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Serving Penance

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17th September 1999

 

Dear Mr Snape,

Re: 17B Oldust Hill, Handsworth, Birmingham

This letter is a formal notice that the rent is increasing from £400 to £450 per month. This is effective from the 1st October.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Biggins-Pinch

 

****

 

1st February 2000

 

Dear Applicant,

We regret to inform you that your application for the post of Contributing Editor has been rejected. Please do not reapply in future—we will keep your records on file indefinitely.

Kind regards,

Marjorie Stump

Editorial Officer

The Practical Potioneer

 

****

 

12th April 2001

 

Dear Professor Snape,

I hope you’ve been well. I realise this is a bit out of the blue and I’m sorry to bother you, but someone I know is in a tough situation and needs someone to make them a complex potion. As you’re the best I thought of you straight away. It’s an urgent situation so it would be great if you could let me know either way or recommend someone else if you’re too busy.

Thanks for your time,

Harry Potter

 

****

 

Three days until the full moon

 

 

Harry’s perception sharpened into consciousness, and the world was blaring. His T-shirt was clinging to his chest, the chill of his sweat causing him to shiver. The floorboards dug into his shoulders and tailbone. His throat felt like a cheese grater as the air painfully shifted through. A pale eye was squinting into his face. It squealed.

“You is back, sir!”

Harry tried to relax through the knifing sensation caused by the bullfrog pitch of the elf’s voice.

"Dobby?" he slurred. Nausea spread down from the roof of his mouth, and his stomach rolled.

"It is Kreacher, sir." Harry sealed his eyes against the jab of daylight. “The young master is out of his mind,” he continued in an undertone. “He is unwell indeed.”

"I need Dobby,” he whispered.

He didn’t see the wringing of Kreacher’s wrinkled hands. “You is needing help, sir."

In and out.

In. And out.

“I need to die,” he breathed.

“You is needing help, Master Harry,” Kreacher repeated loudly.

Blackness crept in from the outer limits of his vision.

Help. He needed help.

"I need Professor Snape."

Kreacher nodded, his ears flapping, and Harry passed out.

 

****

 

Almost twelve hours later, Harry was in an old Victorian bath with shining silver chimaera feet. The water was blisteringly hot against his pinkened skin and he stared, unseeing, at the ugly tiles.

Kreacher was relishing Harry’s return to number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Earlier that night, he could hear Kreacher whistling as he made him a very oily traditional English breakfast, with extra sausages. Harry was now feeling somewhat alive, if a little dead inside.

He couldn't recall what happened last night, or early this morning. He vowed, again, to find control in his life.

Kreacher Apparated into the bathroom and Harry screamed.

"Begging your pardon, sir." Kreacher bowed low to the ground, his nose nearly brushing the floor. “Kreacher is pleased to serve Master Harry, but he is not giving him anything to do,” he muttered to the floor.

“I’d—er—really prefer it if you knocked,” he said, a bit strangled, wishing he had the cover of bubble bath but making do with his hands.

"Of course, Master. Kreacher has prepared treacle tart, has restocked the pantry, and made up the master bedroom.” Kreacher sidled towards the bathroom door, and muttered, “Kreacher will be helping Master Harry.”

“Right. Thanks.” Harry sank lower into the water.

 

****

 

Harry didn’t see Kreacher for days. The full moon came, and went. Somehow, steaming meals and fried breakfasts regularly appeared. Lying in bed, he couldn’t bring himself to care that the laundry basket was overflowing, and he relished the isolation.

On the eighth day, Kreacher knocked on Harry’s bedroom door.

He entered, bowed low to Harry, and puffed out his chest. “Kreacher has found Professor Snape, Master.”

Kreacher didn’t appear to mind that Harry was bundled up in a blanket by the window, staring blankly out at the square in front of the house.

“Hmm?”

“Kreacher has found Professor Snape, sir,” he replied loudly.

"Why? Did I ask you to?" he said, bewildered.

"Yes, sir. Last week, sir."

“Oh. I see. In that case…erm…thanks."

“The Headmaster lives at 17B Oldust Hill, in Muggle Birmingham.”

“Really? Okay…” Harry engaged his brain for the first time in a while. “Listen, could you me a favour?”

“Anything, Master Harry,” he said, nodding.

Harry was more than a little uncomfortable at this. “If you’d like to, I wonder if you could go to Diagon Alley and buy me an owl, food and a cage. Not white, maybe black, and definitely friendly. Ask for one that’s been there a long time. Help yourself to the Galleons in the drawing room. I’d go myself, but…I’m not well enough.”

“Kreacher will buy Master an owl.” He bowed low to the floor. “Perhaps an owl will make Master Harry happy,” he said in an undertone and disappeared with a crack.

Harry sagged back against the window. Perhaps. He doubted it.

 

****

 

Returning in what seemed like minutes later, Kreacher appeared with an owl in a cage. Somnus—a handsome black-banded owl, fourteen inches tall—had been waiting for a home for several years as he was old and missing a talon on his right foot. Harry loved him.

Stroking the black and white feathers with the back of a finger, he admired his new familiar. “He’s perfect, Kreacher. Thank you for helping.” Somnus cooed back, and Kreacher bowed and left them.

Harry had become more proficient at wandless magic out of pure laziness—or to be generous, a strength of will not to move. With quill, ink and parchment summoned, he tried to write a letter to Snape.

His head was a swamp of thoughts, and he struggled to string meaningful phrases together.

He began:

 

Dear Professor Snape,

How are you? I hope you’ve been well.

 

An indeterminate time had passed, in which tiny triangular sandwiches had materialised atop the writing desk in the corner.

True to his name, Somnus was even more nocturnal than normal owls, although he seemed moderately eager to post a letter from Harry.

“This letter is for Severus Snape. I respect him very much. Be kind to him. But don’t hang around, people aren’t used to seeing owls.”

Somnus nuzzled Harry’s cheek, and lifted off through the open window into the darkening evening.