Holiday Struggle - Part III
Chapter 3 - Emancipated Minor - Holiday Struggle - Part III
Remus Lupin was in a fog as he sat in a chair in front of the fireplace in the parlor of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. He'd spent all hours of daylight for the past few days, right there in that chair. Necessity had required him to to drag himself away long enough to go over to Hogwarts to receive his first and second doses of the Wolfsbane potion from Severus. On both occasions, he'd knocked on the door of his former colleague's quarters and accepted the dose with a quiet thank you. Severus had nodded curtly while Remus had downed the foul liquid and had accepted the goblet with an assessing stare but no comment. He had shut the door softly when Remus turned to leave. All in all, such a lack of incendiary interaction from Severus Snape was noteworthy, and Remus kept that tucked in the periphery of his grieving mind.
It was now Saturday evening and time for him to disapparate over to the school gates and hike up the hill to get his final dose of potion for this lunar cycle. Remus would have loved to skip the whole thing, but this month's transformation had been the easiest yet, and he'd been able to shut himself into his bedroom and ride out the long night hours in relative comfort. In many ways, it had been a relief to transform, for though he still had his human conscience and awareness, the distraction of being in wolf form had helped deflect the tragic heartbreak he was feeling over Sirius' demise.
This time when Lupin arrived at his door, Severus invited the werewolf in for a brief discussion. After Lupin had taken the potion, they sat in the seating area before the fire. Severus was completely aware of the other man's distress and grief, but attempted to navigate around it. He was obligated to address some immediate concerns on Minerva's behalf, bad timing or not.
"As you know, I was called to the Ministry of Magic yesterday," Severus began.
"Yes, that's right," Remus acknowledged politely. "How did that go?"
"Not as fluidly as I'd hoped," Severus admitted. "The Ministry was willing to name me as Minerva's Deputy Headmaster for the duration of the holiday break, and in so doing, agreed that I could implement necessary actions, under her supervision and direction, to repair damages caused by Madam Umbridge. They did not, however, agree to cease their monitoring of the school's internal communications. I suspect that there could still be more surprises as Minister Fudge attempts to clean up after himself. I of course indicated that I would assist Minerva in assembling complaints against Madam Umbridge for her mistreatment of students, and in so doing, suggested that the many Decrees of the High Inquisitor had facilitated these abuses within the school. That, in itself, caused a reverberation of panic to ripple through those assembled."
Lupin smiled slightly at Severus' snide tone. "Well, Severus, you do have the ability to rattle even the most stable of personalities when you set your mind to it."
Severus smirked, indulging a brief moment of camaraderie with his former schoolmate. But then he remembered what he still had to discuss with Lupin, and the sneer returned as he anticipated the response to his next words, "I have been authorized to offer you the Defense Against The Dark Arts position on Minerva's behalf."
Remus was shocked. After a beat, he narrowed his eyes at Severus. "Really, Severus?" he asked in a low tone that sounded a bit like a growl. "And at what price, might I ask?" Severus had the audacity to look affronted, which added to Remus' bitterness. "Just how long until you instigate the rattling of chains amongst your Slytherins, encouraging them to complain to their parents about the substandard quality-"
"According to the majority of students, you were the best DADA professor in recent times," Severus said through gritted teeth. He was not expecting to have to reassure Lupin of his sincerity.
They stared at each other for several long moments.
"I would love to come back," Remus said. "It would be the best possible turn of events for me. Are you and Minerva certain that Albus will agree?"
"Yes," Severus said in a bored tone.
Remus grinned, and in spite of his grief, this unexpected snippet of a good news shone brightly in his eyes.
Severus sighed. "It will be helpful to have one of Potter's confidants on staff," Severus added. "He will need to watch his P's and Q's while we wait for Albus to return. I came away from that meeting yesterday with a very strong impression that Fudge would love to prosecute Potter for damages incurred while he was at the Ministry. From what I gathered, the reason Potter is not in custody now is that the burden of proof that the boy was actually there is still unmet. As you well know, the Order removed Potter's five friends without being seen, so they are not at risk of being questioned. And the Death Eaters in custody refuse to confirm Potter's involvement because it would require an admission of guilt on their part."
Remus chuckled. "When all else fails, deny everything."
"Indeed," Severus agreed.
"The last thing Harry needs is that kind of trouble," Remus said quietly.
"Agreed," Severus said. "Which is why I am seeking to dismantle all of the Ministry controls on the school before the new term begins. The less opportunity they have to surveil him, the better."
"Can't Lucius help in that regard?" Remus asked, referring to Lucius Malfoy's position on the Hogwarts Board of Governors. He was tilting his head as he gave Severus a look that said he knew Lucius was playing both sides of the conflict.
Severus contemplate the frail-looking friend of his childhood nemesis, realizing he was making a decision. Remus Lupin was not an enemy, in spite of the fact that Severus had treated him like one all along. It was time to initiate a truce.
"Severus-" Remus started, misinterpreting the silence.
"He is my friend, Lupin, and I am afraid for him," Severus admitted. "Lucius had been passing inside information to me, which is a portion of what I have given to the Order since last summer. He is playing his part as a Death Eater with great skill, but he is just as eager as we are to see the Dark Lord destroyed. I tell you this with reluctance, not because I consider you to not be trustworthy, you understand?"
"I do," Remus said softly. He knew as well as Severus that his dangerous missions among the werewolves could lead to his capture and torture. It was difficult to predict what degree of suffering he would have to endure before he gave up Order secrets. It was a risk among the lot of them.
RAP! RAP! RAP!
"Out!" Aunt Petunia bawled at Harry early Monday morning. He was expecting her summons and had been awake and listening for Uncle Vernon to leave for work for the past hour. He'd pulled all of his documents out of his rucksack, along with the muggle money to pay her for the solicitor fees. When his aunt unlocked and opened his cupboard door, Harry crawled out shakily and stood carefully. Indifferent to his weakened state from being inactive and underfed since he'd arrived, Petunia pointed upstairs to indicate he was to use the shower. "Wash your hair! It stinks as badly as the rest of you! When we return, you'll clean out that cupboard and freshen it up."
Harry held the money out to her, which she snatched as he grabbed his rucksack and turned away, a beet red flush of humiliation rushing up into his face and neck. He didn't dare make any kind of retort. There was little point in reminding her that he'd been LOCKED IN THE BLOODY CUPBOARD for the past five days. It's just a few more weeks now, and then I won't have to put up with this madness ever again, he reminded himself. I just have to get through this bloody visit to the solicitor.
When Harry had locked himself into the upstairs washroom, he found a set of clean clothes waiting for him that included an old school blazer of Dudley's, in addition to a belt that might actually fit him, jeans free of holes, a white button down shirt and some lace-up dress shoes. Everything was too big, but not as bad as some of the things he'd had to wear over the years. He took longer than he should have in the shower, but couldn't help it, after only having been allowed two sponge baths in the previous days. His aunt's comments had stung, so he'd soaped up twice and rinsed at length, to be sure he was clean. He dressed in the odd collection of clothes, tucking in the shirt and belting the jeans, topping it all off with the blazer. When he looked in the mirror, he saw an unloved boy wearing cast-offs of another child who had no idea how lucky he was. Harry balled up the clothes he'd worn when he'd watched his godfather die, He made no argument when he returned with them to the first floor to find his aunt waiting with an open plastic bag which he filled with the clothing ball, and which she tossed in the rubbish bin as they headed out to the idling taxicab that would take them into the city.
Montegue Morris, Esquire greeted Harry and his aunt in the lobby of his large office, and led them into a conference room where two more people were waiting. He introduced them as his legal secretary, Amanda Smythe, and Rebecca Chase, social worker assigned to Harry's case by the London Child Protection Agency. Harry hid his surprise at the additional participants, and shook hands with each woman before taking a seat next to Aunt Petunia at the table. Harry scooted his chair in, hoping belatedly he'd managed to tame his fringe to cover the still purple blotch on his forehead from where he'd banged it last week. He also hoped that his ill fitting attire had not drawn any undue attention, especially the way he had to shuffle his feet to keep the dress shoes he wore from slipping off. He'd stuffed the toes with tissues, but they were still loose and floppy on his feet.
"Well, now," Mr. Morris addressed Harry directly, "Mr. Potter, can you tell us why it is that you are seeking emancipation?"
Harry gulped. He'd rehearsed this speech numerous times, and was completely aware that everything moving forward would depend on this moment. "Er, well, you see, my parents are dead, and I've been living with my aunt and uncle for the past fourteen years, and they want to move to Australia, but I'd like to stay here and finish my education. I'm attending a small private school, and am doing well there, so I intend to spend the next two and a half years focusing on finishing up."
"You would not be afraid to be independent from your family?" Madam Chase asked in a kind voice, but Harry was instantly on the alert that she was looking for flaws in his reasoning.
"Oh," he deliberately looked at his aunt, as if to suggest that they'd discussed the very same thing at length. "The truth is, I've been living away from them while at school for nearly five years now, so the only times I'd feel more alone would be over the hols, but I've got academic intersessions to fill those gaps - I've decided to have a double major. I've also got a bunch of close friends I can go stay with if I feel lonely. And, of course, I can always go see the family, in Australia." He tried to have a happy-go-lucky tone and figured he would be given concessions for being nervous. So far, his words were well received.
"And you, Mrs. Dursley? No qualms about leaving your young nephew on his own?" Madam Chase asked.
Aunt Petunia smiled sweetly, albeit in a dripping, syrupy way. "Well, of course I'll worry about him. He's my dear sister's only child," she said with convincing sentimentality.
Harry clenched his jaw and blinked his eyes to stifle the snort of incredulity that fought for release through his nose. The social worker seemed to take it as him trying to hold in tears. All the better.
"And you have a son, Mrs. Dursley?" Madam Chase asked.
"Yes, my son, Dudley," Aunt Petunia oozed.
Harry was surprised she didn't slip and call him her Diddyditkums.
"Mr. Potter, are you not concerned about being apart from your cousin?" Madam Chase asked.
Harry's mouth dropped open reflexively, and he nearly slipped with a derisive, "Not bloody likely," but caught himself just in time. "Er, no, not really. Dudley and I have always had different interests."
"You don't run in the same circles when you're home from school?"
"No," Harry said, pretending he was talking about something benign. "He's an athlete, and I'm more... bookish."
Mr. Morris had been shuffling through his folder of papers for Harry's petition, and now mercifully intervened by handing them over to Madam Chase for her perusal as he narrated, "Harry's parents left him a nice little trust fund that is covering his education and his living expenses. He's all set until he's twenty-five in that regard. And here are the letters of referrals from the Weasley and Granger families who are closely tied to Mr. Potter, and have the Dursleys full confidence to act as advisors to Harry should he hit a snag before he reaches his majority. In addition, a brochure to the exclusive Hogswarren Institute in Scotland, where Harry has been attending with high academic standing since he was eleven."
Madam Chase seemed to take longer than necessary to assess the documents, and those ten minutes were some of the longest of Harry's life. But she finally gathered them into a stack and handed them back to Mr. Morris. "Everything seems to be in order," she said. "If you can send me a set of these for my file on Mr. Potter, I'll get him entered into the registry and we should be able to complete his petition in time for him to be fully emancipated by the thirty-first of January."
Mr. Morris nodded in approval. He turned to Harry. "So, young man, you will receive a letter from me in about a week's time confirming that you are registered. The actual emancipation standing becomes legal on the thirty-first. Typically, your new identification card that certifies your Emancipated status is mailed out ten days prior, so that it will be in your possession when you become legal. Alright? And you can always call me with questions or concerns about the petition."
Harry sighed with relief and smiled the first broad smile he'd been able to muster since before the Ministry incident. He thanked them all profusely and followed his aunt out of the office. Neither of them spoke until their taxi dropped them off on Privet Drive. Harry slung his rucksack over his shoulder as he followed his aunt up the walk to the front door. She was already launching into her shrill diatribe of how much she'd already bent over backward for him, and that he'd better clean out that smelly cupboard, or she'd-
"A moment, if you will, Mr. Potter." The unwelcome sound of his potions professor startled them both from behind.