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Harry Potter and the Language of Serpents

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In every universe, Harry Potter’s life could be described as somewhat unusual. For instance, most people had never died. Nor had most people had the sheer, brutal stubbornness to pursue a potions apprenticeship on top of fighting a war, graduating from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and making a great many friends and enemies along the way.

Which was a long way to say that Harry’s seventeenth year had been very long indeed, and he was very much looking forward to his eighteenth being entirely peaceful.

“It was Hagrid who carried you off to your awful muggle relatives, wasn’t it?” asked Draco Malfoy from the other side of the breakfast table at Number 12 Grimmauld Place. “So it’s most likely he who dropped you on your head and made you so daft.”

“Why are you even here?” Harry asked, stabbing his eggs fiercely with a fork. “Sirius, why is he here? This is my last day before I go off to do apprentice things. I thought we were going to do something fun.”

“I’m having fun,” Sirius said, sipping tea and looking entirely too satisfied. “I invited my not-entirely-awful cousin over to see you off, because you still aren’t forgiven for New Year’s.”

Harry had walked to his death on New Year’s, if not calmly, at least without visible hysterics. Sirius had yet to forgive him for this, not that Harry could entirely argue the point.

“You really must do something about that rude streak, Harry. Once you stop hiding behind the Fidelius on this place you’re going to have to deal with reporters, you know,” Draco said with perfect, pristine calm that made Harry’s fists itch.

“You said I’d been dropped on my head as a baby!”

“Harry, you said you’d have a peaceful, restful year. Have you ever had a peaceful, restful year in your life?”

“We could have invited Ron,” Harry moaned. “Or Hermione. Or anyone but him.”

“They have real jobs,” Sirius said, not looking up from his copy of the Daily Prophet. “Draco, on the other hand, is an unemployed layabout, and thus can come to breakfast whenever he pleases.”

“I am independently wealthy,” Draco hissed.

Draco’s animagus form, on a related note, was a cat. A small, fluffy white cat. It was cute.

“Currently using that independent wealth to be an unemployed layabout. I assume your father is proud?”

“Very,” Draco sniffed.

“Well, this is great,” Harry said hastily, “But I think I’ll just leave for my apprenticeship a little early, thanks for breakfast, Sirius.”

Harry stood.

“Sit,” said Sirius, still not looking up.

Harry sat.

“Right. I’ll start.” Sirius folded the paper (Harry caught a glimpse of the headline WHERE IS HARRY POTTER) and put it down next to his plate. “Severus Snape is an evil, petty, spiteful little git.”

“Sirius-“

“I’m not done. For some reason, you like him. I still don’t understand that. It doesn’t mean he’s stopped being an evil, petty, spiteful little git. You’re about to start trying to work for him, and live with him, and learn from him all through the day and night. This is actually one of your better decisions this year. Still, when he’s awful, and he will be, you remember that I am here, and you can call me on the mirror, and I will hex him into next week until he remembers there are consequences to treating you like dirt. Am I clear?”

“Sirius, no.”

“He calls you an idiot when he’s being nice, Harry. That’s his version of being nice.”

Harry could not actually argue with this. It was true.

“What he means,” said Draco, “Is that you have options besides a potions apprenticeship, if you want them. The Ministry would take you in a heartbeat, as would a great many Quidditch teams, just to name the most obvious candidates.

Harry sighed, sensing an ambush.

“I….” He hesitated, then decided to be blunt. “I love potions almost as much as flying, but it doesn’t come easily the way flying does. If I want to get any better at it, I have to learn, and Professor Snape is the best person for me to learn from. I’ve been learning from him for this long, I’m not stopping now. And you both are – grinning at me like demented lunatics. Why?”

“Thought you could use a reminder why you’re doing this,” Sirius said affably. “For when Beaky’s being an ars-“

“For when you are finding your apprenticeship trying,” Draco broke in smoothly. “Try not to poison him. Try not to be poisoned.”

“I will do my very best,” Harry promised, sketching an X above his heart.

“That’s a horrible muggle custom, isn’t it.”

“Probably,” Harry admitted, not entirely sure where he’d picked it up.

“Oh, go away,” said Draco.

“It’s my house!”

With Sirius living mostly with his muggle girlfriend, it was very nearly Harry’s house, too, and he loved it dearly despite the weird creaky noises and its occasional flirtations with being haunted by evil.

Harry did, eventually, get out the door and to the apparition point, and thence dragged his trunk along the weedy lane to the address he’d been given.

Spinner’s End mostly looked – ill-kempt and in need of a good hair care potion, so exactly like its owner. Next to Grimmauld Place it was positively cheery, of course, so Harry put his trunk down, braced himself, and knocked briskly.

From within, something started to wail.

After a long couple minutes, the door was yanked open by a harried-looking Severus Snape, holding a silver-haired baby with a deathgrip on his long black hair.

Oh, right. That was the other thing about going to stay with Snape.

The baby.