1. Chapter 1 by TheTransfiguredCanary
Emmeline stared down at the ring on her finger, lost in thought, as she was prone to. It was a lovely ring. A simple silver band with a small square cut diamond in the centre. She smiled and lifted up to watch it sparkle in the light.
"No no no catch-"
Suddenly a crash rattled around the house, making Emmeline turn her head towards the dining room.
"Emm," Severus called from the kitchen. "Can you come help us a moment!"
"How did this even happen?!" Harry cried in a panic. Emmeline sighed and walked up to the kitchen. Instantly her eyes bugged out. There were chocolate chips and pancake mix everywhere. The flour and counters were covered, and the mix hung in the air like dust in a factory.
"How on earth did you manage this?!" She cried with an indulgent smile. Then she waved her wand and cleaned the mess away in an instant. "Give me that." She said as she took the spatula away from Severus with a shake of her head. "You are hereby banned from trying to make pancakes."
"I have made them before I'll have you know!" Severus argued even as he picked up the tin of chocolate chips which had apparently caused the disaster. Emmeline smiled and leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek.
"Go work on your cure for spageroit." She insisted.
"It's a tincture, not a cure!" Severus cried with a slight scowl. Emmeline chuckled and turned back to the frying pan.
"Let's try this again, darling?" Emmeline asked Harry. The teen, who'd had a wide smile on his face the whole time his parents had bickered and nitpicked, straightened up and pushed his sleeves up again.
Her heart felt fit to burst.
Harry looked up as Orville fluttered down to him at breakfast. In an instant, Hedwig let out an angry shriek and dove across the table to snatch the letter from his beak. The pair began fighting in earnest over Harry's breakfast, which he snatched away with a gulp.
"ORVILLE!" Severus bellowed from the dining room. "HEDWIG! ENOUGH!" Then he got up and snatched the nearly shredded letter away from the two birds. He took a look at it before handing it to Harry himself. Both owls somehow looked devastated. "Bloody birds are menaces," Severus muttered darkly. Harry looked to see both birds had flown off to their separate perches to do the owl equivalent of pout. "What does young Mr. Weasley have to say?" Harry pulled the thankfully still mostly intact letter out of the envelope. A quick scan had Harry jumping to his feet with a wide grin.
"Th-the!" He cried, a gobsmacked smile blooming. "The Quidditch World Cup!"
"What about it?" Severus asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Ron's dad won tickets! He's invited us along!" A thundering was heard from upstairs before Emmeline stuck her head from around the railing with a wide grin.
"DID I JUST HEAR YOU RIGHT?!" she demanded ecstatically.
Severus scowled as he walked, or rather flowed like the rest of the crowd, towards the stands. He let out another suffering sigh.
"Oh Severus, don't be such a spoilsport," Emmeline said with a smile. "Ireland is an excellent team. And Bulgaria is always entertaining to watch. Their young seeker is as good as Harry I'd say. This match will be plenty exciting."
"You know how I feel about crowds." He muttered. His eyes flicked around and he itched to draw his wand. "I feel… exposed." Emmeline placed her always soothing hand on his shoulder.
"Everything is going to be fine." She insisted.
"Mum, dad!" Harry cried, running back to them with Ron and Hermione in tow "can I have some money for some omnispecs!" Severus huffed and reached for his coin pouch.
"A modest model Harry, you don't need all the bells and whistles," Severus muttered before he released the pouch.
"Yes, dad!" Harry cried before he turned back around.
"Since when has your dad controlled your money?" Ron demanded before they melted into the crowd again. Severus could hear Harry explaining to his friend how he and his parents had agreed to set boundaries, including not letting him have access to thousands of galleons to spend on whatever he wanted. Severus rolled his eyes.
"Don't be too hard on the boy," Emmeline chimed in. "He doesn't realize the downsides."
"You'd think he would," Severus muttered. "Seeing how many times he's interacted with Draco." Emmeline laughed. Then suddenly the laugh died.
"Speak of the devil." She whispered, reaching down to grab Severus' hand. Sure enough, the blond hair of Lucius and his family was unmistakable through the crowd.
"Harry," Severus muttered worriedly. Emmeline nodded and the pair rushed to find their son. It wouldn't do to leave him alone with a viper in the grass.
Harry winced as Severus rubbed dittany across his forehead.
"I'm fine." He muttered as his father opened his mouth yet again.
"You were nearly trampled!" Severus roared angrily. "You are not fine!"
"Dad," Harry said tiredly. "I'm fine. I'm just really tired. And sore. And just… wanna go home." He finished pitifully as he leaned his head into his father's shoulder. He felt so utterly drained. All of the adrenaline that had carried him during the death eater attack had evaporated leaving him lethargic. Emmeline walked up to the pair with a huff
"Barty has a screw loose!" She complained before she put a hand on Harry's cheek. "Are you alright darling?"
"Tired," Harry whined.
"Look here a moment," Severus muttered with a frown before he lit his wand. Harry winced as the light flashed over both his eyes a few times. "Hmm… I think you might have a concussion." Harry let out a defeated groan.
"Daaaad." He whined.
"Harry darling," Emmeline said firmly. "Your father is just making sure you're alright."
"But I'm tired!" Harry complained.
"Harrison!" Severus snapped in irritation.
"Severus!" Emmeline shouted over him, which made Harry wince. "Go take a walk." The potions master growled lowly before he stormed off to do just that, leaving his son and future wife behind.
That hour when Emmeline and he hadn't been able to find Harry had been utterly terrifying.
He'd never felt so helpless. Emmeline had been distraught. The relief that had flooded him when they'd finally found him, blessedly alive and moderately unharmed, was greater than any he'd ever felt. But with each minute Harry's whining had grated against his frayed nerves. And Barty Crouch calling for his head hadn't helped anything. He paused to lean against the charred ruins of a tent and let out a sigh. He took a deep breath, his nose wrinkling at the various smells that lingered in the air, several stomach turning-ly familiar before he turned and marched back to his family. As soon as he did Harry have him a repentant look.
"'m sorry." He murmured to his hands, currently twisting his mum's shawl into knots on his lap. Severus leaned over and gave him a hug, not saying anything, just holding him, the same as Emmeline had when they'd first found him, while Severus dodged spells and screamed for the ministry to let him hold his son. He hadn't done so yet.
It felt wonderful.
"Must have been horrible," Dean muttered to Seamus and Harry. Both boys shrugged uncomfortably.
"My mum got me out of there as soon as she could. Nearly carried me! I've never seen her run so fast." Seamus admitted. Then he shuddered. "she was a right mess when we got home though. Barricaded the door with our couch. Dad had to sit her down and get her to take a few breaths. It was…" the Irish teen shook his head and shrugged. Then he turned to Harry. "Harry's story is even more terrifying than mine!"
"It wasn't that bad." Harry insisted as he tried to avoid eye contact by digging through a bag of Bertie Botts.
"You almost got bloody killed!" Ron cried with a scowl. "Professor Snape was going mental trying to find you! And professor Vance started sobbing when we found your coat."
"Bloody hell what happened?" Neville demanded. Harry huffed.
"There was a mad panic when the death eaters first attacked, everyone was running all over the place. The ministry set up anti apparition wards around the perimeter for security. Course seeing as death eaters are mostly rich wankers they waltzed right in. All the wards did was trap people. In the confusion, I got separated from everyone else. I tried to fight the current to get to them, but I tripped and got knocked out somehow."
"It's a miracle you weren't more hurt than you were." Hermione piped up with a frown. "Everything around you was burnt to ashes." Harry pulled out a medallion from around his neck. It was black and cracked.
"My first attempt for my yule medallion. Mum thinks it's useless now, but that it had just enough power to keep the flames at bay."
"Bloody hell that was lucky!" Neville remarked. "Imagine you weren't wearing it!"
"Rather not thanks," Harry admitted. Dean let out a loud sputtering sigh, not unlike a horse.
"So much for the death eaters being gone." He remarked. The teens all nodded as the train chugged ever closer to Hogwarts.
Emmeline sighed as she redid her braid again. She glanced in the mirror to see the absolutely livid stormy glare Severus was casting to the window as he did and redid his coat, cursing louder and louder as his rage-shaking hands failed to find purchase on the small buttons.
"Here." Emmeline insisted as she went over and began doing it for him.
"I can't believe the nerve of Albus hiring that-" he cut himself off to take a deep breath, which should have been calming, but just seemed to make him feel more seethed.
"I can't believe the ministry is so concerned about its image that it would force Remus to resign," Emmeline complained with her own scowl. "In the entire year. Not an incident, not a mishap. He had the highest seventh-year student review of all of us. The average defence OWL score was the highest it's been in years! And yet! Because he's a werewolf, it 'wouldn't be proper'! It's preposterous!" By the end of this rant, she was also shaking with anger. Severus grabbed her hands and placed a kiss on her forehead.
"We can weather this storm." He insisted. Then he gave her a smirk. "At least we can be fairly confident he'll be gone by the end of the year." Emmeline let out a snort.
"How did the woman you bought the house from get trapped again?" She drawled.
"Emmeline," Severus said warningly.
"I'm not going to do anything!" She insisted. "Just… give bad directions." Severus snorted and shook his head. Emmeline took another deep fortifying breath. "If he says one cruel thing to Harry-"
"I will lock him in a windowless, doorless room myself," Severus assured her coldly. Emmeline nodded.
Harry settled down at Gryffindor table with his friends and smiled. It was always so great to be back at Hogwarts.
"Oh my god." Hermione suddenly muttered in shock.
"What?" Harry asked.
"Harry! Look up at the staff table!" Ron hissed. Harry looked over and blinked.
"Is that Mr. Crouch?" he asked.
"Yeah! What's he doing here?" Ron asked in confusion.
"Not that you idiots! In the defence seat!" Hermione growled. Harry looked over and flinched.
"Black?! What is he doing here?!" Ron cried in horror.
"It looks like he's the new defence professor," Hermione said sadly.
"What?! What about Uncle Remus?!" Harry demanded. "He didn't say anything about leaving over the summer!" Harry argued, feeling a touch betrayed. Why hadn't the man told him?
"Something tells me that it wasn't his choice," Hermione murmured darkly. "It wasn't a secret he was a werewolf… and do you see all the ministry people milling about? He was probably 'encouraged to resign' to protect the Ministry's image." Harry scowled before he cast his eyes down the table to his parents. They were sitting together for a change, rather than Emmeline sitting beside the defence position. Neither looked very happy, muttering to each other. But then Severus looked up and caught Harry's eyes and nodded reassuringly. Harry smiled slightly and turned back to join the conversation at the table around him. A conversation that became very exciting as Dumbledore delivered the news. It was hard to fall asleep that night, as Harry stared up at his canopy buzzing with anticipation.
It was sure to be an exciting year.
"Hello," Sirius began coldly. "My name is Sirius Black. I'm sure you've all heard of me." a deep silence echoed back to him. The Gryffindors were uncharacteristically nervous, while the Slytherins appeared to be bored as usual, though the conspicuous lack of notes being passed indicated somewhat that they were really absolutely terrified. "As I'm hoping you are all well aware, I was acquitted of the crimes which I was arrested and jailed for. As such, and let me be perfectly clear: I have never illegally killed anyone." There was a beat of silence before Hermione slowly raised her hand. "Yes," the man paused and looked over his registry. "Granger."
"You said illegally… Does that mean you have legally killed people? I didn't know such a thing was possible outside of spy fiction." Hermione finished the last bit in a mutter that had a few fellow muggle borns biting their lips.
"Yes," Sirius answered flatly, making everyone freeze. "I was an Auror for several years during the first war. I killed several criminals in the name of justice and preserving peace." he sniffed in disgust. "It's part of why Dumbledore chose me for this appointment."
"So what are you going to teach us?" Ron asked worriedly.
"Raise your hand next time, Weasley!" Sirius complained as he turned to the board. Ron blushed a bit. "I've noticed that your last… professor," he drawled that last bit out like an insult which instantly made Harry's blood boil. He knew that Black must have done something to get rid of Remus! Probably just to spite him! "Did very little practical spell work with you,"
"Well actually sir, that's fairly standard for the third year-"
"Hand!" Sirius barked in irritation. Hermione huffed and raised her hand, but the man ignored her in favour of jotting down a few quick notes on the board. "I think it's important for practical work to be incorporated into every year. After all, what good is theory if you go to wave your wand and nothing happens? This year, we are focusing on duelling spells. I've divided the year into four general units. Shields, jinxes, hexes, and curses. Every lesson will start with a quick demonstration, followed by a lecture, and then twenty minutes of practical work. We'll be discussing real-world applications in the lectures, so try not to forget this stuff as soon as you leave. It might save your life one day." he turned back around with a stern glower. "Any questions?" Hermione's hand shot up. "Good!" he finished. "Potter!"
"Yes sir?" Harry responded with a blink.
"Come up to the front!" Sirius shouted gruffly. Harry blinked before he cautiously did as instructed, holding himself taut with apprehension. "Draw your wand," he instructed, so Harry did, naturally sinking into a duelling stance, which made Sirius's face twitch a bit. Almost as if he wanted to commend the boy for his instincts but held back. "Do you know the basic shield charm?"
"Protego," Harry responded flatly. Then suddenly a stinging charm struck him in the stomach. He jumped back and cried out in shock.
"Well put a bit of power behind it!" Sirius cried with a snort. The Slytherins were snickering into their hands, but then Sirius' eyes flew over them, cold as steel, and that shut them back up.
"Protego!" Harry shouted. This time Sirius's spell dazzled off his fairly good shield in a smattering of sparks. The man straightened.
"As Potter has finally demonstrated, the protego charm is an exceptionally useful if not powerful shield charm, easy to throw up, but also quick to come down."
"Unless you use a runic base," Harry added quickly. Sirius's face twisted into a scowl.
"Five points from Gryffindor, for interrupting and showing off, Potter! Go back to your seat!" he snarled angrily. Harry grimaced as marched towards his seat when suddenly he was pitched forward as if a hand had reached out and yanked his foot from under him. He landed on his shoulder hard and had the wind knocked out of him. Seamus and Dean were on their feet in an instant to help him up.
"First time walking Potter?!" Draco suddenly shouted, raising raucous laughter from the Slytherins.
"Twenty points from Slytherin." Sirius barked coldly.
"What?!" Draco squeaked. "Why?"
"Failing to raise your hand," Sirius drawled cruelly, making the teen's face twist into a scowl. "Also failing to recognize a trip jinx."
"Huh?" Harry cried, turning his head to his professor in shock. Sirius looked back with a cold expression.
"Rule number one in duelling, Potter; never turn your back on an opponent until you're sure they're down. Now get back to your seat."
Harry sighed as he flopped into the common room couch.
"Bloody hell mate… he really hates you," Dean murmured beside him.
"Worse than your dad ever did." Seamus agreed on the other side.
"Can't believe he's your Godfather," Ron added.
"Can we not talk about this anymore?" Harry complained.
"Sorry." The boys all muttered. Hermione marched up to them with a scowl.
"Harry, you have to report him!"
"Why?" Harry demanded tiredly.
"He attacked you!" Hermione argued.
"He used me for a demonstration, same as Lockhart did in second year."
"Alright, but Lockhart was an idiot!" Hermione argued. Ron snickered and tossed a remark about her certainly changing her tune to Seamus and Dean, who also snickered. "Black actually hexed you!"
"It was just a trip jinx," Harry argued. True his shoulder did feel a bit twingy, and he could hear his father reminding him to watch it carefully, as it had suffered one of his more serious injuries from the quidditch cup.
But he didn't want the hassle.
"Look Hermione, if I say something, it'll just get worse. I'm fine with how things are now. He's not that bad. I'm handling it." Harry insisted tiredly. Hermione purses her lips.
"At least tell your parents."
"Those are the last people I want to tell!" Harry argued. "I tell dad and he'll get sent to Azkaban for murder! Mum would probably join him!"
"Just drop it Hermione!" Harry argued. The girl huffed and stormed off. Harry let out a long sigh as he tilted his head over the couch.
This was gonna be a long year.
Harry leaned against the wall watching the last few students putting their names into the cup with a curious expression. The choosing ceremony was tonight, and it was sure to be interesting.
"So who do you think 's gonna get it? Gotta be someone from Gryffindor yeah?" Ron argued.
"I'll be happy as long as it's not a Slytherin," Seamus argued.
"There are plenty of brave people in Slytherin." Harry piped up, still eyeing the cup.
"Oh yeah? Name one!" Seamus insisted.
"Eileen Polaria Snape," Harry said with a grin.
"Who?" Ron asked.
"My grandmum. She gave up on her family and fortune to be with the man she loved." He turned around with a small smile. "Pretty brave if you ask me."
"How bout an alive person." Ron countered. "And no! You can't say your dad! That's biased!"
"Fine, Rufus Scrimgeor." Harry argued as he reached out and plucked a grape from the bunch Ron was snacking on, which roused a loud 'Oi!' from the teen.
"Rufus Scrimgeor? Isn't he the head of the Auror department?" Seamus demanded with a frown. Harry nodded. "He was a Slytherin?! No way!"
"Yep," Harry said around a swallow. "Checked the old yearbooks in the library myself. He won most likely to succeed the year he graduated. Also won tons of medals for bravery during the first war."
"Bloody hell," Seamus muttered. "Alright, so there are brave Slytherins. But none in our lot, that's for sure!". Harry couldn't argue that, so he just shrugged.
Harry stared straight ahead, not sure what to think or want to feel. His mum had dragged him out of the Great Hall so quickly he didn't have time to react. He let his eyes drift closed. Then the door banged open
"-on't you dare! Black, I swear to-" Emmeline began, looking livid. Harry flinched and Sirius Black grabbed his shoulder and roughly shook him.
"Did you put your name in that goblet?!" He demanded furiously. Harry winced as his shoulder began to throb.
"LET GO OF MY SON BLACK!" Severus roared. Sirius growled and released him just as roughly, causing an involuntary grunt of pain to slip past Harry's lips. Instantly Severus was between them, shoving Sirius back with his hand. "Are you alright? Your shoulder-"
"I'm okay," Harry muttered, even as he rubbed it gingerly. Severus scowled.
"You have just been informed that someone tried to enter you into an extremely deadly competition against your will. You are not fine Harry, I don't care what you say." Harry fell a bit of his earlier queasiness return.
"Do- do I have to compete?" Harry questioned worriedly.
"No." Emmeline crowed. "Absolutely not. I don't care what Barty says, I won't allow it. And I'm sure if he thinks he can throw his weight around." Emmeline grinned cruelly. "Well, then I'll just ask Guillaume to straighten him out." She finished with a snarl before whirling back into the Great Hall. Black's face twitched.
"Not afraid to throw her family's money around I see." He remarked coldly. Severus snarled.
"Stay out of it Black."
"Fine." Sirius drawled. "I was just trying to be a good colleague."
"Bull. Shit." Snape enunciated warningly. Sirius sneered before he re-entered the Great Hall. "Come… we should get you to bed." Harry winced. He'd been standing out here for more than an hour and had to insure the judgmental and accusatory glares of his classmates as they'd been shooed off to bed. Ron was sporting a frown that made Harry's stomach turn.
"Can… Can I stay with you and mum tonight?" Harry begged, feeling his face heat with embarrassment. He felt like a little kid, begging to sleep in his parents' bed after a nightmare.
Which, to be fair, this definitely was.
"You'll have to face your classmates eventually Harry "
"I know but…" he sighed, mashing his eyes with his palms. "Just… let them sleep on it. The second I get in they'll be berating me with questions for hours. Tomorrow I can explain with proper sleep." Severus sighed.
"Fine. Come along." Harry sighed in relief and followed his father to his parents' new quarters on the ground floor. Albus had commented on their sudden appearance over the summer, sending Emmeline and Severus his congratulations on their upcoming nuptials. It featured a larger bedroom, a small writing nook with two desks, a kitchenette with cupboards and a small sink, and a casual seating area. Harry immediately flopped face down on the couch as soon as Severus said the password (Pennyfarthing). Severus sighed as he heard the quiet breathing coming from him. The boy was exhausted. He gently rolled him over, which made the teen make a slight noise but still keep his eyes closed. Then Severus tossed a blanket over him and removed his glasses. He paused to gaze through them. They weren't much more than reading glasses now. Fairly soon he could do away with them if he really wanted. Severus had a feeling he wouldn't want to though. He probably hadn't even noticed his vision improving. He snorted and sat on the armchair in a silent vigil. Several minutes later Emmeline walked in. He paused as she took in Harry on the couch. "He didn't want to be accosted by his classmates without proper sleep."
"Poor darling." Emmeline cooed as she walked over to pet his hair and place a kiss on his forehead. "He's exhausted."
"Can you blame him?" Severus said quietly. "Someone is trying to kill him."
"Story of my life," Harry muttered with a sigh. Both his parents turned back to him.
"Go to bed, darling." Emmeline insisted with another few pets. Harry hummed and drifted off again. Severus sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"Come to bed." Emmeline insisted. The potions master nodded and followed her.
Harry peered into the thankfully mostly empty common room with a sigh. Thank goodness it was Saturday. Everyone was out enjoying the last nice days before the snow began. So he got to sit on the couch for a few moments of peace before:
"Holy shit!" Seamus cried in shock. Harry winced and looked over to see Seamus and Dean staring in shock while Ron hung back, looking sullen.
"Hey guys." He muttered worriedly.
"Bloody hell mate, people said you got expelled!" Seamus cried. Harry shook his head.
"Nah, I just spent the night in my parents' apartment," Harry said with some apprehension.
"Did you get in trouble?" Seamus asked with a snicker.
"I didn't enter," Harry said flatly. "Someone put my name in to try and get me killed."
"Wot?" Ron piped up, going pale. Harry sighed.
"Mum and dad think it was a very long-term assassination attempt. Barty Crouch wanted to try and force me to compete, but mum… threatened him with her lawyer? I think. No idea who or what Guillaume is." Harry said tiredly. The boys all looked at each other.
"We thought you'd managed to trick Dumbledore's age line somehow," Dean admitted. Harry rolled his eyes.
"Really?" He demanded with a scowl. Seamus flinched.
"Mate, what have we told you about using the 'Snape faces' around us? Fucking terrifying."
"Say stupid things, I reserve the right to look at you like you're a stupid person," Harry argued, expression unchanging, though he did direct his scowl at the flames instead.
"Easy," Dean argued. Harry sighed.
"Sorry it's just," he looked back at his friend feeling exhausted. "I just wish I could have one year where nothing weird happened. Just me, attending classes, occasionally complaining about homework, no evil plots or ancient monsters, or people trying to kill me. That would be amazing."
"You do have a pretty bad track record." Ron finally piped up, with a slight smile. He sat down, sheepishly glancing at his hands. "I was… a bit jealous."
"Prat." Harry snapped. Then he snorted. "I think you should write that essay from last year over again."
"Please don't say anything to Hermione!" Ron said quickly. "She was a nightmare!"
"If you were jealous of me for getting put into a tournament that people have died in, against my will, you definitely don't remember any of your empathy research," Harry argued. Ron blushed to his ears.
"I just… I was angry cause I thought you'd entered, but didn't tell me how. We're best mates. I thought we'd tell each other everything."
"I do tell you everything!" Harry cried, flabbergasted. "That should have been your first hint that I didn't choose this! Besides! Hogwarts already had a champion. Dad thinks my name was put in under a different school. And since I was the only one from that school my name was the only one to spit out."
"Blimey," Dean said with raised eyebrows. "That's clever, but you'd have to be pretty powerful to trick a cup picking members for a tri-wizard tournament to add another school, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, they're still working that out." Harry agreed. "Mum didn't want me to be on my own until they properly figured out what happened."
"How'd you convince her otherwise?" Ron demanded. Harry winced.
"Well, I didn't really. She let me come up here, but she told me to ask you all to stick by me when you can."
"Bloody hell mate she's worse than my Mum!" Ron argued with a snicker. Harry snorted and shook his head.
"No one is worse than your mum!"
"'Ronald Weasley!'" Seamus harped, doing a surprisingly good impression of Molly Weasley's voice from the howler. The gangly ginger smacked him on the shoulder which quickly dissolved into a minor wrestling match which Harry and Dean both laughed at loudly.
Harry let out a sigh of relief as Cedric Diggory lifted up his good arm and waved to the crowd. Hogwarts cheered and applauded as the dragon tamers corralled the Welsh Green back into its cage.
"Bloody hell that was intense," Ron muttered.
"Still think I wanted to enter?" Harry argued.
"Shut up!" Ron hissed in a panic.
"What was that?" Hermione asked with a frown.
"Nothing!" Both boys cried. The girl narrowed her eyes slightly before going back to watch the clean-up and habitat change over. The dragon ranchers were currently sculpting the landscape into towering mountains topped with bonsai and bamboo trees in order to simulate the Chinese fireball's natural habitat. Then suddenly a dome extended over the stadium making things instantly oppressively humid. Harry winced and pulled at his collar.
"I'm gonna go get some air… maybe one of those drinks." He murmured
"Can you get me one too?" Hermione asked casually. Harry fished into his pocket and quickly counted his change.
"Yeah. What flavours do you guys want?"
"The honeydew if there's any left." Harry gave Ron a look.
"Candy floss." He said back with a smile. Harry walked away with a slight chuckle as Hermione dove into a rant about how absolutely awful candy floss was for your teeth, and how misleading the name was.
"I'm going to go check on Harry." Emmeline declared, before trying to stand up. But Severus grasped her sleeve and pulled her down.
"Emmeline… your hovering."
"I am not hovering!" She shrieked. Severus huffed.
"No fourteen-year-old boy wants their mother to be asking after them every minute of every day." Severus insisted.
"I do not ask every minute of every day!" Emmeline insisted. "I am, however, concerned for his safety. I rather think that's normal, seeing as someone is trying to kill him!"
"I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned," Severus admitted with an exasperated huff. "However, I also know that if we coddle him, he'll resent us for it."
"He will not resent us!" Emmeline argued, rising to her feet, smacking the hand away as he reached out to stop her again. "He will understand."
"Emmeline," Severus whined. "What is the old adage? 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'?"
"Well, you'd know all about that!" Emmeline snapped nastily before she stormed off. Severus flinched back with a wince.
"You handled that poorly," Minerva muttered into her tea. Severus shot her a dirty look.
"Yes thank you, Minerva." suddenly a hand reached out and pat his shoulder.
"Don't worry Severus, the first fight is always the worst one." Aurora cooed knowingly, despite the fact she'd only been married for eight months.
"Well, then it's a good thing they are well past that!" Rolanda cried with a chortle. Severus scowled up at the flying teacher as Bathsheda and Charity both joined her in guffawing laughter.
"If you're all quite finished!" Severus barked before he stood with purpose, straightened his robes, and stormed away.
"Where are you going?!" Minerva called out to his retreating figure, "the second contestant is starting soon!" Severus turned back with a scowl.
"I don't recall designating you as a surrogate mother, Minerva!" the man snapped before he whirled away again. The deputy headmistress' face pinched up into a scowl and she turned to look straight ahead as the remaining faculty quieted down with a wince.
"Might have gone a bit too far," Rolanda muttered weakly. The ancient ruins and muggle studies professors both nodded with pinched grimaces.
Harry was walking back to the stands, sipping his pumpkin-flavoured soda with a little smile on his face. He'd also bought a box of popcorn and a bag of Bertie Botts. He was looking forward to sharing them around later tonight with the others. Hermione wouldn't approve, but Neville, Seamus and Dean always loved a good bean roulette.
"Harry Potter," a voice called from behind him. Harry spun around and then yelped as the shakey, white hands of Bartimus Crouch latched onto his shoulders. "You have to get out! You have to leave! You're in grave danger!"
"Mr. Crouch?" Harry whispered in worry. The man looked utterly mad, eyes unable to focus, fluttering around like a bird.
"You're in danger!" Crouch insisted, shaking Harry. "You… I…" suddenly he seemed to seize up, and his demeanour changed completely. "Ah… Mr. Potter… Come with me."
"W-what?" Harry said in confusion. The grip on Crouch's hands became almost painful.
"Right this way Mr. Potter,"
"N-no!" Harry shouted in fright. He tried pulling away and winced as the man's grip held firm.
"Hey!" A voice suddenly bellowed. The man jumped and whirled around. Sirius Black was marching towards the pair with a firm scowl. Immediately Crouch released him and plastered on a slightly strained smile.
"Ah … Mr. Black." Crouch tried, though his moustache twitched, "how are you?"
"What were you doing just now Crouch?" Sirius snarled. "I commend you for trying to put Snape in prison, but you've got the wrong one. Regrettably, this one's never done anything worth Azkaban… though I suppose you don't know what is now do you, Crouch." He finished with a glare. Crouch didn't bother commenting then and rushed away, eyes filled with apprehension. Harry watched him go with relief before he turned to his unexpected rescuer and winced. Black turned to him with a raised eyebrow. Harry opened his mouth to… well he wasn't sure what. Thank him? Maybe apologize? Though he didn't really do anything.
"Harry!" Emmeline cried out in panic, racing up to the boy with a stressed expression. As soon as she reached him she stepped in between him and Sirius. "I thought I told you to leave him alone Black!"
"Maybe you should learn the facts before you get your knickers in a twist," Black grumbled coldly. Emmeline's face snarled up into a scowl and she opened her mouth to snap at the animagus.
"He was helping me," Harry agreed quickly. Emmeline turned to him with a blinking face. "Mr. Crouch was acting… odd." Emmeline frowned before turning back to Sirius. After a moment's hesitation, her stance softened slightly.
"Thank you." She finally said. Sirius grunted before he turned towards the way Crouch went with narrowed eyes.
"Keep an eye on him," Sirius finally muttered. "Crouch really was acting odder than usual. I'm going to try and see what he's up to."
"Right," Emmeline said as her judgemental eyes turned to Harry with a firm expression. "Young Harry wasn't supposed to be alone anyway." She reminded him coldly. Harry's expression slipped into worry as he flinched under his mum's harsh gaze.
Harry growled slightly before he furiously crossed out the last section of the formula with a scowl. No no no! That was all wrong! If he did that it would definitely explode! Persephone's Veil was much too volatile.
"Hmm…" Harry groaned before he looked up. "Hermione, what's a good substitute for a Persephone's Veil that won't interact with powdered luna moth wings?" The girl blinked and looked up.
"Er… I think that's a question best suited for your dad." Hermione argued. Harry flinched.
"Er… well…I'm trying to improve one of his potions. It's… well it's actually an extra credit assignment… sort of."
"Huh?" Ron asked. "Mate you're not making a lick of sense." Harry sighed.
"Over the summer my dad and I were working in his lab. I hadn't been allowed down there before, but I think he changed his mind after the world cup," Harry murmured. The whole family had been really shaken up by the whole incident. "Anyway! We were working and I… Well, I'm not as good at potions as dad. I am getting better! But I did mess a few things up… one of my potions turned out… really really bad. It was basically rubber at the bottom of the cauldron. I thought for sure dad would have to get rid of it. But instead, he grabbed a potion out of his cupboard and, get this, when he poured the potion into it after he swirled it around a bit, the other potions components evaporated and all that was left was the water that I'd started with! It was amazing! But… Well, then I started asking dad if it had any other uses and if there were side effects and all these other things. And when he told me, like how it's extremely corrosive to cloth, because of plant fibres, and can cause skin rashes from prolonged exposure, and all these other problems I ask why he hadn't fixed those problems… he sort of smirked and told me I could have a go at it. But if I was going to try and improve one of his formulas, he wasn't gonna help me do it." Harry finished with a whine. Hermione's face lit up when he told the story and by the end had become extremely intrigued.
"Oh Harry, that sounds extremely fascinating! When are we going to work on it?"
"Oh," Harry began sheepishly. "Sorry Hermione, but I kinda wanted to try brewing it on my own. I've already solved the skin irritation issues. It's the plant fibres that are really messing me up. Hence why I asked about Persephone's veil. I feel like the answer is right in front of me… maybe I should be focusing on viscosity… or absorbability." as soon as Harry said it his eyes lit up! "Yes! That's it! Of course!" Then he turned and dashed away heading for the dungeons, hoping to catch his father. Hermione blinked and gapped after him. Ron smirked then turned to Hermione with a shrug.
"Well, he is a potions master's kid. Kinda expected he'd start getting into it more."
"Well," Hermione said before she shook her head. "Harry was always a little interested in potions. Remember in first year? He wrote professor Snape's entire speech on the first page of his notebook. He seemed genuinely fascinated and intrigued. It was just that professor Snape made it… unpleasant."
"I'll say." Ron agreed with a chuckle.
"Well," Hermione began before slowly a smile began to spread over her face. "I'm glad Harry finally gets to explore it more. And I'm glad that potions has become so much less hostile. Everyone seems to be improving! Even Neville!"
"Well, I don't know about improving," Ron countered then ducked and snickered as Hermione threw a crumpled-up piece of parchment at him with a scowl.
Harry was still beaming, with a bubbling happy expression on his face.
His dad said he was proud of him!
Harry had expected him to be upset, or at least annoyed! But all he'd done was smile, run a few tests and then say he was proud! Harry couldn't stop beaming. No one had ever said they were proud of him before! Not for something like this anyway. Sure his teachers had said good job or called his work impressive. But his dad was proud of him!
"Ow…" Harry moaned as he rubbed his behind where he'd fallen with a grimace. He looked up to see just what he'd run into in his stupidity and gulped. It was a Slytherin girl, one he'd not had any run-ins with previously, who was grumbling under her breath as she tried to gather the things for an essay she was working on. Then she scowled and cursed as she looked down at her blouse. "Sorry!" Harry cried. The girl turned to him with another glare before she flicked her wrist and syphoned all of the ink that had splattered everywhere back into her inkpot. Then she cursed again as she saw that a small dark grey stain remained. She levelled Harry with one more vicious glare.
"Next time, pay attention to where you're going, Potter!" She snapped furiously. Harry flinched. As she walked away he wanted to try and mitigate her fury a bit, maybe save himself some trouble later.
"W-wait!" He suddenly cried with inspiration, a small smile blooming.
"What?" The girl snapped in irritation.
"I can fix your shirt," Harry promised before he pulled out his potion. He went to unstopper it and pour it himself when she gave him a narrowed-eyed look and he realized his error with a chuckle and handed it to her. She eyed it carefully, trying to discern what it was, before giving him another warning look and finally tipping a few drops into the stain. Harry grinned as a wet spot emerged on her blouse. The girl growled and cast a drying charm, opened her mouth to berate him for the prank, then felt the words die as her blouse emerged from it perfectly clean. She nearly dropped her books again as she scrambled to inspect the fabric closer.
"What is that stuff?" She said after a few moments.
"I made it." Harry cried with a puffed-out chest. Then he blushed. "Er, well, actually my dad made it, I just improved and modified his formula for more versatility."
"Does it have a name?" The girl asked. Harry frowned. Her voice had taken on a strange quality he couldn't quite put his finger on. It wasn't hostile. But it still made Harry uneasy.
"I don't think so," Harry said truthfully.
"Hmmm," the girl said. Then she straightened up. "I want to buy it from you."
"What?" Harry cried in shock.
"It's a great product, especially here in a school. I like to buy it from you and sell it to others." Harry blinked. Then slowly he began to frown before finally, he shook his head.
"I… I have to talk with my dad about this first. How bout we meet tomorrow at lunch?."
"tomorrow?" The girl said thoughtfully, jotting a note down in her schedule. "A public meeting. Very smart. Alright, Potter. I'll be seeing you." Then she turned to walk away.
"Er!" Harry cried. "Hang on! Can I have your name?" The girl turned back, chin raised in challenge.
"Tracey. Tracey Davies."
"Cool," Harry said as casually as he could. "Thanks, and I er… I'll be seeing you." Then the girl finally left as Harry raced back to his dad, slightly panicked, but also strangely excited.
"Hi Harry!" Ron said before his face twisted into a grimace. "Haven't seen Hermione have you? The others and I have been looking all morning. She said she'd be in the library, but I couldn't find her anywhere! She's supposed to be helping us with our charms essay!" He said. Then he noticed Harry's expression and blinked. "Er? Hello! Earth to Harry!" He said before waving his hand in front of the teen's face. Harry jumped and looked over.
"Oh! Sorry, Ron! Did you say something? Sorry, I'm a little busy. I was supposed to be meeting someone and-" as if on cue Tracey Davies entered the hall with a stern, no-nonsense expression on her face. Ron blinked as she walked right up to the
"Mr. Potter." She said blandly.
"Miss. Davies," Harry replied smoothly before he dug into his pocket. "I took the liberty of consulting with my peers and I believe I've drafted a contract which you'll find amenable."
"Contract?" Ron blurted out "contract for what?"
"This is a private meeting, Weasley," Tracey snarled coldly. "Between two respectable magicians. Be on your way."
"No way I'm leaving Harry alone with you, snake!" Ron argued while crossing his arms in an attempt to appear more menacing than he really was.
"Ron!" Harry snapped. Then he sighed and gave Tracey a withering look. "Mr. Weasley is a known associate of mine Miss. Davies. His presence is to be respected or ignored."
"Fine," Tracey said before she proceeded to do the latter, essentially pretending that she couldn't even see Ron which made the ginger further annoyed. But he was still baffled as Harry produced a scroll and Tracey opened it and began rapidly reading.
"Exclusive production rights? I am not certain that will square with demand, Mr. Potter."
"The product is extremely effective. Only two or three drops are necessary for even the most stubborn of materials. My assistant," at this Davies actually let out a giggle before re-composing herself. A giggle which momentarily startled Harry. It was so different from the character he had previously seen her as. "He took the liberty of purchasing a hundred units of test tubes and droppers. I think we'll be able to keep up with demand for the time being. Should the product become more popular we can amend the contract."
"I notice you're asking for a commission." She looked at him with a bit of that mirth in her eyes. "Your… assistant suggested that I presume?"
"Yes," Harry said, a small smirk gracing his lips as well. "He er… wasn't too happy with my original idea?"
"Which was?" Tracey asked.
"Well I was just going to give you the recipe," Harry admitted with a blush. Tracey snorted and shook her head.
"Gryffindors." She drawled.
"Yeah, that's what he said. In that same tone too." Harry admitted with a chuckle. Tracey chuckled herself before going back to review.
"Ah! Anti-liability clause! Nice touch. I hadn't thought of that either actually. Though I do hope that all the contingencies you listed would never happen here at Hogwarts." Tracey argued. Harry nodded.
"Right. But if the product ends up out of Hogwarts by word of mouth or other means."
"Yes of course." Tracey agreed. Then she read to the end and nodded. "Well, everything seems in order! Do you have any questions for me?"
"Just one," Harry admitted. "Aside from money, why do you want to do this so badly?"
"Because there isn't anything on the market quite like this Mr. Potter. And I want to be the one to put it there. I know demand is high."
"But," Harry shook his head. "How do you know demand is high?"
"Because I've been looking for a product like this for almost two years now!" Tracey bemoaned. Harry blinked.
"Do you really want to know?" Tracey asked with a slowly widening smile. Harry blinked.
"Well, I'm not so sure now…" Harry admitted. "But go ahead. Tell me anyway."
"Do you know how unbelievably hard it is to get blood stains out of knickers?" Tracey responded with a smile. "Some of my nicest, most comfortable pairs have been utterly ruined!" Both boys blinked in confusion before understanding suddenly bloomed.
"Oh yuck!" Ron cried with disgust.
"Fair point," Harry responded with a grimace. "Well. I'm happy to help." Then he produced a self-inking Quill. They each took turns signing the contract.
"Hey Ron! Can you sign as a witness?"
"Ah sure mate," Ron said before he let out a chuckle. "But I'm still not sure what's going on." Tracey let out another snort.
"Gryffindors." She muttered before the contract disappeared. Then she stuck out her hand. Harry smiled and gave it a firm handshake.
"I look forward to doing business with you Mr. Potter."
"You as well miss. Davies." Harry responded with a smile.
Harry looked down at the scroll she'd handed over again before looking up in shock.
"I… I think you added an extra zero by accident." He remarked slowly. Tracey smirked.
"I assure you, Mr. Potter, that number is real."
"40 galleons?!" He demanded again in awe.
"I told you the market was frantic." Tracey insisted with a shrug.
"I don't even know what I'd do with that much money," Harry muttered in shock.
"Buy a new broomstick." Tracey reasoned with a shrug.
"I already have a firebolt!" Harry argued, "my grandfather makes them, remember?"
"Oh," Tracey muttered. "Well… I don't know. That's your 40% cut. What you do with it is your business."
"Hang on… 40%," Harry muttered before his jaw dropped again. "you made 100 galleons in profit?!"
"I told you," Tracey said with a grin. "Frantic."
"Bloody hell…" Harry whispered in awe. Harry was still reeling when he walked into his parents' quarters for their usual lunchtime get-together. Emmeline had no desire to spend her lunches chatting in the staff room with Sirius after all, and Severus and Sirius had been banned from being alone in a room at the same time after a rather disastrous post-meeting 'discussion' that had forced the meeting to be moved to a new room while the usual one was repaired.
"What's wrong darling?" Emmeline piped up worriedly, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Nothing!" Harry said quickly. His father's eyebrow rose up unimpressed. "No! Really! I'm fine! It's not something bad!"
"But there is something?" Emmeline said with a mirthful smile. Harry sputtered before he huffed.
"The first month's profit for the potion came in today," Harry said. Severus immediately sat up and adjusted his robes with a flair, face nonchalant.
"And? How did the market treat you?" Harry huffed and handed him the scroll. Severus scanned it and then made a noise at the number
"Commendable. A 16 galleon profit."
"No," Harry said quietly. Severus blinked. "That 40 is the 40% cut," Harry said quietly. Severus froze and quickly looked down at the scroll with more forceful fingers reading it more carefully.
"Jesus Christ!" He finally cried in shock.
"Severus!" Emmeline admonished.
"Sorry," he apologized quickly before he looked at Harry, slightly horrified. "How much is she selling this for?!"
"Well, you don't need a lot!" Harry reminded him, "a few drops is totally fine for almost anything. So that last batch I brewed made about 200 vials… so…"
"8 sickles and 15 knuts…" Severus muttered, "roughly… goodness."
"Is that too much?" Harry argued. "Our contract does have a stipulation where I can argue the price,"
"It's… at the higher end of the market," Severus argued. "7 Sickles is around 2£."
"Oh… that's not so bad." Harry reasoned with a sigh then his face fell "wait…"
"You made about 200£," Severus confirmed with a nod. Harry slumped down in shock. "That's about how much you'd be making with a part-time job." Harry let out a long slow whistle. Then he turned to his dad with a worried look. "I'm not going to garnish your profits. I wouldn't if you did have a part-time job. However, this is a receiving invoice. I suggest you pen a letter to Gringotts and ask the goblins to set up a secondary vault for these earnings specifically. The Potter vaults will serve you well throughout Hogwarts and any higher education you decide to go into… a runic mastery perhaps?" Severus argued with a raised eyebrow, Harry beamed. "But it would be wise to save that money for an emergency or major purchases. For instance, purchasing a house or an expensive medical procedure. That secondary account is the one you should be using for personal expenses. Christmas gifts, games and sweets." Severus explained. Harry nodded before he looked down at the receipt again.
"I still can't believe she's made 100 Galleons…"
"Keep in mind her part of the contract puts her in charge of procuring the ingredients." He said. "So that 60% will probably be more like 45%."
"But the ingredients aren't that expensive,'' Harry argued. "You said so yourself!"
"I said they weren't expensive if you knew where to go and had a connection." Severus reminded him "which I highly doubt Miss. Davies has."
"I wouldn't put it past her," Harry muttered before he pulled a sheet of parchment from his book bag and began writing that letter to Gringotts.
"Are you sure about this mate?!" Ron cried, though his expression was blooming. "This place is really fancy!"
"Oh trust me," Harry assured him "I'm sure. I don't want to be seen with you wearing those old robes anymore than you do."
"Thanks, mate!" Ron cried as he pushed open the door, the little silver bell overhead tinkling Merrily. "You're a lifesaver!"
"You know it." Harry agreed before he cleared his throat. "Hello madam. My friend here needs new dress robes. Desperately."
"I'm quite busy at the moment if you-" Harry lifted the old ones out of his book bag and she paled drastically. "Sweet Merlin! Who-why- who in their right mind decided it would be a good idea to skin a kneazle?! And that bonnet!" She held a hand over her mouth as if holding back a mouthful of vomit before she shook herself. "Alright! Up! Up on the stool. I cannot allow such a crime against fashion to persist!" Then she waved her wand. "We'll start with fabrics. Suede is what all of the other students have been ordering. Heavy to ward off the chill with a fine finish, but a bit stiff. I have this lovely long satin to work with instead. Much lighter than suede, but a touch more expensive. What sort of budget do you have?" Ron turned to Harry with an expectant expression.
"I'll cover whatever." He agreed slowly. The seamstress' eyes lit up as he said that before smiling up at Ron.
"You have a very good friend." She reasoned. "We'll go with satin! Now as for the colour, I am thinking of a nice dark navy to bring out your eyes! Or! We could go with a muted Burgundy. Darken the hair a bit, draw out the colour from your complexion?"
"What do you think, Harry?" Ron asked. But Harry had spotted Hermione walking out of a store down the street.
"I think," he said slowly before he pulled out the bag of money he'd set aside for Ron's new robes. "That I'll leave this with you. Don't go too overboard." He said before exiting the store. The seamstress and Ron peered into the bag before the former grinned up at Ron with glittering eyes. "White silk lining?"
"Hermione! Hey Hermione!"
"Oh! Hi Harry? Are you here to buy a corsage?" Hermione asked happily.
"Huh?" Harry asked in confusion. Hermione straightened up and gave her hair a slight toss.
"It's tradition for the Yule Ball for the couples to give each other gifts! Corsages for girls and cufflinks for boys."
"Oh! Er… no." Harry said. "I'm taking Ron out to get dress robes. Actual dress robes, not the… whatever it was that Mrs. Weasley sent."
"Aren't you a little worried about how she might feel?"
"Well… Ron was gonna be miserable all night if he had to wear those. Plus we were gonna go stag together and… well I couldn't let him down like that." Harry argued. "He's my best mate! I only used my potions profits!"
"You're going stag?!" Hermione cried with a blink. "You couldn't find a date?"
"None of the girls I knew were willing or able," Harry admitted slowly. "Ginny is already going with Neville. Angelina's going with Fred. Katie and Alicia both said they were 'boycotting' for some reason,"
"Alicia's boyfriend dumped her to go with one of the girls from Beauxbatons instead," Hermione explained with a hiss of her teeth.
"Dick!" Harry said coldly which Hermione nodded at. "Cho Chang still hates my guts,"
"You toyed with her emotions to win a quidditch match!" Hermione reminded him crossly "she's allowed to be upset!"
"I know," Harry moaned in exhaustion. "Susan and Hannah are going with each other 'in protest'? Not sure what that's all about."
"I think it has to do with the recent Irish referendum on gay marriage," Hermione said quietly.
"Oh… well good for them then," Harry said honestly. "The only option after all that is to go with a guy, go stag, or ask a Slytherin!" Hermione let out a loud guffaw
"I would almost watch that!"
"I don't even know any Slytherins!" Harry reminded her with a smile. "Cept for Pansy Parkinson and-" he trailed off.
"Well, that's out! She hates you! Plus she's going with Malfoy anyway. Not much point in- Harry?"
"Why didn't I think of that?!" Harry said before he turned and rushed for the apothecary. Hermione blinked and followed him. They arrived just as the door opened and Tracey stepped out, shopping bag on her shoulder. "Tracey!"
"Harry," the girl responded cordially. She looked at Hermione with a raised eyebrow. "Granger." She looked back at Harry "what is it?"
"Would you like to go to the ball with me?" He asked quickly. Hermione blinked and turned to him with a shocked expression. Tracey for her part blinked.
"What?" She asked again. Obviously, she'd misheard him.
"Would you like to go to the ball with me?" Harry repeated. "Unless you already have a date of course! Then that's fine. Good even! Maybe better…" Hermione jabbed him in the side with her elbow. Tracey was looking at him with a calculating expression.
"What colour are your robes?" She demanded.
"Dark bottle green," Harry supplied quietly. "Supposedly brings out my eyes." She looked into his aforementioned eyes very closely.
"We'll meet in the Great Hall at 7:45."
"But the ball doesn't start till 8," Harry said slowly.
"Most people would go fashionably late," Tracey argued with a smirk. "I prefer stylishly early." Then she turned and walked away, only to quickly change her mind and come back. "I'm allergic to carnations by the way, so only roses will do, make sure it's a red one!" Then she walked away. Harry blinked before he slowly turned to Hermione with a gri, expression.
"I can't tell if I just made the greatest decision or the biggest mistake of my life." He admitted quietly. Hermione laughed.
"Come on! Let's go get that red rose corsage. Then we should probably get Ron from the seamstress before he tries to buy the whole store!"
Harry fiddled with his robes a little nervously as he descended the grand staircase towards the entrance hall. Ron was beside him, in his extremely sharp navy blue dress robes, looking a bit put out.
"Can't believe you ditched me for a girl! A Slytherin girl at that!"
"It's Tracey." Harry reminded him. "She's my business partner. And besides… Do you know how sad that would look in the papers? 'Harry Potter: such an ugly and pathetic munter he can't get a measly little date for one event'?"
"But you haven't been in the paper that much this year!" Ron argued. "Not since you dropped out of the tournament."
"That would put me back in." He argued. Ron huffed again but didn't say anything else as they reached the entrance hall. There were a few early birds hanging around, as well as several teachers.
"Why did she want to show up so early anyway?" Ron complained.
"Dunno," Harry admitted tiredly. "Something about being fashionable early?"
"I thought the saying went late."
"Harry!" Emmeline cried with a small, coming up to his elbow. "Oh, darling! You look so handsome!"
"Mum!" Harry whined with a slight blush. She was dressed in a lovely set of flowing peacock blue dress robes with tiny gems studded in a snowflake pattern about the collar and cuffs. On her wrist was a white Christmas rose corsage. She'd evidently cast a spell over her engagement ring to keep it perpetually sparkling. Her hair, captured in its typical braid, though a little more put together than usual, was once again studded with glittery snowflake pins. She looked like a fairy tale princess. Or well, maybe a fairy tale queen.
"Indulge her." Severus drawled as he smoothly saddled up beside her. If Emmeline was a queen, Severus was a dark knight. His robes, such a dark blue they appeared black, were cut slimmer and fitter than they normally were, showing off his somewhat muscular form better. A bright silver ascot in his collar was sparkling in the soft enchanted candlelight, which cast everything into a blue glow. He had a pair of ivory cufflinks on which helped tie the whole outfit together. It finished with the silver hair band tying his usually loose strands up and away from his face.
"Wow," Ron said quietly. "Professor Snape… you clean up nice!" He remarked.
"Five points for Gryffindor." the man replied.
"Wot?!" Ron squeaked.
"By saying I 'clean up nice' you openly admit to calling me an ugly bat any other moment. Very rude to insult you professors. Especially to their faces!" Severe snapped.
"Love your dress robes, mum," Harry said. Emmeline smiled.
"Thank you, darling. Why don't you take five points to Gryffindor."
"Emm!" Severus cried in affront. The woman smiled at him cheekily as the five rubies that had floated out of the hourglass floated back down.
"Why are you here so early?" Emmeline asked Harry.
"My date wanted to be here early. Something about being stylish."
"And who-" Emmeline began before her eyes lit up. "My goodness!" Harry turned and felt his jaw drop. It was Tracey! Her hair was piled high in a messy do-up covered in pearls and rubies. Her dress was a soft sparkly flowy thing, with a lace bodice tied in the back with ribbons. The skirt was long and made up of many layers of sparkly tulle. The sleeves were loose and light, bouncing slightly as she came down the stairs. The entire thing was a brilliant crimson. On her ears were a pair of long droopy earrings, and a single string of silver ending with a small pearl, while her neck had a red choker.
"Hello professor Vance, professor Snape," Tracey said with a smile as she came up to Harry's elbow.
"Hi," Harry said in awe. Tracey smiled at him with sparkles on her cheeks. Then he blinked and dug into his pocket for the corsage. "Uh, here! This is for you!" Tracey smiled and held out her wrist and Harry gently put it on for her. Then she drew her own box from her small pouch. Inside was a pair of small golden Cufflinks with little snitches on them. Harry grinned. But then as he tried to put them on he fumbled.
"Here," Severus said with a huff before he showed Harry how to fasten them. That done he gave his son a quick once over and suddenly seemed to stall. Harry had grown a lot in the past two years, finally catching up to his peers, though he was still much shorter than Ronald, who would soon tower over even him. But Harry was only a few inches shorter than his father now. Soon they would be at or very near the same height. Severus felt a lump form in his throat. There was so much he could say. So much he ought to say.
"Smile!" Someone suddenly cried before the pair were blinded by a bright flash.
"Ack! Colin?!" Harry cried in irritation before he scowled. "I thought third years were only allowed if they got dates!"
"Dumbledore asked-" Colin began
"Professor Dumbledore." Severus drawled coldly.
"Sorry! Professor Dumbledore asked me to be the official photographer for the event! To take pictures for the school archives! Isn't it amazing?"
"Joyous," Tracey said blandly.
"Oh, I know! Harry! Why don't you and your girlfriend get a picture together!" Harry's face went bright red.
"Oh, well, she's not-!" He tried to stutter out, but Tracey was already coming to stand beside him with a wide smile.
"Cheese!" Colin cried merrily before another bright flash made stars dance in his eyes. Harry opened his mouth to correct Colin, but the little mite scampered off before he could.
"Word of advice Harry," Tracey began quietly, smirking up at him. "Never correct someone if their misunderstanding can benefit you."
"But-" Harry began in confusion. Then Tracey walked off, going to speak with some of her year mates.
"I did not think it was possible, but somehow, Colin Creevey is becoming more annoying with age," Severus complained.
"You think he's annoying?!" Ron piped up. "We have to live with him!"
Tracey smiled as she stood near Harry just watching the ball as it winded up with the weird sisters. After a solid hour of dancing their feet both started to hurt and they decided to ditch their shoes. Suddenly out of the crowd Hermione and her surprising date, Viktor Krum, emerged from the crowd. The tall Bulgarian leaned over to whisper something into her ear and gave a soft kiss on her hand before he walked away to get them drinks. Hermione floated over to Harry with a goofy grin that made him smile.
"Hello Granger," Tracey said merrily. Hermione blinked.
"Hi," she said. "How's your night been?"
"Wonderful thank you," Tracey said with a smile. "Yours?"
"Wonderful." Hermione consented with her smile returning.
"I'm very glad!" Tracey assured her. Hermione's eyes narrowed.
"Why are you being nice to me?" She demanded.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Tracey asked.
"You've never treated me with anything but silent disdain or cool disinterest before," Hermione argued. Tracey laughed.
"That was in public. Everyone is too busy right now to pay attention to us, no matter that we're the most gorgeously dressed here."
"Why does being in public matter?" Hermione demanded.
"I'm a Slytherin." Tracey reminded her scathingly.
"She'd get flack from her housemates if she was seen being publicly nice to you." Harry agreed. Hermione blinked at him.
"You don't know that," she argued.
"Actually I do," Harry argued. "The same thing happened to my dad, remember? It's why his friendship with my mother fell to pieces."
"Alright…" Hermione agreed. "But wouldn't outward hostility be more believable?"
"You want me to be outwardly hostile?" Tracey demanded with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.
"Well no!" Hermione said with a huff. "Only…"
"It would be terribly hypocritical of me." Tracey finally muttered.
"Hypocritical?" Hermione demanded. "But you're a pureblood!"
"Am I?" Tracey said with a grin. Hermione scowled.
"Yes. I looked up your family when you started associating with Harry." At this, the teen boy gave her an affronted look. "I wanted to make sure she didn't have any history that might make her dangerous!"
"And what did you find?" Tracey demanded. Hermione huffed.
"Your great grandparents on your father's side were two nouveau riche newly American wizards from England. Their son moved back to the old world after he finished schooling at Ilvermorny. While touring France he met a French pureblood and the pair decided to settle in England. Your father then repeated the trend, travelling after Hogwarts until he met a German countess, your mother." Tracey grinned and let out a laugh.
"So glad that grandpa Gerome's plans worked out so well!" Tracey cried with a chortle. "If he were still alive, he'd be so happy."
"What?" Hermione began in confusion.
"My great-grandparents were two poor black people living in Louisiana. Muggles." Tracey began. Hermione's jaw dropped. "It is true that after Ilvermorny grandpa Germone decided to tour Europe before settling down. He was initially supposed to go back to New York and start working for MACUSA. But when he was in London, he met a Scottish RN named Leslie Styman. She was also a muggle. They decided to get married and settled down in Oban, where my father was born. He married a French woman by the name of Eloise Ducain. My mother. A muggle. Though she is fairly rich."
"You're-" Hermione began in shock.
"Halfblood, yes," Tracey said with a smile. "Though there are some in my own house who would argue that my wizard blood is so thin I'm basically still a muggle born at this point."
"But… they don't know." Hermione realized in awe. At this Tracey laughed.
"Apparently not! Because it seems everyone fell for my grandfather's story hook line and sinker!" She argued.
"Why the story?" She demanded. Tracey's expression softened.
"My grandfather had grown up with nothing. Laws being what they were, he knew if he was public about where he really came from, his life, and the lives of his future children and grandchildren would be very difficult. So he made up a lie to placate the masses. One that everyone around us now takes for granted. It wouldn't take a lot of research to dig back further than two generations and realize that the people my grandfather made up didn't actually exist."
"But… don't people realize that your mother isn't actually a German dutchess or whatever?"
"My mother's command of German is quite good. But more than that, my father and her devised a strategy to keep eyes off of them, so to speak." Tracey explained. "They've fabricated this tale that my mother has some debilitating genetic condition that makes her unable to be in public most days. In fact, they only go out together in the wizarding world if she's ill. This in turn has led to the impression that my mother is at death's door, which we have all used to our advantage. Father uses it as an excuse to keep us from the influence of the dark lord, and I use it to explain away my obviously… frosty relationships within my own house. Everyone assumes I'm just too concerned with my mother to be personable."
"That is… honestly brilliant." Hermione finally commented in awe. "And surprising that it's gone on for so long.
"Well it's easy to perpetuate lies like this when your father and father's father worked in the hall of records," Tracey argued. Hermione pulled a face.
"That's terribly corrupt."
"Yeah well so is the rest of the Ministry," Tracey said with a bat of her hand. Hermione pursed her lips but didn't say anything more as Krum came back over. He immediately started talking to Harry, mentioning that 'Hermy' had told him how great a flyer he was. Harry blushed, arguing he wasn't that good. Both Hermione and Tracey told him that he was being overly modest.
"We should get some training in!" Viktor suddenly cried. "I want to practise flying in inclement weather."
"Oh well, there is plenty of that here!" Harry agreed.
"Hey guys! Ron cried as he walked over, a goofy grin on his face.
"Hey Ron," Harry said before he frowned. "What's up?"
"Some party huh?!" Ron responded. "Too bad bout my detention though. Your dad is such a hardass Harry."
"What did you do?" Hermione demanded.
"Fred and George spiked the punch!" Ron explained happily. Viktor immediately took Hermione's drink back with a chuckle.
"Explains a lot," he said before he downed both glasses in quick succession. "It tastes like home!" As soon as he said that Ron blinked his foggy eyes and gapped.
"Viktor Krum!" He cried.
"Da." The man responded with a chuckle. "A fan?"
"Da!" Ron said "I mean yes! A huge one! The hugest! Can I have your autograph?!"
"Ronald!" Hermione cried in irritation.
"No no!" Viktor said with a smile "it's fine. I'm used to it." In fact, he pulled a photo and a fountain pen out of his robe and quickly signed it. "There you go! Enjoy!"
"Bloody hell!" Ron cried with a grin. "This is amazing! Oh! Oh oh oh! You should-you should meet my friend Harry!" Ron said blearily. Harry blinked while Viktor laughed.
"I think maybe you should take your friend back to your dorms," Viktor told Harry with a smile. "Those Fred and George got good stuff!"
"Yeah," Harry agreed before he turned to Tracey with a wince. "Sorry bout this.
"It's alright," Tracey assured him with a smile. "I can make my own way back to the dorms. It wouldn't be safe for you down in the dungeons at this time of night anyway."
"Right," Harry agreed with a chuckle. He turned back to Hermione and Viktor "have a good night!"
"Try to keep him out of trouble!" Hermione called back with a bite of her lip.
"Harry! Hey Harry! I met Viktor Krum!" Ron told him ecstatically.
"You're gonna sleep really well tonight," Harry said with a slight laugh.
"As you know, the third and final task is in a few days," Albus said "the ministry is highly concerned with such a public event. As such, they've sent a few additional security members to assist us."
"More?!" Sirius barked out with a huff. "They've sent half a dozen already!"
"As I said. Highly concerned."
"There's concern and then there's paranoia," Sirius grumbled. Finally, Severus snapped.
"In case it has escaped your notice Black, the death eaters have been exceedingly bold these past two years!" He snarled. "I think a little caution is warranted! Even expected! For the intelligent anyway." He finished with a sarcastic drawl. Emmeline felt an eye twitch.
"Severus," she whispered coldly. "There is no need to be so blatantly antagonistic." The potions master glared at her before turning back to a furious Sirius with a raised chin. Nothing on this earth would make him apologize. He highly doubted Black would accept it anyway. Finally Black huffed.
"Well whoever they send, can you tell them to stop lurking around in invisibility cloaks?" Sirius demanded. "I swear everywhere I turn there's some skulking about unseen!"
"Now who's paranoid?" Severus said with a huff. "What the matter Black? Do you only assault invisible children?" Sirius stood up and reached for his wand, then scowled and turned to the deputy headmistress. She huffed, once again glad they had all agreed to confiscate both his and Severus' wand before the meeting began. Too bad that Severus' tongue was a weapon all on its own.
"This is the first I've heard of such tactics," Albus muttered quietly. "I shall have a word with all of the security the ministry has sent. Wandering the halls invisible is very bad form."
"Right," Sirius said as he sat back down with a grumble. "Unless it's bratty fourteen-year-olds."
"For your information," Severus snarled quietly. "Harry knows very well that his cloak is only to be used for security and only in very specific situations. He has not and would not continue to use it for mischief."
"If he has, please tell us," Emmeline added. "We already talked to him about it and therefore, doing such things is grounds for … well, grounding." She finished with a slight chuckle. The staff all nodded, save Sirius who scoffed.
"You think a little grounding is going to suddenly turn him into a saint? Please! That brat is a menace! One of the worst students I've ever had to deal with!"
"That is blatantly false!" Severus roared. "He is a very bright and courteous child with a massive capacity for learning if you would only-" he suddenly cut himself off and felt his face flush. The rest of the staff were staring at him. Albus and Minerva both had the audacity to chuckle at him. "Give him a chance." Severus finished weakly, feeling his insides wiggle in distress.
"Right." Sirius snapped before he stood up. "Are we done here?" He demanded, turning to Minerva with an outstretched hand. The elderly animagus narrowed her eyes as if warning him about his tone. He seemed to loosen up a notion and cleared his throat, making his expression a little less severe. Then she handed his wand back with a huff. "Thank you." He said graciously, before storming out of the room.
"Just give him a chance hmmm?" Pomona suddenly purred from across the table. Severus made a strangled noise in the back of his throat.
"Now now, don't tease him, Mona," Rolanda argued, though she too had a cheeky grin. "We should be glad Severus has so taken out advice to heart that he's started parroting it back to others!" Severus felt the burn of shame return to his face as the various staff chuckled heartily at his expense.
"I am glad you have finally seen the light Severus," Albus said after finishing his own chuckling. Severus cleared his throat.
"If you're all quite done mocking me," he said with a sigh. "I'd like to get back to my marking." He reached out for his wand, a lot more graciously than Sirius initially had, to Minerva. She handed it over much more readily with a gentle apologetic smile. That just made Severus that much more queasy. So he scowled at her and took it with a bit more wrath than was strictly necessary before He stalked out of the room with a cloud of anger over his shame. Emmeline huffed and got up to follow him. It wasn't hard to follow his trail. The string of wary-looking students was enough. One of the poor Hufflepuff second years was even in tears for goodness sake! When she finally made it to their quarters she let out a sigh as she watched Severus scratch away at a stack of essays in front of him with a deep scowl.
"Severus darling," she began as she ran her hands over his shoulders, letting herself smile as a bit of his tension melted away. "Why don't you talk to me instead of digging into the confidence of those poor… Ravenclaws!? Goodness Severus, are you trying to cause an international incident?!"
"What?" Severus said with a blink before he looked more closely at the name on the paper and let out a groan.
"I think a good rule of thumb is to know who you're grading before you start, love," Emmeline said with a smile. Severus grunted in irritation before he rubbed his face in exhaustion.
"Come," Emmeline insisted as she pulled him towards the settee. "Talk to me."
"He probably hates me," Severus blurted out with a slight choke.
"Who?" Emmeline demanded with a frown.
"Harry," Severus said painfully. Emmeline burst out laughing.
"Oh don't be ridiculous Severus! Harry loves you more than anything!"
"You weren't here Emmeline!" Severus cried as he rose up to pace. "You weren't here to see just how much I berated and insulted the boy!" Severus took on an even more anguished look as his eyes drifted closed. "I should have been paying attention… I should have wanted to. Maybe then his life would have been better! All this time I went after him for how much like 'his father' he was. Now I'm hoping more and more he isn't anything like me… I'm a terrible person." Severus finished with a whine. Emmeline was staring at him with a raised eyebrow before shaking her head.
"A terrible person who takes in the son of his enemy; gives him the help he desperately needs, signs him up for therapy, gives him a place to go for the holidays, along with his first real Christmas and birthday presents."
"But Harry isn't the son of my enemy," Severus said with a roll of his eyes.
"You didn't know that then!" Emmeline reminded him with a grin. "Before that disastrous train ride last year, Harry was still very much James potter's son, in everyone's eyes, except Albus of course." A muscle in Severus' jaw jumped as he heard that. He still hadn't forgiven the headmaster for his treachery. For all his talk of trust, he hadn't given Severus a chance. "Despite this, you still took him into your home, gave him the space and understanding he needed to flourish, and then did everything in your power to protect him. You are not a terrible person Severus. Yes, you've made mistakes, but I think you should ask Harry how he feels before you decide that he hates you." Then she huffed. "You're very bad at that, you know! Deciding you know how someone feels before you actually know." She leaned up to kiss his cheek with a smirk. "It's why we're getting married now and not fifteen years ago." Severus winced but nodded.
"I suppose I can ask Harry." The man countered. Then he scowled. "I still don't like how Black talks about him. Even if I used to say a lot of the same things… and not just because he's my son." Emmeline nodded.
"I know exactly what you mean. Black needs to open his eyes." She declared bitterly as she made her way to the kitchenette to whip up some hot cocoa. Severus watched her go before he sighed and went back to his marking, using a special quill to remove some of his harshest criticism. Emmeline was right. If he left them that way the school would be overrun with manic depressive Ravenclaws tearing the library apart in nervous fits. "Speaking of weddings!" Emmeline suddenly cried, coming back with the hot cocoa "we need to start planning ours." Severus chuckled slightly before frowning.
"I thought you were going to start during the holidays."
"We were going to start." Emmeline corrected. "But the yule Ball made things surprisingly chaotic."
"I thought you-" Severus began with a frown.
"It's our wedding, Severus, so we should be planning it together." Emmeline insisted. Severus blinked before he nodded slowly.
"I suppose the simplest decision would be deciding when-" Severus began when Emmeline choked on her cocoa
"You think that's simple?!" She cried in horror. Severus flinched back with an almost silent groan.
"OOOOOoooooo!" Came a cry from the quidditch stands. Harry actually flinched back as Krum was thrown, almost clear over the top of the hedgerows by one of Haggrid's, now insanely large, blast-ended skrewts. Maybe that's why he'd been able to breed them in the first place! Harry shook his head in dismay.
"Real glad I am not down there." He muttered to Hermione and Ron.
"Yeah, no kidding…" Ron agreed with a wince. Suddenly a gout of red sparks shot up from across the maze.
"Oh no!" Hermione cried in dismay "is it Cedric or Fleur?!" Suddenly a distraught moan rose up from the Ravenclaws section.
"It's Fleur," Harry confirmed.
"Bloody hell, she has had some absolutely wretched luck," Ron said with a wince. Harry nodded distractedly. He looked around again, scowling. Someone was staring at him. He just couldn't figure out who.
"You alright mate?" Dean asked worriedly. Harry shook his head slightly.
"I feel like someone is staring at me." He whispered. Immediately all of his friends began turning around, scrutinizing the crowd with judgemental eyes.
"I don't see anyone." Seamus finally admitted after a few minutes.
"Yeah me neither," Harry admitted quietly. "But… you know that feeling you get at the back of your neck?"
"Yeah," Neville confirmed. Then he shrugged. "Let's go get some snacks. Hopefully, the feeling will go away."
"Sure," Harry said before he got up and followed his friend out of the stands. Just as they were exiting the stands a loud cheer rose up.
"Oh bollocks, did someone win?!" Neville cried before he charged back up the stairs. Harry turned to do the same when two hands grabbed his shoulder.
"Harry!" Barry Crouch cried, looking desperately urgent "Harry you have to get out!" He cried before dragging the boy away from the stands towards the castle.
"H-hey!" Harry cried in a panic, trying to pull away. "L-let go of me!"
"No!" Barry cried, grabbing his arm in a death grip. "No please listen! He's coming! He's coming and he's going to kill you!"
"Who's coming?!" Harry cried in a panic.
"I tried to stop him!" Barry bemoaned pitifully. "I tried. But he was too strong. He was too strong and I was too weak. Now you're in danger and it's all my fault. Please!" He begged again as Harry tried to pull away. "You have to get out! You have to get away! Or else a terrible calamity will befall us all!"
"What sort of calamity?!" Harry cried in panicked confusion. Nothing this man was saying made any sense! Suddenly he saw a shape approaching through the growing darkness. It was hard to make out anything beyond a silhouette, but Harry assumed it was "Professor Black!" He called out desperately. He might like the man, nor the man him, but he'd saved Harry before from Crouch's madness.
"No!" Crouch suddenly roared in fury. "Keep away! I will not let-"
"Avada Kedavra!" The throaty voice bellowed. Harry flinched as Barry Crouch was struck by the sickly green spell and collapsed in a heap at his feet. Harry felt his mouth run dry.
He'd killed him.
The professor had actually killed him!
"P-professor?" Harry murmured in terror.
"I'm not your professor boy." The voice called back. Harry felt his blood fill with ice. "You're coming with me." Harry shook his head, too terrified to move his feet. "We'll see about that. Imperio!"
Move? Harry thought that sounded wrong. Wasn't he supposed to be in the stands? That's right! He was at Hogwarts. It was the third task! He wasn't moving, he might miss who won!
But why? He wasn't supposed to be anywhere else, was he? That didn't make any sense.
Now Harry was starting to get irritated. This voice didn't sound like someone he should be trusting. Seemed like they were trying to get him to go against his better judgment.
"NO!" Harry shouted angrily. The man lowered his wand and cocked his head.
"Very impressive" he muttered with the tone in his voice Harry normally associated with his father's pride. If only there was a way to get to him! He could save Harry, no doubt about it! "Incarcerous." Harry yelped as he fell over, his feet bound at the ankles and hands bound to his sides. He tried to wiggle free, but the ropes dug tighter the more he struggled. "Careful now! We need you alive and pumping for what's in store." The man warned. Harry tried to ever so gently get his wand in his pocket. He just barely managed to touch the top of the handle with his finger. He hoped that would be enough.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" he roared. The man let out a bark of laughter before a blue shape burst from the boy's pocket. Harry was momentarily stunned.
His Patronus was a hippocampus!
"Find dad! Tell him- mmmphmmm!" Harry cried before a gag snaked over his mouth.
"That was very very stupid!" The man hissed angrily. Then he smiled. "But it just happens that your dad would be a nice addition to our little plan. In fact! Maybe I should have let you deliver that little message."
"HEY!" a voice suddenly bellowed across the field. The man whipped around and then let out a cry of alarm as he was flattened to the ground by four massive paws. He growled and slammed his fist into the side of the dog's head, which momentarily stunned it, just long enough for him to scramble back to his feet. Harry made a noise of alarm as the massive dog was suddenly over him, teeth bared and snarling. Then he flattened himself over top of Harry, covering him completely, like a massive fluffy blanket. Harry made a noise of alarm through his gag. The man snarled and then tried to fire a spell at the dog. Instead, the dog dodged at just the right moment that Harry's bonds around his legs were sliced open. Harry let out a cry as the slicing hex tore into his leg as well, he was sure it must be bleeding rather a lot, but at least he could move his legs. The dog charged forward, tackling the man once again before changing back. "RUN!" Sirius bellowed furiously. Harry didn't need to be told twice as he scrambled to his feet, despite his hands still being mostly bound and ran towards the stands once again. He could hear cheering! That's why no one had heard the commotion! But there was a cluster of people rushing for him. Suddenly he was tackled to the ground. He tried to scramble away as the dark man from before grabbed him and flipped him over. Harry whimpered in horror as the man raised a massive knife with a vicious grin.
"HARRY!" Emmeline's voice suddenly cut through the darkness. The man let out a hiss of irritation before he brought the knife down and slashed through Harry's arm. The boy let out a gagged scream of pain before a spell soared overhead. Harry tried to scream again, despite the pain blinding him. Then suddenly the weight was removed. Harry blinked and sluggishly turned in the direction the man was fleeing, watching the security sent by the ministry pursuing him, before his vision finally dimmed to black just as it filled with hopefully friendly silhouettes.
Harry groaned a bit before he opened his eyes and lifted his good arm to cover a long loud yawn. Then he winced and reached for his bandaged arm.
"No." His father warned without looking up from his book in the same tone one might scold a toddler or a misbehaving pet.
"But it's itchy…" Harry whined as he gently adjusted it.
"That means it's healing." Severus reminded him. "So don't make it worse by scratching and introducing infection."
"Fine." Harry accented with a huff. The curtain opened to admit Madam Pomfrey.
"Good afternoon Mr. Potter." The matron said before holding out his tray of potions. "How are you feeling today?"
"Itchy," Harry complained.
"Good!" Poppy cried with a smile. "That means it's healing nicely."
"Can you put something on it to stop the itch?" Harry begged.
"I'm afraid not yet dear. Just one more day of these to make sure the blade wasn't cursed or poisoned and then we can see about applying anti-itch cream."
"Gandyroot free." Severus reminded her.
"Yes of course." She said before slipping away to see her other patients.
"Where's mum?" Harry asked curiously. Her absence was unusual, as she'd barely left his side since she reached him for Barty Crouch jr.
That had caused a bit of a stir actually.
No one was quite sure how it happened, Black had bitterly remarked that Barty had likely taken the secret to his grave, but somehow the man's son had inexplicably survived and escaped from his presumably deadly stay in Azkaban. The minister was up in arms, trying to find some culprit, but no evidence had surfaced yet.
"Covering Black's classes," Severus said bitterly. "The man was awarded an order of Merlin third class for saving you and offered a position in the Auror ranks once again."
"You're kidding," Harry said in awe. "That's the first time the curse did something nice for its victim!"
"No," Severus argued. "One of my professors won the lottery and threw a tantrum before leaving with a very quintessential holier-than-thou attitude." His face twisted into a snarl. "Seems only good things happen to the particularly bad professors…"
"So Uncle Remus was a good professor?" Harry demanded with a smirk. Severus blinked as a vein on his forehead throbbed slightly.
"Uncle Remus?" He demanded.
"Yeah, he said I could call him that," Harry said as he gingerly opened a bag of Bertie botts that Ron had brought him a while back. Severus let out a long slow groan. Suddenly the curtain opened again.
"You have a guest dear," Poppy said before she held the curtain back. Harry frowned. Poppy had stopped announcing Ron and the others a few days ago, that first day after the attack. She had announced the three champions, who had all come to visit him with various reactions. Fleur Delacour had given him a tight hug and called him a 'pauvre petite chose'. Viktor had given him a hard slap on the back, maybe a little too hard considering the shout Pomfrey had given him. Cedric was the hardest done by.
"That's twice now I've done something so wretched while you were getting hurt!" He whined. Harry smiled and just congratulated him on winning the cup. He'd definitely earned it. Harry looked up and blinked.
"Tracey!" He cried before his face crumpled. "Oh! The potion! I'm so sorry Tracey I won't be able to make anymore I don't think. Not in time for it to matter anyway. I suppose I could make a half batch! I just need a few mmph!" Harry finished with alarm as she was suddenly kissing him. He blinked a few times before his eyes closed and he lifted his good hand up to push it into her kinky black hair. Suddenly a throat cleared to their right.
"Miss. Davies," Severus began coldly. "If you are quite done molesting my son."
"Sorry professor," the girl said as she casually sat on the bed next to Harry, holding his hand in hers, "I didn't see you there."
"Right," Severus said with a raised eyebrow.
"So about the potion," Harry began slowly.
"I have enough left for the end of the year I think. Word of mouth hasn't quite spread all the way through the houses. Next year for sure."
"I was thinking we could offer a refill program," Harry argued. "There are lots of shops that do that sort of thing. We would have to reduce the price a bit, but you'd save money on test tubes and dropper lids."
"We'd have to find some way to differentiate our test tubes," Tracey argued. "I just ordered generic ones. Anyone could do the same and come for a refill."
"Maybe receipts?" Harry argued.
"'oh I'm so terribly sorry. I thought it was just a bit of rubbish and threw it away. You can trust me! Honest'" Tracey recited, complete with a contrite bat of her eyelashes. Harry huffed.
"Not everyone is like that, you know," Harry argued.
"Slytherins are." Tracey reminded him. "They were our initial customers." Harry huffed.
"If I may," Severus finally piped up. "What you need is a label. Something personalized, with branding."
"Couldn't someone just take the branding off and stick it to something else?" Harry argued.
"The particular spells placed on potion labels prevent that," Severus informed him casually. "For safety reasons. It's actually highly illegal to tamper with potion labels."
"Oh. Well there!" Harry said then he grinned. "I'll get Dean to design something! He's a whippet with art!"
"What we really need is a name," Tracey argued. "Something catchy that will be good for branding."
"I just call it stain stopper." Harry said with a shrug. Tracey smiled.
"Harry Potter's Stain Stopper." she declared. Harry blushed bright pink.
"Oh but… I mean then people will just buy it 'cause it's got my name on it!" Harry argued.
"And?" Tracey asked with a grin. "Harry, what did I say before?"
"Never correct someone if their assumptions benefit you?" Harry answered.
"Exactly," Tracey said before she gave him another quick peck. "Now you focus on getting better. Once you're out of the hospital we can talk to Mr. Thomas about our branding. I'm sure your… assistant," she tossed a gleaming mirthful look at her head of house "can show you the labelling spells sometime this summer." The man let out a grunt which sounded half impressed and half irritated. "See you later!" She called before disappearing back behind the curtain. A heavy silence settled between father and son.
"Erm." Harry finally mumbled to break the silence. "We just sort of…"
"Started dating?" Severus questioned with a raised eyebrow. Harry blushed but didn't deny it with a shrug. The man snorted.
"It was the same way with your mum." He finally admitted. Harry turned to him. "There was a post-game party. I didn't really want to be there, but Emmeline wouldn't let me be anti-social. I still was," the man admitted with a slight chuckle. "Spent the whole night with the same bottle of butterbeer in my hand, watching the fish out the window… then she walked over. We talked for a few minutes about… I can't quite remember about what actually," Severus said with a hum. "Then she reached out and kissed me." Harry had a small smile on his face as he listened to the man speak. He was sure a year ago, Severus would have recounted this story with a slight scowl or a melancholy expression. But now he had a small, almost smug, smile. Then the expression faltered slightly and shook his head. "I should have asked her to marry me years ago." He muttered.
"Maybe," Harry agreed quietly. "But think about how different things would have been!" Severus looked at him before reaching out to thread his fingers through his son's hair. Harry smiled before he yawned again.
"Have a nap." Severus declared. "I'm sure your mum will be back by the time you wake up." Harry nodded before settling down again and let his eyes drift closed as his father pulled out his book once again.
The house was damp and decrepit, creaking in the wind. It seemed to be storming outside, whistling and rattling the windows. Suddenly a flash of lightning lit up the space more than the small mouldering fireplace ever could. There was a man, kneeling in front of a festering armchair, blocking the fire with his body. There was… something… in the armchair. Something dark and sinister. Something horrible.
Barry Crouch Jr smiled and lifted the phial up into the firelight again. The few globules of ruby-red liquid within seemed to be flowing by some unseen force, as if a finger were swirling it around as it lay suspended in some more viscous liquid.
"The time has almost come."
"Yes my lord," Barty assured him with a smile.
"Soon we will make him pay."
"Yes, my lord."
"Soon… soon Harry Potter will be within my grasp!"
"Yes, my lord."
"Soon…" Barty nodded with a smile before he stowed the vial away again. Then he stepped away.
The creature in the armchair might have once been human. But now it was twisted and mutilated, shrivelled up and gangly. Its nose was flat, like a serpent, and its mouth was lipless and inhuman. And in the middle of his face were two massive blood-red eyes, with cat-like pupils. Suddenly the lips pulled back, revealing a mouth full of fangs.
"Soon Harry Potter. I will have you."
Then the room filled with screaming.
Only it wasn't in the room.
Harry gasped and sat bolt upright, flinching away from the arms grabbing him. He had a hand over his scar, which was still prickling. He blinked.
He was in his room.
"Harry darling?" Emmeline began quietly. Harry looked at her before he swallowed.
"Sorry… I just had a bad dream." Harry said quietly.
"You scar," Severus began, startling him again. "Does it always pain you when you have nightmares?"
"N-no," Harry admitted with a stutter, then sighed gratefully when the man conjured him a glass of water. "Sometimes… it depends."
"Hmm." Severus hummed quietly.
"Alright," Emmeline began before she adjusted his covers. "Lie down. Close your eyes. Try to fall back asleep." She said calmingly. Harry nodded slowly before he settled in. "Shhhhhhh." Harry sighed and then made a conscious effort to forget the nightmare.
And so he drifted off, slowly and gently, as Emmeline lulled him into dreamland.