Chapter 1: Flapping a Butterfly's Wings
It was not something quite as innocuous as the flapping of a butterfly’s wing that changed the fate of the wizarding world. Rather it was the choice (in so much that they make choices) of a Western honey bee that would alter the course of the lives of a great number of people, wizard and Muggle alike. It was on the day of July 30th, 1991 that the honey bee in question was approached by a small child of seven years, though the bee, had anyone thought to ask her and had she been capable of answering, would have said she was being attacked by a giant monster. In another lifetime the bee would have stung the child to defend her hive, losing her stinger and life in the process, marking the first in what would inevitably be a remarkably high death toll, for all that her sacrifice often went uncounted. However on this particular day the bee was feeling slightly less brave (or perhaps just less suicidal) and was rewarded when the monster shortly went on its way, leaving her to return to her normal routine of gathering nectar.
The boy, having successfully retrieved his ball, returned to his friends to continue their game of football, completely unaware of how close they had been to having to call of the game due to his severe bee allergy. As it was, they were able to continue playing for another fifteen minutes before a solid kick and poor aim sent the ball over a fence and straight into the window of a nearby house.
The window did not, of course, break, as this particular house belonged to a wizard. More tellingly this house belonged to Severus Snape, and while many other wizards might leave the windows to break and be fixed with a quick Reparo charm, Severus preferred to charm the glass not to break in the first place. All too often had Severus found a problem much harder to fix than he would have thought, if not impossible, for him to not do everything he could to prevent them from happening. Whether or not this philosophy was one that need be applied to household windows is not something he spent much time contemplating.
Therefore the sound the ball made when it hit the window was more of a loud thud than the shattering of glass, though in the long run either sound would have been enough to make a difference. For whichever noise it was, it was loud enough to startle (not that he would ever admit to it) Severus out of a state of deep concentration in the book he was reading. Glancing up at the clock Severus found himself somewhat grateful to the ball that had most assuredly not startled him. For the book he had been reading was a particularly engrossing one on complex potions theory, written in Russian. The intensive amounts of time and effort that it actually took Severus to read Russian, coupled with the length of the books chapters meant it would have likely been another hour or so before he finished the chapter he was reading and thought to check the time. On a normal day this might not have made a difference, but today he had a meeting with the Headmaster in ten minutes, meaning the extra hour lost would have made him very late. And since Severus had stop believing late to be better than never on the night of October 31, 1981, he would have had to send his apologies to Dumbledore and not have gone at to the meeting all. As it was though, he had been interrupted, so he carefully put away his book, making sure to bookmark his page, checked to make sure he had anything he might need and a good many things he probably wouldn’t, preparedness being one of the key elements in problem prevention, and flooed to Dumbledore’s office a full five minutes early.
Severus stepped out of the fireplace and into the office proper, brushing the soot off himself. The office seemed much the same as it had when Severus had first been in it, nearly sixteen years ago now. The sleeping portraits lining the circular walls and silver instrument whirring and puffing on spindle-legged tables could have been a scene out of any of his memories of visits to this office. This lack of apparent change reflected itself in the office’s owner who appeared to Severus to be almost frozen in time from the moment he had first saw the old man at the Welcoming Feast of Severus’s first year at Hogwarts.
“Ah, Severus, good of you to come. Please, have a seat” said Dumbledore, turning around from where he had been admiring his phoenix just moments before. He gestured Severus toward a vacant chair before seating himself behind his great claw-footed desk. “I’m afraid I have a small favor to ask of you.”
“What would that be?” asked Severus warily. While he had meant it all those years ago when he promised Dumbledore he would do anything for him in return for the old man’s help, it did not mean Severus actually enjoyed doing these “small favors.” Particularly since Dumbledore’s idea of a small favor more closely aligned with Severus’s idea of a large undertaking.
Dumbledore watched Severus for a minute, as though gauging how the younger man would react to the favor required of him before replying. “I need you to give a home visit to one of our prospective students.”
“I was under the impression that it was Minerva’s job to give the home visits to the Muggleborn students. Besides am I really the most capable member of the staff you can find?” Severus sneered. Even in all of his optimism, Dumbledore had to be aware of Severus’s… distaste for small children. While Severus might understand the necessity of being a teacher when his sole protector was the Headmaster of a school, Severus didn’t actually enjoy interacting with children, especially the younger ones. This made it rather difficult to understand how Dumbledore thought sending him to some child’s house was a good idea.
“Yes, well I’m afraid we’ve run into some… unexpected delays with this one,” Dumbledore explained looking strangely uncomfortable. “I didn’t anticipate needing to visit this particular child at home and the necessity of it has only recently become apparent. Because of this Minerva didn’t schedule a visit to this child, and isn’t able to fit it in at the last minute, and none of the other staff, aside from Hagrid, were available on such short notice. Besides which you have some unique qualifications that make you perfect for this particular visit.”
Unique qualifications? That sounded decidedly suspicious. Still if it was between him and Hagrid… “Who is the child?”
“Why Severus,” Dumbledore replied, and Severus allowed himself a brief moment to wonder at how he could go from uncomfortable to positively beaming in such a short span of time, “it’s young Harry Potter, of course. After all you did swear to protect him from harm, which makes you rather perfect for the job, wouldn’t you say? Plus I was hoping that the fact that you already know the boy’s aunt might facilitate things a bit. You remember Petunia, of course?”
Severus’s mind, which had come to a stop at the mention of Harry Potter, roared back to life upon hearing the name of that foul woman. “Petunia Evans? You mean to tell me, Dumbledore, that you left the boy with Petunia Evans?”
“Actually it’s Petunia Dursley now; she got married to a man named Vernon a while back,” Dumbledore replied, eyes still twinkling merrily, as though he had no comprehension of what he was saying.
“What in the world possessed you to leave the boy with muggles? And not just muggles, you had to leave him, Lily’s son, with Petunia Evans. I wouldn’t trust that woman to take care of a potted plant, much less a child. And yet you thought it was a good idea to leave the Boy-Who-Lived in her ‘care?’ There are only three people in this world who deserve to be at the mercy of Petunia Evans, and let me assure you none of them are a one year old child.” By now Snape had worked himself up into a fury, only to be made worse by the fact that Dumbledore seemed as calm as ever.
“Part of the reason I left her with Harry is that he is her nephew, and the same age as her own son Dudley, so I was quite sure, given some time, she could grow to love the boy as if he were her own.” Snape snorted in disbelief. He wasn’t sure Petunia was capable of love and he was absolutely certain she couldn’t love anyone with magic. How else could she have turned Lily away? “Yes, well your disbelief aside there is another, more pressing reason that I choose to leave Harry with his aunt. It was the only way I could be sure that he would be truly safe should Voldemort ever return. Lily died to protect Harry, and her sacrifice allowed me to erect blood wards to keep him safe. As long as Harry can call a house where his mother’s blood dwells home, he will be protected by the blood wards and safe even if Voldemort returns to full power. My chief concern has always been keeping Harry safe.” Dumbledore looked straight into Severus’s eyes, almost as though he was pleading that the other man understand. Snape swallowed imperceptibly.
“Fine, give me the boy’s letter so I can get this over with quickly.” Since it was quickly becoming clear that Severus was going to have to visit the home of Petunia Evans and likely explain the entirety of the wizarding world to the Potter brat, he could see nothing to gain by delaying the experience.
“I’m afraid it won’t be quite that simple, Severus. I’m sure you know the opinions that Petunia held on magic, and, from what Minerva told me when I dropped Harry off, there is little reason to hope that Mr. Dursley will be much better. Since it is entirely possible that they will not want him to come to Hogwarts I need you to make sure Harry gets a chance to make a fully informed decision and that the Dursley’s respect the decision he makes. Furthermore, after you drop off his letter this evening I’d like you to stay the night and take him to Diagon Alley tomorrow morning to get his school supplies.” Dumbledore was positively joyful as he continued, “It should be a lovely way for young Harry to spend his birthday.”
While Severus was grudgingly willing to take the boy his letter, spending the night at the house of Petunia Evans and taking the Potter brat shopping on his birthday decidedly crossed a line. “I don’t see why I-“
“Severus,” Dumbledore interrupted his objections, the old man’s tone having lost the mirth it held only a moment ago. Since Severus wouldn’t have lived so long as a spy by ignoring warning signs as obvious as that, he slumped almost undetectably in defeat before acquiescing.
“Very well, I shall take the boy… shopping.” Severus shuddered at the thought. “But when this goes wrong I want you to remember that I thought it was a bad idea.”
“Fair enough,” Dumbledore replied, before rummaging through a desk drawer and pulling out what appeared to be two letters and a Gringott’s key. “Here is Harry’s letter and the key to his vault; I’ve been keeping the key safe for him. I’d also like you to take this letter down to Hagrid. I’ve asked him to go pick up the Stone for me tomorrow-“
“Another bad idea,” Severus muttered,
“-plus I believe he made Harry a cake for his birthday, and I’m sure he’ll want you to deliver it for him.” Since there was clearly no point in arguing with the Headmaster, Severus took the letters and the key before leaving the office to walk down to Hagrid’s hut. After as short of a visit as possible with the half-giant, he would go home and get a relaxing dinner in, and finish up the chapter of his book. There was no reason to leave immediately if he was going to be required to stay the night anyway. He would leave that evening to fetch Potter from “Hut-on-the-Rock, The Sea.” Oh, just bloody brilliant.
Chapter 2: A Late Night Visit
Late that night, the boy in question lay on the ground in the Hut-on-the-Rock. He had no covers to speak of, as he had instead elected to fold up the single ragged and moth-eaten blanket his Aunt Petunia had given him and use it as a pillow. Harry was not, despite the lateness of the hour, sleeping however. At some point during the night his cousin’s arm had slipped off the couch he was sleeping on, allowing Harry to watch Dudley’s wristwatch as the minutes slowly ticked down to his eleventh birthday. He expected the Dursley’s to give the event even less attention this year than they had in previous years, leaving Harry in the uncomfortable position of wondering whether it was worse to get deliberately bad gifts, like the coat hanger and a pair of Uncle Vernon’s old socks, or to have the event ignored altogether. But still, it wasn’t every day that you turned eleven, so Harry eagerly watched the seconds tick past.
At 11:59 there was a sharp crack of thunder (he must have missed the lightning), that sounded disturbingly close. Harry looked around worriedly at the unsteady walls of the shack. The rain and wind were bad enough as it was, and he wasn’t sure if the hut could continue standing if the thunderstorm got any worse.
It turned out to be quite fortunate Harry wasn’t asleep, as he might have otherwise missed the sharp knock that sounded on the door just a few seconds later. Harry hesitated for only a moment before jumping up to answer the door. He was pretty sure that anyone who was desperate (and strange) enough to leave a hundred or so copies of the exact same letter at the front desk of a shabby hotel would also be desperate enough to come to a run-down hut on rock not really big enough to be classified as an island in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. Harry figured if he hurried he might get a chance to talk to whoever it was before the Dursleys woke up. Stumbling and squinting slightly, he had forgotten to put on his glasses in his haste, Harry made his way to the door. He tried to move as quietly as possible; Dudley slept like the dead, but Harry didn’t want to risk waking up his aunt or uncle. Opening the door revealed a tall, thin man who appeared to be completely dry, making Harry wonder if his eyesight was worse than he assumed. He thought he heard a small gasp escape from the man, but must have been mistaken as the man’s voice was perfectly calm and even when he spoke up a moment later.
“Mr. Potter I assume?”
“Yes, I’m Harry Potter sir,” Harry replied almost automatically. The whole thing was so strange Harry wasn’t really sure how he was supposed to act, so he decided the best thing to do was just be as polite as possible until he figured out what exactly was going on. To that end Harry opened the door a little wider and stepped out of the man’s way. “Please come in sir.” Once the man was inside Harry quickly closed the door before any more rain could get in. He turned back to the man and, still trying to be polite, Harry offered his hand, “Pleased to meet you Mr. …” Here he trailed off, force to confront the rather uncomfortable fact that he had no clue who the man he had just invited in the house was. Not that he regretted it, no one should be forced to stay outside in a thunderstorm, but Harry would have felt a lot better if he knew who the man was.
After a short pause the man took Harry’s hand in his own and shook it. “I am Professor Severus Snape.” A professor! Well that was alright then. Harry hadn’t ever met a professor before, but he knew that’s what they called teachers at uni, and teachers were usually good people. “You may,” the Professor continued, “continue to address me as sir, or you may call me professor if you prefer.”
“Yes sir,” Harry replied, gratified to find he had made the right choice in being polite. Teachers always wanted you to be respectful, and Professor Snape sure seemed to appreciate it. The Professor was currently giving Harry an appraising look, or at least Harry thought he was. His poor vision made it so all the man’s features tended to blend together.
“Why are you squinting at me, Mr. Potter?” Harry’s eyes flew open as the boy hastened to correct his mistake. Sometimes when he couldn’t see well he would start squinting and not even realize it, but Harry was fairly certain that squinting at someone was not considered respectful behavior.
“I’m sorry Professor; I forgot to put on my glasses before I opened the door for you.”
“Go put them on then,” replied Professor Snape, as if it were completely obvious, which, to be fair, it was. Harry had been wanting to do just that since he had open the door, how else was he supposed to get a good look at Professor Snape, but he hadn’t really been sure how to do it without being rude. Now that he had Professor Snape’s permission Harry scrambled over to his glasses, which were still sitting on the floor next to his make-shift pillow. Harry quickly jammed the glasses on his face before turning to get his first real look at the Professor.
Harry’s first thought was that the name Severus fit the man. He certainly was rather severe looking; with a scowl that Harry was pretty sure was Professor Snape’s neutral expression, and long black robes that only served to make him look more intimidating, rather than rather silly as Harry would have guessed they might. He had a hooked nose and dark eyes, which were framed by black hair that hung rather limply and looked a bit greasy to Harry. Still, if Professor Snape was the one sending Harry the letters, then he must care about Harry at least a little bit. Caring was a nearly unprecedented concept for Harry, so it seemed a little ungrateful to complain about the package it came in.
The addition of his glasses also allowed Harry to see that he had been correct earlier; the professor didn’t appear to have a drop of water on him. This made absolutely no sense to Harry, who felt like he was soaked (well he was damp at least) just from standing in the doorway for a minute. He doubted that even the world’s best umbrella could have gotten Professor Snape out of that storm without getting at least a little wet. “Sir? Why aren’t you wet? It’s raining really hard out there.”
The professor gave Harry a Look before replying “Magic, Mr. Potter.” Harry frowned at that. “Magic” was the kind of non-answer he would expect from Dudley, not a teacher. Teachers were supposed to answer questions and make sure you understood what they were telling you. But then maybe things were different for professors? Or maybe because Harry wasn’t one of Professor Snape’s students the Professor wasn’t obliged to give him an answer. It still wasn’t very nice though. Fuming silently, Harry didn’t notice the measuring look Professor Snape was giving him and so was somewhat startled when the man started talking again. “You appear to be about as well informed as I anticipated. We will have to rouse your guardians,” Professor Snape spat out the word, as though to rid it from his mouth as quickly as possible, “at some point. However, the explanations will likely take a long while, and I wish to spend as little time in your Aunt’s presence as possible. Therefore I suggest we not wake them until necessary.”
Harry readily agreed with Professor Snape’s suggestion. He didn’t know how the man knew Aunt Petunia, but Harry could sympathize with anyone who wanted to stay far away from her. Besides Harry figured he had a better chance of hearing whatever Professor Snape had to say now than he would after the Dursleys woke up. At Harry’s consent Professor Snape’s frown deepened. Harry wasn’t sure why the Professor would be upset that Harry was doing what he wanted, but it must not have been too big a deal, since the Professor didn’t say anything. Instead he reached into a pocket in his robes and pulled out a letter. “Here is your letter Mr. Potter. I believe you’ve been sent a number of these, but have not yet received one.”
Harry nodded as he reached to take the letter. “Yes sir. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon wouldn’t let me have one. Uncle Vernon said it was a mistake and the letters weren’t meant for me, but I don’t see how. The first letter even had my cupboard on it.”
“Your cupboard?” Oops. Harry wasn’t supposed to talk about the cupboard, especially not to teachers. The last person he had told about the cupboard had been one of his teachers in primary. She had thought Harry was telling a story, and gushed about his “active imagination” to Aunt Petunia on parent-teacher night. His aunt had been less than pleased, yelling Harry’s ear off on the way home, and then he had been locked into his cupboard without food for two full days. When Harry had finally been let out (two days feels like an eternity when you’re seven, after all), Uncle Vernon had told Harry in no uncertain terms that he was not to mention that he slept in a cupboard again, “lest he suffer the consequences.” His uncle hadn’t been clear on what the consequences would be exactly, but Harry knew he didn’t want to find out. And yet he had just, casual as you pleased, mentioned his cupboard to a complete stranger. And a professor, no less!
Luckily it appeared that Professor Snape was a good deal nicer than his relatives. After watching Harry squirm about uncomfortably for a minute, the man had retracted his question. “Never mind Potter, just open your letter.”
Harry shot the Professor a grateful glance before turning his attention to the letter. The new one was also addressed in green ink, although this one read: Mr. H. Potter, The Floor, The Hut-on-the-Rock, The Sea. Harry wondered idly why the letters were always addressed to where he was sleeping as he opened the envelope. He pulled the parchment out to read, but didn’t make it past the letterhead. “This says ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,’” Harry said, casting an uncertain look up at Professor Snape.
“Good to know you are, in fact, capable of reading Potter.”
“But magic… it’s not real, is it?” Harry asked hesitantly, remembering the Professor’s answer to Harry’s earlier query. At his question Professor Snape merely raised an eyebrow. He then reached into his robes, pulling out a stick, which he then waved at the fireplace while saying something that sounded like “Incendio.” The fireplace obligingly burst into flame, adding a bit of warmth and cheer to the dingy hut.
The sudden roar of the fire made Harry automatically look to the door of the other room, where his aunt and uncle were sleeping. He had little doubt that Dudley could sleep through the noise, indeed his cousin’s snores hadn’t so much as paused, despite the conversation going on only a few feet away. But Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon might have been disturbed by the sound and decide to come investigate, which Harry was certain wouldn’t turn out well for him. He watched the door for a few seconds, but he was eventually reassured that none of his relatives were going to wake up.
That’s when it hit him that Professor Snape had just done magic. Real magic! He had waved his stick- magic wand- and said some funny nonsense- a magic word- at the fireplace and all the sudden there was a fire. It was all Harry could do to stare at the Professor in open awe.
“Mr. Potter,” snapped the Professor, breaking Harry out of his reverie, “while your surprise is by no means unexpected, that does not mean you need to let it be emblazoned across your face like a billboard. It is also no excuse for letting slip the manners you have proven yourself capable of showing.” Abashed, Harry quickly looked away and closed his mouth, before sneaking a short glance back at the Professor. The man certainly sounded irritated, but he was not, Harry decided, actually angry. Besides he had just complimented Harry on his manners, making him the first person Harry could ever remember doing so. Still, even if Professor Snape wasn’t angry, best play it safe.
“Yes sir, sorry.” The professor gave a small nod to show his acceptance of the apology before gesturing that Harry should continue reading his letter. He complied, and by the time Harry had reached the Deputy Headmistress’s signature at the end his mind was abuzz with so many question he was practically mute with the force of them. Finally one managed to sneak its way out past the others. “What does it mean, they await my owl sir?”
At this Professor Snape’s frown deepened, convincing Harry that he must have somehow asked the wrong question. “Let me see that letter, Potter.” Harry meekly handed the letter and envelope back to Professor Snape, only half aware of what he was doing through his inner state of turmoil. He had asked the wrong question, and now he wouldn’t be allowed to go to Hogwarts and learn magic. Knowledge of owls must be required to learn magic (his panic-stricken brain was in no shape to realize how little sense that made) and Harry had just gone and proved his ignorance. He was so wrapped up in his self-accusations he didn’t notice Professor Snape skimming over the parchment and checking inside of envelope, and so was quite startled when the Professor spoke up again. “In answer to your question, wizards send their post by owl. Though why the Headmaster sent you this version of the letter rather than the Muggleborn letter is beyond me.”
He had been sent the wrong version of the letter? Did that mean that he wasn’t going to be kept from learning magic because he didn’t know anything about owls? Though now that he had calmed down a bit the idea of owl trivia being a necessary prerequisite for learning magic did sound a bit stupid. Still, Harry had had enough experience with disappointment to know better than to get his hopes up before he knew exactly what was going on. “Does that mean they sent me the wrong copy of the acceptance letter sir? And what does Muggleborn mean?”
“Muggle,” Professor Snape replied, “is a term the magical community uses to refer to people without any magical powers. A Muggleborn is a witch or wizard who is born to two Muggle parents. Muggleborns are given different letters than those students with magical parents in order to better explain their magic to them.” Relief washed over Harry like a wave. The Professor wasn’t taking the letter to tell him that he couldn’t go to Hogwarts after all; Professor Snape just wanted to check that Harry really had been sent the wrong letter.
“Does that mean my parents were Muggles sir?” Harry asked.
“Of course not,” Professor Snape answered, sounding indignant at the very idea. “I merely meant that the people who have been… watching you are Muggles and you would therefore benefit from receiving the Muggleborn letter rather than the standard one.”
“Er, sir? If my parents were wizards then why,” Harry paused, not sure he wanted the answer to the question he was about to ask, “why did they die in that car crash?”
“Car crash?” The professor’s voice had gone low and silky and for one wild moment Harry wished he felt like he could wake up the Dursleys. “Who told you that?” Snape demanded.
“My aunt and uncle, sir,” Harry answered, doing his utmost to control the quavering in his voice.
“That is a vicious lie, Mr. Potter, and you would do well not to repeat it. The true story of your parent’s death is one better told in the light of day, but they were not killed in something as mundane in a car crash. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes sir, I’m sorry sir, I won’t say it again,” said Harry, utterly terrified at this point.
Professor Snape took a deep breath and moments later had returned from absolutely petrifying to only somewhat intimidating “Calm down Potter, I’m not angry at you. You were lied to by those who were supposed to be taking care of you. You can hardly be blamed for believing them.” Harry took several stuttering breaths, and slowly returned to normal. If Professor Snape was that scary when he was mad at other people, then Harry definitely did not want make the Professor angry at him. Still he had practically apologized for scaring Harry, and even said it wasn’t his fault that he had said something stupid. Professor Snape was much nicer than Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, even if he was scary. Once he had collected himself Harry shot the professor a small smile, letting the man know he was feeling better. “Now that you are no longer in danger of hyperventilating, I would like to hear your decision.”
“My decision sir?” Harry asked, having not the slightest clue as to what the man was referring to.
“You have just received a letter of acceptance from a school, did you not? Traditionally you then inform the school’s representative, in this case myself, as to whether or not you intend to enroll in the school,” Snape explained, with a tone that suggested Harry should know this already. Harry, however, was making full use of his will power not to start gaping at the professor again. Harry got to make the decision? He hardly ever got to decide on anything, and he never thought he’d get to make a big decision, like where he went to school. And here Professor Snape was, handing the choice over to Harry, like it was obvious that Harry should be allowed to express his preference.
Not that Harry really needed to choose. Of course he wanted to learn to do magic. Even if magic hadn’t been one of the most amazing things ever, he would still want to learn. That way he could protect himself when he got picked on by the Dursleys-
Self-doubt attacked Harry, sending his train of thought careening in another direction. He couldn’t possibly have magic, not really. He had spent his whole life being bullied by his aunt and uncle and clouted by his cousin; if Harry really had magic he would have stopped them. He could have turned them into toads, or maybe scared them with that fire thing Professor Snape did. Either way, it just wasn’t possible that Harry had real magic. But how was he supposed to tell Professor Snape there had been a horrible mistake? Even if the man was nice, Harry doubted he would be pleased with having his time wasted. But if Harry just went along with it then the Professor would find out eventually, and would probably be even angrier.
“Mr. Potter,” Snape’s voice cut through Harry’s worrying, “kindly stop chewing on your lip and explain to me what in the world the problem is this time.”
“I think you must have made a mistake sir,” he said quietly, eyes downcast. “I don’t think I can be a wizard. I’m sorry sir.” Harry peeked up through his fringe to see just how mad Professor Snape was, only to find him giving Harry the same look he had when Harry said magic wasn’t real.
“Would I be correct in assuming that odd or inexplicable things have happened to or around you in the past?” Snape asked.
“Ye-es,” Harry hedged, not quite sure where the Professor was going with this. Harry hadn’t caused the odd things to happen, had he? Were they somehow proof Harry was a wizard?
“Describe the last such incident.”
“Yes sir. The last time was on Dudley’s birthday. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were taking him and Piers to the zoo, only Mrs. Figg broke her leg, so I got to go too. Then when we got to the reptile house Dudley wanted to watch the boa constrictor, but it was sleeping and Uncle Vernon couldn’t wake it up. So Dudley walked off and I walked up to it and starting talking to it. He was telling me how he had never been to Brazil when-“
“Stop for a moment,” Professor Snape interrupted, looking slightly green. “Am I to understand that you were actually conversing with the snake? Meaning it understood what you were saying and you understood its replies?”
“Yes sir, though he didn’t say much except when he thanked me at the end but I haven’t gotten to that part yet,” Harry replied, wondering if maybe the professor was afraid of snakes. It would certainly explain why he looked nauseous.
“I see. Well, continue then.” Harry shot the man an evaluative glance, just to make sure Professor Snape wasn’t about to sick up or anything, before complying.
“Like I was saying, I was talking to the snake when Piers came up and saw the boa constrictor had woken up, so he called Dudley over. Dudley knocked me down when he punched me out of the way, and the two of them leaned up right close to the glass, and then all the sudden the glass was gone. Then the snake came out of the tank and when he slithered past he thanked me and said he was going to go to Brazil. And that’s what happened sir.”
“That is quite clearly a case of accidental magic on your part,” Professor Snape explained, appearing to have recovered from earlier. “When your cousin punched you it doubtless made you angry at him, so your magic got revenge for you by by setting a rather large snake on him to scare him. It also freed your new… friend, who had been previously complaining about his captivity. It is not uncommon for someone who has not yet been taught to control their magic to have sudden outbursts, especially when they are upset or angry. Rest assured Mr. Potter, you are a wizard.”
Now that Harry thought about it all the odd things that had ever happened were when he was upset or angry. And they had all helped him out, or gotten revenge for him. Maybe he really was a wizard after all.
Harry was positively beaming when he looked back up at Professor Snape. “Does that mean I can still go to Hogwarts, sir?”
“I take it that that is your decision, that you wish to attend Hogwarts?” Professor Snape asked, effectively answering Harry’s question.
“Very well. I need to go inform your guardians of your decision.” Harry looked at the Professor in horror. He was going to wake the Dursley’s up in the middle of the night to tell them Harry wanted to attend a school for magic? While Harry was pretty sure Professor Snape would make them let Harry go to Hogwarts, he had said it was Harry’s choice after all, that didn’t mean Harry wasn’t going to get in big trouble, and it’s not like teachers can interfere with how your guardians wanted to punish you. “Since you have already told me that you wish to go, you will not be required for this conversation,” the Professor continued, and Harry felt a bit relieved. He would still probably get in trouble in the morning, but Uncle Vernon had a short attention span, the longer it went between when Harry had “misbehaved” and when he was punished for it the lighter the sentence tended to be. “Instead, Mr. Potter, you will be going to sleep now. I have no desire to drag around a sleep-deprived eleven year old tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow sir?” Did that mean the Professor was coming back? While Harry had meet some people who were nicer than the Professor, there hadn’t been too many, especially once Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had convinced the neighbors and Harry’s teachers that he was a delinquent.
“You will need to buy supplies before you come to school, and since I have no faith in the ability of your aunt and uncle to buy them for you, I shall be taking you myself tomorrow after you wake up in the morning,” Professor Snape explained.
Harry was ecstatic. He was going to get to do something fun for his birthday after all. Yes it was just shopping for school supplies, but they were magic school supplies, which made up for it. It wouldn’t be so bad having his birthday ignored after all, since he was going to go out anyways.
Suddenly Harry let out a huge yawn. “Bed, Mr. Potter.” Professor Snape cast a glance around the room before asking, “Where are you supposed to be sleeping?” Harry pointed at the folded up blanket next to the couch, and the Professor wrinkled his nose at it. He then pulled out his wand again and said another spell, this time directed at the couch. But then it wasn’t a couch, but a rather large and comfy looking bed. Harry looked in shock at both the new bed and at Dudley who had somehow managed to sleep straight through the whole transformation. Suddenly Harry felt a hand on his shoulder propelling him toward the bed, so he obediently climbed beneath the covers. He was half-asleep by the time his head hit the pillow, it was very late after all, and it had been a long day.
“Goodnight sir,” Harry said as he drifted off.
“Goodnight,” came the Professors reply. Then, after a moment, “And Potter?”
“Yes’sir?” Harry said, his words beginning to slur together.
Chapter 3: Threats and Accusations
Severus was not annoyed. He had been annoyed when he found out the Dumbledore expected him to do the home visit for the Potter brat. Severus was not irritated. He had been irritated when he found out the aforementioned home visit would involve interacting with Petunia Evans and taking the Potter brat shopping. At that point not even reading two full chapters of his Potion Theory book was able to lift his mood. Severus was not even angry. He had been angry when it had taken four hours to track down the dilapidated little hut they were hiding in. As if Muggles were capable of hiding from a wizard who wanted to find them. No, Severus was not annoyed, irritated or angry. Severus was livid.
He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting when he knocked on the door of the shack in the middle of night, but it definitely wasn’t what he found. The door had opened to reveal Lily’s eyes, full of painful hope, in the face of a child far too small for his eleven years and with obviously well-worn clothes hanging off his scrawny frame. And that first moment could easily be considered the high-point of the visit so far (though Severus had every intention of rectifying that). The longer he talked to the boy the clearer it became that his home life was nothing like normal, much less the pampered lifestyle Severus had always envisioned for the Boy-Who-Lived. After all, what normal child wouldn’t want to wake their guardians when a stranger shows up in the middle of the night? The boy had clearly been neglected, and, judging by his small frame and tendency to beam at even the hint of a compliment, he was likely malnourished and emotionally abused as well. No one deserved that kind of treatment, not even the Potter brat.
What had shocked Severus the most in the conversation had not been the treatment the boy had received at the hands of his relatives, however. Rather it had been the boy himself. Despite looking like a slightly scrawnier carbon copy of James Potter, especially once he had donned his glasses, (Severus briefly toyed with the idea of getting the boy contacts, for purely practical reasons of course) the boy was nothing like his father. Where the elder Potter had been brash and arrogant, the younger was reserved and respectful. His modesty too had very little in common with James Potter’s sense of entitlement, though Severus did not care to speculate how much of the boy’s unassuming air was due to a lack of self-worth that had been ingrained into him by his relatives. But beneath the quiet manner there was a spark of life and excitement in the depths of green that was reminiscent of another pair of eyes that Severus had long since given up hope of seeing again. Yes, the thing that had shocked Severus the most was discovering that the Boy-Who-Lived was not the Potter brat, but Lily’s son.
In spite of that, Severus did not know what had possessed him to wish a happy birthday to the boy. Certainly classifying him as Lily’s son instead of Potter’s spawn made the boy less detestable, but Severus Snape did not engage in conversational niceties. He would not-could not consider the possibility that the waif had reminded him of another under-loved boy with dark hair and overlarge hand-me-downs. He was willing to acknowledge the boy as Lily’s son, but some things did not bear thinking on.
Now that the boy was safely abed, however, Severus could continue to a part of the night that promised to be much more enjoyable than he had originally expected. Now he got to confront Petunia Evans.
After shutting behind him the door connecting the two rooms of the hut he quickly cast some wards to insure that no noise would escape this room to the one next to it. The boy needed a good night’s sleep. In fact, since he had apparently been forced to sleep in a cupboard instead of a proper bedroom, he was undoubtedly back owed years’ worth of good nights’ sleep. Far be it for Severus to deprive the boy of the first one, especially since Severus would be the one to pay for it when he was forced to take a cranky and sleep-deprived eleven year old shopping the next day.
Wards set, Severus turned a sneer on the two lumps, one significantly larger than the other, sequestered in the bed. After considering a number of different ways to wake the Dursleys, none of them pleasant, he decided that an Aguamenti charm would do nicely. After all, it had been their idiotic plan to try to run and hide that had forced Severus to be out in the rain in middle of the night, it was only fair that they should suffer the same watery fate. The fact that Severus had not actually gotten wet hardly seemed relevant.
Now the Dursleys couldn’t have been expecting to be woken wet and sputtering after being doused with water in the middle of the night. That apparently did not mean that the larger lump, Vernon Dursley Severus surmised, wasn’t prepared. Seconds after he was hit by the water he was sitting up with a rifle in hand, pointed squarely at Severus. Whatever threat he would have made went unvoiced, however, as a horribly familiar screech rung out “You! What are you doing here?”
Severus turned to the horrified woman and flashed her a smile with more teeth than really necessary. “Hello Tuney. How nice to see you again.” Petunia shuddered, making the statement feel quite true to Severus, given the circumstances. “I am here on behalf of Hogwarts to-“
“He’ll not be going to that horrid school,” she said, cutting him off.
“Do not interrupt me,” Severus reprimanded, sounding remarkably like a teacher lecturing a perpetually disobedient student. “I never cared for your opinion before, and I have no intention of starting now. The boy has informed me of his intention to attend and that is the final say in the matter. The only reason I’ve even bothered to inform you is because you will be facilitating in whatever necessary to make this happen.”
“Of course you’ll make sure he gets whatever he wants, the son of my perfect sister Lily. Everyone just loved her.” Petunia gave him a nasty little smile, and Severus paled at the thought that that foul woman might know about the one thing he held sacred. Sensing her advantage, she pressed “Did you think I didn’t know? How could I not, the way you followed my freak of a sister around like a puppy dog. You haven’t changed a bit,” she finished with a sneer.
That’s when Severus snapped. Within moments Petunia found herself staring down the business end of his wand. “I’ve changed quite a bit Tuney, something you will find out if you dare utter another word. I can do far worse things than dropping a tree branch on you. Things far worse than you could ever imagine, if I thought you had the brain capacity to actually imagine anything in the first place.”
Dursley, who would not stand for people pointing weapons at his wife (or who was maybe just tired of being ignored), finally spoke up. “Get out! You are breaking and entering and now threatening my wife, and I will not stand for it! We want nothing to do with your kind, so you lot stay away from my family.” The rifle, which had dropped to the bed sometime during the preceding conversation, was once again pointed squarely at Severus’s chest.
Severus favored the waste of space and food (a rather large amount of it on both counts) with a contemptuous glare. “Do not think you can frighten me Dursley. I have known people who would kill you sooner than look at you, and that’s without knowing what a miserable excuse for a human being you are. I very much doubt you have what it takes to kill a person, and if you were to try I can promise you that you would long regret the day you did. I do not, however, have any intention of leaving a potentially dangerous weapon in the hands of a complete idiot.” Severus then flicked his wand away from Petunia and toward the rifle, resulting in an empty-handed and confused Dursley.
“As I was saying,” said Severus, taking advantage of the Dursleys’ thunder-struck silence to continue, “the boy will be attending Hogwarts. Anything you do or say to try to change that will only be a waste of your and my time. And I highly recommend you do not waste my time. Now that my official business is taken care of, though, I do have something else I wanted to discuss with you. Specifically, your appalling treatment of your nephew.”
“I don’t know what that ungrateful little sod told you, but we treat him just fine. Keep a roof over his head and keep him fed and watered, the boy’s got nothing to complain about.” Severus was nauseated to learn that he and Dursley both referred to the boy in the same way, and Severus found that he was quickly running out of appellations for him. Clearly “the boy” was out, and Severus had no intention of calling Lily’s son “Potter” any more than necessary. “Lily’s son,” on the other hand, would reveal more about Severus than he was willing to give away. “The Boy-Who-Lived” was completely unwieldy and unacceptable despite being the least ridiculous of most the other names Severus could come up with. It seemed there was no help for it then-
“Harry has clearly been mistreated. My guess at this point is neglect, malnutrition and abuse.”
Petunia’s gasp of “You dare,” was drowned out by Dursley’s roar. “I’ve had enough! You break in, threaten my wife and then accuse us of child abuse? I’ll admit that I’ve thought a good beating might cure the boy of his strangeness, but I’ve never taken a hand to him. We took him in out of the goodness of our hearts when he was left on our doorstep, and I will not have anyone saying we hit him!”
Severus stared at the man’s huffing form, clearly unimpressed. “If you are quite done? You are very lucky I already suspected there was no physical abuse, since I have no reason to believe either of you if you told me the sky was blue. Know that if I had thought Harry had been physically hurt this conversation would have gone very differently. Just because you didn’t beat him, however, does not mean that Harry wasn’t abused both mentally and emotionally. And let me assure you, this behavior will stop, or else things will become very unpleasant for you. If I had my way Harry would be immediately and permanently removed from your clutches, and the two of you would be locked up for a long time for what you did to him. I lack that power, unfortunately, so instead I will be insuring that your treatment of him improves drastically. Henceforth he will be treated not as a burden, but as a welcome member of your family. He will be afforded the same rights and privileges as any other member of your family, and any punishments will be comparable to ones his cousin receives. Have I made myself clear?”
“Fine,” Petunia snapped, but with an evil glint in her eyes while she said it. Severus nearly scoffed at that, if she thought she could outwit the Head of Slytherin she was sorely mistaken.
“Good. Now, since I don’t trust either of you any farther than I can throw him,” Severus said with a nod toward Dursley’s massive bulk, “I will have Harry send me weekly reports on how you are treating him. If I am not happy with what is written in his letters, you will know. If I have reason to believe that you are forcing him to lie about how you are treating him, you will know. If I don’t receive a report, you will know. And if any of these things happen or I have any reason to suspect that you aren’t keeping your word, then I suggest you pray for mercy from any deity you think might listen, as I will be the first in a long line of people who will offer you none.”
Severus leveled a glare at the Dursleys, to make sure the threat had properly sunk in. Dursley had gone very pale, muttering something that sounded like “Mimblewimble,” and Petunia looked deflated, the evil glint gone from her eyes. Satisfied, Severus decided it was time to conclude this conversation. “Fortunately that ends my business with you tonight. I hope to never see either of you again.” Then, with a quick flick of his wand he put the both to sleep with a spell that would end after he and Harry left the next morning. That accomplished he left the room, dropping the silencing wards as he went, and returned the front room of the hut. Reaching into his pocket he pulled the shrunken bed he had had the foresight to bring and returned it to its normal size. Hopefully he’d be able to get some sleep in before taking Harry shopping tomorrow.
Chapter 4: Muggles and Murders
Harry woke up early the next morning. Despite being awake he kept his eyes shut tight, caught between hanging onto the last vestiges of his dream and trying to squash any hope that it might have been real. And it had been such a nice dream too, where a Professor named Snape came to tell him that Harry was going to get to go to a school for wizards. Lying there Harry wondered if he was still half asleep, and if that was why his little bed in the cupboard under the stairs felt so comfortable, like the one Professor Snape had magicked up for Harry in his dream.
His sleepy ponderings were interrupted by a loud tapping, undoubtedly Aunt Petunia knocking on the cupboard door. Harry rebelliously kept his eyes shut, clinging to the feel of the soft mattress beneath him, trying to hold onto the dream a few moments longer. That is, until he heard the sound of a little-used window opening.
Sitting up and looking around revealed that Harry was indeed on the bed that had been a sofa just the night before, with Dudley still sleeping deeply next to him. The tiny hut was filled with sunlight, likely what had roused Harry so early, since his mornings were usually dark in the cupboard under the stairs. Harry was briefly confused by the presence of another bed that definitely hadn’t been there when he had fallen asleep, but the mystery was solved a moment later when he saw Professor Snape standing by the window, giving an owl what appeared to be several bronze coins in exchange for a newspaper. After the owl had flown back outside Professor Snape closed the window and turned around to see Harry wide awake. “Good, you’re up.”
“Good morning Professor,” he responded automatically. Then, unable to stifle his curiosity, he asked, “What was that?”
Professor Snape leveled a Look at him, giving Harry the distinct impression that the Professor thought he had asked a stupid question. “While I have no doubt that your relatives lack the intelligence of most insects,” he said, forcing Harry to stifle an urge to snort, “I find it hard to believe that you were failed to be taught to recognize an owl and a newspaper.”
“Yes sir- I mean no sir- I mean-“ Harry stammered, “why was an owl giving you a newspaper in the first place? And what were those funny bronze coins?”
“Pay attention, Harry.” Professor Snape’s annoyed tone barely registered, as Harry was too caught up in the surprise of being referred to by his first name. Not that there weren’t other people who called him Harry too, but he hardly expected Professor Snape to be one of them. After a moment he decided it was a pleasant surprise, a decidedly rare occurrence, as it made the snarky man seem a bit… friendlier. “I told you just last night that owls deliver wizard post, which includes newspapers.” Which was true, Harry reflected, though he wasn’t sure that it was fair that the Professor expect him to remember everything they had talked about the night before, it had been a lot to take in after all. Besides, it was one thing to be told that owls deliver post and quite another to see it happening.
“As for the coins,” Snape continued, seeming less annoyed to answer the second question, possibly since it wasn’t something he thought Harry should already know, “they are called Knuts, and they are the smallest form of wizarding money in both size and value.”
At the mention of money Harry felt all of his previous excitement drain out of him. “Professor? I haven’t got any money.”
“Aside from the fact that your parents left you a vault, and likely a sizable one, in Gringotts- the wizards’ bank Harry, try to focus on the main issue, not the minutiae, why would you even need money?” Snape asked, with the air of someone who clearly feels that his time is being wasted.
While that response opened a whole new can of worms as far as Harry was concerned, he figured the best thing to do was to start by assuring the Professor that Harry was not trying to waste his time. “But sir won’t I need money to pay for tuition, and my uniform and books and things?”
“It is my understanding that your parents already made arrangements with regards to your tuition prior to their deaths. As for your supplies- Accio Dursley’s cheque book.” Harry, eager to see more magic (even if the wording of the spell was peculiar and vaguely worrisome) looked around to try and see what it had done. A moment later there was a soft sound coming from the next room, like something bumping against the connecting door. Snape strode over to the door, swung it open and caught the small item out of the air. He then pulled a quill out of his robes and began writing on the item that a now horrified Harry was able to identify.
“That’s Uncle Vernon’s cheque book!”
“How kind of you to let me know that my summoning spell worked correctly,” Snape replied with biting sarcasm, never looking up from the cheque he was writing.
“But-but-” Harry stuttered, not wanting to contradict the Professor, but not wanting to make his uncle angry either. “He won’t want to pay for me to learn magic, sir.”
“I don’t particularly care what that walrus of a man does or does not want. Your schooling is their responsibility and therefore your relatives will be paying for it.” Snape was still completely focused on the cheque book, which he was now prodding with his wand.
“Isn’t that not really legal, though sir?”
“The legality of it is questionable. However, in this instance the cheque was going to be written one way or another, I just have no interest in waiting until Dursley wakes up for him to do it.” That made it sound like Professor Snape had already talked to his Uncle about giving Harry money for school, which probably meant it was okay, but still…
“Are you sure you won’t get into any trouble?”
At that question the Professor finally looked up from the cheque he was now tearing out of the book with what Harry thought was a very confused expression. It was hard to be sure, though, as less than a second later the expression was replaced by the man’s customary sneer. “I highly doubt that your so-called guardians would dare try to get me in trouble for this, and if they did they would have a hard time convincing anyone of anything when the cheque is quite clearly in Dursley’s handwriting.” With that he ripped the cheque the rest of the way out and sent the book flying back into the other room, presumably returning it to where it came from. “Now get your things together, we will be leaving in five minutes.”
Half an hour later, after returning one shrunken bed to his pocket and the other to its original form (leaving Severus both confused as to how the younger whale was able to sleep through yet another transformation of his bed and gratified that he didn’t have to deal with the youngest Dursley), transfiguring his clothes into ones that would blend in in the Muggle world, ascertaining that there would be no bathroom breaks until after they left the hut (Severus drew the line at using an outhouse) and cashing the cheque at a Muggle bank, Severus found himself directing Harry into a diner near Spinner’s end that Severus was known to frequent on occasion. Though Severus was eager to get this particular day over with as quick as possible, there had been no food in that horrid little hut, and while Severus might have been able to skip breakfast, Harry looked like he could ill afford to miss any meals.
Once inside, Severus was approached by a waitress that he recognized, though he had never bothered to remember her name. “Good morning Professor Snape! And who is this?” she asked, just noticing Harry, half-hidden behind Severus as he was. “Is he yours?”
“No, Harry is just the son of an old family friend, and one of my students this upcoming year.” Severus was quick to correct her, but was almost unable to keep a wistful note from creeping into his voice. No, Harry was not his son, but there was always the question of what might have been, if only Severus had been a little less foolish in his youth.
“I see. Well pleased to meet you Harry. Now let’s get you lads a table and some breakfast.” She escorted them to a corner table and Severus did not so much as look at the menu before ordering his usual plate of eggs, bacon and toast with a cup of black coffee. Harry, once he was reassured that he could in fact order anything he liked, picked out a plate of pancakes with so many sweet things on top that the mere description made Severus feel slightly nauseated, and, at Severus’s insistence, a glass of milk.
After the waitress had left with their orders, Harry began staring at Severus, nervously chewing on his bottom lip as he did so. “Out with it, before you eat your lip off.”
“Yes sir. It’s only… last night you said my parent’s didn’t die in a car crash, but you said the story was better suited to daytime, and it’s morning now so…” Harry trailed off hopefully.
Severus, who had never been a lucky man, suddenly found himself in a quite fortuitous position indeed. The reason he had brought Harry to this Muggle diner, rather than one run by wizards, was to tell Harry the story of the Dark Lord’s downfall before entering the wizarding world. It would not do, after all, for Harry to run around in a world where he was a celebrity, when he didn’t even know he was one, much less the how’s and why’s of his famousness. But now that the boy was asking for the information it gave Severus a certain amount leverage over the situation, leverage he intend to put to good use. “I am willing to give you an account of the real cause of your parents’ death; however, in exchange, you must fully and truthfully answer any questions I have for you on one subject of my choosing. Agreed?”
“Yes sir!” Harry consented enthusiastically and Severus had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. Someone would have to teach Harry to not agree to anything before he fully understood what he was agreeing to. Severus had placed no time limits on his end of the bargain, and had not even specified what he would be asking about. Of course, Severus had no need to worry about it; it wasn’t his problem after all.
Glancing around to ensure no one was looking, Severus cast a quick Muffliato charm. No Muggles appeared to have noticed, but Harry had apparently caught the subtle wand usage. “What spell did you just cast?”
“A charm to prevent anyone from listening in on our conversation. While this information is mostly common knowledge amongst witches and wizards, I have no desire to break the International Statute of Secrecy because some Muggle overheard the wrong thing.”
“The International what?”
“The International Statute of Secrecy. Magical society is kept separate from the Muggle one, and it is illegal to reveal the existence of magic to Muggles, with a few specific exceptions.”
“Why’s that sir?”
Severus took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. When it came to spying patience was a virtue Severus had in spades, but when it came to children he was decidedly less than blessed. It would do no good to get angry; it was certainly not Harry’s fault that he knew next to nothing about the magical world. Still, Severus found he had a lot more respect for Minerva now, if this is something she put up with from every Muggleborn child she visited. “There are a number of historical and political reasons, none of which I feel like explaining, though it mostly come down to not knowing how Muggles would react if they suddenly found out that a subset of the population could perform magic. Suffice to say, this law is taken very seriously and I don’t feel like getting arrested because our waitress decided to eavesdrop.”
At that point they had to pause their conversation (and Severus had to temporarily take down the Muffliato) as the aforementioned waitress came to deliver their food. A task that she apparently felt required that she make small talk with Harry before it was successfully completed. Once the waitress had left and the charm was recast Harry turned to Severus and declared, “She wouldn’t eavesdrop on us; she’s really nice.”
That deserved, and got, one of Severus’s better sneers. “You will find, Mr. Potter, that nice and trustworthy are hardly synonymous.” If the boy was going to act like his father, he deserved to be called after him. “I will not risk a sentence to Azkaban just because you think the waitress is ‘nice.’ And before you ask Azkaban is the wizard prison. Now if we could return to the matter at hand?” That got Severus a blank look, so he prompted with, “Your parents’ death?” which was able to get a look of comprehension and a nod in agreement.
“The first thing you should know is that the magical society, just like the Muggle one, is made up of both good and bad people. From twenty to ten years ago magical Britain was beset by one of the particularly evil ones. You have learned in school about a Muggle dictator named Hitler correct?” Harry, now looking properly horrified, nodded in agreement. “The details are of course different, but the general principles are the same. This wizard is typically referred to as ‘You-Know-Who’ or ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ or, in some circles, ‘the Dark Lord.’ You will not use the last title, understood?” Severus admittedly shaky reputation would likely not recover if people found out that it was his fault that the Boy-Who-Lived was calling Voldemort “the Dark Lord.” No matter how funny that would be. “However, since you undoubtedly deserve to know, I will tell you his proper name is Voldemort. I will not say it again, and I do not want to hear it from you either.
“Now there were a great number of people who fought the Dark Lord, attempting to stop him and his followers. Lily and James Potter were two such people, but, when they discovered that their son was a target they decided to go into hiding. Unfortunately they trusted the secret of their hiding place to a man named Sirius Black, who betrayed them and gave their location to the Dark Lord. On Halloween night, ten years ago, he came to your house and killed your parents.” Telling Lily’s son about her death was decidedly harder than Severus had thought it would be, but a combination of Occlumency and years of practice hiding his emotions allowed him to keep it from showing. “Afterwards he turned to you an attempted to kill you as well. Then he vanished.”
Harry blinked at this abrupt ending. “He vanished? But why? What happened to him? And if he tried to kill me then why…”
“Aren’t you dead?” Severus supplied, never one to sugar coat things for people. “That is the question isn’t it? Why is it that when the Dark Lord, most feared man of the age, threw a killing curse at you it barely scarred your forehead?” Severus gave a satisfied smirk when Harry’s hand shot up to the lightning bolt previously half-hidden under a lock of hair, obviously surprised by the origin of it. “Theories abound as to why, but I have no interest in discussing what amounts to nothing more than idle speculation and gossip. The facts are the Dark Lord attempted to kill you but failed and then either died, or more likely, was left in such a weakened state that he’s hardly able to continue living.”
The two were quiet for a few minutes while Harry absorbed this new knowledge. Finally he spoke up, “Professor? Isn’t there something you wanted to ask me about?”
“Yes, but I would like to withhold my right to your answers for another time. There is someone else I would like to be privy to that conversation.” Severus had originally planned to confront Dumbledore with the information about Harry’s home life, but it would be a good deal more satisfying if the Headmaster heard it straight from the victimized party. Perhaps he could arrange for the other heads of houses to be there as well, Minerva in particular could be very protective when she thought the students were in trouble.
Harry nodded mutely in agreement with Severus’s request. The rest of the meal passed in silence.
“We aren’t going to be Apparating again are we sir?”
“Since I doubt either of us has any desire to have your half-digested pancakes all over my robes, we will be seeking a different method of travel.” Severus gave a small smirk at the look of relief on Harry’s face. “Now see if you can’t make that hair of yours cover up your scar.”
“Why?” Harry asked, though the question was less annoying than it could have been, since Harry was already complying with Severus’s request as he asked it.
“We will be getting to Diagon Alley by way of the Knight Bus, a public transportation system for wizards. As many people attribute the Dark Lord’s downfall to you personally, you are something of a celebrity, and that scar is a dead give-away to your identity. I refuse to spend anytime catering to your adoring fans however, and the best way to prevent that is by covering your scar.”
“Thank you sir,” said Harry, giving Severus a small smile. That response was not what Severus had been expecting. While he knew better than to think the boy would have Potter’s arrogant need for constant attention, he hardly expected an eleven year old boy to turn down a chance to show off. Then again, considering what Severus knew of Harry’s past it was doubtful the boy had much positive attention. Maybe he had grown to like staying in the shadows.
Mulling these thoughts over Severus stuck out his wand and flagged down the Knight Bus, which suddenly appeared on the street with a loud bang.
“Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. My name is Stan Shunpike and-”
“Yes, fine. How much for the two of us to the Leaky Cauldron?”
“Eleven sickles each. But for firteen-” Severus ignored the rest of what the rather obnoxious man was saying in favor of fishing out the correct change. Once gathered, he handed it to the man, and quickly pushed Harry to a seat in the back corner, away from the other passengers. Once they were seated the Knight Bus took off again with another loud bang, and continued down the street it had been on before it had stopped to pick them up.
Several bangs and disembarked passengers later Severus decided it was time to broach the other topic that had been bothering him. “There is one other thing I wish to discuss with you before we pick up your school supplies,” he said, pulling Harry’s attention away from the window. “You mentioned last night you could talk to snakes, correct?”
“Yes sir, I think so. I only remember it happening the one time, but I definitely was talking to him.”
“The ability to talk to snakes is known as Parseltongue, making you a Parselmouth. This is a very rare gift, but is often regarded with some fear in the wizarding world, as the last known Parselmouth was the Dark Lord. While it does not mean anything bad about you that you can speak it, I’d suggest you keep that particular ability to yourself.”
“But wouldn’t it be better to just tell everyone?” Harry asked. Snape merely raised an eyebrow. Apparently Harry had inherited his parents’ sense of Gryffindor boldness. Though, considering the comment he had made earlier about the waitress, maybe it was a Hufflepuff tendency towards trusting. “Only,” Harry continued when Severus made no indication of replying, “when Dudley and his ga- friends thought I was trying to keep a secret from them they wouldn’t stop until they figured it out, and then they’d make fun of me for it. But if I just pretend like I didn’t care that they knew they’d just leave it alone. So I thought if I’d just let everyone know I was a Parselmouth like it wasn’t a big deal, then maybe they wouldn’t make too big a fuss about it.”
It wasn’t often that Severus found himself speechless, but this looked to be one of those times. While the idea of simply announcing one’s secrets was something he’d expect from a Gryffindor, the whole plan smacked of Slytherin cunning. Harry Potter, James Potter’s son, thinking like a Slytherin. Even Lily had lacked the certain subtly to be truly cunning, but her son, the Boy-Who-Lived, apparently had it. It seemed almost inconceivable, but there it was. “And how would you propose you do that?” Severus asked when his voice returned to him.
Harry paused as though think about it before he said, “Well I know the supply list said I could only have a cat or owl or toad, but-”
“Absolutely not. I will not have you thinking yourself above the rules, am I clear Mr. Potter?” Severus had just gotten used to the idea of teaching Lily’s son, and he would not let Harry ruin that by acting like his father and his little gang.
“Yes sir,” came the reply, suitably meek.
Still the plan had been quite good, a shame for it to go to waste…
“All passengers for the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley!” called the conductor, interrupting Severus train of thought.
Severus and Harry, along with a few other witches and wizards, got off the bus and entered the rather ramshackle little pub. While the other passenger stopped for a drink and a chat, Severus quickly strode towards the back courtyard, Harry in tow. Luckily they were able to make it through without anyone recognizing Harry, or attempting to talk with Severus. (Though how much of that was to do with luck and how much was due to the rather forbidding expression on Severus’s face was anyone’s guess.) Once there, Severus made a show of counting out the bricks before hitting the correct one three times with his wand. While Severus knew exactly which brick it was without counting, that would hardly be any help to Harry should he need to get into Diagon Alley by himself in the future.
At the look of amazement and wonder on Harry’s face at the sight to the brick archway and the cobbled street beyond Severus gave what might have been a (very small!) genuine smile. “Welcome to Diagon Alley.”
Chapter 5: Best Day Ever
Harry managed not to gape in amazement as the brick wall turned into an archway, revealing the twisted cobbled street behind it. It was a close call though.
“Welcome,” said Snape, “to Diagon Alley.” Harry was startled by the man’s tone, which sounded genuinely welcoming. He was fairly well convinced at this point that Snape was actually a good person, but the man tended to come at it sideways and cover it up with snark and bluster. It was completely beyond Harry why the Professor wanted to be thought of as mean, but there it was. Turning to look up at Snape he was further shocked to see the tail-end of a real smile on the man’s face. And that’s what cinched in for Harry; today was his best day ever. And things were only looking up from here.
As they walked down the street Harry found himself wishing he had about eight more eyes (though hopefully ones with better vision than his current two, he didn’t think he had space for five pairs of glasses). Everything seemed completely new and exciting to Harry, he couldn’t help slowing down as he turned his head this way and that, trying to see it all at once.
“Don’t dawdle,” came Snape’s voice, and Harry was surprised to find he had fallen a good bit behind the man in his distraction. “There will be time to look at the shops after we go to Gringotts.”
Harry’s nose wrinkled in distaste. “Why do we need to go to the bank again sir?”
“All we have right now is Muggle money; we need to exchange it for wizarding money. Or has it escaped your notice that these are not Muggle shops?”
“No sir,” responded Harry. Snape did have a point, but Harry did not particularly want to go to another bank, the first one had been boring enough. Still, Harry thought as he trotted alongside the Professor, casting surreptitious glances at the shops, a magical bank was bound to be more interesting than a normal one.
Finally Snape turned up the steps of what Harry assumed was Gringotts. It certainly looked more impressive than a Muggle bank, a towering white building with burnished bronze doors. Harry barely noticed this, though, as he was too busy looking at the very short (shorter than Harry!) swarthy skinned creature of some sort standing in front of the bank.
“You may not have seen a goblin before, but that’s no excuse for gawking,” said Snape, sounding quite displeased with Harry’s behavior.
Abashed Harry quickly dropped his eyes. Then a thought occurred to him, and he looked back at the goblin. “I’m sorry for staring at you sir.” The goblin merely sneered in response, before giving a mocking sort of bow as they walked inside. But Harry thought he caught a glint of approval in the Professor’s eyes, which was good enough for him. Besides, while the goblin’s sneer was better than Aunt Petunia’s, it was nowhere near as impressive as one of Snape’s sneers.
Past the bronze doors were a set of silver doors with an inscription of sorts on them. Harry didn’t have a chance to read it, though, before Snape blew through them, mumbling something about melodramatics. Walking through this second set of doors led them to a large marble hall, with numerous goblins working behind a long counter, and others leading people in and out of the many doors that branched off the main room. Snape directed the two of them to a free goblin and set the fairly substantial pile of money they had gotten at the other bank that morning on the counter. “We need to get this currency exchanged.”
The goblin eyed the pile for a moment before responding, “Very well sir.” He then began meticulously counting each note, which Harry was disappointed to find was exactly as boring as it had been at the Muggle bank. Instead he opted to look around the room, noticing in particular the surprising number of people who looked slightly nauseated, and the goblin on their right, who was weighing a pile of rubies that Harry thought might be as big as his fist. Finally the goblin helping them finished, handing Snape a large sack filled with coins.
Eager to leave and go check out some more of Diagon Alley, Harry happily followed Snape away from the counter, but was surprised to be led, not out the front doors, but off to the side, out of the way of most of the traffic. Confused, Harry looked on as Snape pulled another bag out of the pocket of his robes, and proceeded to put some of the smaller silver and bronze coins inside of it. He then held the bag put to Harry, and when Harry made no move to take it, said, “You are familiar with the concept of pocket money, correct? Since I highly doubt your relatives ever saw fit to give you any I took the liberty of budgeting some into the cheque I wrote for your school supplies.” Slowly Harry reached up and took the bag. Sure, he had seen Dudley get a 5 pound note whenever he wanted one, but Harry could never remember getting so much as a penny of his own money. Therefore he hardly thought he could be blamed for not knowing what to say he was given a bagful of money to spend however he wanted in a marketplace of magical shops.
He was saved from having to respond when a loud voice boomed “Mornin’ Severus.” Harry turned around to find what was undoubtedly the largest man he had ever seen approaching them. He seemed friendly, and Snape looked more annoyed than anything else, so Harry didn’t think the man was really dangerous, even if his sheer size was somewhat disconcerting. “An’ this must be Harry! Las’ time I saw you, you was only a baby.” Not really sure what to say to that he blinked at the smiling man, who, likely sensing Harry’s confusion, supplied, “I’m Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts.” That didn’t really give Harry much to go on either, so he settled for sticking out his hand and saying “Pleased to meet you, Hagrid- er…again,” the last word coming out as something of a question.
This seemed, based off of the absolutely beaming smile he gave Harry and the enthusiastic way he shook Harry’s hand (whole arm, really), to please the giant of a man immensely. “Yer a polite lad. Reminds me o’ yer mum, she could be polite as anythin’. O’ course she had quite a temper too, eh Severus?” Hagrid gave Snape a fairly obvious wink, which Harry barely noticed.
“You knew my mum?” he asked, barely able to hope for a yes.
“Course we did. I’ve bin at Hogwarts since ‘afore she was born. An’ Professor Snape here was in the same year as yer mum. Now that I think on it,” Hagrid continued, turning to address Snape, “seems the two of you were good friends back then.”
Harry’s whole attention was now solely focused on the Professor. He no longer cared that staring was rude and Snape might get mad. All his life he wanted to know about his parents, but Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon refused to talk about them. In fact they liked to pretend Aunt Petunia didn’t even have a sister whenever possible. And now Snape might have been friends with his mum? Friends with her and therefore able to tell Harry what she was like? It was a wonder he didn’t bombard the man with demands for information right then and there. Finally Snape spoke up, “Your mother and I were neighbors growing up, and then we were in the same year at Hogwarts. She was my best friend.” The last sentence was spoken so softly that Harry barely heard it.
Thousands of questions, every one that Harry had ever wanted to ask about his mum, came roaring through his mind all at once. Plucking one out at random he asked “What did she look like?” Unspoken, a second question hung in the air: did she look like me?
“Yer mum was a pretty thing. Long red hair and bright green eyes. Jus’ like your eyes, ‘smatter o’ fact,” Hagrid responded. Harry glanced over at Snape, who nodded in confirmation.
“I look like my mum then?” he breathed.
“Well, yeh’ve got her eyes, but I’d say yeh look more like your dad.”
“You knew my dad too?” Harry blurted out.
Hagrid gave a soft chuckle before answering. “O’ course I did, he was at school right along with yer mum and Professor Snape here, wasn’ he?”
Harry turned to ask Snape about his father to find the man had lost his faraway expression and was looking fairly annoyed again. Angry even. “Your father and I did go to school together, but we did not get along. Now Hagrid I believe you had business to attend to?” It was at that point that Harry realized that, while Snape might be a great resource to go to for information about his mum, it would definitely be in his best interest to go elsewhere for his dad.
“Right yeh are, Severus. I’ll see yeh soon, Harry. You can let me know how you like yer birthday cake when yeh get to Hogwarts.” And with a cheerful wave he left, walking up to the counter as Snape and Harry went to leave the bank.
“What did he mean by birthday cake sir?” Harry asked, instantly interested at the prospect of sweets.
“He left in my care a cake to give you for your birthday. You may have a slice after you eat your lunch. Though I warn you, the man is not known for his cooking abilities.” Harry, however, didn’t care if the cake was hard as rocks, and tasted like them too. For the first time in his life he had his own birthday cake. And not just any cake, a cake that someone had taken time to make just for him. Even Dudley had rarely gotten a homemade cake; usually Aunt Petunia would just buy him an ice cream cake from the store. And now Harry had a hand-made cake from a man he hardly knew, and he promised himself right then that he would go find Hagrid on the first day of school and thank him profusely.
Still musing over his birthday cake Harry followed Snape into a shop just across the street called Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where they were greeted by a squat smiling witch. “Professor Snape, good morning. This must be a Muggleborn for Hogwarts then?” she asked, then continued on without waiting for an answer. “Got the lot here- though we do usually recommend the Muggleborns get a couple of extra casual robes, to wear on the weekend.”
“He’ll take two sets,” Snape told her. She looked to Harry for confirmation and he nodded in agreement. Now that she had mentioned it, Harry had noticed that most of the people walking around Diagon Alley had been wearing robes. Plus anything was better than Dudley’s old cast offs.
“Alright dear, what colors then?”
“Blue,” Harry said, naming his current favorite color, “like those ones over there.” Harry motioned to a set of dark cobalt robes.
“And for the other set?” she asked pleasantly.
Harry faltered. He had never gotten to pick out clothes before, and so now he wasn’t really sure what kind of colors he liked. Finally he turned to Snape, whose black robes were a good deal more comforting than Madam Malkin’s mauve and the assistant’s, who was currently leaning on the front counter, yellow, and asked “What color do you think sir?”
“Green,” came the automatic answer, though the Professor had looked quite confused when he said it. The the man’s expression gave Harry the distinct impression that Snape was about as used to being asked for his opinion as Harry himself was.
“Ooooh, I know just the thing,” chimed in the assistant, who seemed very excited. “We’ve got some in a nice green that’ll just match the color of your eyes.”
“I know the ones,” agreed Madam Malkin. “Why don’t you take the lad here to the back and start fitting him for his uniform, while I find the other robes.” The assistant jumped up and escorted the two to the fitting area where she had Harry stand up on a stool. She offered a nearby bench for Snape to sit on, but the man declined, preferring to stand with his back to the wall, one eye on Harry while the other kept watch over the store.
When the assistant went to pull the black robes over Harry’s head, she spotted his scar and gave a squeak of surprise. The look on Severus’s face, however, sent her quickly back to work. After a few moments of adjusting and pinning, Madam Malkin walked up, two robes slung over her arms and head turned back to address the pair walking behind her. In the front was a blonde boy who looked about Harry’s age. He was accompanied by a pretty blonde woman, who Harry assumed was his mother.
“Well, well,” said the silky and cultured voice of the blonde woman, “Severus Snape. Whatever are you doing here?”
“Narcissa Malfoy,” Snape replied, inclining his head ever so slightly in her direction. “I’m here on the Headmaster’s orders, helping one of our new students get his supplies.”
She gave Harry a cursory glance before turning back to the Professor again. “Helping one of the Muggleborn students? How very… noble of you.” Harry thought he saw her nose wrinkle briefly when she said the word Muggleborn and he decided that he didn’t like her very much.
“Actually Harry here,” responded Snape, with the subtlest emphasis on Harry’s name, “is a half-blood, but has been living with Muggle relatives since his parents died ten years ago. A very tragic story, perhaps you have heard it?” he asked, his words nothing but polite, but his tone gently mocking.
Mrs. Malfoy looked at Harry again, this time her gaze focused on his forehead. Harry could tell when she spotted his scar because her already impeccable posture seemed to straighten a little and her expression brightened. “Mr. Potter, this is a pleasure,” the oily tones form before had faded away completely as she addressed Harry. “I am Narcissa Malfoy and this,” she said, gesturing to the blonde boy being fitted on the stool next to him, “is my son Draco. He’ll be a first year in Hogwarts this year just like you.”
Now Harry did not like this woman, and was tempted to say something rude in response. He had noticed, however, that Snape didn’t seem to like her all that much either, but he still had been polite, at least verbally. Harry thought it best to follow the other man’s lead. “Hello Mrs. Malfoy, pleased to meet you,” he responded in the most disinterested tone he could manage.
She gave no apparent signs that she had noticed his tone, simply giving him a smile that looked only slightly more real than the ones Aunt Petunia would sometimes direct at Harry in public before turning to her son. “Now Draco I’ll be going up the street to look at wands, you stay here until your father finishes getting your books next door. You can make friends with Mr. Potter here.”
“Yes, Mother,” the boy replied dutifully and Mrs. Malfoy left. Once she was gone the boy turned to Harry and asked “Is it true that you were raised by Muggles then?”
“Yes,” said Harry.
“So that means you haven’t been brought up knowing our ways. I bet you’ve never even heard of Quidditch,” Draco said, somehow managing to sound sympathetic and superior at the same time.
“No,” Harry replied, thinking that this boy might just be as bad as his mother.
“Well, I’ll just have to explain it to you then,” he declared, and then Draco was off, first explaining the basic rules of Quidditch and then going into his favorite teams and some of the games he had seen. The conversation seemed to go on for quite a while, and Harry rather suspected the two witches were going slower than necessary to allow him and Draco to keep talking. Which he didn’t mind as much as he thought he would, Quidditch sounded brilliant, and while Draco was still acting a bit stuck-up, he was pretty good at explaining, and willing to answer any questions Harry asked him.
Finally the assistant taped on Harry’s leg and let him know she was done. “If you like,” she offered, “there’s a changing room just over there; you could go and put one of your new sets of robes on.” Harry thanked her and took his green robes to change into while Snape went up front to pay for everything. After he had changed and stuffed Dudley’s old clothes into his pocket (hopefully he could convince Snape to use that cool shrinking spell on them, like he did on the bed earlier), he said goodbye to Draco and went to meet Snape out front.
“Enjoy your conversation with Mr. Malfoy?” he asked.
Harry nearly shrugged, but stopped himself, instead replying, “I guess so sir. He seemed alright, a little snobby, though.”
“Indeed. Though, I would advise you, at the very least, not to make and enemy out of him. His father has a fair amount of pull in the Ministry and is an old… acquaintance of mine. I have little doubt his son could make like very difficult for you if he so choose.” Harry agreed to that readily enough. He was hardly going to befriend someone because of who their father was, but he didn’t really want to make any enemies either. “On the other hand, if you do decide to befriend Mr. Malfoy I would highly suggest you remain wary. His father may be in with the Ministry now, but he ran in very different circles up until your parent’s death.”
Harry was momentarily confused, but a few seconds later he understood what Snape was trying to tell him. Draco’s dad was a Nazi! Or whatever You-Know-Who’s followers were called. “But, just because his dad was evil it doesn’t mean Draco is too,” Harry pointed out. The boy certainly hadn’t seemed evil, just stuck-up.
Snape seemed to contemplate this for a moment before he spoke again, “True enough Harry. That is why I didn’t tell you not to become friends with him, just remain cautious until you’re certain you can trust him.”
“Yes sir,” Harry said, but he personally thought his Professor was a bit paranoid.
The next shop Snape led him to was full of eyeglasses. Harry followed the Professor inside without really paying attention (he had been busy staring at the ice cream shop two doors down), but stuttered to a halt when he realized where they were.
“What is it now?” Snape asked sounding decidedly exasperated.
“I’ve already got glasses, sir. I don’t need a new pair,” Harry explained, even as he looked wistfully around at all the nice, not broken, glasses around him.
“Nonsense, Harry. Those glasses you’re wearing are held together by little more than sellotape, and you will be getting a new pair. Besides you’ll find these glasses to be a bit less breakable than their Muggle counterparts.” Harry thought of the look that’d be on Dudley’s face when he tried and failed to break Harry’s new glasses and decided it would be worth it. No matter how many times Dudley ended up punching him in the nose in the attempt.
“Alright sir,” Harry agreed brightly. “But don’t we need to get my eyes checked first?” Though, as Harry peered around the store, he could see no place to do that, not even a door leading to a back room that might have the necessary equipment.
“Need I remind you yet again that we are not in a Muggle shop?”
“Oh… er, I mean, no sir,” Harry replied, a bit confused, but decided to just find a good pair.
Eventually he picked some out, and took them to the main counter. “Got a pair you like, son?” asked the older wizard who appeared to be the shop owner.
“Alright then, let me just fix them up for you real quick.” The man pulled out his wand and began chanting in what Harry thought sounded something like Latin. He tapped Harry’s head (Snape tensed a little when that happened Harry was pleased to notice, but didn’t do anything else) and then tapped the frame of the glasses, which seemed to mold and shift a little. After the glasses were still again he repeated the process, though this time he pointed instead at Harry’s eyes, luckily not poking them in the process, and tapped both of lenses.
“There you go, just try those on now,” said the man, handing the glasses back over to Harry. He eagerly took off his old glasses and put the new ones on. He was surprised to find that the frames, that had been a bit loose before, now fit snugly. That didn’t really matter, however, since he still couldn’t see any better with them on than he could without them. At least for the first second or so, but then the lens began shifting and everything came into sharper and shaper focus, until he could see everything with a crystal clarity beyond even what his old glasses gave him. Though to be fair, the other glasses were almost two years old, he just hadn’t wanted to ask to be taken to the eye doctor without a note from the school nurse like he had last time.
The old wizard laughed slightly at Harry’s look of wide-eyed amazement. “Glad you like them, son. Now those lenses are daily self-updating. That means the first time you put them on every day they’ll adjust themselves to fit exactly what you need. Unfortunately the spell on the frames isn’t quite as good, so you’ll have to bring them in if they get too small.”
“Yes sir. Thank you!” Harry exclaimed; astonished once again by all the useful things magic could do. Imagine having glasses that always fit your prescription!
Snape picked up Harry’s old glasses as they left the shop, and then unceremoniously chucked them into the nearest rubbish bin.
Most of the rest of Harry’s supplies were purchased without incident. When they were getting Harry’s equipment he spotted a really nice solid gold cauldron, but, remembering that Snape had mentioned earlier he was the Potions Professor, he elected not to say anything and get the pewter one instead. In Flourish and Blotts they purchased all of Harry’s school books, as well as a few extra on wizarding culture and etiquette that Snape insisted on. He also insisted that Harry read all the books before he came to Hogwarts, but Harry privately doubted he’d be able to, considering the large stack of them. Still he promised himself to make sure and read through the entire Potions book and the Herbology one as well (just in case). Harry spent a long time looking at Curses and Countercurses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-legs, Tongue-tying, and Much, Much More) but ended up deciding to spend some of his pocket money on Quidditch Through the Ages instead, hoping, if the sport was really as popular as Draco claimed, it would give him something to talk about with people when he got to Hogwarts. The Apothecary was fascinating too, even if it did smell bad, though the smell didn’t seem to bother Snape in the slightest (not that that was particularly surprising). Harry thought they would just ask the man behind the counter for the standard ingredients, but was still unsurprised when Snape instead personally walked him around the store and put together a kit for him. He even forced Harry to, without looking at the labels, identify each ingredient. Luckily he didn’t get mad when Harry didn’t know what most of them were, he just told Harry the correct answer and proceeded to look thoughtful.
The last shop they went to seemed rather small and shabby, and Harry might have been disappointed had it not been for the peeling gold letters over the door: Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. Now was his chance to get a real magic wand, which he had been looking forward to since he found out he was a wizard.
The inside of the store continued the feeling of a used book shop, or perhaps a strict library, where instead of books the shelves were lined with thousands of little narrow boxes.
“Good afternoon.” The sudden voice startled Harry, but Snape seemed unfazed. A very old man was now standing in front of them, apparently having emerged from amongst the shelves.
“Hello sir,” Harry said, feeling more than a bit awkward and so falling back on the politeness that seemed to have become a habit of his since he entered the magical world.
"Ah yes," said the man, who Harry assumed must be Mr. Ollivander. "Yes, yes. I thought I'd be seeing you soon. Harry Potter. You have your mother's eyes. It seems only yesterday she was in here herself, buying her first wand. Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work."
Harry glanced over at Snape partially to get confirmation of this new piece of information about his mum, a partially as an excuse to look away from Mr. Ollivander, who had moved closer to Harry, and was staring him down with lamp-like silver eyes. Snape gave a brief nod to back Mr. Ollivander’s words, but otherwise made no move to intercept the man.
"Your father, on the other hand, favored a mahogany wand. Eleven inches. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration. Well, I say your father favored it - it's really the wand that chooses the wizard, of course."
The man was very close now, and Harry was feeling distinctly uncomfortable.
"And that's where..."
Mr. Ollivander reached out to touch the lightning scar on Harry's forehead, but Snape finally stepped forward, clearing his throat to catch the other man’s attention.
"Severus! Severus Snape! How nice to see you again... Ebony, twelve inches, rather rigid, wasn't it?"
“Yes, it is. I believe we are here, however, to pick out Harry’s new wand, not to discuss wands of the past.”
“Quite,” responded Mr. Ollivander in a knowing tone, and Harry felt like he had missed something. "Well, now - Mr. Potter. Let me see. Which is your wand arm?"
"Er - I'm right-handed sir," said Harry.
"Hold out your arm. That's it." He took the measuring tape he had pulled from his pocket and proceeded to measure Harry from shoulder to finger, then wrist to elbow, and a great many more besides as he said, "Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr. Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons, or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard's wand."
Halfway through his little speech he left the tape measure to continue the job without assistance, as he began removing boxes from the shelves.
"That will do," he said, and the tape measure, which was currently determining the size of the space between Harry’s nostrils, fell onto the floor. "Right then, Mr. Potter. Try this one. Beechwood and dragon heartstring. Nine inches. Nice and flexible. Just take it and give it a wave."
Harry took the wand and attempted to wave it around a bit, but Mr. Ollivander snatched it back before anything could happen. Not that Harry felt like anything would have happened given more time. This same process was repeated over and over again, until the spindly chair in the corner was piled high with discarded wands. Mr. Ollivander seemed to find this as a Great Challenge, and began muttering to himself excitedly.
"Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we'll find the perfect match here somewhere - I wonder, now - - yes, why not - unusual combination -holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple."
As soon as Harry’s finger curled around the wand he felt a warmth flooding through him. Knowing they had finally found the right one Harry raised the wand high above his head and swished it down, sending a spray of red and gold sparks dancing across the room. "Oh, bravo!” Mr. Ollivander cried. “Yes, indeed, oh, very good. Well, well, well... how curious... how very curious... " The man continued to mutter about the curiousness of it all as he packed the wand back in its box until Harry felt like he was all but obligated to ask.
“I’m sorry sir, but what’s curious?”
Mr. Ollivander looked like he was about to say something, but then he stopped and glanced over at Snape. When he turned back to Harry he replied, “I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. After a time patterns begin to emerge between the customers and the wands that choose them, and today has brought to light a very interesting one indeed. Quite curious.”
Harry was not at all satisfied with that answer, but one look at the Professor told him that he would have to make due. Still, it was probably worth it if it meant less time in the dusty little shop under the watch of Mr. Ollivander’s glowing eyes.
Outside the shop Snape glanced up at the sun before announcing that it was time for lunch, making Harry wonder if the man could actually tell time by the sun.
“After lunch we have two more stops to make before we’re finished,” Snape told him.
“Two more stops? But haven’t we got everything on my list sir?” Harry asked.
“Yes, we have purchased all of your required school items, but that does not change the fact change the fact that we have another two stops to make. Now stop dawdling, I need to eat if I’m to continue carting you around today.”
“Yes sir,” replied Harry, and quickly began trotting alongside the man as he led them to a small café tucked away in a corner of the alley.
Lunch was a much less eventful meal than breakfast. Harry steadily worked his way through a full plate of food and even managed to down a single slice of the birthday cake Hagrid had given him. While it did not taste quite like rocks, it was about as appetizing as Snape said it would be. Meanwhile Snape focused half his attention on eating his meal, and the other half on what appeared to be a letter he was writing. When they had both finished eating, and Snape had finished writing, they quickly paid and Harry followed Snape to the first of their last two stops.
Harry found himself to be confused yet again when Snape led them inside what was apparently a reptile focused pet-shop. “I thought you said I wasn’t allowed to get a snake?”
“You are not, and you will not be getting one. However your appalling inability to name Potions ingredients earlier has led me to believe that lack of proper knowledge of Potions ingredients and proper preparation might be the reason so many first years seem better at exploding their cauldrons than actually brewing what they required to. I have therefore decided to use the first lesson to lecture on these two items, and a snake would be helpful for a practical demonstration. And I would of course be able to use the snake as a source of personal Potions ingredients as well. “
Harry beamed up at the man. Whatever he might say about Potions ingredients and lessons, (though Harry had to admit, the lesson had sounded pretty helpful) Harry was fairly certain Snape was buying the snake so Harry could put his Parseltongue plan into action. Well, if the Professor was going to do that for Harry, Harry was going to make sure that Snape got the best snake in the store.
It ended up taking a good forty minutes to actually purchase the snake. Harry had determined relatively quickly that the female boomslang, though shy, was by far the most interesting snake in the store. Snape, however, was reluctant to buy a venomous pet, and scoffed at Harry’s insistence that she was really very friendly. Finally Harry got her to promise that, provided Harry came and talked to her on occasion, she wouldn’t bite anyone. Even after securing her promise Snape was still a bit reluctant, and insisted that, should he buy the boomslang, Harry would come to the first Potions lesson for all four Houses and prevent her from biting any of the “dunderheaded students” since he did not “trust a common reptile to keep promises.” Harry hardly thought that was an appropriate way to talk about his new pet, but knew better than to say so, instead just agreeing with Snape’s request. Having secured promises from both the snake and Harry, Snape finally relented and bought the boomslang. It probably also helped that whole time they were there, the store clerk was listing off all the different Potions boomslang skin was used in.
Feeling a bit smug, Harry followed the Professor out of the shop and asked where they were headed next.
Rather than answering his question directly, Snape said, “I believe you are aware at this point that I have no faith in you relatives’ ability to adequately care for you?”
“Yes sir.” In actuality, Harry had only picked up on a few hints that the Professor might be unhappy with Harry’s home life, but Snape had made it abundantly clear that he intensely disliked the Dursley’s, which Harry thought probably amounted to the same thing.
“I have informed them that their treatment of you will improve, but I trust them to do what they are told only slightly more than I trust them to treat you properly, necessitating that I monitor the situation. I, however, do not have the time to do so myself, so I will be requiring you to send me weekly reports as to their behavior.”
“You want me to send you letters about how the Dursley’s are treating me sir?” Harry asked, but seeing the look on Snape’s face he quickly amended “I mean reports about how they treat me?”
“Correct. At this point, though, you have no way to send the reports to me, hence our last stop.” As he said this he gestured to the shop they were now standing in front of, Eeylops Owl Emporium.
“I get to get an owl?” Harry whispered in amazement. Snape raised his eyebrows at that, and Harry had to admit to himself that it was a pretty pointless question. But he had never had a pet before, and owl seemed like such an amazing pet to have.
It did not take Harry overly long to pick out a beautiful snowy owl. When they got to the counter to pay for her Harry was surprised to see Snape pull out not the bag of money they had gotten from Gringotts earlier (which Harry now vaguely recalled the Professor placing inside Harry’s new trunk while they were at lunch), but the man’s own wallet. Harry hardly knew what to say or how to protest. There was no need after all for the Professor to buy Harry’s owl.
Snape must have seen Harry looking at the wallet, and choose to explain his actions to a very agitated Harry. “Calm down Harry. I am spending my own money on the owl because I assigned you the task of writing me reports and therefore it is my responsibility to make sure you have everything you need to complete it.”
Say what he will, having Snape buy Harry something felt an awful lot like getting a present. A birthday present, no less. Harry felt the urge to thank Snape until he was blue in the face, it was after all his first real birthday present (Harry didn’t like to count the “gifts” the Dursley’s got him), but he thought Snape might not appreciate it. After all, if the man went to all the trouble of looking mean and claiming he did things out of responsibility, then he probably didn’t want to be thanked for it. So Harry just flashed him a grateful smile, and made a big show about how much he liked his new owl.
Still busy admiring his new pet; Harry didn’t notice where Snape was leading him until they stopped in front of an area where people seemed to be popping in and out of existence en masse. Suddenly feeling a bit queasy, Harry said, “That’s alright sir, you don’t have to Apparate me home, I reckon I can just take the Knight Bus by myself.”
“While I have no doubt you are capable of riding that infernal bus by yourself, that does not mean you should do so unless there is an emergency. Besides I am the one responsible for watching you right now meaning I need to see you safely home.”
“Yes sir,” Harry replied glumly. He really didn’t like the feeling of Apparation, even if it was a really cool way to travel.
On Snape’s instructions he let his new owl out of her cage, telling her to meet him back at home, and then looked in the man’s eyes while concentrating very hard on Privet Drive. One short, but unpleasant trip later Harry found himself standing on the immaculate lawn of Number 4. His Uncle’s car was once again parked on the driveway, meaning the Dursley’s had beat them back.
Snape pulled the shrunken trunk and owl cage out of his pockets and placed them in front of the door before returning them to their proper size again. “This is a letter for your Aunt, reminding her of a few things we discussed last night. Give it to her when you go in and I will be expecting your first report to be sent out by Sunday. Your owl will know where to find me.”
“Yes sir,” Harry agreed, and then he blinked. When he opened his eyes again, Snape was gone.
Chapter 6: Dear Professor Snape
Severus was eating breakfast on Friday morning when he heard a familiar but unexpected tapping sound. He had already received his copy of the Prophet that morning, and so should not be receiving any other post. The owl herself, once Severus had let her in, turned out to be another familiar but wholly unexpected element. Harry wasn’t supposed to be writing him until Sunday, so there was no reason his owl should be delivering anything to Severus on Friday.
Still, he took the envelope and briefly considered sending the snowy owl away before deciding against it. Harry had shown himself to be fairly obedient when Severus took him to Diagon Alley, if one was willing to discount the snake incident, so it was likely this letter was something of an emergency situation in need of some kind of immediate response. Somewhat wary now, Severus unfolded the parchment and began to read.
Dear Professor Snape,
Severus had to suppress an urge to throw the letter away. He had not honestly expected an eleven year old boy to know how to write up an official report, but he had thought he made it clear that Harry was to try to write it as a report, not a letter. Severus was not in the habit of exchanging letters with anyone, and he had no plans to make any exceptions, much less for one of his students. Still, there was the possibility that the Dursley’s had responded to Severus’s threats not by improving their treatment of Harry, but by lashing out at the boy. If that was the case, and Severus did not respond because he had neglected to read this letter, then things would doubtless get worse. Gritting his teeth a bit, Severus continued.
You must be surprised to see Hedwig, that’s what I named my owl, I got it out of my History of Magic book, (which, Severus was gratified to note meant Harry might be actually reading his textbooks, unlike most of the first year dunderheads) so early. Of course, I don’t know when you will actually get this, how fast is owl post? Muggle post usually takes a few days at least, but it seems like owls would be faster. Well, either way, it should be three days before you were expecting to see her.
Anyways, the reason I’m writing you on Thursday instead of Sunday, like you asked, is that the Dursley’s were acting so completely different than the usually do I thought I should write you right away.
Severus spared a brief moment to hope that whatever Petunia and her lump of a husband had done it wouldn’t be too bad. Despite the threats he might have given them, he had a reputation to maintain as a reformed Death Eater, and he doubted the Aurors would believe him when he told them that the Muggles deserved to be cursed.
When I went inside the house after you left I realized I had forgotten to change out of my new robes, and at first I thought Aunt Petunia was going to have kittens. But after I gave her your letter she just looked frightened and told me to go up to my room. I stayed up there for most of the rest of the day but I could hear her and Uncle Vernon rowing for a long time, and then they pulled Dudley away from the TV and said something to him about me (I know, because he pitched a fit and I heard my name in it). Later Aunt Petunia called me down for dinner and there was already a plate set out for me that was piled with food, and she kept insisting that I eat it all. Then Uncle Vernon asked me how my day was, and even though I don’t think he sounded really interested, he still asked. Of course, that might have partly been because Dudley was too busy sulking to say how his day was. Then today, Aunt Petunia took Dudley and me out shopping. First we went to the toy store and Dudley got two new computer games, but after that Aunt Petunia took us to buy clothes and she bought a whole bunch of brand new clothes for me! And they all look a lot nicer and fit me much better than Dudley’s hand-me-downs, though I still like my new robes better. And then when we got home she took out the box of Legos I saw her buy at the toy store and gave them to me. And I know my relatives only started acting so nice to me after you talked to them. So I don’t know what you said, but thank you so much for saying it!
That passage made Severus feel a decidedly odd mixture of emotions. There was rage, of course, and that was easy and familiar. Rage at Muggles who did not know how to properly treat witches and wizards lay down old but well-worn paths in his mind, and it was simple to slip down them again. Severus did not allow himself any illusions, so he knew that the Dursley’s behavior now, right after he had threatened them, represented the best treatment he could expect them to give Harry. Over time, as memory and fear of threats faded, they were likely to slip back into old habits. And now, having seen the best those two had to offer, Severus knew that Harry would need to find a different family to take him in next summer, and blood wards be damned. He didn’t particularly care for the blood wards anyways, as they reminded him of things better forgotten and lead to train of thoughts that, while no longer as unpleasant as they once were, were still highly uncomfortable. No, the best option was clearly to place Harry with a wizarding family who would know how to care for him. In fact, the Weasley’s had so many children Severus could probably stick Harry in there without anyone the wiser. Then again, Molly Weasley might notice if one of her brood had dark hair. So, that plan was out, but there was no way Severus was going to allow Lily’s son to go back to a home where he was thanking people for ensuring he got the bare minimum of care.
And therein lay the crux of the strange feeling in Severus’s chest. He knew himself to be not a nice person and his sharp tongue gave others little reason to thank him. Having written him off as cruel and nasty, most people found excuses for any of the good he was wont to do, assuming it was something he did only out of duty or on Dumbledore’s command, and thus not a reason for any gratitude. Not that he had never been thanked before, the Dark Lord, for one, was occasionally given to praise when his Death Eaters performed a job well. Of course, even when he had been a loyal follower, the Dark Lord’s words rang hollow in his ears, clearly something said only to ensure that his tools continued to work for him, and not out of any real feeling. Dumbledore was another exception to that rule, but if there was something that Albus Dumbledore wasn’t the exception to, then wizardkind had yet to find it. And now this, being honestly and eagerly thanked by not just a child or student, but this particular child, the Boy-Who-Lived, son of James Potter and Lily Evans, being thanked by Harry, was… confusing to say the least.
Seeing that there was a bit more to the letter, and grateful for any distraction, Severus read on.
There was another thing I was wondering about. When I told Uncle Vernon I was supposed to take a train to Hogwarts, he said something about why we didn’t use a more magical way to get there? And why don’t we, is it just tradition? Did you and my mum ride the train together? And when I looked at the ticket it said the train was at Platform 9 ¾, but I thought all the platforms were whole numbers. Do you have to use magic to get on it, like at Diagon Alley?
Thanks again, Professor.
Well, it was blatantly obvious that the last paragraph was merely Harry fishing for stories about his mother. Not that Severus could really blame anyone for wanting to know more about Lily, but that did not mean he was going to start sending reminiscent letters to Harry. Although, he had neglected to tell Harry how to get onto the platform hadn’t he? Grumbling a little, he summoned a parchment and a quill, so he could scribble out a quick reply and get back to breakfast.
Yawning a little, Harry marked the next day off of his calendar. He had mentioned to Aunt Petunia that he would like one and she had puckered her lips and had looked, in general, like someone had just made her eat a whole lemon, but she had gotten it for him. Sighing happily to himself, only two weeks left until he left for Hogwarts, he went to go climb into bed.
At least, that’s what he had planned to do before he heard the soft rustling of feathers behind him. Suddenly wide awake, he turned around to greet Hedwig and take Snape’s latest response from her. Hopefully it would explain what he had meant when he said he was “Head of Slytherin.”
Slytherin is one of the four houses at Hogwarts. Every student is sorted into one of these houses at the beginning of their first year here. Each house has its own set of dormitories, off of a central common room, its own table in the Great Hall, and provides the basis for the class schedules. The four houses are Slytherin, known for cunning and ambition, Ravenclaw, which is associated with wit and intellect, Hufflepuff, hard-work and loyalty, and finally Gryffindor, which is for bravery. That is, at least nominally, how students are sorted. Your mother, because I know you will ask, was sorted into Gryffindor, which was disappointing to me at the time, since I was of course in Slytherin, but in retrospect it’s hardly surprising.
Professor S. Snape
Harry smiled and tucked away the two new bits of information he had learned about his mum. Snape didn’t go into detail, or tell him a lot of stories about her, but he was always letting little tidbits slide here and there. In addition to knowing she was brave and a Gryffindor, Harry also knew she was kind and polite to almost everyone she met. She had had a quick temper, but was just as quick to forget why she had been angry in the first place. But if you ever made her really mad then she would snap, and it was almost impossible to get her to forgive you after that. Harry privately hoped that, whatever Snape had done to his mum, she had forgiven him for it eventually. It would just be too sad otherwise. He knew she had dark red hair and green eyes, just like his. But most importantly, he knew she had died to protect him, which meant she must have loved him a whole lot.
Excitement wearing off, Harry yawned again, and crawled into bed. He would write Snape in the morning, and ask him what exactly the Great Hall was, and see if he could convince the man to tell him at least one story about how brave his mum was.
The Tuesday before September 1st, Severus was once again eating breakfast when Hedwig flew in with yet another letter from Harry. This time however, as had been the case the last week and a half or so, he was in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, eating at the staff table with some of the other faculty.
Hagrid, who was sitting on Severus left, leaned over the empty chair between them to pet Hedwig and offer her a bit of bacon (Severus had never met an owl who liked bacon so much as this one did). “She’s a beautiful owl,” Hagrid commented, and Severus could swear that made her look smug.
“She’s not mine,” he replied, somewhat indignantly. If he ever did buy an owl, and why would he when he had a perfectly nice snake, he certainly wouldn’t get a smug one.
“Really?” asked Minerva, who was sitting just to the right of him. “The way she’s been in and out of here with letters for you I just assumed she was yours. Whose is she then?” Severus decided not to answer that, it was his private business after all, but, unfortunately for him, someone else jumped in at that point.
“She wouldn’t happen to belong to Harry Potter, would she Severus?” Dumbledore inquired from the other side of Minerva, his eyes full of that infernal twinkling. Minerva choked. Severus did not choke, but he did exhibit whatever tell it was that he had, he of course didn’t know what it was exactly, or he certainly wouldn’t be giving it off anymore. “Well that’s wonderful. I’m glad Harry and you have bonded.”
Severus was able, through sheer will power, not to sputter at the thought of himself bonding with a student. The pause, though, was enough for Minerva to speak up again. “You’ve been writing letters to Harry Potter? How in the world did that happen?” She accompanied the question with a look that reminded Severus uncomfortably of her Animagus form.
Hagrid responded to her query with a low chuckle before saying, “I can’t say as I’m surprised by it meself.” Minerva redirected her cat-glare to Hagrid. “I ran into Severus and Harry at Gringotts when Severus was helping the lad pick up his school supplies. You should have seen Harry, would hardly believe a thing I said without looking at Severus first to see if it was true.”
“Is that so?” Minerva said, giving Severus a grin that could almost be termed mischievous. “Well, I was almost certain Harry was going to be a Gryffindor, like his parents, but it looks like I might have some competition after all.”
If nothing else, Severus knew when it was best to stay and fight his battles and when to retreat. So slipping the letter into his pocket and gathering what was left of his dignity around him he stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll finish breakfast in my quarters,” he said, before striding quickly off. Bloody Gryffindors.
Chapter 7: To Witches and Wizards and Magical Feasts
Harry hurried through the train station toward Platform 9 ¾. He wasn’t running late exactly, he still had ten minutes, but he wasn’t as early as he would have liked to have been either. Uncle Vernon had never complained about having to drive all the way out to London to drop Harry off, but he hadn’t seemed very thrilled about it either. He had certainly taken his time in getting ready to leave that morning, at any rate, even when Harry had been ready barely a half hour past sunrise. Spotting the signs for Platforms 9 and 10, he trotted over to the barrier between them, only to be beat there by a red-headed family who, if the owl on one of their luggage carts was any indication, were wizards too. Not wanting to be rude, Harry came up alongside them and resolved to wait until after they had gone through the barrier to make his own way onto the platform.
At least that was his plan, until the red-headed matron turned and spotted him. “Why hello dear,” she said, her eyes passing over him, his lack of parents or any other adult, and finally coming to rest on Hedwig in her cage before asking, “First year at Hogwarts?” proving her inductive reasoning to be at least as good as Harry’s.
“Yes ma’am,” he replied.
“Ron’s new too,” she said, pointing at the youngest of the four boys. She looked around again, as if she might have somehow overlooked his guardians. “Did you need any help getting on the platform?” she asked kindly.
“No, Professor Snape told me how.” Harry had to bite back a laugh at the expressions on their faces. The mother and oldest boy only looked mildly surprised, but the girl regarded him with awe, Ron seemed to be in shock and the twins looked like everything they knew about the world had suddenly come into question.
“Oh… well since this is your first time getting on the platform why don’t you watch some of the older boys first, just to make sure you understand it.” Harry, who had been planning on doing that anyway, agreed fairly readily and the woman turned her attention back to directing her children through the barrier.
“Hey, mate. I’m Ron, Ron Weasley.” Harry started. While he had been watching the oldest boy, Percy, ran straight at the brick barrier and suddenly vanish, Ron had come over to stand next to him.
“Oh, hi. My name’s Harry Potter.” This simple statement elicited a squeal from the girl and another shocked look from Ron.
“Really? Have you really got the- you know… the scar?”
“RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!” screeched Mrs. Weasley, who had apparently turned back to their conversation in time to hear the tail-end of it. “You do not ask people about their scars!”
“But Mum, he’s Harry Potter-“
“I don’t care who he is, that’s no excuse for being rude. Now apologize and march yourself onto the platform.”
“Yes Mum,” Ron said, sounding more resigned than chastened. “Sorry Harry,” he mumbled before making his way onto the platform, all under his mother’s watchful eye.
Once Ron had vanished through the barrier, Mrs. Weasley turned to Harry. “It’s so good to meet you Harry. I’m Mrs. Weasley and this,” she said, gesturing to the girl standing next to her, “is my daughter Ginny.” Harry smiled at the girl and her face, which already had a rosy tint to it, flushed bright red, just a few shades paler than her hair. Still she managed what Harry thought was a smile and a mumbled hello, which Harry decided was reasonably impressive, since she looked like she’d like nothing better than to dive behind her mother. Harry wasn’t sure what he had done to embarrass her (he was still new to the whole celebrity thing, and couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the notion of someone being star-struck by his very presence), but he decided to help her out by addressing his next comment soley to Mrs. Weasley rather than the two of them.
“It’s very nice to meet you both,” said Harry. He considered sticking out his hand to shake, and if Professor Snape had been there he probably would have, the man was a stickler for proper respect, but in the end he decided not to. Mrs. Weasley just felt too much like… like a mom to shake hands with, and shaking hands with Ginny clearly would have been out even if it didn’t seem really weird to shake hands with someone who was younger than him. They didn’t seem to mind him skipping over the formality though, or Mrs. Weasley didn’t anyway. Ginny’s response to his polite comment had been to go even redder, and Harry had given up on trying to figure her out.
“All right then Harry, why don’t you go ahead and get on the platform?” Harry hesitated. After all, the Weasley’s had gotten here first, so really they should go before him. But, at the same time, Mrs. Weasley didn’t strike him as someone to be argued with. “Go on dear, I’m sure Ron is waiting for you, so he can apologize properly for what he said before,” Mrs. Weasley said when Harry made no sign of moving. While Harry privately doubted Ron was waiting for him, it was clear Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t be happy unless he went through the barrier before her.
Turning himself toward the solid brick that served as the entrance to Platform 9 ¾, Harry found himself faltering once again. It’s not that he was afraid; he had just seen the four Weasley boys go through just fine and besides, Professor Snape had told him this was how he was supposed to enter the platform. He was just… concerned. I mean how could they be sure that the portal would work for him? After all, he had apparently brushed off a super powerful and evil wizard’s attempts to kill him when he was a baby, what if that was because magic didn’t work right for him? But if that was the case someone would have already figured it out, right? Besides even if it didn’t work, walking into a brick wall couldn’t hurt that much, could it?
Steeling his resolve Harry began to walk toward the barrier. Only, somehow, that walk became more of a trot, which became more of a jog, which became more of a run, until he was all the sudden sprinting full out with his eyes shut tight. Then, just as Harry was expecting a horrific crash, everything… changed. It wasn’t a tangible difference exactly, though the sound of the voices did raise a few octaves and the smell was a little different, more animal scents mixed in with the people. No it was a bit more nebulous, something about the very air around him felt… magical, almost.
“Hey.” Harry started and opened his eyes. Apparently Mrs. Weasley had been right about Ron waiting for him after all. “Sorry about before. I didn’t really upset you when I asked about the… you know, did I?”
Harry grinned. “No, I’ve always kind of liked my scar actually.” And, just to prove there were no hard feelings Harry pulled back his fringe, giving a clear view of the scar in question.
“Wicked,” breathed Ron, his eyes fixed to Harry’s forehead. Then, after a moment he seemed to shake it off and looked around almost guiltily. “Mum will be coming through any second and she’ll go mental if she catches me staring at your scar.” Harry dropped his hand from his hair, agreeing with Ron’s assessment. “Hey, after I had a chance to say good-bye to Mum and Ginny do you think- that is would you want to go find a compartment?” Ron asked, managing to sound both hopeful and doubtful.
“Sure thing,” agreed Harry, without a trace of hesitation. He had had vague notions about trying to find Draco, but Harry honestly didn’t have enough experience to say for sure whether he and the other boy were friends, and he definitely didn’t want to end up sitting in a compartment alone, or worse, in one full of people who ignored him. Besides, they could always ask Draco to join them if they ran across him. So, after they both bid Mrs. Weasley farewell (she had insisted on giving Harry a hug too, much to her children’s embarrassment), Harry and Ron boarded the scarlet Hogwarts Express and began looking for a free compartment.
“Harry, there you are,” said a familiar voice as they were walking down the hall in the train. Harry turned to see Draco standing up and walking to the doorway of the mostly full compartment the other boy had apparently been sitting in. “Cutting it rather close aren’t you? I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it,” giving Harry a friendly grin, or what passed as a friendly grin from Draco, given the smug air he still managed to convey.
Harry shrugged. “My uncle wasn’t really in a rush to leave this morning. By the way Draco, this is Ron Weasley. Ron, this is Draco Malfoy.” The two boys looked at each other, neither seeming too pleased. Draco’s friendly grin lost the friendly aspect, turning into more of a superior sneer, eyes lingering on Ron’s shabby clothing and the bit of dirt Mrs. Weasley hadn’t been able to wipe off the red-head’s nose. Ron for his part looked like he like nothing better than to continue on down the corridor and completely ignore Draco’s existence. Harry frowned. Ron and Draco were the only two friends he had, and he had rather hoped they could all get along.
“Anyways Harry I’m glad you finally made it,” said Draco, apparently deciding to just pretend Ron wasn’t there. “As you can see the compartment has gotten rather full, but I did manage to save a seat for you.”
Harry hesitated. He didn’t particularly want to hurt Draco’s feelings, but found the idea of joining a compartment full of strangers who all already appeared to be friends with each other was decidedly unappealing. “Well I already promised Ron I’d go find a compartment with him,” he finally replied. Strictly speaking he hadn’t promised Ron anything, but it was close enough to the truth to count Harry figured. “But you could come join us if you wanted.”
“No, I already told them,” Draco said, waving his hand to indicate the boys behind them, “that I’d sit with them. But maybe I’ll come join you later. Otherwise I’m sure I’ll see you once we arrive at Hogwarts.”
“Alright,” Harry agreed brightly. “See you later then,” he called as he and Ron continued down the corridor in search of a place to sit.
“Harry that was Draco Malfoy,” Ron hissed as soon as they were (probably) out of earshot.
“I know. I was the one who introduced you to him, remember?”
Ron sputtered for a second before responding. “Well maybe you don’t know, but I’ve heard about his family. My dad said that his dad was a Death Eater,” he said, with the air of someone revealing a dramatic bit of information.
“Oh is that what they’re called? I knew it couldn’t be Nazis, but I didn’t know how to find out, since I didn’t think Professor Snape would tell me.”
“Sorry. But yeah, I already knew that. Why does it even matter anyway, I want to be friends with Draco, not his dad. And Draco’s… nice.” Ron snorted, which Harry couldn’t really blame him for, given the way Draco had acted around the red-headed boy earlier. “Well he’s kind of stuck up, but he is nice too. When he found out I was raised by Muggles he even taught me about Quidditch.”
Ron considered this for a moment before asking “How do know he didn’t just make a bunch of stuff up and tell you that it was Quidditch,” choosing to ignore the fact that the Boy-Who-Lived had been raised by Muggles to focus on sports, proving he had his priorities in order.
“Professor Snape was there so I don’t think he’d let Draco lie to me,” Harry said, and seeing that the other boy still looked skeptical he continued with, “besides, I bought a copy of Quidditch through the Ages after and everything he told me was the same as what was in there.”
There was a lull in the conversation as the two boys helped each other stow their trunks in the empty compartment they managed to find. “I guess if he told you about Quidditch he might be alright then,” Ron finally said as they settled into their seats.
“Yeah, he even told me about this one game he went to…” The two boys chatted about Quidditch for a while, Harry contributing information he had learned from his book, while Ron related stories about games he had seen and games he had played with his brothers. Somehow the latter stories morphed into stories about Ron’s family and soon Harry was being regaled with detailed descriptions and stories about Ron’s five older brothers. He had just started on Ginny, and Harry was wondering how the girl he met in the station could possibly be the same girl in Ron’s stories when a smiling witch stuck her head in and asked if they wanted anything from the trolley.
Ron declined, saying his mom had packed him some sandwiches, but Harry, who still had some pocket money left from Diagon Alley (technically he also had money left over from what was supposed to go toward his school supplies, but he was really sure if he was supposed to be using that money for sweets) hopped right up to go buy some. He was back in the compartment within seconds though, insisting Ron come tell him what was good, because he had never even heard of the things she was selling. Even though Ron didn’t have money to purchase candy for himself (or at least that’s why Harry thought he was passing up sweets for sandwiches), he was more than happy to instruct his new friend on which items from the snack trolley were must haves and which should be skipped. Harry ended up spending most of his remaining pocket money in his excitement, but ended up with a decent sized haul of what Ron insisted was the best the Hogwarts Express had to offer.
Reclaiming their seats, Harry sorted through his pile and began munching on a pumpkin pasty while Ron pulled out his sandwiches. Peering inside one of them, he made a face. "She always forgets I don't like corned beef."
“Swap you two of my pasties for two of your sandwiches,” said Harry.
"You don't want this, it's all dry," protested Ron. “Besides you’ve only got two more pasties, you should have them.”
“It’s fine, I like corned beef alright anyway. Plus, without you I wouldn’t have even known what to get. Here, have a chocolate frog too,” Harry replied, shoving the aforementioned food into Ron’s lap and nicking two sandwiches before the other boy could protest. Then, to make sure his point was made he took a big bite out of one of the sandwiches. “Hey, this is actually pretty good. Kind of dry, but good.”
Ron nodded while opening one of the pasties, “Yeah, Mum’s a pretty good cook. A lot of practice, I guess.” After that comment the compartment fell mostly quiet as the two boys steadily ate their way through the food, the silence occasionally broken to comment on what card had come with one of the chocolate frogs or for Harry to offer another sweet to Ron. After everything else had been eaten they opened the box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and had great fun trying to guess flavors and daring each other the funny colored ones. By the time they got to the bottom of the box neither of them had gotten more than two or three actual candy flavored ones, and there was still a brown one left that both of them refused to touch.
Harry was in the process of trying to convince Ron that the last bean was chocolate flavored (the other boy insisted that the chocolate ones were a different shade of brown) when there was a knock on the compartment door, which then opened to reveal a round-faced boy.
"Sorry, but have you seen a toad at all?" he asked, though he sounded as though he rather doubted it.
Harry and Ron shook their heads, causing the boy to wail, "I've lost him! He keeps getting away from me!"
"He'll turn up," said Harry.
"Yes," said the boy miserably. "Well, if you see him..."
He left, but the door didn’t have time to close before another blonde boy popped through the doorway.
“I thought I’d come join you,” Draco said, sitting down next to Harry.
“Hi Draco,” Harry replied cheerfully, while Ron attempted a friendly sort of nod. “Hey do you want the last bean?” Harry asked, offering the mostly empty box.
Draco glanced down at the offending sweet and sniffed. “I’m not eating that, it looks like it’s dirt-flavored.”
Harry sighed. “Yeah that’s what we thought too. Oh well, worth a try.” An awkward sort of silence descended over the compartment, and Harry cast about for anything he could say. Well, if it worked on Ron… “So Ron apparently saw that game between the Appleby Arrows and the Kenmare Kestrels you were telling me about.”
Both the other boys brightened considerably at the topic, and Ron was nodding enthusiastically. “Yeah, did you see that one save? That was amazing!”
“You mean the one-“ but whatever Draco was going to say was cut-off when the compartment door opened yet again.
"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one." The toadless boy was back, but this time he was accompanied by a rather bossy looking girl with bushy hair and rather large front teeth.
Draco, who looked positively furious that anyone would dare interrupt him, answered a lot more snidely than really necessary, “No we haven’t seen a toad, and why in the world are the two of you parading up and down the train looking for it yourselves? That’s just moronic. Go get a Prefect, they could find the toad in an instant and then you don’t have to go around bothering people.”
“Actually that’s not a bad idea,” Ron chimed in, “why haven’t you done that?” Neville mumbled something about not wanting to be a bother, to which Ron replied “Nah, don’t worry about it. Just find my brother Percy and tell him that you were sure a prefect could help you. He’ll be thrilled to do whatever you want after that. He’s got glasses and red hair like mine.”
“Thank you,” the girl replied loftily, “I’m glad at least some of the boys here know how to be polite.” And with one last scathing look at Draco, she left, dragging Neville in her wake.
The door has barely shut when Ron remarked “Poor Neville.” (Really they’d have to work on that whole “out of earshot” thing with him).
“What, because he’s lost his toad? That’s his own fault; he should keep a better eye on it,” Draco replied.
“No, because he’s being dragged around by that girl.”
Harry and Draco considered this for a moment before nodding in agreement. “She was kind of bossy wasn’t she?” Harry commented. The other two boys agreed and then, for a moment the compartment was silent.
“So anyways about that match…”
The boys talked about Quidditch for another fifteen minutes, or rather Ron and Draco talked about Quidditch and Harry, being mostly out of his depth even with the stuff he learned from his book, added an occasional comment in here or there, before the door opened yet again and Neville peeked in, this time thankfully alone.
“Neville, you escaped! You know, from that girl,” Ron added when his initial statement just seemed to confuse the boy.
“You mean Hermione? Yeah, I guess…” Neville responded.
“Did you find your toad?” Harry asked, changing the subject.
“Yeah,” Neville said, pulling the toad out of his pocket, “this is Trevor.”
“Isn’t he just going to get away again if you keep him in your pocket?” asked Ron.
Neville’s face fell. “Probably. I’m always losing him.”
“Why don’t you just put him in a cage and be done with it.” Draco said.
Ron looked indignant on Neville’s behalf, but Harry, thinking of his trip to the zoo with the Dursley’s, exclaimed “That’s a great idea, Draco!”
“It is?” Draco asked uncertainly.
“Yeah, Muggles do it all the time. You could get Trevor an aquarium, and fill it with water and rocks and dirt and plants and stuff. That way he can’t run away, and he’ll probably like it better than sitting in your pocket anyway.”
“Well I do now some plants Trevor might like…” Neville began hopefully.
“And we can help you get rocks and dirt and stuff, right guys?” Harry added, looking expectantly at Ron and Draco.
“Sure thing mate,” Ron agreed readily.
Draco looked mulish for a second, and then sighed heavily. “Fine, I’ll help too.”
Harry beamed. He already had Professor Snape looking out for him, and now he had three new friends too. This was going to be one totally awesome year.
Severus discretely looked over the first years entering the Great Hall, searching for an unruly mop of black hair. He didn’t bother trying to fool the rest of the staff, thanks to those three former Gryffindors they were all already convinced that Severus had lined himself up to be Harry’s favorite professor, mentor, protector or even father-figure, depending on who was asked (Trelawney, oddly enough, had come up with that last one and Severus had yet to find a way to thank her properly for it). At this point he could stare at his plate for the whole feast and they’d still be convinced he was watching for Harry. The students, however, weren’t under the same illusions the staff was, and Severus would like to keep it that way.
There he was, sandwiched between Draco Malfoy and a red-headed boy that was doubtless the latest of the Weasley brood. Which was actually really strange, what were a Weasley and a Malfoy doing together? Forget surviving the Killing Curse, this was all the proof Severus needed that Harry was a miracle worker. Looking Harry over, Severus decided he looked healthy enough, a bit less skinny than he had been when Severus had last seen him a month ago. A little nervous, but that was fairly common for first years. Satisfied, Severus returned his attention to the Sorting Hat, or pretended to anyway. The Hat may have a new song every year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get repetitive. And, aside from taking note of which of the new students are coming to Slytherin, he really couldn’t care less how they get sorted.
And so Severus idly listened as Millicent Bulstrode, Vincent Crabbe, Tracey Davis, Gregory Goyle, Daphne Greengrass, Draco Malfoy, Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson were sorted into Slytherin and a bunch of other student were sorted into the other houses.
And then, it was finally Harry’s turn. As soon as his name was called whispers broke out all over the hall and Severus scowled. All this whispering every time someone said his name and it was sure to go to Harry’s head sooner or later (he certainly wasn’t upset because Harry was uncomfortable with being famous, he just didn’t want the boy to get an inflated ego). Harry walked up to the stool and, head completely engulfed in the hat, he sat. And sat. And sat. He was under there for a good thirty to forty seconds, which really wasn’t that long relatively speaking and there were certainly students who had taken longer, but this was THE Harry Potter (trademark pending) and the hall was getting restless. Finally the brim of the hat opened up and shouted, “GRYFFINDOR!”
Someone standing outside the Hall might be forgiven for thinking a small explosion had taken place within, given how loud the cheers from the Gryffindor table were. Minerva shot Severus a look that was an interesting mixture of smug and apologetic. Severus distantly noted that Minerva thought he was upset, and maybe he could use that later, but most of his mind was focused on the final paragraph of the last letter Harry had sent him.
I guess this will be the last letter I send you, since by the time my next letter would get to you I’ll already be at Hogwarts and I can just talk to you in person. Maybe I’ll even be in Slytherin and then you’ll be my Head of House. That’d be pretty cool, but if I could be in any house I think I’d like to be in Gryffindor, like my mum. But no matter what house I’m in, you’ll still be my Potions Professor, so I’ll see you soon.
The boy himself, now nestled amongst his fellow Gryffindors, was giving Severus an uncertain sort of smile, like Severus might be angry that Harry was trying to emulate Lily, or some such nonsense. Severus nodded slightly, so Harry would stop staring at him like that. But his plan backfired as his nod apparently caused Harry to break out in a smile so large it was surprising his face didn’t crack in half, and Severus got an odd warm feeling in his chest. Or at least he did until Filius, who had been watching the whole thing, “coughed.” This was going to be one hell of a year.