Chapter 7: Custodial Interference
Once again, Severus Snape found himself en route to Number 4, Privet Drive, albeit under strong glamour's. Upon his arrival he noticed no less than four members of the Order, but as he was dressed as a muggle salesman he only surreptitiously paid them any mind.
"Tuney," he sneered so that Petunia would know it was him, "how nice to see you again."
"What do you want?" she whispered hoarsely her paranoid eyes darting up and down the street.
"We have urgent matters to discuss. Trust me when I say that I desire to be here no more than you. If I may enter and have but a moment of your time, I can assure you that you will soon be rid of 'our kind'."
"I have nothing to discuss with you. Albus knows you stole Harry. He said people were looking for you to arrest you. My family has been threatened all because that brat cannot keep out of trouble."
"I have papers on my person which you will sign. Whether you do so willingly, or are coerced is strictly up to you, but make no mistake Petunia, they WILL be signed. I refuse to believe that Lily would have left her son with filth such as you and your husband. Something is amiss here and make no mistake, I WILL find out what is going on."
Petunia studied the man before her for a good five minutes before she stepped aside.
"I suppose I have time to review your magazines sir. I do enjoy gardening as you can tell," she said just a bit loudly.
Once inside Severus removed the paperwork.
"When will your oaf of a husband be home? I need his signature as well."
"What makes you so sure we will sign Harry over to you? I know that is what you are here for."
"You will sign Harry over to me or I shall have you investigated not only by muggle child services, but by the wizarding ones as well, and let me assure you, they are only too eager to get their hands on you in the name of justice for their Savior," Severus hissed.
"As if they would let YOU have a child. Don't forget Severus, I have known you almost all your life. I know what you called Lily, what it meant. She told me you were one of His followers. Why would they give Harry to you?" she asked.
"What is in it for you? You never wanted Harry. You were even loathe to admit that you were related to Lily once she found out what she was. I know you have never treated Harry right; he has admitted on several occasions that you locked him up for days on end without food or a toilet."
Petunia glared at Snape, an internal battle raging just behind her eyes.
"Money. That old fool pays us well to let the boy stay here. That money pays for our Diddykins to attend Smelting's."
"Money that I am sure, is not his to give. You will sign these papers, as will that whale of a husband of yours, and you will submit proof that Dumbledore was giving you stolen money. Just imagine the scandal all this would cause if we had to do it the hard way. Police and reporters all over your finely manicured lawn. Why don't we just leave it at the 'freak' ran away and good riddance to him?" he steamed.
"Fine. Vernon will be home in half an hour. He can get you our statements then. I want to be done with your kind. I want them gone, and I never want them to return to my home. All I ever wanted was to be normal with my normal family."
"Consider it done, Madam." Severus ground out.
Two hours later Severus found himself being let into Mr. Woods's office.
"That was quick Master Snape," he smiled.
"Yes. Let us just say, we share quite a bit of history. I do find it prudent however, to provide you with the evidence I was given by Mr. Potter's former guardians that they were being paid to keep him, with money taken from the Potter vaults, without correct authorization I believe. The late Mrs. Potter and her sister never got on and I cannot imagine that either of the Potters would have allowed Petunia and Vernon Dursley to watch their child, let alone paid them to do so."
Mr. Woods nodded his head while reviewing the paperwork.
"Yes, I can see your point. If you don't mind I'll just hold onto these for my team to look over later. If you'd like we can floo to the Ministry together. I to drop off these papers to be finalized, and you for your appointment."
"Of course," purred Snape.
Snape had ended up spending the entire afternoon and a greater part of the evening at the Ministry. He had not only met with Lady Greengrass (with whom he had attended school), and Madam Bones, but also a mind-healer and master legilimens. A headache potion would be in order.
Just as he was settling down in his chair with two fingers of Ogden's Finest his floo flared to life, and out stepped a harassed looking Lucius. Snape just cocked an eyebrow.
"I take it you have had a most trying day Malfoy?"
Lucius cocked his eyebrow in return. "Quite."
"Help yourself to the alcohol. No doubt you are better acquainted with its location than I."
"The Ministry is a mess. Dumbledore has been removed from his positions on the Wizengamot and as Supreme Mugwump, and stripped of his position as Headmaster. The collective body is calling for a vote of no confidence in Minister Fudge, and Bartemius Crouch has been dismissed and remanded to Azkaban pending an investigation into his mishandling of the death eater trials. How did things go on your end?"
"The Dursleys have remanded Harry to my custody. They also claim that Dumbledore has been giving them a hefty sum each month to care for the boy, no doubt out of the Potter vaults, illegally. I met with the mind healer, and a master legilimens. They said that while it is obvious I have been subjected to a variety of mind altering charms and spells, the true extent of damage may take months to sort out. It is untelling what that sadistic man has done."
"Does Harry know any of this yet?" asked Lucius, to which Snape just shook his head.
"I have been home long enough to sit down. I haven't even thought of how to approach Harry about this. I imagine he will be torn between overwhelming relief that he must no longer reside with the Dursleys, immense pain that he has been taken advantage of, and horror that he is stuck with me for an indeterminable amount of time. What will be done about the recent vacancies?"
"The Board has voted to give the position of Headmistress to McGonagall temporarily until a more permanent vote can take place. We have left the decision of interim deputy up to her, though I imagine she will choose Flitwick as he has been there the longest out of the remaining staff. Rumor has it that Madam Bones will be asked to step in as Interim Minister, which means that the new head of the DMLE will be Shacklebolt, something which I have feared. We do not need any more of Dumbledore's mindless supporters in a position of power."
"Who will head the Auror division then?"
"No idea. I don't think we've even thought that far ahead. Right now it is a slow process of investigation and elimination of those still loyal to Dumbledore. His grasp is far deeper reaching than we first thought."
"This is a nightmare!" Severus snorted.
"Quite. Cissy will have my head if I don't make it home soon. I have taken to sleeping in the office due to how much work needs to be done."
"You had best away. That woman is worse than a nesting dragon," smirked Snape.
"I know," returned Lucius. "Wish me luck."
And with that Lucius departed through the floo leaving Severus to his thoughts.
The next morning dawned bright and early. Severus had been up half the night thinking of how to approach Harry with the new developments. Unfortunately the day had dawned much earlier for the boy in question as he was sat at the dining room table, the Daily Prophet spread out before him.
"It's bad, isn't it?" he asked without looking up.
"Yes. I think it even worse that you are finding out about it in the paper. I had meant to discuss the situation with you before you read that damn thing."
"Am I really free of the Dursleys?" asked Harry, a small glimmer of hope in his eyes.
"Yes. For now. I imagine once things have been sorted a bit better, the Ministry will find a more permanent place for you. As it stands, there is simply no one left to look into it. People are being fired, arrested, and carted off for treatment right and left. Even I did not escape the old man's wrath."
Harry looked at Snape wide eyed.
"He obliviated you, didn't he?" he asked.
"It appears so, though to what extent, we do not yet know."
Both occupants were silent for some time.
"Thank you for taking me in Professor. You didn't have to."
"Yes, Harry, I did. I made a promise to your mother that I would watch you, and so I am," was all he replied.
"Sir, now that you are my guardian…what am I to call you? I mean, I know Professor in school, but…" Harry trailed off.
"I think Sir would suffice in public, though in private, you may address me as Severus."
Harry just nodded, lost in thought.
"Severus…" he tried out. "She said she had to change the world. That she had to come back in time. That isn't possible without a time turner is it?"
"There are spells that can alter the flow of time, though they are very dark pieces of magic, and highly regulated. And the transcendence of alternate realities hasn't even been considered. Anyone caught preforming such a spell would be immediately imprisoned in Azkaban. To mess with time is to mess with fate. One wrong move could destroy everything."
"But…how would we know if she succeeded? If she was really real? How would we find her?"
"Harry…you mustn't focus on that. Do not get your hopes up on something that simply cannot be."
"But how do you KNOW it isn't? I spent the first 11 years of my life KNOWING that magic wasn't real," Harry pointed out.
"Because Harry, that is part of what they monitor in the Department of Mysteries. They would feel the time flux and be able to pinpoint who caused it, and where it occurred."
"She said I turned into something horrible. That everyone I loved died. How do I know it won't be that way this time? That everyone I let in won't be killed to get to me?"
"I'm afraid you don't. All we can do is continue to fight and hope for the best. We are at war Harry, and unfortunately death is a part of war."
"She said the world is going to change soon. But it's changing already. And I have been lied to, my entire life, by someone I thought of as family. But what have I been lied to about? She said one closest to me didn't want me to know the truth. And that they were far darker than Voldemort. I know she means Dumbledore. I know he didn't care for me. That I was only his weapon. She told me, the first time I saw her that where she came from, I was being raised like a pig for slaughter. That I was being kept alive until the right moment. Is that true Pro-Sir?"
Severus shook his head. "I would have died first Harry."
Just then a house elf wearing a crisp tea towel popped in. "Master Severus Sir there be a Master Woods in the floo Sir, he says it's real important that he talks to you Sirs right away. He says it's about Master Harry Potter Sir."
"Finish your breakfast Harry. I won't be long. And I promise that I will let you know what he says. I will never lie to you Harry. You have my word as a wizard."
"Master Snape, Mr. Woods is waiting for you in his office," said the secretary as he stormed by.
"Master Snape. Thank you for coming on such short notice. I'll be quick. The paperwork for young Mr. Potter has been finalized and as such, and with your permission, our firm, more specifically myself, will be representing his best interests, through you of course, until he reaches legal age, or until our services are no longer required, though I hope that doesn't become the case. Also, my aid, Mrs. Waters, met with representatives from the Ministry and Gringotts today. It seems that your uncle, Lord Prince, did not agree with your grandparents' decision to disown your mother, and as such, left the entire Prince fortune to you upon his death as a sort of reparation. As such you now have possession of several estates, properties, stocks, bonds, family heirlooms, political positions of power, and of course, gold."
Severus was floored.
"H-How long has this been known? My uncle has been dead going on 10 years." Severus stammered.
"Yes, well, it appears that the notices that were sent to you were returned unopened. As they were all addressed to you at Hogwarts, it is assumed that Dumbledore diverted them from you as a way to keep you under his thumb. After all, what would the Head of one of the oldest wizarding families need with him?"
"I see," was all Severus was able to say.
"I hate to press on after such shocking news, but as Harry's legal guardian, you now become executor of the Potter estate, and as such are entitled to request the wills be read. If you would like I can set up a meeting with Gringotts this afternoon. Am I correct to assume that Mr. Potter wishes to be present?" asked Mr. Woods.
Severus just numbly nodded his head.
"Excellent. I can arrange a meeting with the bank president Fanghook for 3 this afternoon and he has assured me that he will see this situation rectified this evening at the latest."
"Very well. Shall we meet here or at Gringotts?"
"Here shall suffice. Being the première solicitors in wizarding London does afford us certain privileges, and as such we have a private floo into Fanghooks office."
"I shall return promptly at 3 with Mr. Potter. Thank you, Mr. Woods. I assume that I can arrange for our retainers to be withdrawn from our accounts at the meeting?"
"Of course, though for now, it will only be your retainer. Mr. Potter, as a minor, will be grandfathered in under you, and will only require his own retainer once he reaches of age, if he decides to retain our services."
Severus floo'd into his study and proceeded to upend the entire bottle of Ogden's Finest in an attempt to pull himself out of the shock induced by his brief visit to his solicitors. It seemed he was further in debt to one of his oldest, and truest of friends.
"Are you ok Sir?" asked Harry.
"No. As a matter of fact, I am not. But I will be. Come, go and get cleaned up, and put on something presentable. Plain black robes if you have any. We are to meet with Fanghook and my solicitor at 3."
"To read your parents wills," said Severus softly.
Harry simply nodded and took his leave of the room. Somehow Severus knew this day would only get worse.