Fractured State - Part III
Chapter 9 - EM-E - Fractured State - Part III
As was now becoming a habit, Severus sat watching over Harry for at least an hour before feeling assured the boy would sleep for a solid night. It was barely eight o'clock when he returned to his quarters to think things through. When he stepped out of the floo, he was surprised to see the former Headmaster waiting for him in his leather armchair.
"Albus," he greeted warily, taking a seat on the sofa and facing his mentor with an expression that openly revealed his conflicting anger and shame, much of it being tied in with the elderly wizard's oversight of Harry's upbringing. Careful with that, he warned himself, it's entirely hypocritical of you to accuse him of neglecting Harry, when you have done not only that yourself, but have also been abusive and cruel to the boy.
"Are you alright, Severus?" Albus asked in concern. "Has something happened?"
"A great deal has happened, Albus," Severus said. "I'm not certain which is the most important development to relay to you." He held the former Headmaster's gaze.
"Is Harry alright?"
"I can't say that he is," Severus said. "Albus, Harry destroyed Voldemort's corporeal body today."
Albus' eyes widened and his eyebrows shot upward. "How did this come to be?"
"I've yet to get full details," Severus admitted, "but both he and Lucius were transported to the Dark Lord, here on the grounds. Voldemort tortured Lucius and assaulted Harry to some degree. Harry somehow utilized his peripheral magic to break Voldemort's neck, and then transformed his body into brittle matter which he blasted and banished." He watched the way Albus was absorbing this information and could see his mentor was flabbergasted. "He's spent much of the day recovering his strength, but we did have an opportunity to hear more from the boy. He informed us that there are horcruxes, and that there were seven originally."
"How could he know all of this?" Albus asked in open shock.
"Did you know all of this?" Severus snapped angrily. "Did you know his scar was one?"
"I had my suspicions, Severus," Albus admitted heavily. "Harry did say the other day that he knew so much more than we realized…"
"He's known he had a very strong connection to Voldemort since last summer," Severus said severely. "He apparently tried to talk to you about it, but your distant attitude discouraged him. And it's clear that he felt he had no one else to turn to." And that is where I also played my role. "Albus, this entire scenario is further complicated by the fact that Harry has experienced an episode of time travel, induced by a curse from the Dark Lord's favorite psychopathic witch. He's already lived through these holidays, and well into January, and so had already experienced these difficulties. I've just left him to sleep through the night, but not until he indicated his fear of his own fragility at how much he's managing as of now." Severus could feel his eyes reddening, and was further induced to feel sadness by the sight of Albus' emotions. He rubbed at the his eyes, struggling to hold his composure.
"We must be very careful with him, Severus," Albus warned, ducking his head to blot his own eyes with a conjured handkerchief.
"I find that statement quite ironic, old man," Severus said, the anger resurfacing to add a hostile edge to his tone. "The wards fell at Privet Drive because Harry and his aunt went into muggle London to petition for legal Emancipation. Petunia released custodial responsibility of the boy, and made her sentiments where he is concerned very, very clear." He clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. "He has not yet admitted to details, but Harry has indicated that he was mistreated by the Dursleys. I wonder how much of this you suspected? Why were you keeping him there, Albus? To toughen him up?"
Albus rose to his feet and walked slowly over to the mantle, where he lay his hand and pressed his forehead against it. "To some extent, yes, but I…" he paused. "I was not aware that things were bad enough there to require such a drastic action." He turned back to the younger wizard. "Severus, Harry needs a legal guardian immediately-"
"It's handled," Severus said. "I have myself taken that responsibility, conditional upon an interview with a muggle social worker on Friday. As of now, the Ministry of Magic appears to not yet be aware of this state of affairs. I suspect that Minister Fudge had been tipped off that all was not well at Privet Drive, because he made an unannounced visit to the house on Monday, but alas, was too late to speak to Petunia."
At nine o'clock the following morning, Severus stood before the newly added stretch of wall space in his sitting room with eyes narrowed, lost in contemplation. He was viewing his brand new copy of the Marauder's Map, compliments of Remus Lupin, who'd delivered it last evening, in time to encounter Albus, and to disclose that he'd made a plan to spend some time with Harry today for a modified memoriam to Black. Severus suspected that Lupin had provided that detail to discourage him from interfering, or objecting, neither of which held any appeal anyway.
At the moment, Severus was watching Harry Potter's marker on the map maintain a state of idleness, which the boy had engaged for nearly an hour now, after returning to his dorm room from the shower, where he'd also spent about an hour. He had multiple concerns to address with young Mr. Potter, all of which were contingent upon Severus' own ability to earn the boy's trust, his genuine trust.
Tap tap tap.
Harry blinked repeatedly, turning distracted eyes to see his guardian had entered his dorm room.
"Good morning. Have you eaten?" Severus asked.
"No, sir," Harry responded quietly.
Severus jerked his head toward the door. "Come, have some breakfast with me. I've not yet eaten, either."
Harry felt deep reluctance to move from where he'd been seated in the small windowed alcove near his bed. He'd felt like he was hauling around an extra hundred pounds of baggage since he'd awoken, feeling foggy and down, a couple of hours prior. He looked over at the older dark haired wizard, who was now tilting his head and frowning slightly at Harry's hesitation. Not really interested in a battle of wills, he stood slowly and made his way over to Severus. By the time he reached his guardian, Severus was raising his hand in the familiar way that meant he would rest it on Harry's neck, and Harry let him.
At the fireplace, Severus pulled Harry close to his side and draped an arm around his shoulders. He flooed them both down to his quarters, aware again of the familiarity the boy seemed to have with what should have been an unfamiliar gesture. He guided the boy into the kitchen and they sat down to a light breakfast that neither of them had any interest in eating.
Harry was aware of Severus' tension, but he was also aware that there was no visible sign of the wretched Snape side of his guardian's nature at the moment. "Why have you not eaten yet, sir?" he asked.
Severus inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly before answering. "Because I took a short trip to Little Whinging this morning, to gather some facts, so to speak. I toured through the house, taking note that there was no sign of you there. Except in a sparsely decorated bedroom upstairs, and in the cupboard under the stairs." When Harry sat back in his seat, expression registering deep dread, Severus continued softly, "I respect your desire to speak nothing of your experience in the Dursley's home, Harry, but I believe it would behoove us both if I at least am prepared for our interview tomorrow with Madam Chase. When I spoke to her on Tuesday, she indicated that she was convinced you had withheld disclosure about your experiences there." Severus stopped, reading a shift in Harry's expression.
"That happened last time, too," Harry admitted. "Sir, Rebecca Chase is Dean Thomas' aunt." When Severus' eyebrows shot upward, Harry added, "And she recognized my name, and yours, from things Dean had told her about each of us. She'll probably tell us that tomorrow. Last time, I told her that I needed to be emancipated because of the danger in the Wizarding world, which she'd also heard about, and she didn't press much further."
Severus clenched his jaw for a moment before trying once again to formulate his request for more substantial information about Harry's childhood. "If she were to find out about the way you were treated by your relatives, would she want to alert the muggle authorities?"
Harry blanched. He hated the wash of cold sweat that came over him whenever this particular truth came too close to the surface. But he knew Severus would persist if he didn't relent and just answer the question. He remembered how kind Severus had been in the last timeline when the Prophet had published the exposé about his childhood. Even still, his mouth quivered and nausea bubbled upward into his stomach. He opened his mouth to speak, but found himself panicking, and clamped it shut again.
"Harry?" Severus asked carefully.
Harry ducked his head and gripped his hair with both fists. "Yes! Alright?" he rasped, angry at himself for being rude, but hating having to let this horrible shame come to the light. "They would be in trouble for the way they've treated me." He looked up at Severus and saw shock on the older wizard's face. "And I already feel like enough of a loser on my own, without having to tell other people about how pathetic-" he couldn't say the rest. His throat had clamped shut. He cast his gaze off to the side and swallowed hard.
Severus reached across the table and grasped both of Harry's wrists, inducing the boy to look up at him with an expression that was heartbreaking to witness. "You've said enough," he said calmly. "I disagree with your conviction that telling other people will make you look pathetic, but I understand how you've come to that conclusion because, while unrealistic, it would be the conclusion that I would have made in similar circumstances." He waited, watching the way his ward battled to push this aspect of his life back down into the deep recesses of him mind. "So, when we meet with Madam Chase tomorrow, we will focus on the danger presented by the Dark Lord and the Ministry of Magic."
Harry nodded. "Yeah," he agreed. "Thanks." He looked up at Severus again when his guardian had released his wrists. "I wrote her a letter and had Dobby take it to her office Monday night. She'd probably read it already by the time you saw her." A smile tugged unexpectedly at the corner of his mouth. "Last time around, the two of you became friends. She helped us get an MRI of my scar in January." Harry went ahead and told Severus about the divot that had shown up on the MRI, and the conclusion that they'd come to that Harry's horcrux should be destroyed by putting basilisk venom on it, and that Harry would have to shield the rest of himself while the procedure was underway.
"No wonder you're overwhelmed," Severus murmured. He reached for a couple of slices of toast and served himself a small portion of eggs and sausages while he wrestled down the surge of panic at this information. A divot? He glanced back at the boy and was pleased that Harry seemed more at ease at his low key reaction, and was now also serving himself a small amount of food. Severus cleared his throat. "I understand you'll be spending time with Lupin later today?"
Harry's eyes shot up to meet his. "Yeah," he said quickly. "I forgot to tell you. Is that going to be alright?"
"It is," Severus said. "Other than to plan to dine with me nightly, I believe it is wise to set a ground rule that you keep your map, galleon and cloak with you at all times when you are outside of these quarters or your common area. But, as I now have a copy of the Map, I will have a visual of your whereabouts at any given time moving forward, I see no reason to place restrictions on your movement within the castle. I still have significant concern that Minister Fudge will show up unannounced." He could see that this statement triggered a reflection for Harry. "What are you thinking?"
"Fudge did show up on Friday of this week last time," Harry confirmed. "We should be prepared for that sort of thing at any given moment, actually."
"I have a gift for you, Harry," Remus announced later that afternoon, after they'd feasted on a variety of Molly's meat pies and sweets. He handed a small package to Harry with a subdued version of his warm smile.
Harry opened the wrappings and found a handbook of spells. "The Auror's Guide to Practical Investigative Magic," he read aloud with a grin. He turned it over and saw the imprint of the Great Britain Ministry of Magic. "Wicked!"
"It's one of the official manuals for first year auror training," Remus explained, lighting up immediately at Harry's reaction. "I had Dora purchase it under her name, which is of course against the rules, so you'll have to guard it carefully." He nodded at the book, adding, "There are several quite inventive spells in there that I'll bet you'll find useful. The one that is actually my favorite can't be used within the school due to the extensive protective enchantments in the castle, so you'll have to give it a try off campus, once you're emancipated."
"Which one is that?" Harry asked, flipping through the pages.
"The portable peekhole charm," Remus said. "It requires some transfiguration as well as charm work to master, but you'll handle it, no doubt. You can use it to see through walls and doors. As an auror, you'd utilize it before entering a premises that you intend to search."
"Thanks, Remus," Harry said. "It's brilliant."
"You're welcome, Harry."
"I've got something for you as well," Harry said, somewhat hesitantly. He'd just found the gift he'd planned for Remus earlier in the term, but had forgotten all about when the Ministry debacle had changed everything. He handed it over to the older wizard, explaining as Remus unwrapped a twin photo frame with only one photo in it, "I'd planned for us to get a newer photo together for the other frame. We still can, when school resumes. Colin will be happy to help with that."
Remus smiled at the image of him with Harry in the Great Hall during Harry's third year. It was a candid photo, so neither of them was facing the camera, but they were sharing a hearty laugh and Remus was wiping his eyes. "I don't remember this. What were we laughing at?"
Harry snickered. "Draco was showing off his Carpe Retractum spell, only he'd messed up and had just flung a bowl of spotted dick all over Goyle."
"Ah yes," Remus said with a chuckle. "I most certainly look forward to more of that sort of entertainment."
"Can't wait," Harry agreed.
"Thank you, Harry. I'll want that second photo as soon as we can manage it." He'd definitely come out of his earlier gloominess now, thanks to Harry. "Let's try of few of those spells in your handbook, shall we?" Remus suggested.
It was nearing the dinner hour when Severus received his first message from Harry through their galleons, suggesting he join them in Lupin's quarters for a little while before dinner. He arrived to find Harry stretched out on the floor near the fireplace, listening to a muggle LP on Lupin's record-player. Severus rolled his eyes at the sounds of Bread's Make It With You playing in the background, but changed his expression when he saw the pained angst in Harry's profile. The boy was lost in thought, and staring up at the high ceiling of Lupin's sitting room.
Severus took a seat on the small sofa, accepting a cup of tea from Lupin with a murmured thank you. "What have you two been up to today?" he asked, eyes on Harry, wondering where the boy's thoughts had taken him.
Remus sat in the squashy armchair opposite the sofa. "We've done some reminiscing, practiced a bit of magic," Remus started.
"Ate a bunch of holiday treats," Harry added. He sat up and faced the older wizards with his back to the dwindling fire. When he met Severus' eyes, he saw concern, and that made him a tad nervous, even while a warm feeling of reassurance flowed through him. "I realized I should tell you more about some things that happened on the last timeline. For some reason, I'm doubting they'll play out the same way this time, but I reckon it would pay to be prepared." He smirked at Severus' sarcastically raised eyebrow. "The Ravenclaw diadem is hidden in the Room of Requirement. Last time around, several people went looking for it and we didn't figure it out until it was too late." He stopped, biting his lip. "I don't think I should tell you about that part yet, but the part I do think you should hear right now is that on the first day of the new term, Wormtail smuggled himself back into the school. I believe he hitchhiked onto the Hogwarts Express and got in that way. We managed to catch him up in the fifth floor hallway that same night. And we never really talked about it, but now I'm realizing he knew about the diadem, and probably knows it's a horcrux. That could mean he knows what the others are, or where they are…"
Both Severus and Remus had grown tense at this, not only for the newly realized threat, but because each of them loathed Wormtail for his own reasons, as did Harry.
"I would rather set an aggressive offense against that squirmy little rodent, than wait to see what he presents, and only then attempt to defend against it," Severus said, directing the comment to Lupin, but also including Harry by returning his attention to the boy.
"I would, as well," Remus said. "As Harry has pointed out, no one officially knows that Voldemort is dead. His closest allegiances will have likely begun to panic at the sudden silence. It is only a matter of time before another resurrection is attempted."
"Agreed," Severus said, nodding. "Harry, the Headmaster made a surprise visit last night after you'd gone to sleep."
"Oh," Harry said. "So, he knows?"
"He was given an overview," Severus replied, tension more visible now. "I am feeling more inclined to agree with you at this point that we will indeed need him." He looked at Lupin, who nodded in agreement.
"Good," Harry said. "Last time around I was the one who didn't want to trust him." He searched his guardian's unsettled expression and relaxed enough to smile a small smile. "It's a bit strange, to hear myself saying that. Last time around, it was you who had to convince me." He remembered something suddenly. "It may seem trivial, but it's related, and I promised Kreacher." He explained that he needed to purchase a duplicate locket for the curmudgeonly elf, to replace the horcrux.
Severus nodded slowly, eyes narrowing as he considered an idea. "We can get this handled immediately," he said. "And I know just where to go for it. We'll send Lucius."