"It's tonight," said Harry, once he was sure Professor McGonagall was out of earshot. "Snape's going through the trapdoor tonight. He's found out everything he needs and now he's got Dumbledore out of the way. He sent that note, I bet the Ministry of Magic will get a real shock when Dumbledore turns up."
"But what can we—" Hermione gasped. Harry and Ron wheeled round. Snape was standing there.
"Good afternoon," he said smoothly. They stared at him."You shouldn't be inside on a day like this," he said, with an odd, twisted smile.
"We were—" Harry began, without any idea what he was going to say.
"You want to be more careful," said Snape. "Hanging around like this, people will think you're up to something. And Gryffindor really can't afford to lose any more points, can it?" Harry flushed. They turned to go outside but Snape called them back. "Be warned, Potter—any more nighttime wanderings and I will personally make sure you are expelled. Good day to you." He strode off in the direction of the staff room.
"He needs to be suspended at least." Snape snarled as he stood in front of Dumbledore's desk. His face was set in his best scowl.
"I believe that is a bit harsh, he did protect the Stone." Dumbledore laid his hands, clasped together on the desk. His eyes twinkling. "He proved that he can go against him."
Snape glared at the man. "Either he gets suspended or I am resigning. I have had enough of you coddling that boy. He is just as bad as his father was."
"I believe you misunderstand young Harry. If I suspend him, I will need to suspend Hermione and Ron. They joined him, at least part way." Dumbledore tried to reason with him. "You also need to think about your Vow. About what will happen in the future."
"I am. If you expect me to protect him I will not have him running off head first into danger." Snape walked to the window. He wanted to hex the man, Gryffindors could do whatever they please and get away with it. He had personal experience that in more than once in his lifetime. "If it was any other house, any other child, you would have no problem suspending him."
"Severus, he is a boy."
"Who needs discipline. You tell us all how much he has been trained, how loved he has been, how much knowledge he has been given of our world, I have yet to see it, but if he is this wild now, it will get worse. Suspend him or my resignation." Snape wasn't going to put up with spending the next six years chasing after that boy because of a Vow he was conned into making.
Dumbledore sighed. "Exams are this week and next week they leave, is that really necessary?"
"Yes, and I don't care. He should have thought of that." Snape snapped at him. This was getting outrageous, Dumbledore suspended three students last year for doing a prank that hurt one student, never mind killing a professor, even if the said professor was being possessed by an insane Dark Lord. "If you give me five minutes I will have my resignation on your desk and I will be out of my quarters as soon as the Leaving Feast is over." He knew the old man would pick the boy over him. Dumbledore was always taking care of his Gryffindors before any other house. He started toward the door.
"Severus, it won't be necessary. I will tell the three of them after their last class." Dumbledore sighed, his face weary, he had a very bad feeling about this but he wasn't going to admit the truth of the situation to Severus Snape of all people. He looked up when he heard his door close.
Granger and Weasley quickly made their way to the Headmaster's office after the Welcoming Feast. They rode the stairs up and when they are giving access to the office, they were a bit surprised to find Snape and McGonagall sitting in the chairs in front of the Headmaster's desk. They take the two chairs to the right of McGonagall. "Lemon drop?" Dumbledore held out a candy dish.
"No thank you, sir." Granger wondered why Snape and McGonagall were in the room. Usually, when they meet with the Headmaster it was by themselves.
"Have you heard from Harry?" Dumbledore took one of his lemon drops and put it in his mouth. He wasn't sure he was going to like what might happen. He was worried about Harry not being on the train.
"No sir. I wrote to him weekly for a few weeks when we got suspended but never heard back. I thought his relatives might have done something to prevent him from writing. I waited a month and tried it again and still got nothing." Granger told him.
"Same here. I didn't write as often but he did say he would respond back." Weasley said.
"Sulking and expecting us to come running to him and see what is the matter." Snape snapped out. His normal sneer planted firmly on his face. He wasn't going to go and get the brat.
"This is our fault." Granger muttered but Snape and McGonagall heard her.
"Potter getting suspended isn't your fault. He didn't have to go down there." McGonagall remarked. "He made his own choice."
"Not really." Weasley had felt bad for forcing Harry but the Dumbledore wanted them to bring Harry with them. He said it was the only way to defeat whoever wanted stone.
"Explain that." Snape demanded. His eyes boring a hole into Weasley.
"We forced him. He is petrified of dogs and we made him go. We had already gone to Professor McGonagall but she didn't believe us. Harry wanted to find the Headmaster even though we knew the Headmaster wasn't here. We dragged him to the room, telling him that you would already have the Stone by then. We were all convinced it was you." Granger felt a lot of guilt for getting one of only two friends suspended.
"Petrified is an understatement, I had to pull him with us." Weasley said. "He was more upset about going home, he was convinced his uncle would throw him out of the house."
"He wouldn't?" McGonagall gasped. "I knew they weren't the most agreeable of muggles but they wouldn't turn him out, would they?"
"No, I am sure he is fine. They know that having Harry there is for their protection also." Dumbledore gave her a slight smile. "You forced Harry to go with you?"
"Yes, sir. We tried to tell you but Harry kept stopping us. He didn't want us to get into more trouble." Granger thought after they were suspended that the Headmaster was correct, Harry would stick up for them. The Headmaster also promised the suspension wouldn't appear on their records.
"Unlikely story, more like he wanted to get his name in the paper again." Snape informed them.
"Harry hates his fame. He didn't even know how his parents died until shortly before he came here and not the complete truth either until I lent him one of my books on him. He didn't even know he was in books." Granger smugly informed Snape. She hated that he picked on her friend for no reason. The Headmaster had asked them to look out for Harry and she was her first friend.
Snape glared at the girl. "He is just like his father."
"How? He never knew the man. How did he influence how he acts?" McGonagall asked. "You are taking a boy and turning him into his father." McGonagall had been telling the man all year that Harry wasn't like James.
"Let's focus on finding Harry. That is an old argument and it won't be solved tonight." Dumbledore interrupted. He didn't want them to continue and certainly didn't want Granger and Weasley to spill any of his secrets concerning Harry. "Hermione, Ron, head to your dorm. I am sure you are tired. We will bring Harry up to the dorm after we retrieve him."
"Yes, sir." Granger and Weasley got up and head toward the door. At the door, Granger looked over her shoulder. "You know it was a real shame you destroyed his confidence in potions, it was a class he was extremely looking forward to. He had read the book a few times. He only had one book. Which I didn't understand until I looked at his list, he never got the muggle-born book list." They exited the room.
Snape turned and looked at Dumbledore. "Why didn't he get the list?" He glared at them. He knew they were hiding something, something to do with the boy.
"I didn't think he would need it." Dumbledore answered.
"What?" McGonagall asked. "He knew nothing, you made sure of that. When Hagrid returned from taking him shopping I asked you directly about the books and you dismissed me. I have no idea why you kept insisting he was trained. You know he wasn't. You told his relatives in a note that we would be back and that was it."
"Why did Hagrid take him shopping? School rules require that either a Head of House, the Deputy or Board member take a student shopping if they are unaware of our world." Snape was getting a very bad picture. Dumbledore set them up. Dumbledore had been pushing the boy being just like his father, never let him forget what the Marauders did to him. Now he learned that the boy never got the list of books that would allow him to keep up with the rest of the students.
"Yes, I am aware of the rules. However, Hagrid would be able to protect him while he went shopping."
"You are conveniently forgetting to mention that Hagrid left him alone, went to the pub for a few drinks, and then bought Hedwig for Harry." McGonagall was furious, her lips were pressed together, her back was straight and her hands were clenching the material of her robe. "I demand an explanation as to why you picked Hagrid. I told you I would go and you refused to let me."
"Minerva, now isn't the time. We must go and retrieve Harry." Dumbledore informed her.
"All three of us can't be gone." McGonagall glared at him. "I am going with Severus. You will stay here and I want answers when I return."
"So do I." Snape added. "This is the type of manipulation I warned you about using with that boy."
"So did I. You left him with those disgusting muggles because it was Lily's sister."
"He left him with Petunia?" Snape's eyes went wide at what Petunia would have done to her own nephew.
"Yes, she is the closest relatives. She loves her nephew." Dumbledore reassured them. He knew Harry wouldn't mention anything regarding abuse, his relatives drilled that into his head after the number of times he had to cover for them. "Even if she didn't love him as well as she should, she would never allow abuse."
"You don't know Petunia." Snape did an inward wince as he remembered some of the things she did to Lily. He didn't even want to think of what she would do to a child.
"She has a son Harry's age, they grew up like brothers." McGonagall and Snape huffed at that. McGonagall remembering how Lily would return each year and comparing it to how Harry arrived last year. It wasn't a flattering image.
"Severus, if we leave now it won't be too late to visit?" McGonagall said.
Snape cast Tempus and looked at the time. "I still need to speak to my first years and even if I didn't, it's after well after acceptable muggle times to visit. Muggles have this thing about time."
"Fine first thing in the morning. You, Albus, are not leaving here to try to find him. We will go in the morning." McGonagall instructed.
"It's about time they sent someone out here to check on that house." A female voice said from next to the hedge.
"Excuse me?" Snape looked around and walked over to the woman with McGonagall on his heels.
"We have been filing complaint after complaint for years regarding their treatment of their nephew and no one has ever shown up to check. Now he hasn't been seen in months and you show up. He isn't dead, is he? That poor child." The woman was short, thin with dark brown hair, she had on a dressing gown and put down the bin she was holding.
"Missing? Harry has been missing?" McGonagall asked.
"Yes, came home in June, heard a lot of yelling and saw Vernon Dursley beating the boy again. He didn't even wait until he got into the house that time. Saw him toss the boy out into the backyard after the beating. The boy was a mess. We called for assistance and it never came. It was the last we saw of the boy."
"Does he beat his own son?" McGonagall asked.
"No, that boy is on his way to jail if they don't straighten him out. He bullies the younger years, used to terrorize his own cousin too. The boy is the exact opposite of Harry. Harry spent all his time doing an impossible amount of chores around their house while their son doesn't even list a finger just yells all the time for ice cream. There is only a wall separating us, we can hear everything. From them yelling no food for a week to the beatings while their son stuffs his face. The kid is so overweight I am surprised he can even walk."
Snape didn't say a word. He looked at the house in question and he knew his face was pale. The idea of anyone having to endure abuse was bad but to endure what their neighbor was describing was outlandish. "You have reported it before?" McGonagall's lips were thinned and her face was set in stone, she was going to kill Dumbledore. She was working on controlling her temper.
"Yes, numerous times. So haven't a lot of the neighbors and teachers at their school when they attended the same school." She held out her hand. "I'm Robin Bellows and I have lived here since before the morning they found the boy on their steps. They never were the best of neighbors but they never raised their voices or hit a child until Harry came along. Every year she used to take the gardening cup for best yard and garden never bothers to thank her own nephew who did all the planting, weeding, and watering. This year she lost because Harry wasn't there to do all the work."
McGonagall inhaled deeply. "Are you sure you haven't seen Harry all summer? They haven't mentioned him?"
"Oh they mentioned him, said he skipped off, left them without a thank you for taking care of him. Called him an ungrateful, you get the idea." Mrs. Bellows said. "When Mrs. Figg asked about him, they told her he was fine and would be going back to St. Bartus or whatever the name is. It's a detention center for youths is all I know."
Snape closed his eyes for a second. He needed to know if Dumbledore was aware of the abuse. "Has anyone dressed weird been here over the years?"
"Yes, some old guy with a long, white beard with glasses who dresses in the worst dressing gowns. He came fairly often when Harry was younger but less as the over the years. When we commented on his outfit, next time he showed up in this awful bright neon red suit. He usually gets them to calm down for a while. He waves a stick in the backyard a lot during those times. Petunia can't stand him, calls him a meddlesome old man. Blames him for her nephew living with them. Calls him a freak, just like she did her nephew. I don't think that boy knew his real name until he went to school. I know we didn't."
"You know them well?" McGonagall asked.
"No, can't stand them. The walls, however, don't lie." Mrs. Bellows answered. "If I know her, they will be getting up in a few minutes. She will be taking the bin to the curb. If she sees you talking to me she will have a hissy fit."
"We will speak to her, thank you for the information." Snape told her. They watch the woman pick up her bin and head back into the house that was adjacent to the Dursley family. Snape looked at the row houses. He saw there was a garage between the two houses linking them and knew the yelling and the beatings had to be loud if the Bellows family could hear them.
"I am going to kill him. I warned him they were the worse sort of muggles but he didn't listen to me. Now to know he knew about this abuse. Severus, we have to find Harry and protect him from Albus."
"I agree." Snape knew Dumbledore had ignored his own abuse from his father but he didn't think he would have allowed his golden boy to be so abused. "Let's go and speak to Petunia."
"I want to do more than speaking to her." McGonagall voiced his own thoughts on the matter of her care of her nephew.
After an hour of fruitless answers they got nothing new. Petunia and Vernon Dursley just repeated they never wanted him and didn't know where he skipped off to, telling them the Freak was to never return and they wouldn't take him back. They went on about how ungrateful he was and now had to hire people to do the chores around the house. When they saw Dudley, Snape understood what Mrs. Bellows meant. As they were leaving, Snape looked at McGonagall. "I want the wards tested."
"I agree. Shall we?" At his nod of agreement, she cast some Notice-Me-Not-Charms on them.
Snape pulled out his wand and together they started to cast detection spells and while they were expecting to see Blood Wards, they were surprised by what they did find. Snape arched his brow as McGonagall started cursing in Gaelic. "Leam-leat." (Scottish Gaelic for Two-faced, double-crossing bastard) She glanced at the house. "Lan dhen cac mas, daonnan a 'smaoineachadh e eòlach as fheàrr. Ma gu bheil balach marbh mi a 'dol a dhèanamh dha pàigheadh daor." (translation arrogant ass, always thinks he knows best. If that boy is dead I am going to make him pay dearly). "How are we going to find him?" Snape let her vent for a several more minutes.
"I am not sure. If he was tossed out, he could be anywhere. Most likely living on the streets and England is a big place. He might have even tried to get to Scotland. If he was as beaten as the neighbor said, I do fear for the worst." Snape didn't want to think what they would mean for the light. He felt something he didn't think he would ever feel again, guilt. Guilt for assuming the boy was like his father despite seeing the difference with his own eyes. Guilt for believing the old man. He understood why the protection Vow he took was aching all the time. The boy was being abused. He acknowledged that he didn't know it was that Vow but it did explain a lot of things. "I know he isn't dead."
"How?" McGonagall asked.
"I took a Vow to protect him. I took it shortly after Lily's death."
"Protection Vows don't work like that. If you honestly did what you could to protect him, it won't affect you because you weren't even remotely close enough to help. If you were closer the Vow would have demanded you step in a long time ago." McGonagall sadly told him. "I can't understand why he did this. A submissive ward, an obedience ward, a magical damper ward, that would have stopped his magic from healing him and this one, a hate ward. A hate ward, Severus, why would someone add a hate ward?" She looked down at the complete list, some she understood as they were standard protection wards.
"I am not sure. We can't tell him we know. He will memory charm us if we do. We need to keep this part quiet at least until we find Mr. Potter. Get the goblins to discreetly verify the wards for us." Snape informed her.
McGonagall tilted her head in acceptance. "Let's get this over with." They headed back to Hogwarts.
Eight years later:
"Boss, there is some wizard here looking to speak to Harry Potter." A tall reddish-blond hair man said as he opened the office door. The man was one of the regular bartenders and sometimes he worked as a bouncer when need.
"Really? Harry Potter here? He does know what type of club this is?" A tall dark-haired man wondered why a wizard would be in his club. Granted he didn't say they couldn't come in but they usually stayed away since it was also a heavy muggle area. The man's hair was long and pulled back into a braid. He wore a black silk business suit with a crisp white shirt and Italian leather shoes.
"I don't think he realizes it as of yet. Do you want me to get rid of him?"
"Yes, I don't need to deal with their kind." The man watched his bartender leave and thought for a few seconds about a wizard being in his club. He sighed and went back to his books. He was taking care of the weekly payroll and bills. About five minutes later his office door was thrown opened and Severus Snape stormed into his office.
"I demand to see Harry Potter." Snape glared at the man sitting behind the desk. He looked at the forehead and didn't see the lightning bolt scar. He took in the rest of the man and dismissed him as being unimportant.
"You can demand whatever you like but as you can see there isn't a Harry Potter here. Get rid of him, Mike." He wanted to get this paperwork done sometime tonight.
Snape pulled out his wand. "I am here to collect Harry Potter and I won't be leaving without him."
The man sitting behind the desk laughed. "Yes, you will. Goodbye." The man tilted his head and before Snape could open his mouth a group of men were on him and dragged him out of the door. The man heard "we are open nightly from 1800 to 0600 if you wish to enjoy the pleasures of our club if you can come without making a scene." The man went back to his books. After thirty minutes, someone entered his office. "Go away, I am busy." He didn't even look up from the bookkeeping.
"I am aware, however, it's time, my Lord." The man was average in height with brown hair and eyes. His face looked weathered from years of being out in the sun.
"I am aware but doesn't mean I am going to let them dictate the terms. Get Marius and the others. There will be a meeting before we open tonight, Severus Snape will be back."
"It will be done, my Lord." The man left the office to do the task assigned to him.
The man rose from the desk. He wondered how Severus Snape arrived at his club. He knew it would happen as it was bound to happen but he was hoping for a few more peaceful years before dealing with any wizards. He saw the man's mind but didn't get a clear idea of what he was expecting or how he arrived at his club. He walked out of his office, heading toward his private rooms. He needed some time to think about some things and research something he didn't think could happen before he attending the meeting he just called.