Rewind - Part II
A/N: I told you it was an evil idea… oh, the angst, it's just soooo addicting! Well, hold onto your pointed hats, this one's a doosey.
Chapter 2 - EM-E - Rewind - Part II
Harry stumbled out of the floo into the Gryffindor common room and came to a standstill, facing the very cold silence of an evening he'd already lived through once, and feeling far more alone than he had the last time. Last time, I was only missing Sirius…
His wild magic was humming warmly under his skin, but Harry only had an overwhelming urge to go to sleep to escape this new reality as he flopped down onto the sofa, turning the jar of Snape's balm in his hand and staring into empty space. His mind was reeling at the countless conquests and obstacles he'd already overcome. And now, he had to live through them again.
He had to kill Voldemort again.
He had to go get the locket horcrux and destroy it again.
He had to go get the diadem horcrux and destroy it again.
He had to somehow get the Hufflepuff cup horcrux from the Black Family vault and destroy it.
He had to find out what the other horcrux was, and find it at the Gaunt family home and destroy it.
He had to kill Nagini, after he destroyed the other inanimate horcruxes. At least, according to Dumbledore.
And then, he had to kill the horcrux in his scar… and hopefully survive that.
And, oh Merlin, he had to get his Emancipation handled all over again.
In the meantime, Harry had to deal with… a lot of loss.
On that unfathomable note, in which Harry's mind struggled to shut off completely, he jumped to his feet and began to pace. It was what, half seven? He had several hours to set a plan before events began to take hold. The question was, how in the world would he do all of this? And how much could he truly do by himself, this time around? He stopped, staring into the fire as he tried to decide what to make his priority. Simple, he thought. I need to be sure I get emancipated. I still have to worry about Dumbledore, and Severus for that matter, trying to force me to do things their way, when they don't have the full picture… And with no one really listening to me.
The way Severus had.
How will I go through that whole second interview with Rebecca Chase again? He thought about the letter Aunt Petunia would be sending him, either tonight or tomorrow, and wondered how to intercept it, before Hedwig got killed trying to deliver it. Hopefully she's in the owlery, and Snape will get a warning to her. It was far too risky to tell Snape any more on that matter, or ask him for help. He'd barely escaped a walloping last time Snape had found out about his petition for Emancipation. At that point, his professor had already been softening toward him, which was probably what had saved Harry's hide. This time, Snape was more hostile, and to Harry, whose survival instinct had kicked back into high gear, that made the potions master someone to avoid at all costs. It also made Lucius Malfoy someone to avoid. Maybe Remus could be trusted, but he was currently on a mission for Dumbledore, if memory served. We just had a full moon, so Remus would be healthy enough to be available to help later in the week. But… Harry also knew the wan older wizard would insist on telling Dumbledore anything that Harry revealed to him, so… that left Harry feeling alone again.
Tuning into the steady thrum of his wild magic, which he now knew how to read, he realized he at least had that much in his favor. He'd only just been discovering it on this night, the last time around. Harry now recollected that he'd escaped his nightmares from practicing summoning to a point of exhaustion. He closed his eyes and centered his awareness, first concentrating on the warm heat that felt like it was under his skin, and then picturing his heavy jacket at Privet Drive, where it would still be in the cupboard under the stairs. Now he imagined it appearing on the sofa. The magical expenditure of energy felt familiar as he sought to utilize that peripheral power, as Severus had referred to it. But Harry could also sense that he was not yet strong enough in his current physical state, and he was unable to summon the jacket. Summoning from such a distance was difficult. Severus had been impressed when he'd done it, which had said something. Bugger. I've got to start building my power and strength up all over again as well.
Breaths heaving in and out of his chest as he stared at the fire in frustration, fingers still twirling the small glass jar in his hand, he gave into the fury that overtook him and he flung the jar into the fireplace, taking no satisfaction in the way it exploded and shattered, glass shards ricochetting back out and onto the hearth.
"Why did this happen?" Harry yelled in a rage, voice cracking as a dry sob struggled up in his chest, but the weight of his burdens was too heavy to allow watery emotion to escape. He could barely stand up now, barely breathe, as he circled around the sofa and sank down to the floor, leaning his back against the back of the long piece of furniture, a paralyzing feeling of defeat overtaking him.
Severus climbed the final owlery stairs and entered, combatting the darkness with a modified lumos that hovered like a floating lantern, illuminating his path as he sought out the snowy white owl familiar of one Harry Potter. The light reflected off of the wide eyes of nearly thirty of the nocturnal creatures inhabiting the school's owl sanctuary, all turned dramatically toward him. He scanned the lot of them, not seeing the one belonging to the boy.
"I'm looking for Hedwig," he announced to the large assembly of birds. There were a few hoots of annoyance, but no HOOT to announce Hedwig's presence. Where was she?
He was not particularly happy to have to inform Potter that he'd failed to come through with his side of their agreement. He imagined that having the owl around would be a comfort for Potter, which could only benefit them both. He'd not been indifferent to the panic behind the boy's request, nor had he been unaffected by the things Potter had said, but the emotions behind the words had been far more dramatic than the snippets of "secrets" that were supposedly being revealed. Severus knew when he was being placated. Considering the recent events that were impacting Potter's state of mind, Severus had not been particularly moved. He'd seen memories of Potter's home life during their Occlumency lessons, and it was clear that the family enjoyed letting their nephew be the butt of jokes. That hardly was cause enough for the wards to fail. As for the confession that the Dursley patriarch thought Potter had been showing off his magic last summer, and was still angry about it… well, try having to explain to the Dark Lord why exactly it is that you managed to allow Harry Potter to escape from his aunt's care, when it would have been the perfect opportunity to snatch him away. Now that is a reason to feel angst, and something Severus expected to be summoned to explain to his other master at any time.
Taking back to the icy stairs, Severus rubbed unconsciously at the dark mark on his arm as he descended, and pondered his last encounter with the Dark Lord. It had been perilous. Severus was worried about Lucius. His friend had been laying low since the Ministry debacle had left them all, even Bella, at the mercy of a very angry megalomaniac. The dark lord was out of patience with them. And Severus was feeling more strongly than ever that he was ready to end his role as spy for the Order. The entire situation was so incongruously unstable, it was only a matter of time before Severus would be dying a ridiculous and meaningless death. Just as Black had.
The tense potions master was pacing again. Back in his quarters, debating going up to tell Potter he'd missed his owl, Severus wanted to have a concession to offer. He had nothing in mind, as the idea of engaging the unruly teen any further left him feeling extreme resistance to making any unscheduled contact.
The floo flared green flames and Lucius Malfoy stepped through, haughty arrogance unimpaired in spite of Severus' fears that he'd suffered a cruel fate. The blond wizard took one look at Severus, blinked and raised an eyebrow of inquiry, then proceeded to summon the decanter of whiskey and a glass. He seated himself formally in Severus' leather armchair, looking exactly like the aristocrat he imagined himself to be. "And what, pray tell, is on your mind just now, Severus?" he asked, his pompous air intact as he took a fortifying sip of the amber alcohol.
Severus frowned at his friend. "I've been worrying about you, if you must know," he snarled. "Where in the bloody hell have you been, for Merlin's sake?"
"I have been maintaining close proximity to Cornelius," Lucius announced, smugly. "He finds me terribly trustworthy, you know. He's asked me to keep surveillance of the school during these holidays. It seems that even though Dumbledore is no longer residing at Hogwarts, he is fearful that Harry Potter would be hiding here… since the boy was not at his residence on Privet Drive late this afternoon, when Fudge made a personal call to the house."
"Fudge did what?" Severus snapped. "Why on earth would he have done that?" Severus' jaw was working as his already excessive ire bubbled more rapidly to the surface.
"I've no idea," Lucius said quietly, taking another sip. He looked up at Severus. "And not for lack of trying to find out, but the man was not inclined to share. He knows something, and he's acting very smug, and very confident."
Severus grabbed his own untouched glass from the mantle and took a healthy slug from it.
"Have you already given Potter a paddling?" Lucius asked with a touch of alarm from behind him, obviously seeing the wooden implement in its blatant display in the center of the mantle.
Severus took a fortifying breath. "A warning. That boy is going to be trouble. I've no doubt," he said, still not facing Lucius.
"How is he behaving?" the blond wanted to know.
"He has already pushed his luck," Severus said. "His circumstances are the most desperate yet, and these are the times when he acts out. I wanted to be certain he understood the parameters."
"Hmmmmm," Lucius hummed, contemplating. "I would like to have an opportunity to speak with him, to offer him the gift I've planned for some time now."
"He will not likely be receptive," Severus said with a smirk, finally turning to face his friend. "You'll have to work rather harder than I imagine you'd want to, all so that you can offer to do him a favor that will supposedly appease your longstanding guilt."
Lucius narrowed his eyes at the surly dark haired wizard. "You might try it, sometime, old friend. I'm told making amends does have its merits."
"Dobby!" Harry called out. He'd rousted himself from his catatonic state when an idea had occurred to him.
"Yes, Harry Potter?" the enthusiastic elf said as he popped into sight. "Does Harry Potter need Dobby's help yet?"
"Yeah," Harry said, recollecting now that he'd already asked Dobby to carry letters for him. He held out a folded note. "Will you be able to take this to my aunt? They're not at Privet Drive now. They're at a safe house somewhere. Do you need to know where that is?"
Dobby's ears slowly moved back to lay flat on the sides of his head, matching the furrow of his eyebrow. "Dobby can try to find her for Harry Potter," he said uncertainly.
"Okay, that would be great. If you do find her, don't let her see you, though, alright?"
"Of course not," the elf said, somewhat affronted. "Dobby remembers the Magical Statutes of Elfen Law."
"Oh! Right," Harry said, hopeful his tone was appeasing. "Listen, I'm not letting Snape or Dumbledore know that I'm asking you for help, so try not to be seen by them. And Dobby, if you can't find Aunt Petunia, then come back here and I'll have another letter for a different muggle, alright?" He bit his lip as the small creature took the note from him. "Be careful, alright? I don't want you to get into trouble over this, so come back if it's too difficult. I'll completely understand."
Harry suspected he could read doubt on the elf's odd countenance. But Dobby popped away again, leaving Harry in the lonely silence of the Common room once more. He waited for an hour, but started to lose hope after that, and decided to practice his summoning again. After two more hours of mild success at getting his pillow to appear, intact, on the sofa, he attempted to cast nonverbally and failed miserably. Defeat hit him again, so he went to drown his sorrows in the privacy of the shower, in case Snape came up to check on him.
Severus stepped out of the fireplace and onto the hearth in the Gryffindor common room, noting the crunch of glass beneath the soles of his boots as he stepped aside so that Lucius could follow. Severus knew exactly where that shattered glass had come from, and knew that it had been shattered during a tantrum. Ungrateful little wretch, he seethed.
"Evanesco," Lucius said in a low voice, directing his wand to vanish the glass shards while his eyes searched the room for Potter, already preparing himself for an unpleasant first encounter. "Might he already be in bed?"
"Perhaps," Severus growled, leading the way up the stairs to the fifth year boy's dorm room.
They entered to find Potter with his wand out, casting a shrinking charm on a large rugby shirt that had seen better days. The red and blue stripes were muted from many muggle washings, and there was an enormous blotch over the shoulder that lacked pigment altogether, probably a bleach stain. The boy had a few short stacks of neatly folded clothing, sorted by pants, trousers, shirts and jumpers, and collected on his bed. None of it was in particularly good shape. There was a large pile of mismatched socks, all of which had holes, and all of which were far too large for Potter's feet. On that thought, Severus glanced down at the boy's feet, seeing they were bare beneath the overly long and very ratty pajama bottoms he now wore. The blisters were still there, which reignited Severus' annoyance, but he was also noting the red blotchiness of Potter's complexion, his red rimmed eyes and red nose were visible in spite of the way he was keeping his head ducked down. He'd obviously shed recent tears, his wet hair suggesting he'd probably stood beneath the shower spray while he'd cried. A twinge of sympathy stirred in Severus' chest.
"Potter," he said quietly, "I was unable to locate your owl."
Harry's eyes darted up to his professor's and he failed to mask the heartbreak he was reliving, all the while knowing what awaited Hedwig early tomorrow morning. He was startled to see Lucius was there too, and realized he was supposed to act shocked and angry at the sight of him, but couldn't bring himself to do so. Instead he met the blond wizard's eyes for the briefest of instances and then turned his back to both of the older wizards, his breathing accelerating with his racing thoughts. Right now, he had to worry about keeping Snape from finding out about his petition, and keeping Hedwig from getting killed by a centaur's arrow.
"Surely you have a comment on the matter, Potter," Severus challenged, thinking that if the boy's defenses were down, he might be able to get more information out of him.
"Actually, I don't," Harry said, still not turning to face them. "I don't understand why you'd bring Mr. Malfoy here, or anywhere near me, for that matter. But it's not as if I would feel safe to comment on it, or on anything at all. Dumbledore expects me to blindly trust you. But I don't. No more than I trust Dumbledore."
Lucius' eyebrows shot up and he looked like he was ready to make one of his off-beat comments until he met Severus' glare. He instead managed to look grim.
"Turn around," Severus commanded. He waited while the boy did as he was told, watching as Potter tossed the shirt he'd been holding onto the bed, but kept his wand in his hand. "Put. Your. Wand. Away. Now."
Harry knew he needn't fear that Lucius would hurt him, and he wasn't actually holding onto his wand to protect himself from either older wizard. But every defensive trigger that Snape had always known how to provoke had been set off in Harry, and he was ready to bang heads with this version of Severus. He hated this side of his professor, and he was damned if he was going to take any more abuse from him, or anyone else. He let that hatred come through as he glared at his former guardian. His wild magic hovered at the edge of his awareness, as he leaned forward to make sure he made himself clear, mimicking Snape's dramatic enunciation as he said, "I. Will. Not. I. Do. Not. Trust. You."
Incensed, Severus weighed the merits of pushing this further, realizing it could only end with Potter over his knee, and that was not likely to facilitate a more cooperative attitude from this little menace. Holding Potter's challenging glare he leaned forward as well, mimicking the boy's tone right back as he countered coldly, and yes, enunciating dramatically, "Nor. Do. I. Trust. You. But I do not have my wand out, do I?" He straightened back up, watching the angry teen struggle to process the situation. Potter was not stupid enough to think he could hold his own in a battle of wands, Severus knew this. But the willful boy was making some sort of point that was not registering with him. Severus folded his arms over his chest. "I'm waiting, Mr. Potter."
Harry was losing his nerve, and the tears he'd given into earlier were threatening to return. His hands were shaking as he slid his wand up into his sleeve, keeping his eyes averted from both of the adult wizards.
"Mr. Malfoy is here, Potter, because he has been asked by Minister Fudge to watch Hogwarts. To make sure you are not hidden away here," Severus said. When Potter's eyes darted up to his, there was a wariness mixed in with the underlying panic that had been coloring the boy's energy since he'd awoken him for dinner earlier in the evening.
"Yes, Harry," Lucius inserted, nodding his head minutely in silent greeting when Harry looked his way, "and while I realize you've only ever known me to be a menace and enemy, that is not truly the case."
Harry clenched his jaw, stifling the surge of recent memories when Lucius Malfoy had been extremely kind to him, and caring, and had risked his life to protect Harry more than once. Harry wisely stayed silent, allowing the adults to believe his struggles were based on a history they didn't know he'd already gotten over.
"Mr. Potter," Severus said, forcing a more moderate tone into his voice, "you could do us the courtesy of responding. These efforts are, after all, being done on your behalf."
"I'm afraid if I open my mouth, my sentiments wont be well received," Harry said, still not looking at either of them. But when Lucius snorted in amusement, he nearly let a smirk make its way to his face. Bad idea, Harry, he warned himself. So, he clenched his jaw and waited.
"We need to be certain we are all understanding what is at stake, Harry," Lucius said. "I am playing a role, and am in the confidence of the Ministry because I've let Minister Fudge believe I share his desires for corrupted power." Lucius waited for a response, certainly a disdainful look of doubt? But the boy stayed silent, so he continued. "At the same time, I am hiding what I know about you from the Dark Lord. And I am supporting the work of the Order of the Phoenix through Severus and Albus Dumbledore. Understand?"
Harry nodded, then added as an afterthought, "Yes, sir." He looked up and caught Lucius giving Snape a look that said, see? If you treat him with respect, he'll be respectful. And again, he had to stifle the urge to smile.
"I found out from Minister Fudge today, Harry, that he'd paid a visit to Privet Drive later in the afternoon," Lucius went on.
That got Harry's attention. Had Fudge done that last time? "Why?" Harry asked, very unsettled.
"He wouldn't say," Lucius replied. "He's up to something."
"Yes," Severus chimed in, still managing to keep the assault out of his tone, "and I believe you are also up to something, young man. I am asking you to be forthcoming. Much is at stake. Lives are at stake, Potter."
Harry looked at him, and he could feel his raw misery paint itself all over his face. "I know that, Professor," he said, and his voice broke in spite of his efforts to hold it together. "It would help a lot if you would actually consider that I know that. I've been in this mess my whole bloody life!"
They were interrupted by a pop and a whimper of surprise that sounded very much like Dobby, followed by another pop. And silence.
"Your little elfen fan club is another reason why I take issue with you being secretive," Severus said, not acknowledging the boy's outburst, because he'd again been unmoved. The words themselves had told him nothing, but the ongoing frantic undertone in Potter's behavior spoke volumes about what he was not saying.