Confrontation - Part I
Chapter 4 - Emancipated Minor - Confrontation - Part I
Harry spun around to find Snape and Remus standing just a few feet behind him on Uncle Vernon's perfectly manicured lawn. Remus looked as awful as Harry felt, with his grief hanging over him like dark storm, and his clothing shabby enough that he could pass as homeless in Downtown London. Snape, on the other hand, looked surprisingly muggle-normal. He'd transfigured his black cloak into a long dark coat and had a brown scarf around his neck, tucked inside the collar so that the rest of his attire was concealed except for the black trousers and boots showing below the bottom of his coat. His hair, as it blew in the chilly wind, was free of its usual clumpiness and looked freshly washed. The sight distracted Harry enough that his overloaded brain did not immediately register the urgency behind the two older wizards' expressions.
"You!" Aunt Petunia barked. Harry snapped his head back to look at her, only to find her glaring at Snape. "I know you, Severus Snape!" she said in an accusatory tone. Then to Remus, "and you. Why are you here? Are you taking the boy?" The last was said with a very quick shift from hostility to hope.
Harry looked back at Remus and Snape, struggling to comprehend what he'd just heard, but got no answers to his fleeting unspoken questions because neither wizard appeared interested in engaging his aunt in conversation.
"Potter, is that all of your things?" Snape asked Harry, nodding at Harry's rucksack.
"Everything but my heavier jacket," Harry said, but no one seemed to have heard him.
"Do you have your cloak, Harry?" Remus asked, meaning the invisibility cloak Harry had inherited from his dad. When Harry nodded that he did, Remus jerked his head to indicate Harry should come stand by him.
Severus watched Potter follow directions, not missing the telltale reluctance in the boy's movements. He and Lupin shared a look and Lupin gave a curt nod before clasping a hand on Potter's shoulder and guiding him down the street and around the corner toward the small cove in the alleyway just a few houses down. Severus turned back to Petunia.
"What has just occurred between you and the boy?" Severus demanded. "The wards protecting this house, and you, have fallen. You will need to leave immediately, Petunia."
"How long have you been mixed up with all of this, Severus?" She demanded right back. "If you are so concerned about him, why didn't you take him in after she died? Dumbledore said that magic they put here was so strong because it was built around love. Her love. I know you-"
"That is neither here nor there, stupid woman!" Severus interrupted angrily. "You are not hearing me. You. Are. In. Danger. At any moment, the Dark Lord will be informed that Harry Potter's home in Little Whinging no longer has its protections in place, and he will come looking for the boy. When he does not find him, he will torture you to find out where he is. Then he will kill you. And then he will kill your husband, and then your son." He had been watching Lily's sister grow more and more pale with each of his words. "You need to leave now. If you will allow it, there is protection set up for you, but we need to be anywhere but here while we continue this discussion."
"I'll take my chances," Petunia sneered at him. "When Vernon gets home, I'll take it up with him and see what he wants to do-"
Severus refused to listen to her nonsense any further. He surreptitiously silenced and confunded her and led her down the street to the same cove Lupin had taken Potter to.
Remus had had Harry don the invisibility cloak when they reached the secluded spot around the corner from Privet Drive, and had immediately disapparated with him to the front gates at Hogwarts. Harry felt both exhilarated and like he was going to vomit, or possibly pass out, as he took a moment to regain his bearings from his first experience with side-along apparation. If he wasn't so hungry, exhausted, and terrified at what was unfolding at the moment, he would have declared aloud that he could hardly wait until he could start apparating. They quickly entered the grounds and hiked up the hill toward the castle.
"Hogwarts is still being watched," Remus explained while they walked. "No one can know that you are here, Harry, so you will need to stay indoors, and will likely have to stay out of the hallways as well."
Harry had looked up at his father's dear friend several times as they were walking, trying to read any hostility that Remus might be feeling toward him, but saw none. What he saw was someone who was hurting as much, if not worse, than Harry himself. The older wizard looked more drawn than ever, and Harry took full responsibility for the loss they both were suffering right now.
"Remus, I'm sorry," Harry said brokenly as they continued to walk.
Remus kept his eyes on the path as he responded in a strained voice that actually made Harry feel worse in spite of his words. "Harry, do not attempt to take the blame for Sirius' death, alright? You are not responsible for containing the evil we all face. You didn't cast the killing curse that sent Sirius through that veil."
No, he hadn't, Harry accepted in his thoughts. Bellatrix Lestrange had. A surge of fury swept through him with a ferocity that he'd not felt since he'd forced Voldemort from his body last week. The anger felt like a flame that erased the chill from his poorly clad frame and he managed to forget to condemn himself for having been stupid enough to fall for Voldemort's trap. Instead, he thought of Bellatrix Lestrange, and Voldemort, and all of his minions, and he let the anger simmer under his skin for the time being.
Harry realized with measurable dread they must be going to Snape's private quarters as Remus led him down through several of the dungeon halls to an ornate door that only became visible when standing directly in front of it. Remus knocked and a few moments later, the door opened and Harry reluctantly entered behind the older wizard. He removed his cloak.
"Harry, my boy," Albus Dumbledore greeted him with tempered enthusiasm.
"Professor Dumbledore!" Harry exclaimed in surprise, before he remembered that he actually was not happy to see the elderly wizard. He blinked a couple of times as the unsettled feeling of confusion and rejection twisted around in his stomach. He used the process of folding his cloak and putting it in his rucksack as a means to cover the sudden shaking that had overtaken his body.
"Harry," Albus said in a gentle, but compelling tone, "what have you done?"
Harry looked up at him sharply, remembering as he did, that he was in the private chambers of his least favorite professor and immediately felt like an intruder. The very familiar feeling of being trapped and powerless rushed up to claim the upper hand on his emotions, and a defensive rage joined the mix, until Harry was fit to be tied. He clenched his jaw, not wanting to give any information away. He'd kept his secret all this time, with only Hermione, Aunt Petunia, and Griphook, the goblin at Gringott's, in the know along with him. He no longer trusted Dumbledore, and the glare he directed at the former Headmaster of Hogwarts was cold and challenging.
The door opened and someone else walked in behind Harry. Through his peripheral vision he saw Snape circle around and go to stand before the fire just to the side of the leather armchair Professor Dumbledore was sitting in. Harry glanced quickly at his potions professor and found the other wizard to be watching him with an unreadable expression. Snape removed his coat and scarf, banishing them from sight, and stood in white shirt and black trousers, and still not looking like the Snape that Harry knew and loathed. Harry pulled his eyes away from that strange anomaly and settled them on the flames in the fireplace.
"Harry?" Dumbledore prodded with a little more command this time. "You haven't told me what exactly it is that you have done."
The undefinable drudge of heaviness in Harry's stomach made it difficult for him to breathe, let alone speak. He attempted to force himself to go numb, and then moved his eyes back over to Dumbledore. "I'm doing what I've always done," he said coldly. "I'm taking care of myself."
"But Harry, in doing so, you have caused the wards to fail at Privet Drive," Dumbledore informed him.
Harry was shocked. Another burden of blame, just for me. "Why have they failed?" he asked in a choked voice.
"They responded to whatever has changed to make you no longer consider your aunt's house as your home," Dumbledore said.
Tears of indignant rage rushed into Harry's eyes, much to his frustration, and he swiped at them but they still spilled over and ran down his cheeks. "I never considered it my home," he said bitterly. "How could I, when they constantly told me I was not wanted there?"
Severus was extremely unsettled by the sight of Harry Potter in tears. The boy was struggling valiantly to hold onto his composure, but the battle was like a public airing of all of his secrets, and the vulnerability of an isolated and terrified boy was coming through, loud and clear. And worse, he was revealing a backstory that Severus had never imagined possible for the Boy Wonder, and wouldn't have believed yet, had he not just seen for himself how Petunia Dursley regarded her nephew.
"Who's the one who put the wards up, sir?" Potter was asking ironically. "Was it you? You told me my mum's love for me made them stronger than anything Voldemort could try to use to dismantle them. What has my aunt and I coming to an agreement have to do with any of that? You couldn't have built them with her love in mind. They never would have worked in that case!"
"Harry," Albus started with a placating tone.
"What, sir?" The tense teen bit out. "Are you going to claim that the failing wards are my fault? that if I'd just cooperated until I was seventeen, I'd be so much safer?" Potter took a step closer and leaned forward as pure, unadulterated anger overtook him. He was still several feet away from Albus, but the force of his emotion was as strong as if he was right in the elderly wizard's face. "I needed help. You left me with them. I needed answers. You turned your back whenever I sought you out! You told my best friends to keep me in the dark. I had no one to go to for help. There were Dementors, and I had to handle them by myself. No one fussed over how I might have been feeling afterward. No, I just got treated like a criminal-" He shook his head as if to stop himself from going on another tangent, and instead expanded his glare to include Severus and Remus. "You all have acted like I'm the dumb little boy who will only mess things up if I know too much, but you are the ones who don't know enough!" He tapped his scar. "He's in here! There's no way around that. I heard the prophecy, Professor." This last part was now directed back at Albus. "I know I have to die, to kill the part of him that's in me. Neither of us can live while the other survives. That's what it said."
"Potter," Severus said sternly, instincts kicking in along with his growing alarm at what he was hearing. "Enough. Take a seat and pull yourself together. There is much to discuss. You can continue your little tirade at another time."
Harry was actually grateful that Snape had cut in like that. He'd said way more than he'd intended. He was panting with the effort to control his fury, and the heat that had surfaced earlier was still there, under his skin, the warmth giving him a sense of comfort. It felt like his own blanket of safety. It felt like power. He allowed that realization to calm him significantly and made his way over to the sofa and took a seat.
Remus came and sat beside him. He was looking at Harry with shock and concern. Harry knew at once that he could still trust his former DADA professor, but also knew that Remus had limits to how much he could help Harry.
The entire mess was just so complicated.