14 The Boy-Who-Lived No More
"I still don't understand it, what training could you possibly get that you cannot receive at Hogwarts? At least you'd be safe here!"
"I honestly don't know, Hermione, Dumbledore doesn't exactly reveal all his master plans if you hadn't noticed, but if he wants me to go there it must be safe, right? You do trust Dumbledore, don't you?"
"Well, yes… of course I do! That still makes me no happier that you're leaving."
"You already said that about a million times Herm, I don't want him to go either you know!" exclaimed Ron.
"Look," Harry intervened, "Dumbledore let us skip classes, do we have to spend the next few hours, the last few hours discussing this? I'm leaving, none of us can do anything about it, and I would much rather have some fun than dwell on what we can't change!" They had been talking in circles for the better part of three hours and the entire situation was frankly getting to him. Dumbledore had explained, he had explained, he had explained again… They would have to separate at dinner, Ron and Hermione going to the great hall while he went to the dorms to pack in peace and be off before anyone could see him go. He had already decided to leave the Firebolt to Ron, not telling him of course, knowing that Harry would not be using it as Horris. The Headmaster had asked him to allow the Hat to choose freely, which probably meant he didn't want him back in Gryffindor. That didn't surprise him, not really, it would be much easier to act new if he was thrown into a different dorm, different schedule, having new housemates and new people to befriend. The Headmaster had also hinted that renewing his relations with Ron and Hermione would not be a wise choice, at first at least. This being known, he really needed to spend whatever little time he had with them.
A soft clapping after Ron's declaration of 'checkmate' alerted them of the fourth presence in the room, "A fine game, you are quite the strategist Mr. Weasley." The Headmaster commented, his smile failing as he added, "I fear it is time Harry." Hermione engulfed him in a tight hug, reluctantly letting him go. They all said their goodbyes, prolonging the process as much as possible. Harry ended up promising to write, if he was allowed, though deep inside he highly doubted he would be.
He packed in silence once in the dorm, turning to write a short note to put on Ron's bed next to the Firebolt. He had revealed in it the reason he had insisted on having Ron train with him, as well as why he couldn't possibly keep the broom. He had started training Ron as the replacement seeker almost as soon as he found out he was to leave, tricking him into it by saying he needed someone he could play against at practice. Thankfully Ron agreed to it without much skepticism, allowing Harry to make him good enough to pose a challenge to their star seeker. He even made Ron use the Firebolt while he borrowed a Nimbus 'to even out the odds'. That meant that he was somewhat accustomed to it, and since the entire house had come to watch on a few occasions, he was probably getting over his fears as well. He wasn't as good as Harry was, but Ron could easily beat Draco (if the former kept his temper in check), and would have good chances against the others. In short he had made sure that Gryffindor would still have a good seeker at their disposal, attaching a short letter for their captain for Ron to deliver after he found the Firebolt. As for Harry, he knew playing Quidditch would be next to impossible, on the school team at least. He needed to make as many differences between himself and… well, himself as he could. Horris could not be confused with Harry or he might be discovered and that would not be good. Not good at all.
He had left some books and emerald studs that just arrived by owl order for Hermione on her bed as well, not about to leave her with nothing after giving Ron his broom. She would have probably have gotten Hedwig, if she had survived that is. Remembering that his owl was gone still pained him, but he knew she was dead; there was little use in false hope. Hermione had said something about the books he had gotten her once, and she always liked the color of his eyes… He figured she'd like them, at any rate.
"Oh, sorry sir…" He said, startled from his trance-like state. He had been trying to memorize the dorm as best he could, knowing it was unlikely he would return. He had actually considered smuggling one of the smaller flags out of the Common room, knowing there were too many to miss the one he took. He didn't though, knowing where he was about to go. Sure, the expression on Snape's face would be priceless when he pulled it out, but he honestly didn't fancy being on its receiving end. "Just thinking."
"Do you need a moment child?"
"No sir, thank you."
"Let us not keep your father waiting then; I am sure you are quite eager to go home." Home. The simple word hung over Harry like a storm cloud. He hadn't even thought of that! The manor was his home, he supposed, but home was Hogwarts! "Now, the Snapes have always enjoyed their privacy my boy, thus having accumulated as many security wards around the estate as Gringotts. It is, perhaps, the safest place for you at the moment. Now, the manor is never connected to the Floo Network, but seeing as you probably do not wish to travel by portkey anytime soon, Severus has arranged a temporary connection to one of the smaller houses on the property. You must call out 'A Seven- Fifty Nine', and I wish you the best of luck." I'll need it. Harry commented in his mind, nodding in acknowledgement as the headmaster led him to the familiar office. "Your trunk is already there. Severus ought to have completed the stripping potion so I say goodbye, Harry Potter."Harry stumbled into a nice, bright room- a far-cry from the damp, dark, and dreary dungeons he had been expecting. The walls were painted in a light bluish-lavender hue above waist-high wood paneling made of what looked like untreated oak. The windows were large and airy, framed by white country curtains. The floor was made of long planks of similar oak, mostly covered by large throw rugs. There were some simple, modest paintings on the walls and a nice view outside.
"Expecting dungeons and chains?" The cold voice asked, making Harry jump in surprise.
"N-no sir." He lied, trying to hide the faint blush, "Sorry."
"Come." His professor ordered, leading him out of what turned out to be a nice little cottage and down a well-trod path into the loose forest. Harry could hear water somewhere, its origins hidden by the foliage. As the path twisted, turned, and became less kept, Harry began to lose all feeling of civilization. Snape could have been leading him to his death (Voldemort or otherwise), where no one would hear him, and Harry was none the wiser. Not that he believed this to be the case mind you…
The path twisted several more times, its state returning to the neatness Harry had found near the cottage, finally connecting to the main road to the manor. This was laid in small pentagonal stones like Muggle sidewalks, soon emerging from the forest onto a well kept lawn that seemed to stretch as far as he could see on either side. There were a few sculptures and fountains nearer the main building, but Harry didn't notice them. He was bewitched by the house itself… if one dared to call this place a house that is. It was huge! If Malfoy Manor was any larger he could actually feel sorry for Draco, how anyone did not get lost for weeks on end in that thing was beyond him. It was an acquired skill, he figured, still in awe. Sure, it wasn't as big as Hogwarts, but there you had hundreds of people, thousands of portraits, ghosts and other things to help you on your way. He supposed there would be paintings here as well, though he could not see himself asking Snape's portrait to help him find his way… a glare, insult, and/or trickery would probably be the only answers, and he doubted his predecessors were any better. They went up the polished stone steps, passing twin marble lions that eyed Harry as something akin to a midnight snack, and into large Mahogany doors, at least nine feet high, which would allow for the unhindered entrance of a full grown troll (or Hagrid, Harry put in as an afterthought). The entrance hall beyond was no less spectacular, complete with large, curving staircases of the richest granite and tapestries covered the surrounding walls. Snape ascended the steps without allowing Harry time to admire the room, leaving the boy to silently follow in his wake.
Severus stopped at the door he had not opened in years… the door he figured would remain locked forever. He hoped the boy did not notice his hesitation… this had been his room, the birthright of all Snape heirs before they take their position as the head of the family. Oh how he had hated the room as a child- a constant reminder of what his father expected of him, of what he was required to do, to be, to think, to… the list went on. He only hoped the boy would not come to think of it as Severus had- a gilded cage. Severus would die than become his father, or, at least he hoped, he would have the courage to kill himself if he fails to prevent it. His hand shook as it left the handle, though the boy was too preoccupied to notice. The room seemed to be trying to snatch Severus, throwing shivers down his spine. He had to leave before his memories got the best of him, he had to leave now!
"If you need anything snap your fingers twice, an elf will come… supper is in an hour, the dining room is to the left of the entrance hall. If you get lost, call an elf. " He paused; making sure his voice did not waver. The boy nodded uneasily in confirmation, prompting him to continue. "Your things have been unpacked; I suggest you check the location of each item. The stripping serum is on your bedside table, you are to take it before going to bed, do not forget." And he left, hoping the boy had not noticed his hastened step.Harry looked around the room, trying hard to picture this place as his… his! The furniture was all done in a deep Brazilian cherry, accented in silver. The bed sheets on the king-sized bed were of a royal blue with what he figured was the Snape family crest embossed in silver on the covers. The pillows were in silver or blue, the smallest a combination of the two. The curtains were silver, bearing a pattern of blue vines with tiny lilies. The huge bay window in the corner, as high as the raised ceiling, also sported the coat of arms at its center, made with the highest quality stained glass that was bewitched to stay together without the broad connection lines, making the window look almost as if it was made of a single sheet of glass. The sides had black serpents looking towards the crest, done in the same seamless fashion. Beyond that was a beautiful view, a courtyard, a garden that easily put Aunt Petunia's best efforts to shame was nearest the house, leading into an orchard with every kind of fruit tree imaginable. This was separated by some low shrubbery and a low river-rock fence from the wild forest. There was a lake to one side, a stream crossing the property further down, and not a hint of civilization beyond the small stone wall.
Turning his attention his attention back to the room, Harry looked at the desk with silver snakes wrapped around the legs, noting just how many of the blasted things there were in the room. They didn't catch one's eye all at once or overwhelm the occupant Harry supposed, but he was mighty glad the things didn't move or talk. He would have to get used to it, he supposed, knowing it was rather likely he'd get sorted into Slytherin now; it was the house the Hat wanted to put him in the first place after all. He'd have to get over the snake association, he had been able to talk like a snake since before he had a wand and he was sure Voldemort infused some snake tricks into his Asps… hell, even the name was that of a snake! At any rate, the room was beautiful, even with the snake attachments, he shook off the train of thought, concentrating on the pile of clothes laid out on the desk… exquisite dark blue silk robes Well, at least they aren't green. He mused, just as the small box caught his eye. Curiosity got the best of him as he reached to open it, finding a small cloak clasp inside, the crest made of beautiful stones. On an aquamarine background a tiger-eye wand and a silver sword crossed beneath a jade and opal lily. Amethyst sparks fell from the wand and ruby blood dripped from the sward, an onyx serpent with emerald eyes and pearly teeth coiled around it… it was beautiful, though Harry didn't know if he ought to wear it. At Hogwarts at least, most likely in the rest of the magical world as well, such clasps were only worn by the heirs, though he doubted many were this fancy. Ron had shown him the one his brother wore, that one was made of silver with the wand, wolf and other symbols carved into the metal. If he wasn't supposed to wear it and did, it would be the worst insult he could do to Snape's family name, worse than spitting on the dead. If he didn't and Snape wanted him to, the professor might think Harry was going back on his choice, that he didn't want… this. He fingered the crest, allowing his fingers to fall across the smooth, cold stones, polished to the point where he couldn't feel one end and the next begin. It felt like a ping-pong match was being played in his head, constantly wavering between his choices.Severus watched as the boy came into the dining room, his green eyes growing wide. Severus knew it was breathtaking, but he also knew it had been entirely his father's idea of what a room should be. The man always savored displaying his wealth, magic, influence, power and cruelty… the last reserved only for Severus and the house elves. A soft moan called Severus' attention, the boy's lost expression was venturing beyond the confusion and splendor. Something was wrong, the boy's sudden grab for the back of the nearest chair confirming it. Severus launched toward him just as the boy lost consciousness, the older man catching him mid-fall. When he had carried the boy back up the stairs and laid him on the bed, the empty vial beside him confirmed his suspicions. Why on why can he never simply follow simple directions? The potion was not meant to be taken on an empty stomach… it would take much longer now. He made sure the boy was adequately comfortable, making his way to the once-familiar desk. Severus wrote a quick note, asking to extend his absence, fully hoping that Dumbledore would not require an explanation. For some reason, he was not as mad as he would have liked, not at the boy at least. Why in hell was he mad at himself though? Just as he had told Albus, he simply was not father material.
"You call, master?" The elf asked before Severus even realized he had snapped his fingers- some old habits are never broken it seemed, or forgotten.
"Bring my supper up, I shall eat here it seems."
"And boy's?" It asked, but Severus just shook his head.
"No… he will not wake for a good while yet, Mertitch." It seemed as yet another meal would be consumed here, though not for the same reasons. Mertitch had often brought him food as a child when his father chose to lock him there as punishment. That could last days at times, with the elf his only help. Back then food meant dry sandwiches and milk, but the filet before him still tugged at his old memories. He really ought to have given the boy a room with fewer memories… fewer demons for Severus to resurrect, though it was actually the room that resurrected the demons in Severus. In the end however, he realized that he could not possibly give the boy any other place. It would not, after all, carry the same bad memories for the boy… to him it was the room from hell, while to the boy it was but a room. Severus did not even know how it compared to whatever room he had occupied at his relations as the famed 'boy-who-lived'. He did not think him spoiled, not now, but he was determined not to pry into his past… dearly hoping the boy would return the favor. Lupin had promised to inform his relations so that Snape would not draw attention to himself, picking up anything the boy may wish to keep while there. Most things would need to be discarded for safety reasons, but a few keepsakes could easily be hidden in the spacious house in some room no one ever enters.
Besides, the room was his birthright and Severus was not about to keep it from him. Though the boy did not know much of the Wizarding world's customs or the customs of its high society, Severus would have to teach him… and he really did not need the boy to realize half way through that he had been denied what he may believe to be a privilege after the boy had agreed to save his sorry hide by becoming his son. Besides, having him here helped, in a way… it seemed to remind Severus that the room was no longer his, that he had persevered his demons. He would just have to make sure they did not come after the boy now… at least he was inside, only an hour ago he barely could bring himself to touch the door. Could it be possible that he might yet come to like the house? Perhaps bringing the boy was not as big a mistake after all…
'The Boy'… Severus really ought to stop thinking of him as the boy. How does Lucius think of Draco? NO… He would not learn from Malfoy. Harold had enough scars without dumping Draco's on him as well.
'Harold'… He wasn't really Harold anymore either, he gave up that name when he acknowledged himself as a Snape, his son. By Merlin, how was Severus supposed to be a father? The father of the savior of the blasted Wizarding world no less! At least his son did not need to wear the damned title like a badge anymore… perhaps a little weight would be lifted off his shoulders.
'His Son'… By Merlin, did he even have a right to call him that? He hadn't raised him, loved him, or acknowledged him for fifteen years… he had no right to be at all associated with anything the boy had done. Nothing beyond a few traits he may have inherited. Cunning for one, Severus was fairly sure that came from his side of the family, even if he hadn't acknowledged its presence in the feats of Harold James Potter. Finding the stone took cunning, as did killing the snake- hell, monster- in the chamber. Surviving took cunning, especially in the tournament and during Voldemort's resurrection. Severus stared at the window, not really seeing anything at all. For the first time, he had actually acknowledged what his son had done. By Merlin!