“…is it doc?”
There were voices around him.
A blinding light was shining behind his closed eyelids and plunged his vision into red.
“…else could it be?”
“Seems like food poisoning. He’s awfully thin too.”
“Well, he can’t stay here,” a third voice interjected.
Where was he? He could fuzzily remember dragging himself from the empty train when the last stop was announced and getting onto another train. He could remember the jerking and stuttering of the carriage and waking up from banging his head on the window from time to time. He also remembered emptying his stomach in the small toilet stall and then seeking it out two times more only to dry heave something acid that stung in his throat.
He couldn’t however remember landing here, wherever here might be.
“Agreed, I’ll make a call,” brisk food steps could be heard echoing further and further away until they presumably rounded a corner.
“And there was no ID or passport whatsoever on him?” the voice which belonged to a man bend over him and prodding him in places asked.
“No, not even a wallet.”
“Mmh, seems like he’s waking up.”
Harry blinked his eyes open. He tried to sit up but a gentle hand pushed him down on what felt like a hospital cot.
“Easy there,” the deeper of the two voices said.
“What, where-” he swallowed with difficulty.
A uniformed man pressed a paper cup in his hand and he drank gratefully. Some of the pain in his throat disappeared.
“Where am I?” he tried again.
The whole day Severus had brooded over books he had wrenched out of his cramped shelves growing more and more frustrated when they didn’t provide the information he was looking for. He knew he had read about a nifty little location charm somewhere. The map of Great Britain lay unfolded on his kitchen table already although by now it was buried under half opened books and scraps of paper.
In the afternoon he made tea, as was his habit but once finished he had left the cup untouched on the counter, watching the leaves in his garden shuddering in the breeze. When it started to rain, they bobbed up and down with the fat drops. He stared out the window and thought about Potter. Absentmindedly he felt the now repaired glasses in his pocket.
He sighed as he did so often in the last time and ran a hand through his hair. It was becoming too greasy again and the wild stubbles on his chin told him that it was time for a shower. The growth of his facial hair had never been very reliable, thank Merlin. Otherwise, the resemblance with his father would have been even more pronounced and unbearable. As it was however, the stubbles grew every which way which made it impossible to wear anything other than a clean shaven face.
Severus tapped his fingers against the now cold teacup then pushed off the counter and went upstairs for a much needed bath.
He was so tired that he gave in to the warm water running down his aching limbs and leaning against the wall Severus fell asleep for a little while.
Sputtering he startled and shook his dripping hair out of his face. Quickly he dressed and pulled his hair in a ponytail that always made him look like a Jedi Knight. Glancing at himself in the fogged up mirror he gave in to his childish urge and raised his hand. May the force be with you! he thought in a deep and solemn voice. He chuckled but then quickly sobered and rolled his eyes at his behaviour.
On the way down to the kitchen however, there was a spring in his step. He would find this spell and then he would find Potter. And even if he didn’t know where to start searching for Ben, he would find him as well.
In the two days and eighteen books it would take for Severus to finally get lucky and find the charm in a side note his mother had probably scribbled a long time ago in the book about mushrooms of the Scottish Highlands, Dumbledore fire-called him several more times.
The other members of the Order seemed to be getting nowhere with their search for Potter. Tonks and Kingsley had roamed all over London and Lupin reported that Grimmauld Place was still quiet. Dumbledore suspected that Potter must have resorted to non-magical transportation or they would have found him by now. Severus just rolled his eyes. For one thing, it couldn’t seriously be this hard to track down the insolent whelp by magic, especially if Potter was just walking on foot.And for another, Dumbledore was telling Severus all of this in his distinct nonchalant manner, which Severus understood exactly as it was meant to be understood. A blow at him.
The headmaster was still angry that Severus had lost Potter’s trace and hoped to make him feel guilty. And Severus studiously avoided telling the old puppet master that he was now using his own methods to find the Potter brat.
The location charm, if applied correctly would point him Potter’s location on the map. The only problem was that it showed not the present but the past. From the moment the spell was cast it traced the wanted person’s steps in real time, meaning you had to follow along in exactly the same time as the person had done, no shortcuts.
You only stood a real chance, if the person you searched for was stopping somewhere at which point most witches and wizard knew to apply the Fidelius or other means to veil their position. That was also the reason the Mostrare charm as good as never was used.
Besides, you had to activate the charm on the last known place the wanted person had stayed for a longer time. That was also a big disadvantage. Severus only knew that Potter had remained with his relatives for a longer period. Had he known the ruddy boy would be this hard to chase down he could have saved himself a lot of footwork to begin with.
The way things were he had to pay a visit to Potter’s relatives. For one thing, he had to activate the charm there, for another he needed to know about Potter. He had clearly walked to London but who was to say the blasted boy didn’t have his beloved broom on him and wasn’t already on his way to the Caribbean for a pleasant little vacation?
And that was how Severus Snape, feared potions professor, ex death eater and extremely bad-tempered self-appointed Jedi Knight was standing on the front steps of Number Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, traveling cloak draped over one arm.
Internally stealing himself for the deeply worried and Potter-praising relatives he wrinkled his nose and rung the bell. It made a terrible grating sound in the hallway. There was a loud grunt coming from inside and a little while later heavy steps could be heard nearing the door. It opened and a man appeared that Severus had, at first, difficulties to take in wholly. His body had no problems filling in the doorframe and half the hallway. His moustache had something stuck to it that looked suspiciously like ice cream and it vibrated formidably as he asked in a voice clearly irritated to have been called away from its afternoon snack: “What?”
“Excuse me Mr.-” Severus quickly glanced at the nameplate on the bell “-Dursley. I am-”
“What do you want? We don’t buy anything!” the walrus-man nearly shouted. A little taken aback by this sudden outburst Severus continued.
“I am sorry to disturb you Mr. Dursley. I am one of Mr. Potter’s teachers at Hogwarts and-”
“Hogwarts!” the man cried out of breath. “Hogwarts! School! Magic! Potter!” At the last word, Severus could see the man’s hands going to his belt seemingly wanting to hold on to something. It looked absurd how the man stood there with his too short arms akimbo.
“Listen here you- you! We don’t want anything to do with your lot! If you’re here for Potter well, he’s gone! Finally decided to leave us in peace the rotten boy. Nothing but trouble let me tell y-”
“Vernon, what’s going on?” a muffled voice interrupted. A woman emerged from somewhere behind the walrus. There was no mistaking her horse-like features.
“Tuney,” sneered Severus in the same instance as Petunia Dursley nee Evans spotted him with her long and practiced neck and pointed her finger at him.
“You! You! What are you doing on my front lawn!”
The walrus man looked back and forth at them as if he was following a particularly interesting tennis match.
“You- you know him?”
“Know him? Oh yes, I know him! That awful boy, he-”
“Well, as you can see, I’m no longer a boy, Tuney,” Severus interrupted smoothly. “I am here to-” but he didn’t get any further.
With a war like cry, Petunia Dursley had pushed her husband aside and lunged for Severus Snape.
“You took her away from me! You took her away!” she pounded her fists on his chest.
He was so flabbergasted that he just stood there rooted to the spot and didn’t even draw his wand.
“It’s all your fault! Talking about that hocus-pocus, turning her head with all that stories about spells and magical creatures and potions.” She spat the last words. “What good did magic do her in the end?”
“I- I’m-” Severus stuttered.
“Leaving! You are leaving. Before the neighbours notice. If you ever show your face here again, I swear I-”
“Petunia!” The voice from behind them sounded utterly befuddled but it seemingly had a calming effect on the angry woman. She breathed harshly, let go of Severus and pushing her still confusedly blinking husband inside closed the door silently with barely restrained fury.
Left standing on the doorstep for the second time in as many days, Severus wondered what on earth he had done to deserve this. Except he knew exactly what he had done to deserve this. His face scrunched up. He could feel anger bubbling in his stomach and tears well up in his eyes. Anger at his own foolish actions both in the past and in the present. And tears at- well he didn’t even want to think about that. Pulling the map out of his inner pocket Severus pressed his wand to the paper and murmured the charm.
The car ride was not a very long one. Nevertheless, the woman steering the minivan tried to get him involved in several conversations. Where he came from, she wanted to know. South, he answered. Where his parents were? Dead. She gave him a pitying side-eye. Oh, how he hated that.
Where he was living before. He said nothing.
“Well, Harry-” he couldn’t believe he had been stupid enough to tell them his real name. He blamed it on the medicine they had given him for his stomach. “- we’ll try our best to find your relatives quickly. And in the meantime I hope that you’ll enjoy it at Winterton’s. Cookie?” she held out a somewhat squashed package of ginger nuts.
Hesitantly he took one and inevitably had to think about Professor McGonagall. Then he turned away to watch the road fly past. At least not even Voldemort himself would search for him in a juvenile shelter.