Potions and Snitches
Snape and Harry Gen Fanfiction Archive

Chapter 8 Swingers
Harry dressed, grimacing in distaste at how his clothes hung on this little boy’s body. Before he had started school, the boy had been made to wear hand-me-downs from his much larger cousin, they were always much too wide in the shoulders and waist, making him look like a war refugee. Aunt Petunia’s lips had often pinched in disgust at the sight of him, and she eventually decided that he needed his own clothes to wear at school so that he wouldn’t bring shame on the family.

“Stop dawdling, boy!” the sharp scolding, and a flare up of pain across his sore posterior brought the boy out of his reminiscence, and he quickly put on the long-sleeved shirt he had been staring at for the last minute or so.

As soon as he was ready, father grabbed his wrist and pulled Harry into the hallway, where a lot of people were bustling about today. He had to jog to keep up with the man’s long strides, his free hand trailing back to rub at his bum. They almost flew across the ward, out the huge door and down several flights of stairs, and the boy was gasping for air by the time they reached the last landing. It was a miracle that Harry didn’t tumble to his death, father’s iron grip on his wrist was probably the only reason for that, but his shoulder ached so much from being practically hoisted by one hand that his vision blurred with tears.

The boy skidded to a halt in a large hallway at the bottom of the stairs, trying to catch his breath, but father only gave him a moment to rest before tugging on his hand again. They had to walk slower through the crowded hallway, people were clamouring about, arguing loudly about their place in a line before a desk at the end of a large room. Harry gaped open-mouthed at the wide assortment of bizarre injuries they sported, one African man, dressed in an oriental nightgown, had two hands sprouting out of the back of his bald scalp, and three elderly women were dancing tango with each other, and seemed quite unable to stop.

Before he could take a closer look at the rest, they broke through the mass, and father’s hand tightened around his, pulling the boy into a trot again. They burst through the door and into a quiet street at a run, and Harry had an insane thought that they were escaping from hospital, and that healer Loyd would strap him to the bed for good if he ever caught them.

They dashed down one street and up another, and he was panting with exhaustion, hoping that they could stop soon. That was when the shoelace of his trainer got untied and he stumbled, sprawling across the hard pavement with a cry of pain.

“Are you injured?” father demanded, crouching over him like some ominous shadow, and the boy sobbed, so scared that he would be punished for falling. “Fuck…”

Father lifted Harry up, pressing him hard against his shoulder, and the next moment everything disappeared, and he couldn’t breathe! He struggled, trying to throw off the tight embrace, but then the world righted itself and he was throwing up on the grass.

He heaved and heaved, probably spewing out every meal he had ever eaten, and father knelt beside him, holding him around the middle. Eventually, the terrible nausea passed and the boy sagged in exhaustion, crying in utter misery.

The man waved his wand to vanish the mess, and picked the child up, rubbing his back comfortingly as he walked toward the nearby bench. He sat the boy down, before conjuring a glass container and filling it with water from his wand.

“Here,” father murmured, pressing the glass to his lips, and Harry drank obediently, rinsing the taste of bile and stomach acid from his mouth. “You didn’t enjoy Apparition, I take it?”

The boy looked around himself, only now realising that they were no longer in the street he’d fallen on, but in a small park with swings and a sandbox. He shuddered, no, he didn’t like how they got here at all.

“Where are you injured, Harry?”

The boy ducked his head, shrugging his shoulders as if it was nothing to bother about.

“Hiding injuries from me is a sure way to earn a taste of my belt, boy,” the man warned sternly. “Out with it.”

Harry shot him a worried glance before capitulating.

“Just my knees,” he admitted reluctantly.

“Alright,” father said, pulling his ever present shoulder bag open. “Sit back and I’ll look at them.”

Harry did as he was told, biting his lip and trying to hold himself very still on the hard wooden bench, even as his body wanted to squirm and shift to find a more comfortable position. Father pulled up the legs of his trousers, and he stared at his bloody knees queasily. It stung an awful lot as the man cleaned his scrapes, but then he put some yellow liquid on the wounds and new skin started growing over them, and in a few minutes his knees were as good as new.

“Thank you,” he whispered, grateful for the healing, but even so on the verge of tears, as it was becoming quite unbearable to remain seated on the wretched bench any longer. His chin quivered in distress, but father was looking at him and he didn’t dare stand without permission.

“What’s wrong, now?” the man barked impatiently, narrowing his eyes to examine the child’s downtrodden expression. “Oh, very well,” he huffed irritably. “Come here.”

Father pulled him to stand, sitting himself on the bench, and drew the boy over his lap into an increasingly familiar position. Harry started to cry as soon as he felt his trousers moving down, he didn’t understand why he was being punished just now. He hadn’t done anything wrong, other than falling and hurting himself. He suddenly remembered the man saying he didn’t want to see the boy injured, and he whimpered in absolute terror. Was it bad enough to be belted again?

Instead of hitting him, as the child expected would happen, father’s hand touched his sore backside very gently, spreading something cool and soothing all over it. Harry sobbed in relief, as the lingering throbbing of the last few days melted away like magic.

“Better now?” father asked, righting the boy on his feet, and Harry nodded jerkily, wiping at his eyes with a hand. “But don’t expect it to happen again; you earn the belt, you bear the consequences. Understood, child?”

“Yes, sir,” he answered meekly.

“Do you have any more complaints?”

Harry looked up in apprehension, trying to discern the man’s mood, he didn’t seem angry per se, but a frown on his forehead was so deep that it only barely differed from a scowl. He averted his eyes and shook his head, deciding that it would be safer not to say anything at all.

“Very well, Harry,” father murmured, checking his pocket watch and sighing. “You have thirty minutes to kill, so go play on the swings or something.”

“The swings?” the boy asked with uncertainty.

“Yes! The bloody swings or whatever it is brats your age do in parks,” the man snapped angrily, he was rubbing his forehead as if it pained him. “Go and don’t come back until your disguise is gone!”

Harry’s legs began moving almost of their own volition, so eager was he to get out of striking distance of the angry man. He slumped on the seat of the furthest swing, and folded his arms across his chest protectively. Being with his father was absolutely nerve-wracking, one moment he was sort of nice, even healing the boy’s scrapes and aches [at least the ones Harry told him about, he wasn’t so stupid as to mention his wrist and shoulder], and the next he got mad over something insignificant. He wished he knew how to keep the man on an even kilter.

The Dursleys had never told the boy to go play anywhere, let alone to a park, he was always doing chores or grounded in his room. The one time aunt Petunia had let Harry tug along to a park, he was made to sit on a bench beside her, while his cousin played on the swings with his mates. The boy had never been allowed near the playground equipment before, even at school Dudley made him stay away. It felt really bizarre to be practically forced on the swings now, and a little part of him worried that he would be punished for being here.

A bigger part of Harry was secretly thrilled to be finally allowed to partake in something his classmates had enjoyed for years. It had been very hard to watch other children laughing and squealing with joy as they swung incredibly high, like flying. He thought he wouldn’t mind a punishment, if only he could soar as high as they at least once. Harry gripped the chain on the sides of the seat that was attached to the horizontal bar overhead, and tried to make the swing do the acrobatics it did for other kids. Tears of frustration soon ran down the sides of his face, as he was barely able to make the swing move at all and he was panting from the effort. He should have known he was too stupid to play on the swings!

Harry slumped in misery, giving up any further attempts, and thinking how useless he was, when the oddest shivery feeling passed through his body. He tensed, afraid that it was going to hurt, like it had at hospital, but in a moment it was gone. The boy blinked, grimacing because the perfect vision he had been enjoying for the past week was replaced by the blurriness of his own eyes. Well, at least he could go back now, and leave the disappointing experience of the swings behind him.

As he walked to the bench, he began to feel very anxious. Once, when he had been maybe four, the Dursleys had gone to the mall to shop for their winter holidays, leaving Harry to wait on a bench outside. He remembered huddling in his overlarge jumper and shivering with cold for hours, until an elderly lady asked where his parents were. He somehow had communicated the Dursleys’ address, and she gave him a lift in her car. Aunt Petunia had boxed his ears and grounded him in his room for a week for wandering off, even though he swore he hadn’t moved at all.

The boy made the last meters at a run, his heart was pounding with dread seeing the seemingly empty bench. He skidded to a halt next to the bench and stared, father hadn’t disappeared as he’d feared, he had just fallen asleep on a bench like some drankard vagabond. Breathing out, Harry reached out a hand to poke the man awake, uncle Vernon would certainly have much to say about such improper behaviour. He paused, peering at father’s face in concern, he was grimacing as if in pain or maybe in the throes of a nightmare and his face looked really peaky. The man’s face was very pale and there were dark bruisers under his eyes, as if he hadn’t slept in a long time, and with his newly-restored black hair, he resembled a vampire more than ever before.

“Father?” he asked in a worried voice, putting his hand to the man’s forehead to check for fever. “Are you ill, father?”

As soon as he was touched, the man’s black eyes snapped open and narrowed on the child, as if he wasn’t quite sure who he was looking at. After several tense seconds, father’s eyes cleared and he relaxed, catching the boy’s hand and squeezing his fingers gently.

“No, Harry,” he sighed tiredly, rubbing his face with a hand. “I’m not ill, I just need to go to bed early today.”

“Are you sure, father?” the boy persisted, frowning at the man in concern. “You don’t look so good.”

“Very sure, child,” father confirmed as he picked himself from the bench. “Have you enjoyed your time on the swing, then?”

Harry hung his head in shame, wishing the man would forget about the stupid swings.

“What is that expression for, boy?” father demanded, folding his arms and glaring.

“I don’t know how…” Harry whispered, feeling his eyes burn with tears of humiliation.

“For the love of…!” the man exclaimed in annoyance, grabbing the boy by the arm and steering him back toward the swings. “Come, we can spare ten more minutes.”

Harry was pushed to the swing, and he sat down with his head bowed and his shoulders slumped in misery, he didn’t want father to see him be a failure.

“I need to see you try, boy,” father grumbled, putting his hands on his hips. “Stop moping, and get on with it!”

The boy finally obeyed, not stupid enough to think he would get away with a show of defiance. He tried his absolute best to make the swing move, but only succeeded in making it sway to the sides pathetically. Almost immediately, father began shaking his head at his failure, and he started to cry in shame.

“No, not like that,” the man said critically. “Stop blubbering and watch.”

Harry’s eyes grew large as saucers as father sat on the swing beside him, and began swinging himself, slowly at first so the boy could figure out what he was doing. He was pushing his legs to the front, while moving his upper body back, and then he was pulling his legs back and torso to the front. The faster he reversed the positions, the higher and faster he was swinging, until the boy was gaping in amazement, his mouth hanging open.

Eventually, father stopped moving and the swing slowly lost momentum, until he stuck out his heels to bring the swing to a standstill. He rose and turned to study the child, folding his arms across his chest.

“Your turn,” the man commanded. “Let’s see how well you’ve been paying attention.”

Harry swallowed hard, not too keen on trying with father’s stern glare fixed on him so relentlessly, but he didn’t really have any choice so he tried. It was incredibly difficult to remember which part of him went where, but with father’s sharp corrections, he was getting better. After a few minutes, he was swinging, not as high or fast as father had, but he was doing it on his own!

“Enough,” father said sternly, much too soon for the boy’s liking. “You can practise more another time.”

Harry stopped the swing reluctantly, it wasn’t anything new to him that good things ended quickly, but father left him a glimmer of hope for the future so he was grinning despite his disappointment.

“Really, father?” he checked anxiously. “I can come again?”

“Obviously,” the man said dryly, holding out a hand for the boy to take. “You need a lot more practice to become even close to competent.”

Harry grimaced, but he couldn’t argue with father’s assessment of his skills, the man was clearly very proficient at this activity, he decided to be grateful for the lesson and promised himself to practise until he got as good as his father.

“Come along,” the man pulled him into a brisk walk. “We have to get home, before I collapse on the pavement for you to carry me.”

“No!” the boy exclaimed, his eyes growing large with panic. “I don’t even know the address!”

“Indeed, that’s a valid concern,” father acknowledged, smirking at the top of the child’s messy head. “Spinner’s End 13, Cokeworth, Shroppshire, England.”

Harry spent the next few minutes murmuring the address under his breath over and over to commit it to memory, until he noticed that father was stopping in front of the second hand bookstore.

“We were supposed to go straight home!” the boy protested, pulling on father’s hand to stop him from going inside.

“Are you so keen on going to bed in the middle of the afternoon, boy?” father asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No, but you must!” Harry insisted, stomping his foot for emphasis.

“Indeed, I do,” father said sternly, applying a sharp smack to the child’s seat. “And you, Harry, must watch your tone, or you’ll get a hard spanking instead of a birthday present.”

The man ended up buying two books for children, a football and two bags of fish and chips for them to eat on the way, as Harry watched anxiously for any signs of imminent collapse. It probably took another half hour to get home, father placed the presents on the kitchen table and donned his fiercest expression. He promised Harry a very sore bottom if he went to bed any later than seven o’clock, and then he went upstairs to sleep.

Harry spent a long time just staring at his birthday presents in awe, he had never gotten even one before, and now his father gave him three at once! Toys! He felt overwhelmed, absolutely terrified that they weren’t real, that he was dreaming! The boy’s hand was trembling as he reached out to touch one of the books. It was a dog-eared copy of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, he recognised it by the picture on the front cover, Ms Summers had read a few stories to the class last school year. He hugged the little book to his chest, blinking back the frustrated tears. It was as if father had done it on purpose, to rub the boy’s stupidity in his face. Suddenly enraged, Harry flung the book against the wall and burst out crying.
Chapter End Notes:
I need help figuring out postal code for Cokeworth. Ideas?

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