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Rage

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Harry was mad.

No, that’s not right he was pissed. He was irate. He was incomprehensibly, unabashedly enraged. Not that he didn’t have every right to be. He was fourteen for fucks sake. At fourteen your biggest problem should be puberty and school. Not waiting in a tent waiting to fight a fucking dragon. Not trying to avoid a rabid reporter. Not fighting with a friend because they were jealous that someone was trying to kill you. So Harry was content to sit in this tent for the rest of his soon-to-be-short life stewing in his rage.

Harry snorted when he heard Ludo Bagman’s voice roaring over the crowd and the dragon. Harry silently prayed that they dragon would roast the announcer. The man was one of the reasons he was in this damn situation. He was one of the ones that pushed him into this tournament. It would have been so easy to bar him from the games, magical contract or no. He was a minor! By the laws of magic he couldn’t be held by any magical contract regardless of how ancient the magic is. He checked the laws himself. Still he was here, waiting for his death. His only plan to live long enough to try and summon his broom.

No. No, Harry was done with this bullshit. Every year in this godforsaken school Harry has had to fight for his life because of something that was someone else’s fault. He was done. He was going to take himself of out of the games, even if it meant that he was going to spend a lot of time in the infirmary. He was not going to play the game. Maybe seeing him injured will make the judges rethink letting a child into these games. He was going to make his feelings well fucking known.

The boom of the cannon forced Harry to step out of the tent. He suppressed the urge to sneer when a cheer went up. He glanced around the arena, stopping when he saw the dragon in the far corner. It was monstrous, shimmering black in the bright sun. Bright yellow eyes glared around as it roared angrily, sitting hunched over its eggs. Harry stepped forward until he was a little over fifty yards away, just outside the range of its fire. Still, if the dragon took a single step off of its nest he would end up a charred mark on the ground. The large head swung in his direction and the eyes fixed on him, daring him to take that extra step.

Harry didn’t move from his spot. He ignored the worried chattering from the crowd as he glared at the dragon before him. Slowly he put his wand to his throat and whispered the spell he had heard Bagman use to turn his voice to a speaker. Then he waited. Harry watched as the large black wings unfolded from her scaly back. She raised her head and roared. The screech pierced the air and caused the wood in the stadium to quake in fear.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Harry bellowed into the frigid air. There was a heavy silence as the crowd and the dragon stopped to stare at him. Unknown to Harry, the reason he was being stared at was not because he was yelling, rather that he had slipped into parseltongue. The dragon sat back on its haunches, watching him balefully. Suddenly there was a jet of flame as she roared again. Harry side-stepped, barely dodging the barreling flame.

“No! You don’t get to do this! Do you think I want to be here? Do you really think that I want to fight a fucking dragon?! I’m a child! I’m like the eggs you are sitting on right now. They’re just too fucking stupid to realize that a child shouldn’t fight a dragon!” Harry yelled, waving his arm at the judges. The dragon watched his hand, fixing her gaze on them. As if she could understand his hissing, she growled at the judges. Ludo Bagman turned an eerie white.

“I didn’t want this life! I would have been happy with no one hating me! I didn’t want to be a famous savoir! I don’t want to be a champion! I want to go to school, get a boring job and be ALIVE! I want my parents and godparents. I want people who will fight for me, not send me off to do their battles. I want teachers who stop thinking that the sun comes out my ass and that I can solve all of their problems!” Harry was on a roll now. He was stomping his feet and waving his arms. The dragon cocked her head as she watched the little boy in front of her.

“My life fucking sucks! I almost die every year! My best friend abandons me at every whiff of popularity. My only living relatives hate me! I’m in the public eye constantly and their opinions of me change faster than the wind. I’ve faced homicidal megalomaniacs, basilisks, murderers, and dangerous beasts! And now I’m here facing an angry mother dragon!”

“All you want to do is protect your children! You’re a better parent and adult than anyone here, and you have a brain the size of my fist! I’M DONE! I’m done with the fucking wizarding world! If I live through this, I’m done. I will go to class, I will do my homework. I will no longer take part of any adventure, get into any fight, and even participate in any other task that could put my life in danger. I’m done with Ron, I’m done with Dumbledore. I’m fucking done.” Harry hissed out, shaking a finger at the dragon.

There was a stunned silence as the dragon finally moved. She pushed her head forward, cooing softly as if to comfort him. She nuzzled her giant head against his chest, knocking him back a few steps. Harry felt the anger drain a little. He patted her head gently.

“I’m sorry mama. I’m sorry you are here and I’m sorry I yelled at you. Listen. I know I’m asking a lot of you but will you let me live? I really don’t want to die.”

The dragon purred softly. She curved her head behind him and nudged him forward. He followed her gentle pushes until he was standing just next to the clutch of eggs. With a little rumble she blew a puff of smoke over him, chuckling as he coughed.

With a little smile Harry took the golden egg from the middle of the clutch. He hugged it close to his chest before stepping back. The dragon watched as he did, letting him step back that he could see her face as she laid next to the eggs.

“Thank you.” Harry said softly, bowing to the dragon. He walked out of the stadium, ignoring the cheers around him. Before he made it fully through the door way he was catching Hermione as she barreled through him.

“Oh my god I was so scared!” She paused long enough to punch him harshly in the arm. “Don’t you EVER do that again. No more suicidal missions. I mean it!”

“I agree Hermione. I’m done. I don’t care anymore. I’m going to focus on studying and avoid anything that can endanger my life.” Harry said in a placid tone, calm for the first time in months.

“That’s great Harry!” Hermione beamed, hugging him tightly around the neck. “Come on. You’re not injured, so they are going to give you your scores.”

“No. I don’t care about my scores. I don’t care about this tournament at all. I told you I’m done. I’m only going to participate if it can be solved easily without risking my life. Any other time I am going to be normal. I’m going to study for exams, do my homework, read about quiditch and take naps. No more adventure. No more savoir. Normal.” Harry stated, starring intensely into her eyes.

“Okay.” Hermione shrugged. She turned to walk back to the school.

“Okay?”

“Yeah, okay. Listen Harry, you’re not going to get any arguments from me. You are saying that you want to be a responsible normal kid? Go for it. You deserve it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.” Hermione poked him in the chest to emphasize her point. Suddenly Harry swept her into a hug.

“Thank you.” He whispered into her hair.

“Of course Harry. . . So if you don’t want to hear your scores do you want to go back to the common room?” Hermione asked.

“Nah. They’re probably going to throw a party and I don’t really feel like that.”

“Well then.” Hermione linked her arms with his as they wandered away from the stands. “Where would you like to go?”

“The library? If I’m going to become a model student then I guess I could start now.” Harry shrugged. “I have to do a lot to catch up with you!” Hermione laughed lightly.

“You don’t need to do as well as me. Just do the best you can, that’s all I want.” Harry smiled happily and tried to resist the urge to hug his friend again. Perhaps if there was one good thing that came out of his foray into the wizarding world it would be Hermione.

“Mr. Potter.” A grumbling voice called out. The two students stopped at the call of their potions professor stalking up to them. “Surely you do not think yourself too good for the rest of the competition. I did not think you would miss the opportunity to preen in front of your adoring fans.” Snape sneered lightly, folding his hands in front of him.

“Of course not Professor Snape.” Harry answered back, more respect in his tone then he had ever used towards the man. “I do not think I should be celebrated for being part of a competition that I should not be part of.”

“Oh?” Snape raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Then where are you going?”

“We are off to the library. Harry was just mentioning that he didn’t have proper time to work on his potions essay due to the tournament. I was offering to show him a reference that I thought helped.” Hermione lied smoothly after a questioning glance in Harry’s direction. Professor Snape stared at them for a long moment. Not for the first time Harry felt like his soul had been laid out to dry in front of the man. This time, however, instead of the disparaging glare he only got a look of light confusion from the man.

“Very well. It seems that you are finally thinking of taking your classes seriously Mr. Potter. I will not hold my breath in thinking that pattern will continue. Never the less, I will not stand in your way. Miss Granger. Do remember that the maximum length of the essay is three feet. Any more and I will be taking off points.” Snape sneered again before striding off.

“That was weird.” Hermione mumbled.

“I think I like Snape better than any other teacher.”

“What?”

“I think he is the only one who sees me as a student.” Harry sighed, picking lightly at his sleeve as they walked along. “A lazy, rude incompetent student, maybe. But he is the only one who doesn’t seem to expect a lot out of me. Apparently my parents were great at everything and every time I get something wrong I’m told that. On the other hand, every time I get something right it was obviously inherited from them. I guess I’m just glad that there is someone here that obviously doesn’t expect a lot out of me.”

“I guess that makes sense.” Hermione said in a placid tone. She stopped the both of them outside of the library’s door. “Listen Harry. It’s been a long day. How about we just try and forget about it for a little while. I’ll help you with your potions essay, you can help me with that defensive spell and we can forget about the tournament and all those silly little people out there.”

“They are quite silly. Those poor little fools.” Harry smiled as he spoke in an obnoxiously posh accent.

“Just so.” Hermione answered in a similar tone. She held her hand delicately in the air. After placing a joking kiss on it Harry led her into the library trying his best not to laugh

Chapter Text

Harry felt much better after he left the library. He had his potions essay tucked safely away in his bag and he couldn’t stop the little swell of pride that came when he thought about what he had written. He might even get a passing grade this time. He flashed a smile at Hermione before walking into the common room.

The air that hit him was humid and smelled of butter beer. People milled about as they ate, drank and tried to shout over the music. Harry grimaced at the thought of wading through all those people. Despite being in the wizarding world for four years he was still uncomfortable with large crowds and he did not enjoy the thought of wading through all these people to get to his dorm.

“HARRY!” Came the duo shout from the twins who had spotted him from their vantage point of on top of a table.  Suddenly all of the eyes in the room were focused on him and the music had stopped playing.

“There is the man of the hour! Gryffindor’s champion! Where did you go Harry, we all missed you after the challenge.” Seamus slurred over his shoulder. The Irishman seemed to have dipped into his not-so-secret stock of firewhiskey.

“I went to the library. Listen, I’m tired. Can I go to my room?” Harry sighed, not ready to deal with all these people.

“Don’t go Harry!” Dean crowed from under one of the sixth years Harry didn’t know.

“Yes yes! You have to tell us all about how you fought the dragon.” Lavender pulled on his arm. Harry pulled it from her grasp and tried not to growl angrily.

“Did you not watch? You were all there.”

“It’s not like we could understand you mate.” Fred (or George) said with a smile.

“What do you mean?”

“Harry you were shouting in Parseltongue. No one knew what you were saying.” Hermione said to him, nose wrinkled curiously.

“I was?”

“Yeah. I thought you knew. That’s why I didn’t say anything. I assumed you tried to talk to it in the snake language because snakes are descendants of dragons.” Harry had to fight the urge to ask Hermione more before he turned back towards the common room.

“Listen. I’m really tired. Can you guys let me upstairs?” Harry said with a sigh. A confuse murmur ran through the room but eventually path was made. Harry hesitated just long enough for Hermione to pat him on the shoulder before he went upstairs.

With a sigh he heft his bag onto his bed. He lifted the golden egg out and ran a hand across its smooth surface. He wondered what he was supposed to do with it. Harry shrugged and put it on the table next to his bed. He didn’t look up when the door opened and shut again.

“Hey Harry.” It was Ron. He stood by the door looking nervous but smiling.

“What do you want Ron?” Harry asked waspishly.

“Look, Harry. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. When you were in front of the dragon I realized that you weren’t the type of person who would put their name in the cup. Can you forgive me mate?”

“Ron.” Harry said, straightening up and turned to look at the red head.

“Yeah Harry?”

“Can you fuck off?” It came out much more calmly than Harry thought it would.

“What?”

“I don’t care. You haven’t done anything to prove that you are sorry and I’m not going to just roll over and let you do whatever you want.” Ron’s face turned an ugly red as he shook with anger.

“I apologized!”

“Yeah you did. But you didn’t apologize for the right thing. I don’t care whether or not you thought I put my name in the cup. That is not the point. If you want to be friends apologize properly. You need to know exactly what you are apologizing for and actually mean it before I even think about forgiving you.” Harry sneered, crossing his arms to close the statement.

“What do you want? I already apologized! Do you think you are better than me now that you are a champion? Why the hell are you acting all high and mighty?!” Ron screeched. Vaguely Harry realized that he looked like Dudley when he didn’t get his favorite ice cream.

“That is exactly what I mean! You are accusing me of things again without thought! I can’t do this anymore! Grow up Ron!” Harry yelled. He sat on his bed and swung the curtain over so he wouldn’t have to see the red head.

“Fine! Be like that. See if I care!” Ron shouted before slamming the door shut. Harry watched the ceiling shake with the force of the door. He couldn’t bring himself to feel sad that Ron had stormed out. He said he was done with the bull shit and he was going to stick with it. If he could figure out why he should be sorry, maybe Harry would forgive him. Harry wasn’t going to allow anything less. With a little moan Harry turned on his side and decided to forget the horrible day in his dreams.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harry woke up way too early. He hadn’t meant to but it was still early in the year and he hadn’t gotten out of the habit he developed whenever he went home to the Dursleys. Hermione wouldn’t be up for another hour, though that was okay because he wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. He was still mildly seething from the events of the day before and talking to people was only going to make it worse. He hopped out of bed, pulled on his uniform and decided that taking a walk would help clear his mind.

The corridors he was pacing were a bit chilly but he enjoyed the cold. He was about to turn towards the Great Hall when he heard the quick pace of someone behind him. He turned at the call of his name and saw Ludo Bagman running up behind him.

“Mr. Potter! There you are.” The man slid to a halt in front of him. “We missed you at the point awarding ceremony.”

“I had things to do.” Harry said, turning to walk away. Instead of leaving Bagman followed him.

“Yes well I wanted to offer my congratulations. You got first place with forty seven points! Most amazing thing to see how you tamed your dragon. I thought that it was bad to have a child in this competition but you showed that I was wrong. Most wonderful.” He gushed.

“I didn’t want to be part of this competition. It’s still bad that there is a child in it.” Harry said.

“Of course, my boy. Of course!” Bagman said placidly, patting Harry on the shoulder. “Either way I just wanted to tell you what the other competitors were told. The golden egg is a clue to the next challenge. Have fun deciphering it! I will be seeing you at the Yule ball of course.”

“Mr. Bagman!” Two voices called out and Harry saw the twins turn the corner. With a hard pat on the back and a mumbled apology Bagman practically ran down the hall.

“Bastard. . . Hey Harry!” George, or at least the twin with a G on his shirt, said.

“Hey guys.”

“Heard about what-“

“Happened with Ron.”

“Don’t worry Harry-“

“He is just being-“

“A phenomenal twat.” The twins nudged each other as they finished each other’s sentences.

“Yeah I know.”

“Don’t blame you-“

“For wanting him to properly-“

“Apologize. Also, we wanted to say-“

“Congratulations and condolences.” Harry looked between them in confusion.

“What?”

“Well congrats on winning.”

“But condolences on being picked.”

“To be honest-“

“We thought you were lucky-“

“But then we started thinking-“ Harry was getting a head ache.

“Rare as that is-“

“And realized that it would stink-“

“To risk your life for something-“

“You never wanted anyway.”

“Well thanks guys.” Harry smiled a little. “It’s nice to hear that.”

“If you need anything-“

“Anything at all-“

“We know where to get stuff-“

“And we will be quite happy to help out our favorite Harry.” And then the twins were off, leaving Harry feeling like he just walked out of a tornado. He had always been fond of the twins but sometimes being around them was like trying to keep track of seven monkeys carrying wiffle-ball bats.

Harry went to the Great Hall, ignoring the way that everyone stopped to stare at him. He brushed off all of the congratulations before sitting next to Hermione at the far end of the table. He ate breakfast in short, quick bites before dragging his friend from the room. Instead of talking Hermione just grabbed his arm lightly and squeezed in a comforting way.  

In the potions classroom Harry sat next to Hermione near the front, avoiding any eye contact with Ron. He placed his rolled up essay in front of him. Snape swept into the classroom the moment that the last person sat down. With a flick of the wand he piled all the essays on his desk. He gave his usual derisive explanation of the potion and sent them all scurrying to the store rooms.

As Harry started chopping his ingredients he noticed Snape staring at him. The blank expression on his face told Harry nothing of what he was thinking. Harry glanced at the essay in the man’s hand and recognized his own sloppy scrawl. Harry turned back to his potion and tried to ignore his professor.

His potion turned out alright. The shade was a slightly dark green than the lime green it was supposed to be. Still, for any professor it would be a passing potion. Which probably meant that he would be getting a P from Professor Snape. He stoppered his sample in a vial and labeled it. As he placed his sample on Snape’s desk his professor spoke.

“Mr. Potter.”

“Yes?” Harry asked, trying not to sound annoyed. He looked up and saw his essay rolled tightly and held in long potion-stained fingers. Softly he grabbed the parchment and tucked it close to his chest.

“Perhaps your interaction with a dragon may have helped you. There may be hope for you yet. We will see if this is a one-time fluke.” The man turned back to his book. No one else got their essay back.

Outside of the class room he opened the essay and nearly fell to the floor. In the top of the page in the familiar emerald green ink was an A. Underneath Snape had written a comment.

For the first time you have turned in an essay that is not a rambling, incoherent, poorly structured mess of a paper. It seems that you are capable of a complete and vaguely intelligent thought. I will now be holding the rest of your work to this standard now that I know there is something more than air in that head.”

“Congratulations Harry!” Hermione squealed, peering over his shoulder at the essay.

“Thanks Hermione. Though I’m sure you are going to do better.”            

“It’s not about doing the best out of everyone, Harry. I just want you to do the best you can do.” Hermione reassured.

“I feel like you keep having to give me motivational speeches all the time.” Harry groaned, tucking his paper away so he wouldn’t have to look at his friend.

“So? If anyone needs a few compliments and some motivation in their life, it’s you Harry. It’s not really a chore for me to give you a compliment when you need one. If it was it wouldn’t say very good things about me.” Hermione punched him lightly on the arm. “Now come on, we have transfiguration and I don’t fancy being late.”

Chapter Text

A week later and Harry was feeling infinitely better. Well that was an overstatement. He was still part of the tournament, Rita Skeeter was still sulking around, and Ron had left his pouting for full blown tantrums. However, overall Harry would say that he was better. He was spending most of his free time in the library with Hermione. Hours of peace and quiet was not as torturous as it used to sound.

To his shame it really was easier to do your homework when you can sit down and concentrate for a long time. Now he was finishing his homework in only a couple hours and it was all done well. Without the twins to come and dose him in a potion, Ron to distract him with quidditch and an entire common room filled with chatter Harry was stunned at the amount of free time he had after doing all of his work.

Harry had taken up reading again. It was a favorite past time of his (whenever Dudley and his uncle would let him) and he had forgotten how much he had missed it. He started with a few fiction books that were popular in the wizarding world before he moved onto some technical books about magic that weren’t required reading. Sometimes Hermione would pass by on her way to another shelf and toss a book into his hands.  She hadn’t recommended a bad one yet.

The odd thing was his new obsession with potions. Before he came to Hogwarts he had been eager for potions because it had reminded him of cooking. After meeting Professor Snape and his transition into ignoring his school work the love had died out quickly. When he started reading about it the spark was relit and was starting to grow in strength. He also was fascinated in the way potions ingredients were collect, particularly snake ingredients. He marked it down as a possible option for a career. He had quite an advantage, why not use it?

Hermione had been a godsend this last week. She had become a veritable Pitbull, guarding Harry from nearly anyone. Though just like a Pitbull, the moment she turned back to him she was nothing but nice and comforting. It took a couple days of her sending out jinx’s before people got the message and started to avoid talking about the tournament in front of Harry.

“Hermione?”

“”Yeah?” Hermione didn’t look up from her book. The incredibly thick tome looked like it could crush her.

“I’ve been thinking about Snape?”

“What?” That made her put down her book.

“Well you know how you said I should think about how my behavior might make his . . . less than pleasant?’ Harry remembered that conversation well. They had been out by the lake on one of their few breaks from the library. He was whining and bitching about the professor. Eventually Hermione got tired of the conversation, asked that question before walking off.

“What about it?”

“Well I think you are right. I mean, I have been quite a twat in his class sometimes. Plus he has saved my life like three times. I’ve been better in class, you know I have. But-“

“But”

“Well I think I would like to do something more. I mean, he has saved my life. He cured you from being petrified. I was thinking of giving him something. A gift to say thank you.” Harry waved his hands uselessly in the air. Hermione was giving him one of those piercing looks that she was getting eerily good at.

“Well I’m not sure Harry. Normally it would be considered inappropriate for a teacher to accept a gift from a student. And he may think that it is a prank or something. Still, he is a Slytherin. If you gave him something useful that he would like he would probably accept it.”

“Right. Well I don’t even know what I would get him. Maybe I’ll think on it.” Harry said before turning back to his book on harvesting animal parts from rare creatures.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harry didn’t like Professor Moody. He had liked the man, at first. He was loud and a bit paranoid. He told stories of battles and bad guys that would make anyone fall enthralled. The man made him uncomfortable in a way that he couldn’t explain. Whenever he was talking about Death Eaters his good eye seemed to get glassy in remembrance. His magic eye always seemed to be trained on Harry when he thought he wasn’t paying attention. The bright blue ball would fix on him and it felt like someone had put a tingling spell on the back of his neck.

“Today we are going to talk about a different class of curses. The Unforgivables.” Moody said ominously, punctuating his statement with a sharp slap on the blackboard. “Can anyone tell me any of the curses?”

“The Imperious curse.” Blaise Zabini said when he was called, a happy little smirk on his face.

“Yes!” Moody said. He pulled a mouse out of his pocket and placed it on his desk. “Imperio.

The mouse jumped up, standing on its back legs. Suddenly it was dancing around as if it was doing the Can-Can. It squeaked in distress as it was forced to skitter across the desk and jump over to the first row of student’s desks.

“The Imperious curse. The controlling curse. It takes away all control from the person who is under its power. You could force them to do anything. They could kill a loved one, give away all their money or even take their own life.” Moody grinned manically as he took the curse off the mouse and summoned it to him. “Another!”

“The Cruciatus curse.” Neville mumbled.

“The pain curse.” Moody hummed. “Crucio.”

Harry wanted to throw up. The mouse curled in agony as its screams pierced through the entire room. Everyone looked sick. Well, all but two people; Moody and Zabini. Harry had never liked that boy but now Harry was sure that he would never want to be in a room alone with him. Harry glanced at Malfoy. Interestingly enough the boy looked like he was taking it worse than Harry. He had his mouth covered as if he might lose his entire stomach if he took his fingers away.

“STOP!” Hermione shouted, glancing between the twitching and screaming mouse and Neville, who had turned as white as snow.

“Right. Well that was the Cruciatus curse. A favorite of the Death Eaters. Now we have one more.” Moody shook off the awkward silence as if he didn’t notice it.

“The killing curse.” It seemed Malfoy had gotten over his sickness to give his sneering answer. There was a heavy silence that blanketed the room. An unintentional shudder ran through them at the thought of the killing curse. Professor summoned the mouse to the middle of the desk and stuck it there.

“Please don’t.” Came a disgusted whisper from the back when the professor raised his wand.

Avada Kedavra.” Harry flinched at the sickly green light that sometimes haunted his nightmares. There was a retching sound from the back, which was the only sound that could be heard over the shocked silence of the class.

“The killing curse. There is no curse and no way to block. No one had managed to survive it touching. No one except one.” Both eyes, normal and magic, swung to focus on Harry. The rest of the room followed his lead and turned on the “Boy-Who-Lived”. Said boy was trying his hardest to sink through is chair and into the floor. After a few beats the class moved on. Moody explained the curses in detail. When they were first used, when they were criminalized and who has been arrested for them.

Then he started to pull people to the front of the class to see if they could fight the Imperious curse. They watched as people sang, cart wheeled and tore up their belongings under the curse. Harry watched bitterly waiting for his turn. As he watched his classmates get embarrassed over and over again he felt his anger begin to simmer. They had enough problems without being made a fool of in front of their classmates, some more than other. Plus, if these were so illegal then could Moody really be doing this?

“Potter.” And Harry was in front of the room standing before the man’s wand.

Imperio.” Suddenly a rush of clam swept over Harry. It felt like someone had stuffed his head full of cotton and put on a track of whale noises that Aunt Petunia seemed to like. At the thought of his aunt a rush of annoyance ran through him, seemingly clearing up some of the fluff.

Jump on the desk. A voice floated through his head. At first thought Harry didn’t question it. Until he remembered that there was something he didn’t want to do before this feeling was here. Did he not want to jump on the desk? Better not just to be sure.

Jump on the desk now. The voice got a little more insistent. Maybe it was important? Harry couldn’t remember anything.  He hated not knowing. The fluff cleared a little more and all he could think of was that he didn’t want to do it. Do what? He couldn’t remember.

JUMP UP NOW! Harry felt his legs bend. Before is body jumped he forced him to plant his feet the way he did when Uncle Vernon swung at him and he wanted to stay standing. Awkwardly his body pitched forward and he barely had any time to catch himself on the edge of the desk. With a little spin he fell to his ass with a wince.

“Good going Potter!” Moody roared. “You nearly resisted perfectly. Now, do it again.”

“Fuck no!” Harry yelped, barrel rolling under the desk and out the other side, just barely getting missed by the spell.

“What?” Moody paused in confusion.

“I said no!” Harry grabbed his wand and held it defensively in front of himself. “Its bad enough that you put me under an unforgivable once I’m not going fucking let you do it again!”

“You need to learn this!” Mood bellowed, raising his wand again.

“If you try and do that again I will do whatever it takes to stop you. I will kill you.” Harry growled. You could have heard a pin drop from all the way in the Great Hall with the way that the room fell silent. “You think I’m joking? I am not! I have had enough with you fucking professors thinking they know what’s good for me and putting spells on me! Using an unforgivable crosses the fucking line. Other than the fact that it is fucking illegal to even try to use why the HELL do you think it is okay to cast it on minors without parental permission?!”

“You must be able to protect yourself!”

“Yeah? So why don’t you tell us how to fucking do that without breaking every major law we have in this godforsaken world we have, huh?! Teach us counter curses, how recognize hexs, hell, teach us how to fucking dodge! I don’t need to learn this! Im not a fucking auror! I am a child and there is not a single fucking reason for me to be under the imperious curse!”

“HARRY!” His rant was interrupted by an pinch-faced Hermione.

“WHAT?!”

“Watch your language! He is still a professor!”

“You agree with him?!”

“No I don’t.” Hermione sniffed, moving to put her textbook into her bag. “I think it is incredibly negligent to place children under the imperious curse, especially more than once. You are quite right in saying that we should be learning proper defense instead of learning what should be the last resort. However you are being rude and yelling will not help.”

“Well I’m fucking angry, why can’t I yell?” Harry huffed, completely ignoring Moody who was turning red in anger.

“Because you are supposed to be mature Harry. Now are you coming or not?” She held up his bag, which she had packed up somewhere in the scuffle.

“What?”

“Well it’s not like I’m going to sit around and let myself be put under one of the unforgivable,” She turned back to the professor. “Consider that my attempt to throw off the curse.” She brushed the hair off her shoulders before gliding out of the room. The oppressive silence pushed Harry to follow her out the door, still fuming but for the time being quiet.

 

Chapter Text

 

It was Saturday and Harry felt sick to his stomach. Those two don’t really correlate except for what he has chosen to do this Saturday. He was standing in front of the ominous door attempting to steel himself up enough to knock on the blackened wood. Perhaps to somebody waling by it would be silly to see the boy standing, raising his fist to knock before dropping it quickly for the fifth time in the last thirty minutes. He was going to do it. This time for sure.

Just before his knuckles could rap on the door the thing swung open with a horrible creak. Inside was Snape’s office, which Harry had never seen before. The first thing he noticed was all the books. Across every wall there were bookshelves that went from floor to ceiling, only breaking for the few windows in the room. There was not space on the shelves as books were stacked on top of books in a way that Harry was sure that they only managed to stay on their perched by magic. Across the room was a dark oak desk that, while organized in a way no one could understand, was covered in paper, ink wells, jars and other odds and ends. Snape sat at the desk, a book opened in his hands but he was looking up at the little Gryffindor.

“Get in here Potter. I will not allow you to loiter at my door for another thirty minutes.” When Harry didn’t move he snapped his book shut and pointed to the chair he had in front of his desk. “Sit.”

That caused Harry to skitter to the chair, sitting slumped and trying to look small under the man’s heavy gaze. There was a stretching silence as the two stared at each other. Harry tried to start to speak but ended up snapping his mouth shut.

“Mr. Potter. I am sure that you have a good reason to bother me on one of the few days that I am not saddled with the student population. Perhaps instead of wasting my time by sitting there like a gutted fish you could tell me why you felt the need to come here.” Snape sneered, weaving his fingers together before leaning gently on the desk.

“I wanted to say thank you . . . sir.” Harry added the title on hurriedly. With a quirked brow Snape leaned back.

“Thank you. Whatever for?”

“Well for saving my life . . . multiple times even.”

“It is an unnecessary thanks.” Snape said in a dismissive way.

“No its not! I mean. It’s my life. It’s the most important thing that I have. It’s bad enough to have someone save your life once but you have done it, like, three times! I’d be an unbearable twat if I never thanked you for it.” Harry exclaimed with a heavy blush.

“It is unnecessary, Mr. Potter, because I am your teacher. It is professor’s duty to protect the lives of their students.”

“Yeah, maybe once if it’s not that bad. But you put yourself in front of a werewolf to protect three students that you hate after capturing a man that was thought to be a serial killer. Anyone would understand if you didn’t but you did.”

“I do not hate you, Miss Granger or Mr. Weasley. While I will admit to not being particularly fond I do not feel the need to waste my energy hating children.” Snape sniffed, however he was finally looking straight at Harry. “I would have done the same for any other student. While other professors may have not gone and done what I did, I take my responsibilities seriously.”

“Still . . . I wanted to say thanks and  . . . well I wanted to give you a gift.”

“A gift for any reason, even saving your life, would be considered incredibly inappropriate Mr. Potter.” Snape sneered but his brow was quirked in vague curiosity.

“Call it a donation then.” Harry stared him down, not willing to back away now.

“Explain.”

“Do you remember the Chamber of Secrets and the monster?”

“Yes. The headmaster had it sealed and informed us that the monster was dead, nothing else.”

“Oh.” Harry wrinkled his brow in confusion wondering why Dumbledore would not tell the professors everything that had happened.

“Why?”

“Well sir, I’m not sure about it being sealed because I was down there the other day. Though it can only be opened by a parselmouth so I guess it is as sealed as it can be. Anyway, I was down there when I was getting tired of all the people hassling my about the tournament. . .  The creature in the chamber was a basilisk.” Harry managed to get out in his ramblings.

“A basilisk?”

“Yes sir. I fought it and it did die. So I went down there a little while ago and saw that no one had cleaned up so its body is still down there. I don’t know how preserved it was down there, it is quite damp, but it looked like it was in really good shape . . . maybe magic preserved it. Anyway, I wanted to give it to you. I know basilisk parts are really rare and expensive, I have been reading up on it. I figured if most of it is too bad to use you could probably still use its shed skin and its bones.” Harry petered off.

“You want to give me a basilisk corpse?” Snape asked in his quiet sharp voice. Harry could not understand the expression on the man’s face. He tried to sit tall as the man scanned him with his eyes, trying to figure out something that Harry didn’t know.

“Very well, Mr. Potter.” Snape stood, snapping his cloak around him. “While it is a bit unprecedented I will not be able to pass up the opportunity to obtain any ingredients from the king of snakes. You will take me down to the chamber and I will see what I can harvest. However, you must understand that I am not accepting this as any form of gift for your life.”

“Yes sir!” Harry beamed. Snape placed a leather satchel on the table and opened the mouth so that it gaped wide. With an arching sweep of his wand jars, knives, quills and a multitude of other items swept into the air. They danced over to the bag, shrinking down and falling into their place. Not for the first time, and most likely not the last time, Harry marveled at the power of magic. All too soon the show was over and Snape snapped the bag shut with a huff.

“Lead the way Mr. Potter.”

Harry was glad that it was a Saturday. Since it was just barely past nine in the morning the halls were deserted, the students in bed and the teachers in their offices. At a quick pace Harry led Professor Snape to the girl’s loo on the third floor He tried not to blush again at Snape’s quirked brow before leading him into the bathroom.

“Hello Myrtle.” Harry greeted the mopey ghost.

“Hello Harry. Have you come to see me again?” She brightened up a bit.

“Just for a moment. I’m taking Professor Snape to the Chamber.” Harry said softly. Myrtle pouted but luckily she didn’t burst into tears. With a whispered word the sink sank into the ground revealing the pipe down to the underbelly of the class in a much less dramatic way than originally. Probably because he didn’t have one of his teachers at wand point and wasn’t racing to save anyone’s life.

“Very well Mr. Potter. I will be leading us down and you can follow. You can lead me to the corpse and I will harvest it. After we will come back up. Shan’t take more than a couple hours.”

“I don’t know about that Professor. The thing is pretty big.” He was going to explain more but he was flashed an unimpressed look and he decided that it would be better if the man saw it instead of him trying to describe it. “Watch out, the pipe is slimy and there is a pile of bones at the bottom.”

“Not a problem.” With a wave of his wand a bubble surrounded the professor and Harry as well. With a load of gracefulness Harry would never hope to possess he slipped into the pipe and slide down. Harry followed him, startled to see that he was floating in the middle of his bubble and not touching the actually pipe. Well then there was no need to worry about the slime.

The pipe was as long and twisting as he remembered. He was glad for his iron stomach as he slipped, turned and tumbled down the giant slide. With a slight ‘oof’ he landed on his ass in front of the potions professor, the bubble popping the moment he gently hit the layer of skeletons.

“Which way Mr. Potter.”

“This way.” Harry brushed himself off before leading him down the corridor. The light of the Professors wand was enough to watch a few meters ahead of them. As they came to a familiar corner he turned back to the professor. “Around here is the shed skin I was telling you about.”

“Fucking hell.” Snape cursed in a way that was very unlike him. Still, the sight of a forty foot long basilisk skin would shock anyone. The professor ran his hand along the hide, careful to not poke holes in the thin skin. “The basilisk was of this size?”

“A little larger I think.” Harry said watching the man mutter as he examined the skin. It looked like he was doing some type of calculation in his head. Suddenly he stood to his full imposing height and turned back to his student.

“Show me the body.” And Harry led him down the passage. They had to momentarily pause as they came across the area that had caved in. With a little snort the professor blew the rocks away with a flick of his wand. Harry hissed at the entrance at the chamber and let the door swing open.

The room was still as ornate and ominous as he remembered it. Torches roared to life, glimmering off the black stone floors and the white statues. The large head of Slytherin stood large and proud at the end of the runway ahead of them. With a sneaking glance at the professor he was happy to see that he had finally stunned him. He didn’t have the gaped mouth shocked look most people would have in this situation. Instead his eyebrows rose high and his mouth was pulled tight. There was no other indication that he was shocked but that was more than Harry had ever seen in his years here.

“There is no way you killed that beast.” The professor stated, starring at the fifty foot monster that was lying in one of the pools of water.

“Not alone.” Harry said with a shrug. “And I did nearly die. If it weren’t for Fawkes I would have died from its venom. And I only had a sword because the sorting hat gave it to me.”

Without a word the older man stalked forward. He opened his case and pulled out a quill and paper, leaving them floating in the air. Harry was enraptured as the man swung his wand around, performing spell after spell. The snake lit up in colors as he performed a bunch of spells that Harry didn’t know. The quill scratched frantically at the paper, presumably taking note of the spells and their results.

Harry was sometimes glad that he grew up in the muggle world. Magic was so amazing and he could truly appreciate it. Here he was at a magic school, in an underground room while a professor performed beautiful magic on a creature most thought was just a myth. Purebloods and halfbloods couldn’t really appreciate it. In his head Harry vowed to never complain about his lessons again.

“Mr. Potter!” The shout shocked him out of his stupor. Professor Snape was reading over the paper with a pinched look.

“Yes sir.”

“It seems there will be more to this than I originally thought. For now we will leave. Come to my office tomorrow and we will discuss everything.”

“Yes sir.” Harry tried not to sound disappointed. He had been hoping to watch the man harvest the snake.

The walk to the pipe was silent as the professor rarely looked up from the page. Harry stopped in front of the pipe and wondered how they were going to get up it. Instead he felt a rap on his head as Snape hit him with his wand. Before he could yell in outrage he felt himself being pulled up the pipe by the back of his robes, humiliating but easy. Professor Snape popped up not long after.

“As I said, Mr. Potter, come to my office tomorrow. Nine O’clock should be good.” With a swirl the man was off and stalking down the corridor. Harry decided that he deserved a reward and ran to grab his broom for a flight.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Across the school in the library Hermione was on the hunt. She was looking for a book she had read a while ago. It was a seventh year level book but it had a really good section about transfiguration of cold blooded animals that she wanted to cite in her essay. With a little hum she turned into the correct aisle only to run into something hard.

“Oops. Sorry.” Hermione said, brushing herself off. Looking up she saw that she had accidentally run into Viktor Krum. The man stared at her curiously and a little warily. “Whoops. Guess I should pay attention when I turn corners. I was just looking for a book-“ She paused when she saw that the book she wanted was sitting in the older boys hands. She must have been staring at it.

“This book?” He asked in his heavy accent.

“Well, yeah. But it’s okay. I have already read it. I was going to cite it for an essay but I don’t really need it. I mean, I’m already a full foot over the required.”

“You read this?” His accent was thick as he peered at her. Hermione was a bit unnerved until she realized that he was probably waiting for her to freak out or something because of his stardom. Like she would ever do that.

“It is a very good book. I’m sure you will enjoy it. I’m going to go find something else so that I can finish my essay.” She turned to leave.

“Vait.” He said, tugging at her elbow before she could leave completely.

“Yes?”

“My English . . . not very good. Reading, much vorse. This book good for me but I struggle. . . Vould you help me?” He implored.

“Help you?”

“I learned English, listening. Reading hard ven it is not simple. Vould understand more if someone vould explain to me. If you have read book, you may help?”

“Yeah . . . Sure.”

Chapter Text

Harry tried not to grumble when the door opened again before he put his fist to it. How in the world did Snape know just when he was going to knock? Slightly annoyed he walked into the office, pausing the moment he saw that there was another person in the room.

Sitting in one of the two seats in front of the professor’s desk was a man that Harry had never seen before. He was quite attractive. Tall with soft brown hair, sharp brown eyes and a chiseled face. He was wearing a suit that looked like muggle high fashion instead of a road. He sat with a black leather briefcase at his feet and a cup of tea in his hand.

“Mr. Potter.” Snape acknowledge, nodding his head to the empty seat.

“Good morning professor.” Harry mumbled, scurrying over to the seat and ignoring the look he was getting from this new man.

“Mr. Potter this is Alexander Dawsen. Mr. Dawsen, Mr. Potter.” Snape introduced them with a dismissive wave.

“Pleasure Mr. Potter.” Mr. Dawsen extended a hand to shake. “Call me Alex though, after all we will be conducting business together.”

“Business?” Harry asked, tucking his hands nervously in his lap as it was let go.

“I believe, Mr. Potter, I mentioned there were some things that needed to be discussed before I began harvesting your donation.” Snape shuffled as stack of papers on his desk. “Now you told me that you were looking into collecting potions ingredients, yes? How far did you look into it?”

“Not very, to be honest. I know that basilisk parts are really rare and expensive.”

“That is perhaps the biggest understatement of the last century.” Snape sneered. “Basilisks are a class AA untouchable creature. To own one without express permission of the Ministry is worth twelve years in Azkaban at the least. However, once every fifty years a single person is allowed to breed a basilisk. It is killed the moment that it is hatched and that person is allowed to harvest from it and sell its parts as ingredients. Basilisk parts are so potent that this small amount is enough to satisfy most potion masters.”

“Why does this matter, sir? I didn’t breed it, just killed it.” Harry asked.

“That is true Potter. You also saw fit to gift the thing to me. However, I could take less than ten percent and have enough supplies to satisfy me and the next fifty potions masters that come after me in this school. That being said, I believe the best thing to do would be to sell what will not be used.”

“If that is what you want to do sir, it is yours.” Snape hummed unhappily at that reply.

“I do not believe you understand what I am saying Mr. Potter. A single, low quality basilisk of just about a foot long will get its owner over a million galleons in profit. What is in that chamber is high quality and magnitudes bigger in size. Properly sold off there could be a profit of over a hundred million galleons.” Professor Snape hissed. Harry tried not to gape in shock. Sure, he knew it was valuable but that was just ridiculous on an astronomical level.

“Now, you made your decision to give me this without knowing of the true value of its worth. Such a thing would be many times worth a life debt. I would be remiss not to offer you the chance to take it back.”

“No! No sir, I gave it to you for you to use. If you want to sell it that’s okay with me.” Harry nearly shouted.

“So earnest.” Mr. Dawsen said with a chuckle.

“Yes I thought you would say that. I will not accept that however. It would be incredibly improper, especially since you are a minor. That is why Mr. Dawsen and I have worked out a deal.”

“Mr. Potter I am a lawyer. Specifically I work with contracts and finance law.” With a flick of his wand his business card was floating in front of the Gryffindor to take. “This is an interesting case because you are a minor and things get quite muddy.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“As a minor, technically, you are not allowed to sell any of your possessions with a value over a thousand galleons without parental permission. Any money made off of such transactions would either go to your guardians or could even be confiscated by the Ministry.” Harry wanted to pale at the thought of his uncle getting a hold of such money, or even learning about the money he had. “Professor Snape informed me that you would most likely not want to involve your guardians in such a transaction.”

Harry had to stop himself from shouting “damn right!!” in the man’s face at the statement. Instead he glanced at the paper that the lawyer was holding in front of him. Scrawled on top was the title “Transfer of Guardianship”.

“Now you have been informed that you are the future lord of the Potter household, yes?” Harry nodded. “That right there is a form to transfer the financial guardianship over to you. Currently that holders of your finances are your aunt and uncle. It is not uncommon for a young lord to take over the financial responsibilities of their family by becoming emancipated early. Since you are emancipated you can do the same.”

“But I’m not emancipated.” Harry tried to correct him.

“Mr. Potter.” Snape interrupted. “The Goblet of Fire is an ancient magical object verified by the Ministry of Magic as a vessel of Magic. When your name came out of the cup it verified that Magic believes that you are an adult. When the Headmaster and Mr. Crouch forced you to remain in the games without your legal guardian’s permission you were automatically granted emancipation by law.”

“Oh.” Harry was shocked. Of course no one would bother to tell him that he was now legally an adult in the eyes of the law. It would have fucking helped.

“Yes. So if you sign that paper you will automatically gain the power over your own legal and financial rights that no one can contest.”

“Can I get a quill?” Harry asked hurriedly, eager to sign into his freedom. With a flourish he happily signed the document and with a flash a little seal appeared at the bottom from the Ministries legal department.

“Very good Mr. Potter. Now I will send a copy to the Ministry and keep this in case you have another problem. Now here is the next paper to sign.” He pulled another paper out of the bag and handed it over. “This is the acknowledgment that you did indeed kill the basilisk and that you claim ownership. It cites the incident report turned in by the Headmaster and will prevent anyone, including the Ministry, from claiming that it is not yours to give.”

“So you are trying to keep the Ministry out of it completely?” Harry asked, signing after a quick glance through the documents.

“Of course.” Dawsen said, a smirk playing on his lips.

“Now we discuss business Mr. Potter.” Snape said, folding his fingers together.

“Do I need to sign a paper saying that it is all yours?”

“No. I have decided that I will not be taking all of the money gained from this venture. You will be taking a portion of what is obtained.”

“But sir!”

“No.” Snape stopped him with a raised hand. “It is impossibly foolish for you to give me all of this and even with a portion of the proceeds I will have more money than I will ever need. Now I have decided to split is as such.” He handed Harry a slip of paper. There were three things on the list his name, Harry’s name and then ‘charity’. Next to his name he had written 40%, next to Harry’s 50% and charity at 10%.

“Sir I cannot accept this.” Harry waved it back at him. “This is reparations not only for my life many times over but for Hermione’s as well. I will refuse any offer that gives me more money than you.” He scowled at the man, determined.

“And what percentage will you accept?” Snape sneered.

“25%” Harry answered after a moment’s thought, knowing the professor was at least as stubborn as he was. There was a moments silence as the two stared each other down. Snape dropped his gaze first causing Harry to think that he had won.

“Mr. Potter, seeing as you wish to give me all the rights to this creature then I will be the one deciding what percent that I take.” Damn, guess he hadn’t won. Though he was trying to outdo the King of Slytherins. “Despite my insistence that this is not to be the payment for actions that were nothing special you make a valid point. Therefore I will be taking the fifty percent and you the forty.”

“Great!” Dawsen said, obviously thinking that the debate was over. Slightly peeved Harry realized that he was right. “Then you both will need to sign here.” He passed over a large bundle of papers, two lines at the bottom of the page glowing slightly. Professor Snape signed with the usual flourish on his slanted, sharp scrawl. Harry signed less elegantly under it.

“Now you two will have to wait a week before you begin taking anything from the basilisk. Unfortunately these documents are not automatic like the emancipation papers. So when it’s all filed no one will be able to touch any of the money.”

“Thank you.” Harry said, a little smile. He was glad that Snape was looking out for him like this. He would’ve never guessed that anyone could interfere. But knowing his life everyone would try and take it away.

“Not a problem Mr. Potter. Glad to be helping the soon to be richest men in Britain.” Dawsen smirked. “However before I go there are a few things that I would like to ask. You are now in control of all of the Potter monies, do you know what they contain?”

“I have a vault, if that is what you mean?” That caused Dawsen to snort.

“No. That is merely your trust fund. Listen. If you like I would be happy to be your financial advisor. For a decently low rate, because you will be working with Severus here. I would maintain your money, work with your investments and maintain taxes.” Harry must have looked like Hedwig when someone suddenly turned on the lights because Dawsen chuckled at him. “Right, right. My apologies I forgot that you are new to all of this. Shouldn’t be forcing this all onto you at once. How about this. I will go back and write out everything. What you have, what you will need and I will put some recommendations in there if you don’t feel comfortable with me doing it. That way you can look through it and make your decision.”

“Thank you Mr. Dawsen.”

“Alex, please. It is my pleasure. I absolutely hate when people are uninformed. Especially children like you who end up getting taken for everything that they’re worth because no one was decent enough to tell them anything.” Harry couldn’t help but beam at the cheery man. It felt like he finally had someone else on his side.

“Very well. It seems we are all done here. Enjoy your day Mr. Potter.” Even though Snape dismissed him, Harry remained seated.

“Actually Professor,” He started a little nervously. “I was wondering if, well, if you would need help with harvesting the basilisk. I mean, I’m really good at cutting and grinding and things. I want to learn about harvesting potions ingredients and I think I could be a lot of help.” Harry held his breath as Snape stared at him. The dark eyes scanned over him, looking for something that Harry didn’t know existed. After a moment the man sighed.

“I suppose that I should encourage you to become more interested in something that isn’t that infernal game and running wild. Very well, I will inform you when I will begin and tell you what you need to be prepared.”

“Thank you sir!” Harry moved to leave before a cough stopped him.

“Before you leave perhaps you would like to sign the form for employment under a professor and a safety waiver?” Dawsen was holing out a parchment. Harry looked at his suspiciously. It was like the man had seen into the future to be prepared.

“Do you have a paper for everything?”

“Absolutely. I could even give you the papers to adopt, the papers to start a lawsuit or even the paper work to declare yourself a teapot in the eyes of the government.” He smiled a little as if challenging Harry to refute that fact. He got the feeling that he didn’t want to.

“I can’t decide if you are more like a Ravenclaw or a Slytherin.” Harry mumbled, pulling out a quill to sign the papers.

“I did go to Hogwarts. Would you like to guess?” Mr. Dawsen offered. Harry stared at him for a minute before coming to a decision.

“A Slytherin?”

“Yes! How did you know?”

“If you were a Ravenclaw you would know all of this but you would probably only bring the most common documents. Only a Syltherin would see the benefit of bringing the most random forms just on the off chance that someone would need it. They like the shock of being prepared and outsmarting everyone in the room.”

“Very good!” He clapped with a large grin. “You have a smart one here Severus! Yes, I was a Slytherin. I was a year younger than Severus.”

“Well it was nice to meet you. Thank you for all of the help.” Harry bowed a little,

“I have a feeling we will be meeting again Mr. Potter. Until then good luck.” With a shake of the hands Harry walked out of the room feeling lighter than he had in a long time.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Two days later and all the good feelings had quickly disappeared. It had been great for a while. He had told Hermione everything that had happened and she congratulated him. She offered to look over everything the lawyer would send him so that she could help him decide. She was glad for the reason to do a research project on the wizarding world’s economics and laws. The next day it had all gone to shit when the reveal of the buttons came. There had been a nasty report from Rita. Something about him playing with people hearts and cheating and stupid shit like that. Then the Slytherins began showing off their buttons. With disgust Harry noticed that even Ron was wearing one.

It’s not like he really minded that the buttons said that Diggory was the true champion. Even he thought that! As far as he was concerned, he wasn’t a champion. He was just a hostage that was following the other champions. But did the buttons have to insult him too? Usually such petty things wouldn’t bother him but when more and more people began to wear them his blood began to boil. Which is why he was already pissed before Cedric approached him.

“Hey Harry.” Cedric approached him in the courtyard as he was on his way to the library.

“Hullo.”

“Listen could I talk to you for a moment?” Harry glanced at Hermione, who shrugged.

“Yeah.” Harry said with a sigh, waving goodbye to Hermione before following the older boy to an isolated area.

“Listen. I’m sorry about the buttons. I told them to stop wearing them but no one will listen to me.” Cedric sounded truly contrite.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I was wondering if you had figured out the clue.” He paused at the confused look Harry gave him. “The clue for the next challenge? The one that the egg is supposed to be? Did you figure out the screeching?”

“Screeching? My egg never screeched.”

“You haven’t tried to open it?” He stared as Harry just shrugged, not really caring that he hadn’t tried to look into the clue. “Wow. I guess you aren’t worried about the challenge then.”

“I already said that I wasn’t going to try and win. I wasn’t joking about that.”

“Yeah. I guess so . . .” They fell into an awkward silence. “Have you been to the prefect’s bathroom?” Harry shook his head ‘no’. “You should go. Take your egg. It’s a good place to  . . . mull things over.” He said before turning to walk away.

“Hey wait!” Harry shouted, stopping him in his tracks. “What the fuck was that?!”

“Excuse me?”

“What the fuck was that?! Why the hell would you tell me to take a bath with the stupid egg? I mean, what the ever loving hell?”

“It was supposed to be a clue.” Cedric floundered, turning a bit red.

“A clue?! Merlin are you stupid? Why the hell would you give me a vague clue like that? I mean, when I told you about the dragons I didn’t tell you a fucking riddle! Either repay me by telling me exactly what’s up or fuck off! What the hell where you thinking?! A riddle? I’m not a fucking Ravenclaw. Riddles don’t make me happy. Why in the world would I want a riddle instead of a real answer?” Harry ranted, stomping his foot as he shouted at the seventh year. Cedric was quickly becoming the color uncle Vernon became when Harry insulted him to his face.

“I just . . . I don’t know. I just thought. . Well . . .” He stumble over his words.

“I’m leaving.” Harry said, turning to go.

“Wait! Its mermaids. You have to listen to the egg underwater to hear what the mermaids are saying. There is a riddle about them taking something so I guess the next challenge is in water.” Cedric rushed to get the words out.

“Well . . . thanks.” Harry said. “Good luck in the challenge.” He said as a parting shot, before trekking off to the library. As he walked he tried to figure out whether or not he was going to even listen to the riddle. Did he really care? Maybe he should just in case they threw him in the water and he didn’t know what was going on. He would as Hermione.

 

Chapter Text

Harry was following Professor Snape down the halls of the Chamber of Secrets the following Saturday, eagerly gripping the pack that the man had handed him that morning. Professor Snape was silent as he stalked forward, stopping in the middle of the chamber with a critical look on his face. Harry watched as he whipped his wand, summoning a table from the professors own bag and enlarging it until the long table stood at slightly above waist high.

“Set up your things there.” Snape said, pointing to one end of the table. “I will be back in a few minutes. Please try your best to curb your enthusiasm to get into trouble while I am gone.” He turned with a flourish, stalking off with his robes snapping haughtily around his ankles.

Harry reached into his bag, eager to see what was brought for him. The first thing he pulled out was a squared board of oak. Setting it in front of him he went back to the bag. The next thing that came out was a box of neoprene gloves. Muggle ones. He shouldn’t be surprised about gloves but he wondered why they were using muggle ones instead of wizard ones. With a shrug he pulled a pair on. A large clear tub came out next. Harry set it down above the board, happy that the table was wide enough to do so.

The last thing he pulled out was a knife. Now the knife was nothing like anything Harry had ever seen. The entire thing was made of the same metal, running smoothly from the thin blade to the cool handle. It was a bright shimmery silver, lighter than normal steel. It didn’t feel like steel either since it was much lighter. Curiously Harry touched the blade and nearly gasped as the light pressure cut into his skin. He didn’t bleed but it was a close thing.

“Be careful with that. It is worth far more than you are.” Snape barked, striding back into the room. In his hands he was carrying a large piece of the old skin of the basilisk. His hands were covered in muggle gloves as well. He gently placed the skin on the table before snatching the blade away. With a sharp eye he examined the blade before handing it back to Harry by the handle.

“You are lucky that you did not bleed on it. Then the blade would have been worthless for our endeavors. Your job is to cut up this skin. Carefully cut it with that knife using the grooves in the board as a maker. The sides should be exactly half a meter.” Snape sneered.

“Yes sir.” Harry answered. Gently he grabbed a large piece of the skin and brought it to the board. There was a heavy moment of silence as Snape began pulling out his own supplies.

“Professor?”

“What is it Mr. Potter?”

“What type of knife is this?” He asked, glancing up at the older man.

“That is a platinum knife. Incredibly expensive and purposefully kept away from any magical ingredients. Had your blood touched it then it would have been ruined.” The professor answered with no small amount of derision.

“Why do I have to use this knife?” Harry asked. Snape gave him a withering glare as he sorted through his materials. Harry kept waiting for an answer anyway.

“Basilisks are highly magical animals, as I have mentioned before.” Snape started to explain. He picked up his own knife, which was thinner and longer, before walking over to the corpse. “Many of their magical properties are extremely sensitive to outside magical sources. Because of that it is important not to use any magic when collecting its ingredients.” The statement was punctuated by Snape slamming his knife into the gums of the snakes open mouth. With a grunt he began cutting around the unbroken fang and a little bit behind.

“Platinum is an inert metal. This is chemically as well as magically. If the blade is kept in the proper conditions there is no way that it would affect any magical properties of anything that it cuts. After each use they must be either thrown away or set to soak in an anti-magic cleanser for a week.”

Here Snape stopped, pulling out the cut fang and something that Harry didn’t recognize. He placed them on his own workspace.

“What is that?” Harry asked, falling into the lull of cutting the skin. It reminded him of when he had to cook and he was chopping vegetables. The nice lull of a knife steadily hitting the board. He tried to ignore the annoyed look from the professor.

“This is the venom sack. It is where a snake stores its venom.” He pulled out a large syringe with a long thick needle. It was the kind of thing a kid imagined when they were told they needed a shot, grossly oversized. He plunged it into the organ and pulled on the stopper. The liquid that flowed out was nearly clear, only a slight pale yellow reflected from the syringe.

As Harry continued through his large stack of skin he watched Professor Snape methodically work through his parts. All the venom was extracted from the venom sack. Then the organ was sliced in long even strips and placed in a jar of brine (Harry asked). The fang was then smashed with a hammer and ground piece by piece into a soft powder. Through the whole thing Harry was asking questions, taking full advantage of not being made fun of for asking a stupid question in front of everybody. For a while Professor Snape was annoyed, constantly speaking in the most condescending tones that he could. After a while, however, he began to relax.

For the first time Harry could see how much the man genuinely like potions. His explanations were constantly checkered with fun facts and interesting statements. It seemed there was nothing on the subject that he was not knowledgeable about. It would be an exaggeration to say that his face ‘lit up’ when he was talking about his beloved subject and yet there was a definite change. He looked years younger as the scowl slipped from his face and sometimes there was an expression on his face that could be called a smile.

“Professor.” Harry spoke up again after a few minutes of silence had fallen. Snape was separating the obtained venom into vials, having collected nearly a gallon from one gland and one fang.

“Yes?”

“Why did you choose potions? I heard you were really good at dueling and you obviously like Defense. So why did you become a potions master?” There was a pause as the man turned to consider him. Harry tried to project the genuine curiosity.

“My mother was a potions master.” Snape started, dogmatically staring at his work. “As a child I spent every free moment that I had over a cauldron with her. I had an innate talent that could not be ignored.”

Harry stayed silent. He brushed the scraps of skin into a pile and pulled out a mortar and pestle. Listening intently he set to work grinding the left over skin into a fine powder.

“You are correct that I could have chosen to become a Master in defense. I felt, however, that a mastery in defense would not be worth my talents. Defense does not require great skill or intelligence.”

“What do you mean?”

“There are many masters in defense. More so than there are masters in potions. A person may be great at defense without being brilliant. Defense is a talent that can be had by using brute force and simple tactics. There are people, Like Professor Flitwick, who obtain their mastery with talent, intelligence and creativity. And then there are those like Professor Quirrel who could be outsmarted by a mouse. Between that and the glory of being a defense master is it no surprise that it is filled with Gryffindors. Another reason to avoid that field all together.

“For a potions mastery there is a high level of requirements. A person needs to have vast knowledge of plants and animals and how they interact. They must have the cleverness that they can create without a recipe and make potions work with limited ingredients. There is no way that a person could blunder their way into a potions mastery. It was a profession far better suited for my tastes.” Snape hissed out.

“I guess that makes sense.” Harry shrugged in between his grinding. “I’ve never really had to work that hard in defense. Plus, most of the things that they teach in defense can be solved by ducking and letting the spells miss you. Leaving a battle before it already began.”

“A Gryffindor who would rather run and hide than fight?” Snape hummed with amusement. “Surely you must be joking. The dishonor alone would force many to fight anyway.”

“I would rather live in dishonor than die because of what people thought of me.” Harry said forcefully. Snape raised an eyebrow for a moment before turning back to his work.

“Mr. Potter it is getting late. Finish the piece you are working on and clean up your station.” Snape barked. Harry nodded and set out to do what was ordered. The piece he was grinding soon became a fine powder and was dumped into the box that the other powder had been accumulating. He stacked all of the boxes he had filled with skin together on the floor. He soaked a rag with the cleaning solution he found in his bag and began to wipe down the table. With sharp eyes he watched as Snape worked to put away his tools.

The man was very methodical as he gently wipes all of his tools down with a bright purple solutions, which Harry assumed was the magic nullifier. He would inspect each blade with a quick glance before placing it into a slot in his bag. The rest of the tools were disassembled and run through the same cleaning and checking process. Finally he set to work on wiping down the table the same way Harry was.

“Step back. I am going to shrink what we have gathered. We hardly need you shrunk with them.” With a flick all of the boxes Harry had filled were small enough to fit in the man’s hands and had been slipped into the bag.

“Come along Mr. Potter.” Snape ordered, leaving the chamber. Harry took one last moment to look at the work station that they were leaving and the basilisk that was still sitting on the side of the chamber. They had worked for hours and it didn’t look like they had even made a dent in the beast.

“Professor?” Harry huffed as he tried to stay in time with the man’s long strides.

“What?”

“I thought you said we couldn’t use magic on the parts. Wouldn’t shrinking them be hurting them?”

“The boxes and bottles that the parts were put in are specially designed for potions ingredients. The come with a magic ward around the box that prevents magic from getting fully into the box but still effects the actual container. It is a tricky but of magic but it allows magic to be performed on the containers without effecting the ingredients inside.”

Satisfied with the answer Harry followed the man out of the chamber and down the hall. Before they turned towards the main stair cases where they would have to part Harry spoke up again.

“Will we be meeting tomorrow? It is Sunday and there are no classes.”

“We will not be meeting tomorrow. You will find yourself quite busy.” Snape smirked.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m sure Professor McGonagall will be informing you tonight.” The potions master said cryptically. Harry, confused, turned to leave until the professor voice spoke up again.

“Mr. Potter. While I find Miss Grangers incessant need to prove that she is more knowledgeable than anyone a horrific flaw, the fact that she acts as though she has swallowed a textbook would make her a worthwhile acquaintance to anyone who wished to learn more about any subject. If you are truly interested in achieving better in potions, which you seem to be, then she would be the person to have close.”

“Of course sir.” Harry said. He tried not to look completely baffled as the man swept away. With a shrug and an offhanded thought about cryptic snakes he made his way back to the common room.

Chapter Text

Harry should have known that anything that cause Snape to smirk would end up being cruel and unusual punishment. And it was. It was incredibly cruel and certainly unusual. Sunday morning all of the Gryffindor house from the fourth years up were jostled awake and told to report to an old class room on the second floor. Grumbling and griping the students stumbled into an old ballroom. Taking a moment to look around the recently cleaned dance floor the sight of a large gramophone filled Harry up with dread.

“As you are aware,” Professor McGonagall began once all the students arrived and sat down. “We will be hosting the Yule ball in celebration of the tournament. It will involve a formal dance with all of the houses and visiting schools. That is why it is of the utmost importance that we do not embarrass ourselves and our school.

“Beginning this Sunday up until the weekend of the ball you will all be participating in dance lessons to prepare you for this event.” Her glare quieted down the angry protests. “It is not an optional lesson. Anyone found skipping will be in detention with me for a week. I will not allow any of my students to embarrass our school.”

“God is hate this.” Harry groaned to Hermione. He currently had a hand on her hip as he led her through a simple box step at half the normal speed. After being told to partner up Harry had practically ran to Hermione, refusing to move from her side.

“It’s not that bad thing to learn to dance Harry. It is a great way to get exercise and to develop balance and grace.” Hermione placated, sighing as Harry stepped on her foot again.

“Sorry.” He mumbled. “Why are you so good at this anyway?”

“My parents had me take dance lessons when I was young. It was mostly ballet but occasionally they would teach us basic ballroom and a little bit of tap.” Hermione explained. “Look don’t try so hard. Keep your head up and follow your instincts.”

“I’m not made for this. I’m only graceful in the sky . . . and even then I seem to always be falling off my broom.” He grumbled but lifted his head like he was instructed to do.

“That’s because you are always trying too hard. You spend so much time concentrating on how one thing is supposed to go that you lose sight of all the rest. Same with your school work. So stop concentrating on your feet and try to move with your entire body. Try to match it to mine.”

Harry relaxed a little, dropping his shoulders and trying to do as Hermione said. He stumbled a bit more but by the time the next song came on he started to get it. It was like when you are walking next to someone and unknowingly match their step pattern. Soon he was following Hermione’s movements and idly wondering if that meant he was following and not leading.

The rest of the class was agonizing. There were a few student who already knew how to dance. Most of them were from the older years who were known purebloods. The rest of the students were having a miserable time. Songs were punctuated with cries of pain as toes got crushed, chests were jabbed with elbows and more than once someone fell out of a dip onto the hard floor. McGonagall walked amidst the lumbering mass of dance partners to fix grips and count steps.

At some point the Weasely twins had gotten bored and began dancing with each other. They spun each other wildly around the room yelling “Tally-ho” and dipping each other wildly. Angrily McGonagall stopped the music and spent ten minutes lecturing the twins, and by proxy everyone else, on the embarrassment of having the most unruly house and how their honor was at stake. After the rant the rest of the class seemed pointless and they were sent away.

“Wow.” Harry said as he walked away from the ballroom with Hermione.

“Yeah and that was just the basic waltz. Imagine what it will be like if she tries to teach us the tango or the foxtrot.” Hermione grinned, looping her arm in Harry’s.

“Mr. Potter, a word?” Professor McGonagall called from behind them.

“I’ll just wait here then.” Hermione said, patting him on the arm.

“As you are aware, the Yule ball is incredibly important to the tournament. It is a time where the schools present their champions as something other than a warrior. Schools are on their top behavior.” McGonagall began when Harry finally stood in front of her. Harry made a non-committal noise as she repeated the lecture she had given during the dancing practice.

“It is a night that is full of traditions. One of the most important being the first dance of the champions. All the champions of the school are required to bring a date and perform the first dance of the ball.” She stared down at Harry over her glasses.

“Excuse me?” Harry started at the statement.

“Mr. Potter. You will be required to obtain a respectable date and perform the first dance.”

“Professor. I really wasn’t planning on bringing a date to the ball, let alone perform any dance.” Harry said, waving his arms hoping it would emphasize what he was saying.

“That is not an option.”

“You cannot force me to bring a date! It is bad enough that I have to do these stupid challenges, I am not going to be forced to ask someone out to a dance that I will not be doing.” Harry growled.

“This is not a debate Mr. Potter! If you do not ask a date, a partner will be found for you. You represent this school! You will not do anything that will ruin its reputation. You have two months to find someone or I will be doing it. Off you go.” At that dismissal Professor McGonagall walked off, not even bothering to look back at the irate boy behind her.

“Harry?” Hermione appeared beside him, watching the transfiguration professor walk away.

“I can’t fucking believe it.” Harry groused, allowing Hermione to grab his arm again and lead him to the library.

“What did she want?” She listened silently as Harry cursed and stomped his way through the conversation.

“I’m sorry Harry. It is a bit wrong that they demand that you get a date. After all, they shouldn’t be able to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. I mean, the challenges are part of the magical contract but the ball isn’t. The ball was added 114 years after the instigation of the games when the school hosting wanted to show off. They really don’t have a say on what you do at the ball.”

“That right? Well even if they did have a say I’m not doing it. I wasn’t planning on asking anyone but now I’m fucking sure.” Harry decided, determination etched into his face.

“Whatever you want I’ll stand by you. I mean, it’s just a silly ball. Another excuse for girls to put on a fancy dress and demand that boys dance with them.” Hermione said with a sneer. Harry chuckled.

“Yeah and a chance for all the guys to try and get girls into their beds by bring them flowers.” They snickered together, ignoring the looks that were sent their way.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!” Hermione slammed a book down in front of Harry, startling him. Harry spared a glance at his charms essay, which now had a long line of ink that ran through the middle of his paragraph, before looking at his friend’s furious face.

“What do you mean Hermione?” He asked over the loud shushing noise from the irate librarian.

“You know that I have been trying to get S.P.E.W up and running right?”

“Spew? That’s the thing for house elves right?”

“It’s S.P.E.W Harry, and yes it’s the ‘thing for house elves’.” Hermione grumbled, falling heavily into the seat in front of him. She slid her book over in front of her. The thick tome had ‘Magical creatures: Laws, regulations and amendments Vol. 5’ scrawled on its binding.

“I don’t think that you are doing anything wrong.” Harry said.

“And you would be the only one who doesn’t! I just can’t seem to get people to listen. No one will sign the petition that I have been sending around. I keep finding my pamphlets in the trash! Not only that but they house elves won’t listen to me either. They always tell me to go away and they never accept any of the clothes that I try to leave them.” She explained, flushed and frustrated.

Harry paused to think about it. Suddenly he felt like he was on a tight rope over a giant gorge and a wind had just blown. This was the only thing that Hermione has gotten really passionate about that didn’t involve school or trying to save someone.

“Hermione,” He began slowly. “I think I know what is going on. You’re not really going to like it though.”

“You know? Well tell me!” She demanded, closing her book to give him her undivided attention. Similarly he closed his book, rolled up his parchment and placed his quill in the inkwell.

“If I do will you not get mad at me? I’m not trying to be mean r anything but I think I know why you aren’t reaching anyone and it’s not because they don’t understand your words.” He explained.

“Of course I won’t get mad. Even if it’s not good I’d rather know than get nowhere.”

“Did you ever learn about colonialism in school while you were still in the muggle world?” Harry asked.

“Yes?” Hermione replied, confusion covering her tone.

“I think this is a similar situation. The British went all over the world. They claimed land that wasn’t theirs and conquered many places. However, that is different from this situation. What I would say was similar is the way that they reacted to other cultures. Most of the time they would look at a culture and think of it was lesser. The way they did this was always the best way. They would interfere and tell the people what to do.

“Sometimes it was a good thing. They changed some common misconceptions and brought proper science to places that didn’t have it. Thing like, I don’t know, how you didn’t need to sacrifice a person or animal to make it rain. In a lot of cases they were right. However, they weren’t always right. Sometimes the things they did changed the way people liked to the point that they could not survive. There was plenty of death and disease that came from the intruders stomping over the existing culture and substituting their own.

“In this situation with the house elves you are coming in as the British. An outsider is telling them that they are wrong. House elves have been a part of wizarding culture for years, right? It doesn’t matter that you may be right about the slavery part. All they see is someone invading and trying to change something that they have no business trying to change. Presenting facts and telling them that they are wrong is going to change nobody’s mind.” Harry stopped there, watching as all of what he said sunk into Hermione. A couple things passed over her face, confusion, anger, indignation and finally a reluctant acceptance.

“But what should I do? I can’t do nothing but your right, nobody is going to listen to a Muggle born.” She hung her head so that her face was covered with her curly hair.

“It’s not all hopeless Hermione! You just have to go about it a different way.”

“And what would you do?” She asked.

“Well . . . There is a couple things you could do. You could try to contact someone with more political standing than you and see if they would help. Also you could change the wording a little bit, make it more pleasant for people to swallow. Make it so that it is a movement to allow house elves the option of freedom. Maybe one or two people will do it, then three and four until it becomes something big.” Harry suggested. To be honest, it was something he had been thinking on for a while. He had been watching Hermione struggle for so long that he couldn’t help but think of the problem himself.

“That’s a great idea!” Hermione quietly squealed. She all but jumped over the table to pull him into a hug. “I have so much research to do. First things first, I need a ministry directory.” And with a flash of brown hair she was off to run through the aisles, stacking books into her arms.

Harry chuckled quietly to himself before turning back to his charms homework.

Chapter Text

Harry would be lying if he didn’t say that he was a bit disappointed when he receive a message from professor Snape informing him that they would not be going to the chamber that Saturday. Instead they were going to meet in his office. After a rough week Harry was really looking forward to sometime down in the calm, cool darkness of the chamber.

Ron was being a particular bastard, more so than all the other people trying to make Harry’s life miserable. And there were plenty of those. Whenever Harry would pass he would turn to whomever he had been talking to, normally Seamus and Dean, and tell them how great Cedric Diggory was doing and that “he wished all the Hogwarts champions were as awesome as him.” When that wouldn’t get a rise he would taunt Harry. Tell him that his cold attitude and the snooty way that he was treating his classmates was him showing his true colors. That he always knew that Harry Potter was too good to be true. It eventually progressed to him jostling Harry as he passed by or using his wand to flick pieces of paper at him.

Harry tried to stay stoic through it all. If living with Dudley only taught him one thing; it was that rising to the challenge only made them go further. He was slightly disgusted that he had to compare Ron to Dudley at all, starting to question his own judgement on the types of friends he had made at Hogwarts.

As Snape’s door swung open without him knocking again Harry idly wondered if it was because the man wanted to catch people off guard or if he really hated knocking that much. Snape was not alone in his office. Across from him was Mr. Dawsen, both of them sipping coffee. Snape was the only professor who drank coffee but it was well known that no one should approach him before his second cup unless they wanted to leave without all of their body parts.

“Good morning Professor, Mr. Dawsen.” Harry greeted, slipping into the chair that was waiting for him.

“Good morning Harry!” Mr. Dawsen greeted back with a tip of his cup. “I must say I am pleased that you decide to keep me on as your financial advisor.”

“Well you seemed like the best, the most honest at the least.” Harry smiled shyly back. That was true, to say the least. A couple of days ago he had received and enormous box filled with paperwork from the man. On the top was a folder that contained all the information about the Potter family monies. It included stocks (many of them in muggle companies to his surprise), properties (seven of them) and accounts. Some of the pages explained how the stock market in the wizarding world worked and how it differed from the muggle world. Harry didn’t read any of those pages, instead he handed them to Hermione. She ended up spending the entire night, and most of the next morning, buried in them and a book that was apparently listed as a good review.

A good majority of the box was profiles on the top financial advisors. Normally it was five sheets per person. It started out with a profile page about the person. Three pages then followed of their client list, common stock investments, average rates of success and a multitude of other business acumen Harry knew nothing about. The final page was always the most interesting. Mr. Dawsen had added his own page of personal notes about the person. Things like “likes to gamble while drunk (always drunk)” and “Good woman but has the personality of a dried up fig” were written. Sometimes the comments were good and sometimes they were bad. The most interesting thing was that Mr. Dawsen had added in his own page . . . and it was quite honest.

“A bit conservative with money because he is not a confident gambler.

Drinks way too much coffee and runs out of meetings saying he is ‘busy’ but really needs to pee.

Spends his weekends being a dreadful bore by spending most of his time eating, sleeping and reading.

Was once in major debt (never place your money on a bet with a Slytherin, even if you are one)

Thinks muggle technology is the best and spends time tinkering with a laptop to try and get it to work in the wizarding world . . . no success yet”

Acutely aware that he was working with a Slytherin Harry checked through all the facts, at least the ones that could be checked. He had no idea how he would confirm that Charles Wistleton “enjoys farting along to music in his bath”. He eventually decided that Mr. Dawsen seemed a trustworthy enough fellow and, after seeing the thickness of the books Hermione pulled for him, that he did want someone else to help him with his money.

“Well I’m sure it will be a great partnership!” Mr. Dawsen smiled. “Actually, money is the reason that I have barged in on Severus this morning and ruined your Saturday.”

Snape grumbled a little at this. While the two had been talking he had turned to a stack of essays on his desk and he was in the process of shredding into some students paper (and self-esteem). From the way he was glaring Harry wondered if he should be praying for the poor soul, or at least praying it wasn’t his.

“Don’t worry about mister Grumpy Britches over there. Essay grading always puts him in a foul mood.” Instead of shivering in fear Mr. Dawsen just smirked at the devastating glare Snape threw his way. Harry’s respect for the man grew exponentially that moment. He opened his case and started to pull out a bunch of papers.

“Now I know it has been only a short amount of time, but as expected the stuff you have collected from the basilisk has been selling extremely well. It passed all of its inspections and is being sold by mail order. Here, just look at the list of potion Masters who are requesting some.” Harry was passed a list that was six pages long and had probably two hundred names, many names he couldn’t pronounce because they were clearly not English names.

“Wow.” He whispered as he looked. He knew that basilisk items were popular, but this?

“As predicted the ministry is up in arms about this. I’m getting letters every day demanding that I tell them who the owner is. I am so glad that I decided to get that file sealed. Thought it might be useful, you are Harry Potter after all. They can’t do anything about it, though. That’s what all that paper signing was for last time. “He rambled on, pulling that paper from his hands and shoving in another one.

“Now this,” He tapped the page with a finger. “Is a tax document that you need to sign and date. See, you are going to giving a lot to charity and it basically says that because you are donating that you are going to be deducting it from your taxes.”

“I can do that?” Harry said, taking the self-inking quill that was handed over by a distracted Professor Snape.

“Sure can. Now I have been a bit sneaky here, but I think it will be for the best. See you and Severus are going to be getting a lot of money. Taxes are going to be a bit crazy for both of you. I know you agreed that ten percent of the money is going to go straight into charity. What I did was split that ten percent evenly into two bank accounts, one for you and one for Snape. That way you can give to the charities you want and he can give to his. Also if we meter out how much you give we can save you, and Severus, from having to pay a ridiculous amount of taxes for a good number of years. Does that make sense?”

“Uh . . . yeah.” Harry said, trying to organize all the information swirling around him.

“Oops, sorry Harry. Sometimes I forget that I’m not talking to another lawyer.”

“It’s okay.” Harry said sheepishly.

“Come now, don’t look like that. Most adults don’t understand what I am saying and you are only fourteen. Got to control myself better. Bad Alex!” He admonished himself by slapping himself on the wrist. “Go put down those papers and let’s take a little break. You too Severus.” With a little growl Snape placed one last slash mark before placing his quill back into the inkwell.  With a quick snap of his fingers a tea tray appeared. Both the adults grabbed the cups with coffee before handing Harry his, doctored with a splash of milk and two teaspoons of sugar.

“So tell me Harry, how goes the second task.” Mr. Dawsen asked with a slurping sip. Harry could tell from the way his eyes slid to the potions professor he was doing it on purpose to annoy the dour man.

“Well to be honest I’m not really trying to prepare.” Harry said with a shrug.

“Oh? Why not?”

“Well I didn’t really want to be in the tournament. I figured that they can make me compete but they can’t make me play, you know what a mean?”

“Of course, of course. Well sounds as good of a plan as any. Severus was just telling me that your marks were improving across the board and that all of your professors are pleased.”

“Really?

“All of your professors have noticed your radical improvement.” Professor Snape sneered from his cup. “Many believe that it is your natural talent coming through. I of course informed them that it was more of a result of you obstinate desire to do the exact opposite of what is expected of you and have finally learned the benefit of studying instead of running around like a moron you used to be.” Harry wrinkled his nose as he tried to figure out the compliment that seemed to be sandwiched between a number of insults. Really, he was more insulted by the comments of the other professors. What did they think he was doing every day in the library?

“Well I never found much worth in the opinions of my teachers. Remember Slughorn, Severus? He used to say that the most I would amount to was selling myself on a corner in Witches Teat Alley.” Mr. Dawsen snorted into his coffee. “Shows you what he knew!”

“So you know nothing of the next task Potter?” Snape asked, ignoring the chortling man.

“Well Diggory told me that it would be something with mermaids. Apparently they are going to take something important from me and I am going to have to get it back.” Harry shrugged.

“Don’t know much about mermaids. Just that they love fire weed. Lovely little plant. They smoke it like the muggle drug marijuana. It’s special because it burns even under the water. I once heard a man managed to get a bag of mermaid scales for a couple ounces of the stuff.” Dawsen said with a little sigh.

“Why is it that you seem to know every plant that can get you or another creature high?” Snape said with a tone of derision.

“Call it a hobby.” The lawyer said with a little shrug.

“You’re too young to do any type of human transfiguration. Maybe a bubble head charm would work. I might have gillyweed in stock that would allow you to breathe underwater for a period of time.” Snape suggested, looking off into the distance as he tried to think of ideas.

“Thank you for offering but the last thing I’m going to do is go swimming. If I absolutely have to I will tread water till the task is over. I’m really serious about not competing.” Harry explained. He didn’t know why but that statement seemed to gain a look of approval from Snape.

“Well that sounds like a good plan too.” Mr. Dawsen said. “Oh goodness me, look at the time.” Harry glanced over and saw that it was quickly approaching noon. “One more thing before I go. Here is your bank statement for the new account I set up in your name. This is where all of the proceeds from the basilisk will go and when you get a job you can deposit into here. Think of it as a muggle checking account.”

Harry choked on his tea. There was a large number of transactions which really meant nothing to him, just a load of account numbers. However at the bottom was the total amount in the account. The numbers seemed to glow as Harry stared at it, trying to convince himself that he was hallucinating.

Two million galleons. Holy shit. Given that it was 4.9 pounds sterling to a galleon, Harry was sitting on the nearly ten million pounds!

“This can’t be right!”

“It should be. I just checked it before I came here this morning.” He said calmly.

“But I was only supposed to get forty percent.”

“And you did. Don’t be too surprised Mr. Potter. If two million is going to shock you this much you might feint when you end up seeing the totals when you start selling the main parts.” He paused to take a look at his watch. “Well, crap. I must be going. I’ll be in touch Harry. There are a list of Charities I’ll be sending for you to choose from. Tata!”

“Do not pass out in my office Potter.” Snape sneered, turning back to his essays. “If there is nothing else that you need then you can leave. Next Saturday we will meet by the Chamber entrance so that we may harvest more of the corpse. Good day.”

“Good day Professor.” Harry mumbled, not really thinking about it. In a daze he walked all the way to the library, staring at the paper in his hand. With a tiny self-inflicted slap Harry jolted back to reality somewhat and set out in search of Hermione. Unsurprisingly she was in their usual corner. What was surprising was Victor Krum sitting next to her, pouring over the same book.

“Um, hey Hermione. Krum.” Harry said, causing them to look up.

“Oh good morning Harry. I was just helping Victor here with a book.” Krum nodded to him in greeting.

“I vill leave now Her-minny. Nice seeing you Potter.” Krum mumbled before walking off.

“What was that?” Harry asked quietly to avoid people listening in.

“I’ve been helping him read English. Apparently he learned to speak it through listening so seeing it written is really hard for him. Since I have read a lot of the seventh year curriculum I can help explain it to him.”

“Oh.”

“. . . and he asked me to the ball.” Hermione slipped in, hiding her nose in a book to avoid looking like she just said that.

“Hermione!” Harry yelped, quickly getting shushed my madam Pince.

“Oh come on Harry, it’s not that bad.”

“He is eighteen. It’s illegal!” Harry whispered back.

“We are going as friends Harry! I mean, it’s not like he can ask anyone from his school with them all being guys. Plus, he has a fiancé! If he asked any of the other girls they would think that he liked him or something. This way he can know who he is going with, not have to worry about me fawning all over him, and honestly? I kind of want to stick it to Lavender who keeps boasting that she is going with McCormac.” Hermione said with some bitterness in her voice.

“. . . just as friends?”

“Yes Harry. Friends.” Hermione said with a long suffering sigh.

“Well. Okay then but if he tries anything!”

“That’s sweet Harry but unnecessary. Like you said, I’m fourteen. Plus I’ve seen a picture of his fiancé. Frankly, she is pretty.” Hermione said in a wistful way.

“How pretty?”

“Gorgeous. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind batting for the other side for a piece of that.” Hermione said with a wicked smirk.

“Hermione!” Harry said with an exaggerated scandalized tone. They both fell into heavy giggles as Madam Pince shushed them harshly with a glare and a threatening waggle of her feather duster.

Chapter Text

What was with girls and dances that made them go absolutely batty? Sure, you got to dress up and dance but what does it seem like the women in Hogwarts have turned, not into excited party go-ers, but into rabid beasts? Everywhere that Harry went there were girls simpering and staring longingly at guys as if they could silently imperious them into asking them to the ball. They talked loudly about their dresses and make-up, dropping not-so-subtle hint bombs on the male populous of Hogwarts. It was even worse around Harry. It was the beginning of December and Harry seemed to be dodging girls left, right, and center. Apparently all of the tournament champions had gotten (and announced) their dates, leaving harry to fend off any girl who wanted an in with a champion.

Harry was still adamant that he was not going to be bringing any one to the ball. He flat out said it to the girls who had come up to ask him. People looked like they doubted him but still he didn’t ask. Every once in a while Professor McGonagall would stare over her glasses at him as if commanding him to ask someone. Harry would stare back with an eyebrow arched, a habit that he picked up from Snape that he absolutely. must. stop.

Harry was sitting by the lake thinking about the second task. He really didn’t want to participate. He was quite content to imagine himself standing on the beach/edge of whatever body of water they put them in and throw an almighty tantrum. Unfortunately, Hermione had chosen to hit him over the head with the logic hammer.

“What if they do take something really important? You should at least have a backup plan if there is no other choice.”

With a heave Harry threw a rock across the water, watch it pathetically skip once before falling before the surface. Idly he wondered if he owned anything that was important enough for him to get over his annoyance and actually do the task. Certainly none of his physical properties. Considering that a good majority of his clothes and other items were second hand from the Dursley, he would gladly hand those over to the mermaids himself. Perhaps his wand? That would be stupid. He wouldn’t be able to do anything magic and he could always go buy a new one. There was his invisibility cloak and the map from his father. After a moment of thinking Harry decided that the things he used to break rules and sneak food wasn’t really worth risking his life in front of an audience.

“Heya Harry!” Harry was pulled from his thought by a shout from the twins. As the jogged towards him they were jostling with other, bumping shoulders and snickering.

“Hey guys. What’s up?”

“Just trying to-“

“Get out of the blast radius.”

“Planted some firecrackers-“

“Underneath the painting of Uldridge-“

“the Ugly.” The twins finished. They both smiled brightly, one of them resting his elbow on the shoulder of the other.

“Anyway, we saw you sitting here-“

“Abusing the poor lake. Thought that-“

“We might be able to cheer you up.”

“Thanks guys.” Harry smiled, wiping his dirty hands on the back of his pants. “Don’t really need cheering up. Just trying to think up a good idea.”

“Well you know, if you ever need help-“

“We’ve got your back.” The twins bumped their first twice on their chests like gangsters.

“Actually,” Harry began, grasping on the edge of an idea that was just starting to form. “Do you think you could help me get something? Something muggle? And something that may be illegal?”

“Oooh cryptic.” One brother cooed at the other.

“Sounds like our kind of thing Forge.”

“Indeed it does Gred. I think we should help out little Harry friend.”

“What do you need?” Harry smiled wickedly and set out explaining exactly what it was that he needed.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Harry felt the horrible itch when he was in the Chamber that next Saturday with professor Snape. That awful feeling of a question that was worming its way out of your skin. It grew stronger as Harry tried not to break the relative silence of the room.

“Professor Snape, are you married?” Shit, well the question got loose anyway. There was an eerie silence as the dark man’s knife paused in mid-motion. The potion masters face was so blank that Harry wondered if he managed to finally destroy the man’s mind with inane questions like he had always complained that he would.

“Why do you ask?” Snape replied with a question that seemed more like an accusation than anything else.

“I don’t know,” Harry shrugged. “I guess I was just curious. A lot of the other teachers talk about their partners in passing but you never do. I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re not but I know professor Sinastra always talks about how it is impossible to date as a professor.” He trailed off awkwardly.

Professor Snape didn’t say anything for a long time. Just stood there with his hand hovering over the half cut ingredients. Harry had seen him do something like this before. Those rare times in class when the professor would work on his own project in between berating students. Sometimes it seemed that his brain was working so hard that his entire body had to stop. It was common to see him paused with his hands hovering over a group of ingredients, just waiting for the brain to make a decision.

“I am married.” Professor Snape answered after a heavy moment.

“Oh.” Harry said surprised, unsure what to do with an answer he never expected to get. “Well  . . . What is she like?”

“I . . . am not married to a woman.” Snape said, black eyes piercing into Harry as if ready to judge.

“Oh . . . well . . . what is he like then?” Harry asked, for lack of a better thing to say. His mind seemed to come to a shuddering halt. It’s not like he minded that Professor Snape was gay, he wasn’t that much of a dick, but it seemed like the least likely answer ever. Somehow it felt like if Professor Snape had said he was in love with McGonagall it would be less weird.

“You have met him, Mr. Potter.” The potions master said, trying to get the surprise out of his voice. Maybe the wizarding world wasn’t as open to something like that. Though if marriage was legal Harry supposed that they were probably a bit more progressive than-. Wait. Harry had met him?

His mind ached as Harry thought of every man he had ever met. There were the professors at the school. Flitwick? No. Vector? No, he was married to a woman. Remus? Yeah right. Dumbledore? Oh hell no. Harry paused to shudder at that thought. Well it definitely wasn’t Quirrel, Lockhart, Filch, or Hagrid. Mooney looked at Snape like he was the worst kind of scum. Absolutely no way. Well who else was there that Harry knew that Snape was sure he met?

“Mr. Dawsen?!”

“Good Mr. Potter, glad to see that you can use that tiny thing you call a brain.” Snape answered with a sneer.

“You’re married to Mr. Dawsen, that . . .  that’s awesome!” Harry beamed. “He is awesome.”

“I am so glad for your approval.” Snape sneered again.

“I just think that he is really nice, is all.”

“I would be wary, Mr. Potter. There are a great many people who assumed the same thing and ended up getting burned by their ignorance. Alex is both a Slytherin and a lawyer. There is nothing that he does that is not for the benefit of himself.”

“Which is why he seems perfect for you.” Harry nodded in agreement. “Plus, he doesn’t seem scared of you.”

“There are a large number of people who do not fear me Potter.”

“Yeah and that’s because they are too stupid to realize that they should.”

“Do you fear me Potter?” Snape asked with a hint of amusement in his voice.

“Absolutely.” Harry said, not looking up from his skin cutting so that the professor couldn’t see his smile. With a little huff of a laugh Snape let them fall back into a healthy silence. Topics moved back to a safe topic of ingredients and uses. Harry listened happily Snape lecture on how the basilisk skin used in anti-anxiety potions is far more efficient, supposing that the potioneer is not an idiot and soaks it in rooster blood first.

It was nearly five o’clock when they left. Harry only noticed that they had skipped lunch when his stomach gave an angry growl at the thought of dinner. They left the chamber but as they were about to part ways professor Snape stopped him with a thin hand on his shoulder.

“Here Potter.” He passed him a rolled up piece of parchment. “This is your next bank statement. Normally you wouldn’t get it every week but I feel it is best to wean you into seeing the large sums you are going to be getting.”

“Holy shit.” Harry exclaimed. The balance of the account had crept up over five million already in the last week. A few of the numbers blurred and re focused a thousand galleons higher. Watching it update before his eyes did not take out the sting.

“Be warned Potter. Except for the venom, which I have only sold very small amounts of, the dried skin is the least valuable part of the snake. It has been forty five years since the last basilisk has been sold and people are paying top dollar.”

“I don’t even know what in the world I would do with all this money!” Harry exclaimed. “Maybe charity but we are already doing that.”

“If you were smart, Mr. Potter,” Snape sneered. “You would look into investing where you can. Properly, a person could live off their investments, as well as their descendants. That is what families like the Malfoys do. . . Though I shudder at the thought of you having descendants . . .” With that statement he swept off, taking a moment to glare a passing pair of HufflePuff third years.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

“Hey Harry!” Harry turned to watch Neville run up to him. Slightly out of breath the pudgy boy was smiling. “How are you doing?”

“Fine, and you?” Harry asked.

“Oh, good actually.” Neville grinned again, lifting his book to Harry. “Moody just gave me a book on aquatic plants. Said he was apologizing for the class about the unforgivables. He was telling me that there are some awesome plants that grow in water. There is even one that is called Gillyweed. It lets you breathe under water and makes you grow webbing so that you can swim better.”

“That’s awesome.” Harry smiled encouragingly. They fell in step as they walked back to the common room.

“Haven’t seen you around that much recently.” Neville commented.

“Everyone just wants to talk about the tournament or the ball. I guess I thought it would be better to avoid everyone so that I don’t have to deal with it.”

“Yeah I know. People keep asking me who I am going to bring to the ball. I don’t think I’ll bring anyone, who would want to go with me anyway?” Shamed colored his face as he stared at the floor passing under his feet.

“I’m sure any girl would be happy to be invited by you. All you need to do is have some confidence when you ask.” Harry tried to encourage the boy. Neville shrugged but didn’t argue. They clambered into the common room, taking a moment to awkwardly stand there, stuck in the silence that always followed an unfinished conversation.

“Well, thanks Harry.” Neville turned to climb up the stairs.

“Hey Neville?”

“Yeah?”

“What do you think about Professor Moody?”

“Hmm? I guess he is a little weird but he isn’t the worse that some of the teachers we have had . . . Why?”

“I don’t know.” Harry shrugged. “He just gives me a weird feeling is all. Maybe I’m just paranoid.”

“It’s probably all the stress.”

“Yeah.” Harry agreed to the empty air that Neville left as he climbed up to their rooms. Even if he was just paranoid, there was something off about Moody. Well, as long as he didn’t try to curse him again, Harry was content to leave that alone. That kind of thinking is what has gotten him into these problems.

Chapter Text

Should you be worried for your children?

Reported by: Fabulously Beautiful Rita Skeeter

There was great controversy when the Potions Master Severus Snape was hired onto the Hogwarts Staff. Namely, the suspicions of being a Death Eater which was only allayed by the work of Albus Dumbledore. Despite parental protest the man was hired on and has been relatively well behaved.

Has this all changed?

Over the last month the man has accumulated a staggering amount of wealth from a sketchy source. He has gained galleons on the magnitude of tens of millions. How is he doing it? He is selling basilisk part to potioneers.

For those who do not know, basilisk parts are a XXX level ingredient and highly regulated by the ministry. To breed one without the government’s permission can get you a life sentence! However, most basilisk breeders only obtain a couple million every few decades, how is he making tens of millions? Mr. Snape has refused to respond to us. However, his lawyer has commented.

“Mr. Snape was gifted a rather large basilisk by an appreciative person whom slayed the beast after a purely accidental meeting. Master Snape is well within his rights to sell off the parts of the beast.”

Who is this person who slayed the large basilisk? Why have we never heard of this battle? All that is known is that we know very little, which leads this reporter to think that there is something suspicious going on.

“We are keeping a close eye on things,” A ministry official commented. “Master Snape placed a non-disclosure agreement on the deal before we were aware however we are working to open the file so that we can make sure that everything is up to snuff.”

Why the secrets? Where did the snake come from? Are our children safe with a man who is making shady deals with one of the most dangerous potions ingredients around?

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Harry was seething. How dare that bitch?! It bad enough that she was spreading shit around about him and the other champions. He was mad enough already at the lies about cheating, him being a poor weepy orphan boy and the horrible articles about Hermione supposedly playing with his heart. Harry had spent many happy hours thinking of all the horrible ways that he could destroy that noxious green pen. His current favorite was burning the pen, feeding the ashes mixed with rotting fish guts to Fluffy and then leaving the giant steaming pile of shit on her desk.

Now she was going after Professor Snape? How dare she? Granted, less than a year ago Harry probably would have read the article with the same suspicion as everyone else . . . and he would have probably followed the man around for a couple of weeks to make sure. Still! She was supposed to be here reporting on the tournament, not the professors!

Professor Snape didn’t seem to mind all that much, reading the paper with an expressionless face over breakfast that morning. Harry tried to ignore the whispers and stares from the other students as the started to accuse the man of the most heinous things. Really, the article was about selling snake parts. Why the hell would that girl think he was part of a sex trafficking ring? Absolutely fucking ridiculous.

Harry was steadily working himself into a lather until he was so outraged he automatically started heading down to the dungeon, the paper crushed in his fist as if he could wring the words off of the page. He really didn’t know what he would accomplish by going to the dungeons. There was nothing he nor the professor could do. He was probably going to get yelled at for thinking the man needed his sympathy or his anger.

Harry stopped at the door an allowed it to swing open like it always did. However, he stopped short.  This is so not what he was expecting.

In the middle of Snapes office sat Draco Malfoy. He was slumped backwards in a chair, his chin resting on his forearms which sat on the back of his chair. While the stance normally would have been casual, this time it was incredibly deliberate. It was the only way that he could sit on the chair without aggravating the many bleeding lacerations on his back. It looked like someone had taken a whip to the boys back. No, it was a belt. Harry could recognize the pattern.

Snape was swirling around him, anger evident in every quick, jerky movement. He muttered to himself as he whipped his wand to perform spells before grabbing one of the many bottles on his desk.

“Dammit boy. What in the world did you do this time?” He growled, dabbing the white paste gently on the marks.

“Nothing more than usual.” Draco hissed through clenched teeth. “Didn’t do well enough in my classes.”

“I thought that you had all O’s” Snape groused, not looking up at the blond hair boy.

“I do.” Draco growled. His entire body tensed as fingers poked and prodded his back. Harry winced in sympathy as the cream began to bubble and turn dark the way that peroxide did when put on a dirty would. Snape grunted as he began the process of wiping off the left over liquid.

“The problem is not the overall grades, it’s the class standing. Granger is number one again, meaning I am number two. How the hell am I supposed to do better than ‘better than perfect’?” Draco grumbled. AS the cream was wiped off Harry felt a little sick. It was gruesome to see the way that the skin was split open. Without the blood you could practically see the layers of muscle that sat under the stripped of skin. This was all because of grades? For not being better than Hermione?

“Your father is a menace.” Snape sneered, reaching for another bottle. He poured the blue liquid onto a cloth and began to run it over the stripes.  

“You don’t have to tell me.” Malfoy grunted, eyes clenched close. “Every year it gets worse. At least this time he was kind enough not to use the cane.” The chuckle that followed was dark and hollow.

Harry had no idea what to do. The revelation that Malfoy was being beaten by his father had basically shut down his brain and his body. He didn’t know if he wanted to run or stay. The choice was made for him when he looked up and was met with Snape’s angry eyes. The man’s lips were pulled back with a snarl. A sudden jerk of his head and Harry was off like a shot, determined to get as far away from the office as quickly as he could.

He all but ran until he was outside, letting the cold blast of air hitting him in the face to clear his head somewhat. Well, shit. Malfoy was being abused. Obviously it was quite horrific, considering the easy way that he sat there with his wounds. Better men would have been sobbing in agony at wounds like that.

Harry was no stranger to abuse. He wasn’t a fool, he knew what the Dursley’s did to him was wrong on multiple levels. When he was in primary school there was a whole presentation on abuse. What it meant to be physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. It was the result of a tragic death of a boy in Harry’s class. Listening to the presentation Harry had realized that the Dursley’s did just about everything (save the sexual abuse, thank merlin). The most obvious was the beating. None of the three had ever missed the chance to take a swing at him. Aunt Petunia preferred to swing her cast iron skillet which meant most of the time she deliberately missed. It was Uncle Vernon who gave him the familiarity of what belt strokes looked like. Dudley, well that was self-explanatory. Add in the forced isolation, extraordinary amount of chores, the limited food and the constant barrage of insults Harry realized he was the poster boy for abuse.

Occasionally he would wonder if it was worthwhile to tell anyone. As a child it never seemed worth it. While Vernon was a vile and stupid man, he was quite excellent at convincing people to his point of view. Harry never bothered to try and tell another adult, regardless of what the presentation said. When he got to the wizarding world it seemed to be even less worthwhile. Really? The Boy-who-lived abused? The idea was laughable.

Almost as laughable as the Malfoy heir being beaten bloody.  Harry huffed a laugh to himself at the thought. Though Malfoys actions seemed to make a lot more sense now that Harry knew how his dad was. Who wouldn’t hate the people that were the reason that you were beaten constantly? Malfoy was consistently the second on the class ranking. If it weren’t for Hermione then he certainly would be first easily. There wasn’t a doubt in Harry’s mind that the boy was punished for not being the first in quidditch, which would be Harry’s fault. After all, Slytherin won all of their other matches except the ones against Gryffindor.

God, Harry had also refused his hand all those years ago. He wasn’t exactly pleasant when he had met him in the robe shop. Still, Harry was a bit of a bastard when rejecting his hand after that. All for what? A friendship that was currently broken because the person he defended ended up being a twat. Suddenly Ron looked even worse in his eyes. How did a boy who was raised in a loving family end up that hateful? Ron took every chance he could to get back at Malfoy like it was fun for him.

Ugh, Harry’s head hurt. A loud squawk interrupted his thoughts. A raven flew towards him, dropping a tightly rolled piece of parchment into his hand.

I do not believe I have to warn you of the consequences should you choose to speak a word of what you saw. – SS

A shudder ran through him. Honestly, knowing Snape better did not alleviate Harry’s fear of the man. He now respected him, might even say that he liked him. However, the man was still petrifying on a good day when he wasn’t threatening.

“Heya Harry.” Neville shouted. Harry realized that he had been walking so long that he had completed a lap around the lake and was in front of the castle again. “What are you up to?”

“Nothing much. Just taking a walk.” Harry said with a little smile. Neville grinned back at him.

“Mind if I join you?” The other boy asked.

“Sure.” And they both set off for another go around the lake.

“I think it is going to snow soon.” Neville commented, gazing up at the cloud covered sky. Harry hummed in agreement. “It’ll be nice for the ball.”

“The girls would love that.” Harry agreed, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“You still not going with anyone?” Neville inquired.

“Nope.” He popped the ‘p’ happily. “What about you.”

“Well . . . I asked Ginny.” Neville blushed heavily.

“Really?”

“And she said yes. So I have a date.” Neville beamed.

“I knew you could do it. Congratulations.”

“Thanks Harry.” Neville mumbled, embarrassed. After a short silence Neville began to talk about the book on Herbology he was reading. Harry ‘hmm-ed’ and ‘ah-ed’ at the right moments, trying to reorganize his thoughts. Merlin, why was everything so fucking difficult all the time. This really shouldn’t be effecting him as much as it does.

“So the gillyweed uses its innate magic to transform the skin around the throat to intake water. Once it’s in the stomach the weed siphons out the air from the water and basically apparates it into the lungs and-“

“Hey Neville?” Harry interrupted the lecture.

“Yeah?”

“What would you do if you found out something about someone and it changed your opinion of them? Like, if you were a bit of a dick to them because of the way they acted around you and then you found out that there was a reason for it. But you didn’t necessarily want them to know what you found out.”

“ . . . Are you talking about one person in particular or just generally?” Neville asked after a moment’s hesitation.

“Ah . . . well let’s say general for now.” The warning from Snape bounced in his head as he said this.

“I guess I would just apologize in general. Say that you realize that you were being a dick and that it was an apology a long time coming. If you just found out recently and the person doesn’t know that you know well, a general apology should work.” Neville answered with a shrug.

They walked in silence a couple of minute. Harry was trying to form an apology in his head that didn’t sound like he was a monkey just learning how to speak.

“Um harry . . . this isn’t Ron you were talking about, was it?”

“No.” Harry sighed.

“You’re still mad at him?”

“Not really,” Harry took his hands out of his pockets to blow on them. “More like frustrated. He really pissed me off but the worst part is that he doesn’t know why. Instead of trying to figure it out he has been making snide comments and trying to ignore me. That hardly makes me want to forgive him.”

“Oh.”

“I guess I’m just done with all the bullshit. I’ve had to deal with it all for so long that I want to deal with none of it. If Ron happens to be part of that, well so be it. I told him what to do if he wants to be friends again. The quaffle is in his hands.”

“I understand Harry.” Neville said softly.

“Thanks Neville.” Harry smiled at the nervous boy. “Well come on, best be getting to dinner.”

Chapter Text

The reason that Snape was a good spy was because he knew how to be silent. Not in an ‘I’m going to sneak up on you and listen in’ kind of way. He just knew when to keep his mouth shut. People, especially stupid people, will say just about anything to fill in a break in a conversation. Between all the usual drivel that people tend to spout there were bits of information that they did not even know they were sharing. Add into that that the people Snape was usually spying on were egomaniac whose every breath was spent trying to make themselves look better; all he needed to do was keep his mouth closed. That turns out to be true for teenage boys as well.

It was back in the Chamber where Harry was suffering through an awkward silence that seemed not to effect the professor in any way. They worked in stillness for nearly three hours before the boy finally broke.

“I’m sorry.” Instead of answering Snape just raised an eyebrow with an expressionless face. Harry decided to soldier on anyway. “I know I shouldn’t have stayed. I just stopped thinking for a moment. It’s not like I’ll tell anyone. I can empathize with what he is feeling.”

“Empathized?” Snape questioned, taking hold onto that word.

“Yeah . . . I mean, I know what it is like to have relatives that aren’t the nicest.” Harry shrugged. He turned back to the meat he was cutting. Snape had set him the task of cutting off meat by the pound. Apparently people in some cultures feel that basilisk flesh is sacred and will pay a ridiculous amount per pound for the honor of eating it.

“Oh?” Snape muttered, still looking at Harry. It wasn’t out right said but Harry felt like it was a challenge. That professor Snape was silently saying ‘prove it’.

“My Aunt and Uncle aren’t particularly fond of me. They’re muggles so they don’t really like anything to do with magic. I think it shocked them.”

“I don’t see why it would. After all, your aunt found out your mother had magic well before she ended up at Hogwarts. Your Uncle was at your parents wedding.” Snape said with a placid tone.

“What? Really?! . . . How do you know?” Harry asked in surprise.

“I . . . knew your mother when we were still children.” Snape said hesitantly. He was reluctant to leave a potentially worrying topic, especially for a different one that he never wanted to touch with a forty meter pole.

“Really?! Harry yelped, nearly slicing his finger with how violently he startled. Snape sighed heavily.

“Yes. We grew up in the same neighborhood, though I was living on the outskirts of it.”

“You knew my mother? What was she like?” Harry questioned, fully stopped in his work to stare at the man who was quickly becoming a bigger enigma.

“Please Potter. If you wish to speak about your parents find someone else. I doubt you would like my opinion.” Snape sneered.

“I would, but no one talks about my mother.” Harry groused. “They might say one or two things about here. About how she had spirit or was smart. But then they always go back to talking about how much of a trouble maker dad was. They spend so much time talking about him they forget to talk about her.”

“That is . . . unfortunate.”

“And Aunt Petunia hated her. She would always say that she was a whore whenever I asked about them. Then she would normally take a swing at me with her frying pan.” Harry paused. He had said too much. He glanced over to the potions master but the man was still looking at his work and did not seem to react to what Harry had said. Maybe he didn’t hear it properly or thought he was joking, either way Harry was in the clear. Maybe he was just being paranoid since he found out that Malfoy was abused and Snape was the one that was helping him. It was putting him on edge and making him realize just how comfortable he now was with the professor. He would never have said anything if he wasn’t.

“Yes, well she was always a fair bit jealous of Lily. Lily was smart and passionate, as you were told before. She did have many talents when it came to magic. Particularly she was good at charms and potions.”

“Cool. I only knew that she was good at charms.” Harry mumbled.

“Her skills in potions were greatly overlooked by the potions master at the time. Before we were no longer friends we studied together most days.”

“Why did you stop being friends?”

“ . . . While Lily was fairly kind she was also influenced greatly by the company she kept. She was also the kind of person who held grudges for a long time. I spoke wrongly in a moment that was heated. She immediately cut all ties with me, believing that it was further proof that I was not worthy of being her friend. The specifics I will not go into.” The sharp bang of his knife on the cutting board punctuated his statement.

“That is kind of sad.” Harry said after a moment.

“Much like your situation with Weasley, it had built until it broke. However, your situation is about removing yourself from the influences of the wizarding world, while hers were about inclusion.” Snape sneered.

“But you were friends for many years.”

“Yes Potter. We were friends for quite a while.”

“Well then it’s still nice. I like to think that at least one of my parents had a friend like you, even if it didn’t last.” Harry said definitively. Black eyes gazed at him for a moment before turning back to their work. Satisfied Harry went back to his cutting.

It was another hour before they left and neither of them was willing to have a conversation any deeper than ingredients and the weather. After packing up and leaving Harry was prepared to make the trek to the library before Snape called out to him.

“Mr. Potter, please meet me in my office tomorrow morning. I believe that we have something to discuss.” Harry nodded but walked away feeling confused.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

When Harry entered Snape’s office he was fascinated by the potion of Snape’s desk. The little bottle was a sight to behold. It looked like a rainbow was captured behind the glass. While he waited for Snape to look up from his paper he watched the colors swirl and dance, expecting it to turn a murky brown but the strands of colors would just twist and then separate as if they were separate living beings.

“Mr. Potter.” Harry’s head jerked up to look at the dark eyes. The pale man just smirked lightly and nodded to the bottle. “That is for you.”

“What is it for?”

“Something important. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt or change anything about you.” Harry reached for the bottle, pausing when his fingertips brushed against the cold glass. He wrinkled his nose at the vague explanation. He took a moment to look at the potions master‘s placid face, trying to see if there was any amount of deceit. With a shrug he downed the potion like a shot, not ready to take the chance that it would taste horrible.

“In the future, Mr. Potter, it may be better to ask more questions when someone is handing you a potion.” Snape sneered. Harry gulped and nodded quickly.

“Mr. Potter, do you know what percent of children are abused in the wizarding world?”

“No sir.” Harry said, idly thinking about Malfoy. Guess Snape did want to speak about it more.

“A rather unsettling statistic, it averaged about 1 in 20. Granted, that is all forms of abuse no matter how serious.” Snape folded his fingers under his chin. “Ever since the war, the statistic becomes interesting. Overall, the amount stays the same but the distribution shifted. Would you like to take a guess at which House has the most abused children?”

“Not really.” Harry shrugged. He was still feeling slightly green at the idea of that many kids being abused. He didn’t really know how many were in the Muggle world, but he was certain it wasn’t that high.

“Slytherin has a disproportionate amount of abused children. It makes sense in a way. The survival skills learned as a child who is abused translate well into cunning and ambition. You learn to sneak, lie and twist to try and avoid punishment. To learn to change and adapt to an unstable power. Unfortunately in the last few years nearly 1 in 5 of my Slytherins has suffered in some way.” Snape snarled at some unknown enemy.

“Do you know why I am telling you this?” Harry jumped at the questions, instantly guilty that he didn’t.

“No sir.”

“I am telling you because, as your friends the Weasley twins would say, I have an excellent beak for recognizing abuse. It inspired me to create a potion. That potion to be correct.” He nodded to the empty vial. Harry suddenly felt a wash of dread fall over him, he was not ready for where this conversation would be heading.  “Interesting little thing. Used to determine injury in those who could not tell the healers what was wrong. It creates colored light on the body that indicates the injury. I played with the recipe a bit though. What property is influence with the addition of pixie wings?”

“Memory?” Harry mumbled, trying to think of all the mini lessons he had been getting with Snape.

“Very good. Yes, with the addition of pixie wings I changed the potion to indicate past injuries, not current ones. What about borage petals?

“Umm. Rudeness?” Neville had been really into flower languages. It had been an entire unit in herbology.

“Dead leaves?”

“Sadness.”

Orange Lily?”

“Hatred.” Harry was starting to feel good, finally being able get some of Snape’s answers right.

“And if I was to powder then with a few venomous nettles?” Snape purred.

“I don’t know.”

“I would get a potion that would light up any injuries that were made with malicious intent. Best application, forcing kids who don’t want to admit abuse by making them acknowledge the injuries to their bodies. Best given preemptively, so that the person is distracted long enough that the potion will start working.” To make a point he closed the pocket watch Harry hadn’t noticed sitting open on the desk.

He started to glow. He felt ill as he stared at his hands which were turning a lurid orange. Nine of his fingers turned red. He scanned up his arms where his body was blotched with color. Three red spots littered his fore arms, a few green lines which Harry knew were times that he had been cut by an angry Vernon. His chair clattered to the floor as he rushed to stand in front of the mirror.

“Each color is different. Red for broken bones. Orange is for severe bruising. Yellow for sprains. Purple for burns. Blue for concussions. Pink for poison. Green for cuts or slices in the skin with a weapon. The shades change to indicate severity and amount of malicious intent.”

He couldn’t breathe. Was this him? He looked like a bloody Christmas tree. He was covered in lights. Red, orange, green, purple splattered across his chest that shown through his shirt. He tried to take a breath but it felt like someone had his throat in a grip. He gagged when he saw orange marks across this throat that mirrored the action that had made him feel as breathless as he felt now.

“If you are going to throw up, please use the bucket.”

Harry turned to the man, who was pointing to a silver bucket that sat at the foot of the chair. Snape’s long face looked sad as his dark eyes scanned over the colors. Harry gave a little whine as he tried harder to breathe. Suddenly strong long fingers clasped the back of his neck, leading him forward. Without him realizing it Snape had swept from his chair and was leading Harry back to his. With insistent pushes Harry was led back to his seat and encouraged to place his head between his knees.

“Deep breaths Potter. Hold it for three seconds each time. Do not try to speak until you think you can breathe properly.” Harry tried to do as he was told, sucking in deep shuddering breaths that seemed to barely fill his lungs. Each outward breath shuddered as if he were on the verge of tears. He might have been, if he ever cried. But that had been trained out of him a long time ago.

“Mr. Potter. I believe that I should apologize to you.” Harry craned his head up from the floors. Snape was back at his desk, fingers linked with his hands folded on the desk.

“Under normal circumstances I would have caught this much earlier. Had you been any other person that I would have done something before the end of first year. My own natural bias prevented me from seeing the obvious.” Harry gave a confused grunt.

“There is a large amount of children who are abused in Slytherin. Inversely, in Gryffindor there is virtually no children who are effected by abuse. Over the last few decades there have been barely a handful of serious abuse cases. In my time here I have only had two cases and I have been here for over a decade. I know that Minerva has not been able to identify any, though she is rarely looking so that is understandable.

“Due to the fact that it is incredibly rare and the fact that Gryffindor is the house I have least contact with I tend not to look too hard at the children there. Not to mention that your head of house takes a large offense to me looking into any of her students.” Snape sneered.

“Worse yet was that it is you. My own personal bias led me to be blind on any indicators. I would translate what were normally indicators of abuse and turn them into traits of someone who was spoiled. The reaction of your peers and teachers did not encourage me to change my ways. In fact, I do think that McGonagall staunch testimony that you are ‘just like all of the other Gryffindors’ hindered you more than helped.”

“At least I did something right.” Harry chuckled darkly. With a heaving sigh he sat up tall. He tried to resist the urge to run. Snape was watching him with vague interest. The fact that the man was so unemotional was more of a comfort than anything else. Harry shuddered at the idea of the reactions of either his peers or his other professors. The crying, the questions, the pity would all be hell. Snape didn’t even ask him any questions. He took the information and just went with it. He didn’t ask why Harry didn’t tell anyone. He didn’t ask what had happened or beg that Harry admit anything. Harry watched as a small quill started scratching away on a piece of parchment. Harry would bet a large amount of galleons that it was creating a list of everything that lit up.

“Yes Mr. Potter. You have done a wonderful job in acting just like all the other useless, mindless children that shuffle through life.” Snape acknowledged with a sardonic smile.

“What now?” Harry asked. He felt very still, far more calm than he should be in this situation. Perhaps it was stress or shock.

“Now? Well now I will look over your injuries.” A nod to the parchment. “I will see if there is any permanent damage and what can be fixed if it improperly healed. I will then start providing potions that you will be required to take. After, a plan will be drawn up to determine what type of therapy would be best and whether it could be provided here.” Snape shuffled a few papers on his desk.

“You aren’t going to tell anyone?” Harry asked, wrinkling his nose in confusion. It was better than it could have been.

“It would be useless to tell anyone.” Snape practically growled at the statement. “The wizarding world is a very broken place. They have not moved on from the fourteenth century. In terms of abuse there are many held beliefs. It is something Alex dubbed “inferi lies”. Lies that have been killed by fact yet still move and live.

“ ’If a child is abused their magic will save them’ is a commonly held belief. Therefor a child will come forward and claim abuse but the fact that they were injured is enough for people to believe that there was no true abuse. It must have been an accident or not that bad. Lawyers have been using that defense for people for centuries now.

“Plus there is the beliefs about how people treat their children. They believe that Purebloods worship their children. How could they be abused when they have so many toys and so much money? Obviously their life is great and nothing is ever wrong. In the meantime, Lords and Ladies take out their frustration and maliciousness on the few people that they have complete control over. Then, if any of them end up in court there is enough money padding the pockets of Wizengamont that it doesn’t matter. Thus, children like Mr. Malfoy will end up suffering for their entire lives without any chance for help.

“Muggleborn’s are no better off. Since they are wizards there is no way that they’re accusations will be heard in muggle court. In addition to the other beliefs, wizards cannot believe that any muggle will not love to find out that there is magic in their family.” Snape sneered heavily. “It does not cross their minds that it would cause a bad reaction to have a child be different in a world where fear is expressed with anger. I have found that a lot more good can be done in house. So, unless you desire for your head of house to be informed along with the aurors we will be pretending that this conversation never happened.” Snape pierced him with his gaze.

“Yes sir. I think that would be best.” Harry mumbled. He looked down at his hands. The light was beginning to fade. Harry gave another shuddering sigh. His hands shook slightly, which he watched with interest. He didn’t feel like he wasn’t really there, it wasn’t his hand that was shivering and it wasn’t him who had every beating on display.

“The shock will wear off Mr. Potter. I’m sure that it will all catch up with you in a little while.” Snape said, waving his hand in a dismissal. Harry nodded and got up to leave. In a grey fog he wandered the dungeons until he ended up in an old empty classroom.

Snape was right. It took a full half hour for everything to catch up with Harry. When it did it was like he had run into a brick wall the way his breath was knocked out of him. It exploded out of him, taking the form of anger. He screamed. He threw things. He toppled desks and shattered chairs. He raged until he was too tired to move. Numb he took a moment to transfigure himself a pillow before falling asleep in the wreckage.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Nothing seemed to change. Snape was true to his word and didn’t tell anyone what he saw. Harry felt tetchy for days. Hanging on the edge between angry, depressed and relieved. Despite all of that he didn’t tell Hermione what had happened. She wouldn’t understand like Snape did. She would be determined to tell someone, to go to the police and demand punishment.

When potions appeared next to his plate the next morning he shrugged off her questions saying that he had been talking to Snape about general health. Nutrition potions, just like daily vitamins. She was currently too busy researching about house elves to look into it. Apparently she had taken his suggestion of talking to someone at the ministry that would have more political clout. The woman had written back a list of questions and suggestions of what to research.

Harry felt like everything had changed but nothing had at the same time. People looked at him but the eyes felt different even though they weren’t. Now that Snape had seen the truth, surely everyone else could. So Harry settled down and tried to act normal. He chuckled at the idea of normal, looking at the scratches on his hands from his moment of rage.

Maybe therapy will be a good thing.

Chapter Text

It was quiet and peaceful in the Gryffindor fourth year’s boy bathroom. Inversely the girl’s bathroom was a riotous mess of makeup, hair products, cloth and yelling. That’s why Hermione was quite happy to be getting ready in the boys bathroom. That morning Hermione had been complaining about the mess that started in her dorm from the moment someone’s alarm went off at 8:00 am. She had no idea why someone would need nearly nine hours to get ready for a ball. Even she was getting dressed up and doing special products in her hair, but she wasn’t going to need more than four hours.

“Why don’t you use our bathroom?” Harry asked, looking up from his book ‘Great Potioneers and the Horrible Ways They Died’. “All they guys are out having a game of football to pass the time until the ball so it is empty up there.”

With a bounce in her step Hermione went on her way to get ready. She decided to take some extra time to take a bath instead of a shower. After she was washed, patted down and lotioned up she went to work trying to tame her hair.

“Dammit!” She cursed, struggling to part her hair to apply the potions.

“Hermione? You okay in there?” Harry asked, rapping on the door with his knuckles. He had been on his bed the last fifteen minutes worrying over the stream of curses that were coming steadily from the bathroom.

“I can’t get this potion in my hair!” Hermione nearly screamed.

“Are you dressed? Because I can come in and try to help you out.” Harry offered.

Which is how Harry ended up spending his morning playing junior hair dresser. He helped apply the potion, drying it with his wand wishing that he could use a muggle hair dryer. He followed Hermione’s direction as he twisted the now-straight strands into a complicated partial up-do that he had to restart four times. It was fun, laughing and joking with Hermione as he played with her hair. He bemoaned with her beauty standards and makeup, silently happy that he never had to deal with anything like that.

“My fingers are cramped.” He moaned, flexing them as he looked at his completed work. Admittedly it looked very nice. Still it was strange to see Hermione dolled up. Hermione had found a nice balance between too little and too much for makeup, citing that her mother loved playing dress up and had wanted to go into cosmetology before becoming a dentist

“So you can hold onto a broom in the freezing cold for two hours and your hands are fine but forty minutes in my hair is too much?” Hermione chuckled, looking at him from the mirror.

“My broom doesn’t fight me as much as your hair did!” A makeup pad flew across the room and struck him lightly in the face, leaving a splotch of makeup on his cheek. “No fair!”

“Why no fair?” Hermione smirked.

“Because if I throw something at you it will ruin everything and you might kill me. And I probably wouldn’t get any sympathy from anybody.” He pouted, crossing his arms and staring at the defenseless pad.

“Damn right.”

Two hours later and it was nearly time for the ball. Harry felt his heart sink at each passing minute pulling him closer to the edge of doom. When he told Hermione as such she just said he was being over dramatic.

“Why don’t you just skip it then?” Hermione asked from between the pages of a book that probably weighed as much as she did.

“I can’t,” The pout came out again. “As a champion I have to attend every official event of the tournament. Not participate but at least show up. Apparently some dipshit headmaster wrote the Yule ball in as an official event. Something about the games being more than a festival of mayhem and violence for the lesser intelligent to feast upon. Either way, I have to show up for some of it.”

“Well that sucks.” Hermione said in a flat tone.

“Thanks for your sympathy.” He groused. Still there was a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

“Oh I’m sure it will all be fine. Have dinner, chat with people, listen to the music and leave the moment that you can. You are being forced to go to a ball, not being strung up in the dungeon for torture.”

“Ugh.”

“Well you can sit here and bemoan your fate. I’m going to put on my dress and look for Krum. I’ll see you in a bit.” She was off, leaving Harry alone in the empty common room to mutter and curse to himself.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Turns out an hour of two of angry mutters, mean insults that no one will hear and a healthy dose of complaining about the injustice of the world is good for the soul. Harry found this out as he made his way down to the Great Hall feeling much better after his private rant session.

“Mr. Potter!” McGonagall barked. She was standing in front of the large doors with the other Champions. The rest of the student had already been ushered inside, the students too young we lead back to their dorms.

“Good evening professor.” There was a slight hop in his step as he reached the bottom of the stairs. He took a moment to look at the other champions. Hermione looked stunning next to Krum, though he wasn’t surprised since he had seen her outfit before. Fleur looked magical like she always did but her date ruined the effect by drooling with a star-struck look on his face. Cedric and Cho looked beautiful as well, though the effect may have been better if they weren’t standing next to a veela and a celebrity.

“Where is your date, Mr. Potter?”

“I don’t have one.”

“I told you that you must.” McGonagall scowled, looking nowhere near as frightening as Snape did.

“And I decided that I did not want to ask anybody.” Harry tried to explain in a calm voice, crossing his arms resolutely.

“This is a matter of honor Mr. Potter. I will not allow you to disrespect this institution. You will remain here while I find someone to dance the first dance with you.”

Harry was just about to throw a tantrum when he saw a little glimmer. Over in the corner with her large camera and lurid green quill was Rita Skeeter. Harry could just about make out her wicked smirk past her poised pen. In an instant the balloon of rage that filled him deflated into something manageable. He opened his mouth to speak before a voice saved.

“Deputy Headmistress, is there a problem?” Snape strode over. He was decked out in his normal black. On closer inspection the robes were lightly embroidered with a delicate silver design. They were some type of flowers. Harry thought they looked like lilies but he could not be certain.

“Mr. Potter is refusing to participate in the dance. If he does not it would be shameful to the school.” McGonagall huffed.

“I must disagree with you Minerva. It seems to me a blessing that Potter does not wish to stomp his way across the dance floor. I hardly think that Potter not participating in the dance would be any worse than the embarrassment that we will all feel as he attempt to be graceful and fails miserably.” Snape sneered. Harry wanted to glare at him for the insult, but that would be counterproductive because the man was taking his side.

“Mr. Potter is plenty graceful.” McGonagall held herself high as she attempted to defend her student against the insult.

“Perhaps in the air he might have a modicum of talent. On the ground he is worse than a baby centaur trying to run across a frozen lake. I would also remind you that it may look bad forcing a minor to participate in a public performance against their will without the permission of a legal guardian.” He swept away, snapping his robes around himself. McGonagall stood with a look that said that she had just sucked in the wrong end of a stink wart toad. She took a moment to glance at Harry, who in turn stared her down.

“Very well. It seems you have won this time Mr. Potter.” Harry tried no to look too pleased, nodding in acknowledgement to the thumbs up Hermione had given him.

With a booming voice Dumbledore announced the entry of the Champions and Harry and the other pairs were herded into the winter wonderland that was the great hall. They stood and allowed the applause before they ended up at the Head table. Harry unfortunately ended up seated between Ludo and, oddly enough, Percy Weasley.  He was later informed after ordering his dinner of steak and asparagus that Crouch could not come for some vague unanswered reason and Percy was taking his place.

Dinner was a horrifyingly boring affair. Percy seemed dead set on bringing people into his conversation about the standardization of ink used in official documents. Just as Harry thought that he had managed to escape possibly the most boring thing that he had heard Percy had moved on to the topic of the regulation of animal feed for magical silk worms. Despite the ear bleeding drone of the boring Weasley’s ministry work, it was infinitely better than attempting to listen to Ludo. Apparently the man had the unerring ability to remember every match of every game he had ever gone to. And he seemed dead set on describing each one in detail.  Incidentally the game he started with was Hoolap. The magical equivalent to cricket with games lasting weeks at a time. Apparently one of the main goals of the game was to stare at the other team and mentally try to will them into giving up the match.

Hermione sat a few seats down from him, looking quite happy. She was steadfast at ignoring the glares sent to her by the female population eating dinner below. Instead she was pointing at thing and trying to pronounce the German word that Krum told her it was. Apparently the quidditch star was a polyglot and Hermione was determined to learn a language that wasn’t a Latin based romance language. So Harry sat between his two annoyances and silently worked through his dinner. He listened to the drone of conversation around him as he worked through his pudding without a word. Finally, the plates were cleared away and the Headmaster announced it was time for the champions dance.

Harry was so happy that he did not have to dance. Despite all the insistence that the other schools were well bred and refined, the pairs on the dance floor looked just like teens pretending to be adults. The only person who looked truly graceful was Fleur. Given her heritage she could have done the Macarena on the dance floor and still look graceful. I wasn’t long before the crowd got twitchy with boredom so the Headmaster led Professor McGoangall onto the floor as an open invitation for everyone else to join in. Even Snape was out on the floor, though by the way he was glaring at Dumbledore it wasn’t really his choice to be there.

The snack table became Harrys spot. He kept a watchful eye on the clock as he munched his way through a few eclairs. The dancing portion of the night was supposed to last three hours, so at one hour and thirty one minutes Harry was going to bolt out those doors like his arse was on fire. For the time being he stood by his post, only moving when he needed to. Incidentally he only needed to when the lurid green of Rita Skeeter got close. As much as he loathed her she was still allowed at all tournament events. So whenever she got within ten yards of him he bolted, playing a game of cat and mouse that made him feel ridiculous.

Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one. With a jaunty wave to the reporter he slipped out of the ballroom and into the safety of the corridor. He decided to take a wander, not quite ready to head back to the common room. He walked up to a frosted over window, wiping the glass to watch the snow falling out side.

“Beautiful night, isn’t it?” A fluty voice made him start. A young blonde girl with large eyes was standing next to him, looking out the window. “Finnel Fairies just absolutely love full moons.”

“Um. Yeah.” Harry said, not quite sure how to answer that. He had never heard of Finnel fairies before, but he was also ready to admit there was a lot he didn’t know.

“You are Harry Potter.” The girl swung her gaze to pierce him. It didn’t sound like a question.

“Uh, yes I am. Not to meet you. . .  I didn’t get your name.”

“My name is Luna Lovegood.” She said in her breathy light tone. “If you are looking for something I would recommend the North courtyard.”

“What would I be looking for?”

“Peace.”

“And I will find it in the North courtyard?” Harry questioned. He kind of felt like he wasn’t having the same conversation as she was.

“Perhaps. Though it is quiet there and the roses are the favorite of the Finnel fairies.” She looked up at the moon. “Any friendships made in the snow under the full moon will certainly be blessed.” With that she left Harry at his window by himself. He took a minute to review the conversation in his head. With a shrug he headed off to the North courtyard. In a way the Luna girl was right. The north courtyard was out of the way and smaller than the other ones. Less likely to have couples making out in the bushes.

The cold air that hit him was refreshing. Wandering along the path Harry took in the glittering scene as snow coated the trees. A row a bright red roses stood out along the pathway that were under warming protection charms that kept them perpetually blooming. The sharp air ruffled through his hair, making him sigh with pleasure.

“Hello Potter.”

Chapter Text

“Malfoy.”

Harry couldn’t help but stare at the other boy. The Slytherin had only given him a cursory glance before returning to the position Harry had first seen him in. He was sitting on a wrought iron bench like a marble statue; delicate and unmoving. His hands were clasped between his slightly spread knees, elbows resting slightly on his thighs. His nose and chin pointed skyward as he watched the night sky. Harry looked up himself.

The stretching sky was a dark blue, just half a shade off of pure black. The stars twinkled in exaggeration when compared to the utter stillness that was the night around them. A sense of calm seeped into his rapidly beating heart. Watching the stars was mesmerizing in a way he had never experienced. Even in the suburban neighborhood that housed Private Drive the light pollution destroyed any attempt to gaze at the stars properly. Hogwarts was the only place for miles and the only lights were candles which were rare on outer areas such as this one. He breathed deep, letting the biting air bring him back to awareness. He looked back to Malfoy, who was still motionless on the bench.

“Um.” Harry started, not sure what he was going to say but feeling the overwhelming need to say something.

“He told me you saw.” Malfoy interrupted, steadfast not looking at the Gryffindor.

“What?”

“Snape told me what you saw.” Malfoy finally turned to Harry. His face was expressionless, pale in the surrounding darkness.

“Oh. . . He did?”

“Of course he did Potter.” Malfoy scoffed, making an annoyed huff as he lifted himself off of the bench. “You saw physical proof of one of my biggest secrets. Despite everything that has happened, you are a Gryffindor. There was no telling if you would get it in your head to play hero. He needed to warn me in case you did something stupid.” Malfoy turned and began strolling down the pathway. His pace was leisurely and controlled in a way that made Harry’s skin prickle. Harry took a few large steps, catching up until he was a half a pace behind the other boy.

“I won’t tell anyone.” Harry stuffed his hands in his pockets, watching Malfoy in front of him.

“Yes, you have made that clear.” Malfoy waved his hand in a dismissive fashion. “Truly that is not my biggest concern with you knowing.”

“I don’t pity you.” Malfoy threw him an unimpressed look over his shoulder.

“Everyone pities me. Poor little Malfoy boy. I guess even rich people have problems too.” He mimicked a condescending tone. Harry wasn’t sure what he should say to that. He truly didn’t pity Malfoy. Pity involved think that the other thing was weak and in need of protection. He knew Malfoy wasn’t weak. If Malfoy was weak then he was weak.

“I could recognize the difference between belt marks and whip marks.” Harry stated, shrugging his shoulders. Malfoy turned and stopped. For a heart stopping moment Harry was pierced by his gaze. The cool grey eyes examined him, looking past his flesh and bones to examine his very essence. Suddenly the mood was broken and Malfoy pulled back.

“So you can.” Malfoy said, as if he had just figured out the answer to a question that was never asked. Harry was following him again. “You are having an interesting year, Potter.”

“Unwillingly.” He huffed.

“Yes you have made that clear. . . Are you still fighting with the Weasel?” Curiosity covered his tone.

“Yeah.” Harry hummed. “I figured it was his turn to finally admit that he has done something wrong.”

“I doubt that will happen in this life time.” Malfoy sneered.

“I was hopeful in the beginning. Now I am beginning to agree with you.” He shrugged. “I see no reason to fight for something that is not beneficial to me. He knows my terms. For now, I wash my hands him.”

“That’s not very Gryffindor thinking. That would be more suited in the snake pit.” Malfoy smirked.

“Perhaps. But I have never been the perfect Gryffindor. I would be dead by now if I was.”

“Obviously not. Uncle Sev would never tolerate your presence if you were a complete Gryffindor.” Here they fell into a silence. Harry watched as Malfoy leant to pick a rose, twirling it in his fingers. It was a habit the other boy usually acted out with his wand.

“Why are you being so reasonable this year?” The Gryffindor asked.

“I’m being reasonable? Now that is a first.” Malfoy chuckled.

“You aren’t picking fights like you normally do. You haven’t been wearing those stupid badges. And you haven’t been any of the people talking to Skeeter.” Harry shrugged.

“How do you know I haven’t been talking to Skeeter? All of those interviews have been anonymous.”

“Please, give me some credit. Your speech pattern is kind of distinctive. I’ve been insulted by you enough to recognize when it is you and when it’s not, even in writing.” Draco nodded in acceptance, not offering an apology for the old insults.

“It would be boring,” The pale boy dragged his fingers lightly on the stone arch as they passed it. “You would probably agree with anything I said. I would claim that you were not the really champion and you would approve. I would say that you are half the wizard that Diggory is, which since you are only partway through your fourth year and raised by muggles it would be almost literal in a numerical sense. What fun is a game if the other player doesn’t participate? Though that is not the biggest reason.” He didn’t say anything for a full minute after the statement. They were still walking but had just left the courtyard and were along one of the paths that circled the school.

“I am so tired Potter.” That was not the answer Harry was expecting. “Tired of pretending. Of having to pantomime being normal. All on command for the audience of my peers. Happy. Sad. Frustrated. Disdain.” Harry watched the familiar expressions that followed each flash across the Slytherin’s face. Normally they would look normal. Under the moon light with each revelation those miens looked incredibly fake. A mockery.

“Surely you can understand that Potter. The amount of energy it takes to be someone different than who you are. Even worse when you are in a place like this where there is never any time that you are truly alone. No time to rest. Getting so stretched thin that you feel like you can tear at any moment.” Harry grunted his affirmation. “This tournament is a godsend for me. So many people to lose yourself in a crowd. So many people who are more important, need more scrutiny. Now I only have to deal with my father, not the rest of my house as well.”

“Your house? I thought that Slytherins all protected each other. You guys stick together more than most other houses.” The Gryffindor commented.

“To a degree. Something has changed though. Can’t you feel it?” Draco breathed in deep like he was trying to smell something in the air. Harry did the same.

“I can feel the difference but I just assumed it had to do with the tournament.” Harry identified the slightly sick feeling in the base of his stomach. It had been a constant since he had come to Hogwarts when he was eleven. He has always been in danger every time he had come to school so he had long since learned to ignore it.

“I thought so too. Something else is happening though. My father is twitchier than usual. He has made comments. He has been talking a lot about the last war. About purity and honor and sacrifice. ” Malfoy shuddered. “Something is coming Potter. It has my whole house on edge. Some people know more than others. Everyone is tip toeing around each other, trying to figure out who knows what and who needs to be avoided. I would be worried Potter.”

“I am always worried Malfoy.” A chuckled bubbled up. “Why do you think I snapped? I have enough people looking for my head without running out to fight dragons and participate in tournaments that will kill me. Even if no one was looking for me to be dead I think I have gone through enough of my life to justify my being bitter.” Malfoy ‘cheered’ him with the rose. Harry felt the warmth of comradery envelope him. “I am tired. But I think I am far angrier than I am tired. The moment that I can get everyone to just . . . get it. I think I’ll be done. For now I think I will just keep doing what I am doing. Saving my own ass and maybe protecting those who I call my friends along the way.”

Harry took a moment to consider what Malfoy had said. It was a bad sign if people were talking about the war. Dumbledore had said that he was sure that Voldemort was not completely dead. Harry was sure of that thanks to first and second year adventures. Would this be the tipping point? The year that Voldemort went from a half crazed ghost to a mad corporal monster? A cold washed over him as he remembered the ominous prophecy spoken to him last year. Harry had never really been one to put stock in telling the future but now with all the vague confirmation adding up he was beginning to get worried.

“Do you think it would have been different if I had accepted your friend ship first year?” Harry asked without really thinking, just letting the thought slip out of his mouth.

“Probably a little.” Malfoy hummed in consideration. He was plucking off the petals idly. “I doubt it would be much. My father would still be the way he is. Your, well, yours would be the same. People would still want you dead or want you to be the Saint Potter we all love and hate. People would still expect me to be the perfect Malfoy child. Our positions in life were decided much earlier than first year. There was never any chance.”

“They say the future isn’t set in stone.” Harry tried to take a hopeful tone.

“No Potter. The future is most definitely set in stone. You can still change things that are carved into stone. It just takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. Magic and human nature carves it deep as you and those who see fit to change what it says dig, scrape and pound desperately to try and alter what is written. Sometimes it will take so much effort and time to erase it that the future will come to pass before you can change most of it, or even change any of it. Some will give up, many will die still trying.”

“That’s depressing.”

“Hah. Yeah. What else did you expect?” Malfoy quirked his eyebrow. “People who say otherwise are just trying to manipulate you. Give you the illusion of freedom before making you do exactly as they wish. That is our slot in life.”

“Well I have decided to fight it.” 

“Well let me know how that goes. Snape will be happy about that.” Malfoy dropped the naked stem in the snow. The snow around it turned a light pink as blood melted and seeped into it. The thorns were stained from where Malfoy had tightly griped the stem in his frustration. “He has been trying to convince me to do the same.”

“Why don’t you?”

“I do. Just not to the extent that you do. I don’t have the mobility that you do. I will get what I want. My enemies won’t realize until it is all over.” Malfoy smirked. Harry was watching him with a deep curiosity. The other boy was being far more chatty and candid than Harry had ever seen him be. In fact, most of their conversation tonight had been pretty one sided. Draco giving and Harry taking. It felt like Draco was bidding on something and Harry was determining whether to sell. What Malfoy was looking to buy and what Harry was looking to sell, he wasn’t quite sure. What did he have that Malfoy wanted? And on the reverse, what did he want from Malfoy? The best answer Harry could come up with was to try and see how much Malfoy was willing to give and see what Harry had that cost that much.

“. . . Do you believe in all of that Pureblood nonsense?” Harry asked on a whim. The question made Malfoy pause for a moment in his steps.

“Sometimes it is hard not to. It’s a doctrine that has been literally beaten into me from childhood. Purebloods take a majority of the top positions in school and in society. Plus, it is nice knowing that you are better than someone else . . .”

“But?”

“But one only has to look as far as your friend Granger to see how much that is centaur shite. As much as I hate when she does well,” Harry doesn’t blame him one bit for that. “She is at the top of the class. Magic comes naturally to her. Then you look at Longbottom, Crabbe and Goyle and realize that inbreeding does effect wizards as well as muggles.” Harry tried to ignore the slur against Neville.

“So?” Harry pushes for a more distinct answer.

“I suppose it depends on the day, but most of the time I will admit that it is a load of tripe.” He led them back into the courtyard where they had started. Harry could hear the bells chiming indicating the late hour. “With each whipping I find myself ability to swallow the shite lessening. . . Does that satisfy you?” Malfoy sneered.

“It is enough.” There was a clamor as a group of younger students from the ball passed by to make their way back from the ball. “I would like to propose a truce . . . and a potential friendship.”

“Potential friendship?”

“Sure. We have quite a bit in common you must admit.”

“It is all horrible things that we have in common.”

“There is very little about me that isn’t horrible in some way. Let’s just say my bar is set really low. Plus, if you are looking for a way to rebel it might be good to make friends outside. If you are right about something bad coming this way then you might want a Gryffindor on your side.”

“And the truce. I’m assuming you want that to envelope your friends as well.”

“Well probably Hermione. I think she would agree to call a truce. Especially if she got the chance to pick your brain about Pureblood culture. Maybe you could keep on not laying into Neville. After that, I really don’t care.” Malfoy gave a little smile of amusement.

“I suppose a truce will be fine then. A potential friendship may not come to nothing. However, you must realize that I am not one of your Gryffindor friends. You won’t be able to change me into that.”

“Good,” Harry stuck out his hand to shake on it. “Considering that I am not very happy with my Gryffindor friends at the moment the last thing I need is for someone to come around and try to act like them.”

“Good night Potter.” Malfoy said dismissively, strutting back in the direction of his common room.

“Good night Malfoy . . . If you want, Hermione and I spend most days in the back corner of the library. A study friend never goes amiss.” The blond haired Slytherin waved in acknowledgement before turning the corner and disappearing from Harry’s sight.

How his life was changing. Potential friends with Malfoy, who would have guessed that? One less enemy and one more friend. Someone who understands, to some degree, what Harry has gone through in his life. It was refreshing, their talk. There was less verbal sparring than there normally was when the two spoke but Harry figured that would change in a different setting.

“Friendships made under a full moon are blessed, huh?” Harry commented to himself as he looked up at the sky. Back to where this whole thing had begun. “Well let’s hope that it is true.”

Chapter Text

It was only a couple of days since the ball and Harry was quite happy that many of the students had left to go spend the last week of their break at home. Harry was admittedly jealous of those who did have homes to go to, but he would rather spend the week in the shrieking shack without a blanket than have to spend another Christmas with the Dursley’s. Have to watch them eat the dinner he made and see Dudley throw tantrum after tantrum because his hundred gifts weren’t absolutely perfect.

Unfortunately the solitude didn’t only bring peace, but worry as well. He had gotten a missive from Snape that demanded, though technically requested, his presence in the dungeons that morning. Harry wasn’t hopeful that the meeting would be for ingredients collection. The tight knot in his stomach told him that he was probably going to be confronted about the injuries that Snape saw.

His hands had been shaking for over an hour now. He didn’t know why they were. He didn’t shiver like this when he was staring down Voldemort from the back of someone’s head. His hands were as steady as a rock standing in front of a dragon. Why was it that a meeting with Snape suddenly had him acting like he was trapped in ice? Idly he wondered if he would be able to knock on the door in this state.

It ended up not mattering as the door swung open to the ever familiar office.

“Good morning Harry!” Alex called out in an excited voice. Harry didn’t answer him as he was a little too shocked to speak.  Mr. Dawsen was sitting of Professor Snape’s lap, mid-way through poking him on the nose. He had frozen, pointer finger pressing firmly on the tip so that it was a little bent. Snape, on the other hand, had his wand pressed under Alex’s chin in an incredibly threatening manner. From the thunderous expression on his face it was clear that this was not the first nose boop to happen that morning but he fully intended it to be the last.

“Um . . .  Good morning. I have a meeting with professor Snape?” Harry managed to force out the words. The scene before him was domestic in an entirely nondomestic way. It was the kind of thing that a person would never expect from someone like professor Snape, but at the same time seemed to fit him completely right.

“Ah. That must be the reason that he is so grumpy this morning.”

“The reason I am grumpy may be due to the fact that you decided to transfigure my blanket into a live fish when attempting to wake me up.” Snape sneered. There was a silent truce called as Mr. Dawsen released the pressure on his nose and the ebony wand was lowered to the desk. Harry couldn’t help but notice that it was still gripped tightly and held in a position that still meant the potions master was on guard for another attack.

“Yes, well . . . When you finally understand how difficult it is for me to get you out of bed then you will understand why I continue to transfigure the bedding into various live animals. Or would you prefer that I return to my old method?” Alex purred, slipping of the professor’s lap to sit in one of the arm chairs that was sitting next to the fire. Instead of answering Snape glowered, shuffling the papers on his desk. Harry took the other armchair that Alex had motioned him to. He desperately wanted to know what the other way is but also dreaded hearing what it may be.

“Don’t worry about that sour puss. He had to get up early to work on a potion. Normally it is not this bad but he had spent the last two days of what is supposed to be a holiday,” He said pointedly to the man who was ignoring him. “Staying up all night working on various potions for the hospital wing. A sleep deprived Severus is even more difficult to deal with than his normal dour self.” He said with a little laugh. He took a moment to search through his pockets. He pulled out a golden pocket watch, flipping it open.

“Severus dear,” His tone a little mocking at the pet name. “You have less than five minutes until the next step in your potion. Might want to go check it.” Snape stood with a grumble and swept out of the room. He did take a moment to pause at the door, his eyes filled with suspicion. Alex just quirked an eyebrow and shooed him out the door.

“Well he should be gone for at least fifteen minutes.” Alex sighed, sinking back in his chair. He crossed his fingers together before resting them on his chest as he slumped.

“Why did you want him gone?” Harry asked, leaning back in his chair.

“So that we could talk without him here.” Alex smiled lightly. “He knows that I do this. Before he has one of these meetings I always try to help a little when I can.”

“He told you?” Harry started, feeling a little betrayed.

“Nope.” Alex popped the ‘p’ in a dismissive way. “Figured it out for myself. He always acts this way when he finds out that one of his snakes is getting hurt. He brews the same regiment of potions, though it does vary slightly depending on each person. He starts making lists and pulling out the business cards of his contacts at hospitals. For the three days before the first time he doesn’t sleep. I knew that something like this would be happening today. I was a bit surprised it was you.”

“Oh.” Harry wasn’t sure what to say to that. He was happy that Snape had kept his word about telling anyone.

“Don’t worry. I am not here to talk about what you will be talking about with my husband. Instead I want to talk about my husband himself.” He snapped his fingers and a tea tray appeared on the little table between them. “You see, I know that you are nervous. Everyone is before something like this, no matter how prepared or how willing to talk. I feel that it is best that you have some comfort in knowing a bit about Severus before you start revealing your darkest secrets to him.”

“What do you mean, know about him?”

“Well first off, Severus is a nearly impossible man to deal with. He tend to be a bit acerbic at the best of times. To those he truly doesn’t like he can be immeasurably cruel. He despises those with little intelligence and petty beliefs. He is far too good at finding the weak points of a person and could cut anyone down with barely a seconds notice. . . Despite all that he has the purest heart of anyone that I know.

“You see, Harry, Severus has had a difficult life by even the harshest standards. He grew up in a house hold bereft of love and affection. A drunkard for a father with a hatred of magic. A meek mother who loved her husband far too much to care about the damage he did to her and her son. His only friend to speak of in childhood was your mother. They didn’t meet until he was eight, so he spent so many years alone and hated.

“He showed up at school and finally there was a chance. A chance to make friends, to shine academically. Then he was sorted into Slytherin and automatically disliked by 75 percent of his peers. As a half-blood he was hated by a good portion of his own house. He was a genius at potions and gifted in nearly every other subject. Suddenly the few who did not hate him for his blood or his house hated him for his gifts. Still, he soldiered on. Up until his one friend left him.

“He made some bad decisions Harry.” Alex said, his face serious but distant. Harry was enthralled. “In a desperate attempt to find some connection with anyone. To get a single person to acknowledge his skills and worth he fell into a bad crowd. At the beginning of the war he ended up on the wrong side.”

Harry tried to wrap his head around that. The wrong side meant Voldemort. Had Snape really been supportive of him? The thought made him shudder.

“It didn’t take him long to figure out that he didn’t want what that man was offering. Acceptance at the cost of others was not something Sev could stomach. Despite all of that his good heart shown through and instead of running away he became a spy. One of the best spies that the light side had. Every day for years he put his life, body, and mind on the line for those who had shunned him and hated him. Even at the end when his actions were presented to the world people still jeered.” Alex took a breath, sipping from his tea.

“He is a bitter man, Harry. Understandably so, but despite knowing everything you will hold against him sometimes. Even I do.” His tone was sad as he explained this. “Still despite all the bitterness and anger he is wonderful. Do you ever wonder why he took this job? He obviously hates it. He can’t stand people who don’t try and who can’t think and yet he stays at this school teaching dunderheads for years.”

“I don’t know.” Harry said quietly, truly thinking about it for the first time.

“Because he remembers his time here. He knows, better than anyone, how much no one caring and no one seeing can effect a person. He knows of abuse, especially in the Slytherin house where there is already so little support. As long as he can help those children who need him he will continue to do the job that he hates until it kills him.”

Harry felt an overwhelming ache for the man who he had disliked so much. Despite being alone for most of his childhood, coming to Hogwarts had been a safe haven for Harry. He had developed friends and knew that he had professors he could go to. His few abilities were praised, despite the only thing he is naturally good at is flying. It is impossible to imagine how alone Snape had been, even while he was here. He had nearly the whole world against him, not support or love. Harry had the slight comfort of knowing that his parents would have loved him if they were alive but Snape didn’t even have that. Suddenly the insults and few underserved detentions did not seem sufficient payment for the man. A life as a spy and doing a job he hates so he can save the few children that this world had forgotten. The universe owed him a whole lot more.

“I am telling you this so that you can understand him, Harry. He truly knows what you have gone through. He truly cares.”

“Thank you.” And he meant it. There was a few moments of silence before Snape swept into the room. He was carrying a vial with a clear potion in it. Alex clapped his hands and stood.

“Well that is my cue to leave.” He walked over to Snape, pecked him on the cheek before turning towards the door. “See you later.”

Snape sat in the seat that Mr. Dawsen had just vacated. He poured himself a cup of tea before doctoring it the way that he always did, two spoons of sugar and no milk.

“I suppose that you gleaned some type of useful information from your talk.” Snape said, watching Harry squirm.

“Yes. . . Do you know what he says?”

“To a degree. I never know specifically. With each person it is different based on what he thinks they need to hear. Most people don’t know the extent of our relationship and that occasionally colors what he says.”

“Oh.” Harry sat up in his seat, preparing for what was coming next. Instead of saying anything Snape presented him with the clear potion.

“What is that?” He asked, rolling the little bottle in his hands.

“Special potion for situations like this.” Snape leaned back in his seat. “Mostly it is a calming potion. What we will be talking about tends to make the calmest person irrational. It is also a mild truth potion. Unlike veritaserum, it won’t force you to tell you the truth. It prevents you from trying to deceive me. It will help encourage the talks until you are comfortable enough to speak to me without it or we determine that you need to speak to someone else.”

Harry popped the cork off and tipped it back. The potion tasted of mint and felt like he was swallowing smoke. His body warmed like he was in a bath. A quick glance at his hands saw that they had finally stopped shaking. He took a moment to see if he had any compulsion to spill the truth and he didn’t.

“Shall we begin Mr. Potter?” Snape pulled open a leather bound journal. He held a ball point pen lightly as he watched Harry with heavy black eyes.

“I suppose.” There was no real point in putting off the inevitable.

“Before we begin talking about what needs to be done to fix it would be best if we began with an in depth look at what your home life was like. Begin where you think is best.”

“Ok . . . well I was left on my Aunt and Uncles doorstep when I was one. I think they hated me immediately. Looking back there wasn’t ever any time I can remember being liked by them. I was given a room in the cupboard under the stairs.” Harry watched Snape quirk an eyebrow in surprise, but he didn’t say anything so Harry kept going. “They loved their son Dudley and hated me. I didn’t understand it really. I tried so hard to have them love me. You would, wouldn’t you? I always listened to everything they had me do. I did chores until my hands bled. Cooked dinner, didn’t make a sound. Still they would spoil Dudley and whack me for doing nothing.”

“At one point I thought that if I acted like him they would love me. Maybe that’s what I was doing wrong. I acted like him for fifteen minutes. I got such a hiding that I slept on my stomach for three weeks and couldn’t do my chores. It was after that when I realized the truth. There really was something different about me. Just a freak who didn’t deserve love, parents or even food.”

“Do you believe that now?” Snape interrupted. He was twirling the pen and had yet to write anything down.

“No. I stopped thinking that when I was eight.” Harry shrugged. “I had been around enough to realize that they were the ones that were wrong. There was no denying that I was different. But I knew I deserved to be treated like a human, not a mop. However by then I also knew that it was too late. My aunt and uncle had spent the last years setting me up. To everyone around I was the clumsy, difficult delinquent child that the poor Dursley’s had to deal with. It was believed by everyone. The neighbors, my teachers, even a few coppers knew I was a problem. If I went to anyone about my situation I would have been turned away. So I never bothered.”

“Tell me about your aunt, uncle and cousin.”

“My uncle is the worst of them all. He has a god awful temper and fears magic above all else. Magic was forbidden in our house, even for his own son. He is the one who strikes me the most. He will hit me if I don’t complete my chores or I don’t cook enough food. If I back talk him he likes to whip me with his belt. He likes to strike me. He does it when he is mad about anything. I’m his punching bag.” Harry glowered into his tea cup. “I think it make himself feel good. He’s not smart, or good looking and he doesn’t make too much money. I’m an easy target that no one is going to check on. So he gets someone who he can get drunk and hit without worrying about them fighting back because they are a child.”

“I’d love to say that it wasn’t too bad but you saw the evidence yourself.” Snape made a note on his journal as Harry lumbered on through his explanation.

“Dudley is a bully being raised by a bully. He doesn’t know anything different. He beats me up when he can but I can run faster and climb trees so it normally isn’t so bad. He’s not quite smart enough to figure out the insults that can actually hurt. Most of the time he prefers to pick on kids that are younger and small. I’m not really fun anymore.” Harry smiled with no humor. “The worst thing he ever did was make it so that I couldn’t have any friends. He would tell anyone within hearing distance that I was horrible. If someone decided to ignore him and try to be my friend anyway he would threaten them or beat them up. Because of him I didn’t have any friends until I came here.”

“And your aunt?” Snape mate another note and underlined it with a sharp movement.

“My aunt was, is, the most confusing,” He scratched the back of his head as he tried to think of a good way to explain it. “She didn’t hit me like Uncle Vernon. Sure she swung at me with her pan a lot but I think it only connected one time. She is the one who watched me do all the chores and would work me like a horse. Sometimes though she would be nice. She would give me medicine when beatings got really bad. When I was being punished with losing food for days she would always feed me after Vernon had gone to bed. I never understood why she would switch like that.”

“That is quite a childhood.” Snape commented in a non-committal way.

“It does sound bad when it is all explained out. “ Harry agreed.

“And I am sure it will sound worse when you finally tell me about your more serious injuries instead of just telling me enough to get me off your back.” Snape hummed. Harry started at the comment. It seemed the potions master had managed to recognize what Harry wasn’t even consciously doing. Everything he had said was true, the potion prevented anything else. But he hadn’t been quite willing to go into detail of the situations that caused his worst injuries. He had just assumed that everything he had said would be enough. With an internal chuckle Harry remembered that Snape wasn’t someone you assume anything.

“Let me ask you a question,” Snape snapped his book shut and put it on a side table. “Where is your anger?”

“What do you mean?”

“You have spent the last few months in a rage. Throwing a temper tantrum about every injustice that you experience in the wizarding world,” He held up a hand to stop the indignant noise from the Gryffindor. “You have every right to be angry but that is not my point. You are angry about everything here. Why does it seem that you have no anger at your home situation?”

“The potion you gave me stops me, doesn’t it?”

“No. The potion stops panic attacks and other things of the sort. It does not prevent anger.”

“Oh.” Harry paused to think. Snape sat like a statue, patiently waiting for Harry to find an answer.

“I think it is because I am here and not there. It’s like being in an entirely different world. I just forget everything that they have done when I pass through the platform at the train station. They don’t affect me here so I can’t be angry with them here.”

“If you think what they have done hasn’t effected then you, then you are far more stupid than I originally thought.” Snape sneered.

“What?”

“Your abuse does manifest itself here.” Snape took a sip of tea to punctuate his statement. “Most are too subtle to get into here but there are two main things to mention. One is your incessant need to protect every person who is an outcast. The other is your distrust of any adults.”

“I trust adults!” Harry protested.

“Which adult do you trust the most here?” Harry paused to think, knowing that it wasn’t worth it to try and give a simple answer to the master snake.

“Hagrid.”

“Yes. You trust the one teacher who acts least like an adult than any other. You trust him because he still acts like a child. When you met him had no responsibility. He had no real control over your actions and would be held accountable for any actions he did make against you since he was a simple working hand. It is easy to trust someone like that. On the other hand when you have a serious problem you abstain from telling a competent adult and end up in the hands of mad men!”

“I told McGonagall when I thought someone was going to steal the stone!” Harry defended valiantly.

“Yes and at a single rejection you decided that you needed to take it in your own hands. You could have been more insistent. You could have gone to any other teacher. You could have trusted that we knew what we were talking about when you were told that no one would have been able to steal it.

“If you trusted adults you would not have gone to the one you knew was most incompetent when trying to rescue the youngest Weasley in the chamber. Perhaps you might have told the teachers that you knew what the creature was and the Care of Magical Creatures professor could have saved your friend without endangering children. If you trusted adults you would have let them know about sighting Pettigrew on that map of yours, yes I know about it. You wouldn’t have attacked me when you were being held at wand point by a man who, for all you knew, murdered a dozen people!” Snape growled out, pointing an accusing finger at the fourteen year old.

“Your disregard for your own life and your mistrust in any person who could be seen as a guardian or protector will be your undoing. It is undoubtedly a trait pounded into you by your relatives.”

“So what do I do?” Harry asked, unhappily falling before Snape’s excellent points. He was beginning to get twitchy again. It seemed the calming potion was starting to wear off.

“For now? Begin thinking about the things you do that are detrimental to your health and social life. Begin to think about how they developed in relation to your childhood. After you figure out the things that need to be changed we can work on techniques to develop the good habits to turn you into a proper functioning adult eventually. Just remember. For someone in your situation you are quiet normal. In fact, you are far better adjusted than most children would be. Take solace in the fact that these traits are not permanent, nor do they make you any less for having them.”

“Okay.” Harry slumped down. It was silly but he was kind of hoping there may be potions and spells that could help him. Instead it would obviously be long months of talking, probably years considering how messed up he probably was.

“With that, you will stop thinking about it for today. Take this potion,” Snape summoned a vial of a mild sleeping potion. “And take a nap. I don’t care how old you are and whether you think you need it. You need it. Tomorrow, when you are calm I want you to fill out this.”

Harry looked at the pamphlet of paper. On it there was a series of numbered statements. Next to each statement there was the words ‘normal’ and ‘not normal’. He skimmed the page growing confused as he read the statements. It read things such as ‘taking food from each meal and storing it’ or ‘nightmares three to four times a week’.

“Go now Mr. Potter. Well done today.” Snape dismissed him. Harry stood, gripping the vial in his shaking hands.

“Thank you.” And he really meant it.

Chapter Text

Harry wasn’t happy. That wasn’t an incredibly shocking fact considering that these days he rarely was. It was made worse due to the fact that everyone else seemed excited. There was tangible pleasure in the air as the teens waited for the second challenge. Meanwhile, the only people who don’t seem deliriously happy about the upcoming event were Harry, Hermione and Snape. Snape being particularly dour about any event was incredibly common so it didn’t really count.

Harry gave up on trying to eat, having spent the last ten minutes pushing around his eggs to a mushy pile. He barely managed to leave the great hall before he was ambushed by the twins.

“Harry!” There was the dual call. He was stopped by a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“Oh, hey guys.”

“We got what-“

“You wanted.” The twins chorused one after the other.

“What I wanted?” Harry was confused for a moment. Then he saw the box under the arm of the twin with an F and a small package wrapped in suspiciously blank brown paper. “Oh, those things.”

“It was fun! We got to use muggle mail ordering for the first time.” The one Harry assumed was Fred explained, handing over the box.

“By the way, you do know this isn’t illegal, right?” George, or the one he assumed was George, handed him the little package.

“Maybe not in general, but it is against the rules in school.” Harry hummed, slipping the package into his pocket. “Thanks for this you guys.”

“No problem. Always ready to-“

“Help a friend!” The twins smiled. “Good luck on the-“

“Challenge, even if you don’t play!”

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Harry was standing on the end of the dock, the only person not shivering in the cold. He was also the only champion not dressed for a swim. People muttered around him, assuming that he hadn’t learned what the trail was. He would rather be looked at as incompetent than cold at the moment.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the second challenge of the Triwizard tournament!” Dumbledore announced, allowing for the audience to scream and cheer. “Today our challenge involved skills of adaptation. A battle under the lake for something lost. Our champions were warned that something important would be taken from them. What was taken was someone considered precious for them. This was decided by the person who the champion spent the most time with on the night of the Yule ball.” Here Dumbledore’s eyes slid over to Harry.

Oh. Shit. It didn’t take Harry a full second to realize just how deep the shit pile was that he was just thrown into. The only person who he had spent any significant time around on the night of the Yule ball was Malfoy. Draco Malfoy. The boy who was supposed to be his mortal enemy. The one who he had just barely made a truce with. The boy whom he had every intention of keeping his friendship secret, both for Harry’s sake and for his. By the end of the challenge the entire world, since Rita was there, would know that a Malfoy was supposed to be his most precious person. Fuck.

Well it wasn’t like Harry could get out of the challenge any way. He wasn’t so much of a dick that he would let someone stay trapped under the water. With the time limit Dumbledore just set he wasn’t about to test to see if they would save him should Harry refuse. All they needed to do was hesitate for a minute and Malfoy would be dead. Plus, leaving a person who you vowed potential friendship with as a captive of mermaids wasn’t really a good thing to do.

Harry ignored the rest of Dumbledore’s speech. He was still fuming at the man and the tournament. Stupid way to choose someone precious to you. Why would they risk the lives of some innocent bystander anyway? You also couldn’t preclude what is essentially a kidnapping with a speech about valor and honor!

“Champions your hour starts now!” There was a boom of the cannon. In an instant Fleur and Cedric had cast bubble head charms and jumped into the freezing lake. Krum had cast some spell and leaped in as his head was changing, leaving Harry alone on the dock in the middle of the lake, standing with a box and a basket. With a huff and a grumble he opened the box.

The silence was deafening as the crowd watched in fascination as the fourteen year old boy unrolled a large plastic yellow tarp. They soon realized it wasn’t a tarp. Harry placed his wand in the air spout, whispering the charm that would blow wind. It only took a minute before the yellow plastic inflated, leaving him a raft that would fit four people. With a pleased chuckle he dropped his basket in the raft, sitting down only after he grabbed the collapsible oars. With a jaunty wave to the crowd he proceeded to paddle his way to the middle of the lake.

It was quiet out here. The still confused crowd had decided that watching what was going on underwater was far more interesting than watching Harry paddle as if it were nothing more than a pleasant summer’s afternoon. At random Harry decided to stop. With a little flick of his wrist he opened his basket. First he grabbed a rock with parchment tied around it. He leaned over the side of the boat and dropped it in the water, watching it fall to the inky black below.

He reached into his basket again, pulling out a butter beer and a scone. The elves had been kind enough to put a spell that kept everything in the bag pleasantly warm. He laid back, content to look at the sky. Despite it being a cold day in February, the sky was a bright blue with only a few clouds moseying along in the distance. Water lapped lightly against the side of the boat, rocking it gently. He should do this more often. Bring a pillow and a blanket. Maybe a book or two so that he can spend the day out in the open water. There was no doubt in his mind that he could spend the rest of his life in a pleasant slumber amidst the quiet of the lake.

A flower of sparks blossomed in the sky and Harry tried not to tip over the boat as he rose to see what the commotion was. Fluers head had breached the surface of the water. A glance at his watch showed that it hadn’t even been ten minutes since the challenge had begun.

“My zizter! Zomeone haz to help my zizter!” Fleur cried out in her thick accent. Harry watched as she was bundled in towels and led off to a healer. He remembered her little sister. To think that the small girl was stuck under the lake being held captive. With a sigh of disgust he settled back down to wait. It wasn’t more than five minutes before a rustle in the water caught his attention. Two mermen had swum up to his boat, staring at him with suspicious eyes.

“Hello.” Harry said. “I know that I am supposed to take back what you took from me. However, instead of fighting I would like to make a trade.” He reached into his basket again, coming back with the brown, tightly wrapped package. “This is a pound of Fireweed. I will give it to you for the return of my captive . . . and for the return of the other girls little sister.” He added in after a moment’s thought.

The mermaid were staring at the package. There was a visible want on their face. A little research had told Harry that mermaids and mermen coveted the weed, in some places it was considered sacred. At Hogwarts it used to grow freely until a headmaster thought that it was unacceptable. So it had been many years since these merpeople had a taste of it.

“Ask your chieftain if you must. I can wait. I don’t care about the time limit or the challenge. I just want my person and that little girl back safe.” Harry explained. The two nodded before slipping back into the water without a sound.

Harry leaned over the edge of his boat, munching happily on an eclair that had been in his picnic, as he watched the water. If he strained his eyes he could see little silver flashes as fish burst by. Every once in a while he would see a flash of light burst under the water and he assumed it was the other competitors.

“Fuck!” Came the shout, followed by a load of sputtering. The blonde head of Draco Malfoy bobbed out of the water, inches from Harry’s face. Harry couldn’t help but smirk at the drowned rat appearance in front of him.

“Well hello there. Nice day for a swim?” Harry chuckled. Malfoy glared at him, taking a moment to stare at the éclair before turning back to scowl at the Gryffindor.

“Pull me up Potter! If I have to spend another moment in this water I will make your life a living hell!” He shouted. Harry stuck out his hand and with a great pull, heaved the Slytherin over the edge and into the boat. Without a word Harry handed him a blanket he transfigured out of a napkin. With a little smile he popped the cap off of a butter beer and handed it to the disgruntled boy.

“What the hell were you thinking Potter? Choosing me as your precious thing.” He sneered.

“Hey I didn’t chose you! They chose by whomever the person spent the most time with at the Yule ball. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. If I knew that was how they were going to choose I would have spent time with someone else!”

“I am in so much fucking trouble.” Malfoy muttered, downing the bottle in three large gulps. Harry frowned and handed him another one.

“Yeah me too.” Harry sighed, leaning back to look at the sky.

“Well what are we waiting for? Get me back on dry land you nitwit.” Malfoy demanded. The way he said ‘nitwit’ seemed less like an insult than it should have been. “Let’s deal with the shit storm early so I can go change.”

“I’m waiting for Fleur’s sister. She lost the challenge and couldn’t get to her.”

“So you decided to be the hero and get her anyway?”

“Well I couldn’t leave her down there!” He defended himself. “It could be dangerous.”

“It wasn’t dangerous Potter. They gave us a potion so that we would stay asleep so that we wouldn’t freak out. Then we had a spell that would allow us to breathe underwater until we were back on the surface. The only way the spell would break with us still in the water would be if Dumbledore died.”

“Huh.” Harry said. “Well it doesn’t matter. I already made my bargain so they should be coming up with her soon.”

“Bargain?”

“Yeah. Instead of going through the farce of fighting underwater battles I thought the barter instead. Safe return for a pound of fire weed.” Here Harry smirked, feeling quite proud of himself.

“Well color me impressed, Potter. We will make a Slytherin out of you yet.”

“You hardly need to make me one, considering I was almost one not so long ago.” Harry mumbled.

“What-“ Malfoy was cut off by a harsh cough and some gasping. Floating next to the boat was a blonde little girl, being held up by two mermen. Harry scrambled to pull her on board and only a moment’s hesitation had Malfoy behind him. It was a matter of seconds before the shivering girl was wrapped in a dry heated blanket and plied with a small pastry and some hot cocoa. Turns out Malfoy can be quite doting without any prompting.

“Thank you.” Harry bowed his head to the mermen. He placed the package into their webbed hands. With a happy squeal the two dove back into the water. Splashing Harry with gallons of water.

“Nice look Potter. The wet dog look suits you better than the birds nest.” Malfoy said in a joking tone.

“Careful Malfoy. I could always tip the boat over and show everyone what you look like as a wet snake.” Harry chuckled, picking up the oars.

It didn’t take long before they had arrived back at the docks. Cedric was on land with his arms around a water logged Cho. The silence was oppressive as everyone saw just who it was that Harry had brought back. Both boys dogmatically ignored the looks from the crowd. There was the sound of rending as Skeeter’s lurid green quill quite literally tore through her parchment in excitement. The quiet was quickly broken when Fleur rushed forward to envelope her sister before she managed to get completely off the boat.

“Oh thank goodnezz! I waz so vorried!” She brushed Gabrielle’s hair from her face before pulling her into another desperate hug.

“Thank you zo much!” She gushed. Before he could reply she pulled his face forward, landing a kiss delicately on his cheek. Harry smiled and tried to brush it off. He turned to address Malfoy but found that the boy had disappeared. Well it didn’t look like he was going to get a thank you any time soon. Hermione was being comforted by Krum but gave him an encouraging smile from beneath her towel. The sound of peoples chattering and whispering grew to a cacophony as they discussed the implications of him saving Draco and louder still as the mer-chief came to the surface to talk with Dumbledore.

While Dumbledore began his speech about the contestants and points and time limits Harry decided that he really didn’t care. Instead of listening to the man he swung his head around to search for Professor Snape. He managed to spot the man at the back of the crowd. Next to his side was Malfoy and the blonde was whispering furtively with him. The dark eyes rose for a moment to connect with Harry. To anyone else the look he was given would either be a look of complete detachment or even one of derision. Harry, however, had been around him enough to notice a small smile that pulled at his lips. As quickly as it had come, it was gone. That little validation meant more to him than he thought it would. He idly wondered if this is what it felt like to have a father figure. Wait. When the fuck had that happened? Before he could really look into that feeling he heard his name in Dumbledore’s speech.

“And to Harry Potter. He came in last place. Coming in at one hour and five minutes. However, we were informed by the merpeople that he was only late because of his insistence of rescuing Gabrielle. Add that to his excellent use of diplomacy and bartering skills he has been awarded forty seven points.” There was a large cheer in the crowd.

Well that’s just great. Don’t participate, win the game. That put him in a tie for the lead which was the last thing that he wanted. Now everyone was in love with him again. Though a quick glance at Skeeter Harry didn’t think it would last that long.

Chapter Text

This was going to be a bad day. It was going to be an awful, horrendous, mind shattering day. Harry knew it to be true from the first moment that he woke up. As he sat in his cocoon of curtains and blankets he idly wondered whether it would have been easier just to have dealt with all of the shit coming his way yesterday. Instead of dealing with the inevitable he all but ran to his dorm, slipped onto his bed and locked the curtains with a charm. A muffling charm to keep out the sounds of his fellow roommates confirmed his complete isolation. Except now it was the next day. The house elves weren’t going to let him get his food from them again. It was also a Sunday so there weren’t any classes that he could take refuge in.

Harry groaned loudly before rolling slowly off his bed. He may have to leave but he certainly didn’t have to be quick or happy about it. It was late in the morning so he was alone as he went through his morning routine. As he was wrapping his gold and red stripped tie around his neck he paused to stare at it. His house was going to be the worst, he just knew it. They had already taken offence to just about everything else he had done. When he refused to celebrate or act the way they had thought he would after the first challenge they had been cold and distant. Most would chatter behind his back the things Ron had been saying since he had stopped their friendship.

“Harry Potter thinks he is better than everyone.” “Just waiting for the opportunity to show his real colors.” “Spoiled brat who drops his friends at a whiff of fame.” Disgusting pieces of bile filtered through the rumor mill, only being fester with the articles that Rita Skeeter was pumping out at every opportunity. With a heavy sigh he turned to leave for breakfast. He made it all the way down the stairs and partially across the common room before he was stopped.

“Well, well, well. Look what we have here.” Ron sneered, sounding like a cliché villain. He was sitting on one of the couches, arms crossed with a glare.

“What do you want Ron?” Harry asked.

“I just wanted to know how a snake like you managed to get into Gryffindor.”

“A snake?” Harry wrinkled his nose in confusion. “I’m not a snake, Weasley. I’m a Gryffindor just like you.” He couldn’t help the condescending tone the statement came out in and he instantly regretted it.

“God! You sound just like him!” Ron groused, turning red.

“Just like who?”

“Malfoy. You know? Your new best friend. Your special person. I never thought you would betray the light side. This is low, even for you.”

“He is not my best friend!” Harry protested. He was starting to get angry at the red head. Like he had any room to talk about being best friends. “It wasn’t like I had a choice who was taken. I didn’t even know it was him before he surfaced.” Okay, so that wasn’t completely the truth but it was better than nothing.

“Am I really supposed to believe that?” Ron scoffed, pointing an accusing finger in Harry’s face. “You have been acting like a spoiled, fame hungry, pureblood since this whole thing began. Bad enough that you cheated to get in and now you act like you are better than all of us? Even worse now you are starting to be friends with Slytherin’s? Do you think I am stupid?”

“I think you are a fucking idiot.” Harry said in a cold tone.

“What?!” Well there was that righteous indignation again. Harry was getting tired of Ron acting like every slight against him was worthy of death. Normally he would have ignored it but today he really didn’t feel like it.

“You are a dumbass Weasley!” He yelled, happy that the common room was empty so they didn’t have to see his little meltdown. “You are a spoiled brat who thinks that anything you wouldn’t do is automatically evil! You are jealous and spiteful when you have no right to be! You judge others just as much as those pureblood pricks, and you claim that you are better than them for it! I can’t take you or your hypocrisy anymore! So yes, I think you are a fool. You are an idiot for believing that I wanted to have any part in these games. If you think that my actions are because I am spoiled or think I am entitled then your brain shut off a long fucking time ago!”

“How dare you?” Ron roared, rising from his seat in indignation.

“Stop!” Harry whipped out his wand before he could fully rise. “I have given you many chances Ron. I was foolish enough to deal with your bullshit many times before but I am finished with you. Think what you want of me, say what you want of me. But if you think I am going to sit there and take it without a fight, you have another thing coming.” Harry stormed out of the room, trying to leave before he did something stupid.

“Fuck you Potter!” Came the final call from the room. Harry snarled as he paced through the halls, stomping his way to the great hall for lunch. Portraits stared as he muttered and cursed under his breath.

“Shit.” Harry cursed, slamming his fist into the wall. His knuckles ached immediately and it helped stem the rage a little bit. He hit the stone twice more before feeling confident he could move on. He licked his knuckles, picking up the few little drops of blood that had formed. What was with him today? The foreboding feeling he had earlier today was swirling together with his anger and making it harder to let go. He paused in the hallway before the great hall, noticing Hermione standing outside the doors.

“Hello Harry.” She said, eyes roving over him. They spent a few moments at his knuckles but she didn’t say anything.

“Hey Hermione.” He muttered back, shifting his hand slightly behind his back.

“Good job on the task, despite everything.” She said. Harry grunted an affirmation, not ready to comment on it. “Seems like you might have a few things to tell me.”

“Yeah. I was planning on it.” She hummed in a non-committal way.

“Well I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.” She jerked her head to indicate the great hall. Straining his ears Harry could hear the excited chatter behind the large doors.

“Why? It can’t be any worse that what I’ve imagined it is going to be.”

“Rita put out her new article.” Hermione said in way of explanation. He handed him the rolled up paper.

Harry Potters True Colors?

Written by: The impressively beautiful and enormously talented Rita Skeeter

The second challenge of the Triwizard tournament has come to an end with a surprising ending. Despite coming in last Harry Potter is tied for first in a way that’s all but cheating. The stunning revelation of the day was Potters “precious thing”.

Draco Malfoy

The Malfoys have been a prominent Wizarding family for centuries. Lord Malfoy holds a high advisory position in the Ministry. However the family has been Slytherin for nearly its entire history. In the war there were strong rumors that the family was deeply involved with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

In the beginning of this tournament Potter spent a lot of time claiming his innocence in cheating his way into the tournament. He gave a heartfelt interview about his poor childhood, even crying on the shoulder of this devastating reporter. However, since his success that has all changed. Reports from his classmates show that he has pulled himself away from his friends. Claims say that he spends most of his time away from his classmates. Some reports even have seen him with Severus Snape who we have previously mentioned due to a secretive deal with illegal animal parts.

“Potter is showing just how spoiled and uppity he is. It doesn’t surprise me that he is hanging out with Purebloods now. He has been acting above everyone else.” One student said.

“It’s really horrible. He has abandoned all of his friends and now he keeps sneaking around. He is definitely up to something!”

Have we all been tricked? The poor orphan boy that we all loved is now a spoiled fame hound? It seems we may have been duped. We will just have to see.

 

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.” Hermione chewed lightly on her thumb, obviously thinking.

“Fucking bitch.” Harry cursed again, crumpling the papers in his hand. “And that was Ron. I could tell.”

“Well it is kind of obvious because that’s exactly what he has been spreading around.” Hermione agreed, glowering at the close doors of the Great Hall.

“How are they taking it?”

“Most are sort-of half believing it.”

“That’s not good. Going to end up being a witch hunt . . . no pun intended.” Harry gave an unhappy laugh.

“It won’t be too bad Harry. What are they going to do? Ignore you and talk behind your back more?” Hermione patted him on the shoulder.

“Ugh.” Harry groaned, trying to will away the head ache. “I’m just going to go.”

“Go where?”

“To professor Snape’s office. She brought him up again so I want to see what he has to say about it. Or maybe I’ll just ask whether he needs some help crushing snail shells or something.” Harry groused.

“I’ll be waiting on an explanation when you get back Harry.” Hermione waved him off.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

His first thought was ‘how many times is this going to happen’? He was standing at the door of Snape’s office staring at the back of Draco Malfoy. Same as last time he was leaned the wrong way around on a chair. Snape was hovering over him, cursing under his breath.

He wasn’t bleeding this time. Instead his back was a vast array of blue and purple. For a horrible moment Harry was jealous of the man. Because of his pale skin and smooth back the bruises looked painted on, like a water color of blossoming flowers. On the other hand, Harry never looked like that. Without the help of magic his skin will always be permanently marked. Bruises always formed in a clash of greens, purples and yellows. Idly he wondered if he was demented for being jealous of the way that someone bruised after a beating.

“Merlin Potter. Learn to knock!” Malfoy interrupted him. He had turned his head to glare over his shoulder. “Just get in here and close the door.”

“Right, sorry.” Harry muttered, letting the door swing behind him. “Did your father do that?”

“No it was the tooth fairy.” Draco sneered. “Yes it was my father! He visited this morning. Wanted to get some confirmation about that damned newspaper article.”

“That fucking bitch.” Harry snarled, still a little angry.

“Language Potter.” Snape interrupted. He unscrewed the lid to a jar. With potion stained fingers he scooped some pinkish cream out. He began to methodically spread it across the previously white skin.  Malfoy hissed at the contact but didn’t say anything.

“Well she is. She called me spoiled and fame hungry, Malfoy was accused of being dark and she said that you were doing illegal things with the basilisk.”

“So the thing about you selling basilisk parts is true?” Malfoy interrupted.

“Um yeah.” Harry scratched the back of his head. “Second year it was a basilisk that was hurting anyone. I killed it and then gave it to Snape. None of it was illegal though. She’s just mad because it was confidential so she doesn’t know anything.”

“Huh.” Malfoy grunted in a non-committal way.

“So your father came here then?”

“Yep. First thing in the morning. Wanted to know why you had me as your special person. I told him it was unintentional. That you and I had gotten into a fight. You lost so you didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to look like I was so low class to get into fights so I didn’t say anything. I had no reason to think that I had spent any more time with you that night than anyone else.”

“And I’m guess he didn’t believe you?” He gestured to the slowly fading bruises.

“No he believed me.” Draco grunted as he lifted himself off chair. With a few staggering steps he landed face first on a transfigured couch. With a heavy sigh he melted into the soft cushions. “He just took offense that there was any reason that he had to take time out of his day to ‘correct’ me.” He used finger quotes to emphasize it.

“At least he didn’t stripe you up like last time.” Harry said, for lack of anything better to say.

“And you Potter, how did you explain this to your friends?”

“Admittedly I haven’t told Hermione, but she isn’t too concerned. I never got to the explanations part with anyone else. I got stopped by Weasley but we never really got past accusations to get to explanations.” He went over to sit on the chair near Malfoy. “I consider that a bridge completely burned now.”

“Took you long enough.” His snort was muffled against the couch.

“Do be careful Mr. Malfoy.” Snape walked in. “You have two cracked ribs and it would do you good to rest. Now Mr. Potter, why are you here?”

“I saw the article. It mentioned you and I wanted to make sure everything was still alright. Plus, I was going to see if there was anything that you need prepared. I’m a little . . . frustrated and I wanted to work it out somehow.” He explained.

“It looks like you already tried to do so.” Snape glanced down at his bruised knuckles. Wordlessly he handed over the same bruise ointment he had been using earlier. Harry opened it, enjoying the soft smell of green tea before applying it liberally to his fist.

“I think I can get some work for you, Mr. Potter. Give me a minute and I’ll have you chopping whippel nuts. Mr. Malfoy, you are required to get some sleep. Potter there is no reason to be worried about the article. For now, the ministry can do nothing and rumors have no standing. In the case that they decide they need to dig deeper we will cross that bridge.”

“That’s good.”

“Do not worry. Alex is quite skilled at what he does. No one knows the rules like he does and no one is as skilled at circumventing them.” Harry nodded along. Pacified, Harry followed the man into the potions classroom. For the next hour he spent his time chopping up the nuts Snape wanted. Whippel nuts were constantly sliding so you had to chase them across the cutting board. They were also incredibly hard so it took a lot of force to crack them. Chasing after nuts with a knife is surprising cathartic.

Chapter Text

Hermione managed to make it a long time for someone who was at their core very nosey. She made it through the entire day of classes, into the library and all the way into having their books set up and quills out. For a moment they stared at each other.

“Well?” Hermione prodded.

“You want to know why Malfoy was the person chosen for the challenge, right?”

“To start with.” She said, raising a quizzical eyebrow.

“After the Yule ball,” Harry began, rubbing his quill between his fingers. “I left as soon as I could. I had been walking about and decided to walk around in the north courtyard. When I went there Malfoy was sitting there.” Harry decided that it would be better to give an edited version of the story, given that there were a lot of sensitive thing discussed that night.

“So what happened?”

“Ever since the first task it has kind of hit me that everything is a little weird. It feels like everyone is showing their true feelings. With Ron acting like a dick and Snape acting somewhat decent. I tried to think about the last time that I got into a fight with Malfoy. He hasn’t been picking any fights recently. Zabini is the one who made those stupid buttons. If we didn’t have as much history as we did I would probably think he was a decent person. ”

“So you decided talked with him.” She said in a neutral tone. Her brow was furrowed as she tried to figure out the end of the story before she heard it.

“Yeah. We talked about a couple things. I asked him why he wasn’t being as much of a dick, without those words. Basically he said that he was tired and it was a good opportunity to not be the center of attention. He didn’t have to be so out there so it was like a vacation to him. “

“That’s interesting.” She folded her fingers together, resting her chin on the weaved appendages. “Well I can’t really complain about him leaving you alone, regardless of his reason.”

“So then I bit the bullet. . . I asked him what he thought about purebloods being better than muggle-borns.” Hermione perked up here.

“What did he say?”

“Well he actually complimented you. He said that you were proof that purebloods are not the only ones talented at magic. Basically he said that most of the time he didn’t believe it. Though he did say that there were some days that he did believe in it.”

“Well,” Hermione began. She tapped her fingers lightly on her parchment as she thought. “That’s a lot better than I thought it would be. It sounds like he is moving in the right direction. I guess it would take a long time to get out of that mindset. It takes years to over haul the things your parents ingrain in you.”

“That’s what I thought too. So I asked him for a truce. I also said that we may eventually be friends. I also asked that the truce would be extended to you.”

“Really? Well thanks. I would much prefer to be in a truce than not. Harry . . . I am really proud of you.”

“Thanks Hermione.” Harry rolled his eyes at her tone.

“Okay, yeah I know that sounds kind of condescending but I really mean it!” Hermione exclaimed. “It’s just . . . you have been spending a lot of time pushing people away. Not that I blame you. You have every reason to avoid people at this point in time. However, I think it is good for you to try and make friends. Especially when you are making an enemy into an acquaintance. This is just me being a concerned friend.”

“Thanks.” This time it was more sincere.

“So what is going on with Professor Snape and the basilisk?”

“Nothing as far as I know. I signed a disclosure so no one should know that I am involved. Snape doesn’t seem to be too concerned.”

“As long as you don’t get in trouble.”

“Well I have a lawyer on my side. I’m not doing anything illegal and neither is he. I’m just mad that he is getting a bad reputation.”

“You don’t need to worry about Snape, Potter. He is a man who could win against the entire ministry.” A sneering voice interrupted their talk. Malfoy came walking up to them. “Granger, greetings.” He nodded his head, and received one back from her.

“Hello Malfoy.” Harry greeted.

“Potter.” Was the elegant reply.

“Pull up a chair.” He offered, with a wave to an open end of the table. Draco smirked but turned to grab a chair. He turned it around backwards and leaned across the back. Harry had never seen him so relaxed in public. “What are you doing here Malfoy?”

“Well I was going to get a book but then I saw the two of you. I figured I would see if you would make good on your invitation for studying.” Malfoy quirked an eyebrow.

“Gladly.” Hermione sniffed. “It would be nice to be able to have someone talk about ancient runes. Harry decided to waste his time with divination.”

“Hey! You tried to take divination too.” Harry defended himself. “I wanted an easy class, sue me.”

“I wouldn’t sneer at divination too much Granger. While our professor may be incompetent it is a highly respectable field when someone has a talent for it.” Malfoy interrupted what was about to be a repeat argument between the two lions.

“Really? I figured most people would look down on it.”

“I would say that a great majority of those who practice divination are disliked. Normally it is flippant girls or con artists who make false promises and read your palm. However, there are certain bloodlines where the future is truly accessible to them. Normally it comes at random moments. Still there are some that can control the power. They are greatly honored in society. They are considered closer to Magic than a normal wizard. If you make a prophecy that makes it into the Hall of Prophecy it is something that can be put on a resume and will almost guarantee you a job.”

“Hall of Prophecy?” Hermione was leaning forward as if getting closer would help.

“In the Department of Mysteries all prophecies are stored. The memory of the prophecy is stored in a crystal ball and then spelled so that no one may touch it except the person who it is about, the seer who saw it or the head auror. It is considered a great honor to have anything to do with it. Even the most hard core blood purist would accept and commend a muggleborn with the power of Sight. Hell, if there was a muggleborn girl with that power my father would be in a rush to marry me off to them.” Malfoy said with a cold chuckle.

“Hey, wait. Voldemort tried to kill me because of a prophecy.” Harry stated, ignoring the hiss from Malfoy. “Does that mean there would be a prophecy about me in there?”

“Probably.” Malfoy wrinkled his nose in consideration. “And you would be one of the few people who would be able to look at it. The Dark Lord isn’t alive to see it.”

“Wow.” Hermione mumbled. She was scratching notes down on her parchment, writing things down that Malfoy had said. “Do you know any good books about seers? Real seers?”

“I would look for Divinato Encyclopedia: In Futurum Vero. It has a list of famous seers and their stories. It also has their prophecies and the resulting events from them. All of the people mentioned there are confirmed and respected wizards and witches besides their powers to divine.” Like a shot Hermione was off. She turned into the rows of books without another word.

“Thanks for that.” Harry said with honesty. “There is nothing that Hermione likes more than having something new to research. I doubt she ever really ever thought about divination being real. In the muggle world the only people who ‘predict the future’ are just people trying to get your money.” Draco shrugged.

“I don’t mind. I have relatives who were seers. Runs in the family so I know more about it than most.”

“So do you have the power?” Harry asked.

“Not really?” Malfoy scratched the back of his head. “If I have another medium I can make fairly accurate predictions. For example, if I were to read tea leaves or read cards I would be able to do it with more accuracy than the average person. However I would never be able to make a prophecy. That part of my blood has been fairly watered down.”

“That’s really cool though.”

“I suppose. . . So what are you studying today?” He spun his chair around, glancing down at the books Harry had laid down.

“Defense mostly. Moody gave us that essay about magical laws.” Harry pouted, wrinkling his nose at the prompt he had written down in class.

“I suppose it would be hard if you don’t know anything about wizard law.” Malfoy pondered.

“Do you know anything about it?” Malfoy leveled an unimpressed look at him. “Right. Well would you like to share with the rest of us peasants?”

“No need to be snippy Potter.”

“With you around I doubt I would be able to survive without being a little snippy.” Malfoy laughed at that.

“Scared Potter?” Malfoy smirked.

“You wish.” Harry smirked back. Malfoy laughed a genuine laugh. Harry couldn’t help but smile. He had never seen the other boy genuinely express joy. It was weird to see that thin face become rounded by pleasure. He was glad that the boy could still smile like that. He was well versed in how the world could beat you down. From people like Hermione and the twins Harry was able to have some form of support. Malfoy seemed deprived of that. From the few times he had talked with the Slytherin he had been vaguely worried that there would be no hope for him.

As the two worked together Harry felt like there was something more. Malfoy lead him through a textbook about wizarding law and suddenly he was another person. He would comment on something and make a sneering joke. He looked bright. He looked like he was full of life. Suddenly nearly every interaction Harry had with the boy seemed like he wasn’t talking (arguing) with a person. Now he was talking to a person.

Hermione rejoined them quickly, large book in hand. Malfoy bounced between the two of them. He would heckle Harry about his poor writing skills before turning to Hermione to put a seer in context to the history around them. In the nearly empty library they joked and talked, ribbing each other naturally as if they had been friends from the first train ride to Hogwarts.

After waving Malfoy off back towards the dungeons Hermione and Harry shared a conspirators smile before giggling their way back to their common room.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Potter: Come to my office after class. –SS

That was the letter Harry received that morning at breakfast. He took a moment to glance at professor Snape but the man was busy reading the paper. With a shrug he crumpled the paper in his hands and slipped it into one of his pockets. He didn’t really think about the note during the day. He figured it had to do with one of two things; collecting ingredients or therapy. They had recently been working hard on the corpse. They were about halfway through carving out the meat. Harry was tasked with taking care of the scraps that came from Snape cutting the meat into ten kilo blocks. He would cut the pieces into strips. Then he would put the pieces into a jar of marinade.

They were turning it into jerky. It seemed weird that they would use it for that. Snape explained that for now there was no real use for the meat of a basilisk. The potions master had kept over two hundred pounds to try and see if there was any use for it. However, there were many people who ate basilisk, mostly in rituals and special ceremonies. The meat would be sold in mass quantities to these groups. However the scraps were made into jerky of Snape’s own recipe and sold in special stores. It stunned Harry that the man even had the talent, since jerky making was a difficult business. Apparently cooking was a side hobby for the man.

Therapy was something that was slowly chugging along. They had three additional therapy sessions. Each one started with Harry taking that special calming potions. The first session was about anger management. Snape had run him through a list of actions and practices to stop rages and prevention methods. They took the time to practice each one so Harry would know how to correctly perform each. The second session they discussed nightmares. Snape had him go through his most common nightmares. He was asked to describe them each and then explain what make each one terrifying and then they would run through why each was either unrealistic or how to deal with the ones that hit too close to home. The final session, oddly enough, was about food. Snape had given him three books about starvation and its effect on the body and mind. The books explained proper nutrition and good eating habits. Harry hadn’t noticed his quirks when it came to food. He didn’t notice that when he came to Hogwarts he started to binge eat. For the first couple months each year he would spend each meal eating until it hurt. Even when he was finally settling down he would still eat larger than average meals. He worked with Snape to plan meals and discuss proper snacks and how to deal with the urge to overeat (since it tended to be a direct result of a nightmare like being stuck in his cupboard and left there to starve to death).

Harry opened the door to his office without knocking, knowing full well that the professor already knew that he was there. Snape was at his desk, a book in hand, glaring at something. Harry was about to ask what was going on when he was interrupted by an excited ‘yip’ and something running into his legs. By his left ankle was a red fox. The furry canine was bouncing on all four paws, rubbing his head against Harry’s leg.

“Umm . . . professor there is a fox here.” Harry said, leaning down to pet the wiggling butt. He laughed as the fox gave another ‘yip’ before he ran in a circle.

“Thank you for stating the obvious Mr. Potter. Unfortunately it is an infestation that I cannot get rid of no matter how much I want to. Seeing as I am married to the annoying beast.” Snape sneered at the fox, who sat on his haunches and gave an open mouth grin.

“So that is Mr. Dawsen?” Harry queried.

“Yes. He was being particularly annoying today. To try and divert an argument the decided to act like a child and change his form.” With a little pop Mr. Dawsen appeared where the fox was sitting, legs crossed leaning back on his hands.

“Come now Severus. You know you love me.”

“I hate you with every fiber of my being. I would happily suffer the rest of my life in Azkaban just so that I could have the pleasure of killing you myself.” Snape replied in a cold, dead voice never looking up from his book. Alex laughed heartily, looking up at Harry with a smile.

“See? He does love me.” With a grunt the man stood up, brushing dust off of his pants. The man was dressed more casual than he had ever seen before. He was wearing a pair of plain black slacks, a simple white polo and a pair of plaid slippers. He sighed as he folded himself onto one of the arm chairs by the fire. He waved Harry over to the other chair, leaving Snape back at his desk.

“I didn’t realize you would be here tonight.” Harry commented to Alex, accepting a cup of tea.

“Yes, well, my being here is kind of imperative though I wish it wasn’t. This has to do with you guys selling basilisk parts.”

“Oh?”

“Unfortunately the ministry decided that they are going to break the disclosure papers and are demanding that all participants appear for a hearing.” The man said with a long suffering sigh.

“Can they do that?” Harry questioned, alarmed.

“They can. They are citing PS4587. To make a lot of ‘legal-ese’ into a short story. The law says that any disclosure agreement can be broken in the interest of public safety. Normally this wouldn’t fall into that category. However, due to Miss Skeeter’s lovely articles there has been an influx of letters demanding the papers do a deeper investigation into the legality. These letters were turned over to the government and a few clever words later a judge was convinced that it is public concern.”

“That bitch!” Harry cursed.

“Damn right!” “Potter language!” Alex and Snape answered at the same time. Snape glared at Alex without any real heat.

“You are still talking to a child, watch your tone.”

“He is fourteen Severus. He has heard worse, will hear worse and will probably say even more.” Alex crossed his arms in a pout. “Anyway it is a perfectly acceptable to way to describe that demonstrably horrible woman.” Snape just gave an annoyed huff, shuffling things on his desk so that he can pull forward the essays that he needed to grade.

“Can’t we do something? Sue her for slander or something?” Harry asked.

“No, not really.” He hummed, crossing his legs and leaning back in his seat. “Firstly slander is only in regards to what is said, and not what is written downs so it would have to libel. Ignoring that it is incredibly hard to win any type of defamation suit. You have to prove a lot of things in court. You have to prove that: one, it was a defamatory message, two, it caused some sort of injury to your reputation, three, that it is untrue or unreasonable and a lot of the time many judges will look to see that what was said was with malicious intent(*). It is incredibly easy to disprove any of these things because there is no real proof of any of these things. There is no real quantifiable proof that any of this has happened or will happen other than word of mouth since you have no businesses or endeavors that could lose anything. Skeeter could just show up in court and say “I didn’t mean it in a bad way, I just thought that it was what people needed to know.” Just lost the case and sometimes you would have to pay their legal fees. Your chances of winning are slim to none.”

 

“Oh.” Well that was disappointing.

“Even if you could win I would not recommend it.” Alex continued.

“Why?”

“Because it would only make you look worse in the eyes of the public. You would be seen as petty and unreasonable. You would be persecuted in the papers as a spoiled narcissist who can’t deal with criticism. Skeeter would be considered the victim and her stories would gain more merit. People who originally didn’t believe the articles may start to believe because it would seem that you has something to hide. It’s a no win situation.”

“So I just have to sit back and let her do it?” He wanted to whine. Of course he would be left with nothing to do but take it.

“For now.” He said, trailing off in a completely suspicious way.

“I said no.” Snape interrupted, obviously knowing what Mr. Dawsen was hinting at.

“What?” He was a little lost.

“The only way that you would be able to win in this situation it to become the victim yourself. To do that you would need Skeeter to become the villain. We would need to gather evidence that shows that she is not trust worthy and leak it to the press or the aurors. If the public saw her as untrustworthy and a liar then anything she wrote would be retroactively dismissed. Then you could come out as the returning hero.”

“So why don’t we do that?” Harry asked eagerly, ready to jump into action.

“We? You aren’t going to do anything. I am going to do some spy work and nail her with something.” He answered looking smug.

“No you are not.” Snape interrupted. He leaned across his desk with a long finger pointed severely at a not-so-innocent looking Alex. “I have told you many times. You are not an auror nor a private detective. You can’t even manage to sneak up on a sleeping cat. I will not have you running haphazardly around trying to prove something that may not even exist!”

“That cat had superpowers!” Alex snapped back. Harry wasn’t quite sure whether he was just playing with the mood of the argument or if he was completely serious. “We both know that Skeeter is not innocent. She is as clean as a troll’s ass. I just need to figure out what would be good enough that could get her arrested and ruin her reputation.” He justified, waving his hands as if he were wiping away any doubts. The two stared at each other for a full minute, having a conversation with looks that Harry could not know.

“I will not be bailing you out of prison again.” Snape stated coldly. With one last glare he went back to his essays.

“Again?” Harry asked, instantly interested.

“Not really important.” Alex said, satisfied expression on his face. “Just leave Skeeter to me. Try not to get caught in her traps and just keep on doing whatever you are doing. . . You do look a lot better. Healthier.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. You don’t look quite as starved. I think you also grew. At least half an inch.”

“A full inch.” Snape interrupted without looking up.

“Of course. It also looks like Severus fixed your anemia.”

“I had anemia? What is that?”

“Low iron in the blood.” Snape answered. “Due to your poor diet, or lack of diet, you were not getting enough iron into your body. It can cause problems with growth, headaches, fatigue and pale skin. In the vitamin supplements I have given you it helped with your iron, vitamin D, Vitamin A and a few others. Overall you should feel as though you have more energy, less pale and potentially regain some of the height your treatment has lost you. In addition you should also have less headaches and better ability to pay attention.”

“Oh,” Harry was at a loss for what to say. To think that Snape had gone that far for him. He had no idea that any of his issues had to do with vitamin deficiencies. He remembered vaguely hearing about it in the books about starvation that he had read. Most of it was true, though. He slept better and woke up feeling rested. He didn’t get headaches as much, but that may also be for the lack of Voldemort interference. Regardless, Snape was helping him so much it made Harry feel ridiculous.

“Yeah you should have seen the vitamin regiment he put me on when we had started dating.” Alex said with a little chuckle. With that one comment Harry felt relieved, at least a little bit. With an internal shrug he reasoned that Snape probably did this to just about everyone.

“Vitamin C and Vitamin B to try and undo the damage you did to your liver when you drank like a fish in your twenties.” Snape sneered.

“Ah, I am so loved.” Alex purred, smiling happily. “Moving on, Harry, the inquiry.” He leaned over and pulled out his briefcase from under his chair and began to rummage through it.

“The inquiry will be in two weeks on Saturday. I have filed to have it be a closed inquiry. The only people allowed in will be a judge, a few aurors, one or two professionals, the ministries lawyers, you, me and Severus. The press will be unable to enter. Unless something bad happens we will try and make sure to put a gag on the press coverage afterwards.”

“Okay.”

“The important thing to remember is that you didn’t do anything illegal. However, since this is such a lucrative thing they will be trying full force to try and take control.” He pulled out a stack of papers. “Therefore you will need to practice what you are going to say. This is a list of questions that may be asked and what responses that are the best and fairly truthful. With these you would probably have a good idea what you should say for about 90 percent of anything asked.” He handed the paper over to the Gryffindor. Harry thumbed through the pages, glancing over the elegant handwriting.

“So you want me to memorize these?”

“No. Just read through it. You should be able to get an idea what should be the answer for most of it. A lot of the answers are really similar. If you memorize it people will be able to tell and that will look suspicious. You have to be there but we won’t let them bombard you with questions. Either I or Severus will end up answering most of the queries. We will deflect anything we think is too much for you.” He explained, taking a long sip of his tea.

“Do I need to dress up?”

“Nah. Just come in your school uniform. Makes it seem more legit because no one will likely think that there is illegal basilisk breeding that involves a student. Anything else that is needed we will be preparing.”

“Thanks.”

“Not a problem. Now off you pop. It’s getting late and you need to go to bed.” Alex ushered him out the door. Harry rolled up the papers and slipped them in his pocket. He went back to the common room feeling both a little bit better and a little bit worse. He decided to try and ignore the impeding inquiry. There was no point in thinking about more than necessary. He trusted that Mr. Dawsen and Severus to make sure nothing bad would happen. Like Malfoy said, Snape against the ministry would end up with Snape winning. Hands down, no contest.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

*Some of this is true but not all of it. It is true that it is hard to win in court. However I wanted it to seem a little harder, sue me. Anyway, I am an engineer not a law degree.

 

Chapter Text

Life had become a bit strange but pleasant. Harry was spending a lot of time with Hermione as normal. However there were long periods of time that he wasn’t with her. Hermione had developed a deep friendship with Victor Krum. Whenever Victor could break away from his school group he was in the library with Hermione. Apparently he was greatly skilled in transfiguration and Hermione absolutely loved comparing what they learned in Hogwarts with Drumstrang. She was even makings plans for the summer.

“I’ve been writing with Krum’s fiancé. Krum told her that I was helping him with some of his studying and mentioned that I was trying to do stuff with magical creature rights. Turns out that she is really interested in that too, but she is more interested in goblins than house elves. She is so much fun to talk to and so smart. She wants me to come and visit them over the summer. She also has a younger brother who wants to learn English. Krum has been teaching me Bulgarian so I might go up there for the summer to be a tutor.”

Whenever the library was empty and quiet Malfoy would appear out of the woodwork and the three of them would study together. There was no other indication that they had formed a friendship. They silently promised each other that they would not act any different. So they went to class and ignored each other. Not paying attention to each other didn’t stop the talking behind their backs. People whispered and sneered when they thought he wasn’t looking. Harry didn’t care what they had to say, however. Life was moving along just fine until he got a note from McGonagall asking for him to come up to the Headmaster office.

“Harry, my boy, come sit down.” The headmaster motioned to the chair in front of the desk. Harry tried not to grimace at the title. It was a bit more prominent now that he was constantly on edge but he had never particularly liked when Dumbledore called him that. It was too personal and so impersonal at the same time. It always felt like an estranged relative trying to get too close to you too fast for it to be genuine.

“Is something wrong?” Harry lowered himself into the seat. McGonagall was standing slightly off to the side with a dour expression.

“No, not really. Just some concerns.” Dumbledore smiled.

“Concerns?”

“Your fellow house mates are worried that you are changing. You have been pushing your friends away.”

“I’m sorry? I don’t really see why I’m here.” Harry probed.

“Mr. Potter.” Dumbledore started lightly, as if Harry were some small animal that had ran itself into a corner. “We are a bit concerned with the time that you are spending with professor Snape.”

“Why?” Harry wrinkled his nose in confusion. Dumbledore and McGonagall shared a heavy look before turning back to the little Gryffindor.

“Well your relationship with him always seemed . . . contentious at best. Now you seem to be spending every weekend with him.” Dumbledore trailed off like he wanted to say something but didn’t want to put it into words.

“So?” He shrugged with a single shoulder.

“We would like to know what you are doing . . . just to be sure that everything is ‘up to snuff’.” Dumbledore said softly, trying to be as comforting as possible.

“Up to snuff? We are just doing potions and ingredient preparation. What is wrong with that?”

“We just want to make sure that nothing that is going on is . . . inappropriate.”

“What do you mean? Inappropriate? What do you think we are doing? I can’t . . .” Harry stopped when he realized what they could be implying. The faint blush on McGonagall’s face was enough of an indicator to see what she thought was the most likely thing.  “Oh god. EW!” He shouted, trying not to gag.

“Mr. Potter . . .”

“No!” Harry interrupted the transfiguration professor. “How could you think? That I would? That he would? That is disgusting!” He sneered. It was all he could do not to jump up and out of the room in a justifiable huff.

“Please Mr. Potter, we are not trying to accuse you of anything.” Dumbledore made a placating gesture.

“No you just dragged me up here to question me because you think nothing is going on.” He sardonically crossed his arms, quirking his eyebrow in a challenge.

“We are just noting some concern brought up by others. It is a bit . . . untraditional of a student to spend so much time with a teacher. Especially when it is not their head of house.”

“We are just doing potions.” He huffed. “I asked the professor to help me with my potions grade. He said that he would tutor me but that I would have to pay for it by working for him. Saturdays I get lessons. Sundays I help prepare potion ingredients.” Harry was quite happy with how quickly that lie rolled off his tongue. Plus it had the extra bonus of being true. Most Saturdays he was getting lessons in the form of therapy and on Sunday he would be down with the basilisk.

“If you are working for Professor Snape then there are a lot of forms and releases you have to sign.” Dumbledore peered over his glasses.

“I did sign them. I had them notarized too. . . Have you not asked Professor Snape this? He could have told you all of this.” He paused to look at their face. “Of course not. You thought he was doing something bad so you decided to go behind his back instead. Nice to see how much you trust your own staff.” He sneered.

“Would you then tell us what he is having you do?” McGonagall spoke up.

“I can’t. When I filled out all those papers I signed a nondisclosure agreement. Since the preparations he is having me do is not school related there was no real need to tell anyone else here.”

“Now, my boy . . .” Dumbledore started but Harry interrupted sharply.

“I’m sorry but I can’t say. I signed for it and I won’t break that contract. Either way, I don’t dislike what I am doing and I actually find it somewhat enjoyable so there should be no problems.” There was an air of finality to the statement that shocked the headmaster and his deputy.

“There is also concern that you are pushing away your friends. People are concerned about you Mr. Potter.” Dumbledore continued.

“I don’t see why the headmaster of a school would really care about a single student’s relationship with his friends. Anywaya , if you were concerned for me then you wouldn’t have made me join the tournament. There is a lot of things you could have done to protect me if you were really concerned about my safety.” Harry sneered. He kept fucking sneering. It was official, Snape was a bad influence.

“I didn’t have a choice, my boy.” Harry snorted, scowling instead of answering. In his head he was counting to ten, for the fifth time. It wouldn’t do to lose his head right now.

“Sure.” Harry said with a dead voice.

“Is something the matter, my boy?”

“No.” Harry grit his teeth to keep from yelling. “If that is all you have to say, can I go?” Without waiting for an answer he stood up and walked out of the office. With a frustrated growl he stomped through the halls. For ten minutes he walked through the halls. When his anger didn’t dissipate like he wanted he ducked into an empty classroom. He grabbed his bag and dumped it out on the desk. Quills and inkwells clattered to the desk. A notebook flopped out and landed with a satisfying thud.

The notebook had been a gift from Snape. It was his ‘frustration notebook’. The paper had been spelled to be extra thick and unending. Makes it far more satisfying when you are ripping and tear. It felt great as he tore the first page out of the binding. With a heavy grunt he twisted the page, pulling heavily until it rent into two pieces. He crumpled one of the pieces and whipped out his wand. Harry flicked his wand and set the piece on fire. It would burn hot and never spread. Harry continued on ripping, tearing and crumpling until he felt like he had control over the rage he felt.

Originally he had asked Snape if he should get a punching bag or something. Snape had explained that violence begets violence. If he started punching something whenever he was angry there would be a big chance that he would lash out on a person if things got out of control. So instead he was given his notebook and instructed that he should keep going until he was calm again.

Fuck. Things just were not going his way! He may have expected the students or the media talking shit about Snape. To think that the headmaster and deputy headmistress would fall to the siren call of rumors was sad. So much for having everything be peaceful. He wanted to go talk to Snape but he wasn’t ready to do that. Harry did not want to be within striking distance when those rumors were introduced to Snape. Instead he was going to write the one other adult he could trust right now. He hadn’t talked to Sirius since before the first challenge.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

“Hello Harry Potter.” Harry paused in his step when a familiar voice interrupted his thoughts. He turned and saw a blonde haired girl sitting on a window sill, staring out into the sky.

“Hello, Luna right?” Harry turned and took a few steps towards her. He stopped so that he could lean in the window will near her feet.

“It seems that the great snake has been healing you quite well.” She smiled lightly. Her bright blue eyes burned into him. Harry took a moment to stare at her onion earrings while his brain tried to catch up with what she had said.

“Great snake? Do you mean Snape?” She smiled brightly at that.

“I am quite happy that you are doing better. There were so many nargle around you that I thought you might break.” She turned back to look at the sky. “There are so many around the three of you. It is nice to see them leaving.”

“Three of you.” Harry mumbled. Him, Snape and Draco? Maybe but he had no idea what nargles were in the first place.

“Luna. . .” He began, trying to catch her attention again. “You told me that I would find peace and friendship that night of the Yule ball. . . Can you see the future?”

“I cannot see the future.” Luna laughed lightly. “I can see the things that no one else can.”

“What do you mean?”

“We are very similar Harry. Both of our mothers died to protect us.” Harry wanted to say he was sorry but Luna kept going. “A mother dying to protect her family is the most powerful magic in the world. When your mother died she gave you protection.” She dragged a spindly finger across his scar. He shuddered as cold seemed to creep from her finger into his skin. For a small moment the slight twinge that always seemed to sit in the pulled skin fell away.

“My mother gave me the power of sight. I can see Magic. It is very much alive and working and I can see it as it moves throughout the worlds. You cannot see the fairies and the nargles but they are there. They are manifestations of Magic’s goals and desires. Some people can see some of it, most people can see none of it. I can see it all. So I cannot see the future. I can see what Magic wants and see its goals.” Harry gaped in amazement as she said these things. 

“Magic loves you.” She sighed happily. “She wants you to be happy. So I knew that where ever she was going to lead you would help you.” Harry tried not to stare. This was one hell of a revelation. He watched as she clambered off the window sill.

“Harry.” She stuck him with a heavy stare. “There are many thing that can be changed about the future. However, there are some things that have to come to pass. It would do you good to not fret over these things. Fate knows what she is doing. She won’t let it all end badly.” With that statement she handed Harry a radish that was carved in a vaguely animal shape and then skipped down the hallway.

“Did Magic tell you that?” Harry called after her. She paused at a corner and smiled back at him.

“No, it is just something I know.”

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Dear Harry,

Congratulations on your second task! I knew you would do well. You have your father’s talents. Though he would have wanted to go in the lake and fight. Still you were a true Gryffindor waiting to save the little girl. I am deeply concerned about Malfoy though. There must have been some mistake when they were choosing the people. I know you wouldn’t have anything to do with that family. Let me know what really happened in your next letter. Still, your parents would have been really proud! Tied for first!

Harry you need to stay away from Snape. I knew him in school. He is an evil man who will corrupt you. He was deeply into the dark arts when he was at school. We were constantly fighting against him. He was on You-Know-who’s side of the war. I know he tricked everyone into thinking that he was a spy for our side but I am sure that he liked being a Death Eater. Snivellus always loved hurting people. He probably got off on the dark arts and torture. I don’t want you to be corrupted by his evil ways. He is probably planning on using you for something evil, that greasy snake.

You should try to be friends with Ron again. The Weasley’s are good people. They were on the right side of the war and haven’t had a Slytherin in their family for generations. Just apologize and I am sure that he will forgive you.

Good luck on the third task. Make your parents proud!

Sirius

“Why have you shown this to me?” Snape was giving him the blank look he always had when he was about to say something Harry wouldn’t like.

“I . . . don’t know.” Harry huffed, glaring at the parchment as if it disappearing will solve his problems. “I just thought that Sirius was . . . different. He was so nice to me. He was friends with mom and dad. He offered to let me come live with him. I didn’t think he could be like . . . that.”

“You do realize Potter, that I will not say what you want me to say?” Snape sighed, setting the paper on a side table. “I make no compunctions in saying that I am no friend of Black. If you want someone who will tell you good things about your dog-father then you will have to find someone else. If you want to talk with me you may but it is not going to be about how great he is.”

“Yes I know.” Harry sighed. He would have been a fool to think that anything else would happen. “But I don’t want just words. You are the only adult that doesn’t just . . . say something that they think sounds good and then brush me off as if it were a real answer. I don’t want to hear anything bad about Sirius . . . But. . . I don’t want to be ignorant. I don’t want another situation like Ron where I ignore all the bad until it finally boils over. If that means that I have to hear about how he is bad then I guess that is what I have to do.”

Snape stared at him, dark eyes scanned over him. He tapped his fingers on the notebook that he had open every session. Harry had no idea what he wrote down in the thing. Sometimes he would write a lot and sometimes they would talk for hours and he would never write a thing. At first Harry felt like an animal in a cage being examined and reported. But after a few sessions Harry had learned to ignore it. He watched as the long fingers picked up a fountain pen, scratch a few words on to the page before closing it with a snap.

“Very well Potter.” He sighed, leaning back in his chair. There was a long pause as Snape considered what to say. “I think the best place to start this discussion is to acknowledge his current mental state.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you know one of the reasons that children are not given long prison sentences?” Harry shook his head. “Prison is like a pause button for someone. Not just for their life but for their mental maturity. You cannot mature in a prison. Things that help develop a person into and adult: getting a job, relationships and break ups, losses and wins. We go through these things and we grow. It is here we learn our coping methods and how we deal with the world on a whole. It is for this reason it can be dangerous to have a child in prison for a long time. Complete isolation from the world discontinues any chance of true development. A child goes in at seventeen and comes out at seventeen, regardless of their actual age.”

“That is just in a normal prison.” Snape continued when Harry didn’t comment. “Black was in Azkaban.  Whatever small developments you could make in prison were stripped from him. Stuck in isolation for twelve years. Spending every day with the worst of his memories. The only thing keeping him sane was a depressing thought that was also hopeful. No one comes out of that situation well adjusted.

“Black was not mature when he went to prison. At school he was a bully who enjoyed life as a gift he was given free of charge. After school there was the havoc of the war. To Black war was a game. Cops and robbers, heroes vs villains. The horrors of war never really touched him.” Snape sneered here. Harry couldn’t really blame him. From the little he knew about the war it seems that Snape had taken a huge hit in comparison to everyone else.

“So he is stuck. He is a man who has the maturity of a twenty year old that has had his mind torn apart with years of magically induced depression. It is enough to drive a person to insanity. Right now he is a desperate man. He needs two things for his mind to feel alright. The same things that everyone needs. He needs an enemy and an ally.” He motioned to himself and then Harry in turn. “So he is going to keep trying to get you to listen to him and become an ally against his enemy. He needs a way to justify his anger and he will only be satisfied if everyone else agrees with him. So that in his mind he seems normal again.”

“That makes sense.” Harry groused, not really that happy to hear that his godfather was a disaster waiting to happen. Looking at it objectively, though, if anyone else was coming out of that situation they wouldn’t come out of it whole. So why should Sirius, other than Harry’s hopeful thinking?

“ . . . Was he really that bad?” Harry couldn’t stop himself from asking. People mentioned before that Sirius liked pranks, the man had even mentioned it himself in his letters. Snape, however, spoke about him the same way Harry spoke about Dudley.

“Do you really want me to tell you that?” Snape queried, sighing deeply when Harry nodded. “Black was a bully on or above the level of your cousin. He had his little gang that played pranks on many people. However, the darker dangerous pranks were saved for the Slytherin house. People supported him in his endeavor to punish Slytherin students for being Slytherin. I happened to be his biggest target. To the point that his pranks nearly cost me my life.”

“Why did he choose you?”

“Because I was an easy target. I was not popular in my own house nor with any of the other houses. It is easier to torment someone when they don’t have anybody to protect them. I also did not take anything without retaliation.”

“Why didn’t you just not retaliate?” Harry chewed his lip as he thought. “They said in school that bullies give up if you don’t do anything back. Something about getting bored or not getting the reaction.”

“He did not need my reaction to get pleasure. He was constantly surrounded by friends and admirers who gave him the satisfaction he needed without me being an active participant. Not retaliating did not abate his actions, only caused me to end up in the hospital wing more often.” Snape hissed. “Black taking a hex to the face a couple times was the only thing that made him think twice about tormenting someone.”

“And my dad was part of this? He was that bad?” His voice was quiet and sad when he spoke. Snape huffed lightly before he spoke again.

“Honestly? Your father was not the worst of it. While he did participate in most of it, he was rarely the instigator. He did not back down but he was normally pulled into it by Black. Your father and I would have never have been friends but Blacks influence on him brought out the worst of him.” Harry felt a little placated that his father was not the ring leader. Still, Sirius was his one hopeful connection to his parents. Especially since he had lost contact with Remus.

 “So what should I do?”

“What do you mean?” Snape queried, crossing his legs. He quirked an eyebrow.

“Well I’m going to have to write back. He also wanted me to live with him.”

“Do you want to live with him?”

“Well even with everything he would be better than the Dursley’s.”

“That is not what I asked.” Snape was talking in what Harry called his ‘tired psychiatrist voice’. It was the tone that his double bass voice took when Harry as being frustratingly dim. Unfortunately that tone seemed to come out a lot in these sessions.

“Huh?”

“I asked if you wanted to live with him. You must stop thinking of your life in terms of better or worse than your current situation. Just because it is better that does not mean that it is good. You are on the verge of taking back your own life. Now that you have security over your own financials and the desire to control your own life you are on the precipice of shifting your life to where you want it to be. What you need to do is think about what you want.” Snape purred, piercing Harry with a gaze.

“While ambition is commonly looked down upon it is a necessary part of life. If you allow yourself to be pulled along with the flow you will find yourself dashed upon the rocks. Being a coward with your own wants and needs does not become you Potter.”

“I wouldn’t even know what I wanted in a home.” Harry shrugged, sinking into his seat. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“With a list.” Snape picked up his notebook and opened it to a blank page. “Would you prefer to live in a magical home during the summer, or a muggle one?”

“I guess it would depend on the people living there with me.” Harry muttered.

“Do not think about that. For now it is just the basics. Magic or muggle.”

“Magic I guess.” Snape jotted something down.

“Would you prefer to live in a place with other children where you will have companionship or alone with the adults where you will have the attention you need.”

“Alone I guess.” Harry shrugged. A friend may be nice but he was thinking of the Weasley family which always made him feel claustrophobic or the Dursley’s where they played favorites.

“In the country or the city?”

“Anywhere but the suburbs.” Harry tried not to shudder as Snape gave him the stink eye at his lame attempt at humor. “Country I guess. I like being outdoors and gardening and stuff.”

“Hmm . . . Strict or lenient?”

“What do you mean?”

“There are some people who prefer to have stricter rules. It is comforting to some to know what the strict limits are. The more rules there are makes it easy to figure out how to act. However, for some a lot of rules are restrictive. It makes them nervous and too afraid to act. Do you know where you lay on the spectrum?”

“I guess a little stricter is better. If the rules are well defined and consistent. There were a lot of rules at the Dursley’s but they changed every week. It was always easier when there were rules that stayed constant. Then I knew what to expect and it was better.” Harry mumbled after a long moment of deep thought. Snape made no comment and wrote a note down. Snape never judged him when he said stuff like that. He may say that something was unhealthy but he never said that Harry was wrong for thinking things. It may be that Snape could understand more than anyone else due to his past history, regardless it made Harry like the man even more. They continued through a long list of either/or questions. Some of them were profound, like how political Harry would want his guardians, and some of them not so much; like which floor he would like his bedroom.

“Here.” Harry accepted the paper that was handed to him. In Snape’s spiky elegant script was the list of all of Harry’s answers.

“Thanks.” Harry mumbled.

“Now you go through that list. Mark everything you find most important. You start searching through options that relate to your highest scored.”

“Why would I?” Harry said with no small amount of sarcasm. Snape raised an eyebrow but said nothing, waiting for Harry to continue. “Even if I found a place I wouldn’t be able to go there.”

“Why not?” Snape asked.

“Well because it isn’t safe. Dumbledore said that before. Heck, even the Minister said it. No one is going let me leave because there is nowhere safer.”

“Nowhere safer than a Muggles house in the middle of the suburbs.” Snape said with a deadpan expression.

“There are protections they said.” Harry shrugged but feeling much less confident in his answer now.

“There are no wards that exist that can protect you from everything. If a semi intelligent person wanted to get to you in that place it would only take a half a minutes thought. They could send a muggle in to kidnap you. Send a police officer under the imperious to take you away without suspicion. They could wait just outside the wards, after all you don’t spend every moment within the wards boarders. Every ward is penetrable. If a wizard walked into your home then you have no other protections. Your muggle family has no power to protect you.” Snape said with a placid tone. Well fuck, Harry had never thought about it that way. Didn’t surprise him that the master Slytherin would have thought all the ways that someone could subvert the wards and protections.

“Oh.” Harry couldn’t really comment. It didn’t seem like there was anything good to say to the revelation that a safe place was pretty much like sitting in the middle of a bear trap, just as dangerous for you as for the bear.

“Potter there is a lot of potential coming your way. You now have a lawyer at your beck and call and the documents that allow you to start making your own decisions. There is only so much I can do if you are still stuck in the mindset that you will let others make your decisions for you.” Snape sneered. Harry looked down at the list in his hands. His hopes and dreams for a home, even though it was one he had never really thought about before. If Snape was right then it was a possibility. This and anything else that he wanted. Maybe a good job, or even no job at all considering the money he was getting from the basilisk and inheritance. He could choose a country to live and a future that he wanted. That wouldn’t happen if he didn’t go for it. What was it that the hat said the first time he wore it? That he had the thirst to prove himself. Perhaps it was time that the ambitious part of him started working for something other than just keeping him alive.

“Thank you for this,” Harry waved the paper lightly. “And for the kick to the head.”

“Long overdue.” Snape snorted. He waved his hand in a dismissal. “Get out of here. Next time we have a session I want a list of the things you want for the future and what you need to do to get those things. Tomorrow we will meet to gather more of the corpse, same time and place.”

Harry left with a lot to think about. Despite all the questions and concerns he now had there was also the little sprig of hope that had begun to grow. With a little encouragement Harry was now seeing that there was a lot he could do. With a few adults on his side, and a super researcher like Hermione and, hell, even someone as well connected as Malfoy there were a lot of doors opening to him that he hadn’t before. Now he could think about the things he wanted in a way that he never considered before.

First thing though, he had to think about how he was going to respond to Sirius.

Chapter Text

Severus Snape was sitting at his desk; the flickering light of the fire the only thing illuminating the half empty bottle of whisky and the empty glass that sat before him. The crystal glass shimmered green as the fire roared to life. A dark shadow covered the dour man.

“That bottle must be very interesting.” A voice purred.

“Alex,” Snape started. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I arrived home at eight expecting my husband for dinner. When he didn’t show up I found him hallway through a bottle of whiskey, scowling in the dark.” Alex smiled softly, showing that he wasn’t really mad about Severus missing dinner. It wasn’t the first time and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. “My, what an expression on your face. Has that bottle been telling you riddles?”

Snape didn’t comment when Alex conjured himself an arm chair and then flopped into it. He hooked one of his legs over the arm, leaning heavily on his side. With a flick of his wand Snape summoned another glass. He poured three fingers into it and slid it across the desk.

“If it were merely a riddle I would be much happier. Unfortunately this one is inscrutable in regards to everything but time.” He poured some more whiskey into his own glass before taking a sip.

“Who is it that is on your mind? Is it Miss Annaline?”

“No.” Snape sighed, leaning back in his chair. “I changed her therapist from Lira to Maria. Under the new direction she is flourishing. It also help that her attacker is behinds bars and will be for a very long time.”

“Then your issue must be with Mr. Potter.” 

“He is an entirely frustrating being.” Snape groused. Alex chuckled, used to those types of comments from the dour man.

“And what has he done now?”

“It is more what he hasn’t done.” Snape sighed. Alex waited quietly for him to explain. “The boy has no plans for the future. He is constantly living his life being pushed over the edge and somehow always landing on his feet. He is just sitting on the ledge, waiting patiently for the next push.”

“Aren’t you helping with that?”

“How?” Snape snorted. “By talking at him a few times a week? It was just today that he realized that he didn’t have to live with those people.” He sneered. He tapped lightly on the page he had copied with the list of requests. With a single finger he pushed it across the desk into Alex’s waiting hands.

“Well what more can you do?” Alex hummed as he glanced over the list. “You have given him an adult whom he can trust. Introduced him to me and gave him financial security and control. You are steadily leading him to begin thinking independently for himself. You are healing him with potions. Is there something else you could do?”

“To think that someone who is Lily’s child could be so bereft of life.” Snape paused, watching Alex closely.

“How many times do I have to tell you, Sev? I know you loved her, still love her, and I am okay with it.”  He folded the parchment and placed it back on the desk.

“I just find it hard to believe.”

“I don’t mind sharing you with a dead woman. You have plenty enough heart to love us both. Plus,” He paused with a wistful look on his face. “To be held in the same regard as Lily Evans. I take it as a great compliment. And more over, I don’t see her son as someone bereft of life. Just someone who doesn’t know where life can lead.”

“You like him.” Snape said without room to questions.

“He is a wonderful boy. A kind heart and great potential.”

“Is that why you act the way you do around him.”

“I act as myself.”

“An exaggerated version of yourself.” Alex nodded in agreement.

“Perhaps. It is still myself regardless. With good reason as well. The boy looks up to you. He knows that you have gone through similar things. But you can be a bitter man, my dear. I just wanted to show him that some of us still love the broken ones.” He leaned over the desk and lightly poked Severus’s wrinkled brow. “Is that all that is bothering you?”

“Hardly.” Snape snorted. He knocked back the rest of the glass. The bottle automatically floated to fill his glass, doing the same for Alex when he mimicked the motion. “It seems that Albus and Minerva had some . . . interesting ideas on what Mr. Potter and I were doing in our spare time. And here I thought they could think no lower of me.” He sneered heavily.

“They said this to you?” Surprise colored his tone.

“No. Instead they went to try and confront Potter about it.”

“And he told you?”

“No.” Snape tried to conceal a smile as his husband made a confused face. “I am the Head of Slytherin. It would be an affront to my post if I did not know what is going on in school. There are many occasions in which listening in on the Headmaster’s conversations are beneficial.” He explained, letting his fingers tap lightly on his glass.

“So what are you going to do about it?” Alex purred with a leer.

“Do? Nothing. It would not do to have it revealed that I was listening in on something I should not have been aware of. If they bother to bring it up to me, which I very much doubt, then I will be righteously angry. For now it is not an issue. I try not to be insulted by the collective stupidity of the flock.” Alex hummed in agreement.

“A problem to be dealt with later.” Alex shifted until he was slumped in his seat facing forward. Just to ruffle the potion masters feathers he rested his feet on the edge of his desk.

“Amongst the many problems that will be coming later.” With a sad chuckle Alex toasted the depressing statement. Snape responded in kind before the both fell into a contemplative silence.

“Speaking of problems, one of them has been solved.” Alex coyly swirled the alcohol around in his glass.

“Which one is that?” A wicked smirk bloomed on the lawyers face. If smugness had been granted life, body, and voice the brown hair Slytherin would be exactly what appeared.

“Rita Skeeter.”

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Rita Skeeter Arrested For Treason

Written by: Arnold Smugdun

Earlier this morning well known Prophet Reporter Rita Skeeter was arrested for high treason. This shocking arrest came with a flurry of surprising discoveries about the unethical methods Skeeter was using to research for her articles.

Aurors were mobilized when an anonymous report was sent in through an inter-ministry memo. It announced the stunning revelation that Skeeter was an unregistered animagus and was using it to spy on people. More importantly, using it to spy on the ministry. The following memo landed on the desk of the Head Auror.

“To whom it may concern: This morning I was leaving the department of mysteries when I noticed that the woman known as Rita Skeeter has transformed into an animagus form of a beetle. Since it is illegal to use animal transformation magic on the lower floors of the ministry I felt it prudent to mention this. After watching her sneak into the department of ministries I fear for the safety of the ministry and its secrets.”

Rita Skeeter was subsequently arrested. It was found that she was an unregistered animagus, a bright green beetle. On the lower floors of the Ministry it is illegal to use transformation magic of any kind due to the sensitive nature of the work done there with research and criminal investigations. Everything in the department of mysteries is strictly confidential.

After searching Skeeter’s residence it was found that she had folders of sensitive information. Some of the documents included details of undercover aurors, time and location of raids and research done by Unspeakable’s. It is unclear whether she was planning to sell the information or if she was planning on publishing it. Nor do we know the amount of damage that may have been avoided by various persons due to the information that she had already released. The volume of the ill-gotten information is staggering, to say the least.

Further interrogation revealed that Rita used her form to investigate stories illegally on the public. Her famous green quill was also found to be enchanted with an exaggeration charm, which overrides the original accuracy spell all news sources use. This throws into question every article which has ever been written by Skeeter. We at the Prophet would like to stress the fact that we were unaware of any wrong   doing on her part.

For more on the Law & Punishment of treason see page 5.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

“So I’m there tied to a chair. Pansy is shrieking because the bed is on fire. Blaise is bright purple and yelling but no one can hear because of the silencing spell. Crabbe and Goyle are useless and Knott is somehow managing to sleep through the entire thing. Suddenly the door opens and it’s Snape. He takes a moment to look around and says ‘if I get another noise complaint I am giving you all detention.’” Harry snorted, gasping as pumpkin juice took a sudden detour up his nose.

“Really?” Harry coughed in-between chuckles. He hid his face behind his cards because he knew his face was turning red.

Draco laughed as well, taking a moment to place a card down on the stack between them. The card fizzled lightly before fading back to the dancing witch image. Slightly off to the side of the table was a pile of ash built up from the previous games. They had been playing exploding snap for the last couple hours after being dismissed from the library by Hermione when they couldn’t stay quiet.

Exploding Snap was a fine card game where the goal was to have your opponent explode the pile first. Each card has a value of either increasing or decreasing the likelihood of an explosion. It was a game of strategy of trying to get as close to the tipping point without being the one who actually crosses the line. The trick was determining the value which would cause ignition from the way the cards reacted when placed on the pile.

“Well what did you expect?” Draco asked. “Teenagers with magic are all the same. Slytherin’s like pranks just as much as the next person. We are just a bit more ambitious when we go about them.”

“I don’t know. I guess that I figured you spent most of your time in those high back leather chairs of yours talking about how great and powerful your family was.” Harry shrugged with a sardonic smile, popping his card of a singing troll on top of Draco’s witch. Draco froze, fingers on a card unmoving as he stared at Harry.

“That is oddly specific.” He said lightly, his grey eyes piercing into Harry.

“That’s probably because I have seen your common room.” Harry replied slyly, trying not to make eye contact.

“When!” Draco demanded, slapping his card on top of his pile. Harry focused his attention on the singing centaur, trying hard not to smile.

“Hmm? Oh second year.” Harry rubbed a thumb across his bottom lip, trying to physically wipe the smile that was going to emerge. “I would think you would remember. After all, you were the one who let me in.” After a moment’s consideration he laid down a centaur as well, this one was stargazing. He watched as the card sparked but eventually settled.

“What?!” Draco yelped. He sat, shocked for just a moment. With a slow determined motion he placed his card down. The card, a potioneer, fizzled harshly and then with a calamitous sound exploded, burning all of the cards below it. Both boys rapidly let go over their cards to avoid the now on-fire cards from burning their fingers. With a curse the young Slytherin reached for the card box, revealing a newly appeared stack of cards.

“I suppose you would like to hear the story?” Harry cooed, chuckling at the glare that he got in return. With a coy smile he ran through the story. The planning, the polyjuice, the sleeping potions in the cupcakes and how they had to run away in the end. He inwardly rejoiced at the stunned expression on the pale face.

“I must say Potter,” Malfoy started after a minute, deftly shuffling the cards, bridging them and then dealing them out. “That plan was almost worthy of a Slytherin.” 

“Hmm. Make sense because I nearly was one.” Harry replied, avoiding eye contact.

“What in merlin’s name are you talking about Potter?”

“The sorting hat wanted to put me in Slytherin. I ask it not to but, yeah.” He shrugged.

“You’re fucking with me.” Draco demanded.

“Wish I was.”

“That explains so much.” Harry raised an eyebrow, silently demanding an explanation. With his own coy smile Draco just went back to laying down a card.

“Fine. Keep it to yourself then.” Harry said petulantly. Then he moved to cover Draco’s cleaning house elf with his own pranking fairy. They played in silence for a couple of minutes, letting their pile get dangerously close to exploding.

“Alright,” Harry started. “Tell me something that you have never told any of your Slytherin friends.”

“What? You want me to just tell you a secret for no reason what so ever?” Draco said incredulously.

“Well it would be fun, wouldn’t you?” Harry sighed when he was leveled with an unimpressed look. “Fine. What if I go first?”

“Whatever whips your wand, Potter. No guarantees from me.”

“I love being a Parselmouth.” Harry admitted after a quick run through of his secrets in his head. Draco quirked an eyebrow at the statement. “I mean, most of my friends just think that it’s an unfortunate talent. Or that I would find it creepy. But I absolutely love it. When I was a child I spoke to snakes all the time.”

“There was one snake that I called Leafy that was my best friend for years. I have always loved snakes. I think they are cool, powerful and fun. I haven’t told anyone in my house though. It seems weird to say that I love snakes. So no one knows that I love talking with snakes.” Harry sighed happily.

“Leafy? Really Potter?” Draco sneered lightly, joking tone evident.

“What? I was seven! He was a bright green color. Sue me.” Harry huffed. There was a pleasant silence for a long minute before Harry broke it. “So, go on!”

“Fine.” He sighed heavily. “I love muggle literature.”

“Really?” Harry was shocked.

“Absolutely. It’s infinitely better than wizarding literature. Wizard authors are all traditional. It is a story about a wizarding hero who fights monsters or a pureblood lady who falls in love it a muggleborn and then realizes it is better to stay with purebloods.” He sneered.

“Muggle literature are so different. Millions of stories in millions of worlds. Hero’s, anti-hero’s, main characters that actually have flaws. They change and mess with stories and format. It is refreshing and intoxicating. You could read a million books and each one would be completely different from the next. Then the next one you pick up would still be new and exciting.” He breathed deeply as if savoring the memory.

“Wow. You really like books.” Harry smiled.

“Secret passion of mine. It’s a way to escape into another world. A glance into the author’s soul and a passionate expression of human nature. ”

“What is your favorite book?”

“Way to ask an impossible questions.” He rubbed his hand through his hair, contemplating his answer. “Well right now I would say that is a book by José Saramago called Blindness.”

“Never heard of it.”

“I didn’t think you would, almost no one has.” Draco groused, throwing down his card. “Saramago is a writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature. He has a fascinating writing style. He writes in huge paragraphs that go for pages. He doesn’t use proper punctuation. He doesn’t use proper nouns. In his book Blindness he doesn’t even use names for any of the characters. Hell, he doesn’t even note when a new person is speaking except to capitalize the word when someone new starts talking.” He waved his hands around, punctuation his sentences excitedly. “It would be confusing. However, he has such talent in creating characters with such distinct voices that you realize that there is no need for names or indications who is speaking. He is skilled enough to take you through the story with just the bare minimum of structure and still tell his story in a way that powerful.

“His stories are about human nature. In Blindness everyone in the story goes blind except for one woman. She has to watch as human civilization falls apart when people lose one of their basic senses. She desperately tried to keep her husband and friends safe all while waiting for her blindness to eventually come. It’s a fascinating look into how reliant we are on our senses and how easily we can devolve.”

“That sounds interesting.” Harry answered. He did genuinely like the sound of the story. He was just surprised how animated Draco seemed about it.

“It was beautifully written. A great example of how muggles are so much better writers than wizards. Something as simple as the format and punctuation in a book can change a good book into a great piece of art. Wizards just do not seem to understand the nuances of the written word that muggles can get. ” Draco smirked. “Not that I could ever say that to any one in my house without it getting back to my father.”

“Then how do you find your books?”

“Severus. Sometimes I get dropped off at his house when my parents are hosting a gala or want to go on a trip out of the country. Sev goes to all kinds of book stores. So over the summer I go and hoard as many muggle books as I can.” Draco explained.

“Well then, I guess you are going to have to start recommending books for me.” Harry smiled.

“I can do you one better, I’ll just give you the books I think you should read.”

Chapter Text

Dear Remus,

Hello! I hope everything is going well. Things are decent here but they could be better. The second task is finished which means I only have one more that I have to deal with. I have been studying a lot and my grades are getting better each day.

I am writing to you because of Sirius. The other day Sirius sent me a letter (I have put it with this one so that you can read it.) He goes on a rant about Snape, which is why I am writing you. You see, I have been working with Snape recently. He has been giving me potions lessons and such. So I asked him why Sirius would hate him so much.

He brought up some things about your . . . interactions. Namely he said that Sirius nearly cost him his life. I was hoping that you might be able to . . . clarify what he meant by that. I trust Snape, but I guess that I am a bit reluctant to think that Sirius would hate someone so much. I was wondering, well hoping, that there may have been another side of the story. Not that I know the story. Snape didn’t give me any details.

Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.

Harry

Harry stared at the awkward, rambling group of sentences that formed his letter. He had been intent on writing Sirius a letter in response to what he had learned from Snape. After the tenth sheet of parchment that had been scratched out and set ablaze Hermione finally interjected, if only to save her precious books from ash.

“Ask Remus.” Was her short answer. Harry had to ask her to clarify. “Listen. You are obviously having trouble dealing with what you learned, right? Why not get a third party opinion? Remus may be a little biased but on the whole I don’t think he would intentionally lie to you. So hear what he has to say and then use that to temper what you are going to write to Sirius.”

Harry had tried to write a few more versions before finally succumbing to her advice. With a heavy sigh he rolled up his letter and made off to the Owlrey.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

It was the morning of the inquiry and instead of heading towards his classes Harry was on his way to the Main Entrance. He was a bit worried about skipping classes but Professor Snape said that he had taken care of it. Harry had no idea what he had told the Headmaster and McGonagall.

“Good morning Harry!” Mr. Dawsen called. He was standing next to the professor looking every bit a high powered lawyer in his bespoke suit and the formal robes he wore open and over it. Snape wasn’t wearing any robes, instead he wore a black, high-neck, close fitting jacket. Along with his fitted trousers he looked intimidating and proud. Standing together they looked like two lords at a high class party. Like they should have been sipping scotch and discussing politics as servants swirled around them to cater to their every whim. All in all, it made Harry feel silly in his school robes and uniform.

“Morning.” He said softly.

“Well today is the big day.” Alex clapped his hands lightly. “We will be taking a portkey to the atrium of the ministry. First we will be disguising you. There are always reporters and we will want to avoid them.” He swirled his wand over Harry’s head, tapping it gently as the complicated move finished. The spell laid uncomfortably over his skin, like his was wearing a mask and a wig. He glanced at his reflection in the window. What he saw was a truly unimpressive face. His hair was medium brown, a little long but not going past his ears. His eyes were brown as well and had lost their distinctive almond shape. He face had subtly shifted but the changes were so unimposing that Harry wouldn’t have been able to put into words how it was any different from his normal face.

“Wow.” He commented, prodding his own face with a finger. Snape gave an unimpressed snort.

“Well come on Potter, we do not have all day. You have used a portkey, have you not?” In his long spindly fingers he held a ratty old book. The torn brown leather cover had no title to indicate which book it was. Harry grabbed one of the corners of the book, waiting patiently for Mr. Dawsen to follow along.

“Portus.” The wind whipped his clothes as Harry was whisked from the front entrance of the school. He kept his eyes firmly shut through the whole trip, desperately trying not to get sick. As suddenly as it began it ended with his knees buckling as he landed on the marble floors. He staggered for a moment but a strong hand kept him upright. With a small quirk of an eyebrow Snape pushed him back onto the balls of his feet. Mr. Dawsen was already ahead of them, quickly approaching a man at a desk which seemed to be randomly placed in the middle of the atrium.

“Alexander Dawsen, representation for an inquiry.” He announced. The pinch faced man at the desk nodded and held out his hand. Alex placed his wand in the outstretched palm. The man ran the wand through a box with knobs and a screen. At the end a little paper popped out. He took it, wrote down a few things on his pad and handed the wand back.

“Severus Snape, defendant for an inquiry.” The potion master announced himself. The same process happened again with the man never saying a word. After he finished with the professor’s he turned his beady stare to Harry.

“Identity protected minor.” Mr. Dawsen cut in. “Witness for an inquiry.” The man grunted and held his hand out for Harry’s wand. Harry watched nervously as the man pushed his wand through. There were no sirens or whistles and in just a moment the wand was back in his hands. A strong hand landed between his shoulder blades leading him away from the desk.

Harry swung his head around in amazement as he took in all the different colors, shapes and designs of the people around him. Unlike in Diagon Alley, the people here were not just wizarding families out shopping. Milling around their little trio were delegates from different countries and different species. Harry had never seen so many different people and designs. He watched as some lady with a green fox perched on her hat argued in a language Harry couldn’t determine to a man who was wearing a floral robe set that matched his turban. A goblin grumbled as he elbowed people’s knees to stalk past them. Harry followed as a little paper bird fluttered around his head before darting into an elevator.

“Office memos.” Alex explained. “They tried owls but they were too difficult to take care of and too dirty. When they tried floo mailing everything just ended up singed.” They stepped onto the elevator along with a few other people. The doors shut lightly before the elevator jerked into motion. They stayed on until the soft voice called out ‘level 2’. Snape fell in step behind Harry as he followed Alex to a door.

The room was full of people when they arrived. The room was surrounded by seats, with three standing higher than the rest behind a large podium. Two tables sat before the lifted seats. Alex led them over to the unoccupied table. Harry sat down in one of the chairs folding his hands in his lap. Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he was tapped with a wand and the disguise fell away. Those sitting in the outer seats whispered to themselves, taking only a moment to glance Harry and his group.

“Don’t worry Harry,” Mr. Dawsen tried to call him. “I will be the one who does most of the talking. You and Severus will answer questions only when it is absolutely necessary. Other than that, let me handle it.”

“All rise for the Supreme Judge Fennis, Minster of magic Fudge and Deputy Undersecretary Umbridge.” A voice bellowed out, announcing the entrance of the three. Everyone proceeded to their seats. The three who were announced walked in, taking a seat in the stony silence.

Judge Fennis was a serious looking man. Despite that he reminded Harry of an old teacher he had. The man had been stern but also had a great warmth about him. The judge had a thin face, carved deep with wrinkles. The air around him seemed to whisper that no nonsense would be tolerated. Fudge looked very much like he always did. He was wearing black robes with that little bowler hat.

The third person was someone who Harry never met, because if he had he certainly would have recognized her. The woman who waddled in was bulbous, reminding him greatly of Uncle Vernon. Her jowls were so large that they stretched her cheeks and the edge of her lips to give the distinct impression of an unhappy frog. She was dressed in a startlingly pink robes that made her look like a circus tent. Her hat was pink as well, with dyed feathers and a few rhinestones. Harry was surprised when she sat down and didn’t let out a loud wheezing sound like a squeak toy.

“Well we got bad luck with Harren.” Harry followed Alex’s gesture to someone at the opposing table. “He still hates you. But Fennis is a stroke of luck. He gets annoyed with long inquiries and is unerringly fair.” He quieted down as everyone turned towards the three entrants.

“Why does he hate you?” Harry inquired quietly to Snape.

“Not important.” Snape replied, but his lips had pulled into an amused smirk.

“Alright,” The one in the middle, the judge, cleared his throat and looked at a paper. “We are here today for the inquiry of the Ministry vs Snape in regards to the sale of Basilisk parts. Those who represent the Ministry present yourself.”

“Your honor, I am the legal representation for the ministry Phillious Harren.” The man who stood reminded Harry villain in one of those old movies. The man was bald and stood a little hunched. While he was not completely unattractive, the deeply etched lines of his face showed that his normal expression was one of derision. “I have two witnesses with me today. Potion master Sebestian.” The man stood and bowed. He was a tiny little man who reminded Harry of Professor Flitwick. “And Aurour Kingsley.” The tall black man bowed his head but did not stand.

“Very good. And the defense?” Alex stood when he was called and transformed into some one completely different than Harry had ever seen. The man was dangerous. He was a kitten turned lion, a grass snake turned viper. His whole continence shifted. He stood taller and prouder. His face was a neutral mask, but not completely. Under the expressionless guise there was a feeling of derision. As if no one there were even worth the time to be disgusted by. It was then when Harry truly realized the warning Snape had given him. He may be kind but he was a Slytherin and a lawyer.

“Your honor. I am Alexander Dawsen the legal representation. This is Potion Master Severus Snape and witness Harry Potter.”

“And what is Mr. Potter doing here?” Fudge interrupted, clutching his bowler hat.

“Mr. Potter is the co-owner and the slayer of the beast.” Alex explained. “You asked that all those involved be present.”

“Very well.” The judge shuffled his papers. “Prosecution please state your case.”

“We are here to inquiry about the obtaining and sale of large amounts of basilisk parts. Due to the highly dangerous ingredients the breeding and sale of any basilisk any instance of illegal sale is highly punished.” The lawyer began. “Due to the amount of secrecy there is an amount of concern that there may be some legal issues. If enough evidence can be found then a trial and a seizure of assets will be required.”

“Defense?”

“Your honor. All of the actions have been completely legal. The need for secrecy was due to the fact that there was an underage participant. Due to Harry Potter’s unfortunate interactions with the press over the years it was decide that secrecy was needed.” Harry watched the Judge as they went through the opening statements. The man just sat there without changing his expression. Glancing over Harry was confronted with an ugly glare. The frog-lady was staring at him like he was the muck found at the bottom of a lake. He wondered whether he had ever met her before. After a moments of deliberation he decided that he would have remembered someone as . . . noticeable as her.

“Very well.” The judge sighed. “I suppose I will begin with a recap of the laws and regulations of the sale of basilisk parts. Let us begin with SHB324 Article 1 section 2.5 . . .”

Harry zoned out as the man started reading from documents. He wasn’t the only one. Most of those who were sitting in the gallery seating were yawning, eyes wandering around the room. One older lady had even pulled out a pair of knitting needles and pink yarn, clacking away at what may have been a multipronged scarf, because there were too many arms if it was supposed to be a sweater. Snape was sitting there, for all looking like he was paying attention. However if you glanced under the desk he was scribbling in a notebook. Harry squinted to see that he was scraping away at the image of a leaf. Alex, on the other hand, was taking notes with fervor.

“ . . . and in the instance of improper sale in regards to the regulation set in article 5 section 1.6 assets can be seized by the ministry and the regulatory bodies thereof to compensate any potential law enforcement work or damages.” The judge finished, slipping his glasses off his face. “Now we will begin with witness statements. Potion masters Snape please step forward.” The professor stepped up to the lone chair and slid into it with the grace more befitting a leopard than a man.

“Please tell us the events the lead you to obtain the beast.”

“Very well.” Snape purred, his deep voice reverberating around the room. “Two years ago there were a number of incidences in the school caused by a basilisk. Due to a series of unfortunate events, namely the poor defense teacher Lockhart, one of the students was stolen into the chamber. Mr. Potter had found the entrance to the chamber and lead Lockhart to the entrance. He was forced to enter the chamber. There was a battle and Potter managed to slay the beast. He then decided to inform me of the corpse’s existence and when informed that he was the owner of it, he gifted it to me.” Snape explained.

“And why would he gift it to you?” Harren sneered.

“I suppose it would be because I was the most convenient potions master within the vicinity.” Snape smirked. “He wanted to have it used to the best of its ability and he thought it may be me.”

“And did you not think it inappropriate to take something of so much worth from a child?”

“Mr. Potter is hardly an infant, incapable of understanding worth.” Snape quietly said. “Still that is the reason why the profits from the sale of extra ingredients is split between the two of us.”

“That still does not explain why he would give all of that money to you.” Harren emphasized. You could feel the dislike coming off from the man. Snape had the slightest smile on his face as if he was enjoying the man’s hatred.

“I suppose you would have to ask him.”

“But-“

“Your honor!” Alex interrupted the other lawyer. “This line of inquiry is becoming redundant and useless. Professor Snape has already answered the question to the best of his ability.”

“I agree. Mr. Harren please ask a different question.” The judge admonished. Harren turned to glare at Mr. Dawsen for a moment.

“Very well. It is well stated that the ingredients from a basilisk can be used to create many harmful potions. However, you are selling them to many potions masters around the world. How can you be sure that you are not selling them to people who would do bad things with them?”

“I can answer that.” Mr. Dawsen was up again, this time moving towards the bench. “I provided Mr. Snape with the current regulations on ingredient ownership. Together we sorted through all those who requested ingredients, dismissing anyone who does not follow the strict guidelines. Afterwards Professor Snape determined doses that would be appropriate for whatever type of study or potion that they were making and sold them in the according amounts. He noted all of the potions that could be enhanced with basilisk parts that could cause damage and then noted the amount needed to make each potion. Each ingredient was then sold in batches less than what was needed to make those dangerous potions. Making sure that no one person would be able to obtain enough to do serious damage.”

“How can you be sure?”

“You have a potions master yourself. Why not check with him?” Mr. Dawsen asked. He flicked his wand and let sheets of paper fly over to the other table and into the hands of the other potion master. There was a quiet, tense moment as the little man flicked through the pile. Every once in a while he would stop, glance at his own notes before moving on through the pages.

“Everything seems to be correct. I see no dangerous potions that Professor Snape may have missed in his documentation. As long as he is truly selling these amounts then there should be very little issues.” The nasally voice squeaked out.

“Hem hem.” A whiny voice coughed into the conversation. Umbridge sat up, pleased expression on her face. “How can we be sure that the accused is selling the amounts that he says he is?”

“I would like to remind the judge and the council.” Alex stared heavily at Umbridge as he said that. “This is not a trial and there is no accused party. This is merely an inquiry and nothing more.”

“Noted.” The judge acknowledged. He leveled Umbridge with an unimpressed stare.

“To answer the undersecretary’s question. As per the rules and regulations all sales have been performed with receipts and the transactions noted in a ledger. We are also prepared to sign a statement if necessary.”

“Will you be handing those over to the Auror department?” Kingsley interrupted.

“Only if you have a subpoena.” Alex replied smartly.

“Then we are just supposed to take your word for it?” Fudge interrupted, his expression saying everything on his opinion on the matter.

“Is there any reason that you have where you wouldn’t trusts my client’s word?” Alex asked vaguely. The question was innocent enough but the tone was taunting. From the unhappy look on Fudge’s face, and the obvious glare from Umbridge, there was something that wanted to be said. It was like they were in stalemate, if they moved their piece Alex would move his to end the game. So instead there was a heavy silence before Mr. Dawsen turned back to the Judge.   “Are there any more questions for Mr. Snape?” There was a small murmur as the people in the galley talked amongst themselves. But no voice raised up to ask any question.

“Very well. Professor Snape you may return to your seat. If the other witness will please step forward.”

Chapter Text

Harry tried not to be nervous as he approached the chair. He let a sigh of relief as Alex followed him to the chair. When he sat down Alex remained, standing off slightly to the side with his hand planted firmly on Harry’s shoulder. The judge noted it with a quirked eyebrow but said nothing.

“Mr. Potter.”

“Yes sir.” Harry perked up, trying to look him in the eye.

“We will begin with you version of the events that lead to the death of the basilisk. Take your time and please be as precise as possible.” The judge stated, with a softness in his voice that he did not previously have.

“Okay,” Harry began. “Well it started with a lot of people being petrified. No one knew what was happening. Then Hermione, my friend, got petrified. We were too curious for our own good. So when we had the chance we were studying to see what would could cause petrification, which was before she got petrified. Then Ginny got taken.”

“Ginerva Weasley, the victim in the incident report.” Mr. Dawsen cut in.

“Right,” Harry acknowledged. “We figured out that it was a basilisk.”

“How did you figure out it was a basilisk when your teachers could not?” Umbridge interrupted again, derision cutting her tone.

“I suppose it is because we had more time on our hands to study. After all, they were doing their duty to try and protect the children in their care. They also had to keep classes and the rest of the school working.” Harry said, trying to use the same tone Mr. Dawsen had been using. Though it sounded less significant in his unpracticed tone it did make Umbridge go an unpleasant shade of puce. “Well, Hermione is really clever and she figured out how to snake was moving. She is really great at puzzles, one of the best in our class. She figured out it as moving through the pipes and where the entrance must be.” Harry purposefully left out the part about his skills in speaking with snakes.

“We went to Professor Lockhart because he was always saying that he could defeat it if he knew where it was. We took him to the entrance and went through it.” Harry purposefully left out the part where they forced him at wand point. It hardly seemed to be in his benefit to admit that. Seeing as it was probably illegal. “When we got down into the chamber Lockhart turned on us. He tried to obliviate us with Ron, Ron Wealsey’s, wand. But it was broken and ended up hurting him and causing the wall to break and separate us. So I went to fight the snake alone. I fought it and I killed it.”

There were a lot of details that Harry was excluding. Alex had given him that packet of questions and answers. One of the few things that was stressed during the entire things was that there were certain details that he shouldn’t bring up if he could help it. His ability to speak to snakes was one. He was also not to spend any real time talking about the battle. If he did he would have to mention Riddle, the diary, and possession. It seemed that Dumbledore had left most of those details out of the report. It would look bad if anything they said was different than the official report. Also, it would make people nervous and believe there was a lot of dark magic he may have been involved with.

Keep it short and if you think it sounds bad, leave it out. That was the last note at the end of the page.

“You killed a basilisk?” Harren asked, incredulous.

“With some help!” Harry turned a bit to look at the man as he defended himself. “The headmaster’s phoenix, Fawkes, blinded the basilisk. Then it was just a blind poisonous snake. It gave me a sword and I stabbed it. I got bit as well.”

“And you survived?”

“Well Fawkes was there. When I got bit he cried on me.”

“Are we truly supposed to believe that a boy defeated a basilisk with just a sword?” Umbridge purred.

“Mr. Potter has given his true account of what happened that day. Do you doubt him?” Alex cut in.

“Well Mr. Potter has not demonstrated himself to be a . . . honest figure. After all, he did cheat his way into a tournament.”

“Madame Umbridge!” Alex boomed, he wasn’t shouting but his voice ricocheted around the chamber as if he had. “I am sure that you do not mean to imply what you are implying. Mr. Potter has maintained his innocence in regards to the tournament and his headmaster agrees that he does not have the skill to create the deception that placed him in the tournament. Surely you are not meaning to disparage the character of Mr. Potter?”

“Of course not.” She replied after a heavy pause. “However if there were a way to . . . make sure that what is being said here is truth?”

“Madame. I am sure, you would not be suggesting the use of a truth potion? After all, we are all aware that it is illegal to give a child a truth potion, regardless of any reason. It is considered a great crime to do so in a capital trial. To do so in a simple inquiry? Well that would be quite a scandal, wouldn’t it?” He sneered lightly, not enough to be considered a direct attack. Every one watched as the undersecretary was forced to purse her lips and nod in agreement.

“Then I suppose we can put this matter to rest. Seeing as Mr. Potter’s testimony matches the official statement from the headmaster. The statement from the victim Miss Weasley also matches. Shall we move on?”

“Mr. Dawsen,” The judge reprimand heavy in his tone. “This is not your court. It is mine. When we are talking about presumptions I would remind you that you cannot dictate when this court moves on.” Alex nodded his head and stepped back slightly in deference. “However, you are correct. All testimonies match and there is no dissenting account. Therefore we will work under the assumption that what Mr. Potter is being truthful here and is the official slayer of the beast.”

“Thank you.” Mr. Dawsen acknowledged, a small smile indicated his victory.

“It should be noted that Mr. Potter is under aged. Due to the law FRRH 12.6 the transactions of a minor must be under 1000 galleons unless there is guardian approval.” Harren said with a little smirk. “If these transactions are done improperly then they are to be in control of the guardian, and in some cases the government.”

“That is, unless the minor is emancipated. Mr. Potter filed and received emancipation months ago.”

“On what grounds?”

“Mr. Potter is the heir to the Lordship of the Potters. It is not uncommon that a young lord will take control of their own financials. That is the case with Mr. Potter, due to the fact that his relatives are muggles and have no understanding of our financial systems.”

“That is only with permission of the guardians. Did they agree to this?”

“Instances in which guardian approval is not necessary have happened in the past.” Alex turned towards the judge.

“To gain emancipation without parental permission there are two occasions. One is when the guardians are derelict of duty or the permission of magic, ministry and school.” Judge Fennis remarked, shuffling through his papers again.

“Yes, your honor. And the needs for the second instance have all been met and approved by the ministry.” Alex explained. “The Goblet of Fire is a vessel of magic. When it chose Mr. Potter is accepted him as an adult in his own right. When the Headmaster of his school and Bartimus Crouch, a ministry official, refused to remove him from the competition they acknowledge that he was adult enough to be forced into a competition that commonly results in death. The petition was made to the Department of Social Documentation and was granted.” Alex explained. A paper floated over to the judge. Harry recognized his own scratched on signature at the bottom.

“All seems to be in order.” The judge acknowledged.

“I believe that the biggest question is to why Mr. Potter would give something so valuable to his professor. I would like to hear it from Mr. Potters own mouth.” Harren sneered.

“Well, to be honest I didn’t know what to do with it at first.” Harry shrugged. “I didn’t want it to go to waste or just rot away. Then I remembered reading about some of the things Professor Snape had done in potions research.” Harry took a moment to glance at the man in question. Professor Snape was stoic as he watched. He made a little jerk with his head to direct Harry to turn around again.

“He did a lot of things with antivenins and other healing potions. I figured that if anyone could do great things with basilisk parts, it would be him. I told him to sell the rest of it so that he could have money for research. I don’t think that professors get paid much.” Harry explained, trying to keep close to the story he was supposed to say.

“And you did this without coercion and hinting?” Harren said in disbelief.

“Yes.” Harry angrily exclaimed. “I was the one who approached him!”

“Really?”

“Yes!” He nearly growled. He could feel his temper rising. Alex’s heavy hand rested on his shoulder, staying him.

“Mr. Harren. Again you ask repeated questions lead by your preconceptions.” He sneered. “Mr. Potter has answered your questions and gave his account. If you have any evidence that he hasn’t been honest present it now. If your only belief is that no one would be generous to Professor Snape or just assume that anyone would use these potions for bad then please stop asking questions.”

“How dare you?”

“How dare I? You are accusing a teenager of lying and corruption!” Alex hollered back.

“Gentlemen!” The judge interrupted. He gave a heaving sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose.  “Really now, this inquiry has gotten completely off tracks. These questions are bordering on the inappropriate. Now we will a present ourselves with decorum. I fear I have heard enough from both sides. We will take a ten minute recess so that I can go over the documentation and the commentary.”

There was shuffling as Harry stood from his seat. He moved back to his table as the people in the gallery shuffled out the doors. Probably to go to the bathroom or inhale a snack.

“Good job Harry.” Alex commented as they made it back.

“Really? I didn’t think I did that well.”

“You did fine enough. I have no doubt. They showed their hand too much and I know Judge Fennis saw it as well.” Alex slumped in his seat as those at the other table left to take their break.

“Who is that lady next to the minister?” Harry asked. Watching her simpering near the Minister.

“Umbridge. That bitch.” Alex cursed quietly. He waved away Snape’s angry look. “She works under the minister. Has a title that basically means nothing. She is as evil as the minister is stupid.”

“Alex. Watch your mouth.”

“You agree!” Alex waved a hand.

“Not out loud within the same room.” Snape hissed back.  

“Fine fine. Just don’t worry about her Harry. She likes to pretend she has power. Her only talent is to suck up to those who do. There are only three things that get you power from this current ministry. Money, beauty or intelligence. She is severely lacking in all three.” He said with no small amount of smugness.

“Something you have in common.”

“Oh come on, you think I’m pretty and you know it!” Snape just grunted instead of an answer. “And you must think I am intelligent, else you would never have liked me.”

”Why does she seem to hate me?” Harry pondered.

“She dislikes anyone and everyone that isn’t a rich pureblood or the minister. In this instance, I believe it is not personal. The only reason for this farce of an inquiry is so that the ministry may steal the profits. In their mind it would be better that a child and an ex-death eater don’t get the money and they do. Not that they could say it so plainly. She is just frustrated that she cannot say all the bigoted things she wishes to.” Alex explained.

“Umm Mr. Dawsen?” Harry said after another moment. “I thought that you were a tax lawyer. I didn’t think that you did things like this.”

“I’m afraid Harry, that I was quite the wanderer when I finished school. I dabbled in just about everything. It took me quite a while to settle on being a lawyer. An even longer time before I managed to end up in tax and contract law. By the time that happened I was well qualified in most types of law, including trials and inquiries.”

“All rise!” Came the shout. Everyone had made their way back into the room and stood as the judge entered again.

“Well then,” The judge called everyone’s attention after he swept in and sat down. “After reviewing the testimonies I have determined that there is no reason to believe there has been any misconduct from the defendants. All the required paperwork and precautions have been taken. There seems to be no instances of coercion or any reason to believe there will be any in the future.” There was a low murmuring through the room and Fudge had to try hard to keep the grimace from his face.

“However there is one final matter to discuss. There is a petition for a portion of the profits to go to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry due to the even taking part upon its grounds. Defense?”

“May I see the petition?” Alex asked, allowing the page to flutter into his hands. He peered at it for a moment before sending it back without a word or sound. “This petition is for the seizure of assets gained on private property. However that is not entirely correct because the incident happened in the Chamber of Secrets.”

“Is the Chamber not on school property?”

“While it is within the grounds it is distinctly not school property. When the school was founded the four creators took up their own places of residence on the property. It was written into the schools charter that those spaces were technically not school property but to be inherited by the family of the founder. Since there is no heir for the Slytherin family for over one hundred years the property technically reverts to public land. If it were to become the land of the school they would need to file for it.” The Judge paused as he contemplated it. Off to the side a witch handed him a large tome. He flipped it open, dragging his finger across the page. He pause midway down a page, tapped twice, and then flipped the cover closed with a resounding bang.

“You are correct.” The judge finally announced. “This petition is denied. Very well, this inquiry is finished. Any other issues will be brought to court after the necessary evidence has been submitted. Inquiry adjourned.” The people began to shuffle out.

“Was it him?” Snape asked the moment Alex returned from the table.

“No it was Swiftfoot.”                                                                                     

“Which means it might as well have been.” He griped, slamming shut his note book. They stood, taking a moment to tap Harry on the head to replace the disguise. Harry tried not to yawn as they wandered off to the elevators. It had been a long day and the only thing that had kept him from falling asleep as they went through all the legal stuff was his nerves. In comparison the trip back to the atrium and portkey back to the school.

“Well off you pop.” Alex shooed him away.

“Thank you Mr. Dawsen.”

“My pleasure Harry. Always glad to help.” Both men waited until Harry had climbed before turning back towards the dungeon.

“So the Headmaster is using Swiftfoot as a proxy.” Snape muttered as they walked.

“We don’t know that for sure Severus.” Alex shrugged.

“You disagree?”

“Not particularly. And so what if he did? He did not get the money. Even if he had, the petition would have made it so that the money went only to the school and school related functions. That’s hardly a bad cause.”

“No, but I’m am not frustrated about that. It seems the Headmaster is still determined to play puppet master. As he has done for Potter for the last three years and as he has done for me since I asked for his help.” He scowled, pausing to let Alex sweep into his private chambers.

“The Headmaster thinks that he is fighting a war. And considering everything, he has every reason to think that.” He gently placed his hand on Snape’s inner arm, resting delicately over the mark that had been darkening steadily over the months. “He has won by manipulation. Its habit for him now.”

“That is no excuse.”

“No. It’s not.” He agreed. He watched as Severus sat in an armchair near the fire. He circled behind it and rested his fingertips on the man’s temples. He pressed down, massaging his head lightly. The potions master was prone to migraines due to the amount of curses he was subjected to during the first war. This seemed to be one of the few things that helped. “In this instance there is not much to do. You have no proof and even if you did, it would be seen as an overreaction.” Snape ‘tsk-ed’ in response. “There are far more things to be concerned about than the Headmasters manipulations. You have children to be concerned about.”

“When did you become so down to earth? This coming from the man who has gotten into fist fights over puppies.” Snape smirked.

“Must you always bring that up?”

“Until the end of my life and maybe even into the afterlife.” He hummed.

Chapter Text

"Growing nicely, aren't they? Give them a month and Hagrid'll have them twenty feet high." Ludo Bagman commented lightly, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Harry was staring at the hedges with vague interest. He didn’t hear any of Bagman’s comments or the following question but he did hear Krum’s answer.

“It’s a maze.” Huh, a maze. Well that is certainly different. Harry again was ignoring Bagman. There were comments about rules and a trophy and monsters. Harry breathed deep, enjoying the crisp bite of the air. It was early spring and the air was cool but the sun was warm. The world around him was finally a bright green as the trees were regaining their leaves. It felt like someone had just breathed life back into the earth. Harry felt a rush of pleasure as he looked at the blue sky.

After they were dismissed Harry decided that it would be more fun to walk around outside since he doesn’t have to go back to his classes. He took a meander around the lake, taking a moment to skip a couple rocks and dodge a creeping tentacle of the squid. Harry strolled around the maze, enjoying the flowers that where growing in the walls of the hedges. He didn’t try to enter the maze. There were wards that prevented anyone from entering the maze or fly over it on a broom.

Stupid.” There was a petulant hiss. Harry turned at the noise. He stepped closer to one of the entrances. Movement caught his eye, a little flash of silver and black caught his eye.

Move human! I am hungry.” It was a little snake. His flat little head was blunt nosed and no obvious bright colorations, so probably not venomous. His head was raised but not defensive.

Hello.” Harry crouched down to look at the snake. The thing was about 50 cm long with a silver base color and thin stripes of black circling him at seemingly random points.

You can speak?” The little thing hissed in surprise.

Yes.” Harry said. “Do you need help?”

No.” The snake shook his head. “Unless you have food?” Harry searched through his pockets. With a happy sound he pulled out a wrapped sandwich. He had taken some cold cuts and made himself a snack that he had been hoping to sneak into the library. He pulled out the meat from the sandwich, placing it in a mound between him and the snake. The snake gave off a little sound that seemed like a mix between a hiss and a purr.

“What was that meat?” The snake asked after he swallowed it whole. Harry had watched in odd fascination as the jaw unhinged and circled around the large lump of meat. Harry sat on the ground, crossing his legs.

Ham.

“I like ham.” The snake decided.

Were you lost in the maze?” Harry asked. To his surprise the snake scoffed.

I am never lost! I live in the maze now. I am the smartest of my nest-kin.” The snake crowed, wiggling his body in a little dance.

Do you have a name?” Harry asked, smiling at the little dance.

Name?”

Something that you call yourself?”

I have a scent.” The snake answered. He crept forward a little until he was a sitting next to Harry’s crossed legs.

Oh. Would you like a name?”

Why? Would I need one?”

Not really. It would be easier if we were ever going to meet again.” Harry said. He guessed snakes wouldn’t need a name. They would identify each other in different ways.

You expect to meet again?”

Maybe?” Harry shrugged. He tried not to tense as the snake slid up his shoe and rested his body on his thigh.

We can meet again if you bring me more ham.” The snake said, turning his beady eyes to stare at Harry. “You can give me a name if you wish.”

How about Labyrinth. Since you are skilled enough to live in the maze without getting lost.” Harry said after a moment’s thought. “My name is Harry.”

Very well, I will be Labyrinth. It was nice to meet you Harry, the human who speaks to snakes.” And with the last comment the snake slipped off of his lap and slithered his way back into the maze. Harry smiled gently at the odd conversation that he had with the snake before climbing to his feet and back into the castle.

O~~~~~~~O

Harry was sitting in the library alone. Hermione was off doing merlin-knows-what. She had been furiously writing letter after letter, receiving many in return. Whenever Harry tried to ask her what she was doing he received a frazzled- wide eye look and some mumbled response that he could not understand. So today he sat alone reading. A little while ago Draco had passed by him, dropping a book off on the table, while looking like he hadn’t even noticed his presence. Harry had been so absorbed with his essay at the time he didn’t fully realize what had happened until Draco was back with the Slytherins, smirk firmly in place.

The book in question was not something that he would have pegged Draco reading. He had thought that if Draco was going to be reading muggle lit it would be mostly high end classics. Plays, anthologies and stories by critically acclaimed writers. So imagine his surprise when he was left the first book of a fantasy series. There was a little paper note on the cover to explain.

 

Potter- This is a series called the Incarnations of Immortality. It is a world where there is both magic and advanced technology. It is about the people who are given the ‘jobs’ of different supernatural people: Death, time, fate, war, nature, The Devil (evil), and God (good). All the books intertwine with each other as main characters from each book appear in the others. It takes a look at the humanization of different impersonal forces and how a human element would affect each type of work and in turn, how it would affect the world. Let me know if you wish to continue this series.

 

Intrigued Harry began the first book titled ‘On a Pale Horse’. It turned out to be about the man who became the incarnation Death. He immediately feels a deep connection with the main character. The man who becomes Deaths does so thinking it was just an accident, a chance of fate. Then he realizes that it was manipulated by those who wanted him to help with a prophecy. Harry couldn’t help but feel the pang of similarity that followed when he read through the main characters struggles. He takes a while to glance at Draco, vaguely wondering if the other boy had notice the similarities or if he was just projecting because of everything that was going on with his life now.

“Harry!” He was interrupted by a face full of excited Hermione. She was smiling brightly, nearly shaking with her joy.

“What?”

“Look!” She yell-whispered, shoving a large stack of paper in his face. He grabbed the stack, scanning the title.

Sentient Being House Elf Welfare Act

“What is this?” Harry asked as she slid into her seat.

“That is a new bill that is going before the courts to become a law.” Hermione beamed. She tapped father down the page. “And look here.”

“Put forward by: Lady Samantha Dorrington, JSD. Matthew Harrison Esq. With additional contribution from Hermione Granger.” Harry read out loud. “You wrote a law?!”

“Yeah! Well remember when you said that I should try and find someone with more political sway to attempt people to protect house elves? Well I did. I made a list of people who I thought might be able to help me.” She was visible shaking in her excitement. “Well, I also asked Draco. I figured with the amount of time that his father is involved with the ministry he would have heard of or have met some of them. He said that Samantha Dorrington was a distant cousin from him. Black sheep of the family apparently and very interested in magical creature rights. So I have been writing her about what would be best. We ended up talking about a different ideas. Then she and Mr. Harrison started drafting out our ideas into a bill that they could try and make into a law!”

“That’s amazing Hermione!” Harry reached across the table to pull her into a hug.

“I know! If this passes I might actually be able to help house elves! I’m actually doing something!” She squealed quietly, Madam Pince close enough to react to anything louder.

“I am so proud of you Hermione.” Harry smiled at her. He was being completely honest. She was trying so hard to do something good. Knowing her she actually worked harder on this bill than most real lawyers do on their bills.

“Want to know what it says?” Hermione asked.

“Of course!” Harry said immediately. The happiness that washed over her face made him know that was the right move. A lot of times people got angry when Hermione explained her accomplishments. People were so jealous of her they never actually gave her the dues she earned from all the things she did. In the back of his mind he made a mental note to occasionally ask what she was doing. With the amount she has been supporting him, he needed to do the same.

“Right. So there were a couple of things that this law will do. One of the things that it will do will make it illegal for someone to punish a house elf for asking for freedom. That way there won’t be other cases like Dobby. Normally the elf’s would be forced to hurt themselves but if it is the result of asking for freedom the magic that makes them punish themselves will not work. Hopefully that will mean that elf’s would become more comfortable with actually asking for freedom.” She smiled, flipping through the pages and pointing to certain paragraphs. “In fact it would become a punishable offense for a wizard to request for it. That brings me to the second part of the act.”

“This would give elf’s permission to petition to have themselves removed from their places of work. Things like gross abuse of power, physical abuse and starvation would be reported to the magical creatures department. If it was proven that wizards were seriously mistreating their house elves the government could fine them, remove the elves, forbid them from getting any more and even potentially give them jail time.” She bounced lightly in her seat as she explained through what types of abuse would be considered for removal and freedom.

“The final part of the bill would officially designate house elves as sentient beings. They would be allowed to take the sentient being test that they have for other creatures. They would obviously pass. Anyway, when they passed they would be given the same rights that are given the other sentient beings. The same rights that are given to creatures like goblins, centaurs and vampires.”

“This is amazing Hermione!” Harry exclaimed. And it really was. This is far more than his little suggestion to make people able to offer freedom. This goes so much further, actually making it so that wizards who would oppose such things would not be able to punish house elves for asking.

“You think so?”

“Absolutely! Merlin, just think about it. You might be the writer of a law at fifteen!” He gushed.

“Well it was also you and Draco. If you hadn’t pushed me or Draco hadn’t told me about her this wouldn’t have ever happened. So thank you.” This time she leaned over to hug him.

“You should send a copy of this to Draco!” Harry said.

“Do you think he would like it? I mean he is used to house elves and might not want them to be free.” She shrugged.

“If that were the case he wouldn’t have pointed out his cousin. I’m sure he would be happy for you regardless.” Harry explained, passing back her law. She hugged it to her chest.

“So tell me about the inquiry.” She asked, settling into her chair. Harry explained everything that had gone down in the court room. He took a nice long time to describe how horrible and ugly Umbridge was. It was probably a bit mean spirited but he couldn’t really help it. She chuckled along with the story and frowned at the appropriate parts.

“Wow.” She said as he finished up her story. “Sounds like everything turned out alright. Hopefully that judge will be one of the people who is there when they try to push this bill through!”

“I’m sure it’ll pass.”

“Oh absolutely.” Hermione said. “Samantha is amazing. You should meet her Harry. Well actually, I have never met her so me first. She is so awesome. She has a doctorate in law. She is well spoken and so powerful when she talks and writes. She sent me a bunch of transcripts from some of her trials. She is the master of a cogent argument.”

“Sounds like you have a girl crush on her.” Harry laughed. He took the half-glare with a little nod. He relaxed into his chair as he let Hermione chatter away about her new found hero. Every once in a while he would interrupt to give her a good ribbing when she got a little too star struck. Eventually they settled down. Hermione was working on an assignment for ancient runes and Harry was back to his book. He did look up when Hermione’s ever moving quill fell silent. She was staring at her paper, brow furrowed.

“Harry? Do you. . .” She paused, finally looking up to meet his eye when she noticed that she had his attention. “Do you think we would be doing this well with Ron?”

“What do you mean?” He folded the corner of his page, laying it down on the table.

“Well look at us.” She motioned between them subconsciously. “We are doing so much better than we were these last years. You look healthier than I have ever seen you. You aren’t burning in rage. On a whole you seem entirely happier. Plus your grades have gone up dramatically in all of your subjects. My grades are doing great and I have just helped put forward a bill. Miss Dorrington even said to send her my OWL grades next year if I wanted to intern with her. You are making a lot of money with that basilisk. On top of it all, we aren’t getting into trouble. We haven’t gotten any detentions. Despite the fact that you are part of the tournament you haven’t done anything death defying. This all happened after we stopped being friends with Ron though. I just wonder, if he hadn’t been a jerk, if we would have been able to have this with him too.”

“I don’t think so.” Harry said after a moment’s thought. “I have only got this far because of Snape. He’s the one who got me healthy. He’s the one who let me have enough control so that I didn’t spiral into a self-indulgent mental breakdown.” Harry sighed. He hadn’t told Hermione everything about the therapy that Snape had been helping him with but she knew enough to know that he was helping with anger management.

“Ron wouldn’t have been able to handle Snape in any way. He hates him with a passion. Even knowing how much he helped Ron would probably spend all of his time trying to push me toward someone else. He wouldn’t be able to understand. Ron is so biased that he wouldn’t see past his dislike for Slytherins and Snape.  He would inevitably lash out and either we would end up in the same situation we are in now, or worse off if we decided his feelings were more important.

“I also don’t think that he would want to study. He just dismisses school. He’d much rather be playing chess or watching quidditch. I feel like he would be a hindrance. He would spend all his time in the library complaining and trying to convince us to go do something else.” Harry shrugged. Hermione blew a stray hair out of her face in frustration.

“You’re probably right.” She sighed. “I just wish it wasn’t like this.”

“Me too.” Harry agreed. He fiddled awkwardly with his wand as they fell into a depressed silence. “I do think he will apologize eventually. Even so, I just can’t decide if it is worth it if he does.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think that I will care if he does apologize.” He sighed, resting his head on the ball of his hand. “It has been so long. He’s not stupid enough not to have realized what he needs to say. So he either believes he doesn’t need to apologize or he is willfully ignoring it. If it’s the first then he is an asshole, if it is the second then his anger is more important than his relationship with us. It’s almost like it is too late. Even if he does apologize I wouldn’t be able to get back to our same level of friendship. He made his choice a long time ago.”

“Hmm.” Hermione hummed. “I can’t really argue with you there. He just dropped us so easily. It seemed so easy for him to just stop being our friend.”

“What a dick.” He said, for lack of anything better to say.

“What a dick.” She agreed.

Chapter Text

Harry was enjoying being outdoors. It was Saturday and he wasn’t in his usual meeting with Snape. Snape had informed him that there was some issue in his house, one he would not comment on, so Harry had a free day. He had spent the morning with Hermione but had left after a short while. She had been having an in depth conversation with Krum. Normally it wouldn’t be a problem but the conversation was completely in German. Apparently they had moved on from just vocabulary and grammar and were working on puns, idioms and other word plays. As he left Krum has asked him to one day have a seekers match when the tournament was over. Harry had agreed before wandering off. He went and grabbed a towel. He wandered out onto the grounds. He wandered over to a tree, spread out the towel before flopping down onto the grass.

It was bright and warm out. It was still early into the warm weather season. The other students hadn’t gotten into the mindset of spending time outside so early in the day, so there was a peaceful silence that rang out across the lawn. Harry let himself fall into a light doze as the warm breeze lulled him.

“If you keep laying there someone might attack you.” A voice drawled off to his side. Harry opened an eye, peering up at Draco.

“Attack me? Really?” Harry queried. He gave a breathy chuckle and closed his eyes again. He heard a light shuffling as the Slytherin dropped down next to him. Malfoy sighed as he leaned back on his hands.

“Just saying.” Draco responded. “So what are you doing out here Potter?”

“Relaxing. Aren’t you concerned that your housemates will see you?”

“Notice-Me-Not charm.” He wiggled his wand coyly.

“Isn’t that a sixth year spell?”

“It’s useful though.” Draco shrugged. “So Granger’s bill was in the paper this morning.”

“Really?” Harry sighed.

“Yeah. Father is absolutely furious right now. Said that he is going to invest in lawyers.”

“That’s horrible!” He groaned.

“Actually that’s really good.” Draco smirked. “That means he is scared that it might actually pass. To be honest, I’m impressed with my cousin. She could not have chosen a better time to put through this bill. With her record for civil rights bills I won’t be surprised when this wins.”

“What do you mean?” Harry questioned.

“Well it is right before reelection time. A lot of the people who would be voting for the bill will be looking at ways to look good to the public. Regardless of the few people who truly believe house elves are slaves, a lot of families see them as part of their family. So a lot of the government officials will vote for it. Politicians are desperate to look favorable to people and voting for certain types of civil rights acts are a good way to proclaim their own goodness. It’s also a way to try and attack any of their opponents if they don’t vote for it. So if Sarah manages to play this smart she will most likely garner a lot of support from nervous law makers trying to look like a hero.”

“The fact that my father is so nervous proves that it is a real possibility.” Draco purred, lying back   beside Harry. He gave a little grunting sigh.

“You sound happy about that. You might lose your house elf.” Harry probed.

“Anything that makes my father unhappy, makes me enormously pleased.” Draco smirked. “Plus I never disliked house elves like my father did. I wouldn’t mind people being made to treat them better.”

“Huh.” Harry grunted, not quite sure what to say.

Speaker to snakes.” Came a hiss off to the right. Harry looked over and saw the bright silver body of Labyrinth sliding over the grass towards them.

Hello.” Harry hissed back, sitting up as the snake moved right up to his crossed legs.

Did you bring me meat?” The snake asked insistently, his beady eyes staring into Harry’s. Draco lifted his head to look at the noise, startling slightly at the sight of the snake.

“Potter?” He questioned. Harry smiled at him, digging in his pockets to find the wrapped meat he had. He had grabbed bacon from breakfast, wrapping about a half pound in a handkerchief on the chance that he might see the Labyrinth. He laid it on the ground for the snake like an offering. The snake wiggled his body in a happy jig before leaning down to consume the meat.

“What the hell are you doing Potter?” Draco squeaked, scooting back a little.

“This is Labyrinth. He lives in the maze. I fed him ham last time I saw him.” Harry shrugged.

“You do realize that it is a magical silver krait, right?” Draco snarked. “One of the most venomous snakes on the planet.”

“Really?” Harry started. He turned back to the snake, who had finished the meat. The bugle was slowly making its way down through the beast. “Are you venomous?”

I am very venomous.” The snake boasted, rising as if to push out his chest. He opened his mouth in a happy smile, revealing long fangs. “I could kill a hundred men with a single bite!”

“Oh.” Harry said, a little stunned.

“So you didn’t know that you were feeding an incredibly dangerous snake.” He dead-faced.

“Well he seemed nice.” Harry shrugged. He tried not to tense as snake slipped over his feet, climbing lightly into his lap.

“Warm.” The snake purred, settling down like a content cat. 

Labyrinth this is Draco Malfoy, he is a friend of mine.” Harry introduced. The little silver head lift and swung around to look at Draco. He flicked his tongue out as he stared.

Smells funny.” Labyrinth stated, nodding along with himself before flopping down dramatically.

“He says you smell funny.” Harry chuckled. The Slytherin’s jaw dropped before transforming into a face of indignation.

“Excuse me?! I smell perfectly fine. I bathe regularly and wear cologne.” Harry repeated the statement to the snake.

Then cologne smells funny.” The snake replied, using the tone that someone would usually use when a person was saying ‘duh’ with attitude. Draco sputtered when Harry translated. He laughed at the angry look that the blonde was giving the little snake.

“Only you, Potter, would find a snake that is extremely venomous and has an attitude.” Draco sneered, petulantly crossing his arms. Harry just chuckled, stroking the little smooth head with two fingers. The two boys went on talking for an hour or two. They talked about the paper. The Prophet had become less inflammatory now that Rita was in jail pending trial. Still the articles about Harry skewed wildly depending on who was writing it. Some of them accused him of being spoiled and uppity, citing the fact that he refused to do interviews and was pulling away from his friends. Others wrote him as the poor little orphan boy, falling into a deep depression and all but on the edge of suicide.

There were plenty of rumors running around the school. Especially when it came to the students of the other schools. There were only a dozen of students from each school so they normally did classes inside their ship or carriage. However, on weekends they were encouraged to come up to the school, use the library and interact in any of the clubs. The Slytherins were enjoying the presence of the Drumstrang students a lot. Draco chuckled through a few stories. Apparently when not in the light of the public the Drumstrang students were a bit wild. They played pranks, snuck in alcohol and even occasionally got into fist fights.

The entire time they sat there Labyrinth was content to nap in Harry’s lap. Harry would smile when little mumbled words were hissed out as he dreamed. Things like “juicy mousey” and “stupid sphynx, stupid riddles” were mumbled as an undertone to the human conversation. After a while the silver snake woke up, stretching his head up to glance around. In a smooth motion he slid off Harry’s lap.

Good bye Harry who speaks to snakes and Draco who stinks of cologne. Bring me tasty treats more often.” Harry waved him away, ignoring Draco’s sputtering when he translated it.

“Stupid snake.” Draco huffed.

“Ha ha well let’s just hope that he doesn’t tell other snakes that is your name.” Harry joked, gamely taking the shoulder punch he got in response.

“See you Potter.” Draco said, stomping away.

“You know you can call me Harry, right?” Harry shouted after him.

“That is not nearly as much fun to say.” Draco replied. He waved his wand over himself, canceling out the Notice-Me-Not spell. Harry chuckled as he leaned back to lay on the grass again. With a happy sigh he went back to soaking in the sun.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

“Sit down Potter. I’ll be with you in a moment.” Came the drawling call from Snape as Harry entered his office. Harry slumped in his usual armchair near the fire, waiting for Snape to leave his private store room. The man in question stalked out, robes swirling with scowl in place. He jotted down a few notes on a page on his desk before finally turning fully to Harry. He snatched his notebook up and went to perch on the edge of his seat. Snape gave him a contemplative look before he leaned back into his seat. The potion master looked tired. Harry really couldn’t blame him. It was late on a Monday night. Despite the fact that Snape apparently spent most of the weekend trying to work within his house. Harry wasn’t sure what had happened. However he was happy to skip his weekly session. He was surprised when Snape informed him that they were still going to have their talk, it would just have to be sometime during the week.

“Is everything alright?” Harry asked when Snape let out a sigh. Snape quirked an amused eyebrow.

“Yes Potter. My apologies. Let us begin.” He opened his notebook. Harry was surprised when Snape didn’t hand him his usual potion. He didn’t comment since he doubted Snape would just forget about something like that. “How are you doing?”

“Good. Really good.” Harry smiled. Snape hummed in acknowledgment.

“Is there something specific that you wish to talk about from the list today?” Snape was talking about a list he had made up. After Harry had turned in that questionnaire Snape had given him all those months ago Snape had gone through and listed out topics that he thought that Harry should talk about. They had been systematically running through the list. Things like food, anger management, coping with nightmares, and talking through the incidents of the first year encounter with Voldemort. Sometimes Harry chose what he wanted to talk about, other times Snape made the decision for him. He plucked random topics off the list and asked Harry to talk about them.

“Not really.” Harry shrugged. There was nothing that was particularly interesting for him to talk about.

“Then I would like to start us on the topic of the Headmaster.”

“Headmaster Dumbledore? Why would we talk about him?” He was genuinely confused. He glanced down at the list and the headmaster wasn’t named on it.

“I heard you had an . . . interesting conversation with him a while ago.”

“Oh.” Harry fought back a blush of embarrassment. “Did he tell you that?”

“No,” Snape smirked. “But I found out anyway.”

“I told them that you didn’t do anything bad.” Harry said in a rush.

“Yes I know.”

“It was . . . it was really horrible. What they said about you. I mean, how could they say something like that about you?” Sounding more like a petulant child than the teenager he was supposed to be.

“I am more concerned over the fact that you seem to care more about what they said about me than what they implied about you.”

“What do you mean?”

“What they said was as much of an insult to you as it was to me. On one hand they either assume that you are complicit in such things. On the other they think that you are easily manipulated, a weak child who they need to protect.”

“Merlin your right.” Harry said after a moment. “I was so caught up with what they said about you . . . How could they think something like that?!” He demanded, pounding his fist into the chair arm. With a rush of energy he burst from this chair, fist clenched. Anger that he wasn’t aware of blossomed up, burning across his skin as anxious energy.

“They were probably thinking that they were helping.” Snape said, humor coloring his tone.

“That’s so stupid!” Harry yelled. He was pacing like a panther at the bars of its cage who had just smelt blood.  “Why do they do things like that? Why does he always do things like that?”

“What do you mean?”

“Treating me like a brain dead infant!” He yelled. “McGonagall did that when we went to her in first year! All but patted me on the head and sent me on my way when I told her someone was going after the stone. Dumbledore did it when he refused to tell me about Sirius. Like I’m not smart enough to deal with even the smallest amount of information that might actually help me stay alive!” He swung his arm out, grabbing a bottle and swinging it at a wall. It shattered with a satisfying crash. Snape watched on, unimpressed.

“It’s bad enough I have to deal with at the shit in my life, without having people purposefully keeping information from me. Or trying to control my life without telling me. They could have just asked, or assumed that I was intelligent enough to not become a victim!” He roared. He only stopped when a ball started floating in front of his face. The bright red ball just floated back when he tried to smack it away. With a grunt he grabbed the ball, squeezing it angrily.

The thing fucking squeaked. With choked laugh harry squeezed it again, enjoying the second squeak. Snape watched on, though his face was impassive there was a momentary smirk that flashed across his face.

“Sit down Mr. Potter.” He nodded back to the chair. With an angry grunt Harry flopped into his seat, occasionally clenching his fist around the little ball. In the silence the shrill peep of the ball rang loud and obnoxious.

“That there is the reason that I wished to talk about the Headmaster. The unfortunate part of the situation is that the Headmaster is a necessary evil, as the saying goes.” He tapped rhythmically on the notebook. “Despite all we might want to, there is no way that we will be able to escape his influence. If for some reason evil does arrive again he will end up being a great ally, and one we will not be able to avoid or over throw.”

“But why?” Harry demanded.

“Potter, Dumbledore is a powerful figure. One that cannot be denied.” Snape hummed. “Over the years he had amassed a large amount of power. Not because he was looking to, but because it was given to him. Wizarding kind are cowards. Quite happily they will stand behind the one person who defeats evil and raise them high in the expectation that they will do it again when the time comes.”

“Like with me as a baby.”

“Exactly. Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald so many years ago. He was lauded as the best wizard of his age. He was given power, not only of a hero bit as a person in the government. The minister at the time had gone to him for advice how to run the government. He gave his advice. I am not sure whether or not he thought it would be truly taken but it was. Then he became the headmaster. An authority figure for the next generation. Just about everyone under one hundred that works for the ministry was once his student. Add into that the rise of Voldemort and his inherent fear of Dumbledore, people applauded him for his power.

“He became the crutch that the wizarding world rested. The school, the government and everyone in between looks to him as some guiding figure.” Snape hissed.

“Oh.” Harry didn’t know how to respond.

“Perhaps he did not mean for it to get this far.” Snape continued on. “Regardless he now thinks it’s his duty to be the protector and decider for the people. He is a puppet master who holds all the strings that where handed to him willingly.”

“Unfortunately this also means that he believes that he has your string as well. In many ways he does. Now he is not a cruel man. I doubt with my very being that he has ever hurt you intentionally. He is blind though. Blind to the option of other people making their own choices or knowing better. So ingrained in him that he will look for no other option.” Snape explained.

“But that doesn’t help me if he is going to keep making all of my choices and not telling me what I need to know.” Harry growled. “Even if his intentions are good they still end up hurting me.”

“True.” Snape acquiesced. “This is where you learn to be a Slytherin. You pretend to dance along when the music plays. To let your strings be pulled only when you want them pulled. The one thing that we cannot do is push him away completely. Voldemort does truly fear the man, which is a tool that one cannot throw away.”

“Doesn’t he fear me though? Because he thinks I can defeat him?” Harry questioned.

“No Potter, he does not fear you.” Snape scoffed. “You are not but a worm in his view. You do not have much power and the power you do have comes from another source that is weakening every day. You were saved from the power of your mother’s death. But as you are more able to protect yourself and as the date of her death moves further away the magic will fade. When you reach your majority and full magic power it will most likely disappear completely.” Snape rubbed his chin in consideration.

“No, Voldemort is angry with you. Angry but not afraid. If and when he comes back he will try to kill you. To prove that his original defeat was a fluke. To prove to his own people that he is powerful. To prove to the wizarding public that their heroes are weak and dead. Your existence is a constant insult to him. Fear is not part of the equation.”

“Oh.” Harry sighed, slipping a bit in his chair.

“You do not want to be eager to have a madman who is afraid of you. That is why we have the headmaster. As long as he is around the Dark Lord would rather focus on him than you. It is to your benefit to allow the Headmaster to fight this fight as long as he can. It is that reason that I say that he is a necessary evil. You cannot fight a war. Dumbledore can.”

“But how can I protect myself if he is constantly keeping information from me that may hurt me?” Harry demanded, more desperate than angry.

“You use your brain.” Snape sneered. “Against all evidence I know you have one. If you believe that you are missing information you go find it. You study, sneak or demand information. You use every resource you can find to protect yourself. Anything less and you are doing yourself a disservice.”

“So what you are saying is that Dumbledore isn’t purposefully trying to hurt me but that he has been in control so long he doesn’t know anything else? That he has good interests as heart but executes them poorly.”

“Yes.”

“And you are also saying that he is a powerful ally that I need to keep anyway. So I should play along when I can but also demand or find information so that I know when I should really play along and when I shouldn’t?”

“If only you could pay attention this well in class.” Snape bemoaned, smirking lightly all the same.

“Okay, I guess I can understand that.” Harry shrugged. They lapsed into a pleasant silence. Harry turned to the table sitting next to his chair to realize that a cup of steaming tea had arrived. He took a sip of the warm liquid enjoying the taste of the tea that was complimented by the small amount of honey.

“Professor?” He started, interrupting the note taking Snape had been doing since he stopped talking.

“Yes?”

“Why did you not give me that calming potion tonight?” Snape sighed, snapping his book shut.

“The point of our discussions and our therapy is for you to grow and mature mentally. It is important to talk about your issues and overcome them. That potion was necessary in the beginning to allow us to quickly begin the process and allow us to continue without any major interruptions. However, you do not gain strength when you are using a crutch. Over the last few weeks you have seemingly fallen into a better mind state. It has been a long time since you have been overcome with rage and you are not actively trying to suppress it. You have also managed to pull yourself out of your desire to shut yourself off from the world while developing your friendship with Mr. Malfoy. It is time that you try and deal with these difficult things without aid. That way when issues appear in the future you will be able to deal with them accordingly.”

“But I did throw a fit today.” He pointed out.

“Yes, but it was only for a short time and you were able to temper it quickly, listen intently and learn the lesson that was given. All without the aid of a potion. That is an accomplishment not to be overlooked.” Harry felt himself warm with pride.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome Mr. Potter.”

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Harry tried to ignore the steady swish-thump that was approaching him steadily announcing the presence of Professor Moody. Recently he hadn’t been able to get over the feeling that the man had been watching him. Not that he could ever prove it. Still he sighed when he heard his name being shouted by that gruff voice.

“Professor.” He greets in a dull tone. Both eyes train on him and he has to stop himself from flinching at the intense look. Being around Moody was incredibly tiring. Being in his class, always getting yelled at for not being vigilant enough. Stories of wars and fights were interesting at first but slowly became mind numbing when told at the same manic intensity every day for an hour.

“Been meaning to speak to you boy.” The man grunted, landing a gnarly hand on Harry’s thin shoulder. He tensed, fighting the urge to knock it harshly off his shoulder. Instead he dropped his shoulder and took a step away, letting the hand slide off his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, is there something wrong?”

“No boy. No problems as of now.” Moody grunted again. “Congratulations on your win of the second task. However, you must stay vigilant if you want to survive and win the next challenge.”

“I don’t want to win the next challenge.” Harry stated. Moody started, staring at him with a contemplative look. Harry tried not to squirm as the bright blue fake eye twisted around as it looked him up and down.

“You don’t?” Moody asked.

“No sir.”

“Well you will still need to learn some magic when you are in the challenge.” Moody continued on as if Harry hadn’t just said what he did. “I know some spells that will be able to protect you.”

“Thank you but I don’t need them.” Harry shrugged. “I don’t plan on participating. I’ll just look for a quiet corner in the maze and put up a shield until someone else wins. Thank you for the concern though.” He said with a false sweetness before turning and walking away.

Chapter Text

Dear Harry,

Thank you for your letter. Though I must say I am surprised to have heard from you, especially on this topic. I am sorry if I am a bit . . . reluctant to bring up stories from the past. The incidents in which you are speaking are not my proudest moments and they are not Sirius’s either. I want to stress that out of context the situation may look . . . bad. Even horrific. But I wanted to let you know that there was never any true evil intent behind any of our actions. I do not want you to think of Sirius in a bad light because of the follies of his youth.

The incident that you asked about. It is true that a prank by Sirius went too far. Sirius had hoped to scare Snape using my werewolf to do so. He had dropped hints, hoping that Snape would be nosey and attempt to enter the passage under the Whomping Willow. Snape followed us down on the night of a full moon. My wolf tried to attack him. Your father ended up saving him by pulling him from the passage and holding me off while he ran away.

It was a stupid prank and Sirius was admonished harshly for it by the Headmaster. I can understand why Snape would still be angry at such a thing, to be tricked by Sirius and then saved by your father whom he hated. It is true that there was a lot of animosity between them. They played some school boy pranks and he would retaliate in kind.

I understand that you may have developed a . . . friendship of sorts with Snape. I would ask you to take everything he says with a grain of salt. Sirius was merely a boy who enjoyed a prank or two. That one happened to get too far out of hand. Please do not look at him in a different light because of it. He loves you very much.

Please stay safe in the games.

Regards,

Remus

O~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Dear Sirius,

I am sorry for the long wait for this letter. I wanted to get all of the facts before I wrote something that I would regret.

I will not stop going to Professor Snape for help and lessons. He has been nothing but kind, for certain definitions of the term, to me. He has helped me with my grades and with my health as well. I was the one who approached him and I do not regret it. There is nothing that you can say that will sway my mind. I am fully aware of his past and while it is not ideal, he has most certainly made up for it. He did a lot for the war and you should respect him for what he did.

I will not sit here and listen to you speak of him as if he is worth nothing. Least in part because I know what you have done to make him act the way he does around you. Especially since you have caused much of that animosity and his attitude is justified because of what you did to him. He nearly died because of you. For what? A laugh? Because you assumed he was evil because he was a Slytherin and you thought he might have an interest in Dark Magic? You were nothing but a biased bully who thought he was superior because of his house.

Before you claim that I am being brainwashed or have missed your side of the story. I would remind you that some of this stuff you admitted to yourself. I also asked Remus because I didn’t want to believe that you would act that way. But facts are facts. No matter the excuse and reasons that you may use, what you did to Snape was indefensible. You cannot claim the moral high ground after that.

As for Ron? No, I will not go back to being friends with him. I have no problem with the rest of the Weasley family but he I do. He is childish, mean spirited and jealous. I will not be friends with him just because he is ‘light’ or his family is ‘good’. I will chose my acquaintances based on whether they are kind to me and if they treat others fairly. By those metrics Ron fails dramatically. Baseless labels such as ‘light’ and ‘dark’ cause the rifts that start wars like the one you experienced. I will not hate someone just because they are labeled dark, nor love someone just because they are ‘light’. Actions are what matters.

Sirius . . . you are still my godfather and I still care for you. I understand that you are probably having a hard time since you were let out of Azkaban. You are angry and alone. I can see why you lash out and want to protect me from dangers you think are there. A great many things have changed while you were in Azkaban. I don’t want to ruin our relationship because of prejudices that are best left in the past. Please let this lie. Don’t force me to choose between two people. Please get better and please let me be.

Harry

O~~~~~~~~~~~O

Harry felt horrible after he sent off his letter to Sirius. Not because of what he said. It needed to be said. Though perhaps the language he used came out more flowery and formal than he normally would. He chalked that up to spending too much time listening to Snape. He just knew that it would hurt Sirius. As Snape had mentioned before, he was all alone in the world right now after spending so many years alone with his worst memories.

“You can’t leave a weed to grow just on the off chance that it may flower.” That’s what Snape had said.  He hadn’t been specifically talking about Sirius at the time, having never brought up the conversation again. Instead it was when they were discussion poisonous relationships, it seemed fitting. Harry did not want to go back to being complacent in his life. He couldn’t expect for Sirius to give up on his hatred for Snape if no one ever said anything to the contrary. If that meant that he had to be harsh with Sirius, then so be it. It didn’t stop that agonizing pain in his chest, like someone had reached through his skin to stop his heart from beating by holding it still. So Harry wandered outside, despite the grey clouds that would probably open up in the afternoon.

Hurts.” A weak thready hiss rang out. Harry turned toward the sound. Off near the entrance of the maze was the distinctive flash of silver that indicated Labyrinth’s presence. He turned to greet the little creature but faltered his step. The silver snake was sitting in a puddle of blood. He could hear the wheezy hiss that seemed to rattle his entire body.

Labyrinth!” He exclaimed, kneeling down with his hands hovering over the snake but not yet touching. The silver krait may have been his friend but he wasn’t fool enough to touch poison snake that was in pain.

Speaker to . . . Snakes. . . I hurt.” Labyrinth whined, lazily flipping his tail.

What happened?” Harry questioned.

The beasts of the maze. Got trapped . . . by wild magic. . .”

I know someone who can heal you!” Harry said. “May I bring you to them?”

Please.” With the whispered word Harry gently picked up the snake, tucking him under his robes so that no one would see him carrying it. He took a few steps towards Hagrid’s hut but he stopped. Hagrid may be the care of magical creatures professor but he was not sure that the man had any real talent at healing injured animals. He was more suited for controlling or feeding them. So after only a moment’s hesitation Harry turned towards the dungeons, hoping that Snape was not busy with something else.

“Professor!” Harry shouted when the office door permitted him entrance.

“I am not deaf Potter. Try and act civilized when inside.” Snape purred, exiting his personal stores, jars bobbing behind him. He didn’t even glance at the Gryffindor as he directed the jars onto a table.

“I need your help!” Harry stepped up to his desk, revealing the snake to Snape’s surprised gaze. “This is Labyrinth. He got hurt in the maze. Please can you help him?”

“In the maze you say?”

“Yes, sometimes he leaves the maze and I have been talking to him. He really likes ham.” He said with a shrug.

“Very well, lay him flat and instruct him not to move or bite.” Snape snapped, raising his wand up. Harry whispered the instructions to the snake. Labyrinth nodded his head slowly, stretching his body out as instructed. Snape was stone faced as he whipped his wand through the air with the precision that spoke to years of practice.

“Potter get me these potions.” Harry scrambled to the store room plucking bottles off the shelves as Snape shouted them from his position over the snake. He returned with the bottles, lining them up in the order he was instructed. “Tell him to open his mouth.”

Harry watched in interest as Snape tapped each of the potions bottle. With a whispered word a portion of the potion would float out of the bottle, floating in a little bubble. Then directing it like a conductor the potion would follow the tip of his wand in a thin steam out of the bubble and into the open mouth the injured snake. He sighed in relief as the lacerations that where crisscrossing over the snake started to knit themselves together. With a damp towel he washed off the blood, patting him dry as Snape put away his supplies.

“If you feel it is safe I would wrap him around your neck. He lost a lot of blood and will need warmth. He will probably sleep for a long while. It will not be safe to bring him back outside just yet.” Harry nodded, picking up the snake and draping him around his neck. Labyrinth purred happily, curling close to Harry’s neck. Harry wandered over to the seat in front of the fire, gently petting the snake. Snape returned to his desk, pulling out his notebook taking time to study the jars he had originally pulled out. They sat in silence for a while, just enjoying the calm that permeated.

“Are you ready for the final challenge?” Snape asked. Harry heaved a sigh and slumped deeper into his seat.

“Not hardly. Though I don’t really need to be. Since the challenge is to get to the trophy first I don’t really need to. I’ll just finds a nice dead end and stay there until someone else gets it.” Harry groaned. He toed off his shoes, letting the fire warm his toes.

“For the best.” Snape hummed, letting his eyes rove over the boy. Whatever he was looking for he must have found because he turned back to his papers.

“I wrote Sirius.”

“Oh?”

“I didn’t want to. I wrote to Remus beforehand. He confirmed what you said about how he acted in school. I couldn’t really just ignore that, you know.”

“And?”

“And I feel really bad about it. But also kind of felt good. Though I think that made me feel worse.”

“What would you like me to say?” Snape set his quill onto the table.

“I . . . I’m not sure.” Harry mumbled, stroking along the soft scales. “I know I probably did the right thing, if it was not the kind thing. I just wish there was something . . . well something that would make me feel better about it.”

“There isn’t.” Snape said bluntly. He steepled his fingers together, resting his chin on them as he pierced Harry with his gaze. “The unfortunate thing about doing things that are right but not nice is that there is nothing to say that will make you feel better. In fact, seeking out platitudes will only make you feel worse.”

“So what should I do?”

“Remind yourself that you did what you thought was right. Wait until the guilt fades.” He instructed simply, never breaking his gaze.

“That’s depressing.”

“That is life.” That was accompanied by a slightly bitter laugh. “Potter if you came here for simple comforts and happy lies you best find someone else who will listen to you. I am quite incapable of being that person.”

“Oh I know.” Harry chuckled. “I just figured that if there was anyone who would know, well it would be you wouldn’t it.” With a heavy sigh he hoisted himself up from the chair. “Thank you Professor Snape. For helping out Labyrinth.”

“Keep that snake close with you Mr. Potter. The last thing you need is to have a poisonous snake that is roaming free throughout the school.” Snape turned back to the notebook with a little smirk, letting Harry slip out of the door and head back to his dorms.

Labyrinth decided that he liked being an ‘indoor snake’. After riding around on Harry’s shoulders he decided that is where he wanted to stay. When Harry had asked if he wanted to return to his home all he received was an unhappy hiss and a declaration that he will remain with Harry where he will be fed tasty meat and be warm.

Harry spelled a deep pocket into his robes. Hermione helped him with a warming spell. So whenever Harry was out of the dorms the little snake would curl up in his pocket and rest. At dinner time he would poke his head out, begging for scraps of meat. Harry was indulgent for a while until he read up on proper snake care. Labyrinth threw an almighty fit when he was informed that he wouldn’t be getting fed every day at every meal.

You will get fat.” Harry tried to reason with him.

I would like to get fat.” The snake demanded. In the end the Gryffindor had to give him an all or nothing ultimatum. The snake eventually settled, deciding that the comfort of always having a warm pocket to sleep and food he did not need to hunt for was far more important.

Harry enjoyed having the snake as a pet. Perhaps it was because he could communicate with the snake that it seemed better. Labyrinth was no great thinker. In long talks you could tell that he was far more animal. Simple concepts seemed to elude him, such as how teachers taught or how people interact. Harry had long given up on trying to explain the benefits of clothes and how friends work. When Labyrinth was attempting to explain things to Harry he had to try and translate. Things like the nuance of smells and nesting and hunting grounds. However, despite the occasional mistranslations Labyrinth was fun. He had a colorful way of describing people, often bordering on things people would call insults.

Professor Snape was called ‘the man who smells of plants with beak of hawk’. Hermione was dubbed ‘the chatty sphinx’. Dumbledore was “the brightly colored weeping willow”. He would whisper his descriptions in Harry’s ear. Leaving a running commentary of the people and things he saw as he rode alongside Harry.

At night he would curl up on Harry’s chest. He would tell stories that he had heard in his nest from his mother. Stories that she had heard from her nest mother. Legends that no humans, save the rare few, had ever heard before. Harry would sleep deeply and quietly to the lulling sound of Labyrinths hiss.

Chapter Text

Harry was descending the stairs when he heard a voice call out to him. He looked around at the common room the only person there was Ron.

“Can I talk to you?” The red-head asked. Harry was frozen still, debating in his head. Either he can ignore the other boy and bolt or he could listen to what he had to say. Scanning over him Harry noticed that he didn’t look angry. He wasn’t standing, ready for a confrontation. Instead he was sunk deep into the couch, shoulders hunch and face down.  He walked over to stand in front of him, not bothering to sit down.

“What do you want?” He queried.

“I want you say I’m sorry.” Harry grimaced and went to turn away. “Wait! Please.”

“Fine.”

“I don’t expect that you will forgive me for everything that I have done.” Ron began. “I am sorry for abandoning you for my own jealousy. It was stupid of me to even think that you would do anything like put your name in the cup. More than that it was an insult to you for me to think you would. If I was even close to a proper friend I would not have even been about to think that about you. It showed that I was more concerned about my jealousy to even remember anything that I know about you.

“Everything that I did after that was just my damn pride. I was so angry that I didn’t want to admit that you might have been right. My ego was hurt when you didn’t accept my apology. Not that it is a reasonable excuse. I was more concerned about my own indignation to even consider our friendship. I lashed out instead of thinking it through. I got angry instead of considering what you must have been going through.” He sighed deeply, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I was a pathetic excuse for a friend. I deserve your anger and I probably deserve a swing or two.” He muttered, staring at his hands. “I’m not expecting anything but I hope you know that I realize how horrible I was.”

Harry wanted to be angry. Hell, he expected that he would. He had always assumed that when Ron did properly apologize he would end up reading him the Riot Act. He figured he would scream himself hoarse, reaming him out with great pleasure. Instead he just felt numb. It didn’t matter anymore. He just wanted this to be another things that was done and over with. Ones less thing Harry would have to worry about.

“Okay. I accept your apology.” Harry said after a heavy moment.

“Really?! That’s great. I-“ He was cut off by Harry raising a hand.

“I said that I forgive you. That doesn’t mean that we are going to be best friends again. We can never go back to the friendship that we had before. If we even get close it is going to be a very long time and I am never going to trust you that way again. I am saying this now so that you understand.” Ron looked shocked, opening and closing his mouth as he tried to say something.

“I understand.” He slumped a bit, not quite looking Harry in the eye.

“Things are going to be different now. There are things that I am not going to back down from. Those include you being biased. I’m not going to listen to you rag on Snape anymore.”

“Snape?”

“Yeah. He has been helping me a lot.”

“Is that why you look the way that you do?” He asked, genuine curiosity coloring his voice.

“What do you mean?”

“Well you don’t look so skinny anymore.” He also stood up, placing his lanky frame next to Harry’s. “You are also taller.” Harry noticed it now that they were right next to each other. Harry used to be a full head shorter than the red head but now he wasn’t, he was eye level with the boy’s freckled nose.

“Yes. He has been helping me get healthy. I also have a truce with Malfoy that I won’t break.” Harry replied.

“Malfoy? A truce?” Ron squeaked in surprise.

“Yes.” Harry challenged, an eyebrow quirked in challenge. He could see the information clang around in Ron’s head as he tried to reason it out. “If you can handle all of that then we can see where that leads us.” Without waiting for an answer Harry left, turning back to his original destination. He ended up at the library. At a table in the back corner Hermione was pouring over a book with Draco, pointing and gesticulating wildly as they quietly talked.

“Harry! There you are. Where were you?” Hermione asked when she saw him approaching. He slid into a seat, resting his head on crossed arms.

“Ron just apologized to me. Properly this time.” He mumbled.

“Properly?”

“Well as close as he is ever going to get.”

“Really?”

“Yep.”

“And?”

“I forgave him.” Harry looked up. “I told him that I accepted his apology but that we would never be best friends like that again. I also told him that I wouldn’t let him rag on Snape. I also told him about our truce.” He nodded to Draco.

“And what did he say?” The Slytherin asked.

“I don’t know.  I left before he said anything. I think that he needs to think about it. Chances are with everything that I just sprung on him he would probably say something that we both regretted.” Harry explained, pulling out his own books.

“Do you know why? Why he suddenly apologized?” Harry paused, surprised by the question from the Slytherin. He hadn’t even thought about it.

“I never asked. I guess I can ask him later. It really doesn’t matter as long as he was genuine. He wasn’t genuine the first time which is why I got mad. It really isn’t important anymore. What’s done is done. I said my piece, he seems to have come to his senses in one form or another. I am going to move on and it looks like he will to.” Harry shrugged.

The other two muttered in agreement before turning back to their book. Harry spent the rest of the night in the library, enjoying the peace and silence. After all, tomorrow was the last challenge and this was his last chance for this type of quiet.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Excitement lit up the room like a thousand fireflies buzzing and zipping about. It was the final challenge and today someone would be crowned the triwizard champion. There were three large clusters as each of the other contestants were surrounded by their school and fans. There were many Hogwarts students in the groups of Fleur and Krum. Krum’s mostly being quidditch fans and swooning girls. Fleur’s claimed only guys who were more drool than person. Harry sat alone, just as he liked it. Some people saw fit to try and wish him good luck but he promptly told them to find someone else to support. Hermione was fretting for a bit, worried about the dangers in the maze. However, the families of the other champions arrived. Hermione was waved over to Krums family, introduced to his fiancé. Soon she was enjoying a pleasant chat with his relative amidst the jealous stares of the other students.

There was no family that came for Harry. The Weasleys had written and offered to come and support him. He thought they were only writing to ask because they knew of his issues with Ron. Instead he had written them back to tell them not to bother. There was no point in them coming to cheer him on when he wasn’t even going to try. He stood with huff as Dumbledore directed the rest of the school out to the maze so that the champions could have some private time with their family. As he was leaving the great hall to go to the directed room Hermione passed by, taking a moment to give him a hug.

Quiet now.” Labyrinth sighed happily, snuggling deeper into the side of Harry’s neck.

It will be louder later.” Harry replied, dragging his fingers across the smooth back.

In the maze?”

“Yes.” Their conversation got interrupted by the booming voice of Cedrics father.

“That’s my boy! The real Hogwarts champion.”

“Dad!” Cedric admonished the man, sending an apologetic look at Harry. When the older man turned to look at Harry for his reaction Harry just looked back with a blank unimpressed face. He kept the dead, stone eyed expression until Mr. Diggory was uncomfortable enough to turn away again. He snorted softly to himself, instead turning back to his companion.

“Your attention please.” Dumbledore interrupted their talking. He was standing with Bagman and the other two headmasters. Behind him Snape, Moody and McGonagall waited. The absence of Bartimus Crouch was noted but not stated. It had been in the papers recently that the man had completely disappeared and that no one had been able to find him. “Congratulations on making it to the third task in the tournament. This last challenge shall prove to be exciting and a test of your skills as a wizard.”

“This challenge will be a maze challenge, as you all know.” Ludo interrupted the headmaster. “We have filled the maze with creatures and magics of all shapes and sizes. Everyone has a chance to win, since the objective is to be the first to capture the triwizard cup.” With his wand he cast an illusion into the air. The cup was two feet tall and looked like crystal that had frosted over. ‘Triwizard Champion’ was etched delicately into its side.

“Now your points from the other challenge will determine when you enter the maze, meaning those in first place will have a time advantage over those in last. Diggory and Potter will be entering the maze first, then Mr. Krum and finally Miss Delacour.” Ludo continued on, waving the illusion away with a hand. There was a loud clap as Mr. Diggory pounded his son in the back, beaming with pride and looking around to make sure everyone saw it. Snape gave a heavy sneer and Harry flashed him a commiserating smile.

“Now we have the teachers here volunteering to be safe guards for the maze.” He motioned to the three waiting professors. “If you feel that you cannot go on, shoot red sparks in the air like so.” He demonstrated with his wand. “Then one of them will come to your rescue. However, you will be eliminated from the games. Let’s keep the games fair and in good spirit. So I do not want to see any cheating.”

After the little speech they were lead from the room out to the pitch. There were still a few stragglers as the made their way out of the building. Harry turned at the call of his name. The bulky form of Charlie Weasley approached him with a large smile.

“Nice to see you again Harry.” He said, pulling the black haired boy into a friendly hug. Harry returned it lightly.

“Nice to see you too.  What are you doing here?” Harry questioned.

“Well it’s not about dragons, don’t you worry.” Charlie joked, pounding him lightly on the back. He glanced around quickly before leaning down to whisper in Harry’s ear. “If you must know I’m here because they have wyverns. Similar to dragon but smaller and more simple minded. We keep them on the compound with the dragons. There are two baby ones in the maze.”

“Oh.” Harry slumped a little.

“Don’t worry, don’t worry. With your talents I’m sure there will be no problem should you meet them. Speaking of, that was amazing what you did taming your dragon. Nathrach is a mighty she-dragon. One of our more vicious. I have never before seen her so docile.”

“Thanks,”

“Have you considered it?” He asked, bumping shoulders as they walked slowly behind their group. They were given curious glances but no one commented.

“Considered what?”

“Working with dragons of course!” Charlie exclaimed, face alight with pleasure. “With your talents you could be one of the best dragon tamers in the world.”

“But I’m not sure it works on all dragons.” Harry rebuked. “It was a fluke the first time that I did it.”

“To be honest my manager would hire you for life if all you could do was tame Nathrach. She has been an absolute beast, and that was before she had a brood to take care of. If truth be told I protested using her for that challenge. I was over ruled of course.” Harry hummed in consideration. Dragon tamer, that was something that hadn’t even crossed his mind. It sounded exotic and exciting. The type of job that adrenaline junkies would enjoy.

“Tell you what,” Charlie said when Harry hadn’t replied, too lost in thought. “Think on it a little bit. I’ll talk to the head keeper at the reserve. Maybe we can get you up to the reserve over the summer. You can try out your talents there, heavily supervised of course. Proper protection spells and everything. If you end up liking it you might consider it in the future.”

“Yeah . . . yeah that sounds really good.” Harry answered with a smile. Spending part of the summer at a dragon reserve instead of the Dursleys? He would go even without the protection spells.

“Great! Well good luck. Mum was in quite a fit over you staying safe during the tournament. Probably a good thing that she didn’t come. I’m not sure dad would have been able to keep her from trying to follow you into the maze to save you.” Harry was warmed to hear the care Mrs. Weasley had for him. He waved as Charlie wandered off, heading over to the other wizards that he recognized vaguely when he first saw the dragons in the forest all those months ago.

The air roared around them as the stadium seats groaned under the capacity of all the students. The noise was deafening and Labyrinth gave an unhappy hiss as he tried to bury himself deeper into Harry’s cloak.

Would you like to go back inside?” Harry asked.

No. You are not safe in the maze. I will protect you.” The snake replied. They followed the direction of the headmaster. Harry was placed in front of one of the four entrances in the maze, the farthest to the left. A banner was strung up behind him, the Hogwarts crest done in red and gold. A lion roaring with a single paw resting against the crest. Cedric had his banner which was the same crest but done in yellow and black. A badger stood beside it, snarling. His father was waving his hat around, shouting while his wife smiled at his side.

Krums’ banner was an olive green, a double headed eagle wrapped around the skull of a stag. He stood like a statue next to his parents, who had the same severe features that he did.

Fleurs’ banner did not have any animal on it. Instead it was done in a beautiful teal color, the crest was gold and was formed from flowers and vines that entwined delicately to surround the calligraphic B that denoted the school. She was standing with her parents, both beautiful and delicate but with the air of danger. They projected the same feeling that prevented a person from grabbing a rose, knowing that there were thorns.

 Harry tried not to blush at the realization that he was the only one standing alone. No one related to him to support him. For a heavy moment he regretted telling the Weasley’s not to come. A bit of motion caught his eye and then he could see Snape. The man had shifted so that he was standing at the corner of the maze. For all intents and purpose he looked as if he were merely waiting for the challenge to begin so that he could prowl around the exterior. However, Harry did not miss the deliberate move that placed the man just a meter or two away from him. Not close enough to make anyone suspicious but close enough to acknowledge to Harry that the man was there. The tightening in his chest loosened a bit.

He scanned the crowd as Dumbledore started his speech. He watched the flickering faces in the stands, too far away to really identify anyone. The roar of the crowd swelled and fell in time with the speech that he was not listening to. It was a bit selfish but he also wished that Mr. Dawsen was there. Not that there was any reason that the man should be there. The man probably had work and other things to take care of. Not to mention that Harry had repeatedly said that he wasn’t going to do more than find a safe corner to wait it out. And yet he was still looking in the stands expecting to see the lawyers smiling face, probably making a scene to make Snape angry.

“Mr. Potter and Mr. Diggory please step up to the entrance of the maze.” Bagman announced. Harry turned towards the maze, gazing down the darkened path that sat suspiciously quiet before him. There was a loud bang as a cannon announced the beginning of the challenge.

As soon as Harry crossed the threshold all the noise disappeared, leaving him to only hear his soft breath. The air around him seemed cold despite the spring heat that had permeated the outside of the maze. With a tentative step Harry began walking down his path, stopping at the first fork.

Which way?” Harry asked. Labyrinth popped his head out of the collar of his robes.

Where do you want to go?” The little snake asked, tasting the air with his tongue.

Somewhere safe. A place where I can wait without problems.”

I know a place. There are obstacles though. There is no safe place to go that does not have something guarding it.” Labyrinth explained, turning his beady eyes to Harry.

“Whatever you feel is best, then.” Harry shrugged.

Then go left.” Harry turned left. He followed the snakes’ direction through the first couple turns. Left again, right, right, left, straight.

Stop!” The snake hissed, making Harry pause in mid step. There was nothing in front of them except a long path surrounded by hedges. “There is something here.” He didn’t elaborate.

“Revealio.” Harry whispered, pointing his wand in front of him. There was a shimmering as a shape sat huddled next to the hedges. It was invisible but the spell warped the area around it the way that heat warped the air around hot asphalt. Harry took one more step forward.

So cold. Fear and dread filled his body. In front of him a dementor floated, decrepit hand reaching for him. He took a deep breath.

“Ridiculous!” Harry shouted. There was a pop and the dementor was gone, leaving a ceramic frog that was fishing. The little thing was a tchotchke that he had seen on a shelf at Mrs. Figg’s place. Harry strode past it, pleased with himself and his quick thinking. Since the thing had been invisible and Harry hadn’t heard his mother’s voice he knew it couldn’t have been a real dementor. He followed his given path as instructed, stopping again when he was directed.

“Finite.” And the spell that was going to flip him upside down was gone. He stopped once again right before a corner when Labyrinth instructed him to. There were other obstacles but they were not very difficult. There was one section of the maze that began to close in on him. Harry cast a shield around himself and ran through, barely making it out. He was confronted by a flock of pixies but a simple immobulous made quick work of the annoying beasts. On occasion he would hear a voice of one of his fellow competitors through the wall. He didn’t cross paths with any of them though. They were no doubt heading east towards the center of the maze. Harry used a Point Me spell and found that where ever his little snake was leading him was towards the south.

Next challenge is most dangerous. Sphinx guards the way to the nest. Nest is safest place.” Labyrinth explained the best that he could. Harry nodded and turned the corner.

The sphynx was far more beautiful than Harry had thought it would be. Looking at ancient drawing of the creature in class did the beast no justice. For one thing, it was massive. At least twice the size of a normal lion. The coat was golden and glossy, shimmering even in the low light of the maze. The womans head that sat atop was also beautiful. The skin was a dark brown, which contrasted the bright gold eyes to make them even more powerful. A full black mane surrounded the face. All of her features were angular and sharp, the severity making the beast look regal. She sat, sprawled along the width of the passage, blocking any chance of him walking or running by. Her front paws were crossed as she sat straight and tall.

“Boy.” The sphynx purred. Her voice was lighter than expected, a delicate accent crept through.

“Hello.” Harry shuffled, trying not to look at his feet.

“You wish to pass?”

“Yes.”

“You will have to answer my riddle. If you guess correctly in three try’s I will let you pass. If you fail . . .” She trailed off dramatically, impassive face watching him.

“I will hear your riddle.”

“When I am born I fly

When I am alive I lie

When I die I run.

A single one of me will move no man

Together with my brothers and sisters I can kill man

Up high I am here forever

Down low you will see me never.

What am I?”

Harry regretted asking almost immediately. He was never quite good at riddles. His mind always had difficulty working through the vague clues. He pet Labyrinth as he thought through his answer. There were a lot of things in there about it being physical, about being places and hurting people. So he figured that the answer wasn’t some type of concept. He tried to focus on something that was a person, place or thing. Well not a person, because it said ‘it can move no man’ so it probably wasn’t human.  When I am born I fly? Well that could be a lot of things. Living up high.

“A bird?”

“No.”

Shit. Well there was one guess down. Guess that makes sense. What bird would run after it dies? Well maybe a chicken but you wouldn’t find a chicken up high. Harry pondered deeply, desperately running over every noun and thing that he could think of. What about water? Starts in the clouds and can “fly” that way. People die during floods which is running water.

“Water?”

“No.”

Fuck. Harry gripped his wand. The sphynx would attack him if he got the next guess wrong. Frantically he went back to his thinking. Mumbling to himself as he tried to figure out the clues.

Cold.” Labryinth complained, sliding further into Harry’s cloak. Obviously he was getting bored waiting for Harry to finish. Wait cold. Snow! It flies from the clouds, lies on the ground and turns into running water when it dies! Does it fit with the rest though? One can does nothing but many kills a man. Well not quite, but maybe a snowflake, which is one piece of snow. Sometimes there are mountain that never lose their snow. And places on the equator that never see snow.

“A snowflake!” Harry shouted, stealing himself up for an attack. The sphynx blinked at him slowly. With a meandering pace she sat up, shifting so there was enough room for Harry to walk by. Once he passed he gave a huge heaving sigh.

Turn right. This is nest.” Labryinth explained. He turned into a dead end. Harry slumped onto the ground, resting his elbows on his knees. He sighed happily as he sat. This is where he would stay until he heard that someone had won.

A piercing scream rent through the air. Harry jolted, searching for the sound of the noise. He jumped as there was a second scream. There was a loud bang and red sparkled through the air. It sounded like Fleur. He wondered what had happened. The sound she had made was horrific. He hoped that someone saved her.

There was a rustle around him. He swung his head around to find the source. Labyrinth rose, hissing angrily.

Danger. Smells of danger. Speaker RUN.” Harry scrambled to stand. He stumbled over his feet, pushing off the grass in his attempt to get up. He only managed to get five feet.

 “Confundus!” Harry felt the spell hit his back with no small amount of force. Suddenly he could not think. Instead of a steady stream his thoughts were now a thousand flitting snitches he had no chance of capturing. It was terrifying not even being able to grasp a single thought as the snitches bounced around in his head, clattering into each other and shattering randomly in the air.

“Imperious.” Calm. Confused but calm. Confused but calm. Confused but calm.

“Stand.” Calm but no longer confused. He had something to do, he must stand. The whining wheezy voice calmed the thoughts and broke the confusion. Harry stood, hoping that when he would there would be more. Confused but calm.

 “Walk.” So he walked.

Speaker. What is going on?” Labyrinth asked, curling tighter around his neck. “Where are you going?” Confused but calm. Who was it that was speaking to him? It didn’t matter, he had to walk.

Harry listened to the voice as it led him left, then right in a seemingly random pattern of turns and twists. He stopped when directed, standing in front of a golden mist. Confused but calm.

“Cast this spell.” The reassuring force whispered and he did. The fluttering thoughts moved more sluggishly through the heavy smog of the commanding tone. The golden mist had disappeared, leaving Harry to walk unhindered. As he traveled the voice got higher and happier, gleefully leading him. Leading him to where? Confused but calm. Harry broke through the trail, stepping into the clearing. In front of him was a glittering glass chalice on a pedestal. Confused and anxious. Why anxious, why confused? There was a clamor which caused Harry to turn.

Cedric was ten meters away, battling a giant spider. Confused and scared. Confused and scared.

“Cast this spell.” The voice whispered. Confused but calm. Harry released a spell causing slashes to appear on the beast’s body. It fell to the ground just barely missing Cedric. Cedric turned to Harry and smiled. Confused but calm, Harry smiled back.

“Harry! You are okay.” The boy panted from his exertion. He came stumbling over, patting Harry heavily on the back. “Thanks for that.”

“No problem.” Harry answered when prompted. He turned to the glittering trophy, Cedric doing the same.

“We are almost there.” Cedric whispered, making no move towards the trophy. “You should take it. You have done better in the tournament than me.”

“We should take it together.” Harry repeated the words that he was told to. “Either way Hogwarts wins. We can share the glory.” Cedric smiled and nodded in agreement. The calming voice cackled greatly as they both approached it. Anticipation and joy welled up in its excited promptings. Confused but happy. Confused but anxious. Confused and scared. Harry struggled to remember as he approached the chalice. He stood, fingers less than an inch from the frosted glass. He turned to look at Cedric’s elated face. Fingertips brushed the glass at the count of three.

It wasn’t the pull at his navel that made him feel the worst. It was the feeling of unadulterated fear as the calm and confusion whipped away in an instant. As every anxious feeling and heart wrenching shudder that had been held at bay by the curse crashed into him in an instant.

 The last words of that whispering, raspy voice like a cold bucket of water down his back.

“Go to my master and bring him his gift.”

Chapter Text

Harry gasped as his back hit hard ground. He tried to breath but he couldn’t get air past the balloon that had swollen in his throat. Panic made his heart pound, a heavy thrashing rattling his sore ribs. He tried to stand but the ground moved and shifted under him, the last bits of the confundus slowly leaving his brain.

“Harry?” Cedric asked, pushing himself up onto his knees. “Do you think that this is the next part of the challenge?”

“No.” Harry shook his head wildly. “No we shouldn’t be here!”

“What?”

“I was under imperious!” Harry shouted, gagging slightly when his stomach tried to make a surprise appearance.

“Imperious?” Harry managed to lookup into Cedrics bewildered face.

“We have to. We have . . . we have to go.” He grunted, shakily getting to his feet. “We can’t be here. It’s not safe. The portkey . . . got to go.” The words come out wobbly as he looked around for the chalice.  There was a loud clatter off in the distance. Harry glanced around, desperate to find the source of the noise. For the first time he noticed that he was standing in a cemetery. The area was dark. Not dark in the way that was caused by the sun being down. No, it was the kind of dark that was formed by perpetual cloud cover and the general dismal air that surrounded the area.

Both boys whipped around at a second noise. Behind one of the tombstones a covered shape shuffled forward. Harry winced as a sharp pain pierced his forehead.

“Bind them.” A rattling voice commanded. The hooded figure whipped his wand. Harry grunted as a force grabbed the back of his robes, pulling him back. He was thrust into a tombstone, slamming his head into the white marble. Ropes danced around him twisting around him tight. The rough binds dug painfully into his arms and chest. He swung his head around wildly, searching for Cedric. He was in a similar predicament except there was a rope that had wormed its way through his teeth, gagging him.

“Who are you?” Harry demanded as the cloaked figure approached him. The person didn’t say anything. Instead he began waving his wand around. A cauldron grew from the air, crashing to the ground with a calamitous rumble. It was as large as a bathtub, the deep black of the onyx was so dark it blended into the background.  Water poured into the cauldron already steaming hot. With a quick whip a fire burst from under the pewter cauldron, illuminating the scene with a terrifying glow. Slowly the person who was doing the magic lowered his hood.

“Pettigrew!” Harry growled. He wiggled against his bonds. The weasel-y man just took a moment to look at the Gryffindor but turned away. He shuffled away behind a tombstone, bowing down to lift something into view.

At first Harry thought it was an infant, the creature swaddled like a baby. However it wasn’t. Thin spindly arms reached up to grab onto Wormtail. The skin was red and wrinkly. It gave the impression that it was covered in blood. The face was deformed, scrunched and misshapen. Red eyes turned onto him, piercing Harry deeply. He watched as Wormtail lifted the squirming creature, rolling it into the cauldron and the boiling water. Immediately a plume of steam rose into the air.

“Bone of the father, unknowingly given. You will renew your son!” Pettigrew incanted dramatically. The ground that Harry was sitting on began to shake. From the dirt rose a bone. It was stained brown over time the foot long bone floated and past his face, travelling over to the cauldron. Hovering above the roiling water the bone suddenly crumble into dust, drifting softly into the potion like snow. A sickly green flashed into the air. Harry cringed away but could not move.

Pettigrew pulled out a knife, silver and shining. He raised his left hand, letting it hover over his own wrist. There was a long pause as Harry wondered what he was going to do.

“Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed, you will revive your master.” There was a disgusting squelch as the knife cut through flesh and bone. Harry gagged, turning his face from the scene. He clenched his eyes shut, but the image of red and white was seared onto the back of his eyelids. He heard the whimpering moans as the Pettigrew tried to get over the pain. He kept his eyes shut until he heard Wormtail moving. When he opened his eyes the man was shuffling towards him, hand clenching the bloody stump that was where his used to be. There was a muffled shout from off to the side. Cedric was shouting through his binds, eyes wide with fear and panic.

Pettigrew sneered as he raised his knife again, making a threatening motion at the other boy before turning back to the Gryffindor. He had wrapped a piece of cloth around the stump to stem the blood. One of the ropes jerked, forcing Harry’s right arm out from behind him.

“Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken.” Pettigrew began to recite, lifting the knife towards his skin.

STOP!” Labryinth lashed out, sinking his fangs into Wormtails forearm. Pettigrew howled, whipping his arms away. The comforting weight of his scaled friend left as the snake was pulled along with the newly injured arm, falling to the round when he finally released his fangs. Wormtail reached to grab the wound but was only able to press his stump against it. With an angry growl he swung his wand at the hissing snake.

“No!” Harry shouted as the silver body was propelled off into the darkness of the coming night. Pettigrew retrieved his knife again.

“Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe.” He recited again, forcefully. The knife separated his skin, releasing the blood beneath it. A crystal vial was placed at the edge of the wound, collecting the blood.

“Stop.” Harry moaned, struggling to get away but the ropes were alive and keeping him still. Pettigrew limped off. He shuddered as he moved, pale and sweating from the venom that was leaking through his veins. He overturned the bottle into the cauldron. Slowly the blood trickled down the crystal, streaming into the giant cauldron. There was a flash so bright Harry thought it was an explosion. When the bright baubles that stained his eyes finally faded he could see a tall figure standing the cauldron. What stood in the steaming water looked like a man, but had the presence of an animal. Its skin was pale, a greyed white that reminded Harry of a corpse. The limbs were long and spindly, tapering down into spider like fingers which were held out in a demand. Pettigrew whimpered as he rushed forward with a bundle of cloth. The man clothed himself slowly, with the bearing and grace of nobility. He stepped out of the onyx cauldron, still not facing Harry.

He tried not to gasp when the man finally turned to him. His eyes were scarlet and the pupils were slit like a cats. His nose had blended into his face, leaving openings like a reptile. The worst part, perhaps, was that you could still see the man beneath it. That handsome boy that Harry had seen second year seemed to be sitting underneath that chalky white skin. There was still that little bit of humanity left and that was scary. To know that this monster had once been a man.

“Harry Potter.” He hissed, thin lips pulling into a wide smile. Over to his side Pettigrew had fallen to his knees.

“Master . . . please!” He begged, presenting his stump.

“I need a wand.” He sneered. Pettigrew pointed to over to Cedric. Voldemort turned to the pale HufflePuff. Cedric began to struggle against his bonds. Voldemort stepped towards the boy. He pulled the rope out of the boy’s mouth. “Do you know who I am boy?”

“N-no.” He stuttered. Voldemort smiled wide.

“I am Lord Voldemort.” He laughed as Cedric squeaked. Harry struggled, trying to thrash out of his bonds. “A HufflePuff, so weak. Loyalty is a good trait but they are too scared to be good minions. Your house used to be warriors like the Gryffindors but you became nothing more than simpering bleeding hearts filled with mudbloods. He has a good wand?” He turned back to Pettigrew.

“Yes. Crouch said that he was pureblood and powerful. He was the original Hogwarts Champion. Considered the best in his year by the cup.” Pettigrew whimpered. “But he isn’t powerful enough to fight you my lord.”

“Perfect.” He purred. The spidery fingers reached past the ropes and pulled out the boy’s wand. Cedric whimpered trying to move his body away from the questing hands.

“Ash and Unicorn hair. Yes very powerful. But very light. It should last long enough for me to retrieve my old wand. You said that they have it?” He was addressing Pettigrew.

“Yes master! Avery has retrieved it from the ministry. Please.” He motioned again with his stump. Voldemort raised a pale finger, stopping his minion from talking again.

“First this wand will learn its new master.”

“My wand will never choose you as its master.” Cedric said, finally pulling together enough confidence to talk back to the newly risen Dark Lord. “Wands choose the wizard. It will never choose you.”

“Wands may choose the wizard, but that does not mean they will not bow to a new master.” Voldemort explained, rubbing the wand through his fingers. “You just have to show it that you are more powerful than its will. Avada Kedavra!”

Harry’s world lit up with green as the curse barreled towards the other boy. There was a ringing in his ears and he realized that it was himself screaming. The air around them turned cold and heavy with the darkness that surrounded the curse. Just as fast as it was there it was gone. Cedric was still sitting in his binds. At first glance he looked completely normal. Just frozen like a doll. The only things that showed that he was not living was his eyes.

Those eyes were going to haunt Harry, and he knew it. The glassy orbs were cold and dull, unlike anything he had ever seen before. Movies, shows and pictures did no justice to the real image of lifeless eyes. He was unable to look away, his entire being desperately searching for any little bit of life that may still be there. It was all gone. Faster than a blink everything that made Cedric a human, made him a person, was gone into the ether. Harry could feel the tears coursing down his face as he stared at the corpse that had once been a person. He only looked away when Voldemort sighed in pleasure.

“Come Wormtail. I will reward you now.” Pettigrew shuffled forward on his knees. Cedrics wand was raised, hovering over the bloody stump. The cloth was banished. Harry could feel his stomach rising as he saw the bloodied flesh that looked like it was already starting to rot. Above the wound the wand began to sway. An amorphous stream of silver escaped the wand, coming together in a formless ball. Slowly the ball began to twist and shape itself into a hand. When it finally stopped it floated onto the wrist, molding onto the stump and leaving only a thin line that separated skin from silver. Pettigrew stared as the fingers flexed and moved. He reached for a twig, turning it into dust as he squeezed it.

“Thank you master. Thank you!” He leaned down to kiss the hem of Voldemort’s robes.

“The pain you felt was punishment for your disloyalty. The thirteen years that you abandoned me. However, you did return to me. May your loyalty never waver again, Wormtail.” He purred, the threat hung heavily in the air. Harry shuddered at it. “For an additional reward of procuring me a proper wand and a bit of fun,” He glanced over to the now lifeless body. “I will also heal your bite. You should never be so careless again in underestimating your enemies.”

Wormtail whimpered happily as he raised his wand again. The swollen bite was tapped with the wand. Harry noticed that the ash wand had a large crack down the side of it, the white of the unicorn hair peeking through. The incantation he used was lyrical, a soft A Capella song that was beautiful but haunting. At the end of the spell the wound glowed and the wand splintered a bit more. But the bite was no longer as swollen and Pettigrew was gaining color again.

“Such a light wand. It can barely handle these few dark spells. It will probably only last through one more. Perhaps it is time to call the loyal among us to my side? It is time that they see their master. What do you think Potter? Would you like to see how many of us still remain?” He looked at Harry, acknowledging him fully for the first time.

“Fuck you!” Harry shouted, struggling against his bonds. He glanced at Cedric before turning his glare at Voldemort.

“So vulgar. It is good that you have some fight left in you. I would hate for my followers not to have a show or to think that I was defeated by such a coward.” He purred. He motioned to Pettigrew again. The rat man pushed up his sleeve, revealing the dark mark. Voldemort placed the wand on the mark.

“Morsmorde.” He hissed. The mark turned pitch black as Wormtail screamed. Cedrics wand splintered into pieces with a sharp crack, leaving nothing but a few shards of wood and a grey, lifeless piece of hair. Voldemort looked satisfied.

“You surprised me Potter.” He interrupted the silence as they waited. “To think that you kept such a powerful snake with you. I knew you possessed the power to speak to them but I never thought a Gryffindor would possess the power to bend them their will.” He purred, letting his gaze wander over Harry.

“He was my friend.” Harry grunted, trying to keep his gaze to prove he was not scared. Inside he was terrified. Cedric was dead and he was moments away from being surrounded by Death Eaters. His chances of survival, which had been small before, were dwindling down to nothing. He was already outnumbered two to one and soon it would be even worse. His only ally was off somewhere in the cemetery. He could only hope that the Labyrinth was okay and making his way back.

“A friend.” Voldemort said in a condescending amused tone. 

“Yes.” Harry hissed back. Voldemort leaned forward, his face centimeters from Harry’s. He smelled of rotten mint, and his breathe was hot.

“You are a fool Harry Potter.” He sneered. “You will die a fool.”

There was a loud crack as a person appeared at the edge of the cemetery. The figure was cloaked completely in black, all the way down to the black gloves. The mask he wore was bright white and reminiscent of a skull. The figure dropped to its knees and shuffled forward. Voldemort had moved back to stand in the center of the clearing. He allowed his follower to kiss the hem of his robes before settling out on the edge of the clearing. There was a rapid fire of appartation as a dozen people appeared. Each one fell to the ritual of kissing the hem and joining the circle. Harry tried not to shudder as the expressionless masks all turned to stare in his direction.

“My people.” Voldemort hummed. He spun to take in the circle. He sneered as he watched his followers shuffle like naughty children. “How few you are. There used to be hundreds and now there are only a dozen. I know my most loyal are now imprisoned. And those who have betrayed me have fled and will be hunted down for their crimes. But where does that leave you. Hmm, Lucius?” He stopped in front of a mask. Harry glared as the mask dissolved, revealing the pale face of Lucius Malfoy. The man lowered his head.

“My Lord. I was merely waiting for your return. I saw fit to put myself in a better position in the Ministry so that when you did return you would have unimaginable access to your enemy.”

“Crucio.” Voldemort smiled as the man fell to the ground. He screamed in agony, writhing on the ground. “Do not take me for a fool Lucius. You sought your position because you wanted the power. You all assumed that you would never see me again. That the boy had defeated me.”

Harry’s body sang with pain as a crucio found its way to him. Every bone burned, every nerve shot. His skin felt like it was being flayed off millimeter by millimeter. He didn’t hear his own screaming or feel his own tears. His entire world was enveloped by the agony. Just as soon as it started it stopped again. When the tears cleared from his eyes the Dark Lord was standing in front of him, an inscrutable expression on his face.

“You all know of course, that they claimed this boy to be the one who defeated me that night. That time in which I lost my powers and my body I had attempted to kill him. It was not by his power that I lost mine. His mother had tried, in vain, to barter for his life. She then died trying to protect him. She unwittingly provided him with a protection. One that I could not have predicted. I had not believed her to be powerful enough to perform such old magic. Her sacrifices left traces on him which prevented me from touching him.” He reached out his pale fingers until they were hovering just an inch from his scar.

“Such old magic . . . I was a fool to forget such things. It is no matter now. The magic I used was much older and much more powerful. Her protection is now mine. I can touch him.” The fingers pressed against his forehead. There was an almighty pressure that beat down on his brain. Voldemort’s magic as cold and heavy as it pushed its way into Harry’s head. He tried to fight it but could not, a blanket settling over his minds, filling him with dread. Then it was gone.

“Avery! My wand!” He demanded, turning away.

Speaker.” A quiet hiss came from his left. Harry turned and saw Labyrinth slowly slithering his way towards him. The snake would stop when anyone turned towards them.

Labyrinth.” Harry whispered back. He pulled against his bonds.

“Where is Severus?” Voldemort boomed, after accepting his wand. Harry ignored Pettigrews simpering reply about how he never showed up.

My bite did nothing. I am sorry. I still have venom.” The little snake bargained.

Don’t.” Harry vehemently shook his head. “If you try again they might kill you this time instead of just blasting you away.”

“Smells of death here. We must go.”

“I don’t know how to leave.”

“The cup of magic is close.”

“How close?” Harry tried to talk out of the side of his mouth. Voldemort was still talking. Of course he was. He was extolling the values of those who were in prisoned for his cause. He was talking of the extermination of those with dirty blood. Harry tried not to sneer at the Dark Lord. Labyrinth crawled up his body, letting his cool weight rest around Harrys neck. He tucked himself under the collar of the robes. The Gryffindor could feel his tongue as it poked out to taste the air.

The length of two oak trees that have lived for a long time. To the east. Behind the bloody rat.” The snake tried to elaborate. Harry craned his head to look past Pettigrew. About two hundred feet away there was a slight glimmer. When the glow didn’t fade Harry realized that the cup must have flown off in that direction when they had hit the ground. It was resting behind the headstone that Cedric had been tied to.

 “Stand Potter and present your wand. We will see if you truly are the savior of the light.” Voldemort purred. The ropes loosened and Harry stood on shaking feet. His wand was in his hand. The Death Eaters stepped closer, forcing the circle in tighter. He took in a deep breath. The acrid air was burning his lungs. He closed his eyes and tried to push away doubt. There was nothing he could do to avoid this.

It was time to get angry. If there was any person who deserved his ire it is the bastard that was standing before him. If he was going to have to fight to the death then he was going to make it entire inconvenient for the madman.

Fucking bring it.

Chapter Text

Harry was desperate to stop trembling. He was shaking; a bit in anger but mostly in fear. Just because he was in Gryffindor that did not mean that he was able to face almost certain death without any terror. He didn’t think he was doing a good job at hiding it, if the amused air of the Death Eaters and their master were anything to go by. There was an annoyed hiss as Labyrinth examined their foe.

Remember the story of the wolf and the bear, Speaker.” The snake prodded, settling against his collar bone.

Harry did remember that story. It was one the little snake told often. The story went like this. There was a lone wolf wandering through the woods. It stepped into the path of a bear. The bear growled, the wolf whimpered. The bear took a step forward, the wolf took a step back. The bear hoisted himself until he stood on his hind legs, the wolf sank to its belly.  The bear raised its head, ready to give a joyous shout to announce that he had defeated his pray, but there was silence. When the bear rejoiced the wolf had leapt from his crouch and had bitten the newly open neck. When the bear looked back down the wolf was gone. The bear went to his cave to hide and heal. The wolf returned to its den with blood on his teeth.

The moral of that story, the little snake would explain, was not that one should pretend to be weak. No. It was to know your enemy and know how to act so that they cause their own downfall. The wolf knew that the bear was prideful. All animals bowed to the bear, so he did not question it when the wolf did. In his arrogance he allowed the wolf to fall into a position where he could attack. He was most vulnerable during that moment because he was too enthralled with his joy. The clever wolf knew and used that to his advantage.

Harry needed to be the wolf.

So he stood resolute in front of the man.

“The little lion, trying to be so brave. Step forward little lion. Bow.”

“No.” Harry spat.

“Do they no longer teach proper etiquette at the school now?” Voldemort sneered.

“Oh yes. They just never told me that I had to bow to soulless maggots.” Harry gave a replying sneer. Voldemort’s face turned thunderous, causing a glimmer of happiness to fill Harry. Harry did have a bit of problem with authority, something that Snape mentioned often. He never could help himself. Whenever he got angry he was left with the unending urge to throw every insult he could in the coy, insolent tone that he had always used with Vernon. Sure, the consequences were never good, but the pleasure one got was worth it.

 “How dare you?!”

“Oh I’m sorry,” Harry gushed in fake surprise, keeping an eye on the shuffling Death Eaters. “I didn’t know that you were stupid enough to expect respect from the person you orphaned and tried to kill.” He deadpanned, enjoying the throbbing vein that popped up on the Dark Lords deathly white face.

“You will learn to respect me boy, even in the last moment of your life.” The man raised his wand, obviously annoyed enough to forgo the rules of dueling.

“Fuck you.” Harry replied, lifting his wand to be at the ready.

“Crucio.” He hissed, sending a bolt of light in Harry’s direction. Before it could rocket into the boy it was blocked by a floating bit of stone. Behind it Harry stood smugly. That was something that he had learned from Snape. Curses that have no spell that can shield you from them are not unavoidable. Most curses, especially the unforgivable like crucio and Avada Kedavra, cannot penetrate a solid object. A floating or summoning spell can be quicker.

“You are going to have to try harder.” Harry quipped, letting the rock fall to the ground.

“You insolent little- imperio!” Harry didn’t have enough time to jump away from the spell. The sickly calm swept over him again. This time he was prepared, and more than a little pissed off.

“Kneel down to me.” The voice whispered in his ear. Harry pushed all his strength into pushing a giant ‘fuck you’ back at the voice. He was not going to lose control of his body again. It was his damn body and he was in control. He was stronger than this and he was going to push through.

“KNEEL TO ME!” The voice boomed.

“Go fuck yourself!” Harry shouted, pushing past the fog with a roar. It took him a full second to realize that he had actually shouted that into the silence of the graveyard. He was still panting from the mental battle but he couldn’t help the little chuckle that bubbled out.

“The great and powerful Voldemort. Defeated by a child and a mum’s love. To think that so many people were scared of you. You are a piss poor wizard and a pathetic overlord.” Harry groused. He jumped to the side as another bolt of light passed close to him.

He considered it, for a moment, really trying to fight Voldemort. Trying to throw enough curses at him that one of them stuck. He considered killing. He was pissed and he had every reason for it. Before him stood a man that was the cause of all of his agony. If it were not for the Dark Idiot his parents would still be alive. He would have never had to spend a single second with the Dursleys or in that cupboard. He would never have been famous, or at least far less so. Every bad thing in his life lead back to this bastard trying to kill him. Who would blame him for trying to kill him?

But Harry was no fool. He would temper his rage with planning. Snape had taught him that. Voldemort was strong, far stronger than Harry. His greatest advantage was now gone. So he would retreat. Still he knew there would be one day that he got what he wanted. Voldemort would never give up on him and Harry would never lose his rage.

That was his plan, or at least the closest thing he was going to get to one. He needed to get to the cup. It was his only real way home, since there was little chance that anyone was going to pop in and save him. The problem was that it was outside the circle of Death Eaters. If they noticed what he was aiming for there was a good chance that they would destroy it before he could touch it. He couldn’t summon it for essentially the same reason. It would only take one of them noticing what he was doing and the option would be gone forever.

So he was going to keep Voldemort angry. If there was nothing else that Harry had learned from the man bullies he had ‘interacted’ with was that pride was the most important thing. You hit that and it will be all that they can think about. Chances are he would be more interesting in making him hurt than actually killing him. More spells being shot at him that aren’t the killing curse. That meant Harry might be able to have enough time to dodge, jump and shuffle his way close enough to the cup. If he could get within a few feet of it he could make a go for it and break through the circle and get behind the tomb that Cedric was tied to and to the cup. He was the wolf. The bear had already bared his neck.

Fuck! He spun as he was forced to dodge a slashing curse that got too close to his side. He had let himself get distracted.

“You talk big but you will not fight, Harry Potter? Or have you finally realized just how hopeless your situation it.” Voldemort purred. “You will die here. There is no way that you can defeat me. You no longer have Dumbledore to protect you.”

“I don’t need Dumbledore to fucking protect me.” Harry spat back, jumping again as an unidentifiable purple curse flew past him. “Especially not against someone like you. Figures that a man who would be destroyed by a baby would also be afraid of a doddering old fool who likes ten pin bowling. Can you even call yourself a man?” Voldemort roared in anger.

“Protego!” Harry put up his shield. The yellow bolt of light that approached him broke into a dozen streams, blasting the shield at multiple different points. The force rattled Harry to his core, causing his bones to groan as the rubbed together and shook. His feet slipped a bit in the dirt.

He was tired. He felt like he had run ten miles on no sleep. All his limbs were heavy and his joins were weak. He had to keep going. He wasn’t going to die in this god forsaken cemetery at the feet of madman.

“Bombarda!” Harry sent a spell towards the Dark Lord, taking a moment to make a few running steps in the right direction. The other man deflected it easily. He had to hastily float a rotten piece of wood to protect against the incoming curses. Like a dance he was forced to spin, duck and move with the spells that were coming more aggressively. Voldemort was snarling in rage. He had stopped speaking his spell, instead letting out curse after hex in Harry’s direction. All around him the earth shattered and exploded as curses struck the ground and tombstones in a rhythmic assault.

Harry was panting with the effort. His throat burned and tasted of blood. The saliva in his mouth was thick and making it hard to breath. He was close. He could see the cup settled just three meters from him. In front of it stood Lord Malfoy. There was nothing Harry wanted to do more than cave in that smug face, except maybe tear Voldemort into tin shreds and feed him to Fluffy.

“I am done with this dance Potter. Die.” Harry turned to fully face the snake-faced man.

“Avada Kedavra!”

“Stupify!” Harry shouted in a last ditch attempt, acting more on instinct than anything else.

The beams clashed together, sending a shock wave that forced the audience to step back a pace. The green struck together with the red. Instead of the murky brown that would normally form the ball of light turned golden. It pulsed like a heartbeat, stuck in the middle of the two. Suddenly a golden bolt burst from the floating orb, shooting off into an arc until it landed at the edge of the Death Eater circle.

“Don’t.” The Dark Lord commanded, when the others moved forward to help. “He is mine. I will kill him.” Harry grunted, too busy trying to keep his wand up and focused to reply. The orb continued to spit out arcs, leaving them sitting in a gilded cage.

Harry was looking over his shoulder. He was so close. If he could keep everyone distracted enough it would take three seconds, maybe less for him to get to the cup. Three seconds was all he needed. He jerked back when he heard an angry yelp. Something was coming out of Voldemort’s wand. It looked like grey smoke but instead of dissipating it began to take form. It molded into a women. Suddenly Harry was staring at a face he had only ever seen in pictures and in the Mirror if Erised.

His mother.

The apparition smiled at him, softly and lovingly. She turned back, watching as a second form appeared. It seemed quicker but the other form condensed and became the image of his father. He choked. This was so different from seeing them in a picture or in a mirror. They seemed more alive, more real. No longer were they 2D images that Harry had to hold in his hands.

“Hello Harry.” His mother’s voice was deeper than he thought. Not too deep, but full and warm. She spoke softly, barely above a whisper. She reached out a ghostly hand, letting it trace his jaw.

“Mum. . . Dad.” He turned to his father. The man in front of him was hard to reconcile. He did not seem like the bully of a boy that he had heard from so many people. He looked mature, thin lines of age just starting to form. His entire countenance was calm and put together.

“My boy. My little prongslet all grown up.” His father replied, smiling sadly.

“How are you here?” He whispered, ignoring the fact that more grey apparitions were forming.

“Death magic is powerful Harry. More than you or he could ever understand.” His mother explained.

“It gives and takes with equal measure. You are forced to carry all those that you take away with you for the rest of your life.” His dad continued. “Riddle has killed so much that it has infected the core of his wand. The phoenix feather you both carry with you is about rebirth and continuous death. The corrupted feather will keep rebirthing those whom he killed, in a way, as punishment for its corruption.”

“So you are not real?” Harry asked, the question sticking heavily in his throat.

“We are, in a way. Death may be absolute but it is not nothing. We are here always. In some form or another. For now we are just the ghosts of his past. We will leave in time.”

“I miss you.” He whispered, a tear falling from his eye as he admitted it. His mother’s ghostly hand came to wipe it away but the mist just brushed by and left the tears path uninterrupted.

“We miss you as well. It is hard, watching you from the afterlife. Just know that we love you. We always will, no matter who you become. We were happy to give our lives for a chance for you to live. Do not feel guilt for living.” She whispered.

“It is time for you to go Prongslet.” His dad said, motioning towards the cup. “Take the cup back to Hogwarts. We will help as long as we can. Live your life and be happy.” He nodded. His mother leaned over, pressing a kiss to his cheek before turning back to the dark lord. The man was surrounded now by twenty different ghosts who were shouting and crying at the man. Suddenly all the ghosts rushed him, covering and blocking him.

The spell connection broke and Harry was sprinting away. He stumbled, only for a moment before bolting to the tombstone.

“Exacuere vade!” The voice of Malfoy Sr. broke through the angry yells of Voldemort. An agonizing pain lacerated up Harry’s right arm but he kept running. He tripped suddenly, ending up sprawled across Cedric’s cold lap. He glanced back and saw that Voldemort was fighting with the ghosts but Malfoy was taking the time to raise his wand.

“Bombarda!” Harry shouted, whipping his wand in the direction of Malfoy and without pausing pointed his wand at the cup. “Accio!”

The cup flew to him. In his left hand he gripped his wand and buried it deeply into Cedrics robes. He grabbed the cup with his right hand, pulling it until it was pressed in between his and Cedrics chest. He hadn’t been planning on it but he would bring the body back. It was the least that he could do.

He couldn’t breathe as he was pulled and twisted out of the clamor of the cemetery into the relative silence of the rushing world. It was silence as he crashed into the grass, forced to let go of the cup and the body. He panted as he pushed himself up, wobbling wildly as he took in the grass stained in red. Where had all that red come? He glanced over at the cup and there was red dripping off the rim. He dropped his head as the world started to raise its volume until there was screaming and shouting ringing in his ear. Then he saw is right arm.

It was flayed. A dozen deep wounds circled up his arm, stopping just under the bicep. There was so much blood. No wonder he was so woozy, it was blood loss. He looked up to see people running in his direction. He was kneeling in the center of the maze but there were no longer hedges blocking him in. People were pouring out of the stands to approach him. The headmaster was striding, leading them all.

Harry staggered to his feet. He wavered, his head filled with fluff and heavy. He needed help. Who could help him? He swung his head around, the sea of faces no more than blotches of color like some grotesque painting. Then he forced himself to focus on the approaching headmaster. Not two paces behind him was Snape. He needed Snape. His feet slipped on the grass as he began walking. Then he was running, more like staggering, in the man’s direction. He slipped past the Headmaster’s open arms to collapse against the strong chest of the Potions Master.

“Potter.” Snape gasped, clasping him on the shoulder and pushing him away to look at his face. He must have been a mess. His hair was more wild than normal. His face was coated in dirt and soot, streaked from blood and tears. His clothes were covered in dirt and blood. Both his sleeves torn and his arms bloody.

“He’s back . . . please . . . he killed, hurts.” Harry panted, trying to bury his head into the mans chest. The smell of herbs that he associated the man with being the only thing able to center him.

“Harry, my boy, who is back?” That was the Headmaster. Hands tried to pull him away from the potions master but he planted his feet. He would not move.

“Voldemort. He . . . he killed Cedric. Tried to kill me. Got away. Oh god it hurts.” The chatter around him grew as those approaching heard what he had said, and then a piercing wail. Everyone turned to see the Diggorys standing over the cold corpse of their only son. The sobbing was heart wrenching. Harry had wanted to cry but he couldn’t. Any emotion that he might’ve had was just outside his reach. He was tired, so tired. And dizzy.

“Some one . . . inside. He imperio-ed me. Wanted me to win the tournament. Wanted me as a sacrifice. I don’t . . . I don’t know who.” He pushed out. He clutched his arm as the blood began to cool and make him shudder. The world tilted but Snape stood like a rock and Harry held on like he was the only one at sea.

“Potter . . . Potter stay awake!” Snape demanded. But he couldn’t. He was safe for now. Snape was there and the Headmaster as well. He could hear Hermiones’ shrill demands to move aside. All the adrenaline was gone. With a heavy sigh he slipped into unconsciousness, trusting that someone would catch him.

Chapter Text

It was very quiet. Not the normal peaceful quiet that fell over the castle this late in the evening. It was the noiseless shock that paralyzed every living creature and rendered the air still and heavy. The hospital wing was dark with only two beds occupied. In one was a young boy, breathing slowly and deeply in the depth of sleep. In the other the body was completely still, a sheet pulled up and over the head.

A lone figure was awake in the wing. He sat in the shadows created by the full moon. He didn’t turn to look when rapid footsteps approached. The door opened and shut with only a whisper. The person who entered was not tempted to turn on the lights, instead walking over to the sleeping boy bathed in star light.

“How is he?” Alex Dawsen broke the silence. He wasn’t whispering, just talking softly.

“He is fine. Physically, at least.” The man in the shadows melted into view. The potions professor wasn’t wearing a robe. Just a pair of black slacks and a newly donned white shirt, since his last one had been stained red with blood. He was standing with his arms crossed, not looking at the guest. “The effect that events may have on his mind. Well, that is another story all together.”

“I got your letter. Is what you said true?” Alex asked, turning to look at his husband. In response Snape unbuttoned the left cuff of his white shirt, folding it until it passed his elbow. The mark was burnt black on the pale skin. The flesh around it throbbed an angry red, pulsing with heat and anger. Alex rested a hand on his wrist right under the marked skin. Never touching but incredibly close.

“So it is.” He hummed. With a sharp movement he pulled down the sleeve, hiding the mark from view. “What will we do Severus?”

“There will be another war.” Snape stated, not moving to rebutton the sleeve. “Of that I am very sure. The magic which brought the Dark Lord back is dark. I can taste it in the wound of his left arm.” He motioned to the bandaged arm. “The creature that was reborn will be mad. No one can return from the almost dead with such magic and not be consumed by the corruption. It will soon be war. No doubt a bloody one.”

Alex was mute for a moment. He stared out the window and into the sky.

“We should leave.” He eventually said.

”Leave?”

“Yes. Go before the fighting starts. Wait for it to be done.” Alex turned back to his husband who watched him expressionless.

“I have a duty here.”

“A duty?” Alex stated sharply. “You have done your duty and then some. If there is one person that deserves to dismiss himself from what is to come it is you.”

“I have paid my debts.” Snape hissed. “This is not about that.” He glanced down at Harry, quickly but not unnoticed.

“If you must protect the boy then we can take him with us. Him and your godson. Steal away in the night. The wizarding world has brought this on themselves. We owe them nothing.”

“It is not about that!” Snape hissed, grabbing Alex by the shoulder. “Do you honestly think that we could just avoid this war by running? There is no hope for those on the light to win this war. You have no understanding of the man who is now about to come for this world. I do.” He gave the shoulder a little shove.

“You have no understanding of what happened in the last war. No one on the light side does. There was no one who knew how close we were to losing but me. Even Dumbledore did not know the full magnitude of the Dark Lords powers!”

“We were months from damnation. In six months there would be nothing left but the smoldering remains of what we once knew. Had that man not been waylaid by that prophecy you would be dead, as would most everyone.”

“We were that close to losing?” Alex asked, bottom lip caught in his teeth not quite willing to look into his husband’s serious face.

“The Dark Lord was powerful. More powerful than Dumbledore by half. Willing to break down the boundaries of magic. More of a commander than the Headmaster ever was. Had he not been banished from his body he would have had the ministry under his control in less than three months, regardless of any interference by me or the Order. From there he would have decimated all those who opposed him without mercy. The paltry forces we had were no match.” Snape sneered.

“And now the situation is more helpless. The number of witches and wizards fighting for our side that lived after the war has been more than halved. The ministry will be in denial for as long as possible. Leaving the Dark Lord the ability to move without resistance for a great length of time. The only advantage we have on our side is a fourteen year old boy, whose only real power is the ability to distract the man from his mission.”

“You cannot go back to spying. I will not let you.” Alex demanded.

“This is not a matter of you deciding for me.” Snape replied, sharp and disdainful. “This is not even a matter of us. The entirety of British wizarding society has a year, two at best, before the Dark Lord will call it his own. And then what? You think that he will be content with just that? He has far greater plans than this little island. He will spread like that plague and surely be more deadly. There will be nowhere in the world that we could hide where he would not end up. It would only be a matter of time before I lay at his feet dead as a traitor. The Potter boy dead as an example and you dead as a half-blood.”

“Severus –“ Alex cut himself off, unsure what to say. Snape pressed a hand to his cheek, letting the other man nuzzle into his palm.

“There is no option. Not for me, not for you and not for the boy. Our fates have been set and carved deep. I will go back to spying. Do what I can to stall. Hopefully enough time that the side of the light can build itself up to a fighting chance. Potter will be trained, some way or another.”

“And I? My part in all this?”

“Willful ignorance.” Snape muttered. “When this war is ready to be fought you might take up your wand. For now, though, you know nothing. You were not part of the resistance the first time. No one will come looking for you to join.”

“So I sit back while you fight a war all by yourself?” Alex sneered.

“There is naught more that you can do. The world will remain quiet yet for some time. Best that we enjoy it while we can.”

“Quiet but not peaceful.” Alex leaned his shoulder into the rock that was his husband. “I’m not done with you. There will be reckoning.”

“There most assuredly will be.”

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

The light burned his eyes even when they weren’t open. Harry could feel the soft blankets and hear the easygoing clatter of things moving in the hospital wing. He threw his right arm over his eyes, pausing at the harsh scraping that went across his nose. With strain he opened his eyes, looking at the cream colored bandages that covered his arms.

“Oh, you’re up.” A voice said from his side. He turned his head to look at the speaker. Mr. Dawsen was sitting there, book in hands and reading glasses on the tip of his nose. He was in one of his suits but the jacket was unbuttoned and open. The book closed with a soft thud and fell to rest on his knee.

“Mr. Dawsen. What-?” Harry was forced to stop when a scratching in his throat turned into a full coughing fit. Mr. Dawsen floated a cup in front of him full of water. His body seared with the dull ache of pain. His chest burnt, the after effects of cracked ribs that Harry knew so well.

“Please don’t force yourself Harry. You have been through quite a lot.” He smiled softly. Harry took a moment to glance around. There wasn’t much to see, since they were the only ones in the wing. The only unusual thing was that one of the beds had the curtains pulled all the way around it.

“I suppose,” Mr. Dawsen started, turning his attention away from it. “That you would like to know what happened after you returned?”

“Yes.” Harry nodded and then paused. “You aren’t going to ask me what happened?”

“I know enough for now. There will be a time for you to tell your story soon enough.”

“Oh.”

“I wasn’t there when you arrived. Severus was though.”

“Where is Professor Snape?”

“Gone to talk with the headmaster and others. It would seem suspicious if he were sitting by your bedside. There is plenty of reason to keep your involvement with him a secret. Especially now.” Mr. Dawsen gave him a pointed look.

“Severus told me what happened. You arrived in the middle of the field covered in blood. You had disappeared two hours before. Everyone was in a panic. Suddenly you showed up. You brought Diggorys’ body with you, in fact you were collapsed upon it. You managed to stand. You grabbed onto Severus and told him that He Who Must Not Be Named had risen again. Then you said there was a traitor. Then you passed out.”

Harry nodded along. That much he at least remembered, even if it was just a fractured blur in his mind.

“You were immediately transported here to the hospital wing. It took a lot to save you. You had lost a significant amount of blood. There were cuts covering both your arms. One of them severed the tendon in your thumb. You might lose a little mobility in that hand because of it. There was still a large amount of dark magic in you, resulting in interference with the healing spells. It took a while but Madam Pomphreys’ medical knowledge and the basics that Severus knew did eventually stop the bleeding and the dark magic.

“You were right about the traitor.” Alex continued on, taking away the cup of water and pushing him back into the bed.

“Who?”

“Professor Moody. Or Bartimus Crouch Jr as we would know him. He tried to sneak into the Hospital wing after we had placed you here. It seems he wanted confirmation that the Dark Lord has risen. Severus had the forethought to remember what you said and restrained him when his attempts became more desperate. The polyjuice potion that he was under eventually wore off. They found the real Moody in a trunk in the mans office, alive thank goodness.”

“Professor Moody?”

“Yes, the man you knew as Professor Moody was the one. He was the one who sabotaged the cup. He was also watching outside of the maze when you were there. He cursed Krum to hurt Fleur and clear the way.”

“He put me under the imperious curse.” Harry admitted.

“Really? Well that would explain a lot. I wish I could offer you justice but there is not much to be had. They had attempted to give him the Kiss but the man was not mentally sound. He bit his tongue and died.”

“Oh.” Harry didn’t quite know how to feel about that news. Alex moved on when he didn’t say anything.

“After that it was just letting you rest until you woke up. There are a great many people who are looking for answers only you can give. I decided that it be best that I am here while you do.” Alec hummed, tapping his fingers lightly on his book.

As if by magic, which was a pun that sat sourly in Harry’s mind, the hospital doors opened. A group entered, softly bickering between them. The headmaster lead the way, Minster Fudge just a half step behind him. Madam Pomphrey marched next to McGonagall and one other person who Harry didn’t know donned in auror robes. At least three paces behind them Snape stalked, turning when he entered the doors so that he would walk along the wall at the opposite side of the room. He stopped so that he was distinctly out of the way but still in Harry’s line of sight.

“Harry my boy.” Dumbledore started. “I am pleased to see that you are awake. How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” Harry mumbled, looking down at his bandaged arms. Dumbledore hummed in agreement.

“I was just speaking to the minister about what happened. I would like to hear the whole story from you.” He was interrupted from going on by Fudge sputtering.

“That is hardly necessary! What you and the boy are implying happened is simply preposterous. There is no way that He Who Must Not Be Named is back from the dead. I don’t believe it.”

“Minister really-“ Dumbledore started.

“Minister how dare you-“ McGonagall began at the same time. Both were interrupted by a not so polite cough from Mr. Dawsen.

“Who are you?” The minister demanded.

“I am Alexander Dawsen, Mr. Potters legal counsel.” Everyone, save the three who knew the truth, look surprised. There was a moments pause as they stared in shock at the man who now stood at the end of his bed.

“There is no need for legal counsel.” McGonagall said, confusion colored her tone.

“Perhaps not, but I thought it best all the same. Mr. Potter has no legal guardians to come and make sure that there is no inappropriate actions on anyones part. The school cannot act as In Locum Parentis in this instance because they are one of the parties involved in the incident. It is best that someone be here fully in the interest of the boy.” Mr. Dawsen said.

“It is alright.” Dumbledore said in his normal placid tone. His eyes glittered in curiosity. “There is no one here who is trying to hurt Mr. Potter. However, if you feel it necessary please remain.” Mr. Dawsen nodded, slipping back into his seat and waiting patiently.

“Now Harry. Would you please tell us what happened.”

“Um, sure.” Harry gulped, trying not to feel uncomfortable at all the people waiting on him. “Well it was the third task. I was waiting for it to be over when someone, I guess Crouch, cursed me. Confundus and then imperious. He told me, well he told me how to get to the cup. Then he told me to tell Cedric to take it at the same time as me. When we touched the cup we realized it was a portkey.” Here he paused. He glanced around at the looked around at the curious faces. He finally looked at Snape who nodded his head to keep him moving.

“When it landed we were in a cemetery. Wormtail, Peter Pettigrew, was there with Voldemort.” There was a hiss at the name. “They tied us up to tombstones. They gagged C-Cedric. Then they started making this potion . . . First a bone and then Wormtail cut off his hand. Then . . . then they took my blood.” He waved his left arm where the knife had cut him.

“When it was done they put the thing that was You Know Who into the potion. Then he was . . . reborn I guess. He . . . He killed Cedric then. He wanted his wand and said it was the only way to make it loyal.” His hands were shaking and his voice was tight. He took a deep breathe . . . and then another.

“He called all of his Death Eaters. He . . . he waited until they were all there. There were about two dozen of them, wearing masks and black robes. He wanted to kill me but he wanted it to be in a duel. Soo he untied me and let me have my wand. We fought . . . something happened to my wand. And to his. I was able to get close to cup. I grabbed it . . . and Cedric. But I was hurt. Then I was back at the school.”

“That is preposterous!” Fudge shouted. “I refuse to believe this. That You Know Who is back.”

“I’m telling the truth!” Harry shouted.

“I am not going to believe the words of a little boy. Especially one that lies.”

“Minister!” Mr. Dawsen interrupted. “I believe that you and I have had this discussion before. You claim that Mr. Potter is a liar when there is no proof that he is. You heard Crouchs’ confession yourself. He was not the one who put his name in the cup. In all other areas he has been more than honest.”

“I knew I recognized you!” Fudge shouted, pointing an accusatory finger. “You were at that thing with him.” He swung his finger around to Snape. Snape didn’t respond, merely raising an eyebrow.

“Minister. Surely you must realize the seriousness of the situation. Something must be done to stop Lord Voldemort before he becomes too powerful.” Dumbledore started.

“He has not risen!” Fudge was turning purple. As quick as a viper Snape was on the move. He was standing before the minister, his large frame rendering the man lilliputian in comparison. He revealed the dark mark.

“The mark only burns black when the Dark Lord is alive and calling. There is no firmer proof that the boy is at least truthful on that part.” He sneered, shoving it closer to the man. Fudge jolted, stepping back. He stuttered, shoving his little bowler onto his head.

“I will not listen to this foolishness. Not from a child and not from an ex-Death Eater. I refuse. Good day Albus.” He said, stalking out with the auror behind him.

“Severus, I would like to speak to you in my office after this.” Snape nodded, stalking off. Professor McGonagall paused for a moment, waiting if there was going to be anything for her. When there wasn’t she flashed a comforting smile and left.

“I’m sorry, my dear boy. We will make him see reason eventually. For now please rest. We will talk again.” Dumbledore patted him on the hand before he left. With a large amount of tutting Madam Pomphrey made her presence known.

“Lay back Mr. Potter, you need your rest. I told them, yes I did, that you were in no condition to be doing this. Lie back.” She demanded a second time, using her wand to force him back onto his pillow. “He is needing his rest. I want no more reason that he doesn’t.” She glared at Mr. Dawsen. He just gave a smile in return, raising his hands in surrender. He made a show off raising his book to cover his face. Slowly Harry relaxed enough to fall asleep. Vaguely he hoped that the next time he woke he would realize that it was all a horrible dream.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

It was dark when Harry woke again. This time he was being shaken by an insistent hand on his shoulder. He started awake, desperate to find the cause of his discomfort.

“Potter! Wake up!” A voice called insistently.

“Draco?” He groaned, focusing as his glasses were forced onto his face.

“Ah good, your awake.” The Slytherin said, sitting back in his chair.

“How could I not be?” Harry groused. Draco didn’t even look the least bit apologetic as he leaned back in the chair.

“How are you?” He asked. Harry shrugged, lifting up his still bandaged arms.

“Okay considering.”

“That’s good. No permanent damage?”

“Not really. May lose some mobility in my thumb. Why? You concerned about me?” Harry smiled.

“Well one does tend to ask those type of questions when visiting a friend in the hospital wing. Plus, Granger will no doubt be bombarding me with questions when I get out of here.”

“How is Hermione?”

“Frantic. Apparently McGonagall has been making a point of making sure that she doesn’t bother you. She made me promise that I tell her everything when I sneak in.”

“Oh.” Harry said, slightly glad that Hermione cared so much. “Draco about your dad . . .”

“He was there, I know. Voldemort has risen again in all his glory. My father was there when it happened. He managed to curse you. He thought he had killed you. He was quite angry that you survived.”

“How?” Harry queried. Draco leaned forward to rest his elbows on the bed.

“He told me. When I went to visit him at St Mungos.”

“St. Mungos?” He wrinkled his nose in confusion. Draco laughed heavily.

“Oh yes. His entire pelvis was shattered. Everything from his right femur to his coccyx was all but dust. Ruptured a few arteries as well. He was lucky to be living.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Why? Because you were the one who hit him with a Bombarde curse when he was trying to kill you?” Draco asked, tone heavy with derision.

“. . . Yes?”      

“Well I’m glad you did.” Draco patted him on the leg. “My father has been deserving of a good curse for decades now. Hell I’ve been dreaming of cursing him myself for years. I just wish I could have been there to see what happened!”

“But he is your father.” Harry acknowledged.

“Father or not it was far less than he deserved. Though I must congratulate you on your aim.”

“My aim.”

“Oh yes. You managed to do something much crueler than kill him. You all but destroyed his groin region. He’s impotent now. Probably won’t be able to get it up for the rest of his life!” Draco quaffed. Harry couldn’t help a chuckle but felt a little bad about it. What a horrible fate.

“Mums happy too.” Draco continued.

“Why?”

“Because that means father won’t be out cheating on her anymore.” Draco smirked. “She doesn’t have to watch him flaunt those trollops around the mansion or pay off reporters that catch him in brothels. She has always kept her extramarital affairs quiet while he never bothered to. Now she can flaunt it in front of his face. And she doesn’t have to worry anymore about illegitimate heirs or any type of public shame.”

“Illegitimate . . . Is that really a problem?” Harry asked, trying to take it all in.

“Oh yes. I actually have two half-sisters somewhere.” Draco sighed. “I’ve never gotten to meet them though. Father refuses to tell me who they are. I suppose I’ll have to wait until his cops off to find out.” He shrugged as if it were a normal thing. To Harry it sounded like one of those soap operas that aunt Petunia was always watching while he was doing the chores. Harry couldn’t imagine living in a home where both parents were cheating on each other or knowing that he had siblings somewhere and know nothing about them. Meanwhile Draco shrugged it off as if it were a normal thing.

“Draco . . . your family is really fucked up.” Harry said after a full ten seconds of silence. He smiled brightly and Draco returned it.

“Don’t I know it!” He smirked. “Any way. Mother may be tempted to send you a nice box of chocolates for your service to her. I’m considering it to, as a thank you.”

“Well you are very welcome.” Harry joked in a formal tone. “Happy to do it again any time!” They both laughed again, Harry tried to enjoy the moment of levity without thinking of all the bad it implied. Draco stayed and chatted for a few more minutes. Mostly gossip and other things that were floating around the rumor mill. Eventually he said his goodbyes and Harry was left to settle down to sleep once more.

Chapter Text

Harry was trying to read his latest book but was mostly unsuccessful. Every time he would start a new paragraph his eyes would start sliding across the page, leaving him at the end of a paragraph with no more information that he had at the beginning. His whole body was gripped with anxiety, forcing him in a state of overexcited stillness. His heart was pounding in his chest and he felt every muscle pulse with its beating. Yet his body stayed still, trembling softly. Regardless of his minds urge to get up, to hide and to run he stayed on his bed with his hands firmly planted on his book as if it were the only lifeline in a vast ocean.

“Harry! Oh thank goodness!” Hermione swung her way into the infirmary. She stomped over to the bed and threw her arms around Harry’s neck, pulling him into a large hug. “I am so glad that you are okay!”

“Hermione, I’m fine. They are just keeping me here until there is no trace of dark magic on me.” Hermione pulled a face when Harry stated that he was fine but he continued on as if he didn’t see it. “Anyway, didn’t Draco tell you I was okay?”

“He did. It didn’t stop me from worrying though.” She paused and gave him a contemplative look. Suddenly her fist shot out and caught him in the shoulder.

“Ow!” He yelped. Even though the punch wasn’t really hard. “Hermione!”

“Don’t you every do that to me again! I was so worried. There was so much blood . . .” She cut off here, her throat closing up in the beginning of a sob.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize. Just promise me that it will never happen again. I never want to see you like that again.”

“I’ll do my best.” He said softly. Hermione heaved a sigh, leaning over to pull him into another tight hug. When she left she grabbed her pack, reaching into and rummaging around.

“I brought you some of your books. Don’t want you to fall behind despite everything.” She began pulling out large tomes, all far too large to fit in the bag, let alone a half dozen of them. Harry chuckled fondly as he watched her build her paper and leather tower. Suddenly something caught his eye. In between the books was a newspaper. He gripped the corner, pulling the paper over his lap. He sucked in a tight breath as a smiling picture of Cedric waved from the front page. The black and white picture took up half the page and accompanied with the title “Hogwarts Champion Dead”.

“His funeral is today.” Hermione started. She looked sad, eyes watching Harry carefully.

“Yes . . . I know.” And he really did. That morning the Diggory’s had come to take his body. He had been awake at the time, lying back on his bed and staring at the ceiling. When they had entered it had been silent. He had only looked up long enough to identify them before turning away. He stared at the ceiling listening to the sound of their feet as they passed his bed.

The sound that followed was horrific. A heat wrenching wail shattered the air. It was followed with choked, pained sobs. Each hiccoughing, stuttering breath releases new agony into the infirmary. So much so that Harry felt as if each anguished sound was pressing into his chest like a boulder. Harry had heard sorrow before. There had been a cemetery not far from Private drive. On a normal day it was peaceful and a good place to hide. On occasion they would be performing a funeral which he would watch from the safety of an overgrown oak tree. All sadness sounded horrible. It felt cold and overwhelming, staining the very air with sorrow. Nothing was worse than the sound of a parent losing their child. It was something that he had figured out years ago. To hear it so close, and to know that he had a part in it only made it worse. This agony was sharp, cutting him deep. Like someone had fastened a blade of ice and shoved it through his gut, leaving him to bleed.

He had looked up again when the sobbing had died down. Cedrics body had been magically lifted. The person he hadn’t noticed who had come in with the Diggory’s swung his wand in a circular pattern. Around the body a coffin formed, a dark oak with intricate designs of flowers and wands etched into the sides. The coffin was then levitated in front of the group as they left. Then for a moment, a single second in time, Amos Diggory looked him in the eye. Harry was hated. He couldn’t blame the man. He would hate himself too. He didn’t say anything, not looking to defend himself. He would let him have his anger, his hatred. It was the least he could do.

“Headmaster Dumbledore is holding a remembrance tonight at dinner.” Hermione commented.

“I’m not going.” Harry shrugged, flipping the paper over so he wouldn’t have to see it anymore.

“You know it’s not your fault.”

“Of course.” Harry gave a mirthless chuckle, not quite believing his own words. “Yes I know it’s not. That still doesn’t make it okay for me to go.” There was a long silence as Harry stared at his lap while Hermione looked on him with soft eyes.

“The ministry blames Crouch, not you.”

“What?” Confusion colored his tone.

“They say that Crouch was the one who did everything. Cursed the cup, killed Cedric, and poisoned you with black magic. That’s their official statement.”

“But . . . But what about Voldemort?! About him rising? He’s the one who killed Cedric!” Harry shouted. Hermione grimaced at his tone but ignored it. She knew that the glare was not meant for her.

“Part of an illusion, they claim. They say that Crouch touched your mind and made you think that. He wanted people to believe that He-Who-Not-Be-Named had been raised. So he manipulated you into saying that when you returned.” She explained.

“That’s bullshit!”

“Yes.”

“How could they do that?” He screeched, grinding his teeth in anger. “They can’t fucking ignore it! I didn’t imagine him coming back. I didn’t watch him kill Cedric so that people can call me a goddamn mental case!” He dug his fingers into his palm, drawing blood. His whole body shook in rage. All that energy that had him stilled was now burning in his veins. He wanted to fight, he wanted to scream!

“Harry! Please!” Hermione shouted, grabbing his hands in her own. For a moment he stopped, staring at their entwined fingers. She stared at him with a serious, slightly angry face. “Listen I know you are mad. You have every right to be. But that won’t help.” He let out a frustrated grunt but did loosen his fists.

“It’s just-!” He started, stopping mid-sentence.

“I know . . . I know.” She patted him on the hand. “It sucks. Flying off the handle isn’t going to help anyone. Dumbledore believes you. Just wait and see what he does.”

“And if he does nothing?” Harry hissed.

“Then we do nothing.” She stated, determination burning in her eyes. “Harry you almost died. And not even the normal ‘almost died’, which I can’t believe I am saying. This isn’t some normal adventure. Voldemort has risen. One of the most powerful dark wizards in all of history has come back from the grave with a goal of killing you. There is no way that you can do anything to stop him. Luck will no longer get you anywhere. For once we need to trust the adults to fight for us. It may be frustrating . . . there really is no other choice.”

“It’s not fair.” He sighed, leaning back in his pillow not letting go of Hermione’s hand. He was still angry but it had taken on another flavor. It didn’t burn hot like rage, instead it was a dull ache that tasted of frustration and sadness. In a way, it seemed easier to control. Easier to handle because it was a feeling that he was very used to.

“No. It never is with you, is it?” She laid her head on his lap. They sat their own in silence. Each lost in thought of what was to come.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Draco wasn’t going to the remembrance. He didn’t particularly know Cedric and he wasn’t any more sad about his death than he was about hearing of the death of some stranger. He didn’t want to go because this was just the beginning. It won’t be long before funerals and memorials will be everywhere. He didn’t want to admit that it was the start. They were standing on the precipice of war and he did not want to acknowledge it. Those sitting in the Great Hall did not know it but they would all be attending more funerals and grieving more friends in the coming months.

Instead he was walking along the edge of the Forbidden Forest. The sun was just about to set and throw the world into darkness. Not that Draco minded. He had always felt more comfortable in the dark. The world always felt smaller and calmer when it wasn’t in the glare of the sun.

“Dragon!” A soft voice called out behind him. He turned to see Luna Lovegood approaching him with her ever present smile.

“Cousin.” He acknowledged. She was carrying a picnic basket in her arms.

“You are covered in Snipple Imps today. Would you like to join me?” She offered. Draco nodded, knowing she wouldn’t have sought him out if there wasn’t a reason. Lovegood was a third cousin of his, her family long disowned from the Malfoys. Still he was well informed that she had a sight that most would envy. His father bemoaned it constantly, after being forced to acknowledge that she had powers he did not. He had only talked to her twice before at ministry functions that her dad had been a reporter at. She insisted on calling him Dragon, despite his protest. He had oddly enjoyed talking to her on those occasions, though they rarely made sense.

He followed her into the woods, slipping on the loose dirt as they followed a path that had been carved out long ago. There were soft noises in the forest as the night creatures stirred. The path eventually opened up into a wide clearing. She turned to smile at him before letting out a sharp whistle.

The trees rustled as beasts moved behind them. Suddenly there is a loud whinnying. A thestral emerged from the trees. Its skeletal body walked almost silent over the grass. It shook its bat like wings, throwing its head in joy. Luna opened her basket and pulled out a chunk of raw meat. She tossed it in the air, the thestral rearing back in two hooves as it rose to catch the flying morsel. Before long there were half a dozen thestral, including a little foal.

“How long have you been able to see them?” Luna asked, staring at him with large blue eyes. She passed a piece of meat so that he could offer it to the equine creatures. He crouched, offering the piece on a flat palm to the foal.

“Since second year.” He grunted, trying not to think of the moment that lead them into his sight. He knew of thestrals before that year but seeing the skeletal beasts always filled him with a deep sadness. Always forced to acknowledge that he had lost that type of innocence. Something that once lost will never come back. He envied those who would never be able to see these animals.

“Very misunderstood, thestrals. Most people think that death is a bad thing. So creatures that represent it are also assumed to be evil.” She hummed.

“Is death not a bad thing?” Draco chuckled, straightening to watch her move amongst them.

“Not always. Perhaps an untimely death may be bad. Death itself is neutral. Much like magic, nature, and life. They are neither good nor bad, just there. Constants.” She set her basket down so that she could pull out a giant bone that was nearly two feet long and four inches in diameter. “You are worrying about those types of things. Life, death, good, bad. Those types of thoughts always attract the imps. If you are not careful they will play tricks on you.”

“You know what happened?”

“Magic has shown me. Powers have shifted. An evil spirit had regained its power.” She all but sang. Draco shuddered at the thought.

“Do you know what will happen?” He pressed.

“I cannot answer that.” Luna replied.

“Why not?”

“I cannot see the future. In that regard you have more power than I.”

“But you can see Magic! Surely it can tell you something.” He reasoned.

“Magic tells me nothing. Perhaps I can see it. I can see its ebb and flow. I can see that which no one can see. That does not mean that She will purposefully make me see something. She is neutral. She has no real goal except to continue to balance. If I choose to see that goal and help it along, that is of my own volition. Even Magic cannot know the only and true future. It can only see the available paths.” Luna explained.

“So you can tell me nothing.” He huffed. He patted the head of the foal whom had taken the scrap. Thestrals felt cold to the touch but their coats were soft, despite the fact that you could feel their bones.

“I can tell you many things. Just not what the future holds.”

“Can you tell me that path that Magic wants the most?” Draco watched as she closed her eyes. She pulled in a deep breath through her nose. With a little frown she opened her eyes again.

“There are too many paths. Too much that must be done and much to be avoided. There is no one path that is perfect. Magic has no favorite.”

“This isn’t helping!” Draco grunted, flopping down onto his back in an uncharacteristic fit.

“Perhaps if you asked the right questions you may get an answer that may help.” Luna shrugged.

“The right question?”

“You are asking about the future. Only a select few can see the future with any accuracy. Even those who can see it are wrong more often than not. Most prophecies go unfulfilled, left to gather dust as fate twists and turns. Plus, it is not the future that you want to know about.” She hummed.

“Is it not?” Draco queried, a sardonic tone in his voice.

“A better question would be what you are going to choose to do.” She continued. Draco flinched, climbing to his feet. “You really wish to know what your future holds. You cannot change how other will react, only yourself. You stand on the cross roads of your future. On one hand there is the darkness, for which you behold your family. On the other the light where your morals lay. Neither safe nor pleasant futures. Perhaps you will choose to stay neutral but one does not know if that will truly last. A thousand shouting voices pulling you to their side. You +want to know which you should choose. Which ends with you happy and alive. ”

“And?” He pressed.

“And I can tell you nothing.” She turned to him, bright blue eyes weighing into him. “I have no control over you. Even those who you think have that power do not truly control your mind. You will make any choices yourself. In that regard, only you know the answers.” She picked her basket back up and proceeded to walk back down the path back towards the school. He followed her silently, running the discussion over and over in his mind. Eventually he spoke up again, having to make sure.

“So you cannot help me?” She stopped at the edge of the forest. It had turned dark, the sky only illuminated by the moon and the few stars that were peppering the horizon. Underneath it she seemed to glow.

“Magic likes you. She is trying to keep all of the imps, brownies and all matters of other darker creatures away from you. Destiny has touched you, She knows that. However the help you seek cannot be found from her or from any prophecy and seer. Looking anywhere but yourself will leave you wanting.”

“Thank you, cousin.” Draco bowed his head. “Perhaps not what I wished to hear but useful in the future I’m sure.” He tried not to flinch when she pressed a damp towel into his hand before walking away. He opened the towel to see an onion type plant that was covered in a slimy mucus that he could not identify. With a disgusted sniff he dropped it on the ground. Being able to see magic or not, sometimes that girl was just weird.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Snape was in his office pouring over an incredible mountain of paperwork. The end of the year always brought in thrice the normal paperwork for him. Luckily the end of year exams had been canceled but that barely diminished the work that he had to do. He was slashing into the papers with a ferocity that was not all about the dislike of paperwork. There was a heavy silence in the room, despite two people being in it.

Alex was sitting in a stony silence in front of the fire, drink in hand. It wasn’t a pleasant, normal silence born out of long time companionship. Instead it was an angry petulant silence. Severus may have been able to ignore his masters call the first time, but he had not the second. He had arrived and bowed before the man, like he had so many times before. He offered his service as a spy, resuming a role he had played years ago. The Headmaster knew what he was doing and had given his blessing. His husband, on the other hand, had distinctly not.

He had been receiving the silent treatment for the better part of a day and a half. Perhaps a bit childish on Alex’s part but there was little else that he could do. Severus wasn’t worried though. It was hardy the first time they had butted heads. They both knew that of the two of them Severus was more stubborn. He was used to silence and he could wait it out. So he went about his work, dogmatically ignoring the clinking of the glass Alex drank from.

“Severus?” Alex called. He looked up to see that his husband was still staring at the fire.

“Oh are we done with that now?” He asked coyly. Alex tsked, ignoring the comment.

“Have you spoken with Harry recently?” He continued on as if the comment had never been made.

“Mr. Potter?” Severus paused. “I have spoken with him once. Dumbledore and McGonagall have seemed to take a keener interest in the boy, making it difficult to get closer without raising suspicion.”

“Have you spoken to him about the summer?”

“What do you mean?”

“About where he is going to live?” Alex turned to look at him finally.

“Hmm. I have not.” Severus hummed, putting down his quill.

“Why not?”

“I have been busy.”

“Too busy to try and get a boy out of an abusive home?” Alex sneered. Snape sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, gearing up for an unpleasant conversation.

“Do you see all these papers?” He motioned to the stacked parchment that was nearly two feet tall. “This is three weeks of work that I need to finish in two days. Most of this are kids who need help.”

“So you are just going to abandon him?” He jumped when Snape pounded a hand on the desk. Snape growled coming a little out of his seat at the insinuation.

“I have two dozen kids in my care that need some time of special care. I have to plan therapy meeting, some disguised as extra lessons and others vacations. I have to fill out forms and write down witness statements for a half dozen potential legal cases. I have three kids who need new therapists and I need to find some that are willing to do that pro-bono. I have to brew an entire regiment of potions. Build pamphlet so that they are taken in the proper amounts at the proper times. Write down recipes for those who can brew them themselves. Two new homes to find and four anonymous tips to send to the aurors. I cannot simply ignore all those who need my help for a single boy who I cannot help in this instant. I have already given him more of my time than some of my own. For now all we can do is weight.”

Alex sat back in his chair, silent and brooding. He swirled the ice in his drink with a wrinkle in his brow.

“Cannot help? That is not what you said before.”

“That was before this happened. A month ago there was a half dozen places that I could put the boy. Houses with enough protection that they could keep out rabid reporters or fanatical fans. Since there were no direct threats to the boy’s life we could have taken the time to build the protections that he would have needed. Now that is not an option. The Dark Lord has risen. The boy needs protection in the highest order.

“There are only three places where the wards are up to the standard they need to be. The first is Hogwarts, which is not an option due to the Headmasters reluctance. The second is Gringotts. The only feasible place that has the protection Potter needs is under the care of his Aunt.” Snape sighed.

“So we leave him in the hands of the people who hurt him, ruining everything.” Alex stood, pacing his office.

“A few well-placed threats should be enough to keep them at bay. I know the boy has tried something similar before. But I am well acquainted with his Aunt. I feel that my threats . . . well will hit a little harder.” He said with a smug smirk.

“I don’t like it.” Alex groused.

“It is not like it enjoy the prospect either. The sands have shifted and now there is no time. If there were other options I would try them but there is not. The only thing I can do is put it aside and try and help those who I can actually help.” There was another silence. This time it was contemplative instead of angry. Severus was content to let it stay that way. He had said all that he had wanted to say.

“Is there anything that I can do?” Alex suddenly asked.

“Why are you so intent on this?” Severus was curious. Alex cared for those that Severus tried to help but he rarely became so involved. He hadn’t ever interacted with them so much. Once, normally, maybe twice. It was an unprecedented shift.

“I like the boy. Reminds me of a certain unpleasant potions master.” He dragged his fingers across the edge of his desk, looking at him softly. “Also, you said that he is important. As you said, he is the only weapon against and unimaginable force. If we are going to use the boy the least we can do is keep him someplace safe.”

“You like the boy.” Snape considered, peering at him with his dark eyes. Whatever he seemed to find caused him to sigh. “If you can think of something I would be glad to hear it. Though I don’t think there is anything feasible that we can do.”

“Just leave it to me.” Alex said with a wicked smirk. He toasted with his glass, draining it happily. Severus shuddered lightly. That smirk always meant that something bad was going to happen.

Chapter Text

When the other schools finally left, their departure felt more muted than it was supposed to be. The Pegasus drawn carriage still flew away majestically and the giant ship sank into a whirlpool with no less beauty. Still, the students that watched did not feel the deep excitement they thought they would when they eventually left. In fact, the grandeur only made the day seem like it was mocking them more than usual. After learning that one of their classmates was dead and then finding out that their teacher had been a known Death Eater and insane escaped convict had left a feeling of gloom. Yet the sun was determined to shine. It was dogmatically bright and warm outside. It felt like the world was trying to make a mockery of it.

Or maybe that was just how Harry felt.

Harry couldn’t rightly say what anyone else was feeling at the moment. He had been avoiding most contact these last few days. Hermione had been there, but there was a lot of silence between them. There was nothing that she could say that would really make Harry feel any better. She had never really experienced death the way he had. Death had only come in her life as a stranger she heard about or a relative that she barely knew. For all of their adventures she hadn’t actually been there when there was a death. Because of that her words didn’t have the weight to them that would make them matter.

In the end it left them on the train home, both silently reading. He did feel bad because he knew that she was genuinely trying to help. Hermione liked solving problems. Normally she would research and cast spells until every issue was gone. It frustrated her that there was no answer for this that she could find. No spell or secret word she could speak that would make everything better.

He had talked to Snape. It was the potions master that made him realize why Hermione’s comforting words didn’t feel all that helpful. Late one night, after he had been released from the hospital wing, the man had sent him a note to talk. Harry arrived well after curfew, not bothering to try and knock on the door of the familiar office. Snape was already situated in his chair, waiting for Harry. He gave Harry a calming potion, something that he hadn’t needed for some time now. Still, Harry took it without hesitation, eager to calm the burning beating of his heart.

Harry told him everything. All the events that happened from the first moment he had the curse placed on him until he collapsed against the potion masters chest hours later. He went through the detailed version he hadn’t been ready to give the Headmaster. Blood, gore tears and all. Snape had stayed silent through most of it. Only interjecting to get more details. He let the words tumble out uninhibited. Finally stopping when there was nothing else to be said. He waited for a comment, anything that might make him feel better.

“You are still in shock.” Snape offered.

“What?”

“Shock. You are still unable to grieve. You went through a great trauma. Instead of having time to sit through your emotions too many things have happened. You have been in the hospital wing, barraged by your teachers and friends, funerals, tournament business and prepareing to leave for the summer. Grief is complex. Impossible to ignore for too long.”

“I don’t know what to do.” Harry muttered.

“Grief is something that no one is properly prepared for. Even those who have time to prepare, to think and plan, never truly know what to do when it finally strikes.” Snape explained, a distant look in his eyes. “The best you can hope for is to temper it. To put up the sand bags so there isn’t a flood.”

“How would I do that?” Harry queried. Snape turned to look at his desk. He raised his hand, three fingers stretched. With a plucking motion he pulled his hand towards him, moving as if he were snatching something right out of the air. From the large pile on his desk a pamphlet flew out, jetting over to the potions master.  He let it fall into his hand, before turning it around and offering it to Harry.

‘Dealing With Grief’ was blazed across the top. There were two pictures on the front; a young woman crying and the picture of a gravestone. What caught Harry’s eye was the fact that the pictures weren’t moving.

“This is muggle?”

“Yes it is.” Snape replied, dragging his thumb over his thin lips in consideration as he sat. “Unfortunately for us the best resources for dealing with grief is Muggle.”

“But why don’t wizards have anything? It’s not like they don’t feel sad or have tragedies.” Harry shrugged, turning to the first page of the pamphlet curiously. “Hell most of them have had a war in their life time now.”

“True. As you have no doubt realized, the wizarding world is wholly unprepared for most things. The issue is that magic is a quick fix for most problems. Things that would normally take days or hours can be done with a flick of the wand. If you don’t have something you can summon it, if you want to go anywhere you can just appear there. An instant solution. So why would they think that mental health was any different?”

“For the most part, the wizarding world handles grief with potions and Cheering Charms. Things that will force a person to ignore the pain or only feel pleasure. Some more . . . revolutionary healers will use potions to ram the patient through their grief, making a process that could take months or even years happen in a matter of hours. Unfortunately that is just a band aid over a gushing wound, or a scalpel depending on which option that a person chooses.”

“We are all equipped to handle grief but forcing the mind to go through it quickly or to use a crutch is not healthy. That is why many of those who use Cheering Charm or potions end up addicted. Those forced to go through it instantaneously tend to break. Neither are pleasant outcomes and wholly inappropriate for those who are underage. So, instead I lean towards muggle methods. In fact, in matters of the mind I always lean towards the muggle way. That is why we sit and talk. The mental healers whom I bring in for the others feel a similar way. You cannot fix the mind easy. That is something muggles understand far better than wizards.”

“Oh. That makes sense.” Harry commented for lack of anything else to say.

“Unfortunately you leave in two days. While normally I would like to start someone off with some guidance we do not have the time. Perhaps if this . . . incident hadn’t happened then we would have been able to place you over the summer which would be a better environment for your healing. Alas, with the Dark Lord alive there is no other place that can offer you the same level of protection.” Snape sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache.

“If you have any issues Potter I do expect you to write me. You are not the most forthcoming with your issues but this is not a situation that is best handled alone.” Snape demanded.

“My Uncle . . . he sometimes . . . padlocks Hedwigs cage.” Harry tried to explain. He sounded a bit shy as he shrugged his way through the answer.

“He will not do that this summer. While I cannot prevent you from being placed there, I can prevent some of the more serious damage. Your Aunt and Uncle will be given very specific instructions on your care. With severe consequences should they be broken.”  He paused here. With the same plucking motion he pulled another piece of paper off his desk and into his hands. He twirled his wand, softly chanting a spell which ended with two sharp taps on the page. The parchment glowed blue for a moment, fading into a normal looking blank page.

“Should there be any issues caused by loopholes in my instructions you can contact me with this page. Any ink on the paper will find its way to me.”

“Thank you.” Harry said, clutching the piece of paper like a lifeline. He was happy for the extra security. He folded it twice, slipping it into his pocket with an extra pat to make sure it stayed there.

“Mr. Potter. There is no quick fix to this. People will try and give you comfort the best they can. Some may help, most will not. Do not get discouraged. Humans are meant to survive most things. Every person grieves differently but there is hope.” Snape wasn’t quite looking at him. It was that lost look again. It reminded Harry of the talk he had with Mr. Dawsen. Suddenly those nameless tragedies he knew the man had suffered seemed more real. Just as quick as it was there it was gone.

“Now off you go. It is well after curfew and you do not want to be caught this late.” And Harry had left.

He had wanted to be angry that he was going back to the Dursleys. Well, he was angry about that. It was more that he had wanted to be angry at Snape that he was going back. He had said that he would try to get him away. He never promised, Harry had realized after thinking about it for a while. Never swore that he would. But he had said that he would look, that he would try. So Harry had gotten his hopes up. When he had found out he had wanted to storm up and point and accusing finger. To yell and scream that it wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair. That was his ultimate realization. Perhaps he had a chance at a new home. But that rested on the laurels that he would be safe, the reason he had to stay with the Dursleys in the first place. But he wasn’t safe now. Two months ago he was, now he was not. Two months ago, two weeks ago he would have been safe enough in a different home. Now, he was not. It wasn’t Snapes fault that he was no longer safe. If anything, it was more Harry’s fault than his. It didn’t make him happier, just less angry.

So here he was, on the train back to the one place he didn’t want to be. There was no hope of a sudden rescue this time. No person to come storming through his fire place or a flying car to break him out. It was the only place besides Hogwarts that would be safe. Well maybe not Hogwarts. After all, this was the third time Voldemort managed to put him near death while inside the school. He could only hope that whatever threats Snape had used would work. Who was he kidding? Any threats from Snape would make a person want to shit their pants.

A flash of a smile jumped across his face at the thought. The Dursleys soiling themselves as Snape towered over them. Labyrinth lifted his head curiously as Harry suppressed a chuckle. Labyrinth decided to come home with him. Harry had offered to let him back out into the forest, after all that is where he originally came from. The little snake had vehemently said no. The lazy thing just commented that it was cold and he had to hunt in the forest. So he wrapped himself lightly around Harry’s neck and refused to budge. Harry was happy that he had decided to stay. Still, it meant a trip down to Snapes so that venom could be extracted to make an anti-venom. Labyrinth spent far too much time threatening to bite those who annoy him for Harry to not be carrying it around with him.

“I’m going to take a walk.” Harry snapped his book shut. He shift Labyrinth into one of his robes pockets for safe keeping. After a moments thought he pulled out a pouch from his trunk. It was made of purple silk and had an ornate crest stitched into the front. That went into a pocket, though a different one than the one that house his snake. Hermione waved him off, nose too deep into Theoretical Ancient Runes and Their Application in Herpetological Spell Casting. Harry wandered out into the hallways, trying to walk off the excess energy he had. He glanced into the windows of the different compartments, watching the other students as they talked and relaxed.

He paused when he saw a flash of white-blonde hair. It was Malfoy. He was sitting in a compartment filled with his fellow Slytherins. He was sitting across from Zabini, a chess board between the two of them. A quick glance at the board showed them in the midst of a long game. Most of the pawns were off the board and the scattered pieces showed the remnants of complicated plans that Harry could not predict. Crabbe and Goyle were eating pumpkin pasties. Parkinson was reading a magazine, wrinkled nosed and with a look of derision. Suddenly Malfoy looked up. Their eyes looked for a moment. Draco quirked his lip so quickly that Harry almost didn’t believe it ever happened. Then he jerked he head to motion Harry onwards, looking back to the board when Zabini finally finished his move and raised his eyes.

Two cars down was Ron, Seamus, Neville, Dean and Ginny. Neville was stroking a plant that was sitting on his lap. It looked similar to a rose but Harry knew better than to assume that was what it was. Ron was reading a quidditch book. Well maybe reading was the wrong way to describe it, since the book was resting on his chest while he snored in his seat. Ginny was reading as well, actually awake and looking at the words. Seamus and Dean were arguing about something. Not an angry argument but a playful one with fake punches and playful shoving. Harry knocked on the window to catch their attention. Most of the car looked up and he waved at them. They waved back and Harry turned to keep on walking.

Harry decided to move on, wandering aimlessly through the train. He stopped in front of a carriage. It was the Weasely twins, who looked incredibly suspicious with their heads pushed close together despite the fact that they were in the car alone.

“Hey guys.” Harry said, entering after he knocked the on the door.

“Harry!” They cried in unison. A piece of paper was whipped out of his view and stuffed in a pocket.

“How are you doing, mate?” Fred, maybe, asked. Harry smiled, trying to ignore the obvious cover up. The twin always looked guilty, even when they weren’t.

“As well as I can, considering.” He shrugged.

“Well if there is anything-“

“That we can do, let us know.” The twins offered, trying for a comforting smile.

“Actually, you can.” Harry said. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you guys. You are still working on your pranks right?”

“Yes Sir!” The twins chorused.

“Are you planning on going farther with them?” He queried.

“Of course. We are going to-“

“Start with a mail order business.”

“If we can make-“

“Enough money-“

“We are going to start our-“

“Store after we finish school.” The two jumped on each other’s sentences. Harry smiled fondly, enjoying their boisterous energy. The twins were always like a virus. When they were around their playful, prodding joy just seemed to infect everything around them.

“What if you got money early?”

“Early? I guess we would try-“

“And build up stock.”

“Start more research,-“

“Buy all those things that-“

“You can only get if you have-“

“Enough in your pocket.”

“Why?” The finished together.

“Well you know how the tournament had a prize? A thousand galleons?” He waited for them to nod curiously. “The officials decided that since there were two of us who touched the cup we both won. Instead of splitting the prize they gave it to us in full, well to me and Cedric’s parents.” He paused here, not quite ready to bring them up in conversation.

“I don’t want the money. I did not earn it by any type of logical answer. The Diggory’s. They did not respond to my offer of the money given to me. I can’t . . . I can’t keep it. I won’t keep it. So I figure, well you guys could make use of it.” He pulled out the bag of money Ludo Bagman had forced into his hand with a smile and a handshake for the picture. It was probably one of the most uncomfortable few minutes of his life. And that included the private interview with Rita that ended up with a newspaper saying he was crying over his dead parents.

“Harry . . . we can’t take that.” George, probably, said. His tone was colored in surprise.

“Listen, either you can take it or it is going in the hands of the first homeless wizard that I see. I have more than enough money. I don’t need gold earned by someone spilling blood in my place.” He reasoned. He truly did have more money that any person had a right to have. Maybe he wouldn’t give it to a homeless person, there were many charities and such. But he knew the twins would not take it without a show of force. The two turned to each other, a silent conversation passing between them at lightning speed.

“Are you sure?” One asked.

“Absolutely sure?” The seconded echoed right behind him.

“More sure than you can possibly know.” Harry said, face set in a hard, uncompromising expression. He tossed the bag onto the lap of the nearest twin. He was glad that the bag had a feather-weight charm on it because it would have been over twenty pounds without it. “Thank you guys, really.”

“We should be saying that.” Fred, maybe, said. He picked up the bag delicately like it was a Fabergé egg and not a bag of heavy coins.

“Hey just give me first dibs when you make something useful and I will call it even. Gotta go, we are about to arrive and I’m still in my robes. Happy inventing!” Harry smiled before leaving. He felt pounds lighter as he went back to his compartment, glad he could end all of this on a high note.

Hermione nodded in greeting when he wandered back to his seat. He pulled off his robes to stuff them into his trunk. Under his robes he had put on his muggle clothing back when he was still at Hogwarts. A pair of heavily ripped jeans. They were a pair of Dudley’s. An old pair, so the waist fit a little bit better but they were a fair bit too short. More so now that he had been gaining height with the help of Snapes potions. It let his ankles feeling a bit breezy but he just pretended that it was a fashion choice and moved on. His shirt had once been too large but he had sewn it so that it fit better.

When he was young he had often been in charge of darning Dudleys clothes. He wasn’t particularly good at it. He struggled with keeping the stitches uniform. Sometimes he had to double stitch or even triple stitch out of a bizarre paranoia that what he had already done was not strong enough. Still, it beat having a shirt that was basically a dress. Over his shirt he slipped on a hoodie, tucking Labyrinth in the belly pocket. Vaguely he wondered if he should invest in reading up on spells that can change clothing. Madam Malkins knows a whole array of spells. I’m sure there are some simple ones in a books somewhere. Hermione would know.

The train pulled into the station and he and Hermione shuffled around, pulling their trunks off the racks and picking up pets. They left the train, hugging each other as they parted ways. Hermione bounded over to her parents that were waiting for her. In just a moment she sank into the crowd and disappeared.  Harry sighed as he stood in front of the barrier. With a deep breath he stepped forward through the ward and out of the magical world.

O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O

Searching the Dursleys out in a crowd was generally an easy affair. The two men’s bulbous size normally allowed for an extra amount of berth from those who had to walk around it. If that didn’t keep people away then the smell of Dudley, who rarely showered and was always eating something greasy and odorous, was enough to make those in the crowd take an extra step away. This lead Harry to the plan of merely looking for the loudest pocket in the crowd. Eventually he ended up in front of his Aunt and Uncle. . . And another person.

“Mr. Dawsen?” Harry questioned. The man turned at his name with a bright smile. He was wearing a black, tight cut suit. A black trilby hat perched on his head and a pair of oxfords finished off the look. He was carrying a briefcase but his wand was nowhere in sight. That’s when Harry remembered that they were in the muggle world and that would not have been appropriate.

“Mr. Potter!” He waved him over with fervor. He turned to glance at Uncle Vernon before turning back to Harry. Uncle Vernon had a sour look on his face. Though he had that expression a majority of the time so Harry wasn’t sure if it was the lawyer or not. “Good to see you my boy, good to see you. I was just having the most wonderful chat with your Uncle.” Vernon grunted as if that was a contestable point.

“What are you doing here?” Harry questioned. He wasn’t sure why the man was talking with his family. It did not look like he was threatening them, though he would not put it past the man to smile while threatening someone. However, neither his uncle nor aunt looked fearful. Dudley was eating a kabob, ignoring the conversation completely. Yeah he had been right. The rotund boy reeked of garlic and onions. It was not going to be fun having to sit in a car with him.

“I was just informing your Aunt and Uncle of the wonderful opportunity you earned for the summer.” He boasted, dropping a quick wink to the little wizard. Harry felt a small balloon of hope swell in his chest. He couldn’t keep his voice from wavering when he asked.

“Opportunity?”

“Oh yes, I forgot. You thought you hadn’t won it. There has been so many things that have been going on. Paperwork mix ups and such.” He turned back to his uncle for a commiserating nod. “The summer job opportunity my boy! I was just informing your family that you have been offered a position to work in a research lab. Decent pay but quite a lot of hours. Room and board will of course be provided.”

“Now normally you would have been informed of this and you would have traveled with the others. That is the problem with some people, their poor work ethics ruins it for everyone. I feel quite awful springing this up on you so quickly. I knew you would be arriving soon so I was letting your family know of your situation. How you wouldn’t be living with them this summer.” Harry tried to restrain the large smile that was going to fall on his face.

“Oh right, that.” Harry agreed. He didn’t want to seem eager. If there was anything that would make his uncle refuse to let him go would be to seem like he really wanted to go.

“We don’t have to pay anything?” Vernon grunted, brushing his fingers through his bushy mustache. “And you take the boy for the whole summer?”

“None at all, my good man. Those who are accepted into the program do labor to pay for the cost of boarding them. Guardians are not expected to pay a cent. It is an attempt to instill good work ethic and provide invaluable experience. It would be cruel to make the parents and guardians pay for it.” Vernons face lit up eagerly. No doubt he was happy at the idea that Harry could be out of his house, costing him nothing.

“Well pet? What do you think?” He looked at Petunia. She was busy scanning Mr. Dawsen up and down. No doubt looking for some flaw that she could gossip about after they leave. She just gave a sharp nod, not even bothering to look over at Harry. She turned, calling for Dudley to follow her to the car. Harry waved good bye sardonically.

“Can I speak to my nephew for a moment?” Vernon asked. Mr. Dawsen nodded, stepping away far enough that he wouldn’t necessarily hear but still within eyeshot. Harry noticed that the man had pulled out his wand, resting it against the length of his crossed forearms so that no one would be able to see it unless they were looking for it. A heavy head fell on Harry’s shoulder and suddenly his uncle was in front of his face.

“Now boy. Don’t you mess this up. I will be very unhappy if I have to take you in in the middle for the summer. If I have to put up with you, you will greatly regret it. You are lucky that I didn’t tell him what a horrid problem you are. You will behave no matter how much work they give you. I won’t have you complaining like you usually do.” He growled the threat in his ear. Harry nodded his head. The hand on the shoulder shoved him away, forcing him to stumble a step. Vernon lumbered away, whistling happily. Harry tried not to sneer at the retreating back.

“Harry.” Mr. Dawsen reappeared at his side. This time his smile was more genuine and Harry felt unashamed to beam back at him. “Follow me.” He whispered. He led Harry over to a little cove so that they could be alone. He whipped out his wand, turning it over in his fingers.

“Now don’t worry about this. Just a few spells to get rid tracking charms and other things such as that.” He began waving his wand about. He went on for a few minutes using an array of wand motions, languages and spells to do whatever he was trying to do. Harry tried to stay as still as he possibly could, unsure if moving around might ruin them.

“There.” Mr. Dawsen sighed happily. He turned to Harry’s trunk. With a sharp jab and a silent spell it was shrunk down to the side of his palm. Harry tucked it into his hoodie pocket for safe keeping. “Are you ready to go?”

“Hell yes.” Harry all but shouted. Mr. Dawsen nodded, leading him back into the crowd. Harry followed him out onto the curb outside the station. Mr. Dawsen thrust his hand out, hailing a cab. Harry was vaguely surprised that they didn’t apparate or call the Night Bus but he wasn’t going to argue. They piled into the cab, Alex leaning over to give an address Harry didn’t recognize. Harry shushed Hedwig when she hooted angrily at the quick motions.

“Sorry for all the confusion Harry.” Mr. Dawsen started, pulling off his hat and setting it in his lap. “Did not know until this morning that everything would work out the way that it did.”

“I thought Professor Snape said there wasn’t anywhere safe for me.” Harry queried.

“And until this morning there wasn’t. Poor Severus. He was quite at the end of his rope these last few weeks. So many of his students needed his help and he felt awful that there was nothing that he could do to help this situation. It was offered up that a fresh set of eyes may help solve a seemingly impossible problem. I am always one for a challenge and I accepted. Though I do not think he really believed me when I said I would. I never mentioned it because I was unsure whether it would truly work out. So many factors, you see. I wasn’t lying when I said there was a lot of paperwork that got mixed up. Wards, spells, papers and builders. I was quite lucky that everything melded the way that it was supposed to. As such I really haven’t been able to tell you much or pre-warn you. Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Harry said. “You are not going to hear me complain!” He joked happily. He watched the world whip by the windows of the cab.

“Yes well there are a few things we should talk about on our way.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well officially you will still be living at your family’s house. At least to anyone who is going to be bothered to check. The headmaster was quite adamant that you remain with your Aunt. I have no legal standing should we be found out to remove you from your house. Therefore it would be best that when you contact your friends you do not tell them where you are.”

“I can do that.” Harry agreed. Chances are that Hermione would not be able to keep it secret, especially when she found out what Dumbledore wanted. She still deeply believed in the man. Harry couldn’t fault her for that because most people thought and acted the same way. Harry wasn’t sure where he was going but he was sure he didn’t want to go back to the Dursleys. If there was any one he could trust to find him a safe place is was Mr. Dawsen and Professor Snape.

“I placed a spell on your family that will prevent them from letting anyone know that you are not with them. Don’t worry, all legal of course . . . well mostly.” Alex placated. Harry wasn’t sure if it was a joke, and he wasn’t going to ask either.

“Also there are plans midway through the summer for you to be picked up. Dumbledore has procedures in motion to bring you to an undisclosed location a few days after your birthday. The night before we will have to drop you off at your uncle’s house. That falls under the same issue of no one knowing that you have been moved for the summer. Don’t worry you will be protected during that time. A few spells and your Aunt and Uncle won’t know you are there for the time that you are.”

“Why would they be picking me up?”

“I can’t rightly tell you. Severus mentioned it but he was sworn to secrecy. The type that can’t really be broken. Nothing horrible I have been assured. Unfortunately there are some spells that aren’t worth trying to break. If it were really going to be bad Sev would have mentioned it.”

“Okay.” Harry acquiesced. “Where are we going?” He asked. The cab had actually moved out of the large city and was taking a road into a nearby town. They passed by a large suburban area.

“I will tell you when we get there. Unfortunately around prying ears is not the best place to explain everything.” Mr. Dawsen glanced at the cabbie who seemed to be ignoring them. “It would be good to remember that there is some powerful magic, even more so now that He has risen again. Certain things should only be talked about in the safety of ones own home. That includes your full name, if you don’t mind. Better safe than sorry.” It was another five minutes before the cab stopped in front of a nondescript town house. The tall, thin building was painted an eggshell white and had slate grey shutters. The front yard was green and well maintained. Harry took in the black door with a golden 42 nailed to the front. Alex paid the cabbie, waving away any change. Harry followed him up to the front door. Suddenly Mr. Dawsen stopped.

“Whoo. Ugh.” Alex shook his hands, shifting in nervousness. He sucked a breath through his teeth, letting it out in a soft whistle. Harry tried to not freak out at the sudden change in attitude.

“What is it?”

“Well . . .” Mr. Dawsen trailed off. “To be completely honest. I didn’t tell him that you were coming. He is not going to be happy with me. Oh well, in for a penny as the saying goes.” Before Harry could ask who he was talking about Mr. Dawsen pushed open the door with a loud bang.

“Honey I’m home!” He shouted into the empty hall. A random door opened and a tall figure came out. It was Professor Snape. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. He was wiping his hands on a towel, not yet looking up at them.

“Must you shout?  It is wholly unnecessary. I just-“ He stopped. His eyes roamed the scene before him. Harry was on his front step, clutching Hedwigs cage nervously. Alex stood just past the doorjamb, an expression of coy confusion but without an ounce of innocence. It was clear to every person in the room that he knew exactly what he had done. He wasn’t even going to pretend that he unintentionally kept it secret.

“Please tell me you didn’t.” Snape finally said.

“I might of?” Harry wanted to laugh, he really did. He didn’t know why he didn’t suspect that this was where Mr. Dawsen was leading him. It was comical, Snapes glare and Dawsens’ attempt to calm him with big eyes and pouting lips. This was not what he was suspecting when he woke up this morning. But as he had said earlier, he wasn’t going to complain.

 

Finis

Chapter Text

ATTENTION! The sequel is now up! It is called Outrage. Well at least the first chapter. I’m sorry for the long wait but senior year in college isn’t really conducive to having free time. I will be doing my best to update regularly but no promises. As a treat I will be taking the time to answer some of the more common questions that I have gotten in the comments that I haven’t previously answered, or that I loved. Let’s start with my favorite.
O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O
What is the right end of a stinkwart toad?

Surprisingly, it’s the back end. The front end is actually the most dangerous side, and the right and left are little better. The saliva of the stink wart toad is highly dangerous. The saliva has a huge amount of bacteria, much like a komodo dragon, that is worse than some venoms and smells horrendously (giving credence to the name). The stinkwart toad can shoot its saliva up to 13 yards! The side are no better. The toad is covered in warts that run down both sides. Now the warts are not normal because depending on the attack they can change. If getting picked up they can harden into points and become as sharp as needles. If placed in a mouth (sucked on) then they can expand and eventually explode. The contents that come out are not only noxious but sticky, meant to cement the mouth closed and could lead to death. The back end, however is not nearly as dangerous. In fact, the end result of the stinkwarts digestive system is good for you as a great pain reliever (even if it contains a little bit of a hallucinogenic drug). Survivalists recommend it in emergency situations where potion making is not possible.

Do people know that Alex and Severus are married?

No. The reason is twofold in a way. First being that they don’t actively tell people. Both see the benefit of staying quiet about their relationship. Despite the knowledge that Severus was a spy many people, especially immediately after the war, dislike him on principle. Plus he is under the watchful eye of the government, who pardoned him, and the survivors of the dark side, to see if he is still loyal to the Dark Lord. Both acknowledge that a romantic partner is a liability and are willing to keep it quiet. The other part is that no one really ever bothers to ask. Even if they didn’t make that decision together there really would be no need since no one really cares to ask. Really, would anyone assume that Snape had a lover? A romantic partner? And Alex. Well there are many people who are friendly with him but much of it is at an arm’s length. “Are you married?” “Yes I have a partner.” And then the conversation moves on. SO in the end people don’t know but more people would if they cared to ask.

Why did Harry still have to participate in the tournament challenges if he was trying to avoid them?

I mention earlier that fate is hard to change. You can do it but for the most part it will come to pass. In the Harry Potter Universe there is an overarching theme that even if you try to avoid the laid out future it will still happen. Even ignoring that philosophical reasoning there is another. While Harry did not want to participate in the tournament there were many people who wanted him to be in the tournament. Dumbledore and the other Headmasters expected it of him. Ludo Bagman wanted him to win the tournament so that he could win his bet. Most importantly, he was having his hand pushed by Crouch Jr. No matter how much he tried there were so many forces pushing him in that direction. He tried his best to avoid the tournament but these are far more powerful, far sneakier people. Crouch had no compunctions to using the imperious curse. If Harry had done as some suggested and just refused to enter the maze or try and shoot out sparks Crouch would have stopped him anyway. After all, he was watching from outside the maze with his eye and would have known the moment he averted his path. Sometimes no matter what path you try to take, how many times you walk off the trail you will end up where you didn’t want to be. I know this frustrated some people but it was inevitable. This story was about Harrys growth mentally and not him actually being able to control things that are out of his control.

Why don’t people recognize Alex (as Snape’s husband, as an old student, etc)?

Alex during his school years was quite unassuming. A pleasant enough fellow, friendly but not popular. Not obviously poor but certainly not one of the pureblood elite. Not the most outstanding academically. A trickster but not to the point of being a well-known prankster. A person like Alex understands the value of not necessarily being the most memorable person in the room. He is, after all, a tax and contract lawyer by trade. In a thousand student (the estimated number at Hogwarts via JK Rowling) he would not be easy to remember, especially so many years later. He was also not friends with Snape during his school years so there isn’t any reason that any other professor would connect them together.

What happened to the golden egg from the first challenge?

Harry lost it. He didn’t know if it was real gold or not so he wasn’t sure whether to keep it in his room. So he shrank it and put it in his school bag. Eventually the challenge passed and he forgot about it completely. One he looked into the bag and it wasn’t there. Turns out (though Harry will never know) that it was found by a house elf. The house elf picked it up and put it in the room of requirements in the “room of lost things”. It is where all lost items go if the house elves can’t figure out who they belong to (since it was shrunk they didn’t know it was a tournament egg, since they never thought to open it). It would be found 76 years later when a child was desperate to find something for his mother’s birthday (his mother loved curiosities) and he passed by the room three times while he was thinking. He found a little golden egg that screamed and thought it would be a perfect gift.
Does Dumbledore know he stays in the castle with Severus?
No. Actually Severus normally returns to his home to sleep unless he is on duty to patrol or knows that there may be an issue with one of his students (he alarms his rooms so that he knows if anyone needs him while he is off school property). Dumbledore doesn’t know when Alex is in the school because he enters through Snape’s private fireplace which has wards that allow the school to be aware that someone came through but not necessarily who they are. Dumbledore always assumes that it is normally another potion master looking for a consultation because that does happen on occasion.

Why didn’t Peter die when he was bitten by Labyrinth?

Labyrinth is a snake with a very potent bite, that is very true. But Nagini, she is also a magical snake. Now she’s a constrictor, and most constrictors don’t have venom. That being said. She is a magical snake, some constrictors do have venom, and she is Voldemort’s snake. In my mind there is no doubt that she does. A tolerance to venom can be built up after multiple bites. Peter had to “milk” Nagini for almost a year. There is no way in hell that snake didn’t bite him multiples times (whether from annoyance or just for fun). That in addition to the multiple antivenin that he had to take made him somewhat immune to heavy venoms. So while it did slow him down and it was effecting him, it wasn’t working quite as well as it should. Plus, just because Labyrinth’s venom was strong does not necessarily mean it was an instant death type. So there was enough time for Voldemort to get to it before he had truly kicked the bucket.

Will Alex and Snape adopt?

Honestly? I’m not sure. For now I am leaning towards no. Harry is about to turn 15 and the legal adult age in the wizarding world is 17. Considering how long it will take for all three of them to get comfortable enough to be considering adoption (they have their issues to work on) and how long a normal adoption process takes and the repercussion that would occur afterwards I don’t think that would be something they truly consider as an option. Not that there may not be the feeling of honorary parents but they would all consider it too late to really be all that useful to go through a full adoption. But who knows. Things may change.

Can Harry swim?

Yes but not very well. He would go when Dudley had lessons but after the first few Dudley threw a fit and they never returned.

Where was Barty during the third challenge?

Outside of the maze watching. He had his special magic eye so he could see what was going on. When he realized that Harry wasn’t going to the cup he opened the hedge a little bit (as a maze moderator he could do that) and imperiused him after confounding him (to make sure he couldn’t properly resist the curse). He then led him through the maze, watching from the outside. When he saw Cedric so near the cup he used Harry to help bring along the additional “gift” for his master (spur of the moment). He stayed behind so that he could cover his tracks and misdirect anyone who may be able to tell where the portkey went.

Can it be said that the Dursleys helped to condition harry into the self-sacrificing hero Dumbledore needed?

Yes, but I don’t think that was his intention. I do think that he, misguidedly, thought it was the best answer. As said before, he is expected to make all the decisions and no one really questions him. Dumbledore, I think, truly believes in familial love. While he did expect that Harry would eventually become the doom mentioned in the prophecy I don’t think he purposefully left him in an abusive place to become self-sacrificing. I just think he is a bit blind to the things that he does not understand or want to believe. However, that type of household could tend to lead to a self-sacrificing, low self-worth type of attitude.

What’s the deal with Dawsen and Snape last names?

They both kept their own. Both are successful in their careers in their separate lives and felt it would be easier to go without the hassle of trying to change their names and all the faff that would come with it when people asked why they changed it.