Harry awoke feeling fully refreshed. He was to meet Snape at his house at noon, and had plenty of time to get ready. He used a spell that was equivalent to showering to clean, ate the one remaining sandwich, and re-dyed his hair magically, which was fading back to its normal hue. Harry emptied the contents of his bag onto the floor of the living room and considered the few things he had to deal with before he would be ready for school.
First, he had to figure out how and where to hide things that Jacob Walker would not be likely to possess. That included his Firebolt, his Invisibility Cloak, and his Time-Turner. He couldn't risk losing it. Not that it would be impossible to replace, but he had to be able to access it easily. Wearing the Time-Turner around his neck, as he was doing now, would be too risky. Harry considered locking it in a box and putting a protective charm on it, but that would make it too hard to get quickly. He settled on transfiguring it, at least for a little while, into a framed photo of him as a baby (or what was supposedly him). No one would have a reason to take it, and it wouldn't be suspicious, but unique enough for him to remember.
He wrapped all other things that fell into the suspicious category in two spare sheets from the master bedroom. He put them at the bottom of Hermione's beaded purse, where they were unlikely to be discovered. It was too bad that the bag would be suspicious, since it was girly, but that didn't matter much compared to how useful it had proved to be.
Second, Harry had to count his money. He had about twenty pounds in Muggle currency, along with nearly 150 Galleons. This would last him at least the year, maybe two, but he'd have to visit Gringotts in his own time for more money if he stayed longer. He didn't Snape to think he was as rich as James, so he had to be careful about what he spent.
Harry already had most of the required supplies for school, he just needed to make sure the publication dates were blacked out and the edition numbers covered. There was only one book he had to buy, plus a new, smaller cauldron and potion supplies. Snape would think it was strange for him to suddenly have everything he needed, so he decided to suggest they split for an hour so he could get their owls. Then he could just say he got his supplies along the way. It would be a bit of a stretch, but Snape would never guess the real way he had acquired them.
When he was ready to go, it was a quarter to twelve. Harry grabbed his purse, along with another larger one he could use to hold his supplies. He left his suitcase where it was and Apparated downriver from Snape's house. It was a bright day outside, crisp and still a bit cool from the previous night. An easy breeze swept over the grass, ruffling Harry's (now blond) hair.
He had to admit, he was a little nervous to meet Eileen Snape, formerly Eileen Prince. However, he was still less anxious that everything would go smoothly over the next couple days. He'd had excellent luck so far, and if it kept up, everything would be okay.
Harry reached the edge of the forest and began down Spinner's End. When he reached the Snape house, he couldn't hear any arguing or fighting, thankfully. He knocked on the door, then waited for someone to answer, shifting from foot to foot to calm his nerves. After a few seconds, he heard a muffled voice, someone calling, "He's here!" then footsteps approaching him.
Severus opened the door. "Come in," he said, voice strained, opening the door wider.
Harry entered, feeling out of place. He was inside Snape's house, about to go shopping with him. As friends. If someone during his years at Hogwarts had told him he would one day be friends with Snape, he would've had them admitted to St. Mungo's.
The living room was unkempt, with various things lying about. The furniture was dusty, and the smell of smoke was strong. It may have been more normal for a Muggle home to be dirty, where it took physical labor and time to clean, but simple household messes were rarer in wizarding homes. It took much less work to clean with magic. The Snape family's priorities, as Harry could've guessed before, judging by Severus's greasy hair and shabby wardrobe, were not cleanliness.
There was the sound of a glass being put down and Eileen Snape walked out of the kitchen. She had messy, medium-length black hair that fell partly over her face, which was long, sullen, and pale. She had a nasty bruise over her left eye, and the way she gingerly moved her arm suggested that it was injured. It must have happened recently or else she would've tried to heal it…Maybe Severus' parents had just been fighting. That would explain his unusually tight voice, the unnatural quiet of the house.
Harry remembered Eileen vaguely from Snape's memories, from the brief scene he had glimpsed her husband shouting at her. Even with his own upbringing, it was hard to imagine what it must be like to hear his father abuse his mother and not be able to do anything about it. For a moment, he imagined Snape curled up and crying in his bedroom, listening to crashes and shouts. He wondered if Tobias Snape was somewhere around here, or if he had retreated somewhere else to lose himself under alcohol's influence.
Mrs. Snape looked him up and down coldly, her judgmental stare bearing a likeness of her son's as an adult. "So you're Jacob Walker?" she asked, and it was more of a statement than a question.
"Er…" Harry began, but he didn't need to reply. The witch, who clearly could care less about his name, his existence for that matter, strode past him to the fireplace. She started a fire with a wave of her wand and retrieved a plastic cup filled with Floo Powder, using her uninjured arm to do so. Eileen expanded the fireplace so they would fit with another flick of her wand. She threw some Floo Powder in, and the flames turned bright green. Without caring to instruct either of the two boys, she took another handful and stepped into the fire.
"Diagon Alley," she said clearly after throwing the powder at the ground. The flames swallowed her and she disappeared.
There was the sound of heavy footsteps, and Tobias Snape appeared in the kitchen. Holding a large whiskey bottle that was nearly empty, the man swayed into the room. He had a stupid, drunken smirk on his face and a crazed look in his bloodshot eyes. Harry glanced quickly at Severus, who had stiffened, his face was hardened with hatred and disgust. Father and son made eye contact.
"Where's Eileen?" Tobias had a hoarse voice, which cracked as he cackled. He swayed slightly as he walked toward Snape, ignoring Harry, who stepped between them. He lurched suddenly toward Snape, who pulled Harry aside with him.
Severus' father stood, shaking with silent laughter, and he slowly turned around. He went back to Snape and grabbed the front of his loose dark gray shirt. Harry snapped out of his horror at the dangerous glint in his expression.
Leaning in to Severus' face, Tobias yelled, "WHERE DID THAT BITCH—"
Harry cut Tobias off before he could finish by punching him hard in the face.
Then he stared in disbelief at his fist, as if it would hold an explanation for his impulsive behavior. He…had just hit the father of someone he supposedly just met, even though Tobias had deserved it.
Severus' dad groaned on the ground. While Tobias struggled to recover, Harry pointed at the plastic cup above the fireplace and motioned for Snape to hurry. After a fearful look at his father, who was regaining his senses, Snape ran over to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of powder.
"You go next. I told you how to do it before, right?" Severus whispered as loud as he dared, his voice shaking slightly. Harry nodded, and Severus hurriedly repeated the steps his mother had taken.
Now it was just Harry and the drunk, who was coming to his senses, swearing loudly. Before the man could stand, Harry pulled out his wand and erased the memory Tobias had of being punched, then stunned him.
Harry looked grimly at the sprawled figure in front of him. He hoped that, in his intoxicated state, the man would not be able to piece together that magic had been used on him. Harry, not wanting to stick around, grabbed his bags and stepped into the fireplace.
How can I help Severus' family? he thought as the flames swallowed him. Maybe it's not something I should get myself involved with. Fireplaces flew by as he rushed closer and closer to Diagon Alley. Suddenly, Harry reappeared in a fireplace of a store he didn't recognize. He stood, coughing, in the dust that had sprung up by his entrance. He vacated the hearth and blinked, eyes watering. Snape was standing nearby, looking relieved that Harry had made it out of the house without being injured. His composed face was now giving way to his feelings; he seemed shaken and maybe even scared.
Eileen handed Snape a small, ratty cloth tied up into a sack, probably containing the meager amount of money for today's exploits. She lectured him on using the money only for what he needed, because that was all he was getting this year, and he nodded, clutching his supply list tightly.
"Well, Severus, I'll pick you up here at…six o' clock," his mum said curtly. She looked at both of them briefly, then Disapparated.
Snape and Harry left the store into the bright sunshine outside. The street was packed with all sorts of people, all bustling down the street and in and out of shops. The two boys walked to an open space underneath the awning of a potion supply store.
"Okay, so if you want, we can split up for an hour. I'll buy your owl while you get your robes and wand. Then we'll meet back here."
Snape nodded and looked down, shoulders sagging. "Listen, about what happened…" He trailed off because his voice began to shake.
"It's okay." Harry said hurriedly. "I just hope that he won't do anything like that again."
Harry could feel anger boiling inside him, that there could be people like Severus' dad, that kids could bully Severus without thinking about what he already experienced at home. Why didn't people realize how much it could hurt to be ridiculed? If they didn't consider mental torture as bad as physical torture, maybe they would need to see every negative word they said burned onto the skin person they make fun of, so they can see the scars they leave. But…couldn't they already see the pain in Severus' eyes?
"Will you be okay?" Harry forced himself to calm down.
"I'll be—I'll be fine." Severus was not convincing in the least, but he seemed to want to be alone so he could recover.
They set off in different directions. Harry weaved his way in and out of the crowd to the Owl Emporium. He was determined to buy Severus the best owl in the shop. Though he knew possessions wouldn't help lessen the pain Severus had experienced, he hoped his kind gesture would.
The Owl Emporium was small and relatively dark inside. There were about fifteen people crammed inside, all trying to get close-up looks at different owls. As Harry scanned the room, he noticed one particularly eye-catching owl.
It was a barn owl. It had a white, slightly heart shaped face, with unnatural blue eyes that seemed to bleed into the feathers around them. Its body was dark gray flecked with white, and it was pretty big. It was quite beautiful in a deadly, mysterious way. The bird, who had been looking straight ahead before, slowly turned its head unblinkingly toward Harry as he approached it.
"Sir?" Harry turned and called to a man in his forties who had just finished helping a mom and a bouncing young son pick out a simple brown owl.
"Yes, how may I help you?" The man smiled and looked from Harry to the bird he stood in front of. "Oh…Yes, a rare mutated Barn owl. Usually the species is a pale color, or brown…but this one is like soot, with blue eyes…" For a moment, Harry wondered if the man would let him buy the owl. "If you are interested, she is eighteen Galleons." The ridiculous pricing indicated he clearly was not keen on giving her away.
"I'll take her," Harry said, pulling out the coins. Disappointment shaded the man's face for only a moment before he recovered slightly and took the money. After inspecting the Galleons carefully, the man grunted and got the caged owl for him.
"Oh, and also…can I have that white one in the corner? Yes, yes, that one. Thank you…"
Harry left the shop, weighed down by the two cages. It might've been smarter to have bought them toward the end of the hour, because now he had an extra forty-five minutes in which he had to carry them.
He bought a cauldron along with some basic potions ingredients, which meant the only thing left for him to buy was the one Defense Against the Dark Arts book. Flourish and Blotts was not too far away, so he headed there.
The store was very lively, though not too crowded, since it was larger than most stores.
There were at least twenty Hogwarts students in the store – he could hear snippets of their conversations – "Mum, I know it's not on the list…please? It'll be my going away present!" "Ooh…look, the new edition of Alohomora: Unlocking the Secrets of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!" and—
"Dad, I don't know how that got in there! I swear!"
Harry froze in place and turned toward the voice.
It was his father.
James Potter stood next to a man who slightly resembled him, most likely his father, who already had gray hair. James was looking his best to look innocent as his dad held up a thick school book in one hand and a thin one in the other. Harry casually walked over to the bookshelf behind them and heard his father read in a low voice, "116 Ways to Cheat in Class?" He tried to stifle a smile. "You hid this in a book? Really, James. I would've expected you to put in a little more effort."
"Good job, dad. I'm impressed," James said, trying to hide his disappointment. But then, when his dad turned around to go to the checkout, James pulled a Galleon out of his pocket and hid it casually in his hand. He grabbed another book that was sitting in wait on a shelf nearby, then went over to the counter with his father.
After his dad paid and was pushing through the crowd, James bought the book, one that blended in with the rest of the other standard school books. But by the mischievous look on James' face, he knew it wasn't on the Hogwarts supply list.
Harry felt a renewed sense of excitement. First he had felt awed, then depressed, then too overwhelmed to think clearly, and now he felt light-headed with disbelief. How had he expected he'd react when he saw his father in person for the first time? After first seeing his mom and dad in the Mirror of Erised, he realized he wanted nothing more than to have a family.
And now, the only other emotion that surfaced was…disappointment. It was similar to seeing his dad in the Pensieve in his fifth year. After that experience, Harry had been devastated at how much of "an arrogant toerag" his dad was. Already, at age eleven, James managed to flirt with all the girls that looked his age on his way out. You could tell where he had walked in the store because he left a trail of severe giggles. Just before he closed the door, he waved to a pack of three girls who looked to be about twelve. They all waved back, then laughed and started chatting animatedly, peeking outside to catch a last glimpse of the boy. Harry still didn't think this made James out to be a complete monster, just conceited, maybe. Though…he hated that he could figure out his father's personality just by watching him for a couple minutes.
Harry bought the book and went back outside. As he walked, he pulled out a bag he'd filled with supplies he already had from the purse. He now had to carry two owls and two heavy bags, and knew this was going to make the day seem longer.
He surveyed the diverse faces in the swarm of people on the street. His white owl hooted, annoyed, as the cage bumped against the jumbled mass of people. Well, maybe it wasn't that unusual, Harry consoled himself as he watched a sullen girl with striking black hair walk next to a sour-faced, middle-aged woman. By her moody complexion…she looked like a true Slytherin. Maybe some people were just easier to figure out than others.
Harry felt a jolt of guilt. He shouldn't label people based on how they appear to passerby. His dad probably had complicated feelings that he wouldn't understand unless he allowed himself to accept there was more than what met the eye. How many times was he going to have to remind himself of that?
Maybe the boy who was waiting under the awning seemed awkward, depressed and poor; someone one'd want to avoid, but Harry didn't see Severus that way, now that they were sort of friends. No, he only saw the smile that lit up Severus' face as he came closer, as he held up the beautiful owl that he bought for him.
Harry angled the cage so they could admire the bird, which turned its head to look at each of them in turn. Every time it made eye contact with Harry, he felt the back of his neck prickle. It was like…the bird could see right through him. Somehow the sharp eyes and wise appearance reminded Harry of Dumbledore.
"I've never seen one like this. How did it get to be black?"
The bird now twisted her head toward Snape, who smiled at it, not noticing anything unusual.
"The guy at the store said that it was mutated. I thought she was the coolest owl in the shop, personally."
Harry's new owl, now named Enoch, hooted in protest. "And this one was okay, too," he said, smirking.
"I got you something, too," Severus said, reaching into one of his bags. He produced a rainbow-spiraled lollipop. Harry forced a smile, feeling guilty because Severus had felt the need to buy him something when he had already little money to spare on himself.
"It change colors and flavors as you eat it. It isn't as good as an owl, but…"
"Wow, this is so cool! Thank you! I wish Muggle candy was like this!" Harry said ecstatically. Snape beamed as he immediately popped the sucker in his mouth.
"So, I already got all my stuff…" Harry began, taking the lollipop out so he could talk. Snape looked at him in mild surprise. "Really? I've only got my robes and wand. Speaking of wand, what does yours look like? Mine's twelve inches, birch, and dragon heartstring, rigid…What about yours?"
"Eleven inches, holly, phoenix core. It was the first one he pulled out, that's why it didn't take that long."
"Oh. Well, I still have to get the rest of the things on my list, if you don't want to come…"
"No, it's fine. Maybe afterwards we can get ice cream? Did you have lunch already?"
"I've never had ice cream before! From here, I mean…And, er, I'm not hungry, so…" Snape trailed off. Harry wondered if the reason Severus was so thin was because he didn't get fed well at home. Maybe it was that, plus the fact that he had inherited his parent's spidery figures.
"Okay, well where do you want to go next? Is Lily gonna be here today?"
A pink tinge rose momentarily in his pale cheeks. "Yes. Why do you want to know?"
Harry bit his lip to keep from smirking. "No reason. Let's start to Potage's, it's closest."
They spent another two hours buying Snape's supplies. They went into shops Harry had never had to go into, second-hand stores with low prices on beat-up books that seemed overpriced for their quality. Severus was surprised at the amount of money his mum gave him; what he didn't know was that Harry had slipped a few Galleons into his bag. If Harry hadn't done so, there was no way he would've managed to afford everything on the list.
Within the approximate three hours they had been in Diagon Alley, the only person Harry had recognized had been James. It wasn't until they went to Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor that they saw another person they knew.
Harry and Severus had just got their ice creams—cookies and cream and a chocolate sundae, respectively—when Lily entered the store. Her mother, a woman with dark hair and large glasses, waved goodbye through the glass and walked away. "Sev!" Lily exclaimed, and headed toward him, beaming. Snape's face relaxed and he returned her smile. "Hi," he said, warmth flooding his usually cold voice.
"It's wonderful here, isn't it? My mum came with me—she's going to Gringotts to exchange more money." She sighed. "I think Petunia wanted to come, but you know her…" Snape nodded, and Harry did, too, without realizing it, because he also knew what she was talking about. His aunt had been jealous that her sister was a witch and got to go to Hogwarts, and to cover her feelings up, she made fun of Lily and didn't want anything to do with magic.
Harry's mother seemed to notice him for the first time. "Oh, hi!" She looked between the two, taken aback that Severus was with someone other than her. Lily probably thought she was Severus' only friend. "What's your name? Mine's Lily Evans, sorry if I was rude." And suddenly, for the first time, Harry came in contact with his mother. They shook hands—she had a very friendly, solid grip—then she looked at him expectantly.
Harry mentally shook himself, still feeling a bit dazed. "Er, nice to meet you, my name's Ha—I mean, Jacob. Jacob Walker."
"Nice to meet you, Jacob." Turning back to Snape, she said, "Listen, Sev, my mum is going to meet me back here in two hours…Do you want to hang out until then? All my shopping's done."
"Yeah! We're done, too. My mum is picking me—us—up at six, so we have time." Severus was staring at her, a dreamy sort of smile on his face, so Harry cleared his throat loudly to snap him out of it. "Ah—sorry, er, so—" He fumbled with what to say.
"Where'd ya get the owls?" Lily asked, oblivious that anything awkward had just taken place. She got in line and the two boys stood on the other side of the divider, continuing to eat their ice cream. As the line moved forward, they continued talking.
"Actually, Jacob gave it—the dark one—to me. As an, er, early Christmas present."
"How thoughtful!" She now looked at Jacob, with an expression of either approval or annoyance, or a mixture of both. "It really is beautiful. I like the white one, too, though. I think my mum is going to get me one. She wants me to write home every week, I hope I'll have time…" Lily turned, as she was next in line, and placed her order for a small mint chocolate chip in a cone. She paid, unnecessarily carefully counting out loud, then rejoined them. They sat at the only table outside, which was magically shaded from the sun.
"So, Jacob, have you been to Diagon Alley before? It's my first time, and I know Sev has been here before."
"My parents are both Muggles, so…"
"Hey! Me too!" Lily seemed very excited at this, so Harry feigned equal interest, smiling and acting pleasantly surprised.
"I was hoping I wouldn't be the only one," she continued, "Sev says there are loads, but I don't know, I was worried this year would be different…" For the first time, her natural confidence wavered, and she seemed almost insecure.
"Why were you worried? What difference does it make if your parents are both Muggles?" said Harry, torn between his faux naivety and frustration that she would care about being the only Muggle-born.
Lily hastily changed the subject. "So, what are you guys most excited for at Hogwarts?"
Severus thought for a moment. "I can't wait to learn in general, I guess."
Yeah, learn the Dark Arts, Harry thought bitterly. He could tell it was going to wear him out, knowing the fates of the people around him. "Well, I can't wait for Quidditch."
Snape was just about to ask how he knew about Quidditch when he added, "It was mentioned in that book I got a while ago, and it seems really exciting."
"Yeah, sure," Severus said, though he could hardly care less. He was only halfway through his ice cream, and although he had enjoyed it, he seemed unable to eat any more. He went into the store to return the bowl from his sundae, scooping a last mouthful on his way in, leaving Harry and Lily alone.
"So, how long have you known Severus?" he asked, starting to eat the cone part of his ice cream.
"Hmm, it's been maybe two, three years? What about you? I never, er, knew that he was friends with you. " That was about as polite she could say he's never had another friend without coming across as jealous.
"I met him recently." Severus was just now within earshot, so he asked, "And, I was wondering, what house do you want to be put in? I'm sure he's told you about them, right?" Severus sat down and shot Harry an annoyed glare, which wasn't that effective since he had some chocolate ice cream on his face.
"Hm, I don't know…Gryffindor, maybe. He hasn't told me much about any of them, so I don't really know." Harry gave Snape a see-what-did-I-tell-you look, and Severus ignored it stubbornly. He noticed Lily was trying to catch Snape's attention, touching her cheek repeatedly, trying to point out a bit of chocolate on his face. Snape was too busy not meeting Harry's eyes to notice. Lily got up in exasperation and went inside to get a napkin.
"Where are you—" Snape began, but she was already inside.
Lily returned with a napkin and said to him, "Sev, you have some chocolate on your face," and bent down to his level. Snape stiffened as she tilted his face to the side and wiped his cheek carefully. "Almost…there we go!" She straightened up and tossed the napkin into a trash bin. Snape was still frozen in place, and Harry was, yet again, hiding a smile. He might as well enjoy it while it lasted; soon he wouldn't think constantly being around eleven-year-olds was amusing, just annoying. After all, there was an age gap of seven years. Perhaps Harry would become less mature over time.
"So, where to next?" Lily asked brightly. As the two boys stood up, Harry said under his breath, "Do it for her." Snape pretended he hadn't heard. If Harry could only convince him to be in Gryffindor, then he and Lily would spend more time with him, and it would be harder for him to get into the Dark Arts.
"How about we just walk around?" Harry suggested, and the other two agreed.
Harry allowed the two to chat, only half paying attention to what went on around him. It was relaxing to be around all these people in a place that was familiar to him.
Being in a new house and living with the Weasleys was nice, but it made him, for lack of a better word, homesick. What home of his would he be missing? Certainly not the Dursleys, or Grimmauld Place…could it be Hogwarts? But the last time he had stayed there was his in sixth year. He didn't want to analyze his feelings now, so he deciding a break from his problems and listened to the conversation between Lily and Snape.
"Ooh, look at these!" Lily stopped at a flower stand. Harry was thankful it at least wasn't one of the brightly colored little kid's shops that were nearby. The flowers resembled ones from the Muggle world, but all had some slight magical property that made them different. One flower in particular caught Lily's eye. The flower was similar to a lily, but seemed to be glowing faintly. The manager, who had been eying them hopefully, noticed her interest. She came over to the trio and cleared her throat, as if preparing for a lengthy speech.
"Ah, yes, that is a Moon Lily. Aptly named, the Moon Lily feeds off of purely moonlight, and releases its waste in the form of light during the day."
Lily still looked intrigued, so the lady eagerly continued. "The average life span is 5 years, as long as it gets at least 2 or 3 nights of moonlight every week. Now, if it's a particularly cloudy week, there are alternate ways to feed it so that it doesn't wilt…"
While Lily was distracted, nodding along with the information the pony-tailed woman was reciting, Harry pulled Snape out of earshot.
"Are you going to buy it for her?" he whispered, nodding slightly toward her.
"Wha—Why?" Snape seemed to honestly not know why.
Harry sighed in exasperation. "Because, she really wants it." Snape looked back at Lily, who was now examining the petals of the flower. "If you want to show her that you…care about her…" Snape's eyes flashed, so Harry, sparing himself from a pointless argument, added,
"…as a friend…then you should get it for her. Not that just being here with her isn't enough, but she'll have this flower for a while, so…"
Snape struggled with the idea. After another long look at Lily, he mumbled, "Fine." Then he seemed hesitant and defensive again. "And if I don't have enough money, I'm not getting it." He marched back to where Lily was standing and demanded, "How much is the flower?"
"Uh, it's 2 Galleons, 8 Knuts, but why…" she trailed off in surprise as Snape set down his shopping bags and emptied his pockets. Harry knew Snape was going to come up short, so he joined the two, bent down to tie his shoe, and placed a Galleon on the pavement. When he straightened up, he saw Snape's shoulders had sagged. In his hand was a Galleon, four Sickles, and 12 Knuts. He turned to Lily, who was oblivious to what his intentions had been. She raised her eyebrows questioningly.
"Well, I just—" He saw something flash in the corner of his eye. A Galleon was lying on the ground next to him. Immediately Snape glanced suspiciously at Harry (who had started to look at the other flowers, whistling), then reluctantly picked it up. He counted up the required amount of money and presented it to the manager. Lily gasped in sudden understanding.
"For me? Sev, you don't have to do that!" The manager handed Lily the flower, winked at Snape, and went off to help a young couple on the other side of the stand.
"I wanted to, though. I could…I could tell you really wanted it."
"Ooh, thank you, thank you!" She flung herself into his arms, luckily not damaging the flower.
For a moment, Snape stood in shock with his arms still open, but he recovered and returned the hug. They broke apart, now both grinning, and Lily began admiring her gift. Harry joined them, trying his best to look innocent even as Snape scrutinized him. He seemed to struggle with how whether he should be suspicious of Harry or just happy with the result his suggestion.
The three continued browsing different shops and stalls. They stopped mostly when Lily wanted to, and were usually indifferent going into one store or another. However, Harry did have an exception: In the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies was the Nimbus 1000, released in '67.
They all looked in the store, despite Snape's lack of interest. Harry didn't need or want to buy anything, but he still thought it was interesting seeing the older models of broomsticks. He might eventually have to get a broomstick, or do something to alter his Firebolt. No one had yet seen a broomstick like his in the 70s, and even if he made a believable excuse to its origins he would still draw unwanted attention to himself.
No one ended up buying anything in the end, besides the flower, but they had a good time. Harry thought Lily was wonderful. She was more immediately likable than Severus or James, and she got along well with Harry. Although, it would've been nice to not know she was going to die for his sake. Harry knew, by the end of the year, he would want to save her life. But that was just another thing that would change too much.
Soon, it was five o' clock, and Lily had to head back to the ice cream parlor. To avoid awkward questions from Lily's mom, they split up before reaching the shop.
"Well, goodbye, then, Sev…and Jacob. Let's try to sit together on the train, okay? And, thank you again for the flower." She smiled at Severus, who mumbled, "No problem."
They watched her go, her multiple shopping bags all bumping against her legs. Mrs. Evans (who, Harry realized, was his grandmother) took some of her things and appeared to ask about the flower. She then disappeared into the crowd, so the boys turned around and started heading in the opposite direction.
"Well, she's nice," Jacob said slyly. Snape shot him a "watch it" look.
Harry rolled his eyes, then said, "Well, we still have an hour…I guess we could go to a bookstore and relax. I'd like to know more about Hogwarts. And I'm tired of holding this stuff." Harry tiredly lifted up Enoch, who appeared to be sleeping. "If that's all right with you…"
"Yeah, sounds good," Severus agreed, his skinny arms shaking slightly from having to carry so much for so long. Harry knew Snape would want to just relax and read; from what he knew Snape loved books. Plus, it was good for Snape to rest was probably going to become a lot more disagreeable now that Lily was gone.
They went to a store further down the Alley called, "Tabitha's Tea and Books." It was a cozy place, with a place cleared for eating and reading on the first level and all the books crammed on the second. Both boys immediately headed toward the book section. Severus seemed more of a reader of the two, taking down a huge stack of books within minutes, while Harry only took down a couple. One of the ones Harry chose were Hogwarts, a History, appropriately enough, and A First Year's Guide to Hogwarts, 14th edition.
They found a spot downstairs to read, but by that time they only had twenty minutes before they had to leave. At least Harry might be giving himself an excuse to know some things about Hogwarts—if he needed to give Snape advice, or revealed something he knew about Hogwarts that he shouldn't, he could just say he read it when they had gone to Diagon Alley.
Before long, they had to leave the bookstore. By now, they had nothing to talk about, so they walked in silence. The only thing that was brought up on the way back was Severus's owl. He wanted Harry to hold onto it until they were on the train the next day. He said this was because he didn't know what his parents would think if he brought it home, and it was safer with Jacob than him. Harry agreed, wishing he could put the owl in the purse so he wouldn't have to juggle it with his other things.
It was almost 6 o' clock when they arrived back at the store they had started out at called "Standard Wizarding Home Supplies." Mrs. Snape had not arrived yet, so they walked around while they waited, looking at the variety of home supplies the store had just to have something to do. After fifteen minutes of this, Eileen had not made an appearance. The two stood in the back, reading, to pass the time. After an hour, there was still no sign of his mum.
Snape was starting to become panicked. "Why do you think she's late?"
Harry tried to reassure him, hiding the pressing dread that maybe his actions had led to her delay. "I don't know, but she'll be okay, right? If she's not here in ten minutes, let's borrow some Floo Powder and go back ourselves, okay?" They had seen a small sign at the counter that said Complimentary Floo Powder available—just ask.
Snape nodded, but he was still unusually pale. Every minute they waited his complexion became worse and worse, until, finally, his mother appeared in the fireplace. She straightened up, brushed herself off, and made toward the exit. She seemed to not notice the two boys.
"Mother?" Snape called tentatively, his original relief replaced by confusion. Eileen turned around in surprise. "Severus? What are you still doing here?"
"You said you would pick us up at six. So we waited here for you!"
His mother sighed in exasperation and went over to them.
"I never said that. Why would I need to come to pick you up? Couldn't you have just gone home by yourself? You're a big boy now." She sounded impatient and glanced toward the door.
"Well, I…" Snape trailed off, confused.
"I have to go buy your father some medicine…for his back pain." Her euphemism was strained, and Severus seemed to know what she really meant. She turned to leave, then, feeling that she needed to give him some sort of instruction, said, "The store has complimentary Floo Powder. I'll…see you when I get home."
When she had left, Snape wordlessly went up to the counter and asked for Floo Powder. Harry couldn't hear any strong emotion in his voice, but imagined that he was angry and embarrassed. He walked into the fireplace, stated his address, and disappeared. Harry uncomfortably switched all of his things to one hand, grabbed some Floo Powder, thanked the man, and did the same.
Tobias Snape was still in the living room when they arrived, more liquor bottles around him from when they had seen him earlier in the day.
"Eileen?" He said in a wobbly, drunken voice. Snape mouthed "go" to Harry. Harry narrowed his eyes at the man, fists clenching, and Snape shook his head warningly.
"You'll be okay?" Harry whispered. Snape nodded and glanced toward his dad, who was still staring straight ahead from his position on the couch.
Tobias mumbled an incomprehensible string of words to himself in a slurred voice. Harry didn't attempt to understand, as nothing that this man said was of any significance.
"I'll see you tomorrow at the station, then. Let's try to be in the same compartment, okay?" This was met with another nod. "Okay, bye then…" Harry crossed the room to the door and left the house, taking another look at the scrawny boy standing in this broken home. Harry was reminded of earlier, about judging people on how they appear to passerby. Well, if someone saw Snape standing among the mess, they might think it made sense that he was there. That, by his appearance, he belonged.
But the difference was this young boy still held on to the values that make life worthwhile. That was the difference between him and the Tobias, who Harry could hardly call a father, who was sitting, wasted, on a beat-up couch.
Harry returned home, got ready for the next day, and set his magical watch to wake him up after six hours sleep. Everything in his house, except the bed he now entered, was just as he had found it only a couple days ago. He left all of his things in the front room, including Enoch and the other owl, which Severus had named Luna. Harry tried not to imagine the bird watching him somehow, through the wall, and focused on what would happen the tomorrow.
Tomorrow was the day that would officially start his new, temporary life as Jacob Walker. Tomorrow would determine what house Severus ended up in, and maybe who they would all be friends with. Tomorrow everything began, for real.