnish the house, but it was a drop in the bucket considering what was in his accounts. Being away from the alleys for the last several weeks and out here at his cabin, just getting to relax had given Harry a new perspective on some things. It was perspective he never thought he'd have.
He'd enjoyed his time on the alleys so much because there was always something to do. There was always business he'd needed to attend to. It had been exciting for him. Silver was there to take care of those things for him though. He'd been relaxing here and hadn't had a single letter from Silver or anyone else on the alleys demanding his attention or needing him to sign papers, or to move money into different accounts. It was sort of nice.
Before this summer, he'd always considered Hogwarts to be home, especially after he'd gotten to spend so much time with his father and grandfather in their quarters. It was like he had three separate spaces at the castle that were home to him now, including Gryffindor tower. Harry let his eyes roam around the wooded banks of the river, to the hills, and to his cabin. He was going to miss this when they had to go back to Hogwarts. He was going to miss sitting on the banks of the river all day with Ron, playing games in the living room with the Headmaster, and reading next to his father.
"You're definitely gonna have to live next to me," Harry said.
Ron murmured his agreement, and Harry was glad then that his friend loved this place as much as he did.
* * *
The next morning Ron went home, though he and Harry both asked Severus if Ron could come again before the summer was over. Severus said he wasn't certain how much longer they would be staying there, but agreed that if there was time they could arrange it.
Severus still had work to do at the manor, and Harry considered staying home for the day by himself, but he was already missing his friend, and just then remembered that he missed Dumbledore as well. He decided to go to the manor with Severus for the day so he wouldn't be alone.
Harry followed him into the office he'd been occupying for the last few days, and eyed three neat stacks of paper on the desk.
"What is all of this anyway?"
Severus pulled a family tree off the top of one of the stacks to show him, sitting in a comfortable chair next to Harry.
"Do you see how my name is smudged?"
"That is where they erased me from the family tree because they formally disowned me."
"But your name's there now," Harry said.
"Yes, it appears this document is tied to the public records office at the Ministry. As soon as the adoption went through, I was added back to the tree, and you under me."
"And the Headmaster," Harry said, pointing to Dumbledore's name, which was now above Snape's, indicating Albus was his father.
"I believe the wards recognized you as the heir, because I had been disowned. My name appeared back on the records only so a line could be drawn down to you."
Harry looked over the family tree for a while as Severus went to the desk to look through some other papers. He loved seeing the lines drawn down from Dumbledore to Snape, to himself. It was all proof that he wasn't alone anymore.
"How does all of this work, with inheriting stuff?" Harry asked. "Silver explained it to me the day we did the adoptions, but I wasn't sure. He told me how our names are different on paper than in person."
"Before we merged our three family lines, you were the sole remaining heir to the Potter family, making you the owner of the Potter vaults and assets."
"Yeah," Harry said. He understood that part well.
"I was the sole remaining heir to the Prince family assets, despite that my access had been blocked to the estate. Albus has a younger brother, so he isn't the sole remaining heir to the Dumbledore line, but he is the head of the family, so he is in control of the majority of the Dumbledore assets. You are heir to the Potter assets and are the head of the Potter family, and I am head of the Prince family as it's sole heir.
Harry nodded. He was following along well so far.
"Here is where it gets complicated," Severus said. "Albus adopted me, making me his heir, and heir to the Dumbledore line as well as the Prince line. Then I adopted you, making you heir to the Dumbledore line, the Prince line, and the Potter line."
"On paper, Albus is now listed as the head of our ‘merged' family as a whole, despite that I am still listed as head of the Prince family, and you the head of the Potter family. If Albus died, his brother would become the head of the Dumbledore line, but not our ‘merged' family. Since he has no heirs, when he dies, if it was after Albus, then I would become the head of the ‘merged' family. Then when I die, you would become the head of the ‘merged' family. You would be the head of all three family lines as the sole heir."
"I'm pretty sure my brain hurts from everything you just said," Harry told him.
"To add to that complicated mess, if I had a child later, you as the eldest, despite being adopted and not of my blood, would have claim to the Prince estate before this other imaginary child."
Harry looked up at him, trying to imagine his father marrying and having another child. Harry wouldn't mind having a younger sibling, he just couldn't imagine it happening. "If you did have another kid, I'd never keep them away from what was rightfully theirs."
"Yours," Severus corrected.
"What is rightfully yours. You are my son. Blood does not matter. Not on paper, and not here." He indicated his heart and Harry's breath caught for a moment. He would still choose Harry over his own child if he ever had one?
Harry worked back over all Snape had explained to him about inheritances and the head of family lines. "You said blood doesn't matter."
"That is true."
"Only what's on paper," Harry said.
"Maybe the wards didn't let us in because of me. Maybe it was you."
"For ten years I have tried to gain entrance and been unable."
"Yeah but, I wasn't the only one that got adopted that day," Harry said, pointing at the family tree he still had in his hand. "You said your grandparents didn't accept you because your father was Muggle, so you weren't pureblooded. The Headmaster is though and he adopted you, so he's your father now right? On paper I mean? If blood doesn't matter, only what's on paper, then maybe it was actually you the wards recognized as heir. On paper, you're a pureblood. I got to set the password above the mantle, but I'm technically heir too, and you had given me permission to do it besides."
Severus had never thought of that possibility. He had not attempted to gain access to the wards since the adoption until days ago when he'd come with Harry. The thought that he was now an accepted member of the Prince family was something he needed to mull over for a while. He'd been so bitter for so long over the fact that he could have grown up in the manor with his cousins, could have had clothes and lived a life of privilege, but instead had been denied because of Tobias. Denied because of a father who didn't want him either.
"You're not less, you're more."
"What?" Severus looked up from the papers he was shuffling through.
"Your grandparents were wrong. You're not less. You're more than I expected, and better than I hoped for."
His father stared at him for long moments, but Harry couldn't hold his gaze, and looked back down at the family tree. Even right after the adoption, he had never imagined a father and grandfather as good as the ones he'd gotten.
Sitting at the desk a few feet away, Severus continued to stare at his son. He had never expected to be ‘more' to anyone. Knowing now that he was, was a feeling he never wanted to forget.