Fractured State - Part II
Chapter 8 - EM-E - Fractured State - Part II
The Room had expanded to accommodate a buffet style dinner service which held a gigantic pepperoni pizza and a platter of lamb chops, roasted potatoes and carrots, and mint sauce. Remus attacked the pizza with Harry, ignoring the goading comments from Lucius and Severus about "adult choices" for dinner. Harry chuckled, in spite of his slowly returning tension, and Remus winked at him, taking two pieces of pizza and pausing as he glanced at a large square table that had appeared while they all loaded their plates.
"Molly sent a slew of lovely holiday treats home with me earlier today," Remus told Harry, facing him with his full plate. "It's a good bet that we'll not be interested in them tonight. Would you like to plan to spend some time together tomorrow, midday? Perhaps a subdued holiday celebration, to just relax and enjoy Molly's cooking?" Remus asked carefully. He desperately wanted to make sure Harry came away from this Christmas with a sense of how much he'd mattered to Sirius. He was relieved when Harry gave him a warm smile.
"That would be great, Remus," Harry said in a voice that was threatening to break. "I'd love to just hang out and listen to music. Maybe we could make it a tribute to Sirius. You could play the stuff he liked best, and maybe, I don't know, we could just let it be about him."
Remus managed to hold his composure. "That sounds ideal, Harry. It's a plan."
Harry gave him a watery smile and they made their way to the table to join Severus and Lucius. Harry was again aware that his guardian was observing him, and the sensation of feeling like he was closer to that sense of security he'd enjoyed so very recently was buzzing in his peripheral awareness, but the heavier weight of knowing that Professor Snape was currently operating from a place of obligation to his deceased best friend's son, and nothing more, was actually rather crushing.
"Will you tell us what you know about the horcruxes, Harry?" Severus asked, deliberately waiting until Harry had eaten most of his third slice of pizza before making his request. He could see that the boy continued to be ill at ease, which was causing Severus to feel ill at ease as well.
Harry set the remains of his pizza back onto his plate and wiped his mouth. His stomach plunged and the satisfying fullness he'd been feeling suddenly turned into a solid rock of displeasure in his stomach. "Yes, sir," he said, keeping his eyes on the table, his leg jiggling madly beneath it. "Voldemort created them using items that had some sort of meaning to him, some of it disdainful, I imagine." He gulped, knowing he needed to admit that he'd retrieved the locket when he'd gone to Grimmauld Place to avoid being paddled yesterday. "After my scar, and the diary, there's Salazar Slytherin's locket, the Hufflepuff chalice, the Ravenclaw diadem, some sort of possession that's buried under a floorboard in Tom Riddle's mother's family home in Little Hangleton, and Nagini. The diadem and the locket are here at Hogwarts. The Hufflepuff cup is in Bellatrix's vault at Gringott's. And that Gaunt family heirloom needs to be retrieved really soon. It had just been discovered when I got sent back in time. We'd destroyed the locket and the diadem by that point and had a plan to get the cup." He stopped, his agitation high as he replayed the events surrounding each of these phases in his now past-tense future. He looked up and found Severus watching him with narrowed eyes. He sighed. "They're really difficult to destroy, between the insane amount of dark magic holding them together and the fact that almost nothing can damage them, it's really…" he stopped, the heavy exhaustion of too many intense emotions taking a rapid toll. "Dumbledore had a theory that the inanimate ones needed to be destroyed first. And then Nagini, and then mine. I never found out why, but I'll bet that if Voldemort was still alive, Dumbledore's plan would be to kill the horcruxes first to get ol' Tom as weak as possible so he could be taken out."
"But you were able to destroy the Dark Lord, Harry, without first destroying the horcruxes," Lucius said. "How is that possible?"
Harry shot a look at Severus and Remus. "Well, that's another big development. Er, I started sensing my wild magic again on the last timeline when Remus brought me here that first day," Harry explained. When all three adult wizards had obvious intention to ask him to explain, he held up a hand. "It's that magic that we all have as children. You know, the wandless, nearly unconscious magic that seems to just go away at some point? I think that Voldemort tapped into his, because I'm certain that's how he got past the school wards earlier." He looked at Snape. "And, somehow it triggered mine, and I've learned to use it in a few ways. It's how I managed to leave the scene yesterday…"
"So, you wouldn't call that disapparating?" Severus asked carefully. He could tell that Harry was extremely nervous about the subject matter and now, of course, Severus was terribly intrigued. I'll bet this was a bone of contention between us in the other timeline.
"No, sir," Harry was responding. "It is a far more gentle experience. It's literally like slipping into a different dimension, or something. Like a tear in the fabric of reality, so to speak. I've started thinking of it as portholing."
"Portholing?" Lucius repeated with a smirk. "Hmmmm."
"Where did you go, when you portholed, Mr. Potter?" Severus asked.
"Headquarters," Harry said.
Remus was frowning, picking up on both Harry's tension and Severus' zeroing in on it, all the while struggling to comprehend that his young friend was describing a very unique ability. "What do we need to know about the appropriate next steps, Harry?" he asked, directing a narrow-eyed glower at Severus, and determined to derail whatever confrontation his colleague was intent on having with Harry.
But Harry was still directing his attention to Severus. "I knew the locket was there. You and I had gone there on a whim in the last timeline and had surprised Mundungus Fletcher in the act of looting the place. The locket was in a sack of stuff he'd taken, and it called to us, you might say. We realized it was a problem and brought it back here to destroy. This time, I had Kreacher get it for me and he brought me back here. I didn't touch it. I put it in the Chamber of Secrets for safe keeping."
Severus had felt his jaw drop and quickly snapped it shut, his brow furrowing under the weight of the excessive alarm at what the boy had just admitted.
Harry saw that Snape was nearly ready to bite his head off, so he launched into the rest of his speech, crossing his fingers under the table that the potions master would believe him. "I know how dangerous that was. I know. But I couldn't risk Mundungus getting it and leaving with it to go pawn off somewhere, and I wasn't exactly thinking I could tell you about it at that particular time." Now Severus' eyes were narrowing, and Harry's tension soared, but he stood his ground and glared at the potions master. "I couldn't just leave it there! The horcruxes convert people into Mini Voldemorts." He glanced at Lucius and Remus and was greeted with speechless shock. "And… that's it for my independent activity, I promise. I don't want to do any more of it alone." His voice broke when he said alone. He clenched his jaw and waited.
Severus intentionally allowed his expression to be stern as he regarded Harry. He reminded himself that he ultimately owed Harry a life-debt for killing Voldemort's corporeal form today, but he could hardly pay that debt to a dead fifteen-year-old Boy Wonder, now could he? Recalling that he'd just learned a very valuable lesson about taking Harry at his word, he had a decision to make about trusting this new promise of Harry's to take no more action on his own. Severus needed to process his thoughts and speak with the boy in private, and handle this properly. That decided, he took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, all the while staring down young Harry Potter a few moments longer, until he finally relented, turning his head to address the other two wizards, "And now, where do you each stand on bringing Albus into this?"
Lucius had also been watching Harry during the battle of wills between his best friend and the young wizard. He instinctively needed to know as much as possible about what their encounters with these dark objects would entail. The last time he'd had one in his possession, he'd passed it off to an eleven year-old witch and caused her unspeakable trauma. He flashed a look at Remus and saw that the last Marauder was still weighing his response. Finally, Lucius replied to Severus, but kept his eyes on Harry as he spoke, "I would trust Harry's judgement on that, Severus. Harry, was Albus involved at this point on the other timeline?"
"Yeah," Harry said shakily. "It worked out well, because he arrived when the rest of you did, in time to witness me destroying Voldemort, and he was able to take that right to the Wizengamot, and they started dismantling Fudge's power structure. It took weeks to get him reinstated as Headmaster, even with all of that working out. But I don't see how that could happen this time. Which means Fudge still can interfere here, and he could bring Umbridge back." And, once again, it's a bloody good thing I'm going to be emancipated.
"But, you would still opt to bring Albus in immediately," Severus concluded.
Harry nodded. "We need him," he said frankly. He felt overwhelmed again. This Dumbledore still had to be put in his place. Merlin.
They adjourned shortly thereafter so that Harry could get more rest. The current plan was to inform Albus tomorrow when he made his scheduled Boxing Day visit. Severus made it clear he wanted a private moment with Harry, so Lucius and Remus made to leave.
Lucius bowed to Harry formally, which induced an exhausted but amused smile from the young Griffindor. "I'm in your debt Harry."
Harry batted his eyes in an exaggerated attempt to remind the older wizard of the remarkable gift he'd just given Harry, again. "Not so much, actually," he said, and received an amused snort from the blond Slytherin as he turned to leave.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Harry," Remus said at the door to the fifth floor corridor. He gave Harry's shoulder a squeeze and when the boy met his eyes, let Harry see the depth of his affection.
Severus waited until they were alone to address his next concern with his ward. "I would like you to move into my quarters, Harry," he said carefully. "I don't think you should be alone with all of your burdens any longer. I had Lupin install a room for you last night."
Harry looked up at him in alarm. "Not yet. Please?" he begged. He was ragged with exhaustion now, and could not fathom how he could possibly survive being completely confined in those quarters when the mean version of his guardian resurfaced, as it had in the past/future. Severus was frowning at him, so he tried to explain, "You'll want to strangle me. I can't go through that, not on top of all of this."
Severus blinked, realizing he had no credibility to back up any promises he may make to watch his temper around the boy. "I am genuinely concerned about you being alone," he tried to explain. "I don't want you to hide your misery if you are feeling badly."
Harry didn't believe that was all his guardian was trying to prevent. "It took about three solid weeks of us being civil to each other last time before you had Remus put a room in for me, and by then school had started so it wasn't something I used every night."
Severus tilted his head. "I see no issue with you returning to your dorm when the new term begins, but in the meantime, I'd prefer to monitor your distress," he stepped closer to the boy and put heavy hands on Harry's shoulders, keeping his voice neutral when he asked, "You're not alone with this any longer. Do you still intend to keep things from me?"
Harry pulled away. "Please listen to me!" he rasped in desperation now. "I'm telling you, I'm not going to handle you snapping at me for getting on your nerves very well. We'll both be glad I can go to my dorm to be alone when it happens next."
"And I'm telling you, you could just as easily retreat to your bedroom in my chambers if that happens," Severus said, still managing the calmness.
Harry clenched his jaw, but tears rolled down his cheeks even still. "I'll feel trapped. I'm telling you, I'm going to lose it, really lose it, if things get any worse."
Severus frowned now. "And why would they get worse, now that your secrets are revealed? What are you not saying?"
"I'm saying…" Harry faltered. He didn't know why his instincts were driving him to stand his ground on this matter, but there was a very strong sense of panic bolstering his resolve. "I'm saying, I've got all I can handle as it is."
Severus had relented, but was now very unsettled by what Harry had claimed. He was currently walking the boy back to Gryffindor Tower, and the tension in Harry's posture made him wary about attempting to comfort him further. He did not back off, however, when they reached the common room, and proceeded to follow Harry up the stairs and stood by while the boy went to change into pajamas. I need to be more alert to what he's saying to me, Severus worried. He reviewed, albeit in a fast-forward recap, the claims the boy had made in recent days. He'd spoken of the hell his life was, of a lifelong struggle with being kept where he was not wanted, and today when he'd told Lupin about Bella's curse, he'd said he'd lost so much.
Harry returned, moving groggily toward the bed and clearly using his last thread of awareness to accomplish this. Severus stepped in front of him, forcing him to stop.
"Now that I know as much as I do, Harry, it will be much easier for me to be in a better temper around you," Severus said. "If you knew me well enough to call me Severus in the other timeline, you probably know this about me as well, hmmm?" He resisted the temptation to give Harry a hug, instead putting a hand on his shoulder and stepping aside to allow him access to the bed. As the boy crawled under the covers, he added, "I will not push you to lose it." Now he pulled the blankets and comforter up and around Harry's shoulders, tucking them so that no gaps would allow a chill to creep in, and lay his hand on the boy's head. Harry's eyes drooped heavily.
Severus pulled the desk chair over to the bed. "Would you like a dreamless sleep drought?" Severus asked.
"Your special recipe?" Harry murmurred, already nearly asleep.
That brought a smile to Severus' face, but the boy didn't see it. He quickly summoned the potion and slid his hand beneath Harry's neck to lift him so that he could drink it. "Sleep well," Severus said. He nearly called the boy Young Harry, for some reason, when his snarky sense of humor suggested he call him my little idiot, but the moment was lost and the boy was already in deep slumber.