Defense - Part IV
Chapter 31 - Emancipated Minor - Defense - Part IV
"Did I mess up, Lucius?" Harry asked, once again wondering if his hide was at stake.
Lucius had bent forward so that they were on eye level. "Did you mess up? For pointing out the obvious to a group of imbecilic lawmakers, who cannot see the kettles among the cauldrons?" he asked, finally smiling. He shook his head as if bewildered. "Ah, dear Harry… Come, let's get you back to Severus. Apparently much has occurred while we availed ourselves to that pointless blather because I have a burn mark from that damned coin, and Severus' constant nattering."
Harry was pretty sure he wouldn't be happy to hear about what else had gone on today.
Severus was waiting for them in his quarters when they flooed through. He read first Harry's, then Lucius' expressions and immediately demanded to know, "What happened?"
Harry cleared his throat and said, "Apparently I pointed out the kettles among the cauldrons to The Wizengamot." He was beyond relieved to see amusement in Severus' eyes.
"Indeed, he did," Lucius said, sweeping in and taking a seat in the leather arm chair, immediately summoning Severus' firewhiskey and pouring a decent ration into a crystal tumbler that appeared at the end of his wand.
"If my glassware is lacking, Lucius," Severus drawled, "by all means, bring your own."
Lucius snorted, but took a fortifying slug of the drink before speaking his mind. "That bloody body of low-magical-threshold buffoons actually managed to let Pius find out about the secure meeting with Harry. That son of a demented witch stood right in front of them and blatantly threatened Harry's life. No one even flinched until Harry pointed out his obvious allegiance to Voldemort."
Severus' temper flared. "What exactly did he say about Harry?"
Lucius looked over to where Harry still stood by the fireplace, noting the boy's open disdain at the mention of Minister Thickeness. "I read the underlying threat to be that those who hoped for another resurrection of their Dark Lord believe that Harry would have to die so that Voldemort could return," he told Severus.
"That's what I got out of it as well," Harry said. He finally made his way over to the sofa and sat down with a frustrated flop. "And, honestly, what else is new?"
Severus was still on his feet, and very obviously fit to be tied, because he was literally pacing. Harry watched him warily, while he inwardly reviewed all of the other updates he was due to hear. He looked up to see Severus studying him with narrowed eyes while continuing his pacing. Harry smirked in spite of his inner tension, directing his next question to Lucius, "Did Remus say how his testimony went in Wormtail's hearing?"
"He seemed to think that a significant step had been made towards clearing your godfather's name," Lucius replied. "I imagine the evening edition of the Prophet will have something about it."
"And, it will have a detailed, unauthorized biography of me, and all of the abuses I suffered at Privet Drive," Harry added disgustedly. "I simply cannot wait to read about how I grew up, according to some loquacious reporter I've never met."
Now Severus came to a comical halt in his pacing to challenge Harry with a raised eyebrow. "Loquacious, hmmm?"
Harry smiled mildly. "I actually know some big words, Severus." He refrained from admitting he'd learned that one from Hermione, assuming it was obvious anyway.
Harry and Severus decided that they would dine in Severus' quarters that night to avoid the backlash of the evening Prophet article. But Harry left for a while to go see his friends and tell them about his experience. Lucius remained, still slowly enjoying his drink, waiting for Severus to fill him in on what had been behind his repeated queries about Harry's wellbeing.
"I told you I'd keep him safe, did I not?" Lucius chided, or provoked, depending on who was defining the response.
Severus sighed. "Albus believes he will be reinstated as Headmaster tomorrow, so before his arrival upheaves the status quo among the Slytherins, I'd very much like to have a chance to discuss some things with Harry, without too much more disruption than we can already expect."
"What is on your mind?" Lucius asked.
"I've been contemplating the day when we will have to address the horcrux in Harry's scar," Severus said quietly. He leaned back into the sofa with a sigh, crossing his legs and folding his arms unconsciously. "I had a long chat with Rebecca Chase the other night, finding out among other things that she recently began to date a muggle physician. A brain specialist."
"Ah," Lucius said, with a hint of sympathy to what he could see was a loss for Severus, "I had thought I'd read an attraction between the two of you."
"You did," Severus admitted. "But I'm not available, and she's interested in an active participant in her relationships, so that makes me a poor candidate."
"I do, however, intend to maintain the friendship that has blossomed," Severus said. "She has been a good sounding board for me in regards to Harry. I confided that his scar is a concern, calling what resides within a curse that needs to be released."
"What are you thinking about attempting?" Lucius asked, slightly alarmed for Harry's sake. He had no fears whatsoever that Severus would attempt anything without confidence of its success, but he still worried about what the boy would experience.
"I'm grasping at straws," Severus said in frustration. "I took the risk of revealing this information to her, in the hopes that she'd have something unexpected to contribute. And she did. I would like to explore it."
"Do tell," Lucius invited, leaning forward, elbows on his knees and crystal tumbler in his hands.
"There is a procedure in muggle medicine that utilizers a magnetic field to visualize the brain. They call it an MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging. She thought, and I agree, that perhaps by using this machine to provide a view of the interior of Harry's skull, that we can see if there is a physical container present, inside which the horcrux resides."
Lucius stared at him with raised eyebrows, contemplating. "I would expect it to be contained in a magical field, but perhaps that is incorrect… the others are contained within inanimate objects…"
"So there is no way to be conclusive without having a look," Severus said. "Of course, we can also have Poppy scan him for curse residue and the like, but this MRI sounds like a good place to start. It is painless, and off site, so Harry could be away from here to process whatever the experience yields."
"There is no real rush to do this, is there, Severus?" Lucius asked carefully. "This will sound horrible, but shouldn't we save his for last? So that he can help locate the others?"
"Yes, but the planning should begin now, in advance of unforeseen occurrences."
When Harry returned, he had a copy of the Prophet folded under his arm, which he handed to Severus. "I haven't read it yet, but literally everyone else has done, or is in the process of doing so now."
"Hmmm. Let's eat first, shall we?" Severus said putting a hand on Harry's shoulder to guide him to the kitchen where lamb chops and roasted potatoes awaited them. The green vegetable was brussels sprouts, and Severus was interested to see if Harry would avoid them. But the boy filled his plate with everything and started in when Severus had also served himself. "You impress me with your eating habits," he told Harry. "I never have to remind you to eat your vegetables."
Harry smiled a small smile, his leg jiggling wildly enough under the table that it made his upper body visibly move. "I learned early on not to be picky."
"How bad was it if you were picky?" Severus asked carefully, knowing he was breaching territory that Harry guarded fiercely.
"I missed a lot of meals," Harry said tensely. "Ron figured it out after first year, and Mrs. Weasley sent me cakes and meat pies around my birthday. I'd hide them under a floor board and ration them out, trying to make them last, but they'd go bad without a preserving charm."
Severus nodded slowly, schooling his features to remain impassive, but he was inwardly seething. "The Order has had the Dursleys return to their home, in case you'd want to know."
"Oh," Harry said. "Well, I'm sure they were gracious and full of gratitude about the whole thing."
"Actually, they were utterly awful and downright obnoxious about it."
They finished eating in silence, each stewing on private thoughts. Harry looked up from his last bite of treacle tart and found Severus watching him. "What?" he asked, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"Shall we get it over with?" Severus asked.
"Come, let's adjourn to the sitting area," Severus said, leading them back to the fire and claiming the leather chair, leaving Harry the sofa. He picked up the paper and assessed the two competing top stories. "Well, there is a positive turn of events in regards to Wormtail and your godfather." He skimmed the article. "Nothing definitive yet, only comments on newly provided testimony from Lupin and 'another unnamed source.' But there is a strong suggestion that Pettigrew was indeed behind the mass murders in 1981."
Harry nodded, his eyes on the fire. He wanted to have a chance to really let that sink in. Sirius getting cleared of all that he'd been accused of would be monumental… And utterly tragic, because he wasn't here to revel in the triumph. When Severus moved on and began to the read the follow-up to Friday's article, Harry quickly went numb. There was no other way to hear it out loud, knowing that literally every wizard in Great Britain now had access to this information. As he listened, it became apparent to Harry that the reporter had to have spoken to one of his relatives. No one else could possibly have known this information about him, unless every single adult he'd ever met had realized he was being mistreated and refused to say a word. He heard the content in blurbs:
….poor Harry had never had an eye exam, and had gotten his glasses from a bin in a rummage sale….
….the neighbors had been warned that he was a troublemaker and could be violent. Consequently, he'd never had friends growing up….
….he was kept in a cupboard when at home, unless he was doing chores or attending school…..
….meals were limited to keep his energy low. Chores were excessive to keep him in a state of exhaustion….
….his birthday was never acknowledged, but his cousin who was the same age was given lavish attention and gifts and spoiled rotten. Christmas was the same, with Harry in his cupboard while his cousin ripped open present after present….
….his muggle school nurse believed he was clumsy, and never questioned his bruises….
….his muggle teachers believed he was a behavior problem and took a very strict tone with him to nip that in the bud, seemingly considering his lack of disruptive behavior a sign of success in their classroom discipline….
….during holiday breaks at Hogwarts, Harry stayed at the school or with school friends to avoid returning to that household….
"Stop," Harry said. He still had his eyes on the fire. "I don't need to hear it. I lived it."
Severus tossed the paper into the fire. "Come here, Harry," he said calmly. He waited while Harry struggled with himself before finally casting a tearful glance his way and shaking his head vehemently. Severus nodded with equal adamance.
"I'm too big," Harry said, but a sob was rising up and he was falling apart.
"You are not, son," Severus said. "Not just yet. Come sit with me."
Harry slowly got up and made his way over to Severus, feeling awkward and stupid and pathetic. But Severus took his wrist and pulled him over and down until he'd sat on his professor's knees and leaned back into the older wizard's chest.
"You need this, son," Severus said softly into Harry's hair. "And I do, too."
Severus sat alone before the fire, thinking about Harry Potter and all that he now knew about who that boy really was. He thought back to the night after the incident at the Ministry, when Albus had called him a predator, and how affronted he'd been. But Albus had called him out for what he'd shown himself to be, where the boy was concerned. It was clear then that Albus had known Harry was disadvantaged. He wondered what his elderly mentor thought of tonight's article, and how much of it was a surprise. Ironically, it had always been clear to Severus how much Albus cared for, actually loved Harry, and yet the old coot had knowingly allowed him to suffer. No doubt for some larger plan that he thought he could manufacture in an effort to steer the course of the future.
But beyond that line of reverie, was a horrible, horrible guilt that was leaving Severus feeling like he needed to vomit. As awful as he'd been to Harry, he never would have imagined that Harry had come from that kind of life with his aunt. He'd never once considered that her venomous hatred of magic would have endured all of this time, and been directed at her beloved sister's child. He imagined what his response would have been if he'd had an encounter with Harry that revealed the abuse prior to now. He knew himself well enough to know he would have intervened. But would he have bonded with the boy? He wanted to believe he would have.
His coin warmed and he retrieved it to find a message from Lupin: Are you still up? I'm outside your door. I won't keep you long.
He actually was grateful for the interruption, and went to gesture the DADA professor in, closing the door softly behind him. "Harry is asleep in his new room," Severus said. He cast a silencing charm around them to keep their voices from disturbing Harry. "Would you care to imbibe?" he asked, holding up the firewhiskey decanter.
"Yes, thanks," Lupin said. There was obvious strain in his voice.
"Are you here about the Prophet article?" Severus asked.
"Yes," Lupin replied, sounding depleted. His eyes were reddening around the edges. "Is he alright?"
"I think he's doing well enough," Severus said calmly.
"You were kind with him?" Lupin asked, emotion creeping into his voice now. When Severus nodded and gestured for him to be seated, Lupin sat with his drink on the sofa, struggling to pull himself back in check. "That was horribly difficult to read. Did he indicate how accurate the facts were?"
"He denied none of it," Severus said. He clenched his jaw at his own sadness on Harry's behalf. "I am curious to know which of his relatives provided the information. It could not have come from anywhere else, according to Harry's claim to have never shared the information with anyone, ever."
"It doesn't read like it was attained through Legilimency, does it?" Lupin observed. "I wonder if a price was paid out for the information?"
"The way it was written, either the reporter read between the bitter lines of Petunia's proclamations of victimhood at having had to raise Harry, or someone in that household has grown a conscience," Severus added.
"I wonder if there's anything to be done about it?" Lupin asked. "Would it benefit Harry to press charges in the muggle legal system?"
"I seriously doubt he'd want to, and I would not be inclined to force the issue with him."