1. Chapter 1 Grim Defeat by moonterra
2. Chapter 2 Hogsmeade Marauder by moonterra
3. Chapter 3 Inheritance by moonterra
Chapter One: Grim Defeat
Halloween had always been a sore point for Harry, starting with the murder of his parents by a megalomanic and the last two years at Hogwarts had continued such a trend in his life. It was thus his most hated day of the year. First year had been the mountain troll that had been let into the school, resulting in the destruction of the girl's bathroom on the first floor and yet resulted in Harry and Ron making friends with Hermione, something he realized now that he should not have done and told a professor instead. Just last year, his second year at Hogwarts, he had not gone to the Halloween Feast for the simple reason that he had been invited to Sir Nick's 500th Deathday Party so had gone with Ron and Hermione who had decided to come with him instead of going to the Halloween Feast held every year. That had been something he'd regretted for two reasons; one being the fact that there was no food served for the living, given all the attendants were ghosts, and two was he had been accused of murdering Mrs. Norris, the cat of the caretaker Argus Filch. Last year had been a disaster, being shunned by his classmates and peers as they all thought he was the Heir of Slytherin for that was when Slytherin's monster had been set loose and he'd faced a shade of the Dark Lord for the second time in two years. That had been the year he had been ousted as a Parselmouth and Headmaster Dumbledore had said Voldemort had given him some of his powers on accident when trying to attack him that night in Godric's Hollow twelve years ago. Now Halloween had come again, and Harry should have known this year wouldn't be any different compared to his last two years at Hogwarts.
Chatter filled the Great Staircase as the students climbed the seven flights of stairs to the top of Gryffindor Tower, Ron and Hermione talking about their trip to Hogsmeade that had taken place that day and the fun they'd had before coming back to the castle for the Halloween Feast. Harry was glad they'd brought some candy for him back from Honeydukes since he wasn't allowed to go due to not having a signed permission slip from his guardians. The third year Gryffindor was currently munching on a chocolate frog when the students came to a halt, continuing down the familiar path to Gryffindor Tower until they found it jammed with students. "Why isn't anyone going in?" Harry stood on his tip toes to try to see but couldn't see much, however what he did see showed the portrait appeared to be closed. "Don't tell me the Fat Lady's gone off visiting again," Ron groaned.
"Let me through please," came Percy's voice as he pushed his way through the crowd of students on the stairs leading up the corridor leading to the Fat Lady's portrait. He pushed his way importantly through the crowd, telling the students to make way. "What's going on here? You can't all have forgotten the password."
"Where'd the Fat Lady go?"
"Are we in danger?" This comment came from a timid first year Harry didn't know but then he didn't interact with the younger students in his year or his house.
"What's going on?" Ginny's voice echoed beside him, and Harry jumped as Ron's sister appeared beside him.
"Dunno," said Harry with a shrug. "Portrait appears to be closed."
"Quick! Someone get Professor Dumbledore!" Percy's voice shouted down the corridor and a student pushed their way through the crowd to find Dumbledore or another staff member as Percy tried to keep order. Harry, Hermione, and Ron pushed their way forward to see what the problem was and there they came upon a horrifying sight.
"Oh my..." Hermione grabbed onto Harry's arm as they stared at the portrait guarding their common room. The Fat Lady had vanished, her portrait's canvas hanging off the frame in jagged strips, cuts deeply impressed into the wood. The portrait to the common room appeared to have been attacked by someone in a fit of rage.
"Move aside!" Professor Dumbledore came hurrying through the crowd suddenly and unexpectedly, the students parting like the red sea for Moses. Behind them, Professors McGonagall, Lupin and Snape were hurrying behind them, Professor McGonagall surveying her students before putting a hand to her mouth as she saw the damaged portrait. Strips of canvas littered the floor beneath the portrait and great chunks had been taken out of the portrait and the wooden frame behind the canvas. Professor Dumbledore looked at the canvas, lifting one of the torn canvas strips before turning somberly to see the three professors running towards him.
"What's Snape doing here?"
"We need to find her. Professor McGonagall I need you to send for Argus and have him search all the paintings for the Fat Lady. Severus, get the..."
"You'll be lucky!" Peeves appeared floating above their heads, cackling in delight about the chaos around the tower. The poltergeist always enjoyed the wreckage and mayhem of the castle.
"What do you mean Peeves?" Dumbeldore calmly questioned, looking up at Peeves and his grin faded a little. Peeves didn't dare taunt Dumbledore. "Have you seen the Fat Lady? Do you know what she said of what happened?"
"Ashamed Headmaster and doesn't want to be seen. Saw her running through portraits on the fourth floor between the trees. Crying something awful." Peeves floated down in front of Dumbledore. "Said it was something horrible. Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black!"
The students were all gathered into the Great Hall, the Gryffindors being sent there for their protection and soon were joined alongside the Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and Slytherins who were all confused about what was going on. Professor Dumbledore had moved the house tables to the sides to one wall of the room and then had Filius lock down the castle doors. The House Ghosts and all the prefects as well as Percy and the Headgirl were put in charge of the students with a couple of teachers, Professors Sinistra and Burbage, while the rest of the staff and ghosts were told to make a search of the entire school for any signs of Sirius Black. Blankets and pillows were magicked to appear, the students lying down or sitting up and chatting quietly in hushed whispers with their friends. Word spread quickly that Sirius Black was on the loose and had attacked the Fat Lady when trying to get into the Gryffindor Common Room. Some of the older children assumed this was because he was trying to murder Harry Potter and there were quite a few glares in the third-year's direction.
"The staff and I need to conduct an extensive search of the Hogwarts castle," said Dumbledore as he surveyed the students under his command and protection. "Professors Sinistra and Burbage as well as the four House Ghosts, the prefects and Head Boy and Girl are in charge. Any student caught out of the Great Hall will be at risk of being punished and having privileges revoked or expelled at the worst. I must remind you all that no student here is able to take on Sirius Black." With that, he turned and left with the other staff except for those remaining behind to oversee the students, the doors to the Great Hall being locked behind them. Bars had extended down across all the windows and Percy soon told the students to go to sleep and not talk.
"Come on," said Harry and they grabbed three sleeping bags and headed into a corner of the Great Hall to sleep.
Harry found it hard to sleep, Ron and Hermione questioning him on why they thought Sirius Black would choose tonight of all nights to try to break into Gryffindor Tower. "Good thing you were at the feast with us Harry. Otherwise, you might have been..." She couldn't bring herself to say that Harry might have been hurt or killed.
"I reckon he's lost track of time," said Ron, "you know with being on the run and all. Otherwise, he would have waited until we were back in the dorms to attack."
All around them, the talk was the same no matter the house with the question on everyone's mind being one simple question that puzzled even the seventh years: "How did he get in?"
"Maybe he can apparate," said a Ravenclaw nearby. "Just appear out of nowhere you know?"
"Disguised himself probably," said a Hufflepuff first year.
"Maybe he flew in," said Dean Thomas.
"Honestly, am I the only one who reads Hogwarts a History?" Hermione's infuriated voice was heard easily by Ron and Harry.
"Probably," said Ron. "Why?"
"Because Hogwarts is protected by more than just stone walls," said Hermione. "There's wards and enchantments to stop people entering by stealth. You also cannot apparate in or out of the castle or grounds. I'd like to see the disguise that could fool the dementors. They're guarding every way in and out of the castle, including whatever passages there may be. They'd have seen him fly in too."
"Dementors don't have eyes stupid," came a sixth year Ravenclaw.
"And Filch knows all the secret passages so they'll be covered," said Hermione as if the Ravenclaw hadn't just insulted her.
"Alright that's enough! Lights are going out now. I want everyone in their sleeping bags and to sleep with no talking!" Percy shouted and flicked his wand. All the candles went out at once and the only light came from the silvery ghosts that conversed with the prefects and the moonlight shining in through the windows.
Harry didn't respond to his friends, turning over onto his left side and closing his eyes, pretending to be asleep so he wouldn't have to have this conversation with his friends. He didn't need Hermione asking if he were alright or pitying him, nor Ron showing concern. He was used to Voldemort being after him, the man responsible for killing his parents and making him an orphan. "Harry?" Ron questioned, tapping his friend's shoulder but Harry remained silent. Eventually Ron gave up and the others continued talking in hushed whispers until Percy told the students to quiet down and get to sleep. The ceiling overhead mirrored the starry sky outside of the school, something that had always fascinated Harry.
Azkaban...a place Harry had no clue of until starting his third year at Hogwarts. Harry sadly knew nothing of the wizarding world at large...wasn't even sure there was a wizarding world outside of the United Kingdom. To Harry, the wizarding world consisted of Diagon and Knockturn Alleys, Gringotts, the Leaky Cauldron, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Every hour, a professor walked in to make sure everything was alright and around three in the morning, Professor Dumbledore entered where he was immediately met by Percy and the Head Girl, a Hufflepuff seventh year. "Professor, the students finally got to sleep," said Percy as he approached.
"Thank you, Mister Weasley. Were there any problems?"
"None," said Percy.
"Good. There's no point moving them all now. I've found a temporary guardian for the Gryffindors. You'll be able to move them all back on November second."
"Where was the Fat Lady sir?"
"Hiding in a map of Argyllshire on the second floor. She refused to let Mister Black in without the password and he got mad and attacked. She's still frightened but once she has calmed down, I'll reinstate her."
"Headmaster? Did you find Sirius Black?"
"No Miss Fawley, we have not. I am glad though that nothing has happened here to interrupt the sleep of your fellow peers and the younger children."
"Professor, what happens if Sirius Black cannot be caught? Will the school shut down?"
"I am not sure," said Professor Dumbledore, "but I and the rest of the staff will do our best to ensure the school continues running. But it's nothing for the students to worry about," said Dumbledore. The Head girl, a youngster with a slim build and honey blond hair by the name of Gemini, and Percy, both nodded at the Headmaster's reassurances. Professor Burbage came up to the Headmaster when he was done speaking with the two seventh years.
"Headmaster...no word then?"
"I'm afraid not Charity," said Albus Dumbledore. "We're still searching the castle and the dementors have been made aware of the break in but while I am Headmaster of this school, no Dementor will enter the school to harm the students or staff under my care. Naturally, they are not pleased by this, but I made it clear." The Headmaster's eyes darkened and became cold, losing the familiar twinkle as he spoke.
"What will happen Albus, if Mister Black is not caught?"
"I fear we may have to send the students home and shut the school down until Mister Black."
"What about Mister Potter? Black is after him, is he not?"
Albus inclined his head, looking at his young staff member with worry. Charity and Remus were his newest staff members at Hogwarts this year, the previous Muggle Studies professor having retired at the end of the previous year. "Mister Potter should be safe with his family if it comes to it. If necessary, precautions will have to be taken to ensure Mister Potter's safety." Severus Snape soon came into the Great Hall to give a report, one of the doors of the Great Hall creaking open and Harry lay still, determined to hear all he could.
"Headmaster, a complete search has been made of the third floor and he's nowhere there. Argus did a complete sweep of the dungeons, and he isn't there either."
"What about the Astronomy Tower? The Owlery."
"All searched and all clear Headmaster," said Severus.
"Thank you, Severus," said Albus.
"Headmaster, do you remember my concerns about...before the start of term?"
"I do Severus," said Albus in a warning voice.
"Do you have any reason how he got in?"
"Many. Each as unlikely as the last."
"I did express concerns about a certain..."
"I do not believe anyone here would have helped Mister Black enter Hogwarts," said Albus. "Your prejudices blind you Severus." His voice became clipped, taking on a tone that said there was nothing more to be said and Severus fell silent.
"What of Potter? Should he be told of his relationship to Black?"
"No," said Dumbledore, "because it will only frighten him. For now, let him sleep and dream...and let his dreams take him away to the highest clouds in the sky or the deepest depths of the oceans. Now, I must go down to speak to the dementors. I did tell them I'd inform them when our search was complete."
"Didn't they want to help sir?" questioned Percy.
"Yes, but I'll not have them in my school terrifying the students or feeding off of their fears," said Dumbledore.
The next few days were miserable for Harry as nobody would leave him alone. Unlike last year, when he'd been thought of as the Heir of Slytherin and they avoided him like the plague, now he was being followed everywhere by professors who found excuses to escort him or his peers to their next class or Percy who followed him around like a guard dog. For a child that had grown up without friends or a loving family, who still had no loving family and no parents, he was in some ways still a private person but deeply cherished his friends. Unlike what Professor Snape or the Slytherins might think, Harry did not value his fame for being the Boy-Who-Lived...every Halloween being a reminder that while Voldemort had been defeated, he had lost his parents and become an orphan and therefore lost touch with the world he had been half born into. Now, he just wished to be left alone...to not be watched constantly by the adults that he couldn't bring himself to trust with his safety or wellbeing when so many had let him down before prior to being told he was a wizard on his eleventh birthday...a world that he felt sometimes was more difficult than the muggle one with the way they seemed to turn on him or praise him...always viewing him as a shadow of his father. Always his father...he was so much like James Potter yet bearing his mother's eyes. None ever really spoke to Harry about his mother and what she was like in school.
What were the aspirations of Lily Evans nee Potter? What had been her favorite subjects where she excelled? What were her worst classes? Did she find Professor Binns as tedious and doll as Harry and many other students minus Hermione did? Who were her friends in school and where were they now? All he knew was that his mother was a muggleborn witch and had been sorted into Gryffindor like his father. Was she like Hermione, eager to learn everything about the wizarding world?
The same could be applied to his father in some ways. James Potter had been good at Quidditch, a Chaser as he had learned from Hermione in first year when she'd shown him his chaser badge. Head Boy and Head Girl were his parents in their seventh year according to Hagrid. Professor McGonagall seemed to favor his father, speaking fondly of him, and saying he had been good at Transfiguration when he had asked her but where were his father's parents? Had they also been to Gryffindor like James? Why were his parents in hiding when he was born?
Why had they not fled the country if they or their unborn child was in danger instead of remaining within Britain? Who were his father's friends in school? Did James Potter also befriend a muggleborn like Harry had done in his first year, albeit through circumstances brought about by Ron? And his invisibility cloak. Professor Dumbledore said it belonged to his father and Ron said it was rare.
What was an invisibility cloak really and why had Professor Dumbledore had it? Why had his father given the heirloom to the Headmaster before his death instead of keeping it? How had the Potters or his father come across the cloak in the first place? Could his parents have escaped alive with Harry had they the invisibility cloak in their possession? Was it possible that Harry could have grown up with his parents in a loving home?
"Mister Potter, a word please," said Professor McGonagall as Harry got up to go down to the Quidditch Pitch after Oliver Wood had called a meeting of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Ron and Hermione got up to follow Harry, but their Head of House gave them a stern look. "This is for Mister Potter's ears only Mister Weasley and Miss Granger. You have your own classes to attend to and don't need to follow Mister Potter everywhere."
Ron's face turned red in anger while Hermione's cheeks-tinged pink in embarrassment, but she dragged Ron away from the table before he could say something that would cause them to lose house points. Harry followed Professor McGonagall to her office on the first floor, which was a small study off the first-floor corridor to the right of a staircase ascending to the Serpentine Corridor on the third floor. Each of the professors had an office, though Harry was not familiar with where all of them were. "Close the door Mister Potter," said Professor McGonagall as she entered her office, waving her wand at the empty hearth with a muttered ‘Incendio' and flames soon sprang up within. The fire felt warm and comforting, a stark contrast to the chilliness of the castle and Harry knew the castle would only become colder as it turned into winter.
"Have a seat Mister Potter. This will only take a few moments," said Professor McGonagall as she gestured for her young pupil to do just that. Harry looked around at the comfortable yet small study and took a seat in one of the armchairs by the fireplace, Professor McGonagall taking a seat in the one to his left and putting her wand away.
"What is this about Professor? Wood has a meeting down at the Quidditch Pitch concerning our next match before classes," said Harry.
"Quidditch Mister Potter is what I wished to speak with you about as well as your year so far," she said.
Harry stared at his Head of House. In his first year, Professor McGonagall had refused to believe him concerning the fact that someone was after the Sorcerer's Stone, resulting in Harry and his friends going to the third floor themselves. It had turned out to not be Professor Snape trying to steal the stone as Harry and Ron had been convinced but rather Professor Quirrell acting for Voldemort, the man who had murdered his parents. "What about it, Professor?"
"Mister Potter, I'm not sure if you aware but even if you had had a permission slip signed by your guardians, you likely wouldn't have been allowed to attend Hogsmeade trips."
"It's because of Sirius Black, isn't it? Mister Weasley mentioned him to me before getting on the train," said Harry. "I saw him in the Muggle news as well at the Dursleys."
Professor McGonagall was silent at this revelation. "Well, I did not expect you to be told this but that is mainly why you would not have been allowed to attend Hogsmeade visits this year even if you had a permission slip signed by your guardians. One thing about Hogsmeade trips is that staff patrol the village of Hogsmeade to keep the students safe for even the prefects and the Head Boy and Girl are given free reign if they have thus gained a permission slip signed by their parents or guardian. This is the reason that I am considering not allowing you to play Quidditch this year for your own safety. With the threat of Sirius Black possibly looking for you and the Dementors who are not kind creatures, it wouldn't be safe."
Harry's eyes widened as he heard that he might not be able to continue playing Quidditch this year. "But Professor! Gryffindor doesn't have a reserve seeker! We can't let Slytherin win the Quidditch Cup!"
"Mister Potter, loathe as I am to lose the Quidditch Cup to Severus, my love of Quidditch and desire to keep it in our house does not take paramount to a student's life. The old woman shook her head as she stared at Mister Potter in disappointment. "Never you mind about Gryffindor's chances at the Quidditch World Cup Mister Potter. I'm sure I can find another seeker."
"Professor please! Can't Madam Hooch watch our practices and matches instead?"
Professor McGonagall stared at the young student before her at this suggestion. "I will speak to Madam Hooch and the Headmaster concerning practices but for now you are not allowed to participate in any Hogwarts matches or practices."
"That's not fair!"
"Mister Potter, that attitude is going to get you nowhere with me," said Minerva as she sat forward in the chair next to the fire. "I suggest you watch yourself lest I not speak to Madam Hooch or the Headmaster at all. Doth not forget I be thy head of house."
Harry frowned at his Transfiguration professor, a woman who served in capacity as not only teacher but matron of Gryffindor and Deputy Headmistress. It wasn't fair! Why was he being treated in such a manner? How was it his fault some nutter was after him and had escaped from a prison, that according to many in the wizarding isles was impossible to break out of. Obviously not, otherwise I'd be allowed to go to Hogsmeade, thought Harry sourly.
"Mister Potter...Mister Potter!"
Harry turned his gaze towards his professor as she called his name, and he was surprised to see the painful expression on his professor's face as she looked at him. "You may go Mister Potter. Return to your common room. Please understand Harry that the staff does not wish anything bad to happen to you."
"Snape sure wouldn't care," muttered Harry.
"Professor Snape Mister Potter. I don't know what your issue is with Severus, but you would do well to treat him with respect befitting a professor."
"He doesn't deserve it! He does nothing but bully me since I set foot in Potions in my first year! He's always taking points from Gryffindor and lets the Slytherins, especially Malfoy, get away with sabotaging potions of other students in our combined Slytherin-Gryffindor class. He even picks on Neville and doesn't let me correct any mistakes, just vanishes it. He's also mean to Hermione...doesn't let her answer questions at all in class and says she's an ‘insufferable know-it-all,'" he said in a mocking tone.
"Miss Granger does have a problem with parroting from a textbook and writing more than is asked for in terms of homework assignments," said Minerva. "We have attempted to bring that up with Miss Granger but as for Severus's comment about her, that was uncalled for. However, Miss Granger needs to learn to restrain herself in class and allow other children to answer as well as learn not to parrot from a textbook and give her own opinions formulated by her own thoughts. However, we are here to discuss you Mister Potter, not Miss Granger or Severus's lack of teaching qualities. Until I can discuss this with the Headmaster and Madam Hooch you cannot take part in Quidditch practices or go outside except to your classes of Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures this semester. Any further comment about how it is unfair," she said as she pursed her lips, "will result in me not speaking to the Headmaster or Madam Hooch at all. Now, that is all I wanted to speak to you about today. Please return to your common room. "I I'll inform the other professors that you're excused from classes today and tomorrow."
"I'm capable of going to class Professor."
"I see," said Professor McGonagall. "Regardless Mr. Potter, I will excuse you from classes today and tomorrow to digest this information. Run along now to your common room Potter."
Instead of going back to his common room like Professor McGonagall had told him to, Harry instead headed outside to the Black Lake. There was a chill in the air due to it being mid-autumn and a drizzle was falling upon the grounds outside, bringing with it a haze upon the earth. He knew Ron would likely complain about Harry getting off classes for two days, but he also knew Hermione would say that wasn't fair. It wasn't his fault that the professor was giving him two days to ‘process' being potentially kicked off his house team. "It's not fair," said Harry, throwing a pebble into the Black Lake. What was McGonagall going to do if she caught him outside? Give him detention? Though, with the way Divination was going so far, Harry couldn't deny he was glad to be out of that class. The moment he stepped inside that classroom, Professor Trelawney said he was going to die. It was such a pointless class too come to think of it. Why did Dumbledore allow it as an elective?
"Alright there Harry?"
Harry turned his head to see Hagrid walking towards him, Fang following at his heels. Yet, as Fang approached him, the boarhound lunged towards him and Harry turned and fled, the dog chasing him. "Fang! C'mere Fang!" Hagrid's shout didn't dissuade the boarhound at all, and Harry was confused as to why Hagrid's beloved pet was suddenly barking at and chasing him, as well as feeling, for the first time when around Hagrid's dog, fear. Fear that which he had not truly felt these past two years at Hogwarts nor in front of Hagrid's pet Cerberus Fluffy. As Harry looked back over his shoulder, all he saw was a giant black dog running after him. Harry couldn't explain the fear he had as the dog chased him but it was like he had lost control of his instincts...his senses...as if he was possessed.
Out of fear, Harry pulled out his wand, firing a spell over his shoulder at the canine, gasping out a choked "Stupefy," and was rewarded with a yelp from the dog as the spell hit the canine. With the dog momentarily stunned, it allowed Hagrid to catch up with Fang and grab him before he could regain his senses and continue the pursuit.
"Sorry ‘bout that Harry. Don' know what got into him," said Hagrid. "Bad Fang...that's Harry. You know him," he scolded the dog who just growled. Hagrid sensed that Harry was frightened so told Harry he would see the boy later and took Fang back to his hut, leaving the adolescent alone and breathing hard, staring with wide eyes after Hagrid and Fang. Once Fang and Hagrid were out of sight, Harry exhaled and collapsed onto the ground, looking down at his hands and body to see them shaking.
What was that about? The question bounced around in his mind, yet Harry couldn't come up with an answer. Fang was usually a good dog who didn't mind being around Harry and was relatively friendly to everyone, so far as Harry knew. At least, the canine had been friendly to Harry since meeting each other in his first year as well as being relatively okay with Hermione and Ron. He sat there on the grass, clutching the wand in his hand as he tried to figure out why Fang had growled at and chased him, but his mind drew a blank. Harry didn't know much about animals. The Dursleys had never allowed a pet into their home, not even Dudley aside from that pet tortoise when they'd been younger. But other than that, there had been no pets in the home. Aunt Petunia hated to have fur in her home and muddy paw prints as much as she hated Harry tracking mud on the floors when he came in from working in the garden.
The autumn chill blew through his clothes and not for the first time did Harry curse the fact that he had to live with such ungrateful people all because his aunt was his mother's sister. All his life he had wished for someone to care for him, tried his best to please his aunt and uncle yet it was never enough. He'd thought things would be different when he came to Hogwarts but he'd discovered over his previous two years in the magical world that they could be just as finicky and prone to hate as any muggle when faced with something new or betrayal thrown in their faces. Even Herminone, a Muggleborn, seemed to know more about Harry than himself and it was disconcerting. Having everyone expecting him to be someone he was not, be something he was not, all because of something that he couldn't remember from twelve years ago. Harry could admit to himself that he wasn't the best student but he wasn't the worst either. Yes, he felt like he was woefully unprepared, even in his third year in the magical world to handle the magical wonder of the place but really the magical wonder had disappeared after his second year when he'd discovered just how cruel his fellow peers could be, even those among Gryffindor with the whole Chamber of Secrets and being accused of being the Heir of Slytherin just because he could speak Parsletongue.
Harry truthfully didn't consider the Dursleys his home, even if he knew they were his only family. Well, Uncle Vernon could probably take Dudley and leave whenever he wanted since Vernon Dursley was only his uncle through marriage and had no blood relation to Harry at all. Dudley certainly wouldn't miss him...no neither would his aunt and uncle if something happened to him. It was probably a miracle that his relatives hadn't hurt him much beyond throwing him in his cupboard without meals for days at a time or occasionally smacked him around. Sure, they were remiss in their duties of love which was not lost between them but there was still a part of Harry, deep down, that even though he knew it was a lost cause, wished for them to be proud of him and to hear that they loved him. He didn't say this to his friends as Ron wouldn't understand what it was like to grow up in the Muggle world and Hermione would tell him to tell a teacher but what could a teacher do? No matter how much he or his relatives hated it, they were the only family and home that Harry had until he turned eighteen and could leave finally. Yet even then, Harry knew no matter what he did, he would never gain their affection, their love or their approval. To the Dursleys, Harry was something dirty beneath their shoes...an orphan. It was that fear of losing his friends, fear of disobeying the Dursleys, that Harry did poorly in school and didn't take his classes seriously despite being entranced with the magical world when he had been introduced to it on his eleventh birthday by Hagrid.
Fear of losing his friends, mainly his first friend in Ron Weasley, was why Harry continued to do poorly in school. Ron, despite being born a wizard didn't seem to care much about grades. It was like he preferred to just skate through life on the most average and easy grades possible without putting in the effort. Whereas his other best friend, Hermione Granger, well he had to admit there were times when Professor Snape was right about her being a know-it-all and she was certainly bossy and a nag when it came to homework and studying. Hermione didn't seem to want to be beaten by anyone in their classes. Was that why she had spoken last year of taking all the electives she could their third year? Wanting an easy grade but also fear of losing Ron's friendship if he took any other class besides Divination was exactly why he had signed up for the class.
"Mister Potter. I thought I told you to go to your common room," said Professor McGonagall as she approached Potter, seeing him sitting down by the Black Lake. It was Thursday and their first game was on the sixth of November. The woman shuddered slightly as she felt the cold of the dementors though they knew better then to come onto the school grounds. Harry frowned as he saw his professor coming across the grounds towards him. He knew his friends were likely in Divination right now, it being the first class of the day along with Arithmancy and Muggle Studies electives. However, as she drew closer, she could see Harry was shaking. "Mister Potter, whatever is the matter?"
Harry found no words to respond to his professor and even if he had, would she have believed him? His Head of House had never believed him before when he had gone to her with something he felt was wrong...even if he had been wrong in the end like with thinking Professor Snape was the one after the Sorcerer's Stone in his first year when it turned out to be Professor Quirrel...or rather Voldemort who was harbored on the back of Professor Quirrel's head. Still, everyone said that Professor Snape had been a death eater, at least the Weasleys believed he had been so, so how trustful could his potions professor be in reality? "Nothing's the matter," said Harry. "You wouldn't believe me anyway."
"Fuck off," said Harry, getting to his feet and moving back towards the castle.
"Detention Mister Potter and fifty points from Gryffindor!" His professor's words seemed to float in one ear and out the other as Harry ignored his professor while continuing to stride across the grounds, still shaken up even if he tried not to let it show and hid it instead behind his anger. Crying never did him any good, not at the Dursleys and not here at Hogwarts where he was expected to be strong and couldn't show weakness to his peers. None of them understood what his life was like, not even Hermione and Ron truly and mainly that was because Harry didn't want them to know. It was bad enough to know that Ron and the twins knew about his family putting bars on his window during his second summer after the fiasco with Dobby showing up at the Dursleys. Nothing would change so what was the point of crying about it or telling someone when everyone...Dumbledore..said it was best for Harry to remain at the Dursleys?
Harry found himself running down to the dungeons on Friday morning, Wood's lecture on tactics for Saturday's game against Hufflepuff spilling over into the time the second bell rang singling the start of classes for the second period. They had only learned they were playing against Hufflepuff that morning when Oliver had gathered them out onto the Quidditch Pitch, saying they weren't taking the match seriously and that Cedric Diggory was captain and had put together a good team this year. Fred had insisted they were taking it very seriously, but Oliver hadn't believed them, this being his last year before he graduated from Hogwarts.
Harry had found himself avoiding Hagrid the next day at breakfast in the Great Hall and had yet to receive a slip detailing the incident of his detention from Professor McGonagall. His housemates had been upset that he had cost them fifty points though it was nothing compared to the one hundred fifty-point loss in his first year where the entire house had shunned him and been angry with him. Well, it had been him, Hermione and Neville that had each cost Gryffindor fifty points each for being out of bed after curfew in their first year but Harry had seemed to get the brunt of his house's shunning because of who he was and what he represented...both things that Harry didn't want but nobody cared at all. Even Ron couldn't believe what had happened. Now, they were facing Hufflepuff for their first match of the year all due to Draco pretending to still be injured from provoking Buckbeak instead of paying attention to Hagrid's lessons.
Harry found himself running down to the dungeons on Friday morning, Wood's lecture on tactics for Saturday's game against Hufflepuff spilling over into the time the second bell rang singling the start of classes for the second period. They had only learned they were playing against Hufflepuff that morning when Oliver had gathered them out onto the Quidditch Pitch, saying they weren't taking the match seriously and that Cedric Diggory was captain and had put together a good team this year. Fred had insisted they were taking it very seriously, but Oliver hadn't believed them, this being his last year before he graduated from Hogwarts.
Harry had found himself avoiding Hagrid the next day at breakfast in the Great Hall and had yet to receive a slip detailing the incident of his detention from Professor McGonagall. His housemates had been upset that he had cost them fifty points though it was nothing compared to the one hundred fifty-point loss in his first year where the entire house had shunned him and been angry with him. Well, it had been him, Hermione and Neville that had each cost Gryffindor fifty points each for being out of bed after curfew in their first year, but Harry had seemed to get the brunt of his house's shunning because of who he was and what he represented...both things that Harry didn't want but nobody cared at all. Even Ron couldn't believe what had happened. Now, they were facing Hufflepuff for their first match of the year all due to Draco pretending to still be injured from provoking Buckbeak instead of paying attention to Hagrid's lessons.
Harry threw open the door of the Potions classroom, class having already started when he arrived for some students looked up from their cauldrons as others were finishing up finding ingredients or were coming back from the student storage cupboard where ingredients for Potions classes were kept. He didn't see Snape anywhere and breathed a sigh of relief, making his way over to his usual spot next to Ron at their table, hoping he could pretend he had been here all this time. Unfortunately for Harry, he didn't get very far when Professor Snape swooped down on him like an oversized bat. "Well Mister Potter. How nice of you to join us at last," said Snape. "Didn't bother deeming it prudent to come to class on time like the rest of your classmates?"
"No sir," said Harry. "I was at a Quidditch..."
"Yes and of course the Boy-Who-Lived can't be bothered to attend classes like a mundane student. Such a thing as being on time is far beneath you. Quidditch is not more important than your lessons Mister Potter," snapped Snape. "That will be fifty points arriving to class late," he said, and Harry scowled at his professor as he looked up to meet Snape's gaze. "I expect you to be on time like everyone else, regardless of missing important Quidditch tactics or not."
"Git," muttered Ron, causing a tightening of Severus's mouth.
"Detention Mister Weasley and five points from Gryffindor for insulting a professor," snapped Severus without looking at the Weasley brat. "As you can see Potter, we've already started our lesson for today. Get to work," he snapped at the class who were watching the exchange between Potter and Snape and the third years went back to concentrating on their potions. As Harry began walking to his place where Ron was, Snape spoke again. "Oh, Mister Potter, you won't be sitting with Weasley or near Granger. Granger would likely do all your work for you and Weasley can't make a potion to save his life," he said with a sneer, causing some of his Slytherin students to laugh. Ron's face turned red with anger while Hermione's cheeks became pink with embarrassment and she ducked her head, trying to avoid the snickers from the Slytherin side. "You'll be working with...let's see...Nott," he said, pointing to a weedy and stringy boy. "However, you will be responsible for making your own potion. Now go take your seat and get started unless you want to be here tonight to finish your potion. Oh, and Mister Potter...detention for arriving late to class. No talking in class," he said to the class before resuming his watch over them by sweeping around the classroom as Harry reluctantly made his way to the Slytherin side of the room, joining Theodore Nott who didn't glance up at him. Setting his bag on the floor, he pulled out a piece of parchment and his copy of Magical Drafts and Potions along with an ink bottle and quill.
Once these were set up on his side of the table, Harry sat down and began writing down the list of ingredients, discovering they were making the Girding Potion in class. He began writing down the ingredients so he could know what to gather when he went to the student supply cupboard, his quill scratching at the parchment. Anger clouded his vision as he wrote down the ingredients for the potion; dragonfly thoraxes, doxy eggs, flying seahorses, and fairy wings. He then opened his potions book and moved to the appendix to look up the Girding Potion before flipping to that page in his textbook and reading over the instructions. "Potter, you had best get yourself together before you lose your house more points," murmured Theodore without looking up from his own cauldron as he measured out the toasted dragonfly thoraxes, his potion turning pink.
Harry didn't respond to the Slytherin, instead setting his quill down and stomping off towards the student supply cupboard to gather his ingredients, hearing Snape shout "Fifteen points from Gryffindor for your temper tantrum Potter," but Harry didn't respond as he looked through the cupboard for ingredients, finding the flying seahorses easily enough as well as the bottle of doxy eggs. The dragonfly thoraxes and fairy wings were a bit more difficult to find, in fact there were no fairy wings left and Harry frowned to himself so attempted to climb the shelf, only to knock down a couple jars of ingredients he didn't know, their contents spilling onto the floor at his feet. As if he had bat hearing, Professor Snape swooped in on the child, seeing a foul liquid splashed onto Potter's robes. There was a sizzling sound as the potion began eating away at Harry's skin on his hands, some of the potion having splashed on his hands and face when he'd knocked the potion down. Immediately, the burning started, and a gasp of pain left him as he stared transfixed and in shock at the skin on his hands beginning to be eaten away, Harry desperately attempting to shield his hands against his body, his left cupping his right hand. His right hand was his wand hand, and he didn't want to lose the ability to practice magic. Not only that, but it was also beginning to eat through his robe and into his shirt.
Still, Harry did his best to keep his mouth shut and hide his pain, knowing that the Dursleys never wanted to hear his cries and he certainly didn't want or need Malfoy, Snape or any other Slytherins using this as another means of taunting him for being weak. Harry, even at thirteen, understood that most people, be they children or adults, expected him to be this strong person even though he was still a child himself. He huddled in on himself, stepping back and stepping onto some of the glass shards which created a crunching sound underfoot as they were stepped on, his breathing becoming heavy as he tried to hold in his cries, tried to hold in the pain he was feeling and hide it away from the world, or at least away from his classmates he was aware of outside the storage cupboard's three walls. Thankfully, though he bumped into the one of the lower shelves, he didn't knock anything else over to the floor. "Potter! Get that robe off now if you don't want to end up in the hospital wing!"
Snape ignored his other students as he rushed forward to the Potter boy who seemed hard of hearing, the child winching as his skin sizzled and began to be eaten away. It didn't take Severus long to see the burns appear on the child's skin nor the flames licking his hand and other exposed skin as the ingredient's secondary property began. The sigh of the smashed jar on the floor, their shards everywhere also caught his attention. Harry's gaze seemed transfixed on his flesh being eaten away and he banished the boy's robe and shirt away, until the boy began screaming as he was burned which caused some of his classmates to look towards the supply cupboard. Was the boy that daft that he didn't realize he should remove his clothing by getting potentially something corrosive on it? What was he thinking, of course the boy was daft. This was Potter after all, an annoying and arrogant brat with his head in the clouds and strutting through the school like he owned it, just like his father had done, always getting into trouble and being out after hours. Severus couldn't prove it, of course, but he just knew Potter took after his father.
In his rush to remove the offending clothing from Potter's body before he received any more damage, Severus didn't get a chance to see or inquire as to just what ingredient or ingredients had been knocked to the floor but had a guess and when the flames started on his hands, Potter again standing there like a great big lump of dung, Severus had a guess as to what it was. Perhaps he had been a bit hasty in banishing the child's robe and shirt, but he was sure that Albus and Minerva would have his head if anything happened to their precious golden boy. "Idiot boy! When you're told to do something, do it Potter or do you have no sense at all of self-preservation?!" Harry yelped as if suddenly feeling the cold of the dungeons against his bare skin, as if suddenly realizing he was naked to his waist. It was this cold air on his flesh that caused him to snap at Snape, lifting his furious tear-streaked gaze towards his hated professor. In his anger and pain, it didn't occur to Harry that Snape was attempting to help him, albeit not out of concern for the child's welfare but because he feared Minerva and Albus.
"Snape, you bastard! What did you do that for?!"
"Watch your tongue Mister Potter or I'll use it as another potions ingredient," snapped Snape. He knew Potter needed medical attention, but he also knew that if he left his class of third-year Gryffindors and Slytherins he might not have a Potions classroom to come back to. There were others of course for other years, but he'd be most displeased if any of his classrooms, let alone any part of the dungeons, were destroyed. He'd have to send the boy through the floo to Pomfrey for medical attention then since he had a class and inquire as to the potion used later though he had a suspicion that Potter had just cost him 200 galleons in a very rare potions ingredient, dragon stomach acid. "Come along Potter." When Potter didn't follow him out of the supply cupboard, Snape snarled and turned, grabbing the boy, and pulling him along by the arm.
Potter continued screaming in pain, screams that were interspersed by quiet whimpers, the sounds grating on Snape's nerves even if he understood logically the teenager was in pain, but it was his own fault for throwing a temper tantrum and not arriving at class on time with the rest of his peers. Harry slowed his steps, trying to avoid going anywhere with Snape, biting his lip until it turned red from blood due to the pressure of biting into the soft, thin flesh to keep from crying out or showing any weakness...discomfort or pain as he had learned to do when Uncle Vernon whacked him, his screams and whimpers subsiding. Even then, despite his pain, Potter resisted going anywhere with his professor, the man not loosening his grip, lest the boy make a run for it. He released the boy, only to pull out his wand and hold his arm out. "Diffindo," he said, severing some of his robe sleeve off which was then thrown onto the boy and pressed down, yet even the acid ate through this as well, however it served its purpose enough to smother the flames. He was lucky that he just had flames on his hand, the stupid boy. Severus then grabbed Potter again, dragging him once more down the dungeon corridors until he stopped in front of a woman reading a book with a dog at her feet. He whispered the password, the woman glancing up at Severus before the portrait swung open and dragged Potter inside. Pulling out his wand, Harry flinched but Snape just pointed it at the empty hearth and caused a fire to appear before marching over and grabbing some floo powder from the mantle, which was thrown in, turning the flames green.
His quarters were connected to the hospital wing, something that Albus had insisted on though he hadn't expected to ever use them with a student. Then again, Severus never had students come to his private quarters either. Perhaps he should have blinded Potter instead but could possibly remove the memory from the boy after he was healed. "Poppy," Severus shouted as he knelt and stuck his head into the flames, seeing the matron cataloguing some potions in a glass cupboard.
"Severus! One moment," Poppy said as she closed the cupboard and then rushed towards the hearth against one wall of the infirmary. "Now what is the matter? Did something happen?"
"Potter had an accident with a potion ingredient. I suspect it was Dragon stomach acid," said Severus, "given the flames on his body and that's one of the only potion ingredients I know that can do such a thing," he said. "I managed to smother the flames, but he'll need treatment and I have a class to go back and teach," he said.
"Heavens. Send him through Severus and I'll take care of it."
"Right. Oh, and Poppy, you may need to restrain the brat. He's been behaving like a toddler."
"I'm sure we'll be fine," said Poppy, allowing Severus to move away from the fire and grab Potter who was now crying from the pain of his skin being eaten away and his body burning. Severus grabbed Potter and threw him unceremoniously in the floo as he yelled, "Hogwarts Infirmary," and with a whoosh, Potter had been whisked away. Severus frowned at his missing sleeve but there was no time to get new robes on, he'd already spent too much time away from his students and hurried back.
Coming out onto the Quidditch Pitch, that Saturday morning, the weather was overcast and stormy with high winds that caused the players to sway as they staggered out onto the muddy pitch. Around them, the stands were filled with students and staff alike, all wearing raincoats and some having umbrellas as well. Above them, lightning broke through the thunderous overcast clouds as the two teams made their way onto the pitch and towards Madam Hooch. "I want a good game both of you," she said as Cedric and Oliver walked up and shook hands.
"We know Madam Hooch. We aren't playing Slytherin after all," said Fred or was it, George? This brought some laughter from both teams, both knowing how dirty Slytherin played.
"Mount your brooms," said Madam Hooch, having to shout above the wind and thunder. Already Harry's glasses were splattered with rain, already they were beginning to fog up and he knew it would get worse as the match wore on. Still, the two teams mounted their brooms, Wood and Diggory having released hands, and kicked off at the sound of Madam Hooch's whistle as a bolt of lightning appeared and rent the sky, the woman herself mounting her own broom and flying into the sky as she released not only the Quaffle but the Bludgers and Snitch as well. The sounds of the cheering crowd were swept away by the ferocious wind as the two teams soared into the air, Angelina Johnson getting the Quaffle and racing off with Heidi Macavoy, one of the Hufflepuff Chasers, on her tail. Harry took his place hovering over the rest of the players, trying to keep an eye on both Diggory and an eye out for the snitch. Yet, in the blinding wind and rain, he was not sure how he would manage such a task. Not with the way the rain lashed his face and fogged up his glasses.
As it turned out, the potions ingredient he had knocked to the floor and gotten on himself was dragon stomach acid, one of a handful of magical animal stomach acids, each having different properties yet all having a corrosive and acidic property to them. A rare and expensive potion ingredient that Snape had told Harry he was going to pay back, every two hundred gallons of it. Harry didn't know how he was able to get that money back or see why he had to pay back for an accident in the first place, but it was just another detention he was getting. The second ingredient that had been knocked down was a jar of powdered augrey feathers. Madam Pomfrey had bandaged his hand which she said shouldn't be used at all, meaning Harry couldn't attend classes. He'd begged her though to let him go to the Quidditch game and participate and against Poppy's better judgement she allowed it, having a feeling the boy would rush out even if he didn't have permission so had bandaged it and spelled the bandages to be resistant to water. Nevertheless, Harry was told to use that hand sparingly while it healed as the skin had to be regrown, but she'd told the boy that there didn't appear to be any nerve damage.
Harry found it was difficult for either team to stay on their brooms with the ferocious wind and the rain, rain that lashed his glasses and made it difficult for him to see. Within five minutes Harry was soaked to the skin, struggling to hold his broom straight as it was tossed about in the wind and frozen, hardly able to see anything through the rain let alone find the snitch. He couldn't hear the cheers of the crowd below him as goals were scored for both sides, could barely focus on his teammates at all due to the rain and the wind lashing about his ears. Soon Harry lost track of time as he struggled to fight the weather. The crowd below was hidden beneath a sea of soaked cloaks, coats and battered umbrellas and twice he nearly hit another player, whether it was a team mate or an opponent he couldn't tell. The sky began to get darker, as if night had come early. Unable to see with the rain lashing at his glasses, forcing Harry to try wiping at them with the sleeve of his quidditch robes, he felt a sharp pain in the side of his head as a bludger hit him square on, unable to dodge in time due to not seeing it. He felt a sharp crack against his skull and his eyesight went black, Harry unable barely dodging a second bludger sent his way by Michael McManus, one of the Hufflepuff reserve beaters, for Anthony Rickett was unable to play in the match.
With the first flash of lightning came the sound of Madam Hooch's whistle and Harry could glimpse Wood gesturing to him and the rest of the team to the ground. As one, the team of scarlet of and gold flew down to meet their captain, splashing down in the mud. "I called for time out! Here, under here," shouted Wood over the thunder and rain, over the wind that threatened to steal his voice as he led his team beneath the stands where they could get dry.
"Wood this is madness! We can barely keep flying straight," said Katie Bell, one of their chasers. The team huddled together beneath the stands, water dripping off their skin though it was somewhat dryer underneath the stands. Harry took his glasses off and hurriedly wiped them off on his robes, though it did no good.
"What's the score?"
"We're fifty points up," said Wood, "but unless we get the snitch caught soon, we'll be playing until midnight at this rate." In the darkness underneath the stands, none noticed the head injury that Harry had received and Harry ignored the blood dripping down the side of his head in his efforts to not be called out and Harry certainly wasn't going to be forced to sit out the rest of the game when it meant they would have to forfeit the match. He knew how important this match was to Wood, being the seventh year's last year at Hogwarts. He wasn't about to let his captain down. Who cared if he had a head injury?
"I've got no chance with these on," he said, holding up his glasses. In that moment, there was the light of a wand and Hermione hurried into the stands.
"No really, I'm fine Hermione," begged Harry, turning to her with pleading eyes to not say anything and wishing at the same time in that moment, that she would shut her mouth.
"Harry, are you injured?" questioned Wood, coming closer to peer at his seeker.
"It's fine Wood. It won't hinder my ability to get the snitch."
"Harry, perhaps you should sit this out," Wood said. "A head injury's nasty business, especially if you don't get it treated. Are you feeling..."
"Damnit Wood, I'm fine!" Harry shouted, causing Wood to frown at his seeker, the man casting his own lighting spell to see the injury for himself. Wood was no healer, but he could see that Harry's head was dripping blood from his temple and looked caved in.
"Harry, as your captain I'm going to have to..." But he didn't get to finish as Harry dashed out from underneath the bleachers and into the open again where he mounted his broom and kicked off hard into the air, rising fast as he hurriedly put his glasses on. As he rose into the sky, a flash of lightning revealed something within the stands and he squinted through the rain, a black dog sitting in the topmost empty stands, hunched down against the weather. His hands let go of his broom and it dropped a few feet but when he blinked and looked again, the dog was gone. There was the sound of the whistle once more as Madam Hooch called an end to the timeout and Harry found himself once more joined by his teammates as they flew up into the air, the match once more starting.
Harry was still numb with cold and freezing but he refused to go back down for attention for his head injury. Harry urged his broom through the air, straining to see the snitch and looking in every direction possible. This was getting dangerous, and Harry needed to get the snitch quickly. "Ahhhhhhhhh!" He looked about and had to dodge Alicia Spinnet crashing to the ground, her broom tail on fire as her broom was struck by a bolt of lightning. Preoccupied with Alicia falling to the ground, Harry didn't see the snitch until Wood shouted at him.
"Harry! Harry the snitch!" Harry turned and there was Cedric, pelting across the pitch towards the golden winged ball that flew up into the clouds, flew up away from the pitch itself. Instantly, Harry leaned on his broom, urging it to go faster.
"Come on," Harry said as he flew directly into the thunderstorm and clouds above the stands. Rain and wind lashed his face, threatening to send both seekers off course. Harry, being the lightest on his team, had a horrible time staying in a forward and upward motion. He was catching up to Diggory, the stands and pitch now far below him but when he glanced down he could make out a hundred dementors standing beneath him on the pitch. He turned his head forward once more, trying not to think about high up he was though a sudden fear filled him, a fear that he had not felt before when on a broom. Suddenly a dementor was swoping towards him and he swerved to the side as the creature flew past him yet they seemed to be not only below but in the air around him.
Dodging Cedric who was suddenly struck by lightning, Harry flew ever higher as he watched Cedric fall, the high temperatures beginning to make his broom freeze as well as his glasses frost up. He strained to see the snitch, spotting it fluttering tiny wings as quick as it could up into the air, but he was forced to dodge a windblown umbrella that nearly knocked him off course. Around him were clouds and darkness, the sounds below muffled for he was so high...so high and obscured that none could see him. He felt like he was floating as a white mist began to crowd around his vision, envelope his mind in a dense fog from which he could not find his way out. "Stand aside...stand aside you silly girl."
"Not Harry, please!"
"I'll give you one more chance. Step aside and your life will be spared."
"No please...please I'll do anything."
There was a woman...screaming? Why was she screaming? Why was he flying? He heard a cold high-pitched laugh and a flash of green light filled his vision, a choked scream coming from him and there was another scream, one in his head. He had to help her! Yet there was another voice...a different voice. She was going to be murdered, the woman that was screaming!
"Rest my kits...we'll be safe. No...don't!" Yet, it was so faint in his mind that Harry didn't know if he were imagining it or not and strangely, Harry felt something stir within him, a temporary feeling of safety, before his world shattered. Harry didn't see the second bludger coming towards him. No, there was a sudden pain as it hit him in the small of his back, sending him flying forward off his broom. He didn't have time to scream as something hit him in his side and he fell, not even feeling the impact as he fell hundreds of feet to the earth below.
"Lucky the ground was so soft."
"I can't believe nobody used a spell to stop his fall."
"I've never seen the headmaster so furious before."
Harry struggled up through the fog in his mind as voices began to filter into his consciousness and slowly, he opened his eyes to see his fellow teammates standing around his bed as well as Ron and Hermione. He saw his team, muddy and soaked from the rain standing there around his bed. "Urrngh...where..."
"You're in the hospital wing Mister Potter," said Poppy as she bustled over. "You took a nasty tumble from several hundred feet up in the air. And flying with a head injury! What were you thinking?! Your skull is caved in Mister Potter, not to mention several broken ribs and a broken back. Let's not speak of the potential concussion you have as well!! Even your father didn't pull a stunt like that when he was on the Quidditch team!"
"What happened?" Harry questioned, ignoring the matron's words.
"Dumbledore was furious that dementors were on the pitch," said Fred. "I don't think anybody knew what to do when you fell."
"What...we...we didn't lose?"
"Diggory caught the snitch just after you fell," said George. "He didn't know you had fallen until after he looked down and saw you on the ground. He tried to call the match off or Wood to agree to another match when you were better but even Wood admitted that the match was won fair and square."
"Where is Wood?"
"Still in the shower. We think he's trying to drown himself," said George.
Hermione was holding a bundle in her arms, her voice so quiet that Harry had to strain to hear her words. "Harry...when you fell..."
"I'm sorry Harry. There's nothing that can be done. Oh, Harry when you fell well..." She opened the cloth and spilled the remnants of his Nimbus 2001. "It drifted off and hit the Whomping Willow," said Hermione. Harry didn't hear her as he stared down at the broken pieces of his broom.
"That's enough. Mister Potter needs his rest," said Poppy, ushering the students out of her infirmary. However, Minerva ended up coming in after the students began filing out and walked over to Mister Potter, causing some of the team to stop walking.
"Mister Potter, what possessed you to..." Her shoes crunched on the broom and she frowned before pulling out her wand and banishing the pieces of wood. "What made you fly with a potential concussion? Do you have a death wish?"
"I knew I'd be benched for the rest of the match. Professor...we don't have a reserve seeker and it was important to..."
"Mister Wood has already informed me that he tried to stop you from flying and you refused to listen to your captain," said Minerva. "Even Wood, eager as he is this year to win a match would not want his teammates being at risk! You showed horrible judgement there Mister Potter and therefore, this action is just further proof that I was right."
"Mister Potter, you are hereby banned from Quidditch. You are not allowed to attend matches or even practices anymore for the rest of the year nor participate in Quidditch meetings."
"But Professor that isn't fair! What about Gryffindor?! Our winning the cup?!"
"I can find another seeker to take your place for the rest of the year Mister Potter. If I catch you anywhere near the Quidditch Pitch, even if it is just walking around the area, I will give you detentions until the end of the year. I'm sorry Potter," she said, laying her hand on Harry's shoulder but the teen jerked away. "But this is for your own safety. Black is still out there and Madam Hooch cannot supervise all matches and practices," she said before turning and leaving, leaving a sobbing Harry in the infirmary.
Harry received his first detention slip Monday morning at breakfast from Professor McGonagall, the teen barely glancing at it. "Harry, it'll be worse for you if you don't look at the slip and see who you have detention with," said Hermione. "Really, I can't believe you mouthed off to Professor McGonagall."
"It's brilliant. Didn't know you had it in you mate. Never heard you swear before," said Ron joyfully, clapping Harry on the back.
"Don't encourage him Ron," said Hermione. Harry frowned at Hermione but glanced down at the slip before groaning.
Mister Potter you will be serving detention with Argus Filch tonight at 8 PM for mouthing off to me last week. Please be prompt at Filch's office at 8 PM or you will end up being assigned another detention.
"I have detention with Filch tonight," said Harry.
"Bad luck mate. Could be worse though. You could be stuck in detention with Snape."
"Well, it's your own fault Harry for cursing at a professor," said Hermione. "You have to face the consequences at some point."
"Honestly Hermione, you don't have to act like a goody two-shoes all the time," said Ron.
"At least I have my priorities right with studying unlike you Ronald where you slack off and play wizard's chess or talk with Harry about Quidditch all the time," snapped Hermione. "Maybe if you put more effort into your studies, the both of you," here she looked between the boys, "you both might accomplish something useful and get better grades. Not to mention if Harry would stay out of trouble."
"Harry's the best in our year!"
"Harry's only the best in Defense," said Hermione.
"I don't go looking for trouble," said Harry. "Trouble usually finds me."
"Please Harry. If it hadn't been for Ron's stupidity in first year, we would never have run into Fluffy."
"If you hadn't insisted on following us, you wouldn't have gotten caught," said Ron. "Did you ever wonder why you didn't have any friends at all Hermione? It's because you always must be..."
Harry tuned his friends out, not wanting to listen to their bickering at all, a fight which was cut short when Hermione ended up leaving the Gryffindor table in a huff, heading for the doors leading from the Great Hall. This left the boys together at the table, Harry frowning at the spot where Hermione had been before sighing. Sometimes Ron didn't think before speaking though Harry knew his best mate had a point about Hermione following them out of the common room in first year. He scrunched up the slip of paper that Professor McGonagall had given him, let alone that it was with Filch. Still, it could be worse, he knew. He could have detention with Snape of all of people and his Potions professor would likely spend the entire time comparing him to his father. Harry still wasn't sure, three years into his schooling and the wizarding world, what Snape's problem was with him or what his problems had been with his father. Really, how could Dumbledore allow someone like Snape to teach in the first place? All Snape really did was write instructions up on the board and then swoop around like an overgrown bat, terrorizing both himself and poor Neville. He didn't hear the talk around him until Ron tapped him on the shoulder. "Hmm? What is it, Ron?"
"You alright mate? You spaced out there for a bit."
"Yeah...I'm just...I can't believe that I'm banned from Quidditch," said Harry. "I mean, how is it my fault there's some nutter after me," he said. Ron shrugged in response to Harry's statement, not having an answer for his friend.
"Come on, we best get to Divination," said Ron before the teen stuffed another mouthful of food into his mouth and grabbed a bun, not seeing the look of disgust that passed over Harry's face at this action. "Easy A right Harry?"
"Yeah," said Harry, his mind turning over what Filch might possibly make him do in detention tonight and wondering if he should even go or skip it. He could take his invisibility cloak with him and just hide under it during his detention, maybe cast Confundus at the crabby caretaker so he'd be confused about Harry's lack of arrival and then head back to bed or just stroll the grounds. Or should he try his hand at casting the memory charm spell like Lockhart had attempted last year on him and Ron down in the Chamber? The two friends left the Great Hall to make the journey up to the North Tower where they had their divination class with other students from all four houses, one of the only times all four houses had classes together. Yet Harry sometimes wished he had signed up for a different class besides Divination as every class Professor Trelawney kept predicting ways that Harry would die before the end of the year. Nor did his professor seem to know what she was talking about.
Harry found it difficult to get through his classes that day, not yet having the chance to fully process the fact that he could no longer play Quidditch nor attend practices without risking getting in trouble from Professor McGonagall. Not that he could anyway without no longer having a broom but there seemed nothing for him to do to occupy his time. On top of not being able to go attend Hogsmeade visits, Harry found himself bored with his free time. Hermione had told him to study more since Quidditch was no longer taking up his time and this had brokered into an argument about how Hermione didn't understand Quidditch at all because she was a girl to which Hermione replied she didn't see the point of flying around on a broomstick when the Seeker was the only important person on the team and that Harry could invest more time into his studies. Furthermore, she had said that it was Harry's own fault by wanting to play when he had a head injury and there was no one to blame but himself. This had caused some arguing from Ron who had stepped in, but Harry had left the tower and gone to the owlery instead to visit Hedwig, angry at Hermione and refusing to believe he was responsible for his predicament. If anyone was responsible, it was Hermione for pointing out his injury to Wood and Black for escaping in the first place.
The owlery was a large stone tower on the Hogwarts grounds, resting atop a rock some distance from the castle. The tower inside consisted of a large circular room with a floor covered in straw, owl droppings and regurgitated mouse and rat bones while the walls were either covered in windows or small alcoves and roosts built up the ceiling where owls could perch and rest when not delivering letters for students or staff. There was a cold draft due to the open windows which allowed the owls to fly freely in and out of the tower. "Hedwig?" Harry called as he entered the owlery, climbing a small set of stairs to look out a window. Harry was glad he had come alone to the owlery, unaware of the black dog watching him from some distance away as he had traversed the grounds.
It was dark when Harry left the owlery, saying goodbye to Hedwig and promising to come see her again soon. The wind was chillier, nipping at Harry's robes and he wished he'd thought of bringing his winter cloak with him. As he descended the steps of the owlery, Harry wasn't expecting it to be so late and his stomach rumbled, only realizing with a start that he had missed dinner. Outside the owlery, the air seemed even colder and not just because it was evening. Shivering, Harry descended the steps down the small rocky ledge and then began heading back to the castle, hoping there was still time to end up getting some dinner before heading to Filch's detention. Even though it was cold, Harry found himself dragging his feet and slowing his walk, not wanting to go to detention, a detention that Harry felt he did not deserve at all.
As Harry was making his way to the school's doors, Harry saw Hagrid walking across the grounds. "Hagrid," Harry called, relieved that Fang was not with him. He broke into a jog to catch up with the gameskeeper and his first friend and the man who had taken him to get his school supplies back in first year and Hagrid stopped at Harry's shout. The gameskeeper squinted through the darkness to see Harry running towards him, the normally gentle half-giant frowning at the boy.
"Harry, what're you doing out here?! Out on the ground after dark and y'know you aren't allowed! C'mon, back to the castle with ya," said Hagrid as Harry approached with a smile, a smile that faded as Hagrid grabbed the teen's arm and hauled him back to the castle. "Don't know what ‘cha was thinkin' Harry, being out and about when ‘tis not safe fer ya."
"I was just visiting Hedwig," said Harry. "Hagrid, I can be outside on school grounds! Nobody can keep me in the castle!"
"Only in the day," said Hagrid. "Throwing yer life away like that...can't imagine what yer parents would think," he said as he continued walking up to the castle, forcing Harry to jog to avoid being dragged on the ground with Hagrid's huge strides. Harry's face fell as he heard Hagrid question what his parents would think and tried futilely to pull away from Hagrid's grip, but it wasn't easy, him being a teenager and Hagrid being an adult. As they approached the castle doors, they ran into Professor McGonagall and Flich who had informed Minerva that Potter had not come to his detention.
"Hagrid, oh thank goodness," said Minerva. "Where was he?"
"Said he was coming from the owlery Professor," said Hagrid. "Didn't seem keen on coming back to the castle, said none could keep him inside and from wandering the grounds."
"Trying to get out of detention, is he? I reckon that warrants another detention," said Filch.
"Mister Potter...you seem rather obstinate this year," said Professor McGonagall, "and it will not be tolerated. What do you have to say for yourself?"
"There's no rule against students being out on the grounds," said Harry. "Why is it that everything happens to me? It's not my fault there's some nutter that escaped an inescapable prison according to Hermione and more wasn't done to prevent such a thing from happening in the first place! I can't go to Hogsmeade, and I can't play Quidditch. I'm getting detentions for no reason at all..."
"Enough Mister Potter. You now have another detention to be served after this one, again with Mister Filch tomorrow and forty points for arguing with two professors, as well as fifteen for carelessly not following the rules. I hate to say this but I'm beginning to think Severus is correct in that Albus gives you too much freedom," she said, causing Harry's mouth to drop open in shock and then his cheeks to become red in anger. "Now go with Argus and serve your detention Mister Potter," she said. "Hagrid thank you for finding the boy. You can go back to your hut now."
"Thanks P'fessor," said Hagrid, letting go of Harry and then turning without another word to head home and feed Fang.
"Go on Mister Potter," said McGonagall, shooing Harry out of her sight and Filch grinned, turning and heading back into the castle.
"Shame Dumbledore let go of all the old punishments. You deserve to be lashed boy or hung up in chains," said Filch. "Gods, I miss the screaming of the little troublemakers," he said. "Maybe those Weasley twins would straighten out if they were given a few dozen lashes," he said.
"There's nothing wrong with the Weasley twins. You're just a sour old grouch!"
"They're nasty little urchins who always play pranks instead of focusing on their studies," said Filch. "Sneaking around where they don't belong and making messes for me to clean up with their antics along with the rest of the school. Rather reminiscent of your father and his nasty gang," said Filch. "But you've apparently picked up that trait from your father haven't you Potter? Strutting around the school, getting into mischief and being places where you don't belong...one of these days you'll meet a sticky end," spoke the cranky caretaker as he marched the boy along through the halls, bony hand wrapped around Harry's wrist like a vice from which the teen couldn't escape.
Harry's anger only grew as Filch, a man possibly hated more than Snape by the school, spoke wrongly of both the twins who had stuck up for him in both his first and second years, even coming with Ron to free him from the Dursleys last summer after the fiasco with Dobby, but also of his father. Like Snape, Filch seemed to believe that his father was a horrible man and Harry knew that wasn't true. His father had been a chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team and what was wrong with a few pranks against Slytherins? They likely deserved what they got and the twins...their pranks never hurt anyone to Harry's knowledge.
Harry found himself being led to a room he had never been before in his life, being taken down to the dungeons and through them until they got to a long corridor. They then stopped halfway at a doorway and Filch opened it, pushing the teen inside. "Boy, you'll be washing, drying, folding and sorting laundry today according to year and house," said Filch, heading to a chair and sitting down. "Pipsy!"
"What cans Pipsy be doing for Master Caretaker?" A house elf with green skin, a pointed nose with long bat-like ears and purple eyes walked over, wearing a tea rag with the Hogwarts crest emblazoned on its chest.
"Potter's helping with laundry but don't let him boss you nor your fellow house elves around. He can do his own work."
"Yes, Master Caretaker. Pipsy be telling the other house elves, she does," said Pipsy as she bowed and then hurried to tell the four other house elves who Harry saw were now scattered around the laundry room. They were all wearing tea towels or pillowcases with the Hogwarts crest emblazoned on the front and looked more presentable than when he had seen Dobby the previous year.
"Get to work Potter and you can do this without magic," snapped Filch. "A real kick in the backside or the cane, that's what you need Potter in order to straighten out," said Filch to himself. Harry frowned at the caretaker and then looked around him before asking a question.
"How am I supposed to wash clothes without any water?"
"Oh, I'm sorry Potter. Does the Boy-Who-Lived not know how to wash clothing without magic?" Harry's face turned pink in embarrassment and anger, the third-year Gryffindor feeling both emotions strongly. "Pipsy, take Potter to the lake and pop him back here to fetch water," said Filch. Pipsy came with a couple of buckets and then the elf grabbed Harry's shirt and popped him out of the castle. Harry, who had never traveled by house elf apparition before he found himself at the Black Lake.
"Pipsy? Can you make some light so I can see?"
"Yes Master Potter," said Pipsy as she snapped her fingers and light orbs appeared around her. Harry thanked her and set the buckets on the ground near the water's edge before asking a question. "Do you know Dobby?"
"Pipsy knows of Dobby yes Master Potter. Dobby be working for the Malfoys with Pipsy's brother until last year," said Pipsy. "Dobby was always a strange elf," said Pipsy. "Master Potter best be getting that water so you can continue your detention and not anger Mistress Cat," said Pipsy. With a scowl, Harry dipped the first bucket into the lake, filling it up and then the second one. Once he had the buckets filled up, Pipsy popped him back into the laundry room and Harry was told to pour the water into a large cauldron and then get a fire started to heat up the water. Harry had never started a fire before in his life, but he knew the general idea of it and so went to fetch some wood and kindling to stack beneath the pot which hung within a large fireplace. Filch remained where he was, at the table and watching Potter to make sure he didn't try to sneak off.
Once the water was heating up, lye soap was poured into the cauldron for the purposes of cleaning the clothing and then he had to put the dirty laundry in the cauldron, stirring it with a big spoon. This turned out to be tough work and took him well past curfew to get everything done so that by the time he was done, Harry had to be escorted back to the Gryffindor common room by Filch. After getting into the common room, he made his way straight for the third-year boy's dormitory where he immediately fell onto his bed, pulling his curtains around him and ignoring Ron when he tried to talk to him and ask how his detention was. Anger and humiliation boiled within him as he thought of the upcoming Hogsmeade trip and how it seemed like his professors were worse to him than the previous two years he'd been at school. At least last year they hadn't banned him from Quidditch or even walking around the school or grounds by himself, not even when it had been thought by the students at least that he was the Heir of Slytherin. Damn Black.
Time passed within the school and as the second Hogsmeade trip came up before the Christmas Holidays were to start, Harry found he couldn't seem to escape either his professors' watchful eyes nor the excited chatter and plans of his friends and peers. Even Hermione and Ron were talking about going to Hogsmeade and how they would make sure to bring Harry candy from Honeydukes and while he appreciated the gesture it was nothing like being there and able to tour the village itself which, from what Hermione said, was the only wizarding village in Great Britain but Harry didn't know if that were true or not. Hermione did like to pretend books the secondary almighty authority in her life, next to the professors' being right about everything. Sometimes, her spouting off random tidbits from books she had read or trying to get him and Ron to study all the time was annoying. Sometimes it seemed Hermione didn't understand the concept of relaxing and having fun, her nose always in a book and oblivious to the world around her.
Snow had fallen upon the grounds of Hogwarts and the village of Hogsmeade on the morning of the second trip to the wizarding village. The term was nearly over but for now, on this cold December morning, the students were eager to grace the village of Hogsmeade and its shops with their patronage. Looking out of the clear dial atop the Clock Tower, Harry watched as students walked through the courtyard to go to Hogsmeade, those that had their permission slips signed by their parents or guardians. From his vantage point, he couldn't see the gates of Hogwarts nor Filch who Hermione had said was checking permission slips and he wished that he hadn't tried asking Professor McGonagall and Minister Fudge about going to Hogsmeade, both having refused to sign his form based on not being his guardian and it being safer for him with Black on the loose. Harry, who was not used to being told no at Hogwarts and not thinking of his own safety in the least, decided to do something rather foolish and use his invisibility cloak to sneak into Hogsmeade anyway. Why should he be the only third year not allowed to attend Hogsmeade?
Not thinking of the fact that his boots would make tracks within the snow, Harry headed across the courtyard, not seeing Fred and George tossing snowballs on the other side of the courtyard. The next thing he felt was being grabbed under both arms and dragged through the courtyard. "Clever Harry," said Fred.
"But not clever enough," said George.
"Guys come on. I'm trying to get to Hogsmeade!"
"We know. We'll show you a quicker way."
"Ow," said Harry as he was accidentally bumped into a wall. "Come on guys..."
"Now Harry, join the big boys," said Fred, pulling off Harry's cloak. Harry lifted his head, staring at the twins in anger.
"What are y..."
"Shhhhhhh." Harry was then handed a blank piece of parchment and glanced down at it.
"What's this rubbish?"
Fred snorted. "What's this rubbish he says? That there Harry is the secret to our success. It's a wretch giving it up, but we've decided your needs are greater than ours. George, if you will."
As Harry stared, George raised his wand and tapped the folded parchment. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Harry's eyes were drawn to the map as writing began to appear on it and he read it out loud questioningly.
"‘Misters Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs are proud to present the Marauder's Map,'" he said.
"We owe them so much," said Fred.
Harry opened it and surprise appeared on his face as he saw a map of the school as he opened the folded piece of parchment up. "This is Hogwarts! Is that really..."
"In his study."
"Does that a lot."
"So, you mean this map shows..."
"Where they are."
"What they're doing."
"Of every day."
"Brilliant! Where'd you get it?"
"Nicked it from Filch's office of course. First year."
After getting information on the best passage to use to get into Hogsmeade as well as how to conceal the map from anyone else and an advisement not to tell anyone about the map or where he got it, not even to Ron and Hermione, Harry was left in the Clocktower as the twins then made their way to Filch to show him their permission slips to go to Hogsmeade. Reaching the statue of the one-eyed witch on the third floor within the Gunhilda of Gorsemoor Corridor, Harry looked down at the map and saw him standing by it with a speech bubble above his name. Tapping his wand against the witch's hump, he whispered the password. "Dissendium," he said and watched as the hump on the witch's back moved aside, revealing a slide. Without thinking, Harry climbed up and then slid down as the hump closed behind him, plunging him into darkness until he landed in a tunnel. "Lumos," Harry said, holding his wand aloft so he could see and then speaking the password to close the Marauders Map which was then stuffed into a pocket of his pants. He then proceeded to begin walking down what seemed a straight path.
Emerging into a cellar after an hour of walking, Harry found himself surrounded by shelves and boxes. It was cooler here, being underground, though warmer than the tunnel he had emerged from. Walking over to one of the boxes, Harry saw the word Honeydukes written across the side and a smile appeared on his face. He had done it! Both the map and the twins had pulled through for him and, Harry had to admit, he had his doubts about the map and the twins...what if they had been pulling a prank on him?
Harry found he couldn't resist going to one of the open boxes and pulling out a chocolate frog which was place in the pocket of his pants, nor could he resist rooting through the boxes to get treats he might otherwise not get from his friends when they came back, glad in that moment for Dudley's castoffs that were too big on him, even as a third year. He then threw his cloak over his head as he heard someone coming down the stairs, a voice shouting to fetch a box of peppermint imps and a box of sugar quills. Moving to the side, he watched as the man descended to the cell and moved about, Harry taking the chance to sneak past him and ascend the steps, accidentally knocking over a box in his haste as he escaped through the slightly ajar door. The excited sound of students filled him as he emerged, having to pick his way through the crowd so he wouldn't be detected. Unfortunately, Harry had not counted on the map not showing Hogsmeade nor on the fact that Hogwarts staff members tended to patrol the grounds when students ventured into the village on weekends. As he made his way outside, he snatched a lollipop from Neville who was standing by the door, the cold hitting him as he made his way outside, the bell jingling over the shop as he opened the door.
A light snow was falling over Hogsmeade, bringing cold wind and a chill of frosty air to Harry's lungs as he breathed. The adolescent couldn't help shivering, wishing he'd thought to bring a winter cloak with him, even if they were getting smaller as he grew, the wind cutting into his skin. Snow crunched underfoot as he made his way through the crowds, savoring the winter chill and light snowfall. This was what Christmas was about, bitter cold and snow coating everything wherever one looked, breath frosting in the air and curling up next to a warm fire at the end of the day with a cup of cocoa. Perhaps when he got back to the castle...he would just need to decide what lie he could come up with to pretend that he'd been in the school and not here in Hogsmeade. For now, Harry felt smug at having pulled one over on the professors thanks to the help of the twins and the map he now possessed.
Harry felt free for the first time since being banned from the Quidditch team. Granted, nothing could beat flying in Harry's mind, but it was a chance to be out of the castle and get to experience something that others in his year got to experience because they weren't being hunted by an escaped convict. The thing was, Harry didn't know why he was being hunted either as nobody had, as usual, bothered to inform him. They just expected him to be a good boy and remain in the castle, missing out on the adventures of Hogsmeade. Which was just not fair to him at all. Why was it that since arriving at Hogwarts two years ago, his life was in danger all the time?
Much as he wanted to see Hermione and Ron, he couldn't trust Hermione not to report him to Professor McGonagall or another professor. Ron would think it was a great joke, but Harry knew that if Ron discovered that the twins had given Harry a map of the castle, his jealousy would come through and there would be an argument and that was something that Harry didn't want to deal with. His friend seemed to get jealous easily when it came to Harry having things that Ron didn't, like this map, and Harry would have given anything to get his parents back. Harry often envied Ron for having parents and a loving family as, for many years as a child, he had tried to get the love of his aunt and uncle until he had come to realize that nothing, he did would ever get them to love him which had been when he'd been around nine years old. He shook his head to will his negative thoughts away. He hadn't come to Hogsmeade to wallow in self-pity but to have fun and enjoy himself, even if he had to be underneath his cloak.
As the day progressed, Harry found he didn't want to return to the castle nor the ‘safety' of its walls. How safe is Hogwarts for me anyway? It was a thought that he couldn't stop entering his mind, a thought that he had considered during his second summer when he'd gotten no letters from his friends and a thought that had come back this previous summer as well. Yet, it was something he did not bring up with his friends or professors as Ron would say he was crazy and Hermione would object outright, saying it was his own fault for ‘looking for trouble' and that Hogwarts was the safest place in Britain for the magical population of the British Isles, refusing to believe there was any place safer or even better as far as wizarding schools went. Come to think of it, Harry didn't know if there were any other wizarding schools, nor how he would possibly be able to afford to go to another school. He wasn't even sure how much money he had in his vault. No, such a thought was better left unspoken to anyone as he doubted anyone would understand at all...and his professors certainly weren't of any help.
Although he was unable to remove his invisibility cloak for fear of being spotted by other students, he could hear their excited chatter as well as the crunch of snow underneath several dozen feet. He wished he could see the excitement for himself, but he didn't know where Ron and Hermione were and had no desire to run into them, nor anyone else he knew and that was not a lot truthfully. Hermione would just run and tell a teacher while Ron would be upset about Harry getting a special map from the twins and complain about how he should have gotten the map because he was the twins' younger brother. Harry didn't want to deal with such negative, wondering why he was friends with Ron at times with the other boy's jealousy towards Harry's fame, fame which Harry didn't deserve and fame that Harry didn't want. Didn't Ron understand that Harry would have given anything to have his parents back, to be a normal child and not have his life in danger every year?
Just once, can't I have a normal year where I can just be Harry and not the Boy-Who-Lived? Ron doesn't realize how lucky he is to have parents and siblings who love him, to have a loving family that doesn't abuse him or treat him like dirt all the time. I can't imagine Ron ever going without food with how much Mrs. Weasley seven course helpings it seems for her family. And Hermione...I don't think she would understand either what I go through at the Dursleys. She doesn't seem to have ever had to endure abuse either by her parents, though she doesn't talk of them much.
Feeling sorry for himself was not a normal occurrence for Harry though there were times that even though he was in a world of magic, he felt alone. He should be used to it from growing up with Dudley who scared away anyone who wished to be friends with him, be used to it from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Dursley never showing him any love at all nor attention. No matter what he did, it was never enough for the Dursleys and in the end, he had stopped trying to please them. Even when he had realized that good grades wouldn't amount to anything with his family, even when he had turned to getting lower marks to please his relatives, they did not care for even that. Then he had come to Hogwarts in his first year and made friends with Ron, the first boy who was nice to him, even if he had been uncomfortable with Ron's wanting to immediately see his scar, as if to confirm it was really the Boy-Who-Lived. What would have happened, Harry wondered, if he were not the Boy-Who-Lived? Would Ron have decided not to become his friend? Harry wanted to believe Ron would have, but Ron had pretty much hinted if he had been sorted into Slytherin then they wouldn't have been friends and that Slytherin was even worse than Hufflepuff.
Severus was not pleased to be out within the cold winter weather of Hogsmeade, patrolling the village grounds but Minerva and Filius were meeting with Cornelius Fudge in the Three Broomsticks to discuss Black's situation and the fact that the hot-headed former Gryffindor had not been caught yet by either the Dementors nor Ministry officials. It really bespoke of the incompetence of the Minster in Snape's opinion. Severus had no love for the previous minster of magic nor the Ministry itself with being a former Death Eater and the previous minister wanting to throw him and all other Death Eaters into Azkaban. It had only been Dumbledore speaking up for him that had prevented him from being sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban. If he came across Black, then Black wouldn't need to worry about the dementors or Azkaban as Snape would kill the childish man himself and there was no doubt in Severus's mind that Black was still the same child he had been despite his thirteen years in Azkaban. Though just how Black had gotten out of Azkaban was a mystery even to the cunning potioneer.
Pulling his winter cloak tighter about himself, Severus cast his gaze once more upon the students milling about Hogsmeade, making their way into various shops, or chatting with each other outside. Some even went into the Three Broomsticks, an inn proprietor by Madam Rosmerta to sit in comfort in the warm building and drink Butterbeer and eat warm soup or sandwiches for lunch. Severus relished in the shock and horror on some of the third-years as they realized that he along with other professors patrolled the village during the weekends, this never being so paramount as this year with Dementors guarding the school and students from the likes of Black for the Patronus charm was not normally taught at Hogwarts, there being no need to learn it by the general student body. Granted, Severus hated teaching and would have preferred being able to just work on Potions for the rest of his life, maybe open an apothecary but Dumbledore had made him take the teaching position in exchange for helping Lily. However, it had amounted to nothing, and he was also there on Voldemort's orders to spy on Albus.
Maybe he would stop in for a moment at the Three Broomsticks to get a butterbeer or tea, something to warm him up as he patrolled the grounds. Before Severus could contemplate further about how he could afford to step into the inn for a hot drink, he stumbled as something ran into him and he looked around but there were no students near him. He knew it wasn't a ghost as the ghosts of Hogwarts tended to remain within the castle and anyway, had a ghost gone through him, he wouldn't have felt a solid mass much less felt a cold chill seeping through him as it passed. The solid invisible mass that hit him sent him stumbling back as he looked around, his ears hearing a gasp and then hurried footsteps running away from him now that he was paying attention. Snape followed the sound of footsteps on quick feet, flicking his wrist to release his wand from its holster before raising it and erected a magical barrier in front of him before casting a silent petrification spell. Severus heard the thud of a body hitting the ground and swept down on whoever it was, removing the magical barrier before slipping his wand back into his holster and reaching forward, grasped onto what turned out to be silky cloth. Feeling something in his hand, he ripped the cloak off to reveal Potter petrified and missing his glasses. "Potter!"
The warmth of the castle surrounded him as Harry levitated behind the greasy bat of the dungeons, the halls of Hogwarts passing by until they finally arrived at a stone gargoyle. Harry, even in his petrified state, recognized this as the Headmaster's office. "Cocoa Puffs," said Severus to the gargoyle who sprang to the side to reveal a spiral moving staircase which Severus climbed, Harry levitating back behind him and then the gargoyle slid once more into place as they rode it up to the Headmaster's office. Snape knocked on the door, having rifled through his pockets and discovering the map as well as Harry's wand and the stolen candy, the adolescent not believing his bad luck at being caught in Hogsmeade. What was Snape doing in Hogsmeade anyway? He should be sulking around the dungeons like the overgrown bat he was!
"Ah Severus," said Albus as he looked up from a book he was reading. "How may I..." His eyes slid over to Harry who was now in view of the Headmaster before glancing at Severus. "Severus, please release Harry."
"And have him run Headmaster? He tried to do so earlier."
"You won't run will you Harry?" But of course, Harry could not reply and Albus sighed. "Severus."
"Very well Headmaster but may I at least lock the door and put up wards to keep the brat here?"
"Yes Severus, you may."
With a thump, his body hit the floor as the levitation charm was canceled as Severus then erected wards and locked the door, the feeling of the wards settling around all three males and even the phoenix who sat on his perch, beady black eyes watching the entire scenario. Fawkes then released a soothing trill as Severus released Harry from the petrification spell and dumped the sweets and cloak on the Headmaster's desk before him. Albus looked from the pile of sweets to Harry and then back at Severus with a frown on his normally gentle face. "Severus, what is this? And Harry...Severus...please take a seat."
Both visitors sat down, and Severus began explaining the situation. "I was on patrol in Hogsmeade as is customary when students are at Hogsmeade for their visits," said Severus, ignoring the gasp of horror from Potter, "what with the Minister in the Three Broomsticks along with Madam Rosmerta, Filius and Minerva." Dumbledore nodded, his eyes glancing to Harry before going back to his potions professor. "I was patrolling the grounds of Hogsmeade and while debating stopping in at the Three Broomsticks to get a tea or butterbeer, I felt something solid run into me and heard a distinct gasp."
"Are you sure you heard a gasp Severus?"
"I'm positive Headmaster," said Severus. "Thankfully there were no little cretins running about nearby nor caroling adults making a nuisance of themselves."
"Now Severus, it is the Christmas holidays. You shouldn't fault the children for wanting a bit of good cheer, especially with things being so dire as they are."
"Hmmph," snorted Severus. "As I was saying Headmaster..."
"Yes, continue my boy."
Severus's mouth tightened but he did so. "Then I heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps and pursued it, concerned it might be someone with nefarious motives or even Black for all I was aware and hurriedly threw up a magical barrier before casting a petrification spell at the target. There was a thump and when I reached down after reaching the petrified figure, grasped that cloak and it revealed Potter. I searched his pockets while keeping him under the spell and found a piece of spare parchment and the load of candy before bringing him back here, believing it prudent to get Potter back to the castle as quickly as possible."
"You did the right thing Severus," said Dumbledore, staring again at the pile of sweets before examining the piece of parchment. "What is this?"
"I'm not sure," admitted Severus. "I attempted to get it to reveal its secrets but all it did was insult me," he said, and as Dumbledore stared at the parchment he did indeed see writing on the front.
"‘Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape, and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business,'" read Dumbledore, causing Snape's mouth to tighten even further as the Headmaster continued. "‘Mr. Wormtail advises Professor Snape to go wash his greasy hair and soiled underwear, the slimeball,'" he read, falling silent as he read some other messages to himself. Setting the parchment down, Dumbledore began muttering some spells over the parchment only to find it didn't respond to him, but he did detect a charm on the parchment. "As Headmaster of Hogwarts, I command you to tell me what you are," said Dumbledore, feeling somewhat foolish yet also concerned about this piece of parchment and how Harry had gotten his hands on it.
"‘Mr. Prongs wonders how Professor Dumbledore can still be teaching at his age and advises him to retire. Mr. Padfoot agrees with Mr. Prongs and says he should take care not to meddle in things that don't concern him. Mr. Moony...'" He frowned down at the parchment and set it down. "Harry, I'm ordering you to tell me what you were doing in Hogsmeade when you were specifically told to remain in the castle for your own safety," said Albus.
"I wasn't in Hogsmeade," said Harry.
"Really? Then explain how these sweets were found in your possession, Mr. Potter. I saw you under that cloak of yours. Your head shouldn't be in Hogsmeade. No part of your body has any right to be in Hogsmeade. Are you just daft you stupid boy?!"
"Severus," said Dumbledore warningly and Severus fell silent. There was a tense silence that fell upon the three occupants within the room before Dumbledore frowned at Harry. "Harry, I'm giving you one chance to not lie to me again. What were you doing in Hogsmeade? It's dangerous for you, my boy."
"I wasn't in Hogsmeade," said Harry stubbornly.
"Then where were you?"
"In the Gryffindor common room."
"Can anyone confirm that?"
Harry said nothing and Albus sighed in disappointment. He then rose from his chair and grabbed a pinch of floo powder from a pot on the mantle of the fireplace before throwing it in and kneeling. As the flames turned green, he stuck his head in and shouted for Professor Lupin.
"Remus, I need you to come through at once to deal with a potential dark object," said Albus once Remus had appeared at his own fireplace.
"Of course, Headmaster. I'll step through right away."
"Thank you, Remus," said Dumbledore and got to his feet, moving back to his chair, and waving his wand to procure an extra chair for the Defense professor. and a few moments later, Professor Lupin stepped through. "Remus, please make yourself comfortable," said Dumbledore and Remus did so, nodding to Severus who frowned before walking around the desk and taking a seat in the chair provided.
"What can I do for you Headmaster and why are Severus and Harry here?"
"It seems Lupin that Potter's spawn decided to continue following in his father's footsteps and not taking the advice of the staff and Headmaster. I found him in Hogsmeade, hiding under his little cloak and apparently with sweets. Sweets obviously stolen from Honeydukes."
"Severus, you're letting your prejudices for James get in the way of being professional," said Lupin. Honestly, it was like they were in school all over again. Remus felt that same headache coming on whenever Sirus and James spoke about Severus and other Slytherins though Remus knew in hindsight he hadn't been the best role model for his friends. Remus still didn't know what he had done to deserve being Prefect but maybe Dumbledore had faith that he would put a stop to his friends' bullying or felt that Remus had earned it in some way. Remus had never asked, but he was perturbed and bothered by the fact that Snape's hatred for James was showing in Harry as well.
"It seems Severus is correct, and that Harry was indeed caught in Hogsmeade," said Dumbledore. "I hate to think anything bad of the boy..."
"Please, you let him get away with everything, just like you let Black and Potter with their little gang get away with bullying me at Hogwarts," said Severus with a snort, "and it's being allowed with Potter and his little friends Weasley and Granger."
"Well, you probably deserved to be bullied! You just don't like my dad!"
"Your dad was a swine and strutted around..."
"ENOUGH!" Harry and Severus fell silent, the teen looking at his lap as Severus frowned deeply but said nothing. Remus just sighed to himself, feeling like he was being caught in the middle. "It seems that Harry snuck out of the castle underneath his invisbility cloak. I thought he could be trusted with it when I gave it to him in his first year..."
"So that's how he's been sneaking around the castle these past two years? You gave him an invisibility cloak? Are you stupid Headmaster?! Why would you buy..."
"That cloak belonged to James," said Lupin. "I recognize it from my time at school. It's a Potter family heirloom, supposedly passed down through the Peverell family from which the Potters married into," he said.
Severus was practically fuming as he now discovered just how it was that the Marauders had managed to sneak around the castle and not get caught. "He's obviously too irresponsible to use it," said Severus.
"Yes, it seems you are right," said Dumbledore much to Harry's horror, the boy's face becoming pale.
"No! You can't take that from me! It was my dad's and Snape's just jealous!"
"What would I have to be jealous of Potter?"
"That my dad was more popular than you can ever hope to be," said Harry.
"That is enough Harry! You will treat Severus with the respect he deserves as your professor," said Dumbledore. "I am the one who gave you this cloak and as the headmaster, I can take this gift back and have it returned to the Potter vault. Remus, I brought you here because there's something potentially dark and it's surely your area of expertise. This is for your own good Harry."
"I'll help where I can headmaster," said Lupin.
"This piece of parchment appears to insult those who read it," said Dumbledore, "and it would not respond to myself either," he said, "instead insulting me."
Remus, for his part, recognized the map quickly. "It's probably a joke item designed to insult people who read it," said Lupin as he read over it. Unable to resist chuckling, he turned his head to look at Harry. "Where did you get this Harry?"
Harry was reluctant to admit that the twins had given him the map as he didn't want to get them into trouble. Still fuming over being caught by Snape as well as the headmaster taking his cloak from him, neither had any right to stop him from having fun in the adolescent's mind, he set his mouth into a thin line of his own and stubbornly refused to look at any of the adults in the room or answer any further questions. Silence once more permeated the room until Dumbledore spoke. "Did you steal these sweets from Hogsmeade? Do not lie to me again Harry."
"Yes," Harry reluctantly responded, panic rising through his body at the thought of losing his cloak which was the only thing he had from his dad. Dumbledore has no right to take my cloak from me.
"So, you admit you were in Hogsmeade then? Knowing that it would potentially put your life in danger if you were caught by Black or a Death Eater," said Dumbledore. "Not only that, but you also lied to me and to your other professors as well as stole from Honeydukes." Each word that came from the headmaster's mouth was short and clipped, the old man leaning back in his chair as he stared over his halfmoon spectacles at the boy. "I am disappointed in you Harry. Remus, do you know about this obvious dark magical object?"
Like Harry, Remus too was feeling panic but he was feeling panicked because it had not occurred to him that Filch still had the map. It had been confiscated sometime during their last year at Hogwarts by Filch, though thankfully they had James' old copy and Remus's, the latter of which had probably been destroyed in the destruction of Potter cottage. None of them had been able to successfully steal it back but by then they knew every inch of the castle and the surrounding grounds as well as some of the Forbidden Forest, even if the latter was not included on the map itself. It was with horror of his own that he realized how dangerous it could be if Black found this copy of the map and made his way into the castle to snatch the boy sitting beside him. "It's not a dark object Headmaster. We made it in our fifth year."
"I, Peter, James and Black," said Remus. "Sirius drew the layout of the school and grounds, and I made up the charms for it and cast them on the map with us pouring some of our conscious and souls into the map. It insults anyone who reads it. We used it to sneak around the school during our time here."
"A map was made of the school, and you didn't think to tell me beforehand when you were hired?" Dumbeldore questioned.
"No sir. I didn't think it was a problem and had forgotten about it until now. I don't know how Harry got it but rest assured Headmaster, I didn't give it to him."
"Why was this map created? How does it work?"
"During our second year. Peter, James and Black, instead of shunning me, offered to remain my friends and they worked on becoming animagi. Peter needed the most help, but he managed it in time, and they became animagi by our fifth year. It was to help me during my...time of the month," said Remus. "You tap it and say ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good' and to disguise the map you say ‘Mischief Manage.'"
Severus snorted. Only Potter could think of something stupid like that. But the dour man had to admit that it was an ingenious piece of work to have a map of the entire castle.
"James was talented at Transfiguration," mused Dumbledore though this was not meant to be a compliment however Harry looked up at the mention of his dad. "You said they managed this in their fifth year?"
"Yes. It took them three years to learn it," said Remus. "Those were some of the best times in my life but in our seventh year, we were cornered by Filch and he took the map from us. We were never able to steal it back. I suspect James' copy was destroyed that night of Halloween and this is Black's copy." Severus looked apocalyptic as he listened to all of this.
"I knew you were up to no good!"
"Oh, bugger off Snape," said Harry, forgetting who was in the room with him.
"Detention Mr. Potter," said Snape, "and fifteen points for insulting a professor." He was pleased to see that Dumbledore did not refute him or overturn this punishment though the boy certainly deserved a strap to learn some manners and not to put himself in danger. "Do you not realize that we were attempting to keep you safe from Black and that you could have been kidnapped during your rebellious jaunt outside of the castle? Where did you get this map you little thief?"
"I'm no thief!"
"You stole from Honeydukes and admitted it! That makes you a thief!"
"Harry, where did you get this map?"
"FredandGeorge," Harry mumbled under his breath.
"Excuse me? Speak up for I didn't hear you."
"I said...Fred and George showed it to me today when they caught me trying to sneak out of the castle and showed me a passage, I could use to get to Honeydukes. It's brilliant sir! It shows everything and everyone in the castle and the grounds all the time!"
"It's foolish," muttered Severus.
"Remus...you said your friends were animagi. What were they? This is important. Do not disappoint me as you have just done by holding this secret from me."
"James was a stag, Pettigrew a rat and Black was a dog resembling a Grimm," said Remus, feeling a low blow as the headmaster expressed disappointment in him. Dumbledore had given him so much and Remus strived to do whatever the headmaster asked, given it was because of the Headmaster that he had been able to go to school and get an education.
"You disappoint me Remus. I'm afraid I have no choice but to terminate your position."
"You can't! It's not his fault," Harry shouted.
"Be quiet Harry. You're in enough trouble as it is," said Dumbledore sharply. "Remus, since you failed to come forward with this information, I am afraid I simply cannot trust you in your position to carry out your duties safely to the students and your fellow staff members. Please leave the castle," said Dumbledore before he called for a house elf. "Popsy."
"Yes Master Dumbledore," said a house elf that appeared in the room, bowing to Dumbledore as it appeared.
"Throw Mr. Lupin's things from his office out at the gates of Hogwarts. He is no longer a professor here," said Dumbledore and the house elf bowed before vanishing with a pop. He then pointed his wand at the map and muttered a spell, setting the map on fire and watching as it burned to ashes before their very eyes. Remus stared in disbelief before getting to his feet and making his way from the Headmaster's office and towards the doors of the castle in shock, Dumbeldore unlocking the door so the former professor could leave. "It seems I shall have to find another professor for the post of defense," said Dumbledore.
"Indeed," said Severus. "What is to be done about Potter and the Weasley twins?"
"They shall be banned from Hogsmeade for the rest of the school year and lose fifty points each as well as a letter being written to their parents," said Dumbledore. "As for you Mister Potter, I am returning your cloak to the Potter vault but believe, since you seem to have no self-preservation for your own life, someone needs to watch over you and prohibit your friendship for the time being with Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger."
"Do not finish that sentence," said Dumbledore, his eyes sharp with anger. "Severus, I am entrusting Harry to you."
"You are the only one that can keep Harry safe from himself Severus and I trust you to keep him in line while he is here at Hogwarts."
"Very well. Shall I put the boy in my quarters or a bed in the Slytherin dorms?"
"I believe your quarters would be best Severus."
"Very well. I'll have a house elf prepare a room."
Dumbledore nodded and when Severus left, he locked the door again before sighing and getting up. "Normally I do not condone corporal punishment Harry, but it seems that you need a lesson in personal responsibility," said Dumbledore. "Please drop your trousers and bend over the desk there. Do not make me tell you twice," he said when he noticed Harry had paled and not done as he asked. Reluctantly, Harry got to his feet and did as the Headmaster said. Dumbledore summoned a switch and raised it above his head before bringing it down on Harry's cheeks, making the teen cry out in surprise. After twenty whacks on each cheek, Harry was sent out to the hallway and followed Snape down to the dungeons, his bum sore from the whipping, tears in his eyes from what the headmaster had done. After twenty whacks on each cheek, Harry was sent out to the hallway and followed Snape down to the dungeons, his bum sore from the whipping, tears in his eyes from what the headmaster had done. He had also been given a week's worth of detentions on top of those that he had already earned and was told Snape had authority to punish him as well if Harry put himself into danger or spoke to his friends at all, which made the teen furious.
The walk to the dungeons was done in silence, neither professor nor student speaking to each other. They passed the potions classroom and then finally arrived at a portrait where Snape whispered the password which then swung open. Harry was pushed inside, and Snape followed, the floor covered in surprisingly soft carpeting with a green and silver rug before the fireplace in the main sitting area. A small table and chairs were in one corner of the room and there was a door against the far wall in a shadowy corner. In the sitting area were a couch and couple of chairs while a short hallway extended down to their right. "Follow me Potter," said Severus as he led the teen down the short hallway. "This is the bathroom," he said, opening the first door on their left to reveal a large clawfoot tub, sink and toilet. He then closed the door and took a few steps. "That is a study and library," he pointed to a second door on their left, "and my room is at the end of the hall. Your room is here. You will remain here and are expected back at nine thirty in the evening, no later than that or there will be consequences. Now unpack your things and find something in your room to do."
Chapter Three: Inheritance
Harry looked around the room he had been given, the walls and floor completely bare of any decorations, there being a single twin bed with a dresser against the wall opposite the bed. There was a desk and chair against the wall with a bookcase on one side of it on the wall opposite the door and a wardrobe tucked into the corner He couldn't believe that he was being made to live with Snape of all people and couldn't talk to Ron and Hermione. Where was he meant to eat meals at, the Slytherin house table? There was no way he could be stopped from hanging out with his friends surely and as for, in Harry's mind, unjust detentions...well he just wouldn't go to those as he had not gone to the first one.
With a sigh, he made his way to the foot of the bed and opened his trunk, beginning to remove his clothes and put them into the dresser provided. His mind was in turmoil from his punishment, but he certainly didn't want to ask Snape for something to make the pain go away. The greasy git would probably say he deserved it. He wasn't going to suffer that humiliation or Snape mocking him. Once his clothes were put away, he began putting his textbooks on the bookcase and then placed his parchment in a drawer of the desk and the inkpot and quills in the drawer as well though the inkpot went into the built place in the top right corner of the desk. At least it's large enough to spread my textbooks out on. Finishing up the room was a small sofa and a chair against the wall opposite his bed. There were no rugs for warmth from the cold stone floor and Harry knew it would be chilly on his bare feet once winter came around.
There was nothing else he could do once his things were put away, but Harry had been told to find something to do in his room, so he went to the bookshelf and pulled out his copy of Quidditch Through the Ages that he took to the couch, sitting down and beginning to read. Yet he found he couldn't concentrate on the words on the pages and thus threw the book across the room before folding his arms across his chest as he drew his knees up to himself and huddled there against the couch back, staring blankly at the wall as tears ran from his eyes. He didn't understand how the headmaster could be so cruel as to spank him with a switch, nor how he could be banned from seeing Ron and Hermione, much less have his cloak taken away from him. On top of that, Professor Lupin had apparently known about the map which had been destroyed the day he got it from the twins'.
He couldn't imagine the twins' faces as they realized they were no longer able to attend Hogsmeade vacations, let alone the fact that they had lost points from Gryffindor. Worse, what would it be like for him when they found out that Harry was the reason for them losing points and their Hogsmeade trips? A few hours later, there was a knock on the door and Harry turned to see Professor Snape standing there. "I see you seem somewhat able to follow directions. Pity you can't manage such a thing normally without being in trouble," said Snape with a sneer on his face. "It's dinner time and we will be eating here so you don't have an excuse to try sneaking off and sitting at the Gryffindor table with your friends."
"Where am I expected to eat at if not my house?"
"The headmaster and I decided you would be eating at Slytherin for all meals if you are under my watch. Minerva has already been informed of the punishment and was horrified to learn that you willingly risked your life for a bit of candy when we're here to be protecting you and the other students Mr. Potter. She agreed that perhaps you would do better under a firmer hand. Your parents didn't die so you could throw your life away," he said. "I believe she is speaking to Misters Weasley at this current time, now that students are back from Hogsmeade," he said. "Now get up Potter, lest you want to go to bed without dinner." With that, the professor turned and swept back into the hallway like a shadow, his cloak barely making any noise as it fluttered about him, Harry's face burning in anger as he heard that his head of house agreed with this punishment.
But then when has McGonagall ever been on my side or listened to me at all? Harry knew she had never been on his side and for all McGonagall's speech at the beginning of first year of one's house being like their family, it didn't feel like that, especially last year during the whole Chamber of Secrets incident. Harry thought about refusing the offer of dinner and then just trying to sneak out later, but he didn't want to get spanked again by Dumbledore with that switch. Plus, he was hungry, so he reluctantly got off the couch and made his way down the short hallway and to the main living area where he saw a table and couple chairs at either end. Snape was already seated at the table, a copy of the Daily Prophet in front of him. Experience with Uncle Vernon had taught Harry not to disturb his uncle when reading the news and figured it was the same with Professor Snape. He very much doubted that Snape would engage in pleasant conversation anyway, much less being capable of it.
"Midget," called Severus and a house elf with yellow eyes appeared in the room, bowing low to Harry and Severus.
"What cans Midget be doing for Master?"
"Bring a loaf of bread and two plates of Sunday roast with two fruit smoothies and milk for Potter. I'll take a tea as well with sugar and milk."
"Yes Master," said Midget, popping away. Minutes later, the required food appeared on their table along with the necessary silverware and napkins. Harry stared at the food that appeared in front of him in disbelief, having not believed that Severus would feed him. He was sure the man would withhold food which was fine since Harry was used to going without at the Dursleys. Two steaming plates of Sunday roast, complete with Yorkshire pudding, chicken stuffing and sausage appeared in front of them with the steaming hot loaf of bread and butter in the middle of the table. Two gravy boats filled with steaming hot gravy finished off the meal's fixings along with two small bowls of red currant sauce. Severus picked up his knife and cut himself a loaf of bread before telling Potter to hold out his own plate if he wanted a slice of bread.
"Potter...I haven't got all night waiting for you to decide if you want bread or not," said Severus.
"Oh...yes," said Harry, getting the smaller plate and holding it out for Severus to put down two slices of bread. Once he had his bread, Severus even giving him a couple slices of butter, Harry set it aside but didn't move to eat until he saw his potions professor cut into the roast on his own plate and take a bite. Snape, for his part, just saw this as Potter being stubborn and thinking he was too good for the food offered in the Potion Master's private quarters.
The boy has probably never eaten a healthy meal in his life. Merlin knows Gryffindors choose unhealthy options and sweets unlike Hufflepuff and my house. His lip curled in a sneer as he stared at the boy. "What's the matter Potter? Think this food is beneath you? Or are you so used to being given anything you want that you reject good healthy food when it's in front of you?" Harry frowned at his professor as he questioned Harry's not eating.
Git, he thought to himself. You don't know anything Snape! Yet Harry wasn't surprised to hear Snape bashing Gryffindors, given his animosity towards anyone not in Slytherin. Living at the Dursleys and not being allowed to eat until he had served his relatives their dinner first as well as the lack of meals at home had him reverting to that upbringing when being around Snape reminded him too much of Uncle Vernon. Even Harry wasn't sure if the man would hit him but wouldn't put it past the man, especially as he hadn't thought that Dumbledore would ever spank him either. It was hunger that ended up winning him over, the teen pouring some gravy over his Sunday roast and then dipping a piece of bread into the gravy before taking a bite, seeing Snape settle back into his chair. He might be able to hide it at the Weasleys but that was because there were so many people crowded around him, if Harry had had his way, he would have eaten alone or waited until everyone else was finished but that would bring unwanted questions and Mrs. Weasley would never allow such a thing in her home for she treated him like a son, her and Mr. Weasley both. Plus, Ron and Hermione would end up asking questions and he didn't want to speak to them anymore about his homelife than Ron already knew thanks to the Mrs. Weasley sending him food throughout the summer and Ron rescuing him with the twins last summer as well.
They ate their meal in silence, Harry wondering if Ron and Hermione knew that he was being punished and had been told that he had sneaked into Hogsmeade. He couldn't imagine Hermione being in favor of Dumbledore hitting him but then she might think he deserved it for leaving the safety of the castle. Ron would likely get jealous if he knew that the map had been given to Harry and not Ron himself due to being related by blood. Perhaps he had already realized this, and his mind was just not working due to being angry and humiliated at being spanked by the headmaster. He was sure the Dursleys would be thrilled...even if they didn't agree with magic. Then again, they'd probably be disappointed I didn't die to this mass murder Black, he thought sourly. Eventually a question burned Harry's mind, and he spoke to his professor. If there was one thing he could count on with Snape, the man was brutally honest, even if Harry didn't want to hear it...and truthfully, he did not.
"Professor Snape," said Severus, narrowing his eyes at the teen. "Don't try my patience Mr. Potter. Don't forget, the headmaster gave me the right to discipline you as I see fit if you step out of line."
Harry struggled to keep the glare out of his eyes, even as Snape appeared pleased that he had been given such power over the boy-who-lived, the son of his arch nemesis and a reminder of the woman who had been his friend. This was all unknown to young Harry for if he asked anyone about his parents, it was always ‘James this' and ‘James that' and rarely a thing about Lily Potter, wife of James Fleamont Potter. He knew he looked like his father, a carbon copy according to his professors, barring his eyes of course but he sometimes wished he could hear about his mother in equal measure. "Professor? Are there any...rules I must follow? What about Ron and Hermione?"
"It is not your friends' business to know about your punishment," said Severus, the sneer on his face back as he thought of the little know-it-all Granger and Weasley. He ignored the frown on Potter's face. "As the headmaster said, I oversee you while you are here, and Professor McGonagall approves it. As I explained, you will eat at the Slytherin table and I expect you to be eating something healthy while you are at my house table," said Severus. "You are not allowed to bring your friends to my quarters nor hang out with them...in fact ignore them and any attempts they make to speak to you," he said. "It is likely, Minerva will have explained to them that you are not going to be living in Gryffindor Tower for the time being though I have no doubt it won't stop them from coming down here to speak to you and Weasley speaking about how it is ‘unfair' and I am a ‘greasy bat,' like some students call me." As Harry's mouth dropped open in shock, it would have been almost funny if it didn't hurt the professor so much, though he didn't show it to his students and he certainly wouldn't show it to Potter. He was sure Potter would use such a thing against him, just like his father would have done.
"Furthermore," said Severus, "you must obey the headmaster's rules of your punishment. No flying or going to Quidditch practice or games. Now that I know how you and Potter got away with so many things, I can assure you that this sneaking out of the castle and wandering around the school at night with your little friends is going to stop here and now under my watch," said Severus. "You will take time on your homework and learn to write legibly so it can be read, none of this chicken scratch of a toddler Potter and you won't be getting help from me or having Granger do it for you like undoubtedly happens in the Gryffindor common room."
"Hermione doesn't do my homework for me! I have her check it after I'm done."
"You will be expected to go to bed at a reasonable hour," Snape continued, as if Harry had not spoken, "and that is at eight in the evening. Furthermore, you will spend your freetime studying and during study hall you will sit with the Slytherins at their house table and study there or study within your room within my private quarters quietly. You may have an hour of freetime before bed to relax and do something quietly. I don't want you shouting and running through my quarters like a banshee. You will also not be allowed into my private lab at all nor allowed to practice potions without supervision of myself or a seventh year Prefect of Slytherin house," said Severus.
"Who would want to practice potions, anyway, let alone with a snake?" Harry muttered to himself, causing Snape's frown to appear on his face at the lack of disrespect.
"Believe it or not Mister Potter, that is for your own safety," he said to which Harry scoffed.
"Please...you don't care a thing about anyone's safety," Harry said.
"On the contrary Potter, I care a lot about my students' safety and not just the Slytherins," said Severus. "Furthermore, you are forbidden from cursing or hitting my students..."
"Only if they don't hit or curse me first," muttered Harry.
"My students will be informed in a house meeting about you being under my care due to the headmaster's orders, so they know not to attack you," he said.
"Mr. Malfoy will learn the same as everyone else or face the consequences by having his father brought here," said Severus. "I don't know what your issue is with Malfoy Potter, but you are a teenager. It's time you both got over your childhood petty rivalry and treat each other with respect. This is part of the reason you are separated from Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger for they, or at least Mr. Weasley, is a clear bad influence upon your study habits and your interactions with other houses. Besides," he said, his tone becoming thoughtful, "it would do you well to make friends outside of your house and outside of Granger and Weasley. I expect you to clean your room and pick up after yourself. House elves will not do it for you, nor will you be allowed to get away with the undoubtedly spoiled upbringing you have experienced," he said.
"You are not allowed in my room at all and if you have questions regarding Potions or Herbology, I expect you to ask. Furthermore, you will spend half an hour in the library every day during your free time every day looking at resources for your homework. You may ask Madam Pince for help, that is what she is the librarian for after all. I realize that playing games is probably common among Gryffindors but while you are here, you will be under my rules, and I expect all my charges to work hard and do homework before any play. Nor are you to enter my room at all and if you need something, knock again if I am in there and wait for permission to enter. Am I clear Mr. Potter? A verbal answer Potter," he said when Harry mutely nodded.
"Yes Professor," said Harry.
Snape nodded, appearing pleased and that evening had a meeting with the entirety of Slytherin, informing them of what had transpired with Lupin's being fired and Potter being under his control and charge until the winter break when students would return home. Snape also warned the students that they were not to bother or harass Potter and he had been instructed to do the same, Severus's eyes staring at some students that were bound to give him trouble as Malfoy and Avery, two children of known Death Eaters. There was also Parkinson, Knott, Crabbe and Goyle who were also the children of Death Eaters and Severus felt a stab of pity that these students would have been expected to take the dark mark upon their fifteenth birthday were the Dark Lord still alive. There was nothing he could do to prevent them from making the same mistakes as he had done, not with their parents being alive still and especially not with having Potter under his care. Still, despite warning his students to leave Potter alone, he knew he'd have to keep an eye on Draco who often used his father to push other students in the house around.
While Harry was eating dinner in the Potions classroom, students were coming back from Hogsmeade and congregating in the Great Hall for their own dinner, the younger years already there. "Misters Weasley and Weasley," said Professor McGonagall as the twins were coming up the path, her lips pressed into a thin line. "You are coming with me to my office."
"What for Professor?"
"Yeah, we haven't..."
Their beaming smiles fell as the woman continued to glare silently at them before turning and leading the way to her office, the twins looking at each other and reluctantly followed their professor. Finally, reaching the woman's office they were invited inside. "Take a seat Misters Weasley," said Minerva as she went to the mantle and took down a small pot before throwing the floo powder into the crackling fire. "The Burrow," she called and knelt on the ground before sticking her head within. "Molly? Arthur?"
Behind her the twins looked at each other nervously. What was their head of house doing, calling their parents? Neither suspected that it was due to Harry getting in trouble by the Headmaster for being out in Hogsmeade. However, they tensed as Arthur came to the fireplace. "Professor McGonagall? Is something wrong with our children?"
"Please Arthur, I haven't been your professor in years," said Minerva. "Your children are all safe but I would like you and Molly to come through. I'm afraid the twins are in trouble and I've been asked to contact you by Albus."
Arthur frowned but nodded. "Alright. I'll fetch Molly and we'll step through," he said. Minerva nodded and got up from the floor, her body protesting the movement before going back to her chair and conjuring two more chairs in the office for Arthur and Molly. A moment later the floo once more whooshed to life and Arthur stepped through, followed by Molly.
"Take a seat Arthur, Molly," said Minerva as she gestured to the chairs, the Weasleys brushing off the soot from their clothing in the hearth and then took their seats. "It seems we have finally discovered how the twins have been causing mischief throughout their years at Hogwarts. They apparently were in possession a map."
"A map?" Arthur questioned.
"Yes...apparently it was a map of Hogwarts and passages leading in and out of Hogwarts."
"I don't understand," said Molly. "How is this important enough to call us to Hogwarts?"
"It's important because this map could have been dangerous if in the wrong hands," said Minerva. "It should have been brought to our attention years ago," she said, looking sternly at the twins.
"That make sense, especially with the Black situation," said Arthur. "I'm disappointed in both o you," said Arthur to the twins. "Was this map self aware?"
"No, but then I understand it was made by James Potter and his friends when they were in school," said Minerva. "From my understanding, it was made by James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew when they were in school but showed everyone in the castle and what they were doing at any given moment. It has since been destroyed by the Headmaster and Professor Lupin has been fired from his position as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor due to knowing of the map and not bringing it to the Headmaster's attention."
Arthur breathed a sigh of relief that they had avoided another incident like with Ginerva in her first year, however this didn't mean the twins were off the hook. "So that's how you both were getting all those detentions. Sneaking around school using a map instead of doing your classwork."
"You did what?!" shouted Fred.
"Boys," said Molly. "Be quiet. You're in trouble enough with us."
"Arthur," said Minerva causing Arthur's face to flush pink in embarrassment.
"Sorry professor," said Arthur.
"As I was saying, the map has been destroyed but apparently Misters Weasley and Weasley thought it would be amusing to give such a dangerous artifact to Mr. Potter..."
"WHAT?! Is Harry alright?" Molly questioned.
"Mr. Potter is fine," said Minerva. "Severus found him in wandering Hogsmeade underneath his invisibility cloak, apparently a heirloom of the Potter family that Albus foolishly gave the boy when he was eleven."
"Ron spoke of that," said Fred. "He mentioned it in first year, about Harry getting an invisibility cloak."
"Are you saying your brother knew of Mr. Potter's cloak?"
"Both Ron and Hermione knew," said George. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked at each other before Molly questioned Minerva.
"Minerva...this map and Harry..."
"Mr. Potter was found by Severus in Hogsmeade and brought to the Headmaster's office to be punished," said Minerva. "Mr. Lupin was called as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and when it was revealed that he knew of the map and didn't inform anyone about it, the headmaster decided that he was unfit to be a professor of this institute and was fired. The map was destroyed, and Mr. Potter is now under Severus's charge for the rest of the term and lost house points. But Misters Weasley and Weasley, for their reprehensible actions and endangering the life of a student as well as not alerting their professors to this map, are being stripped of their Hogsmeade privileges for the rest of the school year and a loss of fifty points each. I was going to write a letter to you but thought that it might be better to speak to you face to face. However, Albus may still send you a letter."
"Where is Ron? We'd like to take him home with us along with the twins. It seems we have a lot to talk about," said Molly.
"I'll send a house elf to fetch Mr. Weasley, but I can see no reason why the Headmaster wouldn't approve of it," said Minerva.
"Thank you, professor," said Arthur. "Would it be possible to..."
"I'll have house elves fetch your sons' belongings," said Minerva, summoning a couple of house elves. "But I'm afraid regarding Ronald, his grades are lacking. From my understanding, the boy tends to use Miss Granger to do his notes and homework for him and spends much of his time playing chess. The headmaster has said that if his grades do not straighten up, he may need to be held back this year." Minerva flicked her wand and a piece of parchment flew from the filing cabinet behind her and towards the desk which she then handed to the Weasleys, the parents finding a list of detentions as well as Ron's grades for the past two years. One was sent to fetch Mr. Weasley and apparate him to her office, the other was sent to pack up the twins' belongings and Ron's belongings and bring them to her office. It didn't take long, the house elf that was sent for Ron to find the teen in Great Hall and grabbing his elbow, popped away, leaving many students at Gryffindor staring at the spot where Ron Weasley had been. "Ah Mr. Weasley," spoke Minerva as she stared over her glasses at the third-year Gryffindor. Ron was surprised to see Fred and George there but swallowed nervously as he saw his parents sitting there.
"Mum? Dad? What are you doing here?"
"We are going home Ronald," said Molly, "and you will be accompanying us along with the twins. It seems that it's time we discussed your actions here at Hogwarts these past couple of years," she said. "Most notably about your getting into trouble these past two years with Harry Potter and Hermione Granger."
They used Minerva's floo to get back to the burrow, Ron being thrown haphazardly in by Arthur when Ron refused to leave and began protesting, the twins quelling underneath their mother's stern gaze and following Ron before Arthur and Molly followed. Once they were gone, the Deputy Headmistress shook her head, finding it hard to believe that the Weasley twins could be so irresponsible as to not only had the school which wasn't turned in, but to give it to young Harry. Thank goodness that Severus had found the boy before Black had. And Remus, knowingly running around with animagi on school grounds, and knowing of this map as well as that Black was animagus and not informing the Ministry or Albus. Remus had disappointed her when Albus told her about this, and she knew it would be brought up at the emergency staff meeting. She would have to thank Severus for finding Harry, perhaps bring him a bottle of Ogden's fire whiskey. Soon the winter break would be here and students would be going home for the holidays, Albus letting her know that Potter was being sent home to the Dursleys until the start of the new term.
Snow fell gently over the grounds, and it was expected to be a snowy Christmas in Scotland though for Harry, he had just found out that he wasn't going to be able to remain at Hogwarts for the winter holidays. "What do you mean I have to go back to the Dursleys?! I always stay here for the holidays!"
"That is what the headmaster ordered Potter. If you have a problem with it, I suggest you take it up with the headmaster," said Snape as the boy immediately ranted at him upon being told he wouldn't be allowed to remain at the school. "The Headmaster also said you are not allowed to write your friends for risk of interception by Black or other Death Eaters, let alone bring your owl with you."
"Dumbledore can't stop me from writing my friends!"
"On the contrary Potter, the Headmaster has the right to decide what goes on in his school. However, the Headmaster believes that it is for your safety that you are not allowed to write your friends during the holidays and that you would be safer under the protection of your relatives than within the school, especially as dementors did not stop Black from entering the school beforehand. I don't know why you insist on being stubborn Potter about not getting your way. You are a child, not an adult and therefore are susceptible to obeying authority figures which I realize is impossible for you to comprehend, proving you are still as arrogant as your father was."
"Why can't I bring Hedwig with me?"
Snape stared in disdain at Potter. "Think Potter! Your owl is recognizable, and not native to Britain. She would stick out like a sore thumb at school, let alone at your home."
"The Dursleys aren't my family, nor is their residence my home! They never have been!"
"Regardless of what you think Potter, they are your only living relatives, therefore they are your family. Now the headmaster believes..."
"I HATE YOU!"
"And I detest you Potter as I did your father so we're even. But you will listen to the Headmaster and you will listen to those who knows what is best for you. Now, I will be escorting you home on the train...loathe as I am to spend any more time in your company than normal, however the Headmaster has requested it."
Harry glared at his Potions professor, muttering ‘git' under his breath. Harry didn't think the Dursleys would be pleased about him returning for the holidays, nor could he be sure they would be waiting at the train station to get him. "How am I supposed to get home?"
"You will take the train Potter and I will escort you whereupon I will take you through the barrier and escort you to your home myself," said Snape. "Now get dressed Potter. The headmaster is unfortunately requesting our presence in the Great Hall with the rest of the faculty and students," he said, his lip curling in disdain at the thought of being around the cheerful dunderheads.
After Harry had gotten dressed in a pair of old jeans and of his cousin's old sweatshirts, pulling on his tattered converse, Harry followed the professor into the main living area where he saw a small stack of presents near him. From Mrs. Weasley he got another homemade Weasley sweater with a lion on it that was scarlet as well as a dozen home-baked mince pieces, Christmas cake and a box of nut brittle. He found he had nothing from Hermione or Ron this year and frowned in disappointment, but he did appreciate the yearly Weasley sweater. There was an extra gift though in a familiar shape. A broom? He could sure use one, after his Nimbus 2000 had been destroyed in that match against Hufflepuff as he missed flying. Maybe Professor McGonagall had sent it to him?
As he unwrapped the present, he was surprised to see his name inscribed on the handle in golden letters and the word Firebolt stamped on the handle as well. "A Firebolt?" he breathed, looking for any sign of a note to say who it was from. There was none he realized, however before he could marvel at it, he found Professor Snape swooping down on him and plucking the broom from where it lay before him on the floor. "That's mine!"
"I will be confiscating this, Potter. What part of you aren't allowed to fly do you not understand?"
"It's my Christmas gift! You don't have any..."
"Do not finish that sentence Mister Potter, lest you want to be in detention at the start of term next year! Expecto Patronum!" Immediately a silvery doe appeared before him. "Filius, Minerva and Rolanda, I request your assistance. Potter has received a broom and I believe it might be from Sirius Black. Can I have your presence in the staff room?"
The doe bowed her head and then vanished, leaving Harry staring angrily at his professor. "Black didn't send that to me!"
"You don't know that, Potter! As I said, you are under my care while you are at Hogwarts and thus, I decide what is best for you until you get home where you will remain with no contact from your friends and no sneaking gallivanting around the neighborhood either. This broom could have very well been sent by Black to kill you! Now shut up and remain here. It's going to be stripped down...checked for jinxes and if it there is nothing wrong with it, then maybe you will get it back next year."
As it turned out, Harry found out that his broom had been destroyed, a curse on the broom causing it to catch on fire and despite using Aguamenti on the broom, it hadn't cured the cursed fire which was in combination with a security ward on the broom that hadn't reacted to the protective charms being stripped from the broom and given no warning at all. Whatever the curse had been, it had destroyed half the classroom, but they had no replacement for DADA due to the position being rumored to be cursed and nobody wanting the job, so Dumbledore had taken over classes, the man having taught both Transfiguration and DADA in his youth. Thankfully the classroom had been an unused classroom so it wouldn't affect students learning at all. Harry was upset that his broom had been destroyed and his ire towards Snape only grew. Yet that hatred also fell towards his other professors who had probably stood back and allowed his broom to be destroyed by Snape. He bet there wasn't even a curse and Snape had just said that because both men loathed each other.
Harry pulled his cloak tighter about him as students stood to board the Hogwarts Express which would take them back to King's Cross and from there their parents or guardians would pick them up to take home for the two weeks of winter holidays. Harry couldn't imagine the Dursleys being happy to have him home for two weeks, let alone the arrival of another wizard on their doorstep. Students huddled underneath the awning and in the station itself with their trunks, but it was an hour before the train emerged from the tunnel and pulled into the station, steam emitting from its engine.
"On board Potter," said Snape as he shoved the boy towards the first carriage behind the locomotive and Harry dragged his trunk along with him. Snape then escorted him along the carriages until they got to the fifth one and found a compartment, opening the door. "In Potter," said Snape and once Harry had gone inside, his professor followed him and shut the door, casting a nonverbal locking spell and a notice-me-not charm on the door. "Find a book to read Potter or stare out the window but do not bother me," he said, Harry scowling at his professor and sullenly sat down next to the window, his professor levitating his trunk to the luggage rack overhead before sitting down in his own seat across from the boy. As far as Severus was concerned, the sooner the boy learned the world didn't revolve around him and he wasn't special, the better off the other students at Hogwarts would be and the staff as well for that matter. Ever since Potter Jr. had ended up coming into Hogwarts, there had been nothing but trouble. It was like the boy was bad luck to the entire student body and if it had been up to him, he would have expelled the boy on numerous occasions. But Albus insisted on giving the boy numerous chances and he didn't learn at all. Detention obviously had no effect on the adolescent as it had no effect on his father. As Albus had brushed aside Potter's and Black's bullying of him in school.
The train ride itself was a nine-hour journey with lunch being served halfway through the train ride by the trolley lady, simple sandwiches, soup, and meat pies for lunch with milk, juice or water to drink though there was also coffee, tea or hot chocolate with it being winter. The train rolled through Scottish countryside, winding through wild unkempt moors and the highlands, the mountains of Hogwarts receding behind them. Harry took a couple of meat pies, some hot chocolate, a couple sandwiches and a bowl of split pea soup for his lunch while Snape got a bowl of cream of watercress soup. There was a hot loaf of bread to share between them but aside from the trolley lady passing out lunches, there was no communication with other students on the train. After lunch, Harry ended up taking a nap as there wasn't much else to do during the train ride since he couldn't talk to Hermione or Ron, the teen not knowing that Ron and the twins had gone home early.
Nine hours later, the train was pulling into Platform 9 ¾ and Snape looked up from the copy of the Daily Prophet he had been reading. Harry wasn't allowed to leave until most of the students had emptied off the train before levitating Harry's trunk down and shrinking it, slipping it into his pocket and guiding Harry off the train. They then went through the barrier and found themselves on the platform, which was nearly empty, Snape gripping Harry's shoulder and steering him towards a taxi. "Potter, what's your address?"
"Number 4 Privet Drive Surrey. But you should know that because it was on my letter," said Harry.
"I'm not in charge of the letters Potter," said Snape as he opened the back door of the taxi and shoved the boy inside before sliding into it and shutting the door. "Number 4 Privet Drive Surrey," said Snape and the driver nodded, pulling away from the outside of King's Cross. The ride through the city of London was slow due to the snow falling on the ground but they eventually arrived at Number 4. Snape paid the cab driver and after the man drove off, they headed towards the front door and pulled out Harry's trunk before setting it on the ground and tapping it, muttering an Engorgio and causing it to resume its normal size. It took a few knocks before the door opened and he saw Dudley standing there.
"What are you doing here freak?"
"Believe me, I don't want to be here either," said Harry.
"Who's at the door Dudders?"
"The freak's back mom with some overgrown bat."
Snape's lip curled in distaste as he heard Petunia's voice. Albus had really sent the boy here of all places? Tuney hated magic and hated Lily. He was also not surprised by the boy's manners. If he was Petunia's son, then he was bound to be spoiled. "Hello Tuney," he said with a sneer as the woman appeared at the door.
"You! What are you doing here Snape?" She then glared disdainfully down at Potter. "What are you doing back early boy? Got yourself expelled, did you?"
If Severus didn't hate Petunia more than the boy, he would have agreed with the woman's sentiment. "Unfortunately, not," said Severus, his face looking like he'd sucked on a lemon at agreeing with Petunia. Truthfully Severus had hated Petunia ever since he saw here, even before he knew Lily was a witch. She was always stuck up and plain looking, thinking herself better than others despite being born into a middle-class neighborhood, being born in the same factory town as Severus. "The boy is being sent here for the winter break and is to remain in the confines of his home or your garden," he said. "He is not to wander the streets at all nor can he use magic," he said, causing Petunia's eyes to gleam in happiness.
"Forgot to tell us that last year didn't you boy that you couldn't use magic," she said. "Why can't he stay with one of his freaky friends or at that school?"
"Because the Headmaster believes this is the safest place for him and Black is looking for him," said Severus.
"Black...you mean that hooligan that ran around with Potter?"
"Yes, and the boy has shown utter disregard for his safety at the school. He also doesn't have his owl with him since it can be so easily spotted. Now, I shall take my leave. Remember Potter, you are to remain here and not contact your friends."
"Bit difficult isn't it, with not having Hedwig," spat Harry. Snape glared at him and shoved him into the house, Petunia shutting the door on Snape's face as the man turned and walked away from Number 4, his job done. Petunia stared out through her curtains at the man walking away from her before turning to Potter. "Boy, go put your trunk in your room and I won't have you disrespecting me or Vernon while you are here. Afterwards you're to get the shovel from the shed and shovel the driveway so Vernon can get through and then go to your room until it's time to make dinner."
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," said Harry, scowling at his aunt's back as she headed back into the kitchen, Harry then dragging his trunk over to his cupboard and depositing it inside. Dudley followed him, roughly manhandling his cousin to make sure he didn't have his wand or anything else that was magical on him before locking the cupboard after shoving Harry out of the way. That evening when Vernon came home, the situation was explained to him, and he was not happy about it. However, he didn't want any trouble with the wizards either so reluctantly allowed the boy to stay though was pleased to hear that Harry couldn't use magic outside of school. As the days passed, Harry was given chores to occupy his time and pay back the Dursleys for keeping him for the winter holidays, however threats of wizards didn't stop the Dursleys from planning their own holiday vacation which did not include Harry. He found himself being used as Dudley's punching bag as well, having to run to escape his cousin's fists when Dudley grew bored of watching television. At least chores kept the teen busy, but he found himself otherwise bored without being able to look at his schoolbooks or write to his friends without an owl.
It was a few days before Christmas, on Yuletide, that Harry woke in the middle of the night with pain shooting through his body. Stuffing his hand into his mouth to hold back a scream, Harry bit into his hand, held back a scream so as not to awaken Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia and get punished. Without an owl, he couldn't possibly end up writing to someone what was going on, the boy feeling his spine stretch from his tailbone and his head begin to pound as if he had suddenly developed a terrible migraine. Harry tried to open his eyes but had to shut them as pain laced through them and he ended up whimpering, his eyes unknowingly changing shape. His body shrank in height as well, sharp teeth growing in his mouth, claws growing on the ends of his fingers and toes, changing shape even to become more pointed which he could feel and the child doubled over in pain as his body readapted itself, unknowingly coming into his creature inheritance and unknowingly losing his magic which wasn't his to begin with. Unknowingly passing out from the pain that wracked his body, he did not wake until later that morning, the sun shining in through the curtains and bars that had been put back on the bars last summer after he had gotten home from school.
The next morning, he stumbled to the mirror where he got the shock of his life and he stared hard at himself, unable to believe he was the same person. Harry didn't even realize he wasn't even wearing his glasses until he saw his reflection in the mirror, seeing his entire appearance had changed. Not only had his skin tone, eye color and hair color had changed but he had..."I have canine ears?" Harry didn't recognize himself at all. How was he supposed to explain this to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon? Not only that, he realized he could see clearly for the first time in years, but he looked nothing like his parents. He made his way to his glasses and put them on, only to find a searing headache immediately split open his head, and his vision became blurry, a headache which went away when he took his glasses off which just left him confused.
"Boy! Get downstairs and get breakfast started," shouted Aunt Petunia at the door as she banged on it and he heard the sound of the locks being undone.
"Coming Aunt Petunia," said Harry, not sure how was he meant to hide his ears. Moving towards his dresser, Harry searched through the few clothes he had and pulled out a sweater and some jeans but found when he pulled them on that they were even bigger than they had been a few months ago, the jeans sliding off his waist to the floor. Not only that, but he also discovered the jeans were uncomfortable when he pulled them up, squashing something against his backside and turned as they fell, trying to see what it was. He reached behind him, only to discover..."A tail?!" he yelped out in shock. He stared at the furry appendage, covered in light beige and red which was otherwise known as fire and ice and a fox morph, this fur color also being on his ears as well. What had happened to him overnight and why did he look totally different from the previous evening? More importantly, how was he supposed to explain this to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon?
Harry wished he could contact Dumbledore, surely, he would know what had happened, but he'd had to leave Hedwig at the owlery. Would Dumbledore even answer Harry in the first place, or would he think that he was trying to get back to Hogwarts for the winter break? No, he probably wouldn't believe him at all. Even if he had an owl, how could he prove he was Harry Potter when he looked nothing like his former appearance?
Stuffing the new appendage down the back of his jeans which he secured around his waist with a belt, he pulled on his ragged sweater and headed opened the door, stepping out into the hallway and closing his door quietly before heading downstairs to make breakfast for his relatives. Dudley was in the living room, watching the television as usual and he found Aunt Petunia setting a kettle on the stove to make her tea, a steaming mug already having been made. Once the kettle was back on the stove, she pulled down some sugar and stirred a teaspoon into her cup with a bit of milk and put the milk and sugar away before picking up her cup and letting it warm her hands. "Boy, I want you to make a full English breakfast for us. I'm going to the store later to pick up ingredients for Christmas pudding and Braised Red Cabbage as we're going to Marge's for Christmas. Since you aren't allowed out of the house, I'll have to..."
She turned around to look at her nephew, only for the cup to shatter on the kitchen floor as it slipped from her grasp, a scream tearing from her throat. The scream brought Vernon from upstairs, Harry's ears flattening subconsciously at his uncle's thundering footsteps on the stairs and his aunt's scream before him as she backed away into the counter. "Who are you and how did you get in this house?!"
"Aunt Petunia it's me! Harry! I don't know what happened, but I just woke up like this!"
"What's going on Pet?"
Vernon came rushing into the kitchen where he saw the ears and tail of the boy in front of him, noticing the boy was shorter than his nephew. "Get away from my wife," he said as he pulled the boy by his shoulder and flung him across the room, Harry landing with a yelp on his ass. "Who are you and how did you get in here? Where's the boy?! Petunia are you alright?"
"Vernon, he says he is the boy," said Petunia. "But he doesn't look like him!"
"Uncle Vernon it's me! I'm not lying to you...please..."
"What did you to yourself boy?"
"I don't know. I just woke up like this. I don't know why I have ears and a tail."
"That isn't the only thing different about you," said Petunia. "Your entire appearance has changed."
"Change yourself back boy," said Vernon.
"I can't. I don't know how I got this way in the first place," said Harry. The teen was so horrified at his appearance that he didn't even realize that he couldn't feel his magic nor that his voice had changed as well as he came into his creature inheritance. Harry found himself being hit by his uncle and locked underneath the cupboard as his trunk was pulled out instead and his uncle loaded it into the boot before leaving. Harry wouldn't know it, but his uncle had gone to dispose of the trunk and Harry's school books and school supplies. Harry had to sit in his old room, the cupboard under the stairs for the next two days, not let out to use the bathroom nor fed at all. He curled up on his old cot in a ball, wishing there was some way that he could speak to Hermione since Dumbledore likely wouldn't listen to him. Instead, he spent those two days sleeping fitfully on the cot, which was hard and lumpy, the cupboard otherwise filled with cleaning supplies. That was until he found the cupboard door opening and being grabbed by Vernon before he was dragged outside and thrown into the trunk of the car, and it slammed down on him. "Uncle Vernon? Uncle Vernon please! What are you doing?!"
Harry was ashamed to find he feared what was going on, for he had never been treated in such a manner by his uncle and aunt, never made to ride in the trunk before. At least, not that he could remember at all. Harry banged on the inside of the trunk, his fists growing weaker, and he tried to reach for his magic but couldn't access it which only frightened him further. It was some hours later when he was hauled out of the car by his sweater and the teen found himself thrown into the snow, his uncle turning to stare at him. "I've had enough of your nonsense boy and damn those other freaks to hell if they try to make us take you back. You've gone too far this time with changing your appearance. I might have tolerated your schoolwork from that school before but no longer! You can make your own way in life and find someone else to take you in."
Uncle Vernon then made his way back into his car and drove off, leaving Harry lost and in the freezing cold the day before Christmas eve. He looked around, shivering before running after his uncle. "Uncle Vernon wait! Wait please! Don't leave!" But there was only the roar of the engine and Harry found himself alone in the darkness, lost in the snowy wilderness. Having rarely been out of Surrey and only so far as Hogwarts every school year, Harry didn't know where he was or even if he could get back to his relatives. "Uncle Vernon?" Harry called into the quiet night, the teen beginning to shiver as snow fell and it was only when he looked up at the cloudy night that he saw the snow had been falling for some time. In desperation he attempted to follow his uncle's car tracks but soon it grew steadily worse and he found himself not only falling behind as his uncle's car was no longer in sight but also losing sight of the tracks.
Shivering and hungry, Harry looked around for somewhere to bed down for the night, wondering how he could contact someone from his world to let them know what had happened. But there was no way to access the floo network and he didn't know if Hogwarts was even connected to the floo nor who was a wizard and who wasn't. He didn't even know where he was, but he knew that he had to get out of the road before he got injured or killed and slowly, carefully, picked his way through the road until he got to the sidewalk. Getting to the sidewalk, Harry began walking down it, huddling in on himself and wrapping his arms around his body, not even having a coat or a cloak to help stave off the cold. Nor a coat or cloak of which to hide his ears. Would he get another letter from the Ministry if a muggle saw his ears? Ears which looked like a canine's, a fox if he had to guess by the busy tip of his tail.
His steps became slower as he trudged on, the cold biting at his exposed face, the boy tucking his hands into his sweater arms for warmth. But the raggedness of his clothing did nothing to keep him warm. His eyes began drifting shut as he began stumbling, nobody out on this night before Christmas eve, probably all gone for the holidays or warm within their beds. But what he nor his relatives knew was that a blizzard was forecast for tonight which was why nobody was out on the streets. It was by chance that Uncle Vernon got rid of him tonight. Just when he was about to go to sleep, having found a tree he figured he could potentially shelter under for the night even if it wasn't the best shelter to stave off the cold, he heard a hooting nearby. His eyes snapped open, and he stared at the owl flying towards him, a letter clutched in its beak. It wasn't Errol, the Weasley family owl who was old and often got lost. Hermione didn't have an owl and he wasn't familiar with the school owls, having Hedwig. "Is...t...that...f...f...me?" he questioned through chattering teeth.
"Hoot," said the owl as it dropped the letter in the snow before him and Harry bent to pick it up. Without thinking of the consequences, maybe Dumbledore was writing to him to let him know he could come back to Hogwarts, Harry grabbed the letter and suddenly felt a tugging on his navel before he was whisked away from the spot, the owl hooting and turning to the tree to shelter within itself. Feeling like he was being squeezed through a tube that pressed in uncomfortably, he closed his eyes and then landed with a thump on hard stone floor. When he came too, he found himself within the lobby of Gringotts.
"Ah Mister Potter...so glad you've received our letter."