The Simmering Unknown - Part IV
Chapter 18 - Emancipated Minor - The Simmering Unknown - Part IV
Severus had received no missive from Albus in regards to the meeting with the Wizengamut, which meant that it would be an all-day event, and likely also meant that Albus had sensed that revealing Voldemort's connection to Fudge's death, as well as his current status as "sans body," was not appropriate at this time. At half ten that morning, Severus escorted Harry out of Hogwarts in their standard fashion, and proceeded to chaperone the boy through a shopping trip that yielded a good selection of new clothes, including seven sets of pajamas and a pair of slippers.
"There," Severus said as they strolled out of the store, "now I needn't worry about your feet."
"My feet?" Harry asked with an amused smile, but he knew what his professor meant. How could he misunderstand after the way the older wizard had insisted that Harry buy enough sleepwear to cover every inch of him that could take a chill? "You'll show me the resizing charms when we get back, though, right?" Harry reminded Severus. "I'm glad I bought everything a size larger than I need, but I'll still feel like the same fashion train wreck I've always been if we don't shrink them down."
"I am not a man who goes back on his word, Young Harry," Severus drawled, putting his hand on Harry's neck in satisfaction as the boy laughed softly at his new nickname. "Lunch?"
Severus was still concerned about the shift in Harry's mood that had never completely lifted after the dueling match the previous day. He knew of course that Harry was still in the early stages of shock in his grief, and that the margin of reserve the boy was showing, even when he seemed at ease, was to be expected. But Harry's painful admissions about how alone he'd been last summer, and with his fears all during the first term, kept playing through Severus' mind. He proposed to the boy during lunch that perhaps they should consider a visit to Grimmauld Place next, to retrieve a memento of his godfather, something tangible to hold onto that had belonged to Black. The grateful smile with which Harry had responded, in spite of his wet eyes, was all Severus needed to know he'd made a wise offer.
Severus apparated them to Headquarters, and had Harry precede him through the front door. Harry stopped in his tracks a few feet inside.
"What are you doing?" Harry demanded to someone in the shadows as Severus closed in behind him. "Who the bloody hell are you?"
"Oh, Mr. Potter," the grisly, squat man before them swept his hat off of his head and bowed awkwardly while he attempted to balance a large cloth sack, which clanged like it contained pots and pans, over his shoulder. The movements sent a waft of the man's atrocious body odor, accompanied by alcohol vapors, directly back to Harry.
"Mundungus Fletcher," Severus told Harry. He pointed his wand at Mundungus, and with a quick flick, removed the sack from the man's grip and hovered it over to sit in front of Harry. "You do realize that this house now belongs to Harry, hence your pilfering of spoils equates to robbing Harry Potter of his inheritance from his godfather?"
Mundungus kneaded his hat in his hands nervously. "Well, I-" he glared at Severus. "It's only a bit of junk. The kid won't miss it."
"What would you want with a bit of junk, then?" Harry asked angrily.
"I might get a quid or two for some of that," Mundungus declared.
"Leave," Severus said in a voice that was cold as steel. "You will be warded out of this house. Do not attempt to return. I'll let Albus know that you are no longer trustworthy."
"Now hang on, Snape!" Mundungus demanded defensively.
But Severus slashed his wand and sent a silent hex that Harry didn't recognize at Mundungus. The stinky little man yelped and ran for the kitchen, and presumably the back door. "Wait here," Severus told Harry, as he jogged after Mundungus. The whole encounter had set off Madam Black's portrait and her shrill, revolted screams were not helping the situation. In the kitchen, Severus put the smaller man into a body bind and unapologetically obliviated his knowledge of the Fidelius Charm for the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. He released the bind and pushed the confused wizard out of the back door. He took a few moments to cast a strong ward preventing Mundungus from reentering the house altogether. He headed back to Harry, all of the sudden realizing that the portrait had gone silent.
Harry was on his knees in the entry hall, looking through the contents of the sack Mundungus had dropped. The portrait was gone.
"Harry?" Severus asked in shock. "Where is that godforsaken portrait?"
"At the bottom of the lake at Hogwarts," Harry returned offhandedly. "I was done with her wretched screaming."
Severus tried but failed to prevent his snort of amusement from surfacing. But his older and wiser side kicked in and he reached for the boy's arm to pull him to his feet. He took each of the teen's shoulders and looked him in the eye. "You need to be careful with that magic, Harry," he said firmly. When the boy looked like he would protest, Severus shook his head. "You have done nothing wrong, and so far your judgement has been fine. But you are only fifteen, and there will be countless times in your near future when someone will challenge your temper. If you make a habit of banishing things that constitute irritants, you may find yourself considering-"
"I would never hurt someone that way!" Harry said angrily, jerking away from Severus.
"Not intentionally," Severus said in a sterner tone. "But you need to fully understand this power of yours before you utilize it so regularly. It could become reflexive, Harry. You said yourself that you weren't sure where your magic ended and the Dark Lord's began when you were being pulled to him."
Harry glared at his potions professor. "Why don't you call him Voldemort?"
"Why are you being irrational?" Severus was not pleased to be having this confrontation. It was quickly becoming inflammatory and wasting the original opportunity for Harry to retrieve an article of his godfather's.
"Oh where has Kreacher's Mistress gone to?" the craggy elf wailed loudly as he appeared at the end of the long hallway, and hobbled along toward Harry.
Harry glowered at Severus as if to suggest this was all his fault, but he turned to the elf and said. "Well, here's the new plan, Kreacher. I've inherited this house, so that means I've inherited you. I'm sorry that you're not happy about that, but you're just going to have to deal with it. Unless you'd like me to give you clothes? I could do that, and then you could take your misery elsewhere."
"Kreacher doesn't want clothes," the elf said with open hostility. "Kreacher wants his Mistress back."
"Well, that's not going to happen," Harry said unsympathetically. He paused for a long moment, eyes squinting as if he was pondering an idea. "But, you deserve something of your own to remind you of her. So, is there something here in the house, that belonged to her, that you'd like?" It was a nice enough gesture, but the indifference in Harry's voice said he could care less about Kreacher's feelings.
Kreacher was shaking his head, and Severus was becoming suspicious of Harry's behavior. Something was off. The boy was being completely cold; completely out of character. And as Severus was entertaining this inner monologue, Harry rubbed at his scar.
"Have you any desire for anything that Mundungus was trying to steal?" Severus suggested to the distraught elf.
"The boy has no right to the locket," Kreacher said. "Master Regulus died trying to…. No! Kreacher has said too much."
"Which locket?" Severus asked. He looked at Harry, who apparently thought he was appearing innocent. "Harry? was there a locket in that sack?"
"What if there was?" Harry snapped. "It's up to me what Kreacher can have. I like the locket. Pick something else, Kreacher."
"Give me the locket. Now."
Harry glared at Severus. "It's my property, Professor," he said, his voice and physical energy icy and full of defiance.
"Give me the locket now, or I will take a firm hand to you, Mr. Potter, after which I will turn you upside down until your pockets empty onto the floor. Either way, you will release it to me." Severus could see his threat had penetrated the negative haze that the boy had gone under.
Harry pressed his lips together and reached under the neck of his new jumper to grasp the silver chain of the locket, and pull it over his head to hand to Severus. They stood there glaring at each other, until Harry started having trouble maintaining his anger. "Sorry, sir," he said uncertainly, feeling a bit confused.
"Oh, you might have been if you'd defied me any longer," Severus said sternly. "Let's get something straight here, young man: I am not contesting your right to any property, or your use of your magical talents when I issue a warning or request." Harry nodded nervously. Severus could see that whatever had influenced his hostile attitude was receding. He pocketed the locket. "You rubbed your scar while it was on your person, Harry," he said in a normal tone. "Was it hurting?"
Harry took a deep breath against the rush of dread that surged into his chest. "Not hurting, exactly, but it was tingling. Something's wrong, Severus," he said dully. "Now that I think about it, it wasn't my idea to put that locket on like that."
Severus turned to the elf. "Kreacher, you stopped yourself from telling us something about what Master Regulus had died trying to do. Was it something to do with the locket?"
"Answer him, Kreacher," Harry said in a kind but firm tone. "Please."
Kreacher shook his head, obviously trying to disobey, but could not. "The locket is bad. It belonged to Master Regulus' Dark Lord. He asked Kreacher to destroy it because it held evil, but Kreacher was not able to," he began to sob, as he stumbled through the final words, "Master Harry should not keep the locket near him. It holds evil."
"Clearly," Harry said with a snort. He looked up and saw that his professor was studying him with a frown. "I'm sorry about the way I acted just now," Harry said quickly. "I didn't really mean to come off like that, honest."
"I can see that," Severus said. He himself had had enough of this godforsaken house and all of its House of Black elements. He gritted his teeth, reminding himself that coming here had been his idea. "You might want to hasten your search for a memento."
Harry looked at Kreacher. "I'll find a safe place for the locket, where it can't hurt anyone, alright? In the meantime, you can choose something that belonged to Regulus and to Madam Black to keep for yourself, alright?" He wasn't sure how to read the elf's countenance, but was pretty sure it contained an elf-scowl. "And if something comes up that you want to tell me, you can come to me at Hogwarts, alright?" This time the look on the withered elf's face was clear to read, if incredulous disdain could be defined as a facial expression.
Harry and Severus flooed through to Malfoy Manor and stepped out to prepare a separate trip to Hogwarts.
"Ah, Harry, Severus," Lucius called from the end of the long hall that lead away from the Manor's entryway.
Harry watched the blond wizard stroll towards them, all the while reflecting that Severus hadn't put an arm around him when they'd flooed the way he always did, nor was his hand now on Harry's neck. He's angry at how rude I was to him, Harry decided shamefully, as Lucius came closer. There was a flicker of some sort of reaction on Lucius' face as he closed the final distance.
"Everything alright?" Lucius asked.
"It is not, actually," Severus told him. He had completely reverted to his prickly persona. He did not miss the way that Lucius had sidled closer to Harry, as if to shield the boy from something, but he was unconcerned. "We've acquired an item that has caused a reaction in the boy's scar."
Lucius' eyes widened and his nostrils flared. "Have you?" he said. "I thought I sensed something unpleasant. Which of you has this item on his person?" he asked with a raised eyebrow, although he clearly knew the answer as he'd directed the question to Severus.
"I do, and I would like to rid myself of it quite quickly," Severus said. "It is a locket. I'm guessing it is a Slytherin artifact. I'm also guessing it has unthinkable qualities."
"Agreed. I can feel it from here, Severus," Lucius said quietly. "I can feel its influence. It rings of the same interference that came from the diary. It needs to be contained in a secure chamber. I would offer my dungeon, but I don't think I'd like to risk another event."
"How about the Chamber of Secrets?" Harry suggested, the idea having been triggered by Malfoy Sr.'s words. "I could open it again."
Severus spun on him, glaring down at the foolish teen. "You will do no such thing," he said scathingly. Harry took a startled step backward, but his expression was reminiscent of the way he would respond to Severus before their truce, and Severus' temper flared at his disrespectful scowl. "You will stay away from that place, or you'll be very sorry."
Harry felt Lucius' hand on his shoulder, and figured the gesture was meant to let him know Lucius was on his side. "Sir," he let his frustration with Severus' attitude be clear in his words, "I was only suggesting that I open it. Not enter it. We could toss the locket down the chute that leads to the Chamber, and then I could reseal it, right away."
"Excellent idea, Harry," Lucius said. He jerked his chin upward to indicate the floo to Severus. "Go ahead, Severus. We'll be right behind you."
Severus spun on his heal and left without a word. Lucius put an arm around Harry's shoulders and gave him a quick squeeze. "That's the locket, Harry, that's making him act like that," he said reassuringly as he led Harry to the fireplace.
Harry kept his thoughts to himself.